When she came back, she said, ‘Listen, Sharon …’
Sharon raised a hand. ‘I know. Don’t say anything to anyone.’
‘There isn’t anything to say.’
‘Whatever. You work with him, you don’t want it getting round. I’m not an idiot.’
‘There is no “it” … really. I’m just curious.’
‘All right, attracted as well.’
‘I just wanted to warn you.’
‘Warn me – or warn me off?’
‘Absolutely not – a) not my type, and b) I’m sorted. But I’ve seen too many women made very unhappy by your DCI.’
‘Thanks, I am warned. After having one man ruin some of the best years of my life, I’m not about to let it happen again. I tell you what though – if he were gay, might he not have to keep it under wraps and away from home for one reason.’
‘From what you’ve said.’
‘OK, that’s quite enough of men. If I came to one of your shops, how much discount would I get off a pair of Armani trousers?’
On the way home, Freya made a detour to the Hill. No one was about. The tapes were still across the entrances, whipped about by the wind and giving off the reminder of death and disaster common to every crime scene. If this is a crime scene … she thought, walking slowly up to one of the gaps that led on to the green slopes, now bare and bleak in the waning light. It was easy to conjure up ghosts here as well as images of fear and violence. On a sunny summer day, it would emanate charm and playfulness, with children running about, people strolling with their dogs, runners sweating in singlets and lycra.
What had happened here? She knew it was here, she had a gut feeling and there were too many links. The young mountain biker had last been seen here. Jim Williams had seen Angela Randall running into the fog. Debbie Parker had taken to walking here in the early morning because she had been told it was an auspicious time. Even Skippy the Yorkshire terrier had run away from Jim Williams into the undergrowth and vanished.
What was happening and why? Where was the link, not only between three people and a dog all last seen on the Hill, but in any other sense? Was there one? If so, it was obscure and she could get no handle on it.
She looked round again. What had always motivated her as a police officer was a sense of owing something to the victims of crime, those who could not, for one reason or another, speak for themselves, defend and even avenge themselves, because they were either inarticulate, intimidated, or dead.
She had the same conviction now. She had to work on behalf of the missing people, even the missing dog. None of them had disappeared of their own accord, she had no doubt.
She got back into the car and drove away, but the melancholy and loneliness of the empty Hill clung to her all the way home.
Lunch with Sharon had been enjoyable and a complete change, regardless of the real reason behind her invitation. With some slight reservation, Freya liked her, and would try and sustain the friendship, though she would never trust her with secrets, there had been too much of an eager gleam in her eye, and a longing for gossip. Freya could keep silent about anything to do with her work. But it was not work that she had wanted to talk to Sharon Medcalf about.
For the rest of the afternoon, she involved herself in displacement activity – supermarket shopping, washing and ironing. She cleaned the bathroom and had a shower. She watched the early television news.
At half past eight, she went out. She had no plan, she simply went, parking at the side of the cathedral where she ought to have been the night of the choir practice.
It was dark. The streets were quiet. The Close was empty apart from a woman on a bicycle and three boys walking towards the choir school. Freya lingered until they had gone in, then she walked, keeping to the shadows, towards the end houses.
He might still be at the station, or out on some police business. His flat would be in darkness and she would have wasted her time. If the lights were on, meaning that he was there, she would be happy. She could stand and look up, picture him in the room, stay as long as she needed. There was no question of her ringing his bell. She was not such a fool.
As she stepped across the grass at the side of the path, she heard a car. Simon Serrailler drove past her. Freya stopped dead. If he turned, he would see her. She stepped back into the shadows.
A couple of other cars were parked outside his house. Simon drew up beside them and the headlamps were doused but in the light of the street lamp Freya saw both car doors open. He got out first, and then a woman. She was slim and slight, and wore a pale trench coat.
Freya felt suddenly, horribly sick. She wanted to run, she wanted not to see but had to see, had to stand watching, taking in every detail.
They walked towards his building, but instead of going in, stopped at one of the other parked cars. Simon had his arm round the woman’s shoulders and was bending to say something. At the car, she turned to him and he held his arms out to her.
Freya turned away. She could not run, she was paralysed, if she had been caught now, she would have been as frozen as a wild creature in headlamps. She did not want to see any more, she wanted not to be here, enduring all this. She was furious with herself.
She heard the car door slam, the engine start, the wheels turn on the cobbles. She looked up quickly. Simon was standing in his doorway, his hand raised. Then, as the car drove quickly away, past Freya, he turned, pushed open the front door, and went in.
Freya waited. It had begun to rain. In a couple of minutes, the lights went on at the top of the dark building. She pictured the flat, the lamps, the pictures. Simon. Then, she walked away.
He thought he knew everything about himself. He had spent so much time alone, searching his own soul, trying to trace everything he did and thought and needed back to its source, that he would have said he could never be surprised again.
He had known for so long what he must do, and why. He had known what gave him the satisfaction that was only ever temporary, the pieces of knowledge which were gradually making the whole. He had never had any real interest in the chase and the capture. They were means to an end. He had to find the people, to select them carefully, to stake them out, track them down, pursue them one final time, and then of necessity still them. He avoided the words murder and kill and death. But none of that gave him pleasure. Sadists and psychopaths, evil people, obtained gratification from the act of murder, and possibly from everything that led to it. He was not like that. The idea horrified him.
What he did was altogether different.
So he was shocked to realise that he longed to return to the Hill, now that temporarily he could not do so. He wanted to retrace his steps, to stand where he had stood with each one of them, to recall everything. If the police had not cordoned off the place to the public, he might never have found this out. The previous night, he had looked at his list and something else had troubled him. There were three examples left. Mature man. Elderly woman. Elderly man.
The others were accounted for, had been examined, dissected, recorded and filed away. His research was unique. No one else had experimented in the way he had, comparing the way each had been killed and the minute differences between them.
It would soon be over. He would have done what he set out to do. There would be no need for more. It was when he realised it that he knew he was not an obsessive but an addict. Even the thought of being deprived of it for ever, even the phrases ‘the end’ and ‘the last time’ and ‘never again’ caused him to break out in a sweat which ran cold and unpleasant down his back. He had to get up and pace about the room, then go out and pace the street before he felt calmer.
How could it ever be over? He would have nothing to live for. If there was no more work to be done, there would have to be another reason for going on and he needed to go on. He needed the fix. He needed it to keep him alive and functioning, to stop him from going mad, to help him stay in control.
He dared not take the van and he could not go in his car. Too many people knew it, knew him and might wave cheerfully to him. He would have to walk and it must be in the late evening; in daylight he would be too conspicuous. People avoided the Hill now. He knew he ought to avoid it too because going there would be breaking every rule. He had been able to continue with his work precisely because he knew what those rules were and had always obeyed them. He knew that most people were caught because they broke the rules and that they broke the rules because they became arrogant and careless and because they were stupid. But he was clever; he had a trained mind; he was systematic in everything he did; he had never acted on impulse, always checked and double-checked. So why was he so desperate that he was prepared to take a risk now? He felt the need building up inside him and he understood that only this had power over him. He must ignore it, he must control it.
For hours, he thought of the Hill. For several nights he lay awake re-enacting every occasion when he had been there, ‘to work’ as he liked to think of it.
He had come to love the place, for its sense of ancient history, its deep roots in the past, its Wern Stones on which so much superstition had been focused for so many centuries. He loved its silences and the different sound the wind made around it depending from which quarter it blew. He loved the way its furrows and shelves and stone outcrops were arranged, and the clumps of scrub and undergrowth and the coronet of oak trees. He loved its rabbits and its rabbit holes. He had chosen it for more practical reasons, but he had come to love it for sentimental ones.
To calm himself, he drove down to the business park. It was after seven o’clock. Everyone had left, the units were locked and in darkness. He let himself in at the side door and slipped into the cool, silent building. How astonished they would all be to discover what he had achieved here; the men who had dismissed him and ruined him had almost certainly never given him another thought once he had left the medical school buildings, but they had lost someone who would have brought glory to the place. Why had that never occurred to them? If he had been allowed to continue and follow his chosen path, he would have been at the top of his profession by now but they would have taken the credit for having trained him. Now, he took every last jot of that credit for himself.
He clicked on the white-blue fluorescent lighting and stood for a moment, hearing the silence of the dead. Then he walked down to the door set in the concrete wall at the back and went into the heart of his kingdom. It was so small, the back half of a garage, but everything that mattered was here. He hesitated, his hand hovering over one drawer handle before moving to the next, but finally, it was the second on the right that he settled on. He had checked the electricity feed, the thermometers and dials, as he did every day. He was meticulous. He could not afford to be anything else.
He reached out.
Angela Randall lay facing him as the drawer came forward silently on its runners. He stared down at her white marble face. Angela Randall. Her obsession with him had been flattering at first and when the presents had begun to arrive he had been rather pleased. No one had ever conceived a passion for him before. He had never allowed it. But after a time, the letters which gave off such a pathetic smell of desperation, the gifts, the invitations, the pleas, had become irksome. In the end he had despised her. Not that she was here for that reason; emotion had never been allowed to influence his work in any way. She was here because she had been the right age, sex, size at that stage in his research and because she had been easy to track down on the Hill.
He slid the drawer fully out to look at his own handiwork. He thought he had done a better job on Angela Randall than on the others, precise, unwavering, clean. Everything had been removed, examined, dissected, weighed, recorded, before being put back. He knew her body parts as well as he knew the back of his own hand, had studied them as closely. Now she was restored, the seams pale and shining between the surgical stitches.
He wondered what she would have given him next.
Before he rechecked the electricity and the thermometers, switched off the lights and padlocked every door, he had spent some time looking at them all. He was a little dissatisfied with his work on the young man, who had been so fit, so lean and well muscled, and wondered if it ought to be repeated. But the capture had been the most difficult, the boy had struggled, he had been very strong. Not like poor fat Debbie.
Three drawers remained empty. One of them had not yet been allocated. The others were for the elderly, for Proteus and Anna. But if things continued as they were on the Hill it would be some time before he would be able to welcome them. He walked around the inner room and then the outer, pacing, frustrated, impatient. He did not lose his temper because he never had. Loss of temper, even in minor, everyday matters, was dangerous. He would not have come so far as this in his work if he had been prone even to the smallest displays of it. But he felt like a channel that had been dammed up. This was not a delay of his own making and it was not part of the plan. Yet surely it was a weakness in him not to have allowed for the unpredictable, simply because it was a force in life and it was life he had to deal with first.
He walked around the building until he had his feelings under control, then left, to return home and revise his plans.
The weak afternoon sunshine had no warmth in it though it lit the surrounding fields prettily. Karin and Cat walked round the paddock in the teeth of the east wind, which bit through their thick sweaters, fleeces and supposedly weatherproof jackets. Hannah Deerbon sat on her rotund pony Peanuts, both of them smugly unaware of the cold. She had been led round three times and as they reached the gate, Cat said, ‘OK, this is the last time and I mean it. Karin and I have no hands or faces left.’
‘Don’t be silly.’
‘All the same, this is it, Hanny. Karin, give Peanuts a shove up his backside to get him moving.’
Energetic movement was not part of the pony’s game plan and he treated the couple of slaps on his rear administered by Karin with contempt. She had rung Cat to say she needed to report on her visit to Starly, but when she arrived, Cat had been getting her daughter and pony ready.
‘Training day. Mum’s been here this morning. I promised I’d be back by one thirty but of course it was five to three. Still, she knows all about that. She said she wasn’t actually expecting me until four.’
They had set off into the wind, Karin borrowing a jumper and outdoor jacket, but it was difficult to talk out here.
Karin had woken from the deep sleep into which she had fallen after her visit to the psychic surgeon, feeling rested and slightly light-headed. The experience had seemed strangely distant and it had not been until later in the day that she had been able to sit down to go through it carefully, and form an opinion. As she did so she had become more and more uneasy. Cat had been in mid-surgery when she had telephoned.
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