‘I’d like to know why you want me to do that.’


‘Where did you get the watch?’


‘If you mean where was it bought, I have no idea.’


‘How’s that then?’


‘It was a gift.’


‘Who from, sir?’


‘That is my business.’


‘We’re investigating the disappearance of three women.’


Sharpe did not react.


‘One of them was a Miss Angela Randall. Was she a patient of yours?’


‘I have a large number of patients. I would have to check.’


‘You came to tell us Debbie Parker was your patient.’


Silence. The eyes stared.


‘So you’d know if Angela Randall was a patient too, wouldn’t you?’


‘As I say, I would have to check.’


‘Would you do that?’


‘Tomorrow. I’ll ask my secretary. If she finds that this … Miss Randall has been treated here, I will contact Sergeant Graffham.’


‘Did Miss Randall give you the watch, Mr Sharpe?’


A flicker. The eyes were momentarily angry.


‘Mr Sharpe?’


‘Why do you ask?’


‘I’ve already said we’re investigating Angela Randall’s disappearance. Did you know her?’


‘Not that I can recall.’


‘Can I see your watch?’


He smiled, shot his cuff, slipped off the wristwatch and held it out. It was nice, thin as a wafer. The moon had little stars beside it on dark blue enamel. It was a half-moon.


Nathan handed it back. ‘Thanks.’


‘Is that all?’


‘For the time being. But if you could check your records in the morning like you agreed?’


‘By all means.’


On the way to the front door Aidan Sharpe said, ‘There seemed to be something important going on early this morning … I happened to drive by the business park. There were police everywhere – vans, tracker dogs … what on earth was that all about?’


‘Sorry, sir, not my department.’


‘A drug raid, do you suppose?’


‘For all I know, Mr Sharpe. Thanks for your help.’


*


Nathan looked back from the car. Bow Tie was still standing there, staring at him.


He stopped the car round the next corner and took out his mobile phone. ‘Sarge?’


‘What did he say?’


‘Not a lot. I asked him if he knew Randall, asked if she’d given him the watch … got nowhere. Claims not to remember if she was a patient … said he’d ring you if he found her name in his records.’


‘Me?’


‘Yeah. Sergeant Graffham he said. Don’t want to chat with the lowlife. He’s creepy, ain’t he? You been in the house?’


‘No.’


‘Like one of them castles they take you to from school. All big black furniture and that. Real old stuff, you know? Spooky.’


‘But that was it?’


‘One thing … just when I was leaving he asked what had been going on at the business park earlier … said he’d driven by and seen all the vans and tracker dogs and that. Asked if it was a drugs raid. Only, what was he doing up there at half five or six in the morning? It was all done and dusted before eight, they’d gone. And another thing was, they were up the far end; if he was just passing he couldn’t have seen nothing from the end of the road.’


Forty-Eight


Chris Deerbon was on call and picked up the phone. Cat was kneeling on the floor of her office, sorting out a pile of medical journals, most of which she never had time to read. On her left were those she should keep because they contained articles she ought not to ignore, on her right were the rest. She was frustrated that the left pile was growing significantly higher. Everything was important, everything seemed to have some vital information.


‘Can you take a call?’ Chris tried to push open the door but was blocked by the pile of magazines.


‘Who is it?’


‘Hysterical woman.’


‘You’re on call, not me.’


‘She won’t talk to me, she says she can only tell you what’s happened.’


‘Who?’


‘Mrs Marion Keith. She’s my patient,’ Chris said, ‘but she’s insisting on you.’


‘What, is she embarrassed about something? If she needs a doctor urgently, she’ll have to take whichever sex is on duty.’


‘So I tell her that?’


‘Bloody hell. OK, OK.’


Cat pulled the door open, shoving the magazines hard until they formed a jam against the wall as Chris handed her the portable phone and fled up the stairs.


‘Cat Deerbon.’


She was irritated. She was preparing her speech. By the time she had finished with this Mrs Keith, the woman would wish she’d stuck with Chris.


She heard the first few stumbling words and fell silent. Five minutes later, she was sitting on the stairs, talking quietly.


‘I’ll come, Mrs Keith … of course I understand. Of course. Is there anyone with you? Well, try and stay calm. It’ll take me quarter of an hour to get to you.’


The woman was beside herself with distress and scarcely coherent but Cat had found out all she needed. She ran upstairs.


‘I’ll have to go. She’s in a dreadful state.’


‘I know. I couldn’t understand much.’


Cat changed quickly from the old tracksuit she had worn to clear out the office. ‘She’s been to see the psychic surgeon and he assaulted her. We’ve got him, Chris.’


‘What does she mean by assault? Rape?’


‘Something sexual, but it was a bit hard to tell.’


‘You’d better get the police to meet you there. You need a witness and they’ll want to know about it if it is a real assault.’


‘Right.’ She zipped up her jeans and reached for the phone but Simon’s answering machine was on. She rang off and dialled the station.


‘DCI Serrailler please … Dr Deerbon … yes, I will.’ She turned to Chris. ‘He’s out on a case but they’re trying to reach him … Yes? Thanks. I’ll hold on.’


‘Serrailler.’


‘Si, it’s me. Listen, I’m just shooting off. 17 Bury Park, a patient of Chris’s has called in a hysterical state – she’s been to see this guy at Starly who calls himself a psychic surgeon and claims he assaulted her.’


‘Right. I’ll get the station to send a patrol.’


‘Can’t I have Freya Graffham?’


‘No, this isn’t a CID matter, you want uniform. I’m out on an op, Cat, I’ll pass it on.’


‘Thanks.’


Chris came down to the car with her, filling her in on his patient, Marion Keith. ‘Fifties, widowed, couple of married daughters. History of gastritis, irritable bowel, done all the checks, nothing showed up but she might not have believed it. Maybe she thought he’d find something and get it out.’


He kissed Cat and closed her car door.


The police patrol car was waiting as she drew up outside the bungalow in Bury Park.


‘Evening, Doc.’


‘Hello, Mike.’


Cat knew many of the officers at Lafferton, not because of Simon but because the practice were police surgeons. The last time she had met Constable Mike Major had been the previous summer in a flat whose elderly tenant had been lying dead for a month. In those situations professionals relied on each other, not only to do their respective jobs but for moral and sometimes even physical support. It had not been Cat who had had to make quickly for the fresh air on that occasion.


‘You haven’t been in, have you? I need to talk to her first.’


‘No, seemed best to wait.’


‘You know what it’s about?’


‘Pretty much. I read about this weirdo in the Echo the other week.’


‘Let’s hope we get enough to close him down.’


Marion Keith was wrapped in a dressing gown and blanket and propped in the corner of the sofa. She was a faded-looking woman, with pretty features, but her face was grey and her eyes shocked.


Cat put down her bag and sat beside her. ‘Hello, Mrs Keith. Everything’s all right.’


Marion Keith burst into tears.


‘Just cry, don’t worry.’ Cat took her hand. ‘I want you to try and tell me exactly what happened. Take your time. If necessary I’ll examine you, but it may be that this is a case of criminal assault, and for that reason I’ve called the police. They’re outside and they’ll stay in the car until you’re happy for them to come in and speak to you. If it does seem clear to me that you’ve been assaulted, they will want to hear what happened from you too. Is that all right?’


After a moment the woman nodded.


‘Fine. Now, tell me.’


Falteringly at first, and at moments incoherently, Marion Keith began to talk. She had suffered from abdominal pain and discomfort since the death of her husband. As Chris had said, the investigations had shown nothing abnormal but whatever medication she had had only gave her temporary relief. The trouble always flared up again. She worked part-time as a legal secretary and a colleague had told her about the psychic surgeon.


‘She said he’d cured so many people. She told me the sort of thing I suffered from was his speciality. She just convinced me to go. I was desperate, I’d have tried anything. Your husband’s a good doctor, I know that, but nothing he’d given me helped for long and I wanted to have an end to all this pain and everything else. It’s spoiled my life lately. I didn’t see what I’d got to lose and I’ve started to worry they might have missed something at the hospital. You do hear stories. I had a friend die of bowel cancer, I know what all this can mean.’


‘I understand. It’s always a difficult area and people do worry they’ve got something serious when symptoms don’t get better. No one’s blaming you, Mrs Keith.’


She had not been afraid, she said, she had heard wonderful things about ‘Dr Groatman’ and even when she found that no one else was in the room with them it hadn’t seemed alarming. The hands hovering above her body, the probing and twisting, the apparent incision, something dropped into a bucket beneath the couch. It had all seemed strange, Marion Keith said, but nothing had been ‘wrong’. He had seemed to know what he was talking about … ‘So confident,’ she said. He had told her she had ‘bad tissue’, that he was having to extract a septic mass, that her stomach was seriously inflamed and her intestines both ‘twisted’ and infected. He would be able to cure her in one session. She would walk out of his room pain-free and the discomfort would be a thing of the past.


It had all been peculiar, incredible – yet he had prayed something, and she had believed firmly in the spirit of the doctor who worked through him. That had seemed to make it all right.


Cat kept silent, wondering at the credulity of otherwise cautious and intelligent people, and imagining their reaction if she as a qualified GP had done half the things to them that they allowed this man to do.


‘Then he said there was something else. He said my stomach problems had a deeper source than he’d thought. They were centred in my female organs and this was what was causing the worst of the trouble. He said he’d need to find out more but that if I just relaxed he could cure me, he knew where the problem was. I didn’t think. I just didn’t think. I should have realised.’


‘What happened then?’


‘He muttered things … in some sort of foreign language. His voice went deeper and he spoke in a guttural way and then it was quite frightening. His eyes were staring. He stared right into me somehow. His eyes changed. I can’t explain. They just changed.’


‘Had he asked you to undress?’


‘Just my skirt and blouse and he gave me a gown like a hospital gown, so that seemed all right. But now he said I’d to take off my tights and pants.’


‘And did you?’


‘It sounds stupid, it sounds as if I’m a halfwit, doesn’t it? But there was something about him, then, his eyes and his voice. I was frightened. His eyes seemed to –’


‘Hypnotise you?’


‘I was going to say “cast a spell” but I suppose it was hypnotising me, yes. I can see that now. I did as he asked because I was frightened not to. I felt he had power over me.’


She had been made to lie down again, and this time she had felt first a cold instrument of some kind and then his fingers penetrating her vagina and working about inside. He had asked her to turn over and after pressing her in the back and kidney area, he had also introduced his fingers into her anus. It took a long time for her to tell Cat everything that had happened and she needed a good deal of prompting. Cat was anxious not to put words into her mouth but the woman was filled with shame and embarrassment, mortified to have to tell even a doctor what had been done to her.


‘Marion, I know how difficult this is for you but you understand that I have to make absolutely certain about everything, don’t you?’


‘I know.’ Her voice was barely a whisper now.


‘Did he rape you? Did he have full sexual intercourse with you?’


There was a long silence. Cat waited, still holding the woman’s hand. Mrs Keith licked her dry lips several times and wiped her hand across her eyes. She did not look at Cat.


‘He might have,’ she said at last. ‘I can’t be sure. He might have.’


‘How is it you can’t be sure?’


‘I don’t know. I felt funny. I was frightened.’


‘It’s important. You know that.’


‘Yes.’


‘If he did rape you he can be arrested and even what you have told me constitutes criminal assault, there’s no doubt about that. But if we can prove that you were raped he faces a much more serious charge. What you say could make sure he doesn’t get away with this.’


‘What do you want? I can’t remember.’ She began to cry again.


‘What I need is for you to let the police talk to you, but because there’s a chance you’ve been raped, you will have to be taken to the station and have the police doctor examine you.’


‘No.’


‘Marion …’


‘I can’t. I’ve talked to you. I said I didn’t want anyone else.’


‘It will be a woman doctor, and a nurse will be there. I’ll come with you if it would help.’

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