‘No.’


‘Then at least will you give a statement to the police now? Tell them what you’ve told me.’


‘Can’t you do it for me?’


‘I’m afraid not. They need your statement.’


‘No. I didn’t ask for the police, I wanted to see you. I’ve talked to you, I’ve told you what he did. I couldn’t say it again.’


It was well after two before Cat got home. In the end she had persuaded Mrs Keith to make her statement and go to the police station and it felt as if she had sweated blood; she also felt guilty at persuading a woman in distress to go against her own feelings and talk about what to her were shamefully intimate things, in impersonal surroundings to complete strangers. Why should Marion Keith have to endure all of that, when she had already been traumatised by what had been done to her?


Chris woke as she switched on the lamp. As luck would have it there had been no more calls, or he would have had to get out a locum. The time when Hannah and Sam could be left alone seemed a very long way off.


‘Well?’


Cat sat on the edge of the bed. Exhaustion was about to hit her but for another few moments, sheer adrenaline kept it at bay. She had been sorry for Marion Keith but at the same time she felt huge satisfaction.


‘We’ve got him,’ she said quietly. ‘He’s nailed. I left just as the police doctor on call got there … she was going to do the examination. Marion Keith’s had a vile experience but some good has come out of it. This Dr Groatman alias half a dozen other names is a very nasty piece of work.’


‘Marion … Keith … be all right …?’ Chris’s voice slurred with sleep.


‘Marion Keith,’ Cat said, ‘is a heroine.’


She was sorting out Sam’s gym bag and Hannah’s lunch box a few hours later when the phone rang.


‘Cat Deerbon.’


‘Morning, Doc. Sergeant Winder, Lafferton Police Station.’


‘Morning, Sergeant. Trouble?’


‘Dr Maskray asked me to call you first thing.’


‘Ah – this is about the assault on Mrs Keith?’


‘It is, except there wasn’t.’


‘Sorry?’


‘No assault. Dr Maskray found no evidence of anything and Mrs Keith has withdrawn her statement.’


‘Oh dear God.’


‘Car took her home. She was in a bit of a state. Could be done for wasting police time but the doc recommended not.’


‘All right, Sergeant, thanks for letting me know.’


She stood, holding a pot of Fun Kids Banana Yogurt in one hand and the telephone in the other. Upstairs Chris was shouting to Sam and Hannah to stop squabbling and start getting dressed.


‘Bugger,’ Cat said. ‘Hell and damnation.’


Thinking furiously, she went across to the dresser and put the pot of banana yogurt down on the phone rest.


Forty-Nine


Angela Randall. Silly bitch. She had caused trouble from the beginning. There had been the difficult telephone calls. Letters. Cards. Twice she had simply appeared on his doorstep at night, her cow-like face full of mooning self-pity, longing to be invited in, longing for him. She had repelled him. Eventually, he had refused to treat her, and in any case she had no illnesses or physical problems to be dealt with; her problems were the distorted emotional ones of a menopausal spinster. When the first two gifts had arrived he had sent them back. They had been sent again and then others, always anonymously, always with the same ludicrous notes. After a while, he had decided to ignore them and the gifts had continued, expensive, unsuitable gifts, humiliating her. He had not cared in the slightest.


But now she was the one causing trouble. He thought of her lying in the unit, scrawny and pitiful, though he never felt pity.


Freya Graffham had noticed the watch, but how had she come to know about it in the first place? Angela Randall must have been stupid enough to leave something lying around in her house, a receipt, his name and address. Something had alerted Graffham.


He was tired. His actions and plans were being directed from outside, by events and by other people and he had always been careful not to allow that. It set him on edge. He had not slept well. Seeing the police all over the business park had not helped.


He buttered bread and cut the plastic wrapping from around a pack of smoked mackerel. He thought he knew how to tolerate frustration, thought he had learned it years ago, but the build-up of tension in his body and mind betrayed him.


He sighed now as he mixed a salad. His hand had been forced again and there was not enough time. He knew what he must do next.


He sat down, swivelled the tuner of the radio until he came upon a programme of music by Philip Glass, and then, to its accompaniment, began to eat and think methodically.


The cathedral was full. Sitting in the middle of the rows of altos, listening to the mighty waves of sound coming from the orchestra below, Freya Graffham felt exhilarated. Singing had always raised her up to a different level of delight and fulfilment. There was a heady satisfaction in achieving notes and melodies as part of a chorus of others, and the music took on another dimension from the perspective of the performer in the midst of it. Listening was wholly inferior, a poor also-ran to this. The cathedral acoustics were not easy, and the pianissimo sections had a tendency to vanish like fine coils of candlesmoke up into the roof, but the fact that the building was so full helped and the crescendos were magnificent. She noticed Cat Deerbon, as the altos stood up, and wondered if Simon was there, but most of the audience blended back into the shadows.


As always in singing and listening, she quickly forgot everything else, as they all did. The high of the performance carried them on, long after it was over, after they had finally left the cathedral to its hollows and a silence that was somehow still full of music, after the post-performance drinks and sandwiches and mutual congratulations in St Michael’s Hall. It carried each of them out into the streets, into their cars, laughing and calling, and floated them home.


Freya had walked from home tonight and only parted from half a dozen of the others on the corner of her own street. It was a mild, soft night, full of stars and sweet with the smell of freshly-cut lawns. She was tired but it would be a long time before she slept. She would have a bath, potter about, watch a late-night film and gradually, contentedly unwind.


She checked her car, as always. It was parked under the lamp a few yards from her own front door. Her name was down for one of the few garages in the Old Town but one was not likely to become vacant for years. The street was quiet, as usual, and she was never particularly worried that her car might be stolen or vandalised. Feeling safe, in her car and her house, was something she was still unused to, after the years in London.


As she closed the front door and felt the comfortable atmosphere of home settle around her, she wondered if she would ever be able to give this up again, ever want to share her space, her leisure, her waking and sleeping and daily routines even with someone she loved a great deal. Would Simon, as comfortably settled in his flat in the close as she was here, ever want to give up such independence?


For now, Freya had what she wanted in her peaceful rooms, filled with happy satisfaction at the music she had helped to make, her head still hearing the voices and instruments that had been all round her. She went into the kitchen, humming quietly.


At first, she was uncertain if there had been a sound at the front door or not. She stood still. The soft knock came again.


It was twenty minutes to midnight and all the upstairs lights in the houses of her neighbours were out. Then she remembered Simon’s telephone message. She pulled a comb out of her handbag and ran it through her short hair before going quickly, heart in her mouth, to open the door.


Before she had time to take in what was happening, Aidan Sharpe had stepped quickly inside and shut and locked the door in one movement. He put the key in his pocket.


‘I want to talk to you,’ he said.


Instinctively, Freya turned back into the living room and went rapidly across to the table on which she had left her mobile phone. Usually it was in her bag or the pocket of her jacket but tonight because of the concert, she had left it behind here.


‘We won’t want to be disturbed.’ He was at her elbow and his gloved hand flashed in front of her to take the handset.


‘Give that back please.’


‘Sit down, Miss Graffham. You’re not in Lafferton station now, nor are you on duty as an officer.’


‘Give –’


From the left pocket of his jacket he pulled a syringe. Freya could see that it was full of a clear liquid. She swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry.


‘I said sit down.’


His voice was very soft and held a note of manic calm and sweet reason which she had heard before in dangerous men. She knew very well that for the time being she had to humour him and do as he asked. Aidan Sharpe did not take his eyes from her as he walked across the room and switched off the main light, leaving only the two lamps. Then he sat in the armchair opposite her and leaned back, the faintest of smiles on his mouth, his eyes staring. Freya began to think rapidly about the way to handle him, speak to him, change his mood, as well as about her means of escape. One door in the room led to the hall, the other to the kitchen and from there a door led to the side passage which ran between her house and the neighbouring one. At the end of the passage was a wooden door, bolted from the inside.


‘I want to talk to you,’ Aidan Sharpe said again.


‘About Angela Randall? Or Debbie … or perhaps both of them?’


‘Shut up.’


He was a different man from the one who had sat opposite her in the Embassy Room, different and yet recognisably the same, like so many of the psychopaths she had dealt with. She ought to have recognised the signs but then, subliminally, she knew that indeed she had.


‘Angela Randall was a stupid bitch. A very tiresome stupid bitch.’


‘You said “was” … does –?’


‘I told you to shut up.’


She had to remain rational and calm and not give off the smell of fear, nor betray what she was planning by the slightest flicker.


‘I loathe women, but I loathed that silly bitch more than most. She had no pride, you see, she lay at my feet like a bitch on heat, she sent me messages full of vile language, fawning and clinging and yielding. Where was the pride in all of that? She sent me cards, she sent me gifts. This …’ He shot his cuff and displayed the watch. ‘Yes, of course, and so many other things. She wasted her money, she probably got herself into debt for it and then there were always the pathetic notes. She was debasing herself. I despised her. I sold off most of the things. I didn’t want them round me, contaminating me, but I kept the watch. I knew someone who had a watch like it when I was a boy. A relative I used to see. I was fond of him. I haven’t seen a watch like it since.’


Now his voice had changed again, become casual in tone, as if he wanted to lull her, to make this seem like a chat between friends.


‘It’s typical of her, you know, that she should be the one who alerted you. It’s typical that this should be her fault. None of the others would have done it.’ He fell silent for a moment, sitting with one leg crossed up on the other, hand behind his head, and still staring, staring. Freya calculated how many strides she needed to make to reach the kitchen and the outside door, how easy it would be to get to the end of the passageway.


‘I like my work, you know, I find it satisfying. I’m good at it. A lot of people have reason to be grateful to me. I’m sure you know that from our friend Dr Deerbon. I sacrificed a lot to qualify. I lived in a room the size of my present bathroom and scraped by for years in order to get where I am. But it was never going to be enough. I don’t think I ever thought it would be, not when you consider how near I was to being a doctor. I was unjustly treated, victimised and betrayed. I had everything mapped out and they ruined it all. I discovered I didn’t need them at all. The joke has been mine for years. The study of the human body, the intimate, detailed comparison between one and another. The stages of life and of death. I have come to know more about it than anyone in the world because I have had the luxury of time and been able to set up my own private place for research.’


He was silent again, this time for several minutes, and absolutely still, looking across the room at her.


The fear Freya felt was different from any she had known before. She had been confronted by angry and violent men, by men with weapons, by the deranged and the dangerous in difficult situations, and fear, even terror, had been the inevitable response; but it had never been overwhelming, there had always been a corner of herself in which she was not afraid but filled with confidence in her own skills and determination, the adrenaline racing through her, heightening her thinking and helping her to deal with the situation. Now, she could not find that corner of calm and confidence. Aidan Sharpe was mad in the most dangerous way of all, controlledly, quietly, rationally mad. His violence was not a fired-up, passionate reaction to finding himself at risk. Such a threat was alarming – but easier to deal with. This was a smiling psychopath, deluded and with all the strength and cunning of one who thinks himself omnipotent and untouchable. Faced with him holding that small, potentially deadly syringe full of who knew what, sitting in her own chair, late at night in this quiet house without her usual reliable access to help, listening to his monotonous, gloating voice, she understood the paralysis of every hunted and cornered creature.


‘Wouldn’t you like to hear more? I’ve teased you, haven’t I?’


‘If you feel the need to tell me, please do.’


Aidan Sharpe laughed, almost a natural-sounding laugh. ‘Oh, my dear Freya, how charming! Up pops the well-trained detective sergeant who passed her practical psychology course … “Humour him, win him over by listening to him patiently. He will feel the need to confess so let him. This will lull him into letting his guard drop.” I have no need to confess, I assure you. I enjoy my work and I will do so for many years to come. Confession is not on the agenda. I know myself, you see. I know my own psychology a good deal better than anyone else ever could. Recently, a young woman in Australia went missing for five years, did you read about that? Her family held a memorial service for her and a young man was charged with her murder. She reappeared quite suddenly. She had been in hiding quite near her home. So what is to say that these three women won’t reappear too?’


‘But I think you want to tell me the reason why they won’t.’


‘Do I? How concerned are you? How curious are you?’


‘Very.’


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