‘It was only I –’
‘Right. Now, I’ve no idea if he’s in here, but if he is he’ll be dangerous. I’m going in first, uniform back-up is behind. Nathan –’
‘I’m in there with you.’
Simon knew better than to argue. ‘Just be careful. He’s unlikely to be armed, but if he’s cornered he’ll think he’s got nothing to lose. He’ll have heard us.’ He spoke briefly, bringing the others up behind him to surround the unit. ‘May I have the keys please? Then you gentlemen stay right over there.’
Serrailler turned the key in the lock and stepped quickly inside, Nathan at his heels. Uniformed officers closed up behind. There was silence. Simon put his hand on the inner door that led to the office then opened it quickly.
‘Sharpe?’ He looked round quickly. ‘No one. Doesn’t look as if he did much business with his import and export. We’ll get forensics in here later.’ He opened a couple of drawers. ‘Still nothing.’
‘Here, sir.’ Nathan stepped back. The holdall was on the shelf.
‘Get it down,’ Serrailler said.
‘If he’s gone away he’s forgotten his overnight stuff.’
‘Unless this is spare kit he keeps here for some reason.’
‘Toothbrush is damp, sir.’
‘OK. Leave it now.’
‘Hold on …’ Nathan took a small package from the shelf.
‘Addressed to Dr Cat Deerbon, sir.’
Simon looked round sharply. The brown envelope was unsealed and Nathan tipped it up. Three tapes slid out on to the shelf.
‘OK, bag them up with the rest of the stuff later. Now, there’s the big storage area at the back and some sort of inner room as well. He could be in either. The side entrance is covered, he can’t get past anyone this way but watch it.’
They moved forward.
The silence was so dense they could have heard the dust seethe.
The DCI rapped on the metal door. ‘Sharpe?’
‘He ain’t here,’ Nathan said.
‘Probably not, but he’s as clever as paint. Right, let’s go.’
He slid the bolt, put the key in the lock and turned it. Then he waited for a full minute. Behind him he felt Nathan’s warmth and the young man’s breath on his neck.
‘We’re coming in.’
He flung open the door wide and the two of them went through it almost together into what, for a split second, they thought was an empty space.
‘Oh dear God.’ Simon Serrailler spoke in a voice so low Nathan Coates did not catch the words but had to follow the DCI’s glance across to the far end of the unit.
‘Jesus Christ,’ Nathan would have said, only when he opened his mouth, nothing but an odd little mewling cry came out of it.
I have told you now. I have talked to you. I have made up for the lies and the silences. Now more than ever, when perhaps we are about to come face to face, I must tell you the truth, mustn’t I?
I used to hate talking to you. I hated it when you tried to make me tell you things, tried to get under my skin, tried to live my life alongside me.
But I have come to like laying everything bare at last. I like it that you know me – what I choose to let you know. Because, in the end, I do have the choice and the power. The last word. I.
I. I. I. I. I. I.
‘Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, Whose presence is balm.
Be there at our sleeping and give us we pray
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.’
The last verse of the hymn rang up from the full congregation, the St Michael’s Singers and the choir, up to the cathedral roof. Freya Graffham’s light oak coffin lay on its rests at the chancel steps. She had looked up at the roof with its gilded angels and ribs when she herself had been singing, so that Cat thought it seemed more than usually right for it to be placed there. The beautiful hymn had choked everyone.
The cathedral was full. Police from Freya’s old teams in the Met sat with those from Lafferton. Gold braid gleamed. Chief constables and deputy chief constables, chief superintendents, superintendents. DCI Simon Serrailler sat at the aisle end of a pew, from which he had got up and walked to the lectern to read the Old Testament lesson. Nathan Coates sat with his fiancée in the second row, among the colleagues he had shared with Freya. In her place among the altos, Meriel Serrailler sat listening to the familiar words from the old Prayer Book and, for the first time since Freya’s death, felt not only sadness, not only the loss of a new friend whom she had liked so much, but a regret for something more and which she could not articulate even to herself. She made the best of things, looked forward, worked, did not linger too long in any part of the present. It was the way she had sustained a long and bitter marriage to an angry and resentful man, but now for some reason the death of Freya brought it into acutely clear focus. The waste of time, the waste of life, the sense of things left undone, the repression of so much anger seemed to come to a head, here, in this building she loved, and she did not know how to deal with them or what her response should be. She thought of Aidan Sharpe, insane, deranged, wicked, twisted – which? From when? And why, why, why?
There was a rumble of chairs as the hymn finished. Nathan Coates got up and walked to the lectern. His face was tight with the effort of control and in his light grey suit and black tie he looked like a schoolboy. He put both hands on the lectern and cleared his throat. Emma clenched her hands in feeling for him. At first he had said he couldn’t do this, that he would be afraid of weeping, as he had wept so often since his sergeant’s death. Then, abruptly, he had changed his mind. ‘Pulled myself together,’ he’d said to her. But she knew how hard this was going to be.
‘The lesson is taken from the Gospel of St Luke Chapter Ten. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves …”’
His voice became stronger as he read on through the parable of the Good Samaritan so that at the end it sounded clear and proud and vibrant through the building. As he went back to his pew he paused beside the coffin and bowed his head.
‘Let us pray.’
Emma took Nathan’s hand and held it pressed between both of her own to still the shaking.
Karin McCafferty felt tired. She had almost stayed at home, urged by Mike not to push herself to come, Mike who was terrified for her, terrified for himself, helpless in the face of what he now saw as her death sentence. He had not believed in the way she had taken nor understood her reasons. Now, when he seemed to be right – when everyone seemed to be right but her – he found excuses to go away so that he did not have to watch her worsen and become weaker.
But I am not worse, she said now, as they stood for the last hymn, I know. I know. For weeks past she had felt herself shielded, cocooned within the circle of some strong protective force. Slowly, gradually, she was being healed and strengthened. She was not in the least afraid, standing among them all as they began to sing.
‘He who would true valour see
Let him come hither.’
She wondered who had chosen ‘To be a Pilgrim’, whether Freya had left instructions for her own funeral. Perhaps those whose work brought them into danger often did, even just scribbled notes on a scrap of paper left in a drawer.
The moment she had heard what had happened, Karin had closed the door in her mind which led to the room in which she had lain on a couch with Aidan Sharpe leaning over her, closed it, bolted it, locked it. She would never so much as approach it again. She had talked about everything to Cat Deerbon, had told her healer and then made the decision for herself. She could not begin to understand let alone judge. Better simply to leave it alone.
Sandy Marsh thought she might have to go out when they sang the hymn, the same one they had sung for Debbie. She sat near the back of the cathedral. Jason had come with her, though she hadn’t wanted him to, but now, in the middle of it all, with the memories flooding over her again, she was glad that he had, that he was reassuringly there with his arm and his supply of large clean handkerchiefs.
Her life had turned upside down from that first night, when Debbie hadn’t come home and it would never go back together properly, never be as it had been. She had not only lost her oldest friend and flatmate to a murderer, she had lost something else she couldn’t define, something careless and optimistic, something that had been there since she and Debbie were children. It was gone for good.
She would leave the flat, she had decided that as soon as she had heard about Debbie, though she didn’t want to leave Lafferton or her job, she needed friends and everything familiar round her, even if it was hard to bear some days when she saw the Hill or a bus going to Starly, or one of the ordinary places she and Debbie used to go to, shops, the café, the branch library.
For now she was staying with one of the girls at work whose husband was in the navy and away for long stretches. She wanted to find a new flat of her own, but finding someone to share with would not be easy and she could not afford to rent anything alone. She and Debbie had got on comfortably, known one another so well that life had been smooth even when Debbie had been so low-spirited.
They were standing for the next hymn. Jason touched her arm. Kind Jason, good, nice, friendly Jason. But she knew Jason wanted more and she had to tell him that she did not. She liked him and she was grateful. At work, he was good fun. That was it. Even if she’d been ready for a serious boyfriend, it was never going to be Jason.
‘Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire
O still small voice of calm,
O still small voice of calm.’
Simon Serrailler stood in the pulpit. He had a sheet of notes on the lectern in front of him and did not refer to it once.
‘We are here to say goodbye to Freya Graffham, daughter and sister and aunt, colleague and friend, and to honour her, and I know this is one of the hardest things any of us will ever have to do. Freya was with us in Lafferton CID for a short time but few people have made such a clear and impressive mark or endeared themselves to us so strongly.’
Cat’s eyes did not leave her brother’s face. He was a fine speaker, not showy, clear, striking and absolutely sincere. He brought Freya to life again, captured something of her vibrancy and sense of fun, her intelligence, her love of her job, her new home, her colleagues, her friends, singing – and this cathedral. He spoke movingly about her death and bitterly about the circumstances, regretted the waste and the evil, praised the bravery of his colleagues, reminded them of the risks run by police officers every day, asked them for their support and prayers for the living, even as they honoured one who was dead. It was a passionate address and it left the congregation stunned and moved once more to tears.
Then the commendation and the blessing. Suddenly, Cat’s mind went to Aidan Sharpe; he was vivid before her, smug, unrepentant, smiling. It seemed that she looked evil full in the face.
The six police bearers, including Simon and Nathan Coates, stepped forward and shouldered Freya’s coffin.
God help us, Cat thought, looking intently at the pale wood, at the single wreath of white roses and freesias lying on top, and the solemn faces of the bearers. She bent her head as they went past. Dear God …
But any more was beyond her. The funerals of Debbie Parker and Iris Chater had been smaller affairs in other places, sad, bleak occasions, full of questions left hanging in the air, and of bewilderment and rage, without any sense of resolution. Now, somehow, as the cathedral organ played Bach’s great ‘Sleepers Awake’, there seemed to be a kind of resolution, a glimpse of rightness here. Death was a mess, a breaking apart, an ugliness, but a funeral service like this threw a shaft of light and gave comfort, gave strength.
Where would I be and how could I go on if I did not have this? Cat bent her head again.
The police guard of honour lined the cathedral path as the coffin was carried down to the hearse and silver and gilt flashed in the sunlight here and there and for a second fell on the white flowers and the pale wood, before the car moved off into shadow.
People emerging fell into pairs and groups, spoke quietly, waited for official cars or began to walk away. In the shelter of one of the huge buttresses by the side door, Nathan Coates wept without restraint in Emma’s arms.
Jim Williams turned alone into the close without looking back, unsure why he had come, unsure if he was glad that he had or not, and yards behind him, Netty Salmon watched and half thought of striding off to catch him up, but somehow did not.
Gradually the area cleared. The senior officers had left first. Lafferton Police Station was open for anyone from the congregation to sign a book of condolence in Freya Graffham’s memory.
Simon looked round. ‘Nathan.’
‘That was everything … what you said.’
‘I don’t believe it though, I don’t believe that was her we just carried. I can’t get my head round it.’
‘Nathan …’ Emma said gently.
Nathan wiped his eyes. ‘Yeah, I know. It’s only that we’re getting married, guv. We was going to wait, have a proper do, but … we can’t. Not now. We’re going to the registry office Thursday morning, early. Just us and one of my brothers and Emma’s mum and dad. Only …’
‘Would you be one of our witnesses?’ Emma finished for him.
‘I’d be absolutely delighted to.’
‘Thanks. Thanks a lot. See you back at the station then.’
They went off, getting a lift with another of the CID.
But Simon had told his driver not to wait. As the last few people left and he heard the choirboys coming out of the side door of the cathedral, he turned and went back into the great building. The air was still vibrant with the service, the notes of the organ, the voices, the prayers still hung suspended there. It was warm. There was a smell of flowers and coats. Some orders of service had been left behind on the pews.
He walked slowly up the side aisle and looked at the space at the foot of the chancel where Freya’s coffin had stood. Freya. He could not picture her and he did not know for now what he felt or thought. It would come. He was a man who let such things fall as they would.
His thoughts about Aidan Sharpe were no clearer and probably never would be. Cat had said that his kind could only be left to the understanding of God. Simon wondered.
A verger was snuffing the candles, another was collecting up the hymn books and carrying them away in neat stacks. There was an abrupt squeak and then a single bass note from the organ. Simon glanced up. The organist closed the cover and switched off the light above the music rest.
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