“OK, I’ll catch up with her later. Thank you.”
Bay 3 was off to one side and Sister Wicks was there. Fourteen-year-old Nancy Lee lay attached to the monitors, tubes and drips, eyes closed, head swathed in bandages. Her mother sat beside her, holding one of her hands in both her own. But when Jane went quietly in and she looked up, she smiled, an open and beautiful smile, full of joy and relief.
Sister Wicks said, “Good news,” nodding to Nancy.
“The tumour wasn’t malignant and they removed all of it. Outlook very good.”
Jane’s eyes filled with tears. That morning, when she had come in to say a prayer before Nancy had gone down to theatre, the prognosis had been grim, the tumour thought to be malignant and difficult to remove.
Nancy’s mother said, “It’s a miracle. It’s just the most wonder ful miracle.”
“It’s certainly good news,” Jane said. She felt uneasy when people claimed miracles, especially too quickly after major surgery or early on in a serious illness. What was a miracle anyway? She thought of Chris Deerbon, for whom there was no good outlook, no surprise, no miracle. She glanced at Nancy’s young face. She looked infinitely distant, infinitely frail.
“Will you say a prayer of thanks? God has been so good, he keeps his promises.” Nancy’s mother was an evangelical Christian, entirely sure of her Bible-based faith, shining with righteousness as she held her daughter’s hand.
It is more difficult than this, Jane wanted to say, it is never so simple, we can never claim an easy answer. But she could say no such thing. She put her hand lightly on Nancy’s head and gave her a blessing.
“I’ll come in tomorrow morning,” she said. “See how she’s doing then. It is early days you know.”
“She’s going to make a full recovery. We can trust in that.”
Jane smiled and slipped away.
On the way back to the college she worried that she had sounded too negative or had seemed to deny the mother’s sure faith. What was she doing being a priest in the Church of England if she did not accept that miracles happened and prayers were answered? She believed in the power of prayer. Miracles, though—what were they? Rareties, that was sure. A medical diagnosis which turned out to have been too pessimistic, with the result being better than everyone had dared to hope or expect—that was explicable and something to be glad and grateful for but not a miracle. The hospital saw good and bad outcomes all the time—she had seen both herself in the course of that day. Yet she had seemed to reject one woman’s faith and she blamed herself for it.
She parked the car and walked thoughtfully across the college quad. It was quiet. The air smelled autumnal though it was quite warm and there were little clouds of midges and gnats dancing here and there. She knew how lucky she was, to have the privilege of a set of rooms in college, a part-time chaplaincy both here and at the hospital, and a doctorate to study for. She had made too many mistakes, taken wrong turns, didn’t believe herself to be cut out for her previous jobs. Now, she had time and space. She hoped she would prove good enough—enough to justify the trust people had placed in her, “yet again” she thought. She wondered why the confidence, which had been so strong when she first determined to be a priest, had weakened so much.
There was a note pinned to the door of her rooms. “Dear Jane, would you have tea at four thirty with me tomorrow? I hope all is well and you are settling in comfortably. Good wishes, Peter.” The courteous wording, from the senior chaplain, and the “tea at four thirty” made her smile. Some things did not change.
A few people were in to dinner and she stayed talking in the combination room until just before ten. She barely knew anyone but introductions were easy in a college and she felt more cheer ful as she went back to her rooms, planning to work for an hour and also to ring Cat Deerbon. But before that, she switched on the television to catch the news. As the picture came up, Simon Serrailler’s face filled the screen. Jane stood staring at him, startled by the odd mixture of his closeness, here, talking to her, and his complete remoteness.
He looked calm and in control, but grim-faced as he took questions about the Lafferton shootings. It was easy enough to tell that Simon was on the spot and hard not to sympathise with the public outrage that a gunman was on a killing spree while the police appeared to be doing nothing to stop it. But after a moment, Jane saw Serrailler not there, under the television lights, giving a press conference, but outside the bungalow in which she had been held by a man driven mad with grief, Simon talking to him, trying to calm him down, and later, when she had finally been released, waiting for her, reassuring her. She remembered the evening they had spent together. She had cooked a makeshift supper. She had enjoyed his company but, at the last minute, rebuffed him, backed off, uncertain and confused, still in shock after what had happened to her. She had not been able to give Simon a chance and she knew that because he never found closeness easy, he had been both surprised and hurt at her behaviour. He had not understood why, having taken such a risk, he had found himself rejected.
Later, after leaving Lafferton and during the last weekend before going into the abbey, she had written him a long and careful letter in which she had tried to apologise and to explain.
She had never posted it.
The phone rang for a long time before Cat answered.
“Sorry, I was upstairs with Chris.”
“That’s why I’m ringing. How are things?”
Cat sighed. “Hang on, let me sit down. I’m so glad you rang.”
“Good, but you will always say if it’s a bad time or you can’t cope with talking about it, won’t you? I don’t want to intrude.”
“You absolutely do not. But yes, I will always say. He’s feeling pretty bad … his mood swings are quite strong and he sleeps a lot. He’s on massive medication of course and he’s had three radiotherapy treatments.”
“Hard to say yet. I have my doubts.”
“Have you told the children?”
“Oh yes. As much as I can. Sam understands … he’s very quiet about it. But he sidles up to me and hangs about rather a lot. Hannah—I don’t know. She’s such a bouncy little thing, I’m not sure she’s taken it in. I can’t tell them he’s going to die, Jane … I’ve said I’m not sure if he’s going to be well but that isn’t the same. Sam looks at me. I know what he’s thinking. Felix is too young of course, though he notices that he can’t crash about all over Chris as usual. I have to keep him away, he’s so boisterous. Dad has been here today. Blunt as ever. Judith didn’t come, she’s gone to Edinburgh for a few days to see her daughter. I could have done with her, she takes the edge off Dad. But Simon came and he’s the one person who has the knack with Chris … nothing fazes him. They just talk. He can say anything and Chris takes it.”
“I just saw him on the news.”
“I missed it—Chris needed a sick bowl. How was Si?”
“Very professional. Grim.”
“They’re in a mess. They haven’t a clue, Jane, this guy’s running rings round them. Have you been in touch with him?”
“I think he’d like it.”
“I’ll see. Maybe when they’ve got this one cracked.”
“That might be never. How’s Cambridge?”
“Wonderful. Love it. Love everything. It’s right, Cat … I just want it to stay right. I’ve made too many mistakes.”
“Not your fault.”
“I have to go, Chris is calling. Ring me again. I’ll need you.”
Jane went to the window and opened it. The air smelled moist and earthy. One or two lights were on but it was almost silent.
She could not get Simon out of her mind. His face on the television screen. His face as she had looked up and directly into it at Karin’s funeral. His face all that time ago as he had told her he wanted to see more of her, as he had sat in her kitchen in the Lafferton bungalow after supper.
But she had fled a long way across the country, to get away from him, to start a new life. She wanted that new life. It felt right. She did not want to go through her days with the image of Simon Serrailler hovering at the back of her mind.
“This is bloody ridiculous,” Clive Rowley said. “This is the sort of thing the public complains about. If the media gets hold of this—”
“Belt up, would you?”
“I’m saying, they’ve every right to ask questions. I’m asking questions, you should be asking questions.”
“Well, I’m not. OK, let’s head round onto the Starly Road, see who we can catch using their mobile while driving.”
Clive snorted. They were on traffic.
“Not like the old days then,” Liam said.
“Bloody isn’t. I mean, we’re highly trained firearms officers, what are we doing doubling up as traffic?”
“Plenty of money when they have to find a load of it to look after the bloody royals.”
“To be fair, not all of that’s down to our force and it’s only the once.”
“No it’s not, it’s every time we have one of them opening this or unveiling that.”
“I heard the wedding counted as private so they paid for their own policing.”
“God, you’re a cynic, Clive.”
“No, I just want to be doing the job I was trained to do. With an armed lunatic running round, you’d think it would dawn on them we ought to be on permanent standby.”
“Playing cards, you mean. That one looks dodgy … bet he hasn’t got insurance—look at him.”
“Why not? Doesn’t look safe to be on the road.” Liam switched on the lights and warning siren and speeded up to get in front of the boy driving an ancient resprayed Fiesta. “OK, laddo, let’s be having you.”
They slewed to a halt in a lay-by and got out. As they walked towards the Fiesta, a motorbike shot by going so fast the tarmac smoked in its wake.
“Come on, come on,” Clive Rowley said, “let’s get after him.”
Liam shook his head. “He’ll be long gone.” He spoke into his radio, giving their location and reporting the speeding bike, then politely asked the boy, who looked no more than fourteen, to get out of the Fiesta for him.
On the outskirts of Starly, a patrol car returning from inter viewing a shopkeeper about the theft of some stock came up behind a motorbike, forced to slow down at a traffic hold-up, and revving impatiently. As all motorcyclists were currently under greater scrutiny than usual, they pulled him in.
Ten minutes later, a DC put her head round Simon Serrailler’s office.
“Guv? Someone’s bringing in Craig Drew’s father.”
“Doing eighty in a fifty limit.”
“What’s that got to do with us?”
“He was riding a black Yamaha motorbike.”
Simon went back to his screen but he had lost track of what he was doing. Motorbikes. Craig Drew’s father. The wedding.
He called the team into the conference room.
“Motorbikes. It’s thin, to be frank, but it’s our first definite line of inquiry. Black Yamaha motorbike, 1,000cc probably.” He wrote on the whiteboard. “I want a check on how many of these are registered to the area, excluding our own bikes obviously … anyone with the slightest link to any of the gunman’s victims, log it, copy everyone in, put it up here. When you’ve got a connection, if you get one, think, think, think. We’ll interview but”—he tapped his forehead—” make this work. What’s the connection, is it coincidence, is there any personal history, firearms? Anything.”
“Is this just Lafferton, guv?”
“For the moment. The rings will spread outwards. He hasn’t come from far—we won’t be looking on the other side of the county. This is a local man, local knowledge—I’d be surprised if he comes from as far as Bevham. Now, funerals. You know the theory—the killer likes to see the job finished so he sometimes goes so far as to attend the funeral of his victims. The bodies of Melanie Drew, Bethan Doyle and the girls who were killed outside the nightclub are being released on Friday. Once we have funeral details, we’ll mount a discreet presence at each one. ARV will park up nearby. We’re taking no chances. We’ll have uniform in the cemeteries or the crematorium and outside the churches … in any case, there’ll be an official police presence at each one. But I want CID mingling with the mourners in the pews and at the gravesides, at the wakes if they have them … everywhere. Looking and listening. Detail, detail, detail … connections, connections. And motorbikes first. Thanks.”
A mile away from the station, in the Dean’s office at Lafferton Cathedral, the Chief Constable, Paula Devenish, was in reassurance mode.
“All leave is cancelled. The cathedral, the grounds and the close will be sealed off from the Friday morning—only those with photo ID and passes will be allowed anywhere near. Two armed response vehicles will be on standby and officers from two others will be in position from five a.m. on the Saturday morning.” She nodded to the AR Gold Command.
“The sniffer dogs will go into the cathedral twice, on the Friday morning and again on the Saturday. They will also go over every delivery as well as the flowers. We know our job and we’ll do it. Please trust us on this.”
“Thank you, Chief Constable, but given the number of shooting incidents—fatal shooting incidents—I’m sure you understand only too well how concerned we are.”
“Of course I do.”
Royal Protection coughed. “There hasn’t been a lot of, er, progress, has there?”
“If you mean there hasn’t been an arrest yet, no. That doesn’t mean lack of progress.”
Royal Protection’s face was a mask of politeness.
“It isn’t,” the Lord Lieutenant said quickly, “as if we don’t quite often have royal visitors to the county. We’ve always looked after them well and kept them safe, I think.”
“You haven’t always had a sniper in your midst,” Royal Protection said.
“So what do you propose?” Paula Devenish spoke sharply. When her force was under attack from outside she defended it aggressively, no matter what she might say in private. It was one of the things Simon Serrailler liked about her.