The Risk of Darkness / Page 10

Page 10


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“That doesn’t make any sense.”


“Perhaps it will soon.”


Then he said, “You look like her.”


“No.” Jane smiled. “Lizzie had that wonderful long hair … straight and smooth …” Her own was dark red and sprang out from her head, impossible to tame.


“You are young, beautiful … you’re like she was.”


“Come on, Max … come with me.”


“You are alive, though, that’s the difference, and Lizzie is dead. Why isn’t everyone else dead? Why aren’t you?”


Jane took him by the arm and he allowed her to lead him, out of the chapel and down through the side aisle of the empty cathedral. He seemed bewildered, unsure of where to put his feet. She felt afraid for him, his grief and pain were so overwhelming, racking him physically as well as emotionally.


“How long is it since you ate anything?” she asked as they walked down the quiet close.


“I don’t know.”


“I can make you something … It’s up to you. Do you have any family coming for Lizzie’s funeral?”


“I don’t want any funeral. A funeral means the end of Lizzie, it means Lizzie is dead. Don’t you see that?”


“Yes. But Lizzie is dead. Her body is dead,” she said gently.


“No.”


“We go in through this side gate. The security lights will come on in a second.” She took Max’s hand like that of a child, and led him through the garden of the Precentor’s house, along the path which had a trellis to one side, to her small bungalow. Somewhere in the bushes, there was the rustle of a cat or a fox, eyes gleaming momentarily out of the blackness.


The tiny hall was still in a state of disarray. Jane put lamps on in her study, and the gas fire, and held out her hands to take Max’s jacket.


“I don’t know what to do,” he said.


“Sit down there. I’ll make coffee … or tea? And I’ll do some sandwiches … I haven’t had anything myself yet. Just you rest, Max.”


He looked around the room, at Jane’s books, her desk, the crucifix and two candles on the small table. She drew the curtains against the night, left him there and went into the kitchen. The light on her answer-phone was flashing.


“Jane? They’re sending me home tomorrow morning. A district nurse is supposed to come but I shan’t need her. I’ll telephone you … I might catch you between church matters. Goodbye.”


She smiled to herself, recognising that nothing was going to change her mother now and refusing to worry about it. The thought of her returning to the house ransacked by the burglars and muggers was troubling, but she had done what she could and Magda would call on whoever she needed. She was good at that. She put the kettle on, and took out a loaf from the tin.


As she went to the fridge there was the sound of a step, and an arm came round her throat from behind, not choking her, but making it impossible for her to move.


“Max …” she managed to say. “What …?”


“How can you be here? How can you be here, making tea, cutting bread when Lizzie is there lying dead? What did Lizzie do? Why did your God kill Lizzie? You shouldn’t be alive, I can’t let you live, not now, not after what happened. You’re too like her. You shouldn’t be alive.” He spoke in a strange, soft voice as if he were reciting what he said, had learned it by heart for just this time, this place.


“Max, please loosen your arm.”


To her surprise, he did so. He let her go then pushed her towards the study. When they were inside, he closed the door.


Suddenly, now, Jane felt afraid. Max was out of his mind with distress and people in his state could behave irrationally and wildly. He was angry. She did not know how his anger might explode.


Help me, she prayed, help me. There were no other words, except: Help him.


“Sit down,” Max said.


She did so. It seemed better for the moment, not to argue, not to plead. Stay calm.


“What do you want, Max?”


“Oh, a cosmic question? Let’s ask a simple one. Simple answer. You’re supposed to have those, aren’t you?”


“Not really. I ask a lot of questions too. All the time.”


“You’re not paid for that.”


She smiled.


“I must have answers.”


“It’s hard, I know—”


He lunged at her, so that she shrank back in the chair.


“How dare you tell me that? How dare you say you know it’s hard. How do you know? Has this happened to you?”


“No,” Jane said. “If you mean, has a person I was in love with or was married to, died, no.”


“Then don’t patronise me.”


“And please don’t you threaten me.”


“Do you believe in it? Really believe in it? Would you die for it?”


“For my Christianity? I believe in it, yes. Whether I’d die for it … I wonder how brave I am. But plenty of people have died for their faith. They still do.”


“You believe Christ was raised from the dead?”


“Yes.”


“And prayer?”


“I don’t believe prayer is a magic trick. We always get an answer but maybe not the one we wanted.”


“Good cop-out.”


“Is that what it sounds like? I just don’t think it’s like a note to Father Christmas … I want, please can I have?”


“Why did Lizzie die? Can you answer that?”


“No. I don’t know … it seems cruel and horrible and pointless … the world often does. Is. I know we can come to terms with things in time and I know that when appalling things happen God is with us in the middle of it all.”


“Sorry, I failed to notice. How stupid.”


“Let me make that drink, then I’ll drive you home.”


“No.”


“Give yourself a break, Max.”


“I’m not going anywhere. Nor are you. Not until your God brings Lizzie back to life.”


“He won’t. There is no point in having this talk now, you’re not fit.”


“Until you can explain to me why my wife died and unless your prayers can bring her back to me, woman priest, you are here and I am here. Maybe for tonight, tomorrow … maybe till we die.”


“What do you mean?”


“Nothing.”


“Let me drive you home. If you want to say anything to me, let off your feelings, whatever, that’s fine, but not tonight. You’re distraught, I’m exhausted. Come and talk tomorrow.”


“I want you to lock the door … is there only one door?”


Jane hesitated.


“TELL ME.”


“Yes. One door.”


“Go and lock it. I’ll watch you.”


“Max …”


“I’ll watch you.”


“Please calm down.”


He stood very still, scarcely seeming to breathe, very tense, focused.


She got up.


He took her arm and moved her towards the door with a strength she could not have fought. She turned the key. The door was solid, without glass, the lock an old-fashioned, heavy one. There was also a second, drop-down latch. Max waited. Slowly, she turned the brass knob.


“Where’s your phone?”


“In the study, and there’s an extension in my bedroom.”


“Pull them out of the wall sockets. Give me your mobile first.”


It was in the pocket of her cassock. She wondered how she might somehow dial as she reached to take it out. Before she could, Max grabbed her wrist and held it while with his other hand he found the pocket and the mobile phone, took it out and switched it off.


“Now the others.”


They went into the study, then to the socket beside her bed.


“Are there locks on the windows?”


“Security locks. Yes.”


“Are they locked?”


“Yes.”


“I’d like to have the tea now please. And something to eat. You promised that.”


“OK, Max, but please, this isn’t going to achieve anything, it …”


He stood silently, waiting. She went ahead of him into the kitchen. Max followed, shut the door and put a chair up against it. He sat on the chair. She remembered what had happened to her mother, how they had taken everything and then beaten her about the head. She looked at Max Jameson. No, it wasn’t like that. This was about something else.


“I need to tell you something.” She heard her own voice, hoarse as if she had an obstruction in her throat. The obstruction was fear. “I had to go to London urgently … I had a call from my mother … she’s a child psychiatrist, she lives on her own. When I got there, I found the house turned upside down, a lot of things taken … and my mother on the floor in her own blood. She’d surprised them. They thought the house was empty. It was very, very frightening. I … I can’t get it out of my head. Now you. It’s—”


“I’m not a burglar. There’s nothing here I want.”


“I don’t understand what you do want.”


“Answers.”


“I have no easy ones, Max.”


“Miracles.”


“If I could bring Lizzie back to you I would … I can’t. It doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t. It’s complicated.”


She wondered what she was saying. She had always felt that, on the contrary, everything was not complicated but simple. Not easy, never, but gloriously simple. Now, she knew nothing. Her mind was a jumble.


Say nothing. Say nothing. Just do.


Yes.


She lit the gas, set the kettle on, opened a cupboard to take out the china, the fridge for milk. Think nothing. Say nothing. Just do.


Max sat in silence, hunched down into the wooden chair, watching her.


A strange sense of calm came over her and a sense of unreality, as if she were sleepwalking, but untouchable, unreachable. She cut bread, sliced tomatoes and cheese, found a fruit cake left for her by someone the day she had moved in. The kettle boiled.


When he had eaten and drunk the tea, he would come to, Jane thought, realise where he was, and then things would fall back into place. She would drive him home and make sure he was safe. It was like looking after a child.


“Please come and eat,” she said.


She waited for him to do so. Waited for everything to shift back again to normal. Waited.


Watched. Max watched.


She was like Lizzie. Her hands, cutting the bread, gripping the handle of the kettle. Her eyes. Lizzie.


He knew that she was not Lizzie but he was too exhausted to sort out the confusion that seemed to sway him now one way, then the other, Lizzie, not Lizzie, Lizzie alive, Lizzie dead. Lizzie/Jane, Jane/Lizzie.


He looked around every few moments and wondered why he was in this unfamiliar house, rooms smaller than the one he knew, darker, with more objects, books, furniture and strange pictures. Then he remembered. His mind cleared and it felt as if he had been rinsed through with ice-cold water and his purpose was firm-edged and obvious.


But he felt so tired he wanted to lie on the floor and sleep. Sleep for ever. He could not be with Lizzie any other way. Then he saw her, as he had seen her the last time, her eyes wide and blank, her expression inscrutable, vanishing away from him as he looked down into some other, dark, empty, silent world.


When Nina had died, he had not been there. She had been in hospital, hidden under masks and tubes, attached to machines, yellow and thin and ugly, a hundred years old, the pain dragging her life and looks from her. He had been asleep, unable to remain by the bed to watch, terrified of the moment of her death. By the time he had gone to see her, she had become someone else, waxen and still, in a chapel that smelled odd, of sickly artificial flowers, masking the antiseptic of hospital death.


He had not expected to have to watch another wife die, a wife who had come to him like a miracle and been loved greedily, desperately.


He looked up. There was a teapot on the table, a plate with food.


Inside him was a simmering anger and hatred which terrified him, a strength of emotion he had never known before. It was pure, uncontaminated by anything other than the need for retribution.


She was wiping her hands on a towel. Her red hair was like a halo round her face, her robe topped by the ludicrous white collar, a symbol of everything that he had to destroy. He did not believe any of the things she believed, and yet they had a dreadful power.


“Who do you have?” he asked. She started at the sound of his voice.


He was pleased that he had frightened her.


“You have a mother … who else? Brother, sister, lover?”


“I’m an only child. My father died ten years ago.”


“And did he suffer?”


“I … I’m not sure. He had a stroke … Why?”


“I want you to have felt it. Why shouldn’t you?”


“What makes you think I haven’t? There are people suffering like Lizzie every day, people left behind feeling as you’re feeling.”


Max got up and went towards her. He saw her creamy skin and the red hair, her slim throat beneath the white collar, and raised his hands. Up.


She said: “I know what you want to do to me. But, would Lizzie want me to be dead?”


“Don’t talk about Lizzie.”


“Why not? This is all about her. I can’t believe she would be happy that, because she died, you killed me.” She moved. “Let me pass.”


He hesitated. He wanted to kill her for something other than hatred now, he wanted to know how it would feel. How it would feel to hold his hands round her throat. He had always been a man quick to anger, had terrified people with his sudden, violent rages—Nina had always fled the house. Only Lizzie had not cared. Lizzie had simply laughed. But he had never been angry with her, only with things around her, things to do with himself. And her laughter had been enough.


He let Jane Fitzroy pass him. He did not touch her. She sat down at the kitchen table. She looked small and very young, he thought. A child. Only a child would be so naive. What could she possibly know?


“I’d like a cup of tea,” he said.


She reached for the pot. “Then home?”


“No.”


Abruptly, she began to cry.


Fifteen


Edwina Sleightholme had said nothing when charged with the abduction of Amy Sudden. She had not spoken apart from confirming her name.


Once they had left the helicopter, Serrailler had barely set eyes on her. He wanted to. He wanted to interview her, to drag the truth out of her about David Angus. He was not allowed to speak to her, of course. This wasn’t his patch or his case. All he could do was put in the formal request to interview her at a later date, when the Yorkshire cases were under way.


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