Click Alison Joseph
Click by Alison Joseph
‘You’d know if he was dead, though, wouldn’t you? Your own husband…..’
She stared into the black water. Around her the trees dripped with recent rain.
Would I? she wondered.
It was all very well for Rosemary to say that, pouring her yet another cup of coffee in her warm kitchen. Trying to help, of course. ‘I mean, put it this way, Sheila, no news is good news, in my view David has just wandered off, memory loss, you know the kind of thing, I saw a programme on the telly about it, people just forget who they are sometimes, they’ll find him safe and sound, trust me….’
Safe and sound.
She left the lake and headed through the trees, her Wellingtons squelching in the mud. Six days he’d been missing. Five and a half days since her phone call to the police, reporting that her husband hadn’t come back. Yes, she’d said, uncharacteristic. Very out of character, she’d agreed. A solicitor, she said. Semi-retired. Concentrating on the garden these days, and his antique collecting, a bit of tennis too, although his knee had been playing up…. Our marriage? We’d been married thirty-two years last August. ‘Any problems in your marriage, madam?’ No, she’d said. No problems. ‘Ours was a happy marriage,’ she’d told the police officer.
The damp branches shivered in the cold wind.
A happy marriage.
For all I know, he might be anywhere. He might be dead. For all I know.
She reached the path that led out to the Otley Road. The sky was heavy with impending rain.
Click. Camera 722, Otley Road. ’11.04,’ the timecode said. Click. Camera 723. ’11.21’ Click.
He zoomed in. The black and white image on the screen grew fuzzier, but the number plate was visible. That’s the car all right, he though. Click. Camera 724… 725… Silver Volvo, there it is. And then it disappears. And reappears, six days later, abandoned in a side street, they’d had the call this morning.
He checked the map. So, he leaves his home, heads on to the Otley Road, Waitrose, the wife said, and then vanishes. CCTV of the Waitrose car park, no sign of him there –
There was a knock at his door. ‘Matt….?’ She stood in the doorway, black hair, black trouser suit, red lipstick.
‘Samira. Hi.’ He swivelled his chair.
‘The SIO sent me.’
‘He did, did he?’
‘He said he wants you to photograph the car.’
‘Me? I’m doing the CCTV.’
‘There’s no one else. A new shout, little gangster rude-boy found shot dead in Yeadon. They’re all out there.’
Matt sighed. ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’
‘He said…’ she hesitated.
‘DH Shah,’ he said. ‘I know what he said.’
‘He said, “Shame we’ve only got Novak”.
She shook her head, still laughing.
‘Novak living in the fucking nineteenth century. Didn’t he say that?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘Course not.’
‘Usually that’s what he says. When he’s not complaining about having given the job to an “Art Gallery nancy boy”.’ Matt got to his feet. He picked up two camera cases. One was hard black plastic with silver edges. The other was a battered brown leather bag.
Samira glanced from one to the other.
‘Told you,’ Novak said.
‘He did say…’
She shrugged. ‘What you said. About the nineteenth century.’
‘I like the old stuff,’ Matt tapped the brown leather. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve ever seen such a thing.’
‘I have, so. My grandpa has a funny old camera like that.’
‘Your grandpa?’ He stared, appalled. ‘I’m not that old.’
‘Course you’re not.’ She patted his arm. ‘SIO wants the pictures back by lunchtime.’
The door shut behind her. He looked at both camera cases. He put down the brown leather one, slung the black one over his shoulder and left.
In the car he glanced at himself in the mirror. He saw a tired looking white man, brown hair faded to grey.
Samira’s grandfather must have twenty years on me.
He imagined him, sprightly and upright, still black-haired, pottering in his well-tended semi, devoted wife, Samira was always talking about her nan, children, grandchildren.
Perhaps it keeps you young.
What do I know?
It was a quiet residential street, taped off with blue and white. The car was neatly parked. One of the Scenes of Crime team was sitting on the wall, a community constable, Barbara something, they’d met before, strange taste in hip hop, the remembered, even stranger taste in shoes.
‘All right?’ she said, as he approached.
‘Aye,” he replied. Her boots were black with chunky silver heels.
He got out his tripod and camera and set to work. The neat clean car made neat square images. Barbara said something about getting a coffee.
He was aware of someone standing at his shoulder. She reached out across the police tape, as if to stroke the bonnet of the car.
‘Madam!’ His hand caught hers, a brief touch before she snatched hers away.
‘Sorry. Of course.’ She blushed. ‘Forensics and all that. I’ve seen it on the television.’
Her gaze was still fixed on the car. ‘I suppose everyone hopes, don’t they?’
She turned to him. ‘That it won’t be the car. Or the… whatever.. that it will be a mistake.’
‘You must be Mrs…?’
She held out her hand, strangely polite, formal. ‘Sheila,’ she said.
He shook her hand, clumsily. ‘And this is—‘
‘Oh yes.’ She interrupted him. ‘This is our car. Well, his car, really. I tend to drive the Polo.’
She surveyed the car, leaning to one side as if checking the tyres. She turned back to Matt. ‘Do people do this? Disappear like this?’
‘Well…’ He straightened up. He wondered when the SOCO would be back.
‘Suicide,’ she said, suddenly. ‘That’s what one of the reporters asked me. No, I said, no, of course not. He wouldn’t leave me like this, not knowing…’
Matt fingered his camera.
She hunched her shoulders. Her coat was too thin for the weather. ‘Chilly, isn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ he agreed.
‘They keeping asking me, what was he like?’ She spoke suddenly, loudly. ‘Well, I said to them, he’s my husband. He liked his work. He liked his tennis. And antiques, he’d become quite a collector since he was working less, porcelain, clocks…’ She looked up at him. ‘What can I tell them? He’s my husband. I love him…’ Her voiced cracked.
‘Mrs Logan.’ He began.
Her eyes welled with tears.
‘I have to go,’ he said.
She was still standing there, staring at her husband’s car. He fished in his pocket. ‘Here,’ he said, handing her a card. She took it, read it. ‘Matt Novak. Imaging Officer.’ She said. ‘Is that what you are?’
‘Anything you can think of…’ he said. He could see Barbara, hobbling along the street, paper cup in hand.
‘I can ring you?’ She gazed up at him.
He nodded. ‘Sure.’
She watched as he knelt by the car, packing his camera case. She was still watching as he got into his car and drove away.
Who do I think I am? he thought, driving back into town, giving her my card like that? She’s got the DI to talk to, she doesn’t need me.
He watched the rain spatter on his windscreen, the to and fro of the windscreen wipers.
I know why, of course. Another wife, elsewhere. Another story of abandonment and pain.
Not that she’ll be crying.
The familiar clench of despair, dark as the rain clouds that hunched over town.
He slammed his car door, breezed through reception, strode along the corridor to the Operations Room.
‘Novak, old son.’ A thin, slouching man in a pale suit looked up at him. ‘Didn’t need a dark room, then?’
Samira glanced across, laughing. ‘Leave him alone, Terry.’
Novak scanned the wide, light space. ‘SIO in?’
Terry shook his head. ‘He’s off with the Yeadon shooting.’
Samira handed three photographs to Matt. ‘These are the suspects so far. The current view is that the victim was dealing and trespassed on another gang’s patch. He’s a lad called Cavin Jackson. Found dead in scrubland by the industrial estate. Single gunshot wound. He was carrying a blade, but no sign he went armed apart from that. He lives alone, one of the flats on the Grange estate there. He’s known to the local team. Drug dealing, and rumours of something nasty with the local girls, some kind of pimping scene. He’s got one brother, a half-brother, technically. He identified the body. Darren, he’s called, lives in London. Said he didn’t have much to do with him. We’re doing house to house, no one’s talking. Single bullet, retrieved, forensics are having a look.
Matt stared at the images. Three scowling male faces stared back.
‘We’ve talked to the mother,’ Samira said. ‘You can listen if you want.’ She handed him a CD, patted his arm. ‘I’d get the images to the SIO as soon as you can. He’s been making comments about how they’ll all turn up in pretty frames.’
Alone, at this desk, Matt stared at the CD. Mrs Evelyn Jackson, it said, scrawled in black marker pen. He loaded it and pressed Play. He could hear Samira’s voice, quiet, sympathetic, prompting. Then the mother spoke.
‘I told him myself, loads of times I’m telling him, don’t you go running with them, them’s bad, they are, but he want money, he want to be the big guy, you see the car he drive, how does he get money for that, BMW, you see it?’
There was another question from Samira, and then the mother’s voice again. ‘They pulled back the sheet, and I saw my son’s face… And I lay me down and wept. And when I done weeping, I looked at him, at his face that weren’t him no more, and I wanted to cry to the heavens, I wanted to shout out loud, Lord knows I did. I wanted to say to him, “What you go doing this for, Boy, going armed? Didn’t I always say, you go out there carrying blades, there’s always someone carrying something bigger and better than what you got…” I told him so many times, so many times …’ The voice cracked into tears. After a moment, she spoke again. ‘I went to take him in my arms, but the officer there, she tries to stop me. So I says to her, I ain’t never going to see my baby again. Even the mother of Our Lord got to hold her dead child in her arms…’
Matt pressed Stop.
The mother of Our Lord.
A memory. An image. He clicked on Menu, scrolled through his documents. I know it’s here, he thought. I know they’re both here.
Click. Two images. One, a Madonna and Child, china-white skin against rich folds of red, the light and shade of the painter’s brush.
The second was a seaside snap, a woman and a little girl, holding hands. The woman is smiling down at the child. The child is laughing at the camera. He sees blue sky, blue sea, blurred white cliffs, windswept blonde hair.
Under the first image it said, ‘The Amati Madonna. Restoration, Cremona Museum Service. Restoration team, Maziotti, Pedoni, Novak.’
It had been a time of colour and light and laughter. The painting was discovered in a little church, cobwebbed, sticky with neglect. An early Anquissola, they thought, as they worked on it, brushstroke by brushstroke, bringing it back to life.
He gazed at the images. I spent my working days with art and colour and joy, my evenings with my wife and child.
His finger on the mouse. The image had gone.
He stared at the blank page of his computer screen.
I will not….
Click. A black and white image of the Otley Road. Click. A car number plate. Click. Woodland. Click. Not art. Not paint. Not joy, hope, colour. Just shades of grey. Just evidence. Just facts.
Just the mother’s voice, ringing in his ears. ‘ I ain’t never going to see my baby again.’
His phone rang.
‘Busy, are you?’
‘Another case. Body been found over by the reservoir. Young woman, looks like strangulation. Been there a week or so. Not nice. Although mostly in one piece, at least, foxes too busy eating burgers these days. They’re doing the ID now. Can you do the SOC stuff?’
‘Yes, sir. Of course.’ He glanced at the brown leather camera case on the floor.
There was white canvas shielding the body. She was pale and young, a tangle of dirty blonde hair, skin grey as clay, tiny skirt, missing sandal.
He set up his Leica and began to work. Her eyes were open, the whites muddied with blood. Her swollen face lay at an odd angle.
If this was my daughter.
A wave of rage.
There is no beauty here, he thought. I should have used the other camera. I should be generating ones and noughts in black and white.
His phone rang.
‘My husband,’ the voice said.
‘One of his pistols is missing.’ she said. ‘I noticed doing the dusting, don’t know why I’m bothering you but you have to keep busy, don’t you?’
‘Antique pistols. He’d acquired a pair of duelling pistols. They’re quite valuable, it turns out, he was very pleased….’ Her voice cracked. ‘I’m sure it’s nothing to do with his disappearance…’
‘Are they in working order?’
She went quiet. ‘Yes. He fired one of them at the shooting club about six months ago. Just to see if it worked, he said. Some old colonel there described him as a good shot, David was delighted.’
‘Mrs Logan,’ Matt said. ‘If there’s any sense that he might have –“
“Taken his own life?’ Her voice was sharp. ‘There are two reasons why he wouldn’t do that. We’re Catholic, you see, it’s against our beliefs.’
‘And the second?’
‘He was happy. Perfectly happy. There’s no reason for him to … to do such a thing.’
She’d gone. Matt began to pack up his camera kit.
We’re Catholic, she’d said, as if that was some kind of protection.
He left the taped area, walked to his car.
I was Catholic once, he thought.
It doesn’t help.
‘Are you Feds?’
He turned at the voice. The girl had big afro curls, a bright red sweater and very skinny jeans.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, I am.’
‘What did he do to her?’
‘I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about the case. I’m just an imaging officer-‘
‘That bastard. She should have stayed away from him, I told her enough times. God knows I did, that Cavin don’t care about no one but himself. She wouldn’t listen.’
‘Cavin?’ Matt leaned against his car.
‘They had a row last week. Man, it was a big row.’
The girl stared at her feet in her cheap heels.
‘The gear he give her, y’know, he said she had to pay for it. And she goes to him, how am I going to pay for it then, and he said to her, girl, you going to earn it, like everybody else.’
She met his eyes. ‘She was using, y’know?’
The girl took a cigarette from her bag, lit it, breathed in a deep breath. ‘So she goes to him, I ain’t going to, Cav, and he’s saying how he weren’t charity, it was business, it was time she paid her way…’ She stopped, exhausted by speech.
Matt studied her through the curls of smoke. ‘When you say he wanted her to earn the money…?’
‘How do you think a girl earns money round here?’ She raised her brown eyes to his.
‘And she refused?’
The girl nodded. ‘She said, if he loved her he wouldn’t ask her. And he just laughed. And then she were angry, really angry, and she said that was it, it was over, she didn’t want to see him again, and they had this row, and then…’
‘She left. But he followed her. He were right angry, he were. I was scared. I wanted to go too but the rest of them said I shouldn’t, said they should sort it out themselves… I wish I’d gone now. I might have saved her…’ Her eyes filled with tears.
Matt touched her arm. ‘What’s your name?’
She stared at him, childlike. ‘Macy.’
‘Could you go to the police, Macy? Could you tell them all this?’
She glanced nervously around her.
‘You could come with me now, in my car, if you like.’
She nodded, shivering.
He put his jacket around her shoulders and led her to the car.
‘Black, no sugar.’ Samira put the mug down on his desk.
‘Don’t push it, boy. I’m only doing this because you bought in a key witness in the Faiman case.’
‘The strangled girl. Abbie Faiman.’
‘She was only seventeen.’
Seventeen, he thought.
‘That’s pretty.’ Samira peered at the screen. ‘That’s the crime scene?’
The image showed the reservoir, shrouded in mist, black branches against haloed clouds, raindrops teetering on twigs.
He clicked it to close.
Samira was eyeing the old brown leather camera case.
‘You got that all developed and scanned since you came back?’
‘It doesn’t take long if you know what you’re doing,’ he said.
‘Not bad for a nancy boy.’ She said.
‘I’m not a nancy boy.’
‘I know,’ she said. ‘Well, if one of your pictures shows us who strangled the poor cow, then you get two biscuits, I reckon. Chocolate ones, even.’
He smiled. ‘Any more on the Logan case?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘First the lab boys said it was an unusual bullet- 214 grain, the boys said. So they were looking for a different kind of weapon, at least a point 52. And look what they found.’
She handed him a photograph.
‘It was in one of the factory bins,’ she said. ‘Carefully buried, but not carefully enough. It’s a duelling pistol, apparently. The boss said these gangsters are sourcing their weaponry from funny places these days. He blames the Russian mafia.’
She touched his shoulder and then was gone.
He looked at the photograph. He looked at the number on his mobile phone.
He pressed Call.
‘Mrs Logan. It’s Matt Novak.’
‘Have you found him?’ Her voice was hoarse with hope. With fear.
‘No, not yet.’ He hesitated. ‘I just wanted to ask you. This missing gun of your husbands- can you describe it?’
‘Yes, of course,’ she said. ‘It’s like its twin. It’s just here, wait a minute. I’ll get the box, lovely box, mahogany, he was as pleased with the box as the guns, I think. Here we are, well it’s silvery colour, very ornate wooden handle thing…’
He looked at the image in front of him. A steel duelling pistol with an ornate wooden handle.
‘On the metal bit, there are sort of flowers,’ she was saying, ‘a rose, maybe two, you can see the thorns…’
He looked at the photo in front of him. The barrel of the gun showed two roses, their stems entwined.
‘Deane and Sons, London Bridge,’ she was saying. ‘That’s the maker.’
Deane and Sons, London Bridge, he read.
‘Any reason?’ she said.
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘No. Just to be sure. In case it turns up.’
‘OK,’ There was a silence. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘For earlier, I’m rather on my own with this.’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘ I can see that.’
‘Well, I’d better go. Dinner to cook. Although just for one person…’ her voice tailed away.
‘We’ll keep you posted, Mrs Logan, ‘ he said.
‘Thank you.’ Another hesitation. ‘Well, goodbye, then.’
He stared at the photograph on his screen. A silver duelling pistol, used for a drug related shooting on an industrial estate in Yeadon. Its pair now in a mahogany box in the well-kept respectable home of a missing semi-retired solicitor.
He walked through the office to the Operations Room, to Samira’s desk. He put the photograph down in front of her.
‘What?’ she looked up at him.
‘The twin of this pistol. It’s sitting in David Logan’s house. His wife’s just told me.’
She stared at him. She patted the seat next to her and sat down.
‘Look,’ she said. There was a sheaf of papers on the table. ‘Bank records,’ she said. ‘David Logan’s bank account.’
Matt looked at the columns of figures.
‘He had an account that was separate from the one he shared with his wife,’ Samira said. She pulled a page towards her, pointed at the figures with a red-painted nail. ‘She seemed to know nothing about it when we spoke to her. It has very few records – a regular standing order into it, and weekly cash payments out of it, at the Yeadon branch. Fifty pounds, a hundred pounds, not huge amounts. But it goes back at least three years, look.’ She tapped one of the pages. ‘I’m getting the CCTV from that branch. Can you go through it?’
‘Sure,’ he said.
The quietness of the night settled around him, pierced from time to time by a siren and a slash of blue light from the car park below. Matt trawled through the images on his screen.
Dates. Times. Days, weeks. Thursdays.
The cashpoint camera feed was old and scratchy. People came and went. He saw hats, umbrellas, bald patches, numbers punched, cash counted, all in bad quality, jerky movements, like a silent movie without the laughs. Without the story either.
Unless… He wound back, played forward. Here we are .. Cash withdrawal from the Logan account. 11.05 a.m. Thursday before last. Blonde-looking girl, denim jacket, short skirt. Thursday before, same girl Denim jacket, jeans. Thursday before that. Same girl. Same jacket. She must be bloody freezing, he thought.
Zoom in. And again. The screen crunched into digital steps. He froze the girl’s image. He pulled up the ID picture they’d given to the press. Abbie Fairman, it said. Blonde hair. Same denim jacket.
So, every Thursday morning, Abbie Fairman would draw money out of an account that David Logan paid into.
His hand went to the internal phone. I’ll tell the SIO, he thought. He picked up the handset. He put it down again.
The photos he’d developed lay in a pile next to him. He looked at the tangle of her limbs in the powdery light. He felt a sudden wave of rage.
She’d been a child once. A child like his own.
The night faded into dawn. And in his mind, the story played again. Angie, the mother of his child. Sunny, Italian Angie. And then the London job, and Angie, homesick and lonely, turned away. He had taken refuge in the arms of someone else. Only briefly, and mistakenly, but it was enough. After that, there’d been rage, and guilt, and he’d found himself ejected. She’d stayed in London, always threatening to return to Italy. He’d limped back to Yorkshire, his home, once. If anything could be called home.
As the sky began to lighten, he looked at the image of the dead young woman and thought, you are someone’s child. And now, the windows bright with sunlight, he stands up, stumbling through the litter of coffee cups, goes down to the car park, gets into his car.
It was a busy Thursday morning. He parked the car. He sat, holding a photo in his hand. He watched.
People came and went. There was a queue outside the post office.
There. There he was. A distinguished, upright man, tailored wool coat. Thinning hair. The coat was missing a button. His shoes were thick with mud. Matt could see the stubble on his chin as he walked towards the cashpoint.
Alone, a queue of one, the man glanced around him, holding his collar up with both hands as if to hide behind it. Matt checked the image. He got out of his car and crossed the road.
The man saw him. For a second their eyes met. Matt went up close to him, very close. He spoke in his ear. ‘She won’t be needing your money any more. Not where she’s gone.’
The man was tall, Matt realized. Well proportioned. Elegant, even, despite the several days’ growth of his beard, the tear in his coat. He gazed at Matt, as some kind of comprehension filled his expression. He shook his head.
‘Seventeen,’ Matt said to him. ‘I have a daughter too. I’d have done just the same as you, Mr Logan.’
‘You would?’ His voice was rough. His eyes watered, with cold, with feeling, it was difficult to tell. He held Matt’s gaze.
Matt spoke. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I would.’ The two men stood, their eyes locked.
‘I assume you’re police,’ David Logan said.
Matt nodded, waited.
‘Are you going to arrest me?’ The voice was low, authoritative.
Matt took his arm. ‘You look like you could use some breakfast.’
They sat by steamed-up windows with mugs of tea. David drank, thirstily, ate a large piece of toast.
‘How did you know?’ he said, wiping his mouth.
‘I couldn’t think why else…’
‘Oh, it was the usual story, to start with.’ David said. ‘She was called Lina. I met her at the tennis club. She was everything I thought I wanted. Glamorous. Sexy. Full of life. An affair, that’s what it was, cliché I know, it’s all bloody clichés.’
His voice was loud, and people glanced up from their plates. ‘In the end,’ he said, lowering his voice, ‘I refused to leave my wife. The whole thing was over. I didn’t know anything about Abigail until…’ He stared at the table. ‘Linda, her mother, died, you see. Three years ago. Linda’s sister tracked me down, told me there’d been a child. My child. There she was, this orphaned girl. I didn’t know what to do. How to tell Sheila…. it would have destroyed us. I was a coward…’
He covered his eyes with his hand.
He composed himself. ‘You have a daughter?’ he said, suddenly.
‘Yes,’ Matt said.
‘Look after her,’ David said.
‘I don’t see her. Her mother and I … we’re estranged.’
‘How old is she?’
‘Twelve,’ Matt said. ‘Thirteen in seven, no, six, weeks.’
‘When did you last see her?’
‘Two years ago. Two years, two months.’
David stared at him.
‘The divorce, you see.’ Matt went on. ‘Acrimonious, it was. Never resolved. My fault, in many ways. They live in London. But her mother moved last year, wouldn’t tell me where. For all I know they’re back in Italy. All I’ve got is a mobile number which I’m scared to try.’
David was silent. Then he looked at Matt. ‘Cowardice, you see. It can be fatal, it turns out. All these years, and I did nothing. And now I’ve paid the price.’
In the car David told Matt the rest of the story, sitting quietly beside him. About the money. ‘It was all I felt I could do….the coward’s way out…’ How Abigail fell in with the wrong crowd. ‘She was a vulnerable girl. About a month ago, I tried to intervene, she was on my conscience, it was all I could think about. She would go to that cashpoint every Thursday. Sometimes I’d meet her there, try to talk to her. This time I asked her what I could do. “Nothing,” she said. She was terrified of him, she could barely speak from terror. I didn’t know what to do. I resolved to take action, I’ve no idea what, kidnap her, take her home, face the music… I don’t know what, I just knew I should do something. I began to follow her, from a distance, I saw her with him, around that estate where he lived. And I though, I shall save her. I’ll be there on Thursday and I shall rescue her, whatever the cost, she’s my daughter.
‘And so last week, I went to the cashpoint… And she wasn’t there. And I knew, deep down, I knew in my bones that something terrible had happened. I went home, Sheila was out, luckily, she knows I go to Waitrose every Thursday, so I knew she wouldn’t miss me. I picked up my pistol, I loaded it, like the colonel had showed me. I went to the estate, and he was there. He saw me. I said, “Where is she?” And he was taunting me… He ran, and I ran after him, shouting, what have you done? And he was laughing and jeering. And somehow, I caught up with him. I don’t know how, a young man like that, down on the industrial estate there. And he said, “You’ll never see her again.” And my hand was on the gun, and everything I felt, such loss, such grief, such…rage…’ His voice tailed away.
‘And you fired your gun?’ Matt said.
David fell silent. Then he said, ‘I knew he was dead. The blood…the pumping.. twitching.. then nothing. And all my anger left me. I stood there. I felt terribly terribly sorry for him. For them all…. And I realized, the only person I was angry with, was me.’
They drove in silence. After a while David said, ‘I went looking for her after that. I knew I’d never find her. Not alive, in any case. When I couldn’t find her, I didn’t know what to do. I sat out in the woods there all night. After that, it was impossible to go home. Sleeping rough.. Until you found me.’
‘Why did you go to the cashpoint again?’
‘Wishful thinking. Madness. I don’t know. Those were the times when I’d try to talk to her, try to get her to get help. All I know is that I failed my daughter. My only child.’ He fell silent, and then began to cry, a rough, male sobbing.
They arrived at the police station. Matt helped him from the car, walked him into reception.
Much later that day. Matt went to see him. He was sitting in a police cell. He looked clean and calm, despite the flat fluorescent light.
‘They’ve charged you, I hear.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’ll appear in court tomorrow.’
Matt sat down on the single chair. ‘How are you pleading?’
David seemed surprised by the question. ‘Guilty. Of course.’
‘Sheila came to see me,’ David interrupted. ‘I have ruined my wife’s life. Of course I’m pleading guilty.’
‘Did she know any of it..?’
‘None. Entirely unsuspecting. She has an innocence.. one of the things I loved about her.’ He breathed, then gathered himself. ‘ We couldn’t have children ourselves, you see. It has broken her heart.’
Outside there was the slamming of a door, distant shouting.
‘I asked Sheila if she’d ever forgive me.’ David said. ‘She thought for a bit. Then she said, it was too much to ask, but that she would pray that I might be forgiven. I’m not sure what she meant, but it was a strange comfort.’ He leaned forward on the narrow bed. ‘I have been a coward. That’s what I’m pleading guilty to. Cowardice. Terrible, fatal cowardice.’
Novak stood on the steps outside the court, stamping his feet against the cold. The wind gusted through the pillars, blew across the banks of journalists who were waiting behind the barrier. A woman appeared from the side entrance. He saw her well-cut grey hair, a navy wool coat. She came up to him.
‘Mrs Logan…I’m sorry,’ he said to her.
She gripped his hand. She looked up at him. ‘What it is, you see..’ She struggled to find the words. ‘This is not the life I was leading. You think you’re living one life. And then… and then everything changes. Everything is lost… ‘ Her eyes filled with tears. She patted his hand, then turned away to a waiting car, as the reporters shouted and called behind her.
Matt watched her go.
To pray that I might be forgiven.
He turned and headed for his car.
Samira, leaving the court, saw him waiting there. He was holding his mobile phone, staring at it. As she joined him, he clicked the phone off.
‘Who’d have thought,’ she said. ‘A man like that. You just can’t tell, can you?’
‘No,’ he agreed, putting his phone away. ‘You just can’t tell.’