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Authors: Charlotte Link

Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Watcher (53 page)

BOOK: The Watcher
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Samson nodded. John threw him a look. Samson looked deeply worried.

He loves Gillian, thought John. He is terribly afraid for her.

‘Do you think we have a chance?’ asked Samson.

‘I’d prefer to look for a needle in a haystack, said John. But then he added more cheerily: ‘Chin up, Samson. We haven’t been dealt the worst hand!’

He omitted to say what he really thought:
Do we have a chance in hell?

At least they were lucky about one thing. The first address they drove to, in a rundown part of Manchester, proved to be the right one. A redbrick house, a small garden. A sign indicating that bikes could be bought or repaired there. The only thing that really interested John, however, was that the police had cordoned it off at the garden gate. It had to be the place where Lucy Caine-Roslin had been found dead.

He parked his car next to a pile of snow beside the road. He and Samson got out. It was icy cold, but at least the street lamps added light. John practically never prayed, but considering that they were going to do a lot of driving this night, he sent up a quick plea:
No more snow, please!

‘What next?’ asked Samson. He looked over to the house on whose gate the cordon tape was fluttering in the cold wind. ‘Is this . . . ?’

‘Yes,’ said John. ‘This is it.’

The house in which the public prosecutor’s mother had lived and died. Was it the house in which Tara Caine had spent her childhood? He hoped so. Because only then would he be able to learn something from her neighbours.

It was a little after six o’clock. The lights were on in most houses on the street. People were at home, but they probably hadn’t yet sat down to dinner. Not a bad time in fact for what he had planned.

‘This is what we’re going to do,’ he said. ‘We’ll be relatively open, but not say anything about Gillian, or that Tara Caine might be a bloody dangerous person. We’ll say we’re looking for her. That we’re friends of hers from London. No doubt people know that her mother was found murdered this morning. These things get around in no time at all. We’ll say that Tara has disappeared and we’re worried about her. That we’d like to know if anyone knows some special place she might have withdrawn to. Got it?’

‘G-got it,’ stammered Samson. Standing there pale and nervous, he did not look like the best man for the job, and John wondered whether it would not be better to leave him in the car until he had sorted everything out. But he might have to knock on a lot of doors before he got anywhere – if he did at all – and time was short.

‘You can do it,’ John encouraged him. ‘Listen, you take this side of the street. I’ll start with the neighbours either side of the house and then work up the other side.’

‘Should I introduce myself with my real name?’

‘Yes. There’s no nationwide search on for you. Introduce yourself as Samson Segal from London, a good friend of Tara Caine. All right?’

‘All right,’ confirmed Samson.

John nodded at him and then crossed the street. He looked up at Lucy Caine-Roslin’s house. Dark, silent windows.

Did Tara Caine kill her own mother?

He turned quickly to the neighbouring house. There was no time to lose.

6

She trudged through the snow. Darkness had fallen, and although it was too overcast to see the moon and stars, the white fields gave the night a little luminosity. The wind had picked up. Soon it would whip the clouds away.

She was the only person for miles.

Knowing this gave her a sense of peace. Almost security.

The thumb she had cut hurt. She liked the pain. She cut herself again and again. She liked to. She found a fascination in watching her blood flow. She loved its colour and warmth. She loved to feel the cut part of her body beating. Like a heartbeat. As if the heart had moved and found a new place for itself. In her thumb, this time. But it could be somewhere else too. It was in her power to decide where. She could also put her heart in her foot.

She tended to cut her legs. That was why she always wore trouser suits, never skirts. She couldn’t show her legs any more.

She knew that she wouldn’t get lost. She knew the area and would be able to find her way around it blindfolded. Nevertheless, she was more tired than she had thought. It had been a long day. She hadn’t slept for hours. She had been driving north all night, spending part of it in an endless traffic jam that had formed behind a jackknifed lorry.

A little after one in the morning she had stopped at motorway services, because she needed a break. If not, she wouldn’t have made it. She had seen that clearly. Of course stopping was not without its risks. Gillian was lying in the boot under a blanket and Tara did not need much imagination to know that Gillian was thinking about escape. But Tara had tied her up so well that she knew Gillian would not be able to free herself on her own. And the car was locked. She had stretched out across both front seats and tried to rest. She had not fallen asleep; her makeshift bed was too uncomfortable for that and she was too nervous. But at least she had been able to rest.

Before they drove on, she had thrown Gillian’s handbag into one rubbish bin and her mobile, after switching it off, into another. No one would ever find them now.

The hike to the hut was exhausting. And now the walk back was equally so. She remembered the footpaths she had taken many years ago on bright summer evenings. Walking here and there with a spring in her step. However simple the conditions in the hut were, she had loved their times there from the bottom of her heart. Nature. Freedom. Back then she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell anyone that life was good.

She had not really calculated how long it would take to walk from the main road to the hut with all the snow on the ground. Nor had she realised that she would have to leave the car so far away. In actual fact, it was almost a miracle that she had been able to leave the car even this close to the hut. She had been incredibly lucky that at least the main roads around here, in this remote northern part of the Peak District, had been cleared of snow.

She stopped for a moment, pulled her scarf up, trying to cover her face as much as possible. The cold cut her skin and hurt her lungs. It was all so tiring, for God’s sake! The snow seemed to be deeper than it had been at midday. Although she must be imagining things, because it had not snowed in the meantime. She probably simply had no reserves of strength left.

It could not be much further until she reached her car. The thought of sinking into the soft upholstery, starting the engine and turning on the heating gave her another boost of energy. She could not weaken now. Of course it would have been more sensible to wait until the next morning. A few hours of sleep would have done wonders. But she was suddenly worried that she would not live to see tomorrow. It was ice cold in the hut. The temperature outside seemed to fall further every minute. The mouldy old log cabin offered no protection from the cold. There was a real danger of freezing to death during the night. So she had escorted Gillian outside, so that she could finally pee behind a bush. Then she had tied up her feet again, closed the shutters and carefully bolted the door. The rest was simple. Gillian would either freeze or starve to death. It was most likely that she would freeze before hunger became a problem. She had left behind the meagre remaining provisions: two sandwiches, some water. Mainly because she did not want to lug them around with her. They would be of little use to Gillian in any case. With her hands tied behind her back, she would not be able to get to them. Even if she managed to free her hands, she would not be able to break out of the hut.

Unfortunately, there was no other option. Gillian had to die. She had become a threat.

Tara’s thumb throbbed. Her whole hand throbbed. That was good. It spoke of life and warmth. The blood pulsed in her body. As long as it did, everything was fine. As long as it did, she was alive and breathing and could do what was right.

Things had worked out in the end, thank God. Although she had made a big mistake. Driving to Gillian’s house in Thorpe Bay yesterday, she had mentioned the estate agent’s name. It was a mistake that she herself didn’t even notice at first. She had just felt that something had changed. Gillian suddenly seemed extremely tense, restless. But she thought she might be imagining things. Or that the cause was something else: Gillian’s uncertainty about the whole situation. Her fear of the leap into the unknown. She did not want to hide away from some bogeyman in a hotel. She was probably afraid of the emotions that would swamp her taking lonely walks by the sea and thinking about her life.

And Tara thought:
OK, if you decide to stay in your house, I don’t care. Just as long as you get out of my sight
.

She had genuinely planned to stop attacking Gillian. It was not the same with Gillian as with the two old women.

Maybe she knew her too well. Was too close to her. Maybe it was just a superstitious fear that suddenly hobbled her. It had all been so easy with Carla Roberts and Anne Westley. The obstacles to killing Gillian seemed to be a warning: leave her alone!

But she was probably was wrong to talk about superstition. It was a fact that she had twice failed to kill Gillian. On both occasions the consequences could have been drastic. Smart people knew when they were beaten.

Gillian’s sudden change on the way from London to Southend had made her cautious.
Don’t let her out of your sight
, an inner voice had told her, and so she had followed her into the house. Gillian had acted so innocently there that Tara thought her intuition must have misled her. But luckily at just that moment that strange guy had called. How stupid could a person be? He’d blared out his warning for the whole house to hear.

Of course Gillian had wanted to play it down. But that had not helped her – her adversary was too clever for that.

On the tediously long drive to Manchester, Tara had thought constantly about two things. How had Samson Segal managed to find out that she was a danger? And who was he working with? Because he’d spoken of
we
.

Secondly, why had Gillian already been suspicious? What had happened?

Somewhere near Northampton, she had found the answer to the second question. She had gone over in her mind the course of the afternoon, focusing in more and more closely on the time when she noticed a change in Gillian’s attitude. And she had suddenly realised what it was: the name of that estate agent. Luke Palm. Gillian had never mentioned his name. Tara had heard it that evening when Palm suddenly returned and Gillian had called it out.

Everything had gone wrong on that day. Tara had headed for Thorpe Bay as night was falling. She had planned to ring Gillian’s doorbell. Just like she had done in Carla Roberts’s case. She would have been let in and that would have sealed Gillian’s fate. But then she saw the unknown car parked in front of the house and she immediately realised that Gillian must have a visitor. She had to wait ages until the man – an estate agent, as she later found out – finally left. Then Gillian had stepped out into the garden, leaving the front door wide open. Tara had seized the opportunity and slipped inside, although her inner voice was telling her:
Leave it! It’s too risky
. She’d waited for Gillian in the kitchen, but when the power had suddenly gone off – to Tara’s surprise too – Gillian had panicked and Luke Palm had suddenly appeared. Tara had just managed to escape to the garden and loop back to her car, leaving a wide berth between herself and the house.

She had no answer to the other question. What danger did that strange neighbour pose? What the hell had made him suspect her? She could not see where she had slipped up.

Never mind. She would have to deal with that later. Until now, everything had gone well. If she kept her nerve, everything would continue to go well.

She saw her car at the very moment when the desire to fall into the snow and just lie there had almost got the better of her. It was a small, dark shadow at the edge of the road. The wind had already dispersed the clouds enough that she could see a star here or there. But that was also why it was getting much colder. A few more hours and it would be a cloudless night with a sharp frost. She congratulated herself on her decision not to sleep in the hut.

She rummaged around in her bag. It was a large bag. She often used it to carry her case files. She had just thrown her keys in there when she set off in the early afternoon. They must be here somewhere . . .

She found everything except her keys. Her compact. Purse. A book. A map. Tissues. Chewing gum.

But no keys.

She had reached the car. Putting the bag down on the bonnet, she carried on looking. She emptied the bag and spread out the contents in front of her. Finally she found a key, but from its heart-shaped plastic fob, she realised that it was the key to the hut. It was not her car key, which was on a key ring with the key to her flat.

Panicking, she turned her bag upside down and shook it. All kinds of little things fell out – notes, broken pencils, a few coins.

She groaned. ‘Damn! Damn!’

She was standing on an icy winter’s evening that felt like at least twenty below zero, with a strong north wind blowing, somewhere deep in the Dark Peak, beside a car that she could not drive. There was no house or farm nearby, let alone a village.

‘OK,’ she said out loud. ‘What’s happened? Find out!’

Had she lost the keys walking to the car? If so, she did not have the slightest chance of finding them in the deep snow. But she did not believe she had. Judging by the depth of her bag, they could not just have fallen out.

She suppressed a budding panic. Things now looked worse for her than if she had stayed in the hut. She was in a life-threatening situation. All the more important that she kept her head.

She did what she always did when she tried to solve a problem. She called up in her mind the decisive moments one after another.

The hut. Gillian tied up and lying on the sofa. She herself leaning against the stove. She had talked and told Gillian about the past. The key to the hut lay beside her on the stove.

BOOK: The Watcher
12.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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