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Authors: Charlotte Link

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

The Watcher (56 page)

BOOK: The Watcher
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She was wondering constantly whether she had done the right thing. Perhaps she should have carried on walking towards Manchester, knowing that she would come across people at some point – a farmstead, a gritter, perhaps even hikers or a Nordic skier. But she knew that would not happen until daylight, several hours later, and she would not be able to keep going that long. She was completely exhausted. Her legs ached. Her whole body cried out for sleep. The danger was too great that she would at some point give in to the temptation to fall into the soft snow, just to rest for a few minutes. And if she were to fall asleep then, her fate was sealed.

She would never wake up.

So the plan to regain her strength in the car and then set out the next morning was sensible, although she had not expected it to be so cold inside the sheltered space too. Nevertheless, between the upholstered seat and the blanket she might manage to retain some body warmth and at least reduce the chance of freezing to death.

Outside, she was sure to die; in here it was only a possibility.

It was the best option she had right now.

She had also toyed with the idea of returning to the hut and fetching the damned car key, but she quickly decided against it. Gillian must have been betting on that when she took the key. It was the only explanation. That meant Gillian would be prepared for her if she went back. To do what Gillian expected would be an unnecessary risk. Tara had no intention of letting Gillian, in fear of her life, smack her over the head with a drawer or whatever else she found. Let her lie in wait for her there until she took root. Have fun.

She could not imagine that Gillian would manage to free herself from the hut. It was impossible. But she had seen stranger things, so she kept her knife in her hand as she lay on the back seat. She had put the pistol under the mat. It seemed too dangerous to sleep with a loaded weapon pressed up against her body. Feeling around in the boot, she had found some garden wire. She had made a noose with it and held it in her other hand.

She thought her main difficulty that night would be not to fall asleep so deeply that she would never wake up, but now she realised that she could not fall asleep at all. Although she was utterly exhausted, so many thoughts were racing around in her head that she could not relax. She had told Gillian, the spoilt daughter of caring, overprotective parents who had no idea about the real tragedies of life, everything – about Ted Roslin, and the trail of blood she was leaving in her wake because of her need to find inner peace. Telling Gillian had stirred things up inside her, and now it was as if she could feel the hammering of her heart all the way up into her head. So many images appeared in front of her mind’s eye. Most of them she had never wanted to see again. She tried to put them out of her mind by forcing herself to make a full, orderly plan of everything she had to do once she was back in London. There was a lot of work waiting in the office. On Tuesday she had an important day in court and then she had a whole mountain of files to work her way through before another court day. Just the thought of the work was too much. But she also had to find time to visit Liza again. The woman was on her own too much. She was safe from her husband, her torturer, but now danger threatened from another direction: her longing for her child. And her loneliness and the lack of a future that she saw for herself.

She had to finally press charges against the bastard, Tara thought. She had been dreaming for weeks about it. It would make her so happy. But she had to be sure that Liza would go along with it. She knew women like Liza. They were unpredictable.

She had told Gillian about the first time she met Liza, in a hotel toilet during a birthday party. Tara did not believe in chance. It was fate that she went to the toilet at that moment, when Charity Stanford’s wife burst into tears and tried to hide her black eye. Tara had immediately understood why Liza was crying. She would have known, even if she had not seen the injury. Victims of violence recognised one another. Even if they looked completely unharmed on the outside. It was something about their aura. The violence they had experienced lay on their shoulders like a coat, wrapped around them, weighing down on them. Liza Stanford’s suffering was as clear to Tara as a glaring red exclamation mark.

‘But why didn’t you press charges immediately?’ asked Gillian.

Perhaps she should not hold the question against her. How was Gillian to know?


She
has to bring him down, not me. She has to take pleasure in destroying him with her own strength. That’s how she’ll find her way again.’

God, she had talked until she was blue in the face, trying to get Liza to report him.
Press charges. Put him in jail. Destroy him. It’s payback time for him! Show him that he shouldn’t have messed with you!

Unfortunately Liza was a classic victim. She was paralysed with fear and unable to take any decisions.
I will. No, I won’t. I don’t know. I’m afraid. What should I do?

When Liza had shared her story of woe with Tara, something strange had happened. As Tara followed her into the depths of despair, doors on her own horrors that she had closed so carefully years ago sprang open, revealing images and feelings that she had hoped she would never again have to confront. There came a time when she no longer knew who was taking whom by the hand and leading the other to a personal hell. And although she was close to despair faced with Liza’s hesitation, Tara recognised that she was not a jot better. She too had avoided any settling of scores. She had buried the rubbish deep inside herself and hoped it would not start to stink. Now she realised how much poison had been collecting inside her. And that someone was still waiting for her. For her to bring things to a tidy conclusion.

Not Ted Roslin. That scumbag, who had convinced himself that he
loved
the child he was abusing, had died long ago, after suffering protractedly with prostate cancer and early-onset dementia.

Lucy Caine-Roslin. Her mother. The woman who had betrayed her. Tara had not worked things out with her, even after all these years. Sometimes she had visited her in Gorton. She had boasted about her successes with satisfaction. University. Then her excellent exam results. Her work as a lawyer in Manchester. Her rise in the Crown Prosecution Service in London. Her good income. Her status. She had driven up to Reddish Lane in her swish Jaguar and got out dressed in elegant clothes. She had showed her mother how far she had gone and thought it would bring her contentment. But she had been too cowardly to talk about what had happened. And so she had not found closure.

She tossed from side to side on the narrow back seat, trying to find a more comfortable position, but she could not. She thought about the dark November day when she had driven back to Manchester.

It had been the weekend. Liza had not yet left home but the situation between Logan and herself was becoming acute. Tara had been aware of her own past again. Because she listened to Liza’s stories. Because she could not repress everything any more.

It was already dark when she arrived at her childhood home. She did not see a light on in any of the windows. She feared that her mother might not be in, although that was unlikely. Lucy had withdrawn a lot since the death of her second husband. She barely went out, visited nobody. She only left the house to do her shopping or to go to the cemetery once a week to visit her husbands’ graves. Apart from that, she spent her time cleaning her flat, watching romantic comedies on television or reading the latest story about the royal family in the gossip mags. She never seemed to be dissatisfied or unhappy. As a young woman, the idea of living without a partner had sent her half crazy, but now in her old age she had had to get used to the situation. She coped surprisingly well.

As always, the flat’s front door was not locked. Tara found her mother in the living room, whose windows looked out on the back yard and the workshop. Lucy was sitting in front of the television, as was to be expected. While watching television, she was working on one of the many ridiculous doilies that she placed all around the flat. She was wearing a thick, fluffy jumper and fur-lined slippers, because it was not very warm in the flat. She was always trying to save on heating costs. A pot of tea sat on the table in front of her.

Lucy had been happy to see her daughter, in the reserved manner in which she normally showed her emotions. As the dining room heating was not on at all, she and Tara set the table in the kitchen. Tara had brought food from a Chinese takeaway, as well as an expensive red wine from London. Lucy’s cheeks began to glow after her first sips, and her eyes shone.

‘It’s like Christmas,’ she said.

Tara leant forward. She had taken a few mouthfuls of wine, but had barely touched her food. She was not hungry.

‘Mum, I’ve come to talk to you about something,’ she said. Although she had been shivering when she came in, she realised that her whole body felt hot now. ‘There’s something we need to discuss.’

Lucy looked at her with an unsuspecting look. ‘Yes, dear?’

‘Ted,’ said Tara.

Lucy looked confused. ‘What about him?’

‘We’ve never talked about him.’

Lucy shook her head sadly. ‘And now he’s been dead so many years! You should visit his grave again. I went a few days ago. I put a pot of heather by his gravestone. It looks pretty.’

‘I should?’ Tara knew that she sounded aggressive, and that was something she had meant to avoid. ‘Why should I visit Ted’s grave? I could visit Dad’s grave, but
his
? Never! Did you leave heather at Dad’s grave, by the way?’

‘Of course. What’s got into you? Why are you so angry?’

‘Me? I’m not angry. I’m sorry if it looks like that.’ Tara surprised herself. Inside, she was fighting to control the extreme hostility that she felt simply at the sight of her mother, but she was managing to sound calm and friendly. The job, she thought. She had learnt to treat terrible people in whatever way was most advantageous to her, in order to get them where she wanted them. As a public prosecutor, it was pointless to go on the attack against the man sitting opposite you who’d beaten his four-month-old baby to death and tell him what you really thought of him. It was sometimes useful to listen to such people with a sympathetic demeanour, so that they would break down in tears and confess their crimes in between sobs, because they felt that they could confide in this motherly figure. Then she could calmly demand the maximum sentence. It had often worked.

‘Mum, I just want to understand something. That’s why I’ve come. The fact that I
haven’t
understood it until now is why I visit so rarely. Although I could do a lot more for you.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Lucy. She looked more alert now.

‘We have to talk about everything,’ said Tara. ‘So we can have a good relationship in future.’

‘We do?’

‘Like I said, it’s about Ted.’ She looked closely at her mother. ‘You know what he did to me.’

Lucy closed up like a clam. You could see it clearly in her face. ‘Are you bringing that up again?’

‘Again?’ Tara stared at her mother. ‘Did you say
again?
When have I ever brought it up?’

‘A long time ago,’ Lucy explained. ‘You visited a few times and tried to make things difficult for me . . .’ She stood up. ‘I really thought you wanted to have a nice evening,’ she said, hurt. ‘That you missed your mother and wanted to have a chat – and now you attack me and accuse me and—’

‘Sit down, Mum,’ ordered Tara. Her voice was so sharp that Lucy did actually sit back down on her chair. ‘This time you aren’t going to brush me off that easily. Or run away from it. You’re going to sit here and answer my questions. Understand?’

‘What tone of voice is that to use with me!’

‘The one you deserve, Mum. The one a mother deserves who lets her little daughter be raped for five years by her stepfather without intervening a single time.
Not once!

‘Five years . . .’ said Lucy. ‘You always exaggerate!’

‘Five years, Mum. I should know. I was nine when he started. Six months after your damn wedding. And I was fourteen when he stopped. Because I was finally, thank God, looking like a woman and he was no longer interested.’

‘What do you want?’ asked Lucy. Her breathing had become laboured. There was an unhealthy sound coming from her chest. ‘To give me an asthma attack? To kill me?’

‘Shut up about your asthma! You never had asthma. You always started to wheeze when things got uncomfortable for you. But that doesn’t wash with me any more.’

‘I really want to know—’ Lucy started to say, but Tara interrupted her.

‘No,
I
really want to know something! I want to know why you let him. Why you didn’t help me. Why you didn’t protect me. Why you didn’t kick that repulsive bastard out!’

Lucy reached for a handkerchief. In a minute she would start to cry. ‘I’m old. I’ve got no one in the world apart from you. And now you come here and do this! To an old woman who can’t defend herself!’

‘What about the child who couldn’t defend herself?’

Lucy dabbed at her eyes. ‘Good lord, you make out as if . . .’

‘Yes, as if what?’ asked Tara.

‘As if something terrible happened. Just because Ted liked you. He was a good man. It wouldn’t have been easy for me to find another husband. Who marries a widow with a child? Without you I’d have had more opportunities, you must be able to see that?’

Later Tara remembered that this was the moment when she had felt a dizzy haze set in. Just a little, but she had felt something change inside her. She had not seen things as clearly and a quiet humming had started up in her ears.

‘So you think that nothing terrible happened?’ she asked quietly. ‘Do you think it’s normal for a man of almost fifty to get into a nine-year-old’s bed every night? To clamp a hand over her mouth when she tries to scream? To tell her that she’ll end up in an orphanage if she tells anyone? Do you think that’s
nothing terrible
?’

Lucy blew her nose. She had pulled herself together. ‘It wasn’t easy for me either.’

BOOK: The Watcher
6.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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