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Nine Elms / (by Robert Bryndza, 2019) -

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Nine Elms /   (by Robert Bryndza, 2019) -

Nine Elms / (by Robert Bryndza, 2019) -

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Nine Elms / (by Robert Bryndza, 2019) -
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2019
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Robert Bryndza
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Kristin Atherton
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upper-intermediate
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12:06:55
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Nine Elms / :

.doc (Word) robert_bryndza_-_nine_elms.doc [795 Kb] (c: 5) .
.pdf robert_bryndza_-_nine_elms.pdf [1.67 Mb] (c: 3) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: Nine Elms

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AUTUMN 1995 CHAPTER 1 Detective Constable Kate Marshall was on the train home when her phone rang. It took a moment of searching the folds of her long winter coat before she found it in the inside pocket. She heaved out the huge brick-like handset, pulled up the antenna and answered. It was her boss, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Conway. Sir. Hello. Finally. She picks up! he snapped, without preamble. Ive been calling you. Whats the bloody point in having one of these new mobile phones if you dont answer? Sorry. Ive been in court all day for the Travis Jones sentencing. He got three years, which is more than I A dog walker found the body of a young girl dumped in Crystal Palace Park, he said, cutting her off. Naked. Bite marks on her body, a plastic bag tied over her head. The Nine Elms Cannibal . . . Operation Hemlock. You know I dont like that name. Kate wanted to reply that the name had now stuck and was bedded in for life, but he wasnt the kind of boss who encouraged banter. The press had coined the epithet two years earlier, when seventeen-year-old Shelley Norris had been found in a wreckers yard in the Nine Elms area of south-west London, close to the Thames. Technically, the killer only bit his victims, but the press didnt let this get in the way of a good serial killer moniker. Over the past two years, another two teenage girls had been abducted, each in the early evening, on their way home from school. Their bodies had shown up several days after their disappearances, dumped in parks around London. Nothing sold newspapers more than a cannibal on the loose. Kate. Where are you? It was dark outside the train window. She looked up at the electronic display in the carriage. On the DLR. Almost home, sir. Ill pick you up outside the station, our usual spot. He hung up without waiting for a response. Twenty minutes later, Kate was waiting on a small stretch of pavement between the station underpass and the busy South Circular where a line of cars ground slowly past. Much of the area around the station was under development, and Kates route home to her small flat took her through a long road of empty building sites. It wasnt somewhere to linger after dark. The passengers shed left the train with had crossed the road and dispersed into the dark streets. She glanced back over her shoulder at the dank empty underpass bathed in shadows and shifted on her heels. A small bag of groceries shed bought for dinner sat between her feet. A spot of water hit her neck, and another, and then it started to rain. She turned up the collar of her coat and hunched down, moving closer to the bright headlights in the line of traffic. Kate had been assigned to Operation Hemlock sixteen months previously, when the Nine Elms Cannibal body count stood at three. It had been a coup to join a high-profile case, along with promotion to the rank of plain-clothes detective. In the eight months since the third victims body was found a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl called Carla Martin the case had gone cold. Operation Hemlock had been scaled back, and Kate had been reassigned to the drug squad, along with several other junior officers. Kate squinted through the rain, down the long line of traffic. Bright headlights appeared around a sharp bend in the road, but there were no police sirens in the distance. She checked her watch and stepped back out of the glare. She hadnt seen Peter for two months. Shortly before she was reassigned, she had slept with him. He rarely socialised with his team, and during a rare night of after-work drinks theyd wound up talking, and shed found his company and his intelligence stimulating. They had stayed late in the pub, after the rest of the team went home, and ended up back at her flat. And then the next night he had invited her over to his place. Kates dalliance with her boss, on not one but two occasions, was something that burned inside her with regret. It was a moment of madness two moments before they both came to their senses. She had a strong moral compass. She was a good police officer. Ill pick you up at our usual spot. It bothered her that Peter had said this on the phone. Hed given her a lift to work twice, and both times he had also picked up her colleague, Detective Cameron Rose, who lived close by. Would he have said our usual spot to Cam? The cold was starting to creep up the back of her long coat, and the rain had seeped in through the holes in the bottom of the good shoes she wore for court. Kate adjusted her collar and huddled into her coat, turning her attention to the line of traffic. Almost all the drivers were men, white, in their mid-to late thirties. The perfect serial killer demographic. A grimy white van slid past, the drivers face distorted by the rainwater on the windscreen. The police believed the Nine Elms Cannibal was using a van to abduct his victims. Carpet fibres matching a 1994 Citro?n Dispatch white van, of which there were over a hundred thousand registered in and around London, had been found on two of the victims. Kate wondered if the officers whod been retained for Operation Hemlock were still working through that list of Citro?n Dispatch white van owners. And who was this new victim? There had been nothing in the newspapers about a missing person. The lights up ahead turned red, and a small blue Ford stopped in the line of traffic a few feet away. The man inside was a City type: overweight, in his mid-fifties and wearing a pinstriped suit and glasses. He saw Kate, raised his eyebrows suggestively and flashed his headlights. Kate looked away. The blue Ford inched closer, closing the gap in the line of cars until his passenger window was almost level with her. It slid down, and the man leaned across. Hello. You look cold. I can make you warm . . . He patted the seat beside him and stuck out his tongue, which was thin and pointed. Kate froze. Panic rose in her chest. She forgot she had her warrant card, and that she was a police officer. It all went out of the window and fear took over. Come on. Hop inside. Lets warm you up, he said. He patted the seat again, impatient. Kate stepped away from the kerb. The underpass behind her was dark and empty. The other vehicles in the line had male drivers, and they seemed oblivious, cocooned in their cars. The lights ahead remained red. The rain thrummed lazily on the car roofs. The man leaned farther over and the passenger door popped open a few inches. Kate took another step back, but felt trapped. What if he got out of his car and pushed her into the underpass? Dont fuck me around. How much? he said. His smile was gone, and she could see his trousers were undone. His underpants were faded and dingy. He hooked his finger under the waistband and exposed his penis and a thatch of greying pubic hair. Kate was still rooted to the spot, willing the lights to change. A police siren blared out suddenly, cutting through the silence, and the cars and the arch of the underpass were lit up with blue flashing lights. The man hurriedly rearranged himself, fastened his trousers and pulled the door shut, activating the central locking. His face returned to an impassive stare. Kate fumbled in her bag and pulled out her warrant card. She went to the blue Ford and slapped it against the passenger window, annoyed that she hadnt done it earlier. Peters unmarked police car, with its revolving blue light on the roof, came shooting down the outside of the row of traffic, half up on the grass verge. The traffic light changed to green. The car in front drove away, and Peter pulled into the gap. The man inside the Ford was now panicking, smoothing down his hair and tie. Kate fixed him with a stare, put her warrant card back in her bag and went to the passenger door of Peters car. CHAPTER 2 Sorry to keep you waiting. Traffic, said Peter, giving her a brisk smile. He picked up a pile of paperwork from the passenger seat and put it behind his seat. He was a good-looking man in his late thirties, broad-shouldered with thick dark wavy hair, high cheekbones and soft brown eyes. He wore an expensive tailored black suit. Of course, she said, feeling relief as she stashed her handbag and groceries in the footwell and dropped into the seat. As soon as she closed the door, Peter accelerated and flicked on the sirens. The sunshade was down on the passenger side, and she caught her reflection in the mirror as she folded it back up. She wasnt wearing any make-up, or dressed provocatively, and Kate always thought herself a little plain. She wasnt delicate. She had strong features. Her shoulder-length hair was tied back off her face, tucked away under the neck of her long winter coat, almost as an afterthought. The only distinguishing features were her unusual eyes, which were a startling cornflower blue with a burst of burnt orange flooding out from the pupils. It was caused by sectoral heterochromia, a rare condition where the eyes have two colours. The other, less permanent mark on her face was a split lip, just starting to scab over, which had been caused by an irate drunk resisting arrest a few days before. Shed felt no fear when dealing with the drunk, and didnt feel ashamed that hed hit her. It was part of the job. Why did she feel shame after being hit on by the sleazy businessman? He was the one with the sad, saggy grey underwear and the stubby little manhood. What was that? With the car behind? asked Peter. Oh, one of his brake lights was out, she said. It was easier to lie. She felt embarrassed. She pushed the man and his blue Ford to the back of her mind. Have you called the whole team to the crime scene? Of course, said Peter, glancing over. After we spoke, I got a call from the assistant commissioner, Anthony Asher. He says if this murder is linked to Operation Hemlock, I only have to ask and Ill have all the resources I need at my disposal. He sped around a roundabout in fourth gear, and took the exit to Crystal Palace Park. Peter Conway was a career police officer, and Kate had no doubt that solving this case would result in a promotion to superintendent or even chief superintendent. Peter had been the youngest officer in the history of the Met Police to be promoted to detective chief inspector. The windows were starting to fog up, and he turned up the heater. The arc of condensation on the windscreen rippled and receded. Between a group of terraced houses Kate caught a glimpse of the London skyline lit up. There were millions of lights, pinpricks in the black fabric of the sky, symbolising the homes and offices of millions. Kate wondered which light belonged to the Nine Elms Cannibal. What if we never find him? she thought. The police never found Jack the Ripper, and back then London was tiny in comparison. Have you had any more leads from the white van database? she asked. We brought in another six men for questioning, but their DNA didnt match our man. The fact he leaves his DNA on the victims, its not just carelessness or lack of control. Its as if hes marking his territory. Like a dog. You think he wants us to catch him? Yes . . . No . . . Possibly. Hes behaving like hes invincible. He thinks hes invincible. But hell slip up. They always do, said Kate. They turned off into the north entrance to Crystal Palace Park. A police car was waiting, and the officer waved them through. They drove down a long straight avenue of gravel, usually reserved for people on foot. It was lined with large oak trees shedding leaves, and they hit the windscreen with a wet flapping sound, clogging up the wipers. In the far distance the huge Crystal Palace radio transmitter poked up above the trees like a slender Eiffel Tower. The road banked down and ended in a small car park beside a long flat field of grass, which backed onto a wooded area. A police tape cordon ringed the entire expanse of grass. In the centre was a second, smaller cordon around a white forensics tent, glowing in the darkness. Next to the second cordon sat the pathologists van, four squad cars and a large white police support vehicle. Where the tarmac met the grass, the tape of the first police cordon flapped in the breeze. Kate and Peter were met by two uniformed police officers a middle-aged man whose belly hung over his belt and a tall, thin young man who still looked like a teenager. Kate and Peter showed their identification to the older officer. His eyes were hooded with loose skin, and as he glanced between their warrant cards, he reminded Kate of a chameleon. He handed them back and went to lift the police tape, but hesitated, looking over at the glowing tent. In all my years, I aint never seen nothing like it, he said. You were the first on the scene? asked Peter, impatient for him to lift the tape, but not willing to do it himself. Yes. PC Stanley Gresham, sir. This is PC Will Stokes, he said, gesturing to the young officer, who suddenly grimaced, turned away from them and threw up over the police tape. Its his first day on the job, he added, shaking his head. Kate gave the young officer a look of pity as he heaved and threw up again, thin strings of spittle dangling from his mouth. Peter took a clean white handkerchief from his inside pocket, and Kate thought he was going to offer it up to the young officer, but he pressed it to his nose and mouth. I want this crime scene locked down. Not a word to anyone, said Peter. Of course, sir. Peter fluttered his fingers at the police tape. Stanley lifted it and they ducked under. The grass sloped down to the second police cordon where Detective Cameron Rose and Detective Inspector Marsha Lewis were waiting. Cameron, like Kate, was in his mid-twenties, and Marsha was older than all of them, a thickset woman in her fifties, wearing a smart black trouser suit and long black coat. Her silver hair was cropped short and she had a gravelly smokers voice. Sir, they said in unison. Whats going on, Marsha? asked Peter. All exits in and out of the park are sealed, and Ive got local plod being bussed in for a fingertip search and house to house. Forensic pathologist is in there already, and shes ready to talk to us. Cameron was tall and gangly, towering above them all. He hadnt had time to change, and looked more like a louche teenager than a detective in his jeans, trainers and a green winter jacket. Kate wondered fleetingly what he had been doing when he got the call to come to the crime scene. She presumed hed arrived with Marsha. Whos our forensic pathologist? asked Peter. Leodora Graves, said Marsha. It was hot inside the glowing tent, where the lights were almost painfully bright. Forensic pathologist Leodora Graves, a small dark-skinned woman with penetrating green eyes, worked with two assistants. A naked young girl lay face down in a muddy depression in the grass. Her head was covered by a clear plastic bag, tied tightly around her neck. Her pale skin was streaked with dirt and blood and numerous cuts and scratches. The backs of her thighs and buttocks had several deep bite marks. Kate stood beside the body, already sweating underneath the hood and face mask of her thick white forensics suit. The rain hammered down on the tight skin of the tent, forcing Leodora to raise her voice. The victim is posed, lying on her right side, her right arm under her head. The left arm lies flat and reaching out. There are six bites on her lower back, buttocks and thighs. She indicated the deepest bites where the flesh had been removed, deep enough to expose the girls spine. She moved to the victims head and gently lifted it. The length of thin rope was tied tight around the neck, biting into the now bloated flesh. Youll note the specific knot. The monkeys fist knot, said Cameron, speaking for the first time. He sounded shaken. Everyones face was obscured by the masks of their forensic suits, but Kate could read the looks of alarm in their eyes. Yes, said Leodora, holding the knot in her gloved hand. What made it unusual was the series of intersecting turns, like a tiny ball of wool, almost impossible to replicate with a machine. Its him. The Nine Elms Cannibal, said Kate. The words came out of her mouth before she could stop them. Ill need to conclude more from my post-mortem, but . . . yes, said Leodora. The rain fell harder, intensifying the thundering thrum on the roof of the tent. She let go of the young girls head, placing it gently back where it lay on her arm. There is evidence that she was raped. There are bodily fluids present, and shes been tortured, cut with a sharp object and burned. You see the burn marks on her arms and outer thighs? They look to be caused by the cigarette lighter from a car. Or a white van, said Kate. Peter gave her a hard stare. He didn't like being corrected. Cause of death? he asked. I need to do the post-mortem, but off the record, at this stage I would say asphyxiation with the plastic bag. There are signs of petechial haemorrhaging on her face and neck. Thank you, Leodora. I look forward to the results of your post-mortem. I hope that we can quickly identify this poor young woman. Leodora nodded to her assistants, who brought in a pop-up stretcher with a shiny new black body bag. They placed it beside the body and gently turned the young woman over onto the stretcher. The front of her naked body was marked with small circular burns and scratches. It was impossible to tell what she looked like her face was grotesque and distorted under the plastic. She had large pale-blue eyes, milky in death and frozen in a stare. The look in her eyes made Kate shiver. It was devoid of hope, as if frozen in her eyes was that last thought. She knew she was going to die. CHAPTER 3 Viewing the young womans battered body left Kate disturbed and exhausted after what had already been a long day, but an investigation of this scale had to move fast. As soon as they left the forensics tent, Kate was assigned to head door-to-door enquiries on Thicket Road, a long avenue of smart, detached houses on the west side of the park. Despite there being a team of eight officers, it took almost five hours to work their way down the street, and the rain didnt let up. Their lead question, Have you seen a 1994 Citro?n Dispatch white van and/or anyone acting suspiciously? sparked fear and curiosity in the residents of Thicket Road. The search for the white van had been widely reported in the press, but the police werent allowed to comment on the details of the case. Even so, most people Kate spoke to knew she was investigating the Nine Elms Cannibal, and had their opinions, questions and suspicions. All of which generated endless leads, which would have to be followed up. Just after midnight, Kate and her team were called back to the rendezvous point at the station. The young womans body was now at the morgue for the post-mortem, and the fingertip search of Crystal Palace park was being hampered by poor visibility and pouring rain, so they were told to stand down for the night and that things would resume the next morning. The officer Kate had been working with went to get a bus back to north London, leaving Kate alone in the car park. She was about to call a cab when lights flashed on a car in the far corner, and she saw Peter walking towards his car. He saw her and stopped, waiting for her to catch up. Need a lift home? he asked. He was soaked through and looked tired, and Kate gave him points for rolling up his sleeves and not sitting it out in one of the support vans with a cup of coffee. She looked around the car park. There were three squad cars left, but she presumed they belonged to the officers who had drawn the short straw to stay up at the park. He saw her hesitate. Its no problem, and you left your bags in my car, he said. His lack of enthusiasm at the prospect of driving her home made her more willing to accept the lift. Thank you. That would be great, she said, suddenly craving a hot shower, tea and toast slathered in butter and honey, and then her warm bed. He opened the boot of the car and took out a stack of towels from a laundry bag. Thank you, she said, taking one and wrapping it around her shoulders and wringing out her wet ponytail. She opened the passenger door and saw that her shopping bag was still on the floor. Peter opened the drivers door and, leaning across, pulled open the glove compartment. He rummaged around, pulling out a car manual and a bunch of keys, until he found a box of baby wipes. He quickly cleaned off his hands and chucked the dirty wipes under the car. Anything from the fingertip search? she asked. Some fibres, cigarette ends, a shoe . . . but its a park who knows who they belong to? He arranged a towel on the passenger seat, then took a Thermos flask from the central console and handed it to her before draping another towel over the drivers seat. Kate watched in amusement. He seemed so domesticated, bustling and tucking the towels into the corners of the seat cushions with an unconsciously camp manner, making sure the improvised seat covers were neat and would stay in place. I think youre the first person who Ive seen attempt hospital corners on a car seat, she said. Were soaked, and its a new car. You dont know how hard I had to fight to get it, he said, frowning. It was the first time that evening hed displayed any emotion. His dirty car seats gave him real anxiety. Kate wondered if thats what happened after a long time in the police. You shut yourself off from the horrific stuff, and you sweated the small things. They were silent on the journey back to Deptford. She stared out of the window. Torn between trying to get the image of the young girl out of her head and trying to keep it there. To make sure she didnt forget her face, to file every detail away. Kate lived in a ground-floor flat behind a long, low row of shops just off Deptford High Street. The front door was accessed through a potholed gravel car park, and Peters car bounced and bumped its way through the waterlogged holes. They came to a stop at her front door under a sagging awning, next to the delivery entrance of the local Chinese restaurant where there was a pile of crates filled with empty soft drink bottles. The car headlights reflected off the pale back wall of her building, illuminating the interior of the car. Thanks for the lift, she said, opening the door and stepping out widely to avoid a puddle. He leaned over and handed her the shopping bag. Dont forget this, and its ten oclock tomorrow morning at the station. See you then. She took the bag and closed the car door. His headlights lit up the car park as she rooted around in her pocket for her key and opened the front door, and then it was dark. She turned to see his tail lights vanish. Shed made an idiotic mistake in sleeping with her boss, but after seeing the dead young woman, and knowing there was still a killer on the loose, it seemed to pale to nothing. CHAPTER 4 It was cold inside the flat. A small kitchen looked out over the car park, and she quickly closed the blinds before switching on the lights. She took a long shower, staying under the water until the warmth came back into her bones, then pulled on a dressing gown and came back into the kitchen. The central heating was doing its work, pumping hot water with a gurgle through the radiators, and the room was warming up. Suddenly starving, she went to take a microwave lasagne from the shopping bag, and saw nestled on top of her groceries the bunch of keys and the Thermos flask from Peters car. She put the Thermos on the counter and went to the phone on the kitchen wall to call his pager, so he wouldnt get all the way home before he discovered he didnt have his keys. She was about to dial, when she noted the keys in her hand. There were four, all substantial and old. Peter lived in a new build flat near Peckham. The front door had a Yale lock. She remembered this clearly from that second night when he'd invited her over for dinner. Shed hesitated outside the door, staring at the Yale lock, thinking, What the hell am I doing? The first time I was drunk. Now Im sober and Im back for more. The keys in her hand were mortise keys for heavy locks, and a small length of rope was tied around the key ring. The rope was thin, with a red and blue woven pattern heavy-duty rope, or cord, tough and well made. She turned the loop of rope over in her hand. Tied at the end was a monkeys fist knot. She replaced the phone on its cradle and stared at the keys. Kate felt as though the room was tilting under her feet, and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She closed her eyes and the crime scene photos of the dead girls flashed behind them bags tied tightly round their necks, vacuum-formed, distorting their features. Tied off with the knot. She opened her eyes and looked at the keys and the monkeys fist. No. She was exhausted and letting her imagination run away. She pulled out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table. What did she know about Peter outside work? His father was dead. Shed heard odd bits of rumour about his mother being mentally ill and in hospital. Hed had quite a difficult upbringing that hed struggled to extricate himself from, that he was proud to extricate himself from. He was highly thought of by top brass. He didnt have a girlfriend or wife. He was married to the job. Perhaps the keys belonged to a friend, or his mother? They were the type that fitted a large door, or a heavy padlock. There had been speculation that the killer would need a place to keep the van and his victims a lock-up or a garage. If Peter had a lock-up he wouldnt have mentioned it, but she remembered him complaining about the building where he lived. He said he paid a fortune for a space in the underground car park, and that didnt include a garage. No. It had been a long, stressful day and she needed sleep. She put the keys on the counter and retrieved the lasagne from the bag. She peeled off the outer packaging and placed the small plastic box in the microwave and keyed in two minutes. Her hand hovered over the timer. She thought back to when they had brought in an expert, a retired scout master who explained the monkeys fist knot to the incident room. What made the knot stand out was that it could only be tied by someone with a level of expertise. The monkey's fist was tied at the end of a length of rope as an ornamental knot, and a weight, making it easier to throw. It got its name because it looked similar to a small bunched fist or paw. The lasagne spun slowly in the microwave. The retired scout master had told them that most young boys learned to tie knots in the scouts. The monkeys fist knot had little practical use, but it was a knot tied by enthusiasts. Everyone in the incident room had attempted to tie the knot under the experts watchful instruction, and only Marsha had managed it. Peter had failed miserably, and he had made a joke out of how bad he was. I couldnt tie my own shoes until I was eight! hed cried. All the officers in the incident room had laughed, and hed put his hands over his face in mock embarrassment. The keys were old, with a little rust. Theyd been oiled to keep them in good use. The rope was shiny in places, and the monkeys fist knot looked old, with oil and grime worn into it. Kate chewed on her nails, not noticing that the microwave had given three loud pips to say it was finished. She sat down at the kitchen table. The first three victims had been schoolgirls between fifteen and seventeen years old. They had all been abducted on a Thursday or a Friday, and their bodies had shown up at the beginning of the following week. The victims had all been sporty, and in all three cases had been grabbed on their way home from after-school training. The abductions had been so well executed that the killer must have known where they would be, and lain in wait. They had questioned PE teachers across the boroughs, and brought several in for questioning, and done the same with a couple of male teachers who had 1994 Citro?n Dispatch white vans registered to their names. None of their DNA had matched. They then looked at the parents of the victims, and friends of the parents. The net kept getting wider, the theories wilder as to how the victims could be linked to the killer. Kate remembered a question that had been written up on the white board of the incident room. Who had access to the victims at school? A thought went through Kate, like a jolt of electricity. There had been a list of teachers, classroom assistants, caretakers, lollipop ladies, dinner ladies but what about the police? Police officers often go into schools to talk to kids about drugs and anti-social behaviour. On two occasions Peter had roped her in to join him on a school visit, to talk to some inner-city schoolkids about road safety. He had also worked on an anti-drugs presentation given around London schools. How many schools had he visited? Twenty? Thirty? Was it staring her in the face, or was she just tired and overwhelmed? No . . . Peter had commented that he had visited the school of the third victim, Carla Martin, a month before she went missing. Kate got up and looked in her cupboards. All she could find was a bottle of dry sherry shed bought to offer her mother on her last visit. She poured herself a large measure and took a gulp. What if they had no leads because the Nine Elms Cannibal was also Peter Conway? The nights they spent together moved to the front of her mind, and she pushed it back, not wanting to go there. She sat, shaking. Did she really have the balls to accuse her boss of being a serial killer? Then she spied Peters Thermos flask sitting beside the microwave. Hed drunk from it in the car. He would have left his DNA on it. Kate got up, her legs trembling. Her bag was on the floor by the back door, and it took some effort to get the clasp open. In one of the inside pockets she found a new plastic evidence bag, The flask has Peters DNA on it. We have the Nine Elms Cannibals DNA. I could quietly put in a request. She pulled on a clean pair of latex gloves and approached the Thermos like she would a wild animal needing capture. She took a deep breath, plucked it off the counter and dropped it into the evidence bag, sealing the bag. She placed it on the tiny kitchen table. It felt like a betrayal of everything she believed in. She stood in the silence for a few minutes, listening to the rain hammering on the roof, and took another swig of the sherry, feeling it warming her insides and taking the edge off her panic. No one needs to know about it. Who could she ask who was discreet? Akbar in forensics. Shed bumped into him once coming out of a gay bar in Soho. It had been an awkward moment. She had been with a guy and so had he. Hed invited her for a drink the next night after work and she had assured him that his secret, if it was a secret, was safe with her. She would call him first thing in the morning, drive it over early and get the flask swabbed. Or maybe, if she got some sleep, this would all seem like a crazy theory in the morning. There was a knock at the door and she dropped the glass. It shattered, spraying glass and brown liquid across the linoleum. There was a pause and then a voice said: Kate. Its Peter, are you okay? She looked up at the clock. Almost 2 a.m. The knock came again. Kate? I heard breaking glass. Are you okay? He hammered on the door harder. Yes! Im fine! she trilled, looking at the mess on the floor. You dont sound it. Can you open up? Ive just dropped a glass on the floor, by the door. What are you doing here? Have you got my keys? he said. I think I might have dropped them in one of your bags. There was a long silence. She stepped over the shattered glass and quietly put the chain on and opened the door. Through the gap, Peter stood, soaking wet, the collar of his coat pulled up. He smiled a broad white smile. His teeth were so straight and white, she thought. Good, I thought you might have gone to bed. I think you have my keys? CHAPTER 5 Kate peered up at Peter. The car park was dark behind him, and she couldnt see his car. Kate. Its pouring down. Can I come in for a sec? Its late. Hang on, she said, leaning over the broken glass to grab the keys off the counter. Here. Their eyes met as she held them out to him in her palm. He looked down at the little loop curled round in her shaking hand with the monkeys fist knot, then back up at her with a smirk. Later on, Kate would think what she could have done differently. If shed made a joke about it being the same knot the killer used, would he have taken the keys and gone home? Its my car. I got a flat tyre up the road. Then I saw my keys werent in the glove compartment, he said, finally breaking the silence, wiping the rainwater from his face. He didnt take the keys, though, and she stood there with her hand outstretched. Kate. Im getting wet here. Can I come in? She hesitated, and swallowed, but her throat was dry. He shouldered the door, and the chain snapped easily. He stepped over the threshold, forcing her to move back into the kitchen. He pushed the door closed behind him and stood there dripping wet. What? She shook her head. Nothing. Sorry, she said. Her voice was a thin rasp. I need a towel . . . Im soaking wet. Everything about the situation was surreal. Kate left the kitchen and went to the small airing cupboard and took out a towel. Her mind was racing. She had to act normally. She looked around for something to defend herself with. She grabbed a small smooth glass paperweight, the only thing she could find remotely close to a weapon. Her breath caught in her throat when she went back into the kitchen. Peter stood in the middle of the room, staring at the Thermos flask sitting in its plastic evidence bag on the kitchen table. When he turned to her his features were the same, but anger had changed him. He was like an animal about to attack. His eyes were wide, pupils dilated and his lips were curled back, baring his teeth. Do something! shrieked a voice inside her head. But she couldnt move. There was a thud as the paperweight fell from her hand onto the floor. Oh dear, Kate. Kate, Kate, Kate, he said softly. The broken glass crunched under his feet as he went to the back door and locked it. Peter. Sir. I dont think for a second that you . . . its my job to investigate . . . He was shaking, but his movements were calm as he went to the phone. In one swift motion he wrenched it clean off the wall, still attached to its metal bracket. Kate flinched as the tiny nails holding the wire to the wall popped out and skittered across the linoleum. He yanked the cable from the socket and placed the phone on the counter by the fridge. Its funny. You said the killer would slip up . . . The keys . . . the fucking keys. He took a step towards her. No. No. Theyre just keys, said Kate. If he took another step forward he would block her path out of the kitchen. The flask . . . He shook his head and laughed. It was a cold, metallic sound, devoid of humour. Kate made a dash for the living room, where her mobile phone was charging, but he was quicker. He grabbed the back of her hair, swung her around and slammed her into the tall fridge door. Pain exploded in the side of her face, but he was on her, twisting her shoulders around to face him and gripping her neck with one hand. Rough area, where you live, he said calmly, pinning her against the fridge door with his shoulder and left leg. He gripped her throat with his right hand. She kicked out, hitting him in the side of his leg, and she tried to claw at his face and neck but he used his elbows to keep her arms down. There was a breakin. You scared the intruder. He panicked and he killed you. His fingers gripped her throat harder. She couldnt breathe and his face, looming over hers, began to blur. She scrabbled around, her fingers feeling the edge of the counter. Peter leaned into her chest and she felt his strength pushing the remaining air from her lungs. She cried out as she felt one of her ribs crack. Ill make sure to be the one who leads your murder case. The tragic death of a rising star in the police force. Kate writhed and pushed back, managing to free up her left arm a little. Her hand felt along the edge of the counter and found the phone, where Peter had left it. She didnt have much strength as she swung it, but the sharp edge of the metal bracket glanced off his forehead, slicing through the skin above his eye. His grip loosened for a moment and she was able to push him away. He staggered back in shock, blood pouring from the gash in his forehead. Kate held up the phone on its bracket and advanced on him, not feeling the broken glass under her bare feet. Peter staggered back, spitting blood. He lunged for the block of knives by the sink and pulled one out. The knives! Why didnt I go for the knives? she thought. She turned and ran into the living room but tripped, landing on the phone, knocking the air from her lungs. She rolled back and tried to get up, but he was on her. He punched her hard in the face, dragged her kicking and writhing through to the bedroom and threw her on the bed. Her head hit the headboard and she saw stars. Her robe was open and she was naked underneath. He climbed on top of her, his face slick with blood, reddening the whites of his eyes and giving his smile a pink mania. He knelt on her hip bones and pulled her wrists down, pinning them under his knees. He held up the knife and grazed the tip of the blade over her nipples, down to her belly button, and pushed the blade into her skin. The sharp steel sliced through her flesh easily and through the muscles of her abdomen. She screamed out in agony, unable to move. It was terrifying how fast the blood pooled on her belly. He calmly twisted the knife and dragged it up through the flesh of her stomach, towards her heart. It snagged on one of her ribs. Peter leaned close, lips curled back over pink-stained teeth. The pain was unbearable, but she summoned up the last of her strength and fought and writhed, freeing her knee and bringing it sharply up into his groin. He groaned and fell backwards off the bed, landing on the floor. Kate looked down at the knife sticking out of her abdomen. Blood was saturating the white robe and bedclothes. Leave the knife in, said a voice in her head. If it comes out, youll bleed to death. Peter started to get up, his eyes crazed with rage. She thought of all the victims, all those young girls who had been tortured. The anger gave her a surge of adrenalin and energy. She grabbed the lava lamp from beside her bed, and brought down the heavy glass bottle of paraffin and wax on the top of his head, once, twice, and then he was still, slumped weirdly, his legs splayed outwards. Kate dropped the lamp. The pain in her abdomen almost made her black out, and it took all her will not to pull the knife out as she limped through to the living room, the knife shifting as she moved. She found her mobile phone and dialled 999. She gave her name and address, and said that the Nine Elms Cannibal was Detective Chief Inspector Peter Conway, and he had just tried to kill her in her apartment. It was then that she dropped the phone and lost consciousness. FIFTEEN YEARS LATER September 2010 CHAPTER 1 It was a grey morning in late September as Kate picked her way through the sand dunes. She wore a black swimsuit and had her goggles hooked in the crook of her right arm. The sand was dry as she weaved her way through the undulating dunes where pale yellow marram grass grew. Her bare feet cracked the thin crust made by the sea spray. The beach was deserted and this morning the tide was far out, exposing a few strips of black rocks before the waves broke. The sky was a pearly grey, but towards the horizon it twisted into a knot of black. Kate had discovered sea swimming six years previously, when shed moved to Thurlow Bay on the south coast of England, five miles from the university town of Ashdean, where she now lectured in Criminology. Every morning, whatever the weather, she would swim in the sea. It made her feel alive. It lifted her mood and was an antidote to the darkness she carried in her heart. Unmasking Peter Conway as the Nine Elms Cannibal had almost killed her, but the after-effects had been more devastating. Her sexual relationship with Peter Conway had been discovered by the press, and it played a big part in his subsequent trial. Fifteen years later, she still felt like she was picking up the pieces. Kate emerged from the dunes, feeling the sand grow wet and solid as she made her way to the waters edge. The first wave crashed down a few metres from where she stopped to pull on her goggles, and the surf surged up around her knees. On the coldest days, the water plunged into her skin like a knife, but she pushed through. A healthy body really was a healthy mind. It was just water. She knew how a knife felt. The six-inch scar on her abdomen was always the first place to feel the cold. She put her hands down into the surf and felt the pull as it dropped away, leaving her on the wet sand with a few strands of green seaweed between her fingers. She shook them off and tied back her hair, which was showing a little grey, and pulled the elastic strap of her goggles over her head. Another wave crashed in, jostling her on her feet and surging up and around her hips. The sky was growing darker, and she felt spots of warm rain on her face. She dived headfirst into a breaking wave. The water enveloped her and she swam off, kicking out strongly. She felt sleek and fast, like an arrow cutting through the surf under the breaking waves. She could see down to where the sand rapidly fell away to a rocky gloom. The roar of the water came and went as she broke the surface every four strokes to breathe, surging towards the storm. She was now far out, moving as one with the swells of water as they rolled towards the shore. She slowed and allowed herself to float on her back, rising and falling with the waves. Thunder rumbled again, louder. Kate looked back at her home sitting on top of the rocky cliff. It was comfortable and ramshackle and sat on the end of a row of widely spaced houses, next to a surf shop and snack bar which was closed up for the winter. The air was fizzing with static; the storm was close, but the water was still. Kate held her breath and sank down under the water, the currents close to the surface diminishing as her body slowly descended towards the sandy bottom. Cold currents moved on either side of her. The pressure increased. Peter Conway was never far from her mind. On some mornings, when getting out of bed seemed a Herculean task, she wondered if he found it hard to face each day. Peter would be locked up for the rest of his life. He was a high-profile prisoner, a monster, fed and cared for by the state, but hed never denied what he'd done. Kate, in comparison, was the good guy, but in catching him shed lost her career and her reputation, and was still trying to salvage a normal life from the aftermath. She wondered which one of them was really serving the life sentence. Today she felt even closer to him. Today he would be the subject of her first lecture. With her lungs about to burst, Kate gave two strong kicks, broke the surface and started to swim back. The thunder rumbled and as the shore came closer, she rode the growing swells, feeling her heart pumping and the zing on her skin from the salt water. A wave rose up behind her and she caught it as it broke, her feet wheeling under her, pulled along the sandy bottom, feeling the exhilaration of riding a wave until the sand was under her feet and she was safe again on dry land. The lecture theatre at the university was large, dusty and drab, with rows and rows of raked seating stretching up to the ceiling. Kate liked to watch her students as they filed into the lecture from her vantage point on the small circular stage. She was shocked by how little they noticed about their surroundings, all engrossed in their phones, barely looking up as they took their seats. Kate was joined on stage by her assistant, Tristan Harper, a tall, well-built man in his early twenties. He had dark hair, closely cropped to his head, and elaborate tattoos on his muscular forearms. He wore the uniform of male academia beige chinos and a checked shirt rolled up at the sleeves. The only difference was that he shunned the usual pale loafers or dark brogues and today wore a pair of bright red Adidas high-tops. He leaned down and checked the slide carousel, which he had pre-loaded beside the lectern. Ive been looking forward to this lecture, he said, handing Kate the remote. He smiled, and left the stage. Seconds later the lights went out, plunging the lecture theatre into darkness. There was a murmur of excited chatter, and Kate could see the students faces, lit up by their mobile phones. She waited until they fell silent, then clicked the button on the projector remote. THE NINE ELMS CANNIBAL flashed up on the huge screen. There was a collective gasp as a crime scene photo filled the screen. It was taken in a car scrapyard. A young girls naked body lay on its side in the churned-up mud, next to a pile of rusting and half-crushed cars. The piles of scrap cars stretched away into the distance, with the misty London skyline and the four chimneys of Battersea Power Station in the background. A lone crow perched on top of a pile of cars, looking down at the young girls body. The mud and exposure to the elements gave her flesh a rust colour, like metal, some small grotesque object that had been dumped by its owner. The course youve signed up for is called Criminal Icons. And it reflects how we, as a society, are obsessed with murder and serial killers. Its fitting that I start with a serial killer I knew. Peter Conway, the former Met Police detective chief inspector who is now known as the Nine Elms Cannibal. The young woman in the photo was his first victim, Shelley Norris . . . Kate stepped out of the glare of the projected image and stood to one side. If you find this image distressing, good. Thats a normal reaction. If you want to study Criminology youll need to get down and dirty with the worst of humankind. The photo was taken at the Nine Elms Lane wreckers yard in March 1993, said Kate. She shuttered the slide carousel around. The next photo showed a wide-angle shot of a young womans body from behind, lying in long grass. A low mist hung above the surrounding trees. The second victim was fifteen-year-old Dawn Brockhurst. Her body was dumped in Beckenham Place Park in Kent. The next slide was a close-up of the body from the front. Her face was missing, leaving just a bloody pulp, and only part of the bottom jaw and a row of teeth remained. Kent, on the London borders, has one of the largest populations of wild foxes in the UK. Dawns body wasnt discovered for several days and the plastic bag tied over her head was torn off by scavenging foxes, and part of her face was eaten. Kate moved to the next slide, a close-up of bite marks. The Nine Elms Cannibal liked to bite his victims, but because Dawns body was decayed by the elements, the bites were wrongly attributed to the foxes. This prevented the first two murders from being immediately linked. There was a thudding sound as one of the wooden chairs flipped up, and a student, a young woman in the centre of the auditorium, dashed out with her hand over her mouth. Kate moved through slides of Conways next victim, ending with the crime-scene photo of the fourth victim, Catherine Cahill. Kate was taken back to that cold rainy night in Crystal Palace: the hot lights in the forensic tent which intensified the scent of decaying flesh, but also made the grass smell like it does on a summers day; Catherines eyes staring through the plastic wrapped tight over her head. And after all this, Peter tucking the towels over his car seats, concerned theyd get dirty. Kate pressed the button and the slide image clicked to a picture of Peter Conway, taken in 1993 for his warrant card. He smiled into the lens wearing his Met Police uniform and peaked cap. Handsome and charismatic. Peter Conway. Respected police officer by day, serial killer by night. Kate told the story of how she was a police officer working alongside Peter Conway, how she came to suspect he was the Nine Elms Cannibal, confronted him and barely escaped alive. The next slide showed Kates flat in the aftermath of Peters attack: the Thermos flask and bunch of keys sitting on the kitchen table, each with a numbered evidence marker; the living room furniture, old and shabby: her bedroom, with its damp, peeling wallpaper, curling at the edges with a pattern of yellow, orange and green flowers, the double bed with a knot of blood-soaked sheets, clumps of hardened orange wax and glass from the broken lava lamp shed hit him with. I came very close to being the Nine Elms Cannibals fifth victim, but I fought back. Quick-thinking doctors saved my life after I was stabbed in the stomach. They also pumped Peters stomach, where they found partially digested pieces of flesh from Catherine Cahills back. The lecture theatre was silent. Every student was transfixed, and Tristan was with them. Kate went on: In September 1996, Peter Conway was tried and in January 1997 he was jailed at Her Majestys pleasure in Blundeston Prison in Suffolk. After deterioration in his mental state, and an attack by another prisoner, he is now being indefinitely detained under the Mental Health Act at Great Barwell Psychiatric Hospital in Sussex. Its a case that still haunts the public imagination, and a case I will always be inextricably linked to. Thats why I chose to present it first. There was a long pause after the lights went up. The students in the auditorium blinked at the brightness. Now. Who has any questions? There was a long pause, then a young woman with closely cropped pink hair and a pierced lip put up her hand. You effectively solved the case, yet you were used as a scapegoat by the police and left out to dry. Do you think this is because you are a woman? The Met Police were embarrassed that their star officer was the killer in their most high-profile case. The case dominated the headlines for many years. You may have read that I made the mistake of having a sexual relationship with Peter Conway. When this became public knowledge, the press assumed I was somehow in possession of the facts, when I wasnt. There was a short silence. Would you ever go back to the police? asked a young guy sitting on his own in one of the corner seats. Not now. I always wanted to be a police officer and I feel my career was cut short. Catching the Nine Elms Cannibal was my greatest triumph. It also made it impossible for me to continue my career in the force. He nodded and gave her a nervous smile. What about your colleagues? Do you think its unfair that many of them were able to stay anonymous and carry on with their careers? asked another girl. Kate paused. She wanted to answer, Of course it was fucking unfair! I loved my job, and I had so much to give! But she took a deep breath and went on: I worked with a great team of police officers. Im glad that they still have the opportunity to be out there, keeping us safe. There was a moment of hushed chatter, and then the student with the pink hair raised her hand again. Erm . . . This might be too personal, but Im intrigued . . . You have a son with Peter Conway, is that correct? Yes, said Kate. There was a shocked murmuring from the students. It seemed that not everyone knew her business. Most of them had been three or four years old when the case was playing out in the press. Wow. Okay. So, hes now fourteen? Kate was reluctant to talk about him. He was fourteen a few months ago, she said. Does he know about his past? Who his father is? Whats that like for him? This lecture isnt about my son. The pink-haired student looked at her two companions on either side, a young guy with long mousy dreadlocks and a girl with a short black bowl cut and black lipstick. She chewed her lip, embarrassed, but determined to find out more. Well, do you worry that he will be, like, a serial killer, like his father? Kate closed her eyes, and a rush of memories came at her. The hospital room felt like a hotel suite. Thick carpet. Flock wallpaper. Flowers. Fresh fruit fanned out on a plate. A gold embossed menu on the bedside table. It was so quiet. Kate longed to be on a normal maternity ward, like any other normal mother, cheek to jowl, screaming in pain, seeing the joy and sorrow of others. Her waters had broken in the early hours of the morning at her parents house, where she had been staying. Shed welcomed the contractions, the short sharp pains cutting through the dull feeling of dread that had nibbled insidiously at her over the past five months. Her mother, Glenda, was at her bedside. Gripping her hand. More out of duty, tense and fearful, showing no joy at the prospect of her first grandchild. One of the tabloid newspapers was paying for the private room. It had been a last resort, ironically, to try and gain some privacy. In return for footing the bill, the newspaper would have an exclusive photo of mother and baby, taken at a time of Kates choosing, through the window of the hospital room. For now, the blind had been pulled down, but Kate noticed how her mother kept eyeing it, knowing that a photographer was waiting on the other side, in the office building across the street. Kate hadnt known she was four and a half months pregnant on the night she cracked the case. Her internal organs had been sliced up badly, and the attack left her in intensive care with complications and a serious infection for several weeks. By the time she could make the choice to have a termination, the pregnancy had gone beyond the legal limit. It was a long and painful birth, and when the baby finally fought his way out, his first scream was chilling to Kate. She sat back, exhausted, and closed her eyes. Its a boy, and hes healthy, said the midwife. Do you want to hold him? Kate kept her eyes closed and shook her head. She didnt want to look at him or hold him, and Kate was grateful when they took him away and the crying ceased. Glenda left her bedside for a few hours to get some rest in the nearby hotel, and Kate lay in the dark. She felt she was in an alternative reality. The baby had been forced upon her by fate. She resented it, and she resented everyone. And it was a boy. Boys become serial killers, not girls. She fell into a restless sleep, and when she woke up the room was dark. A cot had been placed by the bed. A soft gurgling sound drew her towards it. In her mind the baby had been born with horns and red eyes, but she found herself looking down at the most beautiful baby boy. He opened his eyes. They were a startling clear blue, and one had an orange burst of colour, just like hers. A tiny hand reached up. She put out her finger and he grabbed it, giving her a gummy smile. Kate had heard how the maternal instinct kicked in, and it was like a jolt to her body, a switch being flicked. An overwhelming wave of love crashed over her. How could she think this tiny, beautiful baby was bad? Yes, he shared Peter Conways DNA, but he shared hers too. They both shared the same rare eye colouring, and that had to count for something. Surely it meant that he was more like his mother than his father? She reached down and gently picked him up, feeling how his warm little body fitted perfectly in the curve of her arm, how his head smelt, that heavenly smell of tiny baby . . . her baby. Kate came back to the present. The students were staring at her with concern. The silence in the lecture theatre was thick and heavy. She clicked the projector round to the final slide, and a news clipping flashed up of Peter Conway being led in handcuffs into the Old Bailey court in London. Above it was written: KILLER CANNIBAL JAILED FOR LIFE This is something well debate during the course. Nature versus nurture. Are serial killers born, or made? And to answer your question . . . I want to . . . no, I have to believe its the latter. CHAPTER 2 After the lecture, Kate went up to her office. Her desk was beside a large bay window looking out over the sea. The campus building sat right on the edge of the beach, separated by a road and the sea wall. The tide was far in, and waves rolled and smashed against the wall, shooting up a stream of spray into the sky. It was a cosy office, with two cluttered desks next to a battered sofa, and a large bookshelf covering the back wall. You okay? asked Tristan, sitting at his desk in the corner and sifting through a pile of post. It must be tough, to keep reliving it. Yes, sometimes its like Groundhog Day, said Kate, pulling out her chair and sinking into it, relieved. Theyd grabbed coffee on their way up, and as she took the plastic lid off her cup she wished she had a miniature whiskey to add to her Americano. Just one little Jack Daniels, warm and soothing, to round off the hot bitterness of the coffee and take all the feelings away. She took a deep breath and pushed the thought of alcohol away. Its never just one drink. Everyone on the faculty knew the story of Kate and Peter Conway including Tristan but this was the first time she had talked about it in detail in front of him. She refused to be a victim of her past, but once you were a victim in the eyes of others, it stuck. I cant think that many students who take Criminology have a lecturer who actually caught a serial killer, he said, blowing on his coffee and taking a sip. Pretty cool. He turned and booted up his computer and started to type. Tristan hadnt looked at her differently, nor did he want to delve deeper and ask her questions. He wanted to carry on as normal, and for this she was grateful. One of the reasons she liked having a male assistant was that guys were much more straightforward. Tristan worked hard, but he was laid back and easy to be around. They could work in comfortable silence without having to make conversation. She turned to her computer and switched it on. Have you heard anything back from Alan Hexham? I emailed him on Friday, said Tristan, scrolling through his emails. He hasnt replied. Alan Hexham was a forensic pathologist Kate had been working with for the past three years. He came in once or twice a semester as a guest lecturer on her cold case classes. Try him again. I need him to confirm for next weeks lecture on forensic protocols at a crime scene. Do you want me to call him? Yes, please. His number is in the contacts folder on the desktop. Im on it. Kate opened her inbox. She didnt recognise the address of the first email, and she clicked on it. Clearview Cottage Chew Magna Bristol BS40 1PY 25th September 2010 Dear Ms Marshall, Im sorry for writing to you like this, out of the blue. My name is Malcolm Murray, and Im writing to you on behalf of myself and my wife, Sheila. Our daughter, Caitlyn Murray, went missing on Sunday the 9th September 1990. She was only sixteen years old. She went out to meet a friend, and never came home. For reasons Ill explain, we are convinced that Caitlyn was abducted and murdered by Peter Conway. Over the years we have become more desperate, first, working with the police, and then when the case went cold, we hired a private investigator. All to no avail, and it seems that our darling girl just vanished off the face of the earth. Last year we felt we had reached rock bottom when we went to visit a psychic, who told us that Caitlyn had died and she is now is peace, but that her life ended shortly after she went missing in 1990. Earlier in the year, I bumped into Megan Hibbert, an old schoolfriend of Caitlyns, who emigrated with her family to Melbourne a few weeks before Caitlyn went missing. This was back in 1990, before the Internet, so Megan hadnt been as exposed to the Peter Conway case (and Caitlyn went missing five years before the Nine Elms case made headlines). I got talking with Megan, and she remembered Caitlyn saying she had been out on a few sly dates with a policeman. Megan says she saw Caitlyn with this man, and described him as similar to Peter Conway. As you know, Peter Conway served as a detective inspector for Greater Manchester Police from 1989 to 1991, before his move to the London Met. I recently wrote to the police with this information, and they duly reviewed the case file and updated Caitlyns details on their missing persons website, but they say its not enough information for them to re-open the case. I write to you and ask if you would consider looking into this? We both now believe that Caitlyn is dead. We just want to find our little girl. I hate to think that her remains lie forgotten somewhere in a ditch or a drain. Our wish now is to give her a proper Christian burial. We would, of course, pay you. My mobile number is written below. You can also email me back. With best wishes, in hope, Malcolm Murray Kate sat back in her chair. Her heart was thumping loudly in her chest, and she looked over at Tristan, certain he must hear it too, but he was on the phone leaving a message for Alan, asking him to call back to confirm his lecture appearance. She drained the last of her coffee, wishing more than ever for a dash of Jack. There had been rumours, and stories in the press, that Peter Conway might have killed other women. And over the years the police had pursued lines of investigation, but come up with nothing. This was the first she had heard of the name Caitlyn Murray. She looked out of the window and across the sea. Would it ever be over? Would she ever be able to escape from the shadow of Peter Conway and the terrible things he did? She read the email again, and she knew she couldnt ignore it. There was a part of her that would always be a police officer. Kate pulled her chair closer to her desk and started to write a reply. CHAPTER 3 Thirty miles away from Kates office, the rain was lashing down as forensic pathologist Alan Hexham hurtled along a winding country road in his car, the hills and vast craggy landscape appearing in flashes through the dense trees. His mobile rang as it slid around on the passenger seat, next to a Sausage and Egg McMuffin. He grabbed the phone with his free hand, but seeing it was an Ashdean number he cancelled the call and threw the phone back on the seat. He picked up the McMuffin, unwrapped it with his free hand and took a bite. Alan hadnt expected to be on duty today, and his mind was still foggy after a late night at the morgue. Now that he was in his late fifties, he couldnt burn the midnight oil like he used to. The rain fell harder, reducing his view to a blur, and he switched the wipers to full power. His phone rang again, and seeing it was one of his team he picked up, speaking through another mouthful, Im there in five minutes . . . Where are you? . . . Jesus, put your fucking foot down. This rain is pissing away forensic evidence. He ended the call and chucked the phone down as the road narrowed to a single lane and wove between two high rock faces where the hills converged. He switched on his headlights in the gloom, praying that he wouldnt meet another car coming in the other direction. He sped up as the rocky face on either side dropped away and the road widened out to two lanes. Alan saw a squad car parked next to an opened gate in a low drystone wall. He parked behind it and a buffeting gust of air slammed the car door into him as he got out, whipping his shoulder-length grey hair across his face. For a brief second, he heard his mothers scolding voice: You wont get far with that hair, you need a haircut, Alan, a short back and sides! He took one of the elastic bands he kept around his wrist and tied it back, still feeling defiant even though she was long dead. He could see two police officers waiting inside the squad car. They got out and joined him at the gate. They both looked to be in shock. The woman, PC Tanya Barton, he had worked with before, but the young man with pale, almost translucent skin was new to him. Alan towered over the two young officers. He had always been tall, but he had filled out over the years and was now a broad, imposing bear of a man, with a weather-beaten face and thick beard showing as much grey as his hair. Morning, sir. This is PC Tom Barclay, said Tanya, having to yell to be heard over the wind and rain. Tom held out his hand. I need to see the scene, shouted Alan. Rain and forensic evidence dont mix! Tanya led the way through the gate into a field. They hurried across a mix of thick gorse and grass, in places littered with the bones of sheep, keeping their heads down as the wind roared around their ears and the grey cloud seemed to press down on them. The land banked sharply towards a river which had been swelled by the storm. Brown water surged over rocks, taking with it large branches and floating rubbish. The body lay amongst rocks and gorse on the riverbank, and Alan could see it was already in an advanced state of decay. There was severe bloating and the skin was marbled with patches of yellow and black. The body lay on its front with a long mane of filthy, straggly hair. There were six open wounds over the back and thighs, and in two places, flesh had been bitten away, exposing the spine. Something about the way the body was lying set off alarm bells for Alan. He moved around to the head to see if it was male or female, and he felt the food in his stomach shift. The face was missing. He was used to blood and guts, but sometimes the violence of an act seemed to linger in the air. It looked as if it had been torn away, leaving just a part of the bottom jaw and the jawbone with a row of teeth. He moved closer, pulling on latex gloves. Did you touch the body? he shouted. The wind changed direction, blowing the smell of putrid flesh at their faces. The two young officers winced and took a step back. No, sir, said Tom with his hand over his mouth. Alan gently lifted the torso and saw that the body was female. She lay on her left side with her head on her shoulder, one arm reaching out. He could see something bunched around the bloated neck. With his free hand he lifted the head, resting the heel of his other hand on her hip so that she wouldnt roll down the riverbank into the murky torrent. A piece of thin rope was tied tightly around her neck, encased in the remains of what had been a plastic drawstring bag. As he lifted her head higher, the rest of the rope was pulled up out of the mud, and he saw the knot at the end. A small ball of intersecting turns. Oh, fuck, he said, but it was carried away by the wind. He turned back to Tanya. She looked the less likely of the two to puke her guts up. I need my phone. Its in my left coat pocket! he shouted, keeping hold of the young womans head and indicating the pocket. Tanya hesitated and then reached over and rummaged gingerly in the folds of Alans long coat. Quickly! She found the phone and held it out to him. No. I need you to take a photo of this rope round her neck and the knot, he said, keeping hold of the head. PIN number is two, one, three, two, four, three. With trembling hands, she unlocked the phone, stepped back and held it up. Closer, this isnt a holiday photo. I need a close-up of the rope around her neck and then the knot! As Tanya took photos, Alan noticed that there was also a Chinese symbol tattoo on the victims lower back. A corner of it had been bitten away. The remainder of the tattoo had bloomed out and distorted with the bloating of the skin. Alan gently let go of the young womans head, and got up. He was relieved to see the forensics van pulling into the field at the top by the gate. He removed the gloves and took his phone from Tanya. He scrolled through the photos, finishing on a close-up shot of the rope and the muddy knot. He pinched the screen and zoomed in on the knot. He wouldnt have recognised it as a monkeys fist if all the other pieces of the crime hadnt been in place the bites, how she was posed, the torn-off face. He looked up at the two young officers. They were watching him intently. Alan put his phone away, and pushed thoughts of the Nine Elms Cannibal to the back of his mind. He concentrated on preserving as much evidence as possible from the crime scene. CHAPTER 4 After lunch, Kate was left alone in her office. There was a stack of papers to mark, but she couldnt concentrate, and she kept checking her email to see if Malcolm Murray had written back. We just want to find our little girl . . . Our wish now is to give her a proper Christian burial. In her reply to him she had avoided making any promises. What could she do? She was no longer a police officer. She had no access to any kind of investigative tools. Shed offered to speak to him, and to put him in touch with one of the police officers from the original case, but she wished she hadnt been so hasty with this. She wasnt in contact with any of the officers. Cameron was now a DCI and married with kids. He lived up north. Marsha had died of lung cancer four years after Peter was convicted, and the rest of her colleagues had scattered to the wind. Kate put the marking to one side, pulled up the Google homepage and did a search online for information about Caitlyn Murrays disappearance. There was very little local online newspaper archive material going back to 1990, and all she found was a tiny follow-up article from 1997, when the missing persons case had been officially closed by the police. Kate then logged on to the UK Missing Persons Unit website. It was heartbreaking to see the thousands of people being sought out by family members and loved ones. It took some digging, but she finally found Caitlyn in the database. Her name had been misspelled as Caitlin. There was one photo, where Caitlyn wore a school uniform of black brogues, a short green skirt and black tights with a cream shirt and green blazer. It looked like it was cropped from a larger class photo. Caitlyn sat on a plastic chair, and behind her was a corner of a grey suit jacket belonging to a male pupil or teacher. She had been a beautiful girl, with a heart-shaped face and wide blue eyes. Caitlyns hands were clasped on her lap and her shoulders a little hunched over. Her light brown hair was tied back, and long wisps were carried off to one side, which made Kate think the photo had been taken outside on a cold windy day. It struck Kate how she engaged with the camera, staring straight on with confidence and a wry smile. The tiny newspaper article shed found from 1997 was taken from the Altrincham Echo. It said that Caitlyn had been a pupil at Altrincham Old Scholars Grammar School. Kate pulled up the school website, but their archive of photos only went back to 2000. As the afternoon wore on and the sun sank down over the sea, she felt shed reached a dead end. Just before six, Kate checked her email for the last time and, seeing there was still no reply, she left the office. The house was lovely and warm when Kate stepped into the hallway. The central heating was ancient, and now the weather was turning bad, she worried it wouldnt last another winter. She hung up her coat, and it was comforting to hear the click and clank of the boiler in the roof, followed by a gurgle as hot water surged through the pipes. The ground floor of the house was open plan, and the hallway led into a huge living room and kitchen. A picture window ran all along the back wall looking out to sea, and next to it sat a comfy armchair. This was where Kate spent most of her free time. There was something hypnotic and deeply soothing about watching the sea. It was always changing. Tonight it was clear, and the days storm had blown itself out. The moon was almost full, and cast a silver slick on the water. The rest of the furniture in the living room was old and heavy a battered sofa and coffee table, and an upright piano that she didnt play against one wall. The house came with the job and the contents had belonged to her predecessor. The other walls were covered in bookshelves stacked untidily with novels and academic papers. Kate went to the kitchen, dropped her bag on the small breakfast bar and opened the fridge. It shone a bright yellow triangle over the dark room. She took out a jug of iced tea and a plate of sliced lemon. The impulse to have an after-work drink had never left her. She took out a tumbler and half filled it with ice, adding a slice of the lemon and the iced tea. She kept the lights off and went to sit in the armchair by the window, looking out at the dark rolling sea glittering in the moonlight. She took a sip, savouring the cold sweet-and-sharp of the tea, sugar and lemon. Kate was in Alcoholics Anonymous, and in AA this was frowned upon. There was no alcohol in the iced tea, but it had all the ritual of an after-work drink. But screw it, she thought. It worked for her. She went to meetings, she kept in contact with her sponsor and she had six years of sobriety under her belt. Shed always been a drinker. It was part of police work culture to go down the pub after work and get smashed. Both good days and bad days on the force warranted a drink, but after her world was turned on its head by the Nine Elms case, her drinking became a problem, and this affected her ability to be a responsible mother. Jake had never come to any harm, but often Kate had drunk so much that she was unable to function. Her parents, Glenda and Michael, would have him at weekends. They stepped in many times to look after him, and he spent several extended spells staying with them so Kate could get her act together. Things came to a head one Friday afternoon when Jake was six. He had just started primary school in south London, and Glenda and Michael had gone away for a long weekend. Kate had been drinking during the week, nothing that she thought excessive, but on the Friday afternoon shed collapsed in the supermarket and was rushed to hospital with alcohol poisoning. She didnt turn up to collect Jake from school, and when they tried to contact Kate and then her parents, no one picked up. It got late, and the school called social services. Jake only spent a few hours with a kind foster family until Glenda and Michael were finally tracked down, but the incident blew the lid off the problem of Kates drinking. She agreed to go to rehab and Glenda and Michael were given temporary custody. Looking back, Kate realised that she had been in a bad place mentally. She didnt take rehab seriously. In her mind, she thought that Jake was just staying with her parents, like always, and they would be reunited once shed paid her dues and got clean. Shed thought there must be other parents who fell ill and didnt make the school run. It could happen to anyone. But when she was discharged from rehab, three months later, Kate discovered Glenda and Michael had applied for permanent legal custody of Jake and won. In the years that followed, Kate struggled to get back on track. She found herself fighting against her parents to see her son, and she launched several legal appeals to be reinstated in the police. Peter Conways legal team appealed his conviction, which kept the case in the news headlines, and the whole media circus kept on rolling. Kate finally made sobriety stick six years ago, when she was offered a lifeline the job at Ashdean University. It came with a house and a complete change of scenery, and she found the life of an academic fulfilling and non-judgemental. For so long her goal had been to be reunited with Jake, but by then he was eight years old. He was in a great school, he had friends and he was very happy. Kate saw that Glenda and Michael had been there for him when she couldnt, and it was in her sons best interests to stay with them. As the years passed, she mended their relationship and she saw Jake at every school holiday and some weekends, and they Skyped every Wednesday and Sunday. They had a good relationship. It was to her eternal guilt and shame that her son had been taken away from her, but she held onto her sobriety and the good things for dear life. As he got older, she saw that it was better for Jake to have Glenda drop him at school and at play dates with his friends. That way he wasnt the kid with the notorious mother, the kid fathered by a serial murderer. With that distance from Kate, he was able to live a relatively normal life. He was able to be the kid who lived with his grandparents in the big house with the huge garden and a cute dog. Jake knew that his father was a bad man who was locked away, but Peter Conway didnt play any part in his life. Peter was forbidden to have any contact with Jake until he was sixteen, but Kate could sense trouble looming in the future. In two years, Jake would be sixteen. He had already pestered Glenda to let him join Facebook, and he was hitting those teenage years of self-awareness and questioning. It always felt wrong that Kate came home alone while her son lived somewhere else, but she had to keep looking forward; she had to keep believing that the best was yet to come. Jake was going to have a wonderful life. She was determined to make it happen, even if it meant distancing herself from his formative years. A small table next to the armchair held framed photos of Jake. There was his latest class photo, and another photo of Jake in her parents large leafy garden with Milo, his beloved Labrador. Kates favourite photo was the newest, taken in late August on the beach below the house. The tide was far out in the background, and they were standing next to a huge sandcastle theyd spent all afternoon building. Jake had both his arms around her waist and they were smiling. The sun was shining in their faces, highlighting the burst of orange they both had in the blue of their eyes. She picked up the photo and stroked his face through the glass. Jake now came up to her shoulder. He had kind eyes and dark hair, cut in the floppy boyband style worn by the boys in One Direction. He was a handsome kid, but he had Peter Conways nose, strong and slightly pointed at the end. Of course hes going to look like his father, thats nature, said Kate out loud. The nurture, thats my . . . thats my parents job. Hes happy. Theres no reason for him to turn bad. She felt her eyes fill with tears. She put the photo back and looked down at her glass of iced tea. It would be so easy to have a drink. Just one drink. She shook the thought away, and it went. She drained her iced tea and looked at Jakes school photo. The kids in his class were posing on two rows of benches with Miss Prentice, a pretty blonde in her early twenties. Jake was surrounded by his four close friends, like a little boyband in the making, and smiling, squinting at the sun. Kates mind went back to the school photo of Caitlyn Murray. She didnt look happy like Jake. Kate got up to switch on her laptop and check if Caitlyns father had replied to her email, when her mobile phone rang. She went to her bag in the kitchen and saw it was Alan Hexham. Hello, working late? she said. She liked Alan. He came and lectured to her students every term, and as well as being a brilliant forensic pathologist, he had become a friend. Kate, are you busy? he asked. No. Everything okay? I want you to come down to the morgue . . . I need a second opinion. A second opinion? she asked. He was normally so upbeat, but tonight he sounded rattled. Almost scared. Yes. Please, Kate. I could really use your help and insight. CHAPTER 5 The morgue was on the outskirts of Exmouth, only a few miles from Kates house. It was in the basement of a large Victorianera hospital, and the car park was quiet and empty. A tall chimney rose out the back of the building and thick black smoke was pouring out into the clear sky. The morgue was accessed through a side door, and then Kate was in a damp tunnel, banking down into the basement. It smelled of mould and disinfectant, and dim yellow lights dotted at intervals flickered and fizzed. The tunnel opened out into a bright reception area with a high ceiling and ornate Victorian plasterwork. The pattern made Kate think of tightly curled intestines, or brain tissue. She signed in and was shown through to a lecture theatre. Raked wooden seats rose up around it, and vanished into the shadows. A large naked corpse lay in the centre of the theatre, on a stainless-steel postmortem table. Alan worked with two assistants. They all wore blue scrubs with clear Perspex masks. The bloated, blackening corpse was slit open from just above the groin up to the sternum, where the cut diverged out across each shoulder to the neck. The rib cage was split down the middle and bent out, like open butterfly wings. The hole where her face should have been gaped obscenely, a row of bottom teeth poking up through the flesh, which was like a cluster of poisonous mushrooms. Kate hesitated in the entrance, taking in the stench, mingled with the dusty wooden smell of the old auditorium. Lungs are good and healthy, though close to liquefaction, Alan was saying, lifting them up in his bloodied hands. They hung wetly above the dismembered torso, reminding Kate of a dead octopus. Quickly, theyll disintegrate. He saw Kate, and nodded in acknowledgement as one of his assistants rushed to him with a stainless-steel organ dish. He placed the lungs carefully inside. Kate. Thank you for coming, he said, his voice echoing off the high ceiling. Fresh scrubs are on the back of the door, and do remember shoe covers. She quickly pulled on a set of scrubs and came back, stopping a few feet from the body. The room was cold, and she folded her arms over her chest. She was close enough to see the remainder of the teenagers organs, all packed neatly into the open torso. She wondered what the body of the young woman had to do with her. It had been so long since shed attended a postmortem, and she hoped her stomach was still up to it. Alan towered over his two assistants as he brought Kate up to speed, explaining where and when they had found the body. Despite having no face to identify, her body wielded a wealth of samples: semen, saliva, three separate strands of hair, pubic hair in the vagina, an eyelash from one of the bites on the back of her legs . . . Bites? said Kate. Yes. Six, said Alan, looking up at her. One of his assistants carefully lifted out the heart and carried it reverently in two hands, taking it over to a set of weighting scales. Liam. Bring the dish to the organ. Dont go walking around the room with it! Samira . . . Liam froze in the middle of the room, holding the heart while Samira fetched a small steel bowl for him to place the organ in. Kate ignored this little double act and moved closer to the body, smelling decaying flesh. A surgical saw, congealed with blood, lay on the adjacent table. A postmortem was always conducted with such an intense calm. Ripping apart someone with care is how she had once heard it described. Was she asphyxiated? Yes, said Alan. See the ligature marks on the neck and throat, small red pinpricks, like a rash? He indicated with his finger. Indicates rapid loss of oxygen, then the blood being rapidly re-oxygenated. She was deprived of oxygen to the point of death, and then revived . . . Was she posed? Lying on her side, with one arm outstretched? Yes. Her body left in parkland? Moorland. Dartmoor National Park, but yes, out in the elements. Have you identified her? Not yet. Looking at her remaining teeth, shes only just out of teenage years. He went to a trolley and picked up an evidence bag containing the torn neck of the drawstring plastic bag and the rope with the knot. He handed it to Kate. And this was found tied around her neck. For the second time that day a piece of the past was suddenly thrust into Kates present. A chill ran through her body as she fingered the knot through the thick plastic, feeling the tight ridges on the small ball. She looked up at Alan. Fucking hell. A monkeys fist knot? she said. Kate looked back at the body, which was so badly decayed and bloated that it was difficult to tell what she would have looked like alive. What do the police say? About you attending my postmortem? They dont know, said Alan. Kate looked up and raised an eyebrow. Thats not what I meant. A young female DCI is heading this case. I think she was still playing with her Barbie dolls when Peter Conway was on the rampage. I havent told her. I wanted you to look at this before I start linking this murder to a historical case. Kate looked at the knot again. Theres no doubt in my mind. Look at it all. Its the Nine Elms Cannibal. Peter Conway hasnt escaped, in case youre worried. Hes still tucked up nicely in his cell at Her Majestys pleasure. Kate nodded. I know. If he escapes Im one of the first to be told. There are measures in place to protect me and my son . . . Kate could see a tinge of pity in Alans eyes. They had never discussed her situation, but he obviously knew. Whoever did this, it looks like a copycat. Am I making a leap here? There is too much here for it just to be a coincidence. Yes. I agree, said Alan. Do you know when she died? Time of death? asked Kate, returning her attention to the body. Shes been out in the elements wind and rain, creepy crawlies. We have maggots in the flesh behind the left ear and in the shoulder, and the body is bloated. Id put time of death five or six days ago. That would make it last Tuesday or Wednesday. Conway grabbed his victims on a Thursday or Friday. Hed have the weekend to torture them, kill them, then hed dump their bodies on a Monday or Tuesday, said Kate. She looked up at Alan. Did you get dental impressions from the bites? No. The skin has decayed too much. What about her face? Do you know how it was removed? Alan took a small plastic bag from the pocket of his scrubs. It contained a long tooth. A canine left incisor, he said, holding it up. It was smooth and white. A dog? Alan nodded. From a Doberman or Alsatian. It would need to be pretty riled up to do this. I dread to think what was done to it. We found the tooth embedded in the remnants of her upper right-hand jawbone, but I dont believe that the dog alone got the face off. There are also incision marks from a serrated blade. As if the dog attacked and the face was removed, or finished off with a knife? Yes, said Alan. Have you come across any other murders that have the hallmarks of Conway? No. Can you check? Kate, I asked you for your professional opinion on this body, which I am grateful for . . . Alan. You have access to police databases. If someone out there is copycatting Peter Conways murders, then this woman is the second victim. Conways second victim was Dawn Brockhurst. She was dumped next to a river . . . Foxes tore off the plastic bag covering her head and ate part of her face. Shelley Norris was his first victim and she was found dumped in the wreckers yard on Nine Elms Lane . . . Alan put up his hands. Yes, Im aware . . . My job is to give the facts, the cause of death. Can you at least look? Or direct the police to look into it? Alan nodded wearily. His assistants were now gently closing up the ribcage in preparation to sew up the long Y-shaped incision on her sternum. Kate looked down, and saw she was still holding the plastic evidence bag containing the soiled length of rope with the monkeys fist knot. Her hand shook and she thrust it back at Alan, feeling if she held it any longer it might contaminate her and drag her back into the turbulent hell of the Nine Elms Cannibal case. CHAPTER 6 Kate didnt remember leaving the morgue, or saying goodbye to Alan. She found herself emerging from the long dank tunnel into the car park. Her legs moved, and the blood pumped so hard and fast in her veins that it felt painful. The sound of the cars was muffled as she crossed the busy road, and a thin mist was starting to manifest around the dull yellow of the streetlights. The fear she felt was irrational. It wasnt one image, or one thought, but it consumed her. Is this fear going to finish me this time, once and for all? she wondered. Her neck and back were running with sweat, but the cold air made her shiver. She found herself in an off-licence across the road from the morgue, and she looked down. There was a bottle of Jack Daniels in her hand. She dropped the bottle and it smashed, splattering the greying linoleum floor and her shoes. A small Indian man sitting behind the till watching a film on his laptop looked up at the noise of the bottle dropping. He pulled out his earphones and picked up a big blue roll of tissue. You pay for it, he said. Of course, let me help, she said, kneeling down and picking up a piece of the broken bottle. It glistened with the amber liquid. It was so close to her tongue and she could smell it. Dont touch anything, he said. He looked at her with distaste another drunk. Reality clicked back into place for Kate. She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a twenty-pound note. He took it and she picked her way through the broken glass and out of the door. She didnt look back as she hurried across the road, narrowly missing a van which honked its horn. When she reached her car, she got inside, locking the doors. Her hands were shaking and she could smell the whisky on her shoes and feel the wetness on her legs. A part of her wanted to suck it out of the material. She took a deep breath and opened the window, feeling the cold air circulate in the car, dampening the whisky smell. She took out her mobile phone and sent a text message to Myra, her sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous. Are you up? Almost drank. She was relieved to receive a reply immediately. Youre in luck kiddo. Im up and I have cake. Ill put the kettle on. Myra lived next door to Kate, in a small flat above the surf shop, which she owned and ran. The surf shop was closed up for the winter, and the small car park at the front was empty apart from a cash machine strapped to the wall, and a two-sided roto-sign with ridged edges. It was spinning fast in the wind, flicking between cold drinks and ice cream. Kate went to the side door and knocked. She looked over at the cash machine, which was glowing in the corner. In the summer months it was used by the surfers, but off-season Kate was one of the only people who used it, and only then because she was too lazy to go into town. Myra answered the door carrying two steaming mugs of tea. Hold these, she said, handing them to Kate. Lets go down and get some air. She pulled on a long, dark winter coat and stepped into a pair of Wellington boots. Her face was heavily lined, but she had clear skin and a head of white hair, which glowed luminously under the light in her hallway. Kate had never asked Myra her age, nor had it been offered up. Myra was a private person, but Kate figured she must be in her late fifties or sixties. She must have been born before 1965, which was the year Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were captured for the Moors Murders not many people had wanted to name their daughter Myra after that. They came out of the door and past the terrace overlooking the sea, where three rows of empty picnic tables sat in the shadows. A crumbling set of concrete steps led down to the beach, and Kate followed slowly after Myra, concentrating on not spilling the tea. The sound of the wind and the waves grew louder as they reached the bottom of the steps where a couple of rusting deck chairs nestled in the dunes. The chairs creaked in unison as they sat. Kate sipped gratefully at the hot sweet tea. Myra took a box of Mr Kiplings mini Battenberg cakes from her coat pocket. Why did you want to drink? she asked, her face serious. There was no judgement coming from her, but she was stern, and rightly so; six years of sobriety were not to be taken lightly. Over cake, Kate told her about the days triple whammy: the Peter Conway lecture, the email shed received, and then the post-mortem. I feel responsible, Myra. The father of this girl, Caitlyn. Hes got no one else to turn to. You dont know if she was abducted by Peter Conway. What if its a coincidence? said Myra. And then this young woman tonight. Jesus, the way she was lying there, like a beaten-up piece of meat . . . And the thought that its all starting again. What do you want to do? I want to help. I want to stop it from happening again. You can help by talking and sharing what you know, but remember that recovery never ends, Kate. You have a son who needs his mother. You have yourself to think of. Nothing is more important than your sobriety. What happens if you go back to an off-licence and you dont drop that bottle of whisky? And you go to the counter, and you buy it, and then you relapse? Kate wiped a tear from her eye. Myra reached out and took her hand. Peter Conway is locked away. You put him there. Think of how many lives you saved, Kate. He would have kept on going. Let the police deal with this. Let Alan do his job. And as for this missing girl what do you think you can do to find her? And how can her parents be sure she was killed by Conway? Kate looked down at the sand and smoothed it under her feet with the edges of her boots. Speaking to Myra had calmed her. The adrenalin was no longer surging through her body, and she felt exhausted. She checked her watch. It was almost 11 p.m. She turned and looked out to sea, at the row of lights from Ashdean twinkling in the darkness. I need to get some rest, and get myself out of these jeans. They stink of booze. Kate could see Myras concern, but she didnt want to have to promise she would leave the cases alone. Ill come with you, and help you put them in the washing machine, said Myra. Kate was about to protest, but nodded. Shed done some crazy things when she was drinking, and the smell of stale booze had tipped her over the edge in the past. And were going to the early meeting tomorrow, Myra added sternly. Yes, said Kate. And thank you. CHAPTER 7 Peter Conway walked down the long hospital corridor at Great Barwell Psychiatric Hospital, flanked by two orderlies, Winston and Terrell. The long years of incarceration and limited activity had given Peter a paunch and skinny, under-developed legs, which poked out of his slightly too short bathrobe. His hands were cuffed behind him, and he wore a spit hood. It was made of a thin metal mesh, and covered his whole head. A thick reinforced panel of plastic at the front moved in and out as he breathed. His grey hair was wet from the shower, and it snaked out from under the hood, hanging over his shoulders. It had been a year since Peters last violent episode. Hed bitten another patient during group therapy, a manic depressive called Larry. The disagreement had been over the subject of Kate Marshall. Peter carried a huge number of emotions towards her rage, hatred, lust and loss. Before this particular group session, Larry had found an article in the paper about Kate. Nothing huge or significant, but he had taunted Peter. Larry threw the first punch, but Peter had finished it by biting off the tip of Larrys fat little nose. Hed refused to consent to his stomach being pumped to retrieve the missing piece, and he now had to wear cuffs and the spit hood when he was outside his cell, or room as the more progressive doctors liked to call it. There had been several incidents over the years where Peter had bitten an orderly, a doctor and two patients, and various bite guards and even a hockey mask ? la Hannibal Lecter had been used on him. Biting for pleasure and self-defence were two different things in Peters mind. Tender female flesh had a delicate, almost perfumed quality to be savoured like a fine wine. Male flesh was hairy and gamey, and he only ever bit a man in self-defence. Peters solicitor had successfully appealed against the use of such restraints, citing the Human Rights Act. The spit hood was used by the police during arrests to protect them from bodily fluid exposure, but it was the only acceptable solution for Peter which was agreed by the hospital, courts and his solicitor. Peters room was at the end of the long corridor. The doors were made of thick metal, with a small hatch which could only be opened from the outside. Yelling, banging and the occasional scream seeped out, but to Peter and the orderlies on the usual morning walk to and from the shower it was background noise, like the tweeting of birds in a field. Winston and Terrell were both huge, imposing men, over six feet tall, and built like brick shithouses, as Peters mother liked to say. Despite it seeming like a leisurely stroll back from the bathroom, they both wore heavy-duty leather belts and carried mace. Patients on the high-security wards were kept separate from each other, in single occupancy rooms, and they rarely had contact outside. The hospital corridors were monitored by an extensive network of CCTV cameras, both for security and to choreograph the daily movements. Peter knew he needed to be back in his room in the next few minutes to allow the next patient access to the shower. He had occupied the same room for the past six years. When they reached the door, Peter stood against the wall opposite the door, watched by Terrell, as Winston unlocked it. When the door was opened, Terrell undid the straps on the back of the spit hood and Peter went inside. The door was closed and locked. Im going to open the hatch, Peter. I need you to back up and put your hands through, said Winston. Peter felt the draught as it opened and he pushed his hands through. The cuffs came off, and he pulled his arms back through and started to work on the spit hood. He pulled it off and handed it through the hatch. Thanks, Peter, said Winston, and the hatch closed. Peter shrugged off his robe and dressed in jeans and a blue linen shirt and sweater. A small amount of luxury had been permitted to creep into his room over the six years. He had a digital radio, and while many of the local libraries in the UK had been closed due to funding cuts, Great Barwells was well stocked, and a stack of books sat on the small bedside table next to the bed. Peters only regret at having attacked Larry was the loss of his kettle. Hot drinks privileges were hard earned, and he missed not being able to make his own cup of tea or coffee. The longing to be free never left Peter. His latest read was a book about chaos theory, and he was captivated by this and the butterfly effect. There were numerous doors and razor-wire fences between him and freedom, but he knew that sometime soon a pair of wings somewhere would flap, signifying a small shift or opportunity, and he might get the chance to escape. He heard the squeak of shoes in the corridor outside and the low rumble of a trolley. Long ago he had learned the hospital divided time into blocks of five minutes. Once, when he went to see the hospital doctor, there was an incident with another patient, and he was taken back to his room on an elaborate detour, along unfamiliar corridors. Through an open door he had glimpsed the inside of the CCTV control room, a vast bank of television screens showing an image of every gate and corridor in Great Barwell. Despite the length of his stay, the complete layout of the hospital eluded him. It was vast. There was a knock at his door, and the small hatch opened. A long nose, almost comically long, poked through, with red wet lips surrounded with acne. Peter? croaked a voice. Ive got your post. Morning, Ned, said Peter, moving to the hatch. Ned Dukes was the longest-serving patient. He had been inside for forty years for imprisoning and raping fourteen young boys. He was tiny and wizened, and his long nose and fleshy acne-ridden mouth sat in the middle of a large round face. His blind milky eyes rolled from side to side as his hands groped around on a trolley stacked with letters and packages. Ned was accompanied by an older woman, an orderly, whose lipless mouth was set in a grim line. On the shelf below, she said impatiently. Ned wasnt the most efficient mailman, but he had been doing the job since before hed lost his sight, and he became extremely agitated and distressed if he didnt have the structure of his mail round. The last time the hospital tried to take him off the post round, Ned had protested by pouring boiling hot water over his genitals. Hed lost his hot drinks privileges, but got to keep his job as the unofficial mailman. Neds breath was loud and nasal as he reached down and fumbled along the neatly stacked letters, dislodging one of the piles. On the bottom! There! snapped the woman, grabbing his wrist and placing his hand on Peters pile of letters. Ned picked them up and handed them through the hatch. Thanks, Ned. Bye, bye, said Ned, grinning with a truly gruesome set of broken brown teeth. Bye, bye, bye, muttered Peter as the hatch slammed shut. He went back to his bed and sifted through the post. As usual it had been opened by the hospital, checked and badly stuffed back into the envelopes. There was a letter from Sister Assumpta, a nun who had been writing to him from her convent in Scotland for several years. She wanted to know if he liked the bathrobe shed sent him, and was asking for his shoe size because shed found a set of matching slippers on Amazon. She finished the letter by offering up prayers for his soul. The rest of the correspondence was tedious to Peter: a request from a writer to supply a quote for his true crime book; a man and a woman, writing separately, to say they were in love with him; and a copy of the Readers Digest somehow his name had found its way onto their mailing list. He had written to Kate only once a long letter during a weak moment when he was on remand awaiting sentencing. He had heard she was carrying his child, and he asked her to keep it. He also asked to be part of its life. He never heard back from her. The only information he gleaned was from his mother, Enid, and the press. He had never written to Kate again. Her rejection of what he felt was his genuine heartfelt letter was a worse betrayal than discovering his crimes. A court injunction was in place which prevented Peter and Enid from contacting Jake or knowing his address. Of course, Enid knew people and she had Jakes address, not because she had any interest in Jake, but because she wanted the upper hand with the authorities. In two years time Jake would be sixteen, and the court injunctions would expire. He knew Kate was a lost cause, but one day he would meet his son, and it would give him so much pleasure to turn him against her. Peter went to the door and listened. The corridor was silent. He moved to the radiator in the corner, which was welded to the wall. The radiator had a large plastic dial fixed to it to regulate the temperature, and a few weeks ago, when he turned the dial, it had come away from its housing, the moulded plastic shearing neatly off. It was a gift, having a place to hide things. Rooms were searched meticulously every day. Peter slowly turned the radiator dial to the left, jiggled the plastic, and it came away. He picked up his reading glasses and, using a stem, fished around inside the housing. He turned the dial over in his hand and a small capsule fell out. It was the dis-solvable capsule from a vitamin tablet. He teased the two halves of the casing apart and, using his fingernails, took out a small roll of very thin paper, tightly bound. He put the vitamin casing back together and placed it on his pile of books. He sat on the bed, scooting up so he lay flat against the wall and couldnt be seen if the hatch was opened. Carefully, he unrolled the paper. It was a thin, white, waxy paper. It came from one of those little machines that print off till rolls. The small strip of paper was filled with neat black writing. WHEN I WROTE TO YOU BEFORE, AND TOLD YOU I HAD KILLED A GIRL IN YOUR HONOUR, YOU MUST HAVE THOUGHT I WAS ONE OF THE SAD, LONELY FANTASISTS WHO WRITE TO YOU. I WRITE AGAIN TO TELL YOU I AM GENUINE. I AM REAL. I ABDUCTED AND KILLED A SECOND GIRL. HER NAME WAS KAISHA SMITH, AND I LEFT HER BODY CLOSE TO THE RIVER NEAR HUNTERS TOR ON DARTMOOR. VERY SOON THIS WILL BE REPORTED IN THE PRESS. I CONTINUE IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS, AND HOPE TO BE WORTHY OF YOU. PLEASE KEEP OUR LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN. YOU WONT REGRET IT. I HAVE PLANS TO CONTINUE YOUR WORK, BUT I ALSO WANT TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. I WILL HELP YOU SETTLE OLD SCORES, AND ULTIMATELY, I WILL GIVE YOU FREEDOM. A FAN Peter had read this letter many times in the past few days. His mother assured him that this fan was genuine, and she had met with him. It frustrated Peter that people outside the hospital gates could communicate in the blink of an eye while he had to rely on letters, and agonisingly slow response times. He reached over, switched on his digital radio and scrolled through the list of stations, just in time to hear the 8 a.m. news headlines for BBC Radio Devon. He switched between Radio Four and local radio every morning in the hope that something would be reported, and what had been written in the letter from this fan would be confirmed. He listened to the full news reports, but there was nothing. He switched off the radio, and was rolling the letter back up tightly when he heard a trolley in the corridor. He couldnt find the empty capsule on his pile of books, and he spent a frantic moment searching until he found it under the bed. It almost disintegrated in his sweaty hands as he pushed the note back inside. He'd only just got the radiator knob fitted back on when there was a crash and the hatch in the door opened. Coffee, cried the voice of the woman who delivered refreshments and meals. Peter went to the hatch and saw the lurid red plastic sippy cup. He was permitted one hot drink every morning, served in the sippy cup for safety. To Peter it seemed to be designed as a way to humiliate him. Milk and no sugar? he asked. Yes . . . You dont sound sure. You cant open it in front of me, the woman snapped. Either you want to drink it, or I have to take it away. He picked it up. Thank you, he said, then muttered Cunt. What did you just say? I said, any chance of a biscuit? He flashed her a brown-toothed smile. She shook her head, a look of disgust on her hard face. Ill be back in an hour. The cup comes back Empty, upturned, with the lid off . . . Yes, I know, Peter said. She slammed the hatch closed. He tipped it back and took a sip. It was cold, milky and sweet. He went to his desk, took out a piece of writing paper and, using a ruler, tore it neatly into a thin strip. Then he started to write a reply to his fan. CHAPTER 8 Kate went to an AA meeting the next morning with Myra. It was their regular meeting in a church hall just outside Ashdean. Kate spoke about nearly losing her sobriety and, as always, gained strength from the people in the meeting, sharing their stories of recovery. When she and Myra parted on the steps of the church, Kate was glad that Myra didnt press her further on what she was going to do. Tristan was already in and working at his desk when Kate arrived at the office. Morning, he said. Alan Hexham got back to me. He can make the lecture next week. He also wanted to know if you are okay. He was concerned the postmortem last night upset you. Thanks. Ill call him, said Kate, sitting at her desk and switching on her computer. She could see Tristan out of the corner of her eye, wanting to know more. Why would Alan leave such an indiscreet message? He didnt know if Kate shared everything with her assistant. She opened her email and saw there was a reply from Malcolm Murray, asking to meet. Kate looked up at Tristan. He was working on the cold case exercise for the upcoming lecture, which had involved taking the police file and reports and collating the information for the students to read. She made a decision. Do you want to grab a coffee? she asked. Sure, what would you like? Tristan pushed back his chair. No, I mean lets go and have a coffee. Theres something I want to talk to you about. Okay, he said, his thick dark brows furrowing. Is there a problem with my work? God, no. Come on, Im dying for some caffeine, and lets talk. They went down to the shiny new Starbucks on the ground floor of the faculty building. It was warm and cosy, and when they had their coffee, they managed to bag a table by the window, looking out over the seafront. Kate glanced around at the busy tables where students worked on their shiny new laptops, guzzling muffins and three-quid lattes, and thought back to her own poverty-stricken student days her freezing cold bedsit, and living on a diet of lentils and fruit. A Starbucks latte and muffin cost more than her weekly food budget had been back then. So many of these students must be minted, said Tristan, echoing her thoughts. See that guy over there? He indicated a handsome, dark-haired guy lounging in one of the armchairs and talking on his mobile. Hes wearing Adidas Samba Luzhniki World Cup trainers, limited edition. Kate looked over at the white-and-red-striped trainers. Really? They just look like trainers. There were only a few thousand pairs made, and they have bison leather and suede. He cant have got much change out of five hundred quid . . . Sorry, what did you want to talk about? No worries, she said, smiling. The more she got to know Tristan, the more she liked him. She told Tristan about the email from Malcolm Murray, and her meeting with Alan Hexham last night. She edited out the part about nearly falling off the wagon. She also showed Tristan the email. Do you think theyre linked? The dead girl from the postmortem and then this email about Caitlyn? No. Although the way in which this young woman was murdered is horrific, and it has all the hallmarks of Peter Conway, but hes locked up, and the police are dealing with that case. I want you to help me look into Caitlyns disappearance. How? he said, looking at the email. Youve been preparing all the stuff for my cold case lectures. Youve dealt with the historical case files. Id like you to come with me when I meet Malcolm and his wife, so I can have a second opinion. Im very close to the case, obviously, and Id welcome your thoughts. Tristan looked surprised, and excited. Absolutely. Ive loved doing the cold case stuff, reading through the old police files. Its such interesting stuff. How much work do you have on for tomorrow? Kate asked. Wednesday was a non-lecture day, but it was still used for preparation and paperwork. I can juggle some stuff around, stay a bit later today. You want to go tomorrow? Yes. Wed need to leave early in the morning, and of course its classed as a work day and Ill pay your expenses. Sounds good, said Tristan, downing the last of his coffee. He looked at the email again, and at the photo Kate had found of Caitlyn online. This must feel like unfinished business for you. Peter Conway was your case, and now there could be more victims. We dont know that yet. Theres no body, but unfortunately for me, the Peter Conway case will always feel like unfinished business . . . Tristan nodded. What was he like? Peter. I know what he is now, but he must have seemed like a normal person. No one suspected him for years. He was my boss, and even though we had an affair, I wasnt on joking terms with him. He seemed like a decent bloke, popular with his team. Always bought a round of drinks after a long hard day. There was a female detective whose husband left her, and Peter gave her a lot of slack and let her do her job, pick up her son from school, that kind of thing. Back in 1995, if a female police officer had children or any childcare issues she was bunged on a desk job quicker than you can say Equal Rights for Women. You think there was a normal person lurking inside him? Yes, and with most multiple murderers the two sides of their character are often in conflict. Good and evil. And evil often wins. I would hope that good triumphs as much as evil . . . Her voice trailed off. She wasnt so sure any more. Tristan nodded. Thanks. I promise I wont bug you with any more questions about him . . . This is very cool, that I get to see you being a policewoman again and investigating crime. Hold your horses, I just want us to visit Malcolm and his wife, nothing more. Im not making them any promises. CHAPTER 9 Kate and Tristan set off early the next morning. It took two hours on the motorway to drive to Chew Magna, a pretty village about ten miles outside Bristol. The cottage belonging to Malcolm and Sheila was on the outskirts of the village, down a short track which was muddy from the recent rain. They parked close to the front gate, and Tristan had to leap from the passenger seat to the grassy verge by the front gate to avoid a huge muddy puddle. The cottage was quaint, and not how Kate had imagined Malcolm and Sheilas home. Shed envisioned a dingy little Victorian terrace, or a council flat, similar to the other victims houses. The cottage was whitewashed, and a thick wisteria wound its way up the drainpipe and under the eaves. Its branches were bare and a few yellowing leaves hung on, dancing in the wind. As they walked up to the front door, the grass in the front garden was at knee height and tall weeds grew through the cracks in the concrete. Malcolm answered the door. He was short and plump with rounded shoulders. His hair was very thin, a baby-fine fluff that clung onto his veiny scalp. He wore blue jeans with an ironed crease down the front and a red-and-blue diamond-pattered jumper. Hello, hello, so pleased to meet you, he said in a raspy voice, smiling and shaking both their hands. Kate noticed he had dark patches on the backs of both hands, and she guessed he must be in his late eighties. We made it here quicker than we thought. I hope were not too early? asked Kate. It was just after nine in the morning. Were much better before lunchtime. The earlier the better, before we go a bit gaga. Malcolm grinned. He stepped back to let them inside. There was a thick carpet of faded mauve, and the dimly lit hallway had a low ceiling. It smelled faintly of disinfectant and furniture polish. Kate slipped off her shoes and hung up her coat. Malcolm watched Tristan as he undid the laces on his trainers and carefully pulled them off to reveal immaculate snow-white sports socks. My, theyre snazzy, said Malcolm, adjusting his thick spectacles with a shaking hand. Thank you, said Tristan, holding up the trainers. Vintage Dunlop Green Flash. No. I meant your socks. Theyre so white! Sheila would never let me wear such white socks. They must show the dirt. Tristan laughed. They do a bit, but Im the one who does the washing in our house, he said, hanging up his coat. Are you married? No, I live with my sister. Shes the cook. Im the bottle washer and sock washer. Kate smiled. She didnt know this about Tristan, and made a mental note to ask more. Malcolm! Theres a draught! Shut that door! came a reedy womans voice from the living room. And find them some slippers. Yes, we cant have you getting colds, said Malcolm, reaching round to close the door. Now, where are those slippers? Kate and Tristan both declined the slippers, but Malcolm insisted, rummaging around in a large trunk under the coat rack until he found them each a yellowing pair of hotel slippers with HAVE FUN, HAVE SUN, HAVE SHERATON! written on the front. He dropped them down on the carpet in front of their feet. There we go. We went to Madeira for the millennium. It was the last holiday we had before Sheilas agoraphobia took over . . . and then, well, anyway. Pop them on and youll be toasty, and theyll keep those white socks clean. Malcolm went off as Tristan pulled a face at Kate. The tiny slippers looked ridiculous crammed onto the end of his huge feet. They passed a large grandfather clock in the dim hallway, ticking loudly, and went through to the living room which was much brighter. It was a mess: two armchairs were pushed up under the front window with a nest of tables between them, and a dining table and chairs were stacked up at the other end under the window looking out into the overgrown back garden. When Kate saw Sheila, she understood why. The middle of the room had been cleared to fit a large, high-backed chair where Sheila sat, tucked up under a fluffy blue blanket. She had long grey hair, escaping in wisps from a ponytail, and her skin was a deep yellow. Next to her was a huge dialysis machine, humming and whirring with a row of small lights flashing, and on the other side was a high table covered with bottles and packets of medication, with a yellow sharps bin next to it for disposal of needles and dressings. There were indentations in the carpet where the furniture had been. Thick blood-filled tubes emerged from under the blanket and into the machine where a cannula turned, pumping it around and back into Sheilas veins. Malcolm! You should have warned them. Look at him, poor lad, she called, looking at Tristan, who was now a little pale. Hello, Im Sheila, she said. Kate and Tristan went over to her, and they all shook hands. Isnt he handsome! said Sheila, keeping hold of Tristans hand. Is he your son? No, hes my research assistant at the university. That must be an interesting job. Have you got a girlfriend? Yes, it is and, no, I havent, said Tristan, averting his eyes from the blood. A boyfriend? One of my nurses, Kevin, is gay. Hes just come back from a Disney cruise. No. Im single, said Tristan. Sheila finally let go of his hand and indicated that they should sit on the sofa. Kate had the impression that Sheila didnt get many visitors; she talked constantly until Malcolm came back with a tray of tea things. She explained that she was on the waiting list for a new kidney. Im lucky that our local authority brings this machine in three times a week. Kate looked around the room and saw that the mantelpiece above the fireplace was the only part of the room that hadnt been rearranged. There were five photos of Caitlyn. One was of her as a wide-eyed baby, looking up from a blue blanket in a crib. In another, a much younger version of Malcolm and Sheila were on a beach, kneeling next to Caitlyn who was five or six. It looked to be a gloriously sunny day, and they all held ice creams and were smiling at the camera. There was another, which must have been taken at a professional studio a few years later. It was a close-up of the three of them sitting in a row against a blue-and-white dappled background, and they were all staring wistfully into the middle distance. There were two others of Caitlyn as a young teenager, one with a beaming smile standing next to a tall sunflower, and another where she held a tabby cat. The school photo that had been used in the newspaper wasnt there. The way the row of photos abruptly finished was chilling. Caitlyn never got to grow up and have a wedding photo, or a picture with her first-born baby. * A while later they were settled with their second cups of tea, and Sheila was still chatting away about the three nurses who came to visit. Malcolm was perched on a dining chair, which hed brought in and placed next to her. He finally put up a hand. Darling, theyve come a long way. Weve got to talk to them about Caitlyn, he said gently. Sheila stopped abruptly and her face crumpled, and she began to cry. Yes. Yes, I know . . . Malcolm found her a tissue and she blotted her eyes and blew her nose. I know this is going to be hard, said Kate. Can I ask some questions? They both nodded. Kate took out a notebook and flicked through the pages. You said in your email that Caitlyn went missing on ninth September 1990? What day was that? It was a Sunday, said Sheila. She went out with her friend this was back when we lived in Altrincham, near Manchester. They were just going to go and have lunch and see a film at the cinema. I remember what she was wearing the morning she left. Her blue dress had a pattern of white flowers on the hem, which matched her blue leather sandals and handbag. She always looked beautiful. She always knew how to dress. The friend she met. Is it the friend who emigrated to Australia? No, this was another schoolfriend, her best friend, Wendy Sampson, said Malcolm. Wendy told the police that they went to an Italian cafe where they had lunch on the Sunday and then they went and saw Back to the Future III at the cinema. They left the cinema just after three p.m. and they parted ways at the end of the high street. It was a bright sunny day, and Caitlyn always walked home from town if it was nice. It was just a twenty-minute walk . . . She never arrived home, finished Sheila. One woman remembers seeing her at the newsagents which was midway between town and our house in Altrincham. She said Caitlyn popped in and bought a tube of polo mints. Can you remember her name? No. How soon was this after shed left Wendy in town? asked Kate. Half an hour or so. The woman didnt know the exact time, said Malcolm. It was as if Caitlyn vanished, without a trace. I didnt want to move, even ten years after she went missing. I thought she might come back and knock on the door. I couldnt bear the thought of us not being there if she did, said Sheila. They were silent for a moment and there was just the beep and hum of the dialysis machine. Do you have Wendys details? Phone number or address? asked Kate. She died two years ago of breast cancer. She did marry. Her husband invited us to the funeral, said Sheila. I can look up his address, said Malcolm. What did Caitlyn like to do outside school? asked Kate. She went to the youth club, which was just around the corner from our house, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, said Malcolm. And she had a part-time job at a video shop on Monday evenings, and all day on a Saturday. The video shop was called Hollywood Nights and the youth club was called Carters. I never knew the official name, but the caretaker was a miserable old git called Mr Carter, and the nickname stuck. Do you know his address? Oh, hes long dead. He was knocking seventy back in 1990, said Sheila. Did Caitlyn play sport at school, or was she in any after-school clubs? asked Kate. Sheila shook her head and dabbed at the end of her nose with a tissue. What about this schoolfriend from Melbourne? Megan Hibbert, said Malcolm. It was strange. We go back up to Altrincham every year to put flowers on Sheilas mothers grave. Sheila couldnt go this year, so I went on me own, and when I was at the cemetery this woman came up to me and asked if I was Caitlyns dad. It proper shook me up to hear a stranger say her name. It turned out it was Megan and she had come back to the UK after all those years to visit family and she was there to pay respects to her granddad. We went and had a coffee. She hadnt heard about Caitlyn until a few years later, what with being so cut off back then on the other side of the world. She mentioned that Caitlyn had talked about being in a relationship with a policeman . . . It knocked me for six, because, well, we thought we knew everything about her. Did Megan ever see Caitlyn with this policeman? She said that one evening, when they were at the youth club, they were playing table tennis, and Caitlyn left, saying she was going to the loo. She didnt come back for a while, so Megan went looking for her, and found Caitlyn outside. She was standing by a car parked up at the front and talking to a man through the window . . . Kate and Tristan saw how Sheila was reacting to this her face was crumpled up and she was wiping her eyes with a soggy clump of tissue. Come on love, its okay, said Malcolm, getting her a fresh tissue. What did the man look like? asked Kate. Megan said she didnt really see him, as it was dark. He looked very handsome, in his twenties. He had dark hair slicked back, straight white teeth. The car was new a dark blue Rover, H registration. She said Caitlyn was laughing and flirting with him. He put a hand out of the window and around her waist, then she got in the car and they drove away. Caitlyn didnt tell Megan what his name was, but she did say he was a copper. This wasnt the day Caitlyn went missing. Megan said that Caitlyn came to school the next day, and she was fine. Happy. Did Megan ever see them together again? No. Did Caitlyn say anything else? No. They were friends, but not best friends. When was this? Megan said it was in the summer, towards the end of July. It was just getting dark at around 9 p.m. It would have been either a Tuesday or Thursday. What about the police investigation into Caitlyns disappearance? Do you have the names of the police officers who worked on it? asked Kate. We only ever met two. A woman and a man. The woman was young. PC Francis Cohen, and her boss, a Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Pearson. We dont know where they are now, said Malcolm. They were very nice with us, but there was nothing for them to go on, said Sheila. By the time Caitlyn went missing, Megan had moved with her family. They emigrated at the end of August. She never said anything to anyone, and it seems that Caitlyn never told Wendy about this policeman. Peter Conway was a police officer in Greater Manchester Police from early 1989 to March 1991, after which he moved to London. Do you know if he worked on the case? asked Kate. We did a freedom of information request a few weeks ago to ask if he was working on the case, but nothing has come back yet, said Malcolm. We heard that he was working in narcotics, and Greater Manchester Police is a big organisation. He did live just a few miles away from our house in Altrincham. He rented a room in a house in Avondale Road in Stretford. Its written in one of those books about him. We saw the pictures of him too, when he was younger. He does look like Megans description handsome with dark hair slicked back, and he had very straight white teeth. Of course, we know what he did with those teeth. Sheila broke down completely and buried her head in Malcolms shoulder. Love, mind the tubes, careful, he said, untangling one of the blood-filled tubes from his wrist. He got up and went to a sideboard next to the fireplace. He took out a large box file and handed it to Kate. This is everything Ive kept over the years. Kate opened the file and saw stacks of photos and paperwork. There are press cuttings, photos of Caitlyn. There are details of where she went on the day she went missing . . . We dont think shes still alive but, as I said, we just want to find her so we can put her to rest. I know this is a difficult question, said Kate, but do you have any reason to think that Caitlyn ran away? Was she unhappy about anything, or did you have an argument about something? What? No! cried Sheila. No, no, no, she was happy. Of course, she was a teenager, but no! No. Malcolm? I didnt know of anything. Wed had a lovely Saturday night the day before she went missing. We got fish and chips and watched The Generation Game, and then a James Bond film. All together in here, happy as larks. Im sorry, but I had to ask, said Kate. Malcolm nodded. Sheila regained her composure. I feel like youre our only hope, Kate, she said. You were the only officer who saw through Peter Conways facade. You caught him, and you put him away. She reached out to Kate, and Kate got up and went to her, taking her outstretched hand. It felt like dry paper, and her yellow skin was so shiny. Please, say youll help us. Kate looked into her eyes, and saw so much pain. Yes, Ill help you, she said. CHAPTER 10 Ninety miles from London, Enid Conway arrived in a taxi outside Great Barwell Psychiatric Hospital. She gave the taxi driver the exact money she didnt believe in tipping and slammed the door. She was a small, thin, beady-eyed woman with a helmet of jet-black hair and a hard face accentuated by heavy make-up. She wore a long houndstooth coat and had a pink Chanel handbag hooked over her shoulder. She took a moment to admire her reflection in the taxi window before it pulled away. The hospital grounds backed onto a line of smart residential houses, and on the other side of the road there was a twenty-foot-high fence topped with razor wire. At the front gate was a small visitors check-in building. Enid went to the window, where a hard-faced older woman sat behind a bank of television monitors. Morning, Shirley, said Enid. How are you? This weather aint good for my joints, said Shirley, holding out her hand. Its the damp. You need to get yourself some thermals . . . Im here to see Peter. I need your visiting order, said Shirley, her hand still outstretched. Enid put her new bag on the counter between them, making sure the metal-embossed Chanel logo was facing Shirley, and made a show of rummaging around inside. Shirley didnt look impressed. Here you go, she said, handing over the order. Shirley checked it then pushed a visitors pass through the hatch. Enid slipped it into her coat pocket. You know the rules. All visitors must clip their visitors pass to their person. This coat is brand new, from Jaeger. You might not have heard of Jaeger, Shirley, its a very expensive brand, said Enid. Clip it on your belt then. Enid gave her a nasty smile and walked away. Someones come into some money, Shirley muttered, as Enid stalked up the driveway. You cant polish a turd, though. The hospital was a vast sprawl of Victorian red-brick buildings, with a new futuristic-looking visitors wing tacked onto the front. Enid came to the first security checkpoint and unbuttoned her coat. You one of the new ones? she said to a small skinny lad who waited by the airport-style scanner. He had a turn in his left eye, and a shock of very thin black hair barely clinging onto his oversized head. Yeah. My first day, he said nervously. He watched as Enid took off her coat, revealing smart slacks and a crisp white blouse. He held up a tray for her and she took off her high heels, a gold bracelet and earrings and placed them inside. She placed the Chanel bag and a carrier bag full of sweets in another tray. She went through the scanner, only for it to beep. Bloody hell. Ive taken everything off. Surely you dont need me to take out my bloody hearing aid? she said, tilting her head to show it in her left ear. No, thats fine. Have you got a metal plate in your head, or any bones pinned? Sorry, we have to ask. Enid glanced over at her things as they moved along the conveyor belt towards the X-ray machine. Through a hatch in the wall she could see the control room where two officers sat behind a bank of screens. No. Its probably the underwire in my bra that set it off, she said. The conveyor belt had stopped, and the tray containing her Chanel bag and the carrier bag was going back through the scanner. The two officers in the control room were peering at the X-ray image, one pointing out something. Enid reached out and grabbed the young lads hand, pressing it to her breasts. Here! Check it, have a feel, she said, raising her voice. He tried to pull away. She then moved his hand down and pushed his fingers between her legs. Madam! Please! he cried. Can you feel that? Thats me, nothing but me, she said, leaning her face close to his. She looked over at the control room and saw she had the officers attention. They were now staring with wry amusement. The tray with her bags continued through the scanner and she released the young lads hand. The scanner beeped again as she went through. See. My underwire, she said. Yes. Thats fine, said the lad, his voice shaking. Enid collected her coat and bags and went to a thick glass door, giving the two older men in the control room a wink as she passed. After a moment, she was buzzed through the door and into a small square room with mirrored glass, where a sign read: STAND WITH FEET APART AND LOOK UP AT CAMERA There was a yellow square painted on the floor containing faded footprints. She stood in the square and looked up at the camera. There was a faint whirring as the lens twitched and focused in on her. The door opposite beeped and popped open a few inches. This led through to another checkpoint, where her bag was searched again by a tall black officer, who Enid didnt like. He then looked in the plastic bag and pulled out packets of sweets and chocolate. You know I always bring in sweets for Peter, she said as he looked at each packet of sweets. She was nervous that he might open one of the bags. You think youve got X-ray eyes? Theyve been through the bloody scanner! He gave her a look and nodded, waiting as she repacked the sweets into the carrier bag. He then shone a small flashlight into her mouth, and she lifted her tongue. He checked her ears and her hearing aid. Finally, he waved her through. Peter Conway was still classed as a Category A violent patient, and was dealt with as such, but Enid had successfully lobbied to have face-to-face visits with her son without a glass partition between them. They met twice a week in a small room. Their meetings were recorded on CCTV and hospital orderlies were always present, watching them through a large observation window. The room was starkly lit, with just a square plastic table and two chairs bolted to the floor. Enid was always placed in the room first, and then Peter was brought in. Shed had to sign numerous legal documents to say that she met Peter at her own risk, and she had no legal recourse if he attacked her. She waited in the room for ten minutes before Peter was led through by Winston and Terrell, cuffed and wearing the spit hood. Good afternoon, Mrs Conway, said Winston. He guided Peter to the chair opposite Enid, then undid the straps at the back of the spit hood and removed the handcuffs. Peter rolled up his sleeves, ignoring both of the orderlies as they backed away to the door, one with a baton, the other with his Taser drawn. As soon as they were through, there was a buzzing and the sound of a lock being activated. All right, love? asked Enid. Peter reached around to the back of his head, pulling the hood off. He folded it neatly and placed it on the table, as if he had just shrugged off a sweater. Yeah. Another new guard, she said, indicating the orderly watching them through the glass. Do they specify fucking ugly on the application form for this place? She knew their conversation was being broadcast outside the room, and she got a kick out of the fact that they had no idea what was really going on during their visits. The orderly outside didnt react and watched them impassively. They stood and Peter leaned over and kissed Enid on the cheek, and they embraced. He stroked his mothers back, tracing down her spine to the curve of her buttocks. Enid pushed herself against him and gave a little sigh of pleasure. They held the embrace for a long moment, until the orderly knocked on the glass. They reluctantly broke apart and sat down. I brought your sweeties, she said, picking up the carrier bag and pushing it across the table. Lovely. Thanks, Mum. Peter took out three bags of boiled sweets, three bags of jelly babies and three bags of chocolate eclair toffees. Ah, my favourite, the chocolate eclairs. Something to enjoy later with a nice cup of tea, she said with a knowing smile. Any luck getting your kettle back? No. Bastards. Ill contact Terrence Lane again, get him to write another letter. Mum. They wont give it back to me, and itll be another few hundred quid in solicitors fees. Its a basic human right to be able to make yourself a cup of tea! Seriously, Mum, leave it. Enid sat back and pursed her lips. Just you wait, she thought, looking at the guard staring at them through the glass. You lot wont know whats hit you. She picked up the pink Chanel bag and placed it reverently between them on the table. Peter whistled. Jesus, Mum. Is that real? Course its bloody real! How much did that cost you? Never you mind. But its as real as the money what bought it . . . She sat back, smiling, and bit her lip. She had to stop herself from saying more, and wished for the thousandth time that they could speak freely. Seriously, Mum? There was a knock on the glass and they turned to see the orderly signalling to put the bag back down on the floor. What difference does it make if my fucking bag is on the table or the floor? Theyve already searched me! Mum, Mum, please, said Peter. Enid pulled a face and put the bag on the floor. I wouldnt put it past them to stick a camera up my arse to see what I had for breakfast, she said. Thats what they do to me, he said. She reached out and took his hand. She went to say something but stopped herself. Peter. The chocolate eclairs. When you get back to your room, open them, yes? She patted his hand, and a look passed between them. Of course, Mum, he said, nodding. Ill do that. CHAPTER 11 Kate and Tristan stopped at a motorway service station on their way back from meeting Malcolm and Sheila in Chew Magna. It was still early, and they both ordered fish and chips and found a quiet corner in the dining room before the lunch rush. They ate in silence for a few minutes. Tristan shovelled his food in, but Kate pushed hers around her plate. The greasy battered fish was making her feel queasy. I just felt so sorry for them both, said Tristan. They looked broken. When you went up to the bathroom, I was asking them about the psychic they went to see. The one who told them Caitlyn was dead. She charged them three hundred quid. Tristan swallowed and put his fork down. And they believed her? She was the first person who gave them a conclusion. Ive seen it before in cases Ive worked on. When a loved one vanishes its not only devastating but it plays with the mind. If theres a body, its closure. You heard Sheila say she didnt want them to move house, in case Caitlyn came home, said Kate. Do you think youve got enough information to make a start? This man Caitlyn was seeing. There has to be a reason why she kept it a secret. It could have just been that he was older, but she hid it from her best friend. Its a shame the best friend isnt here to answer our questions, said Tristan. Her husband is, said Kate, looking over at the box file sitting on the edge of the table. Even though it was just paperwork, she didnt feel comfortable leaving it in the car, knowing how valuable it was to Malcolm and Sheila. She wiped her hands on a napkin and opened it. On the top was Caitlyns last school photo, the one that had been cropped for the newspaper. All the girls in the class were in two rows. The girls on the front row were sitting, knees together, hands clasped in their laps. The picture was taken on a grassy field, and behind the class was a white Portakabin where sports equipment was stacked outside: hurdles, a bag of netballs and a pile of crash mats. There were twenty-four girls in the class. Kate turned the picture over. A small sticker on the bottom listed the names of the pupils, the teacher and the photographer. I want to start by tracking down her classmates. Are you on Facebook? Of course. Are you? asked Tristan, chasing a pea around his plate with the tip of his fork. No. He stopped, his pea-laden fork halfway to his mouth. Seriously? Despite the sombre mood, Kate laughed at his shock. I dont want people knowing my business, especially with my past. Can you help me with looking them up? Sure, he said, shoving the last of his chips in his mouth. I also want to talk to the friend in Melbourne. Sheila gave me her email address. Tristan wiped his hands on a napkin, took the school photo from Kate, and studied it closely. She doesnt look happy, does she, Caitlyn? I thought that. But she was at school. She could have just been pissed off they were stuck out in the cold with no coats. He handed the photo back. Do you think she could still be alive? She could be. Ive seen a lot of strange cases in my time, people showing up after years missing, but Sheila and Malcolm didnt allude to anything being a problem with Caitlyn. I suppose she could have run away and then something happened to her. Or Peter Conway killed her? Thats possible too. He was living close by. It could have been him in the car, but tall, dark and handsome isnt much to go on. It doesnt fit his style. He didnt date his victims. He abducted them during the week so he could have the weekend to torture and kill them, but then again, serial killers develop their signature style over time. Kate put the photo down and rubbed at her tired eyes. There are a ton of questions and leads we can look into. Her mobile rang, and she fumbled in her jacket, which was hanging over the back of her chair, and pulled it out. It was Alan Hexham. Hi Kate, have you got a minute? he said. Sure. The police have identified the young woman from the postmortem, a schoolgirl local to the area, sixteen-year-old Kaisha Smith. The family have been informed, so its been released it to the press. I also looked into any cases involving young women dumped in wreckers yards in the past six months. And you were right. On Wednesday twenty-eighth July, the body of a young woman called Emma Newman was found dumped naked amongst the scrap metal cars at the Nine Elms wreckers yard near Tiverton. She was seventeen years old. Shed recently left the childrens home where shed lived since she was small. No one reported her missing. Shed been bitten, Kate, just like Kaisha. This first girl was found at a wreckers yard called Nine Elms? asked Kate, suddenly feeling very cold. Yeah, creepy, I know. Youre sure? Yes. I pulled the file. How close is this wreckers yard to the second crime scene? Its just outside Tiverton, around twenty miles away. Kate looked up and saw Tristan had moved closer to a TV mounted on the wall above some tables opposite. The lunchtime news was showing an aerial view of the river and surrounding landscape from the second crime scene. Underneath was written BODY OF MISSING SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD DISCOVERED. Alan, its just coming on the news now. Ill call you back. Kate hung up and went to Tristan. This is the girl from the postmortem, said Kate. They must have put up a drone, said Tristan, watching the images on screen taken from high above, sweeping over the whole desolate crime scene, the rocky, gorse-covered landscape with the white forensics tent pitched next to the surging filthy river. The drone banked down a little and caught the moment from two days previously when the black body bag was carried across the field from the forensics tent to the pathologists van. It then cut to a reporter standing at the top of the field, next to a drystone wall. Her blonde hair was being blown about by the strong wind. The victim has been identified as sixteen-year-old Kaisha Smith from Crediton. She was a pupil at Hartford School, a local independent school. A photo flashed up of a teenager wearing her school uniform and grinning at the camera. Her hair was fair and permed with a straight fringe, and she wore a shirt and tie tucked under a brown blazer. Kate shuddered. The bright young girl looked nothing like the bloated battered corpse at the morgue. Kaisha was reported missing twelve days ago, after vanishing on her way home from school. Local police are appealing for witnesses. The news report moved on to the next story. The restaurant was starting to get busy, and Kate and Tristan returned to their seats, where Kate filled Tristan in on her conversation with Alan. Nine Elms wreckers yard? said Tristan. Thats a creepy coincidence. Kate nodded. It wasnt just creepy, it terrified her. Two young women killed in exactly the same style. She looked down at her half-eaten fish, the grease pooling around the yellowing batter, and she thought of Kaishas decaying yellow flesh. She moved the plate to the next table. Tristan pulled out his phone and tapped at the screen, then he turned it towards her. What? she asked. The Nine Elms wreckers yard is just off junction six of the M5. Were going to drive right past it on our way home. CHAPTER 12 When Peter got back to his cell, he switched on his radio and lined up the three packets of chocolate eclair toffees next to each other on his bed. He was looking for the pack that was slightly shorter. Enid had a plastic heat sealer at home, but opening and then resealing a bag of sweets meant a small amount of the bags lip had to be cut off. He found the shorter bag, opened it and tipped the paper-wrapped toffees across the blanket. There were thirty-two in total. He started to open them, examining each and rewrapping it. When he opened the sixth, he found the faint white line in the toffee he was looking for. Cadburys chocolate eclairs are made of hard toffee, with a soft chocolate centre. He pressed his fingernail into the faint white line and the two halves of toffee eased apart. The chocolate centre had been scraped out, leaving a small cavity which had been filled with a clear pill capsule. He took it out and popped the two halves of the toffee in his mouth. Carefully he wiped the capsule on a piece of tissue. He could see the paper inside, tightly wrapped up. He went to the cell door and listened. The post trolley rumbled down the corridor. It slowed, and then moved past. He sat back on the bed with his back to the door, eased open the pill capsule, took out the strip of paper and unrolled it. It was filled with his mothers neat writing in black ink. Peter, this man who calls himself a fan, hes the real deal. I asked for ten grand to show he was genuine and he paid! It arrived in my bank account two da ys ago. The money came from a limited company account. Hes calling it a sweetener a pa yment to establish trust. Enclosed is another letter from him. I havent read it. I dont want to know about what he does to young girls. And I dont want you talking about it with me either. What Im interested in is his plans for me and you. He sa ys he can break you out of there. He sa ys he has a plan. He will arrange for me and you to start a new life somewhere far away. Ill find out more Enid Peter had communicated privately with his mother like this on and off for the past eight years, always being careful how and when they did it. This man had approached Enid a few months back, when she was walking in a park, and he let it be known that he was a fan and wanted to communicate with Peter. This had happened before. People would often approach her to pass on gifts to Peter, or to get things signed by him, and Enid always made sure it was worth her while. The Fan had bigger, bolder plans and he had the money to make them happen. The radio had been playing in the background in Peters cell, but when the news headlines came on, the top story made him sit up. The body of sixteen-year-old Kaisha Smith has been found dumped and mutilated on a stretch of riverbank near Hunters Tor in Devon. Kaisha was a pupil at Hartford School, a local independent school, and shed been missing for twelve days. Police are treating her death as suspicious. Peter got up and went to the radiator dial and retrieved the last letter from The Fan, the one he should have thrown away. With trembling fingers he unrolled the paper. He already knew what it said, but he just had to be sure. Yes, Kaisha Smith was the name of the girl, and the location was the same. Peter searched through the rest of the chocolate eclairs on the bed and found the second note inside. He read it with mounting excitement. He lay back on his thin bed and imagined feeling the sun on his face, sitting with Enid by the sea, making his own tea and drinking it from a proper cup. They would have new identities, and money. Peter liked to see her enjoying new clothes, but hoped she wouldnt change her perfume. His mother had used the same perfume ever since he could remember, Ma Griffe. He thought back to when he was little, and how he used to perch on the end of her bed and watch her get ready to entertain one of the many uncles who used to call at the house. Shed take out the square bottle from her nightstand and, using a cotton bud, shed dab it on her throat, and between her bare breasts. If he was good she let him dab it on for her, as long as he was careful and didnt spill any. Shed hold out the bottle as he dipped the end of the cotton bud, and then tip back her head. The skin on her neck so smooth back then, and her breasts were small and firm with large, dark nipples. When he was four she was only twenty. So young. Peter lay back on his bad and pulled up his T-shirt, patting the white flesh of his belly. He had swallowed all of the letters from his mother, and now the ones from The Fan. Once digested, a little part of them became part of him. Ink and paper into new flesh. He looked around the small cell and he was excited, but cautious. Who was this person? Could he really break him out of the hospital and take him away somewhere and give him and Enid a new life? Peter closed his eyes and conjured up that image of his mother as a young woman, perched in front of the mirror at her nightstand, head tipped back as he daubed her with perfume. He reached down and placed a hand under the waistband of his trousers. Together again. Me and Mum. Together. A new life. CHAPTER 13 Kate came off the motorway junction and felt her heart beat faster. She glanced across at Tristan who was navigating on his mobile phone. Very soon they were driving through moorland and the road was surrounded by thick trees on both sides. Take this next right, he said as Kate slowed and they passed an old-fashioned red phone box next to a field of sheep which scattered at the sight of the car. After a few minutes there was a sign on the right for NINE ELMS WRECKERS YARD. They took the turn and bounced down a muddy potholed track surrounded by trees and fields and some derelict houses. Kate suddenly felt anticipation and excitement. Shed spent so long in the comfortable world of academia, and now she was back out in the real world. The track curved to the left before coming out into a huge muddy yard, which seemed to stretch out into the distance with piles and piles of wrecked cars. Puddles sprayed up mud on the windscreen. This place is huge, said Kate. She heard a fire bell ringing on and off and stopped, winding down her window. I bet thats their office. It carried on ringing, and she followed the sound, and at the next crossroads between piles of old cars she took a left. It led down past a long row of rickety shipping containers. A skeletal Christmas tree sat at an angle on one of the roofs, next to a blow-up doll dressed in a Santa outfit, a cigar poking out of its obscenely open mouth. When they reached the end of the row of shipping containers it opened out to a rough-looking parking area, next to a Portakabin. A faded red sign on the front read: CASH ONLY. NO CARDS!!!! The windows were spattered with mud, and Kate could hear a radio inside playing Love is All Around by Wet Wet Wet. She stopped the car. What should we say? she asked. Im your son. Im a bit of a boy racer, I wrote off my car and forgot to take my St Christopher necklace out of the glove compartment. Its probably gone, but we want to take a look, he said. Did you just come up with that? asked Kate, impressed. I was cooking it up as you drove. He grinned. Thats good. Do you want to take the lead then? Okay. Kate parked the car next to a dirty truck. Straw had been laid on the ground to soak up the mud, and they picked their way across it to the office and knocked. The door was opened by an older man wearing faded blue tracksuit bottoms spattered with mud and paint, and an equally grubby thick fleece and body warmer. He had scraps of long wild hair clinging to his scalp and a bushy grey beard. He squinted at Kate, giving her the once-over, and then at Tristan. Can I help you? He had a strong Scottish accent. Tristan gave him the spiel about the crashed car. Youll not find something like that, the man said, gesturing to the piles of cars stretching away. The gypsies pick these cars over like locusts. My lads are under pain of death to take anything, but you cant police them. Would it help if we had a number plate to put in your system? asked Kate. She was prepared to give a fake one to bolster their story. The man took a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and lit one. Thats ma filing system! he snorted, expelling smoke from his mouth and nostrils and tipping his head back to indicate an old grubby landline phone on a desk and a thick yellow ledger with its pages curling up. Kate turned to Tristan. Its your bloody fault for crashing your car! That necklace was from your grandma! she shouted, hoping Tristan would take her cue. It was an accident! I didnt see the lorry stop at the traffic lights. Because you were eyeing up that girl coming out of Tesco! cried Kate, enjoying their bit of role play. The old man watched them, picking a piece of tobacco off his tongue. I thought it was Sarah, Mum, and she said she was too ill to come out that day. It was probably because of Sarah you took it off. I told you not to let her wear it! The old man put up a grubby hand. All right, all right. When was it, yer wee bump in the car? It was a crash, and about five weeks ago, said Kate. He rear-ended a lorry at a traffic light. The whole front was crumpled. It was a red Fiat. You see the yard. Weve got sections, said the old man, demonstrating with the flat of his hand. See back there, theyre all from the last two months. Your car might be here. Although you shouldnt be going inside a car whats piled up. Its more than my jobs worth to let you . . . He licked his lips and looked at Kate beadily. The cheeky old goat wanted money. She rummaged in her bag and took out a twenty-pound note. The old man took it, rubbing it between his fingers gleefully. Youve got an hour until my boss comes. If anything happens, youre on your own. Get your mother to call fer an ambulance . . . I dont want the police here again. What do you mean again? Is it cause of those gypsies? asked Tristan. No. Back in late July a young girl, a prostitute, was found dumped over there in the top corner. Poor wee lass. If she was hooking I dont know how she got this far out. Did you get anything on CCTV? asked Kate. The man sputtered a spume of smoke. This aint fucking Harrods. Were a wreckers yard. A dead body? Here? said Kate. I found her, he said, nodding sagely. Up by the graffiti of a huge picture of Bob Marley. Who was she? We dont know. The police questioned everyone, and then it went quiet. She was pretty battered up. Covered in mud, she was. Was she dumped at night? She must have been, he said. Theres no one here at night. Its pretty isolated. Gives me the creeps sometimes when the wind howls through the metal work . . . Good luck finding yer necklace. The old man wheezed and flicked the butt of his cigarette into the mud. And watch yourself on the metal. If you cut yourself, get a tetanus injection sharpish. They promised they would, and went back to the car. Good job, said Kate, watching until the old man was back in the office before turning to Tristan. Have you got a data signal on your phone? He took it out of his pocket and held it up. Yeah. Google the crime scene from the first victim of the Nine Elms Cannibal. She started the engine and headed towards the back where the man had indicated. Okay, the photo is on Google, said Tristan. If someones copycatting Peter Conway, they would have chosen a part of the yard which resembles the original crime scene. But this is miles away from Nine Elms Lane in London, said Tristan. Its all being redeveloped in London. The Nine Elms Lane wreckers yard is gone, as is my old nick, Falcon Road, which was close by. Its all going to be posh offices and executive housing. They drove past piles of wrecked cars, which were crushed and smashed. On several windscreens and on the upholstery inside there was blood spatter. In some cars it was almost brown; in others it looked fresher. Were looking for two piles of cars with a sort of path between them, said Tristan, zooming in to the image on his phone screen. The cars are piled four high. They came out into a small clearing and Kate craned her head to look around. Then she saw it, a huge mural of Bob Marley spray-painted across the side of a caravan with its wheels sunk into the mud. With three other piles of cars, it made up one corner of a crossroad junction. Kate turned off the engine and opened the door. There was thick deep mud. Ive got wellies in the back, she said. She got out and picked her way to the car boot, returning with two pairs of Wellingtons. This is the bigger size, she said, handing them to Tristan. They belong to my spons . . . to my friend, Myra. We go walking together sometimes. Kate bit her tongue, realising she sounded like an alcoholic dating her sponsor. Tristan took the boots without comment and they both changed. They got out of the car and stared up at the piles of cars. It was quiet, but there was a slight wind which made pieces of twisted metal from the surrounding cars move and groan. Tristan held up his phone. What do you think? Her body could have been around here? said Kate, comparing where they stood to the picture on the screen. The cars are different. Theres no London skyline, but I suppose a wreckers yard is a wreckers yard, said Tristan. Thats the problem, agreed Kate. Maybe I should just pony up another twenty and ask that old man to show us exactly where . . . No, he said by the Bob Marley. She looked behind them. Bob Marleys eyes stared mournfully out at them. She turned back and peered more closely at Tristans phone. Shit. Look. She took his phone and zoomed in on the photo to the top of the pile of cars on the right. Then she looked up at the pile of cars to the right of where they stood. Bloody hell. What? asked Tristan. In the photo theres a crow perching on top of the right-hand pile of cars. See? I remember reading in the original police report that forensics had a real problem with it. They would shoo it away, but it kept landing back on the top car. They were worried it would try and peck at the body . . . Anyway, look theres a crow on the top of that car, in the photo, and there in front of us. She pointed up at the topmost car on the right-hand side. There was a crow perched on the roof of an old yellow Mini, attached to the front bar of a roof rack. Jeez, said Tristan, peering with her. Kate whistled but it didnt move. They clapped their hands and the sound echoed around the yard. Obviously, its fake, said Kate. But who put it there? Bit of a coincidence. CHAPTER 14 They stood in the wreckers yard for a few minutes, staring at the bird on top of the pile of cars. Its feathers moved in the wind, but it was still. Should we call the police? asked Tristan. And say what? Come quickly, theres a stuffed bird stuck on top of a car in a scrapyard? Yeah. We would sound crazy. He took a photo with his phone and they studied the image, zooming in on the crow. It looks like its tied on with something, said Kate. There could be DNA on it. If its been out in the elements its a very slim chance, but still. An opportunity. Are you good at climbing? No. Im really scared of heights. He looked at her and gave a feeble smile. Like, shit-my-pants scared. Kate paced around the tower of four cars. They had their doors and windows missing. She could use them like steps. She thought back to her years in the police, and to the number of times she had scaled scaffolding, trees and high walls. It had been a while since she had been physically fit. Sure, she swam, but it was a different kind of fitness, and she never did great distances, just a ten-to-fifteen-minute dip each morning. Should we call the old man? asked Tristan. Did he look nimble enough to scale a tower of cars? No. Shit, Im sorry, he said. He appeared agitated just at the thought of climbing. Its okay. Have you got any plastic? An old plastic bag? Tristan rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a carrier bag, handing it to her. Kate and Tristan moved to the pile of cars, and she grabbed the first, a large green Rover. She shook it. It felt solid and the glass in the windows was missing. Here, said Tristan, grabbing a couple of old tyres from the mud. He heaved them over and stacked them by the car door. A step. Kate stood on the tyres they boosted her up a few feet and she was able to hook one foot up on the sill of the open window. Careful in those wellies, said Tristan, wincing. Dont pull that face. Im only on the first car. Sorry. Kate saw the second car was a people carrier, and the gap between its passenger window and the Rovers window below was large. Tristan. Can you give me a boost? Sure, um . . . With a lot of inelegant heaving, where Tristan had to put both hands on her butt and push her up, she made it so she was standing on the window opening of the second car. It seemed a hell of a long way down to the mud and twisted metal below, and there were still two cars to go. Kate was glad of her thick leather gloves as she gingerly held onto the window frame of the second car, which still had shards of glass from where the window had broken. You okay? Tristan said, wincing again. Yeah, just getting my breath back. The third car was a low sports car, whose bonnet had been crushed and obliterated on impact. As she pulled herself up, she avoided looking at its interior. The white leather was grubby with dirt, bird droppings and a spatter of blood across the headrest. Okay? Tristan called up. He now had his eyes closed. Yes! she lied. He looked so small down below. It reminded her of when shed climbed a high diving board on holiday once. Her brother Steve had jumped off it with no problem, but she had taken one look at the treacherous drop and the tiny square of blue water below, and gone back down the ladder. Come on, you can do this, she muttered to herself. She gripped the sill of the passenger door in the fourth car, a Mini which had suffered a rear impact, crushing the back up like a concertina. As her feet left the sports car and she pulled herself up, the door of the Mini creaked and swung open. Kate was caught unaware, and she swung out with it, her feet suddenly dangling in the air. Shit! she cried. Shit! Oh my God! shouted Tristan. He rushed to the bottom car, jumped up on the tyres and started to climb. Kates gloves slipped a little on her sweaty hands and she felt her grip loosen. Tristan, get out of the way! I could fall on you! The Mini didnt have another car on top to keep it steady it started to rock, and the door began to bend on its hinges. Kate managed to get both arms hooked through the window, and she swung her legs to try and get them hooked too. Oh fuck, she squealed, feeling drool in the corner of her mouth and her arms starting to shake. It had happened so fast, and here she was, dangling in mid-air with a ten-metre drop between her feet and the thick mud. After all that had happened in her life, was she going to die in a scrapyard? Are there any blankets in your car? To break your fall? Tristan was saying, his voice shaking. He was rummaging in the boot of her car. Kate swung her legs, feeling her underused stomach muscles burning, and managed to get her left foot into the window of the Mini. Im okay! she said. She pulled herself up the inside of the car before scooting around so that she was sitting on the passenger seat. She peered out. Im okay, she repeated, feeling her muscles relax as she got her balance. You sure? Tristan asked, looking up at her. Kate took some more deep breaths and nodded, thinking how unfit she was, and how her puny arms had struggled under the extra weight of her body. She took a final breath and stood up in the footwell with her head sticking out of the car, shuffling and twisting around so that she had her back to the drop. It meant that her heels poked out over the edge of the footwell and mud rained down off her boots. Luckily there was a roof rack on the car. She tested it with one hand, while holding on with the other. Feeling it was firm, she gripped it with one hand and was able to get a good look at the crow. It was a little weather-beaten, and its feathers had been soaked by the rain and were ruffled. She pulled out her mobile phone and took a few pictures of it, then she reached around to her pocket and pulled out the carrier bag. It looks like its a real crow, packed with something, like stuffing. I think its a taxidermy job, shouted Kate. The talons were fixed to the roof rack with cable ties. She looked around in the car and saw some shards of glass from the front window, which had smashed and covered the front seats. Carefully she bent down and picked up a piece, then started to work on the cable ties. It took several minutes of sawing at them before they broke apart. There were two on each of the claws, attaching them to the roof rack. The air was cold and her hands were sweating. She had to be careful not to cut herself. Finally, the crow came loose. Kate put her hand inside the carrier bag and used it to pick up the crow. She reversed the bag, so the crow was now inside. Here, Ill catch it, said Tristan, standing below. She aimed and dropped the bird. He caught it. Then she started the slow, awkward climb down, which was easier than going up had been. When she reached the ground, they went to the car and sat for a few minutes, drinking cans of Coke and eating the chocolate bars theyd bought from the service station. Kate was shaking, but she couldnt tell if it was from fear, elation or the fact she had used muscles which had been dormant for years. Its a big bird, said Tristan, opening the bag and peering inside. There was a kid at my school whose father did taxidermy. They were well off. This kind of shit is expensive. He said once his dad stuffed a Great Dane for its owner when it died. Cost eight grand. He made glass eyes to match, even fake balls . . . It was a boy dog. Yeah, I got that, said Kate. The stuffing is expensive and the cleaning, and then they sew everything up . . . Tristan was turning the bird upside down when Kate saw something. Whats that? she asked, pointing to the birds backside. You said they sew everything up. Kate brushed off her hands; carefully, she moved the body of the bird around in the bag until it was facing down and its backside poked out of the bag. Its got something sticking out of its arse. Looks like paper, said Tristan. Just a couple of loose stitches were tacked into place to keep it in. Kate picked at the stitches, managing to tease them open. She pulled out a long piece of paper, rolled up and encased in sandwich wrap. A note? asked Tristan, trying not to get too excited. Kate put the carrier bag down and unwrapped the cling film. She knew she should call the police and hand it in, but her curiosity got the better of her. The paper was thick and tightly rolled. It was a handwritten letter. It was all in capital letters and written with black ink. NINE ELMS IS WHERE I BEGIN. EMMA IS THE FIRST, BUT SHE WONT BE THE LAST. UNTIL NEXT TIME. A FAN Jesus, the victim is named, said Tristan. That note has been up there, I mean up on top of the car, for the past two months? This is like, actual evidence? Kate nodded. She had that old feeling back, the thrill of the chase, or breaking through in an investigation. But, of course, it wasnt her investigation. Ill hold them. I need you to take photos of the bird and the note, said Kate. Tristan pulled out his phone and took pictures of the note and the bird. Now we have to call the police, she said. Her hands were still shaking, but now it was with excitement. CHAPTER 15 Theyve sent local plod, said Kate when she saw a police squad car come bumping down the muddy track towards them. Tristan and Kate were parked in a lay-by on the track, just outside the gates of the scrapyard. How do you know theyre local? asked Tristan. They always send local uniform police to check on something. Cat up a tree. Bird up a car . . . Sorry, not funny, Tristan said, but Kate smiled. The police car came to a stop a few feet from them, and its blue lights and siren activated and sounded once. Are we in trouble? No, said Kate. She just accidentally knocked the button. Its by the steering wheel. The driver switched them off, and she got out slowly and placed her peaked cap on her head. To Kate, she seemed so young, with creamy smooth skin and long red hair tied back. An older man got out of the passenger side and placed his hat over his buzz-cut grey hair. They made their way over. Wait in the car, said Kate. She got out holding the bird in the bag. Morning. I was the one who called you, she said. The woman looked suspiciously between Kate and Tristan, still sitting in the car. Kate briefly explained what they had found, holding up the bird and the note which was now in a thin clear plastic bag they'd found in her car. I believe this is a piece of evidence in the murder case of a woman called Emma Newman. See, the victim is named in the note, finished Kate. The two officers were silent. They looked at each other. So, you found this stuffed bird, with a note inside? asked the woman. Yes, said Kate, handing it over. The woman took the note in the plastic bag from Kate and scanned it. Wordlessly she passed it over to her colleague. He read it with wry amusement on his face. Who is this Emma? he said, holding up the note. Can you put gloves on? Thats evidence. It refers to the body of Emma Newman, which was discovered at this wreckers yard two months ago, said Kate. And who are you? he asked. Im Kate Marshall. I was a police officer with the Met in London. Is this your son? No. Thats Tristan Harper. Hes my assistant. The man knocked on the car window and signalled for Tristan to get out. When Tristan came around the car to join them he looked very nervous. Assistant of what? asked the woman. I lecture in Criminology at Ashdean University. Tristan is my research assistant, said Kate. Can he speak for himself? Yes, said Tristan, clearing his throat. He seemed nervous. Im PC Sara Halpin, this is PC David Bristol, said the woman. Automatically they both flashed their warrant cards. What made you go looking for this? Have you heard of the Peter Conway case? said Kate. Both officers looked blank. The Nine Elms Cannibal case in London fifteen years ago? Yes, rings a bell, said David. Sara raised an eyebrow, indicating that Kate should continue. I was the officer who solved that case. Right. And? And I believe that this person, the author of this letter, is copying the murders. The Peter Conway, the Nine Elms Cannibal murders . . . Tristans nervousness was now rubbing off on Kate and she knew she was babbling. Im aware, through a pathologist colleague, that the police found the body of Emma Newman here two months ago, and just a couple of days ago the body of a young woman called Kaisha Smith was found by the river near Hunters Tor. It was on the news today. Yes, were aware of that, said Sara. But whats the stuffed bird and the note got to do with it? Kate spent the next forty minutes explaining the details of the case, and how they came to find the bird. Tristan showed them the photos hed taken on his phone. Sara took down a statement, but only because Kate insisted, and it took a long time for them to write it up for Kate to sign. The light was fading when the officers finally left, taking their report and the bird and note with them. What happens now? asked Tristan when they were back in the car. I hope they take it seriously, and that the bird and the note dont get shoved into some evidence storage room, or it will take days to be processed to the right department. They came out of the muddy track, passing under the NINE ELMS WRECKERS YARD sign, and Kate turned left. They were back on the main road speeding towards the motorway. She checked the time and saw it was just gone 5 p.m. Shit! she said. I said Id Skype my son at six. She put her foot down and sped on towards the motorway. CHAPTER 16 Kate made it back to her house at one minute to six. She dashed inside, sloughing off her coat and leaving it in a heap in the hallway, and went to the kitchen, flicking on the lights. She had to scrabble around to find her laptop under a pile of paperwork on the breakfast bar, and then it seemed to take an age to switch on. When the screen icons finally appeared she opened Skype. As an alcoholic, Kate had spent many years being unreliable, missing meetings and showing up late, so being three minutes late for her regular Skype call with Jake bothered her deeply. She was relieved to see that he hadnt tried to call her already. She smoothed down her hair, pulled up a chair and pressed CALL. Jake appeared in the little box on screen. He was Skyping her from the kitchen table, and behind him Kate could see her mother at the Aga, stirring something in a large silver pan. He wore a Manchester United football shirt, and his dark hair was fashionably tousled. Hey, Mum. He grinned. Hi, how are you? she said, maximising the window so he filled the screen. Im good, he said, seeing himself in the camera and adjusting his hair. Evening, Catherine, shouted Glenda without turning around. She was immaculate as usual, with a pristine white apron over her pale slacks and blouse. Hi, Mum, shouted Kate. Whats she making? Jake shrugged. Im making apricot jam! trilled Glenda, for a Battenberg cake. Jake rolled his eyes. He leaned closer, lowering his voice. Ive told her you can buy a Mr Kipling Battenberg cake for, like, less than two pounds, but she wants to waste her time. Kate had noticed over the past few weeks that Jake no longer worshipped Glenda in the way he had when he was little. Im sure a home-made one will be much nicer, said Kate, being diplomatic. Jake pulled a face, making his eyes go crossed. If the wind changes youll stay like that, said Kate and he laughed. Did you have a good day, Mum? She didnt feel like she could or should talk about anything that had happened to her during the day. She was still trying to process it herself. She was just excited to see her son, and still felt guilty shed only remembered they had a call at the last minute. Ive been working. I went for a swim this morning as usual . . . The sea was a bit rough. Did you see any weird jellyfish? Not this time. If you see any weird jellyfish washed up, will you send me a picture? Of course. Jake looked down and picked at the white M of his Manchester United shirt. It was coming away from the fabric. Cool. Have you heard of geocaching? No. What is it? Its really cool, people bury stuff, like a coin or a badge or some object, and its buried with a log book and a GPS tracker, and you get an app for your phone, and you join up and then you can go around and find these things and dig them up. And you, like, log it on your profile online. Ive got the app on my phone, and there are loads around Ashdean, and the coast. Can we go geocaching when I come for half term? Of course! Kates heart swelled at the thought that Jake was excited to come and stay in October. And its free, which is really cool. How do you spell it? asked Kate. Jake spelled it out for her and she wrote it down. Have you done any in Whitstable? Yeah, my friend Mike is into it. His mum likes hiking, unlike Grandma who wont stray far from a tarmac surface cause of mud on her shoes. Kate wanted to smile, but she kept her face neutral and changed the subject, asking him what hed been doing. Ive been to school, been to football. He shrugged and blew out his cheeks. Boring stuff really . . . even more so because someone wont let me join Facebook. Glenda was listening in the background, because she slammed down a spoon and turned to the camera, pointing her finger at Jake. Ive told you what I think about Facebook, and I dont appreciate you trying to go behind my back! Calm down, Glenda . . . Im just talking to Mum. And dont you start that. I am your grandmother, not some friend down at the skate park. Jake rolled his eyes. I dont have any friends called Glenda, especially ones whod be seen dead with a name like that at the skate park. Kate could see her mother go bright red, and about to burst. Jake, dont talk to Grandma like that, she said. And dont roll your eyes at me. Im going to be fifteen next year and shes ruining my life. Everyone is on Facebook, all my friends! Theres a guy in the year above who found a job working at a festival through a post on Facebook, so you could be damaging my future career! he shouted. He got up and stormed off. They waited a moment and Kate heard a door slam. His future career, said Kate. He knows exactly what buttons to push. Glenda pulled out the chair and sat down at the table. Hes turning into an argumentative teenager. When did he start calling you Glenda? Last week, when we disagreed about what time he had to come home. Calm down, Glenda is his new favourite phrase. Does he call Dad Michael? No, your father still gets to be Granddad. Im always the bad cop. Where is Dad? Hes playing snooker with Clive Beresford. He sends his love. Clive Beresford sends his love? said Kate, unable to resist teasing. Catherine, dont you start. Shouldnt we be happy Jake is becoming a normal moody teenager? Thats easy for you to say. Kate raised her eyebrows, but let it slide. Mum, we should let him join Facebook. But Hear me out. If we dont, then he might set up some anonymous profile that we dont know about. Tell him he can join, but we have to know his password. We also have to be friends with him. I have to join too? said Glenda. Yes. And Ill join. Then we can monitor things, and we can also hoick him off it if theres anything we dont like. Glenda thought about it. What if you-know-who, or his bloody mother, gets in contact with Jake? Peter and Enid are banned from all communication with him, Mum, including social media and email. What if he finds something? We cant ban him from looking at the internet for the rest of his life, said Kate. Glenda took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. This scares the shit out of me too, Mum. Language, Catherine . . . We have to be smart. Banning things never works. It often makes things worse. We have to practise our surveillance techniques. We monitor him online. Glenda smiled. Youre probably better at that than me. I dont know. You did break the lock on my diary when I was twelve. Not that I was writing anything salacious. Glenda shook her head, conceding defeat. Okay, fine . . . but I need your full support on this. Im not being the bad guy and the one who takes him away from Facebook. If we want him to come off, Ill be the one who tells him, said Kate. It will have to wait until tomorrow. Ive got this bloody Battenberg cake to make for the WI fundraiser, and I havent got a clue how to set up a Facebook profile. Youll have to stand over him while he does it. I can get my assistant to look at Jakes profile when its done, and Ill set up a profile tomorrow, said Kate. Do you want to tell him? asked Glenda. I can get him from his room. No. You tell him. Be the good guy. Thank you . . . oh bloody hell, my jam! said Glenda, leaping up. Bye, darling! Speak to you tomorrow, and give Jake a kiss from me, said Kate, and she ended the Skype call. It was always uplifting to speak to Jake, but there was a horrible emptiness when she ended the call and was suddenly alone. It was silent, and she heard the wind keening around the house. She went back out to her car, retrieved the box file with all the information about Caitlyn, brought it in and made herself a sandwich and a glass of iced tea. Shed been very abrupt with Tristan when shed dropped him home, and she gave him a call after shed eaten. Is this a good time? she asked. Im just running a bath, he said. Hang on. She heard the squeak of taps being closed and a splash of water. I wont keep you. I just wanted to say thank you for your help today. I didnt expect things to take such an odd turn. I know. Whats going to happen now? It looks like the bird has linked Emma Newmans death at the wreckers yard to Kaisha Smiths. Kate thought about it, and she didnt feel so enthusiastic as Tristan. She didnt want to be part of another case so closely linked with Peter Conway. The police have it now, and they have my address if they want to talk to us . . . It was frustrating for Kate to be on the other side of policing, and to be kept in the dark. She was curious, and horrified, but she had to focus on what she could do, and that was finding out what had happened to Caitlyn. Were not in trouble, are we? asked Tristan. With who? The police. Why would we be in trouble? We werent trespassing. Admittedly, it was a little weird to explain what we did, but I was the one who climbed up the cars . . . Not my most elegant hour. And we had justification for doing it. And we handed over the evidence immediately. Do you think theyll call us in for an interview, at the station? No. Weve given a statement. They might ask us to elaborate on it, but that would be over the phone, or they might want to visit informally. If they ever catch who it is, we might be called to the trial . . . Kates voice faltered. She hadnt thought that far. She changed the subject. Are you in tomorrow morning? Ive got two lectures in the afternoon. Yeah, Ill be in. Im interested to get cracking on the Caitlyn Murray case, said Tristan. He still sounded a little nervous, but Kate didnt press him on it. Malcolm and Sheila had wanted to discuss payment with Kate, but she and Tristan had agreed they would do this for free, and asked if they could use the case in the future for one of the cold case modules in the Criminology course. They didnt feel they could take a penny from the grieving pair, and they could use work hours to do the research, just as they did when they were preparing other cold case material for lectures. It was a bit of a stretch to justify using university resources, but Kate thought ultimately it would help all parties involved. She ended the call with Tristan but she felt wide awake, so she opened the box Caitlyns parents had given her and started to look through everything inside. CHAPTER 17 The day at Great Barwell Psychiatric Hospital started early when the breakfast bell rang at 6.30 a.m. Peter Conways allotted time to visit the shower and shave was 7.10. The small bathroom at the end of his ward always made him think of the boarding houses he and Enid stayed in during his childhood holidays: scuffed wood partition walls, draughty air, the drip of water in ancient porcelain sinks and toilets, bare bulbs, the clinging smell of boiled food. He stood naked in front of the spotted mirror, scraping at the foam on his face with the cheap plastic safety razor, and looked at his body properly for the first time in months. In his glory days he had been broad-shouldered with strong arms, a thin waist and muscular legs. Now he had run to fat. His hairy white belly protruded and hung over a thatch of pubic hair. His arms were puny and pouches of fat sagged under his armpits, and his legs were now skinny, like two Woodbine cigarettes poking out of the packet, as Enid liked to say. His penis was flaccid. Asleep. And, like the rest of his body, numbed by a cocktail of mood-dampening drugs. He had used the gym for a few years, but since the nose-biting incident, he had lost his gym privileges. He was let out twice a day into the exercise yard, but it was a godforsaken little snatch of outdoor space. How you getting on there? asked Winston, poking his head around the doorway to look through the grille. A grille with a small square hatch at waist level had been installed in this bathroom so that Peter could be watched at all times, but Winston always gave him privacy, something he was grateful for. The best I can with a crappy blade, said Peter. He scraped the last of the foam off his chin. He rinsed the razor in the sink. When he turned on the tap, Winston appeared again and Peter handed him the razor, handle first. Thank you, Peter. Winston was powerfully built with big muscles, and for the first time Peter compared himself and saw how he could be easily overpowered, even without Winstons mace, baton and Taser. As Peter pulled on his clothes, he dared to think, to dream about leaving, and he wondered exactly how he would be broken out, or if it was possible. He might need to run, or climb, and what a tragedy if his flabby weak body gave out on him and caused the plan to fail. He felt frustrated that he hadnt heard any more from his mother. She hadnt answered the phone the night before, which was unusual. He thought back to their last meeting. Did he say something wrong to make her angry? He shook the thought away. Prison gave you acres of time to obsess about what was going on outside the gates. Paranoia crept up on you very easily. He would give anything to have an email account. The joy of instant communication with the world. He had listened to the news reports several times about the dead girl, Kaisha, but they were frustratingly scant on details. There would be more on the internet, so much more. He slipped the spit hood over his head and did up the buckles, then backed up to the hatch in the grille. Winston reached through and cuffed his hands together. Peter pushed his wash-bag through the grille, and only after Winston had searched it and was satisfied did he open the grille. They stepped out of the bathroom and briefly into the kitchenette opposite while another inmate was taken past them to the bathroom. They carried on along the hallway where a row of windows looked out over the exercise yard. A lanky, pale man with thinning brown hair was pacing up and down, agitated and beating his chest. Peter didnt know his real name everyone called him Bluey. He was a schizophrenic, and prone to paranoia. Im not coming in. Im not! he was shouting, pacing the tiny yard. His T-shirt was torn. They turned the corner into Peters corridor, and saw that a group of eight orderlies six big strong men and two strong women were waiting at the door leading to the exercise yard. You need to come inside. Youve had your fifteen minutes, one of them was saying through a hatch in the door. FUCK YOU! shrieked Bluey, his voice ragged. NO! NO! NO! He carried on walking in a circle, beating at his chest and screaming. Peters room was past the door to the exercise yard, at the other end of the corridor. Winstons radio beeped. He put out his hand in front of Peter. Okay to hang back there with Peter, Win? crackled a voice through the radio. Winston took it off his belt. Of course. Peter, please can you stop there for a minute. Peter nodded, watching as Bluey paced round and round, slapping himself in the head and pulling at his hair. He tried to remember having that energy, that feeling of rage, and he dug deep inside his chest, but it was as if he was stuffed with cotton wool. There was nothing. The tiny exercise yard was surrounded by ten-foot walls and razor wire, and it had netting above it. There was a dead pigeon caught up in the netting, its wings and feet tangled. Despite the chill, a couple of flies crawled over its eyes. How long has that pigeon been there? asked Peter. Two days. They have to get rid of it today or its a health hazard, said Winston, looking between Peter and the other orderlies, keeping an eye on everyone. Bluey was still screaming, and he threw up. Next, he charged at the door, smashing his head into the reinforced glass. The orderlies moved into formation outside the door, in two rows of three plus one at each end. The door opened as Bluey charged at them. They moved swiftly, caught him and flipped him over onto his back. Three held him on each side, gripping his legs, arms and torso. One cradled his head, keeping it locked in position, and the other held on to his feet. They carried him away, still screaming. They would now take Bluey to his room and lay him on the bed, all eight of them crammed in and holding him down. A nurse might administer some sedative, and then, one by one, they would exit, in smooth fluid formation. The person holding his head would run out last, and the door would be slammed shut. It had happened to Peter on several occasions, back before they got his meds right. He admired Blueys fight, even after all these years. When the hallway was clear, the radio beeped and they moved off again. How often do you exercise? asked Peter. Two, three times a week, said Winston. Weights? No resistance, just using the body. Do you think you could help me, give me some exercises? They reached Peters door. Patients arent allowed to exercise in their rooms. Im banned from the gym. That exercise yard is a health hazard, with dead pigeons and Blueys puke. Just some tips on exercises . . . Peter looked up at Winston. Winston had huge brown eyes, the eyes of an old soul. I can get you a printout, but you need to keep it on the d-lo, Peter. You didnt get it from me. Sure. Thank you. The nurse appeared with the medication trolley. There were rows of small plastic cups, each with a name written on it in marker pen. How are we this morning? she trilled as if they were out shopping and had just bumped into each other. She was an unfortunate-looking woman, well and truly beaten by the ugly stick fat, with a hooked nose, a weak chin and myopic bug eyes magnified by huge glasses. Peter wondered what she had to be so cheerful about, doling out pills to crazy people all day long. Lets see, Peter, Peter, here we are, she said, handing him a tiny plastic cup filled with pills. He tipped them back into his mouth, took a small cup of water from her and took a gulp, tipping back his head to swallow. Open wide for me, she said. He showed her the inside of his mouth, and she peered inside. Thats lovely. You have a lovely day, and you too, Winston! She trundled off, the wheels squeaking on the trolley. Winston opened the door to his room, and they went through the ritual of uncuffing and unbuckling the hood, then he was left alone. He spat the pills out into his palm, dropped them into the toilet in the corner of his room and flushed. He hoped Winston would give him those exercises, but he didnt want to wait. He dropped to the floor and started to do press-ups. His body protested, but he carried on, determined to get fighting fit. CHAPTER 18 Kate woke at 7.30 to a beautiful sunny day. The sea was still and clear, but the sandy bed had been churned up by the storm, making the visibility low when she dived into the water. There was also a glut of seaweed that she had to swim and then wade through. When she came out of the water, she pulled on a robe shed left on the sand and took a walk along the beach, where a long line of detritus ran close to the water. She was determined to find something she could photograph and send to Jake. She walked past the row of houses at the top of the cliff and the small caravan park and stopped at the rock pools that had been exposed by the low tide. The black rock was like razor blades and in places a soggy blanket of vivid green seaweed clung to it. Kate was thrilled to find a strange bloated fish with short spiky fins lying beached next to a deep rock pool where the sun sparkled off the water, and below in the depths an eel swam in lazy circles. The bloated fish was the size of a dinner plate and had huge expressive eyes. She snapped a photo with her phone and sent it in a text to Jake. He wrote back instantly: GROSS! I miss the beach there did Grandma tell you? I can join facebook!!! Kate texted back that he would have to give them his password, but she didnt get a response. When she arrived at work an hour later, Kate still hadnt had a response. She put her phone away and made a mental note to follow it up later with her mother. Tristan arrived ten minutes later, and excitedly handed her a printout of a LinkedIn profile. Who is Vicky OGrady? she asked. There was no photo. I didnt have the box file at home, he said. But I remembered Malcolm and Sheila said that in 1990 Caitlyn worked at a video shop in Altrincham called Hollywood Nights. I took a punt and had a look on LinkedIn to see if anyone worked there at the same time, and this Vicky OGrady came up. Are there any contact details? I messaged her last night and she got back to me straight away. She works at the BBC studios in Bristol as a make-up artist. I was upfront and said we were looking into Caitlyns disappearance, and asked if she remembered her. Tristan gave Kate another piece of paper with the printout of the messages. It went to six pages. Kate scanned them. Blimey, you had a good chat with her. And she says they were close friends? Malcolm and Sheila didnt mention her. Kate went to the box file and pulled out Caitlyns school photo. She scanned the names on the back, then she flipped it over and peered at the photograph. Okay. Thats Vicky OGrady. Tristan came over and peered at a picture of a haughty-looking young girl with long dark hair and high cheekbones. She was fixing the camera with a confident glare. She lives in Bristol. She said she can meet us this afternoon or this evening. This afternoon is out, said Kate. What about this evening? Does she have more to tell you? We could drive all the way over there when a phone call would save us time, and be enough. Shes got pictures from when she and Caitlyn went away on a weekend camping trip, and other photos from the youth club. She also said that Kate was hanging around with a couple of dodgy blokes her words, not mine. She went to talk to the police at the time. And what did the police say? They took a statement, but nothing came of it. She never heard from them again. What if we did it tomorrow? Saturday would be easier. I have something tonight. Sure. We also need to schedule a Skype call with Megan Hibbert, the friend from Melbourne. It would be good to do that before we meet Vicky, to see if she knew about her. Perhaps she could do nine-thirty our time, tonight. Ill email her, said Kate. I thought you said you were busy tonight? Kate had her AA meeting at six, but it would be over by seven. Ill be done by then, she said, not wanting to elaborate. She knew she would have to tell him soon. It was surprising how much the topic of alcohol came up, especially in the academic world. There were endless drinks parties and formal dinners with speeches and toasts. Shed lost count of the times shed had to ask to switch her drink for orange juice. Okay, Ill try and schedule that call for tonight, said Tristan. We should work through this school photo of Caitlyns and track down each of her classmates, and the teacher, and we can hit LinkedIn and Facebook. I thought you said you werent on Facebook? I am about to join, said Kate. She quickly explained about Jake and Facebook. I was sixteen when I joined Facebook, Tristan said. Bloody hell, now I feel old! They sat at their desks and logged onto their computers. Kate set up a Facebook profile, and she heard a ping from Tristans computer a moment after she sent him a friend request. Thats cool. Im your first friend, he said. Thats your profile picture? he asked, laughing. Shed uploaded the picture of the dead fish shed taken that morning. Thats me, first thing in the morning without make-up, she said dryly. Im sure you look great when you wake up . . . I mean, you dont wear make-up anyway, do you, and you look really good . . . His voice trailed off; he had blushed bright red. Sorry, that came out all wrong. She waved it away. Ill take it as a compliment! Im old enough to be your mother. She saw Tristan had a hundred Facebook friends. She typed Jake Marshall into the search field and a list of profiles came up. Three down, she found Jake. The little monkey didnt wait, she thought. Jake had used a photo of him with Milo the Labrador, taken in the garden. And she saw he already had twenty-four friends. His wall was covered in messages from his classmates, welcoming him. She sent him a friend request before turning her mind back to the task of finding Caitlyns classmates. They worked for a couple of hours and managed to find ten of Caitlyns schoolfriends. Kate also found the teacher, who was living close by in Southampton. Do you fancy a coffee break? she asked Tristan. Who knows how long it will take people to reply. They went down to Starbucks, where Tristan grabbed the good comfy seats by the window and Kate ordered. When she came over with their coffees, he was on his phone. This is on the BBC News site, he said. Kate took his phone and watched the short video. It was a statement from the parents of Kaisha Smith, recorded at the front gate of their terraced house. Tammy and Wayne were both pale and thin, and looked as if they hadnt slept in days. They were dressed in black, and a small girl dressed in a grubby pink fake fur coat stood by Tammy. They were flanked by a police officer who was reading out an appeal for witnesses, and there was a hotline number and website address. They blinked at the flashing cameras. Kate could see that Wayne and Tammy were poor. Wayne wiped at a tear in his eye as the police officer read out the statement, and Kate saw that he had LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles. She wondered how the newspapers would frame the story. The working class were usually built up as tragic heroes, but if the story cooled the press would go for the jugular. The school photo of Kaisha flashed up again her hopeful smiling face in her school uniform, unrecognisable from the hideous corpse. When the report finished, Kate handed the phone back and took a long pull on her coffee. Theres nothing on the news about what we found at the wreckers yard, or the other girl, said Tristan, swiping through his phone. The police will want to keep that information back. I would keep it back if I was working on it. They finished their coffee, and went back up to the office, hoping that they had some replies waiting. When they walked through the door they found a man and a woman in the office. The man was sitting on the sofa looking through the box file containing the Caitlyn photos, and the woman sat at Kates desk looking at her computer. Excuse me, who the hell are you? asked Kate. CHAPTER 19 Im Detective Chief Inspector Varia Campbell, said the woman, and this my colleague, Detective Inspector John Mercy. They got up and flashed their police warrant cards. Do you have a warrant to search through our private paperwork? asked Kate. No. But do we need one? Varia tilted her head and put her shoulders back, as if squaring up to Kate for a fight. She looked to be in her mid-thirties and wore a blue trouser suit with shoulder pads. Her cappuccino-coloured skin was very smooth. DI John Mercy was a big, strapping redhead with a ruddy complexion. His broad shoulders and muscular build strained against the constraints of his smart black suit. Yes. You do. Put that down, said Kate to John, who was holding a photo. He put it back and closed the box file. Your visit to the Nine Elms wreckers yard yesterday. I need some clarification as to how you stumbled upon the stuffed bird and found the note inside, said Varia. May we sit? Kate indicated the small sofa in front of the bookshelf and they both sat. Kate and Tristan sat at their desks. Common sense, said Kate. The crime scene at the Nine Elms wreckers yard matched the crime scene at the original Nine Elms Lane wreckers yard in London. Im referring to the Nine Elms Cannibal Case. The case I solved. You were also involved in a relationship with Peter Conway, and you have a son together, said Varia. Are you still in contact with him? Kate folded her arms across her chest. This Varia wasnt messing about. No. Does he write to you? she asked. You must be aware you can check Peter Conways communications. And youd see that since his arrest and incarceration, I have never visited him or written to him and weve never spoken on the telephone. He wrote to me once. What about your son? asked John. Hes fourteen, and he has no contact with Peter Conway, said Kate. The police officers knew that coming into her office would put her on the defensive. Was there a note at the second crime scene, where Kaisha Smiths body was found near the river by Hunters Tor? Varia folded her arms and pursed her lips. You can drop the poker face, said Kate. Alan Hexham called me in for a second opinion on Kaisha Smiths post-mortem. Both her murder and the murder of Emma Newman have the same hallmarks of Peter Conway . . . Kate could see a flicker in Varias eyes, and John looked over at her. Ah. There was a note, wasnt there? Varia looked back at John, and then got up, taking a notebook from her back pocket. She pulled out a photocopied sheet of paper and placed it on Kates desk. Tristan came over to look. Theres a parish noticeboard twenty metres down the river from where Kaisha Smiths body was found. This note had been left there. It wasnt discovered until yesterday. TO THE POLICE FORCE, IM STREETS AHEAD OF YOU CLOWNS. KAISHA WAS A SPIRITED YOUNG WOMAN. HOW MANY MORE DEATHS WILL THERE BE UNTIL YOU TAKE NOTICE OF ME? THE PARISH NOTICEBOARD SEEMS FITTING SOMEHOW. A FAN Hes annoyed that no one is taking notice of his work, said Kate. Hes killed two and theres nothing yet in the news. A copycat craves the attention. Like the first note, hes signed it A Fan, which says more about him than he realises. Hes caught up in the cult of celebrity surrounding Peter Conway and the Nine Elms case. The original case still has to be officially referred to as Operation Hemlock, said Varia. Kate rolled her eyes. Jeez, this woman was pedantic. At this stage, a copycat killer theory needs to be proved, Varia added, picking up the note and slotting it back in her notebook. What else do you need? Another body? Im sure there will be one. Peter Conway killed four women before I caught him. Well, four women that we know of. You need to focus this investigation on finding a copycat killer . . . Theyre not as clever as the killer they ape. They want the notoriety and fame involved with repeating the terror. One of the things that will make him a success is if he becomes notorious and makes the news, and you could use that. Hey! said Varia, putting up her hand. She looked really pissed off. I dont need you to tell me how to do my job. Well, you walk into my office and start rummaging through my private papers without a warrant . . . You left your door open, said John. I remember dealing with house break-ins, where the suspect said exactly the same thing, said Kate. He gave her a hard stare. Do you have any other information to share? he asked. No. We called the police as soon as we found the bird and the note. Why were you in the area? Its a bit out of the way for both of you. Kate outlined their visit to Chew Magna, and details of the letter from Caitlyns father. Malcolm Murray had already asked the Greater Manchester Police to re-open this case, but they declined due to lack of evidence, she finished. There was a moments silence, then Varia looked over at Tristan. And you went along on this field trip in your capacity as an academic assistant? she asked. Yes, said Tristan, his voice cracking a little with nerves. You live with your sister. She works for Barclays Bank? Yes. How is this relevant? asked Kate. Has he told you hes got a criminal record? He hadnt, but Kate didnt want to give these pushy, rude police officers the satisfaction of hearing that. She didnt say anything, and looked over at Tristan. I was fifteen and got drunk with some mates. Well, they werent mates, said Tristan, blushing. I broke the window of a car parked down the other end of the seafront. You broke into a car, said Varia. Thats what the police report says. No. I broke the window. And one of the other people in your gang stole the radio. I wasnt in a gang. He ran off when the police arrived. I stayed there and faced the music, said Tristan, recovering his composure. And I wasnt charged, I was cautioned. I dont have to declare a caution. Does your boss know? asked John with a nasty grin. Kate stood up. Hang on, I dont like this. You dont come in here and bully a valuable and trusted member of my staff, she said. Weve shared all the information we have. Instead of snooping around without a warrant, why dont you get back out there and do some police work? Varia gave her a cold stare. We ask that you share any other information with us immediately, and you say nothing to the press, should they come knocking, which they will if they publicly link this with Peter Conway . . . Neither of us has any interest in talking to the press, said Kate. Varia and John turned their attention to Tristan. No. I wont be speaking to anyone, he said. Right then, thats all for now, said Varia. They left the office and John slammed the door. Shit, said Tristan, putting his head in his hands. Im sorry, Kate. Im so sorry. I was fifteen. It was just a stupid You dont need to apologise. Ive done my fair share of stupid things on booze. Listen, earlier I said I had something to do before our phone call. Im going to an AA meeting. I was an alcoholic for, well, too many years. Its the reason Jake lives with my parents . . . Do you think you have a drink problem? Tristan looked surprised. No. Then thats all we need to say about it. They wanted to bully you; dont let them succeed. Tristan nodded. Thank you. And thank for telling me and for being cool. Do you think they will be back? I dont know. Theyre rattled, I can see. Shes under huge pressure to catch him, obviously, but when it hits the press it will be big, and the police never come out of it in a good light. Kate grabbed a piece of paper and started writing. What are you doing? asked Tristan. Writing down what was in that second letter, before I forget. CHAPTER 20 Tristan came to Kates house after her AA meeting. She made them tea, and then they settled at the breakfast bar in the kitchen and Skyped Megan Hibbert in Melbourne. She answered immediately. She had a broad smile, and was tanned with green eyes and long ash-blonde hair. She sat in her living room in front of large windows looking out onto a swimming pool and a big garden. Hi Kate, and Tristan, is it? Her accent was a mix of Australian and British. Thanks for talking to us so early in the morning, Melbourne time, said Kate. She quickly ran through what had happened at their meeting with Malcolm and Sheila. I feel so sorry for them. Malcolm looked a shadow of the man he used to be when I bumped into him at the cemetery . . . It broke my heart when he said he wished he had a grave for Caitlyn. Imagine being at the point in your life where you say that about your own child . . . Her sunny disposition dimmed, and she took out a tissue and wiped her eyes. What are the chances you think youll find her body? Kate paused, and Tristan glanced across at her. I often think cold cases favour private investigation, said Kate. The police often dont have time, and the UK police dont put a lot of funds into looking at cold cases unless theres more evidence. They didnt think my conversation with Malcolm was enough to open it? No. I didnt hear about Caitlyn until a few months after it happened. We left the UK at the end of August 1990. My whole family emigrated me, Mum, Dad and my kid brother who was five. We had no other relations, and letters from friends and neighbours got held up. We lived in a youth hostel for three months. Anyway, thats why I didnt hear about Caitlyn. You were Caitlyns best friend? asked Kate. No. That was Wendy Sampson. Were you and Caitlyn close to the girls in your class? We were the only three scholarship girls at the school. Me, Caitlyn and Wendy. The rest of them were moneyed, not all bad, but a lot of stuck-up bitches, if you pardon my language. Caitlyn and Wendys fathers were more acceptable than mine. Malcolm worked for the council and Sheila was a homemaker, or housewife as you say back home. My father was a builder, and we were working class in the UK. I was the lowest of the lows. We stuck together. Were you bullied? asked Tristan. No. I was a big strapping girl, Caitlyn had a quick wit and Wendy was a strong sportswoman that can often deter the bullies. But this was a girls school. When people bullied it was much more psychological, said Megan. So as far as you knew, Caitlyn wasnt close with any other girls? asked Kate. No, we didnt get invited round for tea at any other girls houses. She must have been gutted you were leaving? asked Tristan. Megan paused. It was odd. We were all close, but the school year had finished and I left at the end of August, and as that last month progressed, I saw her less. She spent more time with Wendy. I understood that. In what way? Well, we stopped arranging to all go out together. And to be fair, I was distracted. My mother was taking us up and down to London to the Australian Embassy to get our visas and paperwork for the move. There was no bad blood. Didnt Wendy tell you about Caitlyn? asked Kate. Yes, but I didnt get her letter till a few months after. It was awful, but you have to remember there was no internet then. It didnt make the news in Australia why would it? Megan started to tear up and she pulled out a tissue. Sorry. Do you remember a girl called Vicky OGrady in your class? Yes. Were you friends? No. I hated her. She was a bit of a bitch, and she was always playing truant. She got caught drinking during a break time, said Megan. So, none of you were friends with her? No. Kate looked down at her notes. But Caitlyn worked at a video shop with Vicky? she asked. Yes. Vickys dad owned a franchise, I think, for the video shops, and Caitlyn worked there as a Saturday job. Vicky was supposed to work there, but she spent most of her time ordering Caitlyn around and flirting with the customers. Were meeting with Vicky tomorrow, said Kate. Really? Whats she doing now? Shes a make-up artist for the BBC in Bristol. Okay, well, good on her. Whats she got to say about this? We dont know. She does say that her and Caitlyn were good friends. Megan looked surprised. Seriously? Apparently so, said Kate. I dont understand, but a lot of water has gone under the bridge. It was a long time ago. Good luck to her. There was a pause, and for the first time Megan looked awkward. Okay, lets move on to the night where you saw Caitlyn outside Carters youth club. Can you remember when it was? asked Kate. Yes. It was right at the end of July. I remember the day because my mum was freaking out about our visas not arriving and we only had four weeks. It was really hot, and the youth club was nothing more than a big old hall. Mr Carter, the caretaker, couldnt open the windows because hed lost the window pole. There was a stream that ran past the back, and most of the kids were out there paddling. Me and Caitlyn were playing table tennis, and she went off to the loo, but didn't come back. I found her out front, standing by a car belonging to this older guy, a policeman. She said shed met him at the video shop. He came in to rent a movie, they got chatting, and he came to show her his new car. The new H-reg car had just been released. What kind of car? asked Kate. A Rover, blue. Did you see him? Yes, but he was inside the car, and it was dark out front and he was under streetlights. He had slicked-back black hair and strong features, a broad smile and very white teeth, cause I remember him poking his head out of the window and smiling when he kissed her. And what happened? Caitlyn got in the car, said goodbye and they drove off. Was this out of character for Caitlyn? Yes. But she was sixteen, and we were all going on dates with guys. Both me and Wendy did the older guy thing. A car was a place to make out with them . . . and there was nothing in the press about any weirdos going around killing young women. We just thought she was really lucky, and she came to school the next day, no problems. Tristan took a printout from his notebook and gave it to Kate. It was Peter Conways warrant card photo. Kate held it up to the screen. I can email this too, but do you think this could have been the guy? This was taken in 1993. Megan tilted her head and stared at it. Ive seen the photo before, and it could have been him, but it was a long time ago . . . His face was in shadow. CHAPTER 21 Enid Conway lived in a small end of terrace house in a rundown street in east London. It was a desperate place, with a row of filthy front gardens filled with rubbish, old cars and fridges, dog shit and broken glass. It was where Peter had grown up, and he had bought it for her when he came back from Manchester to work in London in 1991. In 2000, Enid had written a tell-all book called No Son of Mine. Shed been paid a considerable advance, and a ghost writer had been dispatched to the house to interview her. One of the questions hed asked was if she was going to move house now that she could afford something better? I wouldnt last five minutes in middle-class suburbia, shed said. People respect me in this street. You see all sorts, day and night, but you keep out of other peoples business and you never talk to the police. She thought of this conversation when she opened the front door to the red-haired Fan, as she called him. She didnt know his name. Did anyone see you? No one important, he said. She didnt fear anyone, but he made her uneasy. He looked to be in his late twenties and was a tall, broad, muscular man. His red hair was buzz-cut to a couple of inches in length and he had strange features. It was as if baking soda had been added in the womb. His skin was smooth, but his face was puffy with oversized, rubbery lips and fleshy hooded eyes, and his nose had a bulbous quality. He wasnt unattractive, though, and he dressed well in leather shoes and sharp neutral jeans shirt and jacket, and he always smelled freshly showered. They went through to her kitchen, which was modern with glass and steel and expensive appliances. The photos are there, she said, indicating an envelope on the counter. You want tea? No. He didnt take off his coat, or sit. Enid lit a cigarette and watched him as he took the four passport-size photos out of the envelope. There were two of her that shed taken earlier that day at a machine in the train station. And there were two of Peter. Is this a joke? he said, holding them up. Its the most recent I have. They were taken a week before he was arrested. People age, dont they? She figured that Peter didnt look vastly different, but he now had long grey hair and a craggier face. The passports need six to eight years left before they expire. This. Wont. Work, he said, chucking the photos down on the counter. Hes a prisoner. There isnt a passport photo machine in the bloody canteen! He turned to her and moved closer and held up a finger to her face. Dont speak to me like that, do you hear? She closed her eyes and opened them again, shaking her head. What should I do? He went to the fridge and opened it, taking out a carton of milk. He unscrewed the lid and took a long drink. The milk shone on his wet, rubbery lips and a drop or two escaped from the corners of his mouth. He took a last swallow and replaced the carton. Then he went to Enids roll of kitchen towel and tore off a square, folding it neatly before dabbing at his lips. He gave a deep rumbling belch. What kind of phone have you got? he asked. Enid went to the Chanel bag which was perched on the end of the counter. The gassy smell of his stomach acid made her feel queasy. She took out her phone, a Nokia, and held it up. He shook his head. Thats no good. You need to get the newest iPhone. It has a five mega pixel camera. What does that mean? Enid asked. It means it will take a high-quality photo. Will they let you take a photo of Peter when you next visit? Yes. I took one before on my phone last year. They made me show them the photo. Good. Ill download it when I next see you, he said. He reached into his pocket and took out two small brown envelopes, one thick and one thin. He slipped her passport photos inside the thin one, and put the thick one on the counter. Where is your toilet? He had never asked on any of his other visits. First door off the landing. When he had gone upstairs, Enid went to the thin envelope and opened it. She found her passport photo, along with one of him. She listened for a moment, hearing the floorboards creak in the bathroom upstairs. She switched on her phone and waited impatiently for it to boot up, then took a picture of his passport photo. The quality wasnt great, but she needed some insurance. Leverage if things went wrong. In his passport photo, he stared straight ahead. Eyes cold. Those oversized lips wet and glistening. Enid heard the toilet flush and floorboards creaking above, and replaced the photo. She heard the creak of him walking out of the bathroom and across the landing, but he didnt come back downstairs. He carried on into Peters old room. She hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs. What are you doing? she asked. He was lying in the darkness on Peters single bed, with its blue-and-green-striped woollen blanket. Enid switched on the small overhead light. There was a poster of David Bowie striking a pose as Ziggy Stardust on one wall, and a small shelf of sports trophies above the bed. On a desk was a photo of Peter and Enid after his passing-out ceremony from Hendon Police College. He was in his uniform, Enid in a blue dress and matching hat. Next to it was a collage of photos from Peters days in Manchester: a photo of him sitting on his first squad car, a Fiat Panda; another of him with Enid on the grass outside the flat he rented in Manchester; and another three taken with friends he had at that time. Was this Peters bedroom? he asked, looking up at her from where he lay. Yes. Is this where he slept? Yes. Why are there bars on the windows? Did you have discipline issues when he was growing up? No. Its to stop people getting in. For many people this is a shrine, he said. He sat up. Come to me. He put out his hand. Why? she said, her voice sharp. Why dont you humour the man who is paying for your sons freedom? In the lean years of her past, men had paid her for sex, knocking on the door late at night, all shapes and sizes. She went to him and took his hand. There was something about him that repulsed her. He buried his face in her belly. Rubbing against her. Inhaling. He smoothed a hand over her crotch. Stroking. You made him. He grew in here, he said, his voice cracking. Enid tried not to recoil. He kept smoothing and rubbing. It wasnt sexual. He was worshipping her. Yes. He is my flesh. I am his, she said. He finally pulled away, leaving a snails trail of drool on the front of her sweater. He held eye contact with her, then abruptly got up and left the room. She followed him back downstairs. He was staring at the passport photo shed left on the kitchen counter. I needed to check mine. I thought Id signed the back, she said quickly. Force of habit. If Im going to have a new identity I cant have a photo with Enid Conway written on the back. He nodded and tucked them back in the envelope. He put it in his pocket and touched his fingers to the thick envelope. Instructions for you. And another letter from me to Peter. He took a roll of cash from his pocket and placed it beside the envelope. Do you drink? she asked. Yes. She took down two whisky glasses from the cupboard and filled them with two fingers of Chivas. She slid one across the counter and took out a pack of cigarettes, offering him one. He shook his head. She tapped one out of the packet and lit up. Whats in it for you? Breaking Peter out? I love chaos, he said with a grin, taking a sip, the whisky shining on his big lips. Thats not an answer, Enid said, tipping her head back to exhale the smoke. He watched it float up to where it spread across the yellow ceiling. I have a decent life here. I dont want for many things, but Peter. If I leave here, I cant come back. Now tell me, whats in it for you? Im subverting my fathers expectations. He smiled. Whos your father? He waggled a finger at her. No, no, no. That would give the game away. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to her. Enid unfolded it and saw it was a printout of the Facebook profile of a young boy with dark hair. Whos this? Cant you see the name? Jake Marshall. Hes your grandson. Hes a handsome boy, like his father. But hes no use to me right now, she said, handing back the piece of paper. Wont you miss him? When we leave? You cant miss what you dont know. She looked back at the photo, tilting her head. She could see Peter in there, amongst his features. Has Peter seen this? No. I dont want him to, said Enid. There is no chance he can find it himself. He hasnt got internet access. He downed the whisky and got up. Read whats in the envelope, and get me those photos. Ill be back next week. I dont want this, she said, giving him back the printout. Enid walked around her house after he had left. She had been born a prisoner of her class and her circumstances. Shed taken the cards shed been dealt at birth, and done the best that she could. Fighting. Always having to fight for everything in life. Now there was the prospect of leaving and starting as a new person in another country. She wanted it just to be her and Peter. The world was better when it was just the two of them. She didnt want to know about the boy. She had no doubt hed been brought up thinking Peter was a monster, but theyd probably told him worse about her. The boy could poison him. Enid never got scared, but she felt the fear now. It was a dirty emotion. She went back to the kitchen and poured herself another whisky. CHAPTER 22 Kate didnt sleep much that night, after the call with Megan. She kept thinking of the policeman who picked Caitlyn up from outside the youth club, his face bathed in the shadow of his car. Could it have been Peter? Kate thought back to the two nights shed spent with Peter, back in 1995. The first night when they came back to her place, after the night out in the pub, shed found him so magnetic and sexy and couldnt resist him. She had tried for so many years to separate the feelings from that night. His firm muscular body, the rich smell of his hair and skin. His strength as he had scooped her up and placed her on her bed and undressed her. He had been passionate and tender, and while it made her skin crawl that shed been so intimate with someone who did things so sick and vile, those memories were there. They couldnt be changed. It also made her feel closer to Caitlyn. Did she feel caught up in Peter Conways facade? Did she find him desirable when she climbed into that car and it sped away? Where did they go, and what did they do? Kate never thought of herself as a victim, but just like Caitlyn shed been duped by his mask of normality. The photo shed shown Megan was lying downstairs on the breakfast bar. It was inside her notebook, but as she lay in bed her mind kept playing tricks on her. She imagined the notebook lying there in the darkness, then slowly standing up by itself, the pages flicking through and stopping at the photo of Peter. His eyes opened and he started to look around, eyes darting from within the still image of his face. Then his mouth started to twitch, and the lips peeled back to reveal his teeth, so straight and white as he shouted, KATE! Kate woke up sweating, her heart thumping against her chest. The room was dark and it was 2.11 a.m. by the clock on her bedside table. She threw back the bedcovers and went downstairs, flicking on all the lights and making a lot of noise on the stairs. The living room was still and empty. The notebook lay closed on the breakfast bar of course it did but she still took out the photo of Peter and put it in her shredder, enjoying the whirring sound as the shredder did its work. Only then did she go back upstairs and fall asleep. The next morning, Kate and Tristan drove to Bristol where they met Vicky OGrady for lunch at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway. They were half an hour early, and found the fancy Italian restaurant Vicky had suggested. She chose somewhere expensive, said Tristan, when theyd been seated in the smart restaurant next to a huge window looking down at the teeming food court below. It would be much cheaper down there. We couldnt have a decent conversation at the food court, said Kate. This is good. Quiet. Jeez. Fourteen quid for a glass of red wine! whistled Tristan. Do you want me to hide the wine list? No. The aim of this meeting is to get information, said Kate. Do you want to get her tanked up on booze, in case she talks more? Tristan was for the most part a mature young man, but there were occasional flashes of a twenty-one-year-old. We need to make her feel relaxed and see what happens, said Kate. Just then a large lady wearing a bright floral dress was brought to their table by the waiter. She had an immaculate bob of brown hair, dramatic smoky eye make-up and designer shades on her head. Hello? Kate and Tristan? she asked. Im Victoria. She was very well spoken and confident. They got up and shook hands. Is it Vicky or Victoria? asked Kate when they were seated again. I havent been Vicky since school, she said, pouring olive oil onto her side plate, adding a dot of balsamic vinegar and mopping it up with one of the bread rolls the waiter had brought over in a woven basket. They made a little small talk, and ordered. Kate could see Tristan was relieved Victoria didnt order champagne sticking to tonic water. Tristan and Kate had the same. So, the mystery of Caitlyn Murray? she said after the waiter delivered their drinks. You said in your messages with Tristan that youd expected to get a call about her from a private investigator? asked Kate. Well, perhaps I was being a little over-dramatic . . . Only because the police at the time did so little. They didnt seem to talk to anyone. They came in a few days after shed vanished and told us that a police officer would be in school all that day in case any of us had anything to tell them. I dont know how many girls went to talk to them. Did you talk to them? Yes, I told them the little that I knew, but I never heard from them again, she said, grabbing another bread roll and tearing it in two. There was something off about the way she answered. Was it guilt? wondered Kate. You worked with Caitlyn at your fathers video shop? asked Tristan. One of six video shops, thank you very much. Daddy was the north of Englands top franchisee. Did Caitlyn have a boyfriend? No one special, said Victoria. There were a few suitors in the mix. Like any young girl of sixteen she was quite the little shagger. A look passed between Kate and Tristan. She had several boyfriends? asked Kate. No one serious. There was a lad who delivered soft drinks to the newsagent next door . . . A delicious blond with a washboard stomach, very Abercrombie and Fitch. We were both guilty of sleeping with him . . . He looked a bit like you, said Victoria, fixing Tristan with a beady stare. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and poured himself more water. Victoria had the breezy confidence of someone from the upper class. Can I ask where Caitlyn met with this delivery lad? asked Kate. He delivered drinks and popcorn to the video shop. One lunchtime, when Caitlyn went out for some food, he was all flirty. I was a thin slip of a girl back then, with tits like rocks. It was all over in ten minutes, but rather fun . . . A couple of weeks later I came back early from lunch to find Caitlyn and him at it in the same place . . . Up until then Id thought she was a little prim and frigid, but we bonded over the sexy delivery lad. Are you sure youre happy to talk about this? asked Kate, who was surprised the conversation had taken on such a confessional tone before the first course had even arrived. Victoria waved it away with her third bread roll. Of course. Although I seem to be making young Tristan uncomfortable. No. Im good, he said, trying to hide his annoyance. He looked pleased when the food arrived. Kate and Victoria had ordered the spaghetti carbonara, and Tristan the macaroni cheese with a breadcrumb crust. This is scrumptious, said Victoria as they tucked into their food. Kate was finding her difficult to read. Everything seemed so breezy and confident and jolly hockey sticks. Theres one thing about Caitlyns disappearance thats really troubling us, said Kate. She went on to explain that Megan Hibbert had seen a man picking up Caitlyn from the youth club in a brand new Rover. Well, I never went to this Carters youth club, said Victoria through a large mouthful of spaghetti. I remember the three scholarship girls talking about it Wendy, Megan and Caitlyn. The youth club sounded ghastly, but that was probably Paul who picked her up. Kate felt Tristans knee press against hers under the table. Im sorry. Paul? Paul who? asked Kate. Paul Adler. He was a police officer for a couple of years, a very good one too, but he was attacked on the beat one night. Two thugs with a knife jumped him and he lost an eye . . . he had a glass eye made, a very good one. It almost exactly matches his real one. Kate and Tristan had expected her to describe Peter Conway, but now she had veered off in another direction. You knew this Paul Adler? asked Kate, unable to hide her disbelief. Yes, well, I knew of him. He owned Adlers the chemist two doors down from Hollywood Nights, where myself and Caitlyn worked. He took the compensation he got from the accident and opened up the chemist, or should I say pharmacy. He bought the building, so he had that and all the shops paying him rent. He became very well off. He used to stop by and rent videos, said Victoria. Do you still see him? Good lord, no, me and him are all in the past. Did you have a relationship with him? No! Kate wanted to press her more on this her reaction had been so quick and vehement but she needed to concentrate on Paul Adler and Caitlyn. How long were Paul and Caitlyn an item? she asked. I dont think they were an item. He was married, still is, but they used to go off for drives, Victoria said, indicating inverted commas with her fingers. He was quite eligible. He always used to get the new registration cars the day they came out each year. He was the first to have the new H-reg car in the area. A friend of Caitlyn said she saw Caitlyn talking to a bloke in a new H-reg car, said Tristan. He took out his mobile and found the picture of Peter Conway. Did you ever see Caitlyn with this man? He held up the photo. Victoria took a sip of her tonic water and almost choked. It took her a moment to compose herself. Sorry, she said wiping at her chin with a napkin. You surprised me. Thats Peter Conway, the whatsit, the cannibal killer . . . Why on earth have you got that picture? She pulled a conspiratorial face at Kate. Who elses photo has he got on that phone? Jack the Ripper? You are a naughty boy! Im showing you because we think Peter Conway may have been involved in Caitlyns disappearance, said Tristan. He was a police officer in Greater Manchester in 1990, added Kate. Victoria sat back in her chair, chastised. I know all this. I do read the newspapers . . . And I wasnt Caitlyns nursemaid. I rather think I gave her confidence to chat up men. Thats all. She did the rest. Peter Conway never came into the video shop? asked Kate. I cant remember everyone who came in, and I only worked there part-time! Do you think Paul Adler could have known Peter Conway? asked Tristan. Absolutely not! No, no, no, Victoria said. She saw her glass was empty and called the waiter over and ordered another. You said you havent seen Paul Adler in years. How could you be so sure? asked Kate. Well, weve spoken over the years, and it came up in conversation. Peter Conway worked in the area, and theres been all those rumours about if there were previous victims . . . You have to remember the police force in Manchester is big, and Paul told me that he never came into contact with Conway. The waiter brought over her drink. She had become flustered and fumbled in her bag. She removed a bottle of pills and had trouble with the lid. Tristan took it from her, twisted it off and handed it back. Thank you, blood pressure medication, forgot to take it. She popped a pill in her mouth and swallowed it with a gulp of tonic water. I wish I could go back to my young svelte sixteen-year-old self and shake her for thinking she was fat. Okay, so you think it was Paul Adler who picked Caitlyn up that night from the youth club? asked Kate. This would have been late July, early August 1990. And it was definitely an H-reg Rover. Victoria rolled her eyes. I feel like were going around in circles. It certainly sounds like Paul Adler. Hes on Facebook, and I think hes got a picture of his younger self on his profile. She had pulled a powder compact from her bag and was reapplying her lipstick. It seemed she had had enough and wanted to go. Do you have Paul Adlers details? asked Kate. Id like to get in contact with him. Erm, Im not really comfortable giving out other peoples phone numbers without their consent, she said, snapping the lid back on her lipstick. But youre happy to label Caitlyn, who is missing and presumed dead, as quite the little shagger, thought Kate. Were going to look him up anyway, and I just want to ask him a few questions. He might know something useful. Kate smiled and didnt break eye contact. Victoria turned and unhooked her bag from the back of her chair, taking out a small silver address book. She flicked through pages and pages until she found an address. Here we are. Paul Adler. She gave Kate his details. You know, the police spoke to him about Caitlyn going missing, and he had a cast-iron alibi. He was in France with his wife on the day Caitlyn disappeared. They have a place out there, Le Touquet. Hes a nice family man. Kate felt her heart sinking into her boots. Why didnt you say so before? she asked. I didnt think Paul Adler would be a suspect. Can you give us a list of any other men who Caitlyn was involved with? Four that I know of. The drinks lad. Another young lad who delivered the videos each week, the new releases. He was barely eighteen and, again, blond . . . I dont know their names or their addresses. They were fun, silly boys. She faltered for a moment. And, er, she slept with my father . . . Thats why myself and Caitlyn fell out in the end. Shagging around is all well and good, but you dont shit where you eat. And Caitlyn was stupid enough to think I would turn a blind eye. Where was your father the day Caitlyn went missing? asked Tristan. Victoria turned to him, all her faux jolliness gone. At a wedding, she said, her smile now thin. My whole family was at the wedding, in case you want to know where I was too. My cousin Harriet Farrington got married in Surrey. Leatherhead church . . . I know Sunday is an unusual day for a wedding. She saw Tristan and Kate exchange a look. I have photos, if you need me to prove it. Yes. If you could send them, thank you, said Kate, matching her thin smile. On the way home in the car Kate and Tristan were quiet until they reached the outskirts of Ashdean. It was grey and had started to rain. I didnt get a good vibe off Victoria, said Kate. She was very nervous. That pill she took wasnt for blood pressure. It was Xanax. I saw the bottle, said Tristan. She could just be a person who suffers from nervous anxiety. She seemed completely different in her messages, said Tristan. I didnt like her in person. There was something a bit weird about her. Well, being a bit weird isnt enough evidence. If it was this Paul Adler who was seen outside the youth club with Caitlyn, said Kate, he has an alibi, and Victorias father has an alibi. So who else is there? The lads who delivered stuff to the video shop. We could track them down, said Tristan. And we need to show Paul Adlers picture to Megan in Australia. Why didnt Malcolm and Sheila know about the boyfriends, the boys? asked Kate gloomily, taking a left turn onto the coast road. What parent knows everything about their teenage son or daughter? said Tristan. Oh, lord, Ive got all that to come with Jake. Wouldnt the police have told Malcolm and Sheila, if theyd known? Probably not. They might not have been assigned a family liaison officer who would give them this information. What do we do now? We need to do our due diligence. We need to follow up everything weve looked into. The teacher, the other girls in the school. And I want to talk to this Paul Adler, if only to confirm what Victoria said. Over the next four days Kate and Tristan managed to track down Caitlyns teacher and the other girls in her class, none of whom were able to add anything new to the investigation. Kate also called in a favour from Alan Hexham, asking him to look into Paul Adler. Victorias version of events checked out. He had been a police officer and retired with a commendation in 1988 after an attack where he lost an eye. At the time of Caitlyns vanishing he was questioned by the police, because Caitlyn passed Adlers Chemist on her route to the cinema, but he had been out of the country the day she went missing. Kate had a look at Paul Adlers Facebook profile and found an older photo of him and sent it to Megan Hibbert in Melbourne. She messaged back and confirmed he was the man in the H-reg Rover shed seen picking up Caitlyn outside Carters youth club. On Thursday morning Malcolm sent Kate an email, asking how things were going. Kate knew their leads had gone cold. It seemed Caitlyn had vanished into thin air.
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