K err groaned as he saw Nightingale stagger out of the house. He picked up the empty petrol can and jogged across the lawn to the gates. He slipped out into the road and walked along to the field where he’d left his car, muttering to himself. He stopped when he saw the young woman dressed in black who was standing by his car, a border collie on a chain sitting at her side. She was wearing too much mascara and black lipstick and had a black choker with an upturned silver cross over her throat. Her black jeans looked as if they had been sprayed on and there were silver chains hanging from her black leather motorcycle jacket. The dog growled at him and the girl made a shushing sound.
Kerr lowered his eyes, not wanting to meet her gaze. ‘I failed you, Mistress Proserpine,’ he said.
She smiled. ‘Yes, Graham, I know.’
He dropped the petrol can, went down on his knees and put his head on the ground. ‘I beg your forgiveness, mistress.’ He heard sirens, off in the distance.
‘Get up, Graham. There’s no need for that.’
Kerr got to his feet. Tears were running down his face.
Proserpine looked at him sadly. ‘You know what you have to do now, Graham?’
The sirens were getting closer. The sirens of a fire engine and two police cars. Kerr knew the difference.
‘Yes, mistress. I know.’
He walked to the back of his car, an old Renault. He opened the boot, took out a fresh can of petrol and methodically poured it over himself, from head to toe. He drew a deep breath, relishing the intoxicating aroma, and then turned to face Proserpine. He fished his box of Swan Vestas from his pocket.
Proserpine nodded her approval and her dog growled softly.
Kerr rattled the box, then pushed it open with his thumb and took out a single match. He looked at Proserpine and shivered with anticipation as he rubbed the match along the striker. He heard the whoosh of the petrol igniting and then smiled as he felt the searing pain of his flesh as it began to burn.