N ightingale left Edmund House first thing on Boxing Day. Jenny had insisted that he ate breakfast, though he had no appetite. She’d asked him to stay for at least one more day but Nightingale knew he had to go. She had been right when she said that people were dying because of his sister, and until he did something they would continue to die.
Two uniformed policemen had arrived in a car from Norwich about thirty minutes after McLean had made his phone call. They took a cursory look at the body and then phoned the coroner, who arrived within the hour, pronounced Lachie dead and said he was satisfied the death was a suicide and that there would be no need for a post-mortem. McLean phoned a local firm of undertakers and by early afternoon the body had been taken away.
The shoot was abandoned and most of the guests remained in their rooms during the afternoon. There was a forced frivolity at dinner but by ten o’clock most of the guests had called it a night. No one mentioned Lachie or what had happened to him.
Jenny’s mother and father had been in the dining room when they’d eaten breakfast so Nightingale didn’t get a chance to tell her what he planned to do, but he phoned her as soon as he got back to his flat in Bayswater.
‘I want to know whether my sister killed those children or not.’
‘What’s that got to do with what’s happening?’ she asked.
‘I think I have a way to save her soul and get her out of Rampton, but first I need to know.’
‘She confessed, remember?’
‘Something’s not right. Proserpine didn’t know what Robyn had done.’
‘So maybe my sister didn’t kill those kids. If she was a serial killer, wouldn’t Proserpine know?’
‘How the hell would I know, Jack? How would anyone know what they know?’
‘I’m just saying that maybe my sister didn’t kill those kids.’
‘She was found beside one of the bodies with a knife in her hand and she confessed.’
‘Yeah, well, I’ve been found beside a body with a knife in my hand and I’m not a serial killer.’
‘That was different, Jack.’
‘Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t,’ said Nightingale. ‘And maybe she only thinks she killed them.’
‘She’s in a mental hospital being studied by expert psychiatrists. Don’t you think they’d have found out if she was delusional? What am I saying? She’s probably in there because she’s delusional.’
‘She pleaded guilty and was sentenced,’ said Nightingale. ‘They’re not interested in finding out whether or not she’s guilty; they just want to cure her if they can.’
‘And what are you saying? That she didn’t do it but somehow thinks she did?’
‘I want to try to get her to remember,’ said Nightingale.
‘And just how are you going to do that?’
‘I was hoping that your friend Barbara might help.’
‘Hypnotic regression? Is that what you’re thinking of trying?’
‘It might work. And, even if it doesn’t, Barbara would get one hell of a paper out of it.’
‘It won’t be any good as evidence,’ said Jenny.
‘It’s not about evidence. It’s about me knowing whether or not she did it. Can you be a sweetie and text me her number?’
‘You’re going to call her today? Boxing Day?’
‘Strike while the iron’s hot, that’s my motto.’
‘No, your motto is that everyone has to stop whatever they’re doing when Jack Nightingale needs something. Just try to show her some consideration, Jack.’
Nightingale ended the call and went over to his sitting-room window. He stared down at the street below. Three questions. Three killers. One had already tried and he didn’t know when the other two would attack, or where, or who they would be. Nightingale wasn’t fearful; he’d been threatened many times while he was a police officer. But he was apprehensive and he didn’t like having to keep looking over his shoulder.
He took out his pack of Marlboro and lit a cigarette. A young black couple walked down Inverness Terrace, arm in arm. They stopped and kissed under his window and Nightingale turned away, not wanting to intrude on their romance. His mobile beeped and he looked at the screen. He jumped when he saw the message: