When Vanek returned they went through the plans together.
‘What about a reconstruction? I know it’s a long time ago but it’s amazing how they jolt people’s memories. I had two in my old force and they both led to convictions.’
‘If it were even just a couple of years ago I’d have organised one, but I doubt if I can balance cost against the very slight chance of success. Not at the moment. We’ll have to explore other avenues first. Did the hospital sign you off by the way?’
‘No. Got to go back for another X-ray in two weeks.’
Simon smiled. ‘So you can’t possibly be expected to hang around underpasses, let alone chase after pushers.’
Ben shook his head, drawing his breath in sharply.
‘Good stuff. Come on – let’s call on Mrs Cadsden.’
But the phone rang first.
‘Gordon Lyman. About this second skeleton.’
‘Have you found something?’
‘Not on the skeleton itself, but I’ve got a bit of time owing me and I’d quite like to do some work on this. You know about computer-aided facial reconstruction? I’m rather keen to get more practice. A colleague at UCH, Declan Devey, is something of an expert. He’s going to help, teach me a few tricks – via computer. Should be interesting and we’ll end up with a likeness you can put out there.’
‘How long will it take?’
‘Depends. But we’ll get something.’
Angus Road was a cul-de-sac of 1920s semi-detached houses with bow windows. Number 52 was almost at the end. The street was quiet when they got out of the car, but the sound of children in a school playground nearby gave it some life.
‘Most people are at work,’ Simon said. ‘Can’t you tell? Our Mrs Cadsden will be too.’
But she was not.
Frances Cadsden was now a smart, young-looking sixty.
‘I was made redundant eighteen months ago,’ she said, showing them into a kitchen/dining room at the back. ‘I was a PA – do you know Dramboys Estate Agents? I quite liked the job. I’d never worked – well, not after I married and had the girls. Would you like some coffee?’
‘Thank you.’ Serrailler believed in letting people make hot drinks. It was friendly, it made them relaxed – and once they relaxed, they usually talked.
‘I imagine this is all about poor Harriet. I read the news of course. I can’t get my head round it. Poor little girl. Do you know how she died or anything like that?’
‘Not really, I’m afraid. Though obviously it was unlikely to have been accidental, given the circumstances in which she was found.’
‘She was a nice child. Goodness, listen to me – they weren’t children, were they? She and Katie were fifteen. But I think of them as being children then.’
‘What’s Katie doing now?’
‘She’s a sister on the cardiac ward at Bevham General, married to a haematologist. No children. Louise has – that’s Katie’s younger sister. Two boys, so I’m a granny.’
She set down a cafetière.
It was a tidy, slightly bleak kitchen, used by someone who lived alone. There were photos on the shelves. Two young women. Two weddings. Two small boys.
The coffee was excellent.
‘I’ve read through the statement you gave when Harriet disappeared, obviously, and it’s very helpful. I know it’s a long time ago …’
‘It could be yesterday, Superintendent. That day is etched on my memory. From the second we heard that Harriet was missing, somehow everything seemed to be – I don’t know – as if it was underlined. That sounds silly.’
‘Not at all. It’s surprisingly common.’
‘Little things – the music the girls were playing, something Katie said, a nasty scratch Harriet had on her arm, all that. I can hear them shouting as they played tennis … we had a court at the side of the house. I can hear the sound of the ball pinging off their rackets. It was a day like any other day – Katie often had friends round to play, and it was often Harriet, too.’
Frances Cadsden looked down into her cup. Her eyes had filled with sudden tears. ‘I remember feeling so awful – so guilty. If I’d have walked with her to the bus stop …’
‘But she was fifteen, as you said. Not a small child. You wouldn’t usually have done that, would you?’
‘No. No, of course not.’
‘It’s entirely understandable that you feel somehow to blame – if you’d seen Harriet onto the bus, she might not have vanished. But we don’t know when she disappeared – we only know she almost certainly didn’t catch the bus, though she’d been waiting at the stop. You’re not to blame and I think you know that.’
‘Rationally, I suppose. I know I felt guilty that we had Katie, that she was safe. I went into her room in the middle of every night for months. Every night. I was terrified she wouldn’t be there. Mad.’
‘No, it isn’t.’
She smiled at Simon. ‘You’re very understanding,’ she said. ‘And of course I know why you’re here. Do I remember anything new?’
She drank her coffee and they were all silent for a moment. Serrailler thought she had been going over it in her mind for days, that if there was the slightest thing that worried her she would have picked it out and pulled it apart.
‘Harriet was quite young for her age,’ she said. ‘She certainly wasn’t likely to have a boyfriend for instance – say a boy she’d arranged to meet that day without telling anyone. Even if she had, I think Katie would have known. But it would have been completely out of character. She was an only child – a bit old-fashioned maybe?’
‘Very. No one disliked Harriet – not just her friends, but their parents, her teachers. Well, there was nothing to dislike.’
‘Was she clever?’
‘She did fine, but as far as I remember she wasn’t an academic high-flyer. She loved sport and music – she sang, she played the piano well, she told me she wanted to learn guitar but she’d have to win her parents round to the idea. They would think she didn’t have time, more music would get in the way of studies – you know the sort of thing.’
‘How did you find her parents?’
‘We didn’t really know them. I only met Sir John once – he brought Katie home after she’d stayed with them. Her mother was quite a shy person, you didn’t get to know her well. She seemed very – self-contained. She was musical too. That’s where Harriet got it from. The sportiness seemed to be all her own.’ She looked up at Simon and he saw the tears still in her eyes. ‘None of this is any help, is it?’
‘Yes. Everything helps us to build up a picture. We’ll be talking to Katie too.’
‘Morris, she is now. Katie Morris.’
‘Thank you.’ Ben made a note.
‘I know you’re divorced, Mrs Cadsden.’
‘Seven years ago.’
‘Are you in touch with your ex-husband?’
‘Not really. He lives in Bevham, and I have his contact details, but he remarried, he has a second family.’
‘Was he at home that afternoon of Harriet’s disappearance?’
‘No, he was working.’
‘What time did he come home that day?’
‘He didn’t … he was at a conference in London – he didn’t get back till the next afternoon. He heard about Harriet being missing on his car radio as he drove home. So there wouldn’t be any point in talking to him, really.’
‘Probably not – but if you could give us his address?’
‘Daffern Road, number 23. I’ve got the phone number somewhere.’
‘We’ll find it.’ Serrailler stood up. ‘One other thing – your neighbour, the man who was cutting his hedge that day …’
‘Ronald. Ronald Pyment. He died a while ago. Had a heart attack. He was so distressed about Harriet, you know. He might have been the last person to see her or talk to her. He came round to us … he was really upset. I think it affected his health, personally. He brooded about it so much. He never really got over it.’
She showed them to the door, and as they left, said, ‘None of us ever did, you know. None of us has ever got over it. And I honestly don’t know whether finding her body has made it better or worse. Is that a terrible thing to say?’
‘No,’ Serrailler said, ‘it isn’t.’
‘She didn’t have anything to do with it,’ Ben Vanek said in the car.
‘Nice-looking woman though.’
‘Oh come on, guv.’ But he saw Simon’s expression and moved on. ‘Where now? The ex-husband? House-to-house?’
‘They knocked on every bloody house in Lafferton in ’95. Nothing.’
‘Look, someone, somewhere, saw her. If she left the bus stop and walked for a bit, maybe to the next one. If she got a lift. If she went back to the Cadsden house. If she went to meet someone. It was broad daylight, it was the middle of the afternoon. There were cars, buses, people looking out of windows, people on bikes … just people. So, let’s say a friend passed, offered her a lift – maybe the parent of a girl at her school, someone she knew. They’d pull up, speak to her, she’d get in, they’d drive off. Now somebody saw that. If it happened. The chances of that main road being deserted are zero.’
‘Agreed. If that happened someone saw it – but they didn’t remember because it was a perfectly normal occurrence. No one dragged her into a car – somebody would have noticed that and come forward.’
‘Not sure that a car slowing beside a bus stop, where a pretty fifteen-year-old girl is waiting, and then her getting in, is what you’d call perfectly normal, guv. Might have an innocent explanation. Might not.’
‘Problem is, we have no evidence that any car slowed down or that Harriet got into one.’
‘What about it?’
‘Wonder if they’d do an item about it. Reconstruction-type thing.’
‘Too long ago for them.’
‘I could call them.’
Simon started the engine. ‘You could call them.’
THE WOMAN RANG a week after Jocelyn had posted her enquiry on the forum. Her name was Hazel Smith and she would give more details when they met, if that was what Jocelyn still wanted.
She did still want.
‘It’s a good idea to see one another for the first time on neutral ground. Do you know Victoria Park?’
‘There’s a nice café by the pond. It’s quite quiet before eleven o’clock and if it’s pleasant we can sit outside. Are you still able to drive?’
But as she put the phone down, she realised that she might not be for much longer. How long? Would she realise when she became unsafe? She did not think she was unsafe yet.
The phone rang again almost at once.
‘I thought you might like to have lunch,’ said Penny, who never had time for it.
‘No, I’ve got a summing-up to prepare. But I can take an hour tomorrow. I’m not in court.’
Did other people’s adult children interrogate their parents? But that was Penny’s training – cross-questioning became a way of life.
‘I’m already having lunch with someone.’
‘Margaret Dean.’ She plucked the name out of the air.
‘You fell out with Margaret Dean years ago. You said you wouldn’t mind if you never set eyes on her again.’
‘Well, perhaps I need to mend some bridges now.’
‘I’m sorry, Pen. Next week?’
‘It’s never easy finding a free lunchtime.’
‘Come here on Sunday then.’
‘I’m in the West of England Bridge Tournament, I did tell you.’
Had she? Jocelyn did not recall it but having memory lapses was nothing to do with having MND, she knew that perfectly well. Everyone had what they now called ‘senior moments’, a term she disliked.
The next morning, before their meeting, Hazel Smith rang again. She had a pleasant voice. Steady. Not too matey, not too businesslike.
‘I’m just ringing to say that if you would rather take a bit longer, not meet quite yet, then that’s fine. I shan’t mind in the least.’
But she did not need longer. She would be there.
If Hazel Smith had been chummy or had spoken in the way carers sometimes speak to the elderly, she would not have wanted to meet her. Or if she had sounded brusque, as if this were purely a business arrangement. That would not have done. There had to be something – what? She supposed she just meant, well, human.
It puzzled Jocelyn that she still felt determined, clear-minded. Calm. Ought she not to be nervous and full of second thoughts and questions, ought she not to be lying awake going through what would happen step by step, imagining? Dreading?
No. All her imaginings, all her dread, were for how it would be if she did not do this but had to let her illness run its course, until she was helpless, trapped inside a body whose every function but consciousness had been gradually taken away. Going into a beautiful, tranquil room, however, lying down on a soft, freshly made bed, with a view of sky and trees beyond the window, and swallowing a small glass of liquid before drifting off to sleep, with an understanding companion sitting beside her – what was to dread in that?
She took care with her appearance that day. She had had her hair set. She tried on a couple of things before settling on the taupe jersey suit with a chocolate silk blouse and a long scarf in browns and blues that Penny had brought her back from India. Plain court shoes. She took time over her make-up.
Getting into the car, she realised that she did not feel nervous so much as excited, as if she were setting out for a holiday. Which was madness.
She backed out of the drive.
It was warm enough to sit outside at a table against the wrought-iron railing that separated the café from the path. A couple of the inevitable mothers with gargantuan pushchairs were at the other side. No one else. The park had been refurbished and replanted over the past year in a fit of municipal pride, the flower beds spruced up, turf relaid, pond cleaned out, playground renewed. The bandstand was freshly painted. Even the ducks looked cleaner.