They turned off the bypass.
'I know,' Cat said. 'I'm taking you back to the farmhouse.'
'No, please, I have to get home . . . your father . . .' Quietly, turning her head away to look out of the window and away from Cat's sight, Judith began to cry.
The children were all in bed though Sam's light was still on. Silke left in her battered Mini.
Cat got out a bottle of wine and held it up.
'Or would you rather have a whisky? Yes. So would I. Let's go in the sitting room.'
Judith did not argue now. The spirit of protest and keeping up appearances seemed to have gone out of her.
'Let me take a quick look at your face.'
Cat saw harsh bruising, inflamed skin, a contusion down Judith's right jaw but nothing worse. 'What have you put on it?'
'Yes. All the usual. It's not sore now.'
Cat poured two stiff whiskies, splashed in the minimum of water. She was still giving herself time, still shocked and uncertain exactly how she should handle it, what she should and should not say. Inside, she felt a great tumble of emotions.
Judith's eyes were red, the skin beneath them hollowed out and dark. She had taken two large swigs of her whisky. Cat poured another measure.
'How long has this been happening?'
'You mustn't think this is . . . I'm not a beaten-up wife, you know.' She made a slight attempt at a laugh.
'Excuse me, that is exactly what you are. I've seen enough of them. Once or a hundred times, it makes no difference and you know it, Judith. My father – Christ, I can't believe this . . .'
But in fact I can, Cat realised, I'm horrified to discover that I can believe it only too well.
It was an appalling thing to acknowledge that her own father was capable of hitting his wife. Had he done the same to Meriel? To her own mother?
'How long has this been going on? You have to talk to me, Judith. It's serious and you know it is. You haven't spoken to anyone, have you? You've pretended and covered up, it's all been in silence behind the closed front door and the drawn curtain. It always is.'
'No, darling, that's ridiculous . . . it isn't like that at all. I'm not one of those poor beaten-up women with brutal husbands.'
'Yes, Judith. Yes, you are. The fact that he is a highly respected physician and pillar of the Freemasons, living in a handsome detached country house, makes not one iota of difference. He is your husband and he hits you. How often? Every week? Every day?'
'Goodness no. Of course not. It was a stupid argument about nothing, Richard had had too much to drink, I was irritable with him – oh, you know how these things flare up.'
'No. I know people quarrel and have silly arguments about something trivial and don't speak for a few hours. I've done all that myself, heaven knows. Most married people have. But most married people don't have husbands who escalate the quarrel to the point where they lash out, physically. You're trying to pretend this is a one-off. I don't believe you. When did it start?'
'I know I can be an annoying person to live with –'
'Don't you dare claim this is your fault! Dear God, who are you trying to protect? Tell me when it started. You seemed so happy, it all looked so right from where we were standing.'
'But we were. It was. It still is. In a way.' Judith finished her drink but put her hand up to refuse any more. 'I love Richard. Loved. I don't know now. It takes a lot of accepting – that the person you love and married is someone else, at least part of the time. I always knew he had another side – I've seen how he is with Simon often enough. I knew he could be sarcastic, cold. He isn't someone who shows warm feelings easily but he has them. He loves me, loves you and of course he adores the children. He actually does love Simon. It's because he loves him that he gets so angry.'
'Rage and disapproval aren't the most usual ways of showing love. Nor is hitting your wife.'
'I know,' Judith said so quietly Cat could barely hear her.
They were both silent, Judith tracing her finger along the pattern in the cushion, Cat thinking furiously. The last thing she wanted to do was behave as if she were in her surgery with a traumatised patient, distancing and detaching herself from what she had just been told, which was tempting because she felt so shocked and bruised.
She got up, went to sit beside Judith and put her arms round her.
'Listen, we'll sort this out. I'm on your side and I'll do whatever you need me to. I understand why you didn't tell me or anyone else. I'm glad you have now because this is where it stops. It won't happen again, Judith, it can't. Stay here tonight, and for however long you need.'
'No, of course I can't do that, I have to go back now, it's late, Richard will wonder what's happened.'
'Let him. You can't go home.'
'I'm not leaving him, if that's what you're thinking. And please don't say anything to anyone else about this. Swear to me.'
'Why? What good will it do pretending it hasn't happened?'
Judith got up. 'I'll ring for a cab.' She made for the door.
'Stay tonight,' Cat said. 'It's something you've done often enough before at short notice. If you really care about what Dad thinks, I'll call him.'
'Of course I care what he thinks. What do you take me for?'
'A woman who has been subject to domestic violence.'
Judith turned to her. Her face was flushed and angry. 'I am going to ring for a taxi. I wish I hadn't told you . . . no, wait a minute – I take that back, because I didn't tell you anything, did I? You insisted on drawing conclusions based on an accident I had.'
'Ah yes. You walked into a door.'
'How dare you!'
'Judith . . .'
But she was in the hall, picking up the phone and looking down the pad where the taxi numbers were written.
'It will be about twenty minutes.'
'Please come and have another drink while we wait then, if you really won't stay tonight. I can't bear this.'
They went back into the sitting room. Cat had a small Scotch and a lot of water, Judith the reverse.
'I don't want us to be like this. I won't let you go until you tell me that whatever happened or happens you and I are never going to quarrel. Not about anything.'
'Not ever never, as Felix says.'
'You didn't promise not to talk to anyone else about this, Cat.'
'I don't often make promises. Promises are dangerous things.'
'Meaning you will, you'll pick up the phone to Simon the minute I leave here.'
'That is not what I mean and not what I'm going to do.'
'I don't want us to talk about this again.'
Cat looked at her without speaking. There was nothing she could say, not now – not until she had thought a lot and got her head round everything, when she was calmer.
There was the sound of a car, then a horn hooting.
Cat went to the door, cursing the laziness of drivers who would not bother to get out and ring the bell.
She put her arms round her stepmother and held her tightly, kissed her on both cheeks, and then, because she could not stop herself, touched her forefinger gently to the bruises.
Judith turned away and went out to the taxi
. She did not glance back.
'Are you DCS Simon Serrailler, Lafferton Police?'
'Yes, I am.'
'I'm calling regarding your enquiry.'
'And not before time. It's two days since you said someone would get back to me and I'm in the middle of an investigation into two murders.'
'Your enquiry was about an Alan Frederick Keyes?'
'Do have any idea what could happen in two days? Yes, of course you do. Now, what can you give me?'
'We can neither confirm nor deny that we have knowledge of an Alan Frederick Keyes. That's all.'
'Hang on a minute. I'm pretty certain your department gave Keyes a new ID ten years ago, for his own protection as a result of his being acquitted on three –'
'I'll just repeat, Superintendent. I can neither confirm nor deny that we have any knowledge of an Alan Frederick Keyes.'
'What are you, a bloody robot? Listen –'
'That's all I've got for you.'
The line went dead. Simon swore vividly.
Half an hour later in a small meeting room on Floor Five, three men sat at a table. Two had laptops open in front of them, one had nothing.
'"Jogging Sparrow." Are we on song?'
The others nodded.
'Right. Alan Frederick Keyes was given a new ID in 2002. Code name: Jogging Sparrow. As Keyes, mid-brown straight hair, light blue eyes, clean-shaven. As "Jogging Sparrow", shaven head, dark brown contact lenses, moustache. General appearance as Keyes, tidy, grey trousers, shirt, jacket or zip-up anorak, leather shoes. General appearance as JS, always jeans, T-shirts, sometimes fleeces, trainers. Scruffy but not dirty. Slight Yorkshire accent but Keyes only arrived in the county at the age of seventeen, so not pronounced. Birthplace Mansfield but moved about a lot until he left home and took himself north. JS, birthplace Rotherham. All early records based in Rotherham. Alan Keyes worked as a general builder with a range of skills, set up his own small building firm doing subcontracting. Married to Lynne Dodley, 1989. No children. Parents both dead, and Keyes lost contact with them as a teenager. Jogging Sparrow lived in Leeds. Last known address for which we had contact, 226a Pinder Road, Leeds.'
The man with nothing on the desk in front of him said, '". . . for which we had contact"?'
'Yes. His liaison officer with us was DS Paul Merriman, known to JS as Paul Q. Merriman retired six years after we placed JS.'
'Who took over?'
The officer looked anxious. 'Officially, DC Lester Hodges.'
'It looks as if DS Merriman was the last person from us to be in touch with JS, sir. After that . . . well, JS disappeared off the radar.'
'Did a runner, you mean?'
'So we don't know anything. Apparently.'
'He sank without trace four years ago. How much effort was put into trying to find this man?'
'It looks as if some enquiries were made in the early days . . .'
'Which led nowhere.'
'It looks that way, sir.'
'Was JS red-flagged on the system?'
'From the beginning?'
The man, who outranked both the others in the room by several degrees, was silent for a moment, finger-tapping the table and looking down. The other two did not look at one another.
'Right. We need some damage limitation. Here's what we do.'
'THIS,' SERRAILLER SAID, pointing to a large blow-up image on the wall, 'is a photograph taken in 2002 of Alan Frederick Keyes. It was used extensively in the press at the time of his trial and is regarded as an extremely good likeness. You'll each get a copy emailed over. Now, heads up . . . these are half a dozen images done by the identikit team. Take a good look. They are of what Keyes may look like now, given that he has aged ten years – he's now early forties – but also given that his appearance would have been changed when he got his new ID. These will be emailed too, and you can print them off. They're going to patrols but they are not on public noticeboards or available to the press, so keep them confidential. We've no idea which, if any, he now looks like and of course he could have changed his appearance in small ways several times. So he may have grown a beard, then shaved it off, for example, or had a close-cut beard and grown it longer. You know the sort of thing. I want you to memorise these so far as you can and you need to be able to call all of them up, plus the original of Keyes, on your phone at a second's notice. You may need to check very quickly and surreptitiously.
'The man who was Alan Frederick Keyes has a new name but we've no idea what that is. Special Op won't play ball. He is known to have relocated and I'm pretty certain he came onto our patch some time ago but I've no hard info about it. Needle in a haystack – yup. But Lafferton isn't the biggest haystack in the world and we have to pull it apart. So let's hope for some luck. Off you go and get these faces imprinted on your memory. Thanks, guys.'
He went back to his office, and sent a text to Rachel. He had sent one earlier, and two the previous day. She was not answering her phone but he had a reply the previous night. K still v ill. Am at BG most of the time. So hard to watch him. Difficult 2 be in touch with you. R x.'
All he could do was send loving messages, reassure her that she could ring him any time. Hope. But he felt deceitful that his hope was twisted by his own longing for Rachel to be free and his conscience bit him every time he contacted her.
He went out, to get a decent coffee, fresh air, some exercise, and to go around the town for an hour with his eyes open. He went to the brasserie in the Lanes and got a seat in the window, with the paper and a large espresso. This was the part of the job he had enjoyed as a junior – hanging about, watching, scrutinising faces, the way people walked, the routes they took, learning the routine of a place. You went out with something in mind and perhaps saw nothing, or perhaps by chance hit upon something quite different, and sometimes you even got the information or the person you'd gone out looking for. He remembered one beautiful summer afternoon when he'd been with the Met, and after a weary morning processing a car-theft gang, had gone out to sit at a pub table on a Soho pavement and drink a bottle of lager. He remembered everything about the five minutes after he had sat down. He had turned his face to the sun and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, a couple of men had come to sit at the next table. Both had worn lightweight summer suits and sunglasses. They were drinking vodkas with ice. And with a twist in his gut Simon had recognised them as two major players in a violent drug-running and fraud gang, who had been in the sights of half the CID of London since a raid months earlier, during which both had escaped. He had turned sideways, taken a sip of his lager, and sent an urgent text on his phone. Then he had gone on apparently reading the paper and drinking. The men had been absorbed in conversation, taking no notice of the street scene, the passers-by, or other people who were now filling up the tables.