Authors: Susan Lewis
‘She’s not speaking to me at the moment. Don’t ask, it changes from hour to hour. It does mean she won’t be here, though.’
‘I still don’t think it’s a good idea for me to come.’
‘No, you’re probably right,’ he agreed with a sigh. ‘But I do want to see you, so call me when you arrive – and drive safely.’
‘Of course,’ she whispered, and after ringing off she inhaled deeply of the cold, fuel-fumed air, before turning back to the car.
‘Why are you taking so much?’ Miles wanted to know, as Kelsey carried her laptop down the stairs to join the holdalls and boxes already stacked in the hall.
‘It’s the same stuff I brought home,’ she replied tartly.
‘But do you need all that when you’ll be back at the weekend, and half-term’s coming up?’
With a supercilious toss of her head she said, ‘You wouldn’t even begin to understand what I need. Anyway, I’m going to Martha’s for the weekend.’
‘I see,’ he responded slowly. He wanted to tell her she couldn’t, but was reluctant to make the situation any worse by starting a row. ‘I wish you’d let me drive you,’ he said.
‘It’s fine, Mrs Davies is happy to do it. Can I have some money?’
Bristling at her tone, he said, ‘Is that any way to ask?’
With a surly impatience she shifted her weight to one leg and rolled her eyes. ‘Please,’ she said, drawing out the word.
Not wanting them to part on bad terms, he swallowed his frustration and said, ‘How much do you need?’
‘A hundred quid should be enough.’
His eyes widened.
‘Don’t look at me like that!’ she cried. ‘Martha and I are going shopping at the weekend, so I’ve got to have something.’
‘Even so …’
‘Oh fine, keep your money.’
‘I’m not saying you can’t have it …’
‘Yes you are. Well, that’s OK. I can manage.’
‘Kelsey, for heaven’s sake, you’re creating an issue where—’
am?’ she cut in furiously. ‘It’s you who won’t part with the money.’
‘All right, you can have it, but I’d appreciate less of the attitude, if you don’t mind.’
‘Yeah, and I would appreciate being made to feel like I matter around here, but hey, we can’t have everything, can we? Except you, of course. You get to have it all.’
‘What on earth are you talking about?’
‘I heard you on the phone just now, telling her to come here. Well that’s absolutely fine, because I am like gone, OK? I won’t be in your life any more.’
‘I’m not letting you walk out of here like this,’ he said angrily. ‘You need to listen to what I’m saying—’
‘No, you need to listen to me! I’m making my own decisions from now on and one of them is to leave this house. You’ve never wanted me here anyway, so I’ll happily make room for your son. I’m just sorry his name isn’t Sam—’
‘Kelsey, for God’s sake, you’re twisting this round and hurting yourself as much as me— Come back here!’ he shouted as she started to leave. ‘You’re not going anywhere until we’ve sorted this out, even if I have to lock you in.’
‘Just try it,’ she challenged. ‘I’ll scream child abuse quicker than any of them out there can cry murder.’
At that his eyes closed, until realising she was opening the door he reached out and put a hand against it. ‘I wish I knew how to make you believe that
matter more to me than anyone else,’ he said sadly.
‘That is so not true,’ she cried. ‘You can’t wait for me to go so you can get her moved in here. Well, this is me going, OK? You don’t need to worry about me any more. Just enjoy your son.’
‘Vivienne is not coming here,’ he told her. ‘She understands how difficult it is for you, which is why she turned me down.’
‘Well, she’s free to do what she likes now. I’ve got all my stuff—’
‘You are not setting foot outside this house until I know where you’re going.’
,’ she almost screamed. ‘The place you always send me when you want me out of the way.’
‘Then let me take you. We can talk on the way.’
‘There’s nothing else to say, now if you’ll excuse me, Mrs Davies is waiting in the car.’
Certain he shouldn’t let her go, but not quite knowing how to stop her, he said, ‘I want you back here at the weekend. I’ll come to pick you up—’
‘I’m going to Martha’s. It’s all arranged.’
‘Would you mind carrying my suitcase?’
Sighing with exasperation, he picked it up and followed her outside. ‘Here,’ he said, taking out his wallet once her luggage was in the boot. ‘I’ve only got sixty in cash. If you want more, you’ll have to come back before you go shopping.’
‘Nice try,’ she muttered, and grabbing the money she stuffed it into her belt bag while striding round to the passenger seat.
‘Don’t I get a proper goodbye?’ he said softly.
She stopped, keeping her face averted.
‘Please don’t let’s part bad friends.’
‘I’m not,’ she retorted. ‘I’m just saying, you can do what you want now.’
Realising there was a small space opening up, he walked round the car and drew her into his arms. ‘I’ve already spoken to the headmistress to let her know what’s going on …’
‘Oh, like they don’t already know.’
‘… so if you get there and decide you want to come back, or if in a couple of days …’
‘I’ll be fine,’ she assured him, sounding less hostile now.
‘Call if you need anything. Call anyway.’
‘I always do.’
He smiled, because she did, even when she had nothing particular to say. He hoped that was going to continue – in fact he was going to make sure it did by ringing her.
After opening the door for her to get in, he stood watching the car going off down the drive. Letting her go troubled him as much as forcing her to stay would have done.
Dear Ms James, thank you for your prompt response. You will find my address and telephone number below. Please call any time to make an arrangement for us to meet. I will show you the spot where Mr Avery’s son is buried. Mr Avery might now wish for the remains to be removed and given a proper burial. Yours, Elizabeth J. Barrett
Justine sat staring at the email, feeling herself
between horror and a very necessary caution. If – and it was a big if – this woman was on the level, then Miles Avery
had known all along that his son was dead
, and might even …
Getting briskly up from her chair, she walked to the window. She had to think this through very carefully now, because the possible repercussions, if she came right out and accused Miles of being involved in his son’s death, or at least knowing about it, were already making her head spin in a way that could see much more disaster ahead than glory.
As things stood, she had no idea whether or not Elizabeth Barrett was a nutcase, so no way would she run the risk of going to print with anything – at least, not in her name – until she knew for certain who the woman really was. She’d already opened up several lines of investigation, but as yet nothing useful was coming back. There was no mention of her in the press cuttings, national or local, from the time Sam went missing, nor had anything come to light to connect her to the Averys at any time since. However, a few contacts had yet to get back to her, one of whom had access to the archives of the Richmond Division of the Metropolitan Police. If Elizabeth Barrett didn’t turn up in those files, then Justine would be much more inclined to believe that she’d unearthed something truly sinister. If she had, she’d be duty bound to go public with it. If she hadn’t … Well, she had a fairly good idea what she’d do next, but for now she was content to wait until the remaining contacts, including the police archivist, got back to her.
DC JOY WAS
turning off her mobile as Sadler carried two steaming hot mochas out onto the station concourse and set them down on the bistro table where she was sitting. They were waiting for the next train back to Exeter, having more or less wasted their time in London, and she suspected the text she’d just received wasn’t going to do much to improve Sadler’s mood, since it wasn’t lending itself at all well to his suspicions about Miles Avery.
‘I’ve just heard from Dotty in forensics,’ she told him, as he sat down. ‘The postmark on the envelope – the one we found in the woods addressed to Jacqueline Avery?’
‘It’s Twickenham, which covers Richmond on Thames.’
His hand stopped before the mocha reached his mouth.
‘It would account for the “mes” that hadn’t been torn off the back,’ she said blandly, judging it tactful for him to state the more obvious connection.
‘It’s also,’ he said, ‘right next to Kew, where the call came from, and where the Averys were living when the boy went missing.’
His eyes flicked upwards as a booming announcement began flooding the station with an unintelligible explanation for a delay. ‘That wasn’t ours, was it?’ he asked.
‘I don’t think so.’
He took a sip of his mocha, then narrowing his eyes thoughtfully, he said, ‘So someone was writing to her from Richmond. Do we know the date of the postmark?’
He pondered that for a moment. ‘Well over a month before she disappeared. So what was in that envelope?’
Refraining from reminding him that she’d been asking that very question since the envelope had turned up, she said, ‘I have some theories, sir. Can I run them past you?’
His eyebrows rose, but not unkindly. ‘I’m all ears,’ he informed her, and shot a menacing look at a rowdy pair of pierced, tattooed and shaven-headed youths who were playfully punching and kicking each other as they headed for a platform.
‘Well, sir,’ she began, wresting back his attention, ‘first of all we’re agreed, aren’t we, that Jacqueline Avery could have dumped her own bag and clothes in the bin that Grainger and his mate found them in?’
Sadler’s expression began to sour. ‘Are you about to suggest that she disguised herself, threw away everything that would identify her, then took off to … Well, Richmond? Is that where you’re going with this, Detective Constable?’
She nodded eagerly. ‘More or less, sir,’ she confirmed, a glimmer of excitement appearing in her eyes. ‘You see, it would tie in with the money too. She withdrew a large amount of cash because she didn’t
her movements to be traced through her bank account or credit cards. She swapped the clothes she wore to the station that morning for those she had inside the bag; she might also have had a wig to cover her blonde hair, or she’s dyed it since, or whatever, and then, having more or less “disposed” of Jacqueline Avery, she became Anne Cates.’
Though this all seemed a little too pat for Sadler’s taste, he wasn’t going to deny that it had some merit. ‘Why Anne Cates?’ he asked.
’No idea, but I suppose it’s as good a name as any if you want to become somebody else.’
‘Why would she want to be somebody else?’
Joy grimaced and shrugged. ‘Only she can tell us the answer to that,’ she replied. ‘But I do think we need to take another look at those CCTV tapes to see if we can spot someone who
be Jacqueline Avery. Up to now we’ve been looking for a blonde woman dressed in black and leaving around ten in the morning. I know we’ve checked every train that day, and the next, but if she did change her appearance …’
Sadler cleared his throat gruffly, and drank more of his mocha. ‘You mentioned theories in the plural,’ he reminded her as she began spooning the foamy chocolate from the top of her drink.
‘Mm, well, I think that’s kind of it,’ she admitted, after licking the spoon, ‘because you’re going to ask me now why she might have gone to Richmond, and on that I’m drawing a blank. As you say, it’s where she and her husband lived when the baby was snatched, but that was fifteen years ago, so I’ve no idea why she’d go back there now.’
Sadler’s gaze drifted off across the concourse, focusing on nothing as he thought.
‘Thanks to the envelope,’ Joy went on, ‘we know Mrs Avery has been in touch with someone in Richmond during the past couple of months. I think that in itself means we should contact the local police to get them fully up to speed on the case.’
Sadler didn’t disagree.
‘We also know – and this is probably the most disturbing part of it so far – that Anne Cates has used Vivienne Kane’s address for her pay-as-you-go.’
‘Ah, so we’re now presuming that Vivienne Kane was telling the truth when she claimed never to have heard of Anne Cates?’
Joy looked a little sheepish. ‘I’m afraid so, sir,’ she replied.
‘Which means, in a nutshell, Detective Constable, that you’re telling me I’ve got this all wrong. Miles Avery had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance and therefore I’ve been persecuting an innocent man.’
‘I wouldn’t put it quite like that, sir,’ she protested. ‘And we’ve no idea yet how right or wrong I am. I just wanted to float my thoughts past you.’
‘Well, they’ve anchored, Elaine, because I think you’ve made some very valid deductions. I might not like them, but I’m certainly not going to allow my own ego to get in the way of the truth.’
Feeling a flood of fondness for the old fart, Joy smiled and drank some more mocha. ‘So what do we do now, sir?’ she asked, already having her own ideas, but judging it time to take a back seat to experience.
‘As we’re in London, I think we should change these tickets, and take a trip out to Richmond to introduce ourselves to the local police. Then, when we get back to Devon, we’ll have the Avery housekeeper in to listen to the phone call.’
Joy looked surprised. ‘Why the housekeeper, and not Avery himself?’
Asserting himself fully, he said, ‘Everything you’ve come up with makes perfect sense, Elaine, but none of it’s been substantiated yet. We still have a missing woman, a motive for wanting her out of the way, and enough evidence to suggest it’s happened. So I’m afraid until we’ve made a few more enquiries Mr Avery’s ID on the voice isn’t the first one I’d trust.’
Stella Coombes’s ready laughter and warming good nature was proving as irrepressible as ever. The woman was like an inextinguishable ray of sunlight, a rose that never stopped blooming. With her nothing seemed to be a problem, and even if it was it would be dealt with ‘pretty swift, so no glum faces round ’ere thank you very much, everything’s under control.’