"How can I help you, sir?" the policeman behind the desk asked.
"My wife and son have disappeared," Richard said quietly.
"Two days ago."
"And you're only reporting this now?" the police officer asked incredulously.
Richard shrugged. "She's gone away before and then she'd call me from Spain or something like that after a day, but she hasn't now."
"Are you sure she's really missing?"
"Yes. It's been two days and she still hasn't called. And one of her friends came over because she didn't show up when they were supposed to go shopping."
Another man appeared. "Hello Richard!" he said cheerfully. "What brings you here? Nothing wrong I hope? How's the little boy? I saw him the other day in a rather awful costume."
"Yes, she does that to him," he said tersely. His wife was forever dressing the baby up according to the latest trends. The only description that fit his wife was trendy, with a capital T, and she changed styles quicker than the weather. The baby's latest accessory was a baseball cap, that usually hung halfway down to his chin because his
Mummy was busy drinking a cappuccino and talking in baby-like monosyllables to her equally eloquent friends. "They disappeared, Walter."
"What?" Walter looked serious and took his arm. "Come. Tell me about it." He took Richard to his office. "What happened?"
"I don't know. They're just not there anymore."
"Since Tuesday." Today was Thursday evening.
"What happened Tuesday?"
Richard breathed in. "I went to work and they were in bed. I came home. They weren't there. That's nothing unusual, so I didn't worry. I was...glad, even. Wednesday, I went to work. I came home. They still weren't there. Today I went to work and came home and there were seven messages on the answering machine from one of her friends about what the hell was taking her so long. She had agreed to meet a friend at Ricky's at noon and she never showed up. I thought she had gone to Jersey or Paris or wherever she always goes, but she usually tells her friends before she tells me. And they didn't know!"
"Why didn't you get worried on Tuesday?" Walter asked.
"Because! She does it all the time! She'll come home at midnight with bags of clothes and say 'look what I bought in Paris today.'"
"Did they pack?"
"I really can't tell. The woman owns more clothes than you can imagine. Even if she took six suitcases full of them, I wouldn't be able to see
if anything was gone."
Walter noted Richard's reluctance to mention Mrs. Yates's first name. It was a fishy business, and he did not want anyone else to handle this case. If Richard told this story to Jackson or Waterman, they would immediately conclude that Richard had killed her. He could have a motive, Walter admitted, but he had known Richard Yates for several years, and no, perhaps he should not have married Lady Theressa Stanton, but he would never kill her.
Theressa held tightly onto Timmy and brushed a lock of hair out of her face. She was frightened. Timmy whimpered. "Oh Timmy!" she said unhappily. "What will happen?" Having Timmy with her gave her some comfort, even if he was incapable of saying anything in return. It was funny that she had never thought of Timmy in this way, as a human being.
She closed her eyes and recalled what had happened earlier. The men that had entered the house, woken her up and forced her to pack enough
clothes for a week for her and Timmy. "Your husband wants to kill you. Hurry. We'll get you to a safe place," they had said.
She had been so scared and she had cried, ruining all her make-up. She was sure she must have looked horrible. Richard wanted to kill her? It
was unbelievable. But why would those men lie about it? They had not looked as if they had lied and she had believed them. Why did he want to
kill her? Had she done something? Theressa could not recall anything. She had spent too much -- he had reproached her for that -- but it was all her own money that she got from her parents, so that could not be it.
Then they had told her to behave naturally so the neighbors would not notice anything. They had left through the back door and they had driven
out into the country to some old house. There had been a woman there and she had again explained about Richard. That Theressa had spent too much
money and that he was in debt and that he hated her and wanted to get rid of her and that he could not get a divorce because then he would
have to pay her too much. It had been such a blow to Theressa and she could only stare at the woman with wide-eyes, never wondering how the woman might know all this. "Call me Agnes. Just stay here for a few days until we've sorted it out," the woman had promised. "Don't go out. You never know if he might be out there."
There was no phone in the house -- Agnes and the two men carried mobiles -- but there was a television set, and Theressa spent two days in front of it, crying and rocking the baby. For two days she had been absorbing the shock that someone actually wanted to kill her, and that that someone was her own husband. Today she saw things more clearly and began to wonder. Who were these people? What were they doing to sort it out, apart from holding mysterious phone conversations in the garden? How did they know? They had not looked pleased when she had stepped out into the garden and she had quickly gone in again. She had first thought that it was because she might be seen, but now that she thought of it again, it did not really make sense. She was beginning to feel as if she was being kept a prisoner in this house. Other things pointed to that as well. She never got a satisfactory answer when she asked why exactly Richard wanted to kill her. And was the man that patrolled the garden at night there to keep Richard out, or to keep her in?
Outwardly she was still the same, but inside she was beginning to doubt everything and everyone. Only Timmy could be trusted. That night in her
bedroom she sat in front of her window and observed the guard. He sat in a chair and every fifteen minutes he walked around the house. Even to Theressa that did not seem like a very watertight protection. Anyone who watched the guard's routine for an hour could slip in unnoticed. When the guard shone his flashlight at a window and checked if it was closed, she knew. He was there to keep her in. She would never be able to climb out of a window with Timmy and reach the wall in the time that it took the guard to circle the house. After the other shock, this shock was not as great. But why? She did not understand.
Theressa lay in bed and thought again. There had to be a way out if she was clever. But she could not be rash. It had to be prepared very well so that Agnes and the two men would not get suspicious. She hated to think what would happen if they became suspicious of her. Maybe they would lock her door or tie her up. Where she would go if she escaped, she did not know. She did not know anything anymore. She could not go to Richard or anyone she knew. These people seemed to have been aware of everything in her life -- they even had keys to her house, so they would know if she went to friends. Not that her friends would be able to help. It would just be herself and Timmy, and she cried, not knowing if she could do it on her own.
"Have you got a picture of her so we can have posters made?" DI Jackson asked Yates as he was concluding a statement.
"No?" Jackson raised his eyebrows.
"And I'd rather you didn't make any posters," Yates said gruffly.
"Mr. Yates. Posters will alert people to her disappearance and maybe help us locate her sooner," Jackson explained patiently. "So, may we have a good picture of your wife?"
"I don't have one."
"How come you don't have any pictures of your wife?"
"I just don't."
Richard Yates had had to give several statements at the police station, but not to Walter, since Miller had assigned the case to Jackson. He had tried to intercept Richard when he left the building, but Richard had brushed him off and said he was in a hurry, as if he had not wanted to speak to Walter.
"What do you think?" he asked Jackson. "He's an old friend."
"Hmm...he says he hasn't got a clue, but they all do, don't they? He says she wasn't having an affair, so that rules out the possibility of her running off with a lover. Unless you know something he didn't?"
"Not about her, no."
"He's not telling the truth," said Jackson.
"Why wouldn't he? He's innocent."
"Something is not right. He doesn't even have pictures of his wife, so we haven't got a clue what she looks like, except that Yates thinks she's pretty. Is she?"
Somewhere a man smiled as he thought of his own excellent plan. It would work, he knew it. He passed a mailbox and quickly posted a letter. There was nothing remarkable about it all -- many men had posted letters here, and many more would follow after him, but there was something about him that the other men would not have in this weather: he was wearing gloves.
"Well, Walter," Jackson sneered a day later. "It looks like your friend Yates isn't so innocent after all. I sent Ferguson to talk to his colleagues this morning. He lied. The secretary at his office states he most definitely went home during his lunch break on Tuesday, when he told us that he stayed away all day until six o'clock. And we haven't even questioned the neighbors yet."
"That doesn't prove anything," Walter said calmly, trying to hide his surprise. He wondered why Richard had lied.
"It proves he can lie," said Jackson optimistically. "And I'm going to find out the reason why he lied too."
He visited Yates when he was at work, much to everybody's delight. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened there, and policemen coming in for questioning twice a day was extremely interesting.
"Miss Evans says you went home at lunchtime on Tuesday," Jackson said when he was seated in Yates's office and Miss Evans had brought them some coffee. "While you said you didn't go home till after work."
Yates's gaze did not waver. "I did not think it was important," he said evenly.
"Why did you go home?"
"I'd forgotten a disk. I'd been working on some files the night before. So I went home to collect it. I often take work home so I can work at night."
"Why not? I have deadlines."
"Was your wife still there when you came back?"
"No, she was not."
"Did that not worry you?"
Yates shook his head. "No, I didn't order her to stay home, did I?"
"Miss Evans also said there was a marked difference in your behavior when you came back to the office."
"I don't recall it." Yates spoke just as evenly, but he narrowed his eyes for a second.
"She thought you were upset."
"I don't remember."
"Did you dispose of your wife during your lunch hour, Mr. Yates?"
"Why did you not tell us you went home?"
Yates sighed. "Like I said. I didn't think it was important."
"How long did you stay there?"
"I don't remember. Can't you ask Miss Evans?" he said sarcastically.
Walter had been called into Superintendent Miller's office. "Jackson's busy here, so I want you to go to Lord and Lady Faye and see if you can get hold of a picture of Lady Theressa. Lord Faye has been here," said Miller, very impressed by titles as always. "He thinks the husband is behind all this and he ordered me to nail him as soon as possible or else he'll pull some strings. I don't want to have any strings pulled. Anyway, tell them we're working on it and keep him friendly."
The family consisted of the parents and a younger sister named Noelle. They looked exactly like what Walter had expected them to look like. An aristocratic-looking gentleman with gray hair, an ageless unnatural redhead with a pearl necklace and a dark-haired girl of about twenty with her sunglasses in her hair instead of on her nose.
"None of this would have happened if she had married Rufus!" Lord Faye said angrily, as he led Walter into a sitting room. Walter thought it wisest not to mention that he was a friend of his son-in-law's. They did not seem too fond of Richard at the moment.
"Dear Rufus," Lady Faye said pensively. "He was very fond of Terry, too."
"He would have given her the life she deserved!" said Lord Faye.
"Who is Rufus?" Walter asked. It surprised him that they spoke about Theressa in the past tense, as if they had given her up already.
"Rufus Terence. He's a polo friend of mine. Excellent chap."
Terry Terence sounded awful, and Walter was glad that she had not married the man.
"The Terences are Old Money, of course, and those Yateses are simply No Money," said Lady Faye. "We did not spend so much money educating our girl and then see her having to take the bus. We even had to buy her a car!"
"Educating?" Walter asked. He thought Theressa had not had any education worth mentioning. He had always assumed that she did not work because she had not learnt to do anything.
"Yes, we sent her to the best schools. She's been to an excellent boarding school here, and then she spent two years at a very good school in Switzerland to learn French and German. And then she met that young man and married him."
"I like him," said Noelle. "He dresses well and he's cute. You can take him to Ricky's without people staring. If he'd been a doctor, he'd have been perfect."
"Was there ever a point when there was talk of her marrying Mr. Terence?" Walter asked.
"Of course! There was always talk of her marrying someone or other," cried Noelle. "They were all dying to marry her! I wish that would happen to me one day."
"Not in so many words, no," said Lord Faye, "but Millicent and I hoped -- we hoped that something would come of it, because it would have been perfect for her. He's from a very good family and she would have been able to move in the same circles. That would have been quite perfect."
His wife nodded. "But then he went to Africa and her friends all got engaged and Terry met this young man -- whom I found very suitable at the time before I knew he was not quite well -- and she married him."
"Not quite well?" Walter repeated.
"Of course he's not quite well in the head. Only think of what he has done!"
"We don't know what has happened to your daughter, Lady Faye, so we can't say he had anything to do with it."
It was all clear to Lady Faye, however. "There is no doubt in my mind! He wanted to get rid of my darling Terry and my darling Timmy."
"Timmy is a doll," Noelle said affectionately. "He's so sweet! He'll let you change his clothes ten times a day without crying and he simply adores wearing baseball caps. And Terry and Timmy make such a pretty picture! Like they stepped out of a magazine."
It was remarkable that he had never heard Richard say anything other than 'Theressa and Timothy' when her closest relatives all seemed to call them 'Terry and Timmy.' "Speaking of pictures," said Walter. "Have you got a picture of your daughter for the police?"
"But of course," Lady Faye said helpfully, and handed him a few silver-framed pictures. She pointed. "This is my favorite. She bought this dress in Paris. We often fly to Paris, you see."
It was a useless picture, since Theressa was wearing sunglasses. He laid it aside and looked at the next one. It was one of a pretty girl in a bed holding a baby, but she was smiling at something to her right, so it was not a very useful picture either.
"This one was taken at the private clinic where she had the baby. I don't really trust hospitals. Everybody goes there so they can't be good. We tried to explain this to him, but he did not want Terry to go to a private clinic -- he said it was nonsense -- and in the end Terry had to beg him on her knees." She did not specify what Theressa had had to beg for. "But it didn't come out quite well."
"The baby?" Walter was puzzled. He had seen Timothy several times and there had never seemed anything wrong with him.
"No, the picture. You hardly see anything of her nightgown. But," Lady Faye apologized. "It is a good shot of Timmy."
Walter began to think that he could forgive Richard for doing something to his wife if Theressa was anything like her mother. "Don't you have any pictures of her face?" he asked. There was no point in distributing pictures of her night-gown or her Parisian dress.
"Well, I'm not sure. There is a whole drawer of bad pictures that Noelle made. We usually have them done by professionals, but Noelle likes to play about with a camera. You are welcome to look through those. I really don't feel up to sorting them out right now."
Richard turned off his computer at home. He really could not concentrate and the letters were beginning to dance before his eyes from lack of sleep. The past three days he had not been able to do any work at all, and the deadline for his project was fast approaching. The other company would not care about whatever personal trouble he was going through. He knew they were ruthless. "Another problem," he muttered wearily. One of these days he was likely going to be fired, because everybody suspected him of doing something to Theressa. He felt it very clearly. And the police too. They had found out he had not told the truth, and he still was not telling the truth. How could he?
Theressa had found out that the two men were called Sam and Joe. She did not like them very much, because they were always ogling her. Neither they nor Agnes ever made much effort to talk to her. They left her alone most of the time, although they always seemed to know exactly where she was, so there was no opportunity to flee. She found it more and more stifling to be there, because of Agnes' less and less friendly warnings that Richard was dangerous whenever Theressa asked her how much longer it was going to take. There was nothing to do but to watch television.
Agnes and Sam had gone shopping and they had left Joe in charge of guarding Theressa. She put Timmy down on the kitchen table to change his nappy. She ignored Joe, who was watching her, leaning against the wall. He lit a cigarette.
"I wish you wouldn't smoke," Theressa said irritably. "It's bad for Timmy."
Joe snickered. "Bad for Timmy!"
"And bad for me."
"Bad for you? I'll give you something that's good for you then." He stubbed out his cigarette and advanced slowly. He had at least an hour and a half before the others would come back and he was determined to make the most of it.
Theressa was wiping Timmy's bottom when she felt a hand slide around her waist. She froze. Do something! Don't let this happen! "Get your hands off me!" she snapped. "I'm married!"
"To a psycho." Joe's hand moved upwards. "He's a _____ loser."
Theressa grabbed the dirty nappy, turned, and shoved it into his face. "Don't you dare speak about him like that!"
"You _____!" he screamed in disgust. "You ____ _____!"
Oh God! I've done it now. I must do something. Quickly. To stop him from killing Timmy and me. She jumped aside when he lunged at her and looked for any object that she could defend herself with. All the tennis she had played in school now paid off as she delivered a powerful double-handed backhand to Joe's head with a frying pan. Joe crashed onto the floor. "Oh my God!" Theressa gasped. "I killed him," she said hysterically. "Timmy, I killed him!" She looked at Timmy kicking his legs on the table, unaware of everything. Joe might do something to Timmy when he came to. If he came to. "We have to go. I have to get you out of here." With trembling fingers she dressed him, all the time glancing at Joe to make sure he really stayed down.
Theressa ran upstairs to her bedroom, strapped Timmy into his portable car seat, and packed all their belongings. "Don't let Joe wake up! Please! Don't!" she whispered. Where would she go? She had no idea, but this was her only chance of escaping. Before she went out the door, she looked around to see what else she could take. Suddenly she realized that she did not have any money and no coat. There was a coat hanging beside the door, and she pulled it on, even it belonged to Joe. There was a wallet in one of the pockets and a quick inspection revealed that it contained money. "Let's go, Timmy," she said briskly, and walked out the front door.
Walking through the fields with a bag and a baby did not appeal to her, and therefore she headed for the direction in which she had seen buses from an upstairs window. Buses meant that she could get away from here. The bus stop was not far, and she saw that the next bus would arrive in ten minutes, and those ten minutes were pure agony. She kept expecting Joe to come running towards her to take revenge, or to see the car with the others pull up beside her. Somehow she did not think they would be very pleased or gentle with her. The hands on her watch seemed to move especially slowly and she willed them to go faster, but they refused. The sight of the bus finally approaching was such a relief that she almost cried.
Theressa paid for her fare to the final stop, hoping there would be a train or another bus to take her out of there. At last she could relax for a while, and her heartbeat returned to almost its normal level. She counted Joe's money. There was quite a lot of it and it should easily take her to where she wanted to go, only she did not know where that was. Her hands dug into the coat pockets while she was thinking and her fingers curled around a set of keys. She took them out to look at them, and received a shock.
What were Richard's keys doing in Joe's pocket?
And they were definitely Richard's keys. The key ring had the initials RY and she had seen it before. Was he involved in all of this? Just when she was beginning to think that he had nothing to do with all of this, she had to find his key ring.
Then she remembered that he had lost them a while ago. Where was it again? Oh yes, at her parents' garden party. He had lost his keys and they had had to take a taxi home. Did he lie? Surely he didn't! Richard had had to go back to her parents the day after to pick up the car and Theressa knew he would never do so voluntarily. If he had wanted to stage the loss of his keys, he would have had so many other less annoying opportunities. He wouldn't have done it this way. I know he hates going to my parents. Or did he lose them there on purpose so I wouldn't think it was on purpose?
It was all very confusing. But the fact remained that it was still strange that his keys were in Joe's pocket. There must be a connection somewhere.
At the end of the line Theressa got off the bus and stood on the pavement a little forlornly. She did not know where to go or what to do and she was hungry. Automatically she started walking in the direction everybody else walked in. Her bag was heavy and Timmy's baby seat was getting heavier too with every step. She could not walk like this for miles and miles. In a shop window she saw various baby buggies and prams. "Shall we get you some wheels, Timmy?"
When she came out of the shop pushing Timmy in his pram and his baby seat and her bag tucked away under it, she realized that there was not very much of Joe's money left. Enough to go to London, but not enough get a place to sleep, certainly. She would have to stay here. Or I could call somebody, but whom? Is there anybody who's absolutely above suspicion? Doesn't Richard have a friend who's with the police? I could call him, but he would maybe tell Richard. No, he wouldn't. He couldn't. He's with the police and he couldn't put me in the way of a killer, could he?
The shops were alluring, and Theressa tore her gaze away with difficulty. There was so much she needed to buy, but perhaps now was not the right moment. "Don't take more than you can carry," she repeated what Richard had once said to her. "And pay for," she added wryly. To sit down and relax without having to worry about Agnes, Sam or Joe, that was what she wanted. She looked at the shop windows and saw swimsuits on display. Somewhere they would never look for her. Somewhere a person on the run would never go -- a place it was very normal to go to with a baby and stay there for a few hours, and out of sight too: a swimming pool. Theressa took Timmy to buy a swimsuit. After swimming, Theressa dialed Information from the public phone at the pool for Walter's number.
Walter departed with two bags of pictures. At home he cleared the table and emptied the bags. "What's all that?" his wife Mary asked curiously.
"I'm looking for pictures of Theressa. Richard doesn't seem to have any and her mother only has useless pictures of her."
"Hmm," said Mary. "And you brought those useless pictures here to...?"
"These are Noelle's."
"Her sister. There might be something useful among them, especially since Lady Faye and I don't quite agree on what makes a picture useless."
"Aha. I can't even make out what is in these pictures half the time," said Mary. "Looks like Noelle fell every time she aimed the camera. But this one is interesting." She pulled out a picture of an embracing couple. "This is Richard and...?"
Walter looked over her shoulder. "I can't really make that out. If that's not Theressa, I'm going to make it disappear. I don't think he needs extra complications."
"You're right. Anyway, it's probably Theressa after all. Why else would her sister have taken it?" Mary said reasonably. "Good thing he didn't send Jackson over for those pictures. Jackson would have had his little theory ready. Why don't you go over and see how Richard's doing? Maybe he wants to have dinner here?"
Richard prepared his dinner mechanically. He caught himself doing it the way Theressa liked it. Or the way other people had told Theressa how she should like it. She did not ever think on her own, although she claimed she did, because no one ever told her to go shopping. And that was always the end of the discussion.
The doorbell rang and he answered. It was Walter. "Are you okay?" Richard nodded. "You don't look it."
"I'm alright. Really."
"Do you want to come over and have dinner with us?" Walter offered.
And then he'll ask me to confide in him and I can't, Richard thought. "I'm already making dinner," he answered politely.
"And I really can't persuade you?"
"No, thank you. I'm alright." If I tell you, they will die!
"Isn't there anyone you could call to stay with you?"
"I wish I could do more for you." Walter shrugged and left. His friend was too cool. Either he was hiding that he cared, or that he did not care at all. He found it all very puzzling as he walked home. Then he realized that he was in the police and not merely a friend, and he wondered if Richard knew more, things that he did not want the police to know. But why had he reported them missing then? Or had somebody else missed them? That friend of Theressa's who had called Richard that Theressa had not come, maybe. It was not his case, but he would go and ask her if she had talked to Richard about going to the police. If she had forced Richard to report, it would throw a whole different light on the case.
"He didn't want to come?" Mary asked.
"No. He keeps saying he's alright, but he looks rather bad." The phone rang and he answered. "Hello?"
Hello? Can you be overheard? A girl asked anxiously.
"Just by Mary." He gave Mary a puzzled look. "Who is this?"
Whatever you do, don't repeat my name! It's Theressa.
Walter was stunned. Theressa? And she sounded very frightened. He was glad to hear she was still alive. "Where are you? What happened?"
Can I trust you? Will you promise not to tell Richard about this call?
He wondered why Richard could not know. "I promise."
I can't tell you anything right now, but could you come and get me and hide me somewhere safe? I've run out of money because I bought a new pram.
Walter groaned. This was all because Theressa was out of money? "Where are you? Don't you know Richard is suspected of making you disappear?"
Oh my God! I see them. They're across the street and they're coming this way! Must go.
Walter stared at the receiver. She had sounded even more frightened before she had hung up. "Who are they?" he said out loud.
"Was that Theressa?" Mary asked incredulously. "She's not missing?"
"She's being pursued by them, whoever they may be. If they exist at all. She sounded a little paranoid."
"Where is she?"
"Across the street from them. That's all I know. And she bought a new pram, so she must have been in a reasonably big town."
"So Richard has nothing to do with it?"
"I don't know. I'm not allowed to tell him. I don't like it one bit. I think she's gone mad, and she's got the baby with her, and no money. This is going to end in disaster; I just know it."
"Will you tell Richard she called?" Mary asked.
"No," said Walter. "He's not exactly open with me either. Not until I know he's got absolutely nothing to do with it."
Agnes and Sam had come back to the house and found Joe on the kitchen floor with the contents of Timmy's nappy still on his face. "Where is she?" Agnes yelled. "I bet she's gone! Joe!"
Sam checked Joe's pulse. "He's dead! The _____ ______ killed him with a bloody nappy!"
A quick search revealed that Theressa and Timmy were no longer on the premises. "We're done for!" Agnes wailed. "He's going to kill us for losing her."
"Then let's not tell him," Sam suggested. "He only talks to us over the phone anyway. He'll never know."
"And what about Joe?"
"We'll think of that later. She can't be far off! She's on foot and she's got that bloody baby to carry. Let's go and look for her."
Sam and Agnes drove around, but there was no sign of Theressa. And old lady was walking along the road with shopping bag. "Have you seen a girl with a baby?" Agnes yelled.
"Yes, there was one that went on the bus with me. All the way to Allenfield. A lovely baby --" The old lady watched in surprise as they took off without saying as much as thank you.
The doorbell rang again. "Richard, old chap, can I have a word?" Adams, his boss, asked as he eyed him with a sympathetic expression.
Richard let him in.
"I thought it would be more personal to tell you this at home. You know, with all this hassle, we thought it would be better if you stayed home for a while. I've already engaged an undergraduate to fill up the gaps. Just till everything is sorted out, you know, but all this is straining you too much, I'm sure, and our projects have deadlines and you haven't made any progress in the last few days. We can't bear to lose those assignments."
Richard stared. So this is how it feels to be sacked. Adams may say it temporary, but he'll find a way to get rid of me. Malfunctioning. Doesn't fit into the group. Whatever. "Thanks, I needed the time to properly dispose of the bodies. I assure you that I'll be alright once I've taken care of that," he said coldly.
Adams' expression was priceless. He stumbled to his feet. "You're kidding, right?" He did not wait for an answer. "Well, I must go. See you around."
"Where did she go?" Sam asked Agnes. They had been following a girl -- the wrong girl -- with a baby, but the girl had entered the pool and disappeared.
"Let's ask." Agnes walked up to the cashier. "Did you see a girl carrying a baby just now?"
"Sorry, no. Just a girl with a baby in a pram."
"No, that's not the one we're looking for. Are you sure you didn't see a girl carrying a baby in one of those car seats?"
"Not just now, no."
"Damn," Agnes said. She turned to Sam. "Do you think she went home?"
"Nah. She wouldn't be that stupid, would she? After you telling her that her old man wants to do her in?"
"Sam!" Agnes hushed him. "Jeez! Don't say things like that out loud, you idiot!"
"Well, like I said," said Sam, who had said no such thing. "We'd better wonder about what to do with old Joe, rather than waste time going back to her house. She won't go there."
Theressa was glad for the exhibition of pictures in the middle of the hall. She was hidden from anyone coming in. She saw Sam and Agnes walk into the restaurant searchingly, and then they walked up to the cashier. Quickly she wheeled Timmy outside and blessed the rain, because now she could walk fast without attracting attention.
While Sam and Agnes were discussing what to do, Theressa pushed Timmy along the streets, following the signs towards the railway station. She bought a ticket with the last money she had left. What remained would be just about enough to buy a cappuccino, but she did not really feel like drinking one. She would go to her house, wait until Richard was asleep and then look for her wallet. As soon as she had that, she could move on, but without money she could not do anything. Perhaps it had been a good thing after all that Joe had had Richard's keys. If she had not had those, she would have had to break in.
It was dark when the train slowed down at the station in her hometown, which was to Theressa's advantage. She did not know if anyone had heard about her disappearance or not, but if friends saw her they might start asking questions she did not want to answer. Timmy was beginning to fret, which meant that he was hungry, but it was impossible to feed him by the roadside. She hoped he could wait.
Adams had left and Richard sat staring into space. There was nothing he could do about it. Nothing. Or else... The thought chilled him. "No!" he exclaimed. He was startled by the sound of his own voice. There was no way he could get out of this situation, unless he could somehow discover who was doing this to him. Because it was to him, he was sure of it. Not to Theressa, not to Timmy. He could not win either way -- if he did what he was ordered to do, Theressa and Timmy would be safe, but what would happen to him? . If he did not do what he was ordered to do -- no! Richard could not think of that. He could not let that happen. And now his dinner was burnt too. I need to talk to somebody or I'll go insane! He picked up the phone.
"Hello?" Walter asked after it had only rung once, as if he had been expecting his call.
"It's me. Does your offer still stand?" Richard asked wearily. "I burnt my dinner."
"Richard? Umm...yes, of course. I'll pick you up in a minute. It's pouring outside."
"Oh," said Richard, who had not noticed. "No!" he said hastily. "Don't pick me up. I can't be seen going to you. I mean, I don't know if anyone's watching, but if they are, it would be best if they didn't see me go."
"I can't tell you."
"So, are you going to walk?"
"I'll take the car and see if no one is following me."
"Sure," said Walter, mystified. "Who'd be following you?"
"I don't know." He heard Walter exchange a few words with Mary.
"Mary asks why you don't come to stay with us for a few nights."
Richard was silent while he thought of it. He could not get any less sleep than he was getting now, and here he was only driving himself insane. There was too much of Theressa in this house and to see all that reminding him that she might never come back was horrible. He would rather have her spout unoriginal ideas than not have her at all. This revelation shook him a little, because lately he had been telling himself the opposite. Walter's voice broke through his thoughts. "Yes, I'm still here. I'll come."
It was dark and raining, so nobody was outside and nobody could see her. The passage behind the houses was not used very much anyway, except by children and people walking their dogs, or other people who left their houses through the back door. But in this weather everyone would be inside. It was quite frightening to walk here all alone with the creepy shadows and the rain clattering down on the sheds. Theressa unlocked the back gate carefully, looking around herself. The house was dark. Was Richard not at home? She left the pram under the little overhang while she went to the back door and looked in. Richard really did not seem to be home. It was not like him to be in bed already at this hour, and he would not sit in front of the telly in the dark. Besides, there was no bluish light to be seen, so the telly was not on. Would he come back later? She still did not know if he wanted to kill her or not, but if he came home unexpectedly and tried anything, she would hit him.
She unlocked the door and stepped inside. It smelled like he had burnt his dinner, so would he have gone out to eat somewhere? Since she was not supposed to be here, it would be wisest not to turn on any lights and to close the curtains. She checked, but they were already closed. Theressa fumbled her way to where they kept a flashlight. She shone it around. Yes, he had burnt his dinner alright. Why? He never did that. His coat was not there. Quietly she went upstairs and noticed he had taken his toiletries. He must be spending the night somewhere else. That meant she and Timmy could stay here this night, and then they would find another place tomorrow. She was too wet and tired to do so right now, and Timmy would be hungry. Theressa was hungry herself too. She quickly brought Timmy inside. He began to cry when she lifted him out of the pram. "Yes, yes. I know," she soothed, as she shone around with her flashlight in search of something to eat that would not take very long to prepare. Timmy would not allow her to prepare a full meal. "I know you are hungry, Timmy, but Mummy is hungry too. Ha! Looks like Daddy didn't eat his packed lunch today."
Theressa sat in the dark living room with Timmy. The phone rang and she started. It rang for a very long time and she stared transfixed in its direction. Finally it switched to the answering machine.
"Was wondering if you'd heard anything from Theressa, old boy. I'm just as worried as you are, I'll bet. Well, you know my number in case you want to talk about it some time. Call me!"
She recognized the voice. It was Rufus. But he is a friend of Dad's and not of Richard's! Why would he call Richard? Too many things were puzzling these days. She was frightened by another call a few minutes after that, but this caller hung up as soon as he or she heard the message on the answering machine.
When Timmy had been fed she carried him upstairs to his own bedroom. She put him to bed and threw his clothes with the rest of the dirty clothes in the basket in the bathroom. It was as she had expected. Richard had not looked in there. All his own dirty clothes were still in their bedroom, so he would not notice if more had been added in the bathroom.
Theressa had trouble falling asleep and it seemed as if she was awake all the time. It was frightening to be there alone, even if she had bolted the back door. It was still raining outside and there were lots of sounds that scared her. She had not dared to close the window, fearing that somebody might notice it from the outside.
Suddenly there was a splintering sound above the sound of the wind and rain. Theressa sat up straight and her heart beat wildly. It had come from outside and she crept to the window to look out. In the moonlight she could see the back gate, which was actually a wooden door in a wall, blowing open and closed in the wind. Somebody had entered the garden by force. She gasped and bit her lip. Whoever it was would be trying the back door now. Even if they had a key it would be bolted so that gave her a little time. She ran back to the bed and pulled the covers straight as if nobody had slept in the bed, and then to Timmy's room where she did the same thing. With Timmy on her arm she climbed the stairs to the attic. Timmy, Timmy, please be quiet, she prayed. Fortunately Timmy was fast asleep.
She hid herself behind a rack of clothes, pulling an old coat around them to keep warm. Here in the attic there were even more sounds and it would even be frightening without a burglar in the house. Theressa was sure her heartbeat was audible on the ground floor. It went even louder when she first heard a clattering and a little after that footsteps ascend the stairs to the first floor. It felt as if the intruder knew exactly where she was and she expected him to come up the creaking stairs any second now. But he did not. Timmy never slept soundlessly and she tensed, keeping Timmy's breathing and other little sounds under the coat as much as possible. She heard him descend the stairs after a minute and breathed a little more easily. Apparently he had only come up to see whether there really was not anybody in the house. She could not hear him anymore now, but he still would not be gone.
Theressa woke up again feeling very stiff and sore when Timmy began to stir. He was hungry again. She could not see her watch behind the clothes rack and she wondered if the intruder was still in the house. If she had fallen asleep, it must have been a long time since he had broken in and he would most likely be gone. She did not take any chances, however, and fed Timmy in the attic before he could start to cry, all the while straining her ears for sounds from below. She did not hear anything.
At last she got to her feet and looked at her watch by the light that came in through the small window in the roof. It had been two hours ago that she had come up here. Unless the intruder was doing a very thorough search, he would be gone. As silently as the creaking stairs would allow it, she crept down. Still she could not hear anything. From her bedroom window she could see that the back gate was no longer clattering. It was now open, as if someone had attached it to the little hook that was there to keep it open. Theressa put Timmy back into his bed and sat down to think.
It was still too scary to venture downstairs if she could not be sure that the intruder was gone. Perhaps there had been several. Anyway, she had to leave before Richard would return. Maybe he would not come back today, but she could not count on that. She had to pack. Silently she packed her things again. She had more time to think of what to take than the first time, but she noticed that she no longer cared if her outfit and Timmy's matched. She had felt they clashed terribly the first day of her kidnap and she would not have dared to visit her friends if she was dressed in sports clothes and Timmy in another style, but now that seemed all so trivial. When she finally gathered enough courage to go downstairs she did so step by step, pausing for at least a minute between steps.
Theressa was not going to stay in this house much longer. She had already located her wallet and car keys the night before and thrown them in the pram so she would not forget them. She put Timmy in it too, and closed her eyes. Here we go, she breathed, and pushed open the door to the kitchen, not going into the living room and thus not seeing the nice present that had been left there by the intruder. The kitchen was empty and she sighed a huge sigh of relief. The window over the sink had been forced open and several things had dropped into the sink. That must have been the clattering she had heard. Quickly she unbolted the back door, wheeled Timmy out, and closed it behind her.
Don't let him be waiting for me in the shadows! she thought as she made her way to the back gate. It was getting lighter and when she peered out cautiously she could not see anything in either direction. At both ends she saw a street. Theressa took the direction she knew her car to be in and almost ran the distance, as much as that was possible pushing a pram. Her car was still where she had parked it last week, around the corner from her own street. There was only one parking space in front of the house, and Richard usually parked there. It would be too early for anyone to see her take the car. She briefly paused to think that it might alert everybody to her return, but then she thought that the burglar might have stolen her car keys just as easily. Theoretically it would not have to be her who took the car. She secured Timmy in his seat and folded up the pram so it would fit into the car. "Yes, I have to take it," she told herself as she struggled with it. Timmy would be able to sleep in it. "Hurry," she told herself. One never knew if the burglar might return while she was folding it up.
Finally it was done and she quickly got into the car and locked all doors. "We're in, Timmy," she said and slumped back into her seat for a brief moment. She started the car, wincing at the noise it made, and drove off, hoping that no one had seen her. "Where do we go?" Now that it was safe to talk out loud, she could not help doing it. She had had to stay silent for too long. "Boo boo!" she said to Timmy. "Do you know what we forgot? The radio. We're safe and I'm actually whining about the stupid radio! Oh gosh. Wait! Mummy might have forgotten to take it out of the car. That happens. A lot." She felt under her seat. "Yeah! Now we have music too." She put on a station Timmy would like and drove on, as far away as possible. "Scotland, Timmy?"
Richard entered Walter's house through the back door and nodded to them by way of greeting. "You've got to tell me what this is all about," Walter said. "Entering through the back door like you have something to hide."
"Now, Walter," Mary said gently. "Let him eat first. "After dinner you may question him."
Richard tried to smile at her but he could not manage more than a poor imitation of it. He ate his dinner in silence, wondering what questions Walter was going to ask him and how much he could reveal. "Thank you," he said after he had eaten half of what he usually ate. "Whoever made this."
"You're welcome. Coffee?" Mary asked. She knew Walter could barely contain his curiosity, but he would have to wait just a while longer before he could start his interrogation. They had talked about it before Richard arrived, naturally, so she knew how curious he was.
Richard nodded and sat down. Walter had closed the curtains and he was glad for it, but at the same time he worried about becoming too paranoid.
"Could Theressa have gone shopping and then felt guilty about spending all her money, and then run off?" Walter jumped right into the middle of things. He had to start somewhere.
"Do you mean it would not happen, or it did not happen?"
"It did not happen. Why do you ask?"
"How do you know it did not happen? How do you know she did not run off because she was afraid of your disapproval? How do you know she did not run off with another man?" Perhaps cruelty would achieve something.
Richard looked away. "Because. I know."
"You know what happened? Don't tell me you had anything to do with it?" Walter was aghast.
"Would you mind specifying your answers?" Walter asked in an exasperated voice.
"I had nothing to do with it," Richard said earnestly. "I know this Jackson fellow thinks I buried them in the garden or something, but I swear I had nothing to do with it."
"Did she run away by herself?" Mary asked.
"No," Richard shook his head, and when he saw an exasperated look cross his friend's face again, he quickly added, "I know she did not go voluntarily. I...I...received a note." There. He had said it. He had possibly condemned Theressa and Timothy to death just now, and he looked down at his hands.
Walter and Mary were silent. "Do you still have the note?" Walter asked finally.
Richard pulled it out of his pocket with unsteady hands and handed it to him. "There are two of them. They left one when they took -- on Tuesday. I got the other one in the post."
If you value your wife and son alive, do not contact the police. Do not contact anyone. Their life depends on your co-operation. You shall be contacted soon. A reminder: you shall see them back anyhow, but if you contact the police you shall receive them in small parts instead of in one piece.
They are still alive. Do not cause their deaths. You shall see them back as soon as you have killed three people. This assignment will be specified in further instructions.
Walter read them carefully, taking care not to touch them too much. "I suppose your prints are all over them?" he asked, letting Mary read them as well.
Mary gasped. "This is too cruel!"
"I don't see the point," Walter said bluntly. "I would have understood a demand for money, but this?"
"Someone is out to get me," Richard said.
"Who? Have you got any enemies?"
"Not that I know of. But think of it. I have to kill people to get them back! Kill! I can't kill people. And how am I going to get away with triple murder? It's impossible!"
"Have you decided yet?" Mary asked. "Will you do what they ask?"
"I don't know. I truly don't know."
"Oh come on! You can't really be considering to kill off three people, can you?" Walter asked incredulously.
"What would you do if they had taken Mary?" Richard snapped.
"I would do whatever they asked."
"So why do you ask me?"
"But that --" Walter broke off. He was going to say that was different, because he loved Mary.
"You might as well say it out loud, Walter. I know what you were getting at anyway," Richard said in an irritated tone. "Do you think I'm unfeeling enough not to care if they're returned to me 'in small parts' -- just imagine T-T-Timothy in small parts -- Timmy! I'm going to throw up!" he rose and left the room with an agonized expression.
Mary looked at Walter. "Did you have to do that?"
Walter said nothing and waited for Richard to return. He was certain now that Richard would never involve Timmy if he had any grudges against Theressa. "Theressa escaped," he said.
"How do you know?" Richard stared at him.
"She called me, but our call was interrupted because there was somebody after her. She might have been caught again," he warned. "I hope not."
"Why are you only telling me now? Why did she call you and not me!" Richard exclaimed, a mixture of hurt and incomprehension on his face. "Why? She must not trust me then. Does she think I had something to do with it? What a mess," he choked with his face in his hands. "I would never --"
"I know that. Even if you think you shouldn't have married her, you would not do this," Walter said. "But other people don't know you as well as I do."
Richard raised his head. "What do you mean, even if I think I shouldn't have married her?" he said sharply.
"You don't seem so very well suited. I've always wondered why you married her," Walter admitted. "But I always took it to be one of life's little mysteries."
"I married her, basically, because she thought it would be trendy to have a husband," Richard said with a faint smile. "I suppose marriage was 'in' at the time. Just like a baby was 'in' a while later."
"Why would you --" Walter began, shaking his head.
"I loved her." Richard held up his hand when he saw his friend's expression. "Don't ask. I can't explain. I haven't figured it out completely yet. I had always thought I was a fool she had flattered into becoming an accessory, just like Timothy is an accessory, and it was shocking to realize -- but what is happening to her now? Can you do something? Trace the call?" he asked anxiously.
Walter shook his head. "No. Sorry. We're going to have to wait."
"More waiting! I can't take any more waiting!"
The Yates's neighbor had seen the open gate when he went out to walk his dog, and he had seen it had been forced open. He had also seen the open window, and he had gone back home to call up Richard. When he got the answering machine, he rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. Fearing that Richard might be lying dead in his house, he rang the police.
The police arrived shortly, Jackson among them, and broke into the house. "Sir!" an excited constable addressed him. "There's a body in the living room."
And indeed there was. An unknown dead man was lying on the couch as if he had been dumped there.
Walter heard about the discovery as soon as he got to work, but since he was not on the case, he could not interfere and he had to spend his time on his own cases. He did call home to Richard, and told him it would be wise to give a statement before everybody started suspecting him again. Whenever he went for coffee, he nevertheless heard people talk about his friend as the principal suspect.
"Barnes!" Walter stopped the man as he walked past the coffee machine. "What did the neighborhood investigation reveal?"
"An old lady saw two men go into that alley at thirty-four past one. One was drunk and he was called Simon."
"How did she know he was drunk?"
"The other was supporting him."
"Simon might well be our corpse," Walter said shrewdly. "Go on."
"At one past two one man returned and drove off."
"Leaving Simon in Yates's house."
"Mr. Jackson thinks Yates killed a burglar, sir," said Barnes.
"He couldn't have. He was staying in my house. Jackson!" Walter called to Jackson who approached with his coffee cup.
"Yates didn't go anywhere near his house last night after eight o'clock. Didn't he tell you that?"
Jackson laughed. "Of course he told me that. But I hadn't expected him to admit the crime. Look Inspector, I know he's your friend and our friends never do anything criminal, but unless further investigation leads us to a drunk Simon, or a drunk anyone, I'm going to have to keep suspecting Yates."
"Sir," said Barnes, who had been listening eagerly. He felt a little bad for the Inspector's friend. He seemed pretty nice and he did not look like a criminal. "The lady saw more."
"Yes," said Jackson. "This lady spent the whole night looking out at the street with a clock by her side. I wish she'd also know one car from another. That would be more helpful."
"What did she see?" Walter demanded.
"She saw another car drive off at five past four."
"That's a bit early to go to work. Who was in it?"
"Unfortunately she had just come back from the loo, so she missed that," Barnes chuckled.
"What did the next door neighbors say?" Walter asked.
"His toilet flushed at half past nine. Which couldn't have happened since he was supposed to be at your house since eight, Inspector, but he had no explanation for that either. A girl next door thought she heard some noise at around a quarter to two."
"That would fit in with the delivery of Simon," Walter said quickly. "Has he been identified yet? Was anything else out of the ordinary in the house?"
"We had Yates inspect the house. There was a coat possibly belonging to the dead man. Plus somebody ate Yates's packed lunch, stole his wife's car keys and wallet and her car."
"Possibly. That would mean there were two burglars, though, if your assumption about Simon being a corpse is correct," said Jackson. "But how could the second burglar know where Mrs. Yates parked her car?"
Barnes coughed. "May I suggest something, sir?" he continued when Jackson nodded. "It could be that there were two drunk burglars at two o'clock and he killed one of them --"
"How?" Walter interrupted.
"He was hit over the head with a blunt object. He killed one burglar and the other took off with Mrs. Yates's keys. The burglar drove his own car home and then walked back to pick up Mrs. Yates's car, because the dead man was supposed to have done that if he had not been killed."
"Except that the man was killed much earlier than two o'clock. The doctor tells me he'd been dead for almost a day, and not for only a few hours," said Jackson.
"So he was dumped there?" Walter asked.
"Possibly. We'd have to ask Yates what he did yesterday. Maybe he killed him there yesterday morning. It would explain why he chose to spend the evening with you rather than with a corpse. And the burglars were scared off by the body."
Walter nodded and slowly walked back to his office with his coffee cup. If there had not been a burglar at a quarter to two, he would have assumed that Theressa had returned home and flushed the toilet and then driven off in her own car at four. Who else would only take her wallet and car keys and leave everything else of value in the house? But what to do with the burglar? And the corpse? Because it seemed pretty obvious to him that somebody had dumped a corpse in Richard's living room. What if Theressa had found the corpse and ran? But that would mean she was safe. She had not been taken by the burglar, because he had left alone. Walter sipped his coffee. He would have to take Richard there and go over the house once again to see if there were any traces of Theressa's having been there. Of course Jackson would not have considered that at all. He assumed Theressa was dead. How Jackson would explain a burglar eating a packed lunch in the middle of the night was a mystery to him, but it would fit in with his theory about Theressa's return.
Theressa left the motorway and booked herself into a motel at the end of the afternoon. She left Timmy in the car while she did so. A woman alone was less conspicuous than a woman with a baby. She paid in advance, saying that she might be leaving very early, and the receptionist told her to drop the key through the mailbox if she did.
Her room was at the back, which was a good thing, because if someone wanted to see where she was going he would have to follow her around the corner, and she would be able to spot him. Nobody followed her though, and she breathed a little easier when she put down Timmy to unlock the door.
Timmy began to cry when she flopped herself on the bed. She hoped she did not have any neighbors. Or rather no neighbors who were in right now, because she would prefer to have neighbors during the night. It was somehow more comfortable to know there was somebody nearby. After Timmy had been taken care of and he was asleep again, she ate the sandwiches she had bought for dinner, being too afraid to venture out of her room.
The next morning nothing had happened and Theressa was feeling more confident now as she drove on north. Suddenly she saw something flashing in her rear view mirror. A police car was signaling her to stop. She pulled up and waited anxiously, one foot poised over the accelerator in case it turned out to be Sam and Agnes. It was not. A uniformed policeman with a red moustache walked towards her side of the car and gestured for her to open her window.
"You are driving a stolen car, Miss -- pardon me, Madam," the man corrected himself when he saw Timmy looking at him from his car seat. "May I see your papers?"
"Stolen?" Theressa frowned. "This is my car."
"This car was reported stolen yesterday morning. May I see your papers?"
Theressa handed him her driver's license. She fumbled in the glove compartment, but she could not find the other papers. Richard must have been driving her car one day. She never took them out and he always did in case they got stolen.
"I don't have them with me," she said fearfully. Was this going to be the end of her escape? The police officer studied her driver's license and showed it to his colleague. They conferred for a while and one walked back to their car. Theressa watched it all dejectedly.
The one policeman came back and nodded to the other. "Are you aware that you've been reported missing, Madam?"
"No. I mean, yes. I suppose so."
"Is that Timothy Yates?" the man indicated the baby.
"We're going to have to take you to the station. My colleague will drive your car and you can drive with me."
"I want to stay with Timmy. Does he drive safely?" Theressa gestured that the other man. "I'd rather drive Timmy myself."
"Madam, we can't allow that."
"Am I refusing to come?" she said angrily. "No! All I want to do is drive myself. Have you ever seen the police drive? They can't drive! They're much too reckless for my baby."
"Madam!" said the exasperated policeman.
"Let me drive! I don't care if one of you sits in the back seat. Please?"
They finally agreed and one of them sat in the back seat to give Theressa directions on how to drive. When they arrived at the police station they took her upstairs, gave her a cup of coffee and one of them went away to make a phone call.
"I phoned Inspector Jackson who's handling your case, Mrs. Yates. He'll be here in a couple of hours. Please make yourself comfortable in the meantime."
Suddenly a thought struck Theressa. What would they do about Richard? "Will you be calling my husband also?"
"Not us, Madam. That's Inspector Jackson's business."
"Who reported me missing, do you know?" she asked.
"I believe it was your husband, Mrs. Yates."
"Richard, I want to you to go over your house with me one more time," said Walter when he came home.
"Are you expecting more dead bodies?"
"No, I just want to check something. Let's go." Walter led Richard towards the back of his house.
"Why are we going round the back?" Richard asked. "What are you doing?"
Walter bent over to study the ground in the alley. "Do you see this?"
"Somebody's been riding here with a bicycle?"
"Not a bicycle. It looks more like a pram."
Walter said nothing and walked on towards the back gate. He studied the ground carefully and seemed satisfied with what he saw, because he smiled.
"More prams?" Richard asked wearily.
"Use your brain, Yates. Who would wheel a pram into your back garden?"
"Theressa? But she didn't take it. It's still there."
"She bought a new one. Open the back door."
Richard opened it. "Why would she buy a new one?"
"Shut up. Where's your lunch box?"
"My lunch box?"
"Didn't you say somebody ate your lunch? Why would a burglar eat your lunch? Had you wondered about that at all? Now try to imagine this. You're on the run, you have a baby with you and you don't know where to go because you've run out of money, so you go home. Fortunately, or unfortunately, your husband is not at home but you're hungry. Maybe it's late, maybe you don't feel like cooking because you don't want him to know you were there, maybe you eat his lunch, and maybe you do lots of other things. And that's what we're here for. She must have changed her clothes." Richard ran upstairs and Walter had trouble keeping up with him. He found him sitting on the edge of the bed.
"She was here," he said. "Her pajamas aren't folded."
That seemed a strange way of knowing that Theressa had been there, but Walter took Richard's word for it. "And Timothy?"
Richard lifted the lid off a basket in Timmy's bedroom. "Yes, he was here. She changed his nappies in here. Why didn't she stay?" He bit his lip. "And where is she now? I didn't know she was capable of sneaking in without a trace. Are you going to tell Jackson? I don't really like him suspecting me. If they find her anywhere, she's probably not going to want to see me. What do you think? Is she afraid of me? Why? Where will she go?"
The sound of the letterbox falling shut attracted their attention. "It's too late for the postman," Richard said with a frown. He ran downstairs and picked up the envelope lying on the mat. "It's another note," he said, turning to Walter. "But how could this be if she escaped?"
"What's in the note?" Walter asked anxiously. "Mind the finger prints!"
Richard opened the letter carefully. "The body was a warning. You went to the police. Worse things will happen if you do more things I forbade you. Friday evening at 8 o'clock precisely you shall pick up a package from a locker at the railway station with the key enclosed in this letter. The package will contain further instructions."
"Doesn't this bloke know that the bird has flown?" Walter asked. "He has no hold over you anymore!"
"Unless he doesn't know," said Richard, whose brain seemed to awaken. He looked at the envelope. "But this was postmarked yesterday, so we still don't know if he's got them or not."
"What do you mean?"
"If he posted this before she escaped, of course he didn't know. He couldn't have got the letter back after he had posted it. If he posted it after she escaped, he might have caught her back before he posted it. We're still no further," he returned to his dejected tone. "Unless Theressa surfaces."
Inspector Jackson arrived three hours later with his sergeant. They were shown into a room where a girl sat holding a crying baby. "Lady Theressa?" His boss had pressed him to use her title, respectful as he was of titles.
The girl nodded and looked at him guardedly as if she did not trust him.
He showed her his identification. "My name is Inspector Jackson of the Hulston police. I've been handling your case since you went missing. Are you alright?"
The girl nodded again and shifted the still crying baby into another position.
Jackson wished the baby would stop. "May I ask you a few questions?"
Again she nodded.
He wondered if she was mute. "Sgt. Sykes will take notes. Can you begin by telling me exactly what happened to you, in a chronological order?"
Theressa told him everything, even about Joe. She saw no way to avoid that if she wanted to explain her escape.
Jackson waited until she finished talking. He had made some notes himself about points that were not yet clear to him. "Why did you believe these people in the first place? I'm not saying it would have made a difference and that you wouldn't have been abducted otherwise, but you made it very easy for them. Is there any reason why you distrust your husband?" Jackson studied her carefully. If all this mess had not happened and he would have seen them on the street together, he would have thought they were a perfect young family -- both good-looking and with a baby...
"I had no reason to distrust him, but could I take the chance?" she replied evenly.
"If somebody had told my wife the same thing about me, she would not have believed it," Jackson said confidentially. "There must have been something seriously wrong between the two of you." Either that or you are an enormous fool.
Theressa bowed her head. She did not know what was wrong, but the Inspector seemed to imply that there was something wrong.
"Have you ever been afraid of him?"
"No." She had never been afraid of him before all this started.
Jackson let the matter rest for a while. "This Joe, did you check if he was really dead?"
"No. I just wanted to get away from there as quickly as possible."
"You might be seeing him again. I want you to identify a dead body we found in your husband's living room."
"A body in our living room?" Theressa looked at him in horror. "How did it get there?"
"We don't know yet. Can you explain the fact that your husband didn't report you and the baby missing until Thursday evening while you were abducted on Tuesday morning?"
Theressa shook her head. "Maybe he didn't know?"
"Lady Theressa, I do not believe that. Most men would start worrying if their wife and child aren't home."
"Well, I don't know why he didn't report it sooner." She paused and looked at him with serious eyes. "Do you think he had anything to do with it?"
"That is what we don't yet know. We're still trying to find out. In the meantime, we'll drive you back and we'll call him to tell him we've found you and then he can take you home."
Theressa did not know if she should be frightened. "You don't know if he's got anything to do with it, and yet you're going to call him?" she asked incredulously. "What if --"
"We'll keep an eye on him and he knows that. He won't try anything and you'll be quite safe."
She said nothing, not knowing what Jackson had in mind, and she hoped Richard had nothing to do with it all. While she drove back following Sgt. Sykes she wondered about the body in the living room. Jackson had not told her everything. She had no idea how the body had got there. If it was Joe, then would that not mean that Richard was involved? And if he were involved, he would also know that she had escaped. But he could not have been the burglar. It was too confusing and she gave up thinking about it when she got nowhere with her thoughts and speculations.
Richard picked up the phone when it rang. "Yes?"
"Inspector Jackson here. We've found your wife."
Richard gripped the receiver tightly. They had found her? In what state? "F-f-found her?"
"She is here at the station and you may pick her up."
"Then she is alright?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, she is alright."
There was nothing to do but wait and Theressa just sat there, imagining all possible states of mind Richard could arrive in. She imagined him angry, upset, pleased, hurt, happy, and with a maniacal little smile. No, that would not be him. He was more likely to have no expression at all. She practiced all possible conversations that might arise, but when he finally came she had just gone to wash her hands.
Richard was shown into a room by one of the police officers. From some distance away he had already heard Timmy cry. Theressa was not in the room, but the policeman assured him she would return shortly. Richard drew his hands from his pockets. He was very nervous and he did not know what to expect. Slowly he walked over to the baby and lifted him up. "Do you remember me? He asked softly.
Theressa returned and stood frozen just inside the doorway, looking at Richard holding Timmy. He had not heard her come in over Timmy's crying and he was whispering soothing words. The baby gradually calmed down and Richard noticed Theressa. She seemed on her guard, and afraid. "Are you afraid of me?" That was probably the silliest thing he could ask right now, but it was also the only thing that entered his mind.
"I don't know." But she lied badly and she saw he looked hurt. He hid it well, though, and he kissed Timmy as if he did not care. Theressa stood watching them in silence and wanted to burst into tears just like Timmy. She wanted to be comforted just like Timmy. But she had wasted her chance -- she should not have said that she did not know if she was afraid of him.
"Terry?" the door burst open and her parents and sister walked in. "Oh Terry!" her mother hugged her. "Darling! I was so worried! Oh! And poor little Timmy! I missed him so much!" she glared at Richard. "What's he doing with Timmy?"
"Terry," said her father. "We're taking you and Timmy home."
Theressa knew what he meant by home. His own home, and not hers. She looked at Richard and he was looking at them with unveiled hostility, and he also seemed to have already accepted the fact that she would go with her parents. She hesitated. Whoever she chose to go home with, the other party would be seriously offended.
"How did you know I was here?" Theressa asked.
"Well, darling, that superintendent called us. I ordered him to do so when he had any news. Aren't you supposed to be in your cell, young man?" Her father asked. "Instead of standing there transferring your criminal genes to my grandson."
Richard looked at him contemptuously.
"Dad," said Theressa, who had been watching documentaries during her time in captivity. "Don't you know anything about genetics?"
"If Timmy becomes a criminal, it is his fault!" Lord Faye said accusingly. "You have our genes, Terry."
"I should hope not! I'm leaving," Richard announced and put the baby back into his maxi-cosi. He gave Theressa one look and left.
She did not know what to do. Should she go after him, or go home with her parents?
"Come Terry, let's go," said her mother. "I'll carry Timmy for you."
"No!" Theressa said automatically and carried Timmy herself. If she went after Richard now, she would still catch up with him, she thought as she walked with her parents and sister, giving absentminded replies to their questions and suggestions. Her father had called him a criminal. He was not a criminal. If he had been a criminal, he would have insisted that she go with him, but he had not. Maybe her parents were criminal then. They were certainly very stifling, expecting her to do exactly what they said, but she did not even live with them anymore! They should not have any control over her. But if Richard was not a criminal, as she had concluded just now, then it would be quite safe to go with him. She saw him when they came outside. He was unlocking her car. My car? Does that mean he thinks I'm coming, or does it mean he thinks I won't be needing it? But he's not gone yet! She turned to face her parents. "Sorry. I'm not coming. I want to go home."
"But we are going home!" her father protested.
The man in the car watched their discussion, his features contorted with rage. Everything had gone wrong. He watched Theressa when the discussion ended and she walked towards a parked car. The observer was so angry he nearly exploded. She was going home with him, and there was no one in this world he hated more than him. He squinted to see whether there was any proof of affection between the two and he noted with jealous satisfaction that there was not.
"See," he muttered. "He doesn't love you. You don't love him. What are you wasting your time with him for?"
He would have to decide on a new course of action now that his excellent, infallible plans had been thwarted. There was no other option but to take drastic measures. Measures that would mean the end of him for sure.
Walter and Jackson observed it all from a window. Walter had seen Richard leave and he had wondered why he had not taken Theressa, but then he had heard from Jackson that their superior had called the family. "Wrong move," he said to Jackson. "They're the stupidest people I know."
"They don't seem bright," Jackson agreed. "But I thought it was eccentricity maybe."
"She should just go home with Richard."
"Jackson! I gave you those notes, didn't I? How can you still think he did it?"
"He might have faked them."
"And how did he kidnap his own wife?"
"He hired people to do it."
Walter groaned. "Sure! On his wages? How many people?"
"Impossible. Besides, he hasn't got a motive." Walter returned his attention to the street again. "Hey! She's finally come to her senses," he said when Theressa walked to the car Richard had just got into.
"I'm going to have that house watched," Jackson said. "So he won't try anything."
"Good idea, but I suppose we're not thinking of the same he."
Richard saw her approach. He expected demands for alimony, arrangements about seeing Timmy, anything, but not that she opened the door and secured the baby in the front passenger seat. He took care not to look at her until he had his emotions back under control, but he had forgotten about all the mirrors. "Are you alright? Did they hurt you?" he asked.
"Not physically," Theressa answered. She had been studying his face in the mirror and what she had seen had reassured her.
"But mentally?" he asked tentatively.
"I don't trust anyone. They said...you wanted to kill me."
Richard was shocked. "I don't."
"Who were they?"
"I don't know, and I don't know who they're working for."
He looked away from her again and started the engine. "But you considered the possibility that it might be me?"
"I'm sorry," Theressa said again.
He did not say anything else until they arrived home. The neighbors were looking on curiously, so they went inside quickly. "Where's our couch?" she asked, walking into the living room that looked very empty.
"I sold it."
"Because there had been a dead body lying on it. I didn't want to sit on it anymore."
"The inspector told me about the body. He didn't know how it got there."
"Someone broke into the house to put it there. While you were here." Richard looked at her. "Unless you killed the burglar."
"No," Theressa said seriously. "I only killed Joe. How did you know I was here?"
"You killed somebody?" he cried.
"I think so. With a frying pan, but the inspector didn't say he was going to arrest me or anything."
"Oh my god! And you were afraid of me?" Richard sat down and looked at her with new eyes. "I don't think I know you. You kill people and you know things about genetics."
"It was self-defense! Believe me! He touched me and then I shoved a nappy into his face and then I was worried that he might take it out on Timmy, so I had to. Do you understand?"
Richard nodded. "I hope it was a dirty nappy."
He smiled at her. "What was your name again?"
"Theressa?" She raised her eyebrows.
"Richard." He shook her hand. "Pleased to meet you. Let's start at the beginning of what happened to see if we can sort out this mess."
"No, not Tuesday. I meant the very first time we met."
"Yes?" Jackson answered the phone. "A mistake? Yes, things happen, I know that, but this is important! Yes. No? You're kidding! So he was killed by a second blow on the head, administered considerably later than the first one? Yes. Well, thanks!" He put down the phone and tapped his pencil against his teeth while he looked at his sergeant and Walter. "Either Mrs. Yates is a very clever girl or she is innocent. What do you think?" He assumed they had understood what it was all about. "She thinks she killed him, but now it turns out she didn't."
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