Sarah looked peaceful, lying in the chapel at the hospital. There was a candle burning on a shelf high on the wall and a white sheet draped across her. Libby stood looking down at her mother, Jed had taken a step back, given her space. She reached out and stroked her mother’s hair, shook her head and turned away. “I suppose I’ll have to sort out a funeral. I don’t know if there’s any money, I haven’t got any. They reckon- the police – they said she was living in a rented room and hired that car. Last time I was with her was in a nasty little flat down near London. Just scraping by really, I suppose she still is – was.” She sighed and frowned, “I wonder what you do, when there’s no money. I mean, when my dad died we managed, some money had been coming in and then the blokes on the site he was on, they had a whip round. It just worked out but I don’t know how to do this.” She turned round, “Do you know – no of course you don’t. You don’t have to worry about stuff like this do you?”
Jed thought about the conversation with Mike Irwin, the revelations about the Will and the letter. He didn’t know if this was the right time to tell her, to let her know that these were no longer her problems.
“Have you spoken to the solicitor Libby? Irwins, your Aunt Marian’s legal bloke.”
“No, I suppose I’ll have to, do you think he’ll arrange things for her, or is that on me as well. I don’t know whether I need to do that. Oh I see … Ah you think that maybe because she’s family. Oh brilliant, that’s brilliant Jed. Of course, maybe I can get them to pay. Brilliant.” She beamed at him. She didn’t know and hadn’t given it any thought. She was totally unaware that, as Sarah’s plan had failed so completely she was very likely going to inherit the whole property and presumably whatever else had been Marian’s.
She came towards him and stood close, she tipped her head back and looked into his face. “I need to say this Jed, thank you for what you did. You were so brilliant at the lake and although, this,” she turned back to the bier holding Sarah, “this is what happened, I’ll never forget what you did, the way you tried.” She leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips. “Thank you. She was sick and she was nasty and violent but it wasn’t her fault, not really and she didn’t deserve this. Although I suppose at the end of the day maybe, just maybe it’s better than her being locked up for years and I guess that’s what they would have done.” She stopped for a moment and turned, took a step towards her mother’s body. “What do you think Jed, honestly what do you think happened.” He had dreaded this question and struggled to form an answer, to have ready, but in the end he was simple and honest. “I don’t know, I truly don’t she might have slipped, I didn’t see but she might have gone in deliberately. She was climbing on the rocks when I last saw her, very near the edge. It’s odd though, if she was scared of water why did she go there, why not run for the woods and get away. Something took her there, to the lake. We’ll never know though, will we?” She turned back to him and her eyes swam just for a moment before she shook the tears away. “I guess it doesn’t really matter but I’ll always wonder and I have to just find a way to live with that. It wasn’t me though was it, I didn’t make her do it?”
He had never seen her so vulnerable. He knew that he must be careful with his response but again was honest and straight with her. “I don’t see how it could be you. She was confused and panicked and angry but no Libby I don’t see how it could be you.” She nodded and reached out a finger to touch her mother’s hand.
They stayed a while longer, sitting on straight back chairs, not really sure what they were supposed to be doing or feeling, but nervous of leaving too soon in case it seemed disrespectful. Then Libby leaned over and in a low voice she spoke, “Come on let’s go. We can’t do anything here. Let’s just go, I’m whacked and I could do with something to eat. Do you think your mum will think I’m awful if we get a double pepperoni pizza and some garlic bread?”
Jed turned and smiled at her, “She’d only think you’re awful if you don’t get enough for her as well.”
“Come on then. Oh …”
“Have you got any money? I forgot to get any from the machine. I wonder if they’ll pay me my wages next week. Oh hang on though my mum must have been paying the agency, blimey I wonder how she was managing that. Bloody hell it’s still a mess. I hope she doesn’t owe people money; they might expect me to cover it. Do you think they will? Well, too bad eh, I’m pretty skint. Oh, I can let your mum have the money for the rent though.”
He thought of the parcel still hidden in the back of his wardrobe, no way to know how much more Sarah had taken. He remembered spaces where paintings had been moved. Really it just didn’t matter anymore. He’d return it, put it back on the old desk. He was ashamed remembering that he had suspected Libby, another secret for him to bury. “Mum doesn’t want the rent Libby, you don’t need to worry about that. Let us help you, you’ve got enough to worry about.”
This new closeness was so precious, so fragile he didn’t want to mention the money that was to be hers and the house, not any of it. He was scared about how she would react. He slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, flicked it open and grinned, “Yeah, enough for a couple of pizzas anyway and some garlic bread. Come on, I’ve even got enough for a taxi.”
It was an odd few days, they moved through it step by step. They felt suspended, isolated from the everyday waiting for the results of the post mortem on Marian and a date for the inquest.
The police were keeping them informed, but with both women dead it seemed that nothing would be rushed and it was all just dotting I’s and crossing t’s. It was set to go on for a while. Jed’s mum had made Libby promise that she would stay with them until it was resolved, until she knew what she was going to do next. She had grinned at Jed behind Libby’s back in the bright morning kitchen and winked at him. He stomped from the room as the blush crawled up his neck and heard her chuckling quietly to herself at the sink.
Libby spent a lot of time alone in her room but they went for walks together and she joined them for dinner and slowly relaxed with Jed’s mum and dad.
Charles Herriot came, he had heard some of the story and was obviously itching to hear all about it but didn’t want to appear to gossip.
“Very strange situation Jed?”
“Yes, all very complicated sir.”
“You acquitted yourself well though, from the little I’ve heard. Well done.”
“It was all instinct really, Scouts and swimming training, it just all came back. Didn’t do much good in the end though.”
“No, of course a sad outcome. Tragic. And Mrs Carmody, all that time locked up and the caretaker not knowing she was there. Well, that’s all very odd.”
“Yes.” Jed nodded and feigned a yawn.
“Right well you must be tired, I’ll be on my way. You take your time now Jed, don’t rush back. Wait until you’re ready, fully fit and all that. Of course everything’s on hold with The Willows, bit of a mess there I’m afraid. Place was crawling with police when I drove by yesterday. Not sure what the situation is right now. We might still be able to rescue something. You never know. Mike Irwin’s been in touch. Apparently there’s an heir, so maybe it’ll still come through. We’ll have to wait and see, fingers crossed and all that.”
“Yes sir, fingers crossed.”
He really didn’t care, it had all become so very secondary. As his mother showed Charles out he heard Libby’s voice in the hall. She had been out for a walk, and he supposed for her smoke, she was being introduced to his boss just as a house guest and he was amused to think that Charles had no idea who he was talking to. She had an appointment with Irwins later on and once she knew about the Will he worried that she would run from it all. He wanted her to stay, he really needed her to stay.
Another voice joined the chatter in the hallway and Libby led one of the policemen who was dealing with the whole mess into the sitting room.
“Oh, hello.” The two men shook hands, Jed awkward with his injured arm. “I’ll just …” he turned to leave but Libby moved to block his way and put a hand on his chest.
“He can stay can’t he?”
“Yes, if you’re happy with him being here, of course. I just wanted to bring you up to date, let you know where we’re at.” She nodded and lowered herself onto the sofa.
“Right well, as you know we’ve been searching the house and grounds trying to piece things together. Because the house had been cleaned and re-organised ready for the viewings we don’t think that we’re going to find much in the room that you tell us was locked. But, at the end of the day we are fairly sure that we know what happened, with your statement and the evidence in the cellar. We have to wait for the results of tests and what have you to confirm it but …” He paused for a moment, “We found a large quantity of drugs, a very large quantity hidden in the kitchen and the dining room. We are tending towards the belief that erm …” he coughed, awkward and uncomfortable, Sarah.” Libby rescued him.
“My mum, it’s okay I know she was sick, unbalanced. You don’t have to sugar coat things, just say what you have to.”
“Right, good, well. It seems pretty clear that she, your mum had been drugging Mrs Carmody to control her. You have already realised, I’m sure that she was kept in the locked bedroom and then moved to the cellar when access was needed to all the rooms in the house.”
“We know all this, we were there weren’t we.” Jed reached over and squeezed her hand. “Sorry, sorry it’s just, you know we lived this.”
“Don’t apologise, I’m just trying to put things in perspective.” The policeman smiled and peace was restored. “Anyway, the main thing is that we have found the drugs. We did find a large number of Marijuana plants in an old greenhouse which doesn’t quite fit with the other drugs which were pharmaceuticals but, well who knows what she was planning with those.” Jed squeezed Libby’s fingers, they didn’t dare look at each other.
“Right, Wow, well good grief.” He had to cover the moment or he knew the amusement bubbling in his stomach would overflow as laughter.
“Yes, but as I say we don’t know what she was planning with those. They have been destroyed now.” Libby tensed, he wanted to throw his arms round her, he knew she was struggling to control herself.
“Oh right, good. In that old greenhouse, shit.” She nodded her head and forced her face into a suitable expression.
“You can move back to the flat if you wish. We have tried to leave it in a reasonable condition but I suppose it’s going to feel disturbed, sorry.” He shrugged apologetically. “If you could just let us know where you are going to be that would be helpful.”
“I’m here for now. I don’t know what I’ll do after that but, I’ll get my stuff from the flat if that’s okay. I don’t think I want to move back.”
“No, well that’s understandable I think. Someone will be in touch about dates for the hearings and what not.”
“Do you know when we can arrange the funerals.”
“I’ll make sure somebody let’s you know as soon as possible. It shouldn’t be long.”
When they closed the door behind him Libby and Jed stood for a moment in silence and then simultaneously began to laugh. She turned to him and he wrapped his arms round her as they giggled and the atmosphere lightened and the pall of gloom and worry lifted somewhat. Watching from the study doorway Jed’s mother smiled and nodded and then moved quietly back into the room.