“Make something up. Just tell them that she asked you to tell her mother she loved her. Say she was delirious, and just kept begging you to save her. Just make something up.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know whether that would work.”
“Of course it will. I mean if someone is dying they are probably only going to say desperate things, aren’t they? It’s not as if they are going to make sense. That only happens in spy films and such like.”
Jean leaned closer to her sister to make her stop, make her listen, “There’s something else here though isn’t there? Something really worrying and – well – sinister.”
“More sinister than you talking to a dead girl – really?”
“Don’t Lesley, please don’t do that. We have to keep calm, we have to keep talking. Please don’t start being sarcastic.”
Lesley wiped at her eyes with the tissue. “Shit, listen to me. I’m sorry. I am just so scared and you know this is how I get when I’m upset.”
“It’s alright, I understand, but we have to try and think this through.”
“Okay. Okay so what’s the other thing we need to talk about?”
“Well look, if someone falls into the canal, or a lake or whatever and you think they drowned, then you try resuscitation and if you’re lucky you can get them back, right?” Jean had taken hold of her sister’s hand, staring directly into her eyes. She had to find a way through the panic and fear. “If you don’t need to do that, the mouth to mouth and all that, what does it mean?”
“They’re dead. Like you said, she was dead.”
“What do you mean or? Christ, this is no time for a quiz, just say what you mean will you?”
“If someone is not dead and you pull them out of the water then what does that mean?”
Lesley shrugged and screwed up her face in puzzlement and irritation, “Well I suppose if they’re not dead then they’re alive.”
“Okay. So, these people, who it seems could see me from a distance, and I think I know where that was. I’m pretty sure I saw a car. They are willing to believe that I talked with someone who I pulled out of the canal. But they also know that she’s dead and the police have taken her away. So, what does that tell us?”
“It doesn’t tell me anything to be honest, except that they are evil bastards.”
“It tells us that they don’t think that she drowned. They accept something killed her even though being in the canal didn’t. Something that killed her later. But, if they were watching then they know I am the only one she spoke to – or at least they think I am. Bloody hell, it’s so confusing.”
“Oh right. Okay. I think I see what you mean, but even if that is the case, it doesn’t matter. You can still make something up, tell them she was rambling and it didn’t make any sense.”
“Yes, I suppose I could. But, I feel really guilty about not going to the police now? We have real information that might help them find these people. They can trace where the calls were made and stuff like that.”
“No, you said it yourself. We can’t go to the police, we can’t because we don’t know what they might do to Carl. Jean, if this is all true they’re ruthless, they’re murderers and they’ll kill him.”
A dark silence filled the cosy kitchen. After a couple of minutes, Jean picked up the phone. Lesley gave an exasperated sigh before she asked, “What are you doing now? Jean, we can’t go to the police, think of Carl.”
“I’m ringing Eileen Rather.”
“What? I thought you didn’t like her much. Really in the middle of all this and you start calling your bloody WI mates.”
“She’s okay. The thing with Eileen though is that she’s a busy body and a gossip.”
“So why are you ringing her? and why now?”
“As I said she’s a gossip and I know Bob tells her things he shouldn’t. But, he probably doesn’t know how often she spills the beans. She can’t help herself. I’m sure he’d be livid. Anyway. I’m going to see if I can find out what they know.”
Lesley had to make do with the frustration of listening to a one-sided conversation.
She listened as Jean played to Eileen’s vanity, suggesting that maybe Bob had been side-lined as the new team had come in. She thanked her for her concern but told her not to come to the house. “My sister is here just now so I’m okay.” As she said it Jean turned to glance across the room and she gave a little nod.
What followed was a series of exclamations and monosyllables and then a promise to keep in touch, to reach out if she needed anything and a solemn vow not to pass on any of the confidential information that she had just been a party to. She replaced the receiver.
“So?” Lesley hardly gave her a chance to turn around.
“They’re combing the canal banks, they have had a diver in the water and they’re doing house to house calls. They still don’t know who the girl is, they haven’t found a handbag or anything. They’ve already done a post mortem, which apparently is unbelievably quick but it’s because of what they found when they first examined her. This is the horrible bit, no that’s wrong it’s all horrible but, well you know what I mean.” Lesley nodded. “So, she died of a drug overdose. They reckon that she fell into the water by accident but the amount of water in her lungs and so on proves that actually, she wasn’t breathing. She had a heart attack.”
“But you said she died of a drug overdose.”
“Yes, she did. The heart attack was caused by a condom filled with drugs bursting in her insides.”
“Oh, bloody hell. The poor girl.”
“Yes. There’s more though.”
Jean hesitated but in the end, it had to be said. As she related the rest of the story she watched the remains of colour drain from her sister’s face. The girl had been raped and beaten, her injuries, hidden under the everyday clothes. So, she had been mightily abused before she ended up on the canal bank.
Lesley flopped down on the chair, rested her arms on the kitchen table, lowered her head and began to sob all over again murmuring her son’s name.
Jean reached out and as she did so the phone vibrated on the smooth top and chimed again. Another message.