Jean and Carl glanced at each other. This declaration by the girl squatting against the wall left them nonplussed. Jean bent and reached out, taking hold of the girl’s hand, and pulling her to her feet. “What’s your name?”
“And is that true, was the girl in the water your friend’s sister? That’s hard to believe.”
Sonja reached for a kitchen towel roll which lay on the table. She pulled off a couple of sheets and used them to wipe at her eyes and then to blow her nose. “It’s true. She was my friend, my best friend. When I lived in Syria.”
“But, I don’t understand.” Jean leaned closer to force the girl to look into her eyes. She was calmer now, but as she spoke of the dead girl, fresh tears threatened. At the sight of them Jean wrapped her arms around the slender shoulders. The girl stiffened and pulled away.
“No, I can’t talk about it. You have to go.”
“Come with us Sonja. If this is true and your best friend has been murdered, then you have to see, you must tell the police about it.”
Sonja gave a huge sigh. “But, Paul. What about Paul?”
Jean spoke again, “Well, if he didn’t do it, if he didn’t kill Suzanne why has all of this happened.”
For a moment, the young woman stared in silence at Carl and Jean, and then she murmured. “He thought you had done it.”
“What!” Jean hadn’t meant to shout and when Sonja raised her hands defensively she apologised, tried to calm the girl, but the bald statement had jolted her heart and turned her stomach over.
“What on earth do you mean? Why would he think I had done it? That’s ludicrous.”
“Well, not you exactly. He thought you were involved. You met him on the bank and he said you were so calm, dismissive he said and how could you be, if you weren’t involved? So, he followed you, he watched you. Anyway, it doesn’t matter you have to go. Quickly before he comes back.”
“But what about all these questions, asking me what she said, what I knew?”
“From your computer.”
“So, it was him, you, who broke into my house?”
The girl nodded. “When we read your computer, we saw. We saw that you hadn’t done it. But, you wrote how you talked to her, how you tried to comfort her. We thought that maybe she had told you where they were, the people who had done this. Paul is desperate, he just wants to know. He has to know.”
“Oh but, the way I wrote that. No, no you misunderstood. She didn’t talk to me. Not at all.”
“But, that is what you said, and it’s so important. You don’t understand how important. We have to find them.”
They argued back and forth for a while longer. Sonja more and more desperate, glancing constantly towards the door, and starting with every noise from outside. Jean though, was determined that she wouldn’t leave the girl on her own. She tried to make her understand that, though she had spoken, acknowledging that on the video Sonja had made, she was talking, that she hadn’t had a conversation with the dead girl. It sounded odd to her own ears, but it was the truth after all and couldn’t be changed.
There were so many unanswered questions and Jean became more and more determined that she wasn’t leaving until they had been answered. Why was Sonja filming? What was Paul doing running along the canal bank towards his dead sister? The more they talked the more complicated and confusing it became.
Finally, when it became obvious there was no way to persuade them to run, Sonja shrugged her shoulders and picked up her jacket. She slumped towards the door, pulled it inwards and then, after a moment to check and double check that there was no-one there, she moved into the yard. There was a small car parked close to the building and Carl and Jean were surprised when Sonja took out a key and plipped it to unlock the doors.
They clambered inside and without another word she drove away. As they stopped at the first junction, Sonja turned to look over her shoulder towards the industrial building and made a sound, somewhere between a sob and groan. She pulled into the main road. With no need to ask for directions she drove on towards Jean’s house.
Carl was silent in the rear seat, his head laid back, his eyes closed. Although the torment seemed for the moment to be over they were all very aware that this thing was far from done.
Bob Rather had lifted the phone handset and reached towards the keypad. He paused, turned to look at his mobile device, still in pieces on the kitchen floor. “Blast it. Don’t know the bloody number.” He shook his head and sighed, punched in something that he did remember, and asked the respondent for contact details for the Serious Crime Unit. She understood from the one sided conversation that he was going to have to make another call, disturb people at home. As Bob scribbled on the shopping list hanging on the wall, Lesley gathered up the broken phone. The screen was cracked and she had the slightly hysterical thought that maybe she would be arrested for destroying police property.
Bob cleared the line. She moved towards him, “Please, Bob. Could you not wait just a little while longer? Just wait until it gets light. After all, this has already gone on so long and what can you do right now.”
“No, I’m sorry love. These first hours, they’re vitally important. There’ll be stuff there on the bank, the rain washing it away even now. No, I’m sorry.”
He turned back towards the wall and as he raised his hand they heard the sound of a car in the driveway. He paused and they stood in the dim kitchen, staring towards the direction of the noise. They heard the slam of doors and Lesley flew down the hallway, the policeman lumbering after her.
As she dragged open the front door, Jean, Carl and Sonja were clambering out of the Renault.
“Carl.” Lesley screamed and ran from the doorway and threw herself into her son’s arms, tears of joy and relief streaming down her face