Jean had expected that it would be Bob Rather, as indeed it was, and she didn’t want to distress Sonja. As she lifted the handset she was overwhelmed with dizziness, the floor tilted and the room began to recede as the edges of her vision slid into darkness. She flopped onto one of the chairs and lowered her head. Cold sweat smeared her body, and Bob’s voice became a faint blur of noise. As the feeling passed, it was replaced by a sudden nausea and Jean had to swallow hard to avoid vomiting onto the floor. The filter jug was near her hand and she poured cold water into one of the tea cups from earlier.
“Just hang on a minute Bob. Bear with me.” She gulped back the drink, and things began to settle, leaving her weak and confused.
“Are you there, Jean?” Bob sounded impatient and she wanted nothing more than to slam the phone back into the cradle, crawl upstairs and lie down on her bed. She shook the feelings away. Time enough for self-pity when all this mess was sorted.
“Yes, sorry Bob, I’m listening. Now then, what’s going on?”
“Right. I’m sending a couple of cars round to bring you in to the station. We need statements and you both have you see the doctor.”
“No, no that’s not necessary Bob. I’ll call my own doctor if I need one.”
“No, that’s not it, Jean. See, what you have to understand, you and Carl are crime scenes.”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous.”
” Sorry Jean that’s the way of it. See, you’ll have evidence under your nails, on your clothes, and…well they’ll explain when they see you. I got a bit of a roasting to be honest for not bringing you in straight away. I told them you’d been instructed not to have showers and so on but they weren’t best pleased. I’ve tried to make this easier for you, but it’s a bit of a bloody mess this, Jean. On top of everything else you’ve really given us a lot more work, and to be honest we could have done without it.”
Jean found it hard to answer him. How dare he? Weren’t they the victims here? Weren’t they supposed to be treated with care? “Well, we didn’t choose to be kidnapped Bob. I didn’t choose to find that poor girl. What time will they come?” Her voice sounded hard, unfriendly but right then, shivering, achy and nauseous, she just didn’t have any spare capacity for good manners.
“I’m trying to get a car organised, I’ll give you a ring when it’s sorted. Be about an hour perhaps.”
Another hour, cold and dirty, another hour doing nothing but wait. It was unconscionable it really was. She walked into the other room where the rest of them sat, silent and awkward. Lesley frowned up at her, “Are you okay Jean, only you look very pale?”
“I don’t feel that hot to be honest, but we’ve still got to wait for the police. That was Bob, we’ve to go to the station and see a bloody doctor and what have you.”
Carl stood up, “I’m not hanging around here. I’ve had enough of this crap. Sorry, Mum, Aunty Jean but I feel like shit. I’m tired and sore and filthy. I’m going home, having a long shower and I’m getting some kip. If the police don’t like it then, tough. I’ll go in later and tell them what happened. I don’t know what all this nonsense is for anyway. We know what happened,” he pointed to Sonja, “we know why it happened. What more is there to say? She’s the one they should be speaking to anyway, not us, not me.” He was suddenly a sulky teenager but Jean fully understood, she was pretty near the end of her own tether and poor Carl had endured captivity, fear, and discomfort, for longer than she had.
She chose not to remind him that they hadn’t told Bob exactly why Sonja had been with them. On top of that she didn’t want to distress the girl any more by drawing attention to what might be in store.
Trying to pour oil on the waters she spoke quietly. “Well, it’s obviously more than just the ‘kidnapping’,” she wagged her fingers in the air, miming quotes, “more even than a murder isn’t it. There’s the drugs, the rape…” It was only as the words left her mouth that Jean realised her mistake, and then, it was too late. Sonja’s eyes were round with shock. She glanced back and forth between the others. When she spoke, the words were whispered horror.
“Rape. Drugs. What do you mean? I thought she fell. You said she slipped into the water.”
“Yes, yes I did.” Jean had crossed the room and knelt on the carpet, she grabbed hold of the young woman’s hands. Better to be open now than continue with half-truths. “Yes, she slipped into the water, that’s what they think anyway. But she had been hurt before then.” She screwed up her courage and even though she could feel the despair and anguish growing, she didn’t stop until Sonja had been told all that they knew.
By the time she had finished speaking the young woman was muttering under her breath, her hands shook and her lovely dark eyes were filled with a terrible pain. Jean leaned and gathered her close, holding her as she sobbed, murmuring the names of her friends and something that sounded very like a prayer.