The Outcast Dead(9)
Author:Elly Griffiths

    Ruth thinks that this is how Cathbad sees the world these days. Judy and everyone else. But Cathbad stayed in Lancashire precisely to give Judy a chance to get on with her life, to forget their affair and concentrate on her marriage. He can’t really complain if she’s doing just that.

    ‘How do you know?’

    ‘Delilah told me. She rang me because she thinks Nelson’s my friend.’

    ‘He is your friend.’

    ‘Nelson’s a policeman through and through. He doesn’t have friends.’

    ‘That’s not fair.’

    ‘Maybe not.’ There’s a silence. Ruth wonders where Cathbad is. At work? Walking on the Pendle Hills with his dog, called Thing, at his side? Sitting alone in the little cottage that once belonged to a witch?

    ‘I did try to talk to Nelson,’ she says. ‘But he just said that he was keeping an open mind.’

    ‘Since when have the police been open-minded?’ Cathbad’s anti-police feelings go back a long way, to the death of a friend in the Poll Tax riots of the 1980s. But usually he exempts Nelson from these strictures.

    ‘Nelson wouldn’t arrest her without a reason,’ says Ruth, wondering why she’s defending him.

    Cathbad obviously wonders the same thing. ‘What would Erik say if he could hear you now? Norfolk police’s PR department.’

    ‘Don’t take it out on me,’ says Ruth. ‘None of this is my fault.’

    ‘Oh no,’ says Cathbad nastily. ‘It’s nobody’s fault.’ He rings off.

    Ruth drinks her cold cappuccino and wonders how Cathbad always manages to make her feel so guilty. It’s not her fault that his friend’s been arrested. For all she knows, Liz Donaldson could have killed her children. It certainly seems too much of a coincidence for three babies in one family to die of unexplained causes. But haven’t there been cases like this before, where the mother was accused but turned out to be innocent? Ruth doesn’t know and, quite honestly, she doesn’t want to know. Her dreams are already full of abducted and murdered children; she doesn’t want to add Liz Donaldson to her list of nightmares.

    A perfunctory knock at the door and Phil’s beaming face appears.

    ‘Yes?’ says Ruth unhelpfully.

    ‘Having a coffee break, Ruth? I just came to tell you the good news.’

    ‘What is it?’ She has a feeling that she might not share Phil’s definition of good news.

    Sure enough.

    ‘The TV people definitely want to include us in their programme on Mother Hook. We’ve got permission for a dig at the castle and a crew is going to film it all. We’re going to do some of it at night. With arc lights.’ Phil looks as if he is about to explode with excitement.

    ‘Is this Women Who Kill?’ She tries to put sarcastic quote marks around the title.

    ‘That’s right.’ Phil misses the irony. ‘An hour-long special. They’re going to interview me.’ Phil swells still further. No wonder he’s so happy. He’s always longed to be a TV expert. ‘And they’re going to feature you digging. They’re very keen on digging.’

    That suits Ruth. The longer she is hidden in a trench the better.

    ‘And they’re bringing in a well-known historian. Frank Barker. Have you heard of him?’


    ‘He’s an American,’ says Phil, as if this is an occupation.

    ‘What does an American knows about a nineteenth-century Englishwoman?’

    ‘He’s an expert on the Victorians,’ says Phil. ‘He’s done a lot of television.’

    Christ, he’s even starting to sound like a media buff. He’s done a lot of television. God help us.

    ‘There’s a meeting tomorrow,’ says Phil. ‘I said you’d be there.’

    ‘I can’t wait,’ says Ruth.


    Tim is pleased when Nelson asks him to go with Judy to bring Liz Donaldson in. Judy and Clough usually pair up, leaving Tim with the keen but distinctly junior Tanya. This would be a chance to bond with Judy, whom he admires as an officer but finds rather enigmatic as a person. He often hears Judy laughing with Clough or Nelson but with him she’s always utterly serious, polite and pleasant enough but strictly unsmiling. Well, she’s not going to be smiling today. Cases with children are always tough and this one seems to have hit Judy hard, probably because she’s got a young child herself. In fact, the one time Judy almost unbent with him was when he showed her pictures of his twin nieces. ‘I don’t know how people cope with twins,’ she’d said, ‘I find it hard enough with one.’ ‘Have you got a picture of your son?’ he had asked. ‘No,’ she said, closing down immediately, though he knew for a fact that Baby Michael was her screen-saver. Well, perhaps this job – harrowing though it may be – would give them a chance to get to know each other better.

    They drive to the Donaldsons’ house as soon as they get the nod from Nelson. They don’t speak much on the way. Tim is driving and he hasn’t quite got the geography of King’s Lynn straight in his head. Judy promps him in a brisk monotone. She’s a local girl, Tim knows.

    Liz Donaldson answers the door. She’s in a pink tracksuit and Tim wonders if she was on the way to the gym. He’s a gym addict himself and would understand the impulse to lose yourself in exercise. Judy, though, gives the outfit a rather surprised look.

    ‘Liz,’ said Judy, ‘we have to ask you to come to the station with us. We need you to answer some questions for us.’

    ‘Can’t I answer them here?’

    ‘We need you to come to the station?’

    Liz looks from one face to another. ‘Am I under arrest?’

    By Tim’s reckoning she has asked this question far too soon but Judy replies calmly, ‘No, but we’d like to ask you some questions under caution.’

    ‘In line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984,’ adds Tim, thinking he might as well come across as the unsympathetic cop who sticks by the rules.

    ‘Attendance is voluntary,’ says Judy, shooting a rather unfriendly look at Tim.

    ‘I’ll come,’ says Liz. ‘Can you give me a few minutes to get ready?’

    Tim assumes that she’s going to change out of her tracksuit, but when she emerges a few minutes later she’s still a vision in pink. It’s only when they are half way to the station that he realises what she has done. She’s put on her make-up.

    There are a still a few reporters camped at the front of the station so Judy tells Tim to drive around the back. As they hustle Liz in through the door, Tim can hear Tom Henty, the grizzled desk sergeant, bellowing at the press pack. ‘You’ll get nothing from us until such time as DCI Nelson makes a statement.’

    ‘Have you got new evidence?’

    ‘Has she confessed.?’

    ‘Has this brought back memories of the Scarlet Henderson case?’

    ‘Why …’

    ‘How …’

    ‘Vermin.’ Henty slams the door.

    Nelson is waiting in the lobby, trying to keep out of the sight lines. Tim hears him ask the sergeant, ‘Who asked that question about Scarlet Henderson?’

    ‘Some woman reporter, I think. Young. That’s her in the green jacket.’

    Tim thinks for a second that Nelson looks rattled; far too rattled, surely, for some fairly innocuous questions from a fairly innocuous group of hacks? But then he turns to Tim and Judy and he is his normal self, brusque but in control.

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