It seemed to Robert that at least half Milford had managed to pack itself into the Court at Norton. Certainly a great many citizens of Norton were milling round the outer doors, vocal and frustrated; furious that when a case of national interest was being decided at “their” Assizes they should be done out of their right to witness it by an influx of foreigners from Milford. Wily and deceitful foreigners, too, who had suborned the Norton youth to keep places in the queue for them; a piece of forethought which had not occurred to Norton adults.
It was very warm, and the packed court stirred uneasily throughout the preliminaries and through most of Miles Allison’s account of the crime. Allison was the antithesis of Kevin Macdermott; his fair, delicate face that of a type rather than a person. His light dry voice was unemotional, his method matter-of-fact. And since the story he was telling was one which they had all read about and discussed until it was threadbare, they withheld their attention from him and amused themselves by identifying friends in court.
Robert sat turning over and over in his pocket the little oblong of pasteboard that Christina had pressed into his hand on his departure yesterday, and rehearsing phrases for afterwards. The pasteboard was a bright Reckitt’s blue and bore in gold letters the words: NOT A SPARROW SHALL FALL, and a picture in the right upper corner of a robin with an out-size red breast. How, wondered Robert, turning the little text over and over in his fingers, did you tell someone that they had no home any more?
The sudden movement of a hundred bodies and the subsequent silence brought him back to the court-room, and he realised that Betty Kane was taking the oath preparatory to giving evidence. “Never kissed anything but the book,” Ben Carley had said of her appearance on a similar occasion. And that is what she looked like today. The blue outfit still made one think of youth and innocence; speedwell, and camp-fire smoke, and harebells in the grass. The tilted-back brim of her hat still showed the childish forehead with its charming hair line. And Robert, who knew now all about her life in the weeks she was missing, found himself being surprised all over again at sight of her. Plausibility was one of the first endowments of the criminal; but up to now such plausibility as he had had to deal with was of the old-soldier-ten-bob-note kind. Easily recognised for what it was. The work of amateurs at the job. It occurred to him that for the first time he was seeing the real thing at work.
Once again she gave her evidence in model fashion; her clear young voice audible to everyone in court. Once again she had her audience breathless and motionless. The only difference this time was that the Bench was not doting. The Bench, indeed, if one was to judge by the expression on the face of Mr. Justice Saye, was very far from doting. And Robert wondered how much the judge’s critical gaze was due to natural distaste for the subject, and how much to the conclusion that Kevin Macdermott would not be sitting there ready to defend the two women in the dock unless they had a thundering good defence.
The girl’s own account of her sufferings did what her counsel’s had not done: roused the audience to an emotional reaction. More than once they had given vent to a united sigh, a murmur of indignation; never overt enough to rank as a demonstration, and so bring down the Court’s rebuke, but audible enough to show which way their sympathies lay. So that it was in a charged atmosphere that Kevin rose to cross-examine.
“Miss Kane,” began Kevin in his gentlest drawl, “you say that it was dark when you arrived at The Franchise. Was it really so dark?”
This question, with its coaxing tone, made her think that he did not want it to be dark, and she reacted as he intended.
“Yes. Quite dark,” she said.
“Too dark to see the outside of the house?”
“Yes, much too dark.”
He appeared to give that up and try a new tack.
“Then the night you escaped. Perhaps that was not quite dark?”
“Oh, yes. That was even darker, if possible.”
“So that you could not possibly have seen the outside of the house on some occasion?”
“Never. Well, having settled that point, let us consider what you say you could see from the window of your prison in the attic. You said in your statement to the police, when you were describing this unknown place where you were imprisoned, that the carriage-way from the gate to the door ‘went straight for a little and then divided in two into a circle up to the door’.”
“How did you know it did that?”
“How did I know it? I could see it.”
“From the window in the attic. It looked out on the courtyard in front of the house.”
“But from the window in the attic it is possible to see only the straight part of the carriage-way. The edge of the roof cuts off the rest. How did you know that the carriage-way divided in two and made a circle up to the door?”
“I saw it!”
“From that window.”
“You want us to understand that you see on a different principle from ordinary beings? On the principle of the Irishman’s gun that shoots round corners. Or is it all done by mirrors?”
“It is the way I described!”
“Certainly it is the way you described; but what you described was the view of the courtyard as seen by, let us say, someone looking over the wall at it; not by someone looking at it from the window in the attic. Which you assure us was your only view of it.”
“I take it,” said the Court, “that you have a witness to the extent of the view from the window.”
“Two, my lord.”
“One with normal vision will be sufficient,” said the Court dryly.
“So you cannot explain how, speaking to the police that day in Aylesbury, you described a peculiarity that you could not possibly have known about, if your story was true. Have you ever been abroad, Miss Kane?”
“Abroad?” she said, surprised by the change of subject. “No.”
“You have not, for instance, been to Denmark lately? To Copenhagen, for instance.”
“No.” There was no change in her expression but Robert thought that there was the faintest uncertainty in her voice.
“Do you know a man called Bernard Chadwick?”
She was suddenly wary. Robert was reminded of the subtle change in an animal that has been relaxed and becomes attentive. There is no alteration in pose; no actual physical change. On the contrary, there is only an added stillness; an awareness.
“No.” The tone was colourless; uninterested.
“He is not a friend of yours.”
“You did not, for instance, stay with him at a hotel in Copenhagen?”
“Have you stayed with anyone in Copenhagen?”
“No, I have never been abroad at all.”
“So that if I were to suggest that you spent those missing weeks in a hotel in Copenhagen and not in an attic at The Franchise, I should be mistaken.”
Miles Allison, as Kevin had anticipated, rose to retrieve the situation.
“Miss Kane,” he said, “you arrived at The Franchise by car.”
“And that car, you say in your statement, was driven up to the door of the house. Now, if it was dark, as you say, there must have been side-lights on the car, if not head-lights; which would illuminate not only the carriage-way but most of the courtyard.”
“Yes,” she broke in, before he could put it to her, “yes, of course I must have seen the circle then. I knew I had seen it. I knew it.” She glanced at Kevin for a moment, and Robert was reminded of her face when she saw that she had guessed correctly about the suitcases in the cupboard, that first day at The Franchise. If she knew what Kevin had waiting for her, Robert thought, she would have no spare thought for a passing triumph.
She was succeeded in the witness-box by Carley’s “oleograph”; who had bought both a new frock and a new hat for her appearance at Norton — a tomato-red frock and a puce hat with a cobalt ribbon and a pink rose — and looked more luscious and more revolting than ever. Again Robert was interested to note how her relish of her part discounted, even with this more emotional audience, the effect of what she said. They didn’t like her, and in spite of their parti pris attitude their English distrust of malice cooled their minds towards her. When Kevin, cross-examining, suggested that she had in fact been dismissed and had not “given in her notice” at all, there was a So-that’s-it! expression on every second face in court. Apart from an attempt to shake her credit, there was not much that Kevin could do with her, and he let her go. He was waiting for her poor stooge.
The stooge, when she arrived, looked even less happy than she had looked in the police court at Milford. The much more impressive array of robes and wigs clearly shook her. Police uniforms were bad enough, but in retrospect they seemed positively home-like compared with this solemn atmosphere, this ritual. If she was out of her depth in Milford, she was obviously drowning here. Robert saw Kevin’s considering eye on her, analysing and understanding; deciding on his approach. She had been scared stiff by Miles Allison, in spite of his patient quietness; evidently regarding anything in a wig and gown as hostile and a potential dispenser of penalties. So Kevin became her wooer and protector.
It was positively indecent, the caress that Kevin could get into his voice, Robert thought, listening to his first sentences to her. The soft unhurried syllables reassured her. She listened for a moment and then began to relax. Robert saw the small skinny hands that had been clutched so tightly together on the rail of the box slacken and spread slowly to a prone position. He was asking about her school. The fright had faded from her eyes and she was answering quite calmly. Here, she quite obviously felt, was a friend.
“Now, Gladys, I am going to suggest to you that you did not want to come here today and give evidence against these two people at The Franchise.”
“No, I didn’t. Indeed I didn’t!”
“But you came,” he said; not accusing, just making the statement.
“Yes,” she said; shamefaced.
“Why? Because you thought it was your duty?”
“No, oh no.”
“Was it because someone forced you to come?”
Robert saw the judge’s instant reaction to this, but so out of the tail of his eye did Kevin. “Someone who held something over your head?” finished Kevin smoothly, and his lordship paused. “Someone who said: ‘You say what I tell you to say or I’ll tell about you’?”
She looked half-hopeful, half-bewildered. “I don’t know,” she said, falling back on the escape of the illiterate.
“Because if anyone made you tell lies by threatening what they would do to you if you didn’t, they can be punished for it.”
This was clearly a new idea to her.
“This court, all these people you see here, have come here today to find out the truth about something. And His Lordship up there would deal very sternly with anyone who had used threats to make you come here and say something that was not true. What is more, there is a very heavy punishment for persons who take an oath to speak truth and tell what is not true; but if it so happened that they had been frightened into telling lies by someone threatening them, then the person who would be punished most would be the person who made the threats. Do you understand that?”
“Yes,” she said in a whisper.
“Now I am going to suggest to you what really happened, and you will tell me whether I am right.” He waited for her agreement, but she said nothing, so he went on. “Someone — a friend of yours, perhaps — took something from The Franchise — let us say, a watch. She did not want the watch herself, perhaps, and so she handed it on to you. It may be that you did not want to take it, but your friend is perhaps a domineering person and you did not like to refuse her gift. So you took it. Now I suggest that presently that friend proposed to you that you should back up a story she was going to tell in court and you, being averse to telling lies, said no. And that she then said to you: ‘If you don’t back me up I shall say that you took that watch from The Franchise one day when you came to see me’— or some other threat of that sort.”
He paused a moment but she merely looked bewildered.
“Now, I suggest that because of those threats you did actually go to a police court and did actually back up your friend’s untrue story, but that when you got home you were sorry and ashamed. So sorry and ashamed that the thought of keeping that watch any longer was unbearable to you. And that you then wrapped up the watch, and sent it back to The Franchise by post with a note saying: ‘I don’t want none of it’.” He paused. “I suggest to you, Gladys, that that is what really happened.”
But she had had time to take fright. “No,” she said. “No, I never had that watch.”
He ignored the admission, and said smoothly: “I am quite wrong about that?”
“Yes. It wasn’t me sent back the watch.”
He picked up a paper and said, still mildly: “When you were at that school we were talking about, you were very good at drawing. So good that you had things put up for show at the school exhibition.”
“I have here a map of Canada — a very neat map — which was one of your exhibits and which indeed won you a prize. You have signed it here in the right-hand corner, and I have no doubt that you were proud to sign such a neat piece of work. I expect you will remember it.”
It was taken across the court to her, while Kevin added:
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, it is a map of Canada which Gladys Rees made in her last year at school. When his lordship has inspected it he will no doubt pass it on to you.” And then, to Gladys: “You made that map yourself?”
“And wrote your name in the corner.”
“And printed DOMINION OF CANADA across the bottom?”
“You printed those letters across the bottom that read: DOMINION OF CANADA. Good. Now, I have here the scrap of paper on which someone wrote the words: I DON’T WANT NONE OF IT. This scrap of paper, with its printed letters, was enclosed with the watch that was sent back to The Franchise. The watch that had gone missing while Rose Glyn was working there. And I suggest that the printing of I DON’T WANT NONE is the same as the printing of DOMINION OF CANADA. That it was written by the same hand. And that that hand was yours.”
“No,” she said, taking the scrap of paper as it was handed to her and putting it hastily down on the ledge as though it might sting her. “I never. I never sent back no watch.”
“You didn’t print those letters that read: I DON’T WANT NONE OF IT?”
“But you did print those letters that read DOMINION OF CANADA?”
“Well, later in this case I shall bring evidence that these two printings are by the same hand. In the meantime the jury can inspect them at their leisure and arrive at their own conclusions. Thank you.”
“My learned friend has suggested to you,” said Miles Allison, “that pressure was brought on you to come here. Is there any truth in that suggestion?”
“You did not come here because you were frightened of what might happen to you if you didn’t?”
She took some time to think over this, evidently disentangling it in her mind. “No,” she ventured at last.
“What you said in the witness-box at the police court, and what you have said today, is the truth?”
“Not something that someone suggested you might say?”
But the impression that was left with the jury was just that: that she was an unwilling witness repeating a story that was someone else’s invention.
That ended the evidence for the prosecution and Kevin went straight on with the matter of Gladys Rees; on the housewife principle of “getting his feet clear” before he began the real work of the day.
A handwriting expert gave evidence that the two samples of printing which had been put into court were by the same hand. Not only had he no doubt about it, but he had rarely been given an easier task. Not only were letters duplicated in the two samples but combinations of letters were similarly duplicated, combinations such as DO and AN and ON. As it was evident that the jury had already made up their minds for themselves on this point — no one who saw the two samples could doubt that they were by the same hand — Allison’s suggestion that experts could be wrong was automatic and half-hearted. Kevin demolished it by producing his fingerprint witness, who deponed that the same fingerprints were to be found on each. And Allison’s suggestion that the fingerprints might not be those of Gladys Rees was a last-stand effort. He had no wish that the Court might put it to the test.
Now that he had established the fact that Gladys Rees had, when she made her first declaration, been in possession of a watch stolen from The Franchise and had returned it immediately after that declaration, with a conscience-stricken note, Kevin was free to deal with Betty Kane’s story. Rose Glyn and her story had been sufficiently discredited for the police to be already laying their heads together. He could safely leave Rose to the police.
When Bernard William Chadwick was called, there was a craning forward and a murmur of interrogation. This was a name that the newspaper readers did not recognise. What could he be doing in the case? What was he here to say?
He was here to say that he was a buyer of porcelain, fine china, and fancy goods of various kinds for a wholesale firm in London. That he was married and lived with his wife in a house in Ealing.
“You travel for your firm,” Kevin said.
“In March of this year did you pay a visit to Larborough?”
“While you were in Larborough did you meet Betty Kane?”
“How did you meet her?”
“She picked me up.”
There was an instant and concerted protest from the body of the court. Whatever discrediting Rose Glyn and her ally had suffered, Betty Kane was still sacrosanct. Betty Kane, who looked so much like Bernadette, was not to be spoken of lightly.
The judge rebuked them for the demonstration, involuntary though it had been. He also rebuked witness. He was not quite clear, he inferred, what “picking up” involved and would be grateful if the witness would confine himself to standard English in his replies.
“Will you tell the Court just how you did meet her,” Kevin said.
“I had dropped into the Midland lounge for tea one day, and she — er — began to talk to me. She was having tea there.”
“You did not speak to her first?”
“I didn’t even notice her.”
“How did she call attention to her presence, then?”
“She smiled, and I smiled back and went on with my papers. I was busy. Then she spoke to me. Asked what the papers were, and so on.”
“So the acquaintance progressed.”
“Yes. She said she was going to the flicks — to the pictures — and wouldn’t I come too? Well, I was finished for the day and she was a cute kid so I said yes, if she liked. The result was that she met me next day and went out to the country in my car with me.”
“On your business trips, you mean.”
“Yes; she came for the ride, and we would have a meal somewhere in the country and tea before she went home to her aunt’s place.”
“Did she talk about her people to you?”
“Yes, she said how unhappy she was at home, where no one took any notice of her. She had a long string of complaints about her home, but I didn’t take much notice of them. She looked a pretty sleek little outfit to me.”
“A what?” asked the judge.
“A well-cared for young girl, my lord.”
“Yes?” Kevin said. “And how long did this idyll in Larborough persist?”
“It turned out that we were leaving Larborough on the same day. She was going back to her people because her holiday was over — she had already extended it so that she could run about with me — and I was due to fly to Copenhagen on business. She then said she had no intention of going home and asked me to take her with me. I said nothing doing. I didn’t think she was so much of an innocent child as she seemed in the lounge at the Midland — I knew her better by that time — but I still thought she was inexperienced. She was only sixteen, after all.”
“She told you she was sixteen.”
“She had her sixteenth birthday in Larborough,” Chadwick said with a wry twist of the mouth under the small dark moustache. “It cost me a gold lipstick.”
Robert looked across at Mrs. Wynn and saw her cover her face with her hands. Leslie Wynn, sitting beside her, looked unbelieving and blank.
“You had no idea that actually she was still fifteen.”
“No. Not until the other day.”
“So when she made the suggestion that she should go with you you considered her an inexperienced child of sixteen.”
“Why did you change your mind about her?”
“She — convinced me that she wasn’t.”
“So after that you had no qualms about taking her with you on the trip abroad?”
“I had qualms in plenty, but by then I had learned — what fun she could be, and I couldn’t have left her behind if I had wanted to.”
“So you took her abroad with you.”
“As your wife?”
“Yes, as my wife.”
“You had no qualms about any anxiety her people might suffer?”
“No. She said she still had a fortnight’s holiday to come, and that her people would take it for granted that she was still with her aunt in Larborough. She had told her aunt that she was going home, but had told her people that she was staying on. And as they never wrote to each other it was unlikely that her not being in Larborough would become known to her people.”
“Do you remember the date on which you left Larborough?”
“Yes; I picked her up at a coach stop in Mainshill on the afternoon of March the 28th. That was where she would normally have got her bus home.”
Kevin left a pause after this piece of information, so that its full significance should have a chance. Robert, listening to the momentary quiet, thought that if the court-room were empty the silence could not be more absolute.
“So you took her with you to Copenhagen. Where did you stay?”
“At the Red Shoes Hotel.”
“For how long?”
There was a faint murmur of comment or surprise at that.
“We came back to England together on the 15th of April. She had told me that she was due home on the 16th. But on the way over she told me that she had actually been due back on the 11th and would now have been missing for four days.”
“She misled you deliberately?”
“Did she say why she had misled you?”
“Yes. So that it would be impossible for her to go back. She said she was going to write to her people and say that she had a job and was quite happy and that they were not to look for her or worry about her.”
“She had no compunction about the suffering that would cause parents who had been devoted to her?”
“No. She said her home bored her so much she could scream.”
Against his will, Robert’s eyes went to Mrs. Wynn, and came away again at once. It was crucifixion.
“What was your reaction to the new situation?”
“I was angry to begin with. It put me in a spot.”
“Were you worried about the girl?”
“No, not particularly.”
“By that time I had learned that she was very well able to take care of herself.”
“What exactly do you mean by that?”
“I mean: whoever was going to suffer in any situation she created, it wouldn’t be Betty Kane.”
The mention of her name suddenly reminded the audience that the girl they had just been hearing about was “the” Betty Kane. “Their” Betty Kane. The one like Bernadette. And there was a small uneasy movement; a taking of breath.
“After a lot of rag-chewing ——”
“Of what?” said his lordship.
“A lot of discussion, my lord.”
“Go on,” said his lordship, “but do confine yourself to English, standard or basic.”
“After a lot of talk I decided the best thing to do would be to take her down to my bungalow on the river near Bourne End. We used it for weekends in the summer and for summer holidays, but only rarely for the rest of the year.”
“When you say ‘we,’ you mean your wife and you.”
“Yes. She agreed to that quite readily, and I drove her down.”
“Did you stay there with her that night?”
“And on the following nights?”
“The following night I spent at home.”
“For a week after that I spent most nights at the bungalow.”
“Was your wife not surprised that you did not sleep at home?”
“And how did the situation at Bourne End disintegrate?”
“I went down one night and found that she had gone.”
“What did you think had happened to her?”
“Well she had been growing very bored for the last day or two — she found housekeeping fun for about three days but not more, and there wasn’t much to do down there — so when I found she had gone I took it that she was tired of me and had found someone or something more exciting.”
“You learned later where she had gone, and why?”
“You heard the girl Betty Kane give evidence today?”
“Evidence that she had been forcibly detained in a house near Milford.”
“That is the girl who went with you to Copenhagen, stayed there for a fortnight with you, and subsequently lived with you in a bungalow near Bourne End?”
“Yes, that is the girl.”
“You have no doubt about it?”
There was a great sigh from the crowd as Kevin sat down and Bernard Chadwick waited for Miles Allison. Robert wondered if Betty Kane’s face was capable of showing any emotion other than fear and triumph. Twice he had seen it pulse with triumph and once — when old Mrs. Sharpe crossed the drawing-room towards her that first day — he had seen it show fear. But for all the emotion it showed just now she might have been listening to a reading of Fat Stock prices. Its effect of inward calm, he decided, must be the result of physical construction. The result of wide-set eyes, and placid brow, and inexpensive small mouth always set in the same childish pout. It was that physical construction that had hidden, all those years, the real Betty Kane even from her intimates. A perfect camouflage, it had been. A facade behind which she could be what she liked. There it was now, the mask, as child-like and calm as when he had first seen it above her school coat in the drawing-room at The Franchise; although behind it its owner must be seething with unnameable emotions.
“Mr. Chadwick,” Miles Allison said, “this is a very belated story, isn’t it?”
“Yes. This case has been a matter for press-report and public comment for the past three weeks, or thereabouts. You must have known that two women were being wrongfully accused — if your story was true. If, as you say, Betty Kane was with you during those weeks, and not, as she says, in the house of these two women, why did you not go straight to the police and tell them so?”
“Because I didn’t know anything about it.”
“About the prosecution of these women. Or about the story that Betty Kane had told.”
“How was that?”
“Because I have been abroad again for my firm. I knew nothing about this case until a couple of days ago.”
“I see. You have heard the girl give evidence; and you have heard the doctor’s evidence as to the condition in which she arrived home. Does anything in your story explain that?”
“It was not you who beat the girl?”
“You say you went down one night and found her gone.”
“She had packed up and gone?”
“Yes; so it seemed at the time.”
“That is to say, all her belongings and the luggage that contained them had disappeared with her.”
“And yet she arrived home without belongings of any sort, and wearing only a dress and shoes.”
“I didn’t know that till much later.”
“You want us to understand that when you went down to the bungalow you found it tidy and deserted, with no sign of any hasty departure.”
“Yes. That’s how I found it.”
When Mary Frances Chadwick was summoned to give evidence there was what amounted to a sensation in court, even before she appeared. It was obvious that this was “the wife”; and this was fare that not even the most optimistic queuer outside the court had anticipated.
Frances Chadwick was a tallish good-looking woman; a natural blonde with the clothes and figure of a girl who has “modelled” clothes; but growing a little plump now, and, if one was to judge from the good-natured face, not much caring.
She said that she was indeed married to the previous witness, and lived with him in Ealing. They had no children. She still worked in the clothes trade now and then. Not because she needed to, but for pocket-money and because she liked it. Yes, she remembered her husband’s going to Larborough and his subsequent trip to Copenhagen. He arrived back from Copenhagen a day later than he had promised, and spent that night with her. During the following week she began to suspect that her husband had developed an interest elsewhere. The suspicion was confirmed when a friend told her that her husband had a guest at their bungalow on the river.
“Did you speak to your husband about it?” Kevin asked.
“No. That wouldn’t have been any solution. He attracts them like flies.”
“What did you do, then? Or plan to do?”
“What I always do with flies.”
“What is that?”
“I swat them.”
“So you proceeded to the bungalow with the intention of swatting whatever fly was there.”
“And what did you find at the bungalow?”
“I went late in the evening hoping I would catch Barney there too ——”
“Barney is your husband?”
“And how. I mean, yes,” she added hastily, catching the judge’s eye.
“The door was unlocked so I walked straight in and into the sitting-room. A woman’s voice called from the bedroom: ‘Is that you, Barney? I’ve been so lonely for you.’ I went in and found her lying on the bed in the kind of negligée you used to see in vamp films about ten years ago. She looked a mess, and I was a bit surprised at Barney. She was eating chocolates out of an enormous, box that was lying on the bed alongside her. Terribly nineteen-thirty, the whole set-up.”
“Please confine your story to the essentials, Mrs. Chadwick.”
“Yes. Sorry. Well, we had the usual exchange ——”
“Yes. The what-are-you-doing-here stuff. The wronged-wife and the light-of-love, you know. But for some reason or other she got in my hair. I don’t know why. I had never cared very much on other occasions. I mean, we just had a good row without any real hard feelings on either side. But there was something about this little tramp that turned my stomach. So ——”
“Please, Mrs. Chadwick!”
“All right. Sorry. But you did say tell it in my own words. Well, there came a point where I couldn’t stand this floo —— I mean, I got to a stage when she riled me past bearing. I pulled her off the bed and gave her a smack on the side of the head. She looked so surprised it was funny. It would seem no one had ever hit her in her life. She said: ‘You hit me!’ just like that; and I said: ‘A lot of people are going to hit you from now on, my poppet,’ and gave her another one. Well, from then on it was just a fight. I own quite frankly that the odds were all on my side. I was bigger for one thing and in a flaming temper. I tore that silly negligée off her, and it was ding-dong till she tripped over one of her mules that was lying on the floor and went sprawling. I waited for her to get up, but she didn’t, and I thought she had passed out. I went into the bathroom to get a cold wet cloth and mopped her face. And then I went into the kitchen to make some coffee. I had cooled off by then and thought she would be glad of something when she had cooled off too. I brewed the coffee and left it to stand. But when I got back to the bedroom I found that the faint had been all an act. The little — the girl had lit out. She had had time to dress, so I took it for granted that she had dressed in a hurry and gone.”
“And did you go too?”
“I waited for an hour, thinking Barney might come. My husband. All the girl’s things were lying about, so I slung them all into her suitcase and put it in the cupboard under the stairs to the attic. And I opened all the windows. She must have put her scent on with a ladle. And then when Barney didn’t come I went away. I must just have missed him, because he did go down that night. But a couple of days later I told him what I had done.”
“And what was his reaction?”
“He said it was a pity her mother hadn’t done the same thing ten years ago.”
“He was not worried as to what had become of her?”
“No. I was, a bit, until he told me her home was only over at Aylesbury. She could quite easily cadge a lift that distance.”
“So he took it for granted that she had gone home?”
“Yes. I said, hadn’t he better make sure. After all, she was a kid.”
“And what did he say in answer to that?”
“He said: ‘Frankie, my girl, that “kid” knows more about self-preservation than a chameleon.’”
“So you dismissed the affair from your mind.”
“But it must have come to your mind again when you read accounts of the Franchise affair?”
“No, it didn’t.”
“Why was that?”
“For one thing, I never knew the girl’s name. Barney called her Liz. And I just didn’t connect a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who was kidnapped and beaten somewhere in the Midlands with Barney’s bit. I mean, with the girl who was eating chocolates on my bed.”
“If you had realised that the girls were identical, you would have told the police what you knew about her?”
“You would not have hesitated owing to the fact that it was you who had administered the beating?”
“No. I would administer another tomorrow if I got the chance.”
“I will save my learned friend a question and ask you: Do you intend to divorce your husband?”
“No. Certainly not.”
“This evidence of yours and his is not a neat piece of public collusion?”
“No. I wouldn’t need collusion. But I have no intention of divorcing Barney. He’s fun, and he’s a good provider. What more do you want in a husband?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Robert heard Kevin murmur. Then in his normal voice he asked her to state that the girl she had been talking about was the girl who had given evidence; the girl who was now sitting in court. And so thanked her and sat down.
But Miles Allison made no attempt to cross-examine. And Kevin moved to call his next witness. But the foreman of the jury was before him.
The jury, the foreman said, would like his lordship to know that they had all the evidence they required.
“What was this witness that you were about to call, Mr. Macdermott?” the judge asked.
“He is the owner of the hotel in Copenhagen, my lord. To speak to their having stayed there over the relevant period.”
The judge turned inquiringly to the foreman.
The foreman consulted the jury.
“No, my lord; we don’t think it is necessary, subject to your lordship’s correction, to hear the witness.”
“If you are satisfied that you have heard enough to arrive at a true verdict — and I cannot myself see that any further evidence would greatly clarify the subject — then so be it. Would you like to hear counsel for the defence?”
“No, my lord, thank you. We have reached our verdict already.”
“In that case, any summing-up by me would be markedly redundant. Do you want to retire?”
“No, my lord. We are unanimous.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55