It was purely coincidence that the knives were still in my car. I think that was one of the things that Boyle didn’t quite believe. I watched him write as I talked and wondered if he’d ever had to do this before; taking notes from someone he cared about. It happened to me all the time. I was always taking details from friends and relatives, trying to piece together their events and situations to show them a way through. But this was different. This was formal and I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t even be in the room if his colleagues knew about us.
I shifted a little in the hard chair. I guessed that they were intentionally uncomfortable; an encouragement to talk and then, perhaps everyone can go home.
“Am I going to be kept here a while? It’s not that I’ve got anywhere else to go, but it would be nice to know.” I kept my tone light, casual. It wasn’t a big deal. The police had to do their thing and I would just have to be patient.
Boyle continued to write and didn’t look up. “I don’t know yet. We’ll have to confirm your statement of events with that of Miss Willows. Do you need to contact someone?”
“I did contact someone. I contacted you.” Boyle paused with his notes but still didn’t look at me.
“Will I need a solicitor?”
“You’re only here so that we can take your statement,” he reminded me.
“I know. But will I need one?”
Boyle took a deep breath and put down his pen. Finally, he looked up. His expression was calm and steady, but his eyes were sad. I’d disappointed him. He should have known I would. It was only a matter of time. “We would always recommend that anyone who feels they need legal advice should seek it.”
We’d spoken on the phone only earlier that day. I was out shopping for a wedding present. He had slept in, was working a later shift. “What are you doing? You should have woken me before you left. I slept like a log.”
I laughed. “I should think so, too,” I said. “But I had to go shopping; it’s the hen night tonight.”
“Oh, yes. Well, call me when you get back. I’ll still be awake.”
I promised I would.
I chose the steak knives because they were practical and looked nice, and after two hours of looking, I still couldn’t think of anything else. Paula and I were like chalk and cheese, but we had always got on well together. I was thrilled that she was finally getting married. It must have been terrible for her that the hen night had ended as it did. She’d probably cancel the wedding.
As giggling ladies in pink headdresses bustled out of the club that Friday night, Paula and I hugged at the exit with promises to call each other the next day. Then this guy came up to us.
“Need a minicab, love?”
I was immediately suspicious. “Ask to see some ID and ask where his base is,” I said. Paula laughed.
“I’m going to the taxi rank, anyway,” she said. “The illegals won’t go there; all the regular drivers know each other.”
“I did offer her a lift,” I said to Boyle, “but she and I live on opposite sides of the town. It made more sense that she should get a taxi back home. It’s what she had planned to do.”
“Perhaps you could have insisted.”
“Perhaps I could,” I agreed. “Perhaps she could have car-pooled. Perhaps she could have pre-booked her taxi back home. There are many things that could have happened, perhaps.”
After I’d driven my car from the multi-storey, I took the longer route through the town. I looked out for Paula, but couldn’t see her and the taxi rank was deserted. I drove on in the direction of the bus terminus and saw the same young man who had approached us earlier walk around the side of a car and get in the driver’s side.
“At the end of the terminus, there’s a petrol station. I drove in one end and out the other, just as the car went past.”
“And that’s when you decided to follow him?” asked Boyle.
“A silver BMW with that registration?” he said, pointing to his pad. “That’s when you should have called.”
“Yes, but there’s a fine for using your mobile while driving.” I smiled, but Boyle kept his expression neutral. “Besides, they turned off fairly quickly.”
“Ah, yes. Belmont Road. You recognised that as a red flag?”
“I recognised that as a through road to the industrial area.”
“Another opportune moment to call the police. But there is another road at the other end of the industrial units that leads into the housing estate.”
“Yes. Jefferson Street.”
That’s when I realised it wasn’t Paula in the car. That’s when I tried to recall who lived near Jefferson Street and when I remembered the steak knives in the boot.
“Where was the car at this point?”
“It stopped just before a set of garages. I stopped across the car park.”
“The garages are on the other side of the car park?”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Could the other car see you?”
“I’ve no idea, but I could see it. I’m sure that if he had bothered to look up, he would have seen me.”
“Then what happened?”
“He got out the car and opened up one of the garages.”
“Could you see anyone else? Anyone in the car?”
“No, I never actually saw anyone else in the car. We’ve already been over this.”
“So, up until this point, you had been observing this man based solely on your own suspicion?”
Boyle sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He looked wrung out and I guessed I probably didn’t look too great either. I glanced at the wall clock behind him. It had been a long night.
“And then?” he said, lifting only his eyes to look at me. “That’s when you decided to approach?”
“But you armed yourself first.”
“Look, I know you don’t believe me, but what I told you is true.” I ran my fingers through my hair and felt the sticky tangles of dried-in hairspray. I needed a shower and a change of clothes. I needed to get out of here and make a few phone calls. “Until then, I’d forgotten the knives were there.”
“But you went to the boot of your car to retrieve one.”
“They’re steak knives! I picked up a steak knife, not an axe!”
“You approached the car?”
“Yes, but there was nobody inside. He’d pulled her out.”
“You saw that?”
“No, but the car doors had been left open.”
“But you didn’t see anyone pulled from the car?”
I was starting to lose my temper again and felt my cheeks get hot. “No, I didn’t see that.”
“Tell me about the garage.”
“The door was up. It was pretty dim inside; I couldn’t see much. I stood in the doorway. That’s when I saw them. I was too late to stop it.” My voice started to crack and I knew I was going to cry. “I saw him, what he was doing to my friend, and I was too late.”
“The garage,” repeated Boyle. “Tell me about that.”
I rubbed my fists against my eyes and shrugged a little. “Fit for purpose, I suppose. One overhead light, an old mattress on the floor, a packet of condoms nearby.”
Boyle sighed again, but this time closed his eyes when he asked his question.
“What did you do?”
“I pulled him off and rolled him over.”
“How did you do that?”
“I grabbed his hair. He was shocked. I think he was too busy to notice I was there. He begged me not to hurt him. That was funny, really. He looked stronger than I am.”
“I knelt down beside him and lifted one foot onto his stomach. He stopped squirming then. I held the knife in my fist and pointed it at his groin.”
“But you didn’t stab him.”
“Did you at any point threaten to stab him?”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Boyle,” I shouted, finally giving in to my temper. “You’ve got the guy. He did it. My friend told you everything. So have I. What the hell is your problem?”
Boyle slammed down the pen and shoved the notepad towards me. “My problem,” he shouted back, “is you.” He jabbed a finger onto the page. “We both know this is all rubbish. You were the only independent witness to an awful crime; you ignored at least two chances to call the police and almost committed grievous bodily harm yourself. That’s the second time you’ve been on the brink of taking the law into your own hands. What kind of an epic do you think a defence lawyer is going to make of that?” He only briefly paused for breath. “And how do you explain the minor cuts and abrasions the accused has on his palms or his amazing willingness to confess?”
“He had no choice but to confess. I caught him red handed.”
“Even those caught red handed can think of an excuse,” said Boyle. “Believe me, I’ve heard them all.”
I took a deep breath and rubbed my hands over my face again. I was tired and uncomfortable and just wanted to go home. “What do you want me to tell you?” I asked. “I don’t know what else I can say.”
Boyle lent forward in his chair again. “You can tell me where the other knife is,” he said.
“What other knife?”
“Steak knives tend to come in sets of eight. There were six in the box in the boot of your car and the one you were holding when we arrived. That’s seven. Where’s the other one?”
“Well, the lady in the shop must have made a mistake, and charged me for eight when there were only seven.”
“The cuts and abrasions on the hands of the accused were fresh, suggesting that he was attempting to defend himself while being threatened with a knife. If that can be proved, his defence will claim that his confession was coerced.”
“Can it be proved?” I asked innocently.
Boyle ignored that question. “Surprisingly, your knife was spotlessly clean.”
“Can I go home now?”
I didn’t get to see Lisa Willows until the following day. I didn’t know what to say to her, so I just sat on the edge of her hospital bed and held her hand.
“Thanks for not asking me how I feel,” she said. The bruises on her arms were showing from beneath her hospital gown; marks I didn’t see yesterday.
“Oh, Lisa. I’m so sorry...”
She shook her head. “No, you mustn’t say that. You saved me.”
“If I had been sooner...”
“But you got him to confess.”
I sighed. “Boyle doesn’t believe me.”
“He came to see me this morning. He asked me about the knife. I didn’t say anything.”
I nodded. “I’ll be surprised if he wants to see me again.”
“He will. You’re a lot alike.” Lisa licked dry lips and I reached for a cup of water which she sipped gratefully. “Have you spoken to Paula today? She’s going ahead with the wedding.”
“I insisted. But there’s something else you’ll have to do for us.”
“Anything. What is it?”
“Attend the final fitting on Monday instead of me.”
I squeezed her hand and smiled. “You’re sure?”
Lisa nodded and smiled back at me. “I wouldn’t trust anyone else. Just bring me back some wedding cake on Saturday.”
Something then occurred to me. “Ugh! I’ll have to wear magenta!”
I left the wedding reception before eleven. The party was still in full swing and although the wedding had been lovely, partying with friends minus a date has always been a bit of an embarrassment for me.
I’d only just closed my door and removed a shoe, when my doorbell rang. Boyle was standing on the other side of my peephole.
“Were you already here waiting for me to get back?” I asked as I opened the door.
Boyle ignored the question and stared at my dress instead. “Lovely colour,” he commented.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t pick it. I just have a friend who’s worth wearing it for.”
“Would that be Miss Willows or the newly married Mrs Reid?”
I stepped aside and let him in. “Is this an official line of questioning?”
“Just tying up a few loose ends. I had spoken briefly to Mrs Reid and she confirmed the image of the young man who approached you outside the night club and also confirmed that she was lucky enough to take the last taxi at the rank that night.”
“Well, that’s good isn’t it? That verifies all we’ve said.”
“Except for two minor points.”
I tried to sound casual. “Oh yes?”
“Mrs Reid seemed to think that when the young man offered the cab ride, he was speaking to you. Perhaps as you were saying goodbye, he may have had the impression that you would be less likely to be travelling home with friends.”
“Well, I have no idea. You’d have to ask him about that.” I had absolutely no doubt that Boyle already had.
“Also, Mrs Reid was under the impression that you and Miss Willows had not met prior to that evening.”
I abandoned the shoes in the middle of the floor and flopped into a chair.
“So? What exactly are you trying to ask me now?”
Boyle strode purposefully over to my chair and leaned forward with his hands spread against the arm. “I’d suggest that on that night you decided to drive back to the taxi rank to confirm that Mrs Reid had taken a taxi and seeing that she had, you proceeded to drive home. On the way out, you saw the young man and did make the conscience decision to follow him, regardless of who might be in the back of the car. When the car stopped, you guessed at his intent and armed yourself to give the perpetrator what you believed he deserved.”
“Why,” I said, staring back at him, “would I go to such trouble for someone I only just met?”
“You wouldn’t,” said Boyle. “You’d do it for you. You nearly did once before; to make yourself judge, jury and executioner.”
“I didn’t attempt to injure him.”
“But you did force him to confess.”
“Ah, yes,” I nodded. “Have you found the mystery missing steak knife yet?”
“It occurred to me on Saturday that there was one place that we forgot to look.”
I made a deliberate effort not to glance at my kitchen drawer.
“We checked your handbag, the boot of your car and the garage and the car of the accused. But there was one place we couldn’t check; Miss Willow’s handbag. It wasn’t there. So how could a young woman take a cab without the means to pay for her journey home?”
I stared back at him but didn’t answer.
“I realised that we didn’t look under the seats in your car.”
“If you like I’ll get my keys for you now,” I said.
Boyle smiled, grimly. “Too late now, isn’t it?”
I smiled too, and then realised something. “You just said Saturday. You thought of a place to check the next day? Why would you wait a whole week before mentioning that?”
“To give you enough time to dispose of the evidence.” He held his face close to mine and lifted his hand to touch the side of my face. “That’s what disturbs me so much about you, do you know that?” he asked. “You’ve made up your mind about what you think the difference is between law and justice and intend to redress the balance. And you know what’s really scary?” He swallowed as he brushed the surface of my lips with his thumb. “I’d let you.”
I looked into his eyes and tried to read what he was thinking. “You’re too honest. You’re logical, practical. You wouldn’t compromise like that.”
He nodded. “I used to think so too,” he said. “So, explain to me, why is it, I only feel that way when I’m with you?”
“Maybe you’ve just discovered you like living dangerously.”
“Maybe you’re just trying to get me fired.”
“Maybe we’re very different.”
“Or more likely, we’re two sides of the same coin.”
I lifted my hand to touch him just above his heart. “Your bosses - they know about us, don’t they? I’m sorry for getting you in trouble.”
“I’m on a warning,” he said. “I won’t escape another brush like that. I don’t suppose there’s much use in asking you to promise not to do anything like that ever again?”
I laughed. “I think the best I can promise,” I said, slipping my arms around his neck, “is to keep you fully informed of all my movements.”
“Well, I like the sound of that,” he smiled. “Maybe I should keep you under closer observation from now on.”
“From now on? Is that a continuation of your current investigation?”
“Perhaps,” he said. “Perhaps.”