Chapter 32. Cromarty?
The first leg of their journey had been perfect, watching the waterlogged countryside slide by, glad they were in the train. Maeve had related all of their adventures the night before, both of them laughing with enjoyment at Ada’s performance, and they had gone over what they knew about the old murder case.
“The bit I don’t get,” Steve was going through the photocopied papers from the file which were spread across the table, “is why the spirit would be getting in touch with you? I mean, this case is old and the murderer is still behind bars.”
“You're right. There are a number of things that don’t add up,” Maeve was sitting back thinking, “first thing is, why is she getting in touch at all? Anne suggested that she is trying to warn us, meaning trying to stop something from happening in the future, I guess?”
These were pretty basic questions to which they didn’t have a good answer yet.
Maeve went on, “The next thing is, what’s with the missing shoe? Is it important, or is it something she is using to communicate with us?” She was getting out her notebook to write these down, Maeve always felt better once she had made a list.
“And of course, another critical question, is the appearance of this child spirit, who we now know is Kimberly, and the body I found. Are they connected, or is it some bizarre coincidence?”
Her list of questions was getting longer rather than shorter.
They both concluded with a ‘Hmmm’.
Steve gathered up the paper, tapped them on the table as if to put an end to the conversation, and put away the file, making space for coffee and croissant.
Once the paperwork was out of the way the atmosphere changed. Moving on to the more personal, Steve was ready to start to open up, somehow he wanted Maeve to know who he was, he thought that the mistake they had made last time was not getting to know each other better first. They worked well together and clearly there was some spark there, or he hoped there was. But they didn’t really know each other as people. Where to start?
Maeve picked up on shift and equally wasn’t sure how to do this. It had been a long time since someone was interested in her, as a person, rather than as a mother, or daughter. She examined her fingernails as she thought. Then she remembered there was something that she wanted to know.
“When we were talking about Matthew, the guy living out in the woods, and that he might have PTSD, remember?”
Steve nodded this wasn’t exactly the direction he had been thinking but they had lots of time so why not.
“Tell me more. More about you, and PTSD in the police, and what help you get?”
Steve, sighed, this really wasn’t what he wanted to be talking about.
“There’s not much to tell. They started a new program a few years ago, but….. and it's a big but, if you want to be promoted you don’t want to look weak so you don’t want to ‘volunteer’ any information that you don’t have to .” He clearly wasn’t keen to continue this conversation, but Maeve just waited.
“I mean the force has been trying. There’s a project that Kent Police have been doing with Cambridge University which says that one in five of us have PTSD.” He shifted uncomfortably. “But unless you are a basket case, and bursting into tears every five minutes no one wants to put their hand up and say help me. We just get on with the job.” He spread his hands out on the table, as much to say that’s that, end of conversation.
This didn’t do much to allay Maeve’s concerns about Steve, nor give her any guidance for Matthew.
“So tell me about your life outside the force?”
“What do you do when you are not working? What do you enjoy?”
This was clearly not something that Steve thought much about. His life was his work. Equally he wasn’t feeling in control of the conversation, he was shifting uncomfortably looking vulnerable.
“I like music, I listen to music all the time…..when I’m working...” He was beginning to realise that he hadn’t given much, if any, thought to life in the normal civilian sense of the word.
“I’ve been doing some subjects at night school to get extra qualifications. And I still volunteer for the Bikesafe course when I can, teaching advanced motorcycle training. Mostly with the Met now.” Silent. He drew a blank, now put on the spot he couldn’t think of anything else, and most of this was just more work. He felt he wasn’t coming out of this ‘job interview’ or interrogation particularly well, which he resented.
About now, back home, things were starting to wake up, and not in a particularly good way, but so far Steve and Maeve were oblivious.
They arrived in St Pancras station. The Kent line lands on the first floor, right beside the Eurostar trains, separated only by a Perspex barrier. The bright sun and blue sky filled the two story glass frontage to the station as they passed the ticket barrier.
They had about twenty minutes to get from one train to the other. Maeve had decided that if they moved swiftly, it was long enough to get a coffee refill. At the bottom of the escalators Starbucks was still open. Standing in line to order the coffee, Maeve registered that the station was missing the normal bustle. Even the Pret coffee shop was closed. She wondered how long it would be, before things got back to some sort of normality.
Steve picked up the coffees from the painfully slow barista, with his bag on his shoulder he managed to carry both of them, as they quick-marched across the road to Kings Cross. Entering from the Western concourse straight into the impressive domed expanse, they found their platform, which was further than they thought so they almost ran to get there in time.
Since they had left St Pancras, both of their phones had been pinging, signalling incoming messages. However with hands full of bags, tickets and coffees, they had decided whatever it was could wait till they were on the express train to Edinburgh.
They just made it, settling into their seats in first class, with bags stashed in the overhead rack, as the train started to move. A little too close for Steve’s liking.
Enjoying the luxury, they took a moment to relax and then took out their phones.
“Shit!” They exclaimed at exactly the same time.
The same urgency but from different sources.
Steve’s from the station, ‘Get back here immediately! People are gathering in Fordwich. To do with the old case you re-opened.’
Maeve’s from Marianne, ‘Call ASAP! Ada’s fans have gone mad.’
They moved to opposite ends of the carriage to make their calls. The phones lost signal with each tunnel they passed through, and again with each bad ‘out of range’ patch. It was lucky that the carriage was empty as they were both shouting.
“What, I can’t hear you……” then to no one in particular “Shit no signal again.”
After a while, with multiple restarts, of “Hello, hello,.... what? I missed that last bit”,
they had each begun to form a picture, and returned to their table to share intel. It seemed that during Ada’s performance the audience had picked up some key information like the car park in Fordwich, and the fact that the missing shoe was important. What they hadn’t understood, or Ada hadn’t made clear, was that this was an old case. Her fans thought that this was a live case and somehow they believed that finding this shoe would contribute to finding a murderer and possibly saving the life of a child. Urgently.
Maeve had been on FaceTime with a distraught Ada,
“Oh for God’s sake Maeve, how could they think that?” Ada was wringing her hands, Maeve could see that beside Ada was a pile of tissues, she had clearly had a good cry before getting through to Maeve. “Sure, wasn’t I crystal clear?.....I think it was just the way I was repeating what that poor woman said, it sounded so real and like it was happening now….” Maeve was nodding in agreement with the occasional “Yes,..... ahum,....yes…..ahum...”
The net result was that fans had organised themselves via social media and were coming from everywhere descending on the George and Dragon in Fordwich and walking from there back to Canterbury through the woods looking for the shoe. They had moved from TicTok to a Facebook page and were using Twitter for instant access to information with both being shared or retweeted to spread the word. The crowd was growing and growing.
For the police this was a nightmare. It was, by now, more than a hundred, all of them walking in two’s ‘for exercise’ so they couldn’t be arrested but they were flooding the place.
According to the Super, Steve was the cause of all this. Steve had dug up the old case, Steve was on his way to interview a random witness, and now all hell had broken loose, QED it was Steve’s fault.
Steve was furious, as far as he was concerned this fiasco had nothing to do with him at all. Here he was, policing the old fashioned way, going to interview a witness. He thought that this insanity was all down to Ada and her crazy ideas, it was all her fault. And Maeve. Without Maeve this wouldn’t have happened either.
He looked like thunder. This was his promotion down the toilet, to move up the ladder Steve needed to show leadership, good planning, working with a team, this was a disaster.
Maeve was trying to piece together, what had happened, what was actually going on, and then trying to figure out what they might do about it. She looked up and saw Steve’s face.
“This isn’t my fault.” She gave him a warning glare. “Don’t you dare try to pin this on me.” Maeve had to take a deep breath, to calm her own mounting anger, “I’m doing my best to work out a solution. Getting angry with me won’t help anything.”
The Super had been clear, Steve had to get his ass back to Canterbury as fast as he could and sort this mess out. Meanwhile the situation was being escalated, the numbers were like daylight rave and growing.
At this point they were some twenty minutes out of King’s Cross station, the train was the non-stop express train. Steve worked out that they had another three and a half hours before arriving in Edinburgh then he would have to turn around and go straight back. In total nearly ten hours, too long, he needed to do something right now, and he wanted to shout at someone.