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Authors: Geraldine Evans

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BOOK: The Hanging Tree
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CHAPTER
EIGHT

 

However, for the moment, the car wasn't going to tell them anything more
and Rafferty and Llewellyn walked round to the front of the house. After
radioing through to the station to check that the car was Sinead Fay's, they
walked up the path and knocked on the door.

Although Rafferty had never met Sinead Fay, he had heard of her and what
had happened to her, so he knew what to expect. However, the reality was still
shocking and he tried not to stare at the ruin of her face as he quickly made
the introductions.

The doctors had done a fairly neat job of stitching up the knife
slashes, but some of them had gone deep — to the dermis and beyond, to the
layer of subcutaneous fat beneath. Eight years ago, the techniques for
repairing such facial injuries hadn't been as advanced as they were now, but
surely, he thought, even now, something more could be done for her?

'Pretty, aren't they, Inspector?' she commented by way of greeting. 'I
call them my feminist battle scars.' Although her voice was careless, matter of
fact even, the rage still came through in the aggressive line of the jaw and
the resolute stare with which she met his gaze, daring him to show revulsion or
pity.

Some of Rafferty's colleagues who had met her, were of the opinion that
Sinead Fay had left her scars as they were in order to make men feel guilty. Rafferty
suspected they were right. It certainly worked on him. She would, he was sure,
make good use of such a natural male reaction. It would be more effective to
the feminist cause than any number of rallies and demonstrations.

She must have been an enchantingly pretty girl before the vicious
assault on her, Rafferty decided. She shared the glorious Black Irish colouring
of his sister, Maggie; hair, as dark as a raven, skin creamy as Jersey milk,
and eyes the bright blue of lazy Caribbean skies fringed with lashes as thick
and lustrous as palm fronds.

'How did it happen?'

Rafferty was torn abruptly away from his poetical musings by Llewellyn's
question and wished he'd thought to warn him what to expect. Of course, he
hadn't anticipated that the normally sensitive Llewellyn would voice such a
question.

Sinead Fay smiled softly, as though pleased that another unsuspecting
male had fallen so neatly into her trap. Rafferty wondered just how much of a
kick she got out of telling each new man she met?

'I was attacked by a knife-wielding thug, Sergeant,' she told him. 'One
who didn't seem to understand that I found him entirely resistible. I had
already refused to go out with him several times. I gather he thought that,
with my face carved up, I wouldn't be able to be so particular. Oh and he raped
me as well, just to thrust the message home, as it were.'

Llewellyn merely nodded. Rafferty guessed she had expected the usual
male response; a shuffling of feet, the lowering of embarrassed eyes, the
muttered apology, for when the Welshman failed to do any of these things, her
eyes narrowed, her provocative mouth thinned, so that, strangely, it became
even more provocative, and she spun on her heel with the words, 'You wanted to
speak to me about the death of Maurice Smith, I believe?'

'The murder of Maurice Smith, yes,' Rafferty corrected.

At his correction, she glanced fleetingly over her shoulder, then led
the way into what he assumed was her living room, though it looked more like
the headquarters of an anarchist group. The walls were covered with posters;
some urging the empowerment of women; others featuring the uglier face of man
in all its aggressive guises, warrior, rapist, mugger. Piles of leaflets
littered every surface and he realized that it was their headquarters, their
advice centre, their meeting point where they planned future campaigns. Was it
here that the 'outing' campaign had been formulated? he wondered.

There were two other women present. They were bent over a table piled
high with letters which they were stuffing into envelopes. He guessed these
were the other two women who formed the breakaway Rape Support Group.

The elder of the two stared at them boldly. She had the kind of dark,
gypsyish good looks that had no need of make-up. Rafferty guessed it probably
infuriated her that her own natural attractiveness would encourage men to
indulge in the kind of meaningless flirtation she must despise. As though to
counteract her own good looks, she wore a shapeless pair of khaki dungarees
with a badge on the strap that said, "Mother Nature Nurtures - What Does
FATHER Nature Do?"

She was about thirty-five, he guessed and his assumption that she was
Ellen Kemp was confirmed as Sinead Fay made the introductions. The strong chin
and squared shoulders spoke of the confident woman that Mrs Nye had described. She
had told them that Ellen Kemp ran her own very successful business as well as
bringing up her daughter single-handedly. She had the air of quiet
self-assurance about her that made him wonder why she hadn't assumed the mantle
of leader. But presumably her business took up a lot of her time. And there was
always the position of the power behind the throne. The other woman was about
twenty-five and was introduced as Zonie Anderson. She just nodded, but said
nothing.

Ellen Kemp held his gaze for several seconds before she said, 'Gwen Nye
rang and told us you were on your way, though really, I can't imagine what you—'

'We just want to ask a few questions, Ms Kemp, nothing to worry about. We're
investigating the murder of Maurice Smith and—'

'Wow! Men!'

Astonished to hear a voice in this house enthuse over his sex,
Rafferty's head swivelled. A teenage girl stood in the doorway behind Sinead
Fay. She shared Ellen Kemp's bold stare, but the stare she directed at him and
Llewellyn was much warmer, the smile so naturally flirtatious that Rafferty
wondered what malign trick of the fates had placed her in a house where males
were regarded as some kind of alien race. Behind him he heard Ellen Kemp give
the briefest of sighs.

'This is my daughter, Jenny,' she told them shortly.

Rafferty almost laughed at the cruel irony of it. About eighteen,
Jenny's similarity to her mother was striking, though it obviously extended no
further than the physical.

As though to demonstrate this fact, Jenny, hips swaying, sashayed slowly
across the room and sat on the arm of her mother's chair, where she commenced a
provocative swinging of one bare and slender leg. 'What are they doing here?'
she asked her mother, as she appraised Llewellyn with such a steady,
under-the-lashes stare of admiration that his ears began to turn bright pink.

With a restraint obviously born from plenty of practise, Ellen Kemp
merely commented, 'These are policemen, darling. I can't imagine they'll be
here long.'

'Pity,' Jenny said, continuing to stare moony-eyed at the discomfited
Welshman.

Across Ellen Kemp's face passed a succession of emotions; irritation,
affectionate exasperation, resignation and finally, determination. 'If you've
got nothing better to do, why don't you take the post to the mailbox?'

'What's the rush?' Jenny countered. She removed her gaze from Llewellyn
for long enough to assess and dismiss the table with its piles of leaflets and
already filled envelopes and said, 'There's nothing there that can't wait.'

 As Jenny showed no inclination to leave, her mother was forced to resort
to bribery. She dug in her pocket and said, 'Here's twenty pounds. Why don't
you and Cindy go to the pictures? You said you wanted to see that new romantic
comedy.'

'Trying to get rid of me, Mum?' Jenny asked. However, the bribe worked,
because she took the heavy-handed hint and the crisp note, pushed herself up
from her mother's chair and, after picking up the post, swayed her way back to
the door. 'All right, I'll make myself scarce. Maybe I'll go to see Aunt Beth
later. Her place can't be any more dreary than this house and maybe I might be
able to cheer her up.'

'I don't think that's a good idea, Jenny. She could do without your
particular brand of cheering at the moment.'

Jenny shrugged.

'And remember what I said about going with Cindy. I don't want you going
on your own.'

Jenny pulled another face as she made for the door again. 'Honestly,
Mum, the entire world isn't populated by dirty old men in raincoats, you know. Though
to hear you—'

'Please, Jenny, just do as I ask.'

Jenny flounced her way out, though she paused for long enough as she
passed Llewellyn to say, 'Ciao' and blow him a kiss. The front door slammed
behind her leaving a strained silence, which, after a moment, Rafferty broke. He
gestured at the unnoccupied settee, and asked, 'Okay if we sit down?' Sinead
Fay nodded. 'As I said, we wanted to talk to you about the murder of Maurice
Smith.'

Interestingly, none of the women made a comment about his death. Given
their frequent outbursts in the press about the leniency of the Courts in
dealing with rapists and other violent criminals, he'd have expected a
"good riddance", at the very least, and it was revealing that they
chose to remain silent. He guessed Jenny's behaviour had not only embarrassed
them, but had also to an extent taken the wind out of their sails. He decided
to take advantage of it by launching a surprise attack.

'I wonder, Ms Fay, if you can tell me what your car was doing parked by
the victim's flat from last Wednesday morning to Thursday evening?'

There was a moment's electrified silence. But something about Rafferty's
body language or choice of words must have given him away, for Ellen Kemp told
them calmly, 'You're mistaken, Inspector. Sinead's car was parked in my garage
all last week.'

Rafferty admired her coolness. Assuming it was the same car and it had
been parked there for the reason he suspected, she was taking a chance that
nobody had noted the number. Still, it was a calculated risk and he doubted Ellen
Kemp ever did anything without calculating the odds. It was probably the
character trait that had made her a successful businesswoman. And she had had
several days since Smith's murder to plan her answers.

 A small voice of caution whispered in his brain that they'd hardly have
parked the car outside Smith's flat if they'd been planning to murder him, and
he as quickly riposted that murder mightn't have been the plan, merely the
result. Having witnessed the pragmatic means she had used to remove her wayward
daughter from the room, he doubted Ellen Kemp was fanatical enough to
incriminate herself deliberately or to allow the other two to do so. A woman of
her spirit would find the restrictions of a long prison sentence unendurable.

He questioned her further 'You say Ms Fay's car was in your garage?' She
nodded. 'Can you explain why?'

'It's simple enough. It was playing up. It's quite an old car and Sinead
was tired of being ripped off by male mechanics and having to put up with their
sexist comments. She knows I'm quite good with cars, so she asked me to have a
look at it.'

'And you didn't take it out at all?'

'Well, of course I took it out. I had to give it a test run to make sure
I'd cured the problem. But I only took it round the block. Nowhere near Smith's
flat.'

'You know where he lived, then?' he quickly asked and she answered
equally quickly.

'I should imagine the whole world knows by now. Or don't you read the
papers, Inspector?' Rafferty began to see where Jenny got her pertness from;
they took different directions, that was all. 'I had no idea where he lived
before his death.' She met his eyes as though daring him to contradict her. 'I
had no reason to. None of us did.'

Rafferty nodded. Hoping their investigations would reveal whether she was
telling the truth or not, he gestured to Llewellyn to take over the
questioning; possibly, his more low-key technique would get through their
defences. Besides, he wanted a few free moments to study their faces.

As though suspecting she might be a weak link, Llewellyn turned first to
Sinead Fay. 'I understand you and Ms Kemp and Ms Anderson here, have recently
broken away from the main Rape Support Group organisation,' he began. 'Can you
tell me why that was?

When she answered, it was clear she had taken her guide from the older
woman's responses. 'Are you saying you don't know?'

'We don't operate on hearsay, Ms Fay,' Llewellyn told her mildly. 'I'd
like to hear it from you.'

She shrugged. 'They'd become a bunch of bleeding heart liberals, writing
polite little letters to their MPs, asking them to do something about the
rising levels of rape.'

Llewellyn had been wise to put his questions to Sinead Fay, Rafferty
realised. Because, although she made an attempt to lose the "rant"
from her voice, as she continued, she was unable to keep it up.

'Asking!' Her blue eyes were scornful. 'They should have been demanding,
not asking. Making the cause front page news, not—'

'How?' Rafferty immediately asked. He was quickly interrupted.

Sinead,' Ellen Kemp's voice held a warning note. 'I'm sure they don't
want to listen to all this.'

'Oh, but we do,' Rafferty assured her. He turned back to Sinead Fay, 'How?'
he asked again. From his pocket he pulled a photocopy of the threatening letter
he had found in Smith's sideboard. Holding it in front of him, he leaned
forward challengingly to encourage an incautious response. 'By “outing” the
rapists? Was that how you planned to get banner headlines?'

Or had they planned an even more newsworthy publicity campaign? he wondered.
Sinead Fay, for one, seemed fanatical enough for anything and Ellen Kemp might
have been unable to restrain her. If so, Sinead must be very pleased with her
efforts. The story of Maurice Smith's "execution" had filled the
front page of every newspaper in the country.

For a moment Sinead Fay's eyes glowed with something akin to triumph and
Rafferty was sure she was going to confess to Smith's murder. But then, as
Ellen Kemp frowned at her, the fanatical light faded and she drew back. He
could almost see the shutters go down.

BOOK: The Hanging Tree
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