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Behind Her Eyes: Part 3: Chapter 51

Louise

He looks like shit, but I probably don’t look much better. His eyes are bloodshot, and, although he’s wearing a suit, his shirt is crumpled. He hasn’t shaved. He’s given up, I think. He looks like a walking dead man. His eyes stray to the bar.

‘I’ve ordered us a pot of coffee,’ I say. ‘I think we both need clear heads now.’

‘Louise, whatever this is, whatever you think you know about Marianne,’ he’s standing by the table, and he barely looks at me, ‘I don’t have time for it.’

‘Sit down, David. Please.’ I take his hand, gently but firmly, keeping hold as he tries to pull away. It feels good to touch him. ‘Please. I have some things I need to say. Things you need to hear.’

A barmaid brings over the tray of hot coffee, putting the cups out for us, and pouring with a cheery smile, and David’s natural politeness kicks in and I let him go so he can take a seat opposite me.

‘I told you to stay away from us,’ he says, when she leaves.

‘I know. And I now know you were warning me, not threatening me. I know what happened with Marianne. I’ve been to see her.’

He stares at me. ‘Jesus, Louise. Why? Why would you do that?’ I can see the fear in his snappiness. I can see him properly now, and I’m filled with shame.

‘Because I’ve been an idiot,’ I say. ‘Worse than an idiot. I’ve been …’ I don’t have the right words to cover it. ‘I’ve been fooled and foolish. I’ve done a really bad thing, and I need to tell you about it.’ He’s listening now, a wary alertness. A fox during the hunt. ‘But first I’m going to tell you what I know, okay?’

He nods, slowly. This isn’t whatever confrontation he was expecting, and it’s taking a minute to sink in. How much has he drunk today? How much does he need to numb out the awfulness of his life?

‘Go on,’ he says.

‘Okay.’ I take a deep breath. ‘I think your wife is crazy, a sociopath or a psychopath or something. I think you give her the pills because you know she’s crazy. I think when you first realised, you were trying to help her, and now you’re trying to contain her. I think that’s why you call home so often – to check up on her. I think Adele knows we slept together and she became my friend to turn me against you – I haven’t figured out quite why yet – but she’s definitely been playing with me – with us. She killed your pet cat just like she killed Marianne’s, and you can’t do anything about it, because she’s got something over you and threatens you with telling the police what happened to Rob. How he’s still dead on her estate somewhere. She told me that you killed Rob—’

He leans forward to say something, but I hold my hands up, silencing him. ‘Let me finish.’ He slumps back in his chair, accepting the accusation. ‘She told me that you killed Rob,’ I repeat, ‘but I don’t believe that.’ He looks up, a first glimmer of hope. ‘I think whatever happened to Rob, she did it, and maybe you protected her in the aftermath because you loved her and she’d just lost her parents. I think you made a stupid, terrible mistake, and she’s been holding that against you forever, to keep you.’ Suddenly I feel weepy and I bite my tears back.

‘I have been so awful for believing her over you because you didn’t open up. I should have known. I should have trusted my feelings for you, but after Ian, I’ve forgotten how to trust a man, and I carried all that over into us.’

‘And it’s not easy to trust a man who’s cheating on his wife.’ He looks ashamed, and I don’t want us to dwell on that. Not right now. That’s not important.

‘When you were so angry, threatening me to make me stay away, I should have seen you were trying to protect me from her. But I didn’t. And she was so good at seeming fragile. She was so good at drawing me in. And I’m so sorry I let her.’ I lean across the table and take his hand. ‘I need you to tell me everything, David. I am on your side. I’ve been stupid, but now I really need to hear from you what’s going on because I’m so sick of Adele’s lies, and I’m going to end up crazy if I don’t hear the truth.’

He stares at me for a long time, and I hope he sees the trust in my eyes and the feelings I have for him.

‘Whatever it is, David. I believe in you,’ I say. ‘But I need you to explain it all to me. The money, what happened with Rob. I need to know. Because then I’m going to tell you about the bad thing I’ve done, and you’re probably going to hate me for it.’

‘I could never hate you,’ he says, and then I really do feel as if I’m going to cry. What a mess I’ve got myself into. We’ve got ourselves into. How could I ever have thought he was a killer? He sips his coffee and then clears his throat, his eyes drifting around the bar. Is he trying not to cry too?

‘Just tell me,’ I say. One of us needs to be tough now, and that person is me.

‘It all feels so sordid.’ He stares down at his coffee. I have a feeling he won’t look up until this infected cyst of a story inside him is burst and all the poison is out. ‘My whole life does. But it didn’t start out that way. At first it was … well it was wonderful. God, I loved her. Adele was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. But not just that. She was sweet and funny. Her parents didn’t approve. I was the poor farmer’s boy whose father had pissed everything away drinking, and I was nearly five years older than her, and I’d known her, on and off, for pretty much for ever. She used to follow me around while I was working the fields around school, sometimes telling me about her nightmares.’

‘She was the little girl you gave the dream book to.’

He nods. ‘Not that it helped much.’

If only he knew. It must have been that book that taught Adele about the lucid dreaming and the second door. I want to mention it – I should mention it – but I want to hear the rest of his story first, before distracting him with something so hard to believe.

‘But as she grew up,’ he continues, ‘well … it … it felt so right. She was this ethereal creature who didn’t care about my rough hands and my shitty dad – she just saw me. She had faith in me. If it hadn’t been for her, I’d probably never have scraped my way into medical school. We were so in love. I can’t describe it. That way you can love so fully when you’re young.’ He pauses. ‘And then there was the fire.’

‘You saved her,’ I say. ‘Your scars.’

‘Yeah. Yeah, I did. I didn’t even feel the burns at the time. I remember the terrible heat. I remember thinking my lungs were blistering as I breathed, but mainly I remember thinking she was dead. She was out cold. Fumes or smoke inhalation or something. I couldn’t wake her up.’

I remember thinking the same trying to wake Adele. Her cold hand. Shaking her. How long has she had the second door? I nod for him to continue.

‘Did she start the fire?’ I ask.

‘I don’t know. I didn’t even consider it at the time, but since then …’ He trails off. I imagine he’s wondered about it a lot. ‘There was talk of arson. The police thought it could have been me. And even though I thought maybe someone could have started it, I never thought it could be her. Some disgruntled employee maybe – and there were many – Adele was too young to really grasp her parents’ natures, but her dad hadn’t exactly made his money without damaging a few people on the way. But I never thought it was her. She nearly died. If it was her, she was taking a big risk.’

‘I think she likes taking risks,’ I say.

‘Perhaps. But she was so distraught. Wouldn’t sleep. It was like she was fading away. Maybe that was some form of guilt. She said she should have woken up. She could have saved them.’

Sleep. Dreams. Was Adele even there when her parents died? Had she set the fire and gone through the second door to make sure David was coming to save her? Or was she caught up in the smoke and passed out before she could escape herself?

‘And then she met Rob?’ I say. ‘At the therapy place?’

‘Westlands, yes. She really liked him, and being friends with him helped her. I hated it a bit at the time because I thought looking after her was my job, but I was still recovering from my burns, and I had uni. Adele insisted I go back – she even got her lawyers to sort out all my finances as soon as she could, which made me feel uncomfortable, but we were planning to get married anyway, and so she said I was being silly. Anyway, meeting Rob was good for her. I understood that. He was there and I wasn’t. I didn’t like that he was an ex-junkie though, and even though I never said it, I think she knew that. I sort of thought their friendship would be over when they left Westlands, but then she invited him to go and stay at the house. She was like that back then. Wanting to help people. Or at least that’s how it seemed.’

‘So what happened?’ Rob. The notebook boy. Finally, I’m going to find out his fate.

‘I only met him once. Well, I went up for a weekend so I guess it’s more accurate to say I knew him for a couple of days. He was a spotty, skinny kid with braces. Nothing special. I don’t know what I was expecting. More charisma, I guess. He seemed young to me, for eighteen. He didn’t speak a lot, at any rate not for most of the weekend. Just stared at me and muttered answers to my questions, and then would have these over-the-top moments of trying too hard. He did this terrible chef routine one morning that I went along with, but to be honest, it made me uncomfortable. Adele said he was shy. Not good with people, but I found him strange, not that I told her that. We ended up staying up chatting for a couple of hours on the Saturday night after Adele went to bed, but I couldn’t click with him at all. He kept asking me stuff about our relationship. I was pretty sure he was jealous. When I left on the Sunday I was quietly wishing their friendship would come to a natural end soon.’ He pauses and swallows. ‘My wish came true, but there wasn’t anything natural about it.’

‘Rob died,’ I say.

Eventually, he nods. ‘I wasn’t there when it happened. That was ten days later.’

For the first time he looks up, right into my eyes. ‘I know where Rob is, but I didn’t put him there.’

Rob is dead. There it is. Plain fact. It comes as no surprise, and I realise I’ve believed that to be the case for a while.

‘I know,’ I say, and it’s true. I absolutely believe him. Too late, perhaps, but I do. ‘I know you didn’t.’

‘She called me in a panic one morning,’ he continues, the story pouring out of him now. ‘She said that they’d been taking drugs, and she thought Rob had overdosed because when she straightened out, he was dead. I told her to call the police and an ambulance. She was crying. She said she couldn’t. When I asked her why, she said she’d panicked and pushed his body into the old dry well in the woods on the estate grounds. She was almost hysterical. I couldn’t believe it. It was just … just crazy I guess. I drove up there straight away thinking I could talk her into telling the truth to the police. But she wouldn’t. She said she was scared that after what happened to her parents and then this, they would lock her up. They’d think she had something to do with it all. She said she’d panicked, but she couldn’t undo it now. She said no one apart from us knew that Rob had even been there. No one else had seen him. His family didn’t even know. She begged me not to tell. She said we could move away from the house and no one would ever know what had happened.’

‘But you knew,’ I say.

He nods. ‘At first I thought I could do it – keep this secret for her. Protect her. And I tried. I tried so hard. We got married quickly, but the signs were already there that things were going wrong. I hated what we’d done, but I think I could have learned to live with it if I’d thought it haunted her too, but she seemed absolutely fine, as if she’d forgotten about it already. This boy’s whole life. Gone. His death hidden. I thought maybe her reaction was a coping mechanism – trying to blank it out – but it wasn’t. She really had breezed over it. She was joyful on our wedding day. As if we didn’t have a care in the world. Then she found out she was pregnant and I thought she’d be even happier, but she totally freaked out about it and insisted on getting an abortion – to get this alien thing out of her.’ He pauses, and his breathing is ragged. This is hard for him. Facing all this. Sharing it. ‘Love dies hard, you know?’ He looks at me, and I grip his hand tightly.

‘It took a lot of time for my love to die,’ he says. ‘I made excuses for her, and I had to finish my training and specialism, so I didn’t always see how much she’d changed. But she had. She was spending ridiculous amounts of money – even with her wealth—’

‘And that’s why you’ve now got control of it?’

He nods. ‘I’d signed it back to her at the end of that weekend I’d been up at the house in Scotland – I had never wanted control of her money. But neither did I now want her to fritter it all away. What if we eventually had children? What if this was all some emotional response to everything that she needed to get past? What if she came to regret her spending? She agreed to put me in charge. She said she knew she had a problem and needed someone to manage it. Looking back, I think that decision was yet another knot in the noose she kept ready to hang around my neck. Anyway, we continued on for three or four years pretending everything was okay, but I couldn’t forget about Rob. His body in the well. And I eventually realised that our love had died with him that night. I couldn’t forget about Rob, and I couldn’t accept how she could. I told her that it was over. That I was leaving, and that I didn’t love her any more.’

‘I presume she didn’t take that well,’ I say, and for the first time, he gives a half-smile. There’s no real humour in it, but it’s there. My David’s there.

‘You could put it that way. She was hysterical. She said she loved me and couldn’t live without me. She said she’d take all the money and I’d be penniless. I said I didn’t care about her money and never had. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I couldn’t live like this any more. She went very quiet after that. A stillness that scared me. That still scares me. I’ve come to recognise it as a sign of something dangerous inside her. She said if I left she’d tell the police what really happened with Rob. I was confused. I didn’t know what she meant. Then she said that truth was all relative. Truth often came down to what is the most believable version of events. She said she’d tell the police that Rob and I had fought, and that I’d killed him and thrown him in the well. I was shocked. That wasn’t true. She said it didn’t matter. She said the police would think it was jealousy and they’d already been suspicious of me about the fire at her parents’ house, so they’d definitely listen to her.’

I think about my letter. What I have to tell him when he’s finished. Oh God, Louise, what have you done?

‘And then she played her trump card. The piece of evidence that would place the police firmly on her side. Something she’s held over me for what seems like for ever.’

‘What?’ What could she possibly have done?

‘My watch,’ he says simply. He sees my confusion and continues. ‘When I was burned I couldn’t wear it. I gave it to Adele to wear, as a kind of keepsake. Even on the tightest link it was too big for her, but she liked having it and I liked her wearing it. I didn’t realise it would bind us together in this hell for ever.’

‘What happened to your watch?’

‘When she put Rob in the well, my watch slipped off her wrist. It got tangled in his clothes.’ He pauses and looks at me. ‘My watch is in the well with the body.’

I stare at him. ‘Oh God.’ I feel slightly sick. Who’s going to believe David’s version with evidence like that there?

‘What I hate most is that I let her blackmail me like that. I was too weak. The thought of going to prison – worse, of no one believing me – of everyone thinking I did this terrible thing – froze me. What if Rob’s death hadn’t been an accident like she said? Had she killed him for some reason? Would it look like murder if the body was brought up? I couldn’t face it. I was trapped. She promised me she’d be good. She promised me we could be happy, that I could love her again. She said she wanted a child. All the things she thought would make me happy. It sounded crazy to me. I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into our marriage. Not any more. In the end, I made my peace with the fact that my punishment for my mistake and my weakness was to be trapped in my loveless marriage.’

God, they must have been long years he’s spent with Adele, living on that knife’s edge. I want a drink. I’m sure he does too, but our drinking days are done for now. He can’t hide in the bottom of a glass any longer, and I need a clear head.

‘But she couldn’t keep her mental illness under control for long. She played the perfect housewife, but then she’d have these uncontrollable rages over nothing.’

‘Like with Marianne,’ I say.

‘Yes, like that, but it started long ago. I was sure she was spying on me. She knew things she couldn’t possibly know. She’d ring co-workers she thought I was too close to and leave them hateful messages. She had a job for a while, but then when I made friends with the woman who ran the florist, there was a fire there. Nothing that could be pinned exactly on her, but enough for me to know it was her. Moving jobs every couple of years because of something she’d done. We’d make pacts. I’d promise to call her at least three times a day, and she’d give up her credit cards. I’d come straight home from work, and she’d give up her mobile phone. Anything to stop her wrecking our lives – or anyone else’s – with her madness. She’s an aggressive and disempathetic sociopath, I’m sure of it. She has a view of right and wrong, but it’s not like anyone else’s, and she only loves, if that’s what it is, me. She’ll do anything to stop someone coming between us, and she’s so convincing. Who would believe me?’ He looks at me. ‘You didn’t. You bought her stories hook, line and sinker.’

‘I’m so sorry, David. I hate myself.’ I need to tell him about the dreams. About how Adele spied on him. How she knew things. I need to be honest with him. I open my mouth to speak, but he’s in his flow and he cuts me off.

‘It’s not your fault. She plays her part well, and I was a drunk cheat. I should have never spoken to you in that bar. I just wanted … I just wanted to be happy. And God, I should have known.’ He almost slams his hand down on the table with frustration, but instead grips the edge of the wood. ‘I should have realised when she was little. That insane stuff she would say.’

‘What do you mean?’ I tense as I ask. It’s going to be about the dreams. I know it. She loved David. Of course she’d have tried to share it with him.

‘When we were first together we got drunk and she tried to tell me that she could do all this mad shit when she was sleeping. She was vague, but it sounded bonkers. Worse, it was probably my fault, because it sounded like she’d taken the ideas from the hippie book on dreaming I gave her and then made crazier stuff up. I just laughed and thought she was winding me up, but when she was upset that I didn’t believe her, I should have known that these fantasist ideas were leading to something. She was too old for them to have been childish imaginings. She was clearly showing signs of some serious disorders brewing. I mean, who could possibly believe that you could leave your body when you sleep? It’s the sort of thing people who’ve taken too much LSD say. So yeah, I should have seen the signs. At least remembered them when we got older.’ He looks at me. ‘It’s why I was so glad to meet you. You’re so normal.’ He grips my hands again as if I’m some lifeline. ‘You’re so grounded. Your nightmares are just nightmares, and you just get on with them. You would never believe in anything like that. You’re sane.’

Oh God, if only he knew. I can’t tell him now, can I? Actually, everything she told you is real. How else do you think she’s spying on you? I can’t do that to him. I can’t do that to me. Not now. Not when I still have to tell him about the letter I’ve sent to the police. He needs facts and reality. He can’t cope with anything else.

‘She’s certainly got problems.’ It’s all I can manage to say. ‘I’ll give her that.’

We hold each other’s hands tightly, and he stares at me. ‘You really do believe me, don’t you?’ he says, and I nod.

‘Yes. I believe you.’ It’s clear in my face anyway. I absolutely believe him. He didn’t kill Rob.

‘You have no idea how good that feels to hear. But I don’t know what to do. I’ve told her I want a divorce. Who knows what she’ll do now? She certainly won’t let me leave. And I’m worried what she’ll do to you. Jesus, this is all such a mess.’

And now it’s my turn to share my wrong thing. ‘It’s a worse mess than you think,’ I say. My heart is racing. ‘I’ve made it worse.’

‘I don’t see how it can be any worse,’ he says, with a soft smile. ‘If you can still like me after everything I’ve just told you, if you can believe me, then everything, for me at least, is already so much better.’ He looks better too. There’s more light in his eyes; a heavy load shrugged off, if only for a few moments.

And so I tell him. How I researched online and I sent the letter to Angus Wignall at Perth Police Station outlining all the reasons I thought Dr David Martin was involved with the death of a young man called Robert Dominic Hoyle, and how his body was probably still on Adele’s estate somewhere. It’s my turn to keep my eyes down on my coffee cup as my face burns. It’s not even as if Adele told me to do it. This is all my own stupid work. When I’m finished, I finally look up.

‘So you see, I have made it worse,’ I say. ‘Maybe they’ll ignore it as a crank letter. Maybe that Wignall won’t even see it.’ Oh please, please God let that be the case.

David leans back in the chair and lets out a sigh. ‘No, I think he’ll read it. He was like a terrier around me, trying to find some way to pin that fire on me.’

‘You must hate me,’ I say. I want the ground to open up and swallow me and never let me go. Why do I make everything worse? Why am I so impulsive?

‘Hate you?’ He sits up, his face somewhere between a frown and a laugh. ‘Have you listened to anything I’ve said? I don’t hate you. I … well, it’s more the opposite. I even like you for the way you believed in Adele. That urge to help her. It’s one I understand. But no, I don’t hate you for this. In many ways what you’ve done is a relief. It’s made things clear.’

‘What do you mean?’ He doesn’t hate me. Thank fuck for that. We are still together in this.

‘Adele doesn’t know about this letter you’ve sent?’ he asks.

I shake my head. ‘I don’t think so.’ I can’t really be more accurate. It’s hard to ascertain what Adele does or doesn’t know, but I can’t tell him that, not after what he’s just said. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘I’m going to go up there,’ he says. ‘I’m going to go and tell the police everything. The truth. I’m going to be done with it.’

It’s not what I was expecting, and I’m momentarily dumbfounded, but I know it’s the right thing. ‘They’ll believe you,’ I say, even though I’m not entirely convinced. ‘I believe you. And I can back you up. And so will Marianne, I’m sure.’

He shakes his head, smiling softly. ‘I think it’ll take more than that to counter Adele’s version. My watch is there, remember?’

‘So why do it?’ I’m afraid I’m going to lose him before I’ve got him. ‘Surely there’s another way. Why go up there if you think they’ll arrest you?’

‘To end it,’ he says. ‘Once and for all. I should have done it a long time ago. I’m so tired of carrying the guilt around with me. It’s time that boy got a proper burial.’

‘But we can’t let her get away with everything,’ I say. ‘And she’s dangerous. Why shouldn’t she be the one in trouble? She’s the one who’s guilty here!’

‘I might not be guilty,’ he says, ‘but I’m not innocent either. And this is a perfect punishment for her.’

‘What do you mean?’

I stare into his beautiful blue eyes. They’re calm and clear. ‘All Adele has ever wanted is me,’ he says. ‘In her own twisted, fucked-up way, she loves me. She always has and she always will. She’s obsessive about me. If they put me in prison, then I finally get away from her. She has no more hold on me. I’ll be free.’

I can feel tears coming again, and this time I don’t stop them. ‘Can’t you wait a while? Can’t we have a few days together first?’

He shakes his head. ‘If I don’t do it now, I won’t do it, and spending time with you will make it so much harder. It’s enough for me that you believe in me. ‘

‘When are you going to go?’ I don’t care about Adele. I can handle myself with her. I know her secrets now. I feel a twist of guilt. I don’t mean to, but I have a secret I can never share with him, just like she couldn’t.

‘Today. Now. It’s only 2.30. I can’t go home first, she’ll know something’s up, but I can be halfway to Scotland by the time she realises I’ve gone. I’ll call you when I get there tonight.’

‘Are you sure you shouldn’t think about this for a bit longer?’ I’m being selfish, I want to keep him here with me, out of prison. ‘It’s so quick. It’s so …’

‘Look at me, Louise.’

I do.

‘Honestly – isn’t what I’m doing the right thing? Taking our feelings for each other out of it?’

From the calmness of his expression, I know he knows the answer already, and I nod. It is the right thing. Even if it gets the wrong outcome and no one believes him, the truth needs to be told.

‘It’s so unfair,’ I say. I’m burning on the inside, needing to do something. ‘Maybe I should go and see her and—’

‘No. You can’t do that. She’s dangerous.’

‘But I have to—’

‘She’s a sociopath, Louise.’ He grips my hand tightly. ‘Do you understand that? You can’t go near her. Promise me you won’t go anywhere near her. In fact, I’d rather you took Adam and got out of London until I’ve done what I have to do. But at least promise me you’ll stay away from Adele.’

‘I promise,’ I mumble. It’s not fair that she’ll get away with wrecking his life. It’s not fair that she’ll get away with wrecking mine too.

‘Good. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you, and I don’t want to be worrying about you while I’m facing up to this. I love you, Louise. I really do.’

He gets up and comes to my side, and then we’re kissing. He tastes of stale alcohol, mints, and coffee, but I don’t care. He’s warm and loving and strong and mine, and fresh tears well up.

‘It’s going to be okay,’ he whispers, when we break apart. ‘Really it is.’ He smiles at me. ‘How are you on prison visiting?’

I laugh a little through the tears that won’t stop. ‘I’m all for trying new experiences.’

He pays for the coffee, a mundanely routine act that makes everything else seem even more surreal, and then we head outside where I cry into his chest some more, uncaring who sees.

‘It’ll be all right,’ he says.

It won’t be. It won’t be anywhere near all right, but I nod, and we kiss some more; tears and snot and tiredness and stale alcohol. What a pair we are. I press my face into his neck and suck in the warm smell of him, and then there’s just cool air and traffic fumes and he’s gone. I watch him walk to the tube station. He doesn’t look back. I don’t think he dares to in case he changes his mind.

This is all my fault, I think, for the thousandth time, as I lean against a wall and scrabble in my bag for my e-cig. Me and that stupid letter. I can’t believe he’s gone so quickly to face it all. How awful must his life be to feel a relief in going somewhere that will no doubt end in his arrest. The death of his career. His life and reputation in tatters, and labelled a murderer. I wipe the tears from my face and let the breeze cool me. It’s not my fault any more than it’s David’s. We’re just pawns. Adele is to blame. Adele is to blame for everything.

I think of the one secret I’ve had to keep back from David – the dreams. The doors. The craziness of it all. Why did she even teach me about that if she hated me so much? I’m filled with anger at her, and it drives out my sadness for David and my self-pity at losing him. I need to bait her. To taunt the truth out of her. Maybe when she realises that she’s lost David anyway, she’ll say something, anything, that can help him. There must be some way to make her see what she’s doing. How there are no winners here. And if nothing else, I need to tell her exactly what I think of her. It’s time for an honest conversation with my so-called best friend. I haven’t lied to David. I’m not going to go to the house. I’m not going to see her face to face. But I didn’t promise not to speak to her, did I?


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