N ightingale opened his eyes and blinked under the fluorescent lights. He swallowed, which hurt, and there was a bitter taste at the back his mouth. A familiar face loomed over him. Jenny. She smiled.
‘Welcome back,’ she said.
‘Where am I?’
‘Hospital,’ said Jenny.
‘Water,’ croaked Nightingale.
Jenny picked up a glass of water and helped him drink.
‘What did she give me?’ he asked as she took the glass away from his lips.
‘It was Valium, that’s all,’ she said. ‘Not enough to kill you, just to make you really relaxed. They had to pump your stomach, though, just to be sure. It was the plastic bag that was going to do the damage. She was planning to make it look like you had killed yourself. She had a typed suicide note in her bag, with you blaming yourself for your aunt and uncle’s death.’
‘She got me to sign a form saying that I’d spoken to her. She was probably going to forge my signature on the letter.’ He groaned. ‘How long was I asleep for?’
‘You hit her, right? I remember that much.’
‘That’s right. Riding to the rescue, like the cavalry.’
‘What did you hit her with?’
‘Your fist? Since when did you know how to fight?’
‘Jack, I’ve got a black belt in tae kwon do. You really should read my CV some time.’
‘And who was she? I’m assuming she wasn’t a real cop.’
Jenny shook her head ‘Her warrant card was a fake. I had a look at her driving licence before the cops came. Her name’s Katherine Whelan. She lives in Caernarfon.’
Nightingale frowned. ‘She didn’t sound Welsh.’
‘She didn’t sound like she was from Manchester, either. But she’s definitely the killer.’
‘But how did she know we were after her? We thought the killer was a man, remember?’
‘I used the office computer to talk to Caernarfon Craig. That was her. If she knew what she was doing she could track the computer down. Once she had the office address she must have done some digging and found out about your aunt and uncle’s funeral and then traced you here. I’m guessing she’d have got my address too.’
Nightingale winced. ‘My head hurts,’ he said. ‘Can you raise the bed a bit?’
Jenny pressed a button to adjust the bed. It made a metallic grinding noise and slowly levered Nightingale into a sitting position.
‘Anyway, the Welsh cops are over the moon,’ she said. ‘Her flat was full of souvenirs. Every time she killed she took something from the victim’s home as a reminder. And her computer was chock-a-block with emails and website stuff. She’s already got a lawyer and they’re working on an insanity defence.’
Nightingale forced a smile. ‘Maybe she’ll end up in Rampton.’
Jenny grinned. ‘She can have your sister’s room.’ She sat down on the edge of the bed. ‘Yesterday you said you wanted to talk about what happened. With the deal.’
Nightingale nodded. ‘Yeah. He agreed. Neither gets her soul. It was bargained twice, both times in good faith. So neither deal can stand and Robyn gets her soul back.’
‘That’s great,’ said Jenny.
Nightingale looked uncomfortable.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked. ‘What aren’t you telling me?’
‘He wasn’t happy,’ said Nightingale.
‘I’m sure he wasn’t, because at the end of the day you tricked them. But all’s well that ends well, right?’
Nightingale looked even more uncomfortable.
‘Jack, what is it?’
‘It’s not as simple as all’s well that ends well. I had to negotiate.’
‘What do you mean?’
Nightingale reached over for the glass of water and took another drink. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. ‘I need a cigarette.’
‘You’re in hospital, Jack. Smoking isn’t an option. Tell me what happened.’
Nightingale sighed. ‘He wasn’t prepared to let Robyn walk away without some payback.’
‘Payback? You’re not making any sense.’
‘Jenny, please don’t push me. You weren’t there. You didn’t see what he was like. The power he had…’ He ran his hands over his face. ‘He let Robyn have her soul back. It’s hers again. No one has any claim on it.’
‘But? There’s a “but”, isn’t there?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘Yeah.’ He sighed again. ‘Here’s the thing. Robyn gets to keep her soul but she dies on her thirty-third birthday. In two years’ time.’
Jenny opened her mouth in astonishment.
‘There was no room for manoeuvre. That’s what he wanted. It was a deal-breaker. He said that if I didn’t agree then he’d let one of them take her soul and to hell with the consequences.’
Jenny stood up, her eyes blazing. ‘You gave away your sister’s life? How could you do that?’
‘It wasn’t mine to give, Jenny. Don’t you see that? If I hadn’t done anything she’d have died in two years anyway. Only they’d have taken her soul as well. This way, at least…’
‘At least what, Jack? She’s got two years to live? Does she know?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘And she won’t ever know. I don’t even know if I’m going to see her again.’
‘Where is she?’
‘I don’t know. And so long as everyone thinks she killed those kids, I don’t want to know.’
‘So she stays underground, lives her two years and then dies? How is that a good deal for her?’
‘She gets to keep her soul.’
‘We don’t even know what a soul is, Jack. We don’t even know if there are souls.’
‘If there aren’t, then what is all this about?’
‘I wish I knew,’ said Jenny. ‘But I know one thing: no one has given you the right to play God.’
‘That’s not what happened.’
‘That’s exactly what happened. You did a deal with a devil and as a result of that deal your sister is going to die in two years.’
‘You’re playing with words.’
‘No, Jack, that’s your prerogative. I’m telling you how I see it. You sold your sister out.’
‘I did a deal to save her soul.’
‘You had no right to do a deal like that. You should have talked to your sister first.’
‘That wasn’t possible. I had to do what I had to do.’
‘As always, Jack Nightingale is at the centre of the bloody universe.’
Jenny shook her head and held up her hand. ‘Enough.’
‘You don’t understand.’
‘No, I do understand. That’s the problem. I’m out of here.’ She turned and walked away.
She didn’t look back and walked out of the room.
Nightingale cursed as a plump West Indian nurse walked in. She grinned mischievously at him. ‘Girlfriend trouble, honey?’ she asked.
‘She’s not my girlfriend,’ said Nightingale.
‘There’s a spark,’ said the nurse, looking at his chart. ‘A definite spark.’
‘She’s always like that just before she bursts into flames,’ said Nightingale. ‘Speaking of which, I really need a cigarette.’
‘This is a hospital, honey.’
‘I know. But there’s a smoking room, right?’
She chuckled. ‘You do know that smoking is bad for you, don’t you?’
‘Lots of things are bad for you. Life is bad for you. At the end of the day, everyone dies.’
The nurse frowned and put down the chart. ‘Honey, what made you so cynical? Life is to be lived to the full and then you have an eternity with the Lord.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘You believe that, Mary-Louise?’
‘Of course I do.’
‘Even working here in a hospital? You must see people die every day.’
‘I see people go to meet their maker. And I see miracles. And if you had your eyes open you’d see them too.’
‘And what about angels? Have you seen angels?’
She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. ‘I’ve seen doctors send home people who’d come here to die, and I’ve seen them turn suffering into release. If that’s not the work of angels then I’d like to know what is. What about you, Mr Nightingale, have you seen angels?’
‘Not yet,’ he said.
‘Well, keep looking, because they’re out there.’
Nightingale swung his legs over the side of the bed. ‘I might just do that,’ he said. ‘In the meantime I’m checking myself out. And before you ask, I didn’t take anything from the minibar.’
‘We don’t have minibars,’ said the nurse.
‘Exactly,’ said Nightingale. ‘Now, where are my clothes?’