G etting to see Robyn Reynolds wasn’t as difficult as Nightingale had imagined it would be. Rampton Secure Hospital was just that, a hospital, and so there weren’t the same restrictions on visits as there were at high-security prisons. He started phoning the hospital first thing on Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon had managed to get through to one of the doctors who were treating Robyn Reynolds. The doctor had been sceptical at first but Nightingale emailed him his DNA profile, and after the doctor had compared it to that of Robyn Reynolds he’d phoned back and said that Nightingale could visit on Wednesday afternoon.
It took Nightingale almost three hours to drive up to Nottinghamshire. His MGB didn’t have satnav and he’d forgotten to ask Jenny to program the location into his phone, but he’d always had a good sense of direction and he had a road atlas open on the passenger seat, just in case.
Rampton Secure Hospital was actually closer to a village called Woodbeck than it was to Rampton but Nightingale doubted the building would be any less sinister if they changed the name. It was a huge Victorian red-brick edifice that looked as if it had once been a hotel, but the high security wall, CCTV cameras, and bars and mesh over the windows were evidence of its true purpose.
A uniformed security guard checked Nightingale’s passport and a printout of the email he’d received from the doctor who was treating Robyn Reynolds. The guard peered at Nightingale through thick-lensed spectacles, handed the documents back and pointed at a car park in the distance. Nightingale parked the MGB and walked to a door with a sign above it that read ‘VISITORS’ ENTRANCE’.
Rampton might have been a hospital rather than a prison, but the security arrangements were as strict as at any Category A prison. He had to show his passport and email to another uniformed guard, this one sitting behind a window of bulletproof glass. His details were written down on a clipboard and the passport and email were passed back to him through a hatch, along with a visitor’s badge on a clip. Nightingale clipped it to his raincoat. A glass door rattled back, allowing Nightingale to walk through into a holding area, where two guards, one male and one female, were waiting for him.
The female guard was in her forties and looked bigger and stronger than her male colleague. Her hair was close-cropped and she had a square jaw with a dimple in the centre of her chin and small piggy eyes and a cruel sneer that suggested she’d like nothing more than to give him a full body-cavity search.
‘Hi, I’m a visitor,’ said Nightingale, tapping the badge.
‘We assumed that,’ she said. ‘Very few people try to break in.’ She smiled and her eyes sparkled. She had a soft voice with a West Country burr, and as her smile broadened she took on the look of a kindly aunt. Nightingale felt suddenly guilty about his first impression of her. The door rattled shut behind him. ‘Do you have a mobile phone?’ she asked.
Nightingale nodded and took it out. The guard who had given him the badge had moved to another window. The female guard gestured at the window. ‘Please give your phone to Mr Walker there, and anything sharp that you have on you. Pens, penknives, ice picks, hatchets, axes, samurai swords…’
She was halfway through the list before Nightingale realised that she was joking. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘will do.’
‘Ignore Agnes, she’s easily amused,’ said the woman’s colleague. The guard was in his forties, overweight and with a shaved head. There were thick rolls of fat at the back of his neck and he had a double chin that made his head look square. ‘We just need to be sure that you don’t take in anything that can be used as a weapon.’
‘No problem,’ said Nightingale. He took out a small Swiss Army knife and passed it and the phone through the hatch to the guard behind the glass. In return the guard gave Nightingale a numbered token.
Agnes gestured at a metal-detector archway and asked Nightingale to walk through it. It beeped and Agnes asked him to take off his belt. The second time through the arch, it remained silent.
As Nightingale put his belt back on the guard behind the glass pressed a button and another glass door rattled back to give Nightingale access to the hospital.
‘This way, sir,’ said Agnes and she ambled along the corridor, swinging her key chain. At the far end of the corridor was a barred gate and Agnes opened it, waited for Nightingale to go first, then went through it herself and relocked it.
‘Must be a pain, opening and closing doors all day,’ said Nightingale.
‘You get used to it,’ she said. ‘So you’re here to see Robyn? That’s a first.’
‘She doesn’t get many visitors?’
‘You’re the only one I’ve seen,’ she said. ‘When she first arrived we had half of Fleet Street trying to bribe their way in.’
‘Can’t be much fun, working in here,’ said Nightingale.
‘I didn’t sign up for the fun,’ she said. ‘Pays well and there’s as much overtime as you want.’ She nodded at a door that had a small white plastic sign with a name on it – Dr Rupert Keller – in black letters. ‘Your sister is going to Hell, Jack Nightingale.’ The West Country accent had gone, replaced by a dull expressionless voice.
‘What did you say?’
Agnes frowned. ‘I said that this is Dr Keller’s office,’ she said. She knocked on the door and opened it.
Nightingale stared at the guard as she walked away, wondering if he had misheard her.
‘Mr Nightingale?’ Dr Keller was sitting at his desk and peering at a computer screen. He stood up and extended his hand. He was in his mid-fifties, with skin so pale that it was almost translucent. Nightingale could see the bluish arteries in the back of the doctor’s hand and there was hardly any strength in the man’s grip. He was wearing a white coat over a tweed suit and a red wool tie and there were thick-lensed spectacles perched on the end of his nose. ‘I thought it might be helpful if we had a chat before you see your sister,’ said the doctor, waving for Nightingale to sit on one of two chairs in front of the desk.
‘Thanks for arranging the visit,’ said Nightingale, sitting down. ‘I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get into a secure mental hospital.’
‘We like our inmates to keep in touch with their families whenever possible,’ said Dr Keller. ‘Robyn hasn’t had any visitors since she arrived two years ago. But that’s not unusual. The sort of crimes that our patients have committed means that friends and relatives tend to keep their distance.’ He looked across at his computer screen. ‘I was just looking at her file. I see that you were only recently added as next of kin.’
‘To be honest, Dr Keller, I only discovered last week that we’re related.’
The doctor nodded. ‘Yes, I see that,’ he said. ‘However, the DNA is conclusive so we have no problem listing you as a family member even though it is a little unorthodox. You have the same father, correct?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘Same father, different mother. We were both adopted at birth. I was obviously surprised to find out her circumstances.’
Dr Keller smiled, showing uneven teeth. ‘I’m sure you were,’ he said. ‘But if you don’t mind me asking, why did you decide to visit Robyn?’
‘She’s my only family,’ said Nightingale. ‘My adoptive parents died years ago, so when I discovered that I had a sister, albeit a half-sister, I wanted to make contact. Of course I’d be happier under different circumstances, but we have to deal with the world the way it is, don’t we?’
‘Unfortunately, yes,’ said the doctor.
‘Is she okay to talk to?’ asked Nightingale.
‘She’s lucid, and at times she can be charming.’
‘But she’s sick, right? Otherwise she wouldn’t be in here?’
‘That’s a question that can be answered on many levels,’ said the doctor. ‘She’s one of our more manageable inmates, but, bearing in mind the nature of her crime, she is always handled carefully.’
‘In what way?’
‘She isn’t regarded as a danger to other inmates or staff, but she is regarded as an escape risk.’
‘Has she ever tried to escape?’ asked Nightingale.
‘She’s been the perfect inmate – she’s polite and deferential and follows the rules,’ said Dr Keller. ‘But she’s a sociopath and as such is perfectly capable of pretending to be cooperative until she is presented with an opportunity either to kill again or to escape.’
‘But you’re okay for me to see her?’
‘Absolutely. Her victims have all been children and she’s never shown any hostility to other inmates or to staff here. I’ve no doubt that if she was never to go near children then she would be perfectly fine.’
‘And what is it about children that sets her off?’
The doctor shook his head. ‘We have no idea,’ he said. ‘Two years of intense therapy, both one-on-one and in group situations, have got us nowhere. She refuses to talk about herself.’
‘Is that unusual?’
‘For someone like Robyn, yes. Obviously our emotionally disturbed inmates have communication problems, and some are so heavily medicated that communication is difficult if not impossible, but Robyn isn’t on any medication and she is quite articulate. She simply refuses to open up to us.’
‘Why do you think that is?’
The doctor exhaled through pursed lips. ‘Hand on heart, I think she knows that she is going to be behind bars for the rest of her life, either in a secure mental facility such as Rampton or, if she is ever found to be sane, then in a high-security prison. If she takes that view then there is nothing to be gained by accepting any treatment that might help her.’
‘She’ll never be released?’
‘It’s up to the Home Secretary, but look at what happened with Myra Hindley. And what Robyn did was considerably more -’ he struggled to find the right word – ‘horrific, I suppose. I doubt that the great British public would ever allow her to be released.’
‘But could she be cured? If she cooperated?’
Dr Keller looked pained. ‘Again, hand on heart, I don’t think so. She’s a classic sociopath and there’s no magic cure for that. She’s not the way she is because of a chemical imbalance or because of something that happened to her in the past. She is simply wired differently to you and me.’ He tapped the side of his head. ‘She’s physically different; her neurones, her neural pathways, they’re just different, and nothing is ever going to change that. She butchered young children and never showed any remorse, or any guilt, and I don’t think any amount of therapy is going to make a scrap of difference.’
‘Like paedophiles,’ said Nightingale. ‘It’s their nature and you can’t ever change them.’
The doctor nodded in agreement. ‘It’s a similar condition,’ he said. ‘There are ways of controlling the impulses of paedophiles, but basically you are right. Once a paedophile, always a paedophile. Once a sociopath…’ He finished the sentence with a shrug. ‘We can keep your sister away from society so that she isn’t a danger to others, but so far as treatment goes…’ He shrugged again. ‘Let’s just say that I don’t believe in miracles.’
‘Who does, these days?’ said Nightingale.