A CCTV camera monitored their progress as Dr Keller and Nightingale walked down a long corridor. The walls were painted pale green below waist height and the upper half was cream. There were fluorescent lights set into the ceiling, shielded by wire mesh.
‘Prior to 2001 we were administered by the Home Office, along with Broadmoor and Ashworth special hospitals,’ said Dr Keller. ‘But since 2001 we’ve been part of the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust. So, strictly speaking, we are a hospital. But all NHS regions can avail themselves of our high-security service, making us a dumping ground for problem patients around the country.’
‘But they’re all insane, right? That’s why they’re here?’
Dr Keller laughed. ‘That’s the way the media portrays us, but it’s not as simple as that. We do have a large number of patients with mental-health issues, that goes without saying. But we also care for patients who are deaf or have learning disabilities but have to be placed in a high-security setting. And of course we do have a Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder Unit, which is where we’re going now.’
‘That’s where my sister is?’
‘She was convicted of five horrendous murders, Mr Nightingale. Where else would she be?’ He unlocked another barred gate and they went through. ‘That’s not to say that all our patients have been through the criminal justice system. About a quarter haven’t been convicted of anything but have been detained under the Mental Health Act.’ He stopped in front of a door. ‘This is our visiting area,’ he said. ‘There has to be a guard present at all times, I’m afraid. But the guard is there for security reasons and won’t be eavesdropping.’
He pushed open the door to reveal a room with several tables, each with four chairs that were bolted to the floor. At the far end of the room were two vending machines, one filled with snacks and chocolate, the other for dispensing drinks.
‘Please take a seat and I’ll have your sister brought in,’ he said. As Nightingale sat down, Dr Keller took a transceiver from the pocket of his white coat and spoke into it. He then walked over to the table where Nightingale was sitting. ‘She’s on her way. I’ll ask the guard to bring you back to my office when you’re done. I’d be interested to hear how you got on.’
Dr Keller left the room and it was almost fifteen minutes before the door opened and a female guard appeared.
‘Mr Nightingale?’ she said. She was in her thirties with close-cropped black hair and a fierce stare.
‘That’s me,’ said Nightingale.
The guard stepped to the side and a woman walked in. Nightingale wasn’t expecting to see a family resemblance but he was still taken aback by how small she was. Barely five feet tall. She was wearing a baggy grey polo-neck sweater, dark blue Adidas tracksuit bottoms and red Converse tennis shoes. She didn’t look up as she walked over to the table and all he could see of her face was a slightly pointed chin and pale lips. Her hair was dyed blonde but the roots were chestnut brown. Nightingale realised her hair was pretty much the same colour as his own.
She sat down and clasped her hands together, keeping her head down so that he was faced with a wall of blonde hair. The guard walked over to the vending machines and stood there with her arms folded.
Nightingale leaned forward. ‘Did Dr Keller tell you who I am?’ he asked, his voice a low whisper.
Robyn said nothing. She stared down at the table, breathing through her mouth.
‘He told you I’m your brother? My name’s Jack.’
‘Bollocks,’ she whispered.
‘It’s true. They wouldn’t have let me in otherwise.’
She continued to stare at the table, breathing heavily. Her hands were still clasped together, the fingernails bitten to the quick.
She flinched as if she’d been struck but still refused to look at him.
‘I’m your brother, Robyn.’
For several seconds she didn’t react and for a moment he thought she hadn’t heard him, then she slowly raised her head. ‘No way,’ she said.
‘Way. Big way.’
She looked up. Her eyes were dark brown, so dark that the irises were almost black. Her eyebrows were thin, as if they’d been carefully plucked. ‘What do you mean, big way? That doesn’t mean anything.’
‘I’m guessing it means the opposite of no way. I’m your brother.’
‘I was an only child.’
‘We have the same father. There’s no doubt. I checked your DNA.’
‘How did you get my DNA?’
‘It’s on file. Everyone who’s been arrested is in the system. There’s no doubt, Robyn.’
‘If you’re my brother, why didn’t my parents tell me?’
‘Because they didn’t know.’
She sat back in her chair, folded her arms and scowled at him. ‘You’re full of shit,’ she said. ‘How could they be your parents and not know?’
‘Because you were adopted, Robyn. You were adopted and so was I. Our father was a man called Ainsley Gosling. He killed himself a few weeks ago.’
‘I wasn’t adopted,’ she said flatly.
‘You were. On the day of your birth. That’s what happened to me. I was adopted by Bill and Irene Nightingale.’
‘So you’re Jack Nightingale?’
‘And our father is Ainsley Gosling?’
Nightingale nodded again.
She sneered at him. ‘This is a joke, right?’
‘It’s deadly serious.’
‘No, you don’t get it,’ she said. ‘Our father was Gosling, you’re Nightingale and I’m Robyn. What’s with the bird thing?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Nightingale. ‘Coincidence maybe.’
‘There are no coincidences,’ said Robyn emphatically. ‘Everything is connected.’
‘That’s a philosophy all right,’ said Nightingale. ‘But I don’t think there’s a reason we’ve all ended up with birds’ names.’
‘I bet you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘And, if it’s true, why did this Gosling have us both adopted? And why did he put us with different families?’
‘That’s where it gets complicated,’ said Nightingale. ‘But can I ask you something first?’
Robyn shrugged. ‘Sure.’
‘Your parents. Do you still see them?’
‘After what I did?’ She snorted contemptuously. ‘They wanted nothing to do with me.’
‘But they’re still alive?’
‘What’s so funny?’ she snapped.
‘I say that a lot,’ said Nightingale.
Nightingale nodded and retrieved his pack of Marlboro from his raincoat pocket. ‘Can we smoke in here?’
Robyn shook her head. ‘They say we’re a hospital and not a prison so we can’t smoke. Some of the inmates went to the High Court a few years ago to fight it but they lost.’ She smiled slyly. ‘But rules are meant to be broken, right?’ She looked over at the guard. ‘Miss Boyle, would it be all right if my brother and I have a cigarette?’
The guard wagged a finger at her. ‘It’s against the rules, Robyn, you know that.’
‘Oh come on, Miss Boyle. You think we don’t know that you sneak into the Ladies for a quick smoke in the afternoon? Go one, one smoker to another. Pretty please.’
The guard laughed and shook her head. ‘You’re a bad girl, Robyn. Go on, then, just the one. But if anyone comes in I’ll have to put you on report.’
‘Thanks, Miss Boyle,’ said Robyn. She winked at Nightingale. ‘They’re okay in here really,’ she said.
Nightingale chuckled, tapped out a cigarette for her and one for himself. He took out his lighter and lit them both, then he offered the pack to the guard but she waved him away.
‘More than my job’s worth,’ she said. ‘But thanks anyway.’
Nightingale put the packet away. ‘That was nice of her,’ he said quietly. ‘She didn’t have to do that.’
‘We’re all human beings trying to get through life as best we can, Jack,’ said Robyn. She blew a perfect smoke ring up at the ceiling. ‘What about your parents?’ she asked.
‘Dead,’ said Nightingale. ‘Car crash while I was at university.’
‘University? You a smart guy, Jack?’
He grinned. ‘Allegedly.’ He took a long drag on his cigarette. ‘Was it because of the court case that your parents cut you off?’
Robyn shook her said. ‘The rot had set in long before then,’ she said.
‘What was the problem? Were you a difficult kid?’
‘I wasn’t the problem,’ she said, and shook her head again. ‘My mum was all right; my dad was a bastard.’
‘Bastard in what way?’
She scowled. ‘Screwed me on my sixteenth birthday – does that count?’
‘Yeah, that counts.’
‘At least he waited until I was legal,’ said Robyn. ‘Did me on my sixteenth birthday while Mum was at the shops, and tried again two days later. I stuck a knife in him and got on a train to London.’ She shivered and took a long pull on her cigarette. ‘I guess me being adopted explains a lot. Wasn’t incest, wasn’t paedophilia; it was plain old rape.’
‘You never suspected they weren’t your real parents?’
She shook her head fiercely. ‘I used to dream that I was really a princess and that my parents were the king and queen of some faraway country and that one day they would come for me, but that’s not how it turned out.’ She flicked ash onto the floor. ‘I don’t suppose my genetic father was a king, was he?’
‘Not exactly, no,’ said Nightingale.
‘So who was he, this Ainsley Gosling?’
‘It’s a long story, Robyn.’
She laughed harshly. ‘Jack, time is the one thing I have plenty of right now.’