N ightingale phoned Rampton Secure Hospital first thing on Monday morning and spoke to Dr Keller, who was surprisingly amenable to Barbara visiting Nightingale’s sister.
‘Barbara McEvoy? I’ve read some of her work,’ the doctor said. ‘How do you know her?’
‘Friend of a friend,’ said Nightingale. ‘I told her about Robyn and she said she’d be interested in meeting her. I think she thought there might be a paper in it for one of the scientific journals.’
‘I’ve been thinking of using some sort of hypnotherapy myself, but frankly it’s not my field and there isn’t enough money in my budget to bring anyone in.’
‘Dr McEvoy said she’d do it pro bono,’ said Nightingale. He was bending the truth because he hadn’t discussed a fee with Barbara, but it sealed the deal and Dr Keller said they could visit anytime on Tuesday.
They arrived at the hospital just after eleven o’clock in the morning. ‘It’s an imposing building, isn’t it?’ said Barbara, as she parked her VW. She’d made it a condition of going that they went in her car not his. ‘The Victorians really knew how to do public buildings, didn’t they?’
‘It gives me the willies,’ said Nightingale. ‘Same with prisons. I always have this nagging fear that they’re not going to let me out.’
‘Sounds like a guilty conscience,’ said Barbara, getting out of the car.
‘I think it’s more an irrational fear,’ said Nightingale. He flipped up the collar of his raincoat as a few flecks of snow landed on his shoulders.
‘Like the way you don’t like lifts?’
‘Jenny told you, huh?’
‘We could talk about it some time,’ said Barbara. ‘Nail down if it’s the heights or the enclosed spaces that are worrying you.’
‘It’s neither. It’s lifts,’ said Nightingale.
‘Safest form of transport on the planet,’ said Barbara.
‘That’s only because of the elevator conspiracy.’
Barbara wagged her finger at him. ‘I’d be very careful about talking like that when we’re inside,’ she said. ‘Just in case.’
Dr Keller was waiting to meet them when they walked out of the holding area. He smiled broadly as he shook hands with Barbara. ‘I’m so pleased to meet you, Dr McEvoy,’ he said. He had taken off his white coat and was wearing a tweed jacket with scuffed leather patches on the elbows and a green and black checked flannel shirt with a brown knitted tie.
‘Barbara, please,’ she said.
Dr Keller shook hands so energetically that his spectacles slid down his nose. He pushed them back up and shook hands with Nightingale. ‘You’ve heard about what happened to Robyn’s parents?’
Nightingale feigned ignorance and shook his head.
‘The father drowned his wife in the bath and then cut his own throat. Horrible business.’
‘Robyn’s been told, has she?’
Dr Keller nodded. ‘The police were here last week.’
‘How did she take it?’
‘It’s hard to tell with Robyn. She’s very good at disguising her emotions, those emotions that she has.’
‘Did the police say anything, about what had happened?’ asked Nightingale.
‘Just that it was a murder-suicide and that Robyn had to be informed. They asked me if I’d do it.’
‘And she was okay?’
‘She seemed to be, yes. You have to remember that after she was arrested her parents cut off all contact. She was dead to them and I think it was reciprocated.’ He rubbed his hands together. ‘Anyway, to the matter in hand.’ He smiled ingratiatingly at Barbara. ‘I wasn’t sure where you’d want to do it,’ he said.
‘Somewhere quiet, preferably,’ said Barbara. ‘And it’s generally best if the subject can lie down.’
‘A sofa would be perfect,’ said Barbara.
‘That’s what I thought,’ said Dr Keller. ‘I don’t have a sofa in my office but I’ve arranged to borrow a colleague’s.’
He took them along a corridor and up a flight of stairs to another corridor. The office was halfway down. Dr Keller knocked on the door and opened it, then had a quick look to make sure that it was empty before ushering them in. The office was lined with books and files and there was a coffee table piled high with psychiatric journals. The window was covered with thick wire mesh and barred, and underneath it was a red three-seater sofa.
Dr Keller looked at his watch. ‘It’s a bank holiday and Dr Muller is away today so you can use her office as long as you want,’ he said. ‘How long do you think it will take?’
‘Two hours is generally long enough for a session,’ said Barbara, putting her briefcase on the coffee table. She opened it and took out a small digital recorder.
Dr Keller took her coat and hung it on the back of the door. He had a small transceiver clipped to his belt and he used it to tell the hospital’s control centre that they were to send Robyn Reynolds to Dr Muller’s office. Five minutes later there was the crackle of a radio in the corridor followed by a knock at the door. Dr Keller opened it. Robyn was there, flanked by two uniformed guards, both female. She was wearing the same grey polo-neck sweater and red Converse tennis shoes as the last time Nightingale had seen her, with baggy blue jeans.
She smiled at Nightingale. ‘Can’t keep away, can you?’ she said.
Nightingale wasn’t sure how to greet her. A handshake seemed too formal and he didn’t know her well enough to hug her. She seemed to have the same problem. She took a step towards him and then smiled awkwardly and shrugged.
‘I’m sorry about your parents,’ he said. ‘Your adoptive parents.’
‘I’m not,’ she said. ‘Do I care that they’re dead?’ She shook her head emphatically. ‘I couldn’t care less, and that’s God’s own truth.’ She smiled brightly. ‘So how was your Christmas?’
‘Not good, actually,’ he said. ‘Yours?’
‘Every day is pretty much the same in here,’ she said. ‘I was sort of expecting a card.’
‘Sorry,’ said Nightingale. He introduced Barbara. ‘Did Dr Keller tell you what we want to do?’
‘Hypnotise me to get me to give up smoking?’ She laughed. ‘Joke.’
‘It’s not really hypnosis,’ said Barbara. ‘It’s more about putting you in a deep state of relaxation so that you can remember what happened to you.’
‘Maybe I don’t want to remember,’ she said.
‘That’s true,’ said Barbara.
Dr Keller thanked the two guards. ‘We’ll have to stay outside the door,’ said one.
‘I understand,’ said Dr Keller. ‘Mr Nightingale and I will be waiting in my office so please show Dr McEvoy there when she’s finished.’
‘Robyn, why don’t you sit on the sofa and relax?’ said Barbara.
‘Are you going to be swinging a watch or something?’ asked Robyn as she sat down.
Barbara smiled. ‘It’s not like that, Robyn,’ she said. ‘I’m just going to talk to you.’ She picked up the recorder and pulled a chair over so that it was next to the sofa. ‘Gentlemen, if you could leave us ladies alone,’ she said.
Dr Keller took Nightingale back to his office. He explained that he had rounds to do and left him alone with a copy of the Daily Telegraph and a cup of coffee for an hour and a half, then came back and made small talk until there was a knock at the door. It was Barbara.
‘All done,’ she said.
‘How did it go?’ asked Dr Keller.
‘It was interesting,’ said Barbara. ‘I think it would probably be best if I have the session transcribed and send it to you.’
Dr Keller pushed his spectacles higher up his nose with the forefinger of his right hand. ‘Would you like some tea? We could have a brief chat.’
Barbara looked at her watch. ‘We really have to get back to London,’ she said. ‘Maybe next time.’ She extended her hand and Dr Keller shook it, less energetically than when they’d first met.
He walked them back to the exit and waved as they left the holding area.
As they walked out of the main door Barbara put her head close to Nightingale’s ear. ‘You are bloody well not going to believe this,’ she whispered.