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71

N ightingale carried the two glasses over to the corner table where Barbara was fiddling with her digital voice recorder. White wine spritzer, he said, putting the glass down in front of her. He sat down and raised his glass to her. The barmaid had started pouring his Corona beer into a glass before he could say anything, even though in his experience it always tasted better straight from the bottle. Barbara ignored him and concentrated on the recorder so Nightingale shrugged and sipped his beer.

The first hour or so was mainly about putting her at ease, she said. It was quite hard to get her under. It was as if she was blocking me.

She didnt want to be hypnotised?

Barbara shook her head. No, she wasnt fighting me. It was as if there was already some sort of hypnotic control at work. I had to override that before I could get her down to a lower level.

Someone else had hypnotised her before?

Thats what I think. And thats a big problem because well have to differentiate between the real memories she has and those that are the result of suggestion.

I dont follow you, said Nightingale.

Listen to this, first, she said. She looked at the screen on the side of the recorder. Okay, this is where we were after eighty minutes, she said. Id taken her back to the church where she was found with the dead boy. She looked around to make sure that there was no one else within earshot. A middle-aged couple were tucking into Shepherds pie at the next table. Barbara opened her briefcase and took out a pair of earphones. Use these. We dont want to scare the natives, she said. She plugged them into the recorder.

Nightingale slotted the earphones into his ears and pressed play. It started mid-conversation and it took him a couple of seconds to realise that it was his sister speaking.

Its dark and I can hear the engine.

Why is it dark, Robyn?

Theres something over my eyes.

What? A blindfold?

A bag. Its cloth and I can breathe but its hot. I feel dizzy.

Are you dizzy because of the bag over your head?

Im not sure. Its hard to think. Its like Im drunk.

But you havent been drinking?

I dont think so. I cant remember.

Try to remember, said Barbara.

Nightingale sipped his beer and settled back in his chair. Barbara was watching him. Okay? she mouthed. Nightingale nodded.

I havent had anything to drink but I think they gave me an injection. In my leg.

Why do you think that, Robyn?

Something hurt me. Like a pinprick. Then my leg went numb.

Okay, now tell me what happens when the van stops.

I can hear voices outside then the doors open and they take me out. My feet crunch on gravel. I slip but theyre holding onto me so that I wont fall. Its cold and its raining.

Youve still got the bag over your head?

Yes.

What happens next, Robyn?

I can hear a door opening. Im not walking on gravel any more. Theres something hard under my feet. Im inside. I can hear people around me. A lot of people. Theyre muttering, like theyre praying.

Nightingale picked up his glass and took another sip as he listened. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach as he was fairly sure he knew what was coming next.

Can you hear what theyre saying, Robyn?

Yes, but its not English. I dont know what it is.

Its Latin, thought Nightingale. Thats why she cant understand them.

Whats happening now, Robyn? asked Barbara.

A door theres a door closing. A big wooden door, it sounds like.

A church door, thought Nightingale. A church in Clapham.

Talk me through it, Robyn, said Barbara. Keep telling me whats happening.

Theyre making me walk forward. Theyre holding me by the arms. And the chatting is getting louder, like a buzzing in my ears. Somethings happening to my hood. Theyre taking it off.

Thats good, Robyn. Tell me what you see.

People, said Robyn. Lots of people. Theyre wearing black clothes. No, not clothes. Like cloaks with hoods. Long cloaks. I cant see if theyre men or women because the hoods hide their faces.

Nightingale looked over at Barbara. She was watching him intently. He nodded at her and she nodded back.

Im in front of an altar, said Robyn. But there isnt a cross there. Its covered with a white sheet. Oh my God.

What? said Barbara. What is it, Robyn? What have you seen?

A boy. Theyve got a boy. Who is he? Whys he here?

Timmy Robertson, thought Nightingale. Little Timmy Robertson.

Theyre putting him on the altar and holding him down. Hes struggling but one of them has put their hand over his mouth. No, no, no!

What, Robyn? Whats happening?

A knife. One of them has a knife. No, please dont. Hes just a boy. Dont! No!

Nightingales stomach lurched and then Robyn screamed so loudly that he winced. He pressed the stop button and took the earphones out. They murdered the boy, he said. They murdered him in front of her.

Barbara nodded. Assuming that shes telling the truth.

Nightingale frowned. Why would she lie?

Its not about lying, said Barbara. Its more misremembering. Thats why hypnotic regression has to be done by experts. In the wrong hands its a dangerous tool because it can produce false memories, memories that arent real but feel real to the subject. Barbara gestured at the recorder. Listen to the end, she said. Theres more.


| Midnight | c