N ightingale put the earphones back in and pressed ‘play’. Robyn’s voice echoed in his ears.
‘There’s so much blood,’ she said. ‘There’s blood everywhere. I don’t want to look.’
‘Breathe deeply, Robyn. Nice and deeply. Everything is okay and you’re safe. You’re just remembering what happened. No one can hurt you. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ said Robyn.
‘Can you breathe deeply for a while, and feel your heart slow down?’
There was silence for several seconds.
‘Are you okay now?’ asked Barbara.
‘I’m okay,’ replied Robyn.
‘Tell me what you can see,’ said Barbara. ‘Imagine you are watching it on a television screen. Can you do that? You’re not really there; you’re watching it on television. Do you understand?’
‘I understand,’ said Robyn.
‘So tell me what you can see.’
‘The blood is dripping onto the floor. I can see the boy’s eyes and they’re wide open but he must be dead because there’s so much blood. Everyone is moving closer and they’re talking but I can’t understand what they’re saying. One of them is touching the blood and holding up his hand.’
‘Is it a man or a woman?’
‘I can’t see because they all have hoods over their faces. No, it’s a man. His hands are big. Now he’s touching someone else on the head, putting blood on them.’
‘What do you mean, Robyn? He’s marking their forehead with blood? Is that what he’s doing?’
‘Yes,’ said Robyn. ‘Now he’s doing it to someone else. To all of them. Now they’ve all got blood on their foreheads.’
‘Where are you, Robyn?’
‘In the middle of the church, facing the altar. There’s someone on either side of me, holding me. Now the man is putting his hand in the boy’s blood again.’
Nightingale heard his sister breathing loudly, fast and hard.
‘Relax, Robyn, no one can hear you,’ said Barbara. ‘Stay calm. Deep breaths.’
Robyn’s breathing steadied.
‘Now, Robyn, tell me what’s happening.’
‘The man is putting blood on my face. He’s saying something but the words don’t make any sense and his voice is deep, like I’m hearing it through water. He’s putting his face really close to mine but I still can’t understand what he’s saying.’
‘You’re doing very well, Robyn. Keep calm. Nothing can happen to you. You’re safe. Now tell me what’s happening.’
‘They’re moving me towards the altar. My legs feel so heavy and I can’t feel my arms. I just want to sleep.’
‘Why are they taking you to the altar?’
‘I don’t know. Some of the people are leaving. There’re just the ones holding me and the man with the blood. He’s got a knife now.’
‘Is it the knife he used to kill the child?’
‘Yes. I think so.’
‘Is there blood on the knife?’
‘Yes. Yes there is.’
‘All right, Robyn, well done. We’re almost finished. Tell me what’s happening now.’
‘They’re putting something in my hand.’
‘What? What is it, Robyn?’
‘The knife. Oh my God, it’s the knife. Oh my God.’ The words were tumbling over each other.
‘Robyn, it’s okay. Go back to looking at the television screen. You’re not there but you can see everything. You’re quite safe.’
‘There’s no need to be scared, Robyn. Everything’s fine. I’m here with you. Take deep breaths. We’re going to stop soon. Just a few more minutes. Now, what’s happening? Is the knife still in your hand?’
‘So tell me what’s happening, Robyn. Tell me what you can see.’
‘I’m on the altar. Next to the boy. His blood is all over me. It’s still warm. There’s so much of it. And I’m so tired. I just want to sleep.’
‘What about the man, is he still there?’
‘He’s talking to me. He’s staring at me and talking to me and I just want to sleep.’
‘All right, Robyn. We’re going to stop soon. Just one more thing. This man, can you see his face?’
‘Yes,’ whispered Robyn.
‘Describe him to me,’ said Barbara.
‘He’s as old as my father. Almost sixty, I think. He has long grey hair and his nose is red, as if he drinks too much. And hair in his ears. I told him he should use clippers.’
‘Told him? What do you mean, you told him?’
‘I said he should clip the hairs in his ears.’
‘When did you tell him?’
‘When he came to see me.’
Nightingale frowned, not understanding what he was hearing. She had been held in the van with a hood over her head, so she hadn’t been able to say anything to anyone. When had she had a conversation with the man?
‘Robyn, do you know this man?’ asked Barbara. ‘Do you know his name?’
‘Yes,’ said Robyn.
‘Who is he?’ asked Barbara.
‘Marcus,’ said Robyn. ‘Marcus Fairchild.’