The drive through London was a blur as Vincent talked me through the format for the show. It would open in the studio with The Passing Parade's new presenter, Andrew Gibson, outlining the allegations. ‘We've got to call them allegations just to cover the Beeb's posterior legally, you understand,’ Vincent said.
Gibson would do a short interview with Cleary in the studio and then the show would cut to OB where I would try to gain access to the Glasshouse. Alastair Fergus would be standing by outside the courts in case anything came of the habeas corpus writ. ‘The judge will throw the writ out of court but that's to our advantage really,’ Vincent said. ‘It just makes the Government look like they've got something to cover up.’
‘What if we can't get into the Glasshouse? I mean, I want us to get inside and show Magister working on one of the poor bastards inside that place,’ I said vehemently.
‘Calm down, James, calm down,’ Vincent replied soothingly. ‘That would be brilliant if we could manage it but let's be realistic. If this place is half as sinister as you make it out to be, you'll be lucky to get that camera crew within spitting distance of the front door! This show will cause such a stink they'll have to close the whole place down anyway - Magister or no Magister. Let's just hope we can make this work!’
We turned into the main drive of the BBC headquarters at White City to find an outside broadcast van waiting for me, ready to go. I turned in my seat to give a few final words of encouragement to Cleary. ‘Look, just tell the truth and nothing can go wrong. I know you'll be nervous but just tell the truth. It'll all be over soon.’
He looked at me strangely, his eyes shining and happy, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. ‘I know.’
I got out of the car and ran to the cab of the OB van, climbing in beside the crew. Less than a minute later we were on our way to Evesham, Vincent giving me a thumbs up sign as I left him with Cleary. Normally the drive to Evesham would have taken several hours in daytime traffic but the late hour of our trip cut the travelling time considerably. We were about twenty minutes away from our destination when Vincent's voice crackled through on the van's two-way radio.
‘This is Vincent Mortimer to OB van six - can you hear me?’
I picked up the headset and acknowledged his call. ‘How's it going at the studio? What's happening with the writ?’
‘One thing at a time, James! We're nearly set up here - we'll be going on the air in 25 minutes. Your soldier boy is looking a bit nervous, but he should be okay, Andrew's a very gentle interviewer when he wants to be. No word yet from the courts. It took us three hours just to get a judge to agree to leave his private members club and come down to sit on the bench! So, fingers crossed on that one. How are you doing?’
I relayed the question to the driver who shouted a reply. ‘Driver says we should be there in seventeen minutes, maybe less.’
‘Great! Call us when you're in position.’
We were delayed by the lack of lighting in the country lanes around Evesham hiding the landmarks that I had fixed in my mind. But twenty minutes later we were parked down the road from the Glasshouse. I recognized the main Tudor-style building through a gap in the trees surrounding it, and led the camera crew into position outside the front gates. The director for the OB team, a thin-faced chain-smoker called Bill Jeffs, explained to me the procedure for the broadcast.
‘Basically, we'll do the first insert with a fixed camera and lighting here. When we try to get into the building itself, we'll be using one of the new lightweight video cameras. We've been testing them with some success for the Sports Department.’
‘Some success?’ I asked warily.
‘Don't worry, it'll be fine.’ He lit another cigarette while his crew set up the fixed unit. ‘Look, if you're right about this place, are there likely to be armed guards? Any shooting?’
I had to admit I did not know. ‘To be honest, it hadn't even occurred to me. I've just be intent upon getting back into the Glasshouse and showing the world what's inside.’
Bill rolled his eyes. ‘Terrific!’
Before the conversation could go any further the monitors in the OB van flickered into life, relaying on screen what was happening in The Passing Parade studio as well as the broadcast signals for the various channels still on the air. I watched as a make-up assistant put the finishing touches to Cleary's face. The young soldier sat uncomfortably in a swivel chair, facing the programme's presenter, Andrew Gibson.
Gibson was one of Vincent's protégés at BBC3. Poached from Radio Oxford, he had quickly mastered the art of television presenting and was already making a name for himself at BBC3. Rumours were circulating in media circles that he had been approached to read the headlines on the prestigious Nine O'Clock News for BBC1.
Watching him prepare, I could see why Vincent had taken Gibson under his wing. The presenter had a face the camera seemed to love, warm and friendly with intelligent eyes and a sardonic humour about the mouth. His voice could be heard from a speaker beside the monitor, words perfectly formed in that curious BBC accent yet still retaining their own individuality. I just hoped Gibson went gently with Cleary, as Vincent had promised, otherwise we could all be in serious trouble.
‘Okay, James, we're ready for you!’ Bill shouted. I climbed out of the van and took up my position in front of the fixed camera. A black-and-white monitor had been set up beside the camera so I could see what was happening back at the studio. Running a hand through my hair, I cleared my throat and tried to concentrate on what I wanted to say, and on what were the most important points to get across. I would only get one shot at this, so I had to make it count. ‘All right, silence, everybody; we're getting ready for our first link to the studio!’
On the monitor I watched the credits for The Passing Parade flash up on screen, to be replaced with the serious face of presenter Andrew Gibson, his name appearing in a caption below.
‘Good evening and welcome to The Passing Parade. Tonight, in place of our advertised programme about the effects of decimalization, we bring you a special report on claims made about a private psychiatric institution. It is alleged that the institution is being used by the anarchist terrorist known as Victor Magister - the Master - to brainwash British soldiers and form them into his own private army.
‘These shocking claims have been made by the controversial and award-winning investigative journalist James Stevens. He is in Evesham, standing outside what he alleges is a psychiatric hospital known only as "the Glasshouse". We cross over to him live now. Mr Stevens, can you hear me?’
Beside the camera Bill nodded at me to speak.
‘Yes, Andrew, I can hear you.’
‘Mr Stevens, what exactly are these allegations you're making?’
‘Well, Andrew, these are not allegations, these are facts - as you'll soon see when we go into the Glasshouse. I'm standing in front of the very building and we hope to gain access to it in the next few minutes. If successful, we plan to take the cameras of The Passing Parade inside to reveal this terrifying place of torture for what it truly is.’
‘What about your claim that the Glasshouse, as you call it, is run by the anarchist terrorist Victor Magister? Surely everyone knows that the so-called Master is currently being held in custody at a secret location awaiting trial for murder and other charges?’
‘I thought the same thing until I was abducted and brought to this place. I was confronted by Magister who revealed himself to be the director of the Glasshouse. He claimed he could come and go from his incarceration at will. I managed to escape from the Glasshouse earlier today, along with a British soldier who was being held captive here.’
‘And we have that soldier in the studio with us,’ Gibson said, picking up my link perfectly. He swivelled in his chair to indicate Cleary, who was sat nervously fingering his metal bracelet. ‘We'll be talking to Private Francis Cleary later in the programme. We also have reporter Alastair Fergus standing by outside the courts where a writ of habeas corpus has been brought to try and force the Government to produce the prisoner known as Victor Magister. Alastair?’
The image on screen switched to that of Alastair Fergus, standing smiling on the steps outside the crown court. I had not seen Fergus on The Passing Parade since the incident at Devil's End, his career being sidelined by the rise and rise of Andrew Gibson. I could sense a crackle of tension between the pair as they exchanged links.
‘That's right, Andrew. An unnamed party has brought a writ of habeas corpus against the Government, trying to force it to produce Victor Magister before the court. While the writ is expected to be thrown out, it will be interesting to see if the Government is willing to produce the Master anyway, simply to scotch these claims and allegations. Andrew?’
‘Thank you, Alastair.’ The picture on the monitor switched back to Gibson in the studio as he smoothly swung proceedings back to Cleary. ‘Now, Private Cleary, I understand you're currently posted to something known as UNIT. What is UNIT?’
There was a long, uncomfortable silence, with Cleary just staring at the floor. Gibson prompted him with a further question. ‘I understand UNIT stands for the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce?’
After another long pause, Cleary nodded.
‘I'm told that UNIT fights terrorists. Have you ever seen this man, Victor Magister, also known as the Master?’
A photograph of Magister appeared briefly on screen. Cleary looked at it and nodded again. ‘He gave me a mission,’ the soldier whispered.
‘Pardon me?’ Gibson asked, desperate to have Cleary speak up. The interview was foundering and he had to turn things around quickly.
‘He gave me a mission. I'm got to save someone,’ Cleary mumbled.
Cleary just shook his head. From the earpiece Bill had thrust on me before we began the broadcast I could hear Vincent screaming at Gibson to cut away from the soldier. Now the monitor's image closed in on the presenter's face as he swivelled back to face the main camera.
‘Obviously, something has left this brave young British soldier very disturbed. We'll be coming back to him later in the programme. Now we're going back to James Stevens at Evesham. Mr Stevens, can you still hear me?’
‘I can hear you, Andrew.’ I looked beyond the dazzling arc light to find Bill's face. He was nodding to me furiously. ‘We're ready to go in.’
‘All right, Mr Stevens. Our cameras will follow you in.’
I turned and pushed at the heavy wooden gates behind me, which swung open freely. Striding in, I made sure I kept my pace even so the mobile camera crew could keep up with me. As we approached the Glasshouse, I kept up a commentary of how I had been abducted, brought to this place and what had happened to me.
Ahead of us every window in the building was ablaze with light. But how much resistance would we encounter? And would Magister himself still be inside? As we reached the front door, I turned to address the camera again.
‘We now stand outside one of the most evil and frightening places in Britain. Inside these walls are dozens, perhaps hundreds of men and women being held against their will, being tortured and subjected to mind-control experiments. Now, we shall expose this inhuman institution known as the Glasshouse for what it really is!’
I turned and hammered at the door. To my amazement, it simply swung open at my first blow. ‘What the -?’ Motioning for the camera crew to follow me, I stepped inside. We stopped in the lobby, which was empty. Nobody responded to my shouts; nobody came to stop us. Gradually, we went from room to room, finally finding the long ward in which I had been held prisoner for nearly three weeks.
Every single room was empty. There was no furniture, no people, and no sign that the building had been occupied for months or even years. Everything had been stripped bare and removed. Even the white linoleum floor that had been pooled in blood just hours before was now clean bar a light sprinkling of dust. The Glasshouse was empty - abandoned. It was as if what I had seen there had never existed.
I turned to face the camera, shaking my head slowly. ‘I don't understand. It was all here, I saw it all - I was held prisoner in this very room just this morning. I saw a woman die here!’
I looked up at the pitiless lens of the television camera. ‘You've got to believe me, I saw it!’ In my ear I could hear Vincent swearing and screaming abuse at me. Behind the OB camera Bill reached forward and tapped the cameraman on the shoulder.
‘Cut it,’ he said quietly.
The camera light was switched off; the sound man turned off his equipment; the lens turned away from me. There was a long, sullen silence as Bill and his crew stared at me.
‘I saw it,’ I said feebly.
The drive back to BBC3 headquarters was cold and bitter. I sat in the back of the van, watching the rest of the programme on one of the monitors. In the studio, Andrew Gibson, trying to repair the damage to The Passing Parade's credibility, was quickly distancing the programme from what was happening. The show cut to outside the courts where Alastair Fergus gleefully reported that the writ of habeas corpus had been thrown out as predicted but that the Government were going to produce Victor Magister anyway, to put paid to what it described as ‘wildly inaccurate and defamatory allegations.’
I watched numbly as Victor Magister was brought out to stand on the steps of the courthouse. He smirked as a lawyer read out a prepared statement. ‘We understand that a discredited journalist called James Stevens has been making libellous allegations against our client; allegations which has been proven to be lies and vile slurs live on national television. We intend to ask for the heaviest penalty possible against this twisted individual who seems to be conducting a one-man vendetta against our innocent client. That is all.’
Magister was bundled away into a waiting prison van, chased by dozens of photographers and camera crews. The Passing Parade cut back to the studio where Cleary was conspicuous by his absence. Andrew Gibson was reading a prepared statement to the cameras.
‘This programme has been the victim of an elaborate hoax by James Stevens, a man we believed to have been telling the truth. He has lied to us and lied to you, the viewers. BBC3 wishes to apologize utterly and whole-heartedly to anyone who may have been offended by what happened on this show. You may rest assured that there will be a full internal enquiry into how this hoax was perpetrated on us and that measures will be put in place to make sure it never happens again. This is Andrew Gibson, for The Passing Parade. Good night.’
The screen faded to black - no credits, just a BBC3 copyright line. Obviously no one wanted their name associated with what was fast turning into a major fiasco live on national television. I tried to take some comfort from the notion that such a late-night show might avoid the attention of the rest of the media. I was wrong.
We arrived back at BBC3 headquarters to find it awash with camera crews, photographers, and journalists waving microphones, screaming questions over the top of each other, surging forward to pull a scrape of meat from the carcass of my ignominy. Now, at last, I understand why journalists and the media were considered to be vultures - parasites. Now I was their prey. Pushing through the throng I remained tight-lipped, having to use my fists and elbows to barge a way clear.
Inside the BBC3 building, I walked through the hallways like a leper, people recognizing me and stepping aside to let me pass, not wanting to be seen with me. I finally tracked down Vincent in the bar, making friends with a large bottle of vodka.
‘Vincent, Vincent I'm so sorry, I don't know what -’
The bottle went hurtling past my left ear and smashed into the door behind me. ‘You've got some nerve to come back here, after what you've done!’ he spat at me. ‘You've got some brass neck, I'll give you that!’
‘Vincent, where's Cleary? What happened to Cleary?’
‘How the hell should I know? Halfway through the show, when it was all going wrong, he just wandered off the set and disappeared, mumbling something about his mission.’ Vincent's eyes were filling with tears of self-pity. ‘You've ruined me, you know that? Ruined. I'll be lucky to get a job producing television for the blind after this!’
I left him in the bar, a lonely figure. It was time for me to go home. I managed to slip out of a side door and hail a black cab. Sitting in the back, I contemplated what had happened. Obviously, once Magister discovered Cleary and I had escaped he realized I would be coming back to expose him. Instead, he turned my moment of triumph into a final, damning ruination of my career. Nobody would ever believe what I said or wrote after what had happened tonight. Certainly my book about UNIT and C19 would never see print. What a mess.
I got the taxi driver to drop me off two streets from home, expecting there to be yet more camera crews and photographers outside the house. I had not been expecting the police cordon that surrounding the building. Pushing my way through the rabble of reporters, I slipped past the metal crash barriers holding the media back. An angry policeman approached me, his hand reaching for the baton at his side.
‘Look, if I told you bloody reporters once, I've told you a thousand -’ He stopped speaking as he looked at my face, recognizing me instantly. Was I now that notorious?
‘I'm sorry, officer, but I live here. If you could let me through...’
The constable stood aside and let me pass, then followed me up the stairs. I noticed him gesture to several other constables lining the barriers and they followed us through the front door. I walked into the hallway to find plainclothes detectives swarming all around me. Several were brushing fine black powder over the banisters of the staircase and around the door handles and door frames. A burly constable blocked my entry into the front room.
‘I'm sorry sir, you can't go in there,’ he said.
‘I bloody live here - this is my house! I can go wherever I bloody want in it, thank you very much!’ I retorted and managed to shove my way past. Four men in long coats were standing around something crumpled on the floor, while a fifth was taking photographs. The flash of the camera dazzled my eyes for a second before I was able to focus on what was lying in a heap on the floor.
It was Dodo. She was wearing my white towelling robe, and there was a red stain on the left flap of material, along with black powder burns around the three dark holes where most of her blood had clotted. Another trickle of blood ran from the edge of her mouth down onto the carpet beneath her head. She was quite dead.
The detectives turned to look at me. ‘Ah, Mr Stevens,’ one of them said, a balding man in his late forties, a thin moustache spread across his top lip. ‘My name's Goulding of CID. I was wondering if we could have a word with you.’ I just looked at him blankly, not really hearing the words, which he repeated. ‘It's just that we need to discuss with you what happened here. Perhaps you could help us with our enquiries?’
Finally, I managed to mumble a few words. I knew Dodo was dead but somehow I could not get the idea fixed in my mind. This whole situation seemed like a nightmare which you know must end eventually. ‘How can I help you?’ I asked vaguely.
‘I was wondering if you could identify this?’ Goulding said, holding up a revolver in a clear plastic bag.
‘That's my gun. It was stolen a few weeks ago,’ I said numbly.
‘Really, sir? Did you report to the police that it had been stolen?’
‘No, I never got a chance.’
‘You never got a chance. Someone steals a dangerous, unregistered firearm from your home nearly a month ago, and since then you say you haven't reported it stolen because you "never got a chance" - is that right, Mr Stevens?’ Goulding raised an eyebrow at me before nodding to his colleagues. ‘That's very interesting, Mr Stevens, because we believe this is the gun that was used to murder Miss Chaplet here. We understand that you were living together here - is that correct?’
I just nodded. I felt a hollowness in my chest that made it difficult to breathe, and bile was rising in my throat. I tried to choke it down, while my eyes just kept staring at the dead body on the floor. ‘I was going to ask her to marry me,’ I said.
‘Is that so? Did you know she was pregnant? Was the baby yours?’ Goulding asked. ‘Had you been fighting lately? I understand there was a fire here recently - perhaps the result of a domestic argument? The report from the fire brigade seems strangely vague about your description of the cause. I understand you've been away for the past few weeks - was this just a temporary separation or were you living with someone else at the time? Well, Mr Stevens? Have you got answers for these questions?’
I ran for the bathroom but did not make, instead vomiting up a stream of green bile onto walls and floor in the hallway. Goulding followed me into the hall, accompanied by his dark-suited colleagues. I wiped my face and looked up at him.
‘Are you trying to say I killed the woman I loved? Are you accusing me of murder?’ I demanded.
‘I didn't use the word murder, sir, you did. I think we'd better read you your rights before we get into a confession, Mr Stevens.’ One of Goulding's colleagues stepped forward and began reciting my rights to me in a dull monotone. I could hardly contain my outrage.
‘Confession? Are you clinically insane? I did not kill anyone, especially not Dodo!’
‘We'll have to see about that, Mr Stevens. I think you'd better come down the station with us so we can talk further about this.’ Goulding nodded to two constables who stepped forward and grabbed me by the arms. ‘You better cuff him; he might get violent. Make sure you take him out the front way, past the cameras. Move!’
My wrists were forced together and handcuffs roughly snapped shut around them. I was shoved forwards out into the street and nearly fell down my front stairs. As I was led to a waiting police car, the constables made sure to pause long enough so all the photographers could get my picture. I tried to put my hands up in front of my face but they were slapped down again. As I was shoved into the back seat of the car, I heard a young man with a lisp addressing the gathered media.
‘Just after midnight police were called to this address after neighbours reported hearing screaming, following by three shots being fired. We arrived to discover the body of a young woman, a Miss Dorothea Chaplet, dead in the front room of this home. Miss Chaplet lived here with the owner of the property, a freelance journalist, James Stevens.
‘It seems Miss Chaplet, whom we believe was in the early stages of pregnancy, was shot three times with an old service revolver owned by Mr Stevens. Mr Stevens is being taken to the nearest police station where he will be helping us with our enquiries. No one else is being sought in connection with this crime, which is being treated as murder.’ The young man glanced over at me as I sat in the police car, and smiled, before turning back to the cameras. ‘Are there any questions?’
There was a barrage of shouting from the assembled media until the noise levels dropped enough for individual questions to be heard. ‘Was Miss Chaplet shot in the stomach?’ was the last question I heard before the car was driven away. For the second time in one night, I was ashamed to be a journalist.
The next twelve hours were a blur of police cells and interview rooms as Goulding and his team of detectives shouted, cajoled and threatened me to try and get a quick confession. ‘The word's come down from the top floor - nobody's going to help you. If we have to we'll hold you here indefinitely on whatever trumped up charges we can find until we get a confession. I'll beat it out of you myself if I have to,’ Goulding promised. ‘You make me sick, murdering a pregnant woman...’
I just remained silent, my mind caught in an endless loop of walking into the front room and seeing Dodo's body, walking into the front room and seeing Dodo's body, walking into...
It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon when a single constable came to my cell and unlocked the door. I looked up at him wearily, expecting another long interrogation session. I had not slept for nearly two days, I was exhausted, and I was emotionally empty - hollowed out, as if someone had scooped out my heart, held it in front of my face, and then torn it apart slowly before my eyes. I did not care what happened to me any more, I just wanted to know who had murdered Dodo.
‘I didn't do it, you know,’ I said to the constable, standing up.
‘I know, I've come to let you go.’
‘I couldn't kill her - I loved her.’
‘I know,’ the young, fresh-faced policeman insisted. ‘I've come to let you go. You're free to leave at any time.’
‘This is just another trick,’ I said numbly. ‘You're trying to get my hopes up before you dash them - good cop, bad cop, I know the procedures.’
‘You don't understand. The report from the autopsy came back and it stated the time of death as midnight. Since you were on live television at the time elsewhere, you can't have pulled the trigger. Plus your fingerprints weren't on the gun - it had somebody else's dabs on it. You're free to go, Mr Stevens.’
‘Whose fingerprints? Whose prints were on the gun?’ I demanded.
‘I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to tell you that. You'll have to go through the proper channels if you want that information,’ he replied. The young constable held open the cell door and watched me walk slowly out of the cell. He escorted me to the front desk where I was given back my belt, shoelaces and the contents of my pockets. The young constable said he had ordered a black cab for me and it should arrive within the next three minutes. Finally, the front door was held open and I walked out to face the waiting media.
The questions came in a blizzard of noise: camera motor drives whirring; people shouting at me or at each other; sound men jostling for better positions; shoes scuffling on the gravel garden in front of the police station. I held up a hand and waited until finally there was enough silence to hear myself speak. Once I had everyone's attention, I began talking.
‘I have something to say and then I will take a few questions. Please wait until I am finished before you ask any questions and only ask one question at a time, otherwise I won't be able to hear what you're asking. First of all, I am innocent. I did not kill the woman I love, Miss Dodo Chaplet. She was murdered by a person or persons unknown to me and the police have finally acknowledged that by releasing me without charge after more than twelve hours of brutal interrogation.
‘Secondly, I intend to sue any and all media reports that state that I was arrested for the murder of Miss Chaplet. I was never arrested for this terrible crime and I am willing to go to court to clear my name and that of Miss Chaplet. Thirdly, I will use every means at my disposal to help the police find the person or persons who did murder her. I would appeal for the help of the public in finding the killer, before they strike again.
‘Finally, I ask you for some peace and solitude. The woman I love has been murdered; please show respect for her memory and leave me in peace to bury her alone.’ I stopped, to try and contain my feelings before answering any questions.
‘Mr Stevens, did the police give you any clue who they were seeking in connection with this killing?’ The question came from a newspaper reporter I vaguely recognized. Probably from the Chronicle, I thought idly.
‘No, you should ask them for any details you want about the case.’
‘Mr Stevens, will you bringing a civil case against the police for wrongful arrest?’ another voice demanded.
‘As I have already said, I was never arrested or charged with murder so that situation does not arise. Next question please.’
‘Mr Stevens, how do you respond to reports that you are being sued by Victor Magister for defamation and by the BBC for deliberately misleading them into defaming Mr Magister?’ a familiar voice asked. I turned to see Alastair Fergus and a camera crew from The Passing Parade waiting expectantly for my answer.
‘Since that matter is apparently before the court it is sub judice, as you should well know, Alastair, and I could not possibly comment upon it. That is all I have to say.’ I turned away and saw my cab pull up. The cacophony of voices shouting began again as I dived inside and told the driver to get the hell out of there.
I knew I would have to disappear for a few days until media interest in the case was replaced by another, fresher story. But first I would have to go home and get a few things. I had the cab driver drop me in the street behind the house and wait while I went through the property backing on to mine to gain access. I had no stomach for another run through the gauntlet of media waiting outside my front door.
I went upstairs first, throwing a few items of clothing and toiletries into a bag along with my passport and the keys to my safety deposit box at the bank where I had kept all my most important notes on UNIT and C19. Even if nobody would publish my book now, maybe in the future it could still see print. Perhaps when the truth had finally been separated from fiction, what had truly been going on in Britain might be revealed...
Coming down the stairs I knocked over a potted plant, inadvertently alerting the media to my presence inside. As I had suspected, they were scuttling around the front door like vermin, trying to scratch and claw their way inside. ‘Mr Stevens, is that you? Mr Stevens, we just want a few words for the evening bulletin. Come on, be a sport!’
I gave them a few choice words through the letterbox, which I doubted they would be able to broadcast on any bulletin - not without censoring them first. Then, bracing myself inwardly, I stepped into the front room, glad that the police had left the curtains closed. I flicked on the black-dusted light switch and looked down at the crimson stain on the carpet. How long had Dodo lain there dying? Had her death been quick and painless, or long and drawn-out over minutes, even hours? I hoped for her sake she had not suffered.
Now, nearly 24 hours after her death, I cried. The only woman, the only person I had ever really loved was dead, murdered because of me, because of my stupid, petty, self-aggrandizing crusade. What good had it done anyone? What had my efforts achieved? Nothing but pain and suffering. Now Dodo was lying in a morgue somewhere, gutted by a police pathologist just so they could prove beyond reasonable doubt what had killed her.
Realizing that my self-pity was helping no one, I wiped the tears from my blurring eyes and turned away. I stopped and looked back. Something was different about the room. Something had caught my eye. Something had changed but I could not immediately identify what. Nothing was missing, it was almost as if something had been added. Then I saw it, pushed into a space on a bookshelf over where Dodo had lain. I strode over and picked it up to make sure I was not mistaken.
It was a metal bracelet, the same metal bracelet Private Cleary had brought out of the Glasshouse. The same metal bracelet he had been fidgeting with while appearing on The Passing Parade, just before Dodo had been murdered. That meant Cleary had come here from the BBC3 studio, arriving before the police. Now, the pieces started falling into place before me. I could see the murder taking place before me.
The knock at the door as Dodo prepared for bed, her cautiously opening it and then recognizing Cleary as a friend of mine and letting him in. Leading him into the front room. Asking him if he wanted a drink while he waited for me to get back. Perhaps that was when the gun came out and Dodo started screaming.
Cleary was a trained killer: I had witnessed his brutal slaughter of the nurse in the Glasshouse. This slaying was quicker, less messy - dispassionate even. Just three shots into the chest, all neatly grouped together in a classic wounding-pattern. Perhaps Cleary had not been alone; maybe it was the blond man with the tan who had brought him here from the studio. Perhaps Cleary did not even fire the fatal bullets, but somehow I knew he had. Magister had been training the young soldier for a reason - he had a mission to carry out.
Was this part of the mission? Was Cleary solely under Magister's control when he killed Dodo? Or could he have been aware of what he was doing, but unable to stop himself, unable to overcome the mesmerizing hold Magister had on his mind? Perhaps by leaving the bracelet here Cleary was leaving me a clue, or a warning, or something else - something I could not yet see.
I did not know the answers to these questions; I did not know which of these scenarios was correct, or if any of them were. All I knew was I had been given another piece of the larger puzzle - it was up to me what I should do with it. Pushing the bracelet inside my jacket pocket, I walked out of the room, out of the house, and out the way I had come, returning to the waiting taxi.
‘I wasn't sure if you were coming back,’ the cabby said nervously.
‘I had to,’ I replied. ‘Unfinished business. Take me to Victoria Station - I've got a train to catch.’
As he drove away I looked back between the gaps in the buildings to see the house that had been a home to Dodo and me. I knew I could never set foot inside that house again; that it would always be tainted with the memory of her murder. I would have to make a fresh start, begin again.
But first I had to get away.