"I understand you grew up on the estate?" Robbie asked, pulling out a notebook and pencil. Under normal circumstances he would have had a constable with him to take notes, but driving out here had been a spur of the moment decision after the DVLA had called to inform him Hathaway had processed an online change of address. Not knowing if it would be a wild goose chase or not – there was no guarantee Hathaway would actually be at the new address – Robbie had chosen to come alone.
"Yes, I did. But I left when I was twelve," Hathaway replied. The kettle clicked off and he stood up and pulled two earthenware mugs and a packet of tea bags from the box he had earlier rummaged through.
"I understand your father was the estate manager at that time?" Robbie asked, just for clarification.
"Do you take milk, Inspector?" Hathaway replied instead.
Hathaway returned to the table with the mugs and placed one in front of Robbie before sitting down with his own. "I hope you don't take sugar; I don't think I have any. Everything's been in storage and the removal company just moved it from the unit to here. And I seemed to have thrown things in boxes until they were full with no rhyme or reason," Hathaway explained with a small smile. "Still haven't found my socks yet."
"I've moved a time or two meself," Robbie replied, warming to the younger man. "The first time I didn't empty the chest of drawers. The drawer I kept me undies in slid open when the removal men were lugging it into my new place. Socks and pants went everywhere." Hathaway let out a bark of laughter. Robbie took a sip of his tea as he watched Hathaway move his mug in a slow circle.
"Why do you want to know about my father?" Hathaway eventually asked. "Neither my parents or myself have been back to Crevecoeur since we left."
There was a lot of information about Hathaway floating around in cyberspace that Robbie was reliably informed by Laura Hobson was mainly gossip mongering of which very little was true. Robbie didn't doubt Laura's information; she and a vast majority of the station had known Hathaway personally as he'd once been a copper, leaving to pursue a career in music about a month before Robbie returned from secondment. Robbie had learnt two things about Hathaway from his former colleagues; he had excelled at police work, and he was an extremely private man. The insatiable media hunger for a story, and the fact that large chunks of Hathaway's life had remained private, had undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on the lad and made him even more guarded about his life.
"You've heard about the murder of Dr Stephen Black?" Robbie asked, making the decision to lay his case out to Hathaway. He believed it would put the lad at ease andlet him know any information he could provide would be greatly valued.
"Yeah, but I can't believe Paul would have done that," Hathaway stated. "He was always very loyal to his Lordship, even as a child, but…" Hathaway shook his head.
"He is, in fact, charged with four murders," Robbie said sadly. "In addition to Dr Black, there's the estate manager, Ralph Grahame, Mortmaigne's nephew, Philip Coleman, and Linda Grahame."
Hathaway looked at him in bewildered shock.
"Paul killed Mrs Grahame nine years ago because she suspected that Mortmaigne was abusing her seven year old daughter. An assumption was made at the time that she'd had an affair and runoff with her lover, abandoning her husband and child. Hopkiss buried her body in the foundations of a millennium statue which was being erected on the site of an old fountain." Robbie paused to take another sip of tea; Hathaway was still staring at him in disbelief.
"Dr Stephen Black was following an old map which he believed led to some hidden treasure on the Mortmaigne estate. The clues led him to the new statue where the fountain had been," Robbie continued.
"Which Paul couldn't let him investigate," Hathaway said, having shaken himself out of his shock. "I think I remember Ralph Grahame; he was my father's foreman."
Robbie nodded. "He took over as estate manager. We believe he'd figured out that his daughter was being abused and his murder was made to look like a suicide.
"And Phillip Coleman?"
"Unfortunately for him, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Robbie said, his voice laced with regret. "He died a hero. Hopkiss had me at gunpoint and Coleman caused a distraction. Hopkiss turned and shot him, which gave me the chance to disarm Hopkiss and subdue him."
"What a bloody mess," Hathaway said, as he ran a hand over his short cropped hair. "But what does this have to do with me?"
"Ralph and Linda Grahame's daughter was being abused by Mortmaigne, and we strongly believe he abused Paul Hopkiss for a number of years… and possibly others." Robbie hoped Hathaway would pick up on the unasked question.
"What? You…you think Mortmaigne may have abused me too?" Hathaway asked incredulously. "No, no he never touched me."
"You never had piano lessons in the summer house?" Robbie asked.
"No! Mum…I wanted to learn the piano and I was jealous of Paul because his Lordship had started to teach him," Robbie watched with sadness as realisation hit Hathaway. "But Mum said no. I remember I kept on. She gave in, in the end, but she would drive me into the village once a week for lessons with a retired music teacher." He looked at Robbie in horror. "She knew."
"I would certainly say she had her suspicions," Robbie confirmed.
"I wonder if that's why they left," Hathaway mused. "I got a full scholarship to St Frideswide when I was twelve." St Frideswide's, Robbie knew, was a very exclusive boys' boarding school in the heart of Oxford, and was nearly as old as the University itself. It also only gave out one scholarship per year, with thousands applying for the elusive place. Robbie gave Hathaway a shrewd look; you had to be very, very brightto win the scholarship. "My parents left Crevecoeur the month after I started there and took up positions with the Earl and Countess of Harrowby at their Burnt Norton estate in Gloucestershire."
"Would you mind looking at some photographs?" Robbie asked. "See if you remember any of the children in them."
"Of course, "Hathaway agreed. "So you're going after Mortmaigne for child abuse?"
"The man's a damn paedophile, but Hopkiss won't admit to any wrongdoing by Mortmaigne, and young Briony Gahame is fair game to the kind of defence barrister Mortmaigne can afford. Although she's willing to testify, she's lost her father, found out her mother was also murdered, and has admitted to having a sexual relationship with Titus Mortmaigne when she turned sixteen. She'll be ripped to shreds in the witness stand," Robbie bit out angrily.
"You've charged Mortmaigne? Surely the press should be all over this? Other victims would come forward. I haven't seen or heard anything. "Hathaway said.
"Money and friends in high places," Robbie said bitterly. "CPS charged him with indecent assault, but they don't think they can make an 'inciting a child to engage in sexual activity' charge stick."
"They didn't push for rape?"
Robbie shook his head. "Mortmaigne got bail and a gagging order," he explained. "That's why there's been no press coverage. We've only got the estate payroll records for the last nine years, but we think Briony was his only victim in that time. Virtually all of the current staff have been in employment for less than ten years, with the exception of Ralph Grahame and Paul Hopkiss." Robbie pulled out a thin sheaf of papers from his inside jacket pocket. "We found these photographs tucked away in a drawer in Mortmaigne's bedroom. As you'll see, they're from various times. Do you recognise anyone?" He placed the small pile of photocopied photographs in front of Hathaway, who carefully and meticulously examined them.
"That's Paul," he said after a few minutes, pushing the image towards Robbie. "This one, I think, is Susan Dawson." He held up one of the pictures. "She was a couple of years older than me. Her brother owns Dawson Butchers in the Covered Market." He pointed to another image. "And I'm fairly sure this one is Seth Timms. I ran into his mother in Oxford about eight, nine years ago, said he was in the army." Hathaway's long, slender finger tapped the picture for a few seconds. "He was in the armoured division, I think that's what she said, but I can't be sure. I don't recognise any of the others."
Robbie finished scribbling out the information. "That's brilliant, lad." He smiled at James; it was far more than he'd hoped for. "Do you think your parents might be able to identify the others?"
"Probably. If Mum did have her suspicions she might be able to give you specific dates and times." Hathaway didn't look happy at the prospect as he rattled off his parents' address and telephone number. Robbie wasn't sure if it was because Hathaway's mother hadn't told anyone of what she thought was happening on the estate or because she had been subjected to the knowledge in the first place.
"You've been extremely helpful, Mr Hathaway…"
"You've been extremely helpful, James." Robbie tapped his notepad, before secreting it back into his pocket. "Hopefully the information you've given will be the slippery slope for Mortmaigne."
"I hope so. The bastard," Hathaway spat out in disgust.
Robbie finished off his tea. "What does the future hold for you?" he asked, surprising himself in his reluctance to leave.
"I don't know. I know this sounds stupid, but I've lost my music." Hathaway huffed out a bitter laugh. "All those months singing those crap songs and I can't connect with my own anymore. God, that does sound stupid, doesn't it?"
"Not at all. I liked the song you wrote about the man who lost his wife, but she wasn't really gone. In everything you do, I will always be with you," he quoted. "Really spoke to me that one did."
"Always Here," Hathaway replied. "One of my first songs. It was on my EP. It's still on iTunes if you want it. Oh, hang on." He pushed his chair back and padded into the conservatory. Robbie could hear boxes being moved, followed by a triumphant "Ah ha" with Hathaway reappearing a few seconds later.
"Here," Hathaway said, holding out two CD cases. "One's the EP, the other one is the album I did before I signed everything away."
Robbie took the offered items. "Thank you, James."
"I did think about re-joining the service," Hathaway admitted quietly as Robbie slid the CDs into his jacket pocket. "But I left for a reason and that reason hasn't changed. I made a foolish mistake and I made some questionable choices, like deciding to take drugs." Hathaway gulped down half of his cold tea. "I never wanted fame, or even a lot of money. I just wanted to share my music, and I still want to do that. I just don't know if it's possible anymore."
"A gift like yours, lad, doesn't just go away," Robbie said earnestly to the downcast Hathaway. "It has to heal, just like you had to physically. It will come back, lad. Give it time."
Hathaway nodded his thanks. "It's just…I have nothing to do now." He waved a hand towards the boxes on the table. "I've got to unpack, obviously, but after that…I just see endless days of …nothingness, until a song lands in my head."
Robbie heard the unspoken confession that Hathaway feared he would be tempted to turn to drugs again, not to keep up with a demanding schedule, but to fill the drudge of lonely endless days, and if he succumbed his music would be lost forever. It was something Robbie found he couldn't allow to happen.
"Ever since I came back from secondment, the Chief Super has been trying to push me into a training position, but with a shortage of experienced senior officers, and me making a nuisance of myself by clearing up a few murders, she hasn't been successful. With this Crevecoeur Hall investigation, everyone's pushing for the murder convictions, and although Hopkiss deserves a life sentence he would have never have been compelled to act in such a manner if Mortmaigne hadn't abused him. I want that bastard too." Robbie took a deep calming breath. "I haven't got a bagman to help me out. Too set in me ways, I guess, andno-one wants to work with me, but I think I can swing Innocent round to the idea of a temporary civilian case investigator. It wouldn't pay much…"
"I don't need paying," Hathaway interjected.
Robbie smiled. "… and you wouldn't have any police powers. It would mainly be collating witness statements, filling in a timeline, bouncing ideas off each other, and preparing the CPS paperwork. Be full-time to start with, I expect, but if you needed time off to write or record, or whatever, then that wouldn't be a problem. I'd be doing most of it myself anyway, so whatever time you could give to it would be an added bonus. What do you think? Give you something to occupy your time until you're ready to start writing songs again. Shall I have a word with Innocent?"
Robbie watched as Hathaway stared down at the kitchen table. It would be the perfect solution. Robbie would get a brilliant former detective sergeant for a few weeks or, if he was really lucky, a few months, and James Hathaway would have something to occupy his clever mind without making a major commitment, while his soul continued to heal and allow music to fill it once more.
Hathaway looked up at him and smiled.