I get to my feet. I feel foolish, ridiculous. And I am ashamed. ‘I wanted to help. I wanted—’
‘You can’t, all right? You can’t help me. No one can help me. My wife is dead, and the police think I killed her.’ His voice is rising, spots of colour appear on his cheeks. ‘They think I killed her.’
‘But … Kamal Abdic …’
The chair crashes against the kitchen wall with such force that one of the legs splinters away. I jump back in fright, but Scott has barely moved. His hands are back at his sides, balled into fists. I can see the veins under his skin.
‘Kamal Abdic,’ he says, teeth gritted, ‘is no longer a suspect.’ His tone is even, but he is struggling to restrain himself. I can feel the anger vibrating off him. I want to get to the front door, but he is in my way, blocking my path, blocking out what little light there was in the room.
‘Do you know what he’s been saying?’ he asks, turning away from me to pick up the chair. Of course I don’t, I think, but I realize once again that he’s not really talking to me. ‘Kamal’s got all sorts of stories. Kamal says that Megan was unhappy, that I was a jealous, controlling husband, a – what was the word? – an emotional abuser.’ He spits the words out in disgust. ‘Kamal says Megan was afraid of me.’
‘He isn’t the only one. That friend of hers, Tara – she says that Megan asked her to cover for her sometimes, that Megan wanted her to lie to me about where she was, what she was doing.’
He places the chair back at the table and it falls over. I take a step towards the hallway, and he looks at me then. ‘I am a guilty man,’ he says, his face contorted in anguish. ‘I am as good as convicted.’
He kicks the broken chair aside and sits down on one of the three remaining good ones. I hover, unsure. Stick or twist? He starts to talk again, his voice so soft I can barely hear him. ‘Her phone was in her pocket,’ he says. I take a step closer to him. ‘There was a message on it from me. The last thing I ever said to her, the last words she ever read, were Go to hell you lying bitch.’
His chin on his chest, his shoulders start to shake. I am close enough to touch him. I raise my hand and, trembling, put my fingers lightly on the back of his neck. He doesn’t shrug me away. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say, and I mean it, because although I’m shocked to hear the words, to imagine that he could speak to her like that, I know what it is to love someone and to say the most terrible things to them, in anger or anguish. ‘A text message,’ I say. ‘It’s not enough. If that’s all they have …’
‘It’s not, though, is it?’ He straightens up then, shrugging my hand away from him. I walk back around the table and sit down opposite him. He doesn’t look up at me. ‘I have a motive. I didn’t behave … I didn’t react the right way when she walked out. I didn’t panic soon enough. I didn’t call her soon enough.’ He gives a bitter laugh. ‘And there is a pattern of abusive behaviour, according to Kamal Abdic.’ It’s then that he looks up at me, that he sees me, that a light comes on. Hope. ‘You … you can talk to the police. You can tell them that it’s a lie, that he’s lying. You can at least give another side of the story, tell them that I loved her, that we were happy.’
I can feel panic rising in my chest. He thinks I can help him. He is pinning his hopes on me and all I have for him is a lie, a bloody lie.
‘They won’t believe me,’ I say weakly. ‘They don’t believe me. I’m an unreliable witness.’
The silence between us swells and fills the room; a fly buzzes angrily against the French doors. Scott picks at the dried blood on his cheek, I can hear his nails scratching his skin. I push my chair back, the legs scraping on the tiles, and he looks up.
‘You were here,’ he says, as though the piece of information I gave him fifteen minutes ago is only now sinking in. ‘You were in Witney the night Megan went missing?’
I can barely hear him above the blood thudding in my ears. I nod.
‘Why didn’t you tell the police that?’ he asks. I can see the muscle tic in his jaw.
‘I did. I did tell them that. But I didn’t have … I didn’t see anything. I don’t remember anything.’
He gets to his feet, walks over to the French doors and pulls back the curtain. The sunshine is momentarily blinding. Scott stands with his back to me, his arms folded.
‘You were drunk,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘But you must remember something. You must – that’s why you keep coming back here, isn’t it?’ He turns around to face me. ‘That’s it, isn’t it? Why you keep contacting me. You know something.’ He’s saying this as though it’s fact: not a question, not an accusation, not a theory. ‘Did you see his car?’ he asks. ‘Think. Blue Vauxhall Corsa. Did you see it?’ I shake my head and he throws his arms up in frustration. ‘Don’t just dismiss it. Really think. What did you see? You saw Anna Watson, but that doesn’t mean anything. You saw – come on! Who did you see?’
Blinking into the sunlight, I try desperately to piece together what I saw, but nothing comes. Nothing real, nothing helpful. Nothing I could say out loud. I was in an argument. Or perhaps I witnessed an argument. I stumbled on the station steps, a man with red hair helped me up – I think that he was kind to me, although now he makes me feel afraid. I know that I had a cut on my head, another on my lip, bruises on my arms. I think I remember being in the underpass. It was dark. I was frightened, confused. I heard voices. I heard someone call Megan’s name. No, that was a dream. That wasn’t real. I remember blood. Blood on my head, blood on my hands. I remember Anna. I don’t remember Tom. I don’t remember Kamal or Scott or Megan.
He is watching me, waiting for me to say something, to offer him some crumb of comfort, but I have none.
‘That night,’ he says, ‘that’s the key time.’ He sits back down at the table, closer to me now, his back to the window. There is a sheen of sweat on his forehead and his upper lip, and he shivers as though with fever. ‘That’s when it happened. They think that’s when it happened. They can’t be sure …’ He tails off. ‘They can’t be sure. Because of the condition … of the body.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘But they think it was that night. Or soon after.’ He’s back on autopilot, speaking to the room, not to me. I listen in silence as he tells the room that the cause of death was head trauma, her skull was fractured in several places. No sexual assault, or at least none that they could confirm, because of her condition. Her condition, which was ruined.