Janice sunk into a brown velour-covered winged armchair, defeated. Her brain focused on the windows to the front but some sort of shrub blocked a view of the street. It was hopeless.
Meanwhile Christopher fussed with the tea things.
She let her eyes go round the room taking in the books and the few ornaments, the sort of thing you might get as a job lot in Ikea or Next homeware department. She needed to distract him. Keep him talking. “You saw your mum, then? She never said.”
“That would have been Roger’s doing.”
He smiled. “He was the guardian of the family morals.”
“What? No thank you. Roger didn’t say anything about you.”
“He was the one who tracked me down. Told mum, even though he’d been instrumental in keeping us apart.”
“Can you explain?”
“What do you know about me?”
“Not a lot.” She sipped the tea. There had to be a way to raise the alarm. Maybe if she really screamed, threw a book or ornament through the window. “You had a twin, Colin. You were older than Roger. You left home and never came back. When I first went out with Roger it was said you’d disappeared. When his, your father died,” our father, she thought, “Roger said his mother asked him to try and find you but he said he failed and persuaded her to drop the urge to keep digging. That’s pretty much it.”
He sat back in his chair, a mirror of hers. “No one explained why I left, what happened? Why I kept away. Why I hid away?”
She shook her head.
He sighed. “It was like this…” He stopped. The doorbell rang once, twice, Then there was a banging on the door. “I’d better get this. Please pour yourself a refill.”
Her heart rose. He left the phone on the tray as he moved into the hall. As soon as he was out of sight she took two strides to pick up the phone and fumbled with the code to unlock it. She had just found and pressed Thorne’s number when Christopher reappeared. Behind him stood Inspector Thorne holding up his phone with her number identified as the caller.
Christopher smiled. “Oh you found your phone? Good. It had fallen on the floor.” He ushered in the policeman and constable. “Quite a party. Shall I make me tea, Inspector?”
As Christopher disappeared, Thorne titled his head and held Janice’s gaze. “You know your half-brother then? Why didn’t you say?”
“I’ve only just met him. He…”
Thorne held up a hand. “Shall we wait until Mr Scrutt comes back? Just so we can hear everyone’s side of the story?”
Janice sung back, shutting her eyes. The relief of seeing the policeman made the idea of explaining why she was where she was all the harder.
After what seemed to Janice like an hour but was less than five minutes, Christopher had provided everyone with tea, opened a tin of biscuits and dragged in two kitchen chairs for the policemen to sit on. “Well, Inspector, how may I help?”
He looked at Janice. “We traced the investigation agency who gave us this address. They didn’t mention speaking to you?”
She shook her head once, incapable of speech. She was conscious of Christopher smiling in the way she was beginning to think was his default expression. Maybe he wasn’t so much creepy as simple.
Thorne sighed deeply. “Mr Scrutt, I…”
“I call myself Watson, Inspector. My mother’s maiden name. To begin with it was through an understandable reluctance to be found and then, well, it became more difficult to explain. I’ve mean to have it made official, but I’ve not bothered. I don’t drive and have a passport.” He shrugged. “Mostly it’s fine, though with these modern checks it is becoming more inconvenient.” The smile seemed to droop a little. “So if you would, I’d prefer Watson though of course, feel free to call me Christopher.” He positively beamed at that.
Thorne nodded. “Let me fill in some background so we are all of us,” he looked at Janice, “are on the same page. Mrs Scrutt’s husband died of an apparent heart attack. Roger.”
“I heard. He came to visit. After he tracked me down. I don’t suppose it was that hard, what with me living in the same town I was born in and still having to use Scrutt from time to time.”
“Did he say why?”
“My father had died. I didn’t know but then we never got on.” He shook his head, a rather sad gesture, Janice thought, “My mother hadn’t dared try and find me when he was alive. His temper was…” it looked like he was struggling for the right word, “incendiary.” He nodded as if he approved of his own choice. “Mother wanted to restore relations though Roger wasn’t keen. He told me father was dead and he had tried to persuade Mother to give up the idea of finding me. But she insisted and he fixed for us to meet. After that we met once a week or so but always here. His business had a branch in Canterbury so Roger drove her, left her for the day and took her home.” He glanced at Janice, nodding again.
Thorne caught the gesture. “Janice?”
“I knew Roger went to the Canterbury office and I assumed she went to see a friend. I had no idea what Roger was doing.”
Christopher smiled broadly. “As I was saying just before you got here, Inspector, he wanted to keep my existence secret. He told me to stay away or he wouldn’t allow mother and me to meet.”
Thorne looked up from making a note. “Did he say why? Did you know?”
“Oh I’m the back sheep, Inspector.”
Thorne and Janice waited but Christopher didn’t elaborate. Thorne looked out of the window and then back to Christopher. “Mr Scrutt’s death wouldn’t have involved us, normally but after your mother died, the house, her house was sold. By Mrs Scrutt here. The new owners, well the current ones, carried out some work that involved digging in the garden. They discovered a pit and in it were the carcasses of two pigs and the bones of a human hand. We think it was your brother Colin’s and he must have been fed to them.”
Thorne paused, astonished at Christopher’s reaction. He was laughing, almost hysterical.
The Inspector looked at Janice who shrugged, equally bemused. It took Christopher several moments to regain some composure. As he did so he slowly and laboriously rolled up his sleeve.
“I have a prosthetic, Inspector. I’m lucky to leave bear a hospital with a state of the art facility for modern prosthetics and robotics. If you are familiar with them you’ll spot t immediately but neither you nor Janice have, I suspect, come across these wonders.” He reached out and carefully but successfully picked up the mug of tea and moved it to his lips. “I tend to use my good hand but really I can do nearly all everyday tasks that don’t involve too much strength work with this.” He wiped his eyes again. “Colin and I were identical twins so we have the same DNA. It could be his but since my arm was cut off by my father and fed to pigs, I guess it’s most likely to be mine.”
Janice covered her mouth with her hand. “He cut off your arm? Why?”
Christopher looked at her. “Family shame is a strong emotion.”