Read Katy's Men Online

Authors: Irene Carr

Katy's Men (30 page)

Katy
broke in fiercely, ‘She had. I’m her mother.’ Formby gave her a disapproving look at this interruption but she kept on, ‘Where is she?’

Meggie
was staring at her, looking her over from head to foot. ‘You were married to him?’


I was going to be. When he found I was pregnant he disappeared.’

Meggie
shook her head, ‘A lass like you?’ But then she sighed, ‘Well, he can make himself out to be a proper gentleman when he wants. He got us all that way. That’s how I started. You can thank God he didn’t marry you.’

Katy
pressed her, ‘Where’s Louise?’

Meggie
’s gaze flickered and fell. ‘With him.’

Katy
felt cold inside. ‘Where is he?’

Sergeant
Garrett, from the second car, appeared in the doorway. He had been leading the search of the house and now Formby snapped at him, ‘Well?’


He’s not in the house, sir.’ Garrett looked uncomfortable under Formby’s glare, his red face even redder. Now Matt loomed behind him, caught Katy’s eye and shook his head with frustration.

Formby
swung back to glower at Meggie, ‘So where is he? And the little lass?’

Meggie
still stared into the fire. ‘He was just going out the front when he saw you lot coming. He went out the back way.’

Formby
turned to Garrett, standing in the doorway and asked, ‘What about those men at the back?’

Garrett
answered glumly, ‘I found the back door open, sir. The constables were just arriving. They’d had a long run to get round the end of the street to the back lane. They hadn’t seen anybody.’

Formby
smacked his fist into his palm, Damn! We’ve missed him. But we’ll soon pick him up. We know him well and the little lass will give him away. Don’t you

worry.
’ That last was addressed to Katy. She stood pale-faced, knowing now that something had gone terribly wrong. Should she have kept Matt and the police out of it, come here on her own? Howard Ross would not have run from her. But nor would he have let her walk away, with or without Louise, she was sure of that. And Louise was with him still. But he could not have gone far . . .

Formby
seemed to act on that thought: ‘The quicker we start the better. Come on!’ He led the way out of the room and his men followed.

Matt
took Katy’s arm and tried to reassure her: Formby’s right, they’ll soon pick up Ross.’ He led her from the room and Katy went obediently, but turned her head to catch one last glimpse of Meggie where she sat by the fire. The woman looked up furtively then quickly away.

Katy
asked, ‘Is she all right?’

But
Meggie only shrugged.

Katy
let Matt lead her to the front door but there she stopped. ‘I’m going back to talk to her.’

Matt
said, ‘We ought to get after Louise.’


The police will do that better than I could.’ Katy turned back, ‘She’s the only one who can tell me about Louise.’

Matt
also turned. ‘I’ll come with you.’


No, Matt, please. She might talk to me alone but not with you or the police there.’

Matt
hesitated, then saw the point, nodded and stepped back. Katy closed the front door on him and returned to the sitting-room.

Meggie
looked up from the fire, startled. ‘Hey! What are you doing here? I thought you lot had gone.’ She craned to peer behind Katy.


They have,’ replied Katy. ‘I’m on my own.’ She walked to the fireside. A cracket stood there, a little four-legged stool, and she sat on that, her face turned up to Meggie.


What d’you want, then?’ Meggie demanded suspiciously. ‘I can’t tell you any more about him.’ Her voice rose, frightened, ‘I can’t, I tell you!’


I don’t want to hear about him!’ That came bitterly from Katy. ‘I never thought I could hate somebody, really hate them, but him . . .!’ She paused a moment, her face in her hands, then lifted it and wiped away the tears. She said simply, pleading, ‘I just want to know about Louise, my little girl he stole from me.’ And Katy told her the whole story, from her seduction to Louise’s kidnapping.

Meggie
listened, at first wary but then increasingly sympathetic. At the end she whispered, ‘That’s awful! I’m sorry about you and the bairn.’

Katy
asked, ‘Is she well looked after? Is she happy?’ She looked up anxiously into Meggie’s face.

Meggie
hesitated, pity fighting fear, then pity won a small battle and she said, ‘She always has enough to eat, decent clothes.’

Katy
pressed her, ‘But is she happy?’

But
Meggie would not answer that: ‘How should I know?’

Katy
reached out to grip her hand, asked the question though afraid of what the answer might be: ‘Is he cruel to her?’


He gives her a clip now and then—’


He beats her?’ Katy’s hand tightened on Meggie’s.

Meggie
winced at the pain of it. ‘Aye, but he only once put her in the cupboard, that I know—’ She broke off there, her free hand to her mouth, fearful.


In the cupboard?’ Katy felt faint but her grip tightened further. ‘What do you mean?
Tell
me
!


If I told you anything he’d kill me!’ Meggie tried to prise Katy’s fingers from her wrist but failed.

Katy
insisted, ‘The police will protect you! If you give evidence they won’t do anything to you and neither will he! He’ll go to prison for a very long time! Would you like
your
daughter to be with him — or in this cupboard?’

Now
Meggie was weeping. ‘He has a room. If any of us lasses crosses him, doesn’t do as he says, he locks us in there all day and night. You’re just sitting on the floor in the dark and not knowing what he’s going to do when he opens the door. It’s next to his room. He likes to hear us crying in there. It’s behind a big mirror — that’s the door. He’s in there!’ She bent over, sobbing.

Katy
realised Ross had played the same trick he had used on her four years ago. He had led her to believe he had gone to Germany when he was still in Newcastle. Now he had laid a trail that had sent the police off on a wild goose chase while he lay hidden in the house.


I
told
you
to
keep
your
bloody
mouth
shut
,
Meggie
! Howard Ross stood in the doorway, stripping off an expensive overcoat and tossing it aside.

Meggie
whimpered and put her hands to her face as Katy’s grip on her loosened, shrank back in the chair and wailed, ‘I did like you told me!’ Then seeking frantically for any excuse, ‘She won’t tell anybody, will you, lass?’ That last was addressed, pleadingly, to Katy. But Katy was on her feet now, staring wide-eyed at Ross.

He
threatened Meggie contemptuously, ‘I’ll settle with you in a minute.’ Then he glared at Katy and reached back into the hall behind him: ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’ He dragged Louise into the room to stand by his side. Katy started forward but Ross snapped, ‘Stay where you are!’ She saw he held a knife in his right hand, a wicked instrument with a wide, shining blade. She froze. Surely he would not use that — But Katy was not sure. Ross was going on, ‘That’s right. You keep quiet and do just what I tell you, or else.’ That was said softly but with menace. He paused, his cold, mad stare boring into Katy and he saw the fear transfixing her, as it always did when he used that stare on his victims. And as always he thought, She’s like a frightened rabbit.


Stand still.’ He left Louise by the door and moved towards Katy, holding her with his eyes. ‘You’re going to get me out of here. You, me and Louise, we’re going out together.’ He approached her with certainty and Katy’s gaze flicked wildly from him to Louise and back again. Her legs felt loose under her and she was aware of the knife, casually held by his side but a potent threat. What would her life be worth if she went with him? Or the life of Louise? She glimpsed her daughter’s frightened face for just an instant longer, saw the fear and pleading in her eyes, then Ross moved between them and blocked her view.

That
broke the spell. Katy began to think again, and to fight. She reached down to the fire, scooped up the pan and hurled its contents into Ross’s face. He shrieked, scalded and blinded, if only for precious seconds. He clutched at his face that streamed water and Katy saw her chance. She ran past him and snatched up Louise, whisked her out into the hall then slammed the door shut behind them. She heard Matt shout, ‘Katy?
Katy
! She struggled with the catch on the front door then started back as it swung in towards her under the impact of Matt’s charging shoulder. Katy glanced behind her and saw Ross burst out of the room she had just left. For a second they all froze, Katy holding Louise, Matt with his arm around her, Ross with his mad glare and his face raw and discoloured. Then he turned and ran.

Matt
followed, but first had to round Katy and Louise. Then he and Ross were both leaping up the stairs, though Ross led by several strides. Katy cried out, ‘Mate She was afraid for him because Ross still had the knife. She thrust Louise into Bullock’s arms as the sergeant appeared at the front door, then ran after Matt. The two men raced upwards through the house. Matt was fitter and faster but Ross threw obstacles in his path — chairs, a small table —that briefly checked him. Because of this Katy was able to keep in touch, though half of a flight of stairs behind Matt.

So
they came to the top of the house, where there was a landing. Several small rooms opened off this, rooms in which the servants used to live. Ross dashed into one of these and slammed the door shut behind him. Matt tried to open it but failed. Katy appeared at his side and he panted, ‘I think he’s shoved a chair up against it.’

Katy
said breathlessly, ‘Leave it, Matt! He has a knife! Let the police—’

He
cut her off: ‘I reckon he has a way out of here, or why should he climb to the top o’ the house?’ He set his shoulder to the door and it tore off its hinges then fell inside. Now they could see Ross, crouching on top of an old chest of drawers in the open dormer window, with one leg out on the roof. As Matt lunged across the room, Ross swung out onto the slates and pushed the window down, closing it in Matt’s face. Katy grabbed at Matt’s arm but he shook her off and told her, ‘I want him for what he did to you!’ He grabbed the broken chair from the floor and rammed it through the window, sending the glass spraying across the roof. Ross had disappeared, but when Matt stood on the chest of drawers and cautiously lifted his head out of the window frame he saw Ross walking along on the wide ridge tiles which ran along the apex of the roof. He was now some yards away.

Ross
laughed at him and Matt climbed out onto the ridge of the dormer window. Balancing precariously with his feet on that, he could lie flat on the black slates and reach up to the ridge tiles. He began to haul himself up over the slippery slates, as Ross had done. But now Ross turned back, ran nimble as a cat along the ridge and struck at Matt’s hands with the knife. Matt saw the attack coming and took one hand off the ridge. He whipped off his cap and dashed it in Ross’s face, blinding him, then seized the hand which held the knife. He twisted it savagely and the blade fell from Ross’s fingers. It skittered down over the roof to fall in the yard thirty feet below. But now Ross used his free hand to prise the other out of Matt’s grasp, then he stamped on Matt’s fingers which were hooked on the ridge so that they opened nervelessly and Matt had to let go. It was then that he lost his footing on the dormer window and he slid down the roof after the knife.

Katy,
standing in the dormer, saw it all. She leaned dangerously far out, lying on the roof, to grab the skirt of Matt’s tunic as he slid past. The jerk seemed almost to tear her arm from its socket, but she checked his fall and dragged him over to the window. As Matt clamped a hand on its frame, Ross shouted from above, ‘Try again and you’ll get the same!’

Matt
said nothing but started to climb onto the roof of the dormer again. Katy pleaded, ‘No, Matt!’ But she saw he was unheeding in his anger, and she remembered that anger was because of the way Ross had treated her. She called up to him now, ‘You might as well give yourself up! You can’t stay up here forever!’


No, I won’t!’ Ross shouted in reply. ‘And I’ll be back to deal with you and that pretty face of yours!’ He turned then and ran along the wide ridge tiles.

Matt
said, ‘He’s going to jump across to the next house. He’s hoping to get away through there before the police twig what he’s doing.’

Katy
said, ‘He’ll never do it!’ And then she shouted a warning, forgetting the harm this evil man had done to her, instinctively trying to save him:
‘Don’t
!
You
can’t
!

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