‘Who’s with the Keatings, Constable?’
‘Marg Jolly, Inspector. You’ll find them in the family room, at the end of the corridor.’
Jane stood aside to let the detectives into the house but touched Carl’s arm as he passed. ‘I think they’re still in shock. They haven’t said much since we got here.’
Jane’s touch reignited a suppressed desire that Carl thought he had placed in quarantine. Not game to look her in the eye, Carl said, ‘Thanks,’ and walked towards the light at the other end of the corridor, oblivious to Peter’s diplomatic smile at Jane as he followed Carl into the house.
Despite fifteen years service, ten of them with Major Crime, Carl still dreaded initial interviews with the parents of a murder victim. And, seeing that Melissa Keating had been raped and murdered practically on her doorstep, he was expecting this one to be particularly traumatic.
Standing in the doorway, he looked into the family room. The Keatings were sitting together on the couch, holding hands, waiting. Three empty tea cups sat on the table in the middle of the room, where Marg Jolly sat with her notebook in front of her.
‘Come in, Inspector, we’ve been expecting you,’ said Marg.
Keith Keating stood and shook hands with the detectives, and then pulled two chairs out from under the table for them to sit on. Gayle Keating smiled wanly at them when she was introduced. Carl thought he’d seen more signs of life in some of the corpses he’d been forced to look at. He knew, from experiences that he’d prefer to forget, that it was particularly hard on a mother when her child was brutally murdered.
‘I’m really sorry we have to be here,’ said Carl. ‘I know there is nothing I can say that will take away the hurt or bring your daughter back.’ He looked at Peter and then back at the Keatings. ‘Our job to is find the person that did this to her, and to put him away so he can’t do it again. I promise you, I will not stop until we have done precisely that, even if it takes the rest of my life.’
‘Thank you, Inspector,’ said Keith Keating. ‘I hope it doesn’t take that long.’
Carl stood. ‘We’ll be back in the morning, when we’ve all had a chance to get some sleep. I’ll need to ask you a lot of questions about Melissa, about her friends, if she had any enemies, what sort of things she did and about her relationship with Darren but, before we go, there is one thing I’d like to know now.’
‘Yes?’ said Keith.
‘What was she wearing when she left for the party?’
‘A white tee-shirt, white shorts and sandals,’ said Keith, ‘although, you would have had to look closely to see the shorts. They wear next to nothing these days.’
‘What about underwear?’ asked Carl.
Keith Keating shrugged his shoulder and looked at his wife. ‘I’m not privy to that information, Inspector. Honey, do you know what she had on under her tee-shirt?’
Gayle Keating’s eyes lit up. ‘Her new bikini, one she hadn’t shown you yet. It was sky-blue. She looked absolutely stunning in it. It really offset her tan.’
She was obviously very proud of her daughter, thought Carl.
Gayle stared at Carl. ‘Why do you want to know that?’
‘We will be searching the dunes at first light. We need to know what we’re looking for. I’m sure there will be all sorts of clothing items in the sand, given the summer we’ve been having,’ said Carl.
‘Why do you need to search for her clothes?’ asked Gayle.
‘Because the animal that took her life also took her clothes,’ said Keith, who had not been able to share the details of what he had seen, when he’d identified their daughter’s body, until that moment.
to be continued…