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My name is Thomas Robinson. I am sixteen years old. Today is Thursday, the sixth of July, and I am making this statement to Detective Sergeant Hearns of the Ipswich Police. I have made two statements already in these proceedings. Everything that I say is true to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I make this statement knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have willfully stated anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.
I live in the House of the Four Winds, which is on the outskirts of the town of Flyte on the coast of Suffolk. The only other person who lives here now is the housekeeper, Jane Martin, who looked after me when I was a boy. My father never comes to visit me anymore.
My mother was killed in this house on the thirty-first of May last year. I described everything that happened in my first two statements. Two men came and murdered her. One of them had a ponytail and a scar behind his jaw. I was here too but hidden in a secret place behind the great bookcase at the top of the stairs. It was made for Catholic priests to hide in when the Protestants were searching for them hundreds of years ago. I hid there but my mother didn’t. She couldn’t because there was not enough time. That’s why she died.
The men didn’t see me, but I saw the man with the scar through the little spy hole in the bookcase. He was bending down over my mother, and I saw him when he got to his feet with something gold in his hand.
I remember his face more clearly than any face I’ve ever seen, although I only saw him for a second or two. It’s like my memory took a photograph. Small, dark eyes, thin, bloodless lips and a thick scar that ran down from behind his jaw into his strong bull neck. You could see the scar because he had his black hair in a ponytail.
I’d seen the man before. He was with Greta in London. It was six weeks before he killed my mother. I only saw him from behind, but I know it was him. He had the same ponytail and the scar.
Yesterday evening at about seven o’clock I saw this man again. For a third time.
Jane Martin goes to the town hall in Flyte on Wednesday evenings for the Women’s Institute, and so I was alone in the dining room eating my dinner. There are windows looking out to the front and toward the lane on the north side of the house. They were all open. I think I was listening to the sea and remembering things like I sometimes do.
I don’t suppose I would have heard them come if the television had been on, but I felt that something was wrong as soon as I heard the car pull up in the lane. We use the lane to go down to the beach, but nobody else does. It’s too far out of town and I wasn’t expecting any visitors.
They came through the door in the north wall just like they did on the night my mother died. They must have had a key. I saw them coming down the lawn to the front door. They were moving quickly, and there was no time for me to get upstairs to the hiding place behind the books where I’d hid before. I ran instead to the old black bench, which is beside the door going from the dining room into the hall. It has a seat that opens up, and I got in there. There are carvings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the front, and you can see out through the holes in their eyes. When I was small, I used to climb in there when I played hide-and-seek with my mother and Aunt Jane, but now I didn’t fit very well and I was frightened, very frightened.
The police have installed a panic button in the house, and I pressed that before I got in the bench. It’s connected to Carmouth Police Station and makes them come when I need them.
I was in the bench when they came in through the front door. There were two of them and they used a key. I’m sure of that. The one with the scar was in charge, but he didn’t have his hair in a ponytail this time. He wore it long so I couldn’t see the scar. He called the other man Lonny. They wore leather jackets and jeans, and Lonny was wearing a baseball cap. He was overweight and looked like a boxer. I’d never seen Lonny before. I’d say they were both in their thirties, but they could have been older.
They looked around the rooms downstairs for a while, but they didn’t touch anything and they had gloves on.
Then the one with the scar said, “Lonny, watch the fucking road while I go upstairs. The kid’s behind that bookcase where he was before. Greta told me how it works.”
Lonny came and stood really close to where I was, but I couldn’t see him because he was to the side of me, and the man with the scar went upstairs. It was really hard not moving, and I tried to hold my breath. That made it worse, and I thought Lonny would hear my heart beating. It sounded so loud to me.
About a minute later the man with the scar was back and I could hear anger in his voice, like he was getting ready to do something really bad. He wasn’t shouting though; it was almost as if he was talking through his teeth. And I can’t remember the exact words he used. All I can do is give the gist of them.
“Fucking kid’s in here somewhere,” he said. “Look, he was halfway through eating when we got here. He can’t have gone far.”
“Want me to turn the gaff over, do you, Rosie? I’ll find him for you.”
I could hear the eagerness in Lonny’s voice, like he really wanted to break something.
“No, I fucking don’t. I don’t want you to touch anything, you moron. Just keep a fucking watch and leave it to me. And don’t call me that again.”
The fat man went to stand by the front door. It was half open.
“Lonny the loser,” said the man with the scar. “He’s a fucking loser, isn’t he, Thomas?”
I couldn’t see him but he wasn’t far, and I almost answered because he said my name so suddenly and naturally, but I bit my tongue instead.
“I’m sorry about your mother, Thomas. Really I am. And I promise you that you’ll be fine. Scout’s honor, Thomas. Scout’s honor. All we want is to take you on a little holiday. That’s all. Until this trial is over and done with. Somewhere nice and sunny with plenty of foreign girls. Topless beaches. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Thomas? So why don’t you be a good boy and come out and we can get acquainted.”
I could hear him moving about opening doors and cupboards all the time he was talking in this mock friendly voice he’d put on, but now there was a pause. When he spoke again, the hard edge was back in his voice.
“Too scared to come out, are you, boy? Too fucking scared. Want to play fucking games with me, do you, you little runt?”
He stopped suddenly, his voice cut off by the sound of the siren, and a second later they ran out the front door. They must have waited in the lane until I buzzed the police in through the front gate and then driven away without anyone seeing them.
I would recognize both these men again, and I would also recognize the voice of the man with the scar. It was soft and he said the bad words slowly, like he enjoyed saying them over and over again. I think he would have killed me if he’d found me. I really think he would.
Like I said before, I have tried my best to give the gist of what the men said when they were in the house, but I can’t remember all their exact words. However, I am sure about the names they called each other and I know that the man with the scar said about the hiding place that “Greta told me how it works.”
When I went upstairs with the police officer afterward, the door in the bookcase was standing half open.
I confirm that I am still willing to attend court and give evidence for the prosecution in the trial of my stepmother, Greta Robinson.
From the Hardcover edition.