The casual vacancy, p.57
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Casual Vacancy, p.57

           J. K. Rowling
Part Six Chapter IV



  The police had picked up Krystal Weedon at last as she ran hopelessly along the river bank on the very edge of Pagford, still calling her brother in a cracked voice. The policewoman who approached her addressed her by name, and tried to break the news to her gently, but she still tried to beat the woman away from her, and in the end the policewoman had almost to wrestle her into the car. Krystal had not noticed Fats melting away into the trees; he did not exist to her any more.

  The police drove Krystal home, but when they knocked on the front door Terri refused to answer. She had glimpsed them through an upstairs window, and thought that Krystal had done the one unthinkable and unforgivable thing, and told the pigs about the hold-alls full of Obbo's hash. She dragged the heavy bags upstairs while the police hammered at the door, and only opened up when she considered that it had become unavoidable.

  'Whatcha wan'?' she shouted, through an inch-wide gap in the door.

  The policewoman asked to come in three times and Terri refused, still demanding to know what they wanted. A few neighbours had begun to peer through windows. Even when the policewoman said, 'It's about your son, Robbie,' Terri did not realize.

  ''E's fine. There's nuthin' wrong with 'im. Krystal's got 'im. '

  But then she saw Krystal, who had refused to stay in the car, and had walked halfway up the garden path. Terri's gaze trickled down her daughter's body to the place where Robbie should have been clinging to her, frightened by the strange men.

  Terri flew from her house like a fury, with her hands outstretched like claws, and the policewoman had to catch her round the middle and swing her away from Krystal, whose face she was trying to lacerate.

  'Yeh little bitch, yeh little bitch, what've yeh done ter Robbie?'

  Krystal dodged the struggling pair, darted into the house and slammed the front door behind her.

  'For fuck's sake,' muttered the policeman under his breath.

  Miles away in Hope Street, Kay and Gaia Bawden faced each other in the dark hallway. Neither of them was tall enough to replace the light bulb that had been dead for days, and they had no ladder. All day long, they had argued and almost made up, then argued again. Finally, at the moment when reconciliation seemed within touching distance, when Kay had agreed that she too hated Pagford, that it had all been a mistake, and that she would try and get them both back to London, her mobile had rung.

  'Krystal Weedon's brother's drowned,' whispered Kay, as she cut Tessa's call.

  'Oh,' said Gaia. Knowing that she ought to express pity, but frightened to let discussion of London drop before she had her mother's firm commitment, she added, in a tight little voice, 'That's sad. '

  'It happened here in Pagford,' said Kay. 'Along the road. Krystal was with Tessa Wall's son. '

  Gaia felt even more ashamed of letting Fats Wall kiss her. He had tasted horrible, of lager and cigarettes, and he had tried to feel her up. She was worth much more than Fats Wall, she knew that. If it had even been Andy Price, she would have felt better about it. Sukhvinder had not returned one of her calls, all day long.

  'She'll be absolutely broken up,' said Kay, her eyes unfocused.

  'But there's nothing you can do,' said Gaia. 'Is there?'

  'Well . . . ' said Kay.

  'Not again!' cried Gaia. 'It's always, always the same! You're not her social worker any more! What,' she shouted, stamping her foot as she had done when she was a little girl, 'about me?'

  The police officer in Foley Road had already called a duty social worker. Terri was writhing and screaming and trying to beat at the front door, while from behind it came the sounds of furniture being dragged to form a barricade. Neighbours were coming out onto their doorsteps, a fascinated audience to Terri's meltdown. Somehow the cause of it was transmitted through the watchers, from Terri's incoherent shouts and the attitudes of the ominous police.

  'The boy's dead,' they told each other. Nobody stepped forward to comfort or calm. Terri Weedon had no friends.

  'Come with me,' Kay begged her mutinous daughter. 'I'll go to the house and see if I can do anything. I got on with Krystal. She's got nobody. '

  'I bet she was shagging Fats Wall when it happened!' shouted Gaia; but it was her final protest, and a few minutes later she was buckling herself into Kay's old Vauxhall, glad, in spite of everything, that Kay had asked her along.

  But by the time they had reached the bypass, Krystal had found what she was looking for: a bag of heroin concealed in the airing cupboard; the second of two that Obbo had given Terri in payment for Tessa Wall's watch. She took it, with Terri's works, into the bathroom, the only room that had a lock on the door.

  Her aunt Cheryl must have heard what had happened, because Krystal could hear her distinctive raucous yell, added to Terri's screams, even through the two doors.

  'You little bitch, open the door! Letcha mother see ya!'

  And the police shouting, trying to shut the two women up.

  Krystal had never shot up before, but she had watched it happen many times. She knew about longboats, and how to make a model volcano, and she knew how to heat the spoon, and about the tiny little ball of cotton wool you used to soak up the dissolved smack, and act as a filter when you were filling the syringe. She knew that the crook of the arm was the best place to find a vein, and she knew to lay the needle as flat as possible against the skin. She knew, because she had heard it said, many times, that first-timers could not take what addicts could manage, and that was good, because she did not want to take it.

  Robbie was dead, and it was her fault. In trying to save him, she had killed him. Flickering images filled her mind as her fingers worked to achieve what must be done. Mr Fairbrother, running alongside the canal bank in his tracksuit as the crew rowed. Nana Cath's face, fierce with pain and love. Robbie, waiting for her at the window of his foster home, unnaturally clean, jumping up and down with excitement as she approached the front door . . .

  She could hear the policeman calling to her through the letter box not to be a silly girl, and the policewoman trying to quieten Terri and Cheryl.

  The needle slid easily into Krystal's vein. She pressed the plunger down hard, in hope and without regret.

  By the time Kay and Gaia arrived, and the police decided to force their way in, Krystal Weedon had achieved her only ambition: she had joined her brother where nobody could part them.