Hugo knocked on the door. He’d spent the whole journey rehearsing this encounter in his head, but once again had arrived at the door with no solid plan. He’d knocked anyway. The day was overcast, but birds were singing. Somebody was playing piano somewhere. Hugo’s heart battered against his ribcage, though you couldn’t tell to look at him.
As Hugo had expected, it was a while before the door opened. ‘Sorry, you caught me in the—’ Molly Doyle froze when she saw Hugo. ‘Oh, it’s you.’
‘I know what happened to your husband,’ said Hugo, before she could close the door on him.
A moment passed. ‘I see,’ said Molly. She went inside, leaving the front door open. Hugo closed it behind him.
They took their old places in the sitting room armchairs. Molly had answered the door in a dressing gown and shower cap, though Hugo noted at once she was completely dry and suspected she was fully dressed underneath. The room was silent, save for the quiet gurgling that came from the cot, this time occupied by the baby girl.
‘So,’ said Molly.
‘Before I say anything, I want you to know that my partner knows where I am and is expecting me to telephone,’ said Hugo. He was lying, obviously, though it occurred to him now what a good idea this would have been.
Molly frowned. ‘What for?’
‘Because you killed your husband.’
Molly sighed. ‘I’d love to hear your proof.’
Hugo took out the wedding photo and placed it on the coffee table. ‘Would you mind removing your shower cap?’
Molly stared, clearly wrong-footed. But even once the surprise had worn off, she didn’t move.
‘I thought not,’ Hugo nodded. ‘You were wearing a hat last time I met you, pulled low over your ears. In your wedding photo, you wear your hair long, as I suspect you usually do. But it isn’t long anymore, is it? That’s why it takes you so much time to answer the door. This evening, you rushed to put on that shower cap and gown, to pretend you’ve just been in the shower. Yesterday, you found a hat, not caring that it didn’t match your outfit. You don’t want anyone to see your new haircut. Why is that?’
‘Because the hairdresser did an atrocious job,’ said Molly.
‘No, I think you cut your own hair this time,’ said Hugo.
‘Why on earth should I do that?’
‘I saw you at the Hammam on Wednesday.’
Again, Molly was surprised into silence.
‘You don’t recognise me, do you?’ said Hugo. ‘I didn’t recognise you at first, either. I didn’t have my spectacles at the time, so I presumed you resembled some movie star I’d seen in the papers. It didn’t occur to me that a woman might find a way inside the men’s bathhouse. But with your hair cut short and a towel around your shoulders you just about pass for man. Or a boy at least, perhaps only just out of school. I expect you wore one of your husband’s work suits to get into the building, uttering as few words as possible. Once inside, you got away with it, so long as you didn’t speak to anyone and didn’t stay still long enough for anyone to get a good look. It fooled me, sure enough. While I was taking a massage, you entered the hararah. And you disappeared as soon as you caught me looking, to make sure I didn’t see through your disguise. Why were you at the Hammam on Wednesday, Molly?’
Still, Molly said nothing.
‘The police told you that Keegan never checked into the Hammam. They didn’t investigate this until Thursday, meaning you didn’t report Keegan missing until Wednesday afternoon at the earliest. And yet you were there Wednesday morning. Why? When we met yesterday, you only took an interest in me when I mentioned the Hammam. Because I was closer to the truth, wasn’t I?
‘You know that Keegan had been at the Hammam on Tuesday evening and you know what happened to him. That’s why you were there on Wednesday, to find out why the police hadn’t knocked on your door yet. And you were astonished to discover the place was operating as normal. As far as you were concerned, Keegan had simply vanished. It would have appeared suspect to delay any longer, so that’s when you reported him missing.’
He tried to study Molly’s reaction, but couldn’t read anything from her. He pressed on.
‘From there, the logic is simple. You knew what had happened to your husband on Tuesday night because you were there too. You had suspected your husband’s regular visits there were not, as he told you, attempts to cosy up to his superiors. He had become obsessed with the place, ever since learning about it as part of his Council work. If his colleagues picked up on that, surely you, his wife, had too. I think you know the sort of thing that goes on there and, if your explosive reaction to the suggestion yesterday is anything to go by, you’re disgusted by the very thought of your husband sleeping with men. Even so, you had to know. Thus, on Tuesday, after dropping your child off with the babysitter, you cut your own hair, disguised yourself and went to the bathhouse to spy on your husband.
‘Perhaps you caught him in the act. Or you simply confronted him and he confessed. Either way, your husband was seen entering a changing cubicle with someone they took for a young, blond-haired man. I’d wager he was not fooled by your disguise and took you there to speak privately, though I doubt it was a civil conversation. Considering the wounds on the body, you had a blade with you, so you had some expectation of what you would find and how you intended to respond. Fuelled by betrayal and revulsion, you attacked him. There was a struggle, during which Keegan received a bruise on the cheek and you lost your blade. Whether intentionally or not, you strangled him to death in the exchange. But being a devout Catholic, you were racked by guilt. Thus, to assuage yourself with God and justify your husband’s death, you used the blade to carve the name of his sin into his chest.’
Hugo paused. Molly’s silence was beginning to concern him.
‘I don’t intend to report you to the police. The proprietor of the Hammam would prefer to deal with this quietly. In a moment, I will telephone the Hammam and arrange for a cab to take us there. We will then decide what to do with you, though my recommendation is to send you abroad, which I think is rather a lucky break for a murderer. However, if for any reason you don’t comply with my wishes, if you try to escape, we will report you. Do you understand?’
A few stressed murmurs came from the corner. Distracted, as though the conversation was of little concern, Molly left her seat to coo over the cot. Gently, she lifted the infant into her arms and rocked her until she calmed down.
‘Do you understand what I’m telling you?’ said Hugo.
She turned her back on him as she placed the child back in the cot. Then, facing Hugo once more, she reached up and pulled off the shower cap. Her fair hair flopped out, a long cut for a man but strikingly short on a woman.
‘Seems you’re not a bad detective after all,’ she said, quietly.