"So, am I to be charged?"
"I don't know." She answered him truthfully.
"Then I'm free to go?"
"Technically yes, you haven't been arrested, therefore we can't hold you. I think the police are at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. Nothing like this has ever been brought up before." She paused uncertain of how to continue. The small man rose from his side of the desk and reached for his hat.
She continued to speak and he froze with his arm still outstretched. The scene would not have looked out of place as a modern exhibit in a sculpture gallery.
"However I don't think you'd be doing yourself any favours if you do leave now. The reason I've been brought in is because of the uniqueness of the case. If you refuse to co-operate with me, I think it may back them into a corner where they have little choice but to arrest you."
"Ah I see. Please forgive me, I don't mean to be uncooperative, or indeed rude. I just want to go home. I've been here some time and my cat will be worried."
"I understand that this must be very distressing for you Mr. Jenkins, but I really think that if you are seen to be co-operating with me, with us, as much as possible it can only work in your favour."
His hands fingered the felt rim of his old brown trilby. "I'll be only too happy to do anything I can to assist you Miss Chalker. All I want is to be able to put this unfortunate incident behind me and go home to Topsy."
Helen sat back in her seat. She didn't steeple her fingers as she might if she wanted to intimidate an interviewee. That approach would be disastrous with Ronald Jenkins. He'd crumble and any hope she had of gaining his confidence would be lost. Her aim was to try and help him let down his guard a little bit To relax and not feel trapped by the establishment. Ronald had never had any dealing with the police, let alone a criminal psychologist in his life. He was nervous and intimidated.
She smiled at him. "Would you like another cup of tea Mr. Jenkins?" He made an exaggerated movement to cover his Styrofoam cup with his hand and mumbled a polite refusal. "I don't blame you, sticks to your arteries like treacle." He smiled.
Helen took a moment to study her latest client. He was a strange one, in that there was nothing remotely strange about him. A nondescript man of forty-six who could easily be mistaken as ten years older. Ron Jenkins was old before his years. He looked old, dressed old and had the manner of one from an earlier age. These days it was not unusual to see men in their sixties in jeans and T-shirt, but never, she suspected, Ron Jenkins. He sat stiffly on the wooden chair. His receding hair was combed carefully in place and slicked with the smallest amount of hair oil. The dark grey suit was old but looked after, tie knotted firmly at his throat, top button fastened though he had not been at work that week. His grey eyes were weary, but alert. A keen intelligence at work behind them despite his worry and concern. His hands were resting on the table, fingers still turning the rim of his hat, displaying his nervous agitation. His fingernails were cut short, carefully filed and kept spotlessly clean. Helen couldn't see his shoes, but she knew without looking that they were polished to a deep shine. Mr. Jenkins was meticulous about his appearance.
"You care about Topsy very much?" She wanted to get him talking. If she could introduce safe subjects that he was comfortable with she might be able to establish a rapport and gain his trust.
"Oh yes very much so. She's a good girl, a good friend. She's been a faithful companion now for over ten years."
"I wouldn't worry about her too much you know, as long as she's got some food and water and her litter box she'll be quite all right for a while. Cat's are independent creatures, not like dogs who pine if you leave them for any length of time."
"Yes, quite, quite, but with respect Miss Chalker, I don't think you got me here to talk about my relationship with my cat."
Bugger! She'd underestimated him. Now he felt condescended to. Leaning forward she straightened her skirt and changed tactics. She picked up the sheaf of papers and studied them for a moment giving them both time to collect their thoughts and for her to regain her composure.
"Mr Jenkins I've been reading the notes taken by chief inspector Morgan, and you are a highly educated man." She looked to him for confirmation, but he merely returned her gaze and didn't reply.
"Your employer speaks very highly about you. You've held the same position for some," she skim-read the notes in front of her, "fifteen years. Your neighbours say you keep to yourself, but are always friendly and polite in the street or when you exchange pleasantries over the garden. What you've done seems totally out of character. Is there anything you'd like to say?"
She didn't think he was going to reply. She waited, sitting perfectly still so as not to give off signals of impatience. The clock ticked the seconds away and the soft whirring of the cassette tape lent presence to the silence between them. He raised his head and his steel-grey eyes looked steadily into hers, he didn't flinch under her return gaze, but cleared his throat twice before he spoke. It seemed he was taking time to formulate exactly what he wanted to say.
"Miss Chalker, before we go any further I wonder if I might be permitted to ask you a couple of questions. I realise it's unorthodox, but I think it might help you to better understand my position."
Helen was interested by this new turn of events. As the demure little man had chosen to take the role of interrogator his stature had altered. He straightened in his seat and he showed none of his earlier timidity or weakness.
"Miss Chalker. If something isn't alive, if it doesn't have a heartbeat or respiratory system, then it is inanimate, yes? It is an object?"
"Yes but " She got no further.
"Please Miss Chalker if you would just answer yes or no, I'd be very grateful to you. Now then having established that if something isn't actually living it is an object, what if someone gave me that object? If it was given to me, brought to my home and left with me, then surely it becomes my property to do with as I will?"
"Well yes, but in the circumstances you can hardly...,"
"It was given to me you see. It was mine. You can't punish me for avenging myself with what was rightfully mine." He began to get upset. While he felt he had command of the meeting he had placed his hat down on the desk. Now as he saw his logic and reason being denied in the psychologists eyes he once again picked it up and began to turn it between his fingers.
"I'm not like Lucy Taylor you know."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I remember you from last year. On the news. You handled the case of that young girl Lucy Taylor. I'm not like her."
"Does it bother you that I could think you might be?" Helen asked.
"Miss Chalker, please don't take offence by this. I'm a quiet man. I'm not usually so forthright, but then I'm not usually in the company of criminal psychologists. Please don't psychobabble me Miss Chalker. I'll answer your questions, I'll tell you everything you want to know. I believe that's the quickest way of getting home, but please don't skirt round what you want to know with backdoor analytical questions. Of course it bothers me. That girl decapitated her mother because she wanted a fish bowl. She is a very sick person. I can assure you I'm of perfectly sound mind."
Helen repressed a shudder. The case of twelve-year-old Lucy Taylor hadn't been as clear cut as Ronald made it sound. The girl was an artist of almost savant ability. She was also severely disturbed. She cut off her mother's head to use it as a home for her fish when in a fit of temper she accidentally broke her real fishbowl. Later she calmly sat painting her creation until a neighbour called the police. It had been Helen's most disturbing case to date.
"I'm sorry Mr. Jenkins. I didn't mean to offend you. I make it my practise to never compare one case with another. Each circumstance is different," before she could finish he interrupted her.
"Forgive me for interrupting Miss Chalker, but let's cut to the chase shall we. Otherwise I fear we may be here some time." He gave a small self-conscious smile; his first real facial expression since the interview began. "It was mine to do with as I pleased."
"Yes Miss Chalker it." He fumbled apologetically with his hands. Helen could see that Ronald Jenkins didn't like confrontation. He didn't like to be the focal point of any conversation, preferring instead to let the other person take the lead.
"It was returned to me, therefore it was my property. If it was my property then surely it is up to me what I do with it."
"But what you did was so "
"I didn't hurt anybody."
"Why did you do it?"
"Because I hate it."
"It? Or him Mr. Jenkins?"
"It. I hate him. Therefore I hate it." He was rattled. A little vein was playing at his temple, and yet his tone and inflection never altered. He was holding himself rigidly in control. Helen suspected that he always held his emotions far too deeply inside for them ever to be on display.
"You don't look to me like a man capable of hatred. Why do you hate him?" She allowed just the merest hint of emphasis to rest on the word 'him.'
"Please don't ask me that. I'd rather not say."
"You said you'd answer all my questions if I asked them directly."
"Anything but that."
"Mr. Jenkins, I can't represent you unless I know all the facts. The more information I have to present to the police the better we can decide what is going to be the best course of action for you."
"Yes for you, and for the public." He inhaled sharply. Helen thought for a second that he was going to break. He lowered his head and she could hear his breathing. But when after only a few seconds he raised his eyes to look at her, he merely looked sad and very, very tired.
"Miss. Chalker, I am not a murderer. I pose no threat to anybody. I swear I have never harmed a living soul in my entire life, I value life Miss. Chalker, I value life above all else. I would never hurt anybody."
"But by your own admission you mutilated your father's dead body Mr. Jenkins. You took your father's eyes."
"Yes I took my father's eyes. It was them or his heart and in the end I decided that his heart was just an organ, but his eyes. Those evil eyes had watched the harm he brought with glee. Yes, I took my father's eyes Miss Chalker."
"And then you " she tailed the sentence off unfinished.
"And then I inserted them inside his rectum."
"Why did you do that?"
"Because I wanted to make sure that those eyes saw no more evil, that all they would see for eternity was the filth of the man who owned them."
The interview tailed to a close son after that. Helen had two more sessions with him over the next twenty-four hours going over and over the same ground. She tried to break him, tried to get him to lose his temper, but he remained calm throughout. He worried about his cat left alone at home, but he answered her questions with weary patience.
Of course by now the press had got hold of the story. Ronald Jenkins had become front-page news. He was being hailed the 'Monster Mutilator of Bethnal Green.' Avid newshounds were eagerly awaiting his release outside the police station gates. Prosecution or not, his life would never be the same again.
Long discussions were held round overflowing ashtrays in the police incident room. Again and again Helen explained that in her expert opinion Ronald Jenkins was neither criminal nor insane. Eventually she persuaded them that his act of revenge against a cruel and abusive father had been just that. One cold and final act of severance between him and the man who stalked his nightmares. Ronald Jenkins was no threat to society. All he wanted was to be able to go home to his cat.
Society wasn't so easy on Mr. Jenkins though. They hounded him day and night that first week; soon he was yesterday's news as far as the media were concerned. The local inhabitants of his street didn't forget though. He took to having his shopping delivered, he paid his bills by direct debit and he stayed behind the safety of his own front door. He didn't leave the house again for three more years until Topsy died. Ronald was devastated, but it was the release he had been waiting for. He took some sleeping tablets, lots of sleeping tablets in fact, some that his father had left behind when he had died and some that he'd been given by the police doctor but had never taken.
He took them at ten-o-clock that Wednesday night, all of them, and then he went for a long walk along the river. Ronald Jenkins was a gentle man, he never hurt anybody in his entire life.