The car came to a halt, but Martha wasn’t prepared to leave.
‘You must go inside,’ The youngest policewoman said.
Martha paid attention to her words and allowed the blanket to be swathed around her once again. Consenting to the police officer’s proffered hand, she climbed out of the car. An unsympathetic wind whipped against her legs. It was only a few metres to the back door of the station, but it felt like she was climbing Mount Everest.
Perspiration trickled down her arm and Martha wished she hadn’t worn her satin blouse. Yet she was ready to face whatever happened next. She wished her confession could have been sooner. Prison didn’t scare her; the bars were already there anyway.
As she stepped inside, the blanket was lost.
Posters adorned the walls of the front entrance – encouraging people to join the force. When she first got married, the same posters were trying to recruit more women to the police. It was something she wanted to do before Laura was born. Thomas talked her out of it, and she had fallen pregnant shortly afterwards.
All her married life she had been so careful of what she said to Thomas. How she reacted when Thomas hit her and how she felt so alone. ‘All victims have a right to live without fear- the poster said.’ Martha recalled the first time he hit her. It was after Amelia’s funeral, and she said something out of turn. What it was she couldn’t recollect, but Thomas was angry all the same. Afterwards, he cried in her arms. He vowed it would never happen again – but it did, just a few months later.
Taken straight to the custody office, Martha stood in front of a high table, which held a computer, a fingerprint kit, and a camera. Sounds in the room echoed against the walls. Led through the detention procedure, Martha watched as the custody officer recorded all her details on to the computer. Name, rank and serial number, Martha forgot nothing.
She couldn’t remember much about the arrest at home, but her memory of this moment was clear. They were about to charge her with Thomas’s murder. The point of no return had been reached.
‘Have you any property with you today?’
‘I haven’t anything with me,’ Martha said.
‘I will now read you your rights.’
‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you will rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence. You have the right to speak to a solicitor and if you do not have one the court will appoint one for you.’
Why did she need defending? It was only because Laura wouldn’t take no for an answer. ‘My daughter arranged a solicitor. I think she followed me here.’
‘Mrs Whitman, before your police interview, we will take your photograph, fingerprints and DNA.’
It felt like she was having her passport photograph taken. Face to the front-no smiling. There was no emotion behind their procedure. She was just another criminal. Rights – what rights did she have?
Prison was where she belonged now.
Next, Martha’s fingerprints were taken. One by one her fingers were pressed on the soft ink. She cleaned her hands with a wipe and placed it on the table.
‘We are going to do a DNA test Mrs Whitman. This involves a swab being put into your mouth. We need you to open it as wide as you can. It won’t take long.’
Doing as the custody officer instructed, she allowed the cotton bud to be swiped around malleable gums. Her identity, like a recovered masterpiece, was inserted into a plastic tube.
Once inside the interrogation room, she was shown to a chair. Already there, the solicitor had a small black briefcase. It was open, and she was reading from the pile of notes in front of her.
Martha intended on pleading guilty – there wouldn’t be a trial and Thomas’s vengeance would be complete. The solicitor, able to visit her in hospital, tried to convince Martha to change her mind.
It was fruitless – she wanted to make Thomas proud.
‘Good morning,’ her solicitor said, holding out her hand.
Martha refused to take it.
‘You need to tell them all the facts, including the violence that led up to your husband’s death. It will be better for you,’ The solicitor said.
The sleeve of her jumper was pulled over the bruise on her wrist.
As the female detective, dressed in a formal, grey trouser suit, entered the silent room, she sat down opposite the two women. The male officer did the same.
Turning the tape recorder on, the male detective faced Martha, his expression set in stone. ‘We are going to start the interview at 2:30 p.m. on 25th of January 2014. We are at Windsor Police station. My name is Detective Evans and I, along with my colleague, will be conducting the interview today.’
The chair stuck to her legs. On the table was a grey machine and a plastic cup full of water. She resisted the urge to bite her nails – it was a habit Thomas always hated – so she placed them in her lap.
‘My name is Detective Miller, and I will be assisting Detective Evans in this interview. For the tape can you tell us your name and date of birth.’
Martha’s throat, suddenly dry and constricted, felt like sandpaper. If she were to pay for her heinous crime, she would need all the strength she could muster. As if it were the first time she had seen water, she drank it all in one go. Her thirst wasn’t quenched. She crackled the plastic beneath her fingers, and it split in two. Not knowing what else to do, it was dropped back on the table.