They came for me in the late summer of 2011.
Nothing had prepared me for their arrival. I had no idea that they were investigating me. What was a reporter compared to the editor in chief or the owner of News of the World? They had bigger fish to fry I had imagined. Wrong.
They had been on my trail for a year or so. I did not know which of my informants had betrayed me, or why. It was a stupid thing to wonder about, but I could not help asking myself whether I had unintentionally caused for this to happen, or whether they’d sold me out to save their own skin. It mattered. I don’t know why.
This is the story of that moment. One moment that changed the course of my life.
You will have to bear with me. Too much has happened since, and although it all leads back to that point in time, there is so much still lost in the haze. My recollections, for a time, were not my own. They were nothing at all, but the beginning of a journey through the judicial system and the underworld. The details are much the same, although the narrative has taken some time to crisp up and take shape. I have told no one about this, and anything that I did tell has been recounted on the witness stand under the grilling stare of a court prosecutor.
I cannot change the past. But the past… The past and its memories have kept me in continued flux. I no longer know who I am.
10:30pm. A chilly Monday night. That morning we had returned from a weekend in Devon. We had been working long hours for months – Russell in the city, me scuppering across the country for the latest story – and he demanded we spend some quality time together. He always got what he asked for. Independent woman or not, I let him believe that he was the one calling the shots in that relationship since the very start. I did not mind playing the junior partner in the arrangement: chose my battles with care, got the ring. To think only, that there was a time when it mattered. I long for those times.
The first warning that something had gone wrong was loud banging on his apartment door. I didn’t hear it at first. Exhausted after a weekend of trekking through Exmoor and then a long day of catching up at the paper, I went to bed at 9pm and was gone to the world. My fiancé, or ex fiancé I should say, did hear it. He’d stayed up to go through some paperwork and when the banging began, rather than going to check what the matter was himself, elbowed me hard in the ribs and in an instant I was awake. Coward. That right there was the last of many indications that he was not exactly the knight in shining armour he believed himself to be.
I sprang to my feet and hurriedly drew a nightgown over my head then went to answer the door. Question after question milled through my sleep-deprived brain.
Was it someone from the paper? No. That made no sense. There was no big story on the roll, nothing important enough to bring anyone to my door at that hour.
Did my mother die? I had not seen her in nearly a decade, but surely a phone call would’ve been sufficient.
Did some madman escape from some nearby asylum I was unaware of? I considered nipping into the kitchen for a knife. If I were to greet a potential killer, then surely I should try and level the odds. That couldn’t be it. This wasn’t Whitechapel.
Could it be the postman? I considered getting that knife in any case. He deserved all that was coming to him for getting me out of bed, express delivery or not.
In the end I decided that most likely a neighbour had forgotten their key, or someone else’s late night caller, drunk, got the wrong apartment. I was so sure of it that I was tempted to ignore it and go back to bed. Let Russell deal with it if he minds the banging that much.
There was a man in uniform coiled behind a buttery light. It blinded me. All else was darkness. Panic took over. Something shifted uncomfortably inside.
“Is this Jane Shift’s residence?”
For a moment I still waivered under the delusion that he got the wrong address. He got my first name right, but not the last. Did he mispronounce it, or was it all a mistake?
“No. There are no Shifts here.” I tried to keep my voice level, although that tremor… Perhaps they will attribute it to the cold.
“And your name is?”
I did not answer immediately, thinking fast on my feet. Could I lie? I dreaded what might happen if I did. No. I had to tell him.
“Swift. Jane Swift.”
“I have a warrant for your arrest. May I come in?”