Joining the Dots by TheLastLynx

The following fanfiction was written by TheLastLynx. Here’s the link to the original source: https://archiveofourown.org/works/13722819/chapters/31526457

CHAPTER 3

Been trying to think of something colourful for the season 
Pull the wool over the gullible for no reason

Joining the Dots, Arctic Monkeys

Depressed by her own reflection, but determined to chase away the ghosts of her past, Robin cherished her last moment of privacy. Even through all her heart–felt misery at the loss of a friend, she still had a burning curiosity to check for news of the Shacklewell Ripper. While she was not at all convinced by Strike’s implication that Brockbank, after all, might be the killer – it just seemed strangely at odds with his predilection for preying on young girls (and what was the church connection Carver had come up with, she wondered) – Robin felt anxious at the slightest possibility that she had let a serial killer escape.

These past two days she had barely ever had time to herself. A gleeful Matthew had been her ubiquitous shadow, using every opportunity to hug her, embrace her, displaying a clingy attitude towards her – something, Robin couldn’t help but admit, she had found thoroughly irritating. And Linda, resolute that Robin finally show some enthusiasm for the things that were left to be done, kept her constantly busy. Without a single solitary moment to analyse her current situation – let alone to check her phone for news  – she felt that this weekend was a depressing reminder of what her future was going to be like. Thoroughly exhausted as she was, though, she just went along with it, unable to burden her emotionally strained psyche with yet another conflict.

In the distance, Robin heard the clock of St. Mary’s strike. There was still about half an hour left until she would have to leave for the ceremony.

Sitting here in her strangely unfamiliar room that once used to be her comfort, her sanctuary, these last few moments alone felt like balm to Robin’s state of anxiousness and sadness. Trying to ignore the reasons for her low mood, she realised that now, at last, she would be able to check her mobile. She was frantically scrambling through her holdall, when Linda came back with the bouquet of white roses.

“Looking for something, love?”

Robin squinted her eyes, brows furrowed. “Can’t seem to find my phone…” Why was this bothering her so much?

“No problem, I’ll just call it,” Linda offered.

Both women listened attentively for the phone to sound. When it finally vibrated, Robin produced the mobile out of the pocket of the jacket she had worn two days ago, on their trip up to Masham.

Oh yes , she mused absentmindedly; after Matt had returned to the car, she had stuffed the mobile back into the jacket, and then – when it got too hot – had shoved the whole thing into the holdall. Flipping over her phone, she saw Linda’s missed call. Going briefly into her history to click away “Linda missed call”, she froze.

Linda’s call sat there at the top of a list that was entirely empty. Was there something wrong with her phone?

A memory rose from the back of her mind. She saw Matthew standing up from his chair in the service station, her mobile in his hand, apparently phoning his dad, but the black screen clearly betraying his lie. Robin felt queasy, realisation dawning. Matt asking for her passcode; her, being far too distressed to object, him walking away with the phone under the pretext about looking something up for the honeymoon, leaving her to muse on her own unhappiness, while he was deleting her call history. There was only one reason, she knew, why he would have done something so reckless, so extreme. Cormoran must have called.

The sudden elation at the undeniable truth of her discovery was followed, instantly, by a feeling of hopelessness and disbelief. Hopelessness because – if Strike had called without receiving an answer – he must have decided not to call again, thus robbing her of the last chance to make up. Disbelief, because Robin would have never imagined that Matt would go this far. Not only belittling her dreams but actively sabotaging her life’s choices to suit himself. Robin felt the hot clutches of repressed anger tightening in her chest. Matthew had driven away the one man – and flashes of despair and regret gave rise to an irrational wish– who she wanted to be the one waiting for her at the altar. Gripping rage came at last, spreading through her limbs, rendering her almost numb, aching to find release.

“Darling, Robin, what’s wrong? You look terrible!” Linda was shocked by Robin’s blanched face and livid expression. Never before had she seen her daughter quite like this.

“Where’s Matthew? I need to speak to him.” Robin managed through gritted teeth. Linda checked her watch.

“Er… He must have left his parents’ house for church just a few minutes ago.”

Right, church. How was she supposed to marry a man who – as she now knew – had sabotaged everything she ever cared for?

Don’t you care for Matthew then? A tiny voice said at the back of her head. Do you leave your boyfriend of nine years at the altar, on nothing but a hunch that Cormoran might have called? Cormoran, who doesn’t love you like Matthew does. He probably never wanted you back to begin with. He probably just called to say he found someone new, and didn’t want you to find out the wrong way. He was just being nice.

“I, I need to ask him something,” Robin managed, desperately trying to keep the rage and insecurities bubbling up under control.

“Well, why don’t you just give him a call, then?” asked an ever pragmatic Linda, perplexed at the sudden change in her daughter.

“No, I need to talk to him, face to face,” Robin insisted. She remembered how deftly Matthew had denied his affair with Sarah, and that she had only been able to spot the lie because his expression had betrayed him.

“I suppose… if we leave right away, we could catch him before church. But we’d be awfully early…”

Hurrying down to the car where her father Michael already stood waiting, they quickly sped off towards St Mary’s. They managed to catch up with the groomsman’s car at the brazen gates leading into the green churchyard. Ignoring her mum casting worried looks and her dad muttering “Isn’t that supposed to be bad luck?”, the bride stormed out and ran over to an astonished Matthew, looking ever the part of the dashing bridegroom in his smart morning suit.

“Robin? Wow, you look–but, I’m not supposed to see you before the wedding! It’s bad luck!” he exclaimed nervously.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” she said quietly, but determinedly. “Just a quick word in private,” she added.

“Why do you want to talk to me now?” Matthew seemed taken aback. Talking to her now did not at all seem like a good idea to him.

Robin glanced at Matthew’s father who was hovering in the background, mouth set in a displeased line.

“It’s important, and I’d much rather do this where nobody’s listening in on us.”

Apprehensive about what was about to come, Matt focused on keeping a mixture of concern and confusion on his features and followed Robin round the corner. Of course, he had instantly guessed that this had to be about the phone call. He had known that, at some point, the deleted call history would have to come up, and that by then he needed a believable excuse. So, he was prepared. He would not let her outwit him again, the painful memory of their fateful confrontation about his and Sarah’s unfortunate history rising in his mind.  

They both went a few steps into the large churchyard with its old, historic monuments, standing out of view in the shadows of the large dark green beech hedge.

“So,” Matthew started, “what’s so important, that you would jinx our wedding?” Robin studied his features for a second, before she inquired

“What did you do with my phone at the service station?”

“I called my dad, I told you that!” Matt replied, slightly confused at her question. Was this not about the caller history?

“So, you phoned your dad, and then?” Robin was careful to let him retell his side of the story, before confronting him on the bits that obviously did not add up.

“Well,“ Matt started, feigning embarrassment, “while I called him, you had another call coming in…” Taking time to watch her expression he went on, “it was Strike.”

Why didn’t Robin seem surprised at this discovery? Matthew panicked internally. Had Strike not owned up to his promise that he would not call again? That lying bloody bastard! But no, he knew, from Robin’s endless stories, that Strike would not go back on his word. And anyway – Matthew tried to calm himself – he had blocked the number.

“He left you a message and,” again hesitating to throw in some more embarrassment, “I listened to it.”

Encouraged by Robin’s silent and patient demeanour, he went on, now pretending to be angry and concerned.

“Well, I thought it was bloody cheeky of him to call you at all after how he’d treated you. But with the voicemail, where he then just told you again, that he had found somebody else, and he just wanted to let you know that he had forwarded you the last paycheck, I felt it would do you no good to have all that trigger your sadness again.”

This, he found, was a plausible thing for a caring fiance to do. Keeping her safe, avoiding a trigger situation. He had, continuing his story, therefore deleted the call and the voicemail; and, in order for her not to suspect anything, had erased the caller log for good measure.

“I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have done that” he apologised, and he truly felt a pang of guilt underneath his righteousness. “But I just didn’t know what to do… you were so unhappy all the time, and I didn’t want this to ruin our weekend.”

Robin, listening attentively and watching him closely, sensed that there was definitely some truth to what Matthew had come up with. That the story was made up, she was sure; he had not telephoned his father when he had walked away with the dark phone in his hand. Instead, he had probably seen Strike’s call while she was in the bathroom, and had been about to deal with it when she had returned.

Whether Matt had talked to Strike, or  – as he claimed – had only deleted a message, was now entirely pointless. The crucial fact was that Strike had called, and had not called again. And had she not herself suspected him wanting to let her down easy? The newspaper had been a far too crass way of bringing their partnership of one and a half years to an end, however wrongly she might have acted by (accidentally) confronting Brockbank.

Facing the mundane but uncomfortable truth of this final mystery, Robin was once more left with nothing but the familiar void inside of her. She had, Robin now realised, been harboring a foolish hope. Hope, that Cormoran would come back, despite all that had happened. But it had not, after all, been Matthew’s fault that Strike had not bothered to call again.

Too exhausted, too weak to pick herself up from this final crushing disappointment, she followed Matthew back to the gate where her father was waiting for her, while her groom hurried into the church, anxious to prevent anyone from realising that he – unfortunately – had already seen his bride.

< CHAPTER 2       CHAPTER 4 >

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