The Turn of the Key Page 1

Author: Ruth Ware

Genres: Mystery , Thriller

7th September 2017

HMP Charnworth

Dear Mr. Wrexham,

You have no idea how many times I’ve started this letter and screwed up the resulting mess, but I’ve realized there is no magic formula here. There is no way I can make you listen to my case. So I’m just going to have to do my best to set things out. However long it takes, however much I mess this up, I’m just going to keep going and tell the truth.

My name is . . . And here I stop, wanting to tear up the page again.

Because if I tell you my name, you will know why I am writing to you. My case has been all over the papers, my name in every headline, my agonized face staring out of every front page—and every single article insinuating my guilt in a way that falls only just short of contempt of court. If I tell you my name, I have a horrible feeling you might write me off as a lost cause and throw my letter away. I wouldn’t entirely blame you, but please—before you do that, hear me out.

I am a young woman, twenty-seven years old, and as you’ll have seen from the return address above, I am currently at the Scottish women’s prison HMP Charnworth. I’ve never received a letter from anyone in prison, so I don’t know what they look like when they come through the door, but I imagine my current living arrangements were pretty obvious even before you opened the envelope.

What you probably don’t know is that I’m on remand.

And what you cannot know is that I’m innocent.

I know, I know. They all say that. Every single person I’ve met here is innocent—according to them, anyway. But in my case it’s true.

You may have guessed what’s coming next. I’m writing to ask you to represent me as my solicitor advocate at my trial.

I realize that this is unconventional and not how defendants are supposed to approach advocates. (I accidentally called you a barrister in an earlier draft of this letter—I know nothing about the law, and even less about the Scottish system. Everything I do know I have picked up from the women I’m in prison with, including your name.)

I have a solicitor already—Mr. Gates—and from what I understand, he is the person who should be appointing an advocate for the actual trial. But he is also the person who landed me here in the first place. I didn’t choose him—the police picked him for me when I began to get scared and finally had the sense to shut up and refuse to answer questions until they found me a lawyer.

I thought that he would straighten everything out—help me to make my case. But when he arrived—I don’t know, I can’t explain it. He just made everything worse. He didn’t let me speak. Everything I tried to say he was cutting in with “My client has no comment at this time,” and it just made me look so much more guilty. I feel like if only I could have explained properly, it would never have got this far. But somehow the facts kept twisting in my mouth, and the police, they made everything sound so bad, so incriminating.

It’s not that Mr. Gates hasn’t heard my side of the story exactly. He has, of course—but somehow— Oh God, this is so hard to explain in writing. He’s sat down and talked to me, but he doesn’t listen. Or if he does, he doesn’t believe me. Every time I try to tell him what happened, starting from the beginning, he cuts in with these questions that muddle me up and my story gets all tangled and I want to scream at him to just shut the fuck up.

And he keeps talking to me about what I said in the transcripts from that awful first night at the police station, when they grilled me and grilled me and I said— God, I don’t know what I said. I’m sorry, I’m crying now. I’m sorry—I’m so sorry for the stains on the paper. I hope you can read my writing through the blotches.

What I said, what I said then, there’s no undoing that. I know that. They have all that on tape. And it’s bad—it’s really bad. But it came out wrong; I feel like if only I could be given a chance to get my case across, to someone who would really listen . . . do you see what I’m saying?

Oh God, maybe you don’t. You’ve never been here, after all. You’ve never sat across a desk feeling so exhausted you want to drop and so scared you want to vomit, with the police asking and asking and asking until you don’t know what you’re saying anymore.

I guess it comes down to this in the end.

I am the nanny in the Elincourt case, Mr. Wrexham.

And I didn’t kill that child.

I started writing to you last night, Mr. Wrexham, and when I woke up this morning and looked at the crumpled pages covered with my pleading scrawl, my first instinct was to rip them up and start again, just like I had a dozen times before. I had meant to be so cool, so calm and collected—I had meant to set everything out so clearly and make you see. And instead I ended up crying onto the page in a mess of recrimination.

But then I reread what I’d written and I thought, No. I can’t start again. I just have to keep going.

All this time I have been telling myself that if only someone would let me clear my head and get my side of the story straight, without interrupting, maybe this whole awful mess would get sorted out.

And here I am. This is my chance, right?

140 days, they can hold you in Scotland before a trial. Though there’s a woman here who has been waiting almost ten months. Ten months! Do you know how long that is, Mr. Wrexham? You probably think you do, but let me tell you. In her case that’s 297 days. She’s missed Christmas with her kids. She’s missed all their birthdays. She’s missed Mother’s Day and Easter and first days at school.

297 days. And they still keep pushing back the date of her trial.

Mr. Gates says he doesn’t think mine will take that long because of all the publicity, but I don’t see how he can be sure.

Either way, 100 days, 140 days, 297 days . . . that’s a lot of writing time, Mr. Wrexham. A lot of time to think, and remember, and try to work out what really happened. Because there’s so much I don’t understand, but there’s one thing I know. I did not kill that little girl. I didn’t. However hard the police try to twist the facts and trip me up, they can’t change that.

I didn’t kill her. Which means someone else did. And they are out there.

While I am in here, rotting.

I will finish now, because I know I can’t make this letter too long—you’re a busy man; you’ll just stop reading.

But please, you have to believe me. You’re the only person who can help.

Please, come and see me, Mr. Wrexham. Let me explain the situation to you and how I got tangled into this nightmare. If anyone can make the jury understand, it’s you.

I have put your name down for a visitor’s pass—or you can write to me here if you have more questions. It’s not like I’m going anywhere. Ha.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to end on a joke. It’s not a laughing matter, I know that. If I’m convicted, I’m facing—

But no. I can’t think about that. Not right now. I won’t be. I won’t be convicted, because I’m innocent. I just have to make everyone understand that. Starting with you.

Please, Mr. Wrexham, please say you’ll help. Please write back. I don’t want to be melodramatic about this, but I feel like you’re my only hope.

Mr. Gates doesn’t believe me; I see it in his eyes.

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