Saras face, p.14
Sara’s Face, p.14Melvin Burgess
‘But why not?’
‘Does it matter? Honestly, Bernadette, don’t make such a fuss. I’ll tell him tomorrow, OK?’
Bernadette paused. She was certain she wasn’t being told everything – but she didn’t like to make a fuss. After all, why not? One more day. There was time. The operation wasn’t due for another couple of weeks. So she let it ride, even though her instincts told her not to – a decision she has regretted ever since. Sara rolled her eyes, as if to say, Great! Big deal. She picked up a lip brush, leaned into the mirror and began applying a thin red line round the mask’s lips. Somehow it went down into a jagged snarl at the side.
‘It’s a ghost story,’ she said. ‘I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. ‘She added another jagged line. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘I have to make myself pretty for my session with Dr Kaye the face-eater.’
Sometimes Sara made up her masks to look pretty, sometimes angry, sometimes downright strange if that’s how she felt. On that morning of her last day, she made up a particularly bizarre face. She had one eyebrow right up in the air, the other drawn down low over her eye, and a manic, crooked smirk round the mouth that gave her an expression of manic disbelief – as if you’d just said something so ridiculous to her that it was about to drive her insane. She’d hardly finished when there was a knock at the door and one of the maids came in with her arms full of fresh bed linen. She jumped a mile when she saw, and dropped the bedding.
‘Sara’ she said, clutching her breast. ‘You’ll be the death of me. What are you like?’
‘Nah hahahaha,’ cackled Sara, like a demented demon. She turned to Bernie, filled with glee. ‘And the old face-eater won’t dare say a word,’ she exclaimed. ‘Let’s get me dressed.’ She bent down to pick up the linen, which she thrust into the arms of the maid and ran back to her dressing room with Bernadette close behind.
Getting dressed had been a big part of Sara’s life when she first came to Home Manor Farm. Even before she moved in there were shopping trips with Heat in which he spent thousands of pounds on clothes for her.
As a result, Sara had a whole room full of clothes and shoes at Home Manor Farm and at first she got a huge amount of pleasure out of them, spending hours parading up and down in front of the full-length mirrors, getting Bernie or Heat or Janet, or anyone else who was around, to watch.
That morning, as every morning, Sara had an appointment with Dr Kaye to help her prepare for surgery and adapt to her new life, the life Heat was promising her was about to begin as soon as her face was sorted out – a life lived out in the blaze of celebrity. She told Bernie that morning that she wanted to take the chance to give the doctor one final grand wind-up. That bizarre face, with one surprised eyebrow up in the air and one scowling down by her eye, and that half ferocious, half hilarious smirk had set her off. She now spent a very enjoyable half hour choosing what to wear with it.
Normally, Bernadette would have made her dress properly for such an appointment; now she was just relieved that Sara wasn’t taking it seriously. But she wasn’t happy with the promise she’d been given. She knew how volatile Sara was. Why the delay? What if she changed her mind again?
Sara constantly tried clothes on while Bernadette alternatively laughed at her, scolded her, begged and bullied her to come clean about the operation in her meeting with Dr Kaye that very day. Sara was getting more and more annoyed with her fretting and by the time Dr Kaye came to collect her they were both thoroughly cross. As a result, Sara went down on her own, leaving Bernie up in her room, fuming and scared, and still none the wiser about what, exactly, Sara was planning to do. In the past she had attended Sara’s session with the doctor and had been intending to attend this one, too. She said as much to the doctor when he knocked on Sara’s door, but he’d put her off.
‘I’d like to see Sara on her own this morning,’ he told her. ‘Mr Heat has informed me of your concerns and I’ve made another appointment for you at twelve thirty, if that’s suitable.’
Bernadette pursed her lips and tipped her head back. ‘Given the nature of my concerns, Doctor,’ she said, ‘I think I ought to attend now.’
The doctor’s face gave nothing away. There was a pause, a stand-off, which was broken by Sara herself.
‘I’d like to see Dr Kaye on my own today,’ she said pertly. ‘I have some private things to discuss with him.’ She tipped her masked head at Bernadette, who stared impassively back; she was certain the girl was secretly putting her tongue out at her, or laughing at her, or worse. The doctor nodded.
‘See you at twelve thirty, then,’ he said to Bernadette.
There are photographs of Sara in the mask she made up that morning for her appointment with Dr Kaye. It’s an amazing creation, which gives her a ferocious expression of amazement and disbelief so exaggerated that she looks like something out of a cartoon. She’s wearing a scarlet dress, very short, which stuck out at the sides like a cone, with a loose vest bodice on top, and a pair of bright blue trainers with wedge soles. The dress was so short she was flashing the red bicycle shorts she wore underneath with every step she took.
What Dr Kaye thought of the whole arrangement is unknown. A secretive man, with no family, who had been deserted by his colleagues as his work with Jonathon Heat spiralled out of control, he kept himself to himself. For the last five years of his life, the only real conversations he had were with Jonathon Heat himself.
We do know that he kept extensive records and that there were notes towards a book he was planning to write, in which he was going to outline his practices and visions for cosmetic surgery in the future. He’d made claims to various people that once this book was published, the world of surgery would never be the same again. The notes for that book, along with all his notes about Heat, Sara and anyone else he may have secretly operated on since moving into Home Manor Farm, were destroyed in the fire that killed him. His only interviews are a couple with the police, in which he gave nothing away at all.
Like so much to do with Dr Kaye, what transpired between him and Sara on that day remains in the dark. We do know that when she came back to her room, a little over two hours later, Sara was badly upset. Bernadette was waiting for her, having avoided the best efforts of Heat and his staff to locate her, by turning off her mobile and hiding in the bathroom. She had everything she needed right there. People came in and out a couple of times, and she heard her name called a few times, but no one thought to look in there. She heard Sara come in but when she went out to greet her, Sara ran past her into the bathroom. But she didn’t lock the door and Bernie followed her in.
‘What is it? What’s the matter? No, don’t turn away. Now tell me, Sara, please. What’s wrong?’
Sara was sitting in front of the mirror, pretending that everything was all right, but as soon as Bernie touched her, she stood up, burst into tears and flung her arms round her.
‘Now, now. What’ve they done to you this time?’
Sara held tight and sobbed. It was sometime before she was able to speak.
There has been a great deal of debate about what exactly so upset Sara that day. The prosecution against Heat successfully argued that she was not well enough to give evidence in court and no one since has had the opportunity of asking her. As a result, different versions abound. One is what Jonathon Heat later told detectives – that Dr Kaye was simply satisfying himself yet again that Sara did indeed want to go through with the surgery, and was psychologically ready for it. Heat claimed he joined them once the session had ended, and that they had both pressed her perhaps more strongly than they should have done, because they knew Bernie was on the loose. Kaye was of the opinion that Bernadette could do a great deal of damage to Sara psychologically, with her strong religious views and her irrational opposition, as he saw it, to any sort of surgical intervention.
‘I think we may have pressed her too hard in our eagerness to make sure she really wanted to go ahead,’ said Heat. ‘We wanted to cover ourselves against any future accusations, I suppose.
Afterwards, the three of them had gone on a tour of medical facilities at Home Manor, including the operating theatre where the procedure was to take place. Sara kept her mask on throughout, but Heat claims that he saw how upset she was. Again he spoke to her about it, reassuring her that if she had any doubts at all, she only had to say and the operation would be put off or postponed.
‘But she insisted she wanted to go ahead,’ said Heat. ‘Afterwards, I had a private word with Dr Kaye. We were both concerned about Sara’s mental health, and I suggested postponing the operation. He assured me that putting it off would be far more damaging to her than going ahead.’
When the tour was over, in the operating theatre itself, Kaye produced the legal forms that Sara needed to sign to give him permission to operate. They had already been signed by Sara’s mother, Jessica; now it was Sara’s turn. According to Heat, she signed them without complaint and then went back to her room.
That’s Heat’s story. The story Sara told Bernadette is different.
‘He was putting pressure on her to bring the operation forward and she was scared, because of what he’d done to Jonathon’s face,’ said Bernadette. ‘They frightened her into going ahead as soon as possible. When she saw the operating theatre, I guess it all came home to her what she was doing and she panicked. That’s what she told me.’
Which of these is true, or both, or something else, we shall never know unless Sara breaks her silence on the subject.
Sara leaned forward and shook with sobs on the older woman’s shoulders. The mask was getting in the way, and she pulled it off and put it down on the washbasin so she could bury her head into Bernie’s shoulder more easily. Bernie was touched.
‘Oh, you lovely girl,’ she exclaimed, and hugged her to her breast. Sara squeezed tighter and sobbed harder.
Bernadette decided there and then that enough was enough.
‘That’s it. Now you’re coming with me,’ she declared. She pushed Sara away and looked into her eyes as if to communicate her resolution to her, but Sara twisted away. She ran her arm across her streaming eyes, shook her head and ran off to sit at her dressing table, trying to clean herself up with tissues.
‘Sara, what is this?’ begged Bernie. She was much more upset than the story she was telling would seem to warrant. But Sara only shook her head, glancing at Bernadette in the mirror. She was getting in control of her tears now.
‘But I can’t go yet. Stop it, I told you not to worry. I have some things to do first.’
‘What things?’ demanded Bernie, but Sara shook her head. Bernadette cast her eyes to heaven, not certain how to proceed. She could hardly pick the girl up and carry her away against her will.
‘Sara,’ she said. ‘I came all this way to help you. Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?’
‘It’s private. Why can’t you all just leave me alone?’ snapped Sara.
‘I can’t believe Dr Kaye would let you go ahead if he could see how upset you are just now.’
Sara rubbed her face and moaned to herself. Bernadette waited patiently for a response.
‘OK,’ she said. ‘OK. If I tell you, will you give me one more day? Promise!’
Bernadette stood for a moment, then she shook her head. ‘I can’t make that promise, Sara, I can’t,’ she said. ‘I have to do what I think is best for you. You’re asking me to say that I might not do that, and I can’t say it.’
Sara stamped her foot in frustration. Bernadette seemed so mild and kind and willing to please, but her principles had been quietly bolted to the floor. She was immovable.
But Sara must have thought that Bernadette was going to go to Dr Kaye and tell him everything she’d said about quitting the operation. Believing as she did that he was trying to steal her face, that was very dangerous indeed. Perhaps that’s why she told her what she did.
‘You remember that morning the day you left?’ she said at last.
‘The ghost you saw!’ exclaimed Bernadette, and her heart began banging like a drum. Ever since she was a little girl and her grandmother told her terrifying stories back in Jamaica, she had been scared of ghosts.
‘Well – I found her,’ said Sara. She beckoned Bernadette over to the bed, opened a drawer and took out a photograph, which Bernadette later identified as the one Sara had filmed in her video diary. At the time, she recognised it as one that used to hang on the wall in a downstairs corridor. Sara tapped the glass with her nail. ‘It’s her. Look. Do you know her?’
Bernie peered over the photograph and gasped. The face looking out at her was the spitting image of Sara.
‘Oh my God, Sara, it’s you,’ she whispered.
‘Now then,’ said Sara. ‘What do you suppose that means?’
Bernie was in a state of terror, although she couldn’t exactly say why. She looked closer. ‘But it can’t be,’ she said.
‘Can’t it?’ said Sara. ‘Perhaps not, especially since it was taken before I ever came here.’
Bending over the glass, Bernie examined the other faces. She recognised them, as well. In fact, this was an old staff photograph, taken on one of the days out that Heat organised for his people from time to time.
And then she knew who the girl was.
‘No, it’s not you at all,’ she said. ‘That’s Katie. She used to work here.’
‘What happened to her?’ asked Sara in an even voice.
Bernie shrugged. ‘She left.’
‘A lot of people work here, Sara. I can’t remember what happened to them all.’
‘It’s important,’ insisted Sara. Bernie thought about it, but shook her head.
‘Do you remember her surname?’ asked Sara, but Bernie couldn’t remember that, either.
‘Well, it was her. And, if it was her, that means … well, you know what that means, don’t you?’
‘It means she’s dead.’
‘You talk nonsense.’
Together they stood and stared at the small face smiling out at them. The girl really did look extraordinarily like Sara.
Sara turned away. ‘Now you know,’ she said. She went into the bathroom to wash her face.
Bernadette was so terrified after this conversation, she hardly knew what was going on. She felt as if the ghost was on her heels, after her blood, about to jump in through her mouth the second she opened it. But she also felt very strongly that Sara was manipulating her in some way. She’d had enough.
Without a word, she turned and ran down the corridors to her own room, where she sat on the bed and cried. In a little while, Sara came and banged on the door, begging to be let in, but Bernie stayed where she was until the noise stopped. She went to the bathroom for a wash and to fix her face. After waiting a little longer to be sure she was on her own, Bernadette opened the door and left to keep her appointment with Dr Kaye.
As Bernadette tiptoed past Sara’s room on her way to Dr Kaye, Mark was tucked away in his little room in a building nearly a mile away from the house, testing a small device he’d made for that night’s adventure.
Mark, too, was determined that Sara was getting out of that house as soon as possible. Her visions and plans had him all in a whirl; he didn’t know what to believe and what to disbelieve, but he knew that she had to get out of that place and if he had to shoot his way out, if he had to hit her over the head and kidnap her, she was going. He was going to rescue her whether she wanted him to or not.
The device he was trying out was an attachment to a digital video camera that fitted onto the lens and was narrow and flexible enough to push through the crack under the door. There was a little bulb just strong enough to cast a bleary glow of light, and optical fibres that would carry the images back to the lens. The camera itself had an infrared setting. He and Sara would be able to crouch outside the door, see what was inside, record it, and take it away as evidence.
Sara, of course, ne
And there was another person involved, and another part of the plan that Mark knew nothing about. Janet, sitting miles away in Manchester, was the second accomplice.
For some weeks now, Sara had been in touch with various magazines and newspapers – OK magazine, the Daily Mirror, Heat, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the News of the World, Now! – all those. She’d proved to them that she was for real by giving them inside details about Heat and his house and entourage not available to the general public, and warned them that something big was about to happen – but not what, and not when, either. Just that it was imminent, that it was very big and that it would destroy Heat. Janet’s role was to alert them. Sara had even posted her a separate mobile phone to make calls on, to allay Janet’s fears of being traced. When Sara came out of Home Manor Farm, she wanted the world’s media to be there to watch it happen. She wanted to come on live TV.
‘It was to be her big launch,’ remembered Janet. But she didn’t know everything. Sara hadn’t abandoned her plans for fame at all – just changed them. Not with Jonathon Heat, but by exposing him. The world’s press was going to be there to see her do it.
Meeting with Dr Kaye
As a surgeon, we know a great deal about Wayland Kaye, but as a man, he is almost as difficult to know as Sara herself. There is of course the image of him we get from the newspapers – the ruthless doctor, prepared to commit any crime to try out his theories and save his reputation. Heat has encouraged this view, claiming ignorance and blaming Kaye for the whole thing. Although the courts decided otherwise, it’s a view that remains widespread.
Never a popular man, or a sociable one, Kaye seems to have taken his falling out of fashion and repute with the medical profession back in the seventies deeply to heart. He never really managed to turn his colleagues into friends – he was too obsessive to be good company – but now he withdrew totally, cutting himself off and refusing to discuss his theories with anyone in case they used them and stole the credit. There had been a marriage in his early twenties that lasted a few years, but Kaye seems to have been more interested in men sexually. There was no partner and, as far as we can tell, not even any close friends who were gay. He even told one colleague at work that he despised gay culture. He went cruising around the gay haunts in Manchester a couple of times a month, but rarely went with the same man twice and, as far as we know, never took any of his lovers home.
Sara’s Face by Melvin Burgess / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes