/ Language: English / Genre:detective

Careless in Red

Elizabeth George

You can’t keep a good detective down. George has put longtime series hero Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard through quite a bit lately: in her last novel, With No One as Witness (2005), Lynley’s much-loved wife was shot to death on the street, reducing him to a grief-stricken shell and leading to his resignation from the Yard. How to resurrect him? George uses a pretty klunky (but familiar to all mystery fans) deus ex machina device. Lynley has embarked on a walk along the coastal path in Cornwall; his rationale is that if he doesn’t keep moving, despair will overtake him. Sure enough, on day 43 of his walk, he spots, far below, what seems to his trained eye to be the vivid red and crumpled shape of a man who has plunged to his death. The machine creaks into place, with Lynley (whose walk has made him appear like a homeless man) being treated as a suspect, then with grudging respect from the local, bumbling constabulary, and finally as someone his old associate Barbara Havers of New Scotland Yard seeks to restore to his post. Despite the obvious restoration device, George delivers, once again, a mystery imbued with psychological suspense and in-depth characterization.

Elizabeth George

Careless in Red

Book 15 in the Inspector Lynley series, 2008

To the memory of Stephen Lawrence

and 22 April 1993, when he was murdered

in Eltham, Southeast London,

by five men who have gone unpunished

by the British judicial system to this day

If thou art indeed my father,

then thou hast stained thy sword

in the lifeblood of thy son.

And thou didst it of thine own obstinacy.

For I sought to turn thee into love…

– from the Shahnameh

Chapter One

HE FOUND THE BODY ON THE FORTY-THIRD DAY OF HIS WALK. By then, the end of April had arrived, although he had only the vaguest idea of that. Had he been capable of noticing his surroundings, the condition of the flora along the coast might have given him a broad hint as to the time of year. He’d started out when the only sign of life renewed was the promise of yellow buds on the gorse that grew sporadically along the cliff tops, but by April, the gorse was wild with color, and yellow archangel climbed in tight whorls along upright stems in hedgerows on the rare occasions when he wandered into a village. Soon foxglove would be nodding on roadside verges, and lamb’s foot would expose fiery heads from the hedgerows and the drystone walls that defined individual fields in this part of the world. But those bits of burgeoning life were in the future, and he’d been walking these days that had blended into weeks in an effort to avoid both the thought of the future and the memory of the past.

He carried virtually nothing with him. An ancient sleeping bag. A rucksack with a bit of food that he replenished when the thought occurred to him. A bottle within that rucksack that he filled with water in the morning if water was to be had near the site where he’d slept. Everything else, he wore. One waxed jacket. One hat. One tattersall shirt. One pair of trousers. Boots. Socks. Underclothes. He’d come out for this walk unprepared and uncaring that he was unprepared. He’d known only that he had to walk or he had to remain at home and sleep, and if he remained at home and slept, he’d come to realise that eventually he would will himself not to awaken again.

So he walked. There had seemed no alternative. Steep ascents to cliff tops, the wind striking his face, the sharp salt air desiccating his skin, scrambling across beaches where reefs erupted from sand and stone when the tide was low, his breath coming short, rain soaking his legs, stones pressing insistently against his soles…These things would remind him that he was alive and that he was intended to remain so.

He was thus engaged in a wager with fate. If he survived the walk, so be it. If he did not, his ending was in the hands of the gods. In the plural, he decided. He could not think that there might be a single Supreme Being out there, pressing fingers into the keyboard of a divine computer, inserting this or forever deleting that.

His family had asked him not to go, for they’d seen his state, although like so many families of his class, they’d not made any direct mention of it. Just his mother saying, “Please don’t do this, darling,” and his brother suggesting, with his face gone pale and always the threat of another relapse hanging over him and over them all, “Let me go with you,” and his sister murmuring with her arm round his waist, “You’ll get past it. One does,” but none of them mentioning her name or the word itself, that terrible, eternal, definitive word.

Nor did he mention it. Nor did he mention anything other than his need to walk.

The forty-third day of this walk had taken the same shape as the forty-two days that had preceded it. He’d awakened where he’d fallen on the previous night, with absolutely no knowledge where he was aside from somewhere along the South-West Coast Path. He’d climbed out of his sleeping bag, donned his jacket and his boots, drunk the rest of his water, and begun to move. In midafternoon the weather, which had been uneasy most of the day, made up its mind and blew dark clouds across the sky. In the wind, they piled one upon the other, as if an immense shield in the distance were holding them in place and allowing them no further passage, having made the promise of a storm.

He was struggling in the wind to the top of a cliff, climbing from a V-shaped cove where he’d rested for an hour or so and watched the waves slamming into broad fins of slate that formed the reefs in this place. The tide was just beginning to come in, and he’d noted this. He needed to be well above it. He needed to find some sort of shelter as well.

Near the top of the cliff, he sat. He was winded, and he found it odd that no amount of walking these many days had seemed sufficient to build his endurance for the myriad climbs he was making along the coast. So he paused to catch his breath. He felt a twinge that he recognised as hunger, and he used the minutes of his respite to draw from his rucksack the last of a dried sausage he’d purchased when he’d come to a hamlet along his route. He gnawed it down to nothing, realised that he was also thirsty, and stood to see if anything resembling habitation was nearby: hamlet, fishing cottage, holiday home, or farm.

There was nothing. But thirst was good, he thought with resignation. Thirst was like the sharp stones pressing into the soles of his shoes, like the wind, like the rain. It reminded him, when reminders were needed.

He turned back to the sea. He saw that a lone surfer bobbed there, just beyond the breaking waves. At this time of year, the figure was entirely clothed in black neoprene. It was the only way to enjoy the frigid water.

He knew nothing about surfing, but he knew a fellow cenobite when he saw one. There was no religious meditation involved, but they were both alone in places where they should not have been alone. They were also both alone in conditions that were not suited for what they were attempting. For him, the coming rain-for there could be little doubt that rain was moments away from falling-would make his walk along the coast slippery and dangerous. For the surfer, the exposed reefs onshore demanded an answer to the question that asked why he surfed at all.

He had no answer and little interest in developing one. His inadequate meal finished, he resumed his walk. The cliffs were friable in this part of the coast, unlike the cliffs where he’d begun his walk. There they were largely granite, igneous intrusions into the landscape, forced upon ancient lava, limestone, and slate. Although worn by time, weather, and the restless sea, they were nonetheless solid underfoot, and a walker could venture near the edge and watch the roiling sea or observe the gulls seeking perches among the crags. Here, however, the cliff edge was culm: slate, shale, and sandstone, and cliff bases were marked by mounds of the stony detritus called clitter that fell regularly to the beach below. Venturing near the edge meant a certain fall. A fall meant broken bones or death.

At this section of his walk, the cliff top leveled out for some one hundred yards. The path was well marked, moving away from the cliff ’s edge and tracing a line between gorse and thrift on one side and a fenced pasture on the other. Exposed here, he bent into the wind, and moved steadily forward. He became aware that his throat was painfully dry, and his head had begun to fill with a dull ache just behind his eyes. He felt a sudden bout of dizziness as he reached the far end of the cliff top. Lack of water, he thought. He would not be able to go much farther without doing something about it.

A stile marked the edge of the high pasture he’d been following, and he climbed it and paused, waiting for the landscape to stop swimming in front of him long enough for him to find the descent to what would be yet another cove. He’d lost count of the inlets he’d come upon in his walk along the undulating coast. He had no idea what this one was called, any more than he’d been able to name the others.

When the vertigo had passed, he saw that a lone cottage stood at the edge of a wide meadow beneath him, perhaps two hundred yards inland from the beach and along the side of a twisting brook. A cottage meant potable water, so he would make for that. It wasn’t a great distance off the path.

He stepped down from the stile just as the first drops of rain fell. He wasn’t wearing his hat at the moment, so he shrugged his rucksack from his shoulders and dug it out. He was pulling it low onto his forehead-an old baseball cap of his brother’s with “Mariners” scrolled across it-when he caught sight of a flash of red. He looked in the direction from which it had seemed to come, and he found it at the base of the cliff that formed the far side of the inlet beneath him. There, a sprawl of red lay across a broad plate of slate. This slate was itself the landward end of a reef, which crept from the cliff bottom out into the sea.

He studied the red sprawl. At this distance it could have been anything from rubbish to laundry, but he knew instinctively that it was not. For although all of it was crumpled, part of it seemed to form an arm, and this arm extended outward onto the slate as if supplicating an unseen benefactor who was not nor would ever be there.

He waited a full minute that he counted off in individual seconds. He waited uselessly to see if the form would move. When it did not, he began his descent.

A LIGHT RAIN WAS falling when Daidre Trahair made the final turn down the lane that led to Polcare Cove. She switched on the windscreen wipers and created a mental note that they would have to be replaced, sooner rather than later. It wasn’t enough to tell herself that spring led to summer and windscreen wipers wouldn’t actually be necessary at that point. Late April was so far being as notoriously unpredictable as usual and while May was generally pleasant in Cornwall, June could be a weather nightmare. So she decided then and there that she had to get new wipers, and she considered where she might purchase them. She was grateful for this mental diversion. It allowed her to push from her mind all consideration of the fact that, at the end of this journey south, she was feeling nothing. No dismay, confusion, anger, resentment, or compassion, and not an ounce of grief.

The grief part didn’t worry her. Who honestly could have expected her to feel it? But the rest of it…to have been bled of every possible emotion in a situation where at least marginal feeling was called for…That concerned her. In part it reminded her of what she’d heard too many times from too many lovers. In part it indicated a regression to a self she thought she’d put behind her.

So the nugatory movement of the windscreen wipers and the resulting smear they left in their wake distracted her. She cast about for potential purveyors of auto parts: In Casvelyn? Possibly. Alsperyl? Hardly. Perhaps she’d have to go all the way to Launceton.

She made a cautious approach to the cottage. The lane was narrow, and while she didn’t expect to meet another car, there was always the possibility that a visitor to the cove and its thin strip of beach might barrel along, departing in a rush and assuming no one else would be out here in this kind of weather.

To her right rose a hillside where gorse and yellow wort made a tangled coverlet. To her left the Polcare valley spread out, an enormous green thumbprint of meadow bisected by a stream that flowed down from Stowe Wood, on higher ground. This place was different from traditional combes in Cornwall, which was why she’d chosen it. A twist of geology made the valley wide, as if glacially formed-although she knew this could not be the case-instead of canyonlike and constrained by river water wearing away eons of unyielding stone. Thus, she never felt hemmed in in Polcare Cove. Her cottage was small, but the environment was large, and open space was crucial to her peace of mind.

Her first warning that things were not as they should have been occurred as she pulled off the lane onto the patch of gravel and grass that served as her driveway. The gate was open. It had no lock, but she knew that she’d left it securely closed for that very reason the last time she’d been here. Now it gaped the width of a body.

Daidre stared at this opening for a moment before she swore at herself for being timid. She got out of the car, swung the gate wide, then drove inside.

When she parked and went to shut the gate behind her, she saw the footprint. It pressed down the soft earth where she’d planted her primroses along the drive. A man-size print, it looked like something made from a boot. A hiking boot. That put her situation in an entirely new light.

She looked from the print to the cottage. The blue front door seemed unmolested, but when she quietly circled the building to check for other signs of intrusion, she found a windowpane broken. This was on a window next to the door that led outside to the stream, and the door itself was off the latch. Fresh mud formed a clump on the step.

Although she knew she should have been frightened, or at least cautious, Daidre was, instead, infuriated by that broken window. She pushed the door open in a state of high dudgeon and stalked through the kitchen to the sitting room. There she stopped. In the dim light of the tenebrous day outside, a form was coming out of her bedroom. He was tall, he was bearded, and he was so filthy that she could smell him from across the room.

She said, “I don’t know who the hell you are or what you’re doing here, but you are going to leave directly. If you don’t leave, I shall become violent with you, and I assure you, you do not want that to happen.”

Then she reached behind her for the switch to the lights in the kitchen. She flipped it and illumination fell broadly across the sitting room to the man’s feet. He took a step towards her, which brought him fully into the light, and she saw his face.

She said, “My God. You’re injured. I’m a doctor. May I help?”

He gestured towards the sea. From this distance, she could hear the waves, as always, but they seemed closer now, the sound of them driven inland by the wind. “There’s a body on the beach,” he said. “It’s up on the rocks. At the bottom of the cliff. It’s…he’s dead. I broke in. I’m sorry. I’ll pay for the damage. I was looking for a phone to ring the police. What is this place?”

“A body? Take me to him.”

“He’s dead. There’s nothing-”

“Are you a doctor? No? I am. Take me to him. We’re losing time when we could otherwise be saving a life.”

The man looked as if he would protest. She wondered if it was disbelief. You? A doctor? Far too young. But he apparently read her determination. He took off the cap he was wearing. He wiped the arm of his jacket along his forehead, inadvertently streaking mud on his face. His light hair, she saw, was overlong, and his colouring was identical to hers. Both trim, both fair, they might have been siblings, even to the eyes. His were brown. So were hers.

He said, “Very well. Come with me,” and he came across the room and passed her, leaving behind the acrid scent of himself: sweat, unwashed clothing, unbrushed teeth, body oil, and something else, more profound and more disturbing. She backed away from him and kept her distance as they left the cottage and started down the lane.

The wind was fierce. They struggled against it and into the rain as they made their way swiftly towards the beach. They passed the point where the valley stream opened into a pool before tumbling across a natural breakwater and rushing down to the sea. This marked the beginning of Polcare Cove, a narrow strand at low water, just rocks and boulders when the tide was high.

The man called into the wind, “Over here,” and he led her to the north side of the cove. From that point, she needed no further direction. She could see the body on an outcropping of slate: the bright red windcheater, the loose dark trousers for ease of movement, the thin and exceedingly flexible shoes. He wore a harness round his waist and from this dangled numerous metal devices and a lightweight bag from which a white substance spilled across the rock. Chalk for his hands, she thought. She moved to see his face.

She said, “God. It’s…He’s a cliff climber. Look, there’s his rope.”

Part of it lay nearby, an extended umbilical cord to which the body was still attached. The rest of it snaked from the body to the bottom of the cliff, where it formed a rough mound, knotted skillfully with a carabiner protruding from the end.

She felt for a pulse although she knew there would be none. The cliff at this point was two hundred feet high. If he’d fallen from there-as he most certainly had-only a miracle could have preserved him.

There had been no miracle. She said to her companion, “You’re right. He’s dead. And with the tide…Look, we’re going to have to move him or-”

“No!” The stranger’s voice was harsh.

Daidre felt a rush of caution. “What?”

“The police have to see it. We must phone the police. Where’s the nearest phone? Have you a mobile? There was nothing…” He indicated the direction from which they’d come. There was no phone in the cottage.

“I haven’t a mobile,” she said. “I don’t bring one when I come here. What does it matter? He’s dead. We can see how it happened. The tide’s coming in, and if we don’t move him the water will.”

“How long?” he asked.

“What?”

“The tide. How long have we got?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at the water. “Twenty minutes? Half an hour? No more than that.”

“Where’s a phone? You’ve got a car.” And in a variation of her own words, “We’re wasting time. I can stay here with the…with him, if you prefer.”

She didn’t prefer. She had the impression he would depart like a spirit if she left things up to him. He would know she’d gone to make the phone call he so wanted made, but he himself would vanish, leaving her to…what? She had a good idea and it wasn’t a welcome one.

She said, “Come with me.”

SHE TOOK THEM TO the Salthouse Inn. It was the only place within miles she could think of that was guaranteed to have a phone available. The inn sat alone at the junction of three roads: a white, squat, thirteenth-century hostelry that stood inland from Alsperyl, south of Shop, and north of Woodford. She drove there swiftly, but the man didn’t complain or show evidence of worry that they might end up down the side of the hill or headfirst into an earthen hedge. He didn’t use his seat belt, and he didn’t hold on.

He said nothing. Nor did she. They rode with the tension of strangers between them and with the tension of much unspoken as well. She was relieved when they finally reached the inn. To be out in the air, away from his stench, was a form of blessing. To have something in front of her-immediate occupation-was a gift from God.

He followed her across the patch of rocky earth that went for a car park, to the low-hung door. Both of them ducked to get inside the inn. They were at once in a vestibule cluttered with jackets, rainwear, and sodden umbrellas. They removed nothing of their own as they entered the bar.

Afternoon drinkers-the inn’s regulars-were still at their normal places: round the scarred tables nearest the fire. Coal, it put out a welcome blaze. It shot light into the faces bent to it and streamed a soft illumination against soot-stained walls.

Daidre nodded to the drinkers. She came here herself, so they were not unfamiliar to her nor she to them. They murmured, “Dr. Trahair,” and one of them said to her, “You come down for the tournament, then?” but the question fell off when her companion was observed. Eyes to him, eyes to her. Speculation and wonder. Strangers were hardly unknown in the district. Good weather brought them to Cornwall in droves. But they came and went as they were-strangers-and they did not generally show up in the company of someone known.

She went to the bar. She said, “Brian, I need to use your phone. There’s been a terrible accident. This man…” She turned from the publican. “I don’t know your name.”

“Thomas,” he told her.

“Thomas. Thomas what?”

“Thomas,” he said.

She frowned but said to the publican, “This man Thomas has found a body in Polcare Cove. We need to phone the police. Brian,” and this she said more quietly, “it’s…I think it’s Santo Kerne.”

CONSTABLE MICK MCNULTY WAS performing patrol duty when his radio squawked, jarring him awake. He considered himself lucky to have been in the panda car at all when the call came through. He’d recently completed a lunchtime quickie with his wife, followed by a sated snooze with both of them naked beneath the counterpane they’d ripped from the bed (“We can’t stain it, Mick. It’s the only one we’ve got!”), and only fifty minutes earlier he’d resumed cruising along the A39 on the lookout for potential malefactors. But the warmth of the car in combination with the rhythm of the windscreen wipers and the fact that his two-year-old son had kept him up most of the previous night weighed down his eyelids and encouraged him to look for a lay-by into which he could pull the car for a kip. He was doing just that-napping-when the radio burst into his dreams.

Body on the beach. Polcare Cove. Immediate response required. Secure the area and report back.

Who phoned it in? he wanted to know.

Cliff walker and a local resident. They would meet him at Polcare Cottage.

Which was where?

Bloody hell, man. Use your effing head.

Mick gave the radio two fingers. He started the car and pulled onto the road. He’d get to use the lights and the siren, which generally happened only in summer when a tourist in a hurry made a vehicular misjudgment with dire results. At this time of year, the only action he usually saw was from a surfer anxious to blast into the water of Widemouth Bay: Too much speed into the car park, too late to brake, and over the edge onto the sand he’d go. Well, Mick understood that urgency. He felt it himself when the waves were good and the only thing keeping him from his wet suit and his board were the uniform he wore and the thought of being able to wear it-right here in Casvelyn-into his dotage. Messing up a sinecure was not in his game plan. They did not refer to a posting in Casvelyn as the velvet coffin for nothing.

With siren and lights, it still took him nearly twenty minutes to reach Polcare Cottage, which was the only habitation along the road down to the cove. The distance wasn’t great as the crow flies-less than five miles-but the lanes were no wider than a car and a half, and, defined by farmland, woodland, hamlet, and village, not a single one of them was straight.

The cottage was painted mustard yellow, a beacon in the gloomy afternoon. It was an anomaly in an area where nearly every other structure was white, and in further defiance of local tradition, its two outbuildings were purple and lime, respectively. Neither of them was illuminated, but the small windows of the cottage itself streamed light onto the garden that surrounded it.

Mick silenced the siren and parked the police car, although he left the headlamps on and the roof lights twirling, which he considered a nice touch. He pushed through a gate and passed an old Vauxhall in the driveway. At the front door, he knocked sharply on the bright blue panels. A figure appeared quickly on the other side of a stained-glass window high on the door, as if she’d been standing nearby waiting for him. She wore snug jeans and a turtleneck sweater; long earrings dangled as she gestured Mick inside.

“I’m Daidre Trahair,” she said. “I made the call.”

She admitted him to a small square entry crammed with Wellingtons, hiking boots, and jackets. A large egg-shaped iron kettle that Mick recognised as an old mining kibble stood to one side, filled with umbrellas and walking sticks instead of with ore. A gouged and ill-used narrow bench marked a spot for changing in and out of boots. There was barely space to move.

Mick shook the rainwater from his jacket and followed Daidre Trahair into the heart of the cottage, which was the sitting room. Here, an unkempt bearded man was squatting by the fireplace, taking ineffective stabs at five pieces of coal with a duck-headed poker. They should have used a candle beneath the coal until it got going, Mick thought. That was what his mum had always done. It worked a treat.

“Where’s the body?” he said. “I’ll want your details as well.” He took out his notebook.

“The tide’s coming in,” the man said. “The body’s on the…I don’t know if it’s part of the reef, but the water…You’ll want to see the body surely. Before the rest. The formalities, I mean.”

Being given a suggestion like this-by a civilian who no doubt obtained all his information about procedure from police dramas on ITV-got right up Mick’s nose. As did the man’s voice, whose tone, timbre, and accent were completely out of keeping with his appearance. He looked like a vagrant but certainly didn’t talk like one. He put Mick in mind of what his grandparents referred to as “the old days,” when before the days of international travel people always known as “the quality” cruised down to Cornwall in their fancy cars and stayed in big hotels with wide verandas. “They knew how to tip, they did,” his granddad would tell him. “’Course things were less dear in those days, weren’t they, so tuppence went a mile and a shilling’d take you all the way to London.” He exaggerated like that, Mick’s granddad. It was, his mother said, part of his charm.

“I wanted to move the body,” Daidre Trahair said. “But he”-with a nod at the man-“said not to. It’s an accident. Well, obviously, it’s an accident, so I couldn’t see why…Frankly, I was afraid the surf would take him.”

“Do you know who it is?”

“I…no,” she said. “I didn’t get much of a look at his face.”

Mick hated to cave in to them, but they were right. He tilted his head in the direction of the door. “Let’s see him.”

They set off into the rain. The man brought out a faded baseball cap and put it on. The woman used a rain jacket with the hood pulled over her sandy hair.

Mick paused at the police car and fetched the small flash camera that he’d been authorised to carry. Its purchase had been intended for a moment just like this. If he had to move the body, they’d at least have a visual record of what the spot had looked like before the waves rose to claim the corpse.

At the water’s edge, the wind was fierce, and a beach break was coming from both left and right. These were rapid waves, seductive swells building offshore. But they were forming fast and breaking faster: just the sort of surf to attract and demolish someone who didn’t know what he was doing.

The body, however, wasn’t that of a surfer. This came as something of a surprise to Mick. He’d assumed…But assuming was an idiot’s game. He was glad he’d jumped only to mental conclusions and said nothing to the man and woman who’d phoned for help.

Daidre Trahair was right. It looked like some kind of accident. A young climber-most decidedly dead-lay on a shelf of slate at the base of the cliff.

Mick swore silently when he stood over the body. This wasn’t the best place to cliff climb, either alone or with a partner. While there were swathes of slate, which provided good handholds, toe-holds, and cracks into which camming devices and chock stones could be slid for the climber’s safety, there were also vertical fields of sandstone that crumbled as easily as yesterday’s scones if the right pressure was put upon them.

From the look of things, the victim had been attempting a solo climb: an abseil down from the top of the cliff, followed by a climb up from the bottom. The rope was in one piece and the carabiner was still attached to the rewoven figure-eight knot at the end. The climber himself was still bound to the rope by a belay device. His descent from above should have gone like clockwork.

Equipment failure at the top of the cliff, Mick concluded. He’d have to climb up via the coastal path and see what was what when he was finished down here.

He took the pictures. The tide was creeping towards the body. He photographed it and everything surrounding it from every possible angle before he unhooked his radio from his shoulder and barked into it. He got static in return.

He said, “Damn,” and clambered to the high point of the beach where the man and woman were waiting. He said to the man, “I’ll need you directly,” took five steps away, and once again shouted into his radio. “Phone the coroner,” he told the sergeant manning the station in Casvelyn. “We need to move the body. We’ve got a bloody great tide coming in, and if we don’t move this bloke, he’s going to be gone.”

And then they waited, for there was nothing else to do. The minutes ticked by, the water rose, and finally the radio bleated. “Coroner’s…okay…from surf…road,” the disembodied voice croaked. “What…site…needed?”

“Get out here and bring your rain kit with you. Get someone to man the station while we’re gone.”

“Know…body?”

“Some kid. I don’t know who it is. When we get him off the rocks, I’ll check for ID.”

Mick approached the man and woman, who were huddled separately against the wind and the rain. He said to the man, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but we have a job to do and I don’t want you doing anything other than what I tell you. Come with me,” and to the woman, “You as well.”

They picked their way across the rock-strewn beach. No sand was left down near the water; the tide had covered it. They went single file across the first slate slab. Halfway across, the man stopped and extended his hand back to Daidre Trahair to assist her. She shook her head. She was fine, she told him.

When they reached the body, the tide was lapping at the slab on which it lay. Another ten minutes and it would be gone. Mick gave directions to his two companions. The man would help him move the corpse to the shore. The woman would collect anything that remained behind. It wasn’t the best situation, but it would have to do. They could not afford to wait for the professionals.

Chapter Two

CADAN ANGARRACK DIDN’T MIND THE RAIN. NOR DID HE mind the spectacle that he knew he presented to the limited world of Casvelyn. He trundled along on his freestyle BMX, with his knees rising to the height of his waist and his elbows shooting out like bent arrows, intent only on getting home to make his announcement. Pooh bounced on his shoulder, squawking in protest and occasionally shrieking, “Landlubber scum!” into Cadan’s ear. This was decidedly better than applying his beak to Cadan’s earlobe, which had happened in the past before the parrot learned the error of his ways, so Cadan didn’t try to silence the bird. Instead he said, “You tell ’em, Pooh,” to which the parrot cried, “Blow holes in the attic!” an expression whose provenance was a mystery to his master.

Had he been out working with the bicycle instead of using it as a means of transport, Cadan wouldn’t have had the parrot with him. In early days, he’d taken Pooh along, finding a perch for him near the side of the empty swimming pool while he ran through his routines and developed strategies for improving not only his tricks but the area in which he practised them. But some damn teacher from the infants’ school next door to the leisure centre had raised the alarm about Pooh’s vocabulary and what it was doing to the innocent ears of the seven-year-olds whose minds she was trying to mould, and Cadan had been given the word. Leave the bird at home if he couldn’t keep him quiet and if he wanted to use the empty pool. So there had been no choice in the matter. Until today, he’d had to use the pool because so far he’d made not the slightest inroad with the town council about establishing trails for air jumping on Binner Down. Instead, they’d looked at him the way they would have looked at a psycho, and Cadan knew what they were thinking, which was just what his father not only thought but said: Twenty-two years old and you’re playing with a bicycle? What the hell’s the matter with you?

Nothing, Cadan thought. Not a sodding thing. You think this is easy? Tabletop? Tailwhip? Try it sometime.

But of course, they never would. Not the town councilors and not his dad. They’d just look at him and their expressions would say, Make something of your life. Get a job, for God’s sake.

And that was what he had to tell his father: Gainful employment was his. Pooh on his shoulder or not, he’d actually managed to acquire another job. Of course, his dad didn’t need to know how he’d acquired it. He didn’t need to know it was really all about Cadan asking if Adventures Unlimited had thought about the use to which its decrepit crazy golf course could be put and ending up with a brokered deal of maintenance work in the old hotel in exchange for utilising the crazy golf course’s hills and dales-minus their windmills, barns, and other assorted structures, naturally-for perfecting air tricks. All Lew Angarrack had to know was that, sacked once again for his myriad failures in the family business-and who the hell wanted to shape surfboards anyway?-Cadan had gone out and replaced Job A with Job B within seventy-two hours. Which was something of a record, Cadan decided. He usually gave his dad an excuse to remain in a state of cheesed-off-at-him for five or six weeks at least.

He was jouncing along the unpaved lane behind Victoria Road and wiping the rain from his face when his father drove past him on the way to the house. Lew Angarrack didn’t look at his son, although his expression of distaste told Cadan his father had clocked the sight he presented, not to mention been given a reminder of why his progeny was on a bicycle in the rain and no longer behind the wheel of his car.

Up ahead of him, Cadan saw his father get out of the RAV4 and open the garage door. He reversed the Toyota into the garage, and by the time Cadan wheeled his bicycle through the gate and into the back garden, Lew had already hosed off his surfboard. He was heaving his wet suit out of the four-by-four to wash it off as well, while the hosepipe burbled freshwater onto the patch of lawn.

Cadan watched him for a moment. He knew that he looked like his father, but their similarities ended with the physical. They had the same stocky bodies, with broad chests and shoulders, so they were built like wedges, and the same surfeit of dark hair, although his father was growing more and more of it over his body, so that he was starting to look like what Cadan’s sister privately called him, which was Gorilla Man. But that was it. As to the rest, they were chalk and cheese. His father’s idea of a good time was making sure everything was permanently in its place with nothing changing one iota till the end of his days, while Cadan’s was…well, decidedly different. His father’s world was Casvelyn start to finish and if he ever made it to the north shore of Oahu-big dream, Dad, and you just keep dreaming-that would be the world’s biggest all-time miracle. Cadan, on the other hand, had miles to go before he slept and the end of those miles was going to be his name in lights, the X Games, gold medals, and his grinning mug on the cover of Ride BMX.

He said to his father, “Onshore wind today. Why’d you head out?”

Lew didn’t reply. He streamed the water over his wetsuit, flipped it, and did the same to the other side. He washed out the boots, the hood, and the gloves before he looked at Cadan and then at the Mexican parrot on his shoulder.

He said, “Best get that bird out of the rain.”

Cadan said, “It won’t hurt him. It rains where he comes from. You didn’t get any waves, did you? Tide’s just now coming in. Where’d you go?”

“Didn’t need waves.” His father scooped the wet suit from the lawn and hung it where he always hung it: over an aluminium lawn chair whose webbed seat caved in with the ghost weight of a thousand bums. “I wanted to think. Don’t need waves for thinking, do I?”

Then why go to the trouble of getting the kit ready and hauling it down to the sea? Cadan wanted to ask. But he didn’t because if he asked the question, he’d get an answer and the answer would be what his father had been thinking of. There were three possibilities, but since one of them was Cadan himself and his list of transgressions, he decided to forego further conversation in this area. Instead, he followed his father into the house, where Lew dried his hair off with a limp towel left hanging for this purpose on the back of the door. Then he went to the kettle and switched it on. He’d have instant coffee, one sugar, no milk. He’d drink it in a mug that said “Newquay Invitational” on it. He’d stand at the window and look at the back garden and when he’d finished the coffee, he’d wash the mug. Mr. Spontaneity himself.

Cadan waited till Lew had the coffee in hand and was at the window as usual. He used the time to establish Pooh in the sitting room at his regular perch. He returned to the kitchen himself to say, “Got a job, then, Dad.”

His father drank. He made no sound. No slurp of hot liquid and no grunt of acknowledgement. When he finally spoke, it was to say, “Where’s your sister, Cade?”

Cadan refused to allow the question to deflate him. He said, “Did you hear what I told you? I’ve got a job. A decent one.”

“And did you hear what I asked you? Where’s Madlyn?”

“As it’s a workday for her, I expect she’s at work.”

“I stopped there. She’s not.”

“Then I don’t know where she is. Moping into her soup somewhere. Crying into her porridge. Whatever she might be doing instead of pulling herself together like anyone else would. You’d think the bloody world has ended.”

“Is she in her room?”

“I told you-”

“Where?” Lew still hadn’t turned from the window, which was maddening to Cadan. It made him want to down six pints of lager right in front of the man, just to get his attention.

“I said I didn’t know where-”

“Where’s the job?” Lew pivoted, not just a turn of his head but of his whole body. He leaned against the windowsill. He watched his son, and Cadan knew he was being read, evaluated, and found wanting. It was an expression on his father’s face he’d been looking at since he was six years old.

“Adventures Unlimited,” he said. “I’m to do maintenance on the hotel till the season starts.”

“What happens then?”

“If things work out, I’ll do instruction.” This last bit was a stretch, but anything was possible, and they were in the process of interviewing instructors for the summer, weren’t they? Abseiling, cliff climbing, sea kayaking, swimming, sailing…He could do all of that, and even if they didn’t want him in those activities, there was always freestyle BMX and his plans for altering the crazy golf course. He didn’t mention this to his father, though. One word about the freestyle bicycle and Lew would read Ulterior Motives as if the words were tattooed on Cadan’s forehead.

“‘If things work out.’” Lew blew a short breath through his nose, his version of a derisive snort, which said more than a dramatic monologue would have and all of it based upon the same subject. “How’re you intending to get there, then? On that thing outside?” By which he meant the bike. “Because you won’t be getting your car keys back from me, nor your driving licence. So don’t start thinking a job’ll make a difference.”

“I’m not asking for my keys back, am I?” Cadan said. “I’m not asking for my licence. I’ll walk. Or I’ll ride the bike if I have to. I don’t care what I look like. I rode it there today, didn’t I?”

That breath again. Cadan wished his father would just say what he was thinking instead of always telegraphing it through facial expressions and not-so-subtle sounds. If Lew Angarrack just came out and declared, You’re a loser, lad, Cadan would at least have something to row with him about: failures as son set against a different sort of failures as father. But Lew always took the indirect route, and this was one that generally used the vehicle of silence, heavy breathing, and-in a pinch-outright comparisons of Cadan and his sister. She was the sainted Madlyn, of course, a world-class surfer, headed for the top. Until recently, that is.

Cadan felt bad for his sister and what had happened to her, but a small, nasty part of him crowed in joy. For such a small girl, she’d been casting a large shadow for far too many years. He said, “So that’s it, then? No, ‘Good job of it, Cade,’ or ‘Congratulations,’ or even ‘Well, you’ve surprised me for once.’ I find a job-and it’s going to pay good money, by the way-but that’s sod all to you because…what? It’s not good enough? It’s got nothing to do with surfing? It’s-”

“You had a job, Cade. You cocked it up.” Lew downed the rest of his coffee and took his mug to the sink. There, he scoured it out as he scoured out everything. No stains, no germs.

“That’s bollocks,” Cadan said. “Working for you was always a bad idea, and we both know that, even if you won’t admit it. I’m not a detail person. I never was. I don’t have the…I don’t know…the patience or whatever.”

Lew dried the mug and the spoon. He put them both away. He wiped down the scratched, old stainless-steel work top, although there wasn’t a crumb upon it. “Your trouble is, you want everything to be fun. But life’s not that way, and you don’t want to see it.”

Cadan gestured outside, towards the back garden and the surfing kit that his father had just rinsed off. “And that’s not fun? You’ve spent all your free time for your entire life riding waves, but I’m supposed to see that as…what? Some noble endeavour like curing AIDS? Putting an end to world poverty? You give me aggro about doing what I want to do, but haven’t you done the very same? But wait. Don’t answer. I already know. What you do’s all about grooming a champion. Having a goal. While what I do-”

“There’s nothing wrong with having a goal.”

“Right. Yes. And I have mine. It’s just not the same as yours. Or Madlyn’s. Or what Madlyn’s was.”

“Where is she?” Lew asked.

“I told you-”

“I know what you told me. But you must have some idea where your own sister might have taken herself off to if she didn’t go to work. You know her. And him. You know him as well, if it comes down to it.”

“Hey. Don’t put that on me. She knew his reputation. Everyone knows it. But she wasn’t having any words of wisdom from anyone. And anyway, what you really care about is not where she is at this exact moment but that she got derailed. Just like you.”

“She isn’t derailed.”

“She bloody well is. And where does that leave you, Dad? You pinned your dreams on her instead of living your own.”

“She’ll get back to it.”

“Don’t put money on that.”

“And don’t you-” Abruptly, Lew bit off whatever it was he’d intended to say.

They faced each other then across the width of kitchen. It was an expanse of less than ten feet, but it was also a chasm that grew wider every year. Each of them stood at his respective edge, and it seemed to Cadan that the time would come when one of them was going to topple over the side.

SELEVAN PENRULE TOOK HIS time about getting over to Clean Barrel Surf Shop, having quickly decided it would be unseemly to bolt out of the Salthouse Inn the moment the whisper went round about Santo Kerne. He certainly had reason to bolt, but he knew it wouldn’t look good. Beyond that, at his age he was beyond bolting anywhere. Too many years of milking cows, not to mention herding the bloody bovines in and out of pastures, and his back was permanently bent and his hips were done for. Sixty-eight years old, he felt like eighty. He should have sold out and opened up the caravan park thirty-five years earlier, and he would have done so had he only had the cash, the bollocks, the vision, no wife, and no kids. They were all gone now, the house was torn down, and the farm was converted. Sea Dreams, he’d called it. Four neat rows of holiday caravans like shoe boxes, perched on the cliffs above the sea.

In his car, he was careful. There were dogs occasionally on the country lanes. Cats too. Rabbits. Birds. Selevan hated the thought of hitting something, not so much because of the guilt or responsibility he might feel having brought about a death but because of the inconvenience it would cause him. He’d have to stop and he hated to stop once he set out on a course of action. In this case, the course of action was getting himself over to Casvelyn and into the surf shop where his granddaughter worked. He wanted Tammy to hear the news from him.

When he reached the town, he parked on the wharf, the nose of his antique Land Rover pointing towards the Casvelyn Canal, a narrow cut that had once connected Holsworthy and Launceston with the sea but that now meandered inland for seven miles before ending abruptly, like an interrupted thought. This put him across the River Cas from the centre of town where the surf shop was, but finding a spot for the car was always too much trouble over there-no matter the weather or the time of year-and, anyway, he wanted the walk. Tracing a path back along the crescent of road that defined the southwest edge of the town, he would have time to think. He had to have an approach that would play the information out and allow him to gauge her reaction to it. For what Tammy said she was and who Tammy really was were, as far as Selevan Penrule was concerned, in outright contradiction to each other. She just didn’t know that yet.

Out of the car, he gave a nod to several fishermen who stood smoking in the rain, their craft at rest against the side of the wharf. They’d have come up from the sea by way of the canal lock at the wharf ’s far end, and they presented a stark contrast to the boats and boatmen who would be in Casveyln with the start of summer. Selevan vastly preferred this group to those who would arrive with the better weather. True, he made his money from the tourist trade, but he didn’t have to like that fact.

He set off into the heart of town, going towards it along a string of shops. He stopped for a takeaway coffee at Jill’s Juices and then again for a packet of Dunhills and a roll of breath mints at Pukkas Pizza Slices Et Cetera (the accent being on the et cetera, for their pizza was rubbish in a shoe), which was where the Crescent made its turn up into the Strand. Here the road created a slow climb to the top of the town, and Clean Barrel Surf Shop stood on a corner half the distance up, just along a route that offered a hair salon, a decrepit nightclub, two extremely down-at-heel hotels, and a fish-and-chips takeaway.

He finished his coffee before he got to the surf shop. There was no bin nearby, so he folded the takeaway cup and put it in the pocket of his rain jacket. Ahead of him, he could see a young man with Julius Caesar hair having an earnest conversation with Nigel Coyle, Clean Barrel’s owner. This would be Will Mendick, Selevan thought. He’d had high hopes of Will, but so far they’d come to nothing.

Selevan heard Will saying to Nigel Coyle, “I admit I was wrong, Mr. Coyle. I shouldn’t even have suggested it. But it’s not like it’s something I ever did before,” to which Coyle replied, “You’re not a very good liar, are you,” before walking off with his car keys jingling in his hand.

Will said darkly, “Sod you, man. Sod you for a lark,” and as Selevan came up to him, “Hullo, Mr. Penrule. Tammy’s inside.”

Selevan found his granddaughter restocking a rack with colourful brochures. He observed her the way he always observed her, like a species of mammal he’d never come upon before. Most of what he saw he disapproved of. She was skin and bones in black: black shoes, black tights, black skirt, black jersey. Hair too thin and cut too short and not even a bit of that sticky goo in it to make it do something other than what it did, which was lie lifelessly against her skull.

Selevan could have coped with the black and the skin and bones of the girl if she’d given the slightest bit of evidence that she might be normal. Ring her eyes with kohl and plant silver rings through her eyebrows and her lips and a stud in her tongue, and he understood that. Mind, he didn’t like it, but he understood. That was the fashion among certain people her age and they’d come to their senses, one hoped, before they disfigured themselves entirely. When they hit twenty-one or maybe twenty-five and they discovered that gainful employment wasn’t beating a path to their doorsteps, they’d sort themselves out. Like Tammy’s father. And what was he now? Lieutenant colonel in the army with a posting in Rhodesia or wherever, because Selevan could never keep track of him-and it would always be Rhodesia to Selevan, never mind what it wanted to call itself-and a distinguished career stretching out before him.

But as for Tammy? Can we send her to you, Dad? her father had asked Selevan, his voice coming over the phone line as true as if he’d been standing in the very next room and not in an African hotel where he’d parked his daughter prior to flying her off to England. And what was her granddad to do, then? She had her ticket. She was on her way. We can send her to you, can’t we, Dad? This isn’t the right environment for her. She sees too much. We think that’s the problem.

Selevan himself had his own ideas of what the problem was, but he liked the thought of a son relying on his father’s wisdom. Send her, Selevan told David. But mind, I’ll not have any of her nonsense if she’s going to stop with me. She’ll eat her meals and clean up after herself and-

That, his son told him, would not be a problem.

True enough. The girl barely left a wake behind her. If Selevan had thought she would cause him trouble, what he’d come to learn was that the trouble she caused came from not causing trouble at all. That wasn’t normal, which was the heart of the matter. For damn it all, she was his granddaughter. And that meant she was meant to be normal.

She tapped the final brochure into place and straightened the rack. She stepped back, as if to see its effect, just as Will Mendick came into the shop. He said to Tammy, “No bloody good. Coyle won’t take me back,” and then to Selevan, “You’re early today, Mr. Penrule.”

Tammy swung round from the brochure rack at this. She said, “Grandie. Didn’t you get my message?”

“Haven’t been home,” Selevan told her.

“Oh. I was…Will and I were meaning to have a coffee after closing.”

“Were you now?” Selevan was pleased. Perhaps, he thought, he’d been incorrect in his assessment of Tammy’s regard for the younger man.

“He was going to drive me home afterwards.” Then she frowned as she seemed to realise it was too early for her grandfather to be there to fetch her home anyway. She looked at a watch that flopped round on her thin wrist.

“Come from the Salthouse Inn,” Selevan said. “Been an accident out round Polcare Cove.”

“Are you all right?” she asked. “Did you get in a smash with the car or something?” She sounded concerned, and this gratified Selevan. Tammy loved her old granddad. He might be short with her, but she never held it against him.

“Not me,” he said, and here he began to watch her closely. “It was Santo Kerne.”

“Santo? What’s happened to him?”

Was there a rise to her voice? Panic? A warding off of bad news? Selevan wanted to think so, but he couldn’t reconcile the tone of her voice with the look that she exchanged with Will Mendick.

“Fell off the cliff, way I understand it,” he said. “Down Polcare Cove. Dr. Trahair brought some coast walker to the inn to phone the police. This bloke-the walker-he found the boy.”

“Is he all right?” Will Mendick asked even as Tammy said, “Santo’s all right, though, isn’t he?”

Selevan was definitely gratified at this: the rush of Tammy’s words and what that rush of words indicated about her feelings. No matter that Santo Kerne was about as worthless an object for a young girl’s affections as could be found. If affection was present, that was a positive sign, and Selevan Penrule had recently allowed the Kerne boy access to his property at Sea Dreams for just this reason. Give him a shortcut across to the sea cliffs or the sea itself and who knew what might blossom in Tammy’s heart? And that had been the objective, hadn’t it? Tammy, blossoming, and a diversion.

“Don’t know,” Selevan told her. “Just that Dr. Trahair came in and told Brian over Salthouse that Santo Kerne was down on the rocks ’n Polcare Cove. That’s all I know.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Will Mendick said.

“Was he surfing, Grandie?” Tammy asked. But she didn’t look at her grandfather when she spoke. She kept her eyes on Will.

This made Selevan look more closely at the young man. Will, he saw, was breathing oddly, a bit like a runner, but his face had lost colour. He was a ruddy boy naturally, so it was noticeable when the blood drained away.

“Don’t know what he was doing, do I?” Selevan said. “But something’s happened to him, that’s for certain. And it looks bad.”

“Why?” Will asked.

“Cos they’d’ve hardly left the boy on the rocks alone if he’d only been hurt and not…” He shrugged.

“Not dead?” Tammy said.

“Dead?” Will repeated.

Tammy said, “Go, Will.”

“But how can I-”

“You’ll think of something. Just go. We’ll have coffee another time.”

That was apparently all he needed. Will nodded at Selevan and headed for the door. He touched Tammy on the shoulder as he passed her. He said, “Thanks, Tam. I’ll ring you.”

Selevan tried to take this as a positive sign.

DAYLIGHT WAS FAST FADING by the time Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford arrived in Polcare Cove. She’d been in the midst of buying football shoes for her son when her mobile had rung, and she’d completed the purchase without giving Pete a chance to point out that he’d not tried on every style available, as was his habit. She’d said, “We buy now or you come back later with your father,” and that had been enough. His father would force him into the least expensive pair, brooking no arguments about it.

They’d left the shop in a hurry and dashed through the rain to the car. She’d rung Ray from the road. It wasn’t his night for Pete, but Ray was flexible. He was a cop as well, and he knew the demands of the job. He’d meet them in Polcare Cove, he said. “Got a jumper?” he’d asked her.

“Don’t know yet,” she’d said.

Bodies at the bases of cliffs were not rare in this part of the world. People climbed foolishly on the culm, people wandered too near the edge of the cliffs and went over, or people jumped. If the tide was high, the bodies sometimes were never found. If it was low, the police had a chance to sort out how they had got there.

Pete was saying enthusiastically, “I bet it’s all bloody. I bet its head cracked open like a rotten egg and its guts ’n brains’re all over the place.”

“Peter.” Bea cast him a glance. He was slouched against the door, the shopping bag containing his shoes clutched to his chest as if he thought someone might rip it from him. He had spots on his face-the curse of the young adolescent, Bea remembered, although her own adolescence was forty years long gone-and braces on his teeth. Looking at him at fourteen years of age, she found it impossible to imagine the man he might one day become.

“What?” he demanded. “You said someone went over the cliff. I bet he went headfirst and splattered his skull. I bet he took a dive. I bet he-”

“You wouldn’t talk that way if you’d ever seen someone who’s fallen.”

“Wicked,” Pete breathed.

He was doing it deliberately, Bea thought, trying to provoke a row. He was angry that he had to go to his father’s and angrier still about the disruption to their plans, which had been the rare treat of takeaway pizza and a DVD. He’d chosen a film about football, which his father would not be interested in watching with him, unlike his mother. Bea and Pete were as one when it came to football.

She decided to let his anger go unconfronted. There wasn’t time to deal with it and, anyway, he had to learn to cope when plans got changed, because no plan was ever written in concrete.

The rain was coming down in sheets when they finally reached the vicinity of Polcare Cove. This wasn’t a place Bea Hannaford had been to before, so she peered through the windscreen and crawled along the lane. This descended through a woodland in a series of switchbacks before shooting out from beneath the budding trees, climbing up once again into farmland defined by thick earthen hedgerows, and descending a final time towards the sea. Here, the land opened to form a meadow at the northwest edge of which stood a mustard-coloured cottage with two nearby outbuildings, the only habitation in this place.

A panda car jutted partially into the lane from the cottage driveway, with another police vehicle sitting directly in front of it, nudging against a white Vauxhall near the cottage itself. Bea didn’t stop since to do so would have blocked the road entirely, and she knew there would be many more vehicles arriving and needing access to the beach long before the day was done. She went farther along towards the sea and found what went for a car park: a patch of earth that was potholed like a piece of Swiss cheese. There she stopped.

Pete reached for the handle of his door. She said, “Wait here.”

“But I want to see-”

“Pete, you heard me. Wait here. Your father’s on his way. If he shows up and you’re not in the car…Do I need to say more?”

Pete threw himself back against the seat, looking sulky. “It wouldn’t hurt if I looked. And it’s not my night to stay at Dad’s anyway.”

Ah. They were at it. He knew how to choose his moment, so like his father. She said, “Flexibility, Pete. As you well know, it’s the key to every game, including the game of life. Now wait here.”

“But, Mum-”

She pulled him towards her. She kissed him roughly against the side of the head. “Wait,” she told him.

A knock on her window drew her attention. A constable stood there in rain gear, his eyelashes spiked by water, a torch in his hand. It wasn’t switched on, but they would need it soon. She got out into the gusting wind and the rain, zipped her jacket, pulled up her hood, and said, “DI Hannaford. What’ve we got?”

“Kid. Dead.”

“Jumper?”

“No. There’s rope attached to the body. I expect he fell during an abseil down the cliff. He’s got a belay device still on the rope.”

“Who’s up at that cottage? There’s another panda car.”

“Duty sergeant from Casvelyn. He’s with the two who found the body.”

“Show me what we’ve got. Who are you, by the way?”

He introduced himself as Mick McNulty, constable from the Casvelyn station. There were only two of them manning the place: himself and a sergeant. It was a typical setup for the countryside.

McNulty led the way. The body lay some thirty yards from the breaking waves, but a good distance from the cliff itself from which it must have fallen. The constable had had the presence of mind to cover the corpse with a sheet of bright blue plastic, and he’d been prescient enough to arrange it so that-with the aid of rocks-the sheet didn’t touch the body.

Bea nodded and McNulty lifted the sheet to expose the corpse while protecting it from the rain. The plastic crackled and snapped like a blue sail in the wind. Bea squatted, raised her hand for the torch, and shone its light onto the young man, who lay on his back. He was blond, with sun-streaked hair that curled cherubically round his face. His eyes were blue and sightless, and his flesh was excoriated from hitting the rocks as he fell. He was bruised as well-an eye was blackened-but this looked like an older injury. The colour had yellowed as the skin healed. He was dressed for climbing: He still had his step-in harness fastened round his waist with at least two dozen metal bits and bobs hanging from it, and a rope was coiled on his chest. This remained knotted to a carabiner. But what the carabiner had been attached to…That was the question.

“Who is this?” Bea asked. “Do we have an ID?”

“Nothing on him.”

She looked towards the cliff. “Who moved the body?”

“Me and the bloke who found it.” He went on quickly lest she reprimand him, “It was that or drag it, Guv. I couldn’t’ve moved it on my own.”

“We’ll want your clothes, then. His as well. He’s up at the cottage, you say?”

“My clothes?”

“What did you expect, Constable?” She pulled out her mobile and flipped it open. She looked at the screen and sighed. No signal.

Constable McNulty, at least, wore a radio on his shoulder, and she told him to make the arrangements for a Home Office pathologist to get down here as soon as possible. This, she knew, wasn’t going to be soon at all as the pathologist would have to come from Exeter. And that would be only if he or she was actually in Exeter and not involved in something somewhere else. It was going to be a long evening and a longer night.

While McNulty radioed as ordered, she gazed once more at the body. He was a teenager. He was very good looking. He was fit, muscular. He was kitted out to climb, but like so many climbers his age, he wore no headgear. That might have saved him, but it might have been superfluous. Only a postmortem would be able to tell.

Her gaze went from the body to the cliff. She could see that the coastal path-a walking trail in Cornwall that began in Marsland Mouth and ended in Cremyll-marked a twisting passage up from the car park to the top of this rise, just as it did along much of the Cornish coast. The sea-cliff climber who lay at her feet had to have left something up there. His identification, one hoped. A car, a motocycle, a bike. They were out in the middle of nowhere, and it was impossible to believe he’d come here on foot. They’d know who he was soon enough. But one of them was going to have to go up there to see.

She said to Constable McNulty, “You’ll need to climb up and see what he’s left on the cliff top. Have a care, though. That path’s going to be murder in the rain.”

They exchanged looks at her choice of words: murder. It was too early to tell. But they would know eventually.

Chapter Three

SINCE DAIDRE TRAHAIR LIVED BY HERSELF, SHE WAS USED TO silence, and because at work she was most often surrounded by noise, when she had the opportunity to exist for a while where the only sound was that which was ambient, she experienced no anxiety even when she found herself in a group of people with nothing to say to one another. In the evenings, she rarely turned on a radio or the television. When the phone rang at her home, she often didn’t bother to answer it. So the fact that at least an hour had passed in which not a word had been spoken by either of her companions did not trouble her.

She sat near the fire with a book of Gertrude Jekyll’s garden plans. She marveled at them. The plans themselves were done in watercolours, and where there were gardens available to photograph, those accompanied the plans. The woman had understood much about form, colour, and design, and as such, was Daidre’s goddess. The Idea-and Daidre always thought of it in upper case-was to turn the area round Polcare Cottage into a garden that Gertrude Jekyll might have fashioned. This would be a challenge because of the wind and the weather, and it might all come down to succulents in the end, but Daidre wanted to have a go. She had no garden at her home in Bristol, and she loved gardens. She loved the work of them: hands in the soil and something growing as a result. Gardening was to be her outlet. Staying busy at work wasn’t enough.

She looked up from her book and considered the two men in the sitting room with her. The policeman from Casvelyn had introduced himself as Sergeant Paddy Collins, and he had a Belfast accent to prove the name was genuine. He was sitting upright in a straight-back chair that he’d brought from the kitchen table, as if to take one of the armchairs in the sitting room would have indicated a dereliction of duty. He still had a notebook open on his knee and he was regarding the other man as he’d regarded him from the first: with undisguised suspicion.

Who could blame him, Daidre thought. The hiker was a questionable character. Aside from his appearance and his odour, which in and of themselves might not have raised doubts in the mind of a policeman querying his presence in this part of the world since the South-West Coast Path was a well-used trail, at least in fair-weather months, there was the not small detail of his voice. He was obviously well educated and probably well bred, and Paddy Collins had done more than raise an eyebrow when the man had told him he had no identification with him.

Collins had said incredulously, “What d’you mean, you’ve no identification? You got no driving licence, man? No bank cards? Nothing?”

“Nothing,” Thomas said. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“So you could be bloody anyone, that it?”

“I suppose I could be.” Thomas sounded as if he wished that were the case.

“And I’m meant to believe whatever you say about yourself?” Collins asked him.

Thomas appeared to take the question as rhetorical, as he’d given no answer. But he hadn’t seemed bothered by the threat implied in the sergeant’s tone. He’d merely gone to the small window and gazed out towards the beach although it couldn’t actually be seen from the cottage. There he’d remained, motionless and looking as if he were barely breathing.

Daidre wanted to ask him what his injuries were. When she’d first come upon him in her cottage, it hadn’t been blood on his face or his clothes nor had it been anything obvious about his body that had prompted her to offer him her aid as a doctor. It had been the expression in his eyes. He was in inconceivable agony: an internal injury but not a physical one. She could see that now. She knew the signs.

When Sergeant Collins stirred, rose, and made for the kitchen-probably for a cuppa, as Daidre had showed him where her supplies were kept-Daidre took the opportunity to speak to the hiker. She said, “Why were you walking along the coast alone and without identification, Thomas?”

Thomas didn’t turn from the window. He made no reply although his head moved marginally, which suggested that he was listening.

She said, “What if something happened to you? People fall from these cliffs. They put a foot wrong, they slip, they-”

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve seen the memorials, all along the way.”

They were up and down the coast, these memorials: sometimes as ephemeral as a bunch of dying flowers laid at the site of a fatal fall, sometimes a bench carved with a suitable phrase, sometimes something as lasting and permanent as a marker akin to a tombstone with the deceased’s name engraved upon it. Each was something to note the eternal passage of surfers, climbers, walkers, and suicides. It was impossible to be out hiking along the coastal path and not to come upon them.

“There was an elaborate one that I saw,” Thomas said, as if this were the one subject above all that she wished to discuss with him. “A table and a bench, this was, both done in granite. Granite’s what you want if standing the test of time is important, by the way.”

“You haven’t answered me,” she pointed out.

“I rather thought I just had.”

“If you’d fallen-”

“I still might do,” he said. “When I walk on. When this is over.”

“Wouldn’t you want your people to know? You have people, I daresay.” She didn’t add, Your sort usually do, but the remark was implied.

He didn’t respond. The kettle clicked off in the kitchen with a loud snap. The sound of pouring water came to them. She’d been correct: a cuppa for the sergeant.

She said, “What about your wife, Thomas?”

He remained completely motionless. He said, “My wife.”

She said, “You’re wearing a wedding ring, so I presume you have a wife. I presume she’d want to know if something happened to you. Wouldn’t she?”

Collins came out of the kitchen then. But Daidre had the impression that the other man wouldn’t have responded, even had the sergeant not returned to them.

Collins said with a gesture of his teacup that sloshed liquid into its saucer, “Hope you don’t mind.”

Daidre said, “No. It’s fine.”

From the window Thomas said, “Here’s the detective.” He sounded indifferent to the reprieve.

Collins went to the door. From the sitting room, Daidre heard him exchange a few words with a woman. She was, when she came into the room, an utterly unlikely sort.

Daidre had only ever seen detectives on the television on the rare occasions when she watched one of the police dramas that littered the airwaves. They were always coolly professional and dressed in a tediously similar manner that was supposed to reflect either their psyches or their personal lives. The women were compulsively perfect-tailored to within an inch of their lives and not a hair out of place-and the men were disheveled. One group had to make it in a man’s world. The other had to find a good woman to act the role of saviour.

This woman, who introduced herself as DI Beatrice Hannaford, didn’t fit that mould. She wore an anorak, muddy trainers, and jeans, and her hair-a red so flaming that it very nearly preceded her into the room and shouted, “Dyed and what do you have to say about it?”-stood up in spikes that were second cousins to a mohawk, despite the rain. She saw Daidre examining her and she said, “As soon as someone refers to you as Gran, you rethink the whole growing old gracefully thing.”

Daidre nodded thoughtfully. There was sense to this. “And are you a gran?”

“I am.” The detective made her next remark to Collins. “Get outside and knock me up when the pathologist gets here. Keep everyone else away, not that anyone’s likely to show up in this weather, but you never know. I take it the word’s gone out?” This last she said to Daidre as Collins left them.

“We phoned from the inn, so they’ll know up there.”

“And everywhere else no doubt, by now. You know the dead boy?”

Daidre had considered the possibility that she might be asked this question again. She decided to base her answer on her personal definition of the word know. “I don’t,” she said. “I don’t actually live here, you see. The cottage is mine, but it’s my getaway. I live in Bristol. I come here for breaks when I have time off.”

“What d’you do in Bristol?”

“I’m a doctor. Well, not actually a doctor. I mean, I am a doctor, but it’s…I’m a veterinarian.” Daidre felt Thomas’s eyes on her, and she grew hot. This had nothing to do with shame about being a vet, a fact about which she was inordinately proud, considering how difficult it had been to reach that goal. Rather, it was the fact that she’d led him to believe she was another sort of doctor when she’d first come upon him. She wasn’t quite sure why she had done it, although to tell someone she could help him with his supposed injuries because she was a vet had seemed ludicrous at the time. “I do larger animals mostly.”

DI Hannaford had drawn her eyebrows together. She looked from Daidre to Thomas, and she seemed to be testing the waters between them. Or perhaps she was testing Daidre’s answer for its level of veracity. She looked like someone who was good at that, despite her incongruous hair.

Thomas said, “There was a surfer. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I saw him-I’ll call him him-from the cliff top.”

“What? Off Polcare Cove?”

“In the cove before Polcare. Although he could have come from here, I suppose.”

“There was no car, though,” Daidre pointed out. “Not in the car park. So he had to have gone into the water at Buck’s Haven. That’s what it’s called. The cove to the south. Unless you meant the north cove. I’ve not asked you what direction you were walking in.”

“From the south,” he said. And to Hannaford, “The weather didn’t seem right to me. For surfing. The tide was wrong as well. The reefs weren’t covered completely. If a surfer came too close to them…Someone could get hurt.”

“Someone did get hurt,” Hannaford pointed out. “Someone got killed.”

“But not surfing,” Daidre said. Then she wondered why she’d said it because it sounded to her as if she were interceding for Thomas when that hadn’t been her intention.

Hannaford said to both of them, “Like to play detectives, do you? Is it a hobby of yours?” She didn’t seem to expect a response to this. She went on to Thomas, saying, “Constable McNulty tells me you helped him move the body. I’ll want your clothes for forensics. Your outer clothes. Whatever you had on at the time, which I presume is what you have on now.” And to Daidre, “Did you touch the body?”

“I checked for a pulse.”

“Then I’ll want your outer clothing as well.”

“I’ve nothing to change into, I’m afraid,” Thomas said.

“Nothing?” Again, Hannaford looked from the man to Daidre. It came to Daidre that the detective had assumed that she and the stranger were a couple. She supposed there was some logic in this. They’d gone for help together. They were together still. And neither of them had said anything to dissuade her from this conclusion. Hannaford said, “Exactly who might you two be and what brings you to this corner of the world?”

Daidre said, “We’ve given our details to the sergeant.”

“Humour me.”

“I’ve told you. I’m a veterinarian.”

“Your practise?”

“At the zoo in Bristol. I’ve just come down this afternoon for a few days. Well, for a week this time.”

“Odd time of year for a holiday.”

“For some, I suppose. But I prefer my holidays when there are no crowds.”

“What time did you leave Bristol?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t actually look. It was morning. Perhaps nine. Ten. Half past.”

“Stop along the way?”

Daidre tried to work out how much the detective needed to know. She said, “Well…briefly, yes. But it hardly has to do with-”

“Where?”

“What?”

“Where did you stop?”

“For lunch. I’d had no breakfast. I don’t, usually. Eat breakfast, that is. I was hungry, so I stopped.”

“Where?”

“There was a pub. It’s not a place I usually stop. Not that I usually stop, but there was a pub and I was hungry and it said ‘pub meals’ out front, so I went in. This would be after I left the M5. I can’t remember its name. The pub’s. I’m sorry. I don’t think I even looked at the name. It was somewhere outside Crediton. I think.”

“You think. Interesting. What did you eat?”

“A ploughman’s.”

“What sort of cheese?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t pay attention. It was a ploughman’s. Cheese, bread, pickle, onion. I’m a vegetarian.”

“Of course you are.”

Daidre felt her temper flare. She hadn’t done anything, but the detective was making her feel as if she had. She said with some attempt at dignity, “I find that it’s rather difficult to care for animals on the one hand and eat them on the other, Inspector.”

“Of course you do,” DI Hannaford said thinly. “Do you know the dead boy?”

“I believe I already answered that question.”

“I seem to have lost the plot on that one. Tell me again.”

“I didn’t get a good look at him, I’m afraid.”

“And I’m afraid that isn’t what I asked you.”

“I’m not from around here. As I said, this is a getaway place for me. I come on the occasional weekend. Bank holidays. Longer holidays. I know a few people but mostly those who live close by.”

“This boy doesn’t live close by?”

“I don’t know him.” Daidre could feel the perspiration on her neck and she wondered if it was on her face as well. She wasn’t used to speaking to the police, and speaking to the police under these circumstances was especially unnerving.

A sharp double knock sounded on the front door then. But before anyone made a move to answer it, they heard it open. Two male voices-one of them the voice of Sergeant Collins-came from the entry, just ahead of the men themselves. Daidre was expecting the other to be the pathologist who Inspector Hannaford had indicated was on the way, but this was apparently not the case. Instead, the newcomer-tall, grey haired, and attractive-nodded to them and said to Hannaford, “Where’ve you got him stowed, then?” to which she answered, “He’s not in the car?”

The man shook his head. “As it happens, no.”

Hannaford said, “That bloody child. I swear. Thanks for coming at short notice, Ray.” Then she spoke to Daidre and Thomas. To Daidre she repeated, “I’ll want your clothes, Dr. Trahair. Sergeant Collins will bag them, so sort yourself out about that.” And to Thomas, “When SOCO arrives, we’ll get you a boiler suit to change into. In the meantime, Mr… I don’t know your name.”

“Thomas,” he said.

“Mr. Thomas, is it? Or is Thomas your Christian name?”

He hesitated. Daidre thought for a moment that he meant to lie, because that was what it looked like. And he could lie, couldn’t he, since he had no identification with him. He could say he was absolutely anyone. He looked at the coal fire as if meditating on all the possibilities. Then he looked back at the detective. “Lynley,” he said. “It’s Thomas Lynley.”

There was a silence. Daidre looked from Thomas to the detective, and she saw the expression alter on Hannaford’s face. The face of the man she’d called Ray altered as well, and oddly enough, he was the one to speak. What he said was completely baffling to Daidre:

“New Scotland Yard?”

Thomas Lynley hesitated once again. Then he swallowed. “Until recently,” he said. “Yes. New Scotland Yard.”

“OF COURSE I KNOW who he is,” Bea Hannaford said tersely to her former husband. “I don’t live under a stone.” It was just like Ray to make the pronouncement as if from on high. Impressed with himself, he was. Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. Middlemore. Mr. Assistant Chief Constable. A pencil pusher, really, as far as Bea was concerned. Never had a promotion affected anyone’s demeanour so maddeningly. “The only question is, what the hell is he doing here, of all places?” she went on. “Collins tells me he isn’t even carrying identification with him. So he could be anyone, couldn’t he?”

“Could be. But he isn’t.”

“How d’you know? Have you met him?”

“I don’t need to have met him.”

Another indication of self-satisfaction. Had he always been like this and had she never seen it? Had she been so blinded by love or whatever it had been that had propelled her into marriage with this man? She hadn’t been ageing and Ray her only chance at having a home and family. She’d been twenty-one. And they had been happy, hadn’t they? Until Pete, they’d had their lives in order: one child only-a daughter-and that had been something of a disappointment, but Ginny had given them a grandchild soon enough into her own marriage and she was at this moment on her way to giving them more. Retirement had been beckoning them from the future and all the things they planned to do with retirement had been beckoning as well… And then there was Pete, a complete surprise. Pleasant to her, unpleasant to Ray. The rest was history.

“Actually,” Ray said in that way he had of outing himself, which had always made her forgive him in the end for his worst displays of self-importance, “I saw in the paper that he comes from round here. His family are in Cornwall. The Penzance area.”

“So he’s come home.”

“Hmm. Yes. Well, after what happened, who can blame him for wanting to be done with London?”

“Bit far from Penzance, here, though.”

“Perhaps home and family didn’t give him what he needed. Poor sod.”

Bea glanced at Ray. They were walking from the cottage to the car park, skirting his Porsche, which he’d left-foolishly, she thought, but what did it matter since she wasn’t responsible for the vehicle-half on and half off the lane. His voice was moody and his face was moody. She could see that in the dying light of the day.

“It touched you, all that, didn’t it?” she said.

“I’m not made of stone, Beatrice.”

He wasn’t, that. The problem for her was that his all too compelling humanity made hating him an impossibility. And she would have vastly preferred to hate Ray Hannaford. Understanding him was far too painful.

“Ah,” Ray said. “I think we’ve located our missing child.” He indicated the cliff rising ahead of them to their right, beyond the Polcare Cove car park. The coastal path climbed in a narrow stripe sliced into the rising land, and descending from the top of the cliff were two figures. The one in front was lighting the way through the rain and the gloom with a torch. Behind him a smaller figure picked out a route among the rain-slicked stones that jutted from the ground where the path had been inadequately cleared.

“That bloody child,” Bea said. “He’s going to be the death of me.” She shouted, “Get the hell down from there, Peter Hannaford. I told you to stay in the car and I damn well meant it and you bloody well know it. And you, Constable. What the hell are you doing, letting a child-”

“They can’t hear you, love,” Ray said. “Let me.” He bellowed Pete’s name. He gave an order only a fool would have failed to obey. Pete scurried down the remainder of the path and had his excuse ready by the time he joined them.

“I didn’t go near the body,” he said. “You said I wasn’t meant to go near and I didn’t. Mick c’n tell you that. All I did was go up the path with him. He was-”

“Stop splitting hairs with your mother,” Ray told him.

Bea said, “You know how I feel when you do that, Pete. Now say hello to your father and get out of here before I wallop you the way you need to be walloped.”

“Hullo,” Pete said. He stuck out his hand for a shake. Ray accommodated him. Bea looked away. She wouldn’t have allowed a handshake. She would have grabbed the boy and kissed him.

Mick McNulty came up behind them. “Sorry, Guv,” he said. “I didn’t know-”

“No harm done.” Ray put his hands on Pete’s shoulders and firmly turned him in the direction of the Porsche. “I thought we’d do Thai food,” he said to his son.

Pete hated Thai food, but Bea left them to sort that out for themselves. She shot Pete a look that he could not fail to read: Not here, it said. He made a face.

Ray kissed Bea on the cheek and said, “Take care of yourself.”

She said, “Mind how you go, then. Roads’re slick.” And then because she couldn’t help herself, “I didn’t say before. You’re looking well, Ray.”

He replied, “Lot of good it’s doing me,” and walked off with their son. Pete stopped at Bea’s car. He brought forth his football shoes. Bea didn’t call out to tell him to let them be.

Instead she said to Constable McNulty, “So. What’ve we got?”

McNulty gestured towards the top of the cliff. “Rucksack up there for SOCO to bag. I expect it’s the kid’s.”

“Anything else?”

“Evidence of how the poor sod went down. I left it for SOCO as well.”

“What is it?”

“There’s a stile up top, some ten feet or so back from the edge of the cliff. Marks the far west end of a cow pasture up there. He’d put a sling round it, which was supposed to be what his carabiner and rope were fixed to for the abseil down the cliff.”

“What sort of sling?”

“Made of nylon webbing. Looks like fishing net if you don’t know what you’re looking at. It’s supposed to be a long loop. You drape it round a fixed object and each end is fastened with the carabiner, making the loop into a circle. You attach your rope to the carabiner and off you go.”

“Sounds straightforward.”

“Should have been. But the sling’s been taped together-presumably over a weak spot to strengthen it-and that’s exactly where it’s failed.” McNulty gazed back the way he’d come. “Bloody idiot. I can’t think why anyone’d just not get himself another sling.”

“What kind of tape was used for the repair?”

McNulty looked at her as if surprised by the question. “Electrical tape, this was.”

“Kept your digits off it?”

“’Course.”

“And the rucksack?”

“It was canvas.”

“I reckoned as much,” Bea said patiently. “Where was it? Why do you presume it was his? Did you have a look inside?”

“Next to the stile, so I reckon it was his all right. He probably carried his kit in it. Nothing in it now but a set of keys.”

“Car?”

“I reckon.”

“Did you have a look for it?”

“Thought it best to report back to you.”

“Think another time, Constable. Get back up there and find me the car.”

He looked towards the cliff. His expression told her how little he wanted to make a second climb up there in the rain. Well, that couldn’t be helped. “Up you go,” she told him pleasantly. “The exercise will do you a world of good.”

“Thought p’rhaps I ought to go by way of the road. It’s a few miles, but-”

“Up you go,” she repeated. “Keep an eye out along the trail as well. There may be footprints not already destroyed by the rain.” Or by you, she thought.

McNulty did not look happy, but he said, “Will do, Guv,” and set off back the way he’d come with Pete.

KERRA KERNE WAS EXHAUSTED and soaked to the skin because she’d broken her primary rule: Head into the wind on the first half of the ride; have the wind at your back on your route home. But she’d been in a hurry to be gone from Casvelyn, so for the first time in longer than she could remember, she hadn’t checked the Internet before donning her cycling kit and pedaling out of town. She’d just set off in her Lycra and her helmet. She’d clicked into the pedals and pumped so furiously that she was ten miles out of Casvelyn before she actually clocked her location. Then it was the location alone that she took into consideration and not the wind, which had been her error. She’d just kept riding vaguely east. When the weather rolled in, she was too far away to do anything to escape it other than seek shelter, which she did not want to do. Hence, muscle weary and bone wet, she struggled with the last of the thirty-five miles she needed to cover on her return.

She blamed Alan, blind and foolish Alan Cheston, who was supposed to be her life partner, with all that being a life partner implied, but who’d decided to go his own bloody-minded way in the one situation that she couldn’t countenance. And she blamed her father who was also blind and foolish-as well as stupid-but in a completely different manner and for a completely different set of reasons.

At least ten months earlier, she’d said to Alan, “Please don’t do this. It won’t work out. It’ll be-”

And he’d cut into her words, which he rarely did, which should have told her something about him that she hadn’t yet learned, but which did not. “Why won’t it work out? We won’t even see each other much, if that’s what worries you.”

It wasn’t what worried her. She knew what he was saying was true. He’d be doing whatever one did in the marketing department-which was less a department and more an old conference room located behind what used to be the reception desk in the mouldy hotel-and she’d be doing her thing with the trainee instructors. He’d be sorting out the chaos that her mother had wrought as the nominal director of the nonexistent marketing department while she-Kerra-tried to hire suitable employees. They might see each other at morning coffee or at lunch, but they might well not. So rubbing elbows with him at work and then rubbing other body parts later in the day was not what concerned her.

He’d said, “Don’t you see, Kerra, that I’ve got to get some solid employment in Casvelyn? And this is it. Jobs aren’t dangling from trees round here, and it was decent of your dad to offer it to me. I’m not about to look a gift horse.”

Her father was hardly a gift horse, Kerra thought, and decency had nothing to do with why he’d offered the marketing job to Alan. He’d made the offer because they needed someone to promote Adventures Unlimited to the masses but they also needed a certain kind of someone to do that marketing, and Alan Cheston appeared to be the kind of someone Kerra’s father had been looking for.

Her father was deciding based on appearance. To him, Alan was a type. Or perhaps better said, Alan was not a type. Her father thought the type to be avoided at Adventures Unlimited was a manly sort: grit under the fingernails, throw a woman across the bed, and have her till she saw stars. What he didn’t understand-and had never understood-was that there actually was no type. There was just maleness. And despite the rounding of his shoulders, the spectacles, the bobbling Adam’s apple, the delicate hands with those long, probing spatulate fingers, Alan Cheston was male. He thought like a male, he acted like a male, and most important, he reacted like a male. That was why Kerra had put her foot down, which had ultimately done no good because she wouldn’t say more than, “It won’t work out.” That proving useless, she’d done the only thing she could do in the situation, which was to tell him they’d likely have to end their relationship. To this, he’d calmly replied without the slightest tinge of panic to his words, “So that’s what you do when you don’t get what you want? You just cut people off?”

“Yes,” she’d declared, “that’s what I do. And it’s not when I don’t get what I want. It’s when they won’t listen to what I’m saying for their own good.”

“How can it be for my own good not to take the job? It’s money. It’s a future. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Apparently not,” she’d told him.

Still, she hadn’t quite been able to make good on her threat because in part she couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to work with Alan daily but not see him nightly. She was weak in this and she despised her weakness, especially when she’d chosen him primarily because he’d seemed like the weak one: considerate, which she’d taken for malleable, and gentle, which she’d taken for diffident. That he’d proved himself exactly the opposite since coming to work at Adventures Unlimited scared the hell out of her.

One way to terminate her fear was to confront it, which meant confronting Alan himself. But really, how could she? So at first she’d fumed, and then she’d waited, watched, and listened. The inevitable was just that-inevitable-and since it had always been that way, she spent the time attempting to harden herself, becoming remote within while playing the part of certain without.

She’d carried the act off until today, when his announcement of “I’ll be gone a few hours down the coast” sent the sirens off in her brain. At that point her only choice was to ride fast and far, to exhaust herself beyond thinking so that she exhausted herself beyond caring as well. Thus, despite her other responsibilities that day, she’d gone on her way: along St. Mevan Crescent and over to Burn View, down the slope of Lansdown Road and the Strand, and from there out of town.

She’d kept riding eastward, long after she should have turned back for home. For this reason, darkness had fallen by the time she’d geared down to make the final climb up the Strand. Shops were closed; restaurants were open although meagerly peopled at this time of year. A dispirited line of bunting crisscrossed the street, dripping water, and the lone traffic light at the crest of the hill cast a streak of red in her direction. No one was out on the soaked pavement, but in another two months that would all change when summer visitors filled Casvelyn to take advantage of its two broad beaches, of its surf, of its sea pool, of its fun fair, and-one hoped-of the experiences offered by Adventures Unlimited.

This holiday business was her father’s dream: taking the abandoned hotel-a 1933 derelict structure sitting on a promontory above St. Mevan Beach-and turning it into an activities-oriented destination. It was an enormous risk for the Kernes, and if it didn’t work out, they’d be destitute. But her father was a man who’d taken risks in the past and had seen them bear fruit because the one thing he wasn’t afraid of in life was hard work. As to other things in her father’s life…Kerra had spent too many years asking why and receiving no answers.

At the top of the hill, she turned into St. Mevan Crescent. From there, along a line of old B and Bs, older hotels, a Chinese takeaway, and a newsagent’s shop, she reached the driveway to what had once been the Promontory King George Hotel and what was now Adventures Unlimited. The old hotel stood, barely illuminated, with scaffolding fronting it. Lights were on in the ground floor, but not at the top where the family quarters were.

In front of the entry, a police car was parked. Kerra drew her eyebrows together when she saw it. At once she thought of Alan. She didn’t consider her brother at all.

BEN KERNE’S OFFICE AT Adventures Unlimited was on the first floor of the old hotel. He’d fashioned it out of a single that had once undoubtedly been used by a lady’s maid, since directly next door to it-and formerly with an adjoining door-was a suite. That he’d had converted to a unit suitable for one of the holidaying families upon whom he’d bet his economic future.

The time had seemed right to Ben for this, his biggest venture ever. His children were older and at least one of them-Kerra-was self-sufficient and completely capable of obtaining gainful employment elsewhere should this venture go under. Santo was a different matter, for more than one reason that Ben preferred not to consider, but he had become more dependable of late, thank God, as if he finally understood the weighty nature of their undertaking. So Ben had felt the family was with him. It wouldn’t be just himself upon whose shoulders the responsibility rested. They were fully two years into it now: the conversion complete save for the exterior painting and a few final interior details. By the middle of June, they would be up and running. The bookings had been coming in for several months.

Ben was looking through these when the police arrived. Although the bookings represented the fruits of his family’s labours, he hadn’t been thinking of this or really even thinking of them at all: the bookings. Instead he’d been thinking of red. Not red as being in the red, which he certainly was and would be for any number of years until the business earned back what he’d spent upon it, but red as in the colour of nail varnish or lipstick, of a scarf or a blouse, of a dress that hugged the body.

Dellen had been wearing red for five days. First had come the nail varnish. Lipstick had followed. Then a jaunty beret over her blond hair when she went out. Soon, he expected a red sweater would top snug black trousers as it also revealed just a bit of cleavage. Ultimately, she would wear the dress, which would show more cleavage as well as her thighs, and by that time, she’d be in full sail and his children would be looking at him as they had looked at him forever: waiting for him to do something in a situation in which he could do nothing at all. Despite their ages-eighteen and twenty-two-Santo and Kerra still persisted in thinking that he was capable of changing their mother. When he did not do so, having failed at the effort when he was even younger than they were now, he saw the why in their eyes, or at least in Kerra’s eyes. Why do you put up with her?

When Ben heard the slam of a car door, then, he thought of Dellen. When he went to the window and saw it was a police car below and not his wife’s old BMW, he still thought of Dellen. Later, he realised that thinking of Kerra would have been more logical since she’d been gone for hours on her bicycle in weather that had been growing ever worse since two o’clock. But Dellen had been the centre of his thoughts for twenty-eight years and since Dellen had gone off at noon and had not yet returned, he assumed she’d got herself into trouble.

He left his office and went to the ground floor. When he got to reception, a uniformed constable was standing there, looking about for someone and no doubt surprised to find the front door unlocked and the place virtually deserted. The constable was male, young, and vaguely familiar. He’d be from the town, then. Ben was getting to know who lived in Casvelyn and who was from the outlying area.

The constable introduced himself: Mick McNulty, he said. And you are, sir…?

Benesek Kerne, Ben told him. Was something wrong? Ben switched on more lights. The automatic ones had come on with the end of daylight, but they cast shadows everywhere, and Ben found he wanted to dispel those shadows.

Ah, McNulty said. Could he speak to Mr. Kerne, then?

Ben realised the constable meant could they go somewhere that was not the reception area, so he took him one floor above, to the lounge. This overlooked St. Mevan Beach, where the swells were of a decent size and the waves were breaking on the sand bars in rapid sets. They were coming in from the southwest, but the wind made them rubbish. No one was out there, not even the most desperate of the local surfers.

Between the beach and the hotel, the landscape was much changed from what it had been during the heyday of the Promontory King George. The pool was still there, but in place of the bar and the outdoor restaurant, a rock-climbing wall now stood. As did the rope wall; the swinging bridges; and the pulleys, gears, cords, and cables of the Canopy Experience. A neat cabin housed the sea kayaks and another contained the diving equipment. Constable McNulty took all of this in, or at least he appeared to be doing so, which gave Ben Kerne time to prepare himself to hear what the policeman had come to say. He thought about Dellen in bits of red, about the slickness of the roads and Dellen’s intentions, which likely had been to get out of town entirely, to go along the coast, and perhaps to end up at one of the coves or bays. But getting there in this weather, especially if she hadn’t stuck to the main road, would have exposed her to danger. Of course danger was what she loved and wanted, but not the sort that led to cars skidding off roads and down the sides of cliffs.

When the question came, it was not what Ben expected. McNulty said, “Is Alexander Kerne your son?”

Ben said “Santo?” and he thought, Thank God. It was Santo who had got himself into trouble, no doubt arrested for trespassing, which Ben had warned him about time and again. He said, “What’s he done, then?”

“He’s had an accident,” the constable said. “I’m sorry to tell you that a body’s been found that appears to be Alexander’s. If you have a photo of him…”

Ben heard the word body but did not allow it to penetrate. He said, “Is he in hospital, then? Which one? What happened?” He thought of how he would have to tell Dellen, of what route the news would send her down.

“…awfully sorry,” the constable was saying. “If you’ve a photo, we-”

“What did you say?”

Constable McNulty looked flustered. He said, “He’s dead, I’m afraid. The body. The one we found.”

“Santo? Dead? But where? How?” Ben looked out at the roiling sea just as a gust of wind hit the windows and rattled them against their sills. He said, “Good Christ, he went out in this. He was surfing.”

“Not surfing,” McNulty said.

“Then what happened?” Ben asked. “Please. What happened to Santo?”

“He’s had a cliff-climbing accident. Equipment failure. On the cliffs at Polcare Cove.”

“He was climbing?” Ben said stupidly. “Santo was climbing? Who was with him? Where-”

“No one, as it seems at the moment.”

No one? He was climbing alone? At Polcare Cove? In this weather?” It seemed to Ben that all he could do was repeat the information like an automaton being programmed to speak. To do more than that meant he would have to embrace it, and he couldn’t bear that because he knew what embracing it was going to mean. “Answer me,” he said to the constable. “Bloody answer me, man.”

“Have you a picture of Alexander?”

“I want to see him. I must. It might not be-”

“That’s not possible just now. That’s why I need the photo. The body…He’s been taken to hospital in Truro.”

Ben leapt at the word. “So he’s not dead, then.”

“Mr. Kerne, I’m sorry. He’s dead. The body-”

“You said hospital.”

“To the mortuary, for the postmortem,” McNulty said. “I’m very sorry.”

“Oh my God.”

The front door opened below. Ben went to the lounge doorway and called out, “Dellen?” Footsteps came in the direction of the stairs. But then it was Kerra and not Ben’s wife who appeared in the doorway. She dripped rainwater onto the floor, and she’d removed her bicycle helmet. The very top of her head was the only part of her that appeared to be dry.

She looked at the constable, then said to Ben, “Has something happened?”

“Santo.” Ben’s voice was hoarse. “Santo’s been killed.”

“Santo.” Then, “Santo?” Kerra looked round the room in a kind of panic. “Where’s Alan? Where’s Mum?”

Ben found he couldn’t meet her eyes. “Your mother’s not here.”

“What’s happened, then?”

Ben told her what little he knew.

She said, as he had, “Santo was climbing?” and she looked at him with an expression that said what he himself was thinking: If Santo had gone climbing, he’d likely done so because of his father.

“Yes,” Ben said. “I know. I know. You don’t need to tell me.”

“Know what, sir?” It was the constable speaking.

It came to Ben that these initial moments were critical ones in the eyes of the police. They would always be critical because the police didn’t yet know what they were dealing with. They had a body and they reckoned having a body equated an accident, but on the chance that it wasn’t an accident, they had to be ready to point the finger and ask relevant questions and for the love of God, where was Dellen?

Ben rubbed his forehead. He thought, uselessly, that all of this was down to the sea, coming back to the sea, never feeling completely at ease unless the sound of the sea was not far off and yet being forced into feeling at ease for years and years while all the time longing for it and the great open heaving mass of it and the noise of it and the excitement of it and now this. It was down to him that Santo was dead.

No surfing, he’d said. I do not want you surfing. D’you know how many blokes throw their lives away just hanging about, waiting for waves? It’s mad. It’s a waste.

“…act as liaison,” Constable McNulty was saying.

Ben said, “What? What’s that? Liaison?”

Kerra was watching him, her blue eyes narrowed. She looked speculative, which was the last way he wanted his daughter to look at him just now. She said carefully, “The constable was telling us they’ll send a liaison officer round. Once they have the picture of Santo and they know for certain.” And then to McNulty, “Why d’you need a picture?”

“He had no identification on him.”

“Then how-”

“We found the car. A lay-by near Stowe Wood. His driving licence was in the glove box, and the keys in his rucksack fitted the door lock.”

“So this is just form,” Kerra pointed out.

“Essentially, yes. But it has to be done.”

“I’ll fetch a photo then.” She went off to do so.

Ben marveled at her. All business, Kerra. She wore her competence like a suit of armour. It broke his heart.

He said, “When can I see him?”

“Not until after the postmortem, I’m afraid.”

“Why?”

“It’s regulation, Mr. Kerne. They don’t like anyone near the…near him…till afterwards. Forensics, you see.”

“They’ll cut him up.”

“You won’t see. It won’t be like that. They’ll fix him up after. They’re good at what they do. You won’t see.”

“He’s not a God damn piece of meat.”

“’Course he’s not. I’m sorry, Mr. Kerne.”

“Are you? Have you children of your own?”

“A boy, yes. I’ve got a boy, sir. Your loss is the worst a man can experience. I know that, Mr. Kerne.”

Ben stared at him, hot eyed. The constable was young, probably less than twenty-five. He thought he knew the ways of the world, but he had no clue, absolutely not the slightest idea, what was out there and what could happen. He didn’t know that there was no way to prepare and no way to control. At a gallop, life came at you on horseback and there you were with two options only. You either climbed up or you were mowed down. Try to find the middle ground and you failed.

Kerra returned, a snapshot in hand. She gave it to Constable McNulty, saying, “This is Santo. This is my brother.”

McNulty looked at it. “Handsome lad,” he said.

“Yes,” Ben said heavily. “He favours his mother.”

Chapter Four

“FORMERLY.” DAIDRE CHOSE HER MOMENT WHEN SHE WAS alone with Thomas Lynley, when Sergeant Collins had ducked into the kitchen to brew himself yet another cup of tea. Collins had so far managed to swill down four of them. Daidre hoped he had no intention of sleeping that night because, if her nose was not mistaken, he’d been helping himself to her very best Russian Caravan tea.

Thomas Lynley roused himself. He’d been staring at the coal fire. He was seated near it, not comfortably with his long legs stretched out as one might expect of a man enjoying the warmth of a fire, but elbows on knees and hands dangling loosely in front of him. “What?” he said.

“When he asked you, you said formerly. He said New Scotland Yard and you said formerly.”

“Yes,” Lynley said. “Formerly.”

“Have you quit your job? Is that why you’re in Cornwall?”

He looked at her. Once again she saw the injury that she had seen before in his eyes. He said, “I don’t quite know. I suppose I have. Quit, that is.”

“What sort…If you don’t mind my asking, what sort of policeman were you?”

“A fairly good sort, I think.”

“Sorry. I meant…Well, there’re lots of different sorts, aren’t there? Special Branch, protecting the Royals, Vice, walking a patch…”

“Murder,” he said.

“You investigated murders?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I did.” He looked back at the fire.

“That must have been…difficult. Disheartening.”

“Seeing man’s inhumanity? It is.”

“Is that why you quit? I’m sorry. I’m being intrusive. But…Had you had enough trials on your heart?”

He didn’t reply.

The front door opened with a thud, and Daidre felt the wind gust into the room. Collins came out of the kitchen with his cup of tea as Detective Inspector Hannaford returned to them. She carried a white boiler suit over her arm. This she thrust at Lynley.

“Trousers, boots, and jacket,” she said. It was clearly an order. And to Daidre, “Where’re yours, then?”

Daidre indicated the carrier bag into which she’d deposited her outer clothing when she’d changed into blue jeans and a yellow jumper. She said, “But he’ll have no shoes.”

“It’s all right,” Lynley said.

“It isn’t. You can’t go round-”

“I’ll get another pair.”

“He won’t need them just yet anyway,” Hannaford said. “Where can he change?”

“My bedroom. Or the bathroom.”

“See to it, then.”

Lynley had already risen when the DI joined them. Less anticipation, this seemed, than years of breeding and good manners. The DI was a woman. One rose politely when a woman came into the room.

“SOCO’s arrived?” Lynley said to her.

“And the pathologist. We’ve a photo of the dead boy as well. He’s called Alexander Kerne. A local boy from Casvelyn. D’you know him?” She was speaking to Daidre. Sergeant Collins hovered in the kitchen doorway as if not quite sure he was meant to be having tea while on duty.

“Kerne? The name’s familiar, but I can’t say why. I don’t think I know him.”

“Have a vast acquaintance round here, do you?”

“What d’you mean?” Daidre was pressing her fingernails into her palms, and she made herself stop. She knew the detective was attempting to read her.

“You say you don’t think you know him. It’s a strange way of putting it. Seems to me, you either know him or you don’t. Are you getting changed?” This last to Lynley, an abrupt shift that was as disconcerting as her steady and inquisitive gaze.

He cast a quick look at Daidre and then away. He said, “Yes. Of course,” and ducked through the low doorway that separated the sitting room from a passage created by the depth of the fireplace. Beyond it lay a tiny bathroom and a bedroom big enough for a bed and a wardrobe and nothing else. The cottage was small and safe and snug. It was exactly the way Daidre wanted it.

She said to the detective, “I believe one can know someone by sight-actually have a conversation with him, if it comes down to it-without ever knowing that person’s identity. Their name, their details, anything. I expect your sergeant here can say the same and he’s a local man.”

Collins was caught, teacup halfway to his mouth. He shrugged. Agreeing or discounting. It was impossible to tell.

“Takes a bit of exertion, that, wouldn’t you say?” Hannaford asked Daidre shrewdly.

“I’ve found the exertion worth it.”

“So you knew Alexander Kerne by sight?”

“I may have done. But as I said earlier and as I’ve told the other policeman, Sergeant Collins here, and you as well, I didn’t get a good look at the boy when I first saw the body.”

Thomas Lynley returned to them then, sparing Daidre any further questions as well as any further exposure to DI Hannaford’s penetrating stare. He handed over the clothing the DI had asked for. It was absurd, Dairdre thought. He was going to catch his death if he wandered round like that: no jacket, no shoes, and just a thin white boiler suit of the type worn at crime scenes to ensure that the official investigators did not leave trace evidence behind. It was ridiculous.

DI Hannaford spoke to him. “I’m going to want to see your identification as well, Mr. Lynley. It’s form, and I’m sorry, but there’s no way round it. Can you get your hands on it?”

He nodded. “I’ll phone-”

“Good. Have it sent. You’re not going anywhere for a few days, anyway. This looks like a straightforward accident, but till we know for certain…Well, I expect you know the drill. I’ll want you where I can find you.”

“Yes.”

“You’ll need clothing.”

“Yes.” He sounded as if he didn’t care one way or the other. He was something windblown, not flesh, bone, and determination, but rather an insubstantial substance, desiccated and helpless against the forces of nature.

The detective looked round the cottage sitting room, as if assessing its potential to produce a set of clothes for the man as well as to house him. Daidre said hastily, “He’ll be able to get clothing in Casvelyn. Not tonight, of course. Everything’ll be closed. But tomorrow. He can stay there as well. Or at the Salthouse Inn. They’ve rooms. Not many. Nothing special. But they’re adequate. And it’s closer than Casvelyn.”

“Good,” Hannaford said. And to Lynley, “I’ll want you there at the inn, then. I’ll have more questions. Sergeant Collins can drive you.”

“I’ll drive him,” Daidre said. “I expect you’ll want everyone you can get your hands on to do whatever it is you do at the scene when someone dies. I know where the Salthouse Inn is, and if they’ve no rooms, he’ll need to be taken to Casvelyn.”

“Don’t trouble-” Lynley began.

“It’s no trouble,” Daidre said. What it was was a need to get Sergeant Collins and DI Hannaford out of her cottage, something that she could effect only if she had a reason to get out of the cottage herself.

After a pause, DI Hannaford said, “Fine,” and handing over her card to Lynley, “Phone me when you’re established somewhere. I’ll want to know where to find you, and I’ll be along directly we have matters sorted out here. It’ll be some time.”

“I know,” he said.

“Yes. I expect you do.” She nodded and left them, taking with her their clothing stuffed into bags. Sergeant Collins followed her. Police cars were blocking Daidre’s access to her own Vauxhall. They would have to be moved if she was to be able to get Thomas Lynley to the Salthouse Inn.

Silence swept into the cottage with the departure of the police. Daidre could feel Thomas Lynley looking at her, but she was finished with being looked at. She went from the sitting room into the entry, saying over her shoulder, “You can’t go out in your stocking feet like that. I have wellies out here.”

“I doubt they’ll fit,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll take the socks off for now. Put them back on when I get to the inn.”

She stopped. “That’s sensible of you. I hadn’t thought of it. If you’re ready, then, we can go. Unless you’d like something…? A sandwich? Soup? Brian does meals at the inn, but if you’d rather not have to eat in the dining area…” She didn’t want to make the man a meal, but it seemed the proper thing to do. They were somehow bound together in this matter: partners in suspicion, perhaps. It felt that way to her, because she had secrets and he certainly seemed to have them, too.

“I expect I can have something sent up to my room,” Lynley said, “providing they have rooms available tonight.”

“Let’s be off then,” Daidre said.

They made their second drive to the Salthouse Inn more slowly as there was no rush, and they encountered two more police vehicles and an ambulance on the way. They didn’t speak and when Daidre glanced over at her companion, she saw that his eyes were closed and his hands rested easily on his thighs. He looked asleep, and she didn’t doubt that he was. He’d seemed exhausted. She wondered how long he’d been hiking along the coastal path.

At the Salthouse Inn, she stopped the Vauxhall in the car park, but Lynley didn’t move. She touched him gently on the shoulder.

He opened his eyes and blinked slowly, as if clearing his head of a dream. He said, “Thank you. It was kind-”

“I didn’t want to leave you in the clutches of the police,” she cut in. Then, “Sorry. I forget you’re one of them.”

“After a fashion, yes, I am.”

“Well, anyway…I thought you might like a respite from them. Although from what she said…the inspector…it doesn’t appear you’ve escaped them for long.”

“No. They’ll want to talk to me at length tonight. The first person on the scene is always suspect. They’ll be intent on gathering as much information as possible as quickly as possible. That’s the way it’s done.”

They were silent then. A gust of wind-stronger than any other so far-hit the car and rocked it. It stirred Daidre to words once more. She said, “I’ll come round for you tomorrow, then.” She made the declaration without thinking through all the ramifications of what it meant, what it could mean, and what it would look like. This wasn’t like her, and she shook herself mentally. But the words were out there, and she let them lie. “You’ll need to get things from Casvelyn, I mean. I don’t expect you want to walk round in that boiler suit for long. You’ll want shoes as well. And other things. Casvelyn’s the closest place to get them.”

“That’s good of you,” Lynley told her. “But I don’t want to trouble you.”

“You said that earlier. But it isn’t and you’re not. It’s very strange, but I feel that we’re in this together although I don’t quite know what this is.”

“I’ve caused you a problem,” he said. “More than one. The window in your cottage. Now the police. I’m sorry about it.”

“What else were you to do? You could hardly walk on once you’d found him.”

“No. I couldn’t walk on, could I?”

He sat for a moment. He seemed to be watching the wind play with the sign hanging above the inn’s front door.

He finally said, “May I ask you something?”

She said, “Certainly.”

“Why did you lie?”

She heard an unexpected buzzing in her ears. She repeated the last word, as if she’d misheard him when she’d heard him only too clearly.

He said, “The first time we came here, you told the publican that the boy in the cove was Santo Kerne. You said his name. Santo Kerne. But when the police asked you…” He gestured, a movement saying finish the rest for yourself.

The question reminded Daidre that this man, disheveled and filthy though he was, was himself a policeman, and a detective at that. From this moment, she needed to take extraordinary care.

She said, “Did I say that?”

“You did. Quietly, but not quietly enough. And now you’ve told the police at least twice that you didn’t recognise the boy. When they’ve said his name, you’ve said you don’t know him. I’m wondering why.”

He looked at her, and she instantly regretted her offer to take him into Casvelyn for clothing in the morning. He was more than the sum of his parts, and she hadn’t seen that in time.

She said, “I’ve come for a holiday. At the time it seemed-what I said to the police-the best way of ensuring I have one. A holiday. A rest.”

He said nothing.

She added, “Thank you for not betraying me to them. Of course, I can’t stop you from betraying me later when you speak to them again. But I’d appreciate it, if you’d consider…There’re things the police don’t need to know about me. That’s all, Mr. Lynley.”

He didn’t reply. But he didn’t look away from her and she felt the heat rising up her neck to her cheeks. The door of the inn banged open then. A man and a woman stumbled into the wind. The woman twisted her ankle, and the man put his arm round her waist and then kissed her. She shoved him away. The gesture was playful. He caught her up again and they staggered in the wind towards a line of cars.

Daidre watched them as Lynley watched her. She finally said, “I’ll come for you at ten, then. Will that do for you, Mr. Lynley?”

His response was a long time in coming. Daidre thought he must be a good policeman.

“Thomas,” he said to her. “Please call me Thomas.”

IT WAS LIKE AN old-time film about the American west, Lynley thought. He ducked into the inn’s public bar, where the local drinkers were gathered, and silence fell. This was a part of the world where you were a visitor until you had become a permanent resident and you were a newcomer until your family had lived in the place for two generations. So he went down as a stranger among them. But he was more than that. He was also a stranger dressed in a white boiler suit and wearing nothing but socks on his feet. He had no coat against the cold, the wind, and the rain, and if that were not enough to make him a novelty, had anyone other than a bride entered this establishment in the past wearing white from shoulder to ankle, it probably hadn’t happened in the living memory of anyone present.

The ceiling-stained with the soot of fires and the smoke of cigarettes and crossed with black oak beams from which horse brasses were nailed-hung less than twelve inches above Lynley’s head. The walls bore a display of ancient farm implements, given mostly to scythes and pitchforks, and the floor was stone. This last was uneven, pockmarked, scored and scoured. Thresholds made of the same material as the floor were cratered by hundreds of years of entrances and exits, and the room itself that defined the public bar was small and divided into two sections described by fireplaces, one large and one small, which seemed to be doing more to make the air unbreathable than to warm the place. The body heat of the crowd was seeing to that.

When he’d been at the Salthouse Inn earlier with Daidre Trahair, just a few late-afternoon drinkers had been present. Now, the place’s nighttime crowd had arrived, and Lynley had to work his way through them and through their silence to get to the bar. He knew it was more than his clothing that made him an object of interest. There was the not small matter of his smell: unwashed from head to toe for seven weeks now. Unshaven and unshorn as well.

The publican-Lynley recalled that Daidre Trahair had referred to him as Brian-apparently remembered him from his earlier visit because he said abruptly into the silence, “Was it Santo Kerne out there on the cliffs?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know who it was. But it was a young man. An adolescent or just older than that. That’s all I can tell you.”

A murmur rose and fell at this. Lynley heard the name Santo repeated several times. He glanced over his shoulder. Dozens of eyes-young and old and in between-were fixed on him.

He said to Brian, “The boy-Santo-he was well known?”

“He lives hereabouts,” was the unhelpful reply. That was the limit of what Brian appeared to be willing to reveal to a stranger. He said, “Are you after a drink, then?”

When Lynley asked for a room instead, he recognised in Brian a marked reluctance to accommodate him. He put this down to what it likely was: a logical unwillingness to allow an unsavoury stranger such as himself access to the inn’s sheets and pillows. God only knew what vermin might be crawling upon him. But the novelty he represented at the Salthouse Inn was in his favour. His appearance was in direct conflict with his accent and his manner of speaking, and if that were not enough to make him an object of fascination, there was the intriguing matter of his finding the body, which had likely been the subject of conversation inside the inn before he entered.

“A small room only,” was the publican’s reply. “But that’s the case with all of ’em. Small. Wasn’t like people needed much when the place was built, did they.”

Lynley said that the size didn’t matter and he’d be happy with whatever the inn could give him. He didn’t know how long he’d actually need the room, he added. It seemed that the police were going to require his presence until matters about the young man in the cove had been decided.

A murmur rose at this. It was the word decided and everything that the word implied.

Brian used the toe of his shoe to ease open a door at the far end of the bar, and he spoke a few words into whatever room existed behind it. From this a middle-aged woman emerged, the inn’s cook by her garb of stained white apron, which she was hastily removing. Beneath it she wore a black skirt and white blouse. Sensible shoes as well.

She would take him up to a room, she said. She was all business, as if there was nothing strange about him. This room, she went on, was above the restaurant, not the bar. He’d find it quiet there. It was a good place to sleep.

She didn’t wait for his reply. His thoughts likely didn’t interest her anyway. His presence meant custom, which was hard to come by until late spring and summer. When beggars went begging, they couldn’t exactly choose their benefactors, could they?

She headed for another door at the far side of the public bar. This gave onto an icy stone passage. The inn’s restaurant operated in a room off this passage, although no one was seated within it, while at the far end a stairway the approximate width of a suitcase made the climb to the floor above. It was difficult to imagine how furniture had been worked up the stairs.

There were three rooms only on the first floor, and Lynley had his choice, although his guide-her name was Siobhan Rourke, she’d told him, and she was Brian’s longtime and apparently long-suffering partner-recommended the smallest of them as it was the one she’d mentioned earlier as being above the restaurant and quiet at this time of year. They all shared the same bathroom, she informed him, but that ought to be of no account as no one else was staying.

Lynley wasn’t particular about which room he was given so he took the first one whose door Siobhan opened. This would do, he told her. It suited him. Not much larger than a cell, it was furnished with a single bed, a wardrobe, and a dressing table tucked under a tiny casement window with leaded panes. Its only bow to mod cons were a washbowl in a corner and a telephone on the dressing table. This last was a jarring note in a room that could have done for a serving maid two hundred years earlier.

Only in the centre of the room could Lynley actually stand upright. Seeing this, Siobhan said, “They were shorter in those days, weren’t they? P’rhaps this isn’t the best choice, Mr…?”

“Lynley,” he said. “This is fine. Does that phone work?”

Indeed, it did. Could she bring him anything? There were towels in the wardrobe and soap as well as shampoo in the bathroom-she sounded encouraging as she said this last bit-and if he wanted a meal, that could be arranged. Up here. Or in the dining room below, naturally, if that was what he wanted. She added this last as a hasty afterthought although it was fairly clear that the more he kept to his room, the happier everyone would be.

He said he wasn’t hungry, which was more or less the truth. She left him then. When the door closed behind her, he gazed at the bed. It was nearly two months since he’d slept in one, and even then he’d not done much sleeping anyway. When he slept, he dreamed, and he dreaded his dreams. Not because they were disturbing but because they ended. It was, he’d found, more bearable not to sleep at all.

Because there was no point in putting it off, he went to the phone and punched in the numbers. He was hoping that there would be no answer, just a machine picking up so that he could leave a brief message without the human contact. But after five double rings, he heard her voice. There was nothing for it but to speak.

He said, “Mother. Hullo.”

At first she said nothing and he knew what she was doing: standing next to the phone in the drawing room or perhaps her morning room or elsewhere in the grand sprawling house that was his birthright and even more his curse, raising one hand to her lips, looking towards whoever else was in the room and that would likely be his younger brother or perhaps the manager of the estate or even his sister in the unlikely event that she was still down from Yorkshire. And her eyes-his mother’s eyes-would communicate the information before she said his name. It’s Tommy. He’s phoned. Thank God. He’s all right.

She said, “Darling. Where are you? How are you?”

He said, “I’ve run into something…It’s a situation up in Casvelyn.”

“My God, Tommy. Have you walked that far? Do you know how-” But she didn’t say the rest. She meant to ask whether he knew how worried they were. But she loved him and she wouldn’t burden him further.

As he loved her, he answered her anyway. “I know. I do. Please understand that. It’s just that I can’t seem to find my way.”

She knew, of course, that he wasn’t referring to his sense of direction. “My dear, if I could do anything to remove this from your shoulders…”

He could hardly bear the warmth of her voice, her unending compassion, especially when she herself had borne so many of her own tragedies throughout the years. He said to her, “Yes. Well,” and he cleared his throat roughly.

“People have phoned,” she told him. “I’ve kept a list. And they’ve not stopped phoning, the way you think people might. You know what I mean: One phone call and there, I’ve done my duty. It hasn’t been like that. There has been such concern for you. You are so deeply loved, my dear.”

He didn’t want to hear it, and he had to make her understand that. It wasn’t that he didn’t value the concern of his friends and associates. It was that their concern-and what was worse, their expression of it-rubbed a place in him already so raw that having it touched by anything was akin to torture. He’d left his home because of this, because on the coast path there was no one in March and few enough people in April and even if he ran across someone in his walk, that person would know nothing of him, of what he was doing trudging steadily forward day after day, or of what had led up to his decision to do so.

He said, “Mother…”

She heard it in his voice, as she would do. She said, “Dearest, I’m sorry. No more of it.” Her voice altered, becoming more businesslike, for which he was grateful. “What’s happened? You’re all right, aren’t you? You’ve not been injured?”

No, he told her. He wasn’t injured. But he’d come upon someone who had been. He was the first to come upon him, it seemed. A boy. He’d been killed in a fall from one of the cliffs. Now the police were involved. As he’d left at home everything that would identify him…Could she send him his wallet? “It’s form, I daresay. They’re just in the process of sorting everything out. It looks like an accident but, obviously, until they know, they won’t want me going off. And they do want me to prove I am who I say I am.”

“Do they know you’re a policeman, Tommy?”

“One of them, apparently. Otherwise, I’ve told them only my name.”

“Nothing else?”

“No.” It would have turned things into a Victorian melodrama: My good man-or in this case woman-do you know who you’re talking to? He’d go for the police rank first and if that didn’t impress, he’d try the title next. That should produce some serious forelock pulling, if nothing else. Only, DI Hannaford didn’t appear to be the sort who pulled on forelocks, at least not her own. He said, “So they’re not willing to take me at my word and who can blame them. I wouldn’t take me at my word. Will you send the wallet?”

“Of course. At once. Shall I have Peter drive it up to you in the morning?”

He didn’t think he could bear his brother’s anxious concern. He said, “Don’t trouble him with that. Just put it in the post.”

He told her where he was and she asked-as she would-if the inn was pleasant, at least, if his room was comfortable, if the bed would suit him. He told her everything was fine. He said that he was, in fact, looking forward to bathing.

His mother was reassured by that, if not entirely satisfied. While the desire for a bath did not necessarily indicate a desire to continue living, it at least declared a willingness to muddle forward for a while. That would do. She rang off after telling him to have a good, long, luxurious soak and hearing him say that a good, long, luxurious soak was exactly his intention.

He replaced the phone on the dressing table. He turned from the table and, because there was no help for it, he looked at the room, the bed, the tiny washbasin in the corner. He found that his defences had fallen-his mother’s conversation had done it to him-and there was her voice, with him suddenly. Not his mother’s voice this time, but Helen’s voice. It is a bit monastic in here, isn’t it, Tommy? I feel absolutely nunlike. Determined to be chaste but faced with such horrific temptation to be very very naughty indeed.

He heard her so clearly. The Helen-ness of her. The nonsense that drew him out of himself when he most needed to be drawn. She’d been intuitive that way. One look at his face in the evening and she’d known exactly what was required. It had been her gift: a talent for observation and insight. Sometimes it was the touch of her hand on his cheek and the three words Tell me, darling. Other times it was the superficial frivolity that dissipated his tension and brought forth his laughter.

He said into the silence, “Helen,” but that was all that he said, and certainly the extent to which he could-at the moment-acknowledge what he’d lost.

DAIDRE DIDN’T RETURN TO the cottage when she left Thomas Lynley at the Salthouse Inn. Instead, she drove east. The route she took twisted like a discarded spool of ribbon through the misty countryside. It passed through several hamlets where lamps shone at windows in the dusk, then dipped through two woodlands. It divided one farmhouse from its outbuildings, and ultimately it came out on the A388. She took this road south and veered off on a secondary road that tracked east through pastureland where sheep and dairy cows grazed. She turned off where a sign pointed to CORNISH GOLD with VISITORS WELCOME printed beneath the name of the place.

Cornish Gold was half a mile down a very narrow lane, a farm comprising vast apple orchards circumscribed by stands of plum trees, these last planted years ago as a windbreak. The orchards began at the crest of a hill and spread down the other side in an impressive fan of acreage. Before them, in stair-step fashion, stood two old stone barns, and across from these, a cider factory formed one side of a cobbled courtyard. In the centre of this, an animal pen traced a perfect square and within that square, snuffled and snorted the ostensible reason for Daidre’s visit to this place, should anyone other than the farm’s owner ask her. This reason was an orchard pig, a huge and decidedly unfriendly Gloucester Old Spot that had been instrumental in Daidre’s meeting the owner of the cider farm soon after the woman’s arrival in this part of the world, a journey she’d made over thirty years from Greece to London to St. Ives to the farm.

At the side of the pen, Daidre found the pig waiting. He was named Stamos, after his owner’s former husband. The porcine Stamos, never a fool and always an optimist, had anticipated the reason for Daidre’s visit and had lumbered to the rail fence cooperatively once Daidre came into the courtyard. She had nothing for him this time, however. Packing peeled oranges into her bag while still at her cottage had seemed a questionable activity while the police were hanging about, intent upon watching and noting everyone’s movements.

She said, “Sorry, Stamos. But let’s have a look at the ear all the same. Yes, yes. It’s all form. You’re quite recovered, and you know it. You’re too clever for your own good, aren’t you?”

The pig was known to bite, so she took care. She also looked round the courtyard to see who might be watching because, if nothing else, one had to be diligent. But no one was there, and that was reasonable. For it was late in the day, and all employees of the farm would have long gone home.

She said, “Looking perfect now,” to the pig and then she crossed the remainder of the courtyard where an arch led to a small rain-sodden vegetable garden. Here she followed a brick path-uneven, overgrown, and pooled with rainwater-to a neat white cottage from which the sound of classical guitar came in fits and starts. Aldara would be practising. That was good, as it likely meant she was alone.

The playing stopped instantly when Daidre knocked on the door. Steps hurriedly approached across the hardwood floor inside.

“Daidre! What on earth…?” Aldara Pappas was backlit from within the cottage, so Daidre couldn’t see her face. But she knew the great dark eyes would hold speculation and not surprise, despite her tone of voice. Aldara stepped back from the door, saying, “Come in. You are so very welcome. What a lovely surprise that you should come to break the tedium of my evening. Why didn’t you phone me from Bristol? Are you down for long?”

“It was a sudden decision.”

Inside the cottage it was quite warm, the way Aldara liked it. Every wall was washed in white, and each one of them displayed highly-coloured paintings of rugged landscapes, arid and possessing habitations of white-small buildings with tile on their roofs and their window boxes bursting with flowers, with donkeys standing placidly against their walls and dark-haired children playing in the dirt before their front doors. Aldara’s furniture was simple and sparse. The pieces were brightly upholstered in blue and yellow, however, and a red rug covered part of the floor. Only the geckos were missing, their little bodies curving against the surface of whatever their tiny suctioned feet could cling to.

A coffee table in front of the sofa held a bowl of fruit and a plate of roasted peppers, Greek olives, and cheese: feta, undoubtedly. A bottle of red wine was still to be opened. Two wineglasses, two napkins, two plates, and two forks were neatly positioned. These gave the lie to Aldara’s words. Daidre looked at her. She raised an eyebrow.

“It was a small social lie only.” Aldara was, as ever, completely unembarrassed to have been caught out. “Had you walked in and seen this, you would have felt less than welcome, no? And you are always welcome in my home.”

“As is someone else, apparently, tonight.”

“You are far more important than someone else.” As if to emphasise this, Aldara went to the fireplace, where a fire was laid and matches remained only to be used. She struck one on the underside of the mantel and put it to the crumpled paper beneath the wood. Apple wood, this was, dried and kept for burning when the orchard trees were pruned.

Aldara’s movements were sensuous, but they were not studied. In the time Daidre had known the other woman, she’d come to realise that Aldara was sensual as a result of simply being Aldara. She would laugh and say, “It’s in my blood,” as if being Greek meant being seductive. But it was more than blood that made her compelling. It was confidence, intelligence, and complete lack of fear. Daidre admired this final quality most in the other woman, aside from her beauty. For she was forty-five and looked ten years younger. Daidre was thirty-one and, without the olive skin of the other woman, knew she would not be so lucky in fourteen years’ time.

Having lit the fire, Aldara went to the wine and uncorked it, as if underscoring her declaration that Daidre was as valued and important a guest as whomever Aldara was actually expecting. She poured, saying, “It’s going to have a bite. None of that smooth French business. As you know, I like wine that challenges the palate. So have some cheese with it, or it’s likely to take the enamel from your teeth.”

She handed over a glass and scooped up a chunk of cheese, which she popped into her mouth. She licked her fingers slowly, then she winked at Daidre, mocking herself. “Delicious,” she said. “Mama sent it from London.”

“How is she?”

“Still looking for someone to kill Stamos, of course. Sixty-seven years old and no one holds a grudge like Mama. She says to me, ‘Figs. I shall send that devil figs. Will he eat them, Aldara? I’ll stuff them with arsenic. What d’you think?’ I tell her to dismiss him from her thoughts. I have, I tell her. ‘Do not waste energy on that man,’ I tell her. ‘It’s been nine years, Mama, and that is sufficient time to wish someone ill.’ She says, as if I had not spoken, ‘I’ll send your brothers to kill him.’ And then she curses him in Greek at some length, all of which I’m paying for, naturally, as I’m the one who makes the phone calls, four times a week, like the dutiful daughter I have always been. When she’s finished, I tell her at least to send Nikko if she truly intends to kill Stamos because Nikko’s the only one of my brothers who’s actually good with a knife and a decent shot with a gun. And then she laughs. She launches into a story about one of Nikko’s children and that is that.”

Daidre smiled. Aldara dropped onto the sofa, kicking off her shoes and tucking her legs beneath her. She was wearing a dress the colour of mahogany, its hem like a handkerchief, its neckline V-ing towards her breasts. It had no sleeves and was fashioned from material more suitable to summer on Crete than spring in Cornwall. Little wonder that the room was so warm.

Daidre took some cheese and wine as instructed. Aldara was right. The wine was rough.

“I think they aged it fifteen minutes,” Aldara told her. “You know the Greeks.”

“You’re the only Greek I do know,” Daidre said.

“This is sad. But Greek women are much more interesting than Greek men, so you have the best of the lot with me. You’ve not come about Stamos, have you? I mean Stamos the lowercase pig, of course. Not Stamos the uppercase Pig.”

“I stopped to look at him. His ears are clear.”

“They would be. I did follow your instructions. He’s right as rain. He’s asking for a girlfriend as well, although the last thing I want is a dozen orchard piglets round my ankles. You didn’t answer me, by the way.”

“Did I not?”

“You did not. I’m delighted to see you, as always, but there’s something in your face that tells me you’ve come for a reason.” She took another piece of cheese.

“Who’re you expecting?” Daidre asked her.

Aldara’s hand, lifting the cheese to her mouth, paused. She cocked her head and regarded Daidre. “That sort of question is completely unlike you,” she pointed out.

“Sorry. But…”

“What?”

Daidre felt flustered, and she hated that feeling. Her life experience-not to mention her sexual and emotional experience-placed in opposition to Aldara’s experience left her seriously wanting and even more seriously out of her depth. She shifted gears. She did it baldly, as baldness was the only weapon she possessed. “Aldara, Santo Kerne’s been killed.”

Aldara said, “What did you say?”

“Are you asking that because you didn’t hear me or because you want to think you didn’t hear me?”

“What happened to him?” Aldara said, and Daidre was gratified to watch her replace her bit of cheese on the plate, uneaten.

“He was apparently climbing.”

“Where?”

“The cliff in Polcare Cove. He fell and was killed. A man out walking the coastal path was the one to find him. He came to the cottage.”

“You were there when this happened?”

“No. I drove down from Bristol this afternoon. When I got to the cottage, the man was inside. He was looking for a phone. I came in on him.”

“You came in on a man inside your cottage? My God. How frightening. How did he…? Did he find the extra key?”

“He broke a window to get in. He told me there was a body on the rocks and I went down to it with him. I said I was a doctor-”

“Well, you are a doctor. You might have been able to-”

“No. It’s not that. Well, it is in a way because I could have done something, I suppose.”

“You must more than suppose, Daidre. You’ve been educated well. You’ve qualified. You’ve managed to acquire a job of enormous responsibility and you cannot say-”

“Aldara. Yes. All right. I know. But it was more than wanting to help. I wanted to see. I had a feeling.”

Aldara said nothing. Sap crackled in one of the logs and the sound of it drew her attention to the fire. She looked at it long, as if checking to see that the logs remained where she had originally placed them. She finally said, “You thought it might be Santo Kerne? Why?”

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

“Why is it obvious?”

“Aldara. You know.”

“I don’t. You must tell me.”

“Must I?”

“Please.”

“You’re being-”

“I’m being nothing. Tell me what you want to tell me about why things are so obvious to you, Daidre.”

“Because even when one thinks everything has been seen to, even when one thinks every i has been dotted, every t has been crossed, even when one thinks every sentence has a full stop at the end-”

“You’re becoming tedious,” Aldara pointed out.

Daidre took a sharp breath. “Someone is dead. How can you talk like that?”

“All right. Tedious was a poor choice of words. Hysterical would have been better.”

“This is a human being we’re talking about. This is a teenage boy. Not nineteen years old. Dead on the rocks.”

“Now you are hysterical.”

“How can you be like this? Santo Kerne is dead.”

“And I’m sorry about that. I don’t want to think of a boy that young falling from a cliff and-”

If he fell, Aldara.”

Aldara reached for her wineglass. Daidre noted-as she sometimes did-that the Greek woman’s hands were the only part of her that was not lovely. Aldara herself called them a peasant’s hands, made for pounding clothes against rocks in a stream, for kneading bread, for working the soil. With strong, thick fingers and wide palms, they were not hands made for delicate employment. “Why ‘if he fell’?” she asked.

“You know the answer to that.”

“But you said he was climbing. You can’t think someone…”

“Not someone, Aldara. Santo Kerne? Polcare Cove? It’s not difficult to work out who might have harmed him.”

“You’re talking nonsense. You go to the cinema far too often. Films make one start believing that people act like they’re playing parts devised in Hollywood. The fact that Santo fell while he was climbing-”

“And isn’t that a bit odd? Whyever would he climb in this weather?”

“You ask the question as if you expect me to know the answer.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Aldara-”

“Enough.” Aldara firmly set her wineglass down. “I am not you, Daidre. I’ve never had this…this…oh, what shall I call it…this awe of men that you have, this feeling that they are somehow more significant than they actually are, that they are necessary in life, essential to a woman’s completion. I’m terribly sorry that the boy is dead, but it’s nothing to do with me.”

“No? And this…?” Daidre indicated the two wineglasses, the two plates, the two forks, the endless repetition of what should have been but never quite was the number two. And there was the additional matter of Aldara’s clothing: the filmy dress that embraced and released her hips when she moved, the choice of shoes with toes too open and heels too high to be practical on a farm, the earrings that illustrated the length of her neck. There was little doubt in Daidre’s mind that the sheets on Aldara’s bed were fresh and scented with lavender and that there were candles ready to be lit in her bedroom.

A man was at this moment on his way to her. He was even now pondering the removal of her clothes. He was wondering how quickly upon his arrival he could get down to business with her. He was thinking of how he was going to take her-rough or tender, up against the wall, on the floor, in a bed-and in what position, of whether he’d be up for the job of doing it more than twice because he knew merely twice would not be enough, not for a woman like Aldara Pappas. Earthy, sensual, ready. He damn well had to give her what she was looking for because if he didn’t, he’d be tossed aside and he didn’t want that.

Daidre said, “I think you’re going to find otherwise, Aldara. I think you’re going to see that this…what happened to Santo…whatever it is-”

“That’s nonsense,” Aldara cut in.

“Is it?” Daidre put her palm on the table between them. She repeated her earlier question. “Who’re you expecting tonight?”

“That doesn’t concern you.”

“Are you completely mad? I had the police in my cottage.”

“And that worries you. Why?”

“Because I feel responsible. Don’t you?”

Aldara seemed to consider the question, because it was a moment before she replied. “Not at all.”

“And that’s that, then?”

“I suppose it is.”

“Because of this? The wine, the cheese, the lovely fire? The two of you? Whoever he is?”

Aldara rose. She said, “You must leave. I’ve tried to explain myself to you time and again. But you see how I am as a moral question and not what it is, which is just a manifestation of the only way I can function. So yes, someone is on his way and, no, I’m not going to tell you who it is, and I’d vastly prefer it if you were not here when he arrives.”

“You refuse to be touched by anything, don’t you?” Daidre asked her.

“My dear, that is definitely the pot and the kettle,” was Aldara’s reply.

Chapter Five

CADAN HAD HIGH HOPES THAT THE BACON STREAKIES WOULD do the trick. He also had high hopes that Pooh would do the trick. The Bacon Streakies, which were the bird’s favourite treat, were supposed to encourage and reward him. The system was to let the parrot see the bag of goodies dangling from Cadan’s fingers-a manoeuvre sufficient to get the bird’s interest-and then put him through his paces. The reward would follow, and there was absolutely no need to show Pooh the crunchy substance itself. He might have been a parrot, but he was no dummy when it came to food.

But tonight, distractions diverted him. He and Cadan were not alone in the sitting room, and the other three individuals were proving more interesting to the parrot than the food on offer. So balancing on a small rubber ball and walking said ball across the length of the fireplace mantel did not hold the same promise that a lolly stick in the hands of a six-year-old girl held. A lolly stick carefully applied to the parrot’s feathered head, rubbed gently back and forth in the region where one assumed his ears to be, guaranteed ecstasy. A Bacon Streakie, on the other hand, effected only momentary gustatory satisfaction. So although Cadan made a heroic attempt to get Pooh to provide some entertainment for Ione Soutar and her two young daughters, entertainment was not forthcoming.

“Why’s he not want to do it, Cade?” Jennie Soutar asked. She was the younger of the two. Her older sister, Leigh-who was, at ten, already wearing glittery eye shadow, lipstick, and hair extensions-looked as if she’d never expected the bird to do anything extraordinary in the first place and who cared anyway as the bird was neither a pop star nor someone likely to become a pop star. Instead of paying attention to the failed bird show, she’d been flipping through a fashion magazine, squinting at the pictures because she refused to wear her specs and was campaigning for contact lenses.

Cadan said, “It’s the lolly stick. He knows you’ve got it. He wants to be petted again.”

“C’n I pet him, then? C’n I hold him?”

“Jennifer, you know how I feel about that bird.” These words were spoken by her mother. Ione Soutar was standing in the bay window, gazing out at Victoria Road. She’d been doing that for thirty minutes, and she didn’t look like a woman who intended to stop doing it anytime soon. “Birds carry germs and diseases.”

“But Cade touches him all the time.”

Ione shot her daughter a look. It seemed to say, “And just look at Cade, will you?”

Jennie interpreted the expression on her mother’s face in whatever way Ione intended. She scooted back on the sofa-her legs sticking out in front of her-and she puffed out her lips in disappointment. It was, Cadan saw, a facial expression unwittingly identical to Ione’s.

No doubt the feeling behind it was the same as well: disappointment. Cadan wanted to tell Ione Soutar that she was going to be endlessly disappointed as long as she had his father in her marital sights. On the surface it looked as if they were perfect for each other-two independent businesspeople with workshops in the same location on Binner Down, two parents years without partners, two parents who surfed, two children for each of them, two little girls interested in surfing, with a third older girl their role model and instructor, two family-oriented families…There was probably also good sex involved as well, but Cadan didn’t like to speculate about that, as the thought of his father in a carnal embrace with Ione made his skin go prickly. Nonetheless, superficially it appeared to be logical that nearly three years in this association between man and woman ought to have resulted in something akin to a commitment from Lew Angarrack. But it hadn’t done, and Cadan had heard enough of his father’s end of telephone conversations to know Ione was no longer happy with the situation.

She was currently annoyed as well. Two takeaway Pukkas pizzas had long since gone cold in the kitchen while she waited in the sitting room for Lew’s return. It was a wait that was beginning to seem futile to Cadan, for his father had showered and changed and rushed off on what Cadan saw as a real fool’s errand.

It seemed to Cadan that a visit from Will Mendick had prompted Lew’s departure. Will had rumbled up Victoria Road in his wheezing old Beetle and as he’d unfolded his wiry frame from the car and approached the front door, Cadan could see from his ruddy face that something troubled him.

He’d asked for Madlyn directly and said curtly, “Where is she, then? She wasn’t at the bakery either,” when Cadan revealed that she wasn’t at home.

“We don’t have her on the GPS yet,” Cadan told him. “That’s next week, Will.”

Will hadn’t seemed to appreciate the humour. “I need to find her.”

“Why?”

So he’d told him the news he’d had off the bird at Clean Barrel Surf Shop: Santo Kerne was dead as a doornail, his head mashed in or whatever it was that happened when one fell during a cliff climb.

“He was climbing alone?” Climbing at all was the real question since Cadan knew what Santo Kerne really preferred doing, which was surf and shag, and shag and surf, both of which came quite easily to him.

“I didn’t say he was alone,” Will pointed out sharply. “I don’t know who was with him or even if there was someone with him. Why d’you think he was alone?”

Cadan didn’t have to reply at that point because Lew had heard Will’s voice and had apparently read something dire from the tone. He’d come from the back of the house where he’d been working on the computer and Will had brought him into the picture as well. “I’ve come to tell Madlyn,” Will explained.

Too right, Cadan thought. The way to Madlyn was open, and Will was not a man to ignore a gaping doorway.

“Damn,” Lew said in a thoughtful tone. “Santo Kerne.”

Not one of them was exactly in extremis over the news, Cadan admitted to himself. He reckoned that he was the one who probably felt the worst, but that was likely because he had the least at stake in matters.

“I’ll go look for her, then,” Will Mendick had said. “Where do you think…?”

Who bloody knew? Madlyn’s emotions had been running their usual mad course since her breakup with Santo. She’d started with devastation and moved on to blind and unreasonable anger. As far as Cadan was concerned, the less he saw of her the better until she’d gone through her last stage-it was always revenge-and then got back to normal again. She might have been anywhere: robbing banks, breaking windows, pulling men in pubs, tattooing her eyelids, beating up small children, or off to regions unknown for a surf. With Madlyn, you just never knew.

Lew said, “We’ve not seen her since breakfast.”

“Damn.” Will bit the side of his thumb. “Well, someone’s got to tell her what’s happened.”

Why? was what Cadan thought, but he didn’t say it. Instead, he said, “Think it should be you?” And he added foolishly, “Wise up, mate. When’re you planning to work things out? You’re not her type.”

Will’s face flared. His skin was spotty anyway, and the spots enflamed.

Lew said, “Cade.”

Cade said, “But it’s true. Come on, man-”

Will didn’t wait to hear the rest. He was out of the room and out of the door before Cadan could say another word.

Lew said, “Christ, Cade,” as apparent commentary on Cadan’s finesse. Then he went upstairs for his shower.

He hadn’t had one after his surf, so Cadan had first assumed his father was just doing what he ordinarily did: getting the sand and saltwater off. But then he’d left the house and he’d not returned. This had put Cadan in the position of trying and failing to entertain Ione and her daughters as they waited for his father.

“Looking for Madlyn,” was what Cadan had told his father’s girlfriend. He’d explained about Santo and said nothing more. Ione was already fully in the picture about the Madlyn-Santo situation. She could not have been involved with Lew Angarrack and not known about the situation. Madlyn’s well-developed sense of drama would have made that completely impossible.

Ione had gone into the kitchen, where she’d deposited the pizzas on the work top, set the table, and made a mixed salad. Then she’d returned to the sitting room. After forty minutes, she’d rung Lew’s mobile. If he had it with him, he didn’t have it on.

“How stupid of him,” Ione said. “What if she comes home while he’s out looking for her? How’re we to let him know?”

“He probably didn’t think of that,” Cadan said. “He went out in a rush.”

This wasn’t exactly true, but it seemed more…well, more likely that a worried father would depart in a rush than as Lew had departed, which was quite calmly, as if he’d made a grim decision about something or as if he knew something that no one else knew.

Now, having finished studying her fashion magazine, Leigh Soutar piped up in her usual fashion, with that bizarre cadence peculiar to young girls with too much exposure to adolescent films on satellite television. “Mum, I’m hungry?” she said. “I’m starving? Lookit the time, okay? Aren’t we having dinner?”

“Want a Bacon Streakie?” Cadan asked her.

“Yuck,” Leigh said. “Junk food?”

“And pizza is what?” Cadan enquired politely.

“Pizza,” Leigh told him, “is highly nutritious? There are at least two food groups involved and anyway I’m having only one slice, okay?”

“Right,” Cadan said. He’d seen Leigh at the trough before this night, and when it came to pizza she regularly forgot her intention of becoming the Kate Moss of her generation. The day she stopped at one slice of pizza would be the day pigs took to the air in droves.

“I’m hungry, too,” Jennie said. “Could we not eat, Mummy?”

Ione cast one last agonised look at the street. “I suppose,” she said.

She headed in the direction of the kitchen. Jennie popped off the sofa and followed, scratching her bum as she went. Leigh practised a catwalk prance in her sister’s wake, casting a baleful look at Cadan as she passed him.

“Stupid bird?” she said. “He doesn’t even talk? What sort of parrot doesn’t even talk?”

“One who saves his vocabulary for useful conversations,” Cadan said.

Leigh stuck out her tongue and left the room.

After a dreary meal of pizza left too long on the work top and salad left to the ministrations of a preoccupied chef wielding too much vinegar, Cadan offered to do the washing up and hoped in this offer that Ione would take her offspring and depart. No such luck. She hung about another ninety minutes, exposing Cadan to Leigh’s withering comments about the quality of his dishwashing and drying. She phoned Lew’s mobile four more times before taking herself and the girls to their home.

This left Cadan in his least favourite position: alone with his thoughts. He was thus relieved to field a phone call at long last revealing Madlyn’s whereabouts, but he was less relieved when the caller wasn’t his father. And he became downright concerned when a casual question on his part revealed that his father had not even been round seeking to discover Madlyn for himself. This concern led Cadan directly to being unnerved-a condition he didn’t care to speculate upon-so when his father finally turned up just shortly after midnight, Cadan was fairly cheesed off at the bloke for causing within him sensations he preferred not to feel. He was watching telly when the kitchen door opened and shut. Thereafter Lew appeared in the doorway to the lounge, standing in the shadows of the corridor.

Cadan said briefly, “She’s with Jago.”

Lew blinked and said, “What?”

“Madlyn,” Cadan said. “She’s with Jago? He rang. He said she’s asleep.”

No reaction from his father. Cadan felt an unaccountable chill at this. It ran up and down his arms like a dead baby’s fingers. He reached for the telly remote and clicked the off button.

“You were looking for her, right?” Cadan didn’t wait for an answer. “Ione was here. Her and the girls. Crikey, that Leigh’s a cow, you ask me.” Silence. So he said, “You were, right?”

Lew turned and went back to the kitchen. Cadan heard the fridge opening and something being poured into a pan. His father would be heating milk for his nightly Ovaltine. Cadan decided he wanted one himself-although the truth was, he wanted to read his father at the same time as he didn’t want to read his father-so he shuffled to the kitchen to join him.

He said, “I asked Jago what she was doing there. You know what I mean. Just, ‘What the heck’s she doing there, mate?’ because first of all why would she want to spend the night with Jago…What is he, seventy years old? That creeps me out if you know what I mean although he’s all right I expect but it’s not like he’s a relative or anything…and second of all…” But he couldn’t remember what the second of all was. He was babbling because his father’s obdurate silence was unnerving him more than he was already unnerved. “And Jago said he was up at the Salthouse with Mr. Penrule when this bloke came in with that woman who’s got the cottage in Polcare Cove. She said there was a body out there and Jago heard her say that she reckoned it was Santo. So Jago went to fetch Madlyn from the bakery to break the news to her. He didn’t phone here at first because…I don’t know. I s’pose she went dead mental on him when he told her and he had to cope with her.”

“Did he say that?”

Cadan was so relieved that his father was finally speaking that he said, “Who? Say what?”

“Did Jago say Madlyn went mental?”

Cadan thought about this, not so much whether Jago Reeth had actually said that about his sister but rather why his father was asking that of all possible questions. It seemed such an unlikely choice of queries that Cadan said, “You were looking for her, right? I mean that’s what I told Ione. Like I said, she was here with the girls. Pizza.”

“Ione,” Lew said. “I’d forgotten the pizza. I expect she left in a state.”

“She tried to ring you. Your mobile…?”

“I didn’t have it on.”

The milk steamed on the cooker. Lew got his Newquay mug and spooned Ovaltine into it. He used a generous amount, then he handed the jar over to Cadan who’d got his own mug down from the shelf above the sink.

“I’ll ring her now,” Lew said.

“It’s after midnight,” Cadan told him unnecessarily.

“Believe me, better late than tomorrow.”

Lew left the kitchen and went to his room. Cadan felt an urgent need to know what was going on. This was part curiosity and part a search for a reasonable means of calming himself without questioning why he needed calming. So he climbed the stairs in his father’s wake.

His intention was to listen at Lew’s door, but he found that wasn’t going to be necessary. He’d barely reached the top step when he heard Lew’s voice raise and could tell the conversation was going badly. Lew’s end consisted mostly of, “Ione…Please listen to me…So much on my mind…Overloaded with work…Completely forgot…Because I’m in the middle of shaping a board, Ione, with nearly two dozen more…Yes, yes. I am sorry, but you didn’t actually tell me…Ione…”

That was it. Then silence. Cadan went to the doorway of his father’s room. Lew was sitting on the edge of the bed. He had one hand on the phone’s receiver, which he’d just replaced in its cradle. He glanced at Cadan, but he didn’t speak. Instead, he got up and went for his jacket, which he’d thrown over the seat of a ladder-back chair in the corner of the room. He began to put it on. Apparently, he was going out again.

Cadan said, “What’s happening?”

Lew didn’t look at him as he replied with, “She’s had enough. She’s finished.”

He sounded…Cadan thought about this. Regretful? Tired? Heavyhearted? Accepting of the fact that as long as one remained unchanged, the past would accurately predict the future? Cadan said philosophically, “Well, you cocked things up. Forgetting her and everything.”

Lew patted his pockets as if looking for something. “Yes. Right. Well. She didn’t want to listen.”

“To what?”

“It was a pizza dinner, Cade. That’s all. Pizza. I could hardly be expected to remember a pizza dinner.”

“That’s cold, isn’t it,” Cadan said.

“It’s also none of your business,” Lew told him.

Cadan felt his belly grow tight and hot. He said, “Right. Well, I guess it isn’t. But when you want me to entertain your girlfriend while you’re out…out doing whatever…then it is my business.”

Lew dropped his hand from the search of his pockets. He said, “Christ. I’m…I’m sorry, Cade. I’m on edge. So much is going on. I don’t know how to explain myself to you.”

But that was just it, Cadan thought. What was going on? True, they’d heard from Will Mendick that Santo Kerne was dead-and yeah that was unfortunate, wasn’t it?-but why would the news throw their lives into chaos if chaos was indeed where they were?

THE EQUIPMENT ROOM OF Adventures Unlimited had been constructed in a former dining hall and the former dining hall had itself once been a tea-dancing pavilion in the heyday of the Promontory King George Hotel, a heyday that had occurred between the two world wars. Often when he found himself in the equipment room, Ben Kerne tried to imagine what it had been like when the parquet floor wore a gloss, the ceiling glittered with chandeliers, and women in frothy summer frocks floated in the arms of men wearing linen suits. They’d danced with a blissful lack of awareness then, believing that the war to end all wars had actually ended all wars. They’d learned otherwise, and far too soon, but the thought of them had always been soothing, as was the music Ben imagined he heard: the orchestra playing as white-gloved waiters passed finger sandwiches on silver trays. He considered the dancers-nearly saw their ghosts-and felt a poignancy about times that had passed. But at the same moment he always felt comfort. People came and went from the Promontory King George, and life continued.

In the equipment room now, however, the tea dancers of 1933 didn’t enter Ben Kerne’s mind. He stood in front of a row of cabinets, one of which he’d unlocked. Inside this cabinet, climbing equipment hung from hooks, lay neatly in plastic containers, and coiled on shelves. Ropes, harnesses, slings, belay and camming devices, chock stones, carabiners…everything. His own equipment he stored elsewhere because he didn’t like the inconvenience of coming down here to sort out what he wanted to take with him if he had a free afternoon for a climb. But Santo’s kit had a prominent place, and above it Ben himself had proudly fixed a sign that said “Do Not Take From This.” Instructors and students alike were to know those pieces of gear were sacrosanct, the accumulation of three Christmases and four birthday celebrations.

Now, however, all of it was missing. Ben knew what this meant. He understood that the absence of Santo’s equipment constituted Santo’s final message to his father, and he felt the impact of that message, just as he felt the weight and experienced the sudden illumination that the message provided as well: His own remarks-made unthinkingly and born of pigheaded self-righteousness-had effected this. Despite his every effort, despite the fact that he and Santo could not possibly have been more unlike each other in everything from personality to appearance, history had repeated itself, in form if not in substance. His own history spoke of wrongheaded judgement, banishment, and years of estrangement. Santo’s now spoke of denunciation and death. Not in so many words but, rather, with an open acknowledgement of a heaviness of heart that in and of itself had uttered a single damning question as loudly as if Ben had shouted it: What sort of miserable excuse for a man are you, to have done such a thing?

Santo could not have failed to interpret this unspoken query as anything other than what it was, and any son of any father would have likely done the same and reacted out of the same sense of outrage that had taken Santo out to the cliffs. Ben himself had reacted to his own father in much the same manner at much the same age: You talk about man, I’ll give you man.

But the underlying reason for Ben’s interaction with Santo remained unexamined although the superficial why of it didn’t need to be addressed at all, because Santo knew exactly what it was. The historical reason for their interaction, on the other hand, was far too frightening to contemplate. Instead of doing so, Ben had eternally told himself only that Santo was-always and merely-who Santo was.

“It just happened,” Santo had confessed to Ben. “Look, I don’t want-”

You?” Ben said, incredulous. “You stop right there, because what you want doesn’t interest me. What you’ve done, on the other hand, does. What you’ve accomplished. The sum total of your bloody self-interest-”

“Why the hell do you care so much? What is it to you? If there was something to be handled, I would have handled it, but there was nothing. There is nothing. Nothing, okay?”

“Human beings,” Ben said, “are not to be handled. They’re not pieces of meat. They’re not merchandise.”

“You’re twisting my words.”

“You’re twisting people’s lives.”

“That’s unfair. That’s so fucking unfair.”

As Santo would find most of life, Ben had thought. Except he hadn’t lived long enough to do so.

And whose fault was that, Benesek? he asked himself. Was the moment worth the price you’re paying?

That moment had been a single remark, said partly in anger but in larger part bleak fear: “Unfair is having a worthless piece of manure as a son.” Once said, the words hung there, like black paint tossed at a clean white wall. His punishment for having said them was going to be the memory of that wretched statement and what it had produced, which was Santo’s face gone white and the fact that a father had turned his back on his son. You want man, I’ll show you man. In spades if I must. But show you I will.

Ben didn’t want to think of what he’d said. If he had his preference, it would be that he might never think of anything again. His mind would go blank and thus it would remain, allowing him to go through the motions of living until his body gave out and eternal rest claimed him.

Ben closed the cupboard and looped the padlock back into place. He breathed slowly through his mouth till he’d mastered himself and his guts were easy again. Then he went to the lift and rang for it. It descended at a dignified, antique speed that matched its appearance of open iron fretwork. It creaked to a stop and he rode it to the top of the hotel where the family flat was and where Dellen waited.

He didn’t go to his wife at once. Instead, he went first to the kitchen. There, Kerra sat at the table with her partner. Alan Cheston was watching her, and Kerra herself was listening, her head tilted in the direction of the bedrooms. She was, Ben knew, waiting for a sign of how things would be.

Her gaze took in her father as he came through the doorway. Ben’s eyes questioned. She responded. “Still,” was her answer.

“All right,” he said.

He went to the cooktop. Kerra had boiled a kettle there, and the fire was still on beneath it, low so the steam escaped soundlessly and the water stayed just beneath a boil. She’d set up four mugs. Each held a teabag. He poured water in two of them and stood there, watching the tea brew. His daughter and her lover sat in silence. He could feel their eyes upon him, though, and he could sense the questions they wanted to ask. Not only of him but of each other. There were matters to discuss in every corner.

He couldn’t bear the thought of talking, so when the tea was sufficiently dark, he poured milk and added sugar to one and nothing to the other. He carried both from the kitchen and set one on the floor momentarily, in front of Santo’s door, which was closed but not locked. He opened it and went inside, into the dark with two cups of tea that he knew neither of them would be able or willing to drink.

She’d switched on no lights, and as Santo’s room was at the back of the hotel, there were no streetlamps from the town to illuminate the darkness within. Across the curved expanse of St. Mevan Beach, the lights at the end of the breakwater and atop the canal lock glittered through the wind and the rain, but they did nothing to expel the gloom in here. A milky shaft of light from the corridor, however, fell across the rag rug on the bedroom floor. On this, Ben saw that his wife was foetally curled. She’d ripped sheets and blankets from Santo’s bed and she’d covered herself with them. Most of her face was in shadow but where it was not, Ben could see it was stony. He wondered if the thought was in her mind: If only I had been here…if only I hadn’t gone off for the day…He doubted it. Regret had never been Dellen’s style.

With his foot, Ben closed the door behind him. Dellen stirred. He thought she might speak, but instead she drew the linens up to her face. She pressed them to her nose, taking in Santo’s scent. She was like a mother animal in this, and like an animal she operated on instinct. It had been her appeal from the day he’d met her: both of them adolescents, one of them randy and the other one willing.

All she knew so far was that Santo was dead, that the police had been, that a fall had taken him, and that the fall was during a sea-cliff climb. Ben had got no further than that with the information because she’d said, “A climb?” after which she’d read her husband’s face as she’d long been capable of doing and she’d said, “You did this to him.”

That was it. They’d been standing in the reception area of the old hotel because he’d not managed to get her any farther inside. Upon her return, she’d seen at once that something was wrong and she’d demanded to know, not as a way of deflecting the obvious question of where she herself had been for so many hours-she wouldn’t think anyone actually had a right to know that-but because something was wrong on a much larger scale than curiosity over her whereabouts. He’d tried to get her upstairs to the lounge, but she’d been immovable. So he told her there.

She went for the stairs. She stopped momentarily at the bottom step, and she clutched the railing as if to keep herself upright. Then she climbed.

Now, Ben set the milk-and-sugar tea on the floor near her head. He sat on the edge of Santo’s bed.

She said, “You’re blaming me. You reek of blaming me, Ben.”

“I don’t blame you,” he said. “I don’t know why you’d think that.”

“I think it because we’re here. Casvelyn. That was all about me.”

“No. It was for all of us. I’d had enough of Truro as well. You know that.”

“You would have stayed in Truro forever.”

“That’s not the case, Dellen.”

“And if you’d had enough-which I don’t believe anyway-it hadn’t to do with you. Or Truro. Or any town. I can feel your loathing, Ben. It smells like sewage.”

He said nothing. Outside, a gust of wind hit the side of the building, rattling the windows. A fierce storm was brewing. Ben knew the signs. The wind was onshore. It would bring in heavier rain from the Atlantic. They were not yet out of the season of storms.

“It’s myself,” he said. “We had words. I said some things-”

“Oh, I expect you did. You saint. You bloody saint.”

“There’s nothing saintly about following through. There’s nothing saintly about accepting-”

“That’s not what things were about between you and Santo. Don’t think I don’t know. You’re a real bastard.”

“You know why.” Ben set his mug of tea on the bedside table. Deliberately, then, he switched on the lamp. If she looked at him, he wanted her able to see his face and to read his eyes. He wanted her to know that he spoke the truth. “I told him he needed to take more care. I told him people are real, not toys. I wanted him to see that there’s more to life than seeking pleasure for himself.”

Her voice was scorn. “As if that’s how he lives.”

“You know that it is. He’s good with people. All people. But he can’t let that…that skill of his lead him to do wrong by them or to them. But he doesn’t want to see-”

Doesn’t? He’s dead, Ben. There is no doesn’t.”

Ben thought she might weep then, but she did not. He said, “There is no shame in teaching one’s children to do right, Dellen.”

“Which means your right, yes? Not his. Yours. He was supposed to be made in your likeness, wasn’t he? But he wasn’t you, Ben. And nothing could make him in your likeness.”

“I know that.” Ben felt the words’ intolerable weight. “Believe me, I know that.”

“You don’t. You didn’t. And you couldn’t cope with it, could you? You had to have him the way you wanted.”

“Dellen, I know I’m to blame. Do you think that I don’t? I’m as much to blame for this as-”

“No!” She rose to her knees. “Do not dare,” she cried. “Don’t bring that back to me just now because if you do, I swear if you do, if you even mention it, if you bring it up, if you try to, if you…” Words seemed to fail her. Suddenly, she reached for the mug he’d placed on the floor and she threw it at him. Hot tea stung his chest; the rim of the mug struck his breastbone. “I hate you,” she said and then louder with each successive word, “I hate you, I hate you. I hate you.”

He dropped off the bed and onto his knees. He grabbed her then. She was still shrieking her hate as he pulled her to him, and she beat on his chest, his face, and his neck before he was able to catch her arms.

“Why didn’t you let him just be who he was? He’s dead and all you ever needed to do was just to let him be. Was that too much? Was that asking too much?”

“Shh,” Ben murmured. He held her; he rocked her; he pressed his fingers to her thick blonde hair. “Dellen,” he said. “Dellen, Dell. We can weep for this. We can. We must.”

“I won’t. Let me go. Let. Me. Go!”

She struggled, but he held her firmly. He knew he couldn’t let her leave the room. She was on the edge, and if she went over, they all would go with her and he couldn’t have that. Not in addition to Santo.

He was stronger than she, so he began to move her even as she fought him. He got her to the floor, and he held her there with the weight of his body. She writhed, trying to throw him off.

He covered her mouth with his. He felt her resistance for a moment and then it was gone, as if it had never been. She tore at him, but it was clothing now: She ripped at his shirt, at the buckle of his belt; she pushed his jeans desperately over his buttocks.

He thought, Yes, and he showed no tenderness as he pulled her sweater over her head. He shoved up her bra and fell on her breasts. She gasped and lowered the zip on her trousers. Savagely, he slapped her hand away. He would do it, he thought. He would own her.

In a fury, he made her naked. She arced to accept him and cried out as he took her.

Afterwards, both of them wept.

KERRA HEARD IT ALL. How could she help it? The family flat had been transformed as inexpensively as possible from a collection of rooms on the hotel’s top floor. Because it was needed elsewhere, very little money had gone into the insulation of the walls. They weren’t paper thin, but they might as well have been.

She heard their voices first-her father’s soft and her mother’s rising-then the shrieking, which she could not ignore, and then the rest. Hail the conquering hero, she thought.

Dully, she said to Alan, “You need to go,” although part of her was also saying, Do you understand now?

Alan said, “No. We need to talk.”

“My brother has died. I don’t think we need to anything.”

“Santo,” Alan said quietly. “Your brother’s name was Santo.”

They were still in the kitchen although not at the table where they’d been sitting when Ben had joined them. With the rising noise from Santo’s bedroom, Kerra had shoved away from the table and gone to the sink. There she’d turned on the water to fill a pan, although she had no idea what she would do with it.

She’d remained there after she’d turned off the taps. Outside, she could see Casvelyn, just the top of it where St. Issey Road met St. Mevan Crescent. An unappealing supermarket called Blue Star Grocery sprawled like a nasty thought at this V-shaped junction, a bunker of brick and glass that made her wonder why modern conveniences had to be so ugly. Its lights were still on for evening shopping, and just beyond it, more lights indicated cars moving carefully along the northwest and southeast boundaries of St. Mevan Down. Workers were heading home for the evening, to the various hamlets that for centuries had popped up like toadstools along the coast. Smugglers’ havens, Kerra thought. Cornwall had always been a lawless place.

She said, “Please go.”

Alan said, “Do you want to tell me what this is about?”

“Santo”-and she said his name with deliberate slowness-“is what this is about.”

“You and I are a couple, Kerra. When people-”

“A couple,” she cut in. “Oh, yes. How true.”

He ignored her sarcasm. “When people are a couple, they face things together. I’m here. I’m staying. So you can choose which thing you’d like to face with me.”

She shot him a look. She hoped he read in it derision. He wasn’t supposed to be like this, especially not now. She hadn’t taken him on as her partner only to have him reveal a side of himself that proved he was someone she didn’t actually know. He was Alan, wasn’t he? Alan. Alan Cheston. Bit of a weak chest, so winters were tough on him, often cautious to a maddening extreme, churchgoing, parents loving, unathletic, sheep not shepherd. Respectful as well. And respectable. He was the sort of bloke who’d said May I…? before he’d tried to hold her hand. But now…this person just now…This was not the Alan who’d never missed a Sunday dinner at his mum and dad’s since he’d left university and London Bloody School of Economics. This was not the floppy-haired and white-skinned Alan who practised yoga and served meals-on-wheels and was never known to dive into the Sea Pit, just above St. Mevan Beach, without sticking his toes in first to test the temperature of the water. He wasn’t supposed to be telling her how things were going to be.

Yet he stood there doing it. He stood there in front of the steel-fronted fridge and he looked…implacable, Kerra thought. The sight of him made her veins feel icy.

He said, “Talk to me.” His voice sounded firm.

The firmness undid her. So what she said in reply was, “I can’t.”

Even this wasn’t what she intended to say. But his eyes, which were generally so deferential, were compelling at the moment. She knew that came from power, knowledge, and lack of fear, and where that had come from was what made Kerra turn from him. She would cook, she decided. They were all going to have to eat eventually.

“Fine,” Alan said to her back. “I’ll talk, then.”

“I have to make a meal,” she told him. “We all have to eat. If we lose our strength, things will get worse. In the next few days, there’s going to be so much to do. Arrangements, phone calls. Someone has to call my grandparents. Santo was their favourite. I’m the oldest of the grandkids-there’re twenty-seven of us…isn’t that obscene, what with overpopulation and that sort of thing?-but Santo was their favourite. We spent time with them, Santo and I. Sometimes a month. Once nine weeks. They need to be told and my father won’t do it. They don’t speak, he and Granddad. Not unless they have to.”

She reached for a cookbook. She had a collection of them, all kept in a stand on the work top, the product of cookery classes she’d taken. One of the Kernes had to learn how to plan nutritious, inexpensive, and tasty meals for the large groups who’d book into Adventures Unlimited. The Kernes would hire a cook, of course, but they’d save money by having the meals planned out by someone other than an executive chef. Kerra had volunteered for the job. She wasn’t interested in anything having to do with a kitchen, but she knew they couldn’t rely on Santo, and relying on Dellen would have been ridiculous. The former was a passable cook on a small scale, but easily distracted by everything, from a piece of music on the radio to the sight of a gannet flying in the direction of Sawsneck Down. As for the latter, everything about Dellen could alter in a second, including her willingness to participate in matters familial.

Kerra flipped open the book she’d chosen at random. She began leafing through pages to find something complicated, something requiring every bit of her attention. The list of ingredients needed to be impressive, and what they didn’t have in the kitchen, she would send Alan out to purchase at Blue Star Grocery. If he refused, she would go herself. In either case, she would be busy, and busy was what she wanted to be.

Alan said, “Kerra.”

She ignored him. She decided on jambalaya with dirty rice and green beans, along with bread pudding. It would take hours, and that was fine with her. Chicken, sausage, prawns, green peppers, clam juice…The list stretched on and on. She’d make enough for a week, she decided. The practice would be good, and they could all dip into it and reheat it in the microwave whenever they chose. And weren’t microwaves marvelous? Hadn’t they simplified life? God, wouldn’t it be the answer to a young girl’s prayers to have an appliance like a microwave into which people could be deposited as well? Not to heat them up, but just to make them different to what they were. Whom would she have shoved in first? she wondered. Her mother? Her father? Santo? Alan?

Santo, of course. It was always Santo. In you go, brother. Let me set the timer and twirl the dial and wait for someone new to emerge.

No need for that now. Santo was decidedly altered now. No more will-o’-the-wisp, no more tripping without a care in the world along the paths that opened up before him, no more thoughtless chase of if-it-feels-good-do-it. There’s more to life than that and I suppose you know it now, Santo. You knew it in the final moment. You had to know it. You crashed towards the rocks without a last-minute miracle in sight and in the precise instant before you struck bottom, you finally knew that there were actually other people in your world and that you were answerable for the pain you caused them. It was too late then to amend yourself, but it was always better late than never when it came to self-knowledge, wasn’t it.

Kerra felt as if bubbles were rising inside her. They were hot, like the bubbles of water boiling, and just like boiling water they burned to get out. She hardened herself against letting them escape, and she grabbed a litre of olive oil from another cupboard, above the work top. She turned to scoop up measuring spoons, thinking, How much oil…? and the bottle slipped from her fingers. It hit the floor just right-as it naturally would-and broke in two neat pieces. The oil pooled out in a viscous mess. It splashed the cooker, the cupboards, and her clothes. She leapt to one side, but she didn’t escape.

She cried, “Damn!” and she finally felt the threat of tears. She said to Alan, “Would you just please leave?” She snatched up a roll of kitchen towels and began to unspool them into the oil. Completely unequal to the task at hand, they were soaked to mush the instant they touched the liquid.

Alan said, “Let me, Kerra. Sit down. Let me.”

She said, “No! I made the mess. I’ll clean it up.”

“Kerra-”

“No. I said no. I don’t need your help. I don’t want your help. I want you to leave. Go.

On a stand near the door a dozen or more copies of the Watchman had been piled. Alan reached for this. He put Casvelyn’s newspaper to good use. Kerra watched the oil soak into the newsprint. Alan did the same. They stood at opposite sides of the pool. She considered it a chasm but he, she knew, saw it as a momentary inconvenience.

He said, “You don’t need to feel guilty because you were angry at Santo. You had a right to anger. He may have thought it was irrational, even stupid of you to care about something that seemed silly to him. But you had a reason for what you felt and you had a right. You always have a right to whatever you feel, if it comes down to it. That’s how it is.”

“I asked you not to work here.” Her voice was expressionless; her emotion was spent.

He looked puzzled. It was a remark, she realised, coming from out of nowhere as far as he knew, but at the moment it summed up everything she was feeling but could not say.

“Kerra, jobs aren’t falling from the sky. I’m good at what I do. I’m getting this place noticed. The Mail on Sunday? There’re bookings coming in every day as a result of that piece. It’s tough out here, and if we mean to make a life in Cornwall-”

“We don’t,” she said. “We can’t. Not now.”

“Because of Santo?”

“Oh come on, Alan.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid. I’m never afraid.”

“Bollocks. You’re angry because you’re afraid. Anger is easier. It makes more sense.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Accepted. So tell me.”

She couldn’t. Too much hung in the balance to speak: too much seen and too much experienced for too many years. To explain it all to Alan was beyond her. He needed to take her word as the truth and he needed to act accordingly.

That he had not done so, that he was going to continue his refusals to do so rang the death knell over their relationship. Kerra told herself that, because of this, nothing that had happened that day actually mattered.

Even as she thought this, though, she knew that she was lying to herself. But that was something that also didn’t matter.

SELEVAN PENRULE THOUGHT IT was rubbish, but he joined hands with his granddaughter anyway. Across the narrow table in the caravan, they closed their eyes and Tammy began to pray. Selevan didn’t listen to the words although he caught the gist of them. Instead, he considered his grandchild’s hands. They were dry and cool but so thin that they felt like something he could crush simply by closing his own fingers roughly over them.

“She’s not been eating right, Father Penrule,” his daughter-in-law had told him. He hated what she called him-“Father Penrule” made him feel like a renegade priest-but he’d said nothing to correct Sally Joy, since speaking to him at all was something that she and her husband hadn’t bothered with for ages. So, he’d grunted and said he’d fatten the girl up. It’s being in Africa, woman, don’t you know that? You cart the girl off to Rhodesia-

“Zimbabwe, Father Penrule. And we’re actually in-”

Whatever the hell they want it to be called. You cart her off to Rhodesia and expose her to God only knows what and that would kill anyone’s appetite, let me tell you.

Selevan realised he was taking things too far at that point, because Sally Joy said nothing for a moment. He imagined her there in Rhodesia or wherever she was, sitting on the porch in a rattan chair with her legs stretched out and a drink on the table next to her…lemonade, it would be, lemonade, with a dash of…what is it, Sally Joy? What’s in the glass that would make Rhodesia go down a trick for you?

He harrumphed noisily and said, Well, never mind then. You send her along. I’ll get her sorted.

“You’ll watch her food intake?”

Like a peregrine.

Which he had done. She’d taken thirty-nine bites tonight. Thirty-nine spoonfuls of a gruel that would have made Oliver Twist lead an armed rebellion. No milk, no raisins, no cinnamon, no sugar. Just watery porridge and a glass of water. Not even tempted by her grandfather’s meal of chops and veg, she was.

“…for Your will is what we seek. Amen,” Tammy said, and he opened his eyes to find hers on him. Her expression was fond. He dropped her fingers in a rush.

He said roughly, “Bloody stupid. You know that, eh?”

She smiled. “So you’ve told me.” But she settled in so that he could tell her again, and she balanced her cheek on her palm.

“We pray before the bloody meal,” he groused. “Why d’we got to bloody pray at the bloody end as well?”

She answered by rote, but with no indication that she was tiring of a discussion they’d had at least twice a week since she’d come to Cornwall. “We say a prayer of thanks at the beginning. We thank God for the food we have. Then at the end we pray for those who don’t have enough food to sustain them.”

“If they’re bloody alive, they have enough bloody food to bloody sustain them, don’t they?” he countered.

“Grandie, you know what I mean. There’s a difference between just being alive and having enough to be sustained. Sustained means more than just living. It means having enough sustenance to engage. Take the Sudan, for example-”

“Now you hang on right there, missy-miss. And don’t move either.” He slid out from the banquette. He carried his plate the short distance to the caravan’s sink as a means of feigning other employment, but instead of beginning the washing up, he snatched her rucksack from the hook on the back of the door and said, “Let’s just have a look.”

She said, “Grandie,” in a patient voice. “You can’t stop me, you know.”

He said, “I know my duty to your parents is what I know, my girl.”

He brought the sack to the table and emptied its contents and there it was: on the cover a young black mother in tribal dress holding her child, one of them sorrowful and both of them hungry. Blurred in the background were countless others, waiting in a mixture of hope and confusion. The magazine was called Crossroads, and he scooped it up, rolled it up, and slapped it against his palm.

“Right,” he said. “Another bowl of that mush for you, then. Either that or a chop. You can take your choice.” He shoved the magazine into the back pocket of his drooping trousers. He would dispose of it later, when she’d gone to bed.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “Truly. Grandie, I eat enough to stay alive and well, and that’s what God intended. We’re not meant to carry round excess flesh. Aside from being not good for us, it’s also not right.”

“Oh, a sin, is it?”

“Well…it can be, yes.”

“So your grandie’s a sinner? Going straight to hell on a plate of beans while you’re playing harps with the angels, eh?”

She laughed outright. “You know that’s not what I think.”

“What you think is a cartload of bollocks. What I know is that this stage you’re in-”

“A stage? And how do you know that when you and I have been together…what? Two months? Before that you didn’t even know me, Grandie. Not really.”

“Makes no difference, that. I know women. And you’re a woman despite what you’re doing to make yourself look like a twelve-year-old girl.”

She nodded thoughtfully, and he could tell from the expression on her face that she was about to twist his words and use them against him as she seemed only too expert at doing. “So let me see,” she said. “You had four sons and one daughter, and the daughter-this would be Aunt Nan, of course-left home when she was sixteen and never returned except at Christmas and the odd bank holiday. So that leaves Gran and whatever wife or girlfriend your sons brought round, yes? So how is it that you know women in general from this limited exposure to them, Grandie?”

“Don’t you get clever with me. I’d been married to your gran for forty-six years when the poor woman dropped dead, so I had plenty of time to know your sort.”

“My ‘sort’?”

“The female sort. And what I know is that women need men as much as men need women and anyone who thinks otherwise is doing their thinking straight through the arse.”

“What about men who need men and women who need women?”

“We’ll not talk about that!” he declared in outrage. “There’ll be no perversion in my family and have no doubt about that.”

“Ah. That’s what you think, then. It’s perversion.”

“That’s what I know.” He’d shoved her possessions back into the rucksack and replaced it on the hook before he saw how she’d diverted them from his chosen topic. The damn girl was like a freshly hooked fish when it came to conversation. She flipped and flopped and avoided the net. Well, that would not be the case tonight. He was a match for her wiliness. The cleverness in her blood was diluted by having Sally Joy for a mother. The cleverness in his blood was not.

He said, “A stage. Full stop. Girls your age, they all have stages. This one here, it might look different from another girl’s, but a stage is a stage. And I know one when I’m looking it in the eyes, don’t I.”

“Do you.”

“Oh aye. And there’ve been signs, by the way, in case you think I’m blowing smoke in the matter. I saw you with him, I did.”

She didn’t reply. Instead, she carried her glass and bowl to the sink and began the washing up. She scraped the bone from his chop into the rubbish, and she stacked the cooking pots, the plates, the cutlery, and the glasses on the work top in the order in which she intended to wash them. She filled the sink. Steam rose. He thought she was going to scald herself some night, but the heat never seemed to bother her.

When she began to wash but still said nothing, he picked up a tea towel for the drying and spoke again. “You hear me, girl? I saw you with him, so do not be declaring to your granddad that you have no interest, eh? I know what I saw and I know what I know. When a woman looks at a man in the way you were looking at him…That tells me you don’t know your own mind, no matter what you say.”

She said, “And where did this seeing take place, Grandie?”

“What does it matter? There you were, heads together, arms locked…the way lovers do, by the way…”

“And did that worry you? That we might be lovers?”

“Don’t try that with me. Don’t you bloody try that again, missy-miss. Once a night is enough and your granddad isn’t fool enough to fall for it twice.” She’d done her water glass and his lager pint, and he snatched up the latter and pushed the tea towel into it. He screwed it around and gave it a polish. “You were interested, you bloody were.”

She paused. She was looking out of the window towards the four lines of caravans below their own. They marched towards the edge of the cliff and the sea. Only one of them was occupied at this time of year-the one nearest the cliff-and its kitchen light was on. This winked in the night as the rain fell against it.

“Jago’s home,” Tammy said. “We should have him over for a meal soon. It’s not good for elderly people to be on their own so much. And now he’s going to be…He’ll miss Santo badly, though I don’t expect he’ll ever admit it.”

Ah. There. The name had been said. Selevan could talk about the boy freely now. He said, “You’ll claim it was nothing, won’t you. A…what d’you call it? A passing interest. A bit of flirting. But I saw and I know you were willing. If he’d made a move…”

She picked up a plate. She washed it thoroughly. Her movements were languid. There was no sense of urgency in anything that Tammy did. She said, “Grandie, you misconstrued. Santo and I were friends. He talked to me. He needed someone to talk to, and I was the person he chose.”

“That’s him, not you.”

“No. It was both. I was happy with that. Happy to be…well, to be someone he could turn to.”

“Bah. Don’t lie to me.”

“Why would I lie? He talked, I listened. And if he wanted to know what I thought about something, I told him what I thought.”

“I saw you with your arms linked, girl.”

She cocked her head as she looked at him. She studied his face and then she smiled. She removed her hands from the water and, dripping as they were, she put her arms around him. She kissed him even as he stiffened and tried to resist her. She said, “Dear Grandie. Linking arms doesn’t mean what it might have meant once. It means friendship. And that’s the honest truth.”

“Honest,” he said. “Bah.”

“It is. I always try to be honest.”

“With yourself as well?”

“Especially with myself.” She went back to the washing up and cleaned her gruel bowl carefully, and then she began on the cutlery. She’d done it all before she spoke again. And then she spoke in a very low voice, which Selevan might have missed altogether had he not been straining to hear something quite different from what she next said.

“I told him to be honest as well,” she murmured. “If I hadn’t, Grandie…I’m rather worried about that.”

Chapter Six

“YOU AND I BOTH KNOW THAT YOU CAN ARRANGE THIS IF YOU want to, Ray. That’s all I’m asking you to do.” Bea Hannaford raised her mug of morning coffee and watched her ex-husband over the rim of it, trying to determine how much further she could push him. Ray felt guilty for a number of things, and Bea was never beyond a session of button pressing in what she considered a good cause.

“It’s just not on,” he said. “And even if it was done, I don’t have those kinds of strings to pull.”

“Assistant chief constable? Oh please.” She refrained from rolling her eyes. She knew he hated that, and he’d score a point if she did it. There were times when having experienced nearly twenty years of marriage with someone came in very handy, and this was one of those times. “You can’t intend me to take that onboard.”

“You can do with it what you will,” Ray said. “Anyway, you don’t know what you’ve got yet, and you won’t know till you hear from forensics, so you’re jumping the gun. Which, by the way, you’re very good at doing if it comes down to it.”

That, she thought, was below the belt. It was one of those ex-husband kinds of remarks, the sort that lead to a row in which comments are made with the intention of drawing blood. She wasn’t about to participate. She went to the coffeemaker and topped up her mug. She held out the glass carafe in his direction. Did he want more? He did. He drank it as she did-black-which made things as simple as they ever could be between a man and a woman divorced for nearly fifteen years.

He’d shown up at her door at 8:20. She’d gone to answer it, assuming the courier from London had arrived far earlier than expected, but she’d opened it to find her former husband on the step. He was frowning in the direction of her front window, where a three-tiered plant stand displayed a collection of pot plants going through the death throes of the sadly neglected. A sign above them was printed with the words: “Fund-raiser for Home Nurses/Leave Money in Box.” Clearly, the poor home nurses were not going to benefit from Bea’s attempt to add to their coffers.

Ray said, “Your black thumb, I see, has not become greener recently.”

She said, “Ray. What’re you doing here? Where’s Pete?”

“At school. Where else would he be? And deeply unhappy at having been forced to eat two eggs this morning instead of his regular. Since when is he allowed cold pizza for breakfast?”

“He’s lying to you. Well…essentially. It was only once. The problem is, he has an unfailing memory.”

“He comes by that honestly.”

She returned to the kitchen rather than reply. He followed her there. He had a carrier bag in his hand, and he placed this on the table. It comprised the reason for his call upon her: Pete’s football shoes. She didn’t want him leaving the shoes at his dad’s house, did she? Nor did she want him to take them to school, yes? So his father had brought them by.

She’d sipped her coffee and offered him one if he wanted. He knew where the mugs were, she told him.

But she’d made the offer before she thought about it. The coffeemaker squatted next to her calendar and what was on this calendar was not only Pete’s schedule, but also her own. Given, her own was cryptic enough, but Ray was no fool.

He’d read a few of the notations inside the boxed dates. She knew what he was seeing: “Motormouth Wanker,” “Big Trouble Wanker.” There were others as well, as he would note if he flipped back to the previous three months. Thirteen weeks of Internet dating: There might be millions of fish in the sea, but Bea Hannaford kept hooking crab pots and seaweed.

It was largely to forestall a conversation about her decision to reenter the world of dating yet another ludicrous time that prompted Bea to bring up having the incident room in Casvelyn. It should, of course, have been in Bodmin where the setup would be minimal, but Bodmin was miles and miles from Casvelyn, with only tediously slow-moving two-lane country roads between them. She wanted, she explained to him, an incident room that was nearer to the crime scene.

He made his point once again. “You don’t know it’s a crime scene. It might be the scene of a tragic accident. What makes you think it’s a crime? This isn’t one of your ‘feelings,’ is it?”

She wanted to say, I don’t have feelings, as you recall, but she didn’t. Over the years she’d become so much better at letting go of matters over which she had no control, one of which was her former husband’s assessment of her. She said, “The body’s a bit marked up. His eye was blackened-healing now, so I’d guess he got into it with someone last week or earlier. Then there was the sling, that webbing thing they use for slinging round a tree or some other stationary object.”

“Hence the name of it,” Ray murmured.

“Bear with me, Ray, as I know nothing about cliff climbing.” Bea kept her voice patient.

He said, “Sorry.”

“Anyway, the sling broke, which was how he fell, but I think it may have been nobbled. Constable McNulty-who, by the way, has absolutely no future in criminal investigations-pointed out that the sling was being held together with electrical tape over a tear and is it any wonder the poor lad took a fatal tumble as a result. But every single piece of the boy’s equipment had electrical tape wrapped round it at some point, and I think the tape’s used to identify the equipment for some reason. If that’s the case, how difficult would it have been for someone to remove the tape, weaken the sling however it was weakened, and then replace the tape without the boy ever knowing it?”

“Have you had a look at the rest of the equipment?”

“Every piece is with forensics, and I have a fairly good idea what they’re going to tell me. And what they tell me is why I’ll need an incident room.”

“But not why you need one in Casvelyn.”

Bea downed the rest of her coffee and placed the mug in the sink with the bowl. She neither rinsed nor washed it and she realised this was yet another benefit to life-without-husband. If she didn’t feel up to doing the washing up, she didn’t have to do the washing up just to soothe the savage breast of the compulsive personality.

She said, “The principals are there, Ray, in Casvelyn. Not in Bodmin, not even here in Holsworthy. They have a police station, small but adequate, and it’s got a conference room on the first floor that’s perfectly adequate as well.”

“You’ve done your homework.”

“I’m trying to make it easier for you. I’m giving you details to support the arrangement. I know you can do this.”

He studied her. She avoided studying him back. He was an attractive man-hair going a bit thin but that didn’t detract-and she didn’t need to compare him to Motormouth Wanker or any of the others. She just needed him to cooperate or leave. Or cooperate and leave, which would be even better.

He said, “And if I arrange this for you, Beatrice?”

“What?”

“What’s the quid pro quo?” He was standing by the coffeemaker and he gave another look to the calendar. “‘Big Trouble Wanker,’” he read. “‘Motormouth Wanker.’ Come on, Beatrice.”

She said, “Thanks for bringing Pete’s football shoes. Finished with your coffee?”

He let a moment go by. Then he took a final gulp and handed the mug over to her, saying, “There had to have been less expensive shoes.”

“He has expensive tastes. How’s the Porsche running, by the way?”

“The Porsche,” he said, “is a dream.”

“The Porsche,” she reminded him, “is a car.” She held up a finger to stop him from retorting. She said, “Which brings to mind…the victim’s car.”

“What about it?”

“What does an unopened package of condoms in the car of an eighteen-year-old boy suggest to you?”

“Is this rhetorical?”

“They were in his car. Along with a bluegrass CD, a blank invoice from something called LiquidEarth, and a rolled-up poster for a music festival last year in Cheltenham. And two dog-eared surfing magazines. I’ve got my fingers on everything but the condoms-”

“Well, thank God for that,” Ray said with a smile.

“-and I’m wondering if he was about to get lucky, getting lucky, or hopeful of getting lucky.”

“Or just eighteen,” Ray said. “All boys that age should be so adequately prepared. What about Lynley?”

“Condoms. Lynley. Where’re we going with this?”

“What was your interview like?”

“He’s hardly going to be intimidated by being in the presence of a cop, so I’d have to say the interview was fine. No matter which way I flipped the questions, his answers were consistent. I think he’s playing it straight.”

“But…?” Ray prompted.

He knew her too well: her tone of voice, the expression that she tried and obviously failed to control on her face. “The other one concerns me,” she said.

“The other…Ah. The woman at the cottage. What was her name?”

“Daidre Trahair. She’s a vet from Bristol.”

“And what concerns you about the vet from Bristol?”

“I’ve a sense about things.”

“I know that well enough. And what’s the sense about things telling you this time?”

“That she’s lying about something. I want to know what.”

DAIDRE NEATLY SITUATED HER Vauxhall in the car park at the town end of St. Mevan Crescent, which made a slow curve towards St. Mevan Beach and the old Promontory King George Hotel sitting well above the sand, a line of decrepit blue beach huts below it. When she’d dropped him at the bottom of Belle Vue Lane and pointed him in the direction of the shops, she and Thomas Lynley had agreed on two hours.

He’d said politely, “I’m not inconveniencing you, I hope.”

He was not, she assured him. She had several things to do in town anyway. He was to take his time and purchase what he needed.

He’d protested this idea initially, when she’d first fetched him from the Salthouse Inn. Although he was considerably more fragrant than on the previous day, he was still wearing the ghastly white boiler suit, still with nothing but socks on his feet. He’d carefully removed these to cross the muddy path to her car and he’d tried to insist that buying new clothing could wait when she’d pressed two hundred pounds upon him.

She said, “Please. Don’t be ridiculous, Thomas. You can’t continue to walk round the area like…well, like someone from a hazardous-chemicals squad, or whatever they call it. You can repay me the money. Besides,” and here she smiled, “I hate to be the one to inform you, but white doesn’t suit you in the least.”

“It doesn’t?” He’d smiled in turn. He had a quite pleasant smile, and it came to her that she’d not seen him smile until that moment. Not that there had been anything in particular to grin about on the previous day, but still…Smiling was virtually an automatic response in most people, a reaction indicative of nothing other than passing courtesy, so it was unusual to find someone so grave.

“Not in the least,” she told him. “So buy something suitable for yourself.”

“Thank you,” he’d said. “You’re very kind.”

“I’m only kind to the wounded,” she told him.

He’d nodded thoughtfully and looked out of the windscreen for a moment, perhaps meditating on the way Belle Vue Lane climbed in a narrow passage to the upper reaches of the town. He’d finally said, “Two hours then,” and got out, leaving her wondering what else he had on his mind.

She’d driven off as he’d walked barefoot on a route towards the outdoor-outfitter’s shop. She’d passed him with a wave and had seen from her rearview mirror that he’d watched from the pavement as she made her way up the hill to where the street curved out of sight and split off, in one direction to the car park and in the other towards St. Mevan Down.

This was the highest point in Casvelyn. From here, one could take in the charmless nature of the little town. It had seen its heyday more than seventy years earlier when holidaying at the sea had been the height of fashion. Now it existed largely at the pleasure of surfers and other outdoor enthusiasts, with tea shops long ago morphed into T-shirt boutiques, souvenir shops, and surfing academies, and post-Edwardian homes serving as doss houses for a peripatetic population who followed the seasons and the swells.

Across Belle Vue Lane from the car park, Toes on the Nose Café was doing a good morning’s business off the local surfers, two of whom had left their cars parked illegally along the kerb, as if with the intention of tearing out of the establishment at the first sign of a change in conditions. The place was crowded with them: They were a close community. Daidre felt the prick of absence-how different it was from the sorrow of loss, she realised-as she passed by and saw them huddled round tables and no doubt telling tales of derring-do in the waves.

She headed for the offices of the Watchman, which hunkered down in an unattractive cube of blue stucco at the junction of Princes Street and Queen Street, in an area of Casvelyn that the locals jokingly called the Royal T. Princes Street served as the cross piece of the T, with Queen Street the trunk. Below Queen was King Street and nearby were Duke Street and Duchy Row. In Victorian times and earlier, Casvelyn had longed to append Regis to its name, and its streets’ appellations bore historical testimony to this fact.

When she’d told Thomas Lynley that she had things to do in town, she hadn’t been lying…exactly. There were arrangements to be made eventually about the broken window at the cottage, but beyond that there was the not insignificant matter of Santo Kerne’s death. The Watchman would be covering the teenager’s fall in Polcare Cove, and as she did not take a newspaper in Cornwall, it would be perfectly logical that she might stop by the offices of the paper to see if an issue with this story in it was soon going to be available.

When she entered, she saw Max Priestley at once. The place was quite small-consisting of Max’s own office, the layout room, a tiny newsroom, and a reception area that conveniently doubled as the newspaper’s morgue-so this was no surprise. He was in the layout room in the company of one of the paper’s two reporters, and they were bent over what appeared to be a mock-up of a front page, which Max seemed to want changed and which the reporter-who looked like nothing so much as a twelve-year-old girl in flip-flops-apparently wanted to remain the same.

“People’ll expect it,” she was insisting. “This’s a community paper, and he was a member of the community.”

“The queen dies and we go three inches,” Max replied. “Otherwise we don’t get carried away.” He looked up then and fixed on Daidre.

She raised a hand hesitantly and studied him as closely as she could without being obvious about it. He was an outdoorsman, and he looked it: weathered skin making him seem older than his forty years, thick hair permanently bleached from the sun, trim from regular coastal walking. He seemed normal today. She wondered about that.

The receptionist-who tripled as copy editor and secretary to the publisher-was in the process of politely enquiring after Daidre’s business when Max came out to join them, polishing his gold-rimmed spectacles on his shirt. He said to Daidre, “I just sent Steve Teller to interview you not five minutes ago. It’s time you had a phone like the rest of the world.”

“I do have a phone,” she told him. “It’s just not in Cornwall.”

“That’s hardly convenient to our purpose, Daidre.”

“So you’re working on the story about Santo Kerne?”

“I can’t exactly avoid it and still call myself a newsman, can I.” He tilted his head towards his office, saying to the receptionist, “Bring up Steve on his mobile if you can, Janna. Tell him Dr. Trahair’s come into town and if he manages to get back quick enough, she might consent to an interview.”

“I’ve nothing to tell him,” Daidre told Max Priestley.

“‘Nothing’ is our business,” he replied affably. He held out his hand, a gesture telling Daidre to go into his office.

She cooperated. Beneath his desk, his golden retriever snoozed. Daidre squatted by the dog and caressed her silky head. “Looking well,” she said. “The medication’s working?”

He grunted in the affirmative and said, “But you aren’t making a house call, are you.”

Daidre made a cursory exam of the dog’s belly, more a matter of form than from any real need. All signs of the skin infection were gone. She rose and said, “Don’t let it go on so long next time. Lily could lose her fur in gobs. You don’t want that.”

“Won’t be a next time. I’m actually a fast learner, despite what my history suggests. Why’re you here?”

“You know how Santo Kerne died, don’t you?”

“Daidre, you know that I know. So I suppose the real question is why’re you asking. Or stating. Or whatever you’re doing. What do you want? How can I help you this morning?”

She could hear the irritation in his voice. She knew what it meant. She was merely an occasional holiday maker in Casvelyn. She had entrée to some places and not to others. She shifted gears. “I saw Aldara last night. She was waiting for someone.”

“Was she indeed?”

“I thought it might have been you.”

“That’s not very likely.” He looked round the office as if for employment. “And is that why you’ve come? Checking up on Aldara? Checking up on me? Neither seems like you, but I’m not much good at reading women, as you know.”

“No. That’s not it.”

“Then…? Is there more? Because, as we want to get the paper out earlier today…”

“I’ve actually come to ask a favour.”

He looked immediately suspicious. “What would that be?”

“Your computer. The Internet actually. I’ve no other access, and I’d rather not use the library. I need to look up…” She hesitated. How much to say?

“What?”

She cast about and came up with it, and what she said was the truth despite its being incomplete. “The body…Santo…Max, Santo was found by a man doing the coastal walk.”

“We know that actually.”

“All right. Yes. I suppose you do. But he’s also a detective from New Scotland Yard. Do you know that as well?”

“Is he indeed?” Max sounded interested.

“So he says. I want to find out if that’s true.”

“Why?”

Why? Well, goodness, think of it. What better claim to make about yourself if you don’t want people looking at you too closely?”

“Thinking of going into police work yourself? Thinking of coming to work for me? Because otherwise, Daidre, I don’t see what this has to do with you.”

“I found the man inside my cottage. I’d like to know if he is who he says he is.” She explained how she’d come to be acquainted with Thomas Lynley. She made no mention, however, of how the man seemed: like someone carrying across his shoulders a yoke studded with protruding nails.

Her explanation apparently seemed reasonable to the newsman. He tilted his head towards his computer terminal. “Have at it, then. Print up what you find, because we may well use it. I’ve work to do. Lily’ll keep you company.” He started to leave the room but paused at the door, one hand on the jamb. “You haven’t seen me,” he said.

She’d moved to the terminal. She looked up, frowning. “What?”

“You haven’t seen me, should anyone ask. Are we clear on that?”

“You do know what that sounds like, don’t you?”

“Frankly, I don’t care what it sounds like.”

He left her, then, and she mulled over what he’d said. Only animals, she concluded, were safe for one’s devotion.

She logged onto the Internet and then a search engine. She typed in Thomas Lynley’s name.

DAIDRE FOUND HIM WAITING at the bottom of Belle Vue Lane. He looked completely different from the bearded stranger she’d driven into town, but she had no trouble recognising him since she’d spent over an hour gazing on a dozen or more news photos of him, generated by the investigation of a serial killing in London and by the tragedy that had supervened in his life. She now knew why she had seen him as an injured man carrying a tremendous burden. She merely didn’t know what to do with her knowledge. Nor with the rest of it: who he actually was, what comprised his background, the title, the money, the trappings of a world so far different from her own that they might have come from different planets and not merely from different circumstances in different parts of the very same county.

He’d had his hair cut, and he’d had a shave. He wore a rain jacket over a collarless shirt and pullover. He’d bought sturdy shoes and corduroy trousers. He carried a waxed rain hat in his hand. Not, she thought grimly, exactly the getup one expected to see on a belted earl. But that’s what he was. Lord Whoever with a murdered wife, done in on the street by a twelve-year-old boy. She’d been pregnant as well. It was little wonder to Daidre that Lynley was among the injured. The real miracle was that the man was actually capable of functioning at all.

When she pulled to the kerb, he got into the car. He’d bought a few items from the pharmacy as well, he told her, indicating a bag he brought forth from the capacious inner pocket of his jacket. Razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream-

“You’ve no need to account to me,” she told him. “I’m only glad you had enough funds.”

He gestured to his clothes. “On sale. End of the season. A real bargain. I’ve even managed”-he reached into the pocket of his trousers and brought forth a few notes and a handful of coins-“to bring you change,” he said. “I never thought I’d…” He drifted off.

“What?” She stuffed the notes and coins into the unused ashtray. “Shop for yourself?”

He looked at her, clearly assessing her words. “No,” he said. “I never thought I’d enjoy it.”

“Ah. Well. It’s retail therapy. Absolutely guaranteed to lift one’s spirits. Women know this at birth, somehow. Men have to learn it.”

He was quiet for a moment, and she caught him doing it another time, looking out of the car, through the windscreen, at the street. In a different place and a different time. She heard her words again and bit the inside of her lip. She hastened to add, “Shall we top off your experience with a coffee somewhere?”

He considered this. He answered slowly. “Yes. I think I’d like a coffee.”

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HANNAFORD WAS waiting for them at the Salthouse Inn when they returned. Lynley decided that the inspector had been watching for Daidre’s car, for as soon as they pulled into the inn’s lumpy car park, she came out of the building. It had begun to rain again, March’s ceaseless bad weather having segued into April and now May, and she pulled up the hood of her rain jacket and marched across to them, moving briskly.

She knocked on Daidre’s window and, when it was lowered, said, “I’d like a word. Both of you, please.” And then directly to Lynley, “You’re looking more human today. It’s an improvement.” She turned and headed back into the inn.

Lynley and Daidre followed. They found Hannaford in the public bar where she’d been-as Lynley suspected-occupying a window seat. She shed her rain jacket onto a bench and nodded for them to do the same. She led them to one of the larger tables on which a magazine-size A to Z was opened.

She spoke expansively to Lynley, which made him immediately suspicious about her motives. When cops were friendly, as he well knew, they were friendly for a reason and it wasn’t necessarily a good one. Where, she asked him, had he begun his coastal walk on the previous day? Would he show her on the map? See, the path’s well marked with a green dotted line, and if he’d be so kind as to point out the spot…It was all a matter of tying up the loose ends of his story, she said. He would know the dance, of course.

Lynley brought out his reading spectacles and leaned over the road atlas. The truth of the matter was that he hadn’t the slightest idea where he’d begun his walk on the South-West Coast Path on the previous day. If there had been a landmark, he hadn’t taken note of it. He remembered the names of several villages and hamlets he’d come upon along the coast, but as to when on his walk he’d passed through them, he couldn’t say. He also didn’t see that it mattered, although DI Hannaford cleared the air on that concern in a moment. He took a stab at placing himself some twelve miles southwest of Polcare Cove. He had no idea if this was accurate.

Hannaford said, “Right,” although she made no note about the location. She went on pleasantly with, “And what about you, Dr. Trahair?”

The vet stirred next to Lynley. “I did tell you I came down from Bristol.”

“You did indeed. Mind showing me the route? C’n I assume you follow the same route each time, by the way? Straightforward matter and all that?”

“Not necessarily.”

Lynley noted how Daidre drew out the final word, and he knew that Hannaford would not miss it either. Drawing a reply out like that generally meant certain mental hoops were being jumped through. What those hoops were and why they existed at all…Hannaford would be fishing for the reason.

Lynley took a moment to evaluate the two women. From head to toe, they couldn’t have been more dissimilar: Hannaford’s flaming mop done up in wild spikes, Daidre’s sandy hair drawn back from her face and held at the crown of her head with a tortoiseshell slide; Hannaford dressed to mean business in a suit and court shoes, Daidre wearing jeans, pullover, and boots. Daidre was lithe, like a woman who took regular exercise and watched what she ate. Hannaford looked like someone whose busy life precluded both regular meals and regular workouts. There were also several decades between them. The detective could have been Daidre’s mother.

She wasn’t acting motherly now. She was waiting for an answer to her question as Daidre looked at the atlas to explain the route she’d followed from Bristol to Polcare Cove. Lynley knew why the cop was asking. He wondered if Daidre was working that out as well before she replied.

The M5 down to Exeter, she said. Over to Okehampton and northwest from there. There was no completely easy way to get to Polcare Cove, she pointed out. Sometimes she did the Exeter route, but other times she worked her way over from Tiverton.

Hannaford made much of studying the map before she said, “And from Okehampton?”

“What d’you mean?” Daidre asked.

“One can’t leap from Okehampton to Polcare Cove, Dr. Trahair. You didn’t come by helicopter from there, did you? What was the route you took? The exact route, please.”

Lynley saw a flush rise up the vet’s neck. She was lucky that her skin was lightly freckled. Had it not been, she would have coloured to puce.

She said, “Are you asking me this because you think I had something to do with that boy’s death?”

“Did you?”

“I did not.”

“Then you won’t mind showing me your route, will you.”

Daidre pressed her lips together. She pushed an errant lock of hair behind her left ear. Her lobe, Lynley saw, was pierced three times. She wore a hoop, a stud, but nothing else.

She traced the route: A3079, A3072, A39, and then a series of smaller roads until she reached Polcare Cove, which earned barely a speck in the A to Z. As she pointed out the journey she’d made, Hannaford took notes. She nodded thoughtfully and thanked the other woman when Daidre had completed her answer.

Daidre didn’t look pleased to have the detective’s thanks. She looked, if anything, angry and trying to master her anger. This told Lynley that Daidre knew what the detective was up to. What it didn’t tell him was where her anger was being directed, though: at DI Hannaford or herself.

“Are we released now?” Daidre asked.

“You are, Dr. Trahair,” Hannaford said. “But Mr. Lynley and I have further business.”

“You can’t think he-” She stopped. The flush was there again. She looked at Lynley and then away.

“He what?” Hannaford asked politely.

“He’s a stranger round here. How would he have known that boy?”

“Are you saying you yourself knew him, Dr. Trahair? Did you know that boy? He might have been a stranger here as well. Our Mr. Lynley-for all we know-may have come along precisely to toss Santo Kerne-that’s his name, by the way-right down the face of that cliff.”

“That’s ridiculous. He’s said he’s a policeman.”

“He’s said. But I’ve no actual proof of that. Have you?”

“I…Never mind.” She’d placed her shoulder bag on a chair, and she scooped it up. “I’m leaving now, as you said you were finished with me, Inspector.”

“As indeed I am,” Bea Hannaford said pleasantly. “For now.”

THEY EXCHANGED ONLY A brief few remarks in the car afterwards. Lynley asked Hannaford where she was taking him, and she replied that she was taking him with her to Truro, to Royal Cornwall Hospital, to be exact. He then said, “You’re going to check all the pubs on the route, aren’t you?” To which she archly replied, “All the pubs on the route to Truro? Not very likely, my good man.”

He said, “I’m not talking about the route to Truro, Inspector.”

She said, “I knew that. And do you really expect me to answer that question? You found the body. You know the game if you’re who you say you are.” She glanced his way. She’d put on sunglasses although there was no sun and, indeed, it was still raining. He wondered about this and she answered his wonder. “Corrective,” she told him. “For my driving. My others are at home. Or possibly in my son’s rucksack at school. Or one of the dogs could have eaten them, for all I know.”

“You have dogs?”

“Three black Labs. Dogs One, Two, and Three.”

“Interesting names.”

“I like to keep things simple at home. To balance all the ways things are never simple at work.”

That was the extent of what they said. The rest of the drive they made in silence broken by radio chatter and two calls Hannaford took on her mobile phone. One of them apparently asked for her approximate time of arrival in Truro, barring traffic problems, and the other was a brief message from someone to whom she responded with a terse, “I told them to get it to me. What the hell’s it doing with you in bloody Exeter?…And how’m I supposed to…That is not necessary and yes you’re right before you say it: I don’t want to owe you…Oh, grand. Do what you like, Ray.”

At the hospital in Truro, Hannaford guided Lynley to the mortuary, where the air smelled headily of disinfectant and an assistant was hosing off the trolley on which a body had been cut open for inspection. Nearby, the forensic pathologist-thin as an ageing spinster’s marital hopes-was downing a large tomato juice over a stainless sink. The man, Lynley thought, had to have a stomach of iron and the sensitivity of a stone.

“This is Gordie Lisle,” Hannaford said to Lynley. “Fastest Y incision on the planet and you don’t want to know how quick he can shear ribs.”

“You do me too much honour,” Lisle said.

“I know. This is Thomas Lynley,” she told him. “What’ve we got?”

Finishing his juice, Lisle went to a desk and scooped up a document to which he referred as he began his report. This he prefaced with the information that the injuries were consistent with a fall. He went about relating them. Pelvis broken, he said, and right medial malleolus shattered. He added, “That’s ankle to the layman.”

Hannaford nodded sagely.

Right tibia and right fibula fractured, Lisle continued. Compound fractures of the ulna and radius, also on the right, six ribs broken, left greater tubercle crushed, both lungs pierced, spleen ruptured.

“What the hell is a tubercle?” Hannaford asked.

“Shoulder,” he explained.

“Nasty business, but is all that enough to kill him? What sent him to the other side, then? Shock?”

“I was saving the best for last. Enormous fracture of the temporal bone. His skull broke like an eggshell. See here.” Lisle set his document on a work top and strolled over to a wall on which the human skeletal system was displayed on a large chart. “When he fell, I reckon he hit an outcrop on the way down the cliff. He flipped at least once, picked up speed with the rest of the descent, landed heavy on the right side and crushed his skull on the slate. When the bone fractured, it sliced into the middle meningeal artery. That produced an acute epidural haematoma. Pressure on the brain and no place for it to go that’s not lethal. He’d have died in about fifteen minutes although he would have been unconscious throughout. I take it there was no helmet nearby? No other headgear?”

“Kids,” Hannaford said. “They think they’re invincible.”

“This one wasn’t. Anyway, the extent of the injuries suggests he fell the moment he began the abseil.”

“Which itself suggests the sling broke the instant it took his full weight.”

“I’d agree with that.”

“What about the black eye? It was healing, yes? What’s it consistent with?”

“A bloody good punch. Someone gave him a decent one that likely floored him. You can still see the impression of the knuckles.”

Hannaford nodded. She gave a glance at Lynley, who’d been listening and simultaneously wondering why Hannaford was making him part of this. It was more than irregular. It was foolhardy of her, considering his position in the case, and she didn’t seem like a foolhardy woman. She had a plan of some sort. He would have laid a wager on that.

“When?” Hannaford asked.

“The punch?” Lisle said. “I’d say a week ago.”

“Does it look like he was in a fight?”

Lisle shook his head.

“Why not?”

“No other marks on him of a similar age,” Lynley put in. “Someone got one good blow in and that was that.”

Hannaford looked at him, quite as if she’d forgotten she’d brought him. Lisle said, “I’d agree. Someone snapped or someone was giving him discipline of some sort. It either resolved things, knocked him flat, or he wasn’t the type to be provoked, even by a punch in the face.”

“What about sadomasochism?” Hannaford asked.

Lisle looked thoughtful, and Lynley said, “I’m not sure sadomasochists like being punched in the face.”

“Hmm. Yes,” Lisle said. “I’d think your common S and M freak would be looking to have himself tweaked round his privates. Spanked as well. Maybe whipped for good measure. And we’ve got nothing on the body consistent with that.” All three of them stood for a moment, staring at the chart of the skeletal system. Lisle finally said to Hannaford, “How’s the dating coming along? Internet made your dreams come true yet?”

“Daily,” she told him. “You must try it again, Gordie. You gave up far too soon.”

He shook his head. “I’m finished there. Case of looking for love in all the wrong places, if I might coin a phrase.” He gazed mournfully round the mortuary. “Puts them right off, this does, and no getting round it. No dolling it up. I spill the beans and there you have it.”

“What d’you mean?”

He gestured to the room. Another corpse was waiting nearby, a sheet covering its body, a tag on its toe. “When they learn what I do. No one fancies it much.”

Hannaford patted him on the shoulder. “Well, no matter there, Gordie. You fancy it and that’s what counts.”

“You want to give us a try, then?” He looked at her differently, assessing and weighing.

“Don’t tempt me, dear. You’re far too young, and anyway I’m a sinner at heart. I’ll need the paperwork on this”-using her chin to indicate the trolley that had been washed off-“as quickly as possible.”

“I’ll sweet-talk someone,” Lisle said.

They left him. Hannaford examined a hospital plan nearby and ushered Lynley to the cafeteria. He couldn’t think she intended to have a meal after their visit to the morgue, and he found he was correct in this assessment of matters. Hannaford paused in the doorway and looked round the room till she spied a man at a table alone, reading a newspaper. She led Lynley to him.

It was the man, Lynley saw, who’d come to Daidre Trahair’s cottage on the previous night, the same man who’d asked him about New Scotland Yard. He hadn’t been identified then, but Hannaford did the honours now. This was ACC Ray Hannaford from Middlemore, she told him. The assistant chief constable stood and courteously offered his hand.

“Yes,” DI Hannaford then said to Lynley.

“Yes?” Lynley asked.

“He’s a relation.”

“Former,” Ray Hannaford said. “Regrettably.”

“You flatter me, darling,” DI Hannaford said.

Neither of them elucidated further, although the word former spoke a volume or two. More than one cop in the immediate family, Lynley concluded. It couldn’t have been easy.

Ray Hannaford picked up a manila envelope that had been sitting on the table. “Here it is,” he said to his former wife. “Next time you insist on a courier, do tell them where you are for delivery, Beatrice.”

“I did tell them,” the DI replied. “Obviously, whoever the sod was who brought this down from London, he didn’t want the bother of going all the way to Holsworthy or the Casvelyn station. Or,” she asked shrewdly, “did you put in a call for this as well?” She gestured with the manila envelope.

“I didn’t,” he said. “But we’re going to have to talk about a quid pro quo. The account’s growing. The drive from Exeter was bloody murder. You owe me on two fronts now.”

“Two? What’s the other?”

“Fetching Pete last night. Without complaint, as I recall.”

“Did I drag you from the arms of a twenty-year-old?”

“I believe she was at least twenty-three.”

Bea Hannaford chuckled. She opened the envelope and peered inside. She said, “Ah yes. I take it you’ve had a look yourself, Ray?”

“Guilty as suspected.”

She brought the contents out. At once Lynley recognised his own police identification from New Scotland Yard.

He said, “I handed that in. It should have been…What do they do to those things when someone quits? They must destroy them.”

Ray Hannaford was the one who replied. “Apparently, they weren’t willing to destroy yours.”

Premature was the word they used,” Bea Hannaford added. “A hasty decision made at a bad time.” She offered the Scotland Yard ID to Lynley.

He didn’t take it. Instead he said, “My identification is on its way from my home. I did tell you that. My wallet, along with everything in it, will be here by tomorrow. This”-he indicated his warrant card-“was unnecessary.”

“On the contrary,” DI Hannaford said, “it was entirely necessary. Phony IDs, as you well know, are as easy to get as the clap. For all I know, you’ve spent the morning scouring the streets for the goods.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“I expect you can work that out for yourself, Superintendent Lynley. Or do you prefer the aristo title? And what the hell is someone like you doing working for the Bill?”

“I’m not,” he said. “Not any longer.”

“Tell that to the Yard. You didn’t answer. Which are you called? Which d’you prefer? Personal or professional title?”

“I prefer Thomas. And now that you know I am who I said I was last night-which I suspect you knew already or why else would you have allowed me into the mortuary with you-may I presume I’m free to resume my walk on the coast?”

“That’s the very last thing you may presume. You’re not going anywhere till I tell you otherwise. And if you’re thinking of scurrying off in the dark of night, think again. You’ve a usefulness now I have the proof you are who you claimed to be.”

“Usefulness as a policeman or as a private citizen?” Lynley asked her.

“As whatever works, Detective.”

“Works for what?”

“For our good doctor.”

“Who?”

“The vet. Dr. Trahair. You and I both know she’s lying through those pretty white teeth of hers. Your job is to find out why.”

“You can’t possibly require me-”

Hannaford’s mobile rang. She held up a hand and cut him off. She dug the phone from her bag and walked off a few paces, saying, “Tell me,” into the mobile as she flipped it open. She bent her head as she listened. She tapped her foot.

“She lives for this,” Ray Hannaford said. “She didn’t, at the beginning. But now, it’s what makes her alive. Foolish, isn’t it?”

“That death would make someone alive?”

“No. That I let her go. She wanted one thing; I wanted another.”

“That happens.”

“Not if I’d had my head on straight.”

Lynley looked at Hannaford. Earlier, he’d said regrettably about his status as the inspector’s former husband. “You could tell her,” Lynley said.

“Could and did. But sometimes when you demean yourself in another’s eyes, you can’t recover. I’d like to turn back time, though.”

“Yes,” Lynley said. “Wouldn’t we both.”

The DI returned to them then. Her jaw was set. She gestured with her mobile and said to the ACC, “It’s murder. Ray, I want that incident room in Casvelyn. I don’t care what you have to do to get it and I don’t care what the quid pro quo is going to be either. I want HOLMES set up, an MCIT in place, and an evidence officer assigned. All right?”

“You don’t ask for much, Beatrice, do you?”

“On the contrary, Raymond,” she replied levelly. “As you well know.”

“WE’LL SORT OUT A car for you,” Bea Hannaford said to Lynley. “You’re going to need one.”

They stood outside the entrance to Royal Cornwall Hospital. Ray had gone on his way, after telling Bea that he couldn’t promise her anything and after hearing her retort of “how true,” which she knew was an unfair dig but which she used anyway because she’d long ago learned that when it came to murder, the end of charging someone with a homicide justified any means one employed to get there.

Lynley replied with what sounded to Bea like care. “I don’t believe you can ask this of me.”

“Because you outrank me? That’s not going to count for much out here in the hinterlands, Superintendent.”

“Acting, only.”

“What?”

“Acting superintendent. I was never promoted permanently. I was just stepping in to fill a need.”

“How good of you. The very sort of bloke I’m looking for. You can step in to fill another rather burning need now.” She felt him glance her way as they proceeded towards her car, and she laughed outright. “Not that need,” she said, “though I expect you offer a decent shag when a woman puts a gun to your head. How old are you?”

“The Yard didn’t tell you?”

“Humour me.”

“Thirty-eight.”

“Star sign?”

“What?”

“Gemini, Taurus, Virgo, what?”

“Is this somehow important?”

“As I said, humour me. Going along with the moment is so inexpensive, Thomas.”

He sighed. “Pisces, as it happens.”

“Well, there you have it. It would never work between us. Besides, I’m twenty years older than you and while I fancy them younger than myself, I don’t fancy them that young. So you’re entirely safe in my company.”

“Somehow that’s not a soothing thought.”

She laughed again and unlocked the car. They both climbed in, but she didn’t insert the ignition key at once. Instead, she looked at him seriously. “I need you to do this for me,” she told him. “She wants to protect you.”

“Who?”

“You know who. Dr. Trahair.”

“She hardly wants that. I broke into her house. She wants me around to pay for the damage. And I owe her money for the clothing.”

“Don’t be obtuse. She jumped to your defence earlier, and there’s a reason for that. She’s got a vulnerable spot. It may have to do with you. Or it may not. I don’t know where it is or why it is, but you’re going to find it.”

“Why?”

“Because you can. Because this is a murder investigation, and all the nice social rules fly out of the window when we start looking for a killer. And that’s something you know as well as I do.”

Lynley shook his head, but it seemed to Bea Hannaford that this movement wasn’t one of refusal so much as one that acknowledged a regretful understanding and acceptance of a single immutable fact: She had him by the short and curlies. If he did a runner, she’d fetch him back and he knew it.

He said at last, “Was the sling cut, then?”

“What?”

“The phone call you received. You came away from it calling the situation murder. So I’m wondering if the sling was cut or if they’ve dug up something else at forensics.”

Bea thought about whether to answer the question and what it would signal to him if she did so. She knew little enough about the man, but she also knew when a leap of faith was needed simply for what a leap of faith meant. She said, “It was cut.”

“Obviously so?”

“Microscopic examination helped push the decision-if you will-over the edge.”

“So not terribly obvious, at least to the naked eye. Why do you think it’s murder?”

“And not…what?”

“Suicide played out to look like an accident to spare the family additional pain.”

“What do we know so far that could possibly lead you there?”

“He was hit. Punched.”

“And…?”

“It’s stretching, but perhaps he wasn’t in a position to defend himself. He wanted to but couldn’t. Who knows why. He felt unable or at least unwilling, which resulted in a sense of uselessness. He projects that uselessness onto the rest of his life, onto all his relationships, no matter how illogical the projection is…”

“And Bob’s your mother’s you-know-what? I don’t think so and neither do you.” Bea shoved her car key into the ignition and thought about what these remarks suggested, not so much about the victim but about Thomas Lynley himself. She gave him a wary look and wondered if she’d been wrong in her assessment of him. “D’you know what a chock stone is?” she asked him.

He shook his head. “Should I? What is it?”

“It’s what makes this a murder investigation,” she said.

Chapter Seven

THE RAIN STOPPED IN CASVELYN NOT LONG AFTER MIDDAY, and for this Cadan Angarrack was grateful. He’d been painting radiators in the guest rooms of Adventures Unlimited since his arrival that morning, and the fumes were causing his head to pound. He couldn’t sort out why they had him painting radiators anyway. Who was going to notice them? Who ever noticed whether radiators were painted when they were in a hotel? No one except perhaps a hotel inspector and what did it amount to if a hotel inspector noticed a bit of rust in the ironwork? Nothing. Abso-bloody-lutely nothing. And anyway, it wasn’t like the decrepit Promontory King George Hotel was being taken back to its former glory, was it? It was merely being made habitable for the hordes interested in a holiday package on the sea that consisted of fun, frolic, food, and some kind of instruction in an outdoor activity. And that lot didn’t care where they stayed at night, as long as it was clean, served chips, and stayed within the budget.

So when the skies cleared, Cadan decided that a bit of fresh air was just the ticket. He would have a look at the crazy golf course, future location of the BMX trails, future site of the BMX lessons that Cadan was certain would be requested of him once he had a chance to show his stuff to…That was the problem of the moment. He wasn’t quite sure to whom he would be showing anything.

Indeed, he hadn’t been certain he was even supposed to come into work on this day, as he wasn’t sure that he had a job after what had happened to Santo. At first, he’d thought he simply wouldn’t show up. He thought he’d let a few days roll by and then he’d phone and express whatever condolences he could come up with and ask did they still want him to do maintenance work. But then he reckoned a phone call like that would give them a chance to sack him before he’d even had a chance to demonstrate how valuable he could be. So he’d decided to put in an appearance at the place and to look as doleful as possible round any Kerne he might run into.

Cadan hadn’t yet seen a hair of either Ben or Dellen-Santo Kerne’s parents-but his arrival had coincided with Alan Cheston’s and when Cadan brought Alan into the picture about his employment at Adventures Unlimited, Alan said he’d fetch someone at once to see what Cadan was meant to be doing. He’d strode off to do so, after unlocking the front door, letting them both in, and pocketing the keys with the air of a man who knew exactly where his place was in the scheme of things.

The old hotel was as silent as a graveyard. It was cold as well. Cadan shivered-he felt Pooh do likewise on his shoulder-and he waited in the new reception area, where a bulletin board displayed the words “Your Instructors,” along with head shots of the six staff members so far hired. These all pyramided down from a picture of Kerra Kerne, who was identified as “Director of Instruction.”

It was, Cadan thought, a decent picture of Kerra. She was no great beauty-ordinary brown hair, ordinary blue eyes, and stockier than Cadan fancied in a woman-but there was no doubt she was in the best physical condition of any female her age in Casvelyn. It was just unfortunate that her roll of the genetic dice had given Kerra her father’s looks instead of her mother’s. Santo had inherited every one of those, a fact which some might refer to as lucky. Cadan, however, reckoned most blokes didn’t fancy being pretty like Santo. Unless, naturally, one knew how to use it.

“Cade?”

He swung round. Pooh squawked and shifted position.

Kerra had materialized from somewhere. Alan was with her. Cadan knew they were a couple, but he couldn’t reconcile the matter. Kerra was sun and sinew with, unfortunately, tree-trunk ankles. Alan looked like someone who’d take exercise as a last resort and then only if threatened with disembowelment.

A few words among them had sorted things. Although Alan on the surface might have looked like small change, it turned out he was on top of almost all that was going on at the place. So before Cadan knew enough to make a spurious excuse about the delicate condition of his lungs should they ever be exposed to paint fumes, he found himself with drop cloths and a paintbrush in one hand and two gallons of glossy white in the other. Alan made an introduction between Cadan and the project, and that was that.

Four hours later saw Cadan deciding he was owed a break outdoors. Pooh, he noted, had grown ominously silent. Likely the parrot had a headache as well.

The ground was still sopping round the crazy golf course, but Cadan didn’t let that deter him. Guiding his bike, he climbed the slope to hole number one, where he quickly saw that doing a few tabletops just now in this location had been something of a pipe dream. He set his bike to one side, established Pooh on the handlebars, and gave the crazy golf course a closer look.

This wasn’t going to be a simple project. The course looked at least sixty years old. It also looked like something that hadn’t been maintained in the last thirty of those years. This was too bad because otherwise crazy golf could have been a little moneymaker for Adventures Unlimited. On the other hand, this was also a plus because an unmaintained course made it far likelier than otherwise that anyone in the position of making a decision about the future would climb onboard once Cadan laid out his plans. But the idea of laying out plans necessitated having plans, and Cadan wasn’t a having-plans sort of person. So he walked round the first five holes of the course and tried to reckon what needed to be done aside from ripping out miniature windmills, barns, and schoolhouses and filling in the holes.

He was still considering all this when he saw a panda car pulling from St. Mevan Crescent into the car park of the old hotel. The driver-a uniformed constable-got out and went inside. A few minutes later he departed.

Shortly thereafter, Kerra came out of the building. She stood in the car park, hands on hips, and she looked about. Cadan was squatting next to a tiny shipwrecked rowboat that acted as an obstacle on hole number six, and it came to him that she was searching for someone, possibly him. His modus operandi was generally to hide, since if someone was seeking him, it was usually because he’d bollocksed something up and was presently going to hear about it. But a quick evaluation of his performance in the painting department told him he’d been doing a class A job, so he rose and made his presence known.

Kerra headed in his direction. She’d changed from what she’d been wearing earlier. She was decked out in Lycra, and Cadan recognised the kit: She had on her long-distance cyclist’s gear. Odd time of day to be going for a ride, he thought, but when you were the boss’s daughter, you made your own rules.

Kerra spoke to him without preamble when she reached the ruins of the crazy golf course. Her voice was clipped. “I phoned the farm, but they told me she doesn’t work there any longer. I phoned your house, but she’s not there either. D’you know where she is? I want to speak with her.”

Cadan took a moment to think about the remarks, the question, and the implications of each. He bought time by going to his bike, removing Pooh from the handlebars, and settling the bird on his shoulder.

“Blow holes in the attic,” Pooh remarked.

“Cade.” Kerra’s voice was patient but with an edge. “Please answer me. Now would be preferable to sometime in the future.”

“It’s weird you want to know, is all,” Cadan told her. “I mean, it’s not like you’re friends with Madlyn any longer, so I was wondering…” He cocked his head so that his cheek touched Pooh’s side. He liked the feeling of the bird’s feathers against him.

Kerra’s eyes narrowed. “You were wondering what?”

“Santo. The cops showing up. You coming out here to talk to me. Asking me about Madlyn. Is all this related?”

Kerra had her hair in a ponytail and she unbanded it so that it fell to her shoulders. She shook it out, then tied it back up. It seemed as much a gesture to buy time for her as rescuing Pooh from the bike had been for Cadan. Then she looked at him and seemed to focus more clearly. “What happened to your face?”

“Plain old luck,” he said. “It’s the one I was born with.”

“Don’t joke, Cadan. You know what I mean. The bruises, the scratches.”

“I slipped. Occupational hazard. I was doing a no-footed cancan, and I hit the side of the pool the wrong way. Over at the leisure centre.”

“You did that swimming?” She sounded incredulous.

“Pool’s empty. I was practising there. On the bike.” He felt himself colour, and this irritated him. He made it a point never to be embarrassed about his passion, and he didn’t want to think why he was embarrassed now. “What’s going on?” he asked, with a nod at the hotel.

“It wasn’t an ordinary fall. He was murdered. That’s what the police came to tell us. They sent their…whatever he is…their liaison officer. I think he’s meant to hang about serving us tea and biscuits to keep us from…I don’t know…What do people generally do when a member of the family is murdered? Go mad to get vengeance? Shoot up the town? Gnash their teeth? And what the hell is that, gnashing the teeth? Where is she, Cade?”

“She already knows he died.”

“That he died or that he was murdered? Where is she? He was my brother, and as she was his…his girlfriend-”

“Your friend as well,” Cadan reminded her. “At least at one time.”

“Don’t,” she said. “Just don’t, all right?”

He shrugged. He directed his attention back to the crazy golf course and said, “This needs to go. It’s a wreck. You could repair it, but my guess is the cost would exceed the benefits. In the short term. In the long run…Who knows?”

“Alan knows the long run. Profit and loss, long-term projections. He knows it all. But none of that matters because just now there may not be a reason to worry.”

“About?”

“About anything related to Adventures Unlimited. I doubt my father will have the stomach to open after what’s happened to Santo.”

“What’s next, then, if you don’t open?”

“Alan would say we try to find a buyer and recoup our investment. But then, that’s Alan. A mind for the figures if nothing else.”

“Sounds like you’re cheesed off at him.”

She didn’t take up the remark. “Is she at home and just not answering the phone? I can go over there but I don’t want to take the trouble if she’s not there anyway. So d’you mind telling me that much?”

“I expect she’s still with Jago,” he said.

“Who’s Jago?”

“Jago Reeth. Bloke that works for my dad. She was with him all night. She’s still with him, for all I know.”

Kerra laughed shortly, without amusement. “Well, she’s moved on, hasn’t she? That was quick. Miraculous recovery from complete heartbreak. How very nice for her.”

Cadan wanted to ask what it was to her, whether his sister moved on to another man or not. But instead he said, “Jago Reeth’s like…I don’t know. Maybe he’s seventy or something. He’s like a granddad to her, okay?”

“What’s he do for your dad, then, some seventy-year-old?”

She was definitely annoying him. She was being the boss’s daughter and you-better-treat-me-as-I’m-meant-to-be-treated, and that rubbed Cadan wrong. He said, “Kerra, does that matter, exactly? Why the hell d’you want to know?”

And just like that, she altered. She gave a weird little cough and he saw the glitter of tears in her eyes. That glitter reminded him that her brother was dead, that he’d died only on the previous day, and that she’d just learned he’d been murdered.

He said, “A glasser.” When she looked at him in confusion, he added, “Jago Reeth. He does the fiberglass on the boards. He’s an old surfer my dad picked up…I don’t know…six months ago maybe? He’s a detail man like Dad. And, what’s important, not like me.”

“She spent the night with a seventy-year-old bloke?”

“Jago phoned and said she was there.”

“What time?”

“Kerra…”

“This is important, Cadan.”

“Why? D’you think she gave your brother the bump? How was she supposed to do that? Shove him over the cliff?”

“His equipment was messed with. That’s what the cop told us.”

Cadan widened his eyes. “Hang on, Kerra. No way…And I mean no way. She may have been off her nut with everything that happened between them, but my sister is not-” He stopped himself. Not because of what he’d intended to say about Madlyn but because as he’d been speaking, his gaze had moved from Kerra to the beach below them and across that beach a surfer was jogging, his board under his arm and its leash trailing behind him in the sand. He was fully garbed, as he would be at this time of year, for the water was still quite cold. Head to toe in neoprene. Head to toe in black. You couldn’t, in fact, actually tell if the surfer was male or female from this distance.

“What?” Kerra said.

Cadan shuddered. He said quietly, “Madlyn may have been all over the map with how she reacted after what happened between her and Santo. I give you that.”

“That and then some,” Kerra remarked.

“But killing off her ex-boyfriend wouldn’t be part of her repertoire, okay? Jesus, Kerra, she kept thinking he was just going through a stage, you know.”

“At first,” Kerra clarified.

“Okay. Maybe only at first she thought that. But it doesn’t mean she’d finally get to the point of understanding how things really were and deciding the only reasonable thing to do was to kill him. Does that make sense to you?”

“Love,” Kerra said, “never makes sense to me. People do all sorts of mad things when they’re in love with someone.”

“Yeah?” Cadan said. “Is that the truth? So, what about you?”

She made no reply.

“I rest my case,” he told her. And then he added, “Sea Dreams, if you have to know.”

“What’s that?”

“Where she is. Jago’s got a caravan at that holiday park where the dairy used to be. Out beyond Sawsneck Down. If you want to grill her, grill her there. For what it’s worth, though, you’ll be wasting your time.”

“What makes you think I want to grill her?”

“You sure as hell want something,” Cadan told her.

ONCE BEA HANNAFORD HAD him in possession of a hired car, she told Lynley to follow her. She said to him, “I expect this isn’t your typical heap,” in reference to the Ford, “but at least you’ll fit it. Or it’ll fit you.”

Under other circumstances, Lynley might have told her that she was being more than generous. Indeed, his breeding generally made that sort of remark second nature to him. But under the present circumstances, he merely told her that his usual mode of transportation had been totaled in February and he hadn’t yet replaced it with something else, so the Ford was fine.

She said, “Good,” and advised him to mind his driving since he would be doing so without a licence until his wallet arrived. “It’ll be our little secret,” she said. She told him to follow her. She had something to show him.

What she had to show him was in Casvelyn, and he obediently trailed her there. He drove trying to keep his mind on that-simply on the driving-but he found the strength draining out of him with the sheer effort he made to hold his thoughts in check.

He’d told himself he was finished with murder. One did not watch a beloved wife die-the victim of an utterly senseless street killing-and walk away from that to think that tomorrow was simply another day. Tomorrow was, instead, something to be endured. So far he’d endured the endless succession of tomorrows he’d been living through by doing what was set in front of him and nothing more.

At first it had been Howenstow: seeing to matters on and around the land that was his legacy and the great house sitting upon that land. No matter that his mother, his brother, and an estate manager had been handling Howenstow matters for ages. He’d thrown himself into them to keep from throwing himself elsewhere, until half of what he’d taken on was a muddle and the other half was a wreck. His mother’s gentle admonition of “Darling, let me handle this,” or “John Penellin’s been working on this situation for weeks, Tommy,” or anything of a similar persuasion was something he brushed aside with a remark so terse that the dowager countess had sighed, pressed his shoulder, and left him to it.

But he found that Howenstow matters ultimately brought Helen into his mind, whether he wanted her there or not. The half-finished nursery had to be dismantled. Countryside clothing she’d left in their bedroom had to be gone through. A plaque for her resting place in the estate chapel-for the resting place she shared with their never-born son-had to be designed. And then there were the reminders of her: where he and she had walked together on the path from the house through the wood and over to the cove, where she’d stood in front of pictures in the gallery and lightheartedly commented on the physical attributes of some of his more questionable ancestors, where she’d browsed through ancient editions of Country Life in the library, where she’d curled up with-and ultimately dozed off over-a thick biography of Oscar Wilde.

Because reminders of Helen were everywhere at Howenstow, he’d begun his walk. Trudging along the entire South-West Coast Path was the last possible challenge Helen would ever have undertaken (“My God, Tommy, you’ve got to be mad. What would I do for shoes that aren’t utterly appalling in appearance?”), so he knew he could walk the length of it with impunity, should he choose to do so. There would be not a single reminder of her along the way.

But he’d not counted on the memorials he’d come across. Nothing he’d read about the path prior to walking it had prepared him for those. From simple bunches of dying flowers to wooden benches engraved with the names of the departed, death greeted him nearly every day. He’d left the Yard because he could not face another sudden brutal passing of a human being, but there it was: confronting him with a regularity that mocked his every attempt to forget.

And now this. DI Hannaford wasn’t exactly involving him in the murder investigation itself, but she was putting him close to it. He didn’t want that, but at the same time, he didn’t know how he could avoid it because he read the inspector as a woman who was as good as her word: Should he conveniently disappear from the region of Casvelyn, she would happily fetch him back and not rest till she’d done so.

As to what she was asking him to do…Like DI Hannaford, Lynley believed Daidre Trahair was lying about the route she’d taken from Bristol to Polcare Cove on the previous day. Unlike DI Hannaford, Lynley also knew Daidre Trahair had lied more than once about knowing Santo Kerne. There were going to be reasons behind both of these lies-far beyond what the vet had told him when he’d confronted her about her knowledge of the dead boy’s identity-and he didn’t know if he wanted to uncover them. Her reasons for obfuscation were doubtless personal, and the poor woman was hardly a killer.

Yet why did he think that? he asked himself. He knew better than anyone that killers wore a thousand different guises. Killers were men; killers were women. Killers, to his anguish, were children. And victims everywhere-no matter how foul they might actually be-were not meant to be dispatched by anyone, whatever the motive for untimely sending them to their eternal reward or punishment. The whole basis for their society rested upon the idea that murder was wrong, start to finish, and that justice had to be served so that closure-if not satisfaction, not relief, and certainly not an end to grief-might at least be achieved on the entire event. Justice equated to naming and convicting the killer, and justice was what was owed to those the victim summarily left behind.

Part of Lynley cried out that this was not his problem. Part of him knew that now and forever and more than ever, it would always be.

By the time they reached Casvelyn he was, if not reconciled to the matter, then at least in moderate accord with it. Everything needed to be accounted for in an investigation. Daidre Trahair was part of that everything, having made herself so the moment she lied.

Casvelyn’s police station was in Lansdown Road, in the heart of the town, directly at the bottom of Belle Vue’s course up the town’s main acclivity, and it was here in front of the plain, grey two-storey structure that Bea Hannaford parked. Lynley thought at first that she meant to take him inside and introduce him around, but instead she said, “Come with me,” and she put a hand on his elbow and guided him back the way they had come.

At the junction of Lansdown Road and Belle Vue, they crossed a triangle of land where benches, a fountain, and three trees provided Casvelyn with an outdoor gathering place in good weather. From there they headed over to Queen Street, which was lined with shops like those on Belle Vue Lane: everything from purveyors of furniture to pharmacies. There, Bea Hannaford paused and peered in both directions till she apparently saw what she wanted, for she said, “Yes. Over here. I want you to see what we’re dealing with.”

Over here referred to a shop selling sporting goods: both equipment and clothing for outdoor activities. Hannaford did an admirably quick recce of the place, found what she wanted, told the shop assistant they needed no help, and directed Lynley to a wall. Upon it were hung various metallic devices, mostly of steel. It wasn’t rocket science to sort out they were used for climbing.

She chose a package that held three devices constructed of lead, heavy steel cable, and plastic sheathing. The lead was a thick wedge at the end of a cable perhaps one quarter inch thick. This looped through the wedge at one end and also formed another loop at the other end. In the middle was a tough plastic sheath, which wrapped tightly round the cable and thus held the two sides of it closely together. The result was a sturdy cord with a slug of lead at one end and a loop at the other.

“This,” Hannaford said to Lynley, “is a chock stone. D’you know how it’s used?”

Lynley shook his head. Obviously, it was meant for cliff climbing. Equally so, its loop end would be used to connect the chock stone to some other device. But that was as much as he could sort out.

DI Hannaford said, “Hold up your hand, palm towards yourself. Keep your fingers tight. I’ll show you.”

Lynley did as she asked. She slid the cable between his upright index and middle fingers, so that the slug of lead was snug against his palm and the loop at the other end of the cable was on her side of his hand.

She said, “Your fingers are a crack in the cliff face. Or an aperture between two boulders. Your hand is the cliff itself. Or the boulders themselves. Got it?” She waited for his nod. “The lead piece-that’s the chock stone-gets shoved down the crack in the cliff or the aperture between the boulders as far as it can go, with the cable sticking out. In the loop end of the cable”-here she paused to scan the wall of climbing gear till she found what she wanted and scooped it up-“you clip a carabiner. Like this.” She did so. “And you fix your rope to the carabiner with whatever sort of knot you’ve been taught to use. If you’re climbing up, you use chock stones on the way, every few feet or whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re abseiling, you can use them at the top instead of a sling to fix your rope to whatever you’ve chosen to hold it in place while you descend.”

She took the chock stone from him and replaced it along with the carabiner on the wall of goods. She turned back and said, “Climbers mark each part of their kit distinctly because they often climb together. Let’s say you and I are climbing. I use six chock stones or sixteen chock stones; you use ten. We use my carabiners but your slings. How do we sort it all out quickly and without discussion in the end…? By marking each piece with something that won’t easily come off. Bright tape is just the ticket. Santo Kerne used black electrical tape.”

Lynley saw where she was heading with this. He said, “So if someone wishes to play fast and loose with someone else’s kit, he merely needs to get his hands on the same kind of tape-”

“And the equipment itself. Yes. That’s right. You can damage the equipment, put identical tape over the damage, and no one is the wiser.”

“The sling, obviously. It would have been the easiest to damage although cutting it would have shown, if not to the naked eye, at least to the microscope.”

“Which is exactly what happened. As we’ve discussed earlier.”

“But there’s more, isn’t there, or you wouldn’t have shown me this.”

“Forensics went through Santo’s kit,” Hannaford said. Hand on his elbow again, she began to guide him out of the shop. She kept her voice low. “Two of the chock stones had been seen to. Beneath the marking tape, both the plastic sheathing and the cable had been damaged. The sheathing was cut through; the cable was hanging on by a metaphorical thread. If the boy used either one for an abseil, he was done for. Same thing applied to the sling. He was a dead man walking. A dead climber climbing. What you will. It was only a matter of time before he used the right piece of equipment at the worst possible moment.”

“Fingerprints?”

“Galore,” Hannaford said. “But I’m not sure how useful they’re going to be since most climbers don’t go solo all the time, and we’re likely to find that’s the case with Santo.”

“Unless there’s a print on the damaged pieces that doesn’t exist on any others. That would be difficult for someone to explain away.”

“Hmm. Yes. But that whole bit has me wondering, Thomas.”

“What whole bit is that?” Lynley asked.

“Three damaged pieces instead of only one. What does that suggest to you?”

He considered this. He said thoughtfully, “Only one bad piece was needed to send him to his death. But he was carrying three. You might conclude that the killer didn’t care when it happened or if the fall even killed him since he could have used the damaged chock stones quite low on an upward route and not used the sling at all.”

“Any other conclusions?”

“If he generally abseiled first and climbed back up afterwards, you might conclude that three pieces of damaged equipment indicate the killer was in a hurry to do away with the boy. Or, as difficult as it might be to believe…” He pondered a moment, wondering about the final likelihood and what that final likelihood suggested.

She prompted him with, “Yes?”

“Damaging three pieces…You might also conclude the killer wanted everyone to know it was murder.”

She nodded. “Bit mad, isn’t it, but that’s what I was thinking.”

IT WAS THE SHEER madness of love that had made Kerra want to get out of the hotel and onto her bike. She’d changed into her riding kit because of it and she’d determined that twenty miles or so would be sufficient to clear her head of the thought of it. A twenty-mile ride wouldn’t take her terribly long, either, not if the weather continued to improve, and not for someone in her condition. On a good day, with the weather cooperating, she could do sixty miles with one hand tied behind her back, so twenty was child’s play. It was also highly necessary child’s play, so she’d made herself ready and headed for the door.

The arrival of the police officer had stopped her. It was the same bloke as the previous night, Constable McNulty, and he had on his face such a lugubrious expression that Kerra knew the news would be bad before he uttered it.

He’d asked to see her parents.

She’d told him that was impossible.

They’re not here? he’d asked. It was a logical question.

Oh, they were at home. Upstairs but unavailable. You can tell me what you’ve come to tell them. They’ve asked not to be disturbed.

I’m afraid I need to ask you to fetch them, the officer said.

And I’m afraid I have to refuse. They’ve asked to be left alone. They’ve made it clear. They’re finally resting. I’m sure you understand. Have you any children, Constable? Because when one loses a child, one reels, and they’re reeling.

This wasn’t exactly true, but the truth would hardly garner sympathy. The thought of her mother and her father going at each other in Santo’s bedroom like randy adolescents made the contents of Kerra’s stomach curdle. She didn’t want anything to do with them just now. Especially she didn’t want anything to do with her father, whom she was growing to despise more and more with each passing hour. She’d despised him for years, but nothing he’d so far done or failed to do held a candle to what was going on at the moment.

Constable McNulty had reluctantly left the information once Alan had come out of the marketing office where he’d been reviewing a commercial video. Alan had said, “What is it, Kerra? May I help?” and he sounded firm and sure of himself, as if the past sixteen hours were continuing to transform him. “I’m Kerra’s fiancé,” he told the policeman. “Is there something I can do for you?”

Fiancé? Kerra had thought. Kerra’s fiancé? Where was that coming from?

Before she’d been able to correct him, the cop had given them the information. Murder. Several pieces of Santo’s kit had been tampered with. The sling and two chock stones as well. The police were going to want to interview the family first.

Alan had said the expected: “You aren’t supposing one of the family…?” and managed to sound perplexed and outraged simultaneously.

Everyone who knew Santo would be interviewed, Constable McNulty told them. He appeared rather excited about this, and it had come to Kerra how tediously boring the policeman’s life must be in Casvelyn in the off-season, with three-quarters of the summer population gone and those who remained either in their houses huddling against the Atlantic storms or committing only the occasional minor traffic violation to break the monotony of a constable’s life. All of Santo’s belongings would need to be examined, the constable told them. A family history would be constructed, and-

That had been enough for Kerra. Family history? That would certainly be illuminating. A family history would show it all: bats in the belfry and skeletons in the closet, people who were permanently estranged and people who were just permanently strange.

All of this gave her another reason to ride. And then came Cadan and the conversation with Cadan, which left her feeling blamed.

After her words with him, she fetched her bike. Her father met her outside, Alan coming out behind him with an expression that said he’d passed along the information about Santo. So Alan didn’t need to mouth the words he knows although that’s what he did. Kerra wanted to tell him he’d had no right to tell her father anything. Alan wasn’t a member of the family.

Ben Kerne said to Kerra, “Where are you going? I’d like you to stay here.” He sounded exhausted. He looked it, too.

Did you fuck her again? was what Kerra wished to use as reply. Did she slip on her little red negligee and crook her finger and did you melt and not see anything else, not even that Santo is dead? Good way to forget for a few minutes, eh? Works a trick. Always has done.

But she said none of that although she was positively itching to flay him. She said, “I need a ride just now. I’ve got to-”

“You’re needed here.”

Kerra glanced at Alan. He was watching her. Surprisingly, he indicated by cocking his head in the direction of the road that she should ride, no matter her father’s desires. Although she didn’t want to be, she was grateful for this display of understanding. Alan was, in this at least, fully on her side.

“Does she need something from me?” Kerra asked her father.

He looked behind him, up at the windows of the family’s flat. The curtains of the master bedroom were blocking out the daylight. Behind them, Dellen was coping in her Dellen way: on the crushed spines of her near relations.

“She’s in black,” Kerra’s father said.

“That’ll doubtless be a large disappointment to any number of people,” Kerra replied.

Ben Kerne looked at her with eyes so anguished that for a moment Kerra regretted her words. Not his fault came to her. But at the same time there were things that were her father’s fault, not the least of which was that they were even talking about her mother and, in doing so, that they were reduced to using a carefully chosen set of words, like semaphores and they two distant communicators with a secret language all their own.

She sighed, an aggrieved party unwilling to apologise. That he, too, was aggrieved could not be allowed to count. She said, “Do you?”

“What?”

“Need something from me. Because she doesn’t. She’ll be wanting you. And no doubt vice versa.”

Ben made no reply. He went back into the hotel without another word, shouldering past Alan, who looked rather like a man trying to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Alan said, “A little harsh, that, Kerra. Don’t you think?”

The last thing Kerra wanted to show Alan was gratitude for his previous understanding, so she welcomed the criticism. She said, “If you’ve decided to remain at work here, you need to become a little more familiar with the mechanism of your employment, okay?”

Like her father, he looked struck. She was happy he felt the sting of her words. He said, “I’ve got it that you’re angry. But what I haven’t got is why. Not the anger part of it, but the afraid part of it that’s fueling the anger. I can’t suss that one. I’ve tried. I spent most of last night awake, trying.”

“Poor you,” she said.

“Kerra, none of this is like you. What’re you frightened about?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I’m not frightened at all. You’re trying to talk about subjects you don’t understand.”

“Then help me understand.”

“Not my job,” she said. “I warned you off.”

“You warned me off working here. This-you, what’s happening with you, and what happened to Santo-isn’t part of my employment.”

She smiled briefly. “Stay round, then. If you haven’t already, you’re soon to find out what’s part and parcel of your employment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I want a ride. I doubt you’ll still be here when I return.”

“Are you coming over tonight?”

She raised her eyebrows. “I think that part might be finished between us.”

“What are you saying? Something’s happened since yesterday. Beyond Santo, something’s happened.”

“Oh, I do know that.” She mounted her bike, gearing it to take the rise of the driveway, heading into town.

She coursed along the southeast edge of St. Mevan Down where unmowed grass bent heavily with a weight of raindrops and a few dogs romped, grateful for a respite in the rain. She, too, was grateful, and she decided she’d head roughly in the direction of Polcare Cove. She told herself she had no intention of going to the place where Santo had died, but if she ended up there by chance, she would consider it meant to be. She wouldn’t pay attention to the route. She would merely blast along the lanes as fast as she could, turning when she felt like turning, continuing straight on when she fancied that.

She knew she needed a source of energy to do the sort of ride she had in mind, however, so when she saw Casvelyn of Cornwall (County’s Number One Pasty) to the right on the corner of Burn View Lane, she coasted over to the bakery, a large operation that supplied pasties up and down the coast to restaurants, shops, pubs, and smaller bakeries unable to bake their own. The business comprised an industrial-size kitchen in the back and a shop in the front, with ten bakers working in one area and two shop assistants in the other.

Kerra leaned her bike against the front window, a stunning monument to pasties, bread loaves, pastry, and scones. She ducked inside, deciding in advance that she would have a steak-and-beer pasty and she’d eat it on her way out of town.

At the counter, she placed her order with a girl whose impressive thighs looked like the result of their owner having sampled the products far too often. The requested pasty was being bagged and rung up at the till when the other shop assistant emerged with a tray of fresh goods to go into the display case. Kerra looked up as the kitchen door swung closed. At the same moment as her glance fell on the girl with the tray, that girl’s glance fell upon Kerra. Her steps faltered. She stood expressionless with the tray extended in front of her.

“Madlyn,” Kerra said. It came to her much later how stupid she sounded. “I didn’t know that you worked here.”

Madlyn Angarrack went to one of the display cases and opened it, sliding fresh pasties from the tray she held. She said to the other girl, who was in the process of bagging Kerra’s purchase, “What sort is that, Shar?” Her voice was curt.

“Steak and beer.” Kerra was the one to answer. And then, “Madlyn, I was asking Cadan about you only twenty minutes ago. How long’ve you been-”

“Give her one of these, Shar. They’re fresher.”

Shar looked from Madlyn to Kerra, as if taking a reading off the tension in the air and wondering from which direction it was flowing. But she did as she was told.

Kerra took her pasty over to where Madlyn was lining up display trays neatly. She said to her, “When did you start working here?”

Madlyn glanced her way. “Why d’you want to know?” She shut the lid of the display case with a decisive snap. “Would that make some sort of difference to you?” She used the back of her wrist to move some hair from her face. It was short-her hair-quite dark and curly. At this time of year, the copper that streaked it from exposure to the summer sun was missing. It came to Kerra how remarkably like Cadan his sister looked: the same colour of hair that was thick with curls, the same olive skin, the same dark eyes, the same shape of face. The Angarracks were thus nothing like the Kerne siblings. Physically, as well as in every other way, Kerra and Santo had been nothing alike.

The sudden thought of Santo made Kerra blink, hard. She didn’t want him there: not in her mind and definitely not near her heart. Madlyn seemed to take this as a reaction to her question and to its inimical tone because she went on to say, “I heard about Santo. I’m sorry he fell.”

Yet it seemed pro forma, too much an obligation performed. Because of this, Kerra said more brutally than she otherwise would have done, “He didn’t fall. He was murdered. The police have been to tell us a little while ago. They didn’t know at first, when he was found. They couldn’t tell.”

Madlyn’s mouth opened as if she would speak, her lips clearly forming the first part of murdered, but she did not say it. Instead she said, “Why?”

“Because they had to look at his climbing kit, didn’t they. Under their microscopes or whatever. I expect you can figure out the rest.”

“I mean why would someone murder Santo?”

“I find it hard to believe you, of all people, would even ask that question.”

“Are you saying…” Madlyn balanced the empty tray vertically, against her hip. “We were friends, Kerra.”

“I think you were a lot more than friends.”

“I’m not talking about Santo. I’m talking about you and me. We were friends. Close friends. You might say best friends. So how you can think that I’d ever-”

“You ended our friendship.”

“I started seeing your brother. That was all I did. Full stop.”

“Yes. Well.”

“And you defined everything after that. No one sees my brother and remains my friend. That was your position. Only you didn’t even say that much, did you? You just made the cut with your rusty scissors and that was it. No more friendship when someone does something you don’t want them to do.”

“It was for your own good.”

“Oh really? What? Getting cut off from someone…getting cut off from a sister? Because that’s what you were to me, all right? A sister.”

“You could have…” Kerra didn’t know how to go on. She also couldn’t see how they’d come to this. She’d wanted to talk to Madlyn, it was true. That was why she’d earlier gone to Cadan about his sister. But the conversation she’d been having with Madlyn Angarrack in her brain had not resembled the conversation she was having with Madlyn Angarrack now. That mental conversation had not taken place in the presence of a second shop assistant who was attending their colloquy with the sort of rabid spectator’s interest that precedes a girl fight at a secondary school. Kerra said quietly, “It’s not as if I didn’t warn you.”

“Of what?”

“Of what it would be like for you if you and my brother…” Kerra glanced at Shar. There was a glitter to her eyes that was discomfiting. “You know what I’m talking about. I told you what he was like.”

“But what you didn’t tell me was what you were like. What you are like. Mean and vindictive. Look at you, Kerra. Have you even cried? Your own brother dead and here you are, right as could be, going about on your bike without a care in the world.”

“You seem to be coping well enough yourself,” Kerra pointed out.

“At least I didn’t want him to die.”

“Didn’t you? Why’re you here? What happened to the farm?”

“I quit the farm. All right?” Her face had gone red. Her grip on the tray she’d brought with her from the kitchen had become so tight that her knuckles were white as she went on. “Are you happy now, Kerra? Have you learned what you wanted to know? I sorted out the truth. And do you want to know how I did that, Kerra? He claimed that he’d always be honest with me, of course, but when it came to this…Oh get out of here. Get out.” She raised the tray as if to throw it.

“Hey, Mad…” Shar spoke uneasily. Doubtless, Kerra thought, the other girl had never seen the rage of which Madlyn Angarrack was fully capable. Doubtless Shar had never opened a postal package and discovered within it pictures of herself with her head cut off, pictures of herself with her eyeballs stabbed by the lead of a pencil, handwritten notes and two birthday cards once saved but now smeared with faeces, a newspaper article about the head of instructors at Adventures Unlimited with bollocks and shit written in red pencil across it. No return address, but none had been needed. Nor had been any other sort of message, when the intentions of the sender were so clearly illustrated by the contents of the envelope in which they’d come.

This quality in her former friend comprised another reason that Kerra had wanted to talk to Madlyn Angarrack. Kerra might have hated her brother, but she also loved him. It wasn’t a matter of blood being thicker. But it was still and always a matter of blood.

Chapter Eight

“I KNOW THIS ISN’T A GOOD TIME TO TALK ABOUT IT,” ALAN Cheston said. “There’s not going to be a good time to talk about anything for a long while to come, and I think we both know that. The thing is, though…These guys have a diary to fill and if we’re going to commit, we need to let them know or we’re going to lose out.”

Ben Kerne nodded numbly. He couldn’t imagine conversing rationally about any subject, let alone about business. All he could imagine was a further walking of the corridors inside the Promontory King George Hotel, one shoulder against the wall and his head aimed down to study the floor. Down one corridor and up another, through a fire door and up the stairs to begin another corridor. On and on, spectral-like, into infinity. Occasionally thinking about how much they had spent on the old hotel’s transformation and wondering what the purpose might be in spending any more. Wondering what the purpose might be in anything at this point, and then trying to stop thinking altogether.

He’d done all that on the previous night. Dellen had pills but he would not take them.

Ben looked at Alan. He saw him through a fog, as if a veil existed between his eyeballs and his brain. He could take in the younger man, but he had no ability to process what he was taking in. So he said, “Go on. I understand,” although he didn’t want the first and didn’t mean the second.

They were in the marketing office, a small former conference room that opened off the erstwhile reception area. It had likely been used for staff meetings when the hotel was in operation. An ancient blackboard still hung on the wall, stained with ghostly copperplate, undoubtedly the work of a manager stirring his troops to action if the excessive underlining was anything to go by. Beneath this writing surface and encircling the room, the walls were covered with gouged wainscoting, above it faded wallpaper featuring hunting scenes. The Kernes had determined to leave all this as it was when they’d taken over the hotel. No one would see it but themselves, they’d decided, and the money could be more profitably spent elsewhere.

Which was the purpose of this meeting with Alan. Ben tuned in to what the young man was talking about and heard “…must consider the cost as an investment towards returns. Additionally, it’s a onetime cost but not a onetime use of the product, so we’d amortise what we spent producing it. If we’re careful to avoid a look that will date the piece, we’ll be fine. You know what I mean: keep away from shots of vehicles, avoid sites likely to demonstrate anachronicity in five years and use sites likely to demonstrate their history. That sort of thing. Here. This sample came the other day. I’ve already shown Dellen, but she probably…well, understandably she probably won’t have mentioned it to you.” Alan rose from the conference table-a pitted and scratched pine affair with countless burns from forgotten cigarettes-and went to the video player. He had coloured in a febrile manner as he spoke, and not for the first time Ben speculated about his daughter’s relationship with this man. He reckoned he knew the reason behind Kerra’s choice of Alan, and he was fairly certain she was wrong about him in more ways than one.

He and Alan were having their regular meeting about marketing strategies. Ben hadn’t possessed the will to cancel it. He sat in mute attendance now, considering which of them was the more heartless bastard: Alan for ostensibly carrying on as if nothing had happened or himself for being present. Dellen was meant to be in attendance as she, too, worked in marketing, but she’d not risen from bed.

On the video monitor, a promotional film began. It featured a resort in the Scilly Isles: a high-end hotel and spa with golf course attached. It wouldn’t attract the same sort of clientele as Adventures Unlimited, but that wasn’t the point of Alan’s showing it to him.

A suave voice-over provided the commentary, a sales pitch for the resort. While the voice recited the expected panegyric, the accompanying film featured shots of the hotel sitting atop white sands, spa goers basking under the ministrations of lithesome and tanned masseuses, golfers whacking away at balls, diners on terraces and in candlelit rooms. This was, Alan said, the type of film one showed at travel venues. They could do that as well, but with a much broader base of appeal. This, then, was what Alan was after: Ben’s permission to pursue yet another way to market Adventures Unlimited.

“As you’ve mentioned, we’ve got bookings coming in,” Alan said once the film had finished, “which is brilliant, Ben. That piece the Mail on Sunday printed on you and what you’re doing with this place helped enormously as a promotional vehicle. But it’s time we looked at the potential we have for a larger market.” He ticked items off on his fingers. “Families with children from six to sixteen, independent schools with programmes taking pupils for weeklong maturing courses, singles looking to meet life mates, mature travelers in good condition who don’t want to while away their golden years rocking on a veranda somewhere. Then there are drug-rehab programmes, early release programmes for young offenders, inner-city youth programmes. We’ve an expansive market out there, and I mean to see us tap into it.”

Alan’s face was shiny, his ears were red, and his eyes were bright. Enthusiasm and hope, Ben thought. Either that or nerves. He said to Alan, “You’ve got big plans.”

“I hope that’s why you took me on. Ben, what you have here…This place. Its location. Your ideas for it. With an investment in areas likely to be fruitful, you’re looking at the goose and gold eggs. I swear it.”

Alan seemed to study him, then, just as Ben had himself studied Alan. He ejected the video from the machine and handed it over, putting a hand on Ben’s shoulder momentarily. “Watch it again with Dellen when you’re both up to it,” he said. “We’ve no need to make a decision today. But…soon, though.”

Ben’s fingers closed round the plastic case. He felt its little ridges press against his skin. He said, “You’re doing a good job. Organising the Mail on Sunday piece…That was brilliant.”

“I wanted you to see what I could do,” Alan told him. “I’m grateful you took me on. Otherwise, I’d probably have been forced to live in Truro or Exeter, which I wouldn’t much like.”

“Much larger places than Casvelyn, though.”

“Too large for me if Kerra’s not there.” Alan gave a laugh, which sounded embarrassed. “She didn’t want me to come on staff here, you know. She said it wouldn’t work out, but I mean to show her otherwise. This place”-he extended his arms to take in the hotel as a whole-“this place fills me with ideas. All I need is someone to listen and okay them when the time is right. I mean, have you thought about everything the hotel can actually be in the off-season? It’s got room for conferences, and with a little tweaking of the promotional film…”

Ben tuned out, not because he wasn’t interested but because of the painful contrast to Santo that Alan Cheston was presenting. Here was the zeal Ben had hoped for in Santo: a wholehearted embracing of what would have been Santo’s inheritance and that of his sister. But Santo hadn’t seen things that way. He’d hungered for experiencing life instead of for building life. That was how he and his father had differed. True, he’d been only eighteen years old, and with maturity might have come interest and commitment. But if the past was the best indicator of the future, didn’t it stand to reason that Santo would have continued to engage in more of what had already begun to define him as a man? Charm and pursuit, charm and pleasure, charm and enthusiasm for what enthusiasm could gain him and not what enthusiasm could produce.

Ben wondered if Alan had seen all this when he’d asked for employment at Adventures Unlimited. For Alan had known Santo, had spoken to him, had seen him, had watched him. Thus Alan had known a gap was present. He’d assessed this gap and had deemed himself the man to fill it.

Alan was saying, “So if we combine our assets and present a plan to the bank-” when Ben interrupted, our having broken into his thoughts like a sharp rap on the door of his consciousness.

“Do you know where Santo kept his climbing kit, Alan?”

Alan stopped dead in his verbal tracks. He looked at Ben in some apparent confusion. It was feigned; it was not feigned. Ben couldn’t tell. Alan said, “What?” And when Ben repeated the question, Alan appeared to think about his reply before making it. “I expect he kept it in his bedroom, Ben, didn’t he? Or perhaps wherever you keep yours?”

“Do you know where mine is?”

“Why would I know?” Alan went about putting away the video recorder. A silence hung between them. In it, a car drove up outside and Alan walked to the window as he said, “Unless…” But his answer was lost as two doors slammed on the other side of the window. “Police,” Alan said. “It’s that constable again. The one who came earlier. He’s got some woman with him this time.”

Ben left the conference room at once and went to the entry as the front door opened and Constable McNulty came inside. He was preceded by a tough-looking woman with Sid Vicious hair dyed a shade of red that bordered on purple. She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t old. She looked at him directly, but not without compassion.

“Mr. Kerne?” she said and went on to introduce herself as Detective Inspector Hannaford. She was there to interview the family, she told him.

All of the family? Ben wanted to know. Because his wife was in bed and his daughter was off on a bicycle ride. He felt this last made Kerra sound heartless, so he added, “Stress. When she feels pressure, she needs an outlet.” And then he felt he’d said too much.

They would get to the daughter later, Hannaford told him. In the meantime, they would wait while he roused his wife. This was preliminary stuff, she added. They would not take up too much of his time just now.

Just now meant there would be a later. With the police, what was implied was generally more important than what was said.

“Where are you with the investigation?” he asked.

“This is the first step, Mr. Kerne, aside from forensics. They’re beginning with fingerprints: his equipment, his car, the contents of his car. They’ll move on from there. You”-and with a gesture that took in the hotel and obviously meant everyone within it-“will need to be fingerprinted. But for the moment, it’s questions. So if you’ll fetch your wife…”

There was nothing for it but to do as she requested. Anything else and he’d look uncooperative, so Dellen’s state couldn’t be allowed to matter.

Ben went up the stairs instead of taking the lift. He wanted to use the climb to think. There was so much he didn’t want the police to know, consisting of matters both buried and private.

At their bedroom, Ben knocked on the door softly, but he didn’t wait to hear his wife’s voice. He went into the darkness and moved towards the bed, where he switched on a lamp. Dellen lay as she’d lain when he’d last seen her. She was supine, one arm crooked across her eyes. Next to her on the bedside table were two bottles of pills and a glass of water. The glass’s rim bore a crescent of red lipstick.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, but she didn’t alter her position although her lips moved convulsively, so he knew she wasn’t asleep. He said, “The police have come. They want to talk to us. You’ll have to come down.”

Her head moved fractionally. “I can’t.”

“You must.”

“I can’t let them see me like this. You know that.”

“Dellen-”

She lowered her arm. She squinted in the light and turned her head away from it and from him. “I can’t and you know it,” she said again. “Unless you want them to see me like this. Is that it?”

“How can you say that, Dell?” He put his hand on her shoulder. He felt the answering tension run through her body.

“Unless,” she said again and she turned her head towards him, “you want them to see me like this. Because we know you prefer me this way, don’t you? You love me this way. You want me this way. I could almost think you arranged Santo’s death just to send me in this direction. It’s so useful to you, yes?”

Ben rose abruptly. He swung round so that she might not see his face.

She said at once, “I’m sorry. Oh God, Ben. I don’t know what I’m saying. Why don’t you leave me? I know you want to. You’ve wanted to forever. You wear our marriage like a hair shirt. Why?

He said, “Please, Dell.” But he didn’t know what he was asking her for. He wiped his nose on the arm of his shirt and went back to her. “Let me help you. They’re not going to leave till they’ve spoken to us.” He didn’t add what he also might have told her: that the police were likely going to come back later to talk to Kerra and they could as well talk to Dellen then. That, he determined, could not be allowed to happen. He needed to be there when they spoke to Dellen, and if the investigators came back later, there was always a chance they’d catch Dellen alone.

He went to the wardrobe and pulled clothes out for her. Black trousers, black jersey, black sandals for her feet. He sorted out underwear and carried everything back to the bed.

“Let me help you,” he said.

It had been the imperative of their years together. He lived to serve her. She lived to be served.

He drew the blankets and sheet away from her body. Beneath them, she was nude, and her scent was rank, and he looked on her with no stirring of lust. No longer the form of the fifteen-year-old girl he’d rolled with in the maram grass between the dunes, her body expressed the loathing that her voice wouldn’t speak. She was pitted and stretched. She was dyed and painted. She was simultaneously barely real and all too corporeal. She was the past-embroilment and estrangement-made flesh.

He put his arm beneath her shoulders and he raised her. She’d begun to weep. It was a silent crying, ugly to watch. It stretched her mouth. It reddened her nose. It slit her eyes.

She said, “You want to, so do it. I’m not holding you here. I’ve never held you.”

He murmured, “Shhh, now. Put this on,” and he slid arms through the straps of her bra. She was no help to him, despite his encouragement. He was forced to cup her heavy breasts in his hands and fit the bra around them before he hooked it in the back. Thus he dressed her, and when he had her in her clothing, he urged her to her feet and she finally came to life.

She said again, “I can’t let them see me like this,” but her tone was different this time. She went to her dressing table and from among its clutter of cosmetics and costume jewellery, she brought forth a brush. This she vigorously ran through her long blonde hair till she had it untangled and fashioned into a passable chignon. She switched on a little brass lamp that he’d given her on a long ago Christmas, and she bent to the mirror to examine her face. She used powder and a bit of mascara, and then she rustled among the lipsticks to find the one she wanted, which she applied.

“All right,” she said, and she turned to him.

Head to toe in black, but her lips were red. They were as red as a rose might be. They were as red as blood indeed was.

IN CONDUCTING THE PRELIMINARIES of the investigation with the assistance of Constable McNulty and Sergeant Collins, Bea Hannaford learned soon enough that she had as helpmates the indisputable police equivalents of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This realisation had abruptly descended upon her when Constable McNulty informed her-with a suitably lachrymose expression on his face-that he’d given the family the information about Santo Kerne’s death likely being a murder. While this in itself could not be called execrable police work, having gone on blithely to share with the Kernes the facts about the dead boy’s climbing equipment definitely was.

Bea had stared at McNulty, disbelieving at first. Then she’d understood that he was not misspeaking, that he had actually disclosed vital particulars of a police investigation to individuals who very well might be suspects. She’d exploded first. She’d wanted to strangle him second. Exactly what do you do all day, she’d enquired third in a nasty tone, toss off in public lavatories? Because, my man, you are the most wretched excuse for a police officer I’ve yet to meet. Are you aware that now we have nothing known only by ourselves and the killer? Do you understand the position that puts us in? After that, she’d told him to come with her and keep his mouth shut unless and until she told him he had permission to speak.

He’d shown good sense in this, at least. From the moment they’d arrived at the Promontory King George Hotel-a crumbling heap of derelict art deco that needed to be pulled down, in Bea’s opinion-Constable McNulty had uttered not a word. He’d even taken notes, never once looking up from his pad as she spoke to Alan Cheston while they waited for the return of Ben Kerne, one hoped with his wife in tow.

Cheston was not a niggard with details: He was twenty-five, he was putatively the partner of the Kerne daughter, he’d grown up in Cambridge as the only child of a retired physicist (“That’s Mum,” he explained with no little pride) and a retired university librarian (“That’s Dad,” he added unnecessarily). He’d studied at Trinity Hall, gone on to the London School of Economics, and worked in marketing in a Birmingham redevelopment corporation until his parents’ retirement to Casvelyn, at which point he moved to Cornwall to be close to them in their latter years. He owned a terrace house in Lansdown Road that was being renovated, making it suitable for the wife and family he hoped for, so in the meantime he was living in a bed-sit at the far end of Breakwater Road.

“Well, not exactly a bed-sit,” he added after watching Constable McNulty’s industrious scribbling for a moment. “It’s rather a room in that house-the large pink cottage?-at the end of the road, opposite the canal. I’ve kitchen privileges and…well, the landlady’s quite liberal with how I use the rest of the house.”

By which, Bea assumed, he meant that the landlady had modern ideas. By which, she assumed, he meant that he and the Kerne daughter bonked there with impunity.

“Kerra and I intend to marry,” he added, as if this fine detail might smooth the troubled waters of what he mistakenly saw as Bea’s ostensible concern for the young woman’s virtue.

“Ah. How nice. And Santo?” she asked him. “What sort of relationship did you have with him?”

“Terrific lad,” was Alan’s reply. “He was hard not to like. He was no great intellectual, mind you, but he had a happiness about him, a playfulness. He was infectious, and from what I could see, people liked to be around him. People in general.”

Joie de vivre, Bea thought. She pressed on. “And what about you in particular? Did you like to be around him?”

“We didn’t spend much time together. I’m Kerra’s partner, so Santo and I…We were more like in-laws, I suppose. Cordial and friendly in conversation, but not anything else. We didn’t have the same interests. He was very physical. I’m more…cerebral?”

“Which makes you better suited to run a business, I expect,” Bea noted.

“Yes, of course.”

“Like this business, for example.”

The young man was no idiot. He, unlike the Stan and Ollie she was saddled with, could tell a hawk from a handsaw no matter the direction of the wind. He said, “Actually Santo was a bit relieved when he knew I was going to work here. It took an unwanted pressure off him.”

“What sort of pressure?”

“He’d have had to work with his mum in this part of the business, and he didn’t want to. At least, that’s what he led me to believe. He said he wasn’t suited for this end of the operation.”

“But you don’t mind it? Working this end of things. Working with her?”

“Not at all.” When he said this last bit, he kept his eyes well fixed on Bea’s and his entire body motionless. That alone made her wonder about the nature of his lie.

She said, “I’d like to look at Santo’s climbing kit if you’ll point out where I can find it, Mr. Cheston.”

“Sorry. Thing is, I don’t actually know where he kept it.”

She had to wonder about that as well. He’d answered rather promptly, hadn’t he, as if he’d been expecting the question.

She was about to press him further on this topic when he said, “Here’s Ben with Dellen,” into the sound of the old cagelike lift descending. She told the young man they’d speak again, no doubt. He said, Absolutely. Whenever the inspector wished.

He returned to his office before the lift reached the ground floor and disgorged the Kernes. Ben came out first and extended his hand to assist his wife. She emerged slowly, looking rather like a somnambulist. Drugs, Bea thought. She’d be sedated, which was hardly unexpected in the mother of a dead child.

The rest of her appearance, however, was unexpected. The polite term for it would have been faded beauty. Somewhere in her midforties, she suffered from the voluptuous woman’s curse: the luscious curves of her youth having given way to the spread and the sag of advancing middle age. She’d been a smoker as well and perhaps she still was, for her skin was heavily webbed round the eyes and creviced round the lips. She wasn’t fat, but she lacked the toned body that her husband possessed. Too little exercise and too much indulgence, Bea concluded.

And yet the woman had a way about her: pedicured feet, manicured hands, sumptuous blond hair with a pleasing sheen, large violet eyes with thick dark lashes, and a manner of movement that asked for aid. Troubadours would have called her a damsel. Bea called her Big Trouble and waited to find out why.

“Mrs. Kerne,” she said. “Thank you for joining us.” And then to Ben Kerne, “Is there somewhere we could talk? This shouldn’t take overly long.” The last bit was typical police casuistry. It would take however long it took for Bea to be satisfied.

Ben Kerne said they could go up to the hotel’s first floor. The residents’ lounge was there. They’d be comfortable.

They were. The room overlooked St. Mevan Beach, and it was fitted out with plush but durable new sofas, a large-screen television, a DVD player, a stereo, a pool table, and a kitchenette. This last feature possessed tea-making facilities and a shiny stainless-steel cappuccino machine. The walls displayed vintage posters of athletic scenes from the 1920s and 30s: skiers, hikers, cyclists, swimmers, and tennis players. It was well thought out and nicely done. A lot of money had gone into it.

Bea wondered where the money for such a project had come from, and she was not shy about asking. Rather than reply, however, Ben Kerne asked if the police wanted something from the cappuccino machine. Bea demurred for both of them before Constable McNulty-who’d raised his head from his pad with what she considered precipitate enthusiasm-could accept. Kerne went to the machine anyway, saying, “If you don’t mind…,” and going on to make some sort of concoction, which he pressed upon his wife. She took it from him with no enthusiasm. He asked her to have a bit of it, and he sounded solicitous. Dellen said she didn’t want it, but Ben was obdurate. “You must,” he told her. They looked at each other and seemed to engage in a battle of wills. Dellen was the one to blink. She raised the cup to her lips and didn’t lower it till she’d drunk it all, leaving a disturbing smear of red where her lips had touched the stoneware.

Bea asked them how long they’d been in Casvelyn, and Ben told her they’d arrived two years earlier. They’d come from Truro, he said, and he went on to explain that he’d owned two sporting goods shops in that town, which he’d sold-along with the family house-in order to finance, if only partially, the project of setting up Adventures Unlimited. Further money had come from the bank, naturally. One did not take on a venture like this without more than one source of financing. They were due to open in mid-June, he said. At least, they had been due to open. Now…He didn’t know.

Bea let that go for the moment. She said, “Grow up in Truro, did you, Mr. Kerne? Were you and your wife childhood sweethearts?”

He hesitated at this, for some reason. He looked to Dellen as if considering how best to phrase his answer. Bea wondered which of the questions was giving him pause: the growing up in Truro part or the childhood sweethearts part.

“Not in Truro, no,” he finally answered. “But as to being childhood sweethearts…” He looked at his wife again, and there was no doubt that his expression was fond. “We’ve been together more or less since we were teenagers: sixteen and fifteen, wasn’t it, Dell?” He didn’t wait for his wife to reply. “We were like most kids, though. Together for a bit, broken up for a bit. Then forgiveness and getting back together. We did that for six or seven years before we got married, didn’t we, Dell?”

Dellen said, “I don’t know. I’ve forgotten all that.” She had a husky voice, a smoker’s voice. It suited her. Anything else would have been wildly out of character.

“Have you?” He turned from her to Bea. “It seemed to go on forever: the drama of our teenage years. As these things do, when you care for someone.”

“What sort of drama?” Bea asked as next to her Constable McNulty kept up a gratifying scribbling against his pad.

“I slept around,” Dellen said bluntly.

“Dell…”

“She’ll likely find out the truth, so we may as well tell it,” Dellen said. “I was the village tart, Inspector.” And then to her husband, “C’n you make me another coffee, Ben? And hotter, if you will. The last was rather lukewarm.”

Ben’s face had altered to granite as she’d spoken. After a fractional hestitation, he rose from the sofa where he’d placed himself and his wife, and he went back to the cappuccino maker. Bea let the silence continue, and when Constable McNulty cleared his throat as if to speak, she knocked her foot against his to keep him quiet. She liked tension during an interview, especially if one of the suspects was inadvertently providing it to the other.

Dellen finally spoke again, but she looked at Ben, as if what she said comprised a hidden message for him. “We lived down the coast, Ben and I, but not in a place like Newquay, where there’re at least a few diversions. We were from a village where there was nothing to do besides the beach in summer and sex in winter. And sometimes sex in summer as well if the weather wasn’t good enough for the beach. We ran in packs then-a gang of kids-and we mixed it up with each other. Pairing off this way for a bit, pairing off that way for a bit. Till we got to Truro, that is. Ben went first and I-clever girl-followed him directly. And that made all the difference. Things changed for us in Truro.”

Ben returned with her drink. He also brought with him a packet of cigarettes that he’d taken from somewhere in the kitchenette, and he lit one for her and handed it over. He sat next to her, quite close.

Dellen downed the second coffee much as she’d done the first, as if her mouth were lined with asbestos. She took the cigarette from him and drew in on it expertly, doing what Bea always thought of as that double-inhaling bit: drawing smoke in, letting a bit out, drawing it all back in again. Dellen Kerne made the act look unique. Bea tried to get a bead on the woman. Dellen’s hands were unsteady.

“Bright lights, big city?” she asked the Kernes. “Is that what took you to Truro?”

“Hardly,” Dellen said. “Ben had an uncle who took him in when he was eighteen. He kept rowing with his dad. Over me. Dad thought-this is Ben’s, not mine-that if he got him out of the village, he’d get him out of my hair as well. Or get me out of his. He didn’t reckon I’d follow. Did he, Ben?”

Ben covered her hand with his. She was saying too much and all of them knew it, but only Ben and his wife knew why she was doing it. Bea considered what all this had to do with Santo as Ben endeavoured to wrest control of the conversation from Dellen by saying, “That’s a reinvention of history. Truth of the matter”-and this he said directly to Bea-“is that my dad and I never got on very well. His dream was to live entirely off the land, and after eighteen years of that, I’d had enough. I made arrangements to live with my uncle. I took off for Truro. Dellen followed me in…I don’t know…What was it? Eight months?”

“Seemed like eight centuries,” Dellen said. “For my sins, I knew a good thing when I saw it. For my sins, I still do.” She kept her gaze on Ben Kerne as she said to Bea, “I’ve a wonderful husband whose patience I’ve tried for many years, Inspector Hannaford. Could I have another coffee, Ben?”

Ben said, “Are you sure that’s wise?”

“But make it hotter still, please. I don’t think that machine is working very well.”

And it came to Bea that that was it: the coffee and what the coffee stood for. She hadn’t wanted it, and he’d insisted. Coffee as metaphor, and Dellen Kerne was rubbing his face in it.

She said, “I’d like to see your son’s room, if I may. As soon as you’ve finished with your coffee, of course.”

DAIDRE TRAHAIR WAS WALKING back towards Polcare Cove along the cliff top when she saw him. A brisk wind was blowing and she’d just stopped to refasten her hair in its tortoiseshell slide. She’d managed to capture most of it, and she’d shoved the rest of it behind her ears, and there he was, perhaps one hundred yards to the south of her. He’d obviously just climbed from the cove, so her first thought was that he was on his way again, resuming his walk, having been released from all suspicion by Detective Inspector Hannaford. She concluded that this release was reasonable enough: As soon as he’d said he was from New Scotland Yard, he’d probably been absolved from suspicion. If only she herself had been half so clever…

Except she had to be truthful, at least with herself. Thomas Lynley had never told them he was from New Scotland Yard, had he? It had been something assumed last night by the other two the moment he’d said his name.

He’d said Thomas Lynley. They’d said-one of them and she couldn’t remember which one it had been-New Scotland Yard? in such a way that seemed to speak volumes among them. He’d said something to indicate they were correct in their assumption and that had been it.

She knew why now. For if he was Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard then he was also Thomas Lynley whose wife had been murdered in the street in front of their Belgravia house. Every cop in the country would know about that. The police were, after all, a brotherhood of sorts. This meant, Daidre knew, that all cops everywhere in the country were connected. She needed to remember that, and she needed to be careful round him, no matter his pain and her inclination to assuage it. Everyone had pain, she told herself. Life was all about learning to cope with it.

He raised an arm to wave. She waved in turn. They walked towards each other across the top of the cliff. The path here was narrow and uneven-with shards of carboniferous stone tipping up from the soil-and along its east side gorse rustled thickly, a yellow intrusion standing hardily against the wind. Beyond the gorse, grass grew abundantly although it was closely cropped by the sheep that grazed freely upon it.

When they were close enough to be heard by each other, Daidre said to Thomas Lynley, “So. You’re on your way, then?” But as soon as she spoke, she realised this was not the case, and she went on to add, “Except you’ve not got your rucksack with you, so you aren’t on your way at all.”

He nodded solemnly. “You’d make a good detective.”

“A decidedly elementary deduction, I’m afraid. Anything more would escape my notice. Are you out for a walk?”

“I was looking for you.” As it had done to hers, the wind tossed his hair and he brushed it away from his forehead. Again, she thought how like hers it was. She assumed that he went quite blond in summer.

“For me?” she asked. “How did you know where to find me? Beyond knocking at the door of the cottage, I mean. Because I hope I can presume you did knock this time. I don’t have many more windows to offer up to you.”

“I knocked,” he said. “When no one answered, I had a look round and saw the fresh footprints. I followed them. It was simple enough.”

“And here I am,” she said.

“And here you are.”

He smiled and seemed to hesitate for some reason, which surprised Daidre as he didn’t seem the type of man who’d hesitate at anything. She said, “And?” and cocked her head. He had, she noted, a scar on his upper lip that relieved his otherwise off-putting appearance, which was handsome in that classical sense: He had strong features that were well defined. No indication of inbreeding here.

“I’ve come to ask you to dinner,” he said. “I’m afraid I can only offer you the Salthouse Inn as I’ve no funds of my own yet, and I can hardly invite you for a meal and ask you to pay for it, can I. But at the inn, they’ll put our meal on the books, and as breakfast was excellent-well, at least it was filling-I suspect dinner will be adequate as well.”

“What a dubious invitation,” she said.

He seemed to think about it. “D’you mean the ‘adequate’ part?”

“Yes. ‘Join me for an adequate albeit far-from-sumptuous meal.’ It’s one of those gallant post-Victorian requests one can only respond to with ‘Thank you, I think.’”

He laughed. “Sorry. My mother would roll in her grave, were she dead, which she isn’t. Let me say, then, that I’ve had a look at tonight’s menu, and it appears…if not brilliant, then at least swell.”

She laughed in turn. “Swell? Where on earth did that come from? Never mind. Don’t tell me. Have a meal here instead. I’ve something already prepared and there’s enough for two. It only wants baking.”

“But then I’ll be doubly in your debt.”

“Which is exactly where I want you, my lord.”

His face altered, all amusement drained away by her slip of the tongue. She cursed herself for her lapse in circumspection and what it presaged about her ability to keep other things to herself in his presence.

He said, “Ah. So you know.”

She sought an explanation and decided one existed that would be reasonable, even to him. “When you said last night that you were Scotland Yard, I wanted to know if that was the case. So I set about finding out.” She looked away from him for a moment. She saw that the herring gulls were settling in on the nearby cliff face for the night, pairing off onto ledges and into crevices, ruffling their wings, huddling against the wind. “I’m terribly sorry, Thomas,” she said.

After a moment during which more gulls landed and others soared and cawed, he said, “You’ve no need to apologise. I would have done the same in your situation. A stranger in your house claiming to be a policeman. Someone dead outside. What are you to believe?”

“That’s not what I meant.” She looked back at him. He was into the wind; she was against it. It played havoc with her hair, whipping it into her face despite the slide.

“Then what?” he said.

“Your wife,” she told him. “I’m so terribly sorry about what happened to her. What a wrenching thing for you to have to go through.”

“Ah,” he said. “Yes.” He moved his gaze to the seabirds. He would see them, Daidre knew, as she saw them, pairing off not because there was safety in numbers but because there was safety in just one other gull. “It was far more wrenching for her than for me,” he said.

“No,” Daidre said. “I don’t believe that.”

“Don’t you? Well, there’s little more wrenching than death by gunshot, I daresay. Especially when death is not immediate. I didn’t have to go through that. Helen did. She was there one moment, just trying to get her shopping in the front door. She was shot the next. That would be rather wrenching, wouldn’t you say?” He sounded bleak, and he didn’t look at her as he spoke. But he’d misunderstood her meaning, and Daidre sought to clarify it.

“I believe that death is the end of this part of our existence, Thomas: the spiritual being’s human experience. The spirit leaves the body and then goes on to what’s next. And what’s next has to be better than what’s here or what’s the point, really?”

“Do you actually believe that?” His tone walked the line between bitterness and incredulity. “Heaven and hell and nonsense in a similar vein?”

“Not heaven and hell. That all seems rather silly, doesn’t it. God or whoever up there on a throne, casting this soul downward to eternal torment, tossing this soul upward to sing hymns with the angels. That can’t be what this”-her arm took in the cliff side and the sea-“is all about. But that there’s something else beyond what we understand in this moment…? Yes, I do believe that. So for you…You’re still the spiritual being undergoing and attempting to understand the human experience while she now knows-”

“Helen,” he said. “Her name was Helen.”

“Helen, yes. Forgive me. Helen. She now knows what it was all about. But there’s little peace of mind in that. For you, I mean…Knowing that Helen’s moved on.”

“It wasn’t her choice,” he said.

“Is it ever, Thomas?”

“Suicide.” He looked at her evenly.

She felt a chill. “That’s not a choice. That’s a decision based upon the belief that there are no choices.”

“God.” A muscle moved in his jaw. She so regretted her slip of the tongue. A simple expression-my lord-had reduced him to his wound. These things take time, she wanted to tell him. Such a cliché but so much truth within it.

She said to him, “Thomas, do you fancy a walk? There’s something I’d like to show you. It’s a bit of a way…perhaps a mile up the coast along the path, but it’ll give us something of an appetite for dinner.”

She thought he might refuse, but he did not. He nodded and she gestured him to follow her. They headed in the direction from which she’d just come, dipping down at first into another cove, where great fins of slate shot out of the encroaching surf and reached towards a treacherous cliff top of sandstone and shale. The wind and the waves made talking difficult, as did their positions-one behind the other-so Daidre said nothing, nor did Thomas Lynley. It was, she decided, better this way. Letting a moment pass without acknowledging it further was sometimes a more efficacious approach to healing than troubling a developing scar.

Spring had brought wildflowers into areas more protected by the wind, and along the way into combes the yellow of ragwort mixed with the pinks of thrift while bluebells still marked the spots where ancient forests had once stood. There was scant habitation in the immediate environs of the cliffs when they ascended, but in the distance stone-built farmhouses crouched alongside their greater-size barns, and the cattle these served grazed in paddocks that were marked by Cornwall’s earthen hedgerows with their rich vegetation where dog rose and pennywort grew.

The nearest village was a place called Alsperyl, which was also their destination. This comprised a church, a vicarage, a collection of cottages, an ancient schoolhouse, and a pub. All fashioned from the unpainted stone of the district, they sat some half mile to the east of the cliff path, beyond a lumpy paddock. Only the church spire was visible. Daidre pointed this out and said, “St. Morwenna’s, but we’re going this way just a bit farther if you can manage.”

He nodded, and she felt foolish with her final remark. He was hardly infirm and grief did not rob one of the ability to walk. She nodded in turn and led him perhaps another two hundred yards where a break in the wind-tossed heather on the seaside edge of the path gave way to steps hewn into stone.

She said, “It’s not much of a descent, but have care. The edge is still deadly. And we’re…I don’t know…perhaps one hundred fifty feet above the water?”

Down a set of steps, which curved with the natural form of the cliff side, they came to another little path, nearly overgrown with gorse and patches of English stonecrop that somehow thrived here despite the wind. Perhaps twenty yards along, the path ended abruptly, but not with a precipitous cliff edge as one might expect. Rather, a small hut had been hewn into the cliff face. It was fronted with the old driftwood of ruined ships and sided-where such sides emerged beyond the cliff face itself-with small blocks of sandstone. Its wooden face was grey with age. The hinges that served its rough Dutch door bled rust onto pitted panels.

Daidre glanced back at Thomas Lynley to see his reaction: such a structure in such a remote location. His eyes had widened, and a smile crooked his mouth. His expression seemed to say to her, What is this place?

She replied to his unasked question, speaking above the wind that buffeted them. “Isn’t it marvelous, Thomas? It’s called Hedra’s Hut. Evidently-if the journal of the reverend Mr. Walcombe is to be believed-it’s been here since the late eighteenth century.”

“Did he build it?”

“Mr. Walcombe? No, no. He wasn’t a builder, but he was quite a chronicler. He kept a journal of the doings round Alsperyl. I found it in the library in Casvelyn. He was the vicar of St. Morwenna’s for…I don’t know…forty years, perhaps? He tried to save the tormented soul who did build this place.”

“Ah. That would be the Hedra from Hedra’s Hut, then?”

“The very woman. Apparently, she was widowed when her husband-who fished the waters out of Polcare Cove-was caught in a storm and drowned, leaving her with one young son. According to Mr. Walcombe-who does not generally embellish his facts-the boy disappeared one day, likely having ventured too near the edge of the cliff in an area too friable to support his weight. Rather than confront the deaths of both husband and son within six months of each other, poor Hedra chose to believe a selkie had taken the boy. She told herself he’d wandered down to the water-God knows how he managed it from this height-and there the seal waited in her human form and beckoned him into the sea to join the rest of the…” She frowned. “Blast. I’ve quite forgotten what a group of seals is called. It can’t be a herd. A pod? But that’s whales. Well, no matter at the moment. That’s what happened. Hedra built this hut to watch for his return, and that’s what she did for the rest of her life. It’s a poignant story, isn’t it?”

“Is it true?”

“If we can believe Mr. Walcombe. Come inside. There’s more to see. Let’s get out of the wind.”

The upper and lower doors closed by means of wooden bars that slid through rough wooden handles and rested on hooks. As she pushed the top one back and then the bottom one, and swung the doors open, she said over her shoulder, “Hedra knew what she was about. She gave herself quite a sturdy place to wait for her son. It’s framed in timber all round. Each side has a bench, the roof has quite decent beams to hold it up, and the floor is slate. It’s as if she knew she’d be waiting for a while, isn’t it?”

She led the way in, but then stopped short. Behind her, she heard him duck under the low lintel to join her. She said, “Oh blast,” in disgust and he said, “Now, that’s a shame.”

The wall directly in front of them had been defaced and defaced recently if the freshness of the cuts into the wooden panels of the little building were anything to go by. The remains of a heart which had been earlier carved into the wood-no doubt accompanied by lovers’ initials-curved round a series of vicious hack marks that now gouged deeply, as if into flesh. No initials were left.

“Well,” Daidre said, trying to sound philosophical about the mess, “I suppose it’s not as if the walls haven’t already been carved up. And at least it isn’t spray paint. But still…One wonders…Why do people do such things?”

Thomas was observing the rest of the hut, with its more than two hundred years of carvings: initials, dates, other hearts, the occasional name. He said thoughtfully, “Where I went to school, there’s a wall…It’s not too far from the entry, actually, so no visitor can ever miss it…Pupils have put their initials into it for…I don’t know…I expect they’ve done it since the time of Henry the sixth. Whenever I go back-because I do go back occasionally…one does-I look for mine. They’re still there. They somehow say I’m real, I existed then, I exist even now. But when I look at all the others-and there are hundreds, probably thousands of them-I can’t help thinking how fleeting life is. It’s the same thing here, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is.” She ran her fingers over several of the older carvings: a Celtic cross, the name Daniel, B.J. + S.R. “I like to come here to think,” she told him. “Sometimes I wonder who were these people all coupled together so confidently. And did their love last? I wonder that as well.”

For his part, Lynley touched the poor gouged heart. “Nothing lasts,” he said. “That’s our curse.”

Chapter Nine

BEA HANNAFORD SAW MUCH THAT SEEMED TYPICAL IN SANTO Kerne’s bedroom, and for the first time she was glad to have Constable McNulty doing penance as her dogsbody. For the walls of Santo’s bedroom bore a plethora of surfing posters and, from what Bea could tell, what McNulty didn’t know about surfing, the locations of the photos, and the surfers themselves didn’t actually bear knowing. She couldn’t conclude that his knowledge was in any way relevant to anything, however. She was merely relieved that, at the end of the day, McNulty did know something about something.

“Jaws,” he murmured obscurely, gazing awestruck at a liquid mountain down which a thumb-size madman rushed. “Bloody hell, look at that bloke. That’s Hamilton, off Maui. He’s dead mad. He’ll do anything. Christ, this looks like a tsunami, doesn’t it?” He whistled low and shook his head.

Ben Kerne was with them, but he didn’t venture into the room. His wife had remained below, in the lounge. It had been obvious that Kerne hadn’t wanted to leave her on her own, but he’d been caught between the police and his spouse. He couldn’t accommodate one while attempting to monitor the other. He’d had little choice in the matter, then. They would either wander the hotel till they found Santo’s bedroom as he saw to his wife, or he would have to take them there. He’d chosen the latter, but it was fairly clear that his mind was elsewhere.

“So far we’ve heard nothing about Santo and surfing,” Bea said to Ben Kerne, who stood in the doorway.

Kerne said, “He started surfing when we first came to Casvelyn.”

“Is his surfing kit here? Board, wet suit, whatever else…”

“Hood,” McNulty murmured. “Gloves, boots, extra fins-”

“That’ll do, Constable,” Bea told him sharply. “Mr. Kerne probably gets the point.”

“No,” Ben Kerne said. “He kept his kit elsewhere.”

“Did he? Why?” Bea said. “Not exactly convenient, is it?”

Ben looked at the posters as he replied. “I expect he didn’t like to keep it here.”

“Why?” she repeated.

“He likely suspected I’d do something with it.”

“Ah. Constable…?” Bea was gratified to see that Mick McNulty took the hint and once more attended to his note taking, although Ben Kerne couldn’t say, when asked, where Santo had indeed kept his gear. Bea said to him, “Why would Santo think you might do something with his kit, Mr. Kerne? Or do you mean to his kit?” And she thought, If the surfing kit, why not the cliff-climbing kit?

“Because he knew I didn’t particularly want him to like surfing.”

“Really? It seems a harmless enough sport, compared to cliff climbing.”

“No sport is completely harmless, Inspector. But it wasn’t that.” Kerne seemed to be looking for a way to explain, and he came into the bedroom to do so. He observed the posters. His face was stony.

Bea said, “Do you surf, Mr. Kerne?”

“I wouldn’t prefer Santo not surf if I did it myself, now would I.”

“I don’t know. Would you? I still don’t see why you approved of one sport but not another.”

“It’s the type, all right?” Kerne gave an apologetic glance to Constable McNulty. “I didn’t like him mixing with surfers because for so many of them it’s their only world. I didn’t want him adopting it: the hanging about they do, waiting for the opportunity for a surf, their lives defined by isobar charts and tide tables, driving up and down the coast to find perfect waves. And when they’re not having a surf, they’re talking about it or smoking cannabis while they stand round in their wet suits afterwards, still talking about it. There’re blokes-and lasses as well, I admit it-whose entire worlds revolve round riding waves and traveling the globe to ride more waves. I didn’t want that for Santo. Would you want it for your son or daughter?”

“But if his world revolved round cliff climbing?”

“It didn’t. But at least it’s a sport where one depends upon others. It’s not solitary, the way surfing can be and generally is. A surfer alone on the waves: You see it all the time. I didn’t want him out there alone. I wanted him to be with people. So if something happened to him…” He moved his gaze back to the posters, and what they depicted was-even to an unschooled observer like Bea-absolute danger embodied in an unimaginable tonnage of water: exposure to everything from broken bones to certain drowning. She wondered how many people died each year, coursing a nearly vertical declivity that, unlike the earth with its knowable textures, changed within seconds to trap the unwary.

She said, “Yet Santo was climbing alone when he fell. Just as he might have been had he gone for a surf. And anyway, surfers don’t always do this alone, do they?”

“On the wave itself. The surfer and the wave, alone. There may be others out there, but it’s not about them.”

“With climbing it is, though?”

“You depend on the other climber, and he depends on you. You keep each other safe.” He cleared his throat roughly and added, “What father wouldn’t want safety for his son?”

“And when Santo didn’t agree with your assessment of surfing?”

“What about it?”

“What happened between you? Arguments? Punishment? Do you tend towards violence, Mr. Kerne?”

He faced her, but in doing so he put his back to the window, so she could no longer read his face. He said, “What the hell sort of question is that?”

“One that wants answering. Santo’s eye was blackened by someone recently. What d’you know about that?”

His shoulders dropped. He moved again, but this time out of the light of the window and towards the other side of the room, where a computer and its printer sat on a single plywood sheet across two sawhorses forming a primitive desk. There was a stack of papers facedown on this desk; Ben Kerne reached for them. Bea stopped him before his fingers made contact. She repeated her question.

“He wouldn’t tell me,” Kerne said. “Obviously, I could tell he’d been punched. It was a bad blow. But he wouldn’t explain it, so I was left to think…” He shook his head. He seemed to have information he was loath to part with.

Bea said, “If you know something…if you suspect something…”

“I don’t. It’s just that…the young women liked Santo, and Santo liked the young women. He didn’t discriminate.”

“Between what?”

“Between available and unavailable. Between attached and unattached. Santo was…He was like pure mating instinct given human form. Perhaps an angry father punched him out. Or a furious boyfriend. He wouldn’t say. But he liked the lasses and the lasses liked him. And truth of the matter is that he was easily led where a determined young woman wanted him to go. He was…I’m afraid he was always that way.”

“Anyone in particular?”

“His last was a girl called Madlyn Angarrack. They’d been…what do you call it…an item? For more than a year.”

“Is she also a surfer by any chance?” Bea asked.

“A brilliant one, if Santo was to be believed. National champion in the making. He was quite taken with her.”

“And she with him?”

“It wasn’t a one-way street.”

“How was it for you, watching your son become involved with a surfer, then?”

Ben Kerne answered steadily. “Santo was always involved somewhere, Inspector. I knew it would pass, whatever it was. As I said, he liked the ladies. He wasn’t ready to settle. Not with Madlyn, not with anyone. No matter what.”

Bea thought that last was a strange expression. She said, “You wanted him to settle, though?”

“Like any father, I wanted him to keep his nose clean and stay out of trouble.”

“Not overly ambitious for him, then? Those are fairly limited as expectations go.”

Ben Kerne said nothing. Bea had the impression he was keeping something to himself, and it was her experience that in a murder enquiry, when someone did that, it was generally out of self-interest.

She said, “Did you ever beat Santo, Mr. Kerne?”

His gaze on her didn’t waver. “I’ve answered that question already.”

She let a silence hang there, but this one lacked fecundity. She was forced to move on. She did so by giving her attention to Santo’s computer. They would have to take it with them, she told Kerne. Constable McNulty would unhook it all and carry the components out to their car. Having said this, she reached for the stack of papers that Kerne had been going for on the desk. She flipped them over and spread them out.

They were, she saw, a variation of designs that incorporated the words Adventures Unlimited into each of them. In one the two words themselves formed into a curling wave. In another they made a circular logo in which the Promontory King George Hotel stood centrally. In a third they became the base upon which a variety of athletic feats were being accomplished by buffed-out silhouettes both masculine and feminine. In another they made a climbing apparatus.

“He…Oh God.”

Bea looked up from the designs to see Kerne’s stricken face. “What is it?” she asked.

“He designed T-shirts. On his computer. He was…Obviously, he was working on something for the business. I’d not asked him to do it. Oh God, Santo.”

He said the last like an apology. In reaction, Bea asked him about his son’s climbing equipment. Kerne told her that all of it was missing, every belay device, every chock stone, every rope, every item he would need for any climb he might make.

“Would he have needed all of it to make that climb yesterday?”

No, Kerne told her. He either began keeping it elsewhere without his father’s knowledge or he’d taken it all on the previous day when he set off to make his fatal climb.

“Why?” Bea asked.

“We’d had harsh words. He’d have reacted to them. It would have been an ‘I’ll show you’ sort of statement.”

“One that led to his death? Too much in a state to examine his kit closely? Was he the type to do that?”

“Impulsive, you mean? Impulsive enough to climb without looking over his equipment? Yes,” Kerne said, “he was exactly the type to do that.”

IT WAS, PRAISE GOD or praise whomever one felt like praising when praise was called for, the last radiator. Not the last radiator as in the last radiator of all radiators in the hotel, but the last radiator as in the last radiator he would have to paint for the day. Given a half hour to clean the brushes and seal the paint tins-after years of practise while working for his father, Cadan knew he could stretch out any activity as long as was necessary-it would be time to leave for the day. Halle-fucking-lujah. His lower back was throbbing and his head was reacting to the fumes once again. Clearly, he wasn’t meant for this type of labour. Well, that was hardly a surprise.

Cadan squatted back on his heels and admired his handiwork. It was dead stupid of them to put down the fitted carpet before they had someone paint the radiators, he thought. But he’d managed to get the most recent spill cleaned up with a bit of industrious rubbing, and what he’d not got up he reckoned the curtains would hide. Besides, it had been his only serious spill of the day, and that was saying something.

He declared, “We are out of here, Poohster.”

The parrot adjusted his balance on Cadan’s shoulder and replied with a squawk followed by, “Loose bolts on the fridge! Call the cops! Call the cops!” yet another of his curious remarks.

The door to the room swung open as Pooh flapped his wings, preparatory either to making a descent to the floor or to performing a less than welcome bodily function on Cadan’s shoulder. Cadan said, “Don’t you bloody dare, mate,” and a female voice said in concerned reply, “Who are you, please? What’re you doing here?”

The speaker turned out to be a woman in black, and Cadan reckoned that she was Santo Kerne’s mother, Dellen. He scrambled to his feet. Pooh said, “Polly wants a shag. Polly wants a shag,” displaying, not for the first time, the level of inapposition to which he was capable of sinking at a moment’s notice.

“What is that?” Dellen Kerne asked, clearly in reference to the bird.

“A parrot.”

She looked annoyed. “I can see it’s a parrot,” she told him. “I’m not stupid or blind. What sort of parrot and what’s he doing here and what’re you doing here, if it comes to that?”

“He’s a Mexican parrot.” Cadan could feel himself getting hot, but he knew the woman wouldn’t twig his discomfiture as his olive skin didn’t blush when blood suffused it. “His name is Pooh.”

“As in Winnie-the?”

“As in what he does best.”

A smile flickered round her lips. “Why don’t I know you? Why’ve I not seen you here before?”

Cadan introduced himself. “Ben…Mr. Kerne hired me yesterday. He probably forgot to tell you about me because of…” He saw the way he was headed too late to avoid heading there. He quirked his mouth and wanted to disappear, since-aside from painting radiators and dreaming about what could be done to the crazy golf course-his day had been spent in avoiding a run-in precisely like this: face-to-face with one of Santo Kerne’s parents in a moment when the magnitude of their loss was going to have to be acknowledged with an appropriate expression of sympathy. He said, “Sorry about Santo.”

She looked at him evenly. “Of course you are.”

Whatever that was supposed to mean. Cadan shifted on his feet. He had a paintbrush still in his hand and he wondered suddenly and idiotically what he was meant to do with it. Or with the tin of paint. They’d been brought to him and no one had said where to put them at the end of the workday. He’d not thought to ask.

“Did you know him?” Dellen Kerne said abruptly. “Did you know Santo?”

“A bit. Yeah.”

“And what did you think of him?”

This was rocky ground. Cadan didn’t know how to reply other than to say, “He bought a surfboard from my dad.” He didn’t mention Madlyn, didn’t want to mention Madlyn, and didn’t want to think why he didn’t want to mention Madlyn.

“I see. Yes. But that doesn’t actually answer the question, does it?” Dellen came farther into the room. She went to the fitted clothes cupboard for some reason. She opened it. She looked inside. She spoke, oddly, into the cupboard’s interior. She said, “Santo was a great deal like me. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t know him. And you didn’t know him, did you? Not actually.”

“Like I said. A bit. I saw him round. More when he was first learning to surf than later on.”

“Because you surf as well?”

“Me? No. Well, I mean I’ve been, of course. But it’s not like it’s the only…I mean, I’ve got other interests.”

She turned from the cupboard. “Do you? What are they? Sport, I expect. You look quite fit. And women as well. Young men your age generally have women as one of their main interests. Are you like other young men?” She frowned. “Can we open that window, Cadan? The smell of paint…”

Cadan wanted to say it was her hotel so she could do whatever she wanted to do, but he set down his paintbrush carefully, went to the window, and wrestled it open, which wasn’t easy. It needed adjusting or greasing or something. Whatever one did to rejuvenate windows.

She said, “Thank you. I’m going to have a cigarette now. Do you smoke? No? That’s a surprise. You have the look of a smoker.”

Cadan knew he was meant to ask what the look of a smoker was, and had she been somewhere between twenty and thirty years old, he would have done so. His attitude would have been that questions like that one, of a potentially metaphoric nature, could lead to interesting answers, which in turn could lead to interesting developments. But in this case, he kept his mouth shut and when she said, “You won’t be bothered if I smoke, will you?” he shook his head. He hoped she didn’t expect him to light her cigarette for her-because she did seem the sort of woman round whom men leapt like jackrabbits-since he had neither matches nor lighter with him. She was correct in her assessment of him, though. He was a smoker but he’d been cutting back recently, inanely telling himself it was tobacco and not drink that was the real root of his problems.

He saw that she’d brought a packet of cigarettes with her and she had matches as well, tucked into the packet. She lit up, drew in, and let smoke drift from her nostrils.

“Whose shit’s on fire?” Pooh remarked.

Cadan winced. “Sorry. He’s heard that from my sister a million times. He mimics her. He mimics everyone. Anyway, she hates smoking.” And then again, “Sorry,” because he didn’t want her to think he was being critical of her.

“You’re nervous,” Dellen said. “I’m making you that way. And the bird’s fine. He doesn’t know what he’s saying, after all.”

“Yeah. Well. Sometimes, though, I’d swear he does.”

“Like the remark about shagging?”

He blinked. “What?”

“‘Polly wants a shag,’” she reminded him. “It was the first thing he said when I came into the room. I don’t, actually. Want a shag, that is. But I’m curious why he said that. I expect you use that bird to collect women. Is that why you brought him with you?”

“He goes most everywhere with me.”

“That can’t be convenient.”

“We work things out.”

“Do you?” She observed the bird, but Cadan had the feeling she wasn’t really seeing Pooh. He couldn’t have said what she was seeing but her next remarks gave him at least an idea. “Santo and I were quite close. Are you close to your mother, Cadan?”

“No.” He didn’t add that it was impossible to be close to Wenna Rice Angarrack McCloud Jackson Smythe, aka the Bounder. She had never remained stationary long enough for closeness to be anywhere in the deck of cards she played.

“Santo and I were quite close,” Dellen said again. “We were very like. Sensualists. Do you know what that is?” She gave him no chance to answer, not that he could have given her a definition, anyway. She said, “We live for sensation. For what we can see and hear and smell. For what we can taste. For what we can touch. And for what can touch us. We experience life in all its richness, without guilt and without fear. That’s what Santo was like. That’s what I taught Santo to be.”

“Right.” Cadan thought how he’d like to get out of the room, but he wasn’t certain how to effect a departure that wouldn’t look like running away. He told himself there was no real reason to turn tail and disappear through the doorway, but he had a feeling, nearly animal in nature, that danger was near.

Dellen said to him, “What sort are you, Cadan? Can I touch your bird or will he bite?”

He said, “He likes to be scratched on his head. Where you’d put his ears if birds had ears. I mean ears like ours because they can hear, obviously.”

“Like this?” She came close to Cadan, then. He could smell her scent. Musk, he thought. She used the nail of her index finger, which was painted red. Pooh accepted her ministrations, as he normally did. He purred like a cat, yet another sound he’d learned from a previous owner. Dellen smiled at the bird. She said to Cadan, “You didn’t answer me. What sort are you? Sensualist? Emotionalist? Intellectual?”

“Not bloody likely,” he replied. “Intellectual, I mean. I’m not intellectual.”

“Ah. Are you emotional? Bundle of feelings? Raw to the touch? Inside, I mean.”

He shook his head.

“Then you’re a sensualist, like me. Like Santo. I thought as much. You have that look about you. I expect it’s something your girlfriend appreciates. If you have one. Do you?”

“Not just now.”

“Pity. You’re quite attractive, Cadan. What do you do for sex?”

Cadan felt ever more the need to escape, yet she wasn’t doing a single thing except petting the bird and talking to him. Still, something was very off with the woman.

Then it came to him at a gallop that her son was dead. Not only dead but murdered. He was gone, kaput, given the chop, whatever. When a son died-or a daughter or a husband-wasn’t the mother supposed to rip up her clothes? tear at her hair? shed tears by the bucketful?

She said, “Because you must do something for sex, Cadan. A young virile man like you. You can’t mean me to think you live like a celibate priest.”

“I wait for summer,” he finally told her.

Her finger hesitated, less than an inch from Pooh’s green head. The bird sidestepped to get back within its range. “For summer?” Dellen said.

“Town’s full of girls then. Here on holiday.”

“Ah. You prefer the short-term relationship, then. Sex without strings.”

“Well,” he said. “Yeah. Works for me, that.”

“I expect it does. You scratch them and they scratch you and everyone’s happy with the arrangement. No questions asked. I know exactly what you mean. Although I expect that surprises you. A woman my age. Married, with children. Knowing what it means.”

He offered a half smile. It was insincere, just a way to acknowledge what she was saying without having to acknowledge what she was saying. He gave a look in the direction of the doorway. He said, “Well,” and tried to make his tone decisive, a way of saying, That’s that, then. Nice talking to you.

She said, “Why haven’t we met before this?”

“I just started-”

“No. I understand that. But I can’t sort out why we haven’t met before. You’re roughly Santo’s age-”

“Four years older, actually. He’s my-”

“-and you’re so like him as well. So I can’t sort out why you’ve never come round with him.”

“-sister’s age. Madlyn,” he said. “You probably know Madlyn. My sister. She and Santo were…Well, they were whatever you want to call it.”

“What?” Dellen asked blankly. “What did you call her?”

“Madlyn. Madlyn Angarrack. They-she and Santo-they were together for…I don’t know…Eighteen months? Two years? Whatever. She’s my sister. Madlyn’s my sister.”

Dellen stared at him. Then she stared past him, but she appeared to be looking at nothing at all. She said in a different voice altogether, “How very odd. She’s called Madlyn, you say?”

“Yeah. Madlyn Angarrack.”

“And she and Santo were…what, exactly?”

“Boyfriend and girlfriend. Partners. Lovers. Whatever.”

“You’re joking.”

He shook his head, confused, wondering why she’d think he was joking. “They met when he came to get a board from my dad. Madlyn taught him to surf. Santo, that is. Well, obviously, not my dad. That’s how they got to know each other. And then…well, I s’pose you could say they started hanging about together and things went from there.”

“And you called her Madlyn?” Dellen asked.

“Yeah. Madlyn.”

“Together for eighteen months.”

“Eighteen months or so. Yeah. That’s it.”

“Then why did I never meet her?” she said.

WHEN DI BEA HANNAFORD returned to the police station with Constable McNulty in tow, it was to find that Ray had managed to fulfill her wish for an incident room in Casvelyn and that Sergeant Collins had set the room up with a degree of expertise that surprised her. He’d somehow managed to get the upper-floor conference room in order, and now it was ready, with china boards upon which pictures of Santo Kerne were posted both in death and in life and on which activities could be listed neatly. There were also desks, phones, computers with HOLMES at the ready, printers, a filing cabinet, and supplies. The only thing the incident room didn’t have was, unfortunately, the most vital part of any investigation: the MCIT officers.

The absence of a murder squad was going to leave Bea in the unenviable position of having to conduct the investigation with McNulty and Collins alone until such a time as a murder squad got there. Since that squad should have arrived along with the contents of the incident room, Bea labeled the situation unacceptable. It was also annoying because she knew very well that her former husband could get a murder squad from Land’s End to London in less than three hours if he was pressed to do so.

“Damn,” she muttered. She told McNulty to type up his notes officially and she went to a desk in the corner where she quickly discovered that having a phone within sight did not necessarily mean that it was connected to an actual telephone line. She looked meaningfully at Sergeant Collins, who said apologetically, “BT says another three hours. There’s no hookup up here, so they’re sending someone over from Bodmin to put one in. We have to use mobiles or the phones downstairs till then.”

“Do they know this is a murder enquiry?”

“They know,” he said, but his tone suggested that, murder or not, BT also didn’t much care.

Bea said, “Hell,” and took out her mobile. She walked to a desk in the corner and punched in Ray’s work number.

“There’s been something of a cock-up,” was what she told him when she had him on the phone at last.

He said, “Beatrice. Hullo. You’re welcome for the incident room. Am I having Pete for the night again?”

“I’m not phoning about Pete. Where’re the MCIT blokes?”

“Ah,” he said. “That. Well, we’ve a bit of a problem.” He went on to lower the boom. “Can’t be done, love. There’s no MCIT available at the moment to be sent to Casvelyn. You can ring Dorset or Somerset and try to get one of theirs, of course, or I can do it for you. In the meantime, I do have a TAG team I can send you.”

“A TAG team,” she said. “A TAG team, Ray? This is a murder enquiry. Murder. Major crime. Requiring a Major Crime Investigating Team.”

“Blood from a stone,” he returned. “There’s not much more I can do. I did try to suggest you maintain your incident room in-”

“Are you punishing me?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the one who-”

“Don’t you dare go there. This is professional.”

“I think I’ll have Pete with me till you’ve got a result,” he said mildly. “You’re going to be quite busy. I don’t want him staying on his own. It’s not a good idea.”

“You don’t want him staying…You don’t…” She was left speechless, a reaction to Ray so rare that its presence now left her even more speechless. What remained was ending the conversation. She should have done so with dignity but all she managed was to punch off the mobile and throw it onto the closest desk.

When it rang a moment later, she thought her former husband was phoning to apologise or, more likely, to lecture her about police procedure, about her propensity for myopic decision making, about perpetually crossing the boundaries of what was allowed while expecting someone to run interference for her. She snatched up the mobile and said, “What? What?

It was the forensic lab, however. Someone called Duke Clarence Washoe-and was that name bizarre enough…what in God’s name had his parents been thinking?-ringing up with the fingerprint report.

“Got a real stew, mum,” was how he broke the news to her.

“Guv,” she said. “Or DI Hannaford. Not ma’am, madam, mum, or anything suggesting you and I are related or I’ve got royal connections, all right?”

“Oh. Right. Sorry.” A pause. He seemed to need a moment to adjust his approach. “We’ve got dabs from your vic all over the car-”

“Victim,” Bea said, and she thought wearily about what American television had done to normal communications. “Not vic. Victim. Or Santo Kerne, if you prefer. Let’s show a little respect, Mr. Washoe.”

“Duke Clarence,” he said. “You c’n call me Duke Clarence.”

“That delights me no end,” she replied. “Go on.”

“Eleven other different sets of prints as well. This is outside of the car. Inside, we’ve got seven sets. The vic…The dead boy’s. And six others who also left prints on the passenger door, fascia, window handles, and glove box. There’re prints on the CD cases as well. The boy and three others.”

“What about on the climbing equipment?”

“The only decent prints’re on that tape wrapped round it. But they’re Santo Kerne’s.”

“Damn,” Bea said.

“There’s a nice clear set on the boot of the car, though. Fresh ones, I’d guess. But I don’t know what good that’ll do you.”

None at all, Bea thought. Someone crossing the bloody road in town could’ve touched the damn car in passing. She would send forensics the prints gathered from everyone remotely connected to Santo Kerne, but the truth was that identifying whose fingers left dabs on the boy’s car probably wasn’t going to get them anywhere. This was a disappointment.

“Let me know what else you turn up,” she told Duke Clarence Washoe. “There’s got to be something from that car we can use.”

“As to that, we’ve got some hair caught up in the climbing equipment. That might turn up something.”

“Tissue attached?” she asked hopefully.

“Yes, indeed.”

“Keep it safe, then. Carry on, Mr. Washoe.”

“You c’n call me Duke Clarence,” he reminded her.

“Ah yes,” she said. “I’d forgotten that.”

They rang off. Bea sat down at the desk. She watched Constable McNulty across the room attempting to type up his notes, and it came to her that he didn’t actually know how to type. He was hunting for every letter to tap upon with his index fingers, with prodigious pauses between each tap. She knew if she watched him for longer than thirty seconds, she would scream, so she rose and began to head out of the room.

Sergeant Collins met her at the door. He said, “Phone’s below.”

She said fervently, “Thank God. Where are they?”

“Who?”

“BT.”

“BT? They’ve not arrived yet.”

“Then what-”

“The phone. You’ve a call downstairs. It’s an officer from-”

“Middlemore,” she finished. “That would be my former husband. Assistant Chief Constable Hannaford. Head him off for me. I need some time.” Ray, she decided, had tried on her mobile, and now he was trying to get through on the land line. He’d have built up a head of steam at this point. She didn’t particularly want to experience it. She said, “Tell him I’ve just set out to see to some business. Tell him to phone me back tomorrow. Or at home later.” She would give him that much.

“It’s not ACC Hannaford,” Collins said.

“You said an officer…”

“Someone called Sir David-”

“What is it with people?” Bea demanded. “I’ve just got off the phone with a Duke Clarence up in Chepstow and now it’s Sir David?”

“Hillier, he’s called,” Collins said. “Sir David Hillier. Assistant commissioner up at the Met.”

“Scotland Yard?” Bea asked. “Now, isn’t that just what I need.”

BY THE TIME HIS regular drinking hour at the Salthouse Inn had rolled round, Selevan Penrule was in need of one. He also was, at least to his way of thinking, deserving of one. Something strong from the sixteen men of Tain. Or however the hell many there were.

Having to cope with both his granddaughter’s pigheadedness and her mother’s hysteria in a single day would have been too much for any bloke. No wonder David had moved them all off to Rhodesia or whatever it was called these days. He’d probably thought a good bout of heat, cholera, TB, snakes, and tsetse flies-or whatever they had in that god-awful bloody climate of theirs-would sort both of them out. But it hadn’t done so if Tammy’s behaviour and Sally Joy’s voice on the phone were anything to go by.

“Is she eating properly?” Sally Joy had demanded from the bowels of Africa, where a decent connection on a telephone line was, apparently, something akin to the spontaneous transmogrification of tabby cat into two-headed lion. “Is she still praying, Father Penrule?”

“She’s-”

“Has she gained any weight? How much time is she on her knees? What about the Bible? Does she have a Bible?”

Jaysus in a sandwich, Selevan thought. Sally Joy made his bloody head swim. He said, “I told you I’d watch over the girl. That’s what I’m doing. ’S there anything else, then?”

“Oh, I’m tedious. I’m tedious. But you don’t understand what it’s like to have a daughter.”

“I had one myself, didn’t I? Four sons as well, if you’re interested.”

“I know. I know. But in Tammy’s case-”

“You either leave her to me or I send her back, woman.”

That got through. The last thing Sally Joy and David wanted was their daughter back in Africa, exposed to its hardships and believing that she could single-handedly do something about them.

“All right. I know. You’re doing what you can.”

And better than you did, Selevan thought. But that was before he’d caught Tammy on her knees. She’d fashioned herself what he called a prayer bench-she’d referred to it as a pree-something but Selevan was not one for fancy terms-in her bitsy sleeping area in the caravan and he’d thought at first she meant to hang her clothing from the back of it, the way gents did with their suits in posh hotels. But not long after breakfast, when he’d gone in search of her in order to drive her in to work, he’d found her kneeling in front of it with a book open on its narrow shelf, and she was reading studiously. This he’d discovered too late-the reading-because the first thing he’d assumed was that the girl was at her God damn beads again, and this despite the fact that he’d already removed two sets of them from her belongings. He’d pounced and hauled her back by her shoulders, saying, “We’ll none of this nonsense,” and then had seen that she was merely reading.

It wasn’t even a Bible. But it also wasn’t much better. She was soaking up some saint’s writing. “St. Teresa of Avila,” she revealed. “Grandie, it’s just philosophy.”

“If it’s some saint’s scribbles, it’s religious muck,” was what he told her as he snatched up the book. “Filling your head with rubbish, you are.”

“That’s not fair,” she said, and her eyes became moist.

They’d driven to Casvelyn in silence, afterwards, with Tammy turned away from him, so all he could see was the curve of her stubborn little jaw and the sheenless fall of her hair. She’d sniffed and he’d understood she was crying and he’d felt…He didn’t know how he felt because-and he cursed her parents soundly for sending her to him-he was trying to help the girl, to bring her to whatever senses she had left, to get her to see she was meant to be living her life and not spending it caught up in reading about the doings of saints and sinners.

He felt irritated with her, then. Defiance he could deal with. He could shout and be rough. But tears…He said, “They’re lezzies, you know, the lot of them, girl. You got that, don’t you?”

She said in a small voice, “Don’t be stupid,” and she cried a little harder.

He was reminded of Nan, his daughter. A ride in the car and Nan in this same position, turned away from him. “It’s just Exeter,” she’d said. “It’s just a club, Dad.” And his reply, “We’ll be having none of that nonsense while you’re under my roof. So dry your eyes or feel my palm, and it won’t be drying them for you.”

Had he really been so hard with the girl when all she’d wanted to do was go clubbing with her mates? But he had, he had. For clubbing with mates was how things started, and where they ended was in disgrace.

All of that seemed so innocent now. What had he been thinking in denying Nan a few hours of pleasure because he’d had none when he was her age?

The day passed slowly, with Selevan’s internal skies quite clouded. He was more than ready for the Salthouse Inn by the time the appointed hour rumbled round for his embrace of the sixteen men of Tain. He was also ready for some conversation, and this would be provided by his regular companion of the spirits, who was waiting for him in the smoky inglenook of the Salthouse Inn’s public bar when he arrived late in the afternoon.

This was Jago Reeth, and he sat with his regular pint of Guinness cupped in his hands, his ankles hooked round the legs of his stool, and his back hunched over so that his spectacles-repaired at the temple with a twist of wire-slid to the end of his bony nose. He was wearing his usual getup of crusty jeans and sweatshirt, and his boots were, as always, grey with the dust of carved polystyrene from the surfboard maker’s workshop where he was employed. He was beyond the age of a pensioner, but as he was fond of putting it when asked: Old surfers did not die or fade away; they merely looked for regular jobs when their days of riding waves were finished.

Jago’s had concluded because of Parkinson’s, and Selevan always felt a gruff sympathy for his contemporary when he saw how the shakes had come into his hands. But any expression of concern was always brushed aside by Jago. “I had my day,” he was fond of saying. “Time to let the youngsters have theirs.”

Thus he was the perfect confessor for Selevan’s current situation, and once Selevan had his Glenmorangie in hand, he told his friend about his morning skirmish with Tammy in answer to the question, “How’s tricks?” which Jago asked as he raised his own glass to his mouth. He used two hands to do it, Selevan noted.

“She’s going over to the lezzies,” Selevan told him as a conclusion to his tale.

Jago shrugged. “Well, kids’re meant to do what they want to do, mate. Anything else and you’re buying trouble. Don’t see any point to that, do I.”

“But her parents-”

“What do parents know? What did you know if it comes down to it? And you had, what? Five yourself? Did you know your arse from a pickle when you dealt with them?”

He hadn’t known his arse from a pickle when he’d dealt with anything, Selevan had to admit, even when he’d dealt with his wife. He’d been too caught up in being cheesed off at having to cope with the bloody dairy instead of doing what he’d wanted to do, which had been the navy, seeing the world, and getting the hell away from Cornwall. He’d made a dog’s dinner of his role as father and husband, and he hadn’t done much better with his role as dairyman.

He said, but not in an unfriendly fashion, “Easy for you to say, mate.” For Jago had no children, had never had a wife, and had spent his youth and his middle age following waves.

Jago smiled, showing teeth that had seen hard use and little maintenance. “Too right,” he admitted. “I ought to keep it plugged.”

“And how’s a duffer like me supposed to understand a lass anyway?” Selevan asked.

“Just keep’m from getting stuffed too soon, ’n my opinion.” Jago downed the rest of his Guinness and pushed away from the table. He was tall, and it took a moment for him to untangle his long legs from the stool. While Jago went to the bar for another drink, Selevan considered what his friend had said.

It was good advice, except it didn’t apply to Tammy. Getting stuffed was not her interest. What hung between men’s legs had not so far beguiled her in the least. Should the girl ever come up pregnant, there’d be cause for celebration, not the general outcry one might assume would normally rise from outraged parents and relations.

“Never been a lezzie in my house,” he said when Jago returned.

“Why’n’t you ask her about it, then?”

“Now how the hell am I s’posed to put it?”

“‘Like the bush better’n the prong, my sweet? Why would that be?’” Jago offered, and then he grinned. “Look, mate, you’re meant to keep the doors open between you by pretending what’s in front of your face i’n’t in front of your face. Kids’re different to what they were like when we were young. Get started early and don’t know what they’re about, do they. You’re there to guide them, not to direct them.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Selevan said.

“It’s the how of it, man.”

Selevan couldn’t argue with this. He’d mucked up the how of it with his own children and now he was doing the same with Tammy. In contrast-he had to admit-Jago Reeth did have a way with the youngsters. Selevan had seen both of the Angarrack young people come and go from Jago’s hired caravan at Sea Dreams and when the dead boy-Santo Kerne-had dropped by to ask Selevan’s permission for beach access from his property, he’d ended up spending more time with the ancient surfer than in the water when that permission was given: waxing Santo’s board together, setting its fins, examining it for dings and imperfections, sitting in deck chairs on the patch of scrub grass next to the caravan and talking. About what? Selevan wondered. How did one talk to another generation?

Jago answered as if the questions had been asked aloud, saying, “’S more about listening than anything else, not speechifying when all you itch to do is make a speech. Or give a lecture. Bloody hell, how I want to give a lecture. But I wait till they finally say to me, ‘So what d’you think?’ and there’s the opening. Simple as that.” He winked. “But not easy, mind you. Quarter hour with them and the last thing you want is having your youth back. Trauma and tears.”

“That’d be the girl,” Selevan said wisely.

“Oh, aye. That’d be the girl. She fell and fell hard. Didn’t ask for my advice in the befores. Didn’t ask for my advice in the afters. But”-here he took a hefty swig of his stout and sloshed it round his mouth which was, Selevan thought, probably his only bow to oral hygiene-“I broke my own rule at the end of the day.”

“Speechifying?”

“Telling her what I’d do in her place.”

“Which was?”

“Kill the bastard.” Jago spoke casually, as if Santo Kerne were not as dead as a Christmas goose on the table. Selevan raised both eyebrows at this. Jago went on. “That not being possible, ’course, I told her to do it like a symbol. Kill off the past. Wave it good-bye. Make a bonfire of it. Toss in everything that bore on the two of them together. Diaries. Journals. Letters. Cards. Photos. Valentines. Paddington bears. Used-up condoms from their very first shag if she’d been feeling sentimental at that juncture. Everything. Just get rid of it all and move along.”

“Easy enough to say,” Selevan noted.

“Truth there. But when it’s a lass’s first and they’ve gone the full mile, it’s the only way when things go bad. Clean house of the bloke, you ask me. Which she was finally on her way to doing when…well…when it happened.”

“Bad, that.”

Jago nodded. “Makes it worse for the girl. How’s she supposed to see Santo Kerne in a real light now? No. She’s got her work cut out, getting over this. Wish it hadn’t happened, none of it. He wasn’t a bad lad, but he had his ways, and she didn’t see that till too bleeding late. By that time the locomotive was steaming out of the station, and all that was left to do was step out of the way.”

“Love’s a bitch of a thing,” Selevan said.

“It’s a killer, that,” Jago agreed.

Chapter Ten

LYNLEY LOOKED THROUGH THE GERTRUDE JEKYLL BOOK, AT the photos and drawings OF gardens that were vibrant with English springtime colours. Their palettes were soft and soothing, and gazing at them he could almost feel what it would be like to sit on one of the weathered benches and let the pastel blanket of petals wash over him. Gardens, he thought, were meant to be like these. Not the formal parterres of the Elizabethans, planted with careful displays of constipated shrubbery and clipped vegetation, but rather the exuberant mimicry of what might occur in a nature from which weeds were banished but other plant life was allowed to flourish: banks of colour tumbling unrestrained onto lawns and herbaceous borders bowing onto paths that themselves wandered, as a path would in nature. Yes, Gertrude Jekyll had known what she was about.

“Lovely, aren’t they?”

Lynley looked up. Daidre Trahair stood before him, a small stemmed glass in her extended hand. She made a moue of apology as she gave a glance in its direction, saying, “I’ve only sherry for an aperitif. I think it’s been here since I got the cottage, which would be…Four years ago?” She smiled. “I’m not much of a drinker, so I don’t actually know…Does sherry go bad? I can’t tell you if this is dry or sweet, to be honest. I suspect sweet, though. It said cream on the bottle.”

“That would be sweet,” Lynley said. “Thank you.” He took the glass. “You’re not drinking?”

“I’ve a small one in the kitchen.”

“You won’t allow me to help you?” He nodded in the direction from which domestic sounds had been coming. “I’m not very good at it. Truthfully, I’m fairly wretched at it. But I’m sure I could chop something if something needs to be chopped. And measuring also. I can tell you unblushingly that I’m a genius with measuring cups and spoons.”

“That’s comforting,” she replied. “Are you capable of a salad if all the ingredients are set out on the work top and you’ve no critical decisions to make?”

“As long as I don’t have to dress it. You wouldn’t want me wielding…whatever it is one wields to dress a salad.”

“You can’t be that hopeless,” she told him with a laugh. “Surely your wife-” She stopped herself. Her expression altered, probably because his own had altered, she thought. She cocked her head ruefully. “I’m sorry, Thomas. It’s difficult not to refer to her.”

Lynley rose from his chair, the Jekyll book still in hand. “Helen would have loved a Gertrude Jekyll garden,” he said. “She used to deadhead our roses in London because, she said, it encouraged more blooms.”

“It does. She was right. Did she like to garden?”

“She liked to be in gardens. I think she liked the effect of having gardened.”

“But you don’t know for sure?”

“I don’t know for sure.” He’d never asked her. He’d have just come home from work to find her with secateurs in hand and a pail of clipped and spent roses at her feet. She’d look at him and toss her dark hair off her cheek and say something about roses, about gardens in general, and what she’d say would force him to smile. And the smile would force him to forget the world outside the brick walls of their garden, a world that needed to be forgotten and locked away so it didn’t intrude on the life he shared with her. “She couldn’t cook, by the way,” he told Daidre. “She was dreadful at it. Completely appalling.”

“Neither of you cooked, then?”

“Neither of us cooked. I could do eggs and toast, of course, and Helen was brilliant at opening tins of soup, beans, and smoked salmon although she could easily be expected to pop a tin in the microwave and possibly blow the entire electrical system in the house. We employed someone to cook for us. It was that, takeaway curry, or starvation. And one can eat only so much takeaway curry.”

“You poor things,” Daidre said. “Come along, then. I expect you can learn at least something.”

She returned to the kitchen and he followed her. From a cupboard, she took a wooden bowl-carved with primitive dancing figures round its rim-and she rustled up a cutting board and a number of, thankfully, recognisable foodstuffs meant to be combined into a salad. She set him to his task with a knife, saying, “Throw in anything. That’s the beauty of a salad. When you’ve got enough in the bowl, I’ll show you a simple dressing that won’t tax your sadly meagre talents. Any questions, then?”

“I’m sure I’ll have them as I go along.”

They worked in companionable silence, Lynley upon the salad and Daidre Trahair upon a dish with string beans and mint. Something was baking away in the oven-emitting the fragrance of pastry-while something else simmered in a pan. In time, they had a meal assembled, and Daidre instructed him in the art of laying a table, which he did, at least, know how to do but which he allowed her to demonstrate for him because allowing her that allowed him to watch and evaluate her.

He was acutely aware of DI Hannaford’s instructions to him, and while he didn’t like the idea of using Daidre Trahair’s hospitality as a device of investigation instead of a means of friendly entrée into her world, the part of him that was a policeman trumped the part of him that was a social creature in need of communing with other like creatures. So he watched and waited and he remained alert for what crumbs he could gather about her.

There were few enough. She was very careful. Which was, in itself, a valuable crumb.

They tucked into their meal in her tiny dining room, where a piece of cardboard fixed over a window reminded him of his duty to repair it for her. They ate something she called Portobello Wellington, along with a side dish of couscous with sun-dried tomatoes, green beans done up with garlic and mint, and his salad dressed with oil, vinegar, mustard, and Italian seasoning. They had no wine to drink, merely water with lemon. She apologized for this, much as she had over the sherry.

She said she hoped he didn’t mind a vegetarian meal. She wasn’t vegan, she explained, for she saw no sin in consuming animal products like eggs and such. But when it came to the flesh of her fellow creatures on the planet, it seemed too…well, too cannibalistic.

“Whatever happens to the beasts, happens to man,” she said. “All things are connected.” It sounded to him like a quote, and even as he thought as much, she unblushingly told him it was. She said, appealingly, “Those aren’t my words, actually. I can’t remember who said them or wrote them, but when I first came across them years ago, they had the ring of truth.”

“Isn’t there an application to zoos?”

“Imprisoning beasts leading to man’s imprisonment, you mean?”

“Something like that. I-forgive me-I don’t much care for zoos.”

“Nor do I. They hearken back to the Victorians, don’t they? That excited quest for knowledge about the natural world without an accompanying compassion for that world. I myself loathe zoos, to be quite honest.”

“But you choose to work in them.”

“I choose to be committed to improving conditions for the animals therein.”

“Subverting the system from within.”

“It makes more sense than carrying a protest sign, doesn’t it.”

“Rather like going on a foxhunt with a herring attached to your horse.”

“Do you like foxhunting?”

“I find it execrable. I’ve been only once, on Boxing Day one year. I must have been eleven years old. My conclusion was that Oscar had it right, although I couldn’t have said as much at the time. Just that I didn’t like it and the idea of a pack of dogs on the trail of a terrified animal…and then being allowed to tear it to pieces if they find it…It wasn’t for me.”

“You’ve a soft heart, then, for the animal world.”

“I’m not a hunter, if that’s what you mean. I would have made a very bad prehistoric man.”

“No killing sabre-tooth tigers for you.”

“Evolution, I’m afraid, would have ground to a precipitate halt had I been at the tribal helm.”

She laughed. “You’re very droll, Thomas.”

“Only in fits and starts,” he told her. “Tell me how you subvert the system.”

“The zoo? Not as well as I would like to.” She helped herself to more green beans and she passed the bowl to him, saying, “Have some more. This is my mother’s recipe. The secret is what you do with the mint, popping it into the hot olive oil just long enough to wilt it, which releases its flavour.” Her nose wrinkled. “Or something like that. Anyway, the beans you boil only five minutes. Any longer and they’ll be mushy, which is the last thing you want.”

“Nothing being worse than a mushy bean,” he noted. He took another helping. “All praise to your mother. These are very good. You’ve done her proud. Where is she, your mother? Mine’s just south of Penzance. Near Lamorna Cove. And I fear she cooks about as well as I do.”

“You’re a Cornwall man, then?”

“More or less, yes. And you?”

“I grew up in Falmouth.”

“Born there?”

“I…Well, yes, I suppose. I mean, I was born at home and at the time my parents lived just outside Falmouth.”

“Were you really? How extraordinary,” Lynley said. “I was born at home as well. We all were.”

“In more rarefied surroundings than my own birthing chamber, I daresay,” Daidre pointed out. “How many of you are there?”

“Just three. I’m the middle child. I’ve an older sister-that would be Judith-and a younger brother, Peter. You?”

“One brother. Lok.”

“Unusual name.”

“He’s Chinese. We adopted him when I was seventeen.” She cut a wedge of her Portobello Wellington neatly and held it on her fork as she went on. “He was six at the time. He’s reading maths at Oxford at the moment. Quite brainy, the dickens.”

“How did you come to adopt him?”

“We saw him on the telly, actually, a programme on BBC1 about Chinese orphanages. He was handed over because he has spinal bifida. I think his parents thought he’d not be able to care for them in their old age-although I don’t know that for sure, mind you-and they didn’t have the wherewithal to care for him either, so they gave him up.”

Lynley observed her. She seemed completely without artifice. Everything she said could be easily verified. But still…“I like the we,” he told her.

She was spearing up some salad. She held the fork midway to her mouth, and she coloured lightly. “The we?” she said, and it came to Lynley that she thought he was referring to the two of them, at that moment, seated at her little dining table. He grew hot as well.

“You said ‘We adopted him.’ I liked that.”

“Ah. Well, it was a family decision. We always reached big decisions as a family. We had Sunday-afternoon family meetings, right after the joint of beef and the Yorkshire pud.”

“Your parents weren’t vegetarians, then?”

“Goodness no. It was meat and veg. Lamb, pork, or beef every Sunday. The occasional chicken. Sprouts-Lord, I do hate sprouts…always did and always will-boiled into submission, as well as carrots and cauliflower.”

“But no beans?”

“Beans?” She looked at him blankly.

“You said your mother taught you to cook green beans.”

She looked at the bowl of them, where ten or twelve remained uneaten. She said, “Oh yes. The beans. That would have been after her cookery course. My father went for Mediterranean food in a very big way and Mum decided there had to be life beyond spaghetti Bolognese, so she set about finding it.”

“In Falmouth?”

“Yes. I did say I grew up in Falmouth.”

“School there as well?”

She observed him openly. Her face was kind, and she was smiling, but her eyes were wary. “Are you interrogating me, Thomas?”

He held up both hands, a gesture meant to be read as openness and submission. “Sorry. Occupational hazard. Tell me about Gertrude Jekyll.” For a moment, he wondered if she would do so. He added helpfully, “I saw you’ve a number of books about her.”

“The very antithesis of Capability Brown,” was her answer, given after a moment of thought. “She understood that not everyone had sweeping landscapes to work with. I like that about her. I’d have a Jekyll garden if I could but I’m probably doomed to succulents here. Anything else in the wind and the weather…well, one has to be practical about some things.”

“If not about others?”

“Definitely.” They’d finished their meal during their conversation and she stood, preparatory to gathering up the dishes. If she’d taken offence at his questioning of her, she hid it well, for she smiled at him and told him to come along, as he was meant to help with the washing up. “After that,” she said, “I shall thoroughly scour your soul and reduce you to rubble, metaphorically speaking of course.”

“How shall you manage all that?”

“In a single evening, you mean?” She cocked her head in the direction of the sitting room. “With a game of darts,” she told him. “I’ve a tournament to practice for and while I expect you’ll not be much of a challenger, you’ll do in a pinch.”

“My only reply to that must be that I’ll trounce you and humiliate you,” Lynley told her.

“With a gauntlet like that thrown down, we must play at once, then,” she told him. “Loser does the washing up.”

“You’re on.”

BEN KERNE KNEW HE would have to phone his father. Considering the old man’s age, he also knew that he ought to drive the distance to Pengelly Cove and break the news about Santo in person, but he hadn’t been to Pengelly Cove in years, and he couldn’t face going there just now. It wouldn’t have changed at all-partly due to its remote location and even more due to the commitment of its citizens to never altering a thing, including their attitudes-and the lack of change would catapult him back into the past, which was the penultimate place in which he wished to dwell. The last place was in the present. He longed for a limbo of the mind, a mental Lethe in which he could swim until memory itself no longer concerned him.

Ben would have let the entire matter go had Santo not been beloved of his grandparents. Ben knew it was unlikely they would ever contact him. They hadn’t done so since his marriage, and the only time he’d spoken to them at all was when he’d phoned occasionally, either holding a stilted conversation with them at holiday time or speaking more freely to his mother when he phoned her office, or desperate for a place to send Santo and Kerra when Dellen was in one of her bad periods. Things might have been different had he written to them. He may have worn them down over time. But he was no writer, and even if he had been, there was Dellen to consider and his loyalty to Dellen and everything that loyalty to Dellen had demanded of him since his adolescence. So he’d let go of all attempts at reconciliation, and they had done the same. And when his mother had suffered a stroke suddenly in her late fifties, he’d learned of her condition only because the event had occurred during a period when Santo and Kerra had been staying with their grandparents, and they’d brought the news with them upon their return. Even Ben’s own brothers and sisters had been forbidden from passing the information along.

Another man might have extended the same treatment to his parents now, allowing them to learn of Santo’s death in whatever way fate allowed them to learn it. But Ben had tried-and failed in so many ways-to be a man unlike his father, and that meant creating a breach in the wall that surrounded his heart at this moment, allowing some form of compassion to enter it despite his need to hide himself away in a place where it would be safe for him to grieve all the things he needed to grieve.

At any rate, the police were going to contact Eddie and Ann Kerne, because that was what the police did. They delved into the lives and histories of everyone associated with the deceased-God, he was calling Santo the deceased and what did that mean about the state of his heart?-and they looked for anything that could be used to assign blame. Doubtless his father’s grief upon hearing about Santo would propel him into expletive first and accusation second, with no wife there willing or able to act as a moderating influence upon his words, but rather with Ann Kerne standing nearby looking what she felt, which would be tormented after years with a man whom she loved but could do little to temper. And although there was nothing for Ben to be accused of in Santo’s death, the job of the police was to make deductions, connecting dots no matter how unrelated they were one to another. So he didn’t need them talking to his father with his father unaware of what had happened to his favourite grandchild.

Ben decided to make the call from his office and not from the family’s flat. He went down by means of the stairs because doing so prolonged the inevitable. When he was in his office, he didn’t at once pick up the phone. Instead, he looked at the china board upon which the weeks prior to and after Adventures Unlimited’s opening day were marked in the fashion of a calendar and filled with both activities and bookings. He could see their need of Alan Cheston displayed on this board. For months before Alan’s advent, Dellen had been in charge of marketing Adventures Unlimited, but she’d not made much of a job of it. She had ideas but virtually no follow-through. Organisational skills were not her strength.

And what is her strength, if you don’t mind my asking? his father would have enquired. But never mind that, no answer required. The whole effing village knows what she’s good at and make no mistake about that, my boy.

Untrue, of course. It was just his father’s way of taking the piss because he believed that children were meant not to get puffed up, which was translated in Eddie Kerne’s mind to children not being meant to have confidence in their own decisions. He wasn’t a bad man, just set in his ways and his ways were not Ben’s ways, so they’d come into conflict.

Not unlike Ben himself and Santo, Ben realised now. The very hell of being a father was realising one’s own father cast a shadow one could not hope to escape.

He studied the calendar. Four weeks to opening and they had to open although he couldn’t see how they might be able to do so. His heart wasn’t in it, but they had so much money invested in the business that not to open or to postpone opening wasn’t an alternative he could choose. Besides, to Ben the bookings they had were covenants that could not be broken, and while there weren’t as many as he’d dreamed of having at this point in the business’s development, he had faith that bringing onboard Alan Cheston was going to take care of that. Alan had ideas and the wherewithal to make them into realities. He was clever, and a leader as well. Most important, he was not a bit like Santo.

Ben hated the disloyalty of the thought. In thinking it, he was doing what he vowed he would never do: repeat the past. You’re following your effing prong, boy! had been his father’s words, intoned with variation only in the emotion that underscored them: from sadness to fury to derision to contempt. Santo had done much the same, and Ben didn’t want to think what lay behind his son’s proclivity for sexual dalliance or where such a proclivity might have taken him.

Before he could avoid any longer, he picked up the phone on his desk. He punched in the numbers. He had little doubt his father would still be up and about the ramshackle house. Like Ben, Eddie Kerne was an insomniac. He’d be awake for hours yet, doing whatever it was one did at night when committed to a green lifestyle, as his father long had been. Eddie Kerne and his family had had electricity only if he could produce it from the wind or from water; they had water only if he could divert it from a stream or bring it up in a well. They had heat when solar panels produced it, they grew or raised what they needed for their food, and their house had been a derelict farm building, bought for a bargain and rescued from destruction by Eddie Kerne and his sons: granite stone by granite stone, whitewashed, roofed, and windowed so inexpertly that the winter wind hissed through the spaces between the frames and the walls.

His father answered in his usual way, with the barked greeting, “Speaking.” When Ben didn’t say anything at once, his father went on with, “If you’re there, start yapping. If not, get off the line.”

“It’s Ben,” Ben said.

“Ben who?”

“Benesek. I didn’t wake you, did I?”

After a brief pause, “And what if you did? You caring for anyone ’sides yourself these days?”

Like father, like son, Ben wanted to reply. I had a very good teacher. Instead he said, “Santo’s been killed. It happened yesterday. I thought you’d want to know, as he was fond of you and I thought perhaps the feeling was mutual.”

Another pause. This one was longer. And then, “Bastard,” his father said. His voice was so tight that Ben thought it might break. “Bastard. You don’t effing change, do you?”

“Do you want to know what happened to Santo?”

“What’d you let him get up to?”

“What did I do this time, you mean?”

“What happened, damn you. What God damn happened?”

Ben told him as briefly as possible. In the end he added the fact of murder. He didn’t call it murder. He used homicide instead. “Someone damaged his climbing kit,” he told his father.

“God damn.” Eddie Kerne’s voice had altered, from anger to shock. But he shifted back to anger quickly. “And what the hell were you doing while he was climbing some bloody cliff? Watching him? Egging him on? Or having it off with her?”

“He was climbing alone. I didn’t know he’d gone. I don’t know why he went.” The last was a lie, but he couldn’t bear to give his father any additional ammunition. “They thought at first it was an accident. But when they looked at his equipment, they saw it had been tampered with.”

“By who?”

“Well, they don’t know that, Dad. If they knew, they’d make an arrest and matters would be settled.”

Settled? That’s how you talk about the death of your son? Of your flesh and blood? Of the means of carrying on your name? Settled? Matters get settled and you just go on? That it, Benesek? You and whatsername just stroll into the future and put the past behind you? But then, you’re good at doing that, aren’t you? So is she. She’s bleeding brilliant at doing that, ’f I recall right. How’s she taking all this? Getting in the way of her lifestyle, is it?”

Ben had forgotten the nasty emphases in his father’s speech, loaded words and pointed questions, all designed to carve away one’s fragile sense of self. No one was meant to be an individual in Eddie Kerne’s world. Family meant adherence to a single belief and a single way of life. Like father, like son, he thought abruptly. What a cock-up he’d made of the rough form of paternity he’d actually been granted.

Ben said, “There’s no funeral planned yet. The police haven’t released the body. I’ve not seen him, even.”

“Then how the hell d’you know it’s Santo?”

“As his car was at the site, as his identification was in the car, as he hasn’t returned home yet, I think it’s safe to assume the body is Santo.”

“You’re a piece of work, Benesek. Talking about your own son like that.”

“What do you want me to say when nothing I say is going to be right? I phoned to tell you because you’re going to learn about it anyway from the police, and I thought-”

“You don’t want that, do you? Me ’n’ cops in a converse. My jaw wagging and their ears perked up.”

“If that’s what you believe,” Ben said. “What I was going to say is that I reckoned you’d appreciate hearing the news from me and not from the police. They’ll be talking to you and Mum. They’ll be talking to everyone associated with Santo. I thought you’d want to know what they were doing on your property when they finally show up.”

“Oh, I’d reckon it’d have to do with you,” Eddie Kerne said.

“Yes. I suppose you would.”

Ben rang off then, no farewell given. He’d been standing, but now he sat at his desk. He felt a great pressure building within him, as if a tumour in his chest was growing to a size that would cut off his breath. The room seemed close. Soon the air would be used up.

What he needed was escape. Like always, his father would have said. His father: a man who rewrote history to suit whatever purpose the moment demanded. But there was no history to this moment. There was only getting through the now.

He rose. He went along the corridors to the equipment room, where he’d earlier gone himself and where he’d taken DI Hannaford. This time, though, he didn’t approach the row of long cupboards where the climbing equipment was stored. Rather, he went through the room to a smaller one, where a storage cupboard the size of a large wardrobe had a padlock hanging from a hasp. He possessed the only key to this lock, and he used it now. When he swung it open, the scent of old rubber was strong. It had been more than twenty years, he thought. Before Kerra’s birth, even. Likely the thing would fall apart.

But it didn’t. He was in the wet suit before he had a clear thought as to why he was in it, shoulders to ankles in neoprene, pulling the zip up his back by its cord, one hard tug and the rest was easy. No corrosion because he’d always taken care of his kit.

“Come on, come on, let’s bloody get home,” his mates would say to him. “Don’t be such a wanker, Kerne. We’re freezing our arses out here.”

But there was a hosepipe available, and he’d used it to rinse the saltwater off. Then he did the same when he got his kit home. Surfing kits were expensive and he had no intention of needing to purchase another because saltwater had corroded and rotted the one he owned. So he washed the wet suit thoroughly-its boots, gloves, and hood as well-and he washed the board. His mates hooted and called him a poofter, but he would not be moved from his intentions.

In that and in everything else, he thought now. He felt cursed by his own determination.

The board was in the cupboard as well. He eased it out and examined it. Not a ding anywhere, the deck still waxed. A real antique by the standards of today, but perfectly suitable for what he intended. Whatever that was, because he didn’t quite know. He just wanted to be out of the hotel. He scooped up boots, gloves, and hood. He tucked the surfboard under his arm.

The equipment room had a door that led to the terrace and from there to the still empty swimming pool. A concrete stairway at the far end of the pool area took one up to the promontory for which the old hotel had been named, and a path along the edge of this promontory followed the curve of St. Mevan Beach. A line of beach huts were tucked into the cliff here, not the standard huts which were generally freestanding, but rather a joined rank of them, looking like a long and low-slung stable with narrow blue doors.

Ben followed this route, breathing in the cold salt air and listening to the crash of the waves. He paused above the beach huts to don his neoprene hood, but the boots and gloves he would pull on when he got to the edge of the water.

He looked out at the sea. The tide was high, so the reefs were covered, and the reefs would keep the waves consistent. From this distance five feet seemed their size, with swells coming from the south. They were breaking right, with an offshore wind. Had it been daylight-even dawn or dusk-conditions would be considered good, even at this time of year when the water would be as cold as a witch’s heart.

No one surfed at night. There were too many dangers, from sharks to reefs to rips. But this wasn’t so much about surfing as it was about remembering, and while Ben didn’t want to remember, talking to his father was forcing him to do so. It was either that or remaining within the Promontory King George Hotel, and that he could not do.

He descended the steps to the beach. There were no lights here, but tall streetlamps that followed the path along the promontory above shed at least some illumination onto the rocks and sand. He picked his way through hunks of slate and sandstone boulders, clitter from the cliff top that now formed the base of the promontory, and he stepped at last onto the sand. This wasn’t the soft sand of a tropical isle, but rather the grit produced over eons as a frozen land of permafrost warmed till slow-moving landslides left coarse gravel in their wake, and water forever beating upon these stones reduced them to hard little grains that glittered in sunlight but shone dull otherwise, grey and dun coloured, unforgiving upon flesh and abrasive to the touch.

To his right was the Sea Pit, high tide filling it with new water now, nearly submersing it in order to do so. To his left was the tributary of the River Cas and beyond it what remained of the Casvelyn Canal. In front of him was the sea, restless and demanding. It drew him forward.

He set his board on the sand and donned his boots and gloves. He squatted for a moment-a huddled figure in black with his back to Casvelyn-and he watched the phosphorescence in the waves. He’d been to the beach at night as a youth, but those visits had not been for a surf. With their surfing done for the day, they’d make a fire ring. When embers were all that was left of the blaze, they’d pair off and if the tide was low, the great sea caves of Pengelly Cove beckoned. There they’d make love. On a blanket or not. Semiclothed or nude. Drunk, slightly tipsy, or sober.

She’d been younger then. She’d been his. She was what he wanted, all that he wanted. She had known it as well, and the trouble had come from that knowing.

He rose and approached the water with his board. He had no leash for it, but that didn’t matter. If it got away from him, it got away from him. Like so much else in his life, keeping the board close by should he fall from it was a concern beyond his control just now.

His feet and ankles felt the shock of the cold first and then his legs and thighs and upwards. It would take a few moments for his body temperature to warm the water within his wet suit, and in the meantime the bitter cold of it reminded him he was alive.

Thigh deep, he eased onto the board and began to paddle out through the white water towards the right-hand reef break. The spray hit his face and the waves washed over him. He thought-briefly-he might paddle forever, straight into morning, paddle until he was so far from shore that Cornwall itself would be only a memory. But instead, bleakly governed by love and by duty, he stopped beyond the reef at the swells, and there he straddled his board. He sat first with his back to the shore, looking out at the vast and undulating sea. Then he turned the board round and saw the lights of Casvelyn: the line of tall lamps shining whitely along the promontory and then the amber glow behind the curtained windows of the houses in town, like the gaslights of the nineteenth century, or the open fires of an earlier time.

The swells were seductive, offering him a hypnotic rhythm that was as comforting as it was false. It felt, he thought, like a return to the womb. One could stretch out on the board, bob in the sea, and sleep forever. But swells broke-the sheer volume of the water collapsing in on itself-as the landmass beneath it sloped up into the shore. There was danger here as well as seduction. One had to act or one submitted to the force of the waves.

He wondered if, after all these years, he would recognise the moment: that confluence of shape, force, and curl telling the surfer it was time to drop in. But some things ultimately were second nature, and he found that taking a wave was one of them. Understanding and experience coalesced into skill, and the passage of time had not robbed him of that.

The peak built, and he rose with it: paddling first, then up on one knee, and then erect. No deck grip at the tail of the board, holding the back foot in position, because on this board-on his board-such a device had never been placed. He skimmed for a second across the wave’s shoulder. He dropped into its face. He carved, getting high and fast, with his muscles acting on memory alone. Then he was in the barrel and it was clean. Green room, mate, they would have yelled. Sheeee-it! You’re in the green room, Kerne.

He rode until there was only white water, and there he stepped off, thigh deep in the shallows once again, catching the board before it got away from him. He paused with the inside waves breaking against him. His breath came hard, and he stood there till the pounding of his heart grew slower.

Then he walked towards the beach, the seawater pouring off him like a discarded cape. He trudged in the direction of the stairs.

As he did so, a figure-midnight silhouette-came forward to meet him.

KERRA HAD SEEN HIM leave the hotel. At first she hadn’t known it was her father. Indeed, for a mad moment her leaping heart had declared it to be Santo beneath her, striding across the terrace and up the steps towards the promontory and St. Mevan Beach to have a secret surf at night. She’d watched from above, and seeing only the black-garbed figure and knowing that figure had come out of the hotel…There was nothing else for her to think. It had all been a mistake, she’d thought nonsensically. A terrible, ghastly, horrible mistake. There was some other body discovered at the base of that cliff in Polcare Cove, but it was not her brother.

So she’d hurried to the stairs and she’d clattered down them, as the antique lift would have been too slow. She dashed through the dining hall, which, like the equipment room, opened onto the terrace, and she set across this and flew up the stairs. By the time she reached the promontory, the black-garbed figure was down on the beach, squatting next to the surfboard. So she waited there and there she watched. Only as he approached her after riding a single wave did she realise it was her father.

She was filled with questions and then with fury, with the eternal and unanswerable why’s of nearly everything that had defined her childhood. Why did you pretend…? Why did you argue with Santo about…? And beyond that, the who of it all. Who are you, Dad?

But she asked none of these half-formed questions as her father reached her position at the base of the steps. Instead she tried in the semidarkness to read his face.

He paused. His expression seemed to soften and he looked as if he intended to speak. But when he finally opened his mouth, it was only to say, “Kerra, love,” and then he passed her. He climbed the steps to the promontory path, and she followed him. Wordlessly, they approached the hotel, where they descended towards the empty swimming pool. At a hosepipe, her father paused and washed the seawater from his surfboard. Then he went on, into the hotel.

In the equipment room, he stripped off his wet suit. He was wearing his undershorts beneath it, and his skin was pimpled with the cold. But this didn’t seem to bother him because he didn’t shiver. Instead, he carried the wet suit to a large, heavy plastic rubbish bin in the corner of the room, and he dumped it inside without ceremony. The dripping surfboard he carried into another room-an inner room, Kerra saw, a room she had not yet investigated in the hotel-and there he put it into a cupboard. This he locked with a padlock, which he then tested, as if to make sure the cupboard’s contents were safe from prying eyes. From family eyes, she realised. From her eyes and from Santo’s eyes because her mother must have known this secret all along.

Santo, Kerra thought. The sheer hypocrisy of it all. She simply did not understand.

Her father used his T-shirt to dry himself off. He tossed it to one side and donned his pullover. He motioned for her to turn her back, which she did and heard the sound of him removing his undershorts, plopping them onto the floor, and then zipping his trousers. Then he said, “All right.” She turned back to him, and they faced each other. He waited, clearly, for her questions.

She determined to surprise him as he’d surprised her. So what she said was, “It’s because of her, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“Mum. You couldn’t surf and watch her at the same time, so you stopped surfing. That’s why, isn’t it? I saw you, Dad. How long has it been? Twenty years? More?”

“Yes. Since before you were born.”

“So you put on your wet suit, you went out there, you took the first wave that came along, and that was it. No trouble. It was easy for you. It was child’s play for you. It was nothing. Like walking. Like breathing.”

“Yes. All right. It was.”

“Which means…How long had you surfed when you stopped?”

Her father picked up his T-shirt and folded it neatly, despite its condition, which was damp through. He said, “Most of my life. It’s what we did in those days. There was nothing else. You’ve seen how your grandparents live. We had the beach in the summer and school the rest of the time. There was work at home, trying to keep that bloody house from falling apart, and when there was free time, we surfed. There was no money for holidays. No cheap flights to Spain. It wasn’t like today.”

“But you stopped.”

“I stopped. Things change, Kerra.”

“Yes. She came along. That was the change. You got caught up in her, and by the time you saw what she’s really like, it was too late. You couldn’t get away. So you had to make a choice and you chose her.”

“It’s not that simple.” He moved past her, out of the smaller room and into the larger equipment room. He waited for her to follow him and when she was with him, he shut and locked the smaller room’s door.

“Did Santo know?”

“About?”

“This.” She gestured to the door he’d locked. “You were good, weren’t you? I saw enough to know that. So why…?” Suddenly, she was as close to weeping as she’d come in the last terrible thirty hours or so.

He was watching her. She saw that he looked ineffably sad, and in that sadness she understood that while they were a family-the four of them then, the three of them now-they were a family in name only. Beyond a common surname, they were and had always been merely a repository of secrets. She’d believed that all of these secrets had to do with her mother, with her mother’s troubles, her mother’s periods of bizarre alteration. And these were secrets to which she herself had long been a party because there was no way to avoid knowing them when the simple act of coming home from school might put her in the midst of what had always been referred to as “a bit of an embarrassing situation.” Don’t breathe a word to Dad, darling. But Dad knew anyway. All of them knew by the clothes she wore, the tilt of her head when she was speaking, the rhythm of her sentences, the tap of her fingers on the table during dinner, and the restlessness of her gaze. And the red. They knew from the red. For Kerra and Santo, what came on the heels of that colour was a prolonged visit to the elder Kernes and “What’s the cow up to now?” from her granddad. But “Say nothing to your grandparents about this, understand?” was the injunction that Kerra and Santo had lived by. Keep the faith, keep the secret, and eventually things would return to normal, whatever normal was.

But now Kerra understood there were even more secrets than those which she’d kept about her mother: arcane bits of knowledge that went beyond Dellen’s convoluted psyche and touched upon Kerra’s father as well. Embracing this stinging piece of truth, Kerra realised there was no solid place to put down her foot if she wished to walk forward and pass into the future.

“I was thirteen years old,” she said. “There was a bloke I liked, called Stuart. He was fourteen and he had terrible spots, and I liked him. The spots made him seem safe, you know? Only he wasn’t safe. It’s funny actually because all I’d done was go to the kitchen to fetch us some jam tarts and a drink-less than five minutes-and that’s all it took. Stuart didn’t understand what was going on. But I knew, didn’t I, because I’d grown up knowing. So had Santo. Only he was safe because-let’s face it-he was just like her.”

“Not in all ways,” her father said. “No. Not that.”

“That,” she said. “You know it. That. And in ways that affected me.”

“Ah. Madlyn.”

“We were best friends. Before Santo got his hands on her.”

“Kerra, Santo didn’t intend-”

“Yes, he did. He bloody well did. And the worst part of it was that he didn’t need to pursue her. He was already pursuing…what…three other girls? Or was it that he’d already been through three other girls?” She knew that she sounded what she was: bitter. But it seemed to her in that moment that nothing in her life had ever been secure from depredation.

Her father said, “Kerra, people go their own way. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Do you actually believe that? Is that how you defend her? Defend him?”

“I’m not-”

“You are. You always have done, at least when it comes to her. She’s made a fool of you for my entire life and I’ll put money down on the bet she’s made a fool of you since the day you met her.”

If Ben was offended by Kerra’s remark, he didn’t say so. Rather he said, “It’s not your mother I’m talking about, love, and it’s not Santo. It’s this Stuart lad, whoever he was. It’s Madlyn Angarrack.” He paused before finishing with, “It’s Alan, Kerra. It’s everyone. People will go their own way. You’re best off to let them.”

“Like you did, you mean?”

“I can’t explain things further.”

“Because it’s a secret?” she asked, and she did not care that the question sounded like a taunt. “Like everything else in your life? Like the surfing?”

“We don’t choose where to love. We don’t choose who to love.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment,” she said. “Tell me why you didn’t like Santo surfing.”

“Because I believed no good would come of it.”

“Is that what happened to you?”

He said nothing. For a moment, Kerra thought he would not reply. But at last he said what she knew he would say. “Yes. Not a single good came of it for me. So I lay down the board and got on with my life.”

“With her,” Kerra noted.

“Yes. With your mother.”

Chapter Eleven

DI BEA HANNAFORD ARRIVED AT THE POLICE STATION LATE, in a foul mood and with Ray’s parting words still gnawing at her. She didn’t want anything Ray had to say taking up residence in her consciousness, but he had a way of transmuting good-bye from an innocuous social moment into the bolt from a crossbow, and one had to be quick to avoid getting hit. She was fast on her verbal feet when there was nothing else on her mind. But that was impossible in the middle of a murder enquiry.

She’d had to cave in on the issue of Pete, another reason she was late to the station. Given the absence of MCIT officers to work the case, given only the loan of a TAG team-and who the bloody hell knew when they were going to be withdrawn?-she would be putting in long hours, and someone had to look after Pete. Not so much because Pete couldn’t look after himself, since he’d been cooking for years and he’d mastered the art of laundry the first time his mother had turned a beloved Arsenal T-shirt purple, but because he had to be ferried about from school to football coaching to this or that appointment and his time on the Internet had to be watched and his homework had to be monitored or he wouldn’t bother to do it. He was, in short, an average fourteen-year-old boy who needed regular parenting. Bea knew she ought to be grateful that her former husband was willing to step up to the challenge.

Except…She was convinced that Ray had orchestrated the entire situation just for that reason: to obtain unimpeded access to Pete. He wanted a more definite inroad with their son, and he’d seen this as an opportunity to make one. Pete’s new enthusiasm at having to stay at his father’s house suggested Ray was having some success in this area as well, which caused Bea to question exactly what constituted Ray’s approach to fatherhood: from the meals he served Pete to the freedom he gave him.

So she’d grilled her former husband as Pete had trotted off to the spare room-his room, as he had referred to it-to stow his belongings, and Ray had tunneled his way through her questions to their root, in his typical fashion. “He’s happy to be here because he loves me,” was his reply. “Just as he’s happy to be with you because he loves you. He has two parents, not one, Beatrice. All things in the balance, this is good, you know.”

She wanted to say, “Two parents? Oh, right. That’s brilliant, Ray,” but instead she said, “I don’t want him exposed to any-”

“Naked twenty-five-year-old women running about the house?” he asked. “Fear not. I’ve told my stable of beauties normally in residence here at the Playboy Mansion that the orgies are postponed indefinitely. Their hearts are broken-my own is devastated-but there you have it. Pete comes first.” He’d leaned against the kitchen work top. He’d been sorting through yesterday’s post, and there was no indication that anyone else was present in the house. She’d checked this as surreptitiously as possible, telling herself she did not want Pete exposed to anyone’s casual sex, not at his age and not before she’d had the opportunity to explain to him each one of the sexually transmitted diseases he could end up with if he played fast and loose with his body parts.

“You have,” Ray told her, “the oddest damn ideas of how I spend what little free time I possess, my dear.”

She didn’t engage. Instead she gave him a bag of groceries because she was damned if she was going to be in debt to him for having Pete to stay during a time when he was not scheduled to do so. Then she’d barked out their son’s name, hugged him good-bye, kissed him on the cheek with the loudest smack she could manage despite his squirming and his “Oh, Mum,” and she’d left the house.

Ray had followed her to her car. It was windy and grey outside, beginning to rain as well, but he didn’t hurry or seek shelter from the weather. He waited till she got in and he motioned for her to lower the window. When she’d done so, he leaned down and said, “What’s it going to take, Beatrice?”

She said, “What?” and she didn’t bother to hide her irritation.

“For you to forgive. What do I need to do?”

She shook her head, reversed down the driveway, and drove off. But she’d not been able to shake his question.

She was predisposed to be annoyed with Sergeant Collins and Constable McNulty when she finally strode into the station, but the two miserable louts made it impossible for her to feel anything close to annoyance. Collins had somehow risen to the occasion of her tardiness, deploying half of the TAG officers to canvass the area within a three-mile radius of Polcare Cove to see if they could come up with anything of note from those few who lived there in the several hamlets and on the farms. The others he’d told to work on background checks of everyone so far connected to the crime: each of the Kernes-and especially Ben Kerne’s financial status and whether that status was altered by his son’s demise-Madlyn Angarrack, her family, Daidre Trahair, Thomas Lynley, and Alan Cheston. Everyone was being asked for fingerprints, and the Kernes had been given the word that Santo’s body was ready for the formality of identification in Truro.

In the meantime, Constable McNulty had been engaged with Santo Kerne’s computer. When Bea arrived, he was checking through all the deleted e-mails (“Going to take bloody hours,” he informed her, sounding as if he hoped she’d tell him to forego the tedious operation, which she had no intention of doing), and before that he’d pulled from the computer’s files what seemed to be more designs for T-shirts.

McNulty had divided them into categories: local businesses whose names he recognised (largely pubs, hotels, and surf shops); rock bands both popular and extremely obscure; festivals, from music to the arts; and those designs that were questionable because he “had a feeling about them,” which Bea interpreted to mean he didn’t know what they were. She was wrong, as she soon discovered.

The first questionable T-shirt design was for LiquidEarth, a name Bea recognised from the invoice left in Santo Kerne’s car. This, McNulty explained, was the name of a surfboard shaper’s business. The board shaper was called Lewis Angarrack.

“As in Madlyn Angarrack?” Bea asked him.

“As in her dad.”

This was interesting. “What about the others?”

Cornish Gold was the second design he’d singled out. This belonged to a cider farm, he told her.

“How’s that important?”

“It’s the only business from outside Casvelyn. I thought that was worth looking into.”

McNulty, she thought, might not be as useless as she’d earlier concluded. “And the last one?” She gave the design her scrutiny. It appeared to be two-sided. The obverse declared “Commit an Act of Subversion” above a rubbish bin, which was suggestive of everything from bombs in the street to delving into the bins of celebrities for information to sell to the tabloids. On the reverse, however, things became clear. “Eat Free” declared an Artful Dodger urchin, who was pointing to the same rubbish bin, which had been upended, spilling its contents onto the ground.

“What d’you make of this?” Bea asked the constable.

“Don’t know,” he said, “but it seemed worth looking into because it’s got nothing to do with an organisation, unlike the others. Like I said, I had a feeling. What can’t be identified needs to be examined.”

He sounded like someone quoting a manual. But it was good sense, the first she’d heard from him. It gave her hope.

“You might have a future in this business,” she told him.

He didn’t look entirely pleased with the idea.

TAMMY WAS QUIET IN the morning, which concerned Selevan Penrule. She was always on the quiet side anyway, but this time her lack of conversation seemed to indicate a pensiveness she hadn’t previously been caught up in. Before, it always looked to her grandfather as if the girl was just preternaturally calm, yet another indication that something was off about her because, at her age, she wasn’t supposed to be calm about anything. She was supposed to be caught up worrying about her complexion and her figure, about having the right clothes and the perfect haircut, and other such nonsense. But this morning, she looked caught up in considering something. To Selevan, there could be little doubt about what that something was.

Selevan contemplated his approach. He thought about his conversation with Jago Reeth and what Jago had said on the subject of guiding and not directing a young person. Despite Selevan’s earlier reaction of easy-for-you-to-say-mate, he had to admit that Jago had spoken good sense. What was the point of trying to impose one’s will upon an adolescent when that adolescent had a will as well? It wasn’t as if people were all meant to do the same thing as their parents, was it? If they did, the world would never change, would never develop, would perhaps never even be interesting. It would all be lockstep, one generation after another. But, on the other hand, was that so bad?

Selevan didn’t know. What he did know was that he’d ended up, despite his own wishes in the matter and because of a cruel twist of fate in the person of his father’s ill health, doing the same thing as his parents. He’d given in to duty, and the end result had been carrying on with a dairy farm that he’d intended, as a young boy and then an adolescent, to escape as soon as possible. He’d never thought that situation was fair, so he had to ask himself how fair the family were being on Tammy, opposing her desires. On the other hand, what if her desires weren’t her desires at all but only the result of her fear? Now that was a question that wanted answering. But it couldn’t be answered unless it was asked.

He waited, though. First, he had to keep his promise to her and her parents, and that meant he had to go through her rucksack before he drove her to work. She submitted to the search with resignation. She watched him in silence. He could feel her gaze on him as he pawed through her belongings for contraband. Nothing. A meagre lunch. A wallet holding the five pounds he’d given her for spending money two weeks earlier. Lip balm and her address book. There was a paperback novel as well, and he leapt upon this as evidence. But the title-Shoes of the Fisherman-suggested she was reading at last about Cornwall and her heritage, so he let it go. He handed the rucksack over to her with a gruff, “See you keep it this way,” and then he noted she was wearing something he’d not seen before. It wasn’t a new garment. She was still in unrelieved black from head to toe, like Queen Victoria in the post-Albert period, but she had something different round her neck. It was inside her jersey, its green cord the only part he could see.

He said, “What’s this, then?” and he pulled it out. Not a necklace, he realised. Because if it was, it was the oddest necklace he’d ever looked at.

It had two ends, each of which was identical. They had small squares of cloth attached to them. These were embroidered with an ornamental M above which was embroidered a small gold crown. Selevan examined the cloth squares suspiciously. He said to Tammy, “What’s this, then, girl?”

“Scapular,” she told him.

“Scapper-what?”

“Scapular.”

“And the M means?”

“Mary.”

“Mary who?” he demanded.

She sighed. “Oh, Grandie,” was her reply.

This response didn’t exactly fill him with relief. He pocketed the scapular and told her to get her arse out to the car. When he joined her, he knew it was time, so he spoke.

“Is it the fear?” he asked her.

“What fear?”

“You know what fear. Men,” he said. “Has your mum…You know. You bloody well know what I’m talking about, girl.”

“I don’t, actually.”

“Has your mum told you…?”

His wife’s mum hadn’t. Poor Dot knew nothing. She’d come to him not only a virgin but as ignorant as a newborn lamb. He’d made a mess of things because of his inexperience and his nerves, which had evidenced as impatience and had reduced her to frightened tears. But modern girls weren’t like that, were they? They knew it all before they were ten.

On the other hand, ignorance and fear explained a lot about Tammy. For they could be what lay at the root of how she was living at present, all huddled into herself.

He said, “Has your mum told you ’bout it, girl?”

“About what?”

“Birds and bees. Cats and kittens. Has your mum told you?”

“Oh, Grandie,” she said.

“Stop the oh grandie and put me in the bloody picture. Because if she hasn’t…” Poor Dot, he thought. Poor ignorant Dot. The oldest girl in a family of girls, never having seen a grown naked man except in museums and hadn’t the poor fool woman actually believed that the male genitalia were shaped like fig leaves…God, what a horror the wedding night had been and what he’d learned from it all was the idjit he’d been to have been respectful and waited for marriage because if they’d done it beforehand at least she would have known whether she wanted to marry at all…Only she would have insisted upon marriage at that point, so any way you looked at, he’d have been caught. As he was always caught: by love, by duty, and now by Tammy.

“So what’s oh grandie meant to mean?” he asked her. “You know? You’re embarrassed? You’re what?”

She lowered her head. He thought she might be about to cry, and he didn’t want that, so he started the car. They rumbled up the slope and out of the caravan park. He saw that she was not going to speak. She intended to make this difficult for him. Damn and blast her, she was a stubborn little thing. He couldn’t reckon where she got that from, but it was no wonder her parents had reached the point of despair with her.

Well, there was nothing for it but to hammer away if she wasn’t going to answer him. So out of the caravan park and up the lane on the way into Casvelyn, Selevan got out his tools. “It’s the natural order of things,” he told her. “Men and women together. Anything else is unnatural and I mean anything else, if you receive my meaning, girl. Nothing to be worried over because we got separate parts, don’t we, and our separate parts’re meant to be joined. You got man on top and woman on bottom. They put their things together because that’s how it goes. He slides in and they rustle about and when it’s all said and done, they go to sleep. Sometimes they get a baby out of it. Sometimes they don’t. But it’s all the way it’s supposed to be and if a man’s got any wits about him, it’s a jolly nice thing that they both enjoy.”

There. He’d said it. But he wanted to repeat one part, to make certain she understood. “Anything else,” he said with a tap on the steering wheel, “isn’t in the natural order of things, and we’re meant to be natural. Natural. Like nature. And in nature, what you don’t see and don’t ever see is-”

“I’ve been talking to God,” Tammy said.

Now that was a real conversation stopper, Selevan thought. Straight out of the blue, like he hadn’t been trying to make a point with the girl. He said, “Have you, now? And what’s God been saying back? Nice that he’s got time for you, by the by, ’cause the bugger’s never had time for me.”

“I’ve tried to listen.” Tammy spoke like a girl with things on her mind. “I’ve tried to listen for his voice,” she said.

“His voice? God’s voice? From where? You expecting it out of the gorse or something?”

“God’s voice comes from within,” Tammy said, and she brought a lightly clenched fist to her skinny chest. “I’ve tried to listen to the voice from inside myself. It’s a quiet voice. It’s the voice of what’s right. You know when you hear it, Grandie.”

“Hear it a lot, do you?”

“When I get quiet I do. But now I can’t.”

“I’ve seen you quiet day and night.”

“But not inside.”

“How’s that?” He looked over at her. She was concentrating on the rain-streaked day, hedgerows dripping as the car skimmed past them, a magpie taking to the sky.

“My head’s full of chatter,” she said. “If my head won’t be silent, I can’t hear God.”

Chatter? he thought. What was the maddening girl on about? One moment he thought he had her sorted, the next he was flummoxed again. “What d’you got up there, then?” he asked, and he poked her head. “Goblins and ghoulies?”

“Don’t make fun,” she told him. “I’m trying to tell you…But there’s nothing and there’s no one that I can ask, you see. So I’m asking you, as it’s the only thing left that I can think to do. I s’pose I’m asking for help, Grandie.”

Now, he thought, they were down to it. This was the moment the girl’s parents had hoped for, time with her granddad paying off. He waited for more. He made a hmph noise to indicate his willingness to listen. The moments ticked by as they approached Casvelyn. She said nothing more till they were in town.

Then it was brief. He’d pulled to the kerb in front of Clean Barrel Surf Shop before she finally spoke. “If I know something,” she said to him, her eyes fixed on the shop’s front door, “and if what I know might cause someone trouble…What should I do, Grandie? That’s what I’ve been asking God, but he hasn’t answered. What should I do? I could keep asking because when something bad happens to someone you care about, it seems like-”

“The Kerne boy,” he interrupted. “D’you know something about the Kerne boy, Tammy? Look at me square, girl, not out of the window.”

She did. He could see she was troubled beyond what he had thought. So there was only one answer, and despite the irritations it might cause in his own life, he owed it to her to give it. “You know something, you tell the police,” he said. “Nothing else to it. You do it today.”

Chapter Twelve

SHE EXCELLED AT DARTS. LYNLEY HAD LEARNED THAT QUICKLY enough on the previous evening, and he’d added the information to what little he knew about Daidre Trahair. She had a dartboard mounted on the back of the sitting room door, something he’d not noticed before because she kept the door open instead of closing it against the cold wind, which could sweep into the building from the tiny vestibule when someone entered the cottage.

He should have known he was in trouble when she used a tape measure to create a distance of exactly seven feet, nine and one-quarter inches from the back of the closed door. Here she placed the fireplace poker on a parallel, calling it their oche. When he said, “Okkey?” and she’d said, “The oche marks where the player has to stand, Thomas,” he’d had his first real clue that he was probably in over his head. But he’d thought, How difficult can it possibly be? and he’d gone like a lamb to the metaphorical slaughter, agreeing to a match called 501 about which he knew nothing at all.

He said, “Are there rules?”

She’d looked at him askance. “Of course there are rules. It’s a game, Thomas.” And she’d gone about explaining them to him. She began with the dartboard itself, losing him almost immediately when she referred to treble and double rings and what it meant to one’s score to land in one of them. He’d never thought of himself as an idiot-it had always seemed to him that knowing how to identify a bull’s-eye was the limit of what one needed to embrace when it came to darts-but within moments, he was entirely lost.

It was simple, she told him. “We each start with a score of 501, and the object is to reduce that to nought. We each throw three darts. A bull’s-eye scores fifty, the outer ring twenty-five and anything in the double or treble ring is double or treble the segment score. Yes?”

He nodded. He was almost altogether uncertain what she was talking about, but confidence, he reckoned, was the key to success.

“Good. Now, the caveat is that the last dart thrown has to land in a double or in the bull’s-eye. And additionally, if you reduce your score to one or it actually goes below nought, your turn ends immediately and the play is turned over to the other thrower. Follow?”

He nodded. He was even more uncertain at that point, but he decided it couldn’t be that difficult to hit a dartboard from less than eight feet away. Besides, it was only a game and his ego was strong enough to emerge undamaged should she win the match. For another could follow. Two out of three. Three out of five. It didn’t matter. It was all in an evening’s diversion, yes?

She won every match. They could have gone on all night and she probably would have continued to win. The vixen-for so he was thinking of her by then-turned out to be not only a tournament player but the sort of woman who did not believe a man’s ego had to be preserved by allowing him moments of specious supremacy over her.

She had the grace to be at least moderately embarrassed. She said, “Oh my. Oh dear. Well, it’s just that I never actually just let someone win. It’s never seemed right.”

“You’re…quite amazing,” he said. “My head is spinning.”

“It’s that I play a lot. I didn’t tell you that, did I, so I’ll pay the penalty for unspoken truths. I’ll help you with the washing up.”

She was as good as her word, and they saw to the kitchen in companionable fashion, with him doing the washing and her doing the drying. She made him clean the cooktop-“It’s only fair,” she told him-but she herself swept the floor and scoured the sink. He found himself enjoying her company and, as a result, felt ill at ease when it came to his appointed task.

He did it nonetheless. He was a cop when everything got reduced to essentials, and someone was dead through murder. She’d lied to an investigating officer and no matter his personal enjoyment of the evening, he had a job to do for DI Hannaford and he intended to do it.

He set about it the following morning, and he was able to get a fair distance right there from his room in the Salthouse Inn. He discovered through a few simple phone calls that someone called Daidre Trahair was indeed one of the veterinarians at Bristol Zoo Gardens. When he asked about speaking to Dr. Trahair, he was told that she was on emergency leave, dealing with a family matter in Cornwall.

This bit of news didn’t give him pause. People often claimed that family matters needed to be taken care of when what those family matters were was simply a need to get away for a few days of decompression from a stressful job. He decided that couldn’t be held against her.

Her claims about her adopted Chinese brother held up as well. Lok Trahair was indeed a student at Oxford University. Daidre herself had a first in biological science from the University of Glasgow, having gone on from there to the Royal Veterinary College for her advanced degree. Well and good, Lynley had thought. She might have had secrets that she wished to keep from DI Hannaford, but they weren’t secrets about her identity or that of her brother.

He delved back further into her schooling, but this was where he hit the first snag. Daidre Trahair had been a pupil in a secondary comprehensive in Falmouth, but before that there was no record of her. No school in Falmouth would claim her. State or public, day school, boarding school, convent school…There was nothing. She either had not lived in Falmouth for those years of her education, or she’d been sent far away for some reason, or she’d been schooled at home.

Yet surely she would have mentioned being schooled at home since, by her own admission, she’d been born at home. It was a logical follow-up, wasn’t it?

He wasn’t sure. He also wasn’t sure what more he could do. He was pondering his options when a knock at his bedroom door roused him from his thoughts. Siobhan Rourke presented him with a small package. It had just arrived in the post, she told him.

He thanked her, and when he was alone again, automatically opened it to find his wallet. This he opened as well. It was a knee-jerk reaction but it was more than that. He was-unprepared for the fact of it all-suddenly restored to who he was. Driving licence folded into a square, bank card, credit cards, picture of Helen.

He took this last in his fingers. It was of Helen at Christmas, less than two months away from dying. They’d had a hurried holiday, with no time to visit her family or his because he’d been in the midst of a case. “Not to worry, there’ll be other Christmases, darling,” she’d said.

Helen, he thought.

He had to force himself back to the present. He carefully placed the photo of his wife-cheek in her hand, smiling at him across the breakfast table, hair still uncombed, face without makeup, the way he loved her-back into its position in his wallet. He put the wallet onto the bedside table, next to the phone. He sat in silence, only hearing his own breathing. He thought of her name. He thought of her face. He thought of nothing.

After a moment, he continued his work. He considered his options. Further investigation into Daidre Trahair was needed, but he didn’t want to be the one who did it, loyalty to a fellow cop or not. For he wasn’t a cop, not here and not now. But there were others.

Before he could stop himself, because it would be so easy to do so, he picked up the phone and punched in a number more familiar to him than was his own. And a voice as familiar as a family member’s answered on the other end of the line. Dorothea Harriman, departmental secretary at New Scotland Yard.

At first he wasn’t sure he could speak, but he finally managed to say, “Dee.”

She knew at once. In a hushed voice she said, “Detective Super-intendent…Detective Inspector…Sir?”

“Just Thomas,” he said. “Just Thomas, Dee.”

“Oh goodness no, sir,” was her reply. Dee Harriman, who had never called anyone by anything less than his or her full title. “How are you, Detective Superintendent Lynley?”

“I’m fine, Dee. Is Barbara available?”

“Detective Sergeant Havers?” she asked. Stupid question, which wasn’t like Dee. Lynley wondered why she had asked it. “No. No, she isn’t, Detective Superintendent. She isn’t here. But Detective Sergeant Nkata is around. And Detective Inspector Stewart. And Detective Inspec-”

Lynley spared her the endless recitation. “I’ll try Barbara on her mobile,” he said. “And, Dee…?”

“Detective Superintendent?”

“Don’t tell anyone I’ve phoned. All right?”

“But are you-”

“Please.”

“Yes. Yes. Of course. But we hope…not just me…I speak for everyone, I know I do, when I say…”

“Thank you,” he said.

He rang off. He thought about making the call to Barbara Havers, longtime partner and fractious friend. He knew that she would offer her help gladly, but it would be too gladly and if she was in the middle of a case, she’d offer her help to him anyway and then suffer the result of that offering without mentioning it to him.

He didn’t know if he could do it for other reasons that he’d felt the moment he’d heard Dorothea Harriman’s voice. It was obviously far too soon, perhaps a wound too deep to heal.

Yet a boy was dead, and Lynley was who he was. He picked up the phone again.

“Yeah?” The answer was vintage Havers. She shouted it as well, for she was obviously rattling along somewhere in her death trap of a car if the background noise was anything to go by.

He drew a breath, still unsure.

She said, “Hey. Someone there? I can’t hear you. C’n you hear me?”

He said, “Yes. I can hear you, Barbara. The game’s afoot. Can you help me out?”

There was a long pause. He could hear noise from her radio, the distant sound of traffic passing. Wisely, it seemed, she’d pulled to the side of the road to talk. But still she said nothing.

“Barbara?” he said.

“Tell me, sir,” was her reply.

LIQUIDEARTH STOOD ON BINNER Down, among a collection of other small-manufacturing businesses on the grounds of a long-decommissioned royal air station. This was a relic of World War II, reduced all these decades later to a combination of crumbling buildings, rutted lanes, and masses of brambles. Between the abandoned buildings and along the lanes, the area resembled nothing so much as a rubbish tip. Disused lobster traps and fishing nets formed piles next to lumps of broken concrete; discarded tyres and moulding furniture languished against propane tanks; stained toilets and chipped basins became contrasting elements that fought with wild ivy. There were mattresses, black garbage sacks stuffed with who-knew-what, three-legged chairs, splintered doors, ruined casings from windows. It was a perfect spot to toss a body, Bea Hannaford concluded. No one would find it for a generation.

Even from inside the car, she could smell the place. The damp air offered fires and cow manure from a working dairy farm at the edge of the down. Added to the general unpleasantness of the environment, pooled rainwater that was skimmed by oil slicks sat in craters along the tarmac.

She’d brought Constable McNulty with her, both as navigator and note taker. Based on his comments in Santo Kerne’s bedroom on the previous day, she decided he might prove useful with matters related to surfing, and as a longtime resident of Casvelyn, at least he knew the town.

They’d come at LiquidEarth on a circuitous route that had taken them by the town wharf, which formed the northeast edge of the disused Casvelyn Canal. They gained Binner Down from a street called Arundel, off which a lumpy track led past a grime-streaked farmhouse. Behind this, the decommissioned air station lay, and far beyond it in the distance a tumbledown house stood, a mess of a place taken over by a succession of surfers and brought to wrack as a result of their habitation. McNulty seemed philosophical about this. What else could one expect? he seemed to say.

Bea saw soon enough that she was lucky to have him with her, for the businesses on the erstwhile airfield had no addresses affixed to them. They were nearly windowless cinder-block buildings with roofs of galvanised metal overhung with ivy. Cracked concrete ramps led up to heavy steel vehicle doors at the front of each, and the occasional passageway door had been cut into these.

McNulty directed Bea along a track on the far north edge of the airfield. After a spine-damaging jounce for some three hundred yards, he mercifully said, “Here you go, Guv,” and indicated one hut of three that he claimed had once been housing for Wrens. She found that difficult enough to believe, but times had been tough. Compared to eking out an existence on a bomb site in London or Coventry, this had probably seemed like paradise.

When they alighted and did a little chiropractic manoeuvring of their spinal cords, McNulty pointed out how much closer they were at this point to the habitation of the surfers. He called it Binner Down House, and it stood in the distance directly across the down from them. Convenient for the surfers when you thought about it, he noted. If their boards needed repairing, they could just nip across the down and leave them here with Lew Angarrack.

They entered LiquidEarth by means of a door fortified with no less than four locks. Immediately, they were within a small showroom where in racks along two walls long boards and short boards leaned nose up and finless. On a third wall surfing posters hung, featuring waves the size of ocean liners, while along the fourth wall stood a business counter. Within and behind this a display of surfing accouterments were laid out: board bags, leashes, fins. There were no wet suits. Nor were there any T-shirts designed by Santo Kerne.

The place had an eye-stinging smell about it. This turned out to be coming from a dusty room beyond the showroom where a boiler-suited man with a long grey ponytail and large-framed spectacles was carefully pouring a substance from a plastic pail onto the top of a surfboard. This lay across two sawhorses.

The gent was slow about what he was doing, perhaps because of the nature of the work, perhaps because of the nature of his disability, his habits, or his age. He was a shaker, Bea saw. Parkinson’s, the drink, whatever.

She said, “Excuse me. Mr. Angarrack?” just as the sound of an electrical tool powered up from behind a closed door to the side.

“Not him,” McNulty said sotto voce behind her. “That’ll be Lew shaping a board in the other room.”

By this, Bea took it to mean that Angarrack was operating whatever tool was making the noise. As she reached her conclusion, the older gentleman turned. He had an antique face, and his specs were held together with wire.

He said, “Sorry. Can’t stop just now,” with a nod at what he was doing. “Come in, though. You the cops?”

That was obvious enough, as McNulty was in uniform. But Bea stepped forward, leaving tracks along a floor powdered with polystyrene dust, and offered her identification. He gave it a cursory glance and a nod and said he was Jago Reeth. The glasser, he added. He was putting the final coat of resin on a board, and he had to smooth it before it began to set or he’d have a sanding problem on his hands. But he’d be free to talk to them when he was finished if they wanted him. If they wanted Lew, he was doing the initial shaping of the rails on a board and he wouldn’t want to be disturbed, as he liked to do it in one go.

“We’ll be sure to make our apologies,” Bea told Jago Reeth. “Can you fetch him for us. Or shall we…?” She indicated the door behind which the shrieking of a tool told the tale of some serious rail shaping.

“Hang on, then,” Jago said. “Let me get this on. Won’t take five minutes and it’s got to be done all at once.”

They watched as he finished with the plastic pail. The resin formed a shallow pool defined by the curve of the surfboard, and he used a paintbrush to spread it evenly. Once again Bea noted the degree to which his hand shook as he wielded the paintbrush. He seemed to read her mind in her glance.

He said, “Not too many good years left. Should have taken on the big waves when I had the chance.”

“You surf yourself?” Bea asked Jago Reeth.

“Not these days. Not if I want to see tomorrow.” He peered up at her from his position bent over the board. His eyes behind his spectacles-the glass of which was flecked with white residue-were clear and sharp despite his age. “You’re here about Santo Kerne, I expect. Was a murder, eh?”

“You know that, do you?” Bea asked Jago Reeth.

“Didn’t know,” he said. “Just reckoned.”

“Why?”

“You’re here. Why else if not a murder? Or are you lot going round offering condolences to everyone who knew the lad?”

“You’re among those?”

“Am,” he said. “Not long, but I knew him. Six months or so, since I worked for Lew.”

“So you’re not an old-timer here in town?”

He made a long sweep with his paintbrush, the length of the board. “Me? No. I come up from Australia this time round. Been following the season long as I can tell you.”

“Summer or surfing?”

“Same thing in some places. Others, it’s winter. They always need blokes who can do boards. I’m their man.”

“Isn’t it a bit early for the season here?”

“Not hardly, eh? Just a few more weeks. And now’s when I’m needed most cos before the season starts is when the orders come in. Then in the season boards get dinged and repairs are needed. Newquay, North Shore, Queensland, California. I’m there to do them. Use to work first and surf later. Sometimes the reverse.”

“But not now.”

“Hell no. It’d kill me for sure. His dad thought it’d kill Santo, you know. Idjit, he was. Safer than crossing the street. And it gets a lad out in the air and sunlight.”

“So does sea cliff climbing,” Bea pointed out.

Jago eyed her. “And look what happened there.”

“D’you know the Kernes, then?”

“Santo. Like I said. And the rest of them from what Santo said. And that would be the limit of what I know.” He set his paintbrush in the pail, which he’d put on the floor beneath the board, and he scrutinised his work, squatting at the end of the board to study it from tail to nose. Then he rose and went to the door behind which the rails of a board were being shaped. He closed it behind him. In a moment, the tool was shut off.

Constable McNulty, Bea saw, was looking about, a line forming between his eyebrows, as if he was considering what he was observing. She knew nothing about the making of surfboards, so she said, “What?” and he roused himself from his thoughts.

“Something,” he said. “Don’t quite know yet.”

“About the place? About Reeth? About Santo? His family? What?”

“Not sure.”

She blew out a breath. The man would probably need a bloody Ouija board.

Lew Angarrak joined them. He was outfitted like Jago Reeth, in a white boiler suit fashioned from heavy paper, the perfect accompaniment to the rest of him, which was also white. His thick hair could have been any colour-probably salt and pepper, considering his age, which appeared to be somewhere past forty-five-but now it looked like a barrister’s wig, so thoroughly covered as it was by polystyrene dust. This same dust formed a fine patina on his forehead and cheeks. Round his mouth and eyes there was none, its absence explained by the air filter that dangled round his neck along with a pair of protective glasses.

Behind him, Bea could see the board he was working on. Like the board being finished by the glasser, it lay on two tall sawhorses: shaped from its earlier form of a blank oblong of polystyrene that was marked in halves by a wooden stringer. More of these blanks lined a wall to one side of the shaping room. The other side, Bea saw, bore a rack of tools: planers, sanders, and Surforms, by the look of them.

Angarrack wasn’t a big man, not much taller than Bea herself. But he appeared quite powerful in the upper body, and Bea reckoned he had a great deal of strength. Jago Reeth had apparently put him in the picture about the facts of Santo’s death, but he didn’t seem wary about seeing the police. Nor did he seem surprised. Or shocked or sorrowful, for that matter.

Bea introduced herself and Constable McNulty. Could they speak with Mr. Angarrack?

“That bit’s a formality, isn’t it?” he replied shortly. “You’re here, and I assume that means we’re going to be speaking.”

“Perhaps you can show us round as we do so,” Bea said. “I know nothing of making surfboards.”

“Called shaping,” Jago Reeth told her. He stood nearby.

“Little enough to see,” Angarrack said. “Shaping, spraying, glassing, finishing. There’s a room for each.” He used his thumb to indicate them as he spoke. The door to the spraying room was open but unlit, and he flipped a switch on the wall. Bright colours leapt out at them, sprayed onto the walls, the floors, and the ceiling. Another sawhorse stood in the middle of the room, but no board waited upon it, although five stood against the wall, shaped and ready for someone’s artistry.

“You decorate them as well?” Bea asked.

“Not me. An old-timer did the designs for a time till he moved on. Then Santo did them, as a way of paying for a board he wanted. I’m looking for someone else now.”

“Because of Santo’s death?”

“No. I’d already sacked him.”

“Why?”

“I’d guess you’d say loyalty.”

“To?”

“My daughter.”

“Santo’s girlfriend.”

“For a time, but that time was past.” He moved by them and out into the showroom, where an electric kettle stood-along with brochures, a clipboard thick with paperwork, and board designs-on a card table behind the counter. He plugged this in and said, “You want something?” and when they demurred, he called out, “Jago?”

“Black and nasty,” Jago returned.

“Tell us about Santo Kerne,” Bea said as Lew went about his business with coffee crystals, which he loaded up into one mug cup and used more sparingly in another.

“He bought a board from me. Couple years ago. He’d been watching the surfers round the Promontory, and he said he wanted to learn. He’d started out down at Clean Barrel-”

“Surf shop,” McNulty murmured, as if believing Bea would need a translator.

“-and Will Mendick, bloke who used to work there, recommended he get a board from me. I place some boards in Clean Barrel, but not a lot.”

“No money in retail,” Jago called from the other room.

“Too right, that,” Angarrack said. “Santo had liked the look of one at Clean Barrel, but it was too advanced for him, although he wouldn’t have known that at the time. It was a short board. A three-fin thruster. He asked about it, but Will knew he’d not learn well with that-if he learned at all-so he sent him to me. I made him a board he could learn on, something wider, longer, with a single fin. And Madlyn-that’s my daughter-gave him lessons.”

“That’s how they became involved, then.”

“Essentially.”

The kettle clicked off. Angarrack poured the water into the mugs, stirred the liquid, and said, “Here it is, mate,” which brought Jago Reeth to join them. He drank noisily.

“How did you feel about that?” Bea asked Angarrack. “About their involvement.” She noted that Jago was watching Lew intently. Interesting, she thought, and she made a mental tick against both of their names.

“Truth? I didn’t like it. She lost her focus. Before, she had a goal. The nationals. International competitions. After she met Santo, all of that was gone. She could still see beyond the nose on her face, but she couldn’t see an inch beyond Santo Kerne.”

“First love,” Jago commented. “It’s brutal.”

“They were both too young,” Angarrack said. “Not even seventeen when they met, and I don’t know how old when they began…” He made a gesture with his hand to indicate they were to complete the sentence.

“Became lovers,” Bea said.

“It’s not love at that age,” Angarrack told her. “Not for boys. But for her? Stars in the eyes and cotton wool in the head. Santo this and Santo that. I wish I could have done something to prevent it.”

“Way of the world, Lew.” Jago leaned against the doorway to the glassing room, mug in his hand.

“I didn’t forbid her seeing him,” Angarrack went on. “What would have been the point? But I told her to have a care.”

“As to what?”

“The obvious. Bad enough she wasn’t competing any longer. Even worse if she came up pregnant. Or worse than that.”

“Worse?”

“Diseased.”

“Ah. Sounds as if you thought the boy was promiscuous.”

“I didn’t know what the hell he was. And I didn’t want to find out by means of Madlyn being in some sort of trouble. Any sort of trouble. So I warned her and then I let it be.” Angarrack had not yet taken up his mug, but he did so now and he took a gulp. “That was probably my mistake,” he said.

“Why? Did she-”

“She would’ve got over him faster when things ended. As it is, she hasn’t.”

“I daresay she will now,” Bea said.

The two men exchanged looks. Quick, nearly furtive. Bea noted this and made two more mental ticks against them. She said, “We found a T-shirt design for LiquidEarth on Santo’s computer.” Constable McNulty brought the drawing forth and passed it over to the surfboard shaper. “Was that at your request?” Bea asked.

Angarrack shook his head. “When Madlyn finished with Santo, I finished with Santo as well. He might have been doing a design to pay for the new board-”

“Another board?”

“He’d got way beyond the first. He needed another, beyond the learning board, if he was going to improve. But once I sacked him, he had no way to pay me back for the board. This might have been it.” He handed the design back to McNulty.

Bea said to the constable, “Show him the other,” and McNulty brought forth the design for Commit an Act of Subversion and handed it over. Lew looked at it and shook his head. He passed it on to Jago who knuckled his spectacles into place, read the logo, and said, “Will Mendick. This was for him.”

“The bloke from Clean Barrel Surf Shop,” Bea said.

“Used to be. He works at Blue Star Grocery now.”

“What’s the significance of the design?”

“He’s freegan. Least that’s what Santo said he calls himself.”

“Freegan? I’ve not heard that term.”

“Only eats what’s free. Clobber he grows’s well as muck from wheelie bins behind the market and in back of restaurants.”

“How appealing. Is this a movement or something like?”

Jago shrugged. “Don’t know, do I. But he and Santo were mates, more or less, so it might’ve been a favour. The T-shirt, that is.”

Bea was gratified to hear the sound of Constable McNulty jotting all of this down instead of studying the nearby surfing posters. She was less gratified when he suddenly said to Jago, “Ever see the big waves?” He’d coloured as he spoke, as if he knew he was out of order but could no longer contain himself.

“Oh, aye. Ke Iki. Waimea. Jaws. Teahupoo.”

“Big as they say?”

“Depends on the weather,” Jago said. “Big as office blocks sometimes. Bigger.”

“Where? When?” And then apologetically to Bea, “I mean to go, you see. The wife and I and the kids…It’s a dream…And when we go, I want to be sure of the place and the waves…you know.”

“Surf then, do you?” Jago asked.

“Bit. Not like you lot. But I-”

“That’ll do, Constable,” Bea told McNulty.

He looked anguished, an opportunity ripped from his hands. “I just wanted to know-”

“Where might we find your daughter?” she asked Lew Angarrack, waving McNulty impatiently to silence.

Lew finished his coffee and placed his mug on the card table. He said, “Why do you want Madlyn?”

“I should think that’s rather obvious.”

“As it happens, it’s not.”

“Former and potentially discarded lover of Santo Kerne, Mr. Angarrack? She’s got to be interviewed like everyone else.”

It was clear that Angarrack didn’t like the direction in which Bea intended to head, but he told her where she could find his daughter at her place of employment. Bea gave him her card, circling her mobile number. If he thought of anything else…

He nodded and returned to his work, shutting the door to the shaping room behind him. A moment later, the sound of an electric tool shrieked in the building again.

Jago Reeth remained with Bea and the constable. He said, casting a look over his shoulder, “One more thing…I got a conscious on this, so if you have a moment for ’nother word…” And when Bea nodded, he said, “I’d be chuffed if Lew didn’t know this, got me? The way things turned out, he’ll be dead cheesed off if he knows.”

“What?”

Jago shifted his weight. “Was me giving them the place. I know I prob’ly shouldn’t’ve. I saw that afterwards, but by then the bloody milk was spilt. Couldn’t exactly pour it back into the bottle when it was spread all over the floor, could I?”

“While I admire your adherence to your metaphor,” Bea told him, “perhaps you could make it more clear?”

“Santo and Madlyn. I go to the Salthouse Inn regular, in the afternoons. Have a mate I meet over there most days. Santo and Madlyn, they used my place then.”

“For sex?”

He didn’t look happy about making the admission. “Could have left them to sort things out on their own, but it seemed…I wanted them to be safe, see. Not in the backseat of a car somewhere. Not in…I don’t know.”

“Yet as his father owns a hotel…,” Bea pointed out.

Jago wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist. “All right. Yeah. There’s the rooms at the old Promontory King George, for what they’re worth. But that didn’t mean…the two of them there…I just…Oh hell. I couldn’t be sure he’d use what he needed to use to keep her safe, so I left them for him. Right by the bed.”

“Condoms.”

He looked moderately embarrassed, an old bloke unused to having such a frank conversation with someone he might otherwise have deemed a lady. One of the fairer sex, Bea thought. She could see this thought playing across his face. “He used ’em, but not every time, see.”

“And you know he used them because…?” Bea prompted.

He looked horrified. “Good God, woman.”

“I’m not sure God had much to do with this, Mr. Reeth. If you’d answer the question. Did you count them up before and after? Search them out in the rubbish? What?”

He looked miserable. “Both,” he said. “Bloody hell. I care about that girl. She’s got a good heart. Bit of a temper but a good heart. Way I saw it, it was going to happen between them anyways, so I might as well make certain it happened right.”

“Where would this be? Your house, I mean.”

“I’ve a caravan over in Sea Dreams.”

Bea glanced at Constable McNulty and he nodded. He knew the place. That was good. She said, “We may want to see it.”

“Reckoned as much.” He shook his head. “Young people. What’s consequences to them when they’re young?”

“Yes. Well. In the heat of the moment, who thinks of consequences?” Bea asked.

“But it’s more than consequences, isn’t it?” Jago said. “Just like this.” He was now, apparently, referring to one of the posters on the wall. It depicted a surfboard shooting into the air, its rider in the middle of a massive and memorable wipeout that had him looking crucified against a background of water that was a monstrous wave. “They don’t think of the moment itself, let alone beyond the moment. And look what happens.”

“Who’s that?” McNulty asked, approaching the poster.

“Bloke called Mark Foo. Minute or two before the poor bastard died.”

McNulty’s mouth formed a respectful o and he began to respond. Bea saw him settling in for a proper surfing natter and she could only imagine where a trip down this watery and mournful memory lane was going to lead them.

She said, “That looks a bit more dangerous than sea cliff climbing, doesn’t it? Perhaps Santo’s father had the right idea, discouraging surfing.”

“Trying to keep the boy from what he loved? What kind of idea’s that?”

“Perhaps one that was intended to keep him alive.”

“But it didn’t keep him alive, did it?” Jago Reeth said. “End of the day, that’s not always something we can do for others.”

DAIDRE TRAHAIR USED THE Internet once again in Max Priestley’s office in the Watchman, but she had to pay this time round. Max didn’t ask for money, however. The price was an interview with one of his two reporters. Steve Teller, he said, just happened to be in the office working on the story of the murder of Santo Kerne. She was the missing piece. The crime asked for an eyewitness account.

Daidre said, “Murder?” because, she decided, the response was expected. She’d seen the body and she’d seen the sling, but Max didn’t know that although he might suppose it.

“Cops gave us the word this morning,” Max told her. “Steve’s working in the layout room. As I’m using the computer just now, you’ll have time to have a word with him.”

Daidre didn’t believe that Max was using the computer, but she didn’t argue. She didn’t want to be involved, didn’t want her name, her photo, the location of her cottage or anything else related to her put into the paper, but she saw no way to avoid it that wouldn’t arouse the newsman’s suspicion. So she agreed. She needed the computer and this spot afforded her more time and privacy than the sole computer in the library did. She was being paranoid-and she damn well knew it-but embracing paranoia seemed the course of wisdom.

So she went with Max to the layout room, taking a moment to cast a surreptitious look at him in order to ascertain whatever might lie beneath the surface of his composure. Like her, he walked the coastal path. She’d come across him more than once at the top of one sea cliff or another, his dog his only companion. The fourth or fifth time, they’d joked with each other, saying, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” and she’d asked him why he walked the path so much. He’d said Lily liked it and, as for him, he liked to be alone. “An only child,” he’d said. “I’m used to solitude.” But she’d never thought that was the truth of the matter.

He wasn’t readable on this day. Not that he ever was, particularly. He was, as ever, put together like a man stepping out of a Country Life fantasy pictorial on daily doings in Cornwall: The collar of a crisp blue shirt rose above a cream-coloured fisherman’s sweater; he was cleanly shaven and his spectacles glinted in the overhead lights, as spotless as the rest of him. A fortysomething man without sin.

“Here’s our quarry, Steve,” he said as they entered the layout room, where the reporter was working at a PC in the corner. “She’s agreed to an interview. Show her no mercy.”

Daidre cast him a look. “You make it sound as if I’m involved somehow.”

“You didn’t appear surprised, not to mention horrified, to hear it was murder,” Max said.

They locked eyes. She weighed potential answers and settled on, “I’d seen the body. You forget.”

“That obvious, was it? Initial knowledge given out was that he’d fallen.”

“I think it was meant to look that way.” She heard Teller typing away at his PC, and she said rather too sharply, “I hadn’t indicated that the interview was beginning.”

Max chuckled. “You’re with a journalist, my dear. Everything is meat, with due respect. Forewarned, et cetera.”

“I see.” She sat and knew she did so primly, perched on the edge of a ladder-back chair that would have had to work hard to be more uncomfortable. She kept her shoulder bag on her knees, her hands folded over the top of it. She knew she looked like a school-marm or a hopeful interviewee. That couldn’t be helped and she didn’t try to help it. She said, “I’m not entirely happy about this.”

“No one ever is, save B-list celebrities.” Max left them then, calling out, “Janna, have we heard about the inquest time, yet?”

Janna made some reply from the other room as Steve Teller asked Daidre his first question. He wanted the facts first and then her impressions second, he told her. The latter, she decided, was the last thing she’d give anyone, least of all a journalist. But like a policeman, he was doubtless trained to sniff out falsehoods and note diversions. So she would have a care with how she said what she said. She didn’t like leaving things to chance.

The entire Watchman experience ate up two hours and was evenly divided between the conversation with Teller and her investigation on the Internet. When she had what she needed in print for her later perusal, she concluded her research with the words Adventures Unlimited. She paused before she clicked the search engine into action. It was a case of wondering how far she really wanted to go. Was it better to know or not to know and if she knew could she keep the knowledge from her face? She wasn’t sure.

The list of references to the neophyte business wasn’t long. The Mail on Sunday had featured it in a lengthy piece, she saw, as had several small journals in Cornwall. The Watchman was among them.

And why not? she asked herself. Adventures Unlimited was a Casvelyn story. The Watchman was the Casvelyn newspaper. The Promontory King George Hotel had been saved from destruction-well, come along, Daidre, it’s a listed building, so it was hardly going under the wrecking ball, was it-so there was that as well…

She read the story and looked at the photos. It was all standard stuff: the architectural interest, the plan, the family. And there they were in pictures, Santo among them. There was background on them all, with no one emphasised in particular because it was, of course, a family affair. Last of all she looked at the byline. She saw that Max had done the story himself. This was not unusual because the newspaper was tiny and, consequently, work was shared. But it was potentially damning all the same.

She asked herself what this was to her: Max, Santo Kerne, the sea cliffs, and Adventures Unlimited. She thought of Donne and then dismissed the thought of Donne. Unlike the poet, there were too many times when she didn’t feel part of mankind at all.

She left the newspaper office. She was thinking about Max Priestley and about what she’d read when she heard her name called. She turned round to see Thomas Lynley coming along Princes Street, a large piece of cardboard under his arm and a small bag dangling from his fingers.

Once again she thought how different he looked without the growth of beard, newly dressed, and at least partially refreshed. She said, “You’re not looking too chastened by the trouncing you took at the dartboard last night. May I assume your ego’s intact, Thomas?”

“Marginally,” he said. “I was up all night practicing in the bar at the inn. Where, by the way, I learned that you regularly thrash all comers. Practically blindfolded, the way they tell it.”

“They exaggerate, I’m afraid.”

“Do they? What other secrets are you keeping?”

“Roller Derby,” she told him. “Are you familiar with that? It’s an American sport featuring frightening women bashing one another about on in-line skates.”

“Good Lord.”

“We’ve a fledging team in Bristol and I’m absolute hell on wheels as a jammer. Far more ruthless on my blades than I am with my darts. We’re Boudica’s Broads, by the way, and I’m Kick-arse Electra. We all have suitably threatening monikers.”

“You never cease to surprise, Dr. Trahair.”

“I like to consider that part of my charm. What have you got, then?” with a nod at his package.

“Ah. You’re very well met as things turn out. May I stow this in your car? It’s the replacement glass for the window I broke at your cottage. And the tools to fix it as well.”

“However did you know the size?”

“I’ve been out there to measure.” He cocked his head in the vague direction of her cottage, far north of the town. “I had to go inside again, finding you gone,” he admitted. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“I trust you didn’t break another window to do so.”

“Didn’t have to with the first one broken. Best to get it repaired before someone else discovers the damage and avails himself of…whatever you’ve got cached away within.”

“Little enough,” she said, “unless someone wants to nick my dartboard.”

“Would they only,” he replied, fervently, at which she chuckled. He said, “So now that we’ve met, may I stow this in your car?”

She led him to it. She’d left the Vauxhall in the same spot where she’d left it on the previous day, in the car park across from Toes on the Nose, which was hosting another gathering of surfers, although this time they stood about outside, gazing vaguely towards St. Mevan Beach. From the vantage point of the car park, the Promontory King George Hotel squared off some three hundred yards away. She pointed the structure out to Lynley. That was where Santo Kerne came from, she told him. Then she said, “You didn’t mention murder, Thomas. You must have known last night, but you said nothing.”

“Why do you assume I knew?”

“You went off with that detective in the afternoon. You’re one yourself. A detective, that is. I can’t think she didn’t tell you. Brotherhood of police and all that.”

“She told me,” he admitted.

“Am I a suspect?”

“We all are, myself included.”

“And did you tell her…?”

“What?”

“That I knew-or at least recognised-Santo Kerne?”

He took his time about answering and she wondered why. “No,” he said at last. “I didn’t tell her.”

“Why?”

He didn’t reply to this. Instead he said, “Ah. Your car,” as they reached it.

She wanted to press him for an answer, but she also didn’t much want the answer because she wasn’t sure what she’d do with it when she got it. She fumbled in her bag for her keys. The paperwork she was carrying from the Watchman slipped from her grasp and slid onto the tarmac. She said, “Damn,” as it soaked up rainwater. She started to squat to gather it up.

Lynley said, “Let me,” and ever the gentleman, he set down his package and bent to retrieve it.

Ever the cop as well, he glanced at it and then at her. She felt herself colouring.

He said, “Hoping for a miracle, are you?”

“My social life has been rather bleak for the past few years. Everything helps, I find. May I ask why you didn’t tell me, Thomas?”

“Tell you what?”

“That Santo Kerne had been murdered. It can’t have been privileged information. Max Priestley knew it.”

He handed her the printouts she’d made from the Internet and picked up his own package as she unlocked the Vauxhall’s boot. “And Max Priestley is?”

“The publisher and editor of the Watchman. I spoke to him earlier.”

“As a journalist, he would have been given the word from DI Hannaford, I expect. She’d be the officer determining when information gets disseminated, as I doubt there’s a press officer here in town unless she’s directed someone to act as one. It wouldn’t be up to me to tell anyone until Hannaford was ready for the word to go out.”

“I see.” She couldn’t say to him, “But I thought we were friends” because that was hardly the case. There seemed no point to carrying the matter further, so she said, “Are you coming out to the cottage now, then? To repair the window?”

He told her he had a few things more to do in town but that afterwards, if she didn’t mind, he would drive out to Polcare Cove and make the repair. She asked him if he actually knew how to repair a window. Somehow one didn’t expect an earl-gainfully employed as a cop or not-to know what to do with glass and putty. He told her he was certain he could muddle through it somewhat proficiently.

Then he said, for reasons she couldn’t sort out, “D’you generally do your research at the newspaper office?”

“I generally don’t do research at all,” she told him. “Especially when I’m in Cornwall. But if there’s something I need to look up, yes. I use the Watchman. Max Priestley’s got a retriever I’ve doctored, so he gives me access.”

“That can’t be the only Internet site.”

“Consider where we are, Thomas. I’m lucky there’s access in Casvelyn at all.” She gestured south, in the direction of the wharf. “I could use the library’s access, I suppose, but they dole out time. Fifteen minutes and the next person gets a whack. It’s maddening if you’re trying to do something more meaningful than answer your e-mail.”

“More private, as well, I suppose,” Lynley said.

“There’s that,” she admitted.

“And we know you like privacy.”

She smiled, but she knew the effort showed. It was time for an exit, graceful or otherwise. She told him she would, perhaps, see him when he came to repair her window. Then she took herself off.

She could feel his steady gaze on her as she left the car park.

LYNLEY WATCHED HER GO. She was a cipher in more ways than one, holding much to herself. Some of it had to do with Santo Kerne, he reckoned. He wanted to believe that not all of it did. He wasn’t sure why this was the case but he did admit to himself that he liked the woman. He admired her independence and what appeared to be a lifestyle of going against the common grain. She was unlike anyone else he knew.

But that in itself raised questions. Who was she, exactly, and why did she seem to have sprung into existence as an adolescent, fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus? The questions about her were deeply disturbing. He had to acknowledge the fact that a hundred red flags surrounded this woman, only some of them having to do with a dead boy at the foot of a cliff nearby her cottage.

He walked from the car park to the police station at the end of Lansdown Road. This was a narrow cobbled lane of white terrace houses, ill roofed and largely stained by rainwater from rusty gutters. Most of them had fallen into the disrepair prevalent in the poorer sections of Cornwall, where gentrification had not yet extended its greedy fingers. One of them was undergoing refurbishment, however, its scaffolding suggesting that better times for someone had come to the neighbourhood.

The police station was an eyesore, even here, a grey stucco building with nothing of architectural interest to recommend itself. It was flat in front and flat on top, a shoe box with occasional windows and a notice board near its door.

Inside, a small vestibule offered a line of three institutional plastic chairs and a reception counter. Bea Hannaford sat behind this, the telephone receiver pressed to her ear. She raised a finger in greeting to Lynley and said to whoever was on the other end of the line, “Got it. Well, there’s no surprise in that, is there?…We’ll want to have another little chat with her, won’t we, then.”

She rang off and took Lynley up to the incident room, which was set up on the first floor of the building in what seemed to be otherwise a conference room, coffee room, locker room, and meal room. Up here they were making do with a few china boards and computers set up with HOLMES but clearly an insufficiency of manpower. The constable and the sergeant were hard at it, Lynley saw, and two other officers were huddled together exchanging either information on the case or background on the horses currently running at Newmarket. It was difficult to tell. Actions were listed on the china board, some completed and others pending.

DI Hannaford said to Sergeant Collins, “Man reception, Sergeant,” and then to Lynley when Collins left the room to do so, “She was lying, as it turns out.”

He said, “Who?” although there was only one she they’d been looking at, as far as he knew.

“Pro forma question, isn’t that?” the DI said meaningfully. “Our Dr. Trahair, that’s who. Not a pub remembers her on the route she claimed she took from Bristol. And she’d be remembered this time of year, considering how few people are out and about in this part of the country.”

“Perhaps,” he said. “But there must be a hundred pubs involved.”

“Not the way she came. Claiming that was the route may have been her first mistake. And where there’s one, there are others, trust me. What’ve you got on her?”

Lynley related what he’d gleaned from Falmouth about Daidre Trahair. He added what he knew about her brother, her work, and her education. Everything she’d said about herself checked out, he told her. So far, so good.

“Why is it I think you’re not telling me everything there is to tell?” was Bea Hannaford’s reply after a moment of observing him. “Are you holding back something, Superintendent Lynley?”

He wanted to say that he wasn’t Superintendent Lynley any longer. He wasn’t anything related to police work, which was why he also wasn’t required to tell her every fact he had acquired. But he said, “She’s doing some curious research on the Internet just now. There’s that, although I can’t see how it relates to murder.”

“What sort of research?”

“Miracles,” he said. “Or rather, places associated with miracles. Lourdes, for one. A church in New Mexico. There were others as well, but I didn’t have time to look through all the paperwork and I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses anyway. She’s been on the Internet at the Watchman. That’s the local paper. She knows the publisher, evidently.”

“That’d be Max Priestley.” It was Constable McNulty speaking up from a computer in one corner of the room. “He’s been in touch with the dead boy, by the way.”

“Has he indeed?” Bea Hannaford said. “Now that’s an interesting twist.” She told Lynley that the constable was digging through Santo Kerne’s old e-mails, looking for nuggets of information. “What’s he saying?”

“‘No skin off my back. Just watch your own.’ I reckon it’s Priestley ’cause it’s come from MEP at Watchman.co, et cetera. Although it could have come from anyone who knows his password and has access to a computer at the paper, I s’pose.”

“That’s it?” Hannaford asked the constable.

“That’s it from Priestley. But there’s a whole collection from the Angarrack girl, coming straight out of LiquidEarth. The course of most of the relationship being charted. Casual, closer, intimate, hot, graphic, and then nothing else. Like once they started doing the nasty, she didn’t want to commit it to writing.”

“Interesting, that,” Bea noted.

“S’what I thought as well. But ‘wild for him’ doesn’t even touch how she felt about the boy. You ask me, I’ll wager she wouldn’t’ve said no to the idea of someone chopping off his bollocks when they got to the endgame, her and Santo. What d’they say about a woman’s scorn?”

“‘A woman scorned,’” Lynley murmured.

“Right. Well. I’d say we give her a closer look. She’d’ve likely had access to his climbing kit at some point. Or she’d’ve known where he kept it.”

“She’s on our list,” Hannaford said. “Is that it, then?”

“I’ve got e-mails from someone calling himself Freeganman as well, and I’d say that’s Mendick ’cause I doubt the town’s crawling with people of his ilk.”

Hannaford explained the moniker to Lynley: how they’d come to know it and with whom it was associated. She said to the constable, “And what’s Mr. Mendick got to say for himself?”

“‘Can we keep it between us?’ Not exactly illuminating, I’ll give you that, but still…”

“A reason to talk to him, then. Let’s put Blue Star Grocery on the schedule.”

“Right.” McNulty went back to the computer.

Hannaford strode over to a desk where she dug in a heavy-looking shoulder bag. She brought forth a mobile phone. This she tossed to Lynley. She said, “Reception’s the devil round here, I’ve found, but I want you carrying this and I want it turned on.”

“Your reason?” Lynley asked.

“I need a stated reason, do I, Superintendent?”

“If nothing else, because I outrank you” would have been his answer in other circumstances, but not in these. He said, “I’m curious. It suggests my usefulness to you hasn’t come to an end.”

“That would be correct. I’m undermanned and I want you available to me.”

“I’m not-”

“Bollocks. Once a cop, always a cop. There’s a need here, and you and I know you’re not about to walk away from a situation where your help is required. Beyond that, you’re a principal figure and you’re not going anywhere without me coming after you until you have my blessing to leave, so you may as well make yourself useful to me.”

“You’ve something in mind?”

“Dr. Trahair. Details. Everything. From her shoe size to her blood type and all points in between.”

“How am I supposed to-”

“Oh please, Detective. Don’t take me for a fool. You’ve sources and you’ve charm. Use them both. Dig into her background. Take her on a picnic. Wine her. Dine her. Read her poetry. Caress her palm. Gain her trust. I don’t bloody care how you do it. Just do it. And when you’ve done it, I want it all. Are we clear on that?”

Sergeant Collins had appeared in the doorway as Hannaford was speaking. He said, “Guv? Someone to see you. Queer bird called Tammy Penrule down below. Says she’s got information for you.”

The DI said to Lynley, “Keep that phone charged. Take your spade and use it. Do whatever you have to do.”

“I’m not comfortable with-”

“That’s not my concern. Murder’s not comfortable either.”

Chapter Thirteen

DOWNSTAIRS, BEA FOUND THE NAMED TAMMY PENRULE SITTING in one of the plastic reception chairs, her feet flat on the floor, her hands clasped in her lap, her back a plane perpendicular to the seat. She was dressed in black, but she wasn’t a Goth, as Bea first suspected when she caught sight of her. She wore no makeup, no hideous black nail enamel, and she had no silver protrusions erupting from various points on her head. She also wore no jewellery, and nothing else relieved the midnight of her clothes. She looked like mourning made flesh.

“Tammy Penrule?” Bea said to her, unnecessarily.

The girl jumped to her feet. She was thin as workhouse gruel. One couldn’t look at her without considering eating disorders.

“You’ve got information for me?” When the girl nodded, Bea said, “Come with me, then,” before she realised she had not yet located the interview rooms at the station. Stumbling about wasn’t going to inspire confidence in anyone, so she reversed herself, said, “Hang on a moment,” and found a cubbyhole next to a broom closet that would do until further exploration of the station might provide its secret as to the site of interrogations.

When she had Tammy Penrule situated in this spot, she said to her, “What’ve you got to tell me?”

Tammy licked her lips. She needed balm for them. They were badly chapped and a thin line of scabbing marked a spot where her lower lip had cracked seriously enough to bleed. “It’s about Santo Kerne,” she said.

“I’ve got that much.” Bea crossed her arms beneath her breasts. Unconsciously, it seemed, Tammy did the same, although she had no breasts to speak of, and Bea wondered if Santo Kerne’s relationship with Madlyn Angarrack had ended because of this girl. She hadn’t yet met Madlyn, but the fact that the girl had been a competitive surfer suggested someone…perhaps “more physically defined” was the term she wanted. This teenager seemed more like an evanescent being, corporeal only as long as she had the strength to manifest in human form. Bea couldn’t picture her spread-eagled beneath a hot-blooded adolescent boy.

Tammy said, “Santo talked to me.”

“Ah.”

The girl seemed to be waiting for more of a response, so Bea said cooperatively, “How did you know him?”

“From Clean Barrel Surf Shop,” Tammy said. “It’s where I work. He comes there for wax and the like. And to look at the isobar chart except I think that may have been just an excuse to hang about with the other surfers. You c’n look up the isobar chart on the Internet, and I expect they’ve got Internet over at the hotel.”

“Adventures Unlimited?”

Tammy nodded. The hollow of her throat was deep and shadowed. Above the neck of her jersey, the points of her collarbone protruded, like the excrescent evidence of dutch elm disease on the bark of a tree. “So that’s how I know him. That and Sea Dreams.”

Bea recognised the name of the caravan park and she cocked her head. Perhaps she’d been wrong about this girl and Santo. She said, “Did you meet him there?”

“No. Like I said, I met him at Clean Barrel.”

“Sorry. I don’t mean met him as in met him,” Bea clarified. “I mean met him as in having assignations with him.”

Tammy flushed. There was so little substance between her skin and her blood vessels that she coloured nearly to purple and she did so quickly. “You mean…Santo and me…for sex? Oh no. I live there. At Sea Dreams. My granddad owns the caravan park. I knew Santo from Clean Barrel, like I said, but he came to Sea Dreams with Madlyn. And he came on his own as well because there’s a cliff he used to practise on sometimes and granddad said he could get to it across our land if he wanted to abseil. Anyway, I saw him there and we talked sometimes.”

“On his own?” Bea asked. This was something new.

“Like I said. He climbed. Down and up but sometimes just up, so he’d come from below…or I suppose he just went down and then up all the time because I can’t quite remember. He also visited Mr. Reeth. So did she. Madlyn. Mr. Reeth, he works for Madlyn’s dad at-”

“Yes. I know. We’ve spoken to him.” But what she didn’t know was that Santo had been there to Sea Dreams on his own. This was a new wrinkle.

“He was nice, Santo.”

“He was especially nice to girls, I gather.”

Tammy’s flush had receded, and she didn’t flush again. “Yes, I suppose he was. But it wasn’t like that for me because…Well, that’s not important. What is important is that we talked from time to time. When he was finished with his climbing or when he was leaving Mr. Reeth’s. Or sometimes when he was waiting for Madlyn to get there from work.”

“They didn’t come together?”

“Not always. Madlyn works in town now, but she didn’t earlier. She had to come a greater distance than Santo, from out by Brandis Corner. She worked on a farm, making jam.”

“I expect she preferred teaching surfing.”

“Oh yes, she did. She does. But that’s in the season, when she teaches surfing. She’s got to do something else the rest of the year. She works in the bakery now. In town. They make pasties. Mostly for wholesale, but they sell some of them out of the shop as well.”

“And where does Santo fit in with all this?”

“Santo. Of course.” She’d been using her hands to gesture with as she talked, but now she clasped them again in her lap. She said, “We talked now and again. I liked him, but I didn’t like him in the way most girls probably would, if you know what I mean, so I think that made me different and maybe safer or something. For advice or whatever because he couldn’t go to his dad or his mum-”

“Why not?”

“His dad, he said, would’ve got the wrong impression, and his mum…I don’t know his mum, but I get the idea she’s…well, she’s not very mummish, apparently.” She smoothed her skirt. It looked like something that would be scratchy against the skin and it was virtually shapeless, a fashion penance. “Anyway, Santo asked me for advice about something and that’s what I thought you ought to know.”

“Advice of what kind?”

She seemed to look for a gentle way to say what came next and, not finding a euphemism, went for a circuitous route to the truth. “He was…He’d got someone new, you see, and the situation was irregular-that’s the word he used when he talked to me, he said it was irregular-and he wanted to ask me what I thought he should do about that.”

“Irregular. That was his word? You’re sure?”

Tammy nodded. “He said he thought he loved her-this is Madlyn-but he wanted this other thing as well. He said he wanted it very badly and if he wanted this other thing the way he wanted this other thing, did it mean he didn’t actually love Madlyn?”

“He talked to you about love, then?”

“No, that part was more like Santo talking to Santo. He wanted to know what I thought he should do about the whole situation. Should he be honest with everyone about it? he wanted to know. Should he tell the truth start to finish? he asked.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“I said he should be honest. I said he should always be honest because when people are honest about who they are, what they want, and what they do, it gives other people-this is the people they’re involved with, I mean-the chance to decide if they really want to be with them.” She looked at Bea and her expression was earnest. “So I suppose he was, you see,” she said. “Honest, I mean. And that’s why I’ve come. I think that maybe he’s dead because of it.”

“MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, it’s a question of balance,” was the declaration that Alan used to conclude. “You see that, don’t you, darling?”

Kerra’s hackles stood stiffly. Darling was too much. There was no darling. She was no darling. She thought she’d made that clear to Alan, but the bloody man refused to believe it.

They stood before the glass-fronted notice board in the entry area of the former hotel. Your Instructors was the purpose of their discussion. The imbalance between male and female instructors was Alan’s point. In charge of hiring all of the instructors, Kerra had allowed the balance to swing to females. This was not good for several reasons, according to Alan. For marketing purposes, they needed an equal number of men and women offering instruction in the various activities and, if possible and what was highly desirable, they needed more male than female. They needed the males to be nicely built and good looking because, first of all, such men could serve as a feature to bring unmarried females to Adventures Unlimited and, second of all, Alan intended to use them in a video. He’d lined up a crew from Plymouth to take video footage, by the way, so whatever instructors Kerra came up with also needed to be onboard within three weeks. Or, he supposed-thinking aloud-perhaps they could actually use actors…no, stuntmen…yes, stuntmen could be very good in making the video, actually. The initial outlay would be higher because stuntmen no doubt had some sort of scale upon which they were paid, but it wouldn’t take as long to film them because they’d be professionals, so the final cost would likely not be as high. So…

He was absolutely maddening. Kerra wanted to argue with him, and she had been arguing, but he’d matched her point for point.

He said, “The publicity from that Mail on Sunday article helped us enormously, but that was seven months back, and we’re going to need to do more if we’re to begin heading in the direction of the black. We won’t be in the black of course, not this year and probably not next, but the point is, we have to chip away at debt. So everyone has to consider how best to get us out of the red.”

Red did it for her. Red held her between wanting to run and wanting to argue. She said, “I’m not refusing to hire men, Alan, if that’s what you’re implying. I can hardly be blamed if they’re not applying in droves to work here.”

“It’s not a question of blame,” he reassured her. “But, to be honest, I do wonder how aggressive you’re being in trying to recruit them.”

Not aggressive at all. She couldn’t be. But what was the point in telling him that?

She said, with the greatest courtesy she could manage, “Very well. I’ll start with the Watchman. How much can we spend on an advertisement for instructors?”

“Oh, we’ll need a much wider net than that,” Alan said, affably. “I doubt an ad in the Watchman would do us much good at all. We need to go national: advertisements placed in specialised magazines, at least one for each sport.” He studied the notice board where the pictures of the instructors were posted. Then he looked at Kerra. “You do see my point, don’t you, Kerra? We must consider them as an attraction. They’re more than merely instructors. They’re a reason to come to Adventures Unlimited. Like social directors on a cruise line.”

“‘Come to Adventures Unlimited for a Shag,’” Kerra said. “Yes. I’ve got the point well enough.”

“That’s the implication, naturally,” Alan said. “Sex sells. You know that.”

“It all gets reduced to sex in the end, doesn’t it?” Kerra said bitterly.

He gazed at the pictures again. He was either evaluating them or avoiding her. He said, “Well, yes. I suppose it does. That’s how life is.”

She left him without replying. She said abruptly that she was going to the Watchman if anyone wanted her, daring him to make his point again about the futility of placing an advertisement in that paper, and she set out on her bicycle.

This time, however, she had no intention of riding until the sweat of her efforts bled the anxiety from her muscles. She also had no intention of going to the Watchman to place an advertisement for randy males willing to instruct equally randy females during daylight hours and fulfill their sexual fantasies at night. That was all they needed at Adventures Unlimited: an excess of testosterone oozing down the corridors.

Kerra pedaled off the promontory in the direction of Toes on the Nose, where she was forced to follow the one-way system through town. She climbed to the crest of the hill, where St. Mevan Down rolled inland from the sea, and made her way to Queen Street with its clutter of cars. Ultimately she coursed downward towards the Casvelyn Canal, where just beyond the wharf that edged it a bridge arched to a Y in the road. Go left and you ultimately headed to Widemouth Bay. Go right and you found yourself out on the Breakwater.

This formed the southwest side of the canal, just as the wharf served as its northeastern edge. Cottages lined it, sitting some fifteen feet above the tarmac, and at their far end was the largest of them, one that only a blind man could miss seeing. It was trimmed in fuchsia and painted the pink of flamingos. Unimaginatively, it was called Pink Cottage, and its owner was a maiden lady long referred to by townspeople as Busy Lizzie and only in part as a reference to the flowers she planted in her front garden in enormous banks with riotous abandon every late spring.

Kerra was known to Busy Lizzie as a regular visitor, so when she knocked on the door, the woman admitted her without question, saying, “Why, isn’t this the nicest surprise, Kerra! Alan’s not here at the moment, but I expect you know that. Come in, my dear.”

She was not even five feet tall, and she’d long reminded Kerra of a chess piece. Specifically, she looked very much like a pawn. She wore her white hair in an impressively constructed Edwardian pouf and she favoured high-necked ivory blouses and bell-shaped flannel skirts of navy or grey that fell to the floor. She always looked like someone on the verge of being discovered for a part in a Henry James novel brought to film, but as far as Kerra had ever been able to learn-which admittedly wasn’t very far-Busy Lizzie had no inclination for either screen or stage.

She let one of the bedrooms in her house, the rest being filled with her vast collection of Carlton Ware from the 1930s. She was liberal in her thinking, and, preferring young men to young women as her lodgers-“Somehow one always feels safer with a man in the house” was her way of putting it-she recognised that her lodgers had appetites whose fulfillment she oughtn’t deny. So each successive lodger had kitchen privileges, and if a sleepover occurred in which a young lady might put in an appearance at the breakfast table, Busy Lizzie did not complain. Indeed, she provided either tea or coffee and she asked, “Sleep well, dear?” quite as if the young lady belonged there.

While his house in Lansdown Road was undergoing work, Alan had his temporary lodging here in Pink Cottage. He could have moved in with his parents-it would have saved him money-but he’d explained to Kerra that, while he loved his mum and dad devotedly, he liked to have a degree of freedom that his parents’ blind adoration of him sometimes precluded. Besides, he’d delicately said to her, they had a certain image of him that he didn’t want to mess about with.

Kerra read this as he intended. She said, “God, they can’t think you’re a virgin, Alan.” And when he didn’t answer, “Do they, Alan?”

“No, no. Of course not. Of course they don’t. What a ridiculous…They know I’m normal. But they’re older people, aren’t they, and it’s a sign of respect to them that I don’t take a woman to bed while I’m unmarried and under their roof. They’d feel very…well, odd about it.”

Kerra understood, at least at first. But in the end, the whole question of Alan having this lodging separate from his parents began to have a different resonance.

So she had to know. She had to be certain. She said to Busy Lizzie, “I’ve left a rather personal item in Alan’s room, Miss Carey”-for such was her name-“and I wonder if I might dash in and have a look for it? Alan’s forgotten to give me his key, but if you’d like to phone him at work…?”

“Oh my dear, no need of that. The room’s unlocked anyway, as this is bed-linen day. You know the way. I was just watching my telly. Would you like a cup of tea? Do you need my help?”

Kerra demurred: both the offer of tea and the offer of help. She shouldn’t be long, she said. She’d let herself out when she had what she’d come for.

“And are you riding about in the rain, my dear? On your bicycle? Why, you’ll catch your death, Kerra. Are you sure you wouldn’t care for a nice cup of PG Tips?”

No, no. She was fine, Kerra assured Miss Carey. She was right as rain. They both chuckled at her lame remark, and they parted at the far end of the sitting room. Busy Lizzie went back to her telly as Kerra ducked into the corridor that led along to the far end of the house. There, Alan’s room overlooked the southwest section of St. Mevan Beach. From the window, Kerra could see that the tide was in. The waves were breaking from three-foot swells, and at least a dozen surfers bobbed in the distance.

Kerra turned from the sight of them. The thought came to her of her father last night, and of what it meant that part of his life was hidden from her. But she dismissed this consideration because now was not the time and, anyway, she had to work quickly.

She was looking for signs without actually knowing what the signs would be. She needed to understand why the Alan Cheston of the last few days was not the Alan Cheston she had known and involved herself with. She reckoned she knew the explanation, but still she wanted hard evidence, although what she would do with it when she had it was something she hadn’t yet considered.

She’d also never done a search before. The whole enterprise made her feel unclean, but there was no alternative other than hurling accusations at him, and going that route was something she couldn’t afford to do.

She girded herself mentally and began to look about. It was, she saw, all so vintage Alan, with every item in its place. His djembe drum stood in its stand in the corner of the room, in front of a stool upon which Alan sat when he played it during his daily meditation. A tambourine-something of a joke gift that Kerra had given him before she’d understood how significant the drum actually was to Alan’s spiritual regimen-leaned nearby, against a bookcase where he kept his yoga books. On top of this bookcase were his photos: Alan, wearing the cap and gown of the university graduate, flanked by his beaming parents; Alan and Kerra on a holiday in Portsmouth, his arm round her shoulders on the deck of the Victory; Kerra by herself, perched on the flat stone top of Lanyon Quoit; a younger Alan with his childhood dog, a mixed-breed terrier with a coat the colour of rusty bedsprings.

The trouble was that Kerra had no idea what she was looking for. She wanted a sign, but she didn’t know if she’d recognise anything that wasn’t written out for her by means of flashing neon lights. She prowled the room, opening and closing drawers in the chest and then in the desk. Aside from neatly folded clothes in conservative hues, the only items of interest she came up with were a collection of birthday cards given or sent to him through the years and a list entitled “Five-Year Objectives” upon which she read that, among other things, he intended to learn Italian, take xylophone lessons, and visit Patagonia, in addition to “marry Kerra,” which came before Patagonia but after Italian.

And then in a tarnished silver toast rack where Alan kept his mail, she found it: the item without a purpose in the bedroom of a man for whom every item had a purpose, either in the present, the past, or the future. This was a postcard, tucked at the back of correspondence from Alan’s bank, his dentist, and the London School of Economics. The picture on the card was taken from the sea, into the shore, and the view presented was of two deep sea caves, one on either side of a cove. Above the cove was a Cornish village well known to Kerra, as it was the place she’d been sent with her brother throughout their childhoods, to stay with their grandparents while their mother was going through one of her spells.

Pengelly Cove. They were not allowed to go to the beach there, no matter the weather. The reason given was the tide and the sea caves. The tide came in fast, the way it came in at Morecambe Bay. Deep in a sea cave where you thought you were safe with your exploration-or whatever else you were doing-the water swept in and the walls marked its depth, which was higher than the top of the tallest man’s head, as relentless as it was unforgiving.

Kids just like you lot’ve died in those caves, Granddad would thunder, so there’ll be no beachgoing while you’re stopping here. ’Sides, there’s work enough round this place to keep you busy, and if I see you’re bored, I’ll give you more.

But all of that was an excuse, and they knew it, Kerra and Santo. Beach-going meant village-going, and in the village they were known as the children of Dellen Kerne, or Dellen Nankervis as she’d been then. Long, loose, wide-spreading Dellen, the village tart. Dellen whose unmistakable handwriting formed the sentence “This is it,” which was scripted in red on the face of the postcard in Alan’s old toast rack. From the it an arrow extended down to the sea cave on the south side of the cove.

Kerra pocketed the postcard and looked about for something more. But nothing else was actually needed.

CADAN HAD SPENT THE morning with a mouth that felt like a wrestler’s jockstrap and a stomach doing a shimmy to his throat. More hair of the dog that had bitten him was what he’d needed from the get-go, but an unexpected pre-Adventures Unlimited conversation with his sister had prevented him from doing a recce for his father’s booze. Not that Madlyn would have reported Cadan to Lew had she caught him in the act of going through cupboards-despite her general weirdness, Cadan’s sister had never been known to sneak-but she would have realised what he was doing and she would have ragged on him about it. He couldn’t handle that. As it was, he’d had enough trouble merely responding to what she had to say when the subject wasn’t him at all. It was, instead, Ione Soutar, who’d phoned three times in the last thirty-six hours, on one spurious excuse after another.

“Well, she was stupid if she ever thought it was going to go somewhere,” Madlyn had said. “I mean, did they ever have anything between them besides sex and dating, if you can call what they did dating, because judging surfing competitions in Newquay and having pizza nights and takeaway curry nights with those two obnoxious girls of hers…Not exactly what I’d call a promising relationship, would you? So what was she thinking?”

Cadan was the last person capable of answering these questions, and he wondered if Madlyn herself ought to be holding forth on what comprised a promising relationship. But he reckoned her final query was rhetorical, and he was happy enough that he didn’t have to reply.

Madlyn went on. “All she had to do was look at his history. But could she do that? Would she do that? No. And why? Because she saw him as father material, and that’s what she wanted, for Leigh and Jennie. Well, God knows they need that. Especially Leigh.”

Cadan managed an answer to this. “Jennie’s all right.” He hoped that would put an end to the matter, leaving him to his headache and general queasiness in peace.

Madlyn said, “Oh, I suppose, if you like them that age, she’s all right. The other one, though…Leigh’s a real piece of work.” She said nothing for a moment, and Cadan saw that she was watching him watching Pooh. He was waiting for the parrot to finish a breakfast of sunflower seeds and apples. Pooh preferred English apples-Cox, if he could get them-but in a pinch and in the off-season, he enjoyed an imported Fuji, which he was doing now.

Madlyn continued. “But for God’s sake, he’s had his kids. Why would he want to go through all that again? And why didn’t she see that? I can see it. Can’t you?”

Cadan mumbled noncommittally. Even if he hadn’t felt like worshipping the porcelain god, he knew better than to engage his sister lengthily or otherwise on the topic of their dad. So he said, “Come on, Pooh. We got work to go to,” and he offered the last sixteenth of apple. Pooh ignored it, and instead wiped his beak on his right claw. Then he set about investigating the feathers under his left wing, looking like an avian miner with all the digging he was doing there. Cadan frowned and thought about mites. In the meantime, Madlyn went on.

She was turning to use the mirror over the tiny coal fireplace in order to see to her hair. In the past, she’d never given much attention to her hair, but she hadn’t needed to. Like Cadan’s and like their father’s, it was dark and curly. Kept short enough, it was low maintenance: A good shaking sorted it out in the morning. But she’d grown it because Santo Kerne had liked it longer. Once their whatever-it-was-because-Cadan-didn’t-want-to-call-it-a-relationship ended, he’d thought she’d cut it-to get even with Santo if for no other reason-but so far she hadn’t done so. She hadn’t got back to surfing yet, either.

She said, “Well, he’ll move on to someone else now, if he hasn’t already. And so will she. And that will be an end to the whole thing. Oh, I expect there may be a few more weeks of tearful phone calls, but he’ll do his pained-silence thing, and after a time, she’ll get sick of that and realise she’s thrown away three years of her life, or however long it’s been because I can’t remember and as the clock is ticking, she’ll move on. She’ll want a man before her sell-by date comes along. And, believe me, she knows it’s out there.”

Madlyn was pleased. Cadan could hear it in her voice. The longer their father had seen Ione Soutar, the more anxiety ridden Madlyn had become. She’d been household goddess for most of her life-thanks to the Bounder’s final bounding shortly before Madlyn’s fifth birthday-and the last thing she had ever wanted was another woman usurping her position of Sole Female. She’d wielded considerable power from that position, and no one with power ever wanted to let it go.

Cadan scooped up the newspapers from beneath Pooh’s perch, balling them up against the detritus of his meal and the copious morning excretions of his body. He spread out a fresh old edition of the Watchman, and said, “Whatever. We’re off, then.”

“Off? Where?” Madlyn frowned.

“To work.”

“Work?”

She didn’t, Cadan thought, need to sound so amazed. “Adventures Unlimited,” he told her. “I got hired there.”

Her face altered. Cadan could see how she would take the information: as a fraternal betrayal, no matter his need for gainful employment. Well, she was going to have to take it whatever way she wanted to take it. He required a source of income and jobs were practically nonexistent. Still, he didn’t want to engage her on the topic of Adventures Unlimited any more than he’d wanted to engage her on the topic of Ione Soutar and the end of her affair with their father. So he set Pooh on his shoulder and said by way of diversion, “Talking of sell-by dates, Mad…What the hell were you doing with Jago night before last? His went by round forty years ago, didn’t it?”

“Jago,” she said, “is a friend.”

“I got that much. I like the bloke myself. But you won’t catch me spending the night out there.”

“Are you actually suggesting…You know, you’re quite nasty, Cade. If you need the information, he came to tell me about Santo but he didn’t want to tell me at the bakery, so he took me home because he cared about how I was going to react to the news. He actually cares about me, Cadan.”

“And we don’t?”

“You didn’t like Santo. Don’t pretend you did.”

“Hey. At the end, neither did you. Or did something change? Did he come crawling back to you, begging forgiveness and declaring love?” Cadan hooted. Pooh duplicated the sound exactly. “Not bloody likely,” Cadan said.

“Blow holes in the attic,” Pooh remarked shrilly.

Cadan winced at the sound so near his ear. Madlyn saw this. She said, “You got drunk last night. That’s what you were doing in your room, isn’t it? What’s the matter with you, Cade?”

He wished he could have answered that question. He’d have loved to do so. But the fact was, he’d headed for the off-licence without thinking, and in the same manner he’d purchased the Beefeater and in the same manner he’d drunk it. He’d told himself that the fact that he was doing his drinking at home was admirable when one considered he could be out at a pub or sitting on a street corner or-worse-driving round in a car while pouring gin down his throat. But instead, he was being responsible: getting obliterated in silence within the four walls of his room, where he would hurt no one but himself.

What this was related to, he’d not questioned. But as his hangover subsided-a blessed event that did not occur till the middle of the afternoon-he realised he was perilously close to having to think.

What he ended up thinking about was his father, as well as Madlyn and Santo Kerne. But he didn’t like where his thoughts headed when he bunched those three individuals together in his mind because when he did that, the fourth thought that popped up like an unwanted uncle at Christmas lunch was the thought of murder.

It went like this: Madlyn in love. Madlyn heartbroken. Santo dead. Lew Angarrack…what? Out with his surfboard on a day when not a single wave was worthy of a ride. Missing in action and determinedly mum on the subject of his whereabouts. And what did those two considerations add up to. A daughter scorned? A father enraged? Cadan didn’t want to begin an extended consideration of that topic.

So he considered Will Mendick instead. Torchbearer of love for Madlyn. Unrequited love for Madlyn. Waiting to step in as chief comforter once Santo Kerne was finally dispatched.

But would Will have had access to Santo’s climbing equipment? Cadan wondered. And was Will the sort to go for such a crafty way to dispose of someone? And even if the answer to both of those questions was yes, wasn’t the real question whether Will was actually so hot for Madlyn’s knickers that he’d get rid of Santo in the hope of closing the deal with Madlyn? Did that even make sense? Why rid Madlyn’s life of Santo when Santo himself had already rid her life of Santo? Unless Santo’s death had nothing to do with Madlyn at all…And wouldn’t that be a bloody relief?

But if it did have to do with Madlyn, what about Jago, then? Jago in the role of elderly Avenger. Who’d suspect an old bloke with shakes like a barman making martinis? He was hardly fit enough to sit on the loo unassisted, let alone in the shape one considered necessary to do away with another human being. Except, it had been a hands-off murder, hadn’t it? Santo’s equipment had been messed about with, if Kerra Kerne was to be believed. Surely Jago could have managed that. But then, so could any of them. So could Madlyn, for instance. So could Lew. So could Will. So could Kerra Kerne or Alan Cheston or Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny.

Cadan’s head felt stuffed with cotton wool. It was too soon after the hangover to be doing any serious thinking about anything, really. He hadn’t taken a break since his arrival at Adventures Unlimited that morning, and he was owed one at this point. Perhaps some fresh air-and even a sandwich-would allow him to dwell on these thoughts more clearly.

Pooh had been patient. Without doing the slightest bit of damage and only once letting his bird bowels loose, he’d spent hours watching Cadan paint radiators from his perch on a series of shower-curtain rods. He, too, was owed some R & R, and he probably wouldn’t say no to a bite of sandwich.

Cadan hadn’t brought one from home, so that was a bit of a problem. But he could solve it with a quick trip for takeaway from Toes on the Nose. Now that his stomach had returned to its normal condition, tuna and sweet corn on brown bread sounded good to him, with crisps on the side and a Coke.

First, he needed to move his painting supplies to the next room up for radiator refreshment, something he accomplished quickly. He headed for the stairway-forgoing the groaning old lift that, frankly, gave him the willies-and shared with Pooh what was coming next.

He said, “Toes on the Nose, and behave yourself. No swearing in front of the ladies.”

“Which ladies are you talking about?”

The question came from behind him. Cadan swung about. Santo Kerne’s mother had appeared from out of nowhere, like a spirit materialising directly through the wainscoting. She was coming towards him soundlessly on the new carpet runner. She wore black once again but now it was relieved at her throat by a billowy red scarf that exactly matched the red of her shoes.

Those shoes reminded Cadan, ridiculously, of a description he’d heard once of The Wizard of Oz: the story of two old birds fighting over a pair of red shoes. He smiled unconsciously at the thought. Dellen returned the smile.

“You didn’t ask him not to swear in front of me.” She had a throaty voice, like a blues singer.

He said stupidly, “What?”

“Your bird. When we were first introduced. You didn’t tell him not to swear in my presence. I wonder how I’m to take that, Cadan. Am I not a lady?”

He hadn’t the first clue how to reply, so he chuckled lamely. He waited for her to pass him in the corridor. She didn’t do so. He said, “Going to lunch.”

She looked at her watch. “Rather late for that, isn’t it?”

“I wasn’t hungry earlier.”

“And are you now? Hungry, that is?”

“Bit. Yeah.”

“Good. Come with me.”

She went towards the stairs but she didn’t descend. Instead she headed upwards, and when he didn’t follow at once, she turned. “Come with me, Cadan,” she told him. “I don’t bite. There’s a kitchen above and I’ll sort something out for you up there.”

“Oh. S’okay,” he said. “I was going to walk over to Toes-”

“Don’t be silly. This will be quicker and you won’t have to pay for it.” She smiled wistfully. “Not in money, that is. In companionship. I’d like someone to talk to.”

“P’rhaps Kerra-”

“She’s out. My husband’s disappeared. Alan is closeted with his telephone. Come with me, Cadan.” Her eyes clouded when he didn’t move. “You need to eat and I need to talk. We can be of service to each other.” When he still didn’t move because he couldn’t come up with a way to get himself out of the situation, she added, “I’m the boss’s wife. I think you’ve no choice but to humour me.”

He gave a two-chuckle laugh, feeling no amusement. There seemed nothing for it but to follow her up the stairs.

They went up to what seemed to be the family’s flat. It was a good-size space that was modestly furnished in what had once been called Danish modern but now was Danish retro. She led him through a sitting room and into a kitchen, where she pointed to the table and told him to sit. She turned on a radio that sat on the spotless white work top, and she fiddled with the knob till she had a station that she seemed to prefer. It featured dance music of the ballroom type. She said, “That’s nice, isn’t it?” and kept the volume low. “Now.” She put her hands on her hips. “What do you fancy, Cadan?”

It was just the sort of question one saw in films: a Mrs. Robinson question while poor Benjamin was caught up still thinking about plastics. And Dellen Kerne was a Mrs. Robinson type, no doubt about that. She was, admittedly, a bit gone to seed, but it was a voluptuous gone to seed. She had the kind of curves one didn’t see in younger women obsessed with looking like catwalk models, and if her skin was grooved from years of sun and cigarettes, her masses of blonde hair made up for that. As did her mouth, which had what they called bee-stung lips.

Cadan reacted to her. It was automatic: too long a period of celibacy and now too much blood heading in the wrong direction. He stammered, “I was…that is…going to…tuna and sweet corn.”

Her full lips curved. “I think we can manage that.”

He was vaguely aware of Pooh moving restlessly on his shoulder, claws digging a little too deeply into his flesh. He needed to remove the bird, but he didn’t like to put the parrot onto the back of a chair since often Pooh took a removal from Cadan’s shoulder to a perch as a sign he was meant to drop his load. Cadan looked about for a newspaper that he could use beneath a chair, just in case. He spied one sitting on the counter, and he went to fetch it. Last week’s edition of the Watchman, he saw. He picked it up and said, “Mind?” to Dellen. “Pooh needs to perch and if I could put this on the floor…?”

She was opening a tin. She said, “For the bird? Of course,” and when he had the paper spread and Pooh on the back of the chair, she went on to say, “An unusual choice of pet, isn’t he.”

Cadan didn’t think he was meant to answer, but he did so anyway. “Parrots c’n live to be eighty.” The answer seemed to be sufficient unto itself: A pet who could live eighty years wasn’t likely to be going anywhere, and it didn’t take a degree in psychology to sort that one out.

“Yes,” Dellen said. “Eighty. I do understand.” She cast him a look and her smile was tremulous. “I hope he makes it. But they don’t always, do they.”

He dropped his gaze. “I’m sorry about Santo.”

“Thank you.” She paused. “I can’t talk about him yet. I keep thinking that if I just move forward a bit, even try to distract myself, I won’t have to face the fact that he’s dead. I know that’s not true, but I’m not…How can one ever be ready to look squarely at the death of one’s child?” She reached hastily for the knob of the radio and raised the volume. She began to move with the music. She said, “Let’s dance, Cadan.”

It was a vaguely South American rhythm. A tango, a rumba. Something like that. It called for bodies moving together sinuously, and no way did Cadan want to be one of them. But she moved across the kitchen towards him, each step a swaying of the hips, a rolling of one shoulder then the other, hands extended.

Cadan saw she was crying in the way that actresses cried in films: no redness of face, no screwing up of features, just tears marking a forking path downward from her remarkable eyes. She danced and she wept simultaneously. His heart went out to her. Mother of a son who’d been murdered…Who was to say how the woman was meant to act? If she wanted to talk, if she wanted to dance, what did it matter? She was coping as best she could.

She said, “Dance with me, Cadan. Please dance with me.”

He took her into his arms.

She pressed against him at once, each movement its own form of caress. He didn’t know the dance, but that didn’t appear to matter. She raised both arms to his neck and held him close, one hand on the back of his head. When she lifted her face to his, the rest was natural.

His mouth lowered to hers, his hands moved from his waist to her bum, and he drew her tightly against him.

She did not protest.

Chapter Fourteen

THE IDENTIFICATION OF SANTO’S BODY WAS MERELY PART OF police routine. While Ben Kerne knew this, he still experienced a moment of ludicrous hope that a terrible mistake had somehow occurred, that despite the car later found by the police and the identification within the car, the dead boy at the bottom of the cliff in Polcare Cove was someone other than Alexander Kerne. All fancy of this died, however, when he gazed at Santo’s face.

Ben had gone to Truro alone. He’d taken the decision that there was no point to exposing Dellen to Santo’s autopsied body, especially when he himself had no idea what condition the corpse would be in. That Santo was dead was terrible enough. That Dellen might have to see anything that had reduced him to death was unthinkable.

When he looked upon Santo, though, Ben also saw that his protection of Dellen had been largely unnecessary. Santo’s face had been seen to with makeup. The rest of him, which undoubtedly had been most thoroughly dissected and explored, remained beneath an institutional bedsheet. Ben could have asked to see more, to see it all, to know every inch of Santo as he had not known him since early childhood, but he had not. It seemed an invasion, somehow.

Ben had given a nod in answer to the formal question, “Is this Alexander Kerne?” and then he’d signed the documents placed before him and listened to what various individuals had to say about police, inquests, funeral homes, burials, and the like. He was numb to everything during these proceedings, especially to expressions of sympathy. For they were sympathetic, all the people he had to deal with at the Royal Cornwall Hospital’s mortuary. They’d gone this route a thousand times before-more than that, probably-but the fact had not robbed them of their ability to express fellow feeling for someone’s grief.

When he got outside, Ben began to feel in earnest. Perhaps it was the light rain falling that melted away his meagre protection, because as he walked to his Austin in the car park, he was struck by sorrow at the thought of the immensity of their loss and he was ravaged by guilt at his part in having brought it about. And then there was the knowledge that he would live with forever: that his last words to Santo had been spoken in a disgust born of his own inability to accept the boy for who he was. And that inability came from suspicion, one that he would never voice.

Why can’t you see how others feel about what you do? Ben would say to him, the constant refrain of a song of relationship they’d sung with each other for years. For Christ’s sake, Santo, people are real.

You act like I’m a user or something. You act like I force my will on everyone, and that’s not how it is. Besides, you never say a word when-

Do not bloody try that with me, all right?

Look, Dad, if I could-

Yes, that’s it, isn’t it? I, I, and me, me. Well, let’s get something straight. Life is not all about you. What we’re doing here, for example, is not about you. What you think and want does not concern me. What you do does. Here and elsewhere. Are we clear on that?

So much had gone unspoken. Especially unsaid were Ben’s fears. Yet how could those fears be brought into the open, when everything that related to them was swept under the carpet?

Not today, though. Today the present moment demanded an acknowledgement of the past that had brought him here. Thus, when Ben climbed into his car and began the drive out of Truro, meaning to head north, in the direction of Casvelyn, he braked at the signpost indicating the route to St. Ives and while he waited for the shimmering in his vision to clear, he made his decision, and he turned for the west.

Ultimately, he coursed south on the A30, the north coast’s main artery. He had no clear intention in his mind, but as the signposts grew more and more familiar to him, he made the proper turns by rote, working his way over to the sea through an uneven landscape made externally inhospitable by granite intrusions but internally rich with mineral ore. In this part of the countryside, ruined engine houses stood in mute testimony to generations of Cornishmen working beneath the ground, digging tin and copper till the lodes gave out and the mines were abandoned to weather and time.

These mines had long been served by remote stone villages, which were forced to redefine themselves or die altogether when mining failed. The land was bad for farming, too stony and barren and so constantly windswept that only thickets of gorse and the hardiest, low-growing weeds and wildflowers managed to gain a foothold. So people turned to cattle and sheep if they could afford a herd, and they turned to smuggling when times were tough.

Cornwall’s myriad coves were the provenance of smuggling. Those who were successful in this line of work were those who knew the ways of the sea and the tide. But over time this, too, gave way to other means of support. Transportation to the southwest improved, and transportation brought tourists. Among them were summer people who sunned themselves on the beaches and crisscrossed the countryside on walking paths. Among them, ultimately, came the surfers.

In Pengelly Cove, Ben saw them from above, where the main part of the village stood, unpainted granite that was roofed in slate, looking bleak and deserted in the wet spring weather. Three streets only defined the place: two that were lined with shops, houses, two pubs, and an inn called the Curlew and a third marking a steep and twisting route down to a small car park, a lifeboat station, the cove, and the sea.

Out among the waves, lifelong surfers braved the weather. For the swells were from the northwest, coming in even sets, and the grey faces of the waves were building to the barrels for which Pengelly Cove was known. Into these, the surfers dropped, carving across the face of a wave, rising to its shoulder, fading over the top to paddle out to the swell line and wait for another. No one wasted the energy riding a wave to shore, not in this weather and not with the waves breaking in mirror images of one another, over the reefs some one hundred yards out. The shore break was for rank beginners, a low wall of white water that gave the neophyte a semblance of success but no respectability.

Ben descended to the cove. He did so on foot rather than by car, leaving his vehicle in front of the Curlew Inn and walking back along the street to the junction. He wasn’t bothered by the weather. He was dressed for it, and he wanted to experience the cove as he’d experienced it in his youth: hiking down what had been only a path then, with no car park below and nothing else save the water, the sand, and the deep sea caves to greet him when he reached the bottom, his surfboard tucked under his arm.

He’d hoped to go to the sea caves now, but the tide was too high and he knew better than to risk it. So instead he considered all the ways that the place had altered in the years since he’d been here.

Money had come to the area. He could see that in the summer houses and the getaway cottages that overlooked the cove. Long ago there had been only one of them-far out on the end of the cliff, an impressive granite structure whose proud white paint and gleaming black gutters and trim spoke of more money than any local family had-but now there were at least a dozen, although Cliff House still stood, as proudly as ever. He’d been inside only once, at an adolescent party orchestrated by a family called Parsons who’d taken up residence for five summers in a row. A celebration before our Jamie heads off to university, they’d called the gathering.

None of the locals had liked Jamie Parsons, who’d spent his gap year traveling the globe and who hadn’t possessed the common sense to keep quiet about it. But all of them had been willing to pretend the kid was everything from best mate to the Second Coming for a night of carousing inside his home.

They’d had to look cool, though. Ben remembered that. They had to look like kids who experienced this sort of revelry all the time: end of summer, an invitation that had arrived for God’s sake by post, a rock band come down from Newquay to play, tables of food, a strobe above the dance area, and nighttime bolt holes all over the house where mischief of every imaginable kind could be got up to with no one the wiser. At least two of the Parsons kids were there-had there been four of them in all? perhaps five?-but no parents. Beer of every imaginable kind, as well as the contraband: whiskey, vodka, rum mixed with cola, tabs of something no one would identify, and cannabis. Cannabis by the crateful, it seemed. Cocaine as well? Ben couldn’t remember.

What he did remember was the talk, and he remembered that because of surfing that summer and what had come of surfing that summer.

The great divide: It existed any place invaded seasonally by people not born and bred to a spot. There were always the townies…and the interlopers. In Cornwall especially, there were those who toiled and scrabbled to make a modest living, and there was everyone who arrived to spend their holiday time and money enjoying the pleasures of the southwest. The main pleasure was the coast with its brilliant weather, crystalline sea, pristine coves, and soaring cliffs. The lure, however, was the water.

Longtime residents knew the rules. Anyone who surfed regularly knew the rules, for they were easy and basic. Take your turn, do not snake, do not drop in when someone else calls a wave, give way to the more experienced, respect the hierarchy. The shore break belongs to beginners with wide boards, to kids playing in the water, and sometimes to knee boarders and body boarders wanting a quick return for their efforts. Anyone surfing beyond the shore break rode in at the end of a session but otherwise remained outside, dropping off the board or cutting over the shoulder of the wave and down the backside of it to paddle out again long before reaching the area where the beginners were. It was simple. It was also unwritten, but ignorance was never an acceptable excuse.

No one knew whether Jamie Parsons operated in ignorance or indifference. What everyone did know was that Jamie Parsons somehow felt that he had certain rights, which he saw as rights and not as what they actually were: inexcusable blunders.

“This stuff ’s total shit compared to the North Shore, you know” might have been bearable, but declared after a shout of “Give way, mate” had acted as the harbinger of snaking one of the locals, it was not something destined to impress anyone. The lineup meant nothing to Jamie Parsons. “Hey. Cope with it” was his answer to being informed that he was out of order among the surfers. Those things didn’t matter to him because he wasn’t one of them. He was better than they because of money, life, circumstances, education, possibility, or whatever you wanted to call it. He knew this, and they knew this. He just lacked the common sense to keep the fact to himself.

So a party at the Parsons home…? Of course they would go. They would dance to his music, eat up his food, drink down his drink, and smoke up his weed. They were owed because they’d put up with the sod. They’d had him round for five summers in a row, but this last one had been the worst.

Jamie Parsons, Ben thought now. He hadn’t considered the bloke in years. He’d been too consumed with Dellen Nankervis even though, as things turned out, it was Jamie Parsons and not Dellen Nankervis who had actually determined the course of his life.

It came to Ben as he stood at the edge of the car park and looked out at the surfers that everything he’d become was the result of decisions he’d made right here in Pengelly Cove. Not in Pengelly Cove the village, but in Pengelly Cove the geographical location: at high tide a horseshoe of water beating against slate and granite boulders; at low tide a vast sandy beach far beyond the cove itself, a beach that stretched in two directions, intruded upon by reefs and lava dykes and backed by sea caves that twisted into cliffs in which rich mineral veins could still be seen. Maws in the rock created by eons of geologic cataclysms and oceanic erosion, the sea caves had served as Ben Kerne’s destiny from the moment he’d seen them as a very young child. The dangers they presented made them utterly compelling. The privacy they offered made them utterly necessary.

His history was inextricably tied to Pengelly Cove’s two largest sea caves. They represented all the firsts he’d experienced: his first cigarette, his first spliff, his first drunk, his first kiss, his first sex. They also charted the storms that patterned the trajectory of his relationship with Dellen. For if his first kiss and first sex had been shared with Dellen Nankervis in one of the cove’s two great brooding sea caves, so also had those two caves borne witness to every betrayal they’d committed against each other.

Christ, can’t you escape the bloody cow? his father demanded. She’s making you into a madman, boy. Cut her loose, God damn it, before she chews you up and spits you into the dirt.

He’d wanted to, but he found that he couldn’t. The hold she had on him had been too profound. There were other girls, but they were simple creatures compared to Dellen: gigglers, teasers, superficial natterers, endlessly combing their sun-streaked hair and asking a bloke did he think they looked fat. They had no mystery, no complexity of character. Most important, not a single one of them needed Ben as Dellen did. She always came back to him, and he was always ready. And if two other blokes made her pregnant during those frenzied years of their adolescence, he’d done no worse to her by the time he was twenty, and he’d even managed to equal their score.

The third time it happened, he asked to marry her, for she’d proved the very nature of her love: She’d followed him to Truro with no money to speak of and only what she’d been able to fit in a canvas holdall. She’d said, It’s yours, Ben, and so am I, with the inchoate curve of her belly telling the tale.

It would be better now, he’d thought. They would marry, and marriage would put an end forever to the cycles of connection, betrayal, breakup, longing, and reconnection.

So the story was that he’d removed from Pengelly Cove to Truro for a fresh start that had not come about. He’d removed from Truro to Casvelyn for the very same reason with much the same result. Indeed, with a far worse result this time. For Santo was dead, and the insubstantial fabric of Ben’s own life was torn asunder.

It seemed to Ben now that the idea of lessons needing to be taught had started everything. What an excruciating realisation it was that lessons needing to be taught had ended everything as well. Only the student and the teacher were different. The crucial fact of acceptance remained the same.

LYNLEY SETTLED ON THE idea of a drive down the coast to Pengelly Cove once DI Hannaford had identified it as the village from which the Kerne family had originated. “It’s a two birds and one stone situation,” he explained, to which Hannaford had shrewdly replied, “You’re avoiding a bit of responsibility here, aren’t you? What is it about Dr. Trahair that you don’t want me to know, Detective Superintendent?”

He wasn’t avoiding at all, he told her blithely. But as the Kernes needed lookin