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'The Heron's Cry' Chapters 4-6


spinner image illustration of a man in jeans and T-shirt sitting on a sofa, resting his chin on his hand, looking at two men in suits standing in front of him, one writing in a notebook
Illustration by Stan Fellows

 

Chapter Four

 

EVE LOOKED ACROSS THE TABLE AT the red-haired detective with the nasal, grating northern voice and wished she’d just f--- off and leave her alone. At this particular point in time she didn’t care who’d killed her father. All that mattered was that he was dead, that she’d be alone, with nobody to hold her when she was miserable, or make her laugh when she needed cheering up. Her anger was undirected, or perhaps more directed towards him, for leaving her, than at the person or persons who’d made it happen. But Eve was polite. She’d been well brought up by her parents. So, she sat at the big table in the shadowy, cool kitchen and she drank tea, and she answered the intruder’s questions.

‘Tell me about the other residents,’ the detective, Jen Rafferty, said. ‘I’ve met Wesley, but I don’t know the others.’

‘John and Sarah Grieve. They’ve got twins. Daisy and Lily. They’re very cute. The girls, I mean, not the parents.’

‘How old are the kids?’

‘Just seven. They had their birthday a couple of weeks ago. We had a party.’ My dad came with balloons, different presents for each of the girls. I made a cake.

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‘What role do the parents play here at Westacombe? How do they fit in?’

‘John’s a farmer and Sarah runs the dairy. She also looks after Frank’s house now his mother’s dead, does his laundry, stuff like that. Things are tight for them financially and he pays her well to do it. She never stops working, even though she’s pregnant again.’ Eve paused for a moment. Sometimes Sarah’s energy made her feel incompetent, idle. ‘Even now, she’s making plans. She’d like to open a tea shop alongside the dairy. That would bring more people in and give Wes and me a chance to sell more of our stuff.’ Eve wondered why she was even mentioning that. She’d been excited when Sarah had first thrown out the idea, but now, what importance could it possibly have?

‘Were Sarah and John at the drinks party with Mr Ley yesterday evening?’

‘Yeah, and the kids for a while. Halfway through, Sarah took them away and put them to bed. She came back later and John went to babysit. He’s not exactly sociable, and I think he was glad to escape.’ Eve paused for a moment but decided to continue. Better to give the woman all the information she needed and then she might be left in peace to cry and howl without an audience. Sometimes, she felt like glass, which was pliable and easy to mould when it was hot. She could be amiable and pleasant, until the stress built up, then, like glass, she became cold and hard and she’d crack under the slightest pressure. She didn’t want to crack in front of the detective. ‘Wes was there too, but just for a while. He’d obviously had a better offer but felt the need to show his face. To keep Frank sweet.’

‘Frank is Francis Ley?’

‘Yeah, of course.’ Jesus, what’s wrong with this woman? She’s supposed to be a detective. I’ve already told her that.

‘What time did the party break up?’

‘It wasn’t really a party, just a few drinks. If anything, it was a kind of business meeting.’

‘In what way?’

‘Sarah brought up her idea of opening a tea shop. Obviously, we’d have to get Frank’s approval. There’s spare space by the side of the dairy, which would be ideal, but we couldn’t go ahead without him.’

‘What did he say?’

‘It was a bit disappointing, actually. He said he’d never envisaged this place becoming so commercial. He was worried about access and parking. It’s okay for him, though. He’s minted. He doesn’t need to be commercial.’ The detective was scribbling in a notebook and Eve felt compelled to add, ‘Of course, it’s Frank’s place and we’re lucky to be here. He doesn’t charge anything close to the going rent. It obviously has to be his decision.’ She wouldn’t like to come across as ungrateful. Even now, she realized, with her father stabbed, looking like a slaughtered animal, his body still on the studio floor being mauled by strangers, she was worrying about what people thought of her.

‘So, there was this discussion over drinks?’ Jen Rafferty said. ‘How did it end?’

‘With Frank asking Sarah to draw up proper plans. He said he’d think about it. And we all drifted away about nine. Sarah went back to the cottage.’

‘And you?’ The woman looked up from her notebook. The red fringe almost hid intense brown eyes.

‘I went to the studio for an hour, then I went home too, to my flat in the loft. I was in bed by ten thirty.’

‘You didn’t hear from your father at all during the evening? He didn’t say he planned to come over?’

Eve shook her head. ‘There’s no phone reception in the studio, but there were no missed messages or calls. I checked before I went to bed.’

There was a moment of silence. The detective seemed to be choosing her words carefully. ‘You saw how your father was killed.’

Eve couldn’t speak. The image of bloody glass flashed like faulty neon in her head. It occurred to her that she might never be able to work with the material again. But there had to be a response. She nodded.

‘That piece of glass. Did you recognize it? Was it something you made?’

The picture appeared again, like something from one of the arty films she sometimes dragged her father to see at the Woodyard. All flashbacks and jerky cuts.

‘Yes. I’d been commissioned to make a couple of vases for a smart new shop in Ilfracombe. Tall. Green. Big enough to hold lilies. The shard came from one of those.’ She’d been so proud when they were finished, just the shade of green she’d been looking for. Supremely elegant.

‘I assume it hadn’t been broken when you last saw it?’

‘No, they were both on the shelf in the corner when I left the studio. I’d agreed to deliver them on Monday.’ Again, she pictured the scene. ‘One of them is still there. They were as identical as pieces of hand-crafted glass could be.’

The sun must have shifted, because a beam was shining through the window, lighting dancing motes of dust.

‘I’m sorry.’ And Jen Rafferty did sound genuinely sorry for these questions, for making Eve relive the moment of finding her dad. It seemed she understood the anguish she was causing.

Eve thought that in different circumstances she and Jen Rafferty might even get on. Eve had done her MA in the Glass Centre in Sunderland, and had liked the northerners she’d met there. Something about Jen took her back to that space on the Wear, perhaps the most creative, and happiest, time in her career. But she didn’t want to start crying again and she tried to rekindle her earlier resentment. Anger was easier than overwhelming grief. ‘Have you finished?’ The question was so sharp that it was almost rude.

‘Nearly.’ Jen paused. ‘Can you think of anyone who would have wanted your father dead?’

‘Of course not!’ This was close to laughable. ‘He was kind, gentle, understanding. He’d spent most of his career as a doctor specializing in end-of-life care.’

‘And more recently for an organization which investigated his former colleagues and poked around in their business,’ Jen said. ‘That could have been tricky, if he was investigating them. He hadn’t made enemies through his work?’

‘He never spoke about work.’ That was true, Eve thought, but not quite the full story and perhaps this detective deserved the full story. ‘He found it stressful. More stressful than medicine. I don’t think he found managing a small team of bitchy women easy! When he took it on, he said the job was important. Another way of saving lives. But challenging.’

‘And recently?’ Jen prompted. ‘Had it become more challenging recently?’

‘Something was puzzling him.’

‘Just puzzling? Or worrying?’

That was when Eve realized that this woman wasn’t stupid as she’d first thought, because, of course, Jen was right. Very recently, her father had been worried. He’d tried to hide it but she’d felt the unusual tension, seen the dark rings under his eyes, which suggested he hadn’t been sleeping well. There’d been moments of joy too and she’d wondered about the strange mood swings. Eve nodded. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I think something at work was troubling him. He’d become obsessed by it. But he wouldn’t talk about it. He couldn’t.’

‘Confidentiality,’ Jen said easily. ‘Of course. He’ll have kept records, though, and I assume he’ll have discussed it with his colleagues at Patients Together. You can leave all that to us.’

Eve didn’t say anything, but it seemed to her that it might have been the team which had triggered her father’s anxiety. That was guesswork, though. Instinct. And she wasn’t sure how she’d put her feelings into words. In the end she didn’t need to speak, because the kitchen door flew open, letting in a blast of sunshine, and Sarah, earth mother extraordinaire, and possibly her closest friend.

***

After a couple of miscarriages, this time all seemed to be well with Sarah’s pregnancy. She was round and short, and she was wearing a cheesecloth smock over a patchwork skirt of her own design with an expanding elasticated waist. Eve always thought Sarah looked as if she’d stepped straight out of the seventies.

‘Oh Evie,’ she said. ‘I’ve just heard. I mean, I saw the police cars when I came back from taking the girls to gymnastics and all the fuss, but none of them would tell me what was going on. Frank came to the cottage to fill us in. He’d been talking to a policeman.’ She sat beside Eve and put her arms around her. Eve smelled the henna Sarah used to dye her hair and a faint base note of cow.

Eve pulled herself gently away, and thought that Sarah was a bit like a cow herself: placid and wide-eyed. Soon, she would be full of milk. ‘This is Detective Sergeant Rafferty.’ She nodded across the table towards Jen. ‘She’s been asking me some questions.’

‘Oh.’ Sarah turned her attention to Jen, and Eve was aware of her friend’s ritual hostility to the police. She was already bristling. ‘Don’t you think this is a bit soon to be hassling her? She’s only just lost her father.’

Jen didn’t quite roll her eyes. Eve had a moment of amusement and then felt guilty to be enjoying the stand-off between the women.

‘It’s okay,’ Eve said. ‘Really. I want to help find out what happened.’

‘And besides, we’re finished for now.’ The detective smiled at Eve. ‘If you think of anything, though, give me a shout. Anytime. Here’s my card.’ Jen got to her feet, stood for a moment silhouetted in the doorway, the bright light behind her, and then she disappeared.

‘Come into the cottage.’ Sarah could have been bossing around one of the twins. ‘I can get you tea, wine, whatever you need. You can’t be alone at a moment like this.’

Eve was tempted to go along with the idea. Politeness was a habit. But really, she couldn’t stand the idea of Sarah’s cluttered house, kids’ toys and shoes everywhere, half-finished craft projects, half-eaten plates of food. The dairy was always immaculate but the cottage was her idea of a nightmare.

‘To be alone is absolutely what I need,’ she said, her voice firm. ‘It’s kind of you to offer, but it’s been a shock and I need some time.’

‘Are you sure?’ Sarah hated to be alone, but knew her friend well enough to understand how different they were.

‘Certain.’ To make her point, Eve stood up and made her way into the main body of the house and to what had once been the servants’ stairs, leading to her attic flat. She climbed slowly and pushed open the door, which was never locked. She’d left all the windows open and a breeze blew the curtains into the room. She lay on her bed and began to cry again.  

Chapter Five

 

MATTHEW WAS STANDING IN THE YARD, in the corner, which was as far away from Eve’s studio as he could get. He’d always been an observer, on the outside looking in, and hated the thought of getting in the way of the CSIs just to make his presence felt. The investigators would pass on all they knew at the evening briefing. Jen came out of the kitchen and walked towards him.

‘How did you get on?’ Matthew said. ‘Anything useful?’ He’d still been thinking of the conversation with Ley and was attempting to process the information about Yeo’s investigation into the treatment of the boy who’d killed himself. Now he tried to clear his mind so he could listen properly to anything she might have to say.

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‘I have a better idea of what’s going on here, how the place runs.’ Jen paused. ‘I can’t see a reason why anyone here might have wanted to kill Yeo, but according to his daughter, there was something worrying him at work. That would explain why he wanted to speak to me.’ She looked up. ‘If I’d been more together last night, he might have told me then. All this ...’—she swept her arm to take in the CSI vehicles and the blue and white tape—‘might have been avoided.’

Matthew shook his head. ‘If he had a concrete suspicion, he’d have reported it to one of the bosses in the health trust, the organization that runs all the North Devon hospitals, or he’d have come to us officially. I don’t think he’d have discussed it with you at a social gathering.’

‘Perhaps it wasn’t concrete. No proof, but a suspicion, a sense that something wasn’t quite right.’

‘Maybe. We’ll certainly need to speak to his colleagues.’

‘Do you want me to do that now? I could go to the hospital.’

‘Dr Yeo wasn’t based in the hospital; he was quite independent of the trust. I’ve discovered that the NDPT worked out of a small office in Ilfracombe.’ Matthew had tried phoning but the call had gone straight to an automated voicemail. ‘They work office hours.’

‘He must have worked closely with the health trust, though. I could talk to them.’

Matthew thought about priorities. Jen always liked instant action, but he wanted to know more about Yeo’s role before confronting the man’s colleagues or any health service officials. He shook his head. ‘Our focus should be here for the moment. Ross and I are about to talk to your pal Wesley. Francis Ley thought he heard him come back early this morning, but he hasn’t emerged yet. Obviously, that’s not an interview for you because he’s a friend. Can you talk to the Grieves? We need a statement from them.’

Jen nodded. ‘I met the woman briefly when I was talking to Eve.’

‘And?’

‘Very hippy dippy. Not a huge fan of the police.’

Matthew smiled. ‘I’m sure you can persuade her that we don’t eat babies.’

Jen seemed about to reply, but she said nothing.

Ross had been chatting to Brian Branscombe, the crime scene manager, and sauntered over. ‘Ready when you are, boss.’ As if he’d been waiting for Matthew and not the other way around. There were times when he still managed to come across as cocky, arrogant.

‘Well, thank you, Detective Constable. Sorry to keep you.’

Ross only nodded, not recognizing the sarcasm. Matthew couldn’t help smiling.

Matthew had checked the layout of the house with Ley. They went through the kitchen and climbed narrow, wooden stairs to a corridor, dimly lit by a dusty skylight. At one end was a door to Eve Yeo’s flat, and at the other the entrance to Wesley’s. Matthew knocked and heard a faint groan inside. He took that as an invitation to enter and pushed his way in. Ross followed.

They walked straight into a sitting room, with a sloping roof and two small dormer windows. There was a sink, a fridge and microwave at one end. The rest of the room could have been a student pad, from the sixties or seventies; a couple of sofas were covered by Indian throws, there were posters on the walls, celebrating bands Matthew had never heard of, rush mats on the floor, a guitar propped against a chair. The faint but unmistakable smell of cannabis. Matthew was struck by the fact that Ley’s tenants seemed stuck in a time and a place that would have seemed unreal to Ross and his generation. This would be ancient history, where the values were entirely different. Ross had worked hard for his mortgage, his tidy house, the two cars on the drive and the annual holiday in the sun. He would despise the chaos and the lack of security.

Matthew’s husband Jonathan would understand it, though. He’d feel at home here. For a moment Matthew felt caught in the middle, in a time warp, tugged two ways.

‘Hello!’ Matthew shouted.

‘Who is it?’ The voice from the bedroom was muffled, groggy.

‘The police.’

‘Shit.’ A pause. ‘Just a minute.’

He’d obviously pulled on the jeans and T-shirt he’d been wearing the night before, just because they were the first things that had come to hand. They were crumpled, looked as if they’d been snatched from a pile on the floor. Through the open bedroom door, Matthew could see the heap of unwashed clothes. The bed was low, covered again by Indian cotton, this time unhemmed, frayed at one edge. Without Wesley, it was empty. That made things less complicated. Matthew had thought the man might have brought home a companion, someone he’d met at Cynthia Prior’s party.

‘What’s going on, man?’ Wesley Curnow pulled back his long dark hair into a ponytail. ‘I had a heavy night.’ He gave a smile which Matthew took as an instinctive attempt to charm or ingratiate. ‘It must be my age. I never got a hangover when I was younger.’

‘We’re investigating a murder.’

‘What!’ He stopped in his tracks, arms still raised to pull the hair through an elastic band. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ He moved to the kitchen bench and flicked a switch on the kettle. ‘Coffee? Tea?’

‘No thank you.’ Matthew didn’t give Ross a chance to reply.

‘Look, you’d better sit down. I’m sorry. It was a late one last night and I’m not really with it.’ A pause while he made instant coffee, before turning back to them. ‘Who’s dead?’

‘Nigel Yeo. Eve’s father.’

‘No!’ He sat heavily on the sofa opposite them, his mug of coffee in his hand. ‘F---. I thought you were going to say some stranger. I don’t know, an ancient body, hidden in the woods or on the common. Not someone I actually knew. Oh God, Eve! How is she?’

Matthew ignored the last question.

‘How well did you actually know Nigel?’

‘Quite well. He came to visit Eve most weekends, helped her with the glass and had become almost a partner. He bought a few of my pieces. I liked him a lot.’ Wesley paused, noisily drank coffee, then looked up, shocked. ‘I saw him last night. He was at a party in Barnstaple. It was a surprise to see him there. He’s not the partying type. A bit like Eve, who can’t think of anything except her work. But it was thrown by a neighbour, so perhaps he was just there to be polite.’

Or to speak to my sergeant about a case that was troubling him.

‘What time did you get home?’

‘I’m not sure. Not super late. One? One thirty? I took a while mooching back up the lane.’ Matthew nodded. He was in bed by eleven unless he was working. Jonathan would have considered one not super late too, and he was learning to adjust his ideas, to be more open-minded about other people’s habits.

‘Did you notice anything unusual when you were on your way in?’

‘Nige was killed here?’ Again, the man seemed horrified by a murder so close to home.

‘Yes, in his daughter’s studio.’ Matthew thought there could be no harm in passing on this information; the man only had to look out of his window to see what was going on.

Wesley sat with his hands cupped around the mug. He had the body of a young man, but this close, Matthew could see he was approaching middle age. There were lines on his forehead and around his eyes. He looked tired, washed out.

‘I got a lift back to Instow with a friend and walked up the lane from there. It was dark, of course, but there was a bit of a moon and I enjoyed the exercise. Still a bit pissed, but in a good way, you know. Euphoric, full of plans. Music in my head. I wandered off the track for a bit and just sat at the edge of a field. It had just been cut for hay and there was that wonderful smell. I could have got drunk, just on that. I was looking out at the estuary and the lights on the opposite shore, putting together some words for a song.’

‘We’ll need the name of your friend.’

‘Sure. Janey Mackenzie. Her dad runs the bar by the beach in Instow. We’re old pals, play some music together. Hook up every now and again when she’s bored or she doesn’t have a better offer.’ Wesley found his phone in his jeans pocket, looked at it and gave Matthew the number.

Another connection. Janey must be Mack’s sister. The pretty, lively one everybody likes.

‘She didn’t offer to give you a lift all the way?’

‘Nah.’ Wesley gave a wry smile. ‘She’d had enough of me by then. Janey’s not the sort to do favours.’

‘So, you walked all the way back from the main road?’

He shrugged. ‘It was a beautiful evening and I’m used to it.’ He paused. ‘It’s only a mile or so. There was a car, coming in the opposite direction, down from the farm. I was in the middle of the road. That time of night, you don’t expect to see anyone. It must have freaked them out too. I jumped into the hedge and they slammed on the brakes. Missed me by inches.’

‘Can you tell me anything about the car?’

Wesley shook his head. ‘I was blinded by the headlights. It was going fast. Too fast for the road, even though there was no other traffic about. It disappeared down the hill and I pulled myself out of the hedge, covered by bloody nettle stings.’ He held out his arm, but the stings seemed to have faded.

‘And this would have been about one o’clock?’

‘Even later than that. I was nearly home.’

‘Anything unusual when you got here?’

‘I didn’t notice anything, but I was still a bit shaken after my close encounter with mortality.’ He leaned back and closed his eyes. Matthew thought he was trying to picture the scene, the late-night, starlit farmyard. Ross was restless and seemed about to throw in a question of his own, but Matthew motioned for him to stay quiet. Wesley’s eyes opened. ‘I’m pretty sure there weren’t any lights on in the building. I’d have noticed. Sarah is like the planet police and gives us grief over any wasted energy. Eve follows the rules, so it would have struck me if she’d left a light on in her studio. Everything was quiet. I let myself into the kitchen and came up to the flat.’

‘You and Eve have keys to the kitchen door?’

‘Yes, that’s how we get into the house. Frank has the rest of the space and uses the front door overlooking the garden.’

‘What about the studios? Are they kept locked?’

Matthew thought Jen would have asked about that, but it was worth checking. ‘Yes. Even though most of my work uses stuff that people are trying to get rid of, my tools cost a fortune. Nobody much finds their way here, but I wouldn’t take the risk. And Eve’s the same about her place. Some of her commissions take hours to make and her equipment is worth a bomb. Her dad bought the furnace as a twenty-first birthday present.’

Matthew thought that made sense. ‘Would Nigel have had a key?’

‘Yeah, almost certainly. He kept an eye on the place when Eve went away. She’s got uni mates in Exeter and spends weekends with them sometimes.’

‘Did you see Dr Yeo’s car in the yard when you arrived back from the party?’

Wes shook his head. ‘But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. We all park in the far corner so John can get his tractor through and that’s in shadow.’

Matthew would have liked to close his eyes now, to run through various scenarios. Nigel’s car had been found in the yard, so he’d driven here. Jen had said that he’d hardly had anything to drink at the party. Had he arranged to meet someone? Why here and not his home in Barnstaple? But a detective inspector couldn’t look as if he was sleeping in the middle of an interview, so he kept his eyes open and stood up.

‘I think that’s all we need for now. I’m sure we’ll have other questions.’

‘Of course. Come at any time.’

He seemed very relieved that they were leaving. Matthew wondered if that was because of the cannabis. Or because the man had something more important to hide.

Chapter Six

 

IN THE LOW, WHITE HOUSE BY the shore, Jonathan was enjoying a lazy Saturday morning. Matthew was at work; he’d been woken very early by his phone. Jonathan had got up too, made coffee for them both while Matthew showered, then as soon as he’d heard his husband’s car drive away down the toll road, Jonathan had gone back to bed. He’d woken again to full sunlight streaming through the open window, the long call of herring gulls and the sound of waves on the beach. Somewhere in the distance, a dog was barking. At this time of year Crow Point attracted lots of dog-walkers.

Now he was in the kitchen planning. The following day, Matthew’s mother would be coming for Sunday lunch. Such a simple event was fraught with difficulties. They’d invited her before, but she’d always refused. Too proud or too bigoted to meet her son’s husband. Or too anxious, Jonathan thought, about what her friends in the small, tight, uptight religious community to which she belonged might think. More worried about appearances than her son’s happiness. Matthew had grown up in the same community, and despite rejection, seemed not to have a strong sense of resentment against the Brethren. There was more a cold reluctance to engage, either with his former friends or with his mother. Tomorrow would be her birthday. Jonathan had issued the invitation in writing, in a card, and a small formal note of acceptance had been sent back. That was when he’d told Matthew what he’d done, and Matthew had been worried about it ever since. Matthew was a worrier in every situation. He’d rushed off to his murder scene this morning almost with a sense of relief. Work would be a distraction.

Jonathan would cook, of course. He loved cooking and sometimes had dreams of leaving the Woodyard and setting up a restaurant, something unpretentious and welcoming to celebrate local food. He knew he’d never do it, though. The Woodyard, the arts centre and community hub on the banks of the Taw, in Barnstaple, was his baby, his creation. He’d found the funds, set it up and from the magical opening evening, he’d managed it. Now, he couldn’t imagine life without it.

Lunch would have to be a roast, because it would be a Sunday and Dorothy Venn would expect it. She’d be traditional in her tastes. He’d never met her, but he thought he knew her. And a roast would make Matthew happy. Jonathan was almost entirely veggie these days, and because he did most of the cooking, so was Matthew, at home at least. A large slab of meat, a rib of beef perhaps, would be a treat. And it would give Jonathan the chance to show off his Yorkshire puddings. Afterwards there would be cake. A special birthday cake, still to be decided on. Something spectacular with a lot of whipped cream and the first strawberries from the garden.

He made more coffee and went outside to sit and drink it, lazing on the wrought-iron bench with its view of the estuary. He was wearing shorts and sandals, and the sun was already hot on his bare legs. He was writing a shopping list, planning his trip into town, when his mobile rang. It was one of the young craftspeople he’d encouraged to exhibit in the Woodyard when it had first opened and he was looking for the support of younger artists. Soon afterwards, Eve Yeo had become more than another work contact. They’d become friends when her mother was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, close to death. Eve had come into his office one day and burst into tears, spilled out her grief and her guilt and her rage. He’d comforted her and she’d come back a few weeks later with a jug made from cloudy blue glass with a clear twisted handle. ‘Just to say thank you.’ He’d gone to Helen Yeo’s funeral a fortnight later.

Now, Jonathan was pleased to hear from her. He was proud that she liked to keep in touch. He wasn’t quite old enough to be Eve’s father, but if he’d had a child, he’d have loved them to be someone like her: passionate, creative. He loved her energy and her dedication to her art.

‘Hi, Eve.’

‘Can I meet you?’

They got together occasionally on Saturday mornings for coffee in George Mackenzie’s bar in Instow, but plans for the meal were still at the forefront of his mind. He never liked to rush when he was creating.

‘Sure,’ he said easily. ‘One day next week?’

‘I was hoping you’d be able to see me today. Something rather dreadful has happened. I need to get away from Westacombe for a while.’

Only now could Jonathan tell how upset she was. She was just about holding it together. He didn’t want to pry over the phone, though. Eve had always been a private young woman. The only time he’d seen her break down was the time she’d cried in his office. Even at her mother’s funeral she’d been controlled, almost calm.

‘Of course,’ he said, thoughts of the meal forgotten. ‘Lunch at George’s, in the Sandpiper?’

There was a moment’s hesitation. ‘That’s still a bit close to home.’

‘I’m planning to go into Barnstaple anyway. Why dn’t we meet in the cafe in the Woodyard? It’s not too busy at the weekend.’

‘That would be perfect.’ He could sense her relief. ‘Half an hour?’

‘That might be a bit optimistic with the traffic,’ he said. ‘But yeah. I’ll get there as soon as I can.’

***

Once, the place had been a timber yard, putting together door and window frames and shipping them all over the country. When it had first become a part of Jonathan’s life, the yard had been derelict for years, the warehouses crumbling behind a high security chain fence. There had been plans to clear the empty buildings and replace them with a new retail park, but the shops on the high street were already struggling for survival, and Jonathan had seen the site’s potential. His vision had created the Woodyard, an arts centre with spaces for performance and exhibitions. It housed a community choir and a youth theatre, and a day centre for people with learning disabilities.

The cafe had a view over the river. The sliding doors to the terrace had been opened and most customers were sitting outside. Lucy Braddick, a woman with Down syndrome, who worked part-time as one of the waitresses, was clearing tables. She gave him a little wave and a huge smile. Eve was there before him. She’d chosen a table inside, in a corner, hidden by a pillar. As soon as he saw her, Jonathan could tell that she’d been crying. He gave her a hug; her shoulders were rigid, could have been formed from twisted wire.

They sat for a moment in silence. There was no need to ask her what was wrong. She’d tell him when she was ready. Staying quiet was one of the skills he’d learned from Matthew.

‘I think I met your husband today,’ she said at last. ‘You did tell me he’s called Matthew and that he works as a detective?’

‘Yes. He was called out to a case earlier this morning.’ This wasn’t at all what he was expecting.

‘He’s at Westacombe. At the farm.’ She looked up. ‘I only saw him briefly, but he seems very nice.’ Her voice was horribly controlled. ‘It was a woman who spoke to me.’

‘That will have been Jen. Jen Rafferty.’ She nodded. ‘Somebody killed my father,’ she said. ‘Stabbed him with a piece of my glass. I found him in my studio early this morning.’

‘Oh love.’ The shock seemed a little like a stab. It was as if the blood was draining from his face and he felt almost that he was about to faint. How must Eve have reacted to finding Yeo? To a horrific scene in the place where she was at her most creative? She was closer to her father than he’d ever been to either of his adoptive parents; he’d envied the relationship she and Nigel had shared. He pulled his chair closer to hers and held her in his arms again. He couldn’t believe that an hour earlier he’d been obsessing about the ingredients for Sunday lunch; that choosing the right menu had seemed the most important thing in the world. ‘Do you want to tell me what happened?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘That’s the worst thing. Not knowing what happened or why. It seems so random. Everybody liked my father; he was a good man. And yet, a piece of my glass killed him, caused all the blood. I know it’s irrational, but I feel somehow responsible.’

Jonathan didn’t know what to say. Usually words came easily to him. He held her hand for a moment. It felt tiny, the bones thin, like a small bird’s, and it fluttered, as if it were separate and alive.

At last, he spoke. ‘Matthew will find out. That’s what he does. It’s almost who he is.’

Gently, she pulled her hand away. ‘I should go back. I can’t run away forever.’

‘Do you want to come and stay with us for a while?’ The words came out on impulse.

She thought for a moment. ‘Not today,’ she said. ‘I need to be on my own now. But I might take you up on the offer. In a couple of days maybe.’

‘Anytime. Really, anytime.’

 

NEXT: Chapters 7-9

 

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