Chapter Sixteen

LYNLEY FOUND HIMSELF HUMMING IN THE SHOWER THE NEXT morning. The water coursed through his hair and down his back, and he was in the middle of the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty before he stopped abruptly and realised what he was doing. He felt swept up in guilt, but it lasted only a moment. What came on its heels was a memory of Helen, the first one he’d had since her death that made him smile. She’d been completely hopeless about music, aside from a single Mozart that she regularly and proudly recognised. When she’d heard The Sleeping Beauty in his company for the first time, she’d said, “Walt Disney! Tommy, darling, when on earth did you start listening to Walt Disney? That seems entirely unlike you.”

He’d looked at her blankly till he’d made the connection to the old cartoon, which he realised she must have seen while visiting her niece and nephew recently. He said solemnly, “Walt Disney stole it from Tchaikovsky, darling,” to which she replied, “He didn’t ever! Did Tchaikovsky write the words as well?” To which he had raised his head ceilingward and laughed.

She hadn’t been offended. That had never been Helen’s way. Instead, she’d lifted a hand to her lips and said, “I’ve done it again, haven’t I? You see, this is the reason I need to keep buying shoes. So many pairs end up in my mouth and my saliva ruins them.”

She was completely impossible, he thought. Engaging, lovely, maddening, hilarious. And wise. Always, at heart, wise in ways he would not have thought possible. Wise about him and wise about what was essential and important between them. He missed her in this moment, yet he celebrated her as well. In that, he felt a slight shift within him, the first that had occurred since her murder.

He returned to his humming as he toweled himself off. He was still humming, towel wrapped round his waist, when he opened the door.

And came face-to-face with DS Barbara Havers.

He said, “My God.”

Havers said, “I’ve been called worse.” She scratched her mop of badly cut and currently uncombed hair. “Are you always so chipper before breakfast, sir? Because if you are, this is the last time I’m sharing a bathroom with you.”

He could, for the moment, do nothing but stare, so unprepared was he for the sight of his former partner. She was wearing floppy sky blue socks in lieu of slippers and she had on pink flannel pyjamas printed everywhere with the image of vinyl records, musical notes, and the phrase “Love like yours is sure to come my way.” She seemed to realise he was examining her getup because she said, “Oh. A gift from Winston,” in apparent reference to it.

“Would that be the socks or the rest of it?”

“The rest. He saw this in a catalogue. He said he couldn’t resist.”

“I’ll need to speak to Sergeant Nkata about his impulse control.”

She chuckled. “I knew you’d love them if you ever saw them.”

“Havers, the word love does not do justice to my feelings.”

She nodded at the bathroom. “You finished your morning whatevers in there?”

He stepped aside. “Have at it.”

She passed him but paused before closing the door. “Tea?” she said. “Coffee?”

“Come to my room.”

He was ready for her when she arrived, dressed for her day. He himself was clothed and he’d made tea-he wasn’t desperate enough to face the provided coffee crystals-when she knocked on his door and said unnecessarily, “It’s me.”

He opened it to her. She looked round and said, “You demanded the more elegant accommodation, I see. I’ve got something that used to be the garret. I feel like Cinderella before the glass boot.”

He held up the tin teapot. She nodded and plopped herself onto his bed, which he’d made. She lifted the old chenille counterpane and inspected the job he’d done. “Hospital corners,” she noted. “Very nice, sir. Is that from Eton or somewhere else in your chequered past?”

“My mother,” he said. “Proper bed making and the correct use of table linens were at the heart of her child rearing. Should I add milk and sugar or do you want to do your own honours?”

“You can do it,” she said. “I like the idea of you waiting on me. This is a first, and it may be a last, so I think I’ll enjoy it.”

He handed her the doctored tea, poured his own, and joined her on the bed as there was no chair. He said, “What are you doing here, Havers?”

She gestured at the room with her teacup. “You invited me, didn’t you?”

“You know what I mean.”

She took a sip of tea. “You wanted information about Daidre Trahair.”

“Which you could easily have provided me on the phone.” He thought about this and recalled their conversation. “You were in your car when I phoned you on your mobile. Were you on your way down here?”

“I was.”

“Barbara…” He spoke in a fashion to warn her off: Stay out of my life.

She said, “Don’t flatter yourself, Superintendent.”

“Tommy. Or Thomas. Or whatever. But not superintendent.”

“‘Tommy’? ‘Thomas’? Not bloody likely. Are we fine with ‘sir’?” And when he shrugged, “Good. DI Hannaford has no MCIT blokes working the case for her. When she phoned the Met for your identification, she explained the situation. I got sent as a loan.”

“And that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Lynley looked at her evenly. Her face was a blank, an admirable poker face that might have duped someone who knew her less well than he did. “Am I actually meant to believe that, Barbara?”

“Sir, there’s nothing else to believe.”

They engaged in a stare down. But ultimately there was nothing to be gained. She’d worked with him too long to be intimidated by any implications that might hang upon silence. She said, “By the way, no one ever put your resignation through channels. As far as anyone’s concerned, you’re on compassionate leave. Indefinitely, if that’s what it takes.” She sipped her tea again. “Is that what it takes?”

Lynley looked away from her. Outside, a grey day was framed by the window, and a sprig of the ivy that climbed on this side of the building was blowing against the glass. “I don’t know,” he said. “I think I’m finished with it, Barbara.”

“They’ve posted the job. Not your old one but the one you were in when…You know. Webberly’s job: the detective superintendent’s position. John Stewart’s applying. Others as well. Some from outside and some from within. Stewart’s obviously got the inside track on it, and between you and me, that would be a disaster for everyone if he gets it.”

“It could be worse.”

“No, it couldn’t.” She put her hand on his arm. So rare a gesture it was that he had to look at her. “Come back, sir.”

“I don’t think I can.” He rose then, to distance himself not from her but from the idea of returning to New Scotland Yard. He said, “But why here, in the middle of nowhere? You could be staying in town, which makes far more sense if you’re working with Bea Hannaford.”

“I could ask the same of you, sir.”

“I was brought here the first night. It seemed easiest to stay. It was the closest place.”

“To what?”

“To where the body was found. And why are we turning this into an examination of me? What’s going on?”

“I’ve told you.”

“Not everything.” He studied her evenly. If she’d come to keep a watch over him, which was likely the case, Havers being Havers, there could be only one reason. “What did you learn about Daidre Trahair?” he asked her.

She nodded. “You see? You haven’t lost your touch.” She downed the rest of her tea and held out her cup. He poured her another and put in a packet of sugar and two of the thimbles of milk. She said nothing else until he’d handed the cup back and she’d taken a swig. “A family called Trahair are longtime residents of Falmouth, so that part of her story’s on the up-and-up. The dad sells tyres; he’s got his own company. The mum does mortgages for homes. No primary school records for a kid called Daidre, though. You were right about that. In some cases that might suggest she was sent off to school in the old way: booted out the door when she was five or whatever, home for half terms and the holidays but otherwise unseen and unheard till emerging from the great machine of proper”-she rolled the r to indicate her scorn-“education at eighteen or whatever.”

“Spare me the social commentary,” Lynley said.

“I speak purely from jealous rage, of course,” Havers said. “Nothing I would have liked better than to be packed off to boarding school directly after I learned to blow my nose.”

“Havers…”

“You haven’t lost that tone of martyred patience,” she noted. “C’n I smoke in here, by the way?”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“Just enquiring, sir.” She curved her palm around her teacup. “So while I reckon she could have gone off to primary school, it doesn’t seem likely to me because there she is in the local secondary comprehensive from the time she’s thirteen. Playing field hockey. Excelling at fencing. Singing in the school choir. Mezzo-soprano if that’s of interest.”

“And you’re rejecting the idea of earlier boarding school for what reason?”

“First of all, because it doesn’t make sense. I can see it done the reverse way: primary day school and then boarding school when she was twelve or thirteen. But boarding out through primary school and then returning home for secondary? This is a middle-class family. What middle-class family sends its kids off at that age and then has them back home when they’re thirteen?”

“It’s been known to happen. What’s the second of all?”

“The second of…? Oh. Second of all, there’s no record of her birth. Not a cracker, not a hint. Not in Falmouth, that is.”

Lynley considered the implications of this. He said, “She told me she was born at home.”

“The birth would still have to be registered within forty-two days. And if she was born at home, the midwife would have been there, yes?”

“If her father delivered her…?”

“Did she tell you that? If you and she were exchanging intimate details-”

He glanced at her sharply, but her face betrayed nothing.

“-then wouldn’t that have been an intriguing one to share? Mum doesn’t make it to the hospital for some reason: like it’s a dark and stormy night. Or the car breaks down. The electricity goes out. There’s a maniac loose in the streets. There’s been a military coup that history failed to record. There’s a curfew due to racial rioting. The Vikings, having missed the east coast entirely because you know how Vikings are when it comes to having a decent sense of direction, have emerged from a time warp to invade the south coast of England. Or maybe aliens. They might have landed. But whatever the reason, there they are at home with Mum in labour and Dad boiling water without knowing what he’s supposed to do with it but nature takes its course anyway and out pops a baby girl they call Daidre.” She placed her teacup on the narrow nightstand next to the bed. “Which still doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t have registered the birth.”

He said nothing.

“So there’s something she’s not telling you, sir. I’m wondering why.”

“Her story about the zoo checks out,” Lynley told her. “She is a large animal veterinarian. She does work for the Bristol Zoo.”

“I’ll give you that,” Havers said. “I went to the Trahairs’ house once I had a look through the birth registry. No one was at home, so I spoke to a neighbour. There’s a Daidre Trahair, definitely. She lives in Bristol and works at the zoo. But when I pressed a bit further for more information, the woman dummied up. It was just, ‘Dr. Trahair is a credit to her parents and a credit to herself and you write that down in that notebook of yours. And if you want to know more, I’ll need to speak to my solicitor first,’ before the door was shut in my face. Too many sodding cop dramas on telly,” she concluded darkly. “It’s killing our ability to intimidate.”

Lynley found he was struggling with a fact that disturbed him, and it was not a fact about Daidre Trahair. He said, “You went to the house? You spoke to a neighbour? Havers, this was supposed to be confidential. Did you not understand that?”

She frowned, drawing her eyebrows together. She used her teeth to pull on the inside of her lip and she observed him. He said nothing. Neither did she. From below them came the distant sound of pots and pans clanging as breakfast began to be sorted out at the Salthouse Inn.

Havers finally said, with some evident care, “These are background checks, sir. When it comes to murder, everyone involved has a background check. There’s nothing secret about that.”

“But not every background check is done by New Scotland Yard. And you identified yourself when you spoke to the neighbour. You showed your warrant card. You told her where you were from. Yes?”

“’Course.” Havers spoke carefully and this agitated Lynley: the idea that his former partner would use care with him, whatever her reason. “But I don’t see what that has to do with anything, sir. If you hadn’t come upon the body the way you did, have you thought of-”

Lynley cut in with, “It has everything to do with everything. She knows I work-once worked-for the Met. If the Met’s now investigating her…the Met and not the local police…Don’t you see what that will mean to her?”

“That p’rhaps you’re behind the investigation,” Havers said. “Well, you are behind it and with damn good reason. Sir, let me finish what I was saying. You know how this works. If you hadn’t come upon Santo Kerne’s body, the first person at the scene would have been Daidre Trahair. And you know the game on that one. I don’t have to tell you.”

“For God’s sake, she didn’t kill Santo Kerne. She didn’t show up to pretend she found the body. She came into her cottage and discovered me there and I took her to the body because she asked to see it. She said she was a doctor. She wanted to see if she could help him.”

“She could have done that for a dozen reasons and heading the list is the fact that it might have looked damn odd if she hadn’t done it.”

“She has absolutely no motive-”

“Okay. What if everything you’re claiming is true? What if she is who she says she is and it all checks out? What does it matter that she knows we’re looking into her story? That I’m looking into it? That you’re looking into it? That Father effing Christmas is looking into it? What does it matter?”

He blew out a breath. He knew part of the answer, but only part. He wasn’t willing to give it.

He drank down his tea. He longed for simplicity where there was none. He longed for answers that were yes or no instead of an infinite string of maybe.

The bed creaked as Havers rose. The floor creaked as she walked across it to stand behind him. She said, “If she knows we’re investigating her, she’s going to get nervous and that’s where we want her. That’s where we want them all, isn’t it? Nervous people betray themselves. Betrayal like that works in our favour.”

“I can’t see how openly investigating this woman-”

“Yes, you can. I know you can. You can and you do.” She touched him lightly, briefly, on the shoulder. Her voice was cautious but it was also gentle. “You’re…you’re in something of a state, sir, and that’s normal after what you’ve been through. Now, I wish this wasn’t a world where people took advantage of others when they’re susceptible, but you and I know what kind of world this is.”

The kindness in her voice shook him. It was the primary reason he’d avoided everyone since Helen’s burial. His friends, his associates, his colleagues, and finally his very family. He couldn’t bear their kindness and their unbounded compassion because it kept reminding him endlessly of the very thing he so desperately wanted to forget.

Havers said, “You’ve got to have a care. That’s all I’m saying. That and this: We have to look at her exactly like we’re looking at everyone else.”

“I know that,” he said.

“Knowing is one thing, Superintendent. Believing will always be something else.”

DAIDRE SAT ON A stool at the corner of the kitchen work top. Against a tin canister of lentils, she propped the postcard she’d bought in the honesty stall of St. Smithy’s Church on the previous afternoon. She studied the gipsy caravan and the countryside in which it sat, with a tired-looking horse munching grass nearby. Picturesque, she thought, a charming image of a time long gone. On occasion, one still saw these sorts of conveyances on a country lane in this part of the world. But now-with their pleasing curved roofs and gaily painted exteriors-they mainly served tourists who wanted to play briefly at Romany travelers.

When she’d gazed upon the postcard as long as she could without taking action, she left the house. She got into her car, reversed it onto the narrow lane to Polcare Cove, and drove forward down to the beach itself. Proximity to the beach reminded her of the previous night, which she would have preferred not to think about but which she ended up thinking about anyway: her slow walk back to the car with Thomas Lynley; his quiet voice talking about his dead wife; the darkness nearly complete so that, aside from distant lights coming from the houses and cottages above them on the cliff, she could barely see anything save his rather disturbing patrician profile.

Helen was her name and she’d come from a family not unlike his own. Daughter of an earl who had married an earl, moving easily in the world into which she’d been born. Filled with self-doubts, evidently-although Daidre found this piece of information about Helen Lynley difficult to believe-because of how she’d been educated. But at the same time extraordinarily kind, witty, amusing, companionable, fun loving. Gifted with the most admirable and desirable of human qualities.

Daidre couldn’t imagine his surviving the loss of such a woman and she couldn’t see how anyone could ever come to terms with this loss being precipitated by murder.

“Twelve years old,” he’d said. “No one knows why he shot her.”

“I’m so sorry,” she’d said. “She sounds perfectly lovely.”

“She was.”

Now, Daidre made the turn she always made, using Polcare Cove’s small car park to point her car in the direction that would take her out of the area. Behind her, she heard the breakers collapsing onto the toothy slate reef. Before her, she saw the sweep of the ancient valley and Stowe Wood above it, where the trees were coming into leaf. Very soon beneath them, bluebells would bloom, carpeting the woods with a colour that tossed in rhythmic undulations in the springtime breeze, like sapphire linen.

She made her way up and out of the cove. She followed the lanes in the crisscrossing pattern dictated by the lay of the land and its ownership. In this way, she came to the A39 and there she headed south. The drive she intended was an extended one. At St. Columb Road, she stopped for a coffee and decided to have a pain au chocolat at a bakery caf?. She spoke at length about guiltless chocolate consumption to the young man behind the till, and she went so far as to ask that he give her a receipt for her food and her drink, which she tucked into her wallet. One never knew when the police were going to require an alibi of one, she decided wryly. Best to keep records of one’s every movement. Best to make certain people along the way have a vivid memory of one’s visit to their establishment. As far as the pain au chocolat was concerned, what were a few unnecessary calories in the cause of substantiating a claim of innocence?

When she set off again, she gained the roundabout that took her onto the A30. From there, the distance wasn’t great, and the route was familiar. She skirted Redruth, recovered quickly from one wrong turn, and at last ended up at the junction of B3297 and a numberless lane that was signposted for the village of Carnkie.

This part of Cornwall was completely unlike the vicinity of Casvelyn. Here, Daidre parked her Vauxhall in the triangle of pebble-strewn weeds that served as a meeting point of the two roads, and she sat with her chin on her hands and her hands on the top of the steering wheel. She looked out at a landscape green with spring, rippling into the distance towards the sea, penetrated periodically by derelict towers similar to those one found in the Irish countryside, the domiciles of poets, hermits, and mystics. Here, however, the old towers represented what remained of Cornwall’s great mining industry: each of them an enormous engine house that sat atop a network of tunnels, pits, and caverns beneath the earth. These were the mines that once had produced tin and silver, copper and lead, arsenic and wolfram. Their engine houses had contained the machinery that kept the mine operational: pumping engines that rid the mines of water, and whims that hauled both the ore and the waste rock in bucketlike kibbles up to the surface.

Like gipsy caravans, the engine houses were the stuff of picture postcards now. But once they’d been the mainstay of people’s lives, as well as the symbol of so many people’s destruction. They stood all over the western part of Cornwall, and they existed in inordinate numbers particularly along much of the coast. Generally, they came in pairs: the tower of the mighty stone engine house rising three or four floors and roofless now, with narrow arched windows as small as possible to avoid weakening the overall structure, and next to it-often soaring above it-the smokestack, which had once belched grim clouds into the sky. Now both the engine house and the smokestack provided a nesting place for birds above and a hiding place for dormice below and, in the crannies and crevices of the structures, a growing place for herb Robert’s pert magenta flowers that tangled with yellow bursts of ragwort as red valerian rose above them.

Daidre saw all this at the same time as she did not see it. She found herself thinking of another place entirely, on the coast opposite the one towards which she now gazed.

It was near Lamorna Cove, he’d said. The house and the estate upon which the house sat were together called Howenstow. He’d said-with some evident embarrassment-that he had no idea where the name of the place had come from, and from this admission she’d concluded-incorrectly or not-his ease with the life into which he’d been born. For over two hundred and fifty years his family had occupied both the house and the land, and apparently there had never been a need for them to know anything more than the fact of its being theirs: a sprawling Jacobean structure into which some long-ago ancestor had married, the youngest son of a baron making a match with the only child-the daughter-of an earl.

“My mother could probably tell you everything about the old pile,” he’d said. “My sister as well. My brother and I…I’m afraid we’ve both rather let down the side when it comes to family history. Without Judith-that’s my sister-I’d likely not know the names of my own great-grandparents. And you?”

“I suppose I did have great-grandparents somewhere along the line,” she’d replied. “Unless, of course, I came like Venus via the half shell. But that’s not very likely, is it? I think I’d have remembered such a spectacular entry.”

So what was it like? she wondered. What was it like? She pictured his mother in a great gilded bed, servants on either side of her gently dabbing her face with handkerchiefs soaked in rose water as she laboured to bring forth a beloved son. Fireworks upon the announcement of an heir and tenant farmers tugging their forelocks and hoisting jugs of homebrew as the news went round. She knew the image was completely absurd, like Thomas Hardy meeting Monty Python, but stupidly, foolishly she could not let it go. So she finally cursed herself, and she scooped up the postcard she’d brought from her cottage. She got out of the car into the chilly breeze.

She found a suitable stone just on the verge of the B3297. The rock was light enough and not half buried, which made its removal easy. She carried it back to the triangular juncture of the road and the lane, and at the apex of this triangle she set the stone down. Then she tilted it and placed the postcard of the gipsy wagon beneath it. That done, she was ready to resume her journey.

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