Chapter Twenty

KERRA’S NIGHT HAD BEEN SLEEPLESS AND MUCH OF HER FOLLOWING day had been useless. She’d attempted to carry on as well as possible, keeping to a schedule of interviews that she’d set up in the preceding weeks: the search for potential instructors. She’d thought she could, at least, divert herself with the hopeful if unlikely pretence that Adventures Unlimited was actually going to open in the near future. The plan hadn’t worked.

This is it. That simple declaration, that coy little arrow from This is it to the great sea cave depicted on the postcard, the implication that conversations of a nature having nothing to do with business had passed between the writer of those words and the reader of those words, what lay behind, beneath, and beyond those conversations…These disquieting and turbulent thoughts had been the stuff of Kerra’s day and the sleepless night that had preceded it.

The postcard now had for some hours been burning a small rectangular patch against her skin from within the pocket where she’d stowed it. Each time she’d moved, she’d been aware of it, taunting her. She was going to have to do something about it, eventually. That dull burning told her as much.

Kerra hadn’t been able to avoid Alan, as she would have liked to do that day. The marketing office was not far from her own cubbyhole, and while she’d routinely taken prospective instructors to the first-floor lounge for their interviews rather than inside her cubbyhole, she’d greeted them in the vicinity of the marketing office. Alan had popped out more than once to observe her, and she wasn’t long in working out what his silent observation meant.

It was more than disapproval of her choice of candidates, all of them female. He’d made himself clear on that topic earlier, and Alan wasn’t the sort to keep pressing a point when someone was, in his opinion, being bloody-minded. Rather, his mute scrutiny of her told her that Busy Lizzie had mentioned Kerra’s visit to Pink Cottage. She’d likely told Alan about Kerra’s putative need to find a personal possession in Alan’s room, and he’d be wondering why Kerra herself hadn’t mentioned it. She had her answer ready had he cared to ask her, but he hadn’t asked.

She didn’t know where her father was. She’d seen him go out in the direction of St. Mevan Beach some hours ago, and as far as she knew he’d not returned. She’d reckoned at first he’d gone to watch the surfers, for the swells were good and the wind was offshore and she herself had seen a ragtag line of them working their way across the promontory. Had things been wildly different, her brother, Santo, might have been among them, lining up out there in the water to get into position. Her father might have been there as well. Her father and her brother together, as a matter of fact. But things were not different, and they never would be. That appeared to be the family’s curse.

And at the root of that curse: Dellen. It was as if all of them were wandering in a maze, trying to get to its mysterious centre, while all the time at its mysterious centre, Dellen waited, black-widow-like. The only way to elude her was to purge her, but it was far too late for that.

“Want something?”

Alan spoke. Kerra was in her office, where looking through a meagre stack of applicants was proving to be a dispiriting activity. She’d been working on sea kayaking, and she’d spoken to five possible instructors that day. Only two had the background she was looking for and, of them, only one had a physique suggestive of experience in the sea. The other looked like someone who kayaked on the River Avon, where the biggest challenge she faced would be taking care not to brain a cygnet with her paddle.

Kerra closed the last of the manila folders with their paltry bits of information. She wondered how best to answer Alan’s question. She was thinking it over-working on whether irony, sarcasm, or a display of wit was in her best interests-when he spoke again.

“Kerra? Want something? Cup of tea? Coffee? Something to eat? I’m going out for a bit, and I can stop-”

“No. Thanks.” She didn’t want to be beholden to him, even in so small a matter as this.

Instead, she examined him and he examined her. It was one of those moments when two individuals who have been lovers scrutinise each other like cultural anthropologists studying a tract of land for the remains of an ancient civilization long believed to have dwelt there. There should be marks, signs, indications of a passage…

“How does it go?” he asked.

She knew that he was well aware of how it went, but she played the game. “I’ve come up with several strong possibilities. I’m doing additional interviews tomorrow. But the real question is whether we’re actually going to open, isn’t it? We seem rather without direction, especially today. Have you seen my father?”

“Not for hours.”

“What about Cadan? Did he show up to work on the radiators?”

“Not sure. He may have done, but I haven’t seen him. It’s been rather quiet all the way round.”

He didn’t mention Dellen. On this day, she was as she had always been when things went bad: the great unmentionable. Just the thought of her-of Dellen the malodorous dead elephant in the room-reduced everyone to mute trepidation.

“What’ve you been…?” Kerra inclined her head towards his office. He seemed to take this as welcome, for he entered hers although this wasn’t what she’d intended. She wanted him at a distance. Things were, she’d decided, finished between them now.

He said, “I’ve been trying to get everyone in place for the video. Despite what’s happened, I do still think…” He pulled out a chair from its position between the office wall and the open door. When he sat, they were virtually knee to knee. Kerra didn’t like this. She didn’t want any kind of proximity to him. “This is important,” Alan said. “I want your dad to see that. I know the timing couldn’t be worse, but-”

“Not my mother?” Kerra inquired.

Alan blinked. He looked momentarily puzzled, perhaps by her tone. He said, “Your mum as well, but she’s already onboard, so your dad-”

“Oh. Is she?” Kerra said. “But then, I suppose she would be.” His embracing of her mother as a topic was surprising. Dellen’s opinion on anything had hardly ever counted, since she was incapable of consistency, so to hear someone counting it now came as something of a shock. Yet on the other hand, it did make sense. Alan worked with Dellen in marketing, on the rare occasions when Dellen actually worked at all, so they would have talked the video project through before he presented it to Kerra’s father. Alan would have wanted Dellen on his side: It meant one vote in the bag and a vote from someone who might have considerable influence with Ben Kerne.

Kerra wondered if Alan had talked to Santo as well. She wondered what Santo had made or would have made of Alan’s ideas for Adventures Unlimited.

“I’d like to talk to him again, but I haven’t actually seen…” Alan hesitated. Then he finally appeared to give in to his curiosity. He asked, “What’s going on? Do you know?”

“About what, exactly?” Kerra kept her voice polite.

“I heard them…Earlier in the day…I’d gone upstairs to look for…” His face was colouring.

Ah, she thought, were they there at last? “To look for?” Now she sounded arch. She liked that and wouldn’t have thought it was possible to manage arch when what she felt was anything but.

“I heard your mum and dad. Or rather your mum. She was…” He lowered his head. He appeared to be examining his shoes. These were two-tone saddle shoes, and Kerra regarded them as he did the same. What other man would wear saddle shoes? she wondered. And what on earth did it mean that he somehow managed to carry off wearing them without looking like Bertie Wooster? “I know things are bad,” he said. “I’m just not sure what I’m meant to be doing. At first I thought soldiering on was the ticket, but now it’s begun to seem inhuman. Your mum’s clearly in pieces, your dad’s-”

“How would you know about that?” The question came out precipitately. Kerra regretted it the moment she spoke.

“About what?” Alan looked confused. He’d been speaking meditatively, and her question appeared to have disrupted his chain of thought.

“About the pieces my mother is in?”

“As I said, I heard her. I’d gone up because no one was about and we’re at the point when we have to decide whether we’re still taking bookings or throwing the whole thing into the rubbish.”

“Concerned about that, are you?”

“Shouldn’t we all be?” He leaned back in his chair. He looked at her squarely. He folded his hands over his stomach, and he spoke again. “Why don’t you tell me, Kerra?”

“What?”

“I think you know.”

“And I think that’s a trap.”

“You were at Pink Cottage. You went through my room.”

“You’ve got a good landlady.”

“What else would you expect?”

“So I suppose you’re asking me what I was looking for?”

“You told her you left something; I assume you left something. But I can’t work out why you didn’t ask me to fetch it here for you.”

“I didn’t want you to bother.”

“Kerra.” Huge breath drawn in, huge breath expelled. He slapped his hands onto his knees. “What in God’s name is going on?”

“Excuse me?” She managed arch again. “My brother’s been murdered. Does something else need to be ‘going on’ for things not to be quite as you’d like them?”

“You know what I mean. There’s what happened to Santo and God knows that’s a nightmare. And a gut-ripping tragedy.”

“Nice of you to add that last bit.”

But there’s also what’s happened between you and me and that-whether you want to admit it or not-began the same day as what happened to Santo.”

“Murder happened to Santo,” Kerra said. “Why can’t you say that, Alan? Why can’t you say murder?”

“For the obvious reason. I don’t want you to feel worse than you already feel. I don’t want anyone to feel worse than they already feel.”

“Anyone?”

“Everyone. You. Your dad. Your mum. Kerra-”

She got to her feet. The postcard was singeing her skin. It begged to be withdrawn from her pocket and flung at him. This is it demanded an explanation. But the explanation already existed. Only the confrontation remained.

Kerra knew who needed to be on the other side of that confrontation, and it wasn’t Alan. She pardoned herself and she left her office. She used the stairs rather than the lift.

She entered her parents’ room without knocking, the postcard in her hand. At some point in the day the curtains had been opened, so dust motes swam in an oblong of weak spring sunlight. But no one had thought to open the window to refresh the rank air. It smelled of perspiration and sex.

Kerra hated the smell, for what it stated about her parents and the stranglehold one had upon the other. She walked across the room and shoved the window open as wide as she could get it to go. Cold air swept in.

When she turned, she saw that her parents’ bed was lumpy and the sheets were stained. A pile of her father’s clothes lay on the floor, as if his body had dissolved and left this trace of him behind. Dellen herself was not immediately evident, until Kerra walked round the bed and found her lying on the floor, atop a considerable pile of her own clothing. Red, this was, and it seemed to be every article of crimson that she possessed.

For only an instant as she gazed down upon her, Kerra felt renewed: a bulb’s single flower finally being released from both the soil and the stalk. But then her mother’s lips worked and her tongue appeared between them, French kissing the air. Her hand opened and closed. Her hips moved then rested. Her eyelids twitched. She sighed.

Seeing this, Kerra wondered for the first time what it was actually like to be this woman. But she didn’t want to entertain that thought, so she used her foot to flip her mother’s right leg roughly off her left leg. “Wake up,” she told her. “It’s time to talk.” She gazed at the postcard’s picture to gain the strength she needed. This is it her mother’s red writing said. Yes, Kerra thought. This was definitely it. “Wake up,” she said again, more loudly. “Get up from the floor.”

Dellen opened her eyes. For a moment she looked confused, until she saw Kerra. And then she pulled to her the garments nearest her right hand. She clutched these to her breasts and, in doing so, she uncovered a pair of shears and a carving knife. Kerra looked from these to her mother to the clothes. She saw that every item on the floor had been rendered useless through slashing, slicing, hacking, and cutting.

“I should have used them on myself,” Dellen said dully. “But I couldn’t. Still, wouldn’t you have been happy had I done it? You and your father? Happy? Oh God, I want to die. Why won’t anyone help me die?” She began to weep tearlessly and as she did so, she drew more and more of the clothing to her until she’d formed an enormous pillow of ruined clothes.

Kerra knew what she was meant to feel: guilt. She also knew what she was meant to do: forgive. Forgive and forgive until you were the incarnation of forgiveness. Understand until there was nothing left of you except that effort to understand.

“Help me.” Dellen extended her hand. Then she dropped it to the floor. The gesture was useless, virtually noiseless.

Kerra shoved the damning postcard back into her pocket. She grabbed her mother’s arm and hauled her upwards. She said, “Get up. You need to bathe.”

“I can’t,” Dellen said. “I’m sinking. I’ll be gone soon enough and long before I can…” And then a wily shift, perhaps reading from Kerra’s face a brittleness of which she needed to be wary. She said, “He threw out my pills. He had me this morning. Kerra, he…he as much as raped me. And then he…And then he…Then he threw out my pills.”

Kerra shut her eyes tight. She didn’t want to think about her parents’ marriage. She merely wanted to force the truth from her mother, but she needed to direct the course of that truth. “Up,” she said. “Come on. Come on. You’ve got to get up.”

“Why will no one listen to me? I can’t go on like this. Inside my mind is a pit so deep…Why won’t anyone help me? You? Your father? I want to die.”

Her mother was like a sack of sand and Kerra heaved her onto the bed. There Dellen lay. “I’ve lost my child.” Her voice was broken. “Why does no one begin to understand?”

“Everyone understands.” Kerra felt reduced inside, as if something were simultaneously squeezing her down and burning her up. Soon there would be nothing of her left. Only speaking would save her. “Everyone knows you’ve lost a child, because everyone else has lost Santo, too.”

“But his mother…only his mother, Kerra-”

“Please.” Something snapped within Kerra. She reached for Dellen and pulled her upright, forcing her to sit on the edge of the bed. “Stop the drama,” she said.

“Drama?” As so often had happened in the past, Dellen’s mood shifted, like an unanticipated seismic event. “You can call this drama?” she demanded. “Is that how you react to your own brother’s murder? What’s the matter with you? Have you no feelings? My God, Kerra. Whose daughter are you?”

“Yes,” Kerra said. “I expect you’ve asked yourself that question a number of times, haven’t you. Counting back the weeks and the months and wondering…Who does she look like? Who does she belong to? Who can I say fathered her and-this would be critical, wouldn’t it, Dellen?-will he believe me? Oh, p’rhaps if I look pathetic enough. Or pleased enough. Or happy enough. Or whatever it is that you look when you know you’ve got to explain some mess you’ve made.”

Dellen’s eyes had grown dark. She’d shrunk away from Kerra. She said, “How can you possibly say…?” and her hands rose to cover her face in a gesture that Kerra assumed was meant to be read as horror.

It was time. Kerra pulled the postcard from her pocket. She said, “Oh, stop it,” and she knocked her mother’s hands to one side and held the postcard to Dellen’s face. She put a hand on the back of her neck so Dellen could not remove herself from their conversation. She said, “Have a look at what I found. ‘This is it,’ Mum? ‘This is it’? What, exactly? What is ‘it’?”

“What are you talking about? Kerra, I don’t-”

“You don’t what? You don’t know what I’ve got in my hand? You don’t recognise the picture on this card? You don’t recognise your own bloody writing? Or is it this: You don’t know where this card even came from and if you do know-because we both damn well know that you know, all right?-then you just can’t imagine how it managed to get there. Which is it, Mum? Answer me. Which?”

“It’s nothing. It’s just a postcard, for heaven’s sake. You’re behaving like-”

“Like someone whose mother fucked the man she thought she was going to marry,” Kerra cried. “In this cave where you fucked the rest of them.”

“How can you possibly-”

“Because I know you. Because I’ve watched you. Because I’ve seen the story play out over and over. Dellen in need and who’s there to help her but a willing male of whatever age because it never bloody mattered to you, did it? Just that you had him, whoever he was and whoever he belonged to…because what you wanted and when you wanted it was more important than…” Kerra felt her hands begin shaking. She pressed the card to her mother’s face. “I should make you…God. God, I should make you…”

“No!” Dellen squirmed beneath her. “You’re mad.”

“Even Santo can’t stop you. Santo dead can’t stop you. I thought, ‘This will get through to her,’ but it didn’t, did it? Santo dead-my God, Santo murdered-didn’t make a ripple. Not the slightest diversion in what you planned.”

“No!”

Dellen began to fight her, clawing at her hands and her fingers now. She kicked and rolled to get away, but Kerra was too strong. So she began to scream.

You did this! You! You!” Dellen grabbed at her daughter’s hair and eyes. She pulled Kerra down. They rolled on the bed, seeking purchase among the mass of linens and covers. Their voices shrieked. Their arms flailed. Their legs kicked. Their hands grasped. They found. They lost. They grasped again, punching and pulling as Dellen shrieked, “You. You. You did it.”

The bedroom door crashed open. Footsteps hurried across the room. Kerra felt herself lifted and heard Alan’s voice in her ear.

“Easy,” he said. “Easy, easy. Jesus. Kerra, what’re you doing?”

“Make her tell you,” Dellen cried. She had fallen to her side on the bed. “Make her tell you everything. Make her tell you what she’s done to Santo. Make her tell you about him. Santo!”

One arm holding Kerra, Alan began moving towards the door.

“Let me go!” Kerra cried. “Make her tell the truth.”

“You come with me,” Alan told her instead. “It’s time that you and I had a real talk.”

BOTH OF THE CARS, similar to those that had been reported in the general area on the day of Santo Kerne’s death, were standing at one side of LiquidEarth when Bea and DS Havers pulled up at the erstwhile Royal Air Station. A quick glance through the window showed that Lew Angarrack’s RAV4 held a surfing kit along with a short board. Jago Reeth’s Defender held nothing as far as they could see. It was pitted with rust on the outside-the salt air was murder on any car in this part of the country-but otherwise it was as clean as was possible, which wasn’t very clean at all, considering the weather and the likelihood that he had to keep it parked outside. It did have floor mats and on both driver’s side and passenger’s side there was plenty of dried mud for their consideration. But mud was a hazard of life on the coast from late autumn through the end of spring, so its presence in the Defender didn’t count for as much as Bea would have liked.

Daidre Trahair being God-only-knew-where at this point, taking another jaunt over to the surfboard maker’s establishment had seemed the logical next move. Every lead needed to be followed up, and both Jago Reeth and Lewis Angarrack were eventually going to have to explain what they were doing in the general vicinity of Santo Kerne’s fall, no matter that Bea would have vastly preferred to have Daidre Trahair to the station for the thorough grilling she so richly deserved.

Bea had taken a call from Thomas Lynley on their way out to the old air station. He’d gone from Newquay to Zennor, and he was on his way to Pengelly Cove again. He might have something for her, he said. But that something required additional nosing round the area from which the Kerne family had sprung. He sounded unduly excited.

“And what about Dr. Trahair?” she had asked him sharply.

He hadn’t yet seen her, he said. But then, he hadn’t expected to. He hadn’t actually been keeping an eye open for her, as a matter of fact and if he was being honest. His mind had been on other things. This new situation with the Kernes-

Bea hadn’t wanted to hear about the Kernes, this new situation or otherwise. She didn’t trust Thomas Lynley, and this fact cheesed her off because she wanted to trust him. She needed to trust everyone involved in looking into the death of Santo Kerne, and the fact that she couldn’t made her cut him off abruptly. “Should you see our fair and gamboling Dr. Trahair along the way, you bring her to me,” she said. “Are we clear on that?”

They were clear on that, Lynley assured her.

“And if you’re intent on following up on the Kernes, then do keep in mind she’s part of Santo Kerne’s story as well.”

If the Angarrack girl was to be believed, he noted. Because a woman scorned…

“Oh yes. How true,” she’d declared impatiently, but Bea knew there was some truth in what he was saying: Madlyn Angarrack wasn’t looking any more unsoiled than the rest of them.

Inside LiquidEarth, Bea introduced DS Havers to Jago Reeth, who was sanding the rough edge of fiberglass and resin on one rail of a swallowtail board, which he’d stretched between two sawhorses. These were thickly padded to protect the board’s finish, and Jago was taking care to be gentle with his sanding. An enormous cupboard emanating warmth stood open at one side of the room with additional boards loaded within it, apparently awaiting his attention. LiquidEarth seemed to be having a profitable preseason, and business was continuing to boom, if the noise from the shaping room was anything to go by.

As before, Jago wore a disposable white boiler suit. It masked a lot of the dust that covered his body but none of the dust that covered his hair and his face. Any exposed part of him was white, even his fingers, and his cuticles formed ten Cheshire smiles at the base of his nails.

Jago Reeth asked Bea if she wanted Lew or himself this time round. She said she wanted them both but her conversation with Mr. Angarrack could wait a bit, so as to allow her to talk to Jago alone.

The old bloke didn’t appear disconcerted by the idea of the police wanting to talk to him, alone or otherwise. He did say he thought he’d told them all he knew about the Santo-and-Madlyn affair, but Bea informed him pleasantly that she generally liked to make that determination herself. He gave her a look, but he made no comment other than to tell her he would go on with his sanding if that wasn’t a problem.

It wasn’t, Bea assured him. As she spoke, the noise from the shaping room died. Bea thought Lew Angarrack would join them, then, but he remained within.

She asked Jago Reeth what he could tell her about his Defender being in the vicinity of Santo Kerne’s fall on the day of his death. As she spoke, DS Havers did her bit with notebook and pencil.

Jago stopped sanding, glanced at Havers, then cocked his head as if he was evaluating Bea’s question. “Vicinity?” he asked. “Of Polcare Cove? Not hardly, I don’t reckon.”

“Your car was seen in Alsperyl,” Bea told him.

“You count that as near? Alsperyl might be near like the crow flies, but it’s miles and miles by car.”

“A walk along the cliffs would take you from Alsperyl to Polcare Cove easily enough, Mr. Reeth. Even at your age.”

“Seen on the cliff top, was I?”

“I’m not saying you were. But the fact of your Defender being even remotely in the area where Santo Kerne met his death…You can understand my curiosity, I hope.”

“Hedra’s Hut,” he said.

“Who’s what?” Sergeant Havers asked the question. Her expression said she thought the term was some sort of expletive peculiar to Cornwall.

“Old wooden shack built into the cliffs,” Jago explained to her. “That’s where I was.”

“May I ask what you were doing there?” Bea said.

Jago seemed to consider the propriety either of her questions or of giving an answer. “Private matter,” he finally said. He applied himself to his sanding again.

“I’ll have to be the one making that decision,” Bea told him.

The door of the shaping room opened and Lew Angarrack came out. As before, he was attired as Jago was, and he had a breathing mask and eyewear slung round his neck. A circular section of skin round his eyes, mouth, and nose looked oddly pink against the white of the rest of him. He and Jago Reeth exchanged an unreadable look.

“Ah. You were in the vicinity of Polcare Cove as well, Mr. Angarrack,” Bea noted in a welcoming manner. She clocked the surprise on Jago Reeth’s face.

“When was this?” Angarrack removed the breathing mask and goggles from round his neck and set them on top of the surfboard that Jago was sanding.

“On the day of Santo Kerne’s fall. Or perhaps better stated, on the day of Santo Kerne’s murder. What were you doing there?”

“I wasn’t there,” he said. “Not in Polcare Cove.”

“I said in the vicinity.”

“Then you’re speaking of Buck’s Haven, which I suppose is arguably in the vicinity. I was surfing.”

A quick look went from Jago to Lew Angarrack. The latter man didn’t seem to notice it.

Bea said, “Surfing? And if I go back to have a look at those charts you lot use…What do you call them?”

“Isobar. And yes, if you go back and have a look you’ll see the swells were rubbish, the wind was wrong, and there was no point at all to going out.”

“So why did you?” DS Havers asked.

“I wanted to think. The sea’s always been the best place for me to do that. If I caught a few waves as well, that’d be a bonus. But catching waves wasn’t why I was there.”

“You were thinking about what?”

“Marriage,” he said.

“Yours?”

“I’m divorced. Years ago. The woman I’ve been seeing…” He shifted his weight. He looked like a man who’d had any number of sleepless nights, and Bea wondered how many she could realistically ascribe to a gentleman’s quandary about his marital state. “We’ve been together a few years. She wants to get married. I prefer things as they are. Or with a few changes.”

“What sort of changes?”

“What the hell difference does that make to you? It’s a case of been there, done that for both of us but she won’t see it that way.”

Jago Reeth made a noise, cousin to a snort. It seemed to indicate that he and Lew Angarrack were at one on this topic. He went on with his sanding, and Lew gave a look to what he was doing. He nodded as he ran his fingers along the part of the rail that Jago had already seen to.

“So you were…what?” Bea asked the surfer. “Bobbing in the waves, trying to decide whether to marry her or not?”

“No. I’d already decided that.”

“And your decision was…?”

He stepped away from the sawhorses and the board that Jago was working on. “I don’t see what that question has to do with anything. So let me get us to the point. If Santo Kerne fell from the cliff, he was either pushed or his climbing gear failed. Since my car was some distance away from Polcare Cove and since I was on the water, I couldn’t have pushed him, which leaves his equipment failing in some way. So I expect what you really want to know is who had access to his equipment. Have I got us there a bit quicker by using the direct route, Inspector Hannaford?”

“I find there’re usually half a dozen routes to the truth,” Bea told him. “But you can travel this one, if you’ve a mind to.”

“I had no idea where he kept his equipment,” Angarrack told her. “I still don’t know. I’d assume he kept his climbing kit at home.”

“It was in his car.”

“Well, of course it would have been on that day, wouldn’t it?” he demanded. “He’d gone for a bloody climb, woman.”

“Lew…Just doing her job.” Jago spoke soothingly before he said to Bea, “I had access, if it comes down to it. Knowledge as well. The boy and his father had one run-in too many-”

“Over what?” Bea interrupted.

Jago Reeth and Angarrack exchanged a look. Bea saw this and repeated her question.

“Over anything,” was Jago’s reply. “They didn’t see eye to eye on much, and Santo removed his kit from the premises. Bit of an I’ll-show-you gesture, if you know what I mean.”

“‘I’ll show you’ what, exactly, Mr. Reeth?”

“I’ll show you…whatever boys think they got to show their dads.”

This answer hardly satisfied. Bea said, “If you know something pertinent-either of you-I’ll have it, please.”

Another look between them, this one longer. Jago said to Lew, “Mate…You know it’s not my place.”

“He made Madlyn pregnant,” Lew said abruptly. “And he had no intention of doing anything at all about it.”

Next to her, Bea felt DS Havers stir, itching to get involved but restraining herself. For her part, Bea had to wonder at the information’s being delivered so perfunctorily by the man who’d have had the most reason to do something about it.

“’Cording to Santo, his dad wanted him to do right by Madlyn,” Jago said. Then he added, “Sorry, Lew. I did still talk to the boy. Seemed the best, what with the baby coming.”

“Your daughter didn’t terminate the pregnancy, then?” Bea asked Angarrack.

“She intended to keep it…the child.”

“Intended?” DS Havers asked. “Past tense meaning…?”

“Miscarriage.”

“When did all this happen?” Bea asked.

“Miscarriage? At the beginning of April.”

“According to her, she’d already ended their relationship by then. So she’d done that in the midst of her pregnancy.”

“That would be correct.”

Bea glanced at Havers. The sergeant’s lips were rounded to an o, which was likely short for oh boy. They were on a most interesting track.

“How did you feel about this, Mr. Angarrack? And you as well, Mr. Reeth, since you’d taken such care to see the boy was supplied with condoms.”

“I didn’t feel good,” Angarrack said. “But if doing right by Madlyn was going to mean they’d marry, I was happier they were apart, believe me. I didn’t want her marrying him. They were only eighteen and besides…” He gestured away the rest of what he was going to say.

“Besides?” Havers prompted him.

“He’d shown his colours. He was a little sod. I didn’t want the girl involved with him any longer.”

“D’you mean he wanted her to abort?”

“I mean he didn’t care one way or another what she did, according to Madlyn. Which, apparently, was his style. Only she didn’t know that at first. Well, none of us did.”

“Must have made you frantic when you found out.”

“So did I kill him in my frantic state?” Lew asked. “Hardly. I had no reason to kill him.”

“Ill use of your daughter being insufficient reason?” Bea asked.

“It was over and done with. She was…She is recovering.” And he added, with a look at Jago, “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Slow process,” was Jago’s reply.

“Made easier if Santo was dead, I daresay,” Bea pointed out.

“I’ve told you. I didn’t know where he kept his equipment, and had I known-”

“I knew,” Jago Reeth cut in. “Santo’s dad kept trying to sort him, see, after Madlyn came up pregnant. Like I said before, they rowed. Part of the row was that act-like-a-man-for-once challenge dads give their sons sometimes, and for Santo, it’s easier to apply acting like a man to something other than act-like-the-proper-father-of a-baby-that’s-coming. So he takes his climbing kit to do just that. ’Nstead of, ‘You want me to stand by Madlyn, I’ll stand by Madlyn,’ it was easier to have it, ‘You’d rather I climb cliffs than surf? Then I’ll climb. I’ll show you a real cliff climber, come down to it.’ Then off he went to climb. Now. Then. Whenever. He kept his kit in the boot of his car. I knew it was there.”

“May I assume that Madlyn knew as well?”

“She was with me,” Jago said. “The two of us had gone to Asperyl. We made the walk out to Hedra’s Hut. There was something inside she wanted to be rid of. It was the last thing that tied her to Santo Kerne.”

Aside from Santo himself, Bea thought. She said, “And what would this be?”

Jago set his sanding block gently on the deck of the surfboard. He said, “Look, she fell dead hard for Santo. He was-pardon, Lew, no dad likes to hear this-he was her first in bed. When things ended with them, she was in a bad way about it. And then came the matter of losing that baby. She was having trouble getting past it all, and who wouldn’t. So I told her to get rid of everything Santo, start to finish. She’d done that but there was this one last bit, so that’s what we were doing there. They’d carved their initials in the hut. Stupid kid stuff, with a heart and everything, if you c’n believe it. We went there to destroy it. Not the hut, mind you. It’s been there…Christ, what? A hundred years? We didn’t want to hurt the hut. Just the initials. We left the heart as it was.”

“Why not carry all this to the logical end?” Bea asked him.

“Which would be what?”

“The obvious, Mr. Reeth,” Havers put in. “Why not give Santo Kerne the chop as well?”

Lew Angarrack said hotly, “You hang on just a God damn minute-”

Bea cut him off. “Is she a jealous girl? Has she a history of striking back when she’s hurt? Either of you can answer, by the way.”

“If you’re trying to say-”

“I’m trying to get to the truth, Mr. Angarrack. Did Madlyn tell you-or you, Mr. Reeth-that Santo was seeing someone else in the midst of all this? And I do use seeing as a euphemism, by the way. He was shagging one of the older women hereabouts at the same time as he was shagging and impregnating your daughter. She’s told us as much, at least the shagging part. Well, she had to, as we’ve caught her in more than one lie so far and I’m afraid she’d lied herself into a brick wall. As things turn out, she’d followed the boy and there they were in this woman’s home, the virile, energetic, and young white ram enthusiastically tupping the ageing ewe. Did you know about this? Did you, Mr. Reeth?”

Lew Angarrack said, “No. No.” His drove his hand through his greying hair, dislodging a sand fall of polystyrene dust. “I’ve been caught up in my own affairs…I knew she and the boy were done for, and I thought that with time…Madlyn’s always been edgy. I’ve long thought it was due to her mum and the fact she left us and the fact that Madlyn doesn’t cope well with being left. Well, that seemed natural enough to me, and she always got past it in the end if something died between herself and someone else. I believed she’d get past this as well, even past the loss of the baby. So when she was as…as disturbed as she was, I did what I could, or what I thought I could to help her through it.”

“Which was?”

“I sacked the boy, and I encouraged her to get back to her surfing. Get back in shape. Get back on the circuit. I told her no one goes through life without getting their heart broken into bits, but people recover.”

“Like you had?” Havers asked.

“If it comes to it, yes.”

“And what did you know of this other woman?” Bea asked him.

“Nothing. Madlyn never said…I knew nothing.”

“You, Mr. Reeth?”

Jago picked up his block and examined it. He nodded slowly. “She told me. She wanted me to have a word with the boy. I s’pose it was to try to set him straight. But I told her it wouldn’t do much good. That age? A boy i’n’t thinking with his brain, and didn’t she see that? I tell her there’s lots of fish in the sea, like they say. I say, Let’s be rid of this sorry piece of business, girl, and get on with our lives. It’s the only way.”

He didn’t seem to realise what he had just said. Bea eyed him carefully. She could tell that Havers was doing the same. Bea said, “Irregular is the term that’s been used for what Santo was up to on the side while he was seeing Madlyn, and Santo himself was the one to use it. He was advised to be honest about it, about the irregular bit. He may have been, but he apparently wasn’t with Madlyn. Was he honest with you, Mr. Reeth? You appear to have something of a touch with young people.”

“I only knew what our Madlyn knew,” Jago Reeth said. “Irregular, you say? That was the word was used?”

“Irregular, yes. Irregular enough for him to ask advice about it.”

“Having it on with an older woman might’ve been irregular enough,” Lew noted.

“But enough to seek advice about it?” Bea asked, more to herself than to them.

“S’pose,” Jago said, “it depends on who the woman was, eh? It always comes down to that in the end.”

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