26

Melrose was flooded with relief.

Trying to break the sound barrier, the motorcycle ripped up the rocky road and came spitting to a halt in the gravel outside of the drawing room. The room itself vibrated and the gray cat went rolling off the sill when Malcolm threw open the casements, leaned out, and shouted something lost in the January night.

Music in the form of a death-beat of drums that sounded like a funeral dirge came with her through the door.

Ellen came pounding down the hall, threw open the door, and stopped there, with the sort of portable stereo propped on her shoulder that Melrose had seen being carted about Piccadilly by gangs of thugs. Now a voice had joined the drum-bass-beat which seemed surprisingly inappropriate for the background havoc: it was grainy but soft:

Caroline says

as she gets up off the floor

“Hi,” said Ellen, in a general salute and with a particular look at Jury. She had not changed her clothes, although she wore different earrings: they were long overlapped triangles of dull black that looked heavy enough to anchor a small boat. There also seemed to be a different layering of chains around her neck.

life is meant to be more than this

and this is a bum trip

sang the mournful voice raised now against the dirge of drums and guitars.

Ellen turned the volume down, and handed the set to Melrose, general dogsbody, before she turned to Jury, who had risen from the sofa and was introducing himself as a friend of Mr. Plant.

Melrose sighed. He set the stereo on one bookcase shelf and leaned against the row of John D. MacDonalds.

but she’s not

afraid to die

all of her friends call her A-las-ka

He was getting interested in Caroline, who appeared to be mainlining drugs.

when she takes speed,

they laugh and ask her

“… one of the funniest books I’ve ever read,” Jury was saying to Ellen.

It was the first time Melrose had seen Ellen Taylor lose her cool. She gaped. “Are you saying you’ve actually read Sauvage Savant?”

“Not all of it…”

How, wondered Melrose, had he read any of it? He hadn’t even heard of the girl until yesterday. Were they selling her books at Haworth parsonage?

Melrose turned up the volume on the stereo. There was the sound of tinkling glass. Caroline had thrust her hand through a window-

it’s so cold in A-las-ka

The voice suddenly blared.

“How about turning that off,” Jury called over, “and joining us?”

The two of them were sitting on the sofa, comfy as long-lost friends.

Afraid that he might never know Caroline’s fate, he turned the volume down, but not off.

it’s so cold in A-las-ka

Caroline should have a go at West Yorkshire, he thought, as he took the wing chair George Poges had vacated, trying to bury the stereo between himself and the chair arm.

“… ‘hot’?” Jury was asking. “Does that mean successful? Or absolutely famous?”

She was certainly overworking that word, he thought grumpily, twisting the volume up just a mite. The song had changed; things were getting worse, apparently. They were taking Caroline’s children away.

because they said she was not a good mother

“Good question.” Ellen half-smiled. “To tell the truth, it probably does mean famous, but only in the Warholian sense…”

Dickensian, Shavian, Warholian. Well, thought Melrose, perhaps one could turn anyone into an adjective these days. He was beginning to feel extremely Carolinian.

“Andy Warhol?” Jury laughed. “Don’t be modest-“

No danger of that, thought Melrose. “Fame,” he said, and they both looked at him. “It’s just as well, perhaps, you’re not famous.” He looked up at the ceiling moldings. “It comes from fama, you know.” How sententious could one sound? “Do you know what that means?” They were silent. “Ill-report. Rumor.” He smiled slightingly. “Better to stay away from it.” Melrose returned his attention to the stereo.

because of the things she did in the streets in the alleys and bars

Anyone can make a mistake.

“You’re right, I guess. The old bitch-goddess, success.”

She sighed.

“You’ve been biking around England, have you?”

“Umm. On a BMW. Picked it up in London.”

“It’s a K-100 RS. Ninety horsepower. Pretty powerful.” Good grief, thought Melrose, could the man see through walls?

Surprised, she said, “Yeah. Very.”

A bum trip, thought Melrose, definitely.

that miserable, rotten slut

So Caroline was… well, “loose.” Melrose wrapped his arm protectively around the stereo. The gray cat swayed over and sat at his feet, blinking up at his benefactor. At least, thought Melrose-part of his mind still studying Jury studying Ellen-I inspire awe in some living creature. The gray cat yawned and walked away.

“You weren’t around to talk to the Yorkshire police,” said Jury, lighting her cigarette.

Ellen hitched an old footstool over with her foot and propped her heavy laced-up shoes on it as she exhaled a bale of smoke. “You know why?” She looked at Jury through lowered lashes.

“Can’t imagine.”

Melrose sighed.

“Because I didn’t know they were here.” She flattened her head against the sofa, blew three smoke rings toward the ceiling.

When Jury gave him a look, Melrose turned down the volume, but just a mite. The dreadful, sleazy, heartrending story of Caroline and her lover or husband was too gripping. He knew the questions Jury would ask.

Who was he kidding? No he didn’t. His stomach turned over.

“Where were you, then?” Jury smiled. Melrose glowered.

“Harrogate.”

What?” Melrose nearly pushed Malcolm’s stereo off the chair.

Ellen raised her eyebrows. “Har-ro-gate.” She rounded the syllables as if she were teaching first form. “It’s famous. The spa, et cetera.”

“That’s a distance,” said Jury, “on a motorcycle.”

She slapped her forehead dramatically. “My God, I just saidI ran it all the way from London. So what’s Harrogate to that? Fifty, sixty miles. Nice place. Did you know they made Agatha-“

“Yes,” Melrose snapped as the drums and bass got slower and heavier.

“Miss Taylor-“

She sort of leaned her shoulder toward Jury. “Ellen.”

“Ellen. What exact route did you take, then?” He smiled.

She stubbed out her cigarette and stuffed her hands in her jeans pockets. “You know something? You sound like a cop. I’m calling the embassy.”

“Good idea,” said Melrose.

Jury ignored both of them and pulled the map out again. “Let’s see, now. Did you come by way of Ilkley?”

Ellen had turned her head toward the window, intent upon the distant hills and dark gray horizon. She stuffed a stick of gum in her mouth and looked at the map.

This, thought Melrose, discomfort rising in him like bile, was beginning to sound too much like the scene with Major Poges.

She shrugged. “Dunno. Probably around here-” Her finger punched at a place on the map.

Jury handed her the pencil.

Melrose felt a frisson of fear. He watched her, sitting there chewing her gum with her feet propped up, running the pencil across the paper as if she were doing nothing more serious than a kiddie joining dots. Melrose wanted to see the map, but he felt fettered to the chair and to the depressing song.

I am the waterboy

the real game’s

not oh-vah here

Handing the map back to Jury, she put her hands behind her head. “You dig Lou?”

His gaze on the mantle of clouds beyond the window, he heard her, but it was a moment before he realized Ellen was addressing him, not Jury.

“What?”

“Lou Reed.”

He turned off the stereo; he’d have to leave the two of them to their wretched fate. Getting up, Melrose felt a stiffness in his joints, as if he were a recent accident victim.

“What is this tape?”

“Berlin.”

“East? No wonder.”

Irritably, he moved to the window near the sofa, where he half-sat on the windowsill. He watched her mouth purse; she blew a pink balloon of gum in his direction until it smacked back against her face.

His eyes still on the map, Jury put out his hand to Ellen: “Mind if I have a stick of that gum? I’m all out.”

Melrose had never known him to be all in, where chewing gum was concerned.

Ellen shrugged. “Sure.” She pushed out a stick, which Jury took and put in his pocket. “Thanks.”

Little tricks, little tricks, thought Melrose… just Jury’s police tactics to raise her anxiety level and make her squirm. The suspect, however, was simply sitting there in a sloppy heap and making circles with her thumbs. She yawned like the cat. Yawned? A womanyawning around

Richard Jury? He squinted out the window. Were the stars all in place?

“How’s Abby taking all this?”

“Very stoically.” Jury turned the map around.

“She’s one cool kid.”

Jury turned the map back. “I agree. One cool kid.”

Ellen’s head snapped round. “You mean you talked to her?”

“That’s right.”

Melrose was getting nervous again. He left the window and sat on the arm of the cabbage-rose chair. Between the arm and the cushion was a bright card. He plucked it out. The Hanged Man. He stuffed it back.

“Well, but is there some big secret, or something?” Her voice deepened dramatically, exaggerating the words.

“Uh-uh.”

“I mean, did she say I stuffed her in a snowdrift or tossed her over a wall and then went off she knew not where?”

“Uh-uh.”

“Stop saying that!” Her long earrings clicked and clinked when she stood up, pressing her fingers against her breasts. “You think I was involved? Moi?”

Melrose said from under the tent of his hand, “Oh, shut up, for God’s sakes; stop being dramatic; and you’re talking to a fiendishly clever policeman.”

“Clever,” said Jury. “But fiendishly? You don’t have to hang around, Ellen.”

Thought you were a cop.”

But she seemed unwilling to go. Now her fingers were spread against her buttocks, thumbs jammed into rear pockets.

It was, Melrose thought, irritated with himself, a very sexy pose. Although with all of that black leather and those nerve-jangling chains, he couldn’t see why. For Vivian Rivington, it had always been twin-sets, good wool, or some Italian designer. He shook himself. Jury was handing him the map.

Melrose looked at it, at the line George Poges had drawn across Keighley Moor, at the Oakworth Road and the Grouse Inn. He looked at Ellen’s own line. He looked at Jury.

Ellen turned from one to the other. “You two going to communicate by semaphore?”

Jury smiled. “You’re free to go.”

” Free to go.’ You guys actually say stuff like that?” Wearily, she shook her head and picked up the stereo. “Shit. I’m going upstairs and put on a little Trane.”

***

“Dinner?” asked Melrose. They were standing in the courtyard, shoulders shrugged up against the cold.

“Afraid not. I’ve got to get back to London.” Jury was facing the barn. At the bottom of the drawn curtain over the small window he could see a ragged edge of light. “Perhaps you should take your friend Ellen to dinner.”

“All of that business about the route, Ilkley, Harrogate. You don’t really think she was out on that moor… you know.”.

“Did I say that?”

“You meant that.”

Jury turned up his coat collar and smiled. “Tell her I love her.”

“The hell I will.” Melrose’s footsteps crunched across the broken shale as he turned and started back toward the house.

Jury walked to the door of the barn, took out one of his cards, folded it lengthwise twice, and wedged it in between the outside wrapper and the silver that covered the stick of gum Ellen Taylor had given him.

He knelt and shoved it under the door.

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