The Deadliest Fall
Some truths can’t be left buried.
The second world war may be over, but for Leslie Cadmore the scars remain. His beloved dog died, there’s a rift between him and his lover Patrick, and his father inexplicably abandoned the family for life in a monastery. Fate’s been cruel.
A chance meeting with Patrick’s sister stirs old memories, and Leslie starts to dig into both his father’s motives and long-unanswered questions around the death of Fergus Jackson. The worst of a group of disreputable pre-war friends, Fergus was a manipulative rake who allegedly fell on his own knife in a training accident. An accident for which Patrick was apparently the only witness.
Leslie’s persuaded to meet Patrick again, and the pair easily fall back into their old dynamic. They uncover connection after surprising connection between their hedonistic old friends and not only Fergus’s murder, but Mr. Cadmore’s abrupt departure. As their investigation deepens, Leslie and Patrick’s bond deepens too. But no reconciliation can occur until Leslie knows for sure that his erstwhile lover wasn’t Fergus’s killer.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:
Child Abuse (references)
Drug Use (references)
Explicit Violence (references)
Sexual Assault (references)
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Themes: abandonment, abuse, angst, atonement, commitment, duty, family, first love, history, military, patriotism, Patriotism, pets, pining / UST, politics / power struggle, protection, religion, self-discovery / self-reflection, trust issues
“Come back, you menace!” Leslie Cadmore broke into a run, but his dog was fleeter of foot than him and absolutely determined, it appeared, to stay at a distance from him. He shouldn’t have let the hound off the lead, although wasn’t it easy to be wise after the event? “Max! To heel.”
Leslie might as well have tried to catch the wind in his cap. The black Labrador was evidently under the impression that this was an incredibly enjoyable game, given the way he repeatedly looked back to encourage him to come closer, before setting off again. Thank God the common was wide, provided good visibility and was always kept clear of livestock at this time of year.
“Max! If you don’t come here, so help me, I’ll—” He never managed to finish the threat, a pair of young women having come into sight. They’d rounded a stand of trees and would soon be within earshot. Damn it.
The dog, still capering about, spotted the newcomers and made for them, slowing to a respectable trot and no doubt putting on his most friendly expression, the devious little sod. The swing of his tail gave every indication of a happy, amenable hound.
“You swine,” Leslie muttered, annoyed that the women had clearly worked the kind of magic he couldn’t, although grateful that Max’s interest in making new friends might allow him to be put back on the lead.
By the time Leslie reached them, Max had transformed into the most well-behaved pet a man could wish to own, sitting compliantly at the women’s feet and letting himself be stroked.
“I’m so sorry.” Leslie raised his cap. “He’s such a pest. Oh.” He paused, breaking into a grin and holding out his hand towards the taller of the women. “I didn’t recognise you, Marianne. How lovely to see you again.”
Marianne warmly clasped his hand in both of hers. “I thought it was you, Leslie, although this fellow made me think I had to be mistaken. Where’s Towser?”
“Gone to his long home, I’m afraid. Four years ago.” He turned to the other woman, who was owed an explanation. “He was my retriever, Miss . . .?”
“Geraldine Simpson.” Marianne’s friend extended her hand. “So pleased to meet you. I’ve heard about Towser already and the fun you all used to have walking him on the common, although Marianne told me less about his owner.”
“She would.” Marianne Sibley had always given the outward impression she was fonder of Towser than she’d been of him, although for a while Leslie had suspected that had borne an element of subterfuge. “I’m far less interesting than my dogs. Leslie Cadmore, late of this parish and a very old friend of the family Sibley.”
“Your mother still lives here, I believe?” Geraldine made such a contrast to Marianne. Compact where her friend was willowy; cheery faced where Marianne always seemed so cool and aloof; brightly dressed in contrast to the autumnal shades the other young woman had always favoured. Leslie had valued his friend’s calmness in those younger days and how different she was to many of the local young women.
“Mother does live here,” he replied. “In Larkspur House, where I was born and grew up. Marianne knows the place well. Do you remember the tennis parties?”
“I do. Towser always had to be tied up, poor lamb, because he wanted to join in. I hope this chap is better behaved.” Marianne bent to pat Max, who was wearing a saintly expression.
“He’s an absolute scoundrel, although I couldn’t guess how he’d conduct himself at a tennis match, as he’s never had the opportunity to experience one. He’s a town dog, Miss Simpson, so doesn’t know country manners.” Strange, though, that Marianne wasn’t aware of what had happened to Max’s predecessor, because Leslie would have expected her and his mother to pass the time of day on occasions. Had the Sibleys also moved away—his mother hadn’t mentioned it, if so—or was there something else that had prevented the doings of Leslie Cadmore being passed on to her? And Geraldine knowing that Mrs. Cadmore was still a local proved she must have been discussed. Marianne’s expression was no help, her face, as it had been from a child, proving unreadable.
“Did I hear you calling him Max?” Geraldine asked.
“Yes. After a distant cousin who once came to visit Larkspur with his family. It’s proved an apt name.”
Marianne burst out laughing. “I remember him. He was what my mother would call a spoiled brat. If he was my child, he’d have spent more time confined to his room than out of it. Any idea what he’s doing now, Leslie?”
“Working his way through the ranks at Scotland Yard, believe it or not. Perhaps he’s seen the light, or it’s a case of poacher turned gamekeeper.”
“He could be paying off the sins of his childhood. All I have to do is think of him pulling my pigtails and my scalp hurts. Worse than your brother was, Geraldine.”
“Oh, George isn’t that bad. Settling down with Victoria and finding himself articled has bridled any wild tendencies.” Geraldine cast her friend a sidelong glance that could only be described as sly. “Like Patrick.”
“How is your brother, Marianne?” Leslie had anticipated Patrick would be mentioned sooner or later and was pleased he hadn’t had to raise the topic. Despite being twins, Patrick and Marianne were as different in personalities as any siblings could be. Chalk and cheese didn’t come near it.
“Working too hard. Throws all of his time into his practice.” She patted the dog’s head. “He’d like you, boy. Prefers his patients with a bit of character.”
Leslie nodded. Patrick had always liked dogs to be dogs and not pampered lap pets. He’d also appeared to prefer animals to the majority of humans. “You can trust them,” he’d say, “unlike much of the human species.” Even as a child, Patrick had seemed to be a veterinarian in the making. He’d no doubt have a successful practice and that wouldn’t simply be a testament to his skills or training. Patrick had the same lean, dark, handsome looks his sister was blessed with. Looks that would see a stream of female clients bringing their pampered pooches to his door.
“You’re right about the hard work. He never seems to be available, that’s certain.” Geraldine’s voice bore a distinct hint of annoyance. “My mother has invited him to a number of events, but he pleads pressure of time. She’s rather given him up as a lost cause.”
“Many people have.” Marianne tossed her head.
“He’ll settle down one day,” Leslie said, not sure that he believed that any more than Patrick’s sister would do. They both knew him too well. Had known him, in Leslie’s case, given how long it was since they’d last spoken. Suddenly, Leslie was filled with a fleeting memory of the three of them as children, the last time they played hide and seek: him, Marianne, Patrick, all of them around twelve years of age. She’d said afterwards they were getting too old for such childish things, possibly because she’d taken umbrage at Patrick being so slow at finding her. Best not to mention that, since it probably still rankled, and the day itself had ended sadly, with a tramp being found dead of exposure in the church porch. Mr. Cadmore had been called on to handle the affair, being churchwarden and with the vicar away on holiday. Still, such rare instances apart, those had generally been very happy days.
“Give my very best to your mother. I do feel guilty for not having kept in touch with her as I should.” Marianne fixed her eyes on Max. “Like you, Leslie, I don’t get down here as often as I would like.”
That provided a partial answer to some of his questions, although moving away from an area didn’t mean she couldn’t send a letter if she really wanted to. Perhaps, like Patrick, Marianne was simply busy. Leslie’s mother had told him that she worked as a legal secretary in Winchester, and he’d assumed—evidently mistakenly—that she travelled there from the Sibley home.
“I will pass on your regards, with pleasure. Are you here for long?” Leslie added. His mother might be pleased to have Marianne over for tea in order to talk over old times.
“Until Monday morning, when my nose goes firmly back to the grindstone. Albeit returning to work will make a pleasant escape from Father’s hunting stories. His enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed over the years.” Marianne gave the dog a final stroke, then took her friend’s arm. “We must get back. Terrible trouble if we come in late for luncheon.”
“Blame me and my wretched hound.” Leslie tipped his cap again. “Nice to have met you, Geraldine. Fond regards to your parents, Marianne, and to your scapegrace of a brother.”
“I’ll tell them all that I spoke to you. Although I’d always assumed you’d have kept in touch with Patrick.” Marianne waved her hand airily. “It shows how mistaken we can be.” She set off slowly, pausing after a few steps to turn and say, “It really is lovely to see you again. We shouldn’t have let it be so long. All of us.”
“Indeed.” Leslie watched the women go, momentarily unable to move himself and not only because he was thinking about the assumption Marianne had made about him and Patrick keeping in touch. Her gait bore the same easy grace as her brother’s, bringing to mind the last time Leslie had seen him. At Waterloo station. Walking away and out of Leslie’s life.
“We’re back,” Leslie called, entering the hall of Larkspur House and letting Max off the lead from which he was clearly anxious to be freed.
“In the drawing room, dear.” His mother’s voice sounded as sweetly as a woman’s half her age.
Alexandra Cadmore was still a handsome woman, despite the events of the past few years. Not for her, however, the lot of so many of her friends during wartime, a telegram bringing the news no wife or mother would wish to receive. Leslie had been based at home, doing something he could never divulge the details of, apart from hinting that it had been vitally important. “Logistical and extremely boring if crucial to the war effort” was how he’d described his work, and that was what his mother had told her friends. He wasn’t convinced she believed the “boring” part, although she’d always kept up the pretence. So, he’d remained physically safe, returning to civilian life tired but intact, if a touch emotionally battered.
It was his father, Jerome Cadmore, who’d been torn from her and not by death. Unless finding a vocation and entering a Benedictine monastery could be defined as crossing into—or having one foot on the doorstep of—one’s eternal rest. It was marginally better, she’d confessed to Leslie when the news had broken, than his having run away with a WAAF, which had happened to one of her old school friends. Worse in some ways, though, because anybody could understand the attractions of a woman in uniform; the attractions of God weren’t so obvious. It had been the third year of the war, so Leslie hadn’t been on hand much to give her support, but she’d coped, as she always did.
“Did you have a nice walk?” His mother glanced up from her knitting.
“Very, apart from Max exhibiting wanderlust. I ran across Marianne, out taking the air with one of her pals. I didn’t realise she no longer lived here with her parents.” Leslie flopped down into his favourite chair.
“I’m sure I told you. I daresay you weren’t listening at the time.” She grinned. “How is she?”
“Not a jot different from how she was at nineteen. Or indeed nine. I was surprised that you haven’t kept in touch with her.”
“I see her parents at church. They keep me abreast of all things Sibley. Marianne’s doing splendidly at work and has a little flat of her own, now.” She paused to count her stitches. “They worry about her living alone, but that’s a cross all parents bear. Which friend was with her?”
“A girl called Geraldine something-or-other. Simpkins. Simpson. Max was most taken with them both.” The dog, who’d sprawled himself on the fireside rug, glanced up at the mention of his name. “Thank goodness they came along or I’d still have been out on the common, trying to get this wretch back on his lead.”
“Marianne always had a knack with animals. Her father’s daughter, every bit, although she’s a better hand with a rod and fly than he is.”
Leslie chuckled. Mr. Sibley had been continually vexed at the fact. “She’s better at taking a trout than most of us. Some zoologist chap once told me that women have a natural unfair advantage when fishing. A natural aroma they produce that attracts their prey.”
“Does it work with men, dear? Is that why some women appear to be irresistible?” She held her handiwork up to the light, nodding approvingly at it before resuming knitting. “Although in Marianne’s instance, I’d say it’s likely a case of her not rising to the male fly. Not yet, anyway.”
Leslie wasn’t sure she ever would. Not every mare had a hankering for the stallion.
“Should we invite her and her friend to tea today?” She continued, with an air that was a little too nonchalant to be entirely convincing. Was this a repeat of the getting-my-son-in-a-room-with-eligible-women ruse? “I’m sure that young Edwin would take an invitation across, on his bicycle. Would sixpence be over-generous as payment?”
“I couldn’t say, not having a housekeeper’s son to run errands for me and so being oblivious to the going rate.” It wasn’t spoken unkindly: Mrs. Edwards was an absolute treasure, a war widow without whom the running of Larkspur House would no doubt grind to a halt. Leslie’s mother was lucky to have her and to be able to keep her. At least his father had only dedicated himself to God and not included his considerable worldly wealth, so his wife had been left with enough to live comfortably.
“But should I invite her? I noticed that expression of disdain at the suggestion, dear.” How his mother could have seen any expression on Leslie’s face, given the way her eyes were fixed on her knitting needles, was a mystery of the arcane maternal arts.
“I wasn’t aware of feeling disdain. Perhaps it was indigestion. Invite her by all means. It’s not like she’ll have that rogue of a brother with her, to drop a teacup or trip over the rug.” Leslie wasn’t sure why he’d felt the need to mention Patrick. Maybe it was simply to divert his mother from any further discussion of Marianne and her matrimonial prospects. It was a topic she’d aired on many an occasion over the years, and one that had subtly featured Leslie as a possible candidate for the woman’s affections, although not so often recently. Could this be her idea of reviving a notion that was always doomed to fail?
“Patrick was certainly the clumsiest child I ever met. He must have grown out of it, or else he’d not have anyone bringing their animals to him. With the exception of women of my age who should know better.” There was very little that escaped the notice of Leslie’s mother, despite the fact that she didn’t do much socially anymore, outside of the church or the local causes she supported. “Is he staying with his parents too?”
“Not that I’m aware of, although to be honest I didn’t ask Marianne the question.” Nor had she offered the information. “I don’t think he works locally.”
“He’s based in Surrey, I believe. Near Epsom, so he can work with horses as well as his beloved dogs. I’d have thought you’d have known that.” That remark was evidently worthy of a direct glance, over the top of her spectacles.
“I haven’t spoken to Patrick in years. Same as I’ve not spoken to Marianne.” Leslie shrugged. “You know what it’s like. People knock around together and are great pals, then they go off in different directions and suddenly find they’ve not spoken in ages. And the longer it goes on, the harder it is to get out one’s pen and paper to jot down a line. It takes an errant hound and some good fortune, like this morning on the common, to re-establish communication.”
It wasn’t just a matter of the length of time. Somehow, the closer you had been to somebody, the trickier it was to make that first move and the more awkward that reconnection might prove. The conversation with Marianne had felt stilted, to say the least.
“Then perhaps a chat over a pot of tea and a scone is exactly what’s called for. I’ll compose a note to Marianne. Was the friend called Geraldine? I shall invite her too.”
Leslie confirmed the name, accepting his fate. He excused himself, saying that a short turn around the garden would be pleasant, before luncheon, although he insisted Max should stay inside, as punishment. The dog snored happily, oblivious of what was being said about him.
Leslie lit a cigarette, hands cupped to protect the match’s flame from the wind. No sooner had he taken the first draw than he heard Edwin leaving the house, heading for the garage where he kept his bicycle. Once Leslie’s mother got an idea in her head, she lost no time on it. Marianne would no doubt accept the invitation, unless she had another engagement that couldn’t be broken. Leslie should use the next few hours preparing himself to be a welcoming host, which was longer than he’d had to gather his wits on the common.
He strolled along the path, glancing with pleasure over the rolling Hampshire countryside. Whoever had laid out the gardens at Larkspur House had known their business, making the most of the south-facing aspect. People were said to have lived in this area for thousands of years, probably enjoying the same view from their villa or roundhouse. When Leslie was a boy, he’d turned up pieces of pottery in the local mole hills, pieces that his father had assured him were Roman. He’d believed it at the time and it might have been true, although Mr. Cadmore did have a plausible way about him.
It was a skill that he’d developed further in the running of his business, gently planting ideas in other people’s heads when it would prove useful, such as the time he’d employed a young man only to find him unsuited to his role. Via a couple of seemingly innocuous conversations, focussed on the young man’s ambitions and happiness, they’d soon reached the point where he’d decided he’d made the wrong choice and would be joining a local brewing company. Leslie grinned in remembrance of the tale.
He’d reached the Larkspur orchard—if half a dozen apple trees and a similar number of both plums and pears could be given that title—which was the place where he’d always been happiest. Sitting in a deckchair in the dappled light or swinging in a hammock, when reading, dozing, studying for exams, or simply enjoying the thrill of being alive in a world untouched by the fingers of war. As a small child, carefully scribing his name and address in his little notebook. Leslie Simon Cadmore, Larkspur House, Kinebridge, Hampshire, England, The World. That world had changed, as so many had warned it would, although some people had still retained the over-optimistic view in 1939 that this time it really might all be over by the first Christmas. Would people ever learn from the past?
The hammock had long since been taken down, and as Leslie wanted to rest his limbs, he had to make his way to the rose garden, where a sturdy wooden bench had been well placed to benefit from any sunshine. Today’s light was watery but bore a hint of warmth to come, and though it would be too early in the year for buds or blossoms on the roses, it wouldn’t be unpleasant to finish his cigarette there, coat wrapped around him.
The bench seemed to fit his shape. When younger, he’d found it too hard, smacking of self-punishment, but now the solidity of it was better suited to his tastes, after years of getting used to discomfort. Bletchley chairs in Bletchley huts. Strange to think how he’d assumed back then that he could easily put the war years and all they’d brought behind him, to return as quickly as possible to his previous life, only to find that the time he’d spent in that place couldn’t be unspent. It would always be part of him.
Be grateful you made it through in one piece—thousands of men and women would have given their right arm to be home for another spring. Some of them did.
It could have been Patrick’s voice in his ear, saying those words, rather than the voice of conscience, but he hadn’t spoken to Patrick in ages and couldn’t even say with certainty when the man had last visited Larkspur House. Yet his presence somehow still seemed to fill the garden, this place where they’d played so often as young children and later as boys on the cusp of manhood. The mentions of Patrick that morning rang accusatorially in Leslie’s ears. How the hell could they have let so much time pass without making contact?
Because you’re a coward. One who didn’t have the guts to ask Patrick either of the two questions you wanted to, afraid that the answers would be too hard to bear.
How easy it should have been to frame the first. “Do you really love me, Patrick, as I really love you, despite everything?” Seeing Marianne had brought that more clearly into focus, had reawakened the need to have Patrick at his side again, whether it was out on the common walking a dog or sitting in the orchard or lying in a bed between cool linen sheets.
The other question would have been trickier, as impossible to ask Patrick as it would have been for Leslie to tackle his father about why he had gone into Combe Abbey. Either question would have risked receiving an answer full of peril, in terms of how it might have irrevocably changed a relationship. Leslie often wondered if he’d somehow driven his father into leaving, perhaps unconsciously forcing the man to consider what it would be like to live a family life in the knowledge that his son was different, and all the disgrace that might bring were it made public. It might have been a safer choice to cut himself off from continually dealing with that. It was easy to love your neighbour—or your family—if you didn’t have to live with them.
But if that hadn’t been his motivation, what had? He must either have been running towards a life of contemplation or running away from something in his secular life that could no longer be borne. Leslie couldn’t shake from his mind the great scandal of 1938, when there’d been an attempted strangling in one of the nearby hamlets. A farmer had given himself in at the local police station, confessing that after fourteen years of constant nagging, he’d snapped and nearly killed his wife. Surely that sudden outburst of violence could never have happened with Leslie’s parents?
There had only been one instance when Mr. Cadmore had shown real aggression, and that had been when on a holiday. He’d killed what had appeared to be an otter with a heavy blow to the skull, much to young Leslie’s horror. It had turned out to be an escapee from a local—illegal—mink farm, about which Mr. Cadmore had been warned.
“Evil creatures, Leslie. Best to get rid of them quickly, before they can cause any harm.” Most anglers would have agreed with him.
More comically, there was a family story about him having boxed the ears of a rival for the love of Leslie’s mother. Yet Mr. Cadmore could be so soft he’d wept at a sermon about the massacre of the innocents.
On the way home he’d explained his distress. “If it’s true—and you take all these Bible stories with a pinch of salt because men wrote them down—then it’s beyond wicked.”
He’d always shown a similar desire to protect his family from harm. Until, of course, he’d broken their hearts by his act of retreat into the life of the cloister. That decision had been so out of character—assuming they had really understood what the man was like and what he wanted. Maybe some part of his father was, and always would remain, hidden and unknowable. Leslie had spent many hours brooding on the subject, having nobody he could discuss such personal things with. Had his father harboured a self-denied yet lifelong devotion to God, one that he was always going to manifest at some point or else be driven mad? He’d left no clue behind when he’d made his abrupt departure, his final note to them, I’ve left you well provided for money-wise. I can’t let you suffer, ringing hollow. Emotional anguish was as hard to bear as financial.
If Leslie was unclear about his father’s motives, he had still less clarity in his thinking about Patrick. The other question Leslie had left unasked was more serious by far. It was almost unthinkable to air, no matter how close the two men had been. Leslie whispered it now, the calm of the garden—as well as the knowledge that nobody could hear—bringing him courage.
Did youmurder Fergus Jackson? And how the hell did you pull it off?
The guests arrived right on the stroke of four, as Marianne had stated they would in the note she’d sent back with young Edwin. As a girl she’d always kept her promises, especially regarding punctuality, and she’d retained that courtesy into womanhood. She’d brought a bunch of flowers from the Sibley glasshouse, which she presented to Mrs. Cadmore with a beaming smile and apologies for not having been a better correspondent over the past year.
“No need to apologise, my dear.” Leslie’s mother kissed Marianne’s cheek. “It’s all too easy to lose touch, no matter how strong one’s determination not to do so. You’re here now.”
She ushered her guests into the drawing room, where the table was already laid, Leslie following in their wake, having done barely more than smile and say hello. He couldn’t shake off his unease, a highly illogical feeling of impending disaster that had grown over the previous few hours. They went through the innocent rituals of pouring the tea, sharing the cakes, and engaging in chitchat about the doings of Marianne’s parents, but that didn’t help his apprehension subside. Everything felt like one of those scenes in a film where the tension in the music ramped up and the action led into a terrible event.
Seeing Marianne had roused so many memories, some of which would have been better left dormant. If she raised the matter of why Leslie no longer kept in touch with Patrick, how could he convincingly explain why that had happened, why the two inseparable friends no longer even exchanged a card at Christmas? Would she accept the explanation he had given his mother, the simple attrition of a relationship, caused by time and the separation of war? Come to that, had his mother accepted it?
Some adept steering of the conversation by Leslie’s mother in the direction of Geraldine brought a moment of respite and elucidated plenty of information about the woman. She and Marianne had been at school together, although not great pals in those days, being in different years. The friendship had developed since Marianne had moved to Winchester, where they’d unexpectedly found themselves close neighbours. To his mother’s possible disappointment—and not a little to Leslie’s surprise—Geraldine turned out to be engaged to a chap called Bobby who’d flown Lancasters during the war and was now in the final stages of qualifying as a doctor. That would take another potential candidate off the maternal list of eligible young women if Mother hadn’t given up all hope on that front. It also forced Leslie into reassessing his assumptions about the relationship between the two guests.
During the war, his mother had stopped dropping hints about what a lovely couple Marianne and Leslie would make. The remark she’d made earlier about the girl not rising yet to a male lure had suggested that his mother had reached the same conclusion as he had: that Marianne preferred the company of her own sex. Marianne and Geraldine walking arm in arm on the common had led Leslie to believe they might be romantically entwined, which was clearly the wrong conclusion, because the story about the Lancaster pilot appeared to be genuine. Geraldine being simply a friend didn’t make the conclusion about Marianne incorrect, although her single status might simply be a matter of her not having met the man for whom she would give up her independence.
Once Geraldine’s fiancé’s war record had been properly discussed, alongside that of both women—and as much of Leslie’s wartime service as could be covered under the umbrella of “administrative duties”—matters inevitably turned where Leslie had dreaded.
It was Geraldine who first mentioned Patrick. “Didn’t your brother work with animals during the war? I can’t remember if you said he was fully qualified by then.”
“He was by the end of the conflict, when he got himself involved in the army,” Marianne replied. “I hadn’t credited quite how many dogs were needed for service in Egypt.”
“It was something to do with controlling looters out there.” Leslie immediately regretted his answer, because how could he dare admit that he’d been taking a keen interest, albeit from a distance, in what Patrick had been up to? “What was he involved in before he went out to Africa? I know he’d been putting the final touches to his studies and cutting his teeth in proper vet work at the start of the war, although I can’t imagine him being content with that when the country was in such peril.”
Marianne shot an unreadable glance in Leslie’s direction. “He was initially doing some stints as an air raid warden, as and when his work allowed. Burning the candles at both ends, although that was nothing new to him, as you well know.” A rather waspish remark, although the others appeared to take it as a jest. “He occasionally got himself involved in training servicemen, although what he did with them was on a need-to-know basis and we as his family were told we didn’t need to know much. All he said was that somebody had spotted him at work and decided he’d be usefully employed in preparing soldiers for combat or some such thing. So animals were involved, possibly in training soldiers to fend off dog attacks or avoid the beasts entirely. I could, mind you, be getting the wrong end of the stick.”
“If you’ve misunderstood, then I’ve done the same. Patrick told me something broadly similar.” Back when they’d still been talking to each other. “I realise his account might have been subterfuge, to cover for activities he was sworn never to mention, not even to a—” He’d nearly said lover. “—lifelong friend, although it sounded like the truth.”
“Then it probably was,” Marianne observed. “Patrick was never a very efficient liar.”
Which was another reason that Leslie hadn’t dared asked his questions. Patrick wore his emotions on his face and had struggled to hide how much he hated Fergus Jackson. The latter must have realised the fact, unless he’d been completely oblivious. Which was entirely possible, since Fergus had seemed to count other people’s feelings as far less important than his own needs and desires.
“I’ve heard that Patrick used to mix with rather a wild crowd, before the war. Oh, yes, please.” Geraldine held out her cup in response to her hostess’s offer of a top up.
Leslie’s mother nodded. “Leslie rubbed shoulders with them too. A little clique of what we’d have called ‘fast’ chaps in my younger days. Mind you, having seen what some of the local airmen got up to during the war, such behaviour might appear to have become the norm. Although there’s probably more excuse for it in time of battle, I’d say.”
“Indeed. I wouldn’t blame anyone for eating, drinking, and making merry if your next sortie could be your last.” Marianne’s tones effectively put a stop to any argument. Given Mrs. Cadmore’s apparently open-minded attitude, it had to be Geraldine she was protecting: maybe the Lancaster pilot had been rather profligate with his wild oats and his fiancée was either upset at or unaware of the fact. “Perhaps Patrick’s friends could see which way the wind was blowing and guessed we were due for another conflict, one they might not make it through.”
“If they did, it wasn’t consciously. There’s also a world of difference between making merry on your own account and dragging others along for the ride.” Leslie really didn’t want to discuss the matter or the people involved, but it would appear strange if he didn’t chip in at all. Leading younger men astray had been a Fergus speciality, whether they wanted to be led or not, and that debauching of innocents had particularly riled Patrick in the same way that cruelty to animals had.
Marianne snorted. “Don’t get me started on that or we’ll be here all evening.”
Leslie took a drink of tea. His instinct had been right about disaster on the horizon, and this conversation had sailed into perilous waters. “That ‘clique’ was made up of hedonists rather than fatalists, I’d have said. And I wouldn’t describe them as either Patrick’s crowd nor mine. They were too wild by half for us to be anything other than on the fringe.”
The Retainers, they’d called themselves, from the London club they had all belonged to, whose motto broadly translated to, Retain the aim less noble. Leslie had always wondered why such an organisation, with its origins supposedly in philanthropy, should have such an immoral motto on its coat of arms. An act of whimsy on the part of its founders back in the time of Pudding George? Or had it been a completely different organisation then, hiding a milder version of the Hellfire Club beneath the altruistic exterior?
“Well, whatever they were, two of them didn’t make it through the war.” Marianne sipped her tea. “One was killed on a bombing raid and another on the convoys.”
“Only two?” Leslie’s mother frowned. “I’m sure there was another chap in that group who also died in service.”
That would have been Fergus, whom Marianne would surely have known about, so why hadn’t she included him? Could it be that she bore the same suspicions and reluctance to air them as Leslie?
“I met them all together on one occasion,” Mrs. Cadmore continued, “at that lovely party your parents gave for Patrick’s twenty-first birthday. I’d heard about them in advance, but at the time I couldn’t see what all the fuss could possibly be about. Why those young men had gained such a reputation, I mean. They seemed quite delightful, to me.”
Marianne gave the nearest thing to a snort suitable for polite company. “That’s because they’d all been warned by Patrick to be on their best behaviour. You should have been there, Geraldine, to see the performance. Quite as convincing as anything you’d see in Drury Lane. They were all absolutely charming, especially to the maturer females. Begging your pardon, Mrs. Cadmore.”
“No offence taken.” Leslie’s mother inclined her head. “Charming and dashing, any hostess would have been pleased to welcome them.”
Leslie remembered her making a similar observation the day after the party. How the men concerned had paid such polite attention to her and to Mrs. Sibley; possibly more than they’d paid to Marianne and her friends. It had certainly been a lovely evening and the clique had been an ornament to it, in complete contrast to how they normally were. Fast indeed—much faster than his mother could have imagined—and wild, but all of them ready to behave themselves if the occasion demanded.
“It all sounds a bit mysterious, how a group of nice young men could be regarded as such rogues,” Geraldine said.
Marianne snorted. “If you’d met them, you’d have realised. The five horsemen of the apocalypse, Patrick sometimes called them.”
Leslie wouldn’t have gone that far. They couldn’t have been the first group of men in various stages of their twenties who’d been handsome, debonair, and overfond of the pleasures of the flesh. Especially those who indulged at places like their private club in London and the Turkish baths nearby.
“Five?” Geraldine’s brow puckered. “You’ve only mentioned two and I don’t think you told me their names?”
“Donald and Dougal were the pair who bought it during the war,” Marianne said.
Mrs. Cadmore took up the account, with a note of pride. “Another was Eric Hazletine. He appears to have changed his ways since those madcap times. I heard he’s tipped for parliament at the next election.”
Eric had always spoken about wanting to enter politics, although nobody had thought him serious. Nowadays, he was making a positive campaigning point out of turning his back on his wild-oat-sowing past. A charming wife, his wartime heroics, and a semi-miraculous recovery from meningitis in 1945 involving the British wonder drug penicillin weren’t hurting his prospects at the ballot box, either.
“That’s still only three.” Geraldine counted them off on her fingers.
“James Lyth,” Marianne said. James—who was said now to be living in Wales—had been easy to get on with. “The fifth was Fergus Jackson. I wouldn’t say that’s a case of saving the best for last. Not a popular chap, Fergus. He seemed to have a talent for rubbing folk up the wrong way.”
“Popular with the ladies?” Geraldine asked.
Marianne shook her head. “He didn’t have much time for them. Now, Eric and Dougal always had girls in tow.”
Dougal had not long been engaged to a WAAF at the time he’d been killed while protecting a squadron of bombers in 1944, and Eric now had a child on the way. Patrick had been certain that neither man’s interest in women had been the kind of charade that men of their type typically indulged in. Dougal had probably been itching to “taste of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of world” when he’d been hanging around the Turkish baths and would subsequently have settled down to be a model husband if he’d had the chance. As Eric now seemed to be, despite having slept with any and everyone in his wild days. It was a surprise the meningitis that had threatened his life hadn’t been syphilis.
“Leslie, your mother asked you a question.” Marianne’s voice—loud and exasperated—cut into his thoughts.
“I’m sorry, I was miles away.” Leslie smiled sheepishly. “Thinking what a change of character Eric Hazletine appears to have undergone. Pillar of the community.”
“Collector of lame ducks, as well. Quite literally in the case of his secretary, who’s halt in one leg.” Marianne raised an eyebrow.
“That seems rather harsh, Marianne,” Leslie’s mother said.
“Sorry. I was being waspish. Thinking that the secretary’s injury having been acquired during war service doesn’t hurt Eric’s image, either. Nor do his independent means, which allow him to get a head start on his rivals. You’d better ask your question again, Mrs. Cadmore.”
“Please. I promise this time I’ll listen properly.” Leslie adopted his most alert expression.
“I was asking you if you ever heard from James. I remember him being most attentive and fetching me a plate of food from the buffet at that party, because there was rather a crush in there and he said he’d have sharper elbows to fight his way through the crowd. As we ate, we chatted away about his studies at Oxford. Theology, perhaps.” Her brow wrinkled in thought. “Or Classics. Something rather surprising.”
“I believe it was theology, with a view of going in for ordination, although that didn’t happen. Last I heard, he was working as an accountant, somewhere in Wales. I think the war rather changed his view on joining the church.” Leslie hurried on, since he’d inadvertently touched on matters he didn’t want to explore. “I suspect it was for the best. He was too soft-hearted to be a clergyman.”
“Isn’t that the very quality one needs?” Geraldine asked.
“Leslie’s right,” Marianne said. “Poor James would have been ridden over roughshod by the average PCC member, let alone every scrounger and stray dog who turned up at the vicarage door. Like that tramp who came begging round here. If the vicar had been here at the time, no doubt he’d have welcomed him into the vicarage with a fatted calf.”
“What tramp?” asked Geraldine.
“Our seven-days wonder.” Marianne rolled her eyes. “Some vagrant who died of exposure in the churchyard.”
“Hardly a seven days wonder,” Leslie’s mother said, in clipped tones. “I know it was years ago, but some of us still remember. And feel guilty because we didn’t show him proper Christian charity when perhaps we should have done.”
Both Leslie’s parents had been upset at the man’s death, wondering if they should have given him at the least a bowl of soup or an old blanket when he’d come knocking at the door. It had been a higher level of remorse than most folk had shown.
“I hope James is happy.” Mrs. Cadmore, having markedly changed the subject, laid down her cup. “I felt he was rather a sad chap. A little boy lost.”
That was remarkably perceptive, given that she’d only met James that one evening and couldn’t have spoken to him for more than a quarter of an hour. How much else had she deduced about the group from that party and any references that had been made about them beforehand or afterwards? Could any woman of her respectable background have spotted their sexual preferences—for example the fact that Eric would have had it off with anyone who offered or that James had a penchant for older men? One of whom was said to have drawn him to the principality?
“I’ve not heard anything to the contrary. About whether he’s content.” Not an informative answer, but the truth. For the moment, that was all he was willing to say. That whole part of his existence seemed a lifetime ago, if still horribly painful in parts.
“And what about the other chap who didn’t make it through the war?” Geraldine evidently wanted to tie up every loose end of the conversation. “That had to be Fergus. What happened to him?”
Leslie glanced at Marianne. She should have been able to supply that answer, but she was keeping her eyes fixed on her teacup. Was she waiting, forcing Leslie to respond, or was that reading too much into what might simply be a moment of forgetfulness? Perhaps Patrick had never discussed the matter with her, as he’d avoided discussing it with Leslie.
“Such a shame about Fergus. He struck me as a jaunty sort, Geraldine, and the handsomest of the bunch, as far as I was concerned.” Leslie’s mother smiled: Had she also been taken in by the Apollo-like face, the apparently beautiful manners and the charming repartee or had her astute perception come into play? “Reminded me of what one of the old-fashioned knights might have been like. Marianne, your mother told me he’d joined the RAF, but I don’t think that’s right. Leslie?”
“No. I have a feeling that was a story people put about to cover up the fact he was involved with something hush-hush. Probably being dropped behind enemy lines. He was the first of them to give up his life in the service of his country.” Whatever else could be said about Fergus, nobody could have accused him of lacking courage and a desire to serve his king. Indeed, none of the five men could have had those charges brought against them.
“Aha. I see. Yes.” Mrs. Cadmore nodded brightly. While she wasn’t entirely aware of how Leslie had served his country, she often dropped hints that it had involved a similar amount of subterfuge. Although her present air suggested she was feigning ignorance about Fergus. “But I was told on good authority that he was killed in action. I think your mother mentioned that too, Marianne. She always wanted to keep up with the news about her children’s friends.”
“Mother has always had particularly efficient ways of keeping tabs on things,” Marianne said drily.
“How did this chap Fergus die?” Geraldine asked. “Was it out in France? I ask because I remember hearing stories about the Great War and families not getting their loved one’s body home because it had been crushed in the mud and never found. My aunt Maud went out to Flanders to lay flowers on as near the spot of Uncle Fred’s death as she could find. It beggars belief such things could be happening again.”
The corollary to the question allowed a little longer for those who needed it to compose themselves, although Leslie had anticipated the story of Fergus’s death arising from the first moment the group of five had been mentioned. He, too, could play the pleading-ignorance game. “The Jacksons certainly got him back. He was killed over here, in a horrible training accident, I was told, although I could be wrong. Your mother hasn’t mentioned it, Marianne?”
“If she knows anything further concerning what happened, over and above the official story, she’s not shared it with me.” Marianne shrugged. “I doubt anyone knows except those directly involved.”
Delicately put, if she was referring to Patrick. The whole incident had been shrouded in secrecy for all sorts of reasons, not least because of the effect on morale of such incidents, yet Leslie would have put money on Marianne having similar suspicions to his. Or at the very least wondering how much her brother was involved, because surely they both knew how close he’d been to the death. And if she had understood her twin as Leslie had always suspected she did, she’d have understood that he had the motive to kill Fergus.
Patrick hadn’t been alone in that. Fergus was said to have left a string of chaps with a sour taste in their mouths, stretching back to before he’d reached manhood. He’d always had the sexual morals of an alley cat, not fussed about who or where or when, so long as the other party was male and the chances of them being caught at it were minimal. Sometimes not even the latter. The thrill of danger had clearly appealed.
One or two of the men Fergus had coupled with hadn’t been as free and easy as him—Dougal had once mentioned he’d had chaps crying on his broad shoulders because they’d made the mistake of falling too hard for the lothario or had let him draw them into activities they’d later regretted. Had those men been upset enough about it to kill Fergus if they’d had the opportunity? Possibly, despite that seeming a bit far-fetched as a motive for murder. Although Fergus had gone through so many lovers, he’d no doubt have encountered some for whom a logical motive wouldn’t have mattered, jealousy or rage being enough.
Although the problem remained—how could said lover have engineered being present in that place on that day?
If Fergus had known how many people held a grudge against him, would it have made much difference to his behaviour on that training course or indeed anywhere? He was brave, he was said to have believed he was leading a charmed life, and he must have doubted that anyone could do something to him in such a public setting. Yet died he had. And Leslie knew that Patrick had been present when it happened.
“A training accident? How ghastly,” Geraldine said. “My Bobby reckons that’s a necessary risk of war, people being killed in training exercises, although he also reckons a lot of it gets covered up. It would unsettle the public and add to the worry of wives and sweethearts who’d have had quite enough to fret over. Probably that’s what happened with this Fergus chap. All covered up for the noblest of reasons.”
“Not quite the same with self-inflicted wounds, unless the soldier involved had a lot of influence. Quite a thing during the Great War, I understand, although perhaps less so in the one just gone.” His mother’s statement generated a startled look from her guests and a thoughtful one from Leslie. He’d need to follow that up once their guests had gone.
Geraldine shivered. “That’s ghastly. Would people really do that?”
“They would, especially if they’d been conscripted and didn’t want to be there.” Marianne launched into an account about a friend of a friend of her father’s, who’d come home from somewhere near Mametz Wood with an injury that most people who knew him suspected hadn’t been caused by any of the Kaiser’s men. From there, the topic of conversation moved to Bobby’s father, who apparently had rows of medals from where he’d seen service at Ypres.
“He was a boxing champion too,” Geraldine said.
“I remember your father teaching us three the rudiments of boxing. Wasn’t he a capable featherweight at university?” Marianne asked, then flushed fiercely.
“He’d boxed a bit when younger. Came in useful when fighting off his rivals for Mother’s affection,” Leslie said with feigned lightness, aware of the pain on his mother’s face at the mention of her husband. He’d been about to make a joke about an old photograph in which his father sported a black eye but decided against it.
Before Geraldine, who seemed genuinely unaware of the awkwardness in the air, could reply, Marianne took a theatrically alarmed glance at her watch and said, “Lord, is that the time? We need to go, Geraldine.”
“Oh, that’s a shame.” Geraldine rose and offered her hand to first her hostess and then Leslie. “Thank you so much for having us. It’s been a delight to meet you, Mrs. Cadmore.”
“My pleasure. Marianne, you must let us know when you’re here again and I’ll invite you over.” Whether his mother meant both women or only the one, Leslie couldn’t say: she was too polite to have made anything obvious.
“I will do. I promise.” Marianne gave her hostess half a hug and an affectionate peck on the cheek, although he only got a handshake and a smile. “And don’t you be such a stranger, Leslie.”
“I’ll try not to be.” He escorted the women to the door, watching them go with not quite as much relief as he’d expected. The moment of peril had come and passed, although cans of worms had been opened and memories stirred. Some folk had observed the passage of wartime by the usual procession of months and years, others had seen it less in terms of the calendar than in major events—disastrous and triumphant. The retreat from Dunkirk, sinking the Tirpitz. For Leslie, the record of occurrences had been more personal, focussing on 1942. Fergus’s death, his father’s departure, the rift with Patrick—all in all, it had been the year from hell.
Once he and his mother were alone again, Leslie felt he’d two new questions to add to his list of those needing asking. Perhaps if he tackled them now, when his mother seemed eager to talk, the answers might help him when the time came to attack one of the others. He’d still have to tread warily, though, and summon up his courage. “Mother, two things. Earlier, was that a pointed reference you made to self-inflicted wounds? And how much do you know about Fergus Jackson’s death, because I don’t believe you’re as uninformed as you make out.”
“Funny you should ask that, because I’ve been trying to decide whether to mention it.” His mother nodded towards the sideboard. “Pour us a sherry, there’s a good lad, and we’ll talk.”
Once they were settled with their drinks and with Max—who’d been confined to his kennel while they had guests—sitting sweetly at Leslie’s feet, she said, “Fergus. I thought of him the other day, but I didn’t want to upset you by raising him out of the blue. That’s why I asked Marianne over to tea and then tried to bring the conversation round to him as subtly as I could. I’m not sure how well I did.”
“You played a blinder. And Marianne played a straight bat. What made you believe I’d be upset talking about him? I never liked the man.”
“Oh, I know that, dear. I’m not so oblivious as you might think.” She took a sip of her drink. “It was the manner in which he died. That’s what brought him to mind, because a couple of months ago we had someone in the village trip and fall on a knife in their home, although in this case the cut wasn’t so deep they couldn’t be saved. It brought that terrible time back to mind. You won’t have known, but when I heard Fergus had been killed my heart bled. For you and Patrick, rather than him, I’m ashamed to say. How terrible to have that happen to a friend.”
“It was certainly a shock to us all.”
His mother nodded. “And then to discover later there’d been all sorts of rumours flying around, saying that he’d somehow managed to contrive his own death. That’s what I wanted to discuss with you, because I can’t believe he’d have done such a thing. That group of young men were too fond of life.”
Leslie couldn’t have felt more stunned if Patrick had walked into the room at that instant and kissed him. “Where on earth did you hear that he’d killed himself? You’re right, of course, that rumours bred like flies after his death, but I didn’t realise they’d become common currency.”
“They hadn’t. The River Test gossiping network didn’t pick that story up on their radar. James came to see me one day and told me all about it.”
Now the level of shock was almost equivalent to Patrick having walked in unannounced and given him a jolly good rogering. “James? We exchange cards every Christmas and he’s never mentioned seeing you. When was this? And how did he know where you lived?”
“Patrick told him, naturally. They’d both got a spot of leave and met at that inn on the river that he always liked, The Gadfly, after which James called in here. To pay his respects to me, he said, it being not long after your father went into his cloistered life, although James was too polite to mention that. I suspect he really wanted news of you, perhaps to pass on to Patrick.” She took another sip of sherry. “Anyway, I talked about the twins’ birthday party when we’d all met and how sad it was that some his pals hadn’t made it through the war. He said it was sad for two of them, although in Fergus’s case he couldn’t say it was any great loss. I was rather surprised at him making that harsh a remark, James coming across as such a well-mannered young man.”
The sort of man that many a mother would have approved of if he’d been dating her daughter. Too easily led, though, and perhaps too honest. “Harsh perhaps, yet completely correct. Fergus Jackson may have been a good soldier, but he wasn’t a nice man and I can name several people who would have been pleased to see him gone.”
Leslie’s mother gave him a shrewd maternal stare. “I won’t ask you to elaborate on that if you don’t want to, although it adds weight to my belief that he didn’t contrive to get himself killed.”
How long had she been mulling this over? “Why have you never asked me about Fergus before? It’s been so long.”
“I was too scared of what I might hear. Mr. Sibley said that Patrick had been present when the accident happened, although I don’t think he was supposed to have told me, so I was worried that if we spoke about it, you might tell me some awful tale. About how Fergus had cut his own throat or something equally horrible. But I’ve decided to stop being a coward.”
“Oh, Mother. It’s not as bad as all that.” Leslie went over to perch on the arm of her chair. Now he knew where he got his indecision from. How long had she turned the accident over in her mind, thinking only the worst? “I’m happy to elaborate about Fergus and his history, up to a point. He may have had a charming way with him, but plenty of people didn’t like him. For a start, I can tell you he had a habit of trying to get people to invest in dubious schemes. Not that he thought them in any way doubtful, because he had money to burn and not much of a head for business, which is a dangerous combination. Some people, however, lost a lot of money they couldn’t afford to lose.”
“He swore it was a gilt-edged investment.” Leslie could hear the mutual acquaintance’s voice as loud as day, despite not recalling his name. “I’ve sunk a packet in it. I could murder the swine.”
Fergus’s gall had extended to an attempt at inveigling both Leslie’s and Patrick’s fathers into making risky investments, but he had been given short shrift by Mr. Cadmore, who’d also persuaded Mr. Sibley not to take the bait. Leslie’s father had always been good at convincing others to do the right thing.
“I heard a similar story from your father. About the schemes, not the losses. Is that all he did?”
“Not quite. He left a string of broken hearts in his wake and not all of the owners were happy to be cast aside.” Leslie took a deep breath, other voices sounding in his head, although not discarded lovers this time. A friend of Patrick’s retching over a toilet basin. “I should have told the bastard no but he wouldn’t have taken it for an answer. God knows what he persuaded me to try.”
Patrick’s bitter response. “He’ll try it on the wrong person one day and end up with a dead body on his hands.”
“There’s other stuff, as you can imagine. Drink. Drugs. Mixed himself up in every vice under the sun and took other folk with him.”
“I see. James told me he felt the simplest explanation for Fergus’s death—the accident—was the right one, rather than the bizarre theories people were muddying the waters with, but perhaps he has too trusting a nature.”
Too trusting where Fergus had been concerned, certainly. Leslie patted his mother’s shoulder. “He might have a point. But you still haven’t told me why you should have thought I’d have got upset discussing how Fergus died.”
“Because of Patrick being involved in running the training course. I assumed he’d have told you all about what happened.” Her voice faltered. “I’m sorry if I’ve spoken out of turn.”
“You haven’t. You should know that Patrick refused to talk about the matter. I first knew about it from Eric Hazletine. He’d heard somehow, I guess from a pal who was involved in what passed for an enquiry, so the news was third-hand by the time it got to me. It sounds like you’re as well informed as I am.” That wasn’t entirely true, but it would have to suffice. Especially since a remark his mother had made earlier suddenly registered. “And what exactly did you mean about the fact that Fergus was unpopular added weight to your belief that he didn’t suffer a self-inflicted wound?”
She exhaled slowly, clearly gathering her words. “Ever since James visited, I’ve been wondering whether there was anything to Fergus’s death other than accident or suicide. Not that he said anything outright, and I’m probably just being a silly old woman who spends too much time on her own mulling things over, but the whole story strikes me as odd.”
“You’re neither silly nor old, both of which you know very well. And you’re not alone in speculating about Fergus’s death because I’ve been thinking much the same. If there’s something James said that’s relevant, the most subtle of hints for example, I’d be grateful to know what it was.”
“Get us both another sherry, then, because I’d be grateful to have the chance to talk about it.” She smiled wanly.
Leslie was halfway across the room heading for the decanter when the telephone rang.
“Could you answer that, dear? I’m nice and settled.”
“Will do.” Leslie went into the hallway, picked up the receiver, and gave a cheery, “Hello?”
“It’s Marianne.” Those tones had been unmistakable.
“Long time no speak.” The girls couldn’t have been long in her home after walking from Larkspur House. Had they forgotten something?
“You daft thing. I suppose you’re wondering why I’m calling.”
“Naturally. I’m guessing you left your hockey stick behind, like you did when you were thirteen?”
“Stop being silly. I’ve got to get back to Winchester tonight, and I don’t have time to muck around. Are you free tomorrow and could you get yourself into London?”
“In the evening, yes. Why?”
“Patrick rang, five minutes ago. He’d like to see you.”
Fortunately, there was a chair beside the telephone table, because Leslie’s legs had caved.
“Sorry. The line went crackly. Patrick. Where did he suggest we meet and when?” With only half a mind on the job, Leslie took up the paper and pencil his mother kept by the telephone for taking messages, to make a note of the location and time Patrick had suggested. Seven o’clock at a well-known hotel where they could probably find a quiet table at the bar. He asked Marianne to repeat the details—using the bad-line excuse again—afraid he might have got it wrong given the state he was in. “Thank you for this. Can you let him know I can make it?”
“I’m not your secretary. Or his.” Marianne laughed. “We left it that if he didn’t hear from me, then you’d be there. Make sure you don’t forget.”
Or get cold feet.
After he’d put the telephone down, Leslie sat staring at the piece of paper, before folding it and carefully putting it into his pocket. If he’d been a superstitious man, he might have wondered if his earlier sense of impending doom hadn’t concerned Marianne’s visit. Whether it had been a premonition of the two shocks he’d received in the space of the last half an hour.
Still disturbed from raising the subject of Fergus’s death, it seemed as though he’d be forced to discuss it yet again in the space of a few days.