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Authors: S. T. Haymon

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She nodded shyly. An unexpected blush made her look suddenly young and unsure of herself. ‘I've always wanted to talk to someone. Justify myself, even boast a little. When I arranged for Mr Shelden to do the biography I had, just for a moment, a crazy idea of adding an epilogue to explain what had really happened. But of course that would have been quite impracticable.'

‘Not much more practicable to let on to a police officer.'

‘What can you do about it, Inspector Jurnet? What evidence do you have, other than my word? If you do try to do anything, I shall throw up my hands in amazement, and say the man must be out of his mind.'

Defeated, Jurnet attempted nothing more. Raising her arm to point again, the woman went on: ‘We had made love that day in that same room, on the bare boards. A splinter from the floor stuck in my shoulder blade, but he never knew, until we'd finished. Even then, he couldn't understand how I could be glad about the splinter, glad of the blood; that it was a sacrament, a symbolic act. He dragged the old mattress out of a corner, and said we should have used that. It was mouldy with damp, and mice had made a nest in it; and when he saw that, he suddenly began to cry. Real tears! That was when he told me that Carla was the only woman he had really loved. That stupid tart!' Miss Appleyard looked at Jurnet wide-eyed, inviting the detective to share her astonishment.

‘As always, after we had made love at the mill, Laz went for a swim, diving straight from one of the windows into the water above the dam. It was deeper in those days. With the sluice gate shut you could build up quite a head of water. The centre board rested on little projections at either side – that was when you wanted to let the water through. Otherwise, you could let it right down to the river bed. There was a kind of long-handled fork which you hooked into a slot at the top, and with that, you could raise it or lower it as much as you liked.' She leaned over the water, frowning. ‘I threw it in afterwards – the fork thing. If it hasn't disintegrated, it ought to be down there, somewhere.'

‘You didn't go swimming, too?'

‘Not that day. I didn't want to wash the blood away, not for a little.' A small smile of reminiscence played about her lips. ‘We used to open the sluice just before we were ready to go in – yank up the centre board as high as it would go, so that all the pent-up water could come plunging through, and we could plunge with it. Glorious! I remember, that afternoon, I stood on the catwalk naked, with the sun warm on my body. I couldn't believe that any woman could be more desirable than I was at that moment, even though I was no longer young. And then I took the fork and raised the centre board. Only, instead of propping it in the notches, as usual, I held it well above the water, balanced on the fork, and waited for Laz to come through. I had to get the timing exactly right or I might have maimed him instead of killing him, and I needed to have him dead.'

Jurnet said, between gritted teeth: ‘You damn near took his head off.'

‘It seemed a good way for an Appleyard to die.'

After a moment Jurnet demanded: ‘You're sure this isn't some fantasy you've dreamed up over the years?'

Elena Appleyard looked at him calmly.

‘A fantasy's a device for accommodating truths we're otherwise afraid to acknowledge. I'm proud to acknowledge what I've done. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to talk about it.'

Jurnet took a deep breath and moved a little away. He could not bear to stay near her.

‘Well,' he said at last, ‘I reckon you aren't the first, nor won't be the last, murderer to get away with it. Nor yet the first nor last who, once it was done, would've given anything in the world to undo it.'

For a moment longer she looked at him, her face contorted. Then, she put up her hands to cover it: veined, elderly hands covering the face of a moaning old woman. He left her there to do what she would, made his way back to the front of the house, got into his car, and drove home.

The phone was ringing as he came through the flat door. He lifted the receiver off the hook, and a great thankfulness flooded through his whole being as he heard Miriam's voice.

He hardly took in what she said to him. It was enough to know that she was in touch, that she was back in England. Something about being in London, at her mother's. Couldn't wait to see him. Something about, was he off duty tomorrow?

Jurnet forced himself to concentrate, slow the beating of his heart.

‘Yes,' he answered, determined so to arrange it, even if he had to resign from the Force to do so. ‘I'm off all day. What would you like to do?'

‘The weather's so lovely,' Miriam said. ‘Why don't we take a run out to Bullen Hall?'

Copyright

First published in 1984 by Constable

This edition published 2012 by Bello an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR Basingstoke and Oxford Associated companies throughout the world

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ISBN 978-1-4472-2510-2 EPUB
ISBN 978-1-4472-2509-6 POD

Copyright © S T Haymon, 1984

The right of S T Haymon to be identified as the
author of this work has been asserted in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Every effort has been made to contact the copyright holders of the material reproduced in this book. If any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publisher will be pleased to make restitution at the earliest opportunity.

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BOOK: Stately Homicide
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