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Authors: Kyril Bonfiglioli

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BOOK: The Mortdecai Trilogy
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We were in sight of Ouaisné Bay before either of us said a word.

‘I suppose he must be dead by now?’

I didn’t answer: it hadn’t really been a question. And I was thinking.

‘Sonia wasn’t raped,’ I said flatly.

‘No. We’d been lovers – if that’s a word fit to use – for months. First time was an accident, both drunk at a party. After that she made me do it again and again; swore she’d tell George if I didn’t. That first day of all this, when you and George came home unexpectedly, we thought we were caught and I told Sonia to yell “rape” while I got out of the window. She’d been reading all that muck about the Beast of Jersey, that’s what put all the witchcraft trimmings into her head.’

‘But George worked it out. What he did to Violet was revenge, simply?’

‘Yes. Perhaps he was telling us that he knew. I should have realized. Suppose I was too upset to think it through.’

‘I see. Then he must have got a sort of taste for it, I suppose. Brought out a streak of insanity in him, perhaps?’

‘An officer and gentleman,’ said Sam. He made it sound like the punch-line of a vile joke.

I finished bailing and tied George’s horrid paraphernalia to the spare anchor and threw it over the side. I didn’t care whether someone might fish it up, I just wanted it out of my sight.

The Plumber met us on the beach, helped us haul-up on to the trailer.

‘Where’s Mr Breakspear, then?’

‘Lost overside. We were nearly wrecked. Tell the Coastguard, would you.’

‘My Chri’,’ said the Plumber. Then, ‘Oh, there’s a phone call at the pub for Mr Davenant, from England, urgent. You have to ask for the Personal Calls Operator.’ Sam started to walk towards the pub, then broke into a shambling run.

‘So it was Mr Breakspear all the time,’ said the Plumber.

I didn’t answer. I was wondering how many people had known all the time. Perhaps I should have asked my gardener. Perhaps he would even have told me.

Sam came out of the pub, bleak-faced.

‘Violet has killed herself,’ he said carefully. ‘Let’s go home. Things to do.’

‘Have to go to the police first,’ I said. ‘Report George missing.’

‘Yes, of course. I’d forgotten about that.’ His voice was gentle now.

‘Don’t you want your fish?’ the Plumber called after us.

‘No, thanks,’ I said. ‘We know where they’ve been.’

It was dark when we left the Police Station and drove up the
Grande Route de S. Jean
towards our homes.

‘Want to talk?’ I asked diffidently.

‘Vi was left alone for a moment – nurse went to the loo – and she just got out of bed and hurled herself through the closed window. Can’t blame the nurse; Vi hadn’t stirred for days. They warned me, of course. Catatonics think they can fly, you see. Angels.’

‘Sam –’ I started.

‘Please shut up, Charlie.’

I tried again when we got to his house.

‘Look,’ I said, ‘won’t you please stay with us tonight?’

‘Good night, Charlie,’ he said and shut the door.

At home, I told Johanna about things as briefly as I could, then announced that I wanted to write letters. I went up to my dressing-room and stood at the open window, in the dark. Across the fields Sam’s house was a blaze of lights, then, one by one, they started to go out. I gripped the window-sill. It was very cold and a thin rain sifted on to my face.

When the shot came I stayed where I was.

Jock drifted into the room.

‘Shot from over Cherche-fuites way,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Heavy-calibre pistol, by the sound of it.’

‘That’s right.’

‘Well, are we going over there?’

‘No.’

‘You going to phone then, Mr Charlie?’

‘Get out, Jock.’

Five minutes later Johanna crept in and took one of my arms in both of hers, pressing it to her poor breast.

‘Dear Charlie, why are you standing here in the dark and shivering. And
crying?
All right, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, of course you’re not crying, I can see you’re not.’

But she closed the window and drew the curtains and led me to my bed, making me lie down, spreading a quilt over me.

‘Good night, Charlie,’ she said. ‘Please sleep now.’

‘Oh, very well,’ I said. But I would have liked to tell her about it.

‘Johanna,’ I said, as she opened the door.

‘Yes, Charlie?’

‘I forgot to ask – how is the canary?’

She didn’t answer.

‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’

She closed the door, very gently.

He just wanted a decent book to read …
 

Not too much to ask, is it? It was in 1935 when Allen Lane, Managing Director of Bodley Head Publishers, stood on a platform at Exeter railway station looking for something good to read on his journey back to London. His choice was limited to popular magazines and poor-quality paperbacks – the same choice faced every day by the vast majority of readers, few of whom could afford hardbacks. Lane’s disappointment and subsequent anger at the range of books generally available led him to found a company – and change the world.

 

We believed in the existence in this country of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price, and staked everything on it’
Sir Allen Lane, 1902–1970, founder of Penguin Books

 

The quality paperback had arrived – and not just in bookshops. Lane was adamant that his Penguins should appear in chain stores and tobacconists, and should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes.

 

Reading habits (and cigarette prices) have changed since 1935, but Penguin still believes in publishing the best books for everybody to enjoy.We still believe that good design costs no more than bad design, and we still believe that quality books published passionately and responsibly make the world a better place.

 

So wherever you see the little bird – whether it’s on a piece of prize-winning literary fiction or a celebrity autobiography, political tour de force or historical masterpiece, a serial-killer thriller, reference book, world classic or a piece of pure escapism – you can bet that it represents the very best that the genre has to offer.

 
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The Mortdecai Trilogy
first published by Black Spring Press, 1991
Published in Penguin Books, 2001

Copyright © Kyril Bonfiglioli, 2001

Don’t Point That Thing At Me
© Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1972
First published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, 1973

After You With the Pistol
© Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1979
First published by Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1979

Something Nasty in the Woodshed
© Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1976
First published by Macmillan London Ltd, 1976

All rights reserved
The moral right of the author has been asserted

ISBN: 978-0-241-96507-8

16. Mortdecai takes a little more drink than is good for him and is frightened by a competent frightener
 

*
See
Don’t Point That Thing at Me
, last chapters.

1
 

*
See
Don’t Point That Thing at Me
.

BOOK: The Mortdecai Trilogy
2.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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