Authors: M.C. Beaton
Day the Floods Came
The Agatha Raisin series
(listed in order)
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley
Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage
Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist
Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death
Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham
Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden
Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam
Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell
Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came
Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate
Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House
Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance
Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon
Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye
Constable & Robinson Ltd
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER
First published in the US 2002 by St Martin’s Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
First published in the UK by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd 2006
Copyright © 2002, 2006 M. C. Beaton
The right of M. C. Beaton to be identified as the author
of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication data is available from the British Library
ISBN 13: 978-1-84529-378-9
ISBN 10: 1-84529-378-9
Printed and bound in the EU
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4
The author wishes to thank Sue Quinn of the Go Places travel agency in Evesham and her assistants, Lynette James and Sonia Keen, for getting her, along with Agatha, to Robinson Crusoe Island.
The author also wishes to thank Pilates instructor Rosemary Clarke of Evesham, for all her help.
It was one of those grey days where misty rain blurs the windscreen and the bare branches of the winter trees mournfully drip water into puddles on the road as if weeping for summer past.
Agatha Raisin turned on the switch to demist the windscreen of her car. She felt that inside her was a black hole to complement the dreariness of the day. She was heading for the travel agent in Evesham, one thought drumming in her head. Get away . . . get away . . . get away . . .
For miserable Agatha felt rejected by the world. She had lost her husband, not to another woman, but to God. James Lacey was training to take holy orders at a monastery in France. Sir Charles Fraith, always her friend and supporter when James went missing, had just got married, in Paris, and without even inviting Agatha to the wedding. She had learned about it by reading a small item in
magazine. And there had been a photograph of Charles with his new bride, a Frenchwoman called Anne-Marie Duchenne, small, petite,
. Grimly, middle-aged Agatha sped down Fish Hill in the direction of Evesham. She would escape from it all – winter, the Cotswolds where she lived in the village of Carsely, a broken heart and a feeling of rejection. Although, she reflected, hearts did not break. It was one’s insides that got twisted up with pain.
Sue Quinn, the owner of Go Places, looked up as Agatha Raisin walked in and wondered what had happened to her usually brisk and confident customer. Agatha’s hair was showing grey at the roots, her bearlike eyes were sad, and her mouth was turned down at the corners. Agatha sank down into a chair opposite Sue. ‘I want to get away,’ she said, looking vaguely round at the posters on the wall, the brightly coloured ranks of travel brochures, and then back at the world map behind Sue’s head.
‘Well, let’s see,’ said Sue. ‘Somewhere sunny?’
‘Maybe. I don’t know. An island. Somewhere remote.’
‘You upset about something?’ asked Sue. In her long experience, unhappy people often headed for islands, unhappy people or drunks. Islands drew them like a magnet.
‘No,’ snapped Agatha. So deep was her misery, she did not want to confide in anyone and, in a sick way, she felt her misery still somehow tied her to James Lacey.
‘All right,’ said Sue. ‘Let me see. You look as if you could do with a bit of sun. I know; what about Robinson Crusoe Island?’
‘Where’s that? I don’t want one of those Club Med places.’
‘It’s in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.’ Sue swung her chair and pointed to the map. ‘Just off the coast of Chile. It’s where Alexander Selkirk was marooned.’
‘He was a Scottish seaman who was marooned there and Daniel Defoe learned about him and wrote
based on his adventures.’
Agatha scowled in thought. She had read
in school. She couldn’t remember much about it except it conjured up a vision of remoteness, of coral beaches and palm trees. She would walk along the beach and feel the sun on her head and get her life together.
She gave a weary shrug. ‘Sounds okay. Fix it up.’
Three weeks later, Agatha stood in the hot sunshine at Tobalaba Airport in Santiago and stared at the small Lassa Airlines plane which was to carry her to Robinson Crusoe. There were only two other passengers: a thin, bearded man, and a young pretty girl. The pilot appeared and told them to climb on board. The girl sat in the co-pilot’s seat and Agatha and the bearded man on one side of the plane. The other side was laden with a cargo of toilet rolls and bread rolls. Agatha’s luggage, as per instructions, was limited to one travel bag. But the temperature in Santiago had been a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, so she had only packed underwear and light clothes. Her lunch was in a paper bag: one can of Coke, one sandwich and a packet of potato crisps.
The plane took off. Agatha gazed down at the vast sprawl of Chile’s capital city and then at the arid peaks of the Andes. Then, as they headed out over the Pacific, her eyelids began to droop and she fell asleep. She awoke an hour later. She knew it was no use trying to talk to her fellow passengers because she didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. There was nothing to see but miles and miles of ocean. She shifted miserably in her seat and wished she had brought a book to read. The pilot had a newspaper spread over the controls. She hoped he knew where he was going.
And then, suddenly, after another two hours of flying over the seemingly endless ocean and just when Agatha was beginning to think they would never arrive, there was Robinson Crusoe Island. Boo! It seemed to rear up out of the sea in front of them, black and jagged, as if the Pacific had just thrown it up. The small plane chugged towards a cliff, closer and closer. What’s happening? thought Agatha as the plane appeared to start heaving its way up the cliff face. He’s not going to make it. But with a sudden roar the plane lifted up and over the cliff top and came to land on an airfield. No airport buildings, no control tower, just a flat cliff top of dusty red earth.
It turned out the pilot had some English. Agatha gathered they were to walk down to a boat and the luggage and cargo would be taken down separately. She could feel goose-flesh rising on her arms. It was cool though sunny. Like a good Scottish summer’s day in the Highlands. Agatha did not grasp she had moved into a subtropical zone. She only knew that she should have packed a sweater. The pretty girl who had been one of her fellow passengers indicated the road they were to take, and, with the bearded man, they walked across the airfield of dry red earth where locusts flittered in front of them like so many pieces of blown tissue paper.
The road curved down and down. The Jeep with the cargo and luggage roared past them. ‘Bastards,’ muttered Agatha, who was a strictly five-star-hotel traveller. ‘They might have given us a lift.’
Just when her legs were beginning to ache with all the walking, she saw the sea below, a cove and a launch bobbing at anchor. Seals floated on their backs in the green-and-blue water. Hundreds of seals. There were already people waiting on the jetty, all young men carrying backpacks. Agatha, when she was miserable, liked to be fussed over and cosseted. When the luggage was stowed and they climbed on board and were given life jackets and told to sit on the hatches, Agatha suddenly wished she had stayed at home.
‘You English?’ asked a tall hiker type.
‘Yes,’ said Agatha, grateful to be able to speak after such an enforced silence. ‘How long until we get there?’
‘About an hour and a half. You could have gone by road, but it’s pretty rough.’
‘Everything seems pretty rough,’ remarked Agatha. Above her, black mountains and sheer cliffs soared up to the blue sky. No beaches. Nothing but barren rock. A great setting for a horror movie or a movie about aliens. Amazing, thought Agatha, how, because of satellite television, one forgot that the world was really still a large place.
‘I thought it would be tropical,’ she said.
‘That’s because Daniel Defoe set
in the Caribbean.’
‘Oh,’ said Agatha and relapsed into gloomy silence.
She brightened only when the launch cruised into Cumberland Bay and she saw a small township and trees and flowers. She turned to the hiker. ‘Where is my hotel? The Panglas?’
‘Over there. That red roof.’
‘But how do I get there? It seems miles.’
‘Walk,’ he said, and he and his companions laughed heartily.
They disembarked at a quayside. The pretty little girl tugged Agatha’s sleeve and led her towards a Jeep. ‘We get a lift,’ said Agatha with relief. But the relief was short-lived.
The Jeep set off up a mountainous dry river bed of a road, lurching and bumping, swinging round to hang off the edge of a cliff, and then plunging down a steep gradient and roaring up the other side almost at the perpendicular. I’ll kill Sue when I get back, thought Agatha, and then realized with a little shock that from the airfield to this scary journey to the hotel, she had not thought of James once.
To Agatha’s relief, the hotel was beautiful. There was a huge lounge with picture windows looking out over the bay. Her room was very small, but the bed was comfortable. Outside the lounge was a deck with easy chairs. She searched through her luggage and put on a T-shirt with a long-sleeved blouse over it.
She went out on to the deck and ordered a glass of wine from an attentive waiter. It was warm in the sun and the air was like champagne. An odd feeling of well-being began to permeate her body. What a strange place, she thought. She could almost feel the darkness lifting out of her.
Her spirits rose even further at dinner, when as a starter she was served with one of the biggest lobsters she had ever seen. She tackled it with gusto and then looked round at her dinner companions. The pretty girl was there, but not the bearded man. The central table was dominated by a large family, speaking in Spanish. They were made up of an obviously married couple, thin and athletic, with three children – beautiful little girls – a middle-aged woman, and a young man. To Agatha’s right, a husband and wife sat eating lobster in silence. Some of Agatha’s old misery crept back. She did not know any Spanish. She was marooned on Robinson Crusoe Island and condemned to silence for the rest of her stay.
The middle-aged woman, who had been casting covert glances at her, suddenly rose and came over to Agatha’s table. ‘I hear from the staff you are English,’ she said. She had a plump, motherly face and little twinkling eyes. ‘I am Marie Hernandez and I am here with my daughter and her husband and my son, Carlos. The hotel does not hold many guests. Perhaps we should all sit together?’
Agatha happily agreed. She joined the Hernandez family, as did the pretty girl, but the silent couple in the corner merely shook their heads and stayed where they were. All the Hernandez family, from Santiago, spoke English, apart from the small children, and they translated for the young girl, who said her name was Dolores. They all said, like Agatha, that they had expected a tropical island. Marie said she had a spare sweater in her luggage and would lend it to Agatha.