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Authors: Chris Collett

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‘Chances are she was abused too,' said Mariner.

‘Bryce hasn't worked at a university for years, and even then he didn't teach. He was a glorified lab assistant. He quit his job after Amber ran away and has spent all his time since looking for her.'

‘So how do you think it played out?' Mariner asked.

‘Well,' said Griffith. ‘I think that when Bryce got Theo's letter he hired Hennessey to check it out, perhaps with a view to reconciliation, but I think it's more likely that he had a more specific outcome in mind. Having confirmed Amber's presence at Abbey Farm he set off on his across-Wales walk, choosing the Black Mountain Way quite deliberately. If then it later emerges that he's been in the area, he has a valid explanation and has put down a series of alibis nearby – including, conveniently, you. Bryce arranged, through Hennessey, to meet Theo in Plackett's Wood. We still have no murder weapon, nor can we guess its origins, so we don't know if Theo's intention was to kill Bryce, or if Bryce had the same aim. In any event, for one of them, something went wrong. Perhaps Theo wasn't strong enough to overpower Bryce, who then turned on him and killed him before escaping back to the abandoned byre.' Griffith looked at Mariner. ‘I think it's safe to assume that it was in fact Bryce who was hiding out there, and had been since shortly after you got to Caranwy. Telling you about it at the time when McGinley was back on the radar just confused the issue. What we've got from here on in is pure speculation, but it seems to me that Hennessey, when he found Theo Ashton, guessed what had happened, and arranged to meet Bryce. Having killed Ashton, Bryce had no choice but to kill Hennessey too, leaving him in his abandoned car. We have a witness who recalls having seen Bryce setting off in the direction of where the vehicle was found on Monday afternoon.

‘Knowing he'd got to get away, Bryce had probably hoped to pass back through the village unnoticed, when you spotted him on Sunday night and persuaded him to stay at the hostel. He probably felt relatively safe; he could be fairly sure that no-one except Theo and Hennessey had known he was there, and to refuse your invitation would have been to blow his cover as a bumbling incompetent. But Amber must have found out, perhaps from Elena, what was going on, and when Bryce turned up as an extra guest at the hostel, the chance to end it all was presented to her. What we have no way of knowing, of course, is whether Amber carried out the execution herself or had someone do it for her, which brings us back to those suspects. Incidentally, given the relationship with Gwennol Hall, we can perhaps also add Dmitri or one of his buddies to that list. Forensically, we've turned up nothing that places anyone other than Elena, Bryce and you in the hostel, but that doesn't mean that Willow, Amber or Dmitri couldn't have been very careful. We haven't enough evidence yet to make any fresh arrests.'

‘So we may never know,' said Mariner.

‘If we keep questioning them, sooner or later someone might say something indiscreet.' Glancing up, Griffith emptied his glass. ‘Looks like you've got another visitor,' he said, as if Mariner was in hospital. ‘I'll leave you to it.'

Mariner looked across to see Suzy Yin hovering in the doorway. When Griffith had left she came over. ‘My God,' she said, staring in horror. ‘What happened to you?'

Mariner gave her the abridged version.

‘And Glenn McGinley?' Suzy asked. ‘He wasn't after you?'

‘Not me, no. But a patch of blood and mucous was found by the side of Rev Aubrey's cottage, which is quite likely to be McGinley's. Elena told me that the Reverend had interfered with some of the kids round here. He could have been doing it long before he came out to Caranwy.'

‘So you're going back to Birmingham tomorrow?' she asked.

‘First thing in the morning.' Mariner looked at her. ‘It's worth a visit,' he said. ‘Contrary to popular belief we do have some historic and cultural features.'

‘I know,' she smiled. ‘I looked it up.'

‘And it's not a million miles from here.'

‘Even closer to Cambridge,' she said. ‘I'll be heading back there in a couple of weeks. Ever been to Cambridge?'

‘Only for work.'

‘Well, we must change that.'

‘Yes,' said Mariner. ‘Very soon.'

THIRTY-SEVEN
Day Thirteen

O
n his way back to Birmingham, Mariner drove the eight or so miles north-west to the Towyn Farm community. The sudden deaths of the Barham parents had left Jamie well provided for financially, so his care had never been in question. Mariner could remember how Anna had enthused about Towyn when Jamie first came here, though Mariner had rather cynically believed her eagerness to be driven mainly by her attraction to a certain GP and her desire to move out to this area anyway. Now he would see for himself. He drove along the track to what looked to have originally been an old, fairly modest manor house. Both house and gardens looked reasonably well tended. Mariner tried to work out how long it was since he'd last seen Jamie. It must be a couple of years, which made him wonder if Jamie would even remember him, especially beyond the context of Anna's house in Birmingham.

The set up seemed very informal. Mariner parked up and walked unimpeded into what looked like the main entrance to the house, but there was no-one around to talk to and there seemed to be no means of attracting attention. A table with a visitor's book stood to one side and Mariner was about to sign himself in when a door opened and a young man hurried out carrying a pile of folded clothing. ‘You all right?' he asked, though it didn't appear that he cared one way or the other. A badge identified him simply as ‘Dave'.

‘I've come to see Jamie Barham,' Mariner said.

‘Oh, okay. Do you want to wait in there?' He indicated a door off to the left. There seemed no question of challenging Mariner's identity or purpose. ‘I'll go and get him.'

Mariner went into the room, which like the rest of the ground floor was painted in a nondescript beige and had no decoration, nor curtains at the small window that overlooked a large garden. There were a dozen or so easy chairs, some stained and torn and a solid wooden cupboard to one side was closed. The only other accoutrement was a small flat-screen TV on a bracket high on the wall. The place had a dusty unused smell and there were marks on the walls, one of them looking disconcertingly like a smear of blood. Mariner heard yelling somewhere far away in the house that stopped abruptly. Several minutes later the door opened and Jamie was ushered into the room, shoulders hunched and shuffling along in a pair of shapeless corduroy slippers. He looked older, with a few streaks of grey starting to appear at his temples, but then he'd be – what, 36 or 37 by now? He was clutching the waistband of his tracksuit trousers in his fist, as if he was holding them up, and Mariner noticed the sharp rectangular creases on his sweatshirt, perhaps freshly laundered, or perhaps recently removed from its packaging. Mariner didn't expect eye contact or any acknowledgement, but Jamie's eyes flickered briefly towards him, registering his presence.

‘Jamie, sit there,' the man said loudly, as if addressing a deaf person, gesturing to one of the chairs and Jamie meekly complied. There was a faded bruise on the side of his forehead.

‘He bangs his head sometimes,' Dave said, seeing Mariner take that in. An explanation was unnecessary. Mariner had witnessed that the first time he met Jamie, trying to interview him for a crime he could never have committed.

‘Give us a shout when you've finished,' Dave said. ‘He should be all right.' And he left the room.

‘Hi Jamie,' said Mariner, keeping his distance. ‘How are you doing?'

Jamie stared at the floor.

Mariner was stumped already. ‘Thought I'd come to see you, see where you live. It's just you and me now, mate.'

Jamie had started to rock gently back and forth. It was always something Anna hated and instinctively Mariner walked across to him. ‘No rocking,' he said and went to put a hand on his shoulder, but Jamie flinched away, as if he was about to be struck.

‘Hey,' said Mariner, backing off again. ‘It's all right.' At close quarters he caught a whiff of body odour and could see the unevenness of the stubble on Jamie's chin. He couldn't help wondering what Anna would think of her brother's appearance. She'd always insisted that Jamie be well groomed and dressed like the adult he was, and usually in smart designer clothes. But perhaps they'd look out of place here. For the first time Jamie looked directly at him. ‘Spectre man,' he said.

Mariner was disproportionately pleased to hear that inaccurate reproduction of his title ‘Inspector Mariner'. When they'd first met it was the best Jamie could do and before long Anna had started using it and the name had stuck. It was an indication of some recognition at least. He'd stopped off at a village shop on his way here and bought a couple of packs of the Hula Hoops that Jamie used to like. Now seemed a good time to offer them, and pleasingly they were obviously still a favourite. Mariner sat down on one of the chairs and the two men remained in a sort of companionable silence, save for Jamie munching his way through the packet. When he'd finished he carefully passed Mariner the empty packet, before standing up and moving to the door. It seemed to Mariner like a signal for him to leave. Before going, though, he wanted to introduce himself to whoever was in charge, though that proved less straightforward than it should have been. Eventually he managed to find his way to a main office and a man called John this time, whose badge also declared him the manager.

‘Jamie used to have a friend here; Julie I think her name is,' Mariner said. ‘Is she still about?'

‘We haven't got a Julie,' John said. ‘Let me just check.'

He came back a few minutes later. ‘Julie Apney left about three months ago.'

‘Oh, do you know why?'

John shrugged, neither knowing nor, it seemed, caring. ‘Sorry.'

‘Would it be possible to get contact details for parents? I wouldn't ask but my partner lent them a number of books,' said Mariner, improvising. ‘I'd like to get them back.'

Even though Mariner was sure that it might contravene data protection regulations, there was no hesitation in delivering these and Mariner left with the name and address in his pocket.

Leaving Towyn, he stopped for a beer and a sandwich at a pub a couple of miles down the road, where he sat and assessed what he had seen. Staff who seemed largely indifferent, Jamie dressed in old and ill-fitting clothes that were possibly not even his, and that distant yelling and possible blood stain on the wall. Something about the whole set up made Mariner uneasy. Finishing his pint, he made a snap decision and outside, he climbed into his car and headed back towards Towyn. This time he asked to go up to Jamie's room. Jamie shared the small cell-like space with someone who, from the prevailing smell, seemed to have incontinence issues. Mariner had taken in with him his small day sack and collected up the few personal possessions from Jamie's locker, including a photograph of Anna. Then, with promises of McDonalds, he persuaded Jamie down to the entrance hall and went to find Dave who was back on his own in the office, and adopting his casual approach said: ‘I'd like to take Jamie out for a bit; that okay?'Apparently it was.

Mariner had half expected at any point that Jamie would vocally and physically resist, which was his normal reaction to most disturbances to his routine. But as Mariner strapped him into the passenger seat of his car Jamie co-operated fully – in fact Mariner was pretty certain he saw a faint smile pass across his face. They drove out of the Towyn grounds unchallenged. Though utterly convinced that this was the right course of action, it wasn't until they were well on their way up the motorway heading back to Birmingham that Mariner started to think about the enormity of what he was taking on. He was trying with limited success to avert the sudden onset of panic, when a news item on the radio caught his attention and he turned up the volume. ‘There has been a breakthrough in the M5 road-rage stabbing earlier this year. A key witness has come forward with new evidence which has led to the arrest today of two men.'

EPILOGUE

A
fter a cold start to the year, the months of May and June were unseasonably warm. On a caravan park near Aberystwyth, residents began to complain about an unpleasant smell in one area of the park. The manager was baffled; he'd had all the sewerage pipes in the vicinity thoroughly checked. Eventually at the suggestion of a couple of holidaymakers, he forced entry to unit 71 and found the decaying body of Glenn McGinley, thought to have been there for some weeks. Among the possessions spread out on the dining-room table was a photograph of McGinley as a boy along with his handsome younger brother, Spencer, amid a group of other children, taken at the youth hostel in Caranwy in 1974. Standing smiling in the centre of the picture, with a fatherly hand on Spencer's shoulder, was the Reverend Aubrey.

BOOK: Blood and Stone
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