Richard Jury Mysteries 10: The Old Silent

BOOK: Richard Jury Mysteries 10: The Old Silent
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Kathy Grimes
Roy Buchanan
and my cats, Felix and Emily
who have all entered the old silence
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm:
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
I have to be gone for a season or so.
Robert Frost
Once born you’re addicted
And so you depict it
As good, but who kicked it?
Richard Hell
When asked where I get my inspiration, I say, “I don’t.” This time I did.
I would like to thank some people I’ve never met:
John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Edward Van Halen, Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Ry Cooder, Mark Knopfler, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, James Taylor, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Elvis Presley, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Petty, and Frank Zappa.
And many thanks to some people I have met:
Elise Kress and the New Saint George band; Chief Superintendent Roger E. Sandell of the Norfolk Constabulary; Tony Walton of the Hammersmith Odeon; Andrew Moffitt, guitarist; and Kent Holland, who froze in line to get the tickets for Lou Reed’s concert;
—and Melrose Plant especially wants to thank Lou Reed.
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2013
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 2013 Simon & Schuster Inc.
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1989 by Martha Grimes
The right of Martha Grimes to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray's Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The author is grateful for permission to reprint the following copyrighted material:
Excerpts from "Carolyn Says II" and "The Kids" by Lou Reed. Copyright © 1973 by Oakfield Music Ltd. All rights administered by Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc.
Excerpt from "Who Says" by Richard Hell. Copyright © 1977 by Dorado Music, Quickmix Music and Melting Music. Used by permission of Warner/ Chappell Music, Inc. All rights reserved.
Excerpt from "Good-bye and Keep Cold" by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1923 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston and renewed 1951 by Robert Frost. Reprinted from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, by permission of Henry Holt and Company, Inc., Jonathan Cape Ltd., and the Estate of Robert Frost.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Hardback ISBN ISBN: 0-440-20492-5-6
Trade Paperback ISBN 0-440-20492-5-3
Ebook ISBN 0-440-20492-5-0



He had seen her earlier that day in the museum behind the parsonage.
It was ten o'clock in the evening now and since he had been quite
certain he wouldn't see her again, Jury couldn't help but keep raising
his eyes to look over the top of his local paper to see if, even now,
she had the least awareness that she was being observed.

She didn't. She sat back against the cushioned chair by the
fireplace, a glass of brandy beside her on the table, largely
untouched, as if she'd forgotten it along with her surroundings. Her
attention had been for a while fixed (and it was the first suggestion
of a smile he had seen all day) on a black cat that had appropriated
the best seat in the inn, a brown leather porter's chair with a high,
buttoned back. The cat's slow-blinking yellow eyes and proprietorial
air seemed to say that guests could come and go, but it would remain.
It had rights.

The woman, however, gave the impression that she had none. The
beautifully tailored clothes, the square-cut sapphire ring, the
perfectly bobbed hair notwithstanding, that was the impression of her
he had got earlier—someone who had stepped down, had given over all
rights and privileges.

It was a fantasy, and an absurd one at that. From the few scraps of
impressions he had stitched together he was in danger of fashioning the
tragic history of a queen forced to abdicate.

He tried to go back to his pint of Yorkshire bitter and the
engrossing column on the sheep sale and the fund-raiser for the Bronte

It had been in the museum earlier that day that he had first seen
her. She was bending over one of the glass cases that protected the
manuscripts. It was off-season for tourists, a chilly day after the
New Year.

The only other people in the room were a waiflike woman and her
balding husband with two young children, all bundled up. In their
heavy coats and scarves, the girl and boy resembled the Paddington
Bears they carried. The mother looked haggard, in her jeans and baggy
sweater, as if she'd just finished up a week's washing; the father, a
camera swinging from his shoulder, was trying to read aloud Emily
Bronte's poem about a captive bird but was dissuaded by the whines of
the kiddies eager to get away from these arcane manuscripts, grim
portraits, scents of old leather and beeswax, into the sunnier and
more aromatic environs of one of the local tearooms. "Choc and
biscuits" must have been the ritual treat, for they recited it, in
tandem, again and again.
Their wheedling little voices were rising and would soon turn to
shouts and tears. The mother looked round, embarrassed, and the father
tried ineffectually to quiet them.

The kiddies' whining pleas seemed to awaken the woman in the
cashmere coat to a sense of her surroundings, like one awakening in a
strange room, one she had entered by mistake and which might harbor
some undefined danger. Her expression, indeed, was similar to the one
in the touching self-portrait of Branwell Bronte, imagining his own
deathbed scene. She looked stricken.

She hitched the strap of the leather bag farther up her shoulder and
wandered into the next room. Jury felt she was just as indifferent to
the Bronte arcana as the Paddington children had been. She was bending
over a case, pushing the tawny hair that fell forward behind her ear as
if it blocked her view of Charlotte's narrow boots, her tiny gloves,
her nightcap. But that examination was merely cursory as her hand
trailed abstractedly along the wooden edge of the case.

Jury studied an old pew door taken from the box pews when the church
had been demolished. It bore the legend that a certain lady of "Crook
House, hath 1 sitting." They must have all had to take turns, back then.

Her slow walk round the display table in Charlotte's room might have
given, to a less well-trained eye than his, the impression of
absorption. In her eyes was an utter lack of it. The looks she cast
here and there were uninquisitive glances from intense and intelligent
eyes, but eyes that seemed looking for something else. Or someone. She
appeared to be idling there, waiting.

That, he decided, was the impression: her expression preoccupied,
the swift, slight turn of the head that suggested she was listening and
expectant; there was the air of an assignation missed.

She had certainly not registered his presence; her glance had swept
across his face as if it were another Bronte artifact, a portrait or
bronze bust. If she were introduced to him five minutes later, he
doubted she would remember ever having seen him. Where she stopped the
longest and seemed to really look was at the display behind glass of
Angria and Gondal, those imaginary kingdoms invented by Branwell.

Then she turned and walked toward the stairs.

Well, he had meant to leave anyway (Jury told himself) and followed
her. He stopped on the staircase to look at the famous portrait of the
sisters painted by the brother. Jury could see the dim outline, the
space once full where Bran-well had painted himself out.

The Paddington family had left, too, headed across the narrow street
to the tearoom, the children managing somehow to swarm as if there
were ten of them rather than two.

At first he thought the woman might be going for a cup of tea
herself, but she simply stood on the curb, hesitating as if she were in
London at a zebra crossing. The only traffic here at the top of this
hill up which the pilgrims toiled was one cab idling by the tourist
information center and a boy trying to urge on an intractable dray
horse wearing blinders.

A chill wind whipped up the cobbled pavement, bringing with it a
taste of rain, and the woman pulled up the collar of her coat so that
her hair was tucked into it. Then she plunged her hands into the
pockets and turned up the street. He thought she might be making for
the enticing warmth of the whitewashed hotel on the corner, perhaps (he
hoped, for he could use a pint of something) to the saloon bar there.
But she passed it and stopped instead before a narrow house called the
Children's Toy Museum. She went in.

Jury stood looking at the facade and then into the dim interior
where she was paying for a ticket. He was beginning to feel not only
like a fool, but a voyeur. He hadn't followed a good-looking female
since he was sixteen, except if a case he was working on required it,
and it had been some years since he had had to do that sort of footwork

The little foyer or outer room was crammed with small toys—tops,
wooden figures, sweets and souvenirs clustered on shelves. An amiable
young man in a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt and a forlorn-looking girl sat
behind the counter, his happy expression and her sad one like the
coupled masks of comedy and tragedy. She seemed surprised that here yet
was another person over ten or twelve who was handing over fifty pence
to go inside and see the toy display. The man smiled as if he approved
of such larking about on the part of adults. Jury returned the smile
and handed over the ticket money.

Just then a sallow kid with a lick of strawlike hair shooting up on
the crown of his head came from the inner room into the outer room,
frowning, as if he hadn't got his money's worth. The girl was
generous; she realized the problem and told the boy to go back in and
push the button. She then instructed Jury in a similar fashion, in case
he too was a bit thick about getting the train setup to work. It
wouldn't work, after all, unless you pushed the buttons. He thanked her
and followed the boy into the museum.

She was standing at the end of the narrow aisle that ran between the
glass walls crammed to overflowing with the detritus of childhood.
Stuffed dolls and bisque dolls; elaborately designed dollhouses;
mechanical toys and wooden toys.

He wondered, really, if the boy there at the end, standing beside
her before the train display, could appreciate all of this. It was, in
some sense, a museum for adults. He looked at the replica of a
skyscraper built from a Lego set and remembered how much he had wanted
one. Against the wall opposite was the most intricately built dollhouse
he'd ever seen. Its little rooms were furnished on four sides, and it
was probably meant to turn on a mechanical wheel. It even had a
billiard room, a green baize table at which were two players, one
holding his cue stick, the other bent over the table.

While he looked over this catalogue of childhood, he was aware of
the faint buzzing noise of the trains, set in motion by the towheaded
lad at the end.

Their backs were to him, the lad and the woman in the cashmere coat,
standing side-by-side. Were it not that the lad could have done with a
scrubbing and darning, and she so expensively turned out, they might
have been mother and son, their coloring was so similar. The trains
went round and they stood in a sort of comradely silence, watching. It
was the boy who seemed to tire of this first; he walked back up the
aisle, brushed by Jury, and left, still frowning, as if the trains, the
bits and pieces of miniature buildings, and perhaps toy people and
animals hadn't done something clever enough.

Still she stood there, pushing the button that operated the train
again. He could see only her back and the faintest impression of her
reflection in the glass.

Then she made a strange gesture. She raised her gloved hand, fingers
outspread against the glass, and leaned her forehead against it.

It was as though she were looking at something she had once wanted
terribly, as Jury had wanted the Lego set.

It was at that point that he had felt intensely ashamed, felt
himself to be a voyeur, an intruder, an invader of privacy. He left the
toy museum, feeling he would have to let her go.

"Let her go": certainly an odd, proprietorial way of regarding a
person with whom he'd had no contact, hadn't even exchanged a word.
Hadn't even, really, exchanged a look, given the glance she had passed
over him had probably not registered.

And he was picking it apart, too, adolescently, going back over
their mutual occupancy of the two dhTerent places as if something might
come back to him that would suggest he had kindled at least a passing
interest. . . .

It was all one more sign—his doctor would say "symptom"—of just how
tired he was.

The only thing to do to stop this adolescent desire to hang about
was to walk back to the car park, collect his rented car, and get on
with his trip back to London.

He got as far as sitting behind the wheel of the Austin-Rover,
letting the engine idle, staring through the windscreen at the
almost-deserted car park and the gardens beyond where the children's
swings lifted slightly and twisted in the wind.

It had been a lark, a cheering thought, after the wasted week at
headquarters in Leeds, to drive the short distance to Haworth and spend
the night.

He slid down in the seat, thinking this sudden decision to return
was equally ridiculous
(and symptomatic, Mr. Jury)
, since he
had meant to stop here overnight. He was just too damned tired to make
the four- to five-hour trip back to London. Part of the weariness came
from the week in Leeds doing little more than getting baleful looks.

This self-deprecatory notion was all part of the malaise. "
Mr. Jury" (his doctor had prissily termed it, mouthing the word as if
it were a tasty new drink). A larger part of this depression came from
the knowledge that he had agreed to this assignment to get out of
London and away from Victoria Street and New Scotland Yard, where he
felt he had lately been bumbling about, making errors of judgment,
taking wrong decisions, giving in to uncharacteristic outbursts of

Sitting here now, looking down the slope of snow-patched park where
the light drew back, away from the swings, he wondered how much of his
recent behavior was actual, how much exaggerated. Nothing dramatic had
happened, beyond the occasion of his having got so bored listening to
Chief Superintendent Racer's litany of Jury's recent failings (no
matter how minor) that Jury had offered to put in for a transfer. What
concerned Jury was not the melodrama of this but the lack of it; the
suggestion had merely come oiF the top of his head and he hadn't even
enjoyed, particularly, the dilemma it had caused Racer.

Accidie. A holiday, that's what you need. Been working too hard
Then there were the prescriptions Jury had tossed in the nearest
dustbin after leaving his doctor's office.

. It was as good a word as any (he had thought,
lying awake at three a.m., which had lately become habitual); perhaps
it was better in its foreign-soundingness, defining a condition that
his own language was unable to describe. Malaise did not really fit,
though he preferred it, for it sounded like a passing fancy, something
that could probably be caught lying in the sun on the Amalfi coast and
possibly left there, like sunburn.

He could only really think of it in its much simpler guise of
depression. In a way, it was a comforting term, for everyone had it,
or thought he had it, now and again. It was just that Jury did not feel
it would pass off like sunburn or sore eyes. Indeed, he wondered why
people seemed to think of it as a condition in which one felt merely
dull, stupid, and disinterested in the day's events, when it was
actually almost the very opposite. It was an active condition; close to
an agony of conflicted feelings and feverish thoughts about one's work,
life, ability to fulfill some expectation that was in itself ambiguous,
shrouded in mystery. He was not, he knew, ordinarily a contented man.
But he was very good at borrowing the expression, the mannerisms, the
outward calm of one. And such a facade was helpful, perhaps necessary
to his effectiveness as a policeman. What he felt as he lay wake-fully
staring at the ceiling was that the veneer was chipping.

BOOK: Richard Jury Mysteries 10: The Old Silent
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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