Read The Start of Everything Online

Authors: Emily Winslow

The Start of Everything (38 page)

BOOK: The Start of Everything

In the absence of evidence otherwise, Mathilde Oliver’s death has been classified an accident.

Grace Rhys’s murder has only some paperwork left. I drive to Deeping House for a last visit. I need Dru’s signature on the document that had been typed up from her recorded witness statement.

They’re packing. There’s a skip outside, full of rubbish and men’s clothes. They’re expunging him from their lives.

I stand in the doorway. On and under the wooden floor in front of me is where we’d found the blood. It had been cleaned up, of course. It hadn’t been visible, but we’d made it so.

There’s a rug here now. I walk over it.

Mrs. Bennet is carefully sorting the family photos into
with him
without him
. “For the skip,” she says, gesturing to the
with him

Dru is wrapping dishes and mugs in newspaper to cushion them in transit. She rinses the ink off her hands and signs the papers for me.

“How are you holding up?” I ask.

She shrugs, and her gaze falls on her sister.

Max is wearing a curly brown wig studded with pink bows. She sprawls on the couch reading Enid Blyton. She yawns.

“Did you hear about the Finleys?” Dru asks, rolling a tall glass in newsprint, stuffing the jagged paper ends inside the lip. “He ran off with the nanny.”

“Liliana?” I say, startled.

“No, a new one. A fat one.” Ah, so Mrs. Finley got the middle-aged, overweight nanny she wanted.
she wanted. Dru lays another glass on the news in front of her. It’s the horoscope page. I don’t think much of fortune-telling; the predictions are either vague, wrong, or lucky. But stirring Max to think about a future, any living future, is a good thing.

I thank Dru and wish them well. Mrs. Bennet gathers up an armful of tainted memories and carries them out ahead of me.

I pause. A photo on the top of the keeper pile shows a happier day. Max and Dru on the London Eye, arms around each other’s shoulders,
the city fanned out behind them. I pick it up. Yes, that’s the shirt from Brookside. Unisex, oversized on Dru, and with the same little pocket on the front.

Max has fallen asleep. The book rides her chest. Her dreams curve her mouth into a smile.

Dru watches me tuck the photo into my bag.

She runs out after me, catches me in the hall. “Inspector,” she says, and it sounds incongruous to be professionally addressed by a child.

I face her. If she confesses, I’ll run with it. If she’s willing to talk, it won’t matter that I scuppered the original interview and that it would be excluded from court. We could just forget about that. And it’ll be good for her, too. Her youth, and her state of mind at the time of the crime, mitigate things. She’d just been raped; she was scared; she had sacrificed. Grace, in her kindness, had been about to rob them of Max’s security. Surely a compassionate sentence would prioritise psychiatric care over prison. Surely she’ll need it.

“You forgot these,” she says, wide-eyed. The witness statement. I must have left it on the table after she signed it. She holds the papers out. Her father must have been small; she’s littler than her mum, and looks up to me.

The B1040 has been reopened. I ride it over the Nene, now back within its banks. I drive to the recycling centre where Mr. Bennet had dumped the Christmas tree. I slip the photo into the black-bin waste for incineration.

For CB
who is always cheerful, knows absolutely everyone, and shares


It’s been a privilege to interact with so many generous, knowledgeable people in the process of writing this book. Their expertise is certain; any errors or liberties are my own.

Regarding Cambridge University, thanks to: Dr. Lindsay King and Dr. Carolin Crawford, Institute of Astronomy; Dr. Simon Wadsley, Director of Studies for Mathematics, Homerton College; Ben Champion, Corpus Christi College; and Christine Jelbert, formerly of the Registrar’s Office.

Regarding other aspects of the story and setting, thanks to: Dr. Steve Boreham, Caspar Bush, Alice Elfick, Alexander Finlayson, Gina and Dave Holland, Jeff Lewis, Katy Salmon, and Mick Wright, Dog in a Doublet lock keeper.

My early readers provided correction, insight, and encouragement. Thanks to Derek Black, Rachel Wadsley, and Susan Van Valkenburg for being picky about my British usage; to Renee Cramer, Mimi Cross, Eva Gallant, Sophie Hannah, and Amy Mokady for being picky about
my story; and to Margaret Brentano Baker and Marianna Williams for overall impressions.

Thanks to my friends online for that last-minute, thought-provoking confab over word choice: Rebecca B, Melissa B, Steve C, George D, Kristi D, Theo F, Laura G, Catherine H, Lara K, Christina M, Estelle P, Caroline P, Dave P, Jo R, Danelle T, and others already thanked above. Good times!

Loving thanks to G, for many, many things, especially for spending Valentine’s Day driving me all over the county to find a suitable place for a body dump. Affectionate thanks to S and W, for entertaining yourselves on the Wii while I was on deadline. You three are the loves of my life.

Thanks to Cameron McClure, for excellent agenting and excellent coffee. Also to Don Maass, for the counsel to take the time I needed.

Thanks to all at Delacorte Press, especially Kate Miciak, Randall Klein, and Loren Noveck. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure.


The Whole World


is an American living in Cambridge, England. She’s the author of
The Whole World
(published by Delacorte in 2010) and is at work on
The Red House
, both of which are set in Cambridge. Her training as an actress at Carnegie Mellon’s elite drama conservatory is put to use in her multiple first-person narrators, and her years designing puzzles for
magazine inform her playful, complex plot structures. She and her husband together homeschool their two sons in a house full of books.

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