Peter Turnbull: Aftermath

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Peter Turnbull Aftermath
  • Название:
    Aftermath
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    Полицейский детектив / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Peter Turnbull


Aftermath

PROLOGUE

‘It’s the look, that short-lived look in their eyes.’ The man smiled at the recollection of pleasant memories. ‘When they realize what’s happening. . that look of betrayal. I mean that they realize that they have been betrayed.’ The woman hooked her arm inside the man’s arm as they walked.

‘It’s always the same,’ the man replied, ‘like will find like. You found me and I found you.’

‘Like finds like,’ the woman echoed.

They halted to enjoy the view across the Vale of York to where the City of York lay nestled amid a lush patchwork of fields and small stands of woodland.

‘It’s like an addict with his drug. . you need the next fix. . you need the next look in the victim’s eyes.’

‘And you need a partner you can trust,’ the woman added. ‘It’s all about trust.’

‘Yes. . I knew we were made for each other. . I saw it in your eyes.’

The woman laughed softly. ‘The cat was the first. . that old cat. . years ago now.’

‘Yes, but the look that flashed across its eyes was identical.’

‘Delicious. . delicious. And we were both still at school then.’

‘No. I had already left. . one year ahead of you. Remember? But all so naive and needy.’

‘All so naive or so needy, mainly needy. . but all had that same look in the eyes when their time came.’

‘A few escaped,’ the woman commented as her eye was drawn to a hovering sparrowhawk above the adjacent field. ‘What was that girl’s name. .? Tilly something. . she didn’t keep the rendezvous. . saved her life by doing so. . it was like she smelled a rat. She didn’t report us though.’

‘She had nothing to report. We just invited her to go to the coast with us.’

‘We should have kept photographs.’ The woman sighed.

‘That would have been suicidal. They have nothing to link us to them when they are found and I want to continue to enjoy walks like this, on days like this, for a few years yet.’

‘I suppose you are right. . glad we stopped though. . you were right about that. Quit while ahead. . but those looks they gave at the end. . those looks. . heavenly.’

ONE

Wednesday, 10th June — 10.05 hours to 16.35 hours


in which an enclosed garden gives up its dead.

John Seers tried to analyse his fear, or his fears. He sat and wondered why it was that he should feel so apprehensive when there was nothing tangible to fear — nothing at all. The large old house was quiet, utterly silent, which was only to be expected because he was the sole person in the building. John Seers reasoned that any other person who might be in the building would probably be just as wary of him as he would be of them. Unless it was not another person in the building but other persons, then, then he would have cause to fear. But he was alone, he was quite definitely the only human being in the house, and not only was he alone but people knew where he was and would come looking for him should he fall and fracture his leg or sustain some other disabling mishap, and thus not return by the appointed hour. He also carried his mobile phone, and even though the old house was remote, the signal strength had proved quite adequate should he need to summon assistance. In the end John Seers concluded that he was fearing only fear itself and that he was experiencing the sense of vulnerability, quite intensely so, of being a lone human being. Human beings, Seers reasoned, have achieved dominance because they have developed technology and because they function in cooperating groups, but as individuals, without technology, shelter, or a means to start a life saving and/or defensive fire, then the human being is vulnerable and an easy prey for many predators. Seers was content in the knowledge that he was alone in the house, and he did not expect to be attacked by a pack of ravenous baboons, nor by a pride of equally hungry lions, but yet, when his eyes fell on an axe helve which lay propped against the scullery wall, cobwebbed and dust covered, he picked it up and held it in his right hand, comforted by its weight, as he advanced from room to room.

He had decided that the best way to commence the project, which he had been advised would take him some four to six weeks to complete, would be to familiarize himself with the interior of the house, including, of course, the cellar and the attic, and then to visit the outbuildings and finally the overgrown garden. He felt he needed to set foot in all parts of the property and so he walked, wearing summer shoes and lightweight all white coveralls, axe helve in one hand and battery operated torch in the other. He opened each door that he came to and shone the beam of the torch into the rooms from which sunlight had been excluded by heavy curtains drawn shut. The torch beam illuminated strange shapes and shadows and mounds and peaks and valleys of darkness caused by the items in the room being covered by dust sheets. Seers went first into each and every room on the ground floor of the house, penetrating the rooms as much as he found possible, taking his time — not a rapid putting his head round the door of each room, glancing once at the interior and then closing the door behind him before moving on to the next room, but rather he loitered in each room, looking up at the ceiling and down at the floor covering. He marvelled at the good fortune of the house being so remote, so isolated, and so thoroughly concealed from view. A more open location and nearer the city, he fancied, would have led to the house and its contents being plundered by thieves in the night, loading up their white vans and selling the items at Bermondsey antique market. Then would have come the squatters or the local teenagers with stones and bricks, ensuring that not one pane of glass remained intact. Finally would come one or two children, boy children, who did not fully understand what they were doing, or an adult, sinister, lone-acting, who did fully understand what he was doing, but either carrying a can of petrol and a box of matches, and that would have been the fate of Bromyards; all contents purloined, then squatted, then vandalized and finally razed by fire. An unfortunate end to the house initially built in 1719 and added to over the following two hundred and fifty years. Throughout its history it had always been in the hands of the same family, until the last of the line had eventually succumbed to his frailty and failing health, expiring with nearly three hundred years of inheritance around him.

John Seers ascended the wide wooden stairway, which creaked occasionally under his weight, and so he felt obliged to move to the edge of the stairway where he reasoned the structure would have retained more strength, and did so, choosing the banister side because it offered a handhold in the event of a rotten stair giving way. On the upper floor he discovered more rooms, all of which had been used as bedchambers and the contents therein had similarly been covered in dust sheets. The air in the house was stale, the building poorly ventilated and John Seers had difficulty obtaining deep breaths. Nonetheless, he continued to explore the house, becoming increasingly grateful for the person or persons unknown who had draped the contents of the house with dust sheets: it was going to make his job much cleaner. It was on the upper floor that he found the living quarters of the final occupant of Bromyards, and upon finding them felt the poignancy of the man’s last years of life. It seemed clear, that, as the years took their toll, the last owner had retreated first from the grounds, then from the garden, then from the house, until his accommodation was just one self-contained room, and a small room at that, with just a single bed of unwashed sheets and a stack of food in tin cans and a two-ringed gas stove to cook on. A toilet directly across the corridor also doubled as washing facilities for him and any plates and pans he used when preparing and eating his food. That was home for him. Not for him was the vastness of Bromyards and its incalculable cubic feet of volume within its walls and under its roof, but one small room, which was smaller and ruder than had been John Seers’ accommodation when he was at university. He closed the door of the small room with a certain yet distinct reverence.

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