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The Anodyne Necklace(47)

By:Martha Grimes



White Ellie allocated what was left of the cooked rashers among the children. Sookey immediately tried to nick the girl's, but let go when she hit his ear with her fork. Friendly was slapping the catsup bottle and it came out in a rush.

" 'Eard all about it, we did. 'Orrible, 'orrible." White Ellie was peeling off some more rashers, dropping them into sizzling grease.

Having belted in his trousers and buttoned up a shirt, Ash said, "Fell right on the bleedin' tracks, is what I 'eard. Well, there it is then. World's full of perverts." He shoved Sookey out of a chair. "Get outta 'ere, you kids. Give the Super 'ere a chair."

The kids mauled out of the kitchen, Friendly taking his bowl with him, and giving Jury a fierce look.

"Will you 'ave a bit of supper, then?" she said to Jury.

"Thanks, but no. I've got to get back to the Yard."

"Listen, thanks for what you did out there." Ash nodded toward the front, toward the scene of his latest debacle.

"Don't mention it. Actually, I came here to thank you. One good turn deserves another. Sorry I can't stay."



At the door they shook hands. "If you're ever this way again, look us up," said White Ellie.

Jury assured them he would, at the same time looking apprehensively at his car's windscreen. Clean.

As he was getting into it, he heard Ash Cripps telling the kids to wave. Small hands shot up over catsupped faces.

White Ellie yelled, "Your 'and, Friendly! Your 'and!"





TWENTY-EIGHT


A BRIGHT pink balloon, relic of Sunday's church fête, had eluded the clean-up crew. It peeked incongruously above a listing headstone, its string apparently caught on some protuberance of gray rock. Now it rose a little more and a little more. As the service continued, Jury watched it being buffeted by breezes which mowed through the graveyard grasses, bounding and floating upwards and off into the Horndean wood.

He seldom thought of life in terms of what was or was not fair; today he did. It was not fair that the morning should glow like a pearl, the leaves shining, the very air like glitter, the sky milky with that bright pink oval pasted against it like a crayoned sun.

There had been more villagers in the Church of St. Pancras itself than were gathered here now. Jury was surprised to see Derek Bodenheim looking, for a change, strained rather than bored; the rest of the family had stayed at home; it was just as well. Mainwaring had come with a blonde woman who must have been his wife-rather pretty, unstylish, and with a face too expressionless for even simulated grief.
 
 

 

And Emily Louise, who had up to the last refused to come with her mother, was still there-back in the wood, camouflaged by branches and leaves, up on her pony. She would not come nearer, but she still participated. Her velvet cap was off, held in the circle of her arm like a Queen's guardsman might have held his tall hat.

Jury, Melrose Plant, and Wiggins stood bunched to one side as if unsure of their business there. And farther back, by herself, and perhaps even more unsure, stood Jenny Kennington. Her hands were stuffed in the pockets of a black coat; a lacy black scarf was wound around her hair.

Their heads were bowed as the vicar of St. Pancras commended the body of Katie O'Brien to the ground-earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. When the coffin was lowered, a thickly veiled Mary O'Brien stepped forward and let fall from her hand a fistful of earth. The other mourners followed suit, circling the grave, each stopping to scoop up a handful of black earth, letting it trickle onto the lid of the coffin. It reminded Jury of some terribly sad version of a children's game.

He saw Emily turn her pony and disappear into the trees. He still stood there as the others dispersed, beginning their procession downhill. He stood there too as Wiggins and Melrose Plant made to leave. Melrose looked at him over his shoulder; Jury nodded to indicate he was stopping there for a moment.

He was watching Jenny Kennington. She had not left; she was still standing some distance off on the other side of the grave, as if waiting for everyone to leave. Jury stayed.

Finally, she walked to the graveside and gathered up a handful of earth and let it fall on the coffin. She raised her fingers to her forehead, and at first he thought she was about to cross herself. But she didn't. Instead, she smiled slightly and sketched a tiny salute in the air.

And then she walked away.
 
 

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