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The Anodyne Necklace(8)

By:Martha Grimes



This was ridiculous, she told herself, getting up, pulling down her twin set smartly. She would simply walk across the Green to the pub.
 
 

 

No, she wouldn't.





FIVE


I

"WHO'S the little girl with the worried look?" asked Jury, looking through the open casement window of the Bold Blue Boy. She was swinging on the gate.

"Emily Louise Perk," said Peter Gere, eating a cheese-and-pickle sandwich. "She's always about. Her mum works in Hertfield, father's dead. Thanks, Mary."

The woman who set their pints on the table had, Jury thought, a vague and undefined look, like someone behind a rained-on windowpane. She was dark, middle-aged and had probably once been pretty, perhaps only two weeks ago, before her daughter's accident. She said nothing but that she hoped they'd be comfortable, and walked away.

Peter, who had been telling Jury about Katie O'Brien, continued: "What Mary couldn't understand was, when they found her in the tube station, knocked unconscious, she wasn't wearing the clothes she set out in. Mary always made her wear dresses. Katie'd changed somewhere and was wearing a bright pink shirt and jeans. There were cigarettes, too, in her shopping bag. And one of those books girls like to read nowadays. Heartwind Romance, I think it was. Well, her mother never let her smoke nor read books like that-"

"They're pretty innocent," said Sergeant Wiggins, looking a bit healthier now he had some food. "Not one of your bosom-rippers-" At Jury's questioning look, he said, "Well, you remember Rosalind van Renseleer. I read a few of hers. . . . " He turned his attention back to his sandwich.

"The mother's pretty strict, I take it?" Gere nodded. "What about the music teacher? You said he was supposed to meet her at the tube and walk her back."

Gere shrugged. "Don't know. ‘H' Division handled it. You can get the report from Carstairs. Not the first time someone's been mugged in London, is it?" Gere gave Jury a bleak smile. "Hard on Mary, though, it is. Poor woman. But you know kids nowadays."

"What kind of jeans?" asked Jury.

Peter looked up, surprised. "What kind? Blue jeans. They're all alike."

"The hell they are. Most girls nowadays wouldn't be caught dead in anything but designer jeans. What kind?"

Peter frowned. "Well, I don't know, do I? Why's it important?"

"I'm just wondering how long she had to play for money in the London Underground to buy them."



"Jordache," said Mary O'Brien, twisting the corner of her apron as if it might have been the neck of her daughter's assailant. "And a pinky-purple shirt. I couldn't understand it. Her dress was in her shopping bag."

"Boyfriends? Did she have any?"

Mary O'Brien shook her head. "She's only sixteen. I told her there'd be plenty of time later for that."

Jury didn't comment. "The music teacher-what's his name?"

"Macenery." She watched Wiggins write it down. "Cyril Macenery. Lives on Drumm Street, not far from the tube station. I went there with Katie the first time. I wanted to make sure he was dependable. He says he walked with her to the tube stop and he didn't have any idea she was playing her violin for money."

"Don't you believe him?"

"I don't know what to believe. I'm surprised you're even interested. No one else is, now. After those letters, and now this murder in the Horndean wood. . . . " With the back of her hand, she shoved dark hair off her forehead.

"Of course I'm interested, Mrs. O'Brien. It's a terrible thing to have happen." That earned him a tiny, fleeting smile, like a leaf snagged on rock in a stream. It quickly disappeared. "Who's her doctor?"

"Dr. Riddley. The local doctor. There's nothing they can do, except to wait. I go to the hospital, talk to her. It's hard talking to someone who doesn't hear. I took in a tape recorder with some of her favorite music. Katie was a real musician," said Mary O'Brien, mustering some of the old pride she must have felt. "There was no one around here, no teacher good enough to teach her. She'd gone through them all. This Cyril Macenery was good enough, and cheap, too. I haven't got all that much, and she had to have the best. Katie helped out too. Her music meant a lot to her. She did odd jobs, mostly cleaning, for a lot of people-Miss Pettigrew, the Mainwarings, Peter, Dr. Riddley-quite a few others. She took care of the horses at Rookswood sometimes, too. Helped out in the Magic Muffin, waiting on tables in the summer when there was a lot of business. . . . If she hadn't had to have the best teacher we could afford, you don't think I'd have let her go roaming in that part of London, do you?"

Her defensiveness would turn into defeat if he didn't stop her. There was in her tone the rising note of hysteria. "The London police won't forget, Mrs. O'Brien."

"I'll just show you your rooms." As she led them up a dark staircase lined with old engravings of birds and bucolic country scenes, she said, "They say you never can tell what might trigger something for someone in a coma. I talk to her and play the music. You'd never guess what her favorite song was: ‘Roses of Picardy.' Katie was so old-fashioned."

Jury wondered how she squared that with Jordache jeans and a bright pink shirt.

II

Jury's fascination with the little girl with the yellow hair was growing. She had got bored with swinging on the gate and had disappeared during his talk with Mary O'Brien.

Having dispatched Wiggins to question the postmistress and the Mainwarings, Jury was setting off for the Craigie cottage. His exit from the Bold Blue Boy and Emily Perk's from the sweet shop several doors up the High occurred almost miraculously, and certainly simultaneously.

Jury watched her for a moment while she looked off into space, ignoring him with near-spectacular indifference. He hadn't had anyone make such a display of not seeing him since he'd nicked Jimmy Pink, the dip who worked Camden Passage. She was bending her head over a screw of white paper, apparently debating which sweet to pop into her mouth. Still without seeing him, although he was the only person on the pavement, and a large one at that, she began hopping on one foot, then jumping forward and planting both feet, legs splayed across some invisible pavement pattern. Then she twisted herself in air and started the whole performance backwards, all the while holding tightly to the little white bag of sweets. Her formerly unkempt and straggling hair had been worried into two separate bunches on either side of her head, and when she hopped, the bunches bounced.

He crossed the High Street and got into his car, which he maneuvered round the bottom of the Green and back up the opposite side, past the Blue Boy. As he neared the Celtic cross, he looked in his rearview mirror. She was standing stock still, stuffing whatever sweets she'd got into her mouth and watching the C.I.D car for all she was worth.





SIX


I

AUGUSTA Craigie-or the woman in the unruly garden whom Jury presumed to be Augusta-seemed to be doing something to a bed of primulas when he unlatched the gate. Except for the one little patch in which the woman worked, the rest of the yard was a jungle. She was plying a trowel around tiny windmills and waterfalls, ducks leading ducklings off to war, frogs dressed in polka dots and sitting on plaster benches. There was even a tiny Ferris wheel. It was a carnivallike atmosphere.
 
 

 

"Miss Craigie?" She looked around at him, her mouth pursing in a small o. "I'm Superintendent Jury, Scotland Yard C.I.D." He showed her his warrant card.

Immediately, she pulled her collar up and her sleeves down, as if to cover any exposed skin. Hard to do, since Miss Craigie was already well covered, all in gray from her hair down to her lisle stockings. With her small eyes and sharp nose, she reminded Jury of a field mouse.

"You've come to see my sister. But I really don't think she's able . . . I mean, such a shock. You can imagine!"

"Yes, I can. But perhaps we could have a talk?" If he could get into the house he could deal with everyone's shock there.

"We? Oh. Yes, I suppose . . . " She looked uncertainly at her plaster ornaments, but finding no ecouragement from the ducks and frogs, she gave up and gathered her sweater even more tightly round her thin chest and led the way up the path to a small door. The roof was badly in need of rethatching. The heavy, wheat-dark collar round windows and door had long ago sprung from the netting meant to keep out nesting birds.

A long-haired cat with a down-drooping thug's face appeared from behind a bush and swayed along at her heels. Three others-Jury had the impression of gray and orange-were slipping like shadows round the corner of the house.

The look of the garden seemed to have reasserted itself inside. The Craigie sisters' talents leaned more toward ornamentation than housekeeping. Behind the front room, through a low-hanging beamed arch, was another room-a study or sitting room of some sort: before its one window sat a large library table overflowing with rolls of paper, writing implements, draftsman's tools. This was all overseen by a pair of lovebirds in a wicker cage.

Everywhere else there were birds, also. Only these were stuffed ones under glass, or porcelain ones on mantel and shelves. Augusta Craigie, who had seated herself in a bulky, cretonne-covered chair, said, "Ernestine is an ornithologist. That's why we've all the birds about. The lovebirds are mine. Sweet, aren't they? Ernestine has written a number of articles on birds. I just do the housekeeping." She moved her hands in an apologetic way, as if the hands were not quite equal to the task.

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