Robin was huffing about the attic room of the cottage like a mad thing complaining, glaring out of the window at the skyline and the specks of figures grouped on the sands,
“There’s police tape up there and a huge crowd forming. Derek I can see – of course. And Trevor from the pub…. Bones on the beach I ask you. Look at them all, tramping all over the dunes. We had no warning of this.”
Self appointed village chief Robin Dobson was in a right strop. “On the very day we’re reopening the pier. I mean really.”
“Darling,” his wife Sally sighed. “It’s not as if you need a certificate from the parish council to be found dead on a beach.”
“It’s bloody inconvenient. That tent, now the police palaver. We’ve got the bunting to put out and the electrics for the band to sort by tonight. Piss awful weather and now this. And it’s terrible for local traders.”
“Very good for business surely, dear. We’ll have crowds turning up to look for clues won’t we? Put the village on the map in gory crime scene terms.”
“Really? We’ll forever be the village where that horrible murder happened, won’t we? Who’ll want to come here except sickos?”
“Anyway darling, it’s a bit soon to worry about the tourism strategy. Whose bones are they do you think? Who done it to whom and why, eh! I think it’s rather exciting.”
“Could be anyone. Suicide, accident, murder. I doubt they’ll ever know.”
“That Swedish girl in the pub obviously had some inside information she wasn’t prepared to reveal. Fancy her working for the Swedish police and never having watched The Killing!
The way you were coming onto her I think she’ll be very suspicious.”
“What do you mean?”
“Trying to throw her off the scent. She won’t be fooled. She’ll hear about your long running vendetta against the Maceys over planning permission, their recent mysterious disappearance.”
“Don’t be absurd. The Maceys are staying with their daughter in Guernsey.”
Sally put her arm around the expansive belly of her now flustered husband and squeezed.
“Don’t worry, dear. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Dave woke up with a groan and looked at his alarm clock. 11am. Crap. He sat up and then regretted it as his hangover hit him with full force. He lay down again, and waited for his balance to settle. He should never have drunk so much in the pub last night, but it had been so funny watching that pompous fat bloke trying to chat up the tall blonde woman that he’d stayed chatting to the barman, called Trevor apparently, and watching the fun and that had meant more drinking and, well one thing had led to another and now here he was. 11am. He tried to think about what had to be done today and groaned again. He hated this bit. If he hadn’t pissed off Sid then he wouldn’t be the one who had to come to this crappy little village on the arse end of nowhere and meet the delivery.
He lay on the bed and looked at the ceiling. He didn’t like the country. Too quiet. He couldn’t hear anything except the occasional bird tweeting and frankly that was downright creepy. He never came to the country if he could help it. Especially after those nightmares he’d been having lately. He tried not to think about the nightmares. His stomach growled. Hungry. Right, better find some food. He rolled gently out of bed and stood up. The room was cold, and he pulled on whatever clothes were laying around the floor from last night and stumbled into the kitchen. The cottage was rented for him and was dilapidated and filled with odds and sods like all rented houses. He flipped open some cupboards. Half a jar of gherkins, some ancient tuna and a packet of sprinkles. Yuck. Eventually he found a can of baked beans which he opened and ate cold with a fork sitting on the sofa and looking at the sea through the window. There seemed to be a lot of people clustered around something on the beach. And wasn’t that police tape? Crap. Police was the last thing he needed. What were they doing there? He tried to piece together the conversations he’d overheard last night. Come to think of it, the bar did seem quite lively for a country village. He closed his eyes and tried to remember. And then it hit him. The men by the dartboard had been talking about a body, or bits of a body. Those diggers must have found something suspicious.
“Wonder if it’s the last bloke to do this job,” he joked to himself as he looked around the tatty little cottage. It was a shack, really, black clapboard and ill-fitting windows. He laughed at his own joke but in the back of his mind he also thought about Sid. Wouldn’t put it past him, he thought bleakly. He’d better get on and find out what was happening. Struggling against a wave of nausea, he put on his shoes and headed out, slamming the scuffed door of the shack behind him.
Or maybe it’s a zombie skull’ll come to life in that tent at midnight rising up from the waves to come and get my bastard blood drained dad n all. Mum says he can rot in hell as far as she’s concerned which is cool with me. He used to go running every morning, late at night too, on the beach, Said he was training for the marathon. Turns out he must of been shagging some woman he’s run off with now. Mum a gibbering mess now thanks to him. Which is cool with me cos she don’t notice what I get up to with Abdab n all, though would be good sometime to have her like she once was, all fussing and caring and telling me off.
Most of our family have been scattered here. It’s the perfect spot. On one side of this so familiar village with all its quirks and characters, on the other: oceanic depths. A wall of sea that stops flat at the skyline. Imagined as a child, making sandcastles by the seashore, me a mermaid swimming out into the distance, deeper and deeper, never to return. Perfect place to kill someone too. Plenty of wind to drown the screams; tide and wind to wipe away all traces. Any sense of guilt blown away like ash along the shore.
Linnea accepted a mug of pale tea from the woman in the rather nice new-looking boots and held it tight in her cold hands to warm them. No clue what they were up to in the tent and the last thing she wanted to do was identify herself to the police team and have her holiday ruined. But it was hard not to look out for clues.
“So what do you think happened?” she asked the tea maker lady, who looked stressed out.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out but Ferry there won’t tell me anything.’
“Police involved though. Feels like they think it’s a murder to me, don’t you?”
The woman looked suddenly panicked and tried to change the subject. “Where are you from?”
“Ah there you go, thought you weren’t local.”
“Elementary my dear Watson.”
“Malmo, that’s where The Bridge was set, eh? Ooh, I loved The Bridge… My name’s Julie.”
“I’m Linnea. Have you lived here long?”
“All my life. For my sins.”
“And are there many sinners lurking here do you think? Any good suspects?” Linnea took a swig of tea and eyed her new friend carefully.
“Everyone’s got a secret haven’t they?” Julie shifted uncomfortably, and then thought of something. “Although, if I were looking for someone who looks like a murderer, I’d start with that man in the shed. Boz Marsden, I think his name is. Always staring. Never talking.”
Julie’s hair twisted and snaked in the wind as she spoke despite her attempts to control it.
“Sounds creepy. But who might he have – what do you say – bumped off?”
Julie looked at her sharply. “Well, you’re the so-called detective. Why don’t you work it out?” She spun on her heel and grabbed a plate of cake. ‘’Scuse me a moment, that digging assistant looks peckish.” There was no way she was going to talk about what might be in the sand. Linnea watched her go over to a man with a spade and white coat, and ask him lots of questions whilst he ate a piece of her cake. One to follow up, she thought to herself.
Then she spotted that berk from the pub making his towards her, his wife in tow. He wore a naval cap and an old brown puffa jacket, she was smart and brittle in a dark blue coat and silk scarf tied around her coiffed white hair. They appeared to be bickering, though he had a rictus smile of welcome on his chops by the time he got to her, red and sweaty.
“Good morning, dear lady. Hope we weren’t too… pressing last night. Just concerned to see justice done. And tonight, to see this rather important civic event go well. Our village may be small fry in the regional pond, but it matters to us. The pier rebuilt thanks to an anonymous donation. Small celebration planned to which you’re most welcome. I’ll say a few words and then the jazz band play, in which I feature as trumpeter actually. Would be such a shame if these sad eventualities diminished the fun. Any idea when the cops can pack up this sideshow and clear off?”
Linnea shrugged her shoulders.
“I have no clue, sir. Perhaps PC Ferry here could help?”
“Yes. Perhaps see you later?”
“Ah but I am rehearsing tonight.”
“Oh yes – your pop group.”
“Choir.” Her tone was withering. “We are giving a concert at The Maltings – in Aldeburgh.” She pronounced it Orldiberg.
Dave’s day had just got worse. He stared at the smug little bit of paper tucked under his windscreen wiper and then kicked the tyre. He hadn’t parked in the main car park because he didn’t want to draw attention to his car, but it turns out this bit of wet gravel was a public car park as well. Can’t a body do anything here without someone noticing? He looked at the crowd of people on the beach. They were just next to the pier, and it was the pier that he was going to be on tonight with the torch to meet and greet the delivery. It was going to be difficult enough to get the delivery on shore after the Pier Opening ceremony without all the police hanging round right next door. His hangover rolled from behind one eye to the other and he steadied himself for a moment. He was going to have to call Sid. Perhaps he’d have a spliff first. He went back into the shack and got out his gear.