The New York Times
The Winds of Change (Richard Jury Series #19)by Martha Grimes
As he leans over the body of an unidentified five-year-old girl shot in the backon a shabby London street, Superintendent Richard Jury knows he'll be facing one of the saddest investigations of his life. His colleague DI Johnny Blakeley, head of the pedophile unit of NSY, thinks he knows where this child came froman iniquitous house on that same street, owned by… See more details below
As he leans over the body of an unidentified five-year-old girl shot in the backon a shabby London street, Superintendent Richard Jury knows he'll be facing one of the saddest investigations of his life. His colleague DI Johnny Blakeley, head of the pedophile unit of NSY, thinks he knows where this child came froman iniquitous house on that same street, owned by well-known financier Viktor Baumann and fronted by a woman named Murchison. Blakeley has been trying to wreck their operation for a long time.
While examining the body of an unidentified woman murdered in the gardens of Declan Scott's estate, Angel Gate, Brian Macalvie, commander of the Devon and Cornwall police, realizes he's been here before. Three years prior, Declan's stepdaughter, four- year-old Flora, was abducted while she and her mother Mary were visiting the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Shortly after that, Mary Scott herself died, and Declan was devastated by the loss of his child and his wife.
"He really doesn't need a body in his garden," says Macalvie.
Joined by the intrepid Melrose Plant, now a gardener at Angel Gate, Jury and Macalvie rake over the present and the past in a pub near Launceston called the Winds of Change. With one of their most serpentine investigations under way, all signs point to the guilt of Viktor Baumann, Mary Scott's first husband and Flora's father. But when no one in this case is exactly who he seems, how can Jury be sure?
The New York Times
Read an Excerpt
The blood spatter on the little girl’s dress mixed with the pattern of bluebells as if someone had thrown a handful of petals across her back.
Richard Jury was down on one knee in a gutter of a North London street, at the end of a dingy street called Hester Street, looking at the body, the face to one side, not quite believing it. He studied her—the pale hair, the eyes his hand had closed, the caked rivulet of blood that had run from the right side of her mouth, running down and across her neck and soaking the small white collar of the dress with the bluebells. His torch had made out the color. Even the blood could have looked blue in this difficult light. He thought it again—that the blood spots could have been petals.
It all seemed miniaturized as if everything—dress, body, blood— were part of some magical tale that reduced proportions, an Alice in Wonderland sort of story, so that at any moment the little girl would wake, the blood draw back into the mouth like a vapor trail and the dark stains on the dress dissipate, leaving only the flowers.
No coat. It was the first day of March and she wore no coat.
“A runaway, possibly?” suggested Phyllis Nancy, the police pathologist, who was kneeling beside him.
Jury knew it was a question to which she knew the answer. “No, I don’t think so; the dress looks new, that or very well kept, you know, washed and ironed.” What he was saying was rather ridiculous for who cared if the dress was ironed, but he felt almost as if he had to keep saying things, anything, just as Phyllis had done with her question. To say something, anything, was to hold the poor child’s reality at bay.
“Yes, you’re right.” The hem of her own dress was lying in a puddle of rain, and the rain’s detritus. It had rained heavily an hour ago.
Jury pulled the dress out of the muddy water. It was a long green velvet gown. When she had left her car and come toward the scene, she had looked regal in that dress. Emerald earrings, green velvet—she had been paged in the Royal Albert Hall and left immediately.
She had knelt beside him, on both knees, nothing to kneel on except the hard surface of the street itself. Her kneeling took almost the form of supplication. “I’ll turn her over. Would you help me?”
He nodded. “Sure.” She did not need help. Jury had seen her manipulate bodies bigger than his own, turn them this way and that as if they were feathers. She didn’t, he supposed, want to see the ragged exit wound and where it had come from, the blood the little girl was lying in. They turned her, weightless. The bullet hole was very small, as if even the bullet had reduced itself to fit the story.
Jury said, “Probably a .22, at any rate, small caliber.”
Phyllis Nancy said, “Richard, she can’t be more than five or six years old. Who would shoot a child in the back?”
Jury didn’t answer.
Around the two kneeling over the body there were the others: the uniforms cordoning off this part of the road with yellow crime scene tape; the police photographer; the other crime scene people and detectives from homicide; the couple who had been getting into their car when they found the body (she weeping, he with his arm around her); the mortuary van. Blue lights twirling and blinking everywhere. Police had fanned out to knock on every door in Hester Street, searching for someone who had heard or seen anything. Despite all of this activity, there was a strange hush, as if those who were moving were doing it on tiptoe, or talking, keeping it down to almost a whisper. The sort of hush one finds in early morning before the sleeping world becomes the waking one. Moving carefully, as if letting her sleep on.
Jury turned to Dr. Nancy again. “Can you estimate, Phyllis?” It could certainly not have been long. Even rolled halfway into the gutter, this was still a residential street, cars going back and forth or parked in the street, such as the one belonging to the couple.
“No more than a couple of hours,” said Phyllis.
“Probably less, I’d think. She’d’ve been seen.”
“I know. Really, how could she have been here for more than fifteen minutes without being discovered? In this little white dress?”
White, with bluebells, Jury thought, and blood soaked.
He would never have to see the little girl again unless he chose to, unless he found it necessary. But Phyllis Nancy had no choice; she would have to perform the autopsy; she would have to split the child open. What was that line from Emily Dickinson about splitting a songbird and finding the music?
Phyllis rose. He had never seen Phyllis Nancy lose it, not over the years and all of the dead and mutilated bodies between them; he was afraid he was about to.
He was wrong. When she’d been walking toward the crime scene a little while ago, she’d looked regal in that dress and those emeralds. Now mud splattered and pale, she still looked regal.
She made a sign and the mortuary van pulled closer to the little girl.
“Split the lark and you’ll find the music.” That was it, the line from Dickinson. A fanciful idea for an autopsy. Jury looked down at this benighted child.
Bluebells and blood.
Wiggins was making tea, not an unusual thing except he was making it noisily: the canister rattling on the shelf, the spoon rattling against the cup, the pint of milk thumped down on the desk, the fresh packet of biscuits impatiently ripped open. He looked distraught. It was as if he were making this small commotion to cover this distress, or to signal it.
Jury had just walked in the door and took this minor commotion as a signal. “What’s up, Wiggins? You look as if you’d seen a ghost. That or DCS Racer.”
“I’ve some bad news, sir.” He dropped two tea bags into the brown pot and didn’t look at Jury.
The bad news was clearly for Jury. His mind fled immediately to Mrs. Wasserman, in her eighties now, and the only natural candidate for bad news. “What?”
Wiggins didn’t answer immediately.
“Come on, Wiggins. I think I can take it.”
Wiggins snapped off the electric water pot. “I’m afraid...well, it’s your cousin, sir. Your cousin—she died.”
For an insane moment, Jury didn’t know what Wiggins was talking about. He stood there, just inside the door, with that announcement of death seeming to preclude any movement until the cousin flashed in his mind and the world started turning again His cousin up north, in Newcastle- upon-Tyne.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m fixing you a nice cup of tea.”
As if this was not what Wiggins would do, death or no death. Jury almost smiled at this intrusion of Wigginsland. He sat down, still with his coat on, opened his mouth, but didn’t say anything.
“It was her husband called, name of—”
Wiggins was pouring milk into the mugs. “That’s it. He said the funeral’s to be on Saturday.” To give himself something useful to do, he checked his desk calendar. “That’ll be six March.” He handed Jury his mug of tea.
Probably trying to assess the measure of Jury’s grief, Wiggins said, “You didn’t see her very often, did you? I mean all the way up there in Newcastle, well, you couldn’t. But I got the impression you really didn’t know her all that well.”
Jury held the mug in both hands, warming them. “I didn’t, no.” He paused, thinking. “It was her dad, my uncle, who took me in finally after my mother died. He was a great person. The cousin’s his daughter. She was never like him, and she’s never really liked me—” Was that true, though? Brendan had gotten the exactly opposite impression, that she did indeed like him and was proud of Jury’s being so high up in New Scotland Yard. He rubbed his forehead. Was he going to have to try to revise memory again?
“Jealous, I shouldn’t wonder,” said Wiggins, blowing on his mug. “Her dad taking you in and all. He must really have cared about you.”
“He did.” But his cousin hadn’t, surely. Her talks with Jury were often barbed with sharp remarks and (Jury suspected) lies. He said, “The last time I saw her we were looking at pictures, snapshots and so forth, and she completely turned my memories on their heads. Things I thought had happened, hadn’t, not according to her. I honestly don’t know what I can depend on now.”
“She was winding you up, sounds like.”
“Maybe. That occurred to me, or that’s what Brendan said. We should be able to depend on our own memories, for God’s sakes.” He took a long drink of tea and set the mug down on Wiggins’s desk. “I’m going out for a bit. I need some air.”
He walked across Broadway to St. James’s Park, which he wandered in for a few minutes and then sat down. He really felt it, her death. He hoped it hadn’t been a bad one. He’d seen too many bad ones—gunshots, knives, the victims occasionally not dead yet and looking up with a look of dread. Jury hadn’t known she was sick.
It was fine for him to say he saw his cousin seldom and that he wasn’t close to her and that, actually, they had never liked each other. That could work in life; it didn’t work in death. But then nothing did, he supposed. Death had a way of kicking out the props, of smashing one’s carefully constructed defenses. Whatever comfortable conclusions he might have reached about Sarah were now as suspect as the events of his childhood. For maybe she hadn’t been lying to him; maybe he had really been but a baby when his mum died instead of the five-year-old kid who had tried to pull her out of the rubble of their bombed building.
How could he possibly have got that wrong? Impossible, surely. And what about watching the kids in their school uniforms treading off to school and wanting to be one of them? What about Elicia Deauville? She had to have danced in the room next door. Perhaps it was a different door, a different time.
No. Sarah must have been making things up. And wasn’t it typical—?
He left the bench and started walking the path again, his hands together behind his back, the stance of an old man. That was the way he felt. His cousin had been older, but not so much older he could dismiss her age as that of a vaguely “other generation.”
Stop thinking of yourself, he told himself. There were Brendan and the children, grown up except the baby, that was the daughter’s baby, she unwed, living with her mum and dad, mum taking care of the granddaughter while the tartish little daughter was out and about. Well, she’d better pull up her socks now, hadn’t she? Do what she should’ve done in the first place—
Oh, Christ, this carping. What in hell was he on about other than to fill his mind with images and inoculate his thoughts against what all this meant?
It was this: there was an emptiness that he hadn’t seen coming and that now he didn’t see how he could fill. This, with the death of a cousin he had never really known. A demanding, bitter, mendacious woman who spread no happiness, and yet...She was the end, except for himself. She had been the last one, the only repository of memories, the last one who had been there as part of his childhood tapestry and, because she remembered, might keep it from unraveling. She was the last one he could check with and whether she lied (and she would call it teasing) seemed almost beside the point.
Jury stopped, thinking this strange. Perhaps it was beside the point because she knew the truth enough to lie about it. No one else did now except for him. For some reason that made him feel the truth had gone and taken the past with it.
He had walked to Green Park by now and sat down on another bench. At the end of it was part of a Daily Express. He pulled it over and looked at the date. The second of March. He shoved the paper aside, having no interest in the daily affairs of the country, no interest in the royals or in David Beckham, or in the turn of the century.
He should get back to the office and call Brendan: the poor man must be going nuts over this. What could he do with the baby? There were no grandparents, at least on her side of the family. Maybe on Brendan’s there were, maybe in County Cork.
Jury knew he ought to get back to the office and call him. Yet he sat, leaning over, elbows on knees, poring over it, his last visit three months ago, his anger at her teasing contradictions and the pleasure she got from having the upper hand in memory. After all, Jury had been so young (she’d said) he really couldn’t remember anything. But she could.
He looked out over the park and remembered a line of poetry: Their greenness is a kind of grief. It was a March bleakness he saw. That made him think of finding a florist’s to send the family flowers, but he didn’t know where to send them, to what funeral home. Not to the flat, Brendan was not much good on the domestic end, to say nothing of being preoccupied, and the flowers would sit out of water until he tossed them away. Perhaps they would even pain him.
The thing was, Jury felt a need to do something. He wanted to make up for something, though he didn’t know what. Maybe for being the child his uncle really preferred, or maybe for giving Sarah a hard time when he was last there, before Christmas, or maybe for being the one still breathing when she wasn’t.
It would be spring soon despite the austere and shrouded look of the day. He thought again of Larkin’s poem: The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said. He liked poetry. He preferred the plainspokenness of someone like Larkin or Robert Frost. But then poetry was never plainspoken; it gave only the appearance of it. Like something almost being said. He could never have put that into any other words, yet it came as close to truth as he could get, he knew.
He told himself again he hadn’t even liked her. Then what was this tightness in his chest, this suffocating feeling (which he was glad Wiggins wasn’t around to witness)?
What came to him all of a sudden was a memory of Jenny Kennington the first time he’d seen her, running down the steps of her house in Littlebourne, holding a badly injured cat. She didn’t know Jury but she accepted a lift to the vet’s. She talked about the cat, which wasn’t hers, but a stray that must have gotten hit by a car. I don’t even like that cat, she’d said, once he was safely in the vet’s hands. Several times she’d assured Jury, I don’t even like that cat.
Right, he thought. Sure.
He walked down Piccadilly and turned into Fortnum & Mason, which was always in a state of pleasurable havoc. Everyone (and when wasn’t everyone in Fortnum’s?) seemed to be staggering under the canopy over the display of foie gras and cheese and prosciutto sliced so thin you could see through it. The wonderful black-coated staff, the bright fruit, the collective swimming smells of tea and citrus and money.
Then into Hatchards, a bookshop that smelled like books—leather, wax, dark woodwork. An atmosphere, a sensual experience that the mammoth Waterstones up the street couldn’t begin to match.
He walked on, stopping here and there, at a kiosk for a Telegraph, which he later tossed in a rubbish bin, unread. How had he got to Oxford Street? He looked in Selfridges’ windows. The faceless manikins seemed to know the windows weren’t much to look at, not a patch on Fortnum’s. In their lightweight summer-to-come clothes so insubstantial a breeze could blow them away, their heads were bowed or jutting forward as if searching for an exit. On the sidewalk, a Jamaican selling his unlicensed wares, sharp, but not so sharp that he picked up Jury’s cop aura. Sticks of incense, tiny bottles of perfume so heady it would drop you in your tracks in a desert.
“You wife, you laddy fren, she like this, mahn. Women, they like this stuff.”
Jury purchased a few sticks of incense and a little stone holder.
Every time—the newspaper, the manikins, the peddler—he’d forget for those moments and then turn away and it came back to consciousness that she was dead.
He had thought more about his cousin Sarah in the last couple of hours than he had in the last two decades. That’s what it was, death’s legacy—now there was plenty of time to think about the time wasted, the words unsaid, the history unshared, until it was too late. It’s always too late, he remembered someone saying. One can never have done enough, said enough. It was like the lager you could never finish: jokes about the wooden leg, the hole in the pint. An unquenchable, alcoholic thirst. You can never do enough for the dead. You search around for comfort but there is no comfort; there never was and never will be. There is only a gradual wearing away of the sharp edges, so that you don’t feel ambushed at every turn, as if you saw the dead suddenly rounding the corner.
For a while he rode the Piccadilly Line, then switched over to the Northern Line at King’s Cross. It was only in the underground he thought he saw such faces, no one looking happy, except for the teenagers banded noisily together, but even they, in an unguarded moment, looked pretty desperate.
While the antique Northern Line rattled the riders’ teeth, he looked at the girl facing him across the aisle, who was beautiful, but wasn’t taking comfort in it. She sat primly, knees together, hands clasping a small bag on her knees. Her hair was the kind you see in Clairol ads, long and shining. Above her in the parade of advertisements was one for a cold remedy depicting a skier happily taking a spill into a pile of snow. He was happy about it.
As the train clattered along, Jury studied an old Kit Kat wrapper on the floor, moving between high heels and scuffed boots. He watched it shift along, liking to think of themselves, he and Sarah, as kids going cheerily along to a sweet shop, but this image was his own concoction; he doubted they’d gone much of anywhere together.
I don’t even like that cat.
He got up for his stop at the Angel.
Darkness had registered on him while he was walking along Regent Street, but the time hadn’t. It was nearly ten o’clock. Where in God’s name had he been all of this time?
The lights were on in Mrs. Wasserman’s garden flat, and in a moment she was out and up the stairs in her old bathrobe.
“Mr. Jury, there was someone trying to get hold of you. Carole-anne said there were two messages on your answering machine and I was to tell you. From someone named Bernard.”
“She said Bernard.”
Jury smiled. “Carole-anne has trouble getting my messages straight.” Boy, did she ever. Especially the messages from females. Carole-anne had always thought the only life Jury would ever spend away from hers was an afterlife. “Thanks, Mrs. Wasserman.” He turned toward the steps.
“Is everything all right, Mr. Jury? You look pale.”
In the dead dark, how could she tell? Maybe he just sounded pale. “Yes...No. Actually I got a bit of bad news. My cousin died. Brendan’s her husband. That’s why he’s trying to reach me. To tell me.”
“I am so sorry. So sorry. To lose one’s family, that is the worst thing.”
It was as if, to her, all of the family were circumscribed in every member. To lose one was to lose all. “She was the last of the family. Except for me, I mean.”
“Oh, my. My.” She clutched the bathrobe tighter around her neck. “That is so dreadful. A person feels disconnected. I know I did. Like a balloon, that was how I felt. Drifting up farther and farther, a prisoner of gravity.”
Jury was surprised. Mrs. Wasserman didn’t often speak metaphorically. “That’s a good way of putting it, Mrs. Wasserman. That’s pretty much how I feel.”
“Could I make you a cup of tea?”
“That’s nice of you, but I think I’m too tired. I’ve been walking.”
She shut her eyes and nodded, familiar apparently with walking as anodyne.
“So I’ll say good night. Thanks for giving me the message.”
She turned away as he did and they went in.
As he put the key in the door of the first-floor flat, he heard a short bark, more of a woof. It was Stone, so Carole-anne must be out. She always looked after him when she was in. They all did, when they could. Sometimes Stan took the dog along, but not if there was to be a lot of traveling.
He plucked Stan’s key from a hook inside the door, went up to the second floor and opened the door. Stone did not come bounding out, as most dogs would; Stone was as cool as Stan. The most excitement he ever displayed was some tail wagging. He followed Jury down the stairs, went inside and stood until it was disclosed to him what he should do. He had the patience and self-possession of one of those mummers wearing white clown suits, faces painted white. They stayed amazingly still, still as statues, which people passing took them to be.
Jury found the rawhide bone and set it at the foot of his chair. Stone lay down and started in chewing. “I’m putting the kettle on.”
Stone stopped chewing and looked up at Jury.
“You want a cup? No? Okay. Want something to eat?” Stone woofed quietly. “That must mean yes. Okay.”
He left Stone to his chew. He plugged in the kettle and rinsed out a mug and dropped in a tea bag. The kettle boiled as soon as he’d spooned a can of dog food into Stone’s dish and called him. Then he poured water over the tea bag and let it steep while he watched Stone eat. That got boring, so he tossed the tea bag into the sink and went to his chair in the living room. He stared out of the window at blackness. In another minute he was up and rooting in his coat pocket, searching for the incense.
Jury fixed one stick in the rough stone holder and lit the tip. The dish in the kitchen clattered as if the dog were shoving it around with his nose. Stone must have smelled the incense, the strong fragrance of patchouli, for he left the bowl for this more interesting event in the living room. He sat beside the chair and watched the spindle of smoke rise toward the ceiling. He looked from the smoke to Jury and back again. His nose quivered a little, taking in the unfamiliar scent.
During that final visit to Newcastle last year, Sarah had retrieved her photo album and they had looked at snapshots of themselves as children, again throwing spanners in Jury’s memory works, although she hadn’t purposely done that; Jury had brought up the old days and her derisive mood had changed—she had simply wanted to look at the pictures. They had sat with the album on the table between them, turning pages. It was as if in this sharing of childhood pictures they were acknowledging something between them
You wife, mahn? You laddy fren?
No, it’s for my cousin.
He watched the thin trail of smoke curling toward the ceiling, and listened to Stone’s tail swish along the floor.
Like something almost being said.
The dead woman lay on a stone bench inside a stone enclosure that looked much like a shelter to ward off bad weather at a bus stop, as if she’d been waiting for one and simply fallen over, her torso on the bench, her legs off, feet dragging on the stone floor.
This shelter stood at the bottom of the large garden of Angel Gate. The garden had been neglected over the years and was now in the throes of refurbishment, being redesigned and reestablished. Thus, the first persons there in the early morning were the principal gardener and his daughter, a horticulturist. It was they who discovered the body. The next to arrive was the cook-housekeeper. She was busy giving tea to the father-daughter gardening team and any of the police who wanted it and who had arrived later from Launceston and Exeter.
Brian Macalvie, divisional commander with the Devon and Cornwall police, stood with his hands in his coat pockets. Standing about were some two dozen crime scene and forensics people from Launceston police headquarters and Macalvie’s people from Exeter. Brian Macalvie, motionless and silent, had been looking down at the dead woman for a good two minutes (“which you wouldn’t think was a long time,” one of his forensics team had said to a friend over a pint at the local, “but you just try it sometime; it’s an eternity, is what it is”).
No one standing right near Macalvie, then, was any more animated than the corpse. No one was allowed to touch anything until Macalvie was good and done. This irritated the doctor who’d been called to the scene (local and not indoctrinated to the divisional commander’s odd ways). He had made a move toward the body and had been roughly pulled back by his coat sleeve by the chief crime scene officer, Gilly Thwaite.
“For God’s sakes,” said the uninitiated doctor, “it’s a murder scene, not a funeral. I’ve got appointments.”
The others, nine or ten, squinched their eyes as if over an onslaught of headache or sun and stared at the slate-gray sky as Macalvie turned to the doctor. He was a general practitioner from Launceston, but adequate (everyone but Macalvie assumed) at least to do a preliminary examination in order to sign a death certificate. The Launceston M.D. whom Macalvie liked was unavailable.
“Let’s at least turn her over,” said the doctor. Then added, acerbically, “I think she’s done on this side.”
Gilly Thwaite made a noise in her throat. From here and there came a choked kind of laughter. Macalvie was not a fan of gallows humor.
Macalvie nodded to Gilly. “Go ahead.” Gilly set up her camera, got evidence bags ready, started taking pictures.
In the “lovely silence” (as he often called it, when there was some) Macalvie returned his gaze to the body. The woman appeared to be in early middle age. But appearances are deceptive and she could have been younger or older. He put her in her late thirties on one end of the age spectrum, early fifties on the other. That was a very wide divergence and it made him wonder. She was quite plain, her face free of makeup, at least as far as he could tell. There might have been a little foundation or powder. But no eye makeup. Her hair was mushroom colored, dull, cut in a straight bob that would fall, were she upright, to just below her ears. Her suit was the color of her hair. It was well worn and not especially fashionable, perhaps a classic cut, undated, a rough tweed. Macalvie looked for another fifteen seconds and then turned to the doctor. “All yours.” As the doctor grunted and stepped into the enclosure, Macalvie said, “And incidentally, for her, it really is a funeral.”
He then turned from the stone enclosure to look back at the big house that belonged to the Scott family, what was left of them. Macalvie remembered Declan Scott, the only one of them living there now. Declan Scott was a man who’d had enough trouble in his life: three years ago his four-year-old daughter had vanished. His wife had died not long after.
Macalvie knew Declan Scott.
The man really didn’t need a body in his garden.
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