The Far Side of the Sun

The Far Side of the Sun

by Kate Furnivall

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Overview

The new novel from the author of The Russian Concubine and Shadows on the Nile

The Bahamas, 1943. Hoping to escape her turbulent past, twenty-three-year-old Dodie Wyatt has fled to Nassau. But the world is at war, and one night the peaceful life she has created for herself is shattered when she discovers a man dying in an alleyway…

Ella Stanford is married to a powerful diplomat who’s been appointed to keep the Duke of Windsor far from his Nazi friends in Germany. And in this city now teeming with danger, Ella has her own secrets—ones that threaten to tear apart her safe and ordered life…

When Ella’s world collides with Dodie’s, they find themselves caught in the spiral of violence and greed ripping through Nassau. But Dodie falls deeply in love with a mysterious American stranger on the island, and together they fight to uncover the truth behind the bloodshed, while struggling to keep each other alive in this perilous new world…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425265093
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 521,943
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kate Furnivall was born in Wales and currently lives in Devon, England. Married and the mother of two sons, she has worked in publishing and television advertising. She is the national bestselling author of The Far Side of the SunShadows on the Nile, The White Pearl, The Jewel of St. Petersburg, The Girl from Junchow, The Red Scarf, and The Russian Concubine.

Read an Excerpt

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Chapter 1

NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS, 1943

Dodie

“Help me . . .”

The words slipped out of the darkness, thin and weightless, barely denting the sultry warmth of the night air. In the unlit street at the wrong end of Nassau, Dodie Wyatt halted, nerves tight.

“Who’s there?” she called out.

A soft groan. A stifled curse. A rustle of movement. Then stillness settled down in the shadows once more.

“Who’s there?” she called again, sharper this time.

Silence. It was the stark kind of silence that only exists after midnight. The smell of the ocean was rolling in over the Bahamas, leaving its salty breath to linger on the beaches and in the humid corners of the city. Dodie knew that if she had a scrap of sense she would march straight to the far end of the street without stopping, but his words—that fragile “Help me”—had snared her. She moved toward the spot from which the groan had risen.

“Say something,” Dodie urged, as her eyes scoured the ink-black spaces. Her voice sounded ridiculously calm. “It’s too dark for me to see you. Where are you?”

There was no response. Her pulse kicked uneasily.

She was on her way home from her late shift at the Arcadia Hotel, where she worked as a waitress. Her feet ached, the kind of ache that she couldn’t ignore anymore because she had been standing for twelve hours straight and the only thing she wanted was to climb into bed and sleep. But now a stranger was asking for her help.

“I’ll help you,” she said, not sounding quite as calm as before as she moved closer to the wall. “Just show me where you are.”

A hand seized her ankle.

*   *   *

The wind drifted up the street in fits and starts, making a shutter rattle and a dog bark in a nearby yard, and even at this hour of the night the gust of air was warm and scented with tropical flowers. It was just enough to persuade the clouds to shift, so that moonlight spilled into the narrow space between the houses, and for the first time Dodie could make out the figure at her feet.

A big man was slumped against the wall like a rag doll, his chin sunk on his chest, his legs stretched out in front of him in the dirt. Dodie could see a head of bushy brown hair and a pale gray suit that was crumpled and stained. One of his hands scrabbled jerkily on the ground, trying to reconnect with the ankle she had snatched away, but his other hand lay clamped to the front of his white shirt. It didn’t look so white anymore because a black stain was spreading rapidly from under his palm. For a moment Dodie hesitated. She knew that if she knelt down beside this man, trouble would enter her life. She had grown up with trouble and could smell it at fifty paces, which was why she had avoided it ever since she first came to the Bahamas six years ago, when she was only sixteen and had no more sense than a hummingbird.

“Please . . . ?” he whispered.

She dropped to her knees. “You’re hurt.”

“Help me . . . to stand up.”

Dodie’s hand wrapped itself around his free hand and his fingers clung to hers.

“You’re hurt, you must stay still. Don’t move. You need an ambulance.”

He lifted his chin and looked up at her, his skin silvery and bloodless in the moonlight. His eyes were deep sunken holes in his head and made her uneasy, and though he moved his mouth, no sound was coming out. She couldn’t tell how old he was—in his forties perhaps, although there were too many shadows to be sure.

“Don’t try to speak,” she said gently. “There is a telephone box back up on the main road, so I’ll just—”

“Don’t.”

“But you need a doctor.”

“No ambulance.” The word came out in bits. “No doctors.”

“But you need help.”

They both stared down at the hand clamped to his white shirt, just above his waistband, at the black stain that had grown to the size of a dinner plate, feathery streaks reaching out like tentacles across his chest. He raised his eyes to her face and his mouth dragged in a labored breath. Silently he shook his head.

Dodie didn’t delay further, she rose quickly. “Don’t move. You need to be in hospital, so I’m going to call a—”

His hand seized her ankle again. “No.”

“Yes.”

“No!”

The word stopped her. She crouched down beside him once more and lifted his hand into hers. It was as cold and clammy as one of the toads that burrowed under her shack at night. “I’m Dodie,” she said softly. “What’s your name?”

“Morrell.”

“Well, Mr. Morrell, we both know you need to be in hospital. You’re bleeding badly. Why shouldn’t I call an ambulance or at least a doctor?”

He sighed, the life seeming to ebb from him with each of his slow measured breaths. “They will kill me,” he murmured.

“What?”

His voice sounded dry and exhausted and she noticed it had an American drawl from the deep south, perhaps from Alabama or Tennessee. “The person who stuck a knife in me”—she saw his eyes roll in his head so that their whites caught the moonlight—“will be at the hospital. Looking for me.”

“Why will they be doing that?”

“To finish what they started.” He exhaled heavily and she smelled rum on his breath.

“Were you in a fight?”

“Of sorts.”

“We have to get you bandaged quickly.”

He grunted agreement, but slowly his chin started to descend toward his chest. It was at that point that Dodie thought about walking away. Back to her quiet routine where nothing disturbed the monotony of her work at the hotel and her walks on the smooth white beach. She knew she should leave this Mr. Morrell to rest here on his own. They will kill me, he’d said. And her? Would they kill her too? A lone young female would be nothing to them. Her hand unconsciously sought out the tender section on her own body, the soft spot just below her ribs, and sat here, fingers splayed in protection. But the wounded man started to slip sideways down the wall and Dodie quickly pushed her hands under his armpits to hold him upright, but the weight was more than she’d anticipated.

“Come on now, Mr. Morrell. Time to stand up.”

His head lifted.

“I’ll help you,” she promised.

The empty shadows of his eyes fixed on hers for an age and she could feel his distrust crawl onto her skin, but he nodded. “Yes.”

It was going to hurt, they both knew that. She leaned over him, easing his feet toward him, so that his knees were bent. She fixed her arms around his chest, clenching her fingers together behind his back, and inch by inch she dragged him to his feet. He didn’t cry out. Didn’t moan. But his breathing grew loud, almost a growl, and when he was standing upright, swaying on his feet despite her support, she thought it was the end of him.

*   *   *

Progress was agonizingly slow. Sometimes the pauses were so long that Dodie feared the man’s heart had paused too, but no, just when she thought he was giving up, he would start up again—left foot, right foot. His arm across her shoulders was muscular, an arm that did things, unaccustomed to lying helpless, and the grip of his fingers was tight, snarled up in her cardigan.

Neither spoke. Their steps were slow and labored. Fears were racing through Dodie’s head and every sound in the darkness, every movement in the shadows, sent a chill through her. She struggled to work out what to do, where to take him, how best to get him away from here. So when they reached the end of the road she steered him left, ducking down a dim and scruffy street. It was flanked by warehouses where the smell of the ocean was so strong it ousted the smell of blood in Dodie’s nostrils, but there would be no one around at this hour.

Why, Mr. Morrell? Why does someone hate you enough to stick a knife in your gut?

She shuddered, her heart racing as she listened for footsteps behind them, but when she glanced nervously over her shoulder, the shadows were empty. As they walked, Morrell muttered sometimes, small incoherent noises that pinned him to her and they drew soothing sounds from her in response, a brief wordless conversation. Her arm tightened its hold around his thick waist and she watched carefully where he put his feet. He was wearing neat white loafers that stood out in the darkness.

“Not far now,” she told him.

Dodie’s instinct was to hide him, to find somewhere he would be safe. So she chose a little-used path that headed in the direction of the beach, leaving behind the houses and the hazy neon lights of an occasional late-night bar where people might be searching for him. It seemed to take forever but finally they reached the point she was aiming for—a sandy track that branched off and twisted away through a dense fringe of coconut palms edging the shoreline. She breathed in the warm humid air with relief.

“All right, Mr. Morrell?”

“All right,” he grunted.

She was killing him. He didn’t say it, but she knew it was true. She was killing him. She couldn’t go on.

“Enough of this,” she announced.

With her heart thumping she edged him over to one of the palm trees that looped drunkenly over the track, its trunk a slender black streak against the velvet of the night sky.

“Sit down.”

He needed no second bidding. His knees buckled and he sank to the ground in an untidy sprawl. With care she sat him so that his back was propped against the slope of the trunk, checked that he was still breathing, and hoped that he wouldn’t fall over.

“You’ll be safe here,” she assured him.

There was a silence, a moment when neither breathed, both wanting to believe her words, before he murmured with elaborate southern courtesy, “Thank you kindly for your help, ma’am.”

“I’m leaving you now.”

He managed a nod. “Good-bye.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”

She removed her cardigan and tied it tightly around his middle. There was a smell to him now, not just the blood or the rum, a smell of something bad. It was the sour stench of terror. She recognized it because she had smelled it on herself the day her father had waded into the wide turquoise waters of a Bahamian beach and announced, “Wait here, poppet. I’m going to swim back to England.”

In the lonely darkness under the palm trees, Dodie felt a rush of sorrow for this wounded stranger and wrapped her arms around him, while above their heads palm fronds shuffled in the salty breeze that came exploring off the ocean.

“Trust me,” she whispered in his ear.

“There’s no need to lie. You’ve helped me this far and I’m grateful.”

She shook her head. “I’m only going to find you some transport, Mr. Morrell. You can’t walk anymore.” She sat back on her heels and patted his shoulder awkwardly, aware that he didn’t believe her. “Just sit tight. I’ll be as quick as I can.” She even managed a smile of sorts. “Don’t go running off anywhere, will you?”

His hand clutched her bare arm.

“It’s all right,” she said softly. “I promise I’ll come back.”

A tremor ran through his fingers before he let his hand fall to his side. “Thank you, ma’am. You have been kind.” He exhaled a long breath as if he expected it to be his last.

*   *   *

Dodie ran. She zigzagged through the trees, sprinting along the sandy track. The route was familiar to her feet even in darkness— she took it every day—but panic made her feet clumsy. Twice she crashed into a tree, skinning an elbow and thumping the air from her lungs, while the nightly chorus of cicadas reverberated through the undergrowth. She made herself slow down and concentrate as she headed for old Bob Coster’s place. Off to her right beyond the trees came the rumble of the waves as they raced up the narrow beach and the familiar sound of it calmed her.

Oh, Mr. Morrell, what is going on?

She thought of him sitting alone in the dark, believing she had abandoned him. The poor man should be in a hospital, but she had no right to make that decision for him if there really were people lying in wait for him there. To finish what they started. The way he’d said it sent a shiver through her because he’d said it as if it were normal. As if any of this were normal.

The moonlight allowed her to quicken her pace and she had no problem locating Bob Coster’s house. It was set back in a small clearing, a wooden building with a roof of corrugated iron that rattled in the wind, and a small wooden porch where old Bob liked to laze in his rocking chair and spin a yarn with anyone who cared to split a beer with him.

The windows were dark, no sign of life. Dodie hurried down the side of the house to the back, where Bob boasted a good-size plot of land, cleared and planted up with sweet potato. He had built himself a toolshed. In these parts nobody locked doors—it was regarded as unneighborly—so Dodie lifted the shed latch. She reached in, found what she was searching for, grasped its handles, and backed out. She had her transport.

*   *   *

The wheelbarrow creaked with each turn of its wheel. The noise of it sounded raucous among the softly spoken trees and startled a yellow-crowned night heron into spreading its great wings in flight, silent and ghostly as it skimmed the silvery treetops. There was a brief spatter of rain, big bloated drops that drummed in the well of the barrow, but the clouds passed overhead, allowing Dodie to see more clearly.

Please, be alive.

She hurried through the warm night, bats darting on leathery wings above her head, and as she approached the spot where she’d left him she called out, “Mr. Morrell?”

Shadows stubbornly cloaked the tree where he’d been sitting.

“Mr. Morrell!”

He was gone.

She peered into the black blur of tree trunks. “It’s me, Dodie.”

Only then did she catch a whisper that drifted to her from farther back among the trees. She abandoned the barrow and, nervous of every rustle, trawled through the prickly undergrowth until she found him. He had buried himself under a carapace of slick wet leaves, and at the sight of him still alive, the depth of her relief took her by surprise. He’d dragged himself here and camouflaged his body—so he wasn’t ready to die. Not yet. Slowly he raised his head from the foliage.

“You came back.”

“I said I would.”

“I didn’t believe you.”

“I’ve brought a barrow for you to ride in.”

A strange hiccuping sound escaped him and Dodie realized it was a laugh.

“So that’s what the noise was,” he muttered.

“Yes, your chariot awaits.”

His hand grasped hers and didn’t let go until she had lowered him into the wheelbarrow, but as she tightened her cardigan around his waist, she could hear an odd rumbling vibration at the back of his throat that scared her.

“Off we go,” she said brightly, and took the strain of the handles. It was heavier than she expected.

She gripped the handles tighter but the weight of it was making her shoulder sockets burn. She blinked away sweat from her eyes as mosquitoes honed in for their midnight feast. What frightened her was that when she shook her head to try to clear it, nothing changed. Only her heart thumped harder and the wheelbarrow tilted, as though it wanted to rid itself of Mr. Morrell.

Chapter 2

Ella

“Help me.”

The words drifted out of the bedroom. Ella Sanford flicked away the cigarette she was smoking on the balcony, watching the lights of Nassau spring into life one by one as the sky grew dark and the city prepared for another night of partying. Since the war had come to the Bahamas, the city had changed. The military had moved into the island of New Providence like a force of nature with its airfields and its uniforms and its loud laughter. These men knew how to work hard and how to play hard, and the petty colonial atmosphere of idle inbred gossip had been swept aside. With a little smile of anticipation Ella returned to the bedroom.

“What’s the matter, Reggie?” she asked.

“Help me do these bally things, will you?” Her husband was holding out a pair of gold cuff links. “They’re little bastards.”

She laughed and slipped them into his starched white cuffs with ease. She always thought Reggie looked at his best in evening dress. She knew he liked her to do things for him, especially things that meant he could touch her, and as soon as she had finished the small task he rested both hands on her naked upper arms.

“You look lovely tonight,” he said.

“Thank you. So do you.”

Reginald Sanford had worked for His Majesty’s government in the diplomatic service most of his life and the stamp of it was all over his face. From the polite set of his full features to the cautious expression in his gray eyes and the slightly secretive mouth. He liked order. He liked hierarchy. And he never raised his voice. He was skilled at calming others down and he possessed a remarkable ability to persuade them to see reason. His reason, of course.

It was why he now had the honor of representing His Majesty in the Bahamas as right-hand man to the governor. It was why he lived in a magnificent house and drove around the island in a silver-gray Bentley. And Ella suspected it was why he sometimes tossed and turned at night or wrapped an arm tight around her in bed, nuzzled her neck, and murmured, “Do you ever wonder what our life would have been like if I’d taken my father’s advice and become a quiet country solicitor?”

“No. You’d have hated it.”

But it wasn’t true. Sometimes Ella did wonder. She smiled at him now and tried to smooth away a slight crease at the side of his mouth, but he held her arms firmly.

“You’ll be good tonight, won’t you?” he said.

“Reggie, I’m not a child. I’m your forty-one-year-old wife.”

“You know what I mean. Dance with him if he asks.”

“He may not ask this time.”

Her husband’s gaze traveled from her golden hair which hung in heavy glossy waves over her naked shoulders to her evening gown of chartreuse silk which cast new lights into her blue eyes and seemed to glide like a second skin over her slender hips.

“He’ll ask.” He nodded.

“Do I have to?”

Reggie gave her one of his serious smiles. “It goes with the job, I’m afraid, my dear. Talk to him about that ghastly music he’s so keen on.”

“Jazz?”

“Yes. I don’t know what on earth he sees in that noisy caterwauling. But he’s always so eager to be regarded as modern.” He said the last word as if it tasted dirty in his mouth.

Ella laughed. “Maybe its rhythms make him feel young again. We all like to feel young at times.”

Reggie frowned. “He’s only two years older than I am. Forty-nine’s not old.”

Unconsciously he touched the spot at his temple where his thinning brown hair had begun to sprout badger-gray tufts. She had one morning caught him dabbing cold tea straight from the teapot onto the telltale patches. He had been acutely embarrassed but she had been tactful, never mentioning the brief moment of vanity.

“He looks older than you,” she told her husband truthfully.

To be honest, Reggie ran slightly to fat. Not excessive, but definitely well cushioned despite the hours spent on the golf course. His cheeks were round and smooth as billiard balls and showed no sign of aging. The years of hard toil had manifested themselves only in the two tension furrows across his brow and in the soft sadness that bloomed around his eyes when he was tired.

Ella gave a throaty chuckle. “I could talk to him about something else, I suppose.”

His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Like what?”

“A donation to my auction.”

He abruptly released his hold on her arms and headed straight for the whiskey glass on the bedside table. It was still half full. He lifted it to his lips and studied her face with a neutral diplomatic gaze.

“Don’t pester him tonight, Ella.”

“No?”

“Please don’t discuss donations—or any other kind of work—with His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor, when he’s off duty.” Annoyance flickered in the corner of his eyes. She said nothing while he knocked back the scotch in one swig. “Come along, my dear.” He picked up her velvet wrap from the bed and draped it over her shoulders. “Best foot forward.”

*   *   *

Ella was fond of her house here in Nassau. It wasn’t that she hadn’t had splendid houses before on other postings. She had. There was the one in Alexandria with the tapering tower that caught the cooling breezes off the sea, and there was the one in Malaya with the lewd mosaics and peculiar drainage system. Both were provided by courtesy of His Majesty, of course.

But this house—Bradenham House—with its long colonial verandas and elegant white pillars where bougainvillea cascaded in abundance, was more than just her house; it was her home. Her first real home. She and Reggie had lived here longer than in any other house, eleven years. Where had all that time vanished, all those wasted hours? But she had been young then, just thirty years old when she arrived and still clinging to the hope that they would have a child one day soon. But it didn’t happen. The set of lead soldiers that she had bought from Stanhope’s Toyshop on Bay Street had been thrown in the bin. Those days were long gone.

Tonight Ella intended to enjoy herself. It was a fund-raising party over at the British Colonial Hotel for the Spitfire Fund and all the usual crowd would be there, but she was quick-footed. She knew how to sidestep the old dullards and make for the young bucks in uniform with their laughter and cocktails and tales of manhandling one of the heavy Liberator bombers up into the air, roaring up into the endless blue skies. But as she descended the wide sweep of the stairs, she saw her black maid, Emerald, hovering by the front door. Reggie’s gloves were folded neatly across the palm of her plump hand.

Ella saw the maid’s bright gaze fix on Reggie as she lay in wait like a spider, but one in a frilly white cap and with hips as broad as a barn door and a laugh that could crack a brick. Her thumb was slowly stroking the calf-leather fingers of the gloves.

“My oh my, Mr. Sanford, you lookin’ mighty fine here this evening.”

“Why, thank you, Emerald.” Reggie beamed.

“I ironed you the dress shirt real careful. All special.”

“I appreciate that. Don’t think I don’t notice your good handiwork around the place.”

“That’s real nice to know, sir. Real nice.”

Emerald had started shimmying her hips from side to side. Always a bad sign. Ella hurried down the last steps and headed for the door.

“Good night, Emerald,” she said pointedly.

“Mr. Sanford, sir,” Emerald cooed sweetly as Reggie reached for his gloves, “I been thinkin’.”

Reggie took root in front of her, puffing out his rotund stomach, happy to pass the time of day with the one person in the house who thought he could do no wrong.

“What have you been thinking about, Emerald?”

“About you, sir.”

“Oh?” He looked pleased as he slid the gloves on with a graceful movement, easing the leather down between his fingers.

“You know I got an aunt up in Bain Town and she got a niece by marriage livin’ over in Grant’s Town, Mr. Reggie?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“Well, seein’ as how all them folks from the Out Islands has come flockin’ to Nassau to get themselves jobs with the military and all, there ain’t much chance for a girl—even a real smart one—to find herself a job round these parts anymore, and I was wonderin’, Mr. Reggie, if you could find her somethin’ in your office.”

“Ah, well, Emerald.” He frowned. “Not sure about that.”

“Nothin’ much. Just a bitty job?”

Ella paused at the door to see what Reggie would say.

He sighed. “I’ll see what I can do, Emerald. But I warn you, there is a strict order to these things.”

What he meant was a hierarchy. White men at the top, black men below, white women somewhere in the middle, and young black girls kicking around at the bottom.

“Thank you, Mr. Reggie. You is a good and kind man.”

Ella studied her flushed husband for a minute with fresh eyes. Yes, Emerald, you’re right. Reggie is a good and kind man.

*   *   *

Ella entered the magnificent British Colonial Hotel on Reggie’s arm and knew at once the evening was going to be a success. She had worked hard to set up this fundraiser event and was relieved to see it so well attended. There was a bright energy in the room that rebounded off the shimmering marble pillars and the gold crystals of the chandeliers, the kind of energy that sweeps through the blood.

It rose in waves from the crowd of young servicemen, flooding the room with a kind of urgency. Once you were up in one of those big silver crates in the sky, God only knew whether tomorrow would ever come, so there was a sense of taking everything today with both hands. The mood was infectious and it made Ella laugh out loud, though she wasn’t sure why. Even the stolid inhabitants of Nassau could feel it in the air. The noise level was rising steadily as a band played “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and all along one wall the row of tall windows stood open on to the terrace, to let the heady scents of a sultry tropical night mingle with the cigar smoke and Dior perfume.

It was obvious that New Providence Island was the paradise these young men had always dreamed of. Rich blue skies, warm turquoise seas to bathe in, and white tropical beaches that dazzled the mind as well as the eye. And its capital, Nassau, was offering the kind of delights a boy from Bermondsey or Brooklyn had never thought within his grasp. Society was changing because of this war and something in Ella wanted to change with it. The old order was passing. She didn’t want to be left behind with just a rocking chair and a rum cocktail for company.

“Hello, Reggie, old chap, how are things up in the hallowed halls of Government House? Have you heard the latest?”

Ella turned to find a sunburned man with a vast ginger handlebar moustache greeting her husband.

“Ella, this is Wing Commander Knightley. He’s been keeping the duke up-to-date on the new intake at the Operational Training Unit at Oakes Field. They’re a group from Czechoslovakia, I hear.”

“Good evening, Wing Commander,” Ella said.

Beside him stood two men. One was extremely tall and dark, a stylish figure with a pointed little beard, acutely aware of his own attraction. This was Freddie de Marigny, who possessed a swarthy complexion and all the confidence of a man who has recently married the teenage daughter of one of the world’s richest men, Sir Harry Oakes. Terms like “fortune hunter” and “cradle snatcher” always trailed in Freddie’s wake.

“Hello, Hector,” Ella said to the second man, and he kissed her cheek warmly.

“Good evening, Ella. A great turnout. Congratulations.”

“We must thank Tilly for that.”

Hector Latcham was the husband of Ella’s good friend Tilly. She was the one who had persuaded Ella to march into the air base at Oakes Field and suggest that all the men should buy tickets for a chance to dance with the duchess this evening. The fact that the duchess hadn’t turned up hadn’t disturbed Tilly in the slightest and she stepped into the breach herself.

“So what’s the latest?” Reggie asked the wing commander.

“We’ve had a report that U-boats have been withdrawn from the Atlantic.”

“That’s great news, if it’s true.”

“They’re being pulled back to counter the possibility of an Allied invasion of Europe. That means we can free up planes from patrolling the ocean for enemy submarines.”

“God knows,” Reggie said, “those aircraft are badly needed in the Far East.”

“About time we had some good news from your lot, Knightley.” Freddie de Marigny smiled, flashing his extraordinarily white teeth. He clapped the wing commander on the back. “But I hope it doesn’t mean you’ll be reducing military numbers on New Providence Island. We need you chaps to keep our economy going.”

“On the contrary,” Knightley assured him politely, though he clearly didn’t care to be touched by the likes of Freddie, “we will be instructing more aircrews than ever.”

The RAF had selected the Bahamas as a training air base because of its uninterrupted blue skies. There was no fear that the B-24 Liberator bombers would be shot down by German intruders. Planes were constantly flying into Windsor Field from America before being ferried across the Atlantic to the war in Europe and Africa. It was something the island was proud of, this essential role in the war effort. The sight of RAF uniforms thronging the streets gave the islanders a sense of pride, so that Bahamians queued to sign up on the dotted line to become a part of it.

Ella left the men to their war talk and their cigars, and circulated among the crowd. She greeted friends and stopped to talk with any serviceman who seemed at a loss, but it was only when she reached the dance floor that she managed to track down Tilly. Tilly Latcham was a tall striking woman with dark elaborately waved hair and tonight she was wearing a dramatic burgundy gown with milky pearls gleaming at her throat. But her expression was one of acute misery. She was clutched in the arms of a short pilot officer with two left feet who was singing blithely along with the band and kept bumping into other couples.

“Tilly!”

Tilly rolled her eyes with relief and bolted off the dance floor. “Darling, where have you been? You’re late.”

“I’m sorry, but Reggie had a flap on up at Government House and was wretchedly late home.”

“Then I forgive you.”

She kissed Ella’s cheek. There was a softness to the edges of her usually crisp words. Tilly had been drinking more than just a cocktail or two.

“Go and sit this one out, Tilly. You’ve done your duty.” She gave her a mock salute. “I’ll take over your mission here.”

Tilly laughed, her scarlet mouth relaxing. “You are a lifesaver, darling.” She gave a shiver and added, “Talking of lifesaving, how is your family back home?”

Ella’s parents over in England lived in the Kent countryside under the flight path of the German bombers’ nightly run into London and their house had recently been hit. Damn rotten luck. But thank God they—unlike their poor house—escaped with no more than minor injuries.

“Tilly,” she said firmly, “go and sit this one out. And that’s an order.”

“Is the duke here yet?”

“I haven’t seen him.”

“Oh,” Tilly said. “Drat.”

“He’ll probably drift in later, don’t worry. You’ll get your dance with him, I’m sure.”

Tilly grinned. “Especially as she is not here.”

“Behave yourself.” Ella laughed and turned back to the matter of Tilly’s abandoned airman. “Now, Mr. Pilot Officer, here I come.”

She scooped him up from where he was hovering uncertainly on the edge of the dancing and twirled him expertly across the floor.

*   *   *

“Had enough?”

Ella turned at the sound of his voice. She was standing at the bottom of the terrace just where it spilled down onto the beach, and was staring out at the vast blackness of the sea in front of her. She liked the nights best. That was when she felt the island cast off its dazzling daytime mask and let its true self emerge under the cloak of darkness. She could sense its quick hot breath on her neck, and hear the pad of its feet as it reclaimed its beaches from its colonial overlords. Only at night could she smell the sweet scent of its ancient hardwood trees that had been stripped from the island for shipbuilding. Pines and palms and the ghostly casuarinas remained in abundance, but the island remembered its hardwoods. The island forgot nothing.

Long ago the Lucayan people had lived peacefully among the seven hundred islands of the Bahamas for hundreds of years, but they were ousted by the Spanish after Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1492. From then on, the Spanish, the British, and the freebooting pirates spent years slitting each other’s throats over possession of these lush islands with their natural harbors and secret cays. They became a crown colony of Britain in 1717, but even now, at night when the masters of the Empire slept, New Providence Island released its sounds and smells and breathed in the wild scent of the sea.

“Had enough?”

“Good evening, Your Royal Highness. Just taking a breath of air. It’s hot in there.”

“It’s good to see the men enjoying themselves. You are to be congratulated, Ella.”

“Thank you.”

“A great boost to our Spitfire Fund.”

“To the men’s morale as well, I hope.”

“Yes, you only have to look at their faces. A grand job.”

The Duke of Windsor stood beside her in the warm semidarkness, the lights of the elegant terrace and the brightly lit hotel behind them. He was a slight man, no taller than Ella, with soft fair hair and a face that managed to look boyish despite being deeply lined. Ella wondered why he was out here instead of carousing inside. Everyone knew that the duke liked to party. They lapsed into silence while he offered Ella a cigarette and lit one for her and one for himself, inhaling with satisfaction.

“How is the duchess?” Ella asked. The terrace lights caught the edge of the surf on the beach and turned it into lace.

“She is indisposed, I’m afraid.”

“I’m sorry. Give her my best wishes for recovery.”

“Thank you. I will.”

If the duchess was “indisposed,” it usually meant her stomach ulcer was playing up, although she had commented to Ella the other day that it had been much better recently. Maybe she just didn’t want to dance with airmen. Or just had something better to do. The Duchess of Windsor was a secretive person and there was much that went on behind her intelligent violet-blue eyes that she didn’t divulge. Ella thought the duke always looked a little lost without her.

“Is your husband here?”

“Yes, Reggie’s inside.”

“I might have a word later.”

She wanted to say, Keep your demands away from my husband tonight, let him relax. Isn’t it enough that you suck him dry each day at work? Can’t you rely on yourself instead of on him?

But she didn’t say it. No one ever said it to him. Except the duchess.

The sound of the breakers on the beach was joined by a sudden roar overhead as a formation of bombers set off to train the new recruits in the skills of nighttime maneuvers.

“Ella, do you like it here?” the duke asked in a sad voice.

“Of course I do. It’s beautiful.”

The aircraft droned into the distance.

“Don’t you?” she asked.

She knew he longed to be governor of Australia, or of Canada at the very least.

“Sometimes,” he said, exhaling his frustration into the humid darkness, “I regard these islands as my Elba.”

Elba? Napoleon’s place of exile. The hubris of his pronouncement took Ella’s breath away. Did he think he was that important? She shivered and moved to go back indoors, but with a sudden display of charm he took her arm through his and smiled engagingly.

“Come, Mrs. Sanford, let us have the next dance.”

Chapter 3

Dodie

Dodie’s house lay farther along the coast in the next cay, tucked under a grove of casuarina trees that drooped their long green fingers over the sand. It was no more than a wooden shack with one room, a roof of thatched fronds that didn’t leak too often, and two windows that kept constant watch over the ocean. Summer storms were harsh, dramatic, and frequent here, and their ferocity had shocked her at first when she and her father came to this tiny speck in the ocean six years ago.

She lit the lamp. The oily smell of kerosene rippled through the room and the amber light shuffled the night shadows into dark corners.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

Morrell was lying on the single bed, curled on his side with his arms wrapped around his stomach.

“All right . . .” His breath came in shallow gasps.

“Good.”

Now that she could look at him in the lamplight, she could see that his skin had taken on the same color as the galvanized bucket she had placed beside him, so gray it no longer looked like skin. She didn’t know where to start. Where to touch. Where not to touch. She knelt down beside the bed and tucked a folded clean white towel under his hand on his stomach. He shut his eyes.

“I owe you,” he muttered.

His face was heavy-featured under a mass of bushy brown hair, and even with his eyes shut, Dodie could see the toughness of him. But that toughness was crumbling as the pain started to eat away at it. She rested her hand on his cheek and a faint smile touched his lips.

“What are we to do?” he whispered.

“You must let me look at the wound.”

“Leave it.”

“It needs to be bathed and cleaned.”

A grunt came in response. His mouth clenched in a tight line.

“Mr. Morrell, there is a woman who lives not far from here who knows about this kind of thing, she’s good with illness and—”

“No.”

“She’s not a doctor or a nurse or anything official. She wouldn’t report you to anyone. Her name is Mama Keel and she knows everything there is to know about herbs and healing, so I could—”

“No.”

“—fetch her and she would know what to do to help you. She wouldn’t breathe a word.”

“No.”

“I have to, Mr. Morrell, can’t you see? Because I don’t know what to do.”

His eyes opened a slit. “Do nothing.”

She started to move but his hand gripped her skirt. “Do you like this woman?” he asked urgently.

“Yes, she’s—”

“Do you want her to die?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then tell her to stay clear of me.”

Dodie felt the hairs rise on the skin of her arms. “Are the people who did this to you so dangerous,” she asked in a stunned voice, “that they would hurt people who help you?”

His eyes stayed fixed on hers. He nodded.

She backed away from the bed, fear sharp in her chest. “Very well, Mr. Morrell. No Mama Keel here.”

“You are quick to understand,” he said with an attempt at a gallant smile, but she could see he was losing strength as fast as the clean towel was losing its whiteness.

“Mr. Morrell.” She spoke louder, her voice trying to drag him back to her. “I’m going to run over to Mama Keel’s place. To get something for your pain. I will be quick.” She smiled at him brightly. “We both need help if we’re going to get you through this.”

Before he could reply or seize her skirt again, she had kicked off her shoes and was flying up the beach.

Chapter 4

Flynn

She’s gone.

To hell with her. She complicated everything.

The dark figure of Flynn Hudson was crouched at the water’s edge. He watched her run. She was fast as a jackrabbit. He reckoned she must have cat’s eyes in her head, the way she could see in the dark even when the clouds switched off the moonlight.

It was one of the things he hated about this darned island. The dark. It got to him. It was a world away from what he called darkness in Chicago, where he could flit down unlit rat-infested alleyways and still see where he was going. Here the darkness was so intense it felt like being chucked down a well and having the lid slammed shut on top of you. That kind of dark. Solid and unbreakable. It swallowed her now. As he trailed a hand through the water, he questioned where the girl had gone. At this hour? With blood still wet in the barrow?

Don’t come back.

He rose to his feet, his limbs eager to be on the move once more. They didn’t like to stay still, didn’t care to be a sitting target the way Morrell had been. The moon slipped free from the grip of the clouds, making the white sand of the beach glow silver-blue in the moonlight.

Goddammit, what kind of color was that?

A color he’d never seen before in his twenty-four years, but in the weird light he could see the shack up on its little plot of scrub, clear as fresh spit. A minute or two was all he had, he reckoned. The jackrabbit could come skidding back at any moment.

He moved forward, conspicuous on the beach now. His thoughts were leaping ahead of him, unleashed. He could almost see their footprints in the sand.

Chapter 5

Dodie

Mama Keel’s cabin was perched alone on a rocky stretch of land and showed no lights, but Dodie could hear the soft crooning of an island song somewhere inside. Everyone knew Mama Keel never slept.

“Mama Keel,” she whispered, and tapped on the door.

It shifted on its rusty hinges, in no hurry to get itself open. Behind it stood Mama Keel, a broad smile of welcome on the strong bones of her face before she even knew who it was who had turned up on her doorstep in the dead of night. In her arms lay a sleepy-eyed infant.

“Well now, Dodie, you look mighty het up.” She stepped back into the darkened room at once and pulled a box of matches from her dressing gown pocket. “Come in.” She lit a lamp, keeping its flame low, and when she turned to look at Dodie a stillness settled on her.

“Oh my Lordy, girl,” was all she said.

“Mama Keel, I need help.”

“You is covered in blood, child.”

“It’s not mine.”

“I’m real glad to hear that. Whose is it?”

“A stranger’s. I found him in the street on my way home.”

Mama nodded and half closed her purple-black eyes, as if peering at something only her own gaze could see in the dim light. Her long stringbean of a body in its tattered old dressing gown seemed to grow very still, and Dodie had no idea what she was imagining. The wound maybe? The blood spilling from it? No one knew what went on inside Mama Keel’s head under that tangle of wild gray hair.

The main room was plainly furnished—handmade seats, a table, a cupboard—everything strictly functional, except for a colorful decoration of bird feathers suspended on a rattan thread that zigzagged back and forth across the ceiling. Mama Keel’s black skin gleamed in the lamplight and a calmness radiated from her that steadied Dodie’s breathing.

“Mama Keel?”

The woman blinked.

“He’s been stabbed,” Dodie told her. Her voice sounded strange and unfamiliar.

Immediately Mama Keel eased the sleeping child onto a rug that lay in a cardboard box in one corner of the room, scooting a gray cat out of it first with her foot. “Joseph!” she called softly. A door opened and a gangly white youth in his teens emerged from a back room. He was wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts and his fair hair was ruffled into spikes from sleep, but his eyes shot wide open at the sight of Dodie.

“Don’t stare, boy, it’s bad manners,” Mama Keel said briskly. “Just a splash of blood. Here, take Elysia for me.”

The boy ducked his head, scooped up the cardboard box, and vanished. Dodie looked down at the scarlet stains embedded thickly under her fingernails and at the streaks of blood over her waitress uniform. What kind of man did this? Pushed a blade into another man’s flesh. Cold hard sorrow rose up in her and she opened her mouth to speak, but no sound emerged. She raised her hand to her cheek and found her fingers cold as ice.

“Sit down, Dodie.”

“I have to get back. He’s waiting for me.”

Mama Keel spent a moment resting a warm comforting hand on Dodie’s shoulder, then abruptly she was all movement, gathering pots and packets and jars of strange-smelling liquids. She thrust a tin mug into Dodie’s hands with the command “Drink it,” and Dodie did so, though it tasted bitter and felt as if it stripped enamel from her teeth. When she saw Mama Keel wrap a scarf around her head and tip the herbs and potions into a straw basket, she laid a firm hand on the basket’s handle herself.

“You mustn’t come, Mama. You must tell me what to do.”

“You bein’ foolish, darlin’ heart. You know nothin’.”

“It’s too dangerous. There are men who want to silence him.”

Mama Keel paused. “You scared?” she asked softly.

“Yes, I’m scared. Of course I am. I’d be crazy not to be. But I’m also scared for you. You are too . . .”—she gestured toward the door from which the boy had emerged—“too precious here. They need you.”

Dodie knew that Mama Keel watched over a shifting pack of feral waifs and strays. She had no children of her own but her door was ever open to the island’s orphans and runaways, and behind that door there could be anything from ten to twenty young souls who clung to her. Without her, the waves would come for them.

Mama Keel breathed hard through her broad nose.

Dodie opened the basket purposefully. “Just tell me what to do.”

*   *   *

The door of her shack swung open at Dodie’s touch. Yet she had latched it, she was sure. Behind her the vast reaches of the Atlantic Ocean sighed, low and insistent, and threads of moonlight floated on the waves. As if nothing had changed. She stepped over the threshold. Wary, but not wary enough. The black muzzle of a gun was pointing straight at her and sent her heart spinning up into her throat.

“Get in here. Quickly.”

It was Morrell. He was propped up awkwardly on one elbow, sweat pouring off his face, a tiny pistol dwarfed in his hand.

“Shut the door,” he growled, and collapsed back against the pillow, letting the gun fall to his side.

Dodie kicked the door shut and bolted it. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“I didn’t know it was you.”

She dumped the basket on the table and started unloading it. “Has anyone else been around?”

“No.”

“Sure?”

“Yes.”

Why would he lie to her? “Have you been out of bed and opened the door?”

He rolled his head to one side and gave her half a smile. “Yes, I’ve been out for a half-mile swim and a few handstands under the stars.”

She tried to smile back at him but didn’t quite make it, so she busied herself with the medicines instead, smelling them, tipping ingredients into a cup, putting water from the enamel jug to boil on the kerosene stove. The shack started to fill with aromas.

“What the hell is all that stuff?” Morrell muttered.

“It’s native bush medicine.”

He grimaced. “Does it work?”

“Of course it does. Bahamians have been using these herbs for hundreds of years.” She looked up from the bowl of chopped green cerasee leaves. “Don’t worry, Mr. Morrell, they know what they’re doing. It’s often impossible to get a doctor to the hundreds of Bahamian Out Islands. They had to find alternative medicines that work, so”—she paused and walked over to his side with a small pot of what looked like rabbit pellets—“take three of these.” She smiled encouragingly and held out a cup of cerasee infusion for him to wash them down with. “They will help the pain.”

He took them and swallowed them down, making no comment on the bitterness of the infusion. His skin had a slick sheen over it like furniture polish and Dodie could feel the heat radiating from him as she removed the towel.

“Now, Mr. Morrell, let’s look at this wound of yours.”

*   *   *

He was tough. She’d give him that. He made no sound but watched everything she did, his hands curled into fists at his side. Dodie worked with great care. She did exactly what Mama Keel had told her. She bathed the wound, applied a pungent herbal antiseptic, and holding the raw edges of his flesh tight between her fingers, she drew them together over the slippery innards inside. A coating of stiff antiseptic paste to seal the wound finished the job. And all the time her fingers worked, she murmured to him constantly, to steady him, though she had no idea what words were coming out of her mouth.

Painstakingly she bound him up with strips torn from her best sheet and dosed him with more of the pellets. With a flannel she gently wiped the sweat from his face and smeared cream on his bleeding lip where he had bitten a piece out of it.

“Thank you,” he said when she’d finished. “That took courage.”

“You’ll feel better soon. Close your eyes. Try to sleep now.”

“You are kind.”

“It’s Mama Keel you should be thanking.”

Dodie plunged her hands into a bowl of warm water and scrubbed hard at the blood under her nails.

*   *   *

“What are you doing here in the Bahamas?”

Morrell’s voice startled Dodie. She thought he was still asleep. She had continued to dose him every hour throughout the night with one of Mama Keel’s concoctions, but it was only with the first hint of dawn that the heat at last ebbed from his skin. When he opened his eyes she smiled with relief and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Better than last night.”

“Good.”

She rose from her stool at his bedside and unbolted the door. The shack was stifling and she needed to breathe in fresh sea air, so she threw it wide and sat down on the front step. Her toes touched the cool sand and she felt calmer.

“I like it here,” she told him.

Her eyes scanned the beach, still wearing its night shadows like a shawl. Off to the right, dawn was starting to paint the slender trunks of the palm trees gold.

“Are you on your own here?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“No family?”

“No.”

Silence settled while they both listened to the easy roll of the waves, and at the far end of the bay an egret spread its shimmering white wings to catch the first thermals of the morning.

“You’re English, aren’t you? What brought you here?” Morrell asked.

She turned to look at him. “Why the questions?”

“I’m interested in you.” He shook his head weakly from side to side, his hair dark with sweat. “You saved my life.”

She could tell him to mind his own business. But she recalled the feel of the hairs of his chest, springy and full of life, when she washed the blood off them, and somehow the intimacy of that simple act linked her to him in a way she couldn’t explain.

“I grew up in Chippenham, a rural town in England. My mother died in the influenza epidemic of 1931 when I was nine, and my father struggled after that. He’d had a bad war and my mother always said he came back from the trenches of Ypres with part of him missing. But he grew worse after her death. More of him was missing.”

She stopped. Stared bleakly at the sea.

“I’m real sorry about that, Dodie.”

She shook her head, quietly moving her thoughts around. “It was the old story, the same as thousands of others before him. He took to the bottle and could never hold down a job after that.”

“So,” Morrell continued for her, “he brought you out here for a fresh start.”

She nodded. “When I was sixteen.”

“But it didn’t work out?”

“No,” she admitted, “it didn’t work out.”

“So where is your father now?”

“He’s dead.”

A silence rippled through the shack and it was a long time before either spoke.

“I’m sorry,” Morrell said again. He sighed. “Life can be tough on youngsters.”

“So, Mr. Morrell, tell me what you are doing here. What business are you in?”

He took his time. “You don’t want to know, ma’am.”

“I do.”

Outside, the sun finally burst over the horizon and set the crests of the waves on fire. Dodie watched her shins glow pink and the sand around her feet glitter like glass, and she shook her thick chestnut hair loose to catch the warmth of it.

“I’m in insurance,” Morrell said. “Of a kind.”

But something in the way he said it sent a shiver through her. “What does that mean?” she asked. “What do you insure?”

He lifted a hand and gently tapped the side of his head. “I insure what’s in here.” He made an odd sound that at first concerned her because she thought it was a groan of pain, but she recognized it as a chuckle of amusement. “Information,” he explained.

Dodie glanced out at the beach and her eye was caught by the information she could see there. That was the thing about sand, it cradled imprints as efficiently as wet cement, until the waves or the wind came to steal them away. In front of the shack she could clearly make out the jumble of her own hurried footprints from last night and their track off to the left. But off to the right the marks in the sand told a different story. There was another set of footprints, large and intrusive. They led straight as a poker from the water’s edge right up to her own front door and then dipped away along the tree line, where they vanished inland.

Insurance.

Well, Mr. Morrell, I’ve taken out my own insurance. Your dainty gun is lying wrapped in a towel, safe under my cooking pot.

Chapter 6

Dodie

“Don’t let him bury my wedding ring with me, Dodie. The undertaker will only steal it.”

They were her mother’s words. The wedding ring was a thick gold band, bought when times were good. Toward the end of her life the ring fell off her hand, her fingers were so thin.

“And don’t let him spend it on one of his crazy schemes. Or,” she added darkly, “on his demon.”

The demon was whiskey. Silk-smooth or rotgut, it made no difference to her father, it all went down the same slippery way. An ardent Baptist who could not say no to a drink when the devil was riding his shoulder. To be fair to him, he never asked for the ring, not once in the hard years that were to follow. But she would catch him sometimes casting sidelong glances at the band of gold that hung on a black ribbon around her neck, especially when he had the shakes real bad. But he never asked and she never offered. It was all she had left of her mother. That and her sewing machine.

The ring had paid for this beaten-up old shack. Sometimes when the nights were blackest, she thought she could hear her mother humming in the roof timbers but it was only the wind in the thatch. Now the morning was looking better than she’d dared hope last night—the beach had remained empty and acquired no fresh footprints, and Mr. Morrell had slept quietly all morning, his breathing smooth and regular, his skin a better color despite the sweat that glistened on it.

In the clear light of day Dodie could see him more distinctly, but even in sleep the toughness never left the set of his features and she could tell that at some point his nose had been broken. A street fighter, that’s what he was, a man who knew how to use his great fists, and yet the gentle drawl of his voice and the manner in which he had clung to her told a different tale. She was sweeping out the sand that had blown into the shack, driving it back on to the beach where it belonged, and working out what her next move should be. She needed to contact Miss Olive at the Arcadia Hotel to explain why she was not at work but she daren’t leave Morrell, not even to run to the phone box on the edge of town.

“Young woman.”

His voice surprised her. It was far stronger than the whisper of last night and the southern accent was more pronounced.

“I’m Dodie,” she reminded him with a smile, pleased to see him awake and looking about him at his surroundings.

“Well, Miss Dodie, what a right pretty home you have here.”

It was the last thing she expected. She abandoned the broom and glanced around the room at the abundant cushions, as well as a patchwork quilt that hung on one wall. The colors were bright—kingfisher blues and hummingbird yellows, all shades of green—the colors of the island.

“Thank you,” she said. She wasn’t used to compliments. “I made them myself.”

His gaze fell on the treasured sewing machine in its curved box in one corner. “You made all this stuff?” He stared at the quilt on the wall, at the intricacy of it.

She nodded.

“It sure is beautiful.”

“It took a while.”

“I bet the hell it did. It’s lovely.”

“Thank you.”

“Where d’you learn all this pretty stitching?”

“My mother taught me.”

“That’s nice,” he murmured. “Real nice.” In the same quiet voice he added, “If I die, tell no one. Especially not the police. Just chuck me in a hole somewhere and forget about me.”

She sat down on the stool by the bedside. “What happened?” she asked. “Who did this to you?”

Slowly he raised the hand that had been lying across his stomach and pressed his forefinger on Dodie’s forehead, right between her eyes.

“You don’t want dirt inside that lovely clean and shiny mind of yours.”

He withdrew his finger but the imprint of it remained on her skin.

Clean?

Shiny?

You don’t want dirt inside.

Too late for that, Mr. Morrell.

*   *   *

Dodie was picking beans in her vegetable patch when she heard the tin rattle. She dropped them in panic and raced barefoot back to the front of the shack. She snatched up a spade as she ran, wielding it like a club, and lost her battered old straw sun hat, so that the midday sun landed like a blow on top of her head. But when she reached the door it was still locked.

“I’m here,” she yelled as she pulled the key from her pocket and kicked open the door. “I’m here.”

She had given Mr. Morrell a tin can with a handful of stones inside and told him to shake it like a rattlesnake if he needed her. She was just popping round the back to pick some beans to cook for him for his lunch. She’d locked the door. Taken no chances this time. Now the tin had summoned her. Sweat cut a path down her back as she burst into the shack, but at first glance nothing had changed. Morrell was exactly where she had left him. He was still stretched out on the bed, a single cotton sheet draped over him, an enamel mug of Mama Keel’s brew on the stool beside him. But one hand was clutching the tin can and banging it like a death knell.

Dodie saw the blood. Scarlet threads of it creeping from under his hand, through the bandages and twisting into the fibers of the sheet. Thick bile shot up into her mouth. He had talked of her sewing and pointed at her quilt, and was about to eat the beans she’d picked for him. He couldn’t be sick again. But she snatched a clean towel and hurried to his side, lifting his hand and sliding the towel beneath it.

“Pressure,” she whispered.

But instead his hand grasped her wrist. She could feel the slickness of the blood between their skin, and the smell was back, stifling the room.

“It’s all right,” she said calmly, “we stopped it before, we can stop it again.”

But he was shaking all over, and when she looked into his eyes, there was something different in them, something that she couldn’t bear to look at.

“I’ll get the medicine,” she said quickly.

But still his hand gripped her wrist and she could not bring herself to break the contact in case the tiny spark that was keeping this man alive blew out in the shuffle of air as she moved. She pressed down on the towel to stem the flow.

“Dodie.”

“I’m right here.”

“Give me . . .” His voice was a thin whisper. “Give me my shoes.”

“Your shoes? But you’re going nowhere, Mr. Morrell, you’re far too weak to—”

“My shoes.”

She bent and reached under the bed for the white loafers. Brown speckles of blood marred their surface.

“A knife,” he said.

“What?”

“I need a knife.”

She didn’t argue. She fetched a knife from a drawer but his fingers were trembling so hard he couldn’t control the blade and pushed it back into her hand.

“Pull up the insole,” he muttered.

She lifted the insole with the tip of the knife and took out a small square of folded paper that lay under it. On it in a bold hand was written a name and an address: Sanford, Bradenham House, West Bay Street, Nassau.

“My jacket,” he whispered.

“Mr. Morrell, I really think you should lie quietly. This isn’t helping you. Please keep still.”

He fixed his eyes firmly on her face. “If anything happens to me . . .” A grimace touched his bone-white lips. “In my jacket . . . please.”

She picked up the crumpled jacket, stiff with dried blood, and felt something heavy in one corner. This time he didn’t even attempt to do the work himself.

“There,” he said, “open it.”

She did as he asked, opening a cleverly concealed pocket. Onto her lap tumbled two gold coins, gleaming in the muted light within the shack. She stared at them.

“One for you and one for Mrs. Sanford.”

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Far Side of the Sun"
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Copyright © 2014 Kate Furnivall.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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“Wonderfully evocative.”—Sun

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The Far Side of the Sun 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received this book as a giveaway through Goodreads.  Thank you so much, Goodreads and Berkley Publishing, Penguin Group, for making these book giveaways possible.  It is always exciting to read something out of your little circle of favorites, and through this program, I have a LOT more favorites to follow....  Set in 1943 Bahamas, this novel is based on actual crimes that were committed then and there.  I enjoyed the look into the military presence in Nassau during this time period, and the social and economic picture of life then.  This mystery is well presented, the characters are full and sympathetic, and the mystery remains for the most part hidden until the last quarter of the book.  I loved the flow of this writer's work, and the mind pictures in her prose. Kate Furnivall has certainly been added to my group of authors to watch for.