The wind stroked the tops of the hedgerow trees. Five hundred years old at least, unkempt, untrimmed. Top growth higher than Garner’s head and waving ragged fists at the grey sky. There was hawthorn and oak, some privet, whips of alder from old stumps. Dog roses entwined the branches and arched into the field on thick pink stems.
Garner pushed through from the far side, ignoring the pull of thorns against his waxed jacket; ignoring the flailing fingernail of holly that scored his cheek.
DeVere’s dead, Pete said.
Is he? Garner touched his cheek with a finger end, peering at it in surprise.
Garner thumbed away the streak of blood.
Murder, Pete told him.
Garner turned up the collar of his coat and began to walk slowly back along the hedge line to the back of the house. Pete followed him.
Head bashed in.
Head. I don’t know. On the back I suppose.
No. Where did they find him?
Oh! In the garden. By the ivy gate.
Garner stopped, and Pete side-stepped to avoid him, like a rugby player trying not to get offside. Garner walked on.
Inside job, they say.
House staff. They say someone let himself in.
Wouldn’t need to let himself in if it were in the garden.
It wasn’t in the garden.
That’s where they found him. Crawled all the way from the Pink Room.
Bloody have to be, wouldn’t it?
The Pink Room. DeVere.
Pete fell into step beside him, smiling.
I thought you’d want to know.
Me? Why? No love lost there.
That’s why. Pete cocked his head. Inside job. Disgruntled employee. Ex-employee.
They turned the wall of the house, feet scrunching on the gravel apron, and passed under the arch into the yard.
Disgruntled ex-employee, Pete repeated.
I was up north . Garner hooked off his boots at the cast-iron vee, revealing purple socks.
Who said anything about ?
Must have been. Only day I could have done it. He stood level with Pete in his stocking-ed feet, staring into his eyes.
You’re a funny bugger.
That’s why I’m disgruntled.
They passed inside.
That’s what he sacked me for. Dumb insolence, he called it. Bloody arsehole.
I’m not with you.
He couldn't, Garner paused for the word, persuade me.
Pete glanced aside.
They’re bound to come asking, he said..
The police? Let ‘em come. I got nothing to hide.
I’m on duty in an hour.
Garner peeled off his Barbour and set it down.
What about you?
You telling me you aren’t disgruntled?
I wasn’t sacked.
You ain’t got an alibi for either, I’ll bet.
I’ll say I was with you.
Aye, you do that.
The wind laughed over the cobbles and scampered off under the arch, and ran its fingers along the hedgerow trees, just to irritate.