Break Neck Hill was easily found and aptly named. He drove round a hairpin bend. To his left was a low wall, and below that, far below, were black rocks and a glimpse of the sea. The hill rose straight before him, his small Austin 10 in low gear to cope with the climb.
He saw the lights of the house, an impressively large pile, but in the darkness he couldn’t make out its features.
His knock was quickly answered by a tall, thin woman dressed in a plain black dress, her greying hair in a neat, tight bun.
“Good evening, Mr Gilmore. Mr and Mrs Drake are in the drawing-room. May I take your coat? I’m Mrs Norris, the housekeeper.”
She laid his coat on a round marble-topped table. The entrance hall was large, thickly carpeted, impressive. A wide staircase swept upwards. Mrs Norris opened the door of the drawing-room.
It was a large room. Olivia was sitting on a sofa of pale-green Chinese silk. She wore a pale-yellow halter-neck dress, a single strand of pearls at her throat and a white diamond bracelet. She rose to greet him, holding out her hand.
“Mr Gilmore, so nice of you to come. This is my husband, Andrew.”
Andrew Drake was a stocky, broad-shouldered man with receded ginger hair and a smudge of a ginger moustache. He was older than his wife, much older. In his early sixties? He held out a rather podgy hand with a strong grip.
“Mr Gilmore. I believe you’re the chap who’s going to get me my money back from my wife’s silly driving.”
David smiled at Olivia.
“It was an accident she couldn’t avoid.”
She gave him a tight little smile in return.
“A drink, Mr Gilmore? Sherry, gin?”
“Just a sherry, please. I’m thinking of the drive back down that hill of yours.”
“Aye, it’s claimed one or two, has that hill,” Andrew Drake said. “I’ll have another gin and tonic, Olivia, and don’t stint on the gin. I need to taste it.”
Over dinner it became clear that Mr Drake liked a drink, as glass after glass of claret followed one on the other, and as he drank, he talked.
“I suppose you were in the war, Mr Gilmore, eh?”
“Aye, well, I was too old. But you have to take advantage of your circumstances. I did well, Mr Gilmore. The country needed munitions. Then, just before it was over, I switched to construction. The Germans spent millions knocking things down and I made money putting ’em back up. I’m a self-made man, Mr Gilmore. I can afford to buy anything I want. And I have.”
Gilmore held the stem of his glass tight in his fingers. Olivia Drake kept her eyes on the tablecloth.
Drake went on, his eyes on Olivia.
“And I have a beautiful wife. Don’t you think so, Mr Gilmore?”
Olivia murmured, “Andrew, please.”
“And she’s clever,” Drake went on. “Good education. Speaks three languages. Oh, aye. But her snooty family as poor as church mice. Snooty about my money but they don’t mind spending it, eh?” He laughed and made a grab at the wrist with the diamond bracelet.
Olivia pulled away. David Gilmore wanted to get up and hit him. Instead, he changed the subject.
“Actually,” he said, “I spent the last two years of the war in a German prison camp.”
He had Drake’s attention.
“I suppose you spent all your time playing tricks on the guards and planning to escape and digging tunnels.”
David shook his head.
“No. A lot of men did. And there was a tunnel. We drew lots to see who would go through it. I drew a number.”
“And?” It was Olivia who spoke.
“I gave it away. You see a lot of those chaps were officers, good jobs to go to after the war. I had no qualifications. I spent my time in the camp studying law and took my exams through the Red Cross. So I came out of the war qualified.”
Andrew Drake brought the flat of his hand down hard on the table with a roar of laughter.
“You’re no fool, Gilmore. No fool. You’re the kind of chap I could use. I’ll have to take you up to the golf club.”
He drained his glass.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me I always spend an hour or two in my study. I like to keep on top of things. I’m sure Olivia can keep you entertained.”
He made his way, swaying slightly, out of the room, leaving David and Olivia alone.