Murder At Muirfield – Episode 32

I TOOK an involuntary step back. The vehemence in his voice was somehow shocking.
I think, in that fleeting moment, that something shifted inside me. A shift in my belief in him and in my hopes for the future. I didn’t realise it right there. I was only upset with him snarling at me.
“Is this why your relationship with Ellen faded?” I blurted out. He looked surprised.
“Gracie told me you were like lovebirds, but then it cooled between you,” I said.
He made a noise deep down in his throat in disgust.
“You women, is it all you talk about? Love and marriage. Is there nothing better to discuss?”
“It’s what life is about, isn’t it? It’s the basis for happiness and security.”
“You’re wrong. The basis for happiness and security is money. And I intend to make a lot.”
“Did Ellen get in the way of your plans? Is that it?”
His expression shut down.
“I’m going back to the charabanc.”
I watched him go. His shoulders were stiff with anger, and his gait, too.
What had just happened? My eyes pooled with tears. Barely able to see, I turned away and stumbled down on to the beach.I was not going to let our argument spoil my day, but it was hard not to think about it. I crouched down and picked up a handful of sand. It was cold, damp and gritty. I raised it to my nose. The smell of briny sea and cockles cheered me.
I sprinkled it slowly back on to the beach. Feeling marginally happier, I decided to walk out to the tide line.
The sea was far out. The waves rushed in on a friendly roar and were sucked back out. The gleaming wet sand was smooth like caramel. I trod on it. My footsteps, too, were smoothed away.
There were gulls crying overhead. I saw the stable hands further along the strand. They were shouting to each other and throwing pebbles into the surf. An immense peace settled upon me. I drew in the fresh air to my lungs.
I’d walk along the beach, I decided. There was a bluff about a mile away. The exercise would do me good and blow away my demons.
I set off at a good pace. There were not many people on the beach. It was too late in the season for it to be busy.
Two women with umbrellas and a small dog passed me. They were well dressed and probably local gentry. I liked their pretty bonnets. The small dog’s tongue lolled and made it look as if he was smiling.
My spirits rose. I’d not think upon Adam. Was he really brooding in the charabanc?
Now that was a waste of the day. We were not likely to get another day at the seaside for many months. I thought how nice it would be to visit in the spring or summer.
As I wandered along, I saw many pink and white shells.
I picked a few that were not broken or chipped. Their surfaces were silky to the touch. They, too, smelled of the sea. I was beginning to feel quite hungry. The good sea air was working its magic.
I heard my name called. There was Bill, waving and heading towards me. No sign of Sarah.
“I thought it was you. You’re striding out very determined.” His face was flushed with the fresh air and his brown eyes sparkled.
“I’m walking until the bluff.” I indicated the blocky outcrop beyond. “Will you join me?”
He set his stride to match mine.
“Wait a minute,” I said, and delved into my pockets. “Here.”
I pulled out the shells and gave them to him.
“What beauties.” Bill smiled enthusiastically. “Do you want them back?”
“They’re for you.” I did want to keep them. They’d look nice on my cabinet in the bedroom. But it was worth it for Bill’s genuine eagerness.
He slipped them into his pocket.
“Where’s Sarah?” I asked casually.
“She didn’t want to get her boots dirty on the sand. She went to the teashop instead. I said I’d meet her there.”
“But not before we finish our walk?” I didn’t want to spend any more time with Sarah than was strictly necessary. I was certain she felt the same way about me.
“Of course. Look out there. Is that a seal?”
I looked where his finger pointed. It was a seal. A large, round and friendly looking face bobbed up out of the sea, not too far away. I saw two liquid black eyes gazing at us curiously.
I held my breath. How wonderful. I’d never seen one except in the pictures of a book.
“It is a seal, I’m sure,” I whispered, not wanting to frighten the animal away. “Or is it a mermaid?”
“No hair, so it can’t be a mermaid,” Bill commented.
I giggled. The fresh air was getting to me. I hadn’t felt this relaxed and happy for a long while.
The atmosphere at Muirfield was tense and thick, I suddenly realised. The shadow of Ellen’s death was pervasive. It didn’t help that Arthur Sankey haunted the house. He was a reminder of all that was wrong there. But it took coming here to the seaside to make me see all that.
“Is everything all right?” Bill asked.
I glanced at him.
“Is it obvious? Adam and I had an argument. He’s gone to sit in the charabanc.”
Bill looked tactfully away from me. The seal dived under the water.
“Are you sure about marrying Adam?” He said at last.
“Of course!” Annoyance flared.
He put up both palms as if to ward me off.
“I do apologise. It’s none of my business.”
We walked in an awkward silence for a few minutes. Nothing but the sounds of the sea and the birds and our feet crunching on the sand.
“It’s me who should apologise,” I said finally. “I’d no right to get angry with you. It was a reasonable question. Just one that I don’t wish to answer.”
“Fair enough,” Bill said mildly.
“I’m rather hungry,” I said, changing the subject, “Is it a nice teashop?” He grinned.
“They do have a very large chocolate cake on display. Sarah and I went past on the way to the shops. Shall we sample some?”
“That is a very good idea.”
The windows of the teashop were steamed up. A breeze had got up and made me shiver. There was a dampness which threatened rain showers.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!