While D.I. Owens and D.S. Parker were dealing with the remains of Marcia Simpson, at the other side of the village Sandra Williams left her house to pick up some shopping. She felt desolate and strangely light of heart at the same time. She would miss Harry desperately, but she knew she had done the right thing. She did love him, but it was still wrong.
James was not the ideal husband in fact he had turned out not to be the person she had thought she was marrying at all but he was still her husband. He was rude and sarcastic and he wrecked her confidence, but she had taken her vows and she would stick by them. She also, of course, still loved Harry. You couldn’t just decide to turn off your feelings, could you?
And Harry, for all his reputation as a ladies’ man, had seemed to want to be with her just as much as she with him. When she had finally screwed up the courage to finish their affair, he had been distraught.
“Why don’t you leave him?” he had asked, gripping her hands as they stood in the darkness of the village park. “Come away with me. I’ll make you happy in a way he never could.”
She couldn’t see his face as they stood under an oak that had been there for 200 years and doubtless witnessed many such meetings. His voice was strangled, as though his emotions were going to get the better of him.
“I can’t,” she said. “I just can’t.”
“But he’s unkind to you, you know he is. He makes you miserable. I would make it my business to make you happy.”
Breaking off their relationship was the hardest thing she had ever done, but she knew it was right, and there was an element of relief when it was all over. She could face James with some kind of restored moral high ground, even though her heart was breaking.
It was a bright morning in the village, and she was feeling a little more cheerful when she went into the one small supermarket that Peterford boasted. Inside the shop, the talk was all of Marcia Simpson. Dead, they said. Fallen down her back steps and banged her head.
Sandra could feel her mouth fall open in surprise and shock. Did she have a thin skull that such a simple fall could kill her?
Opinion on that was divided. Some said she was just unlucky in how she fell. Others made sinister suggestions as to how she might have been helped on her way. The police were being very cagey. “Unexplained death” was all that was being said.
Sandra thought that sounded eminently reasonable, and had some trouble concealing her joy that the loathsome Marcia Simpson was no longer around. This thought was immediately followed by guilt at such a lack of charity on her own part, but she couldn’t help it. Marcia Simpson had taken delight in taunting Sandra ever since the time she had seen her and Harry together in a restaurant 15 miles away.
“Well, well, and how’s that lovely Harry West these days?” she would say in a loud whisper when they met in the village, or on the road, or in the chemist’s. Sandra had suffered many a panic at the thought of her friendship with Harry ever reaching James’s ears, but Marcia had never done anything but threaten. It was as if she took deep delight in other people’s discomfort.
The very suggestion of murder brought on a panic unlike anything she had ever known. Much worse than the thought of James finding out about Harry was the very remotest possibility of Harry disposing of Marcia. If she had taunted him the way she had taunted Sandra, Harry might very well have lost his temper. But would he lash out wildly enough to kill her? Even accidentally? Logic told Sandra that it was unlikely, but logic had nothing to do with the fear now assailing her. She picked up the milk and eggs she had come for, paid for them with trembling hands, and fled.