We are back to Redmond now as she meets up with Aubrey’s ex-boyfriend Adrian Kettering. Interestingly enough (well, at least in my opinion), Adrian Kettering was one of the very first characters I had Christine Kilfoil illustrate — and in the original storyline, Aubrey had killed him by dancing him off a cliff at Botany Bay, outside Broadstairs before taking refuge in Rosegate to disguise her confession in her manuscript! Before you begin reading this chapter, allow me to introduce you to Adrian. I did share his picture in one of the early articles on the process section of the site, but here he is if you missed that article. One more thing: I have a BIG PROBLEM to solve in my rewrite which is how Aubrey got her manuscript to Phil without Redmond knowing about it as well as everything around that problem.
Redmond parked the Triumph on a street a stone’s throw from the bay, closing the car door as gingerly as she could, looking up and scouring the lamp posts for CCTV cameras, relieved when she found none. Slipping the car keys in her pocket, she turned and made her way swiftly to the grassy clearing which stretched toward the sea. Its curvaceous borderline was deceiving as it hid the treacherous drop down to the strip of sand between the mainland and the chalk stacks. Now the tide was in, that sand would be aswirl with water washing up around the stacks.
Making haste, Redmond saw the benches dashed before the thin wire barrier set back from the edge of the plateau. They were empty still, Adrian Kettering nowhere to be seen, and so she chose the second bench from the right-hand corner of the barrier, a bench which faced an inlet time had hacked into the land and filled with swarthy shadows. Sitting on the bench, Redmond waited, but only for a minute before she glimpsed a figure approaching from the left, his raven curls amok, the edges of his black coat flapping as he ‘ever-so-slightly’ stumbled, smoking. He didn’t say a word until he sat beside her on the bench and slipped his bare hand into her gloved grip to greet her. It was Adrian of course: tall, and handsome in a dark, poetic, edgy sort of way. She could see why Aubrey would’ve fallen for him.
“Well, I have been thinking of something actually,” the young man said. “And I’m not sure if it has any bearing on Aubrey’s –” He paused, girding up the courage to say the next word. “– death.” There was another pause to let the word go down. “I mean, when you called me after it happened,” Adrian resumed once he’d digested the word, “I was shattered, so I wasn’t thinking straight. Just because I left her didn’t mean I didn’t love her, you know.”
‘Enough of the waffle,’ Redmond thought caustically. ‘I’m not a bloody therapist.’ But aware she had to pan his verbal silt to glean the gold, she bit her tongue and kept on listening.
“I loved her,” Adrian reiterated vehemently. “We were each other’s first, you know. We were all-in if you know what I mean. As innocent as it sounds, we thought it’d last forever.”
“But you said you left her for her friend. That doesn’t sound very foreverish to me.”
“I know,” Adrian said. “And to be quite honest, when I talked to you before, I was thinking what a cad I’d been to take off with Sage the way I did.”
Redmond flinched the way she had when she’d first heard the name days prior. Were humans so far gone in the nomenclature department, they had to turn to the bloody spice rack to name their offspring? Just because ‘rosemary’ had made the leap from seasoning to people, didn’t mean that thyme, oregano, and sage could jump on board. But that was just Redmond’s sarcasm speaking because she wasn’t an idiot; she knew that, when it came to the vintage girl’s name, ‘rosemary’ meant ‘dew of the sea’, not the defining flavour of lemon-and-herbed chicken. It was just extremely unfortunate that the word had become an unintentional homonym, with the herb eclipsing the ocean-infused dew drops.
“At the time, I thought my thing with Sage was real,” Adrian continued, unaware his new girlfriend’s name, for Redmond, was like nails on the almost-extinct blackboard. “I didn’t even think of it as a betrayal, because once it happened, I had every intention of being honest with Aubrey and ending my relationship with her properly. In my mind, it wasn’t like I was old and married. I’m only twenty-four. I can’t be expected to be exclusive at my age.”
Redmond could feel her blood beginning to boil, but she tried to keep it simmering as she responded, “Well if you and the victim had agreed that you were exclusive, then, by taking off with her friend, you did actually betray her. If you’d wanted an open relationship, you should have said so.”
“That’s the thing,” Adrian said. “I didn’t want an open relationship. Not really. Oh God, I mean, like I know I’m saying I can’t be expected to be exclusive with anybody at my age. But Aubrey wasn’t just anybody. She was Aubrey. To be honest, I wanted to be with her forever.”
As soon as Adrian said that, Redmond began to hear violinists in her head.
“I wanted that more than anything. I really did,” Adrian impressed quietly.
Mendelssohn. Violin Concerto in E Minor, Opus 64.
And as Redmond heard it, she wondered why it was that the only music she ever heard was in a minor key. But no. She didn’t wonder. If she were being truly straight with herself, it was because George had always told her that if she, as Ada, had been a song, she would’ve been in a minor key.
“But I’ve just come to that realisation now,” Adrian kept on. “When we talked before, I just thought I’d been a right bloke and, in a moment of madness, slipped up with a friend.”
“You said that last time we spoke,” said Redmond. “So, what’s changed?”
“When you told me what Aubrey did, I just assumed that the thing I had with Sage pushed her over the edge. And that’s what I’ve been dealing with these last few days – blaming myself for hurting her so badly that she’d want to end her life. And I am to blame in part because I should’ve told Brey when Sage and I messed up, not kept on with Sage behind Brey’s back, waiting for her to come around so I could get her back. If I’d been up front, we would’ve stood a chance. Knowing Brey, she would’ve forgiven me eventually. But no. I kept my mouth shut, kept sleeping with Sage until Brey surfaced from the dead.”
“What do you mean by ‘waiting for the victim to come around’, ‘get her back’, and ‘surface from the dead’?” Redmond asked, aware the gold she’d been anticipating was scintillating in the silt.
“Bear with me, please, Detective.”
“I’m listening,” Redmond said, softening her tone.
“It’s going to sound like I’m making excuses for my behaviour,” Adrian continued, slowly, taking time to choose the right words. “And my behaviour was – well – it was bad, and it hurt Brey – and it was hard because, like I told you before, she found us – Sage and me – in the act. What I did was unforgiveable. When we spoke before, I knew if I gave you any sort of context for my behavior, it would come across as a weak excuse. But these last few days, I’ve been mad, thinking that perhaps, the reason for Brey’s death is somewhere in that excuse. I’ve been thinking that maybe the pretext I’ve been using to justify the thing with Sage is significant, that it could shed some light on why Brey ended her own life. No stone unturned? Isn’t that your lot’s modus operandi, Detective? Because if that’s the case, I might have a boulder for you now, I just don’t know if it’s important or not.”
“Go on,” Redmond said. “It’s vital you tell me whatever it is you think you know,” she added, her detectiverish nature in full swing, “so we can get to the bottom of this.”
“I’m not denying that I played a massive role in Brey’s psychological decline, if that’s what led to her – well, you know – but I can’t take the full blame. The fact of the matter is that she’d been grieving the loss of the person who’d emotionally bolstered her throughout her whole life. She’d clung to Rosegate for dear life after that loss, and when her parents put the place up for sale, she was devastated. She said that she felt like her roots were being pulled up from beneath her. She used the term ‘weightless’. I feel weightless, Adrian, like I’m losing my anchor. And I’m looking around for a buoy and there is none. That’s what she’d always say. And, of course, I’d tell her that she wasn’t alone, that she could hang onto me whenever she needed, that, when all was said and done, ‘home’ lies in people, not places. She’d come back at me and say that only people who have people could say that, and that since Holls had died, she felt people-less. I mean, she had me, and she had her friends. But we weren’t enough. As much as we loved her, we couldn’t fill her emotional abyss. She hungered for family. That came from her childhood.”
“Thank you for sharing that, Adrian,” Redmond said. “But I’d already been made aware that the victim was grieving, and that she was upset with her parents over the sale of the house. And I agree with you. You can’t blame yourself for her action. The reasons why people end their lives are complex.”
“But there’s more.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“She’d been working on a project. Besides Brey, no one knew about it but myself, and she swore me to secrecy. She was adamant I tell no one about it. By doing what I’m about to do now, I’m breaking that promise, and I hate that I’m doing it. But –”
“But if it sheds light on her death, you’ll have broken that promise for a greater good.”
“Yeah, and it’s not like I didn’t break a promise by doing what I did with Sage. But I swore to myself I wouldn’t break this one and betray Brey again.”
“There’s no one to betray now, Adrian.”
“Her memory though.”
There was a lengthy pause. Redmond could sense Adrian hedging, deliberating whether to continue. She held her breath, praying that he would – which, he did.
“She’d been working on a book,” Adrian picked up.
“Sort of, I guess. But, according to Brey, it was more a family history, an account of her ancestors’ lives at Rosegate told in her words though, with her voice. She’d been chipping away at this thing for years, but once Holls died and her parents decided to sell Rosegate, she ramped up the effort, in a rush to get it finished before she lost the house. Lost the house. That was the expression she used. But not just that. She’d say she wanted to get her ancestors’ lives down before she lost them. Lost them. As if they, or their spirits, were attached to the house. ‘It doesn’t matter if the house is still standing,’ she used to say. ‘When the new owners take over, the spirits will fade; they’ll no longer come out. The energy will change. They’ll no longer be a Wells’ line to cling to. They’ll be anchorless, just like I’ll be.’”
“And what was she basing her story on?” asked Redmond, her heart beginning to race. “Where was she getting her information from to create an accurate account?”
“From journals, mainly,” replied Adrian. “Journals written by two of the six.”
“The six is how she referred to who she considered to be the original owners of Rosegate, the ones whose graves are in Cemetery Grove beyond the garden at the back.”
‘But there are only five graves,’ Redmond thought, her heartbeat in overdrive. ‘There’s no sixth grave. No sixth ancestor.’
“Do you know the names of these ancestors?” she asked instead.
“Yes, I do,” Adrian replied. “Sir Gregory Wells and his wife Lady Emeline, their son George Wells, his first wife Ada, and his second wife Justine. And then, there’s a man called Sidney Winterbourne who, according to Brey, hadn’t been an official part of the Wells’ family line. But, unofficially, he had been, because, according to Justine Wells’ journals, he’d been Gregory Wells’ son, born ‘in wedlock’ because he’d been born in Justine’s marriage to a man called Anthony Winterbourne.”
Redmond froze, bracing the shock. Sidney Winterbourne? Sir Gregory’s bastard? With Justine? And Anthony Winterbourne as the surrogate father? Sidney? George’s half brother? But also, his lover? The bile was rising; she could feel it burning from her liver into her esophagus and she gulped to keep it down. The memory of Sidney and George sexually devouring one another on the white stone bench was up and gnawing at her from the inside out. The depravity of that incestuous pleasure, albeit in a bygone century, was as biting as if it had happened yesterday.
“But there are only five graves in Cemetery Grove,” she said, fighting to stay controlled.
Had she said that? It didn’t feel like it. Her voice was taking over in her absence.
“Only five graves marked,” Adrian returned, oblivious to the tailspin he was causing. “Sidney’s grave is unmarked. It’s beneath the white stone bench under the oak tree.”
“And how do you know this?” Redmond could barely ask the question
There was another lengthy pause.
“How do you know this?” Redmond repeated quietly.
“Because –” Adrian fell silent.
“Because we dug it.”
It was Redmond’s turn to fall silent which she did – for how long for, she didn’t know – long enough for Adrian to feel unsettled, like he’d made a huge mistake for his divulgence.
“I know I should’ve told you that when you first questioned me,” Adrian picked up eventually. “But I was ashamed that Brey and I had done that, and I didn’t see what bearing it would have on your investigation, or how it would incriminate me in any way.”
“Beneath the bench? Under the oak tree?” Redmond was stunned. But then again, why should she be? For, it was harrowingly apropos that Sidney should rot where he’d defiled her husband’s body and where her husband had swallowed him whole the way a serpent eats its prey.
“Yes,” Adrian responded, utterly oblivious to the turmoil he was causing in his listener. “Brey said that according to what she’d read in the journals, that Sidney Winterbourne had killed himself and that his body was to be sent to the medical academy for dissection in the anatomy classes, but that George Wells and Justine Winterbourne, his future wife, had intercepted the body on its way there and buried it under the bench in Cemetery Grove. So, one night, Brey and I moved the bench and dug deep to see if the journal account was true and if Sidney Winterbourne’s bones were there. And they were. And they must’ve been his because they were really old.”
“This – this – this,” Redmond stuttered, struggling to stay composed, “you should’ve said.”
“I realise that now,” Adrian returned. “But honestly, at the time, I was so shattered with the news of Brey’s death, fixating on the thought that what I’d done with Sage had sent her over the edge, that I had been the straw that broke the camel’s back, I wasn’t thinking rationally. It didn’t even occur to me to tell you about Aubrey’s project.”
“So, why are you telling me about it now? Why do you think it could be related to her death?”
“I’m not saying that what I did with Sage was right –”
“As you’ve already established,” Redmond interjected coldly.
“But before I slept with Sage, Brey had been becoming so obsessed with her manuscript, she was shutting me out – disconnecting. It’s hard to describe –”
“When, in your opinion, did the victim start to become obsessed?” Redmond interrupted.
“Not straight away,” Adrian replied, slowly. “In fact, the whole thing was great at first – well – more than great, even though it probably shouldn’t have been, not under the circumstances.”
Redmond clutched the edge of the bench. She wanted to hiss, ‘For God’s sake, spit it out. Say what you have to say and stop giving me the cryptic run about’, but she knew that if she wanted to get anything significant out of Adrian, she’d have to play the soft encourager instead of the hard-line cop. And to do this, she was going to have to break the force’s cardinal rule and use the victim’s name.
“Look, Adrian,” she said as gently as she could. “I’m not going to judge you for anything you tell me. At the end of the day, this is about getting to the bottom of Aubrey’s death.”
“Like I said, Brey had been chipping away at her family’s history for years, or at least the history of the original six, the ones whose graves are in the grove. But once her grandmother died, she took it up a notch, dedicating more and more time to the project and spending more time at the house. But she was still Brey, you know, still herself. Grieving, yes, but still making me laugh with her obnoxious jokes, still composing music. I spent time at the house with her. We had the place to ourselves.” Adrian paused as he deliberated how much to divulge. “We were – well – we were ‘together’ – a lot,” he eventually picked up. “We just couldn’t get enough of each other – physically, I mean. The bloke in me says, ‘Of course you were all over each other. You had the run of the place and Brey was hot, but not hot in a common way, but rather in a soulful, artsy way – God, how can I put it? She was – she was – intense – sexually intense – but deep. Yeah, deep. She was deep.”
“If that’s what the bloke in you says,” said Redmond, “what does the non-bloke in you think?”
“There’s no rush, Adrian. I’m here. I’m listening.”
“It was more than just sex with her. Not that, at that time, I knew, because we were each other’s firsts. But I know that now. Or maybe it was because she was the first. I don’t know, but I don’t think so. Sex with her was – it was – spiritual I guess – there was this timelessness about it – it was almost religious in a way, like you knew that it was special.”
“But?” asked Redmond.
Redmond closed her eyes, flinching, because she’d only ever seen that sort of sex from the outside, from the Parisian doors in Rosegate’s kitchen when she’d been watching Sidney and George. She’d never, in her lifetimes, experienced the sexual divinity herself. And that cut deep.
“There was always a hunger with Brey,” Adrian resumed. “And she knew it. She’d talk about it. It came from her childhood, from not having enough physical affection or attention in her life. I’d go as far as to say that she was physically and emotionally starved. But that deficit didn’t surface in a toxic way with her. It came out like – like – like this insatiable impulse to give. And it was strange. Because she’d tell you everything – she’d give you everything – and yet you always felt like there was more. If other girls did that, there’d be no mystery. But with Brey, it didn’t matter how much she told you or gave you, you always wanted more. She was addictive.”
“So, what went wrong?” asked Redmond.
“Things started to go wrong once her parents decided to sell the house,” Adrian replied. “As soon as that ‘for sale’ sign went up, she felt an increasing sense of urgency to get her manuscript done, ‘While I can,’ she used to say. ‘While I’m here where I can feel them.’”
“And by them, I presume you mean the original six?’
“Yes, the ones whose graves are in the grove.”
“Would it not seem perfectly logical to you that she would feel a sense of urgency to get the work done while she could, while the family still owned the home?”
“Yes, of course. But would you say it was logical for her to want us to re-enact the sexual scenes she’d been reading about in the journals? Because that was what she wanted to do. And re-enact isn’t the word I’m looking for because no one was acting, not in the nineteenth century and not once the house went up for sale. It was all real.”
“And how did you feel about that?”
“At first, I felt the way most men would feel in that circumstance. I was intrigued, turned-on, all-in. And yet, with Brey, you couldn’t be anything but all-in. She was that intense.”
“And so, you acted out the scenes she’d read about?”
“Yes, we did.”
“And do you mind telling me what those scenes were?”
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Adrian said quietly.
“You always have a choice.”
“We had sex in different rooms of the house. Not just in the bedrooms. But in the study. On the landing. And again, we were alone, so there’s nothing terribly wrong with that. Brey would joke around a lot and tell me that we were doing research – for the book – so she could relay the Victorian script more accurately in modern-day language. I went along with it.”
“And then things got weird. She wanted to go to the grove and have sex on one of the graves under the linden tree. Then she started wanting to dress in her ancestor’s clothing, and she wanted me to do the same. She wanted us to call each other by their names.”
“At Rosegate, she called me Gregory, often Greg for short. And she wanted me to call her Justine. Always Justine. Never anyone else. And it was always Justine’s dresses that she wore.”
“And you were uncomfortable with that?”
“Yes, because it was like the line between fiction and reality was blurring. Or maybe ‘fiction’ isn’t the right word because Brey claimed she was transcribing history, actual events that had happened. So, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the line between the past and the present was blurring. It was like Brey was beginning to believe that she was Justine and that was freaking me out. Because the more Brey seemed to believe it, the more convincing she was – as Justine. I began to feel like I was having sex with someone else, not with Brey. I mean, Brey was in there somewhere, but I could feel her slipping away. And then, when we weren’t reliving the past, Brey was lost in her writing, completely disconnected from me. She didn’t have time for me anymore. I felt like she’d been using me to get to the past. Once we’d sexually exhausted ourselves, she shut me out, kept insisting that her time was running out.”
“You said that when you were at Rosegate, she called you Gregory, or Greg,” Redmond reiterated. “So, were the two of you anywhere else?”
Adrian fell silent.
“Adrian,” Redmond said. “It’s really important that you tell me everything you know. I can’t impress upon you how vital it is that we get to the bottom of Aubrey’s death.”
Adrian remained silent.
“Adrian,” Redmond repeated. “Is there anywhere else where you and Aubrey spent time together?”
“A place called Foxglove.”
This time it was Redmond’s turn to fall silent.
“Detective?” Adrian asked. “Do you know of it?”
‘Foxglove?’ Redmond thought, her mental wheels turning a mile a minute. ‘The old Winterbourne hut on Sorrel Lane? Where Justine Marsh used to live? But why? How could that hovel have possibly come to play a role in this?’
“Foxglove?” Redmond eventually replied in the steadiest voice she could muster. “The little cottage on Sorrel Lane that runs behind the back-garden walls of Harlow, leading into town? The one backing onto the open heath?”
“Yes,” replied Adrian. “That one.”
“Why the devil would you have been there? How could you have?”
Adrian hesitated yet again, indicating that he was struggling with whether to carry on, or with how much of an answer he should give.
“Look, Adrian,” Redmond said in an encouraging tone, “I realise this is difficult to open up about these things for, clearly you loved Aubrey and you don’t want to break the promises you made to her. But by telling the truth, you’re doing it for her, to help us figure out if there was any foul play in her death. Instead of seeing it as breaking promises, why not see it as putting together the pieces of a puzzle?”
“But I promised –”
“I know you did,” Redmond interjected. “But sometimes we have to break our promises to those we love to better serve them – or to honour their memory if they’ve left us.”
“The Holloways own the cottage,” Adrian said, following another lengthy pause.
“What?” Redmond was stunned but strove to keep her astonishment under wraps. “The Holloways own it? Whatever for? And why didn’t Viv Musgrave mention that?”
“Because Viv Musgrave didn’t know,” said Adrian decisively. “Nor did she need to, according to Brey. All she needed to know was everything to do with the house she was selling. The Holloways weren’t obliged to give Viv every single detail of their lives or assets. They’ve got so much money, that little cottage is nothing but a bread crumb to them; it’s economically irrelevant. Economically, but not emotionally. In fact, it was important to the Holloways that outside the necessary paperwork, the true ownership of the cottage stay relatively private. That’s why people tied the place to a man in Portsmouth. But they never questioned that the man in Portsmouth was actually Aubrey’s father who owns another house there, a house called St. Anne’s which he rents out.”
“I’m sorry, Adrian,” the detective, struggling to maintain the little composure she had left, said. “But I’m not following. Why would anyone keep a house they own a secret?”
“Because that’s what the original owner wanted.”
“And who was the original owner?”
“Sir Gregory Wells, the man whose statue stands in the Green in the town centre, the man who Brey always asked me to be – at least when we were in Rosegate. According to the journals, he purchased the cottage for Rosegate’s first maid, whoever that was, but then, before his death, he made sure that the cottage went to Justine, the mother of his child, the son whose bones are buried underneath the oak tree. He made some arrangement with Justine’s future father-in-law for that to happen.”
Redmond’s heart was pounding so loud, she could almost hear it.
How could she not have known this way back when?
“From what Aubrey told you about her research, did Sir Gregory’s firstborn son George know about the cottage, that his second wife Justine owned it?” she asked.
“From what Brey said, no, he never did. He was always under the impression that the house belonged to her former father-in-law and that he allowed her to use it as a space where she could write. It wasn’t until Justine’s death, when her last will and testament was read, that the secret was out, albeit privately amongst the family. And, according to Brey, the family had decided to honour Justine’s wishes and keep the cottage as a place in which the women of the family could take refuge from their daily lives and engage in their art, whatever that art may be. It was to be a creative space. It is a creative space. And it was part of the growing problem between Brey and her parents.”
“Why was that?”
“Brey said they were using it as a bargaining tool to calm her down about the sale of Rosegate, a sale, which by the way, was also against Justine’s wishes. Brey said that, once Rosegate was gone, it would only be a matter of time before they got rid of Foxglove as well, then St. Anne’s, the house in Portsmouth, because they wanted to cut ties with England, Brey said. In her mind, that meant cutting ties with her roots, all the places which kept her feet on the ground. She felt like they were forcing her toward the United States. Not everyone wants to leave, she’d insist. Some of us want to stay. And then she’d bring up marriage, but she was getting so bipolar – swinging from sexually insatiable with the re-enactments, but then pushing me away so she could write. I felt like I was being used.”
“So, getting back to those, for lack of a better word, re-enactments, you said before that when you were in Rosegate, Brey insisted on calling you Gregory. You stipulated ‘Rosegate’. What did she call you when you were with her at Foxglove?”
“At Foxglove, she called me Harold.”
“Harold? Why Harold?”
“Because Justine, the ancestor who Aubrey channelled the most, later in life, had been in love with a man called Harold. He’d been the solicitor who Sir Gregory had hired before his death to make sure Foxglove, by way of Justine’s father-in-law, end up in Justine’s hands. Justine wrote about Harold in her later journals and Brey said she could feel that love in her bones.”
“And could you? Feel that love? Or was it only Brey feeling it?”
“I could feel something, for sure,” Adrian replied. “But it was frightening me. It was like Brey’s new reality was so all-consuming, it was pulling me in. What do they always say in psychology, you know with regards to young children especially? That thing. That if someone keeps telling you something for long enough, you grow up to believe it. It was like that. The more time I was spending with Brey, the more she was pulling me into her story, her history, and out of my own. It was becoming either her world OR her world, with nothing in between. When I wasn’t in Brey’s world, Brey was writing, and I was an outcast which is why I ended up with Sage. But I was confused because I knew I’d loved Brey, but I couldn’t carry on with her, not like that. So, I left, and Brey just disappeared into her writing. In fact, as you already know from the first time we spoke, I hadn’t seen Brey for more than three months.”
“If Foxglove was the space which the ancestor Justine, and the family, had designated as the creative space, why then was Aubrey spending the bulk of her time at Rosegate?”
“Because she knew that building was going to go first, because she wanted to soak up the atmosphere and get it down before she lost it. Because it was the main setting of her family’s history. But even though she was writing at Rosegate to start with, she’d still go to Foxglove sometimes, just not with me. She didn’t take me to Foxglove until the end.”
“And if she was writing at Rosegate, why would she be going to Foxglove?”
“Because that’s where Justine’s journals were hidden, along with all the other stuff.”
“The other stuff?”
“Some of Brey’s music. These paintings by some girl in the sixties. A collection of love letters in what Brey believed was Harold’s handwriting, and –”
“A gun. There was a gun.”
“Hidden with the journals and the documents.”
Adrian didn’t answer, but rather looked away toward the bay.
“We’ve come this far, Adrian,” Redmond said gently. “You might as well tell me the rest.”
Looking back at Redmond, Adrian murmured, “The family history is hidden in the framework of the cottage, up in the beams. Everything is there. Justine’s journals. Important family documents. Brey’s important compositions. Everything. Or at least what Brey used to say: everything that matters.”
Redmond looked at Adrian’s hands. His fingers were red from the cold, palsied around the cigarette quivering in his grip. His eyes were almost empty, as if he’d given up. Almost empty. Redmond sensed that one last thing. On the edge of his mind. On the tip of his tongue. And she was right because he slipped his left hand deep into his long coat pocket, pulling out a key and handing it to her.
“To Foxglove,” he whispered. “Because she believed that I was Harold, and she swore that I’d come back. She wasn’t going to be there though. She told me that she’d be with Rosegate in its final days to finish her manuscript. But that, when I was ready, she’d meet me back there to pick up where we left off. I didn’t question her because she seemed so strong, so resolute, so capable.”
“You do realise that people who commit suicide do come across as peaceful beforehand, don’t you, Adrian? Because they’ve come to their decision and they’re at peace with that.”
“In hindsight, yeah, I guess I do.”
“And do you know what Aubrey was planning to do with this manuscript?”
“Not exactly, but she did say once, near the end of our relationship, that she planned on sending it to the man who’d composed the last piece of music she’d been working on. I have no clue why. Perhaps she felt a connection with him because she’d been collaborating on a creation without him knowing. Perhaps she wanted to say thank you for that. But he seemed to be resonating with her somehow.”
“I’m sorry, Adrian,” Redmond interrupted. “But what are you talking about?”
“My mind’s all over the place,” Adrian said. “But yeah. In the beams at the cottage, Brey had placed her most recent musical compositions with the journals and the other stuff. But one of those pieces wasn’t hers, at least the original version wasn’t. It was an arrangement of a piece of music her grandmother had come across one morning in the park across the road from Rosegate. The piece had been written way back in 1981 and it had been written by a young person. Brey had found it in a folder in the attic and began to work on it, adding embellishments, ‘bringing it back to life’ she said.”
“How did she know it was written by a young person?”
“Oh, that was easy. I saw the original piece. I mean the notes looked like they’d been written by someone young, a messy writer trying to write neatly. But that didn’t matter because the name of the boy who’d written it was on the music. He’d put his age down as well.”
“And what name was that?”
“Philip Owens,” Adrian replied. “Philip Owens, aged twelve-and-a-half.”
“He’d also written a little inscription under the title,” Adrian added. “For my parents, but especially for my mother. That’s right. He’d dedicated the song to his mother.”
“And Aubrey, like you said, believed that she was a reincarnation of her ancestor Justine?”
“At the end, I wouldn’t even say a ‘reincarnation’. She was starting to believe she was Justine. But why would that have anything to do with the music? The two things don’t seem at all related.”
“Maybe not,” said Redmond. “Maybe not.”
But Redmond sat there, knowing – not just with her intellect – but with every fibre of her being – that Adrian was driving home what she’d suspected, then believed: that Phil was Sid returned. The reason Aubrey Holloway needed to get her manuscript to Philip Owens was because, accepting herself as Justine, she’d be writing to her son, telling him that it had taken more than a century and a half but that she’d finally found him. She’d found him – and she’d heard his song. But not just heard. She’d sung right back. She’d told him that she’d heard his voice. Sitting there with that, she recalled a moment in Rosegate’s study when she’d overheard Phil whisper, “Please, God, let me hear her voice.”
‘How dare the universe comply with that?’ Redmond seethed behind the kindest gaze. ‘How dare the universe bless sinners with their deepest requests? How dare it reward the engenderer of her murderer, the man who stole her husband first? How dare it leave her out of the benevolent loop, and keep her blind spot blind to the heart of her own story?’
The coldness came.
Adrian Kettering had set his own trap, walked into her radius, and dropped the tools in her lap. Redmond had the information she needed. She had the key to Foxglove. The last thing she needed was the target’s silence. And, as he’d proven himself a talker, there was only one way to get that.
“God, the sea is beautiful at night,” she said, strategically ditching the professional mode, and assuming an alluring tone of voice. “Don’t you think?”