Potter would have preferred to make his own way through Terminal One at Pearson International, but, knowing that he might have to walk for more than a mile by the time they reached their boarding gate, Jenna had insisted on a wheel chair. She’d arranged with June and Helen to locate one in the airport and to be waiting with it at the departure level when the limo she’d hired for her and Potter pulled up to the curb. The girls would accompany them until Jenna and Potter were checked in and had reached security. From there, a representative of Air Canada would take over, taking the couple first to the Maple Leaf Lounge and then, later on, to the gate for pre-boarding.
By the time they were safe in their pods, sipping a class of orange juice as the passengers destined for the cheap seats at the back of the plane streamed by, seemingly toting all their worldly goods with them in oversized carry-on bags, Potter was glad that Jenna had put her foot down about the wheel chair and that she’d made it impossible for him to opt out of using it. He would have been exhausted before they even got off the ground if he’d walked from a taxi to his seat, and he knew it.
The pod seat in business class gave Potter the room he needed to stretch his legs. He also welcomed the separation it gave him from his fellow travellers. There were no elbows or bags bumping against his arm as people made their way down the aisle to economy class. But it was like he was flying alone. To talk to Jenna, he had to look over his shoulder, across the console holding her personal screen and dining table, and almost shout. He’d miss her touch as they crossed the Atlantic together for the first time.
Dinner was reasonably good for airplane food when it finally came. But by the time he’d eaten and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine, his watch read 9:00 p.m. The plane was scheduled to land at Heathrow in four hours. After saying goodnight to Jenna, Potter extended his seat into its flat position, pulled the blanket over himself and tried to sleep.
It was a week before Adam found himself back walking on the estuary road path with his Scotties. He’d been taking advantage of the nice fall weather and reduced tourist load to drive with his dogs down to the parking lot at Lincombe Cross, from which the trio made their way on foot down the path to Snapes Point. Adam loved the views out over Kingsbridge Estuary, and the dogs enjoyed the new smells they discovered along the route.
The woman with the Westie came into sight as Adam rounded a corner of the path. He remembered the name of her dog – Duffy – but had no recollection of hers, or if she’d told him what it was.
“How’s Duffy?,” he asked, when the dogs got within sniffing distance.
“Oh, he’s good,” said the woman, after a pause. “Full of energy these days, and so clever he can almost talk.”
“My guys are pretty good at communicating what they want, too,” said Adam. As he turned to continue his walk, he added: “Have a good day.”
As he walked, Adam found himself thinking about the woman. His morning ritual with Jock and Angus was his time for reverie. The views of the water, the wild flowers along the path and the antics of his dogs somehow made it possible for him to look back and remember the good things in his life. Things he and Jane had done together; the discoveries they’d made; the special days in their lives; and further back to his childhood pony; jumping in the fall leaves with his sister; the look in his father’s eyes when he learned that Adam had been accepted into Oxford to read law.
It had been a long time since he’d found himself thinking about present-day things during his morning walk, let alone contemplating a different future for himself.
Adam was smart enough to recognize that the physical attraction he felt for the woman did not equate to love and that it did not offer a solid enough foundation to support a lasting relationship. But it was a good place to start from, he thought, plus he liked the sound of her voice. The tone and timbre of it were pleasant in his ears. If she was willing to get to know him better, he’d go there, albeit one step at a time.
He resolved to introduce himself the next time they met. That happened a couple of days later, at about the same place on the estuary road walking path where they’d first come across one another.
“How’s Duffy today,” he asked, when she stopped to let her dog sniff his two.
“Oh, he’s good as always,” she replied.
“I’m Adam, by the way,” he said. “It seems silly that I can remember the names of the dogs I encounter on our walks, but not the names of their owners.”
The woman hesitated briefly, then said: “I don’t think I mentioned it the last time. We always focus on the dogs. I’m Sheila. Nice to meet you.”
“The boys – Jock’s the one with his tail up, Angus is the old grump – and me are new in town, up from London, and finding it hard to fit in. It’s great to chat with someone, however briefly. Thanks.”
“I know what that’s like,” said Sheila. “I’ve been here for months now and making friends has been a tough go. It strikes me that my neighbours spend more time talking about me than they do talking to me.”
“Maybe we should start a newcomers club,” said Adam, smiling. “You, me and the dogs.
“Anyway, have a good day.”
“You too,” said Sheila.
With that, man, woman and dogs went their separate ways.
Adam woke the next morning feeling better than he had in some time. His sense of loss was still with him, but it somehow did not seem to weigh quite as heavy on his heart as it did most mornings.
It was an important day for him. The case he’d spent months preparing was scheduled to be heard in The Law Courts at the Plymouth Combined Court Centre. His client, Timothy Linquist, was accused of brutally murdering his next-door neighbour, Jacob Cooper. The motive for the killing, according to the prosecution, was the affair that Cooper had been having with Linquist’s wife. Shortly before the murder, Linquist had been seen at the village pub confronting Cooper about it. He’d punched his adversary in the face and threatened to kill him before being pulled away from the man. Linquist had been ordered out of the establishment by the publican and told not to come back until he had his temper under control. A few days after that incident, Cooper’s lifeless and mutilated body was found in a laneway by a jogger. Linquist, perhaps with reason, immediately became the primary suspect in the case.
As his solicitor, Adam had meticulously prepared Linquist’s defence, which would now be argued before the judge and jury by the renowned barrister Anthony Fields. Adam and Fields had met on a number of occasions to review the case. Both were confident that the defence case was sound, but knew that it would likely not be enough to save Linquist from a long term of incarceration.
Adam wasn’t fully focussed on the case. He was thinking about the woman he’d met on the estuary road path. About how to take it further, whether he was really ready for that and if he really wanted to take that step. In his heart, he knew that he was still tied to Jane. But in his mind, he thought it was time to move on. He did not want to be alone for the rest of his life. He wanted a partner to share experiences and conversation with, as well as a sexual relationship built on the foundation of love.
And the only way to find out if the woman on the path might lead him to that happier place was to walk with her for a bit and see where they ended up going.
Adam arrived at the law courts an hour before his case was due to be heard. He’d arranged to meet with his client and Anthony Fields that morning to go over the details of the case one last time, just in case they’d missed something that could turn the tide in Linquist’s favour. Plus, he wanted to be sure that Linquist was fully aware of his options. While Adam was confident that he’d put together a reasonable defence, the circumstantial evidence that the Crown would present to the court was stacked against the man. If he was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter, Linquist might receive a shorter sentence. But Adam didn’t think his client would be willing to consider a guilty plea. He’d never faltered in claiming his innocence, and he was determined to clear his name.
Linquist was married and had two teenage daughters. So far, despite everything that had been reported in the press and the threats of violence made against them, the family had stuck together. They hadn’t waivered in professing Linquist’s innocence, even as he was being vilified by the press.
Brenda Linquist would be sitting in the courtroom later that morning, Adam knew, along with her daughters. He’d advised against it, but Brenda had wanted them to hear the testimony against their father firsthand, rather than through media reports or schoolyard gossip. She wanted the girls to be able to see their father’s face as the case against him was presented and during his own testimony. And she would rather they listened to the unfiltered version of the story, without it being slanted or pitched in one direction or another in the retelling. For the nature of the crime Linquist was accused of guaranteed that the trial would be widely reported on by the press and the subject of many a conversation on the street, in the pubs and around the dinner tables of not only Salcome but the entire West Country.
Jacob Cooper’s penis and scrotum had been cut away from his body and pinned to a nearby tree with an old hunting arrow. Media speculation about the arrow had been intense, in part because bow hunting had been banned in the UK since the mid-1960s, which would likely have made it difficult to acquire the arrow in question. It had been made in England according to the experts, based on its fletching, nock and tip. Animal blood, believed to have originated from a deer, had been found on the shaft, although police had been unable to determine when it had got there.
Linquist’s father had been a bow hunter, but Linquist had never hunted himself, possibly because he had been repulsed by the blood, gore and animal suffering he’d witnessed as a child when he’d been forced to accompany his father on the man’s meat quests. Clean kills with a bow were rare. It was much more common for the hunter to follow a trail of blood through the woods until the animal he’d shot could run no further.
A search of Linquist’s attic had turned up a bow and some hunting arrows tucked away in a corner. He claimed that he had not put them there and had been unaware of their existence prior to their discovery. Linquist had inherited and lived in his father’s house.
Adam knew that the people lining up to find a seat in the courtroom weren’t there because they wanted to hear about the origins of the arrow or about the evidence, if any, linking it to Linquist – no matter how damning it may prove to be. They wanted to hear, in vivid detail, about the indignities suffered by Jacob Cooper, and how the arrow had been used in that regard.
He anticipated that they would not have long to wait. The Crown would almost certainly call the detective who’d discovered the body as their first witness, followed soon afterwards by the pathologist. The Crown prosecutor, David Brockhurst, would want the jury to feel enraged by the brutality of the crime and the nature of the injuries inflicted on Cooper. It would almost certainly make the jury more determined to see the killer identified and punished, but more importantly it would colour how its members would hear the subsequent evidence against Linquist. Circumstantial evidence that might otherwise be viewed by them with a grain of doubt would take on more weight and validity.
Fields’ primary focus in the early stages of the trial, aided by the case Adam had assembled for him, would be to change the jury’s perspective by making them uncertain of what they were being told and shown by Crown witnesses. He had to make them feel a shadow of doubt that Linquist was guilty, and then build on that when he presented the man’s defence.
His job would not be easy. The male members of the jury would be enraged and scared by Cooper’s castration. It was a secret fear they carried within them – of torture being inflicted on their genitals. The woman would be horrified by the senseless wound inflicted on the victim’s body, that marring his body after death was almost as bad as killing him. That it demonstrated a depravity, a deviltry, that had to be stopped.
The bailiff called “all rise.” Adam stood up. The spectacle was about to begin.
Potter hadn’t looked at the newspaper he’d been offered and accepted at the outset of the flight. He’d been content to sip on a glass of wine, talk to Jenna over his shoulder, and watch the activity taking place around the plane through the window. It was only as the flight attendants started moving around the cabin in preparation for the breakfast service that he took the paper out of his seat pocket and unfolded it.
He was bleary eyed after less than four hours of trying to sleep, and he found himself skimming through the pages. It was only because the headline on page seven included the word Salcombe that he paused to look at the accompanying photo and read the story. But it was the image that first caught his attention. Taken from an angle, it showed a courtroom packed with spectators taking in a murder trial. The top right-hand corner of the photo contained a face that looked remarkably to Potter like Trish Montgomery’s. Her hair was styled differently, and it had been dyed, but Potter was almost certain that the face in the photo belonged to his former friend.
The details of the story made Potter think that he might be right. They described the brutal murder of a man who, the evidence suggested, had been unfaithful to his wife. The killer had castrated the victim and then pinned his genitals to a tree with a hunting arrow. It was too similar to the murder in Toronto, Ontario, which Potter now believed that Trish had likely committed, despite the police determination that Geoffrey Brown, her former lover, had been the killer.
Potter had not shared his thoughts on the Toronto case with his wife nor the detective who’d led the investigation into Jonathan Piggott’s murder. They’d seemed too outlandish at first, and he had simply not been able to accept that the woman who’d been one of his best friends since his teenage years was capable of such violence. Both of those assumptions had contributed to his decision, when Trish had become the prime suspect in the police investigation of her husband’s murder, to get involved in the case. He’d set out to prove Trish’s innocence, risking his marriage and physical safety. It was only later, as he’d been recuperating from the injuries he’d suffered at the hands of Brown, that he’d started to have doubts about the outcome of the case and whether Trish had committed the killing.
Now, looking at her face in the newspaper photo taken at Linquist’s trial, he wondered anew about her guilt and whereabouts. If she was in Salcombe, there was a chance he would find out. Potter and Lawson planned to spend four days in the village, after a sojourn in Clacton on Sea.
There were two reasons for the visit to Clacton. It had been featured in an Elizabeth George mystery that Lawson had enjoyed, and her uncle had been stationed there during the Second World War as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. John Smith had enlisted with the Canadians in early 1940, more than a year before the Americans entered the war, in the belief that Hitler must be stopped. He’d trained at a base located just outside the English seaside town before being posted to London as an antiaircraft gunner. Although he never talked much to his daughter about the war, he had reminisced fondly about Clacton and his wartime experiences there. Lawson had a hankering to walk in her father’s footsteps a bit. She’d never really felt that she knew him during his lifetime. Despite the love he’d bestowed on her, and all the time they’d spent together, there was always a part of himself that he never shared. With his health and memory both failing as he entered his mid-80s, she felt compelled to connect more fully with him.
Lawson also felt that the stop at Clacton would give her a chance to assess her husband’s capabilities before the couple headed to the hillier counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. She wanted to have a good sense of how he would cope with the walking they hoped to do, and how much of it he could do without experiencing pain or fatigue. It would, she hoped, allow her to structure their excursions in doable chunks, and to ensure there were places where Potter could rest along the way. The last thing she wanted was to end up on a footpath miles from their car or a convenient pub, with Potter having reached the point of exhaustion. Nor did she want him to feel that he was impeding her enjoyment of their holiday or holding her back in any way.
Being honest with herself, Lawson was also a bit worried about driving on the left-hand side of the road. She’d never done that before. The detective had received advanced training to enhance her road skills – she knew how to control a skid, turn on a dime and a lot of other high-speed manoeuvers – but none of it had been acquired sitting in the right-hand seat of a car, and very little had entailed driving down narrow country lanes. And while many of the British mysteries she’d read described picturesque drives down narrow roads, with drivers knowing instinctively where the nearest layby was situated, as well as how to back into it to let oncoming traffic pass, she was smart enough to know that her lack of familiarity with the roads and road habits in the West Country could prove both challenging and stressful.
So, Lawson wanted to do a bit of driving on what her Michelin map classified as M roads and A roads before she tackled the Bs and the laneways, even if it was just to get used to driving on the left. The route down to Clacton looked reasonable from that perspective. Plus, a few days of R&R in a seaside down would give her husband a chance to recover from the overseas flight and the jetlag that they’d likely both experience.
Despite having pictured herself driving on the left in her mind, Lawson felt slightly disorientated when they finally made it to their rental car. It had been a long flight. She hadn’t slept. The British morning found her feeling groggy. And the attempt by the rental car company agent to upsell her into a bigger vehicle with an automatic transmission hadn’t helped. All she’d wanted was to get the car she’d reserved, get on the road, and drive the two hours it should take them to reach Clacton if the traffic was good and they didn’t get lost.
Lawson had stuck to her guns and kept the smaller car that she’d purposely reserved. The last thing she’d wanted was to end up in a vehicle that would make her more antsy driving on the country lanes. When she finally had most of their luggage in the boot (only one case had to go on the back seat), and Potter was buckled into the passenger seat, she walked around to the driver’s side of the car.
Even opening the door and getting herself settled in the car felt disorientating. She took her time to adjust the position of her seat and mirrors, then, before starting the engine, depressed the clutch and moved the stick shift into each of the car’s five gears to familiarize herself with their position and get the feel of using her left hand to change gears. Finally, she took one last look at their Michelin map, and the road numbers she’d noted in ballpoint on its margins, put the map where she or Potter could easily reach it, depressed the clutch and started the engine.
The trick, she knew, was to stay focussed and stay on the left.
The B&B in Clacton-on-Sea was quaint. A brick detached home one street back from the ocean, it featured a small front garden in which the owner’s roses were making a valiant attempt at a third bloom as well as hydrangeas whose heads had faded from the bright colours of summer into a pleasing pale pink.
Lawson had found a parking space just in front of the establishment. The drive down on the M 25 had been largely uneventful, and by the time she had to navigate the narrower streets of the town the detective was feeling more comfortable about driving on the left. Still, when she turned off the ignition and pulled up the parking brake, she took a deep breath and let her underlying stress flow out of her body in a long exhale.
It was only ten in the morning, but with her stress-induced adrenaline high fading rapidly now that they had reached their destination, Lawson felt exhausted. Although Potter had nodded off once or twice during the drive down to Essex from Heathrow, Lawson could tell from his face and eyes that he’d reached his limit. She might have to help him out of the car and give him a shoulder to lean on until he regained his equilibrium.
Check in time at the B&B was four in the afternoon. She anticipated that their hosts would only just be finishing the breakfast service, and wouldn’t particularly welcome early arrivals, but she decided to ring the doorbell and see what sort of reception they got. Lawson was right. Several of the B&B’s guests could be seen in the dining room when Jean Talbot opened the door.
“Yes,” she said.
“Jenna Lawson and Larry Potter,” said Lawson. “We’re hours early, but I was hoping there might be a place where we can leave our luggage and relax a bit. The flight wasn’t that long, but we’re both feeling very tired.”
“You’re in luck,” said Talbot. “We didn’t have any guests in your room last night, and it’s ready for you. Have a seat in the front room for a few minutes while we get breakfast finished off, and I’ll get you settled.”
“You’re wonderful,” said Lawson.
Talbot directed Potter and Lawson to the left after they came through the front door.
“Find a chair that’s comfy. I’ll be with you in a tic,” she said.
Fifteen minutes later, she lead Lawson and Potter down the hall and around a corner, stopping in front of a natural oak door bearing a brass sign reading Garden Suite. Talbot opened the door and motioned them into the room. It was bright and spacious, with leaded windows and a Dutch door looking out on a small garden. There was a four-poster queen bed, oak desk, oak dresser and oriental carpet on the hardwood floor, and framed prints depicting riders taking part in a fox hunt on the walls. A brick fireplace – which Mrs. Talbot said had been converted to gas – was on the wall facing the bed. There was a vase of fresh-cut flowers on the mantle, which filled the room with a delicate fragrance. The space, like the front room of the house, was welcoming and cozy.
“The bathroom’s through here,” said Mrs. Talbot, pointing to a door that was slightly ajar. “There’s a closet and hangers in there as well. Breakfast is at nine. You’ve seen where. There’s bottled water in the fridge and a pot of coffee in the kitchen if you want it – just past the dining room. There’s tea as well, and a kettle. Help yourself. Your car is fine on the street, and we’re quite safe. My husband, Fred, will give you a hand with your bags, and then I expect that you’ll want to settle in.”
Mrs. Talbot gave Jenna the key. Jenna told Potter to rest, and followed her host back down the hall to the front door where Fred was waiting for her. When they got back to Lawson’s room, Potter was asleep in a chair. The Daily Mirror that he’d carried with him from the plane to the car to the B&B was on the table beside him.
Potter woke as Fred carried their cases into the room.
“Luggage racks in the closet,” he said. “Call if you need anything.”
After Fred had left the room and closed the door, Lawson hung the do not disturb sign on the outer doorknob, and suggested to Potter that they both try to get a couple of hours sleep before attempting anything else.
Potter slept fitfully. His brain swirled with a patchwork of dreams. Images of Jonathan Piggott’s murder, drawn from the lurid newspaper coverage of the crime, appeared in his mind’s eye. He saw the knife cutting around the edges of the banker’s scalp, and a bloody hand grab the man’s hair and yank the scalp from his head. But when he looked up at the face of the perpetrator, it wasn’t Geoffrey Brown that he saw, it was Trish Montgomery.
The spectre smiled at him.
“Stay straight and true,” it said, “or you’re next in line.”
Adam briefly surveyed the courtroom as he waited for the jury to be ushered in and the judge to make her appearance. He thought he saw Sheila’s face among the crowd packed into the spectators’ gallery, but there was no time to confirm whether or not it was her as the bailiff called “all rise” at almost the same moment.
From that point on, Adam’s attention was focussed on the trial. It began pretty much as he and Fields had predicted. Brockhurst’s opening statement outlined how the Crown would prove Linquist’s guilt, from presenting evidence of the threat’s Linquist had made against Cooper to the connection between the hunting arrow used at the murder scene and Linquist.
“The evidence we will present is convincing,” said Brockhurst, as he concluded his statement. “There can be no doubt that Timothy Linquist murdered Jacob Cooper in cold blood and mutilated the remains of his victim.”
Fields began his opening statement by reminding the jury that the test of guilt under English law was that there must be no doubt whatsoever, not even a shadow of doubt, in the minds of jurors that the defendant had committed the crime he or she had been charged with doing.
“We will present evidence that will not only bring that shadow of doubt into this courtroom, but will also make it clear that Timothy Linquist is innocent,” said Fields.
“I will digress for a moment to remind the jury of how critical it is to weigh the evidence in a trial such as this with an open mind. To make decisions based on proven facts rather than speculation drawn from circumstance. The list of men and women convicted of crimes they did not commit based solely on their physical appearance, their mental capabilities or their being seen in the wrong place at the wrong time is much too long.
“You have a duty to consider only the factual evidence presented to you in this courtroom, and to put all other matters aside, in reaching your verdict.”
Adam had mixed feelings about Field’s statement. Given that the Crown would largely rely on circumstantial evidence – based on what it had revealed to the defence team during the discovery phase of the case – highlighting the need to prove guilt beyond even a shadow of a doubt made sense. But it also might leave the impression in the minds of jurors that the defence wasn’t fully confident that it could prove Linquist’s innocence, and that it would instead seek to win the trial by attempting to sow the seeds of doubt.
It was a fine line, Adam knew. Which side of it the jurors fell on would depend on how convincingly the Crown presented its case, and on their perceptions of Linquist himself. Fields and Adam had spent considerable time working with Linquist in advance of the trial to help him avoid facial expressions and gestures that might turn the jury against him, but whether he would be able to stay calm during the proceedings remained to be seen. The man had a temper, he was clearly angry about what had happened to him and highly anxious about the outcome. Adam didn’t blame him. He’d be worried too if it looked like he might end up spending a long stretch in Her Majesty’s prison system.
Fields wrapped up his opening statement at eleven, nodded his head at the bench, and returned to his seat at the defence table. Judge Judith Marks looked at her watch, and asked if the Crown was ready to call its first witness.
“Yes, my lady,” he said. “The Crown calls Michael Hobson.”
T. Lawrence Davis grew up in Quebec and spent many summers as a teenager working as a groom at racetracks and on his mother’s Thoroughbred horse farm. He ran his mother’s farm for several years before becoming a journalist and, for a time, managing editor of Canadian Thoroughbred magazine.