HIDING THE ELEPHANT
Simon couldn’t even remember the Silcocks from that New Year’s party at the Willows of nearly three years ago. Phil hadn’t bothered to introduce him to the locals while they pushed their way through fluid formations of constantly moving bodies. Maybe he assumed Simon had met them all.
‘Meet my sister-in-law, Pippa. Pippa, meet Detective Inspector Simon Grant. He’s based in Wellingborough. Pippa will look after you, Grant. I’d better get back; Emma will be wondering where I’ve got to.’
Simon hoped sister-in-law-Pippa was good at small talk with total strangers.
‘I bet Detective Inspector Grant is not married at the moment,’ she murmured cryptically and Philip grinned and winked at her before walking off.
There was a hint of an accent. Too fleeting to capture, its illusiveness matched the dress, a shimmery slip of something clingy. Not very much of it anywhere. Black, he thought, but in places it shone green.
‘Is that a question?’ The music had ceased abruptly and, embarrassingly, his voice hovered above the din. She laughed around the rim of her glass. Simon liked the eyes, brown with green flecks, not unlike Emma’s but less slanted. He wasn’t sure about the rest. It wasn’t a face at peace with itself.
‘An informed guess. At thirty, officially I’m the family spinster. Left on the shelf. Shouldn’t happen to a nice Martin girl.’ The smile was very small, more like a stretch of lipstick across the face under a perfect little nose. ‘Emma’s only twenty seven and already married for a year. The family’s on a mission. You should run away now if you know what’s good for you.’
Pippa’s dress at the New Year Party 1989
Simon offered to get her another drink. Filtered water with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice. As he was making his way back through a spray of streamers and someone’s cloying perfume, he watched her standing at the window. The curtains at either side of her made him think of a stage after the lights have been turned off.
She kept it simple for a while. He heard in some detail about the hoops she had to get through to get herself a placement as a trainee doctor at aLos Angelesclinic for plastic surgery. Been there for a year. That explained the accent. And the ice.
‘Wouldn’t it have been easier to take over your father’s practice?’ The difference between the sisters was in the bones, Simon decided. Emma had slim bones. Can people have slim bones?
She shook her head and the fashionably flowing hair, a splash of honey and old wine, swirled about. ‘It takes a lot of self-confidence to be a general practitioner. Particularly for a Martin who doesn’t fit the mould.’
Simon thought it was time for a compliment and said that he couldn’t see any faults whichever mould she came from. That wasn’t entirely true, but he had told bigger lies to less deserving women. This one at least didn’t believe it.
‘And what about you? Are you here to drink, socialise or lust after Emma? Everybody lusts after Emma.’
He grinned. ‘Lust after Emma is I suspect the right answer, then.’ He liked the way she stood, slanting backwards a little, rooted. No fidgeting. ‘Is there any food around?’
Emma’s dress for her first wedding anniversary cum New Year party. 1989
Chapter 50 – Riverside party
He saw Emma from the hall. She’d just moved along, shifting her attention from one picture on the wall to another. Her head was tilted offering more view of hair than face to his hungry eye. If this was the shape of the things to come he couldn’t take it. Social occasions with him at one end of the room, her at another. Polite exchanges. Brotherly love.
Emma’s little black silk dress 1992
‘Detective Inspector Grant, if I’m not much mistaken?’ The woman was smallish, rather pretty. ‘We’re honoured. Fran would have appreciated it.’ She seemed to be theRiverside’s reception committee. ‘I’ll introduce you to the company.’
Pippa stepped aside, leaving herself out of the welcome. ‘I think I’ll leave you to it. Like throwing a lion to the Christians.’
‘Shouldn’t that be the other way round?’
She was gone.
Pippa’s dress at the Riverside party.1992