Excerpt of The Lighthouse by P.D. James
(Page 5 of 6)
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Dalgliesh said, "So Maycroft rang you as soon as possible after finding
the body? I suppose he was following instructions."
Harkness said, "He was given a phone number, told that it was top secret
and instructed to phone the Trustees if anything untoward happened on
the island. He's been warned that you'll be arriving by helicopter and
to expect you by early afternoon."
Dalgliesh said, "He'll have some difficulty explaining to his colleagues
why this particular death should attract a Metropolitan Police commander
and a detective inspector instead of being dealt with by the local CID,
but I suppose you've covered that."
Harkness said, "As well as we can. The Chief Constable has been put in
the picture, of course. There's no point in arguing over which force
should take responsibility until we know whether we've got a murder to
investigate. In the meantime they'll cooperate. If it is murder and the
island is as secure as they claim, there'll be a limited number of
suspects. That should speed up the inquiry."
Only someone ignorant of a murder investigation, or who had conveniently
forgotten the less successful incidents of his past, could have been so
misjudging. A small group of suspects, if each was intelligent and
prudent enough to keep his or her counsel and resist the fateful impulse
to volunteer more than was asked, could complicate any investigation and
bedevil the prosecution.
At the door Conistone turned. "The food's all right on Combe Island, I
suppose? The beds comfortable?"
Harkness said coolly, "We've had no time to enquire. Frankly, it didn't
occur to me. I should have thought that whether the cook knows her job
and the state of the mattresses is more your concern than ours. Our
interest is in a dead body."
Conistone took the barb with good humour. "True. We'll check on the
amenities if this conference comes off. The first thing the rich and
powerful learn is the value of comfort. I should have mentioned that the
last surviving Holcombe is a permanent resident on the island, Miss
Emily Holcombe, aged eighty plus, a former Oxford academic. History, I
believe. Your subject, wasn't it, Adambut weren't you at the other
place? She'll either be an ally or a perfect nuisance. If I know
anything about academic women it will be the latter. Thank you for
taking this on. We'll be in touch."
Harkness rose to escort Conistone and Reeves out of the building.
Leaving them at the lifts, Dalgliesh went back to his office. First he
must phone Kate and Benton-Smith. After that there was a more difficult
call. He and Emma Lavenham were to have spent tonight and tomorrow
together. If she planned to spend the afternoon in London, she might
already be on her way. He'd have to reach her on her mobile phone. It
wouldn't be the first call of its kind and, as always, she would be half
expecting it. She wouldn't complainEmma never did. Both of them had
occasional urgent commitments and their time together was the more
precious because it could never be relied upon. And there were three
words he wanted to say to her which he found he could never speak over
the phone. They too would have to wait.
He put his head round the door of his PA's room. "Get DI Miskin and
Sergeant Benton-Smith for me, will you, Susie. Then I'll need a car to
go to Battersea Heliport, picking up Sergeant Benton-Smith first, then
Inspector Miskin. Her murder case is in her office. See that it's put in
the car, will you."
from The Lighthouse by P. D. James Copyright © 2005 by P. D.
James. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House,
Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.