Banks went to pour himself some coffee, then came out again and sat down. His white wooden chair scraped against the terra cotta tiles, scaring the small lizardlike creature that had been basking in the morning sun.
After looking at the old newspaper and perhaps reading a little more of Homer's Odyssey, Banks thought he would walk down to the village for a long lunch, maybe have a glass or two of wine, pick up some fresh bread, olives and goat cheese, then come back for a nap and a little music before spending his evening at the taverna on the quayside playing chess with Alexandros, as had been his habit since his second day.
There was nothing much that interested him in the newspapers except the sports and arts pages. Rain had stopped play in the third test match at Old Trafford, which was hardly news; England had won an important World Cup qualifying match; and it wasn't the right day of the week for the book or record reviews. He did, however, notice a brief report on a skeleton uncovered by a construction worker at the site of a new shopping center by the A1, not far from Peterborough. He only noticed it because he had spent a good part of his early life in Peterborough, and his parents still lived there.
He put the newspaper aside and watched the gulls swoop and circle. They looked as if they were drifting on waves of Mozart's music. Drifting, just like him. He thought back to his second conversation with Alexandros. During their game of chess, Alex had paused, looked seriously at Banks and said, "You seem like a man with many secrets, Alan, a very sad man. What is it you are running from?"
Banks had thought about that a lot. Was he running? Yes, in a way. Running from a failed marriage and a botched romance, and from a job that had threatened, for the second time in his life, to send him over the edge with its conflicting demands, its proximity to violent death and all that was worst in people. He was seeking a temporary escape, at least.
Or did it go deeper than that? Was he trying to run away from himself, from what he was, or from what he had become? He had sat there pondering the question and answered only, "I wish I knew," before making a rash move and putting his queen in jeopardy. He had managed to avoid affairs of the heart during his brief stay. Andrea, the waitress at Philippe's taverna, flirted with him, but that was all. Occasionally, one of the women from the cruise ships would give him that certain kind of wistful look which led only to one place if you let it, but he hadn't let it. He had found himself a place where he didn't have to confront crime on a daily basis, more particularly a place where he didn't have to go down into cellars stuffed with the violated bodies of teenage girls, a scene from his last case that still, even here on this peaceful island, haunted his dreams.
So he had achieved his goal-run away from a messy life and found paradise of a kind. Why was it, then, that he still felt so damn restless?
Detective Inspector Michelle Hart of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Northern Division, entered the forensic anthropology department of the District Hospital. She was looking forward to this morning. Usually at postmortems she found herself disturbed not so much by the cutting and probing itself as by the contrast between the bright reflective surfaces of utilitarian tile and steel and the messy slosh of stomach contents, the dribbles of blackish blood running into the polished gutters, between the smell of disinfectant and the stench of a punctured bowel. But this morning, none of that was going to happen. This morning, all that Dr. Wendy Cooper, the forensic anthropologist, had to examine was bones.
Michelle had worked with her just over a month ago-her first case in her new posting-on some remains that had turned out to be Anglo-Saxon, not unusual in those parts, and they had got on well enough. The only thing she found hard to take was Dr. Cooper's predilection for playing country-and-western music while she worked. She said it helped her concentrate, but Loretta Lynn had quite the opposite effect on Michelle.
The foregoing is excerpted from Close to Home by Peter Robinson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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