‘No. Any photograph.’
‘There was a photo she sent me for Christmas. Funny idea giving your mum a photo of yourself for Christmas, I thought. You can have that if you like.’
The photograph, a studio portrait, was brought. It had never been framed and, from its pristine condition, Wexford supposed that it had never been shown with pride to Mrs Stonor’s friends but kept since its arrival in a drawer. Dawn had been a heavy-featured, rather coarse-looking girl, who wore thick make-up. The blonde hair was piled into puffs and ringlets, a massy structure reminding him of the head-dresses of eighteenth-century belles or perhaps of actresses playing such parts. She wore a blue silk evening gown, very low-cut and showing a great deal of fleshy bosom and shoulder.
Mrs Stonor eyed it irritably, peevishly, and Wexford could see that it would have been a disappointing gift for a mother of her type. Dawn had been twenty-eight. To have met with maternal favour, the picture should have shown not only a daughter but grandchildren, a wedding ring on those stiffly posed fingers, and behind the group the outline of a semidetached house, well kept-up and bought on a mortgage.
He felt a stirring of pity for this mother who was a mother no longer, a flash of sympathy which was dissipated at once when she said as he was leaving:
‘About that trouser suit …’
‘It was more or less new. She only bought it back in the winter. I mean, I know a lady who’d give me five pounds for that.’
Wexford gave her a narrow glance. He tried not to show his distaste.
‘We don’t know what’s become of it, Mrs Stonor. Perhaps the lady would like the shoes and the bag. You can have them in due course.’
The exodus continued. By now it was dark, a windswept, starless night, the rain falling relentlessly. Wexford drove back to the Sundays estate where, on both sides of the Forby road, police cars cruised along the streets or stood parked in lakes of trembling black water. Presently Burden found him and got into the car beside him.
‘Well? Anything startling?’
‘Nothing much, sir. Nobody remembers seeing a girl in a red dress down here during the week. But last Monday afternoon one woman from Sundays Grove, a Mrs Lorna Clarke, says she saw a blonde girl, answering Dawn’s description, but wearing a …’
‘Mauve trouser suit?’
‘That’s right! So it was her? I thought it must be from MrsClarke talking about mauve shoes and a mauve bag. Where did the red dress come from then?’
Wexford shook his head. ‘It’s beginning to look as if she died on Monday. She left her mother’s house just before four that afternoon. When and where did your Mrs Clarke see her?’
‘She got off the five-twenty-five bus from Kingsmarkham. Mrs Clarke saw her get off the bus and cross the road towards The Pathway. A few minutes later someone else saw her in The Pathway.’
‘Which backs on to the quarry. Go on.’
‘There are only five houses in The Pathway, two bungalows and three proper houses. If you remember, they didn’t do any more building down there. People made a fuss about it and the ministry reversed the decision to grant planning permission. She was next seen by a woman who lives in the last house.’
‘Not the wife of that bloke who came out making a to-do on Saturday night?’
Burden nodded. ‘A Mrs Peveril, sir. They’re both at home all day. He’s a graphic designer, works at home. His wife says she saw a blonde girl in mauve go down the road at five-thirty and enter the public footpath that goes across the fields to Stowerton. She gave a very detailed description of the trouser suit, the shoes and the bag. But, of course, I couldn’t be sure it was Dawn. I couldn’t understand her being dressed in mauve. Mrs Peveril says the girl was holding a brown carrier bag.’
‘Mm-hm. It certainly was Dawn. She changed out of a blue dress into the mauve thing and it was obviously the blue one she was
James M. Ward, Anne K. Brown