way her clothes hung loose on her and her blue eyes had retreated deep into their sockets. Dodie moved quickly to Ella’s table and rested her notepad on its surface, as though waiting for her customer to choose her order.
‘Are you all right, Ella?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
‘Would you like something to eat?’
Ella shook her head but she bent over the menu. ‘Dan won’t see me any more. He says it’s too dangerous for me.’ Her voice sounded raw.
Dodie gently touched her shoulder. ‘It shows he cares for you.’
‘You don’t understand. I can’t not see him…’ She stopped as she looked up at Dodie’s face. ‘Of course you understand, don’t you, you’re going through the same.’
Dodie didn’t want to talk about that. ‘What did Detective Calder say about Morrell and Sir Harry?’
Ella put down the menu. ‘That the murder investigation into Sir Harry’s death is being deliberately botched. The evidence destroyed. Key men moved out of reach. He thinks there’s a conspiracy to cover up the truth.’
‘Who is in this conspiracy?’ Dodie picked up her pad and pretended to scribble something down.
‘He doesn’t know for sure.’
‘So what’s his guess?’
Ella tipped her hat forward to cover her face. ‘Take your pick – there’s so much going on. So many secrets. Dan thinks it’s the Duke.’
‘Only someone that high up could order the removal of top men.’
‘Oh, Ella! I spoke to Christie today. He said that everyone knows there was bad blood between Sir Harry and his son-in-law. That’s the story he’s pushing to anyone who will swallow it. A family feud.’ She glanced around but Miss Olive was not in sight, so just for a moment she sat down in the chair next to Ella’s, their heads close. ‘Christie and the Duke are the two most powerful men on the island now. They must be the ones manipulating decisions and decreeing what the press hears.’
‘The reporters will ask awkward questions, you know they will.’
‘That’s why Flynn was framed. For asking too many questions that someone didn’t like.’
‘But, Dodie, that’s what you and I are doing now.’ Ella ran a hand down her cheek and seemed surprised to find its edges so sharp. ‘Stirring things up. I worry about you. Dan is right, it could be dangerous. I am protected by being the wife of Reginald Sanford, but you…’ She hesitated and lowered her voice. ‘You are vulnerable.’
The two women looked at each other, the friendship between them weaving into complex knots.
‘Taking a well-earned rest, Miss Wyatt?’
The sarcasm in Olive Quinn’s voice was finely honed. Dodie jumped to her feet.
‘I’m sorry, Miss Olive, I was —’
‘Olive, dear, don’t be a tyrant. I asked Dodie to sit with me. There is something I need to discuss with her.’
‘Finished now, I hope. We are busy.’
‘Very nearly. Just one more minute.’
Reluctantly Olive Quinn withdrew, but not without a quizzical glance at Ella.
Dodie bent her head down to Ella’s level. ‘Ella, it seems that one of the keys to it all is the Portman Cay land deal. It connects everything – Johnnie Morrell, Sir Harry and Christie. That’s what Flynn walked into without knowing.’
One of the customers raised a polite hand to summon Dodie to her table.
‘I have to go,’ she said. ‘Be careful.’
Ella’s smile was grateful. ‘I’ll arrange to see Hector Latcham tomorrow. He’s Christie’s lawyer as well and so might know something about Portman Cay.’
Ella actually laughed. ‘I eat discretion for breakfast.’
‘I’ll bring you some tea.’
‘What about you?’
‘I have another appointment tomorrow to visit the prison before I start work.’
‘Ah.’ Ella grimaced. ‘Good luck.’
As Dodie walked away, she wondered why the one thing that no one talked about was the gold. But by the time she brought the tea tray to the table, Ella was gone.