The Price of Butcher's Meat

The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill Read Free Book Online

Book: The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Reginald Hill
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective
began to see for myself what Tom—of course—had already told
    Sandytown—originally just a fishing
    village—is situated in a broad bay between two lofty headlands—North Cliff & South Cliff.
    A loop of road runs down from North Cliff—through the village—then up to the coastal road again—via South Cliff.

    3 4
    R E G I N A L D H I L L
    Got that?—or do you need a diagram!—
    As we approached the South Cliff turnoff—I could see the headland here was dominated by a complex of buildings. One of them looked like an old mansion house—green with ivy—with a long extension—in keeping but definitely recent. A couple of hundred yards away was a modern two storied
    building—the stonework brilliant
    white—broad reflective
    glass windows catching the drift of small white clouds across the bright blue sky. Alongside that—a long single storied building—in the same style.
    We turned off the coast road—but before we began the descent proper—at Toms request Mary pulled in by a gilded entrance gate—set in a dense thorn boundary hedge—bit like the entrance to heaven in that Pilgrims Progress you got for a Sunday School prize—remember?—we used to tear pages out to roll our ciggies!
    A large elegantly designed signboard was inscribed WELCOME TO THE AVALON
    FOUNDATION. There was a small gatehouse from which a man emerged—his face breaking into a smile when he recognized the car.
    —Morning Mrs Parker—Mr Parker—he called.
    —Morning Stan—replied Parker—How are things? Family well?—
    —Yes thank you—all middling well. Yourself?—
    —in the pink Stan—said
    Parker—which was either a bit of an
    exaggeration—or Mr Godleys healing hands really had done the business.
    As they talked—I studied a site diagram beneath the welcome sign. It indicated that the main two storied modern block was the Avalon Clinic—the long single story was the Avalon Nursing Home—& the old house was the Avalon Convalescent Home.
    A phone attached to the gate mans belt bleeped. He excused himself & turned away to answer it.
    I said to Tom—how do the locals like having the clinic on thier doorstep?—
    —some initial unease—lots of loose talk about lunatics & lepers—Tom replied—country folk are ready to believe the worst of strangers—but they also have an innate trust in authority. Round here that means Lady D &—to a lesser extent—myself. Once we showed the way—they followed—& suspicion has long been replaced by pride—

    T H E P R I C E O F B U T C H E R ’ S M E AT 3 5
    —the jobs & the extra income helped—observed Mary dryly.
    The gate man was saying into his phone—no definitely not—nobody in the last hour—yes—Ill keep an eye out—dont imagine hell go far dressed like that!—
    He switched off—turned back to the car & said—sorry Mr Parker—one of our convies has gone walkabout—elderly gent—might be a bit confused—Id best bring his photo up on the computer. See you soon I hope—
    —you too Stan—said Parker.
    Mary set the car forward. Ahead the road began its descent to the village.
    —Convies?—I said—thinking convicts!
    —what?—Oh thats what the staff call those staying at the convalescent home. Patients at the clinic are clinnies—& residents of the nursing home are rezzies. What they call the staff I dont know—Mary—take care!—
    Mary Parker—as I have said—drove very carefully—& shed stayed in low gear for the descent—so we werent doing much more than twenty miles an hour when she slammed the brakes on.
    All the same—the sudden stop threw me forward—& I was glad for once Id obeyed the law & fastened my rear seat belt.
    As they say—it all happened so quickly—but I still had time to glimpse a man rolling down the embankment rising steeply on the left to the clinics boundary hedge.
    Then he bounced into the road & vanished under our wheels.
    Everything stood still. The car—time—our hearts. We were all convinced wed run

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