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Krimis & Thriller
Buch Leseprobe Rogue Flamingo, L A Kent
L A Kent

Rogue Flamingo


DI Treloar mystery series #1

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Cornish Cove Guide


 


‘Porthaven has a sheltered sandy beach offering safe bathing protected by a stone quay, with properties clustered along the steep narrow streets of a wooded valley and stretching along the cliffs to east and west. Excellent scenic cliff walks for the intrepid. There are facilities, toilets and a large car park 300 yards from the beach. Found on narrow minor roads with passing places south of Truro. A traditional, peaceful anchorage.’


But not that July morning.


18 July 06:00


As Marianne Temple walked down the lane past the closed surf shop and Porthaven Stores at 6:00 that Sunday morning, she hummed softly to herself: Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. She loved the village at this time of day at this time of year; too early for visitors, too early for most locals. She crossed the road that ran parallel to the shore, passed Crabbers café, and stepped onto the dimpled sand at the top of the beach where the tide does not usually reach. Flashes of sunlight were reflecting off the wave-tops like hundreds of signal lamps. Breathing deeply she gazed at the sea which was rolling gently over the few pebbles and strands of seaweed strewn along the waterline.


   ‘OK my beauties,’ she said quietly, unleashing two greyhounds who raced off to the west towards the quay. Since her husband’s death she had assumed the task of walking the rescue greyhounds Shadow and Max, and what she had once thought would be a terrible chore had become a cherished opportunity for solitude.


   Marianne turned and headed east, strolling along the length of the beach on the hard damp sand left by the falling tide. Above her to her left she could see the blank windows and deserted terraces and gardens of the large houses which skirted the cliff edge curving off towards Point End. The sky was the palest of blues, tinged primrose at the horizon and the only sound other than the sea was the occasional cry of a gull. Perfect.


   Ahead of her at the far end of the beach she could see a shape on the sand. At first she thought it was some lost sail washed in and abandoned by the tide, but as she got closer it took on the unmistakable shape of the human form. Someone was lying, spread-eagled on the beach. Sod it. Simultaneously surprised and annoyed, she braced herself for an encounter with some summer visitor sleeping it off.


   Before retirement Marianne Temple had been a paediatrician at The London Hospital, and whilst not overly familiar with adult patients she was aware that something about this individual looked wrong. As she closed upon the prone figure she saw a naked man with a black bag over his head. He was lying with arms and legs outstretched, all four limbs tied by some kind of coloured cord to the summer-laid mooring ropes which stretched into the sea to anchor the lane marker buoys which separated swimmers from boat users.


   Marianne ran towards him calling out ‘hello’ but already convinced there would be no answer. Kneeling in the damp sand she reached out to take a pulse. He was icy cold and very dead. She pulled back her hand and covered her mouth gasping, then stood, pulled out her mobile, and dialled 999.


   ‘Police please, no, no ambulance will be needed, just the coroner’s undertaker.’


   As the dogs raced towards her, she knelt again calling them and much to their disgust reattached their leads.


One week earlier.


10 July 11:45


‘For Christ’s sake Jack, pick up your feet, you’re wasting valuable drinking time!’ said Oliver Osborne QC to his fourteen year old son as he marched him into the White Café in Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal departure lounge. Jack shuffled along behind in his overlong baggy jeans and trailing behind him came David Cavendish and his son Robin aged fifteen, neither paying much attention as they were discussing cricket.


   At thirty eight, Oliver Osborne was the youngest and most successful barrister in his Chambers and he was en route to Cornwall with second wife Julia, his son Jack and old Etonian chum David and his family. Off to Sardinia was the norm for the Osbornes at this time of year; lazing by the pool for Oliver and a little light shopping for Julia. Presumably Jack did something, but Oliver would be hard pressed to say what that might be. The norm at this time of year for the Cavendishes would be off to Hampshire for a week with Helen’s best friend from childhood, but this year Oliver wanted David’s company and what Oliver wants, Oliver gets.


   The White Café was half full with people drinking alcohol earlier than they would at home. All but one rather anxious young man sitting alone at the end of the bar facing the mirror nursing a coke, and repeatedly glancing at the entrance as if waiting for someone.


   ‘Welcome, how can I help you?’ said the smiling girl behind the bar in a South African accent as Oliver drummed his fingers on the counter.


   ‘Your best Chablis, a large one for me. Davy what do you want?’ said Oliver.


   ‘Just a bottle of Becks for me thanks Oliver, and the boys would like grapefruit juice.’ The two boys walked over and sat at a table by the window.


   ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re really low on white wine at the moment I’m expecting a delivery. We do have two Australian Chardonnays however, please do try both before you commit’.


   ‘My God, we are less than fifty miles from the centre of the city which formed the hub of the world’s largest empire, and you only have Australian Chardonnay, that evil piss?’


   Oliver’s mobile phone rang. ‘What Julia? For Christ’s sake I told you the White Café. Julia, I know they limit the liquid contents to 100ml in hand luggage but they don’t mean you have to put your brain fluid in the hold! If you would only listen woman! Yes, the White Café, surely Helen can find it,’ Oliver snorted.


   People turned to stare at the red-shirted man with the loud obnoxious voice.


   ‘Oliver, stop it, please. We’re blocking the queue. Why don’t you have a red?’ David was, as ever, calming and conciliatory.


   ‘Fine, whatever, OK I’ll have the Merlot, a large one, no sod it, give me a glass and a bottle. What? Anything else? Oh yes, a bottle of Stella and two juices, orange will do.’


   As Oliver and David moved over to the window with the drinks, David grinned at Jack who wore his normal vacant expression and tried to engage him in a conversation about England’s recent batting exploits.


   ‘Do you know Robbie that at Eton whilst I was opening for the house your father was twelfth man carrying on the lemon squash? Couldn’t carry a bat but was a little master with the lemon squash heh, what?’ Oliver snorted a laugh, a sound that echoed across the centuries; the snort of the horses on the Russian Steppes, herded by his forebears, obviously not then known as Osborne. Oliver’s ancestors had been horse traders and bandits.


On the lower floor shopping concourse Helen Cavendish was wearing a pair of five year old hand made clogs bought from a man in Lymington in Hampshire close to her childhood home. Dressed for comfort and travelling, she was forced to walk slowly because Julia Osborne was wearing a pair of Alexander McQueen blue stiletto pumps, dressed, as always, to please Oliver.


   Julia spoke in a pleading tone. ‘Helen, can we go in here please? Ollie says I need to look more girlie, I was thinking, maybe pink pearly lipstick just for now and maybes some Botox when we get back. I know I can’t get that here but I know a little man who says it’s wonderful and that actress who got it wrong and puffed up horridly? Well he says she obviously went to the wrong people. And I do so want to look good for Christmas when we go to Daddy’s.’


   The Honourable Julia Jocelyne Honor had grown up at Netherholt House in leafy Buckinghamshire. She had met Oliver Osborne at a shooting party in Oxfordshire, and David and Helen Cavendish through him. At the time she was working as a receptionist in a London art gallery and engaged to Tim Petherbridge-Brown of the Guards who was sweet and gentle and softly spoken like David. Oliver was loud and boorish. But Daddy had liked Oliver. Oliver could ride to hounds, Oliver could shoot and above all Oliver could write very large cheques which didn’t bounce. For that alone Viscount Netherholt could overlook any number of dubious ancestors.


   Helen sighed deeply. Being with Julia was exhausting, but being her must be perpetual hell. To Helen, Julia was of a type where you were thick and it didn’t matter because you were rich. But Helen loved David, David was Oliver’s oldest friend, and Julia was Oliver’s wife, so she tolerated Julia, consoling herself with the thought that Julia’s innate stupidity meant that she was oblivious to Oliver’s petty cruelty.


   Helen had always loathed Oliver. In a way she held a deep seated relish that Oliver had ended up with someone so truly dense, but mostly she just felt sorry for the poor cow. And poor Jack. The sad creature was the progeny of a loud ugly man descended from horse thieves and a dead, drowned mother who had been replaced by a blonde bimbo who could trace her lineage back beyond Hereward the Wake.


   Helen sighed again and said. ‘Julia, I think it would be really good to join the boys. Aren’t you thirsty? I’m sure there will be Champagne.’


   Julia looked at Helen with the eyes of a dog that’s had a hard day, and not for the first time. ‘I know where they are, obviously I know that, you heard Ollie, everyone heard Ollie, but do you think we might go to that sushi bar just for one drink? I know we could have Champagne there and it’s ever so close. I know it’s wrong to leave Jack, but David and Robin are there and they’ll look out for him.’


Jamie, the solitary young man at the White Café bar, had always been a quiet, self-contained, observant individual and he was watching the window table intently. So that was Oliver Osborne in the flesh. He didn’t look much like his pictures but those head and shoulder shots didn’t show that he was scarcely five foot six and wedge shaped, broad shouldered and narrow hipped.


   Oliver was getting drunk. ‘For Christ’s sake Davy, Ian Bell is totally unreliable. Bring on the lemon squash twelfth man, bring on the squash!’ With a negligent flourish he swept his arm across the table, knocking over the empty wine bottle and sending it spinning towards the side of Jack’s head just then laying on the table turned away from his father.


   As Jamie watched fascinated, David Cavendish reached out to catch the bottle, looked up, raising a hand and smiled at an attractive woman entering the bar holding onto another woman whose heels seemed to be too high. Jamie blushed to the roots of his hair. Helen Cavendish, his beloved Helen, and with her presumably, Julia Osborne. The two women crossed to the table.


   ‘Air Southwest flight SZ105 to Newquay now boarding at gate 57’.


   ‘For God’s sake David is he drunk already?’ hissed Helen. ‘They won’t let him on the plane and then what do we do, we’re NOT missing the flight. He is such a selfish bastard.’


   ‘Don’t worry, you know him of old, by the time we get to the steps he’ll be as sober as the judge he intends to be.’ David grinned sheepishly at his wife and ran his hand down her arm. Helen tutted and rounded up the boys and their small rucksacks, pulling the earphones from Jack’s ears. ‘Come on then guys, I can hear the sea calling.’ And with that, the Cavendish and Osborne party headed for the departure gate unaware of the slight dark young man following at a discreet distance.


   The flight was uneventful, mainly because Oliver snored throughout not even waking when they landed briefly at Plymouth.


   Jamie was seated at the back on the right with a window seat. He followed the coastline, stealing the odd surreptitious glance at Helen Cavendish who was across the aisle ahead of him reading a paperback, occasionally leaning across to check on the boys opposite her. Jamie gazed out as they crossed the Tamar with its twin bridges and continued deeper into Cornwall passing over rivers branching in from the sea with houses lining their banks. When they finally turned inland from the sea they crossed a strange moonscape with deep green pools and white man-made hills of China clay spill: the Cornish Alps. Soon Jamie could see the runway stretching away into the distance seemingly endless, and they banked and started their descent.


   When they landed and disembarked Oliver was in the foul mood of the recently woken, slightly hung-over.


   ‘Fuck me, it’s like the third world,’ Oliver had never been to a small regional airport in the UK. Newquay Airport sits on an RAF base in open countryside along the coast from the town in north Cornwall. There were no landing gates and walkways, just a few ground staff marshalling passengers. As they walked across the tarmac they could hear cows and the occasional passing car, no aircraft engines; no tannoys, no trucks. They entered a small baggage reclaim area where their cases were already waiting. Helen silently raised her eyes to heaven and thanked God.


   ‘Right, let’s get the car, boys you load the bags onto a trolley, David you bring Oliver and those guitars, Julia come with me.’ Helen was a primary school teacher and often, even on holiday, it showed.


   They emerged into a small vestibule with two desks, a group of welcoming people, some with makeshift name boards, and a parking ticket machine. The glass walled room overlooked open fields to distant hills with slow moving wind turbines and through the open doors they could smell the white belted black cows twenty yards away across the road.


   Helen realised that with all the luggage and Oliver it would be a nightmare for the others to lurk around whilst she filled in the forms, even on fast-track.


   ‘David, you and Oliver take the boys outside and wait for Julia and me. It’s warm and sunny and it will get too crowded in here for all of us.’ She gave him a meaningful look and he nodded.   


   ‘Come on guys, let the women do the work and we’ll sit in the sun. You know this airport has one of the longest runways in the country. They needed it to land heavy long range US bombers in transit during the Second World War,’ he winked at Helen who smiled back knowingly. His first comment was aimed at appeasing Oliver and it worked.


   With the males despatched, Helen and Julia waited in line at the desk with their driving licences. In the end it was all very efficient and speedy and in no time at all they emerged into the sun with the keys to a Black Sapphire BMW MX6.


   They collected the men and boys who had been sitting talking on a bench seat outside the nearby departures entrance and headed towards the car park where they spotted the car in a lay-by with a young man holding the driver’s door open. Having gone through the usual checks with Helen, who was to be the main driver, he handed her a pack of maps and brochures and walked away leaving the Cavendishes and Osbornes alone at the start of their first Cornish holiday. Alone that is but for the slight, dark figure sitting at the wheel of a flower-stickered blue and white VW camper van parked just the other side of the car park barrier with a map spread in front of him and his eyes on the group by the BMW.


   As they loaded up the luggage, climbed, squabbling over seats, into the car and drove away, he folded the map and smiled. He had no need to follow; he knew where they were going.


 


Reflections


She lay on her back, in the cool coarse uncut grass, legs outstretched and feet apart, wearing her favourite skirt, a short blue cotton number which was a present from her mother, and a bright yellow T shirt with ‘my dad went to New Orleans and all I got was this bloody T shirt’ printed on the front in blue – a gift from her father on his return from a recent business trip to the Big Easy which just happened to require his being there at Mardi Gras. She had taken off her white sun hat and was squinting, eyes scrunched up tightly, to see if she could define the black dots, wheeling high in the light blue spring sky.


   One of the dots began to grow in size. It was getting bigger, and bigger, moving quicker and quicker and she thought it would crash into the orchard, but then it disappeared from view behind the tops of the trees, there was a distant splash and the Fish Eagle had caught his lunch. The lake near Casheral village provided plentifully for those that knew how to harvest its riches.


   Moments later, still looking skywards still on her back, she heard a strange sound – was it a continuous whoop whoop whooping, or a swishshsh swishshsh swishsshshshing, and a peculiar honking sound - getting louder and louder. Suddenly, the noises were just overhead, and she saw a mass of long necked pink cartoon birds, striped with black on their wings. She held up her arm to touch them but they were actually well above the stunted lemon trees. They just seemed close enough to touch.


   Flying in a wide V there were too many to count, honk honk honk they said, announcing their arrival, swish swish swishshsh went their wings as the birds dipped towards their destination, came even lower and seemed to brush the trees with their wing tips. They disappeared, flying noisily towards the lake, and she giggled gleefully. Then she heard loud gabbling from the birds already there as the new arrivals loped, and long and triple jumped clumsily through the shallow water as they landed, gradually slowing until they were nearly still, then looking round curiously before dipping their bills into the welcome water they had travelled so far to reach yet again.


   She turned over, kept low and crawled on hands and knees to the brambles at the edge of the lemon grove, away from the acrid smoke from the freshly lit barbeque, until she saw the glint of light off the water and giggled again with glee at the tall, funny, pink birds pecking in the water just a short distance away. Dropping her shoulders to the ground, her bum in the air revealing bright yellow knickers she giggled again.


It was OK, she was only three, and on the first holiday she would truly remember in detail.


Rolling over onto her back on the grass under the lemon trees, arms flung wide, the back of her right hand touched something cool and sticky. Looking, she saw a shining black roll half an inch across and three inches long, with a bright orange stripe running along the side. It reminded her of the yummy chocolates she had chosen from last week and turning her hand over she grasped it in her palm and bought it to her mouth. It seemed to shrink somehow as she bought it closer before biting greedily into it at one end.


   Bitter and sticky, it was NOT chocolate. She held it above her head looking closely and small tentacles appeared, slowly stretching longer, with small knobs on the end. She began to squeeze, slowly increasing the pressure until black goo was running between her fingers. Opening her palm, it wasn’t shrinking now, the tentacles weren’t there any more, just a black gooey, dripping, mess. The Greater European Slug may be attractive to limacologists and even look a bit like chocolate to small girls, but they definitely don’t taste nice.


   She stood up, wiped her hand over her bright yellow T shirt from New Orleans, looked closely at her hand then wiped it again, thought about going through the gap to look at the funny pink birds, but skipped off towards Jean, Anne and the adults gathering around the smoking coals of the first barbeque of the season.


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