Bill's Jaguar was alone in the car park. I climbed in, switched on the side lights and the fog lights and drove off. I turned left at the gates, went gingerly along the road for two miles, turned left again over the river, twisted through Maidenhead's one way streets, and finally arrived at the hospital.

There was no sign of Scilla in the brightly lit busy hall. I asked the porter.

'Mrs Davidson? Husband a jockey? That's right, she's down there in the waiting room. Fourth door on the left.'

I found her. Her dark eyes looked enormous, shadowed with grey smudges beneath them. All other colour had gone from her sad strained face, and she had taken off her frivolous hat.

'How is he?' I asked.

'I don't know. They just tell me not to worry.' She was very close to tears.

I sat down beside her and held her hand.

'You're a comfort, Alan,' she said.

Presently the door opened and a fair young doctor came in, stethoscope dangling.

'Mrs Davidson, I think-' he paused, 'I think you should come and sit with your husband.'

'How is he?'

'Not- very well. We are doing all we can.' Turning to me he said, 'Are you a relative?'

'A friend. I am going to drive Mrs Davidson home.'

'I see,' he said. 'Will you wait, or come back for her? Later this evening.' There was meaning in his careful voice, his neutral words. I looked closely into his face, and I knew that Bill was dying.

'I'll wait.'


I waited for four hours, getting to know intimately the pattern of the curtains and the cracks in the brown linoleum. Mostly, I thought about wire.

At last a nurse came, serious, young, pretty.

'I am so sorry- Major Davidson is dead.'

Mrs Davidson would like me to go and see him, she said, if I would follow her. She took me down the long corridors, and into a white room, not very big, where Scilla sat beside the single bed.

Scilla looked up at me. She couldn't speak.

Bill lay there, grey and quiet, finished. The best friend a man could wish for.


Early next morning I drove Scilla, worn out from the vigil she had insisted on keeping all night beside Bill's body, and heavily drugged now with sedatives, home to the Cotswolds. The children came out and met her on the doorstep, their three faces solemn and round-eyed. Behind them stood Joan, the briskly competent girl who looked after them, and to whom I had telephoned the news the evening before.

There on the step Scilla sat down and wept. The children knelt and sat down beside her, putting their arms round her, doing their best to comfort a grief they could only dimly understand.

Presently Scilla went upstairs to bed. I drew the curtains for her and tucked her in, and kissed her cheek. She was exhausted and very sleepy, and I hoped it would be many hours before she woke again.

I went along to my own room and changed my clothes. Downstairs I found Joan putting coffee, bacon and eggs, and hot rolls for me on the kitchen table. I gave the children the chocolate bars I had bought for them the previous morning (how very long ago it seemed) and they sat with me, munching, while I ate my breakfast. Joan poured herself some coffee.

'Alan?' said William. He was five, the youngest, and he would never go on speaking until you said 'Yes?' to show you were listening.

'Yes?' I said.

'What happened to Daddy?'

So I told them about it, all of it except the wire.

They were unusually silent for a while. Then Henry, just eight, asked calmly, 'Is he going to be buried or burnt?'

Before I could answer, he and his elder sister Polly launched into a heated and astonishingly well-informed discussion about the respective merits of burial or cremation. I was horrified, but relieved too, and Joan, catching my eye, was hard put to it not to laugh.

The innocent toughness of their conversation started me on my way back to Maidenhead in a more cheerful frame of mind. I put Bill's car in the garage and set off in my own little dark blue Lotus. The fog had completely gone, but I drove slowly (for me), working out what was best to do.

First I called at the hospital. I collected Bill's clothes, signed forms, made arrangements. There was to be a routine post mortem examination the next day.

It was Sunday. I drove to the racecourse, but the gates were locked. Back in the town the Clerk of the Course's office was shut and empty. I telephoned his home, but there was no answer.

After some hesitation I rang up the Senior Steward of the National Hunt Committee, going straight to the top steeplechase authority. Sir Creswell Stampe's butler said he would see if Sir Creswell was available. I said it was very important that I should speak with him. Presently he came on the line.

'I certainly hope what you have to say is very important, Mr York. I am in the middle of luncheon with my guests.'

'Have you heard, sir, that Major Davidson died yesterday evening?'

'Yes, I'm very sorry about it, very sorry indeed.' He waited. I took a deep breath.

'His fall wasn't an accident,' I said.

'What do you mean?'

'Major Davidson's horse was brought down by wire,' I said.

I told him about my search at the fence, and what I had found there.

'You have let Mr Dace know about this?' he asked. Mr Dace was the Clerk of the Course.

I explained that I had been unable to find him.

'So you rang me. I see.' He paused. 'Well, Mr York, if you are right, this is too serious to be dealt with entirely by the National Hunt Committee. I think you should inform the police in Maidenhead without delay. Let me know this evening, without fail, what is happening. I will try to get in touch with Mr Dace.'

I put down the receiver. The buck had been passed, I thought. I could imagine the Stampe roast beef congealing on the plate while Sir Creswell set the wires humming.

The police station in the deserted Sunday street was dark, dusty-looking and uninviting. I went in. There were three desks behind the counter, and at one of them sat a young constable reading a newspaper of the juicier sort. Keeping up with his crime, I reflected.

'Can I help you, sir?' he said, getting up.

'Is there someone here?' I asked. 'I mean, someone senior? It's about a- a death.'

'Just a minute, sir.' He went out of a door at the back, and returned to say, 'Will you come in here, please?'

He stood aside to let me into a little inner office, and shut the door behind me.

The man who rose to his feet was small for a policeman, thick-set, dark, and in his late thirties. He looked more of a fighter than a thinker, but I found later that his brain matched his physique. His desk was littered with papers and heavy-looking law books. The gas fire had made a comfortable warm fug, and his ashtray was overflowing. He, too, was spending his Sunday afternoon reading up crime.

'Good afternoon. I am Inspector Lodge,' he said. He gestured to a chair facing his desk, asking me to sit down. He sat down again himself, and began to shape his papers into neat piles.

'You have come about a death?' My own words, repeated, sounded foolish, but his tone was matter-of- fact.

'It's about a Major Davidson-' I began.

'Oh yes. We had a report. He died in the hospital last night after a fall at the races.' He waited politely for me

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