[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95 Chap 18 96-110 Chap 19 111-123
Chap 20 124-131 Chap 21 132-133 Chap 22 Chap 23 Chap 24
Chap 25 Chap 26 Chap 27 Chap 28 Chap 29
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Epilogue: Second Winter
“This business is well ended.”
Shakespeare Hamlet II.ii.95
When Phoebe Light got up at dawn on the second Friday of the new year and peeked out the window, she saw there had been a heavy snowfall overnight. The front lawn was deep in the powdery stuff, and some of the neighbors were already out in force with the power mowers throwing up arching cascades of snow from the sidewalks and driveways. Samuel was part of the crowd, and she felt a sudden deep affection for her husband. Coming back on the cleared driveway from the street towards the garage he waved to her from behind the snow-blower and gestured with his hand as if putting a cup to his lips. Phoebe waved back to him and got the coffee maker perking in the alcove, then started some bacon, eggs, and toast. Samuel would do the orange juice, as always, once he came back into the warm glow of the kitchen.
She figured it would be a slow and cautious drive down to the city today, and Phoebe put in a call to the station in the City to let her squad know she would be late today. No point in rushing things.
The traffic was indeed snarled, especially in the residential areas. Even though state road crews had cleared the interstate, it was still snowing and there had been accumulation since the plows had passed. Everybody was driving at half normal speed, but eventually Samuel and Phoebe made it into the City and, after a kiss, they each went their separate ways. And to think, she said to herself, that I’m going to be sixty in a few months!
Phoebe was a good hour late, but she was in good company. The office seemed almost empty, and for once she had made it in before Tanya, her secretary, who would be coming up from south of the City. The mail room had delivered a thick packet on Tanya’s desk, and Phoebe went through the pile and picked out the items addressed to her that looked interesting. She’d leave the great offers and invitations to seminars for Tanya to sort out.
One letter in particular caught her attention. It had a distinctive foreign stamp and was postmarked from Singapore. The return address, a hotel, was printed on the envelope, and her name and address was done in an attractive cursive. She had no idea who could be writing her from Singapore.
She split the letter open and pulled out two sheets of thick paper filled with the same handwriting that was on the cover.
Singapore Saturday 8 January 2005
Dear Detective Light:
I’d been meaning to come and see you again, or at least give you a call and thank you for taking the time back in August to see me and spend some time talking with me. It was very helpful, and I do want you to know how much I appreciate it. As you may imagine, my general view of officialdom in the City is not the highest.
It would be unfair to say I was entirely happy with the outcome of our conversation, but it did give me some things to think about and reevaluate. You were very kind.
As you may infer from this brief letter, I am on an extended cruise. I left just before Christmas and will continue with this ship until the end of January. In many ways it’s turned out to be a great means to assure myself that I do ‘nothing foolish’ — your admonitory phrase, as I recall. Distance offers a constructive perspective, or something like that, and I’ve finally come to terms with things in my own private fashion.
The Far East is a fascinating place, at least to visit. The ship has put in at a number of places, including the Moluccas, Sulawesi, Borneo, East Timor, Java, and, now, Singapore. As a great fan of both Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham I am intrigued to be visiting all these places with their evocations of literary familiars. We will continue from here up through the South China Sea and visit Hong Kong and Japan. It’s possible I may just get off the ship when we dock in Tokyo, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. But I wander, and no doubt bore you.
I imagine you are in the midst of the typical January weather about now, and I therefore happily send you tropical greetings from the other side of the world.
Again, once more thank you for the great kindness you have shown me.
Phoebe put the letter down and dreamed of other worlds and other times – until she heard Tanya come in, shaking out her coat in the outer room. Shortly she peeked into Phoebe’s office.
“How are you? No trouble getting in this morning?”
“Just took a lot longer, but, no, we made it just fine. I think half the city’s getting to work late today.”
“Well, it’s the time of year, isn’t it?”
Phoebe nodded absently, her eyes fixed on the half-folded letter on her desk.
“Can I bring you some coffee?”
“Please, that would be great,” Phoebe said.
No sooner had Tanya’s head disappeared than the telephone rang.
Phoebe picked up on the second ring.
“Homicide,” she answered. “Detective Light speaking.”
“Detective,” the man said. Phoebe recognized the voice and sat forward in her chair. “This is Bud Eaton, if you remember me.”
“Of course I do, Sheriff. How are things in Swaithe County this snowy morning?”
He cleared his throat. “Well, Detective,” he said, “I’ve got another … another situation up here.”
Suddenly Phoebe knew what he was going to tell her, but she said nothing. Listening to the sheriff’s voice drone on she kept fingering Mazarine’s letter and using it to fan the air idly.
“A hunter up here found two bodies frozen in the snow earlier this morning. Asians by the looks of it, and I’d say they haven’t been here more than a few days at most. A man and a woman, older, and they’ve each got a bullet hole to the head. You may recall the area,” he said wearily, “just outside Dust.”