Louisa looked across the pedestrianized road at a woman on the beach who had just stood to rearrange the towel on which she was sunbathing. 'There's Myrtle. Rather silly of her to wear a mini.'
Serena said, 'Who's that with her?'
'Just for his stay?'
'That's what she says and he does have the same tired look. He's officially at the Bay Hotel.'
'They say that's become rather downmarket.'
'Out here, what hasn't?'
Louisa regarded her empty glass. 'Just for once, shall we have another?'
She signalled a waiter, who did not immediately respond. 'They're getting ever slower.'
The waiter walked a zigzag between tables and chairs. Louisa stood as he reached them. 'I'm losing the shade. You can move my chair.' She was convinced she spoke good Castilian.
'Certainly, señora,' he answered in English. He picked up her chair and moved it under the full shade of the sun umbrella secured through the centre of the table.
Louisa sat. 'Two gins and tonics and make certain it's Gordon's and not some kind of home brew from Menorca.'
'Two Gordon's gin.' He picked up the empty glasses, placed them on his tray, returned into the bar.
'Did I tell you I met Neil the other day?' Louisa asked.
'Picare. George introduced me.'
'I thought you'd met Neil before?'
'George didn't know that so he was his usual pushy self.'
'The ex-pats' shaker and mover.'
'He likes helping people.'
'And the drinks they feel bound to offer in return. Was Neil in one of his more pleasant moods?'
'Very pleased-to-meet-you mode.'
The waiter returned, placed glasses on the table, spiked the bill, hurried to answer a call from another table.
'He invited us to pre-lunch drinks,' Louisa continued.
'Was the wife around?'
'George isn't married.'
'Of course he isn't. Was Neil's wife there?'
'Back in England for a week.'
'That explains ...'
'It's probably someone trying to be nasty.'
'So much more interesting than someone trying to be nice. Whose marriage vows is he hoping to help break this time?'
'Very unlikely. She lacks the courage to take the risk of Eustace finding out.'
'So, what did you think of the house?'
'Wonderful situation and with all that glass, it's like living in a view. But God only knows what the air-conditioning costs.'
'He won't worry about that. So, you've yet to meet the wife ...'
'Well, tell me, what's she like?' Louisa asked.
'I wouldn't want to sound snobbish ...'
'Overcome the bourgeois reluctance.'
'It's not difficult to think they're right and she did serve behind the bar before they married. By the way, did he say they're going to give a get-to-know-you party.'
'The only people who'll bother to go will be the usual crowd who cannot forego free food and drink. He did ask George where he should buy the champagne.'
'Why, when one can get cava everywhere? I suppose they'll be out to make an impression and serve Non Plus Ultra.'
'Not cava, Champagne; Krug.'
'I was forgetting that the pleasures of the common man are not for them. Have you any idea where all his money came from?'
'No, because, surprisingly, he didn't talk about it. But there were paintings of Suffolk and Clydesdale horses on a wall in the study. Maybe he had something to do with farming.'
'Farmers don't make his kind of money.'
'Then he just liked the heavy breeds.'
'He married Cecily.'
Alvarez was awakened by the telephone; it took him a moment to accept he was in the office. As he used the arms of the chair to draw himself upright, the ringing ceased. He relaxed, closed his eyes. Something ignored should be forgotten.
The phone rang again. He swore, reached out and lifted the receiver. 'Tell me.'
'Is that Inspector Alvarez?'
He was tempted to deny the fact.
'Policia Umbert here, Puerto Llueso.'
Any local policia should have known better than to ring him early in the afternoon. When he looked at his watch, he was surprised to find it was late afternoon.
'Inspector, I am reporting the death of Señor Picare who lived in Vista Bonita.'
'Normal or accidental death is the policia's concern.'
'After the doctor had examined the dead man, he said I was to suggest you came here as soon as possible.'
'He said nothing more to me or Rosalía.'
'Who else is there?'
The señora and Marta who works in the house and the cleaner Carolina.'
'Is the señora hysterical?' Hysterical women made a man helpless.
'She's in bed.'
'Has she been given a sedative?'
'Dr Ferrer said—'
Alvarez had visited the medical centre a short time before because he had judged himself to be suffering from something. Ferrer had examined him. 'Your complaint is your lifestyle. Stop smoking, exercise a lot more, eat a lot less and restrict your drinking to half a glass of red wine and a tin of lager each day.' Why hadn't he suggested an alternative cure: suicide?
'Are you still there, inspector?' Umbert asked.
'Who found the body?'
'Rosalía. Managed to get him out of the pool, but when the doctor arrived, he pronounced the señor dead.'
'Was it a heart attack, a stroke?'
'The doctor said he drowned.'
'In the swimming pool.'
'I'll be there as soon as I can.'
'The doctor said you should come immediately.'
'He can wait.'
He studied a plan of Urbanization Reus and located Vista Bonita on the top road which ran along the flank of Puig Grege.
He left the office, walked along to the old square and Club Llueso. Roca, the barman, moved along the bar. 'Don't often see you at this time of the day. Not able to enjoy your siesta?'
'A coñac without comment.'
'You lead a rough life.'
'Cheer me up me up by telling me more things I know.'
'When you're miserable, you like to make everyone else feel miserable.' Roca moved away. Alvarez brought out a pack of cigarettes, tapped one loose, lit it.
Roca returned with a filled glass. 'Has someone tried to blow up the government and failed to make you so cheerful?'
'And said you're fit enough to continue working?'
'I'm waiting for the verdict.'
Roca looked uneasy. 'I ... I hope I've not been speaking out of tune?'
'How could I yet know?' Alvarez drank.
'Here, you're not ...? Is the trouble serious?'
'So far, no one can tell.'
'I'm damned sorry, Enrique.'
Roca picked up Alvarez's glass, refilled it. 'At a time like this, one needs help.'
Alvarez turned off the main road and on to the side one which led to Puig Menor, at the foot of which were several houses and bungalows. Originally, there had been several requests for permission to build on the crest of the high hill, or low mountain, but these had been denied until the weight of the brown envelope matched expectation.
The road had not looked particularly steep, but it was poorly fenced and to a man who suffered from altophobia, it was dangerous; a slight mistake and the car might veer over the side, turn over and over, land with such force that it burst into flames. Care and luck enabled him to reach the top without disaster. Vista Bonita was large and in appearance typically Mallorquin – many different roof levels which provided a cheerful, higgledy-piggledy outline.
He parked alongside a red-and-yellow painted policia car, knocked on the panelled front door, rang the bell. The door was opened by a young woman and beyond her he had a shortened view of a hall, sharply illuminated by the sunlight coming through the ceiling lantern. Air-conditioning kept the area cool.
He introduced himself, since it seemed she would say nothing, asked her name.
'Marta Espinar,' she responded without looking at him.
Her dark brown eyes showed she had recently been crying; her long, jet-black hair framed an oval face which possessed no great beauty other than that of youth. She spoke so quietly he had to concentrate to understand what she said. 'Do you know where Policia Umbert is, Marta?'
He waited, but she said no more. The young met death less frequently than had their parents; she seemed confused by it. 'I want to have a word with him so will you show me where he is?'
She crossed the hall, passing through the broad shaft of sunlight, and at the end of a wide corridor stopped to open a door. He thanked her, entered a sitting room, insufficiently spacious to be the main one. For the staff, he judged.
He spoke to the seated man in uniform. 'Policia Umbert?'
'Inspector Alvarez.' He went forward and shook hands. A member of the cuerpo was senior and superior to a policia, but it helped co-operation not to make that too obvious.
'Dr Ferrer still here?'
'He had to leave because of an emergency.'
'Did he discuss the señor's death and why he wanted me here?'
'Let's sit and you can tell me as much as you learned.'
They sat, Umbert drew in a deep breath as if about to deliver a speech. 'The cook found him under the water in the swimming pool. She pulled him out and the doctor was called, but the señor was dead.'
'And the señora?'
'Seems she collapsed when she was told.'
'Did the doctor sedate her?'
'Don't know, but I wouldn't think so.'
'Rosalía told him that the señora had been drinking heavily. You'll know that booze and sedatives don't like each other. Seems odd she should drink when her husband's just been hauled out of the pool.'
Umbert had not yet had to face the death of a close relative or friend. When Juana-María had died, he had left the hospital, returned to Llueso, and drunk himself insentient. The pain had not been lessened, merely temporarily lessened. 'Will you find Rosalía and tell her I want to talk to her.'
He watched Umbert hurry out of the room. When young, one rushed through life, squandering the energy one would nostalgically remember when older.
There was a 'free' Spanish newspaper in English on one of the small individual tables. Alvarez picked it up. Some pages listed advertisements and, as well as houses for sale and renting at foreigners' prices, there were details of adult relaxation. He was surprised by the frankness with which young ladies promoted themselves.
There was a knock on the door and he closed the newspaper, replaced it on the table; better not to be thought to be interested in some subjects.
Rosalía entered. 'You want to talk to me?'
'Please sit.' He studied her as she walked over to a chair. Seemingly calm despite what had happened. In shape, nicely moulded; in looks, unremarkable except for her mouth whose lips were generously inclined to voluptuousness. Not a head-turner, but very capable of attracting a man's interest. 'Thank you for coming along,' he said as she sat. 'I need to ask you a few questions and hope they will not disturb you. I understand you are the cook?'
'And a good one!'
Was there a cook who did not believe she was five star? 'Are you preparing the meal for tonight?' The question had surprised her, deliberately so. Subdued shock could be kept at bay by casual conversation.
'The señora must eat.'
'What will you cook for her?'
'Since he is tragically no longer with us, Pollo al ajillo.'
A favourite of his, joints of chicken seasoned with salt, lard, oil, and many teeth of garlic.
'That can even make a vegan hungry.'
'And cooked by me, he would eat it.'
'But from the way you spoke, the señor didn't like it?'
'Garlic made the breath smell. As if that should limit what one eats.'
'He can't have been interested in food.'
'His favourite dish was sausages and mash.'
'You cooked that?'
'He paid my wages. If he lacked taste, it was not for me to educate him except when he told me to call him Don Picare, not Señor Picare.'
'You did so?'
'Of course not. Spending much money did not turn him into a hidalgo.'
'He was very rich?'
'How else would he have lived here and paid me the wage I asked?'
He returned to more germane facts. 'I understand you were in the kitchen before you tragically found him in the pool. Tell me what caused you to go out to the pool?'
'The phone rang. Señor Russell wanted to speak to the señor. The señora had gone out, so I guessed the señor was in the pool and went out with the cordless phone. He was all floppy at the bottom of the pool.'
'You called the police?'
'I stripped off and got into the water to try to save him.'
'You are a strong swimmer?'
'Then it was brave of you.'
'It was something I had to do.'
'What happened in the pool?'
'I dived under and got hold of him, managed to drag him to the steps at the shallow end and lift him up so his head was above water. I shouted for Marta, told her to call the policia, then help me. She wanted to have hysterics, but I made her assist me drag him out of the pool. When the policia arrived, they tried giving CPR, but it was too late.'
'Was the doctor here quickly?'
'Quickly enough, but he said it wouldn't have been any good if he'd flown.'
'What more is there to say?'
'The doctor wants to talk to me. When that happens it usually means there's a problem and he's worried about something. D'you know where's the body?'
'Taken to the morgue.'
'I gather the señora is in bed. Have you spoken to her since the tragedy?'
'She came back from her day out shortly after I found the senor, I told her what happened and I've kept an eye on her ever since. She's sleeping.'
'Thanks, apparently, to drinking well.'
'What if she did?'
'For her, that was kind.'
'Do you have any more questions?'
'I'm afraid so.'
'Then would you like some coffee and biscuits before you ask them?'
Her aggressive manner had softened. From experience, he knew that tragedy could create a temporary emotional bond. 'I certainly would.'
Seated in the kitchen, he watched her pour beans into the coffee machine which had so many controls it probably needed a sharp mind to master its operations. She opened one of the higher wall cupboards and brought out a plastic container, then two plates from a lower cupboard which she put on the table. 'I think you'll like the shortbread since you've the look of a man who knows what to enjoy in life.'
He had eaten shortbread before. He helped himself to a second oblong piece; that was followed by a third one at her encouragement.
The coffee flowed into two cups. She put a sugar bowl and small, elegant red glass jug with cream in it on the table. 'What d'you want me to tell you?' she asked as, seated, she added sugar and cream to her coffee.
'You mentioned Señor Russell. Have you met him?'
'He often comes here?'
'A good friend?'
'Of the señor.'
'But not of the señora?'
'He seldom came if she was here.'
'What do you think is her objection to him?'
'He drinks heavily when he does not have to pay the bill.'
'That is not unusual.'
'One cannot honour fine food if one's taste is dulled by alcohol.'
'He didn't care what he ate?'
'I cooked Perdiz a la Montañesa and he tasted nothing.'
However much Russell had drunk, it seemed inconceivable he had not appreciated quartered partridge fried in oil until golden brown, served with a sauce of onion, paprika, parsley, oil, salt, and lemon juice. 'If he didn't enjoy that culinary triumph, he must have been seeing treble, not double.'
'He would not have known had it been dried cod.'
'For him, a wasted banquet.'
'And when they began arguing, a noisy one.'
'What was their problem?'
'How would I know? You think I left the door open in order to hear?'
'Of course not.'
'However ...' She paused. 'Perhaps it was female trouble.'
'A conflict of interests since the señor is said to have enjoyed many lady friends?'
'It is not for me to malign him.'
'It is your duty to tell me.'
'Do you have a daughter?'
'I am not married.'
'Then if you have one, you will have left the poor mother to protect her.'
'Now you're maligning me. Protect her from what?'
'Her own stupidity.'
'We're going round and round in square circles. What are you trying to tell me?'
'A naive young woman will dream when a rich man smiles at her.'
'Who is the young woman?'
'And the man was Señor Picare?'
She did not answer.
Alvarez walked into the medical centre in Llueso. There were many people waiting in the square around which were the consulting rooms of several doctors. As he walked towards the one in which Dr Ferrer practised, a woman came out and another got up from one of the chairs and walked forward.
He hurried to check her. 'Wait a moment. I have to speak to Dr Ferrer.'
'I am next,' she said belligerently.