I t was evening and had been dark for several hours by the time Nightingale arrived in Abersoch. Jenny had booked him into the Riverside Hotel, which was on the banks of the River Soch and a short walk from the harbour. He parked his MGB behind the hotel and carried in his small suitcase. A pretty redhead checked him in and took him to his room.
‘Are you here on business?’ she asked after she’d shown him how to use the cable TV.
Nightingale looked out of the window. His room was at the front of the hotel and he had a view over the river. ‘Sort of,’ he said.
‘This is the quiet time of the year,’ she said. ‘We don’t get many tourists. But we’re full over Christmas and New Year.’
‘It’s a lovely hotel,’ he said, slipping her a five-pound note. ‘I heard that there have been a few deaths in the area recently. That’s not put people off coming, has it?’
‘Deaths?’ she frowned. Then her eyes widened. ‘Oh you mean the suicides? Did you read about that in London?’
‘Yeah, it said the police weren’t sure what was going on.’
‘The last story I heard was that they’d all been on some Facebook site or something,’ she said. ‘There was a woman died on Tuesday, did you know?’
‘Really?’ said Nightingale, feigning ignorance. ‘What happened?’
The redhead shuddered. ‘She hanged herself. Connie Miller. She used to drink in our bar sometimes. Vodka tonic, no lemon. Nice woman. We can’t believe what happened.’
‘Must have been depressed, I guess.’
‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘They say she tied a washing line to the banister and jumped off the landing.’ She shuddered again. ‘I could never do anything like that.’
‘Me neither,’ agreed Nightingale.
‘I’d use tablets or something. I couldn’t face trying to hang myself. Can you imagine what it must be like?’
‘I can’t,’ said Nightingale, even though he knew exactly what it had been like for Connie Miller. He jumped as the phone rang.
‘I’ll leave you to it,’ said the redhead, and she closed the door behind her as she left.
Nightingale picked up the receiver, frowning because nobody knew that he was in Abersoch.
‘Jack, it’s me.’ It was Jenny. ‘I’ve been ringing your mobile but it keeps going through to voicemail.’
Nightingale fished his phone out of his raincoat pocket and looked at the screen. ‘I haven’t got a signal,’ he said.
‘Well, I’ve got you now,’ she said. ‘And I’ve got an address for Connie Miller’s parents.’ Nightingale picked up a pen. ‘Are you sure about this, Jack?’
‘Depends what you mean.’
‘You’re planning to talk to them, right?’
‘Sure.’ He sat on the bed. There was a copy of the New English Bible on the side table and he picked it up.
‘You’re thinking of going up to complete strangers and asking them if a Satanist gave them their daughter?’
‘Well, I intend to be a bit more tactful than that,’ he said. ‘I’ll play it by ear.’
‘Go easy on them, please,’ said Jenny. ‘They’ve just lost their daughter.’
‘I’ll be careful,’ said Nightingale. ‘Cross my heart. Now give me the address.’ Jenny read it out and Nightingale scribbled it down on a sheet of hotel notepaper. ‘Don’t suppose you’d do me another favour, would you?’
‘Would you mind going back to Gosling Manor and getting stuck into the inventory? I really do need to know what books are there.’
‘Jack, it’s miles from anywhere.’
‘The way things are going, I’ll never get it done,’ he said.
‘You’re the one who decided to run off to Wales.’
‘Pretty please with sugar on top?’
‘I’m not sure that I want to be out in the depths of Surrey on my own,’ she said. ‘And you know how spooky that basement is.’
‘Gosling Manor is right out of Country Homes and Gardens,’ said Nightingale.
‘The house is lovely; it’s the basement that gives me the heebie-jeebies.’
‘What are you, twelve?’ laughed Nightingale.
‘And let’s not forget that your father blew his head off in the master bedroom,’ said Jenny.
‘So now you’re scared of ghosts?’
‘It’s not a question of being scared.’ She sighed. ‘Well, maybe it is. Maybe I could ask Barbara to come with me. Would that be okay?’
‘Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?’
‘You might not want a stranger traipsing through your house, that’s all.’
‘It’s my house in name only,’ said Nightingale. ‘I’ve no personal attachment to it. And Barbara’s not a stranger. She’s your psychologist friend who I met last month, yes?’
‘Psychiatrist. That’s right.’
‘Sure, take her along. I’ll call you later.’
After he ended the call he went downstairs. The redhead at reception was happy to supply him with a street map of the village and he took it through to the Front Door bar and ordered a Corona and a club sandwich. He took his beer over to a corner table and while he waited for his food he studied the map. Connie Miller’s house was a couple of hundred yards from the hotel and her parents lived on the edge of the village.
A young barman with his blond hair tied back in a ponytail brought him his sandwich and Nightingale ate it slowly as he mulled over what he was going to do next. He knew he was taking a risk, a stupid risk at that, and there were a dozen reasons why he should just get into his MGB and drive back to London. But he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to rest until he was certain whether or not Connie Miller was his sister.