The Body On The Beach: 57

Although they would not be at home for the 25th, Piccolo still decided to decorate the house for the occasion, though not in as grand a style as usual. She had ordered the festive provisions some weeks earlier, long before the ghastly saga had commenced, and as they would now no longer be required she paid for the goods and ensured that the items were donated to local charity. A fat goose was thus gratefully received by the luncheon club for the elderly. Such philanthropy gave Piccolo a warm feeling as she walked around town dispensing seasonal wishes to friends and acquaintances.

Piccolo and Simmonds had never spent a Christmas as a couple other than together at home, and she experienced an odd feeling in anticipation of doing otherwise. The fact that this visit was premised by the possibility of exposing a criminal added greatly to the tension. Without a doubt Piccolo was filled with excitement and was utterly and completely in her element.

*

Mary sat on her lumpy mattress and wondered if she’d done the right thing. This was the first opportunity she’d had to ponder her actions. She knew she had needed to do something, all would become far too obvious soon anyway, but nevertheless to tell someone that, to change their world forever, that was a drastic step. She consoled herself with the belief that it was an act of kindness to tell the truth, besides her faith would not have permitted her to act otherwise. After all many had sinned and she carried her own pain and did not want a secret to add to her burden.

It was cold in her small attic room. The open fire was hopelessly undersized and poorly fuelled for the task of heating it. The lighting was insufficient too, being from a single bulb hung from the ceiling, so that at this time of night (eleven-thirty, at the end of her day, with her mistress Lady B tucked up in her warm bed), vision was dulled, almost dreamlike. It was a time for Mary to long once more for the gentle green rolling hills and soft rains of Ireland. Would she see them again? Had her one chance of escape now gone forever? There followed the ritual of prayers after which she lay back and longed for sleep.

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