The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

Roxie said defensively, “I already told you, Chief Inspector. Daddy was throwing a party. My brother, Michael, was in charge of constructing a pagoda, but he . . . he never got a chance to finish it.”

“I’m sure you’re aware of what happened, Chief Inspector,” said Alexia. “My son was in a motorcycle accident.”

“Yes, ma’am. I understand it’s been a difficult time for your family. Can I get you anything? A glass of water perhaps?”

Alexia shook her head. “I’m fine. What my daughter says is correct. The concrete was supposed to form the base of a pagoda that we were building as part of the tricentenary celebrations. Michael was managing the project. After his crash, it got forgotten about. None of us were in the mood to build follies.”

“So it was your son who dug the hole out there?”

“My son and his workmen, yes.”

“And your son who filled it with concrete?”


Teddy spluttered, “I hope you’re not suggesting that Michael had anything to do with this body business?”

“I’m not suggesting anything, Mr. De Vere.”

“Good. Because the boy’s on a bloody life support machine. He can’t defend himself from your insinuations, but I sure as hell will.”

Alexia put a hand on Teddy’s arm, but he shrugged it off. She’d never seen him like this. Teddy was always the calm one. She was the hothead in the marriage.

“Chief Inspector,” she asked, “do you know how long ago this man was killed? Or how long he may have been buried on our land?”

“Not yet, no. Although judging by the degree of decomposition and the damage to the skeletal remains we’ve unearthed so far, animal bites and whatnot, I would guess we’re talking several years.”

“There you are, then.” Teddy looked at him triumphantly. “It couldn’t have been anything to do with Michael, or the stupid pagoda. I only thought of the thing six or seven months ago and we didn’t start work on it till June, long after your chappie was bumped off.”

He pronounced it “orf.” Pretentious bloody snob. For a moment Chief Inspector Gary Wilmott’s professional mask slipped and he stared at Teddy De Vere with naked loathing. Thankfully he was interrupted by one of his team before he said something he might have regretted.

“Sir? You’d better come out here a minute.”

Chief Inspector Wilmott left the room. Alexia, Teddy, and Roxie all looked at one another, shell-shocked. Roxie broke the silence.

“Do you think Michael knew?”

“Knew what?” asked Teddy.

“About the body.”

Both parents looked at her as if she were mad.

Alexia said, “Of course not. Why on earth would you think something like that?”

“For the same reason the police think it,” said Roxie. “That Pilcher woman’s dog found the hand right on the edge of the pagoda site. Michael could have seen something when they were excavating.”

“He could have. But obviously he didn’t.”

“Why is that obvious?”

“Because if he’d seen anything, he’d have told the police, wouldn’t he? Or us. If he’d unearthed a dead body, he’d hardly put it back and say nothing about it.”

“Unless he had a reason for keeping it hidden,” Roxie mused. “Summer Meyer was asking me a couple of weeks ago about a secret. What if this was it?”

Alexia’s tone hardened. She badly wanted not to upset the applecart with Roxie. But she couldn’t allow these unfounded suspicions of poor Michael to stand unchallenged. “Summer’s a sweet enough girl, and I daresay she’s well meaning. But she really ought to mind her own business and stop banging on about secrets and conspiracies. It’s all nonsense.”

“I agree,” said Teddy. He’d told Alexia yesterday about Summer’s latest investigations into Michael’s Ducati and its frayed brake pads. Alexia was not amused. “If your brother had found a body, he would have told somebody.”

But Roxie wouldn’t be deflected. “Unless he was the one who buried it,” she said defiantly.

Teddy’s eyes widened. “You aren’t serious? You think Michael killed a man?”

“I’m not saying he did. I’m just saying, it’s possible. We all sometimes do things in anger, or self-defense, or accidentally, in the heat of the moment. I love Michael. But I mean, we’re all capable of murder, aren’t we? In the right circumstances.”

“Are we?” said Teddy.

“Of course we are, darling.” Alexia had been watching Roxie while she spoke, wondering if there was a deeper message beneath her words, something more that she was trying to tell them. “There but for the grace of God go all of us.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” said Teddy, “but I still don’t believe that Michael—”

Chief Inspector Gary Willmot marched back in without knocking. He looked grim-faced. “The dogs found some clothes buried separately, about sixty yards from where the bones were scattered. This was with them.” He threw an old Swatch sports watch down on Teddy’s desk. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that any of you might recognize it?”

Teddy snapped, “Of course we don’t recognize it. Why would we? Other than being unfortunate enough to have had someone decide to bury a body on our land, my family and I have nothing whatsoever to do with this.”

Teddy ranted on, but Chief Inspector Wilmott was no longer listening. Roxie De Vere had begun making a strange noise, a sort of high, keening howl, like an animal caught in a trap. It was getting louder.

“Miss De Vere?” Chief Inspector Wilmott looked at her quizzically.

“Roxie, darling.” Teddy was all concern. “Are you all right?”

“Miss De Vere, do you recognize this watch? Do you know who it belongs to?”

With a wild shriek, Roxie swiveled her chair around. Teddy watched in horror as she used her forearms to propel herself out of the chair and onto Alexia, knocking her mother off her feet.

Now it was Alexia who screamed, as the pain shot through her chest like a lightning bolt. With Roxanne slumped on top of her, she couldn’t move. Instead she squirmed in helpless agony as Roxie gripped her neck like a vise, choking her and crushing her windpipe. Instinctively, Alexia kicked out in panic. She felt the breath leave her body and was sure she was about to pass out. Why was nobody helping her?

“Roxanne!” Teddy shouted. “For God’s sake.”

“You killed him!” Roxie screamed, shaking Alexia like a terrier with a rat between its teeth. “All this time you let me believe he left me. But you killed him! Shot him in cold blood like an animal and buried him here. Murderer!”

Belatedly, Chief Inspector Wilmott pulled the girl off, scooping her up into his arms. She weighed next to nothing. After the exertion of the attack on her mother, Roxanne sobbed weakly against his chest, as limp and fragile as a rag doll.

Meanwhile Alexia De Vere lay on the floor, clutching her throat and gasping for breath like a newly landed fish.

Placing Roxie gently back into her wheelchair, Chief Inspector Wilmott knelt down so that his eyes were level with hers.

“You recognize the watch?”

Roxie’s voice was a whisper. “It belonged to my fiancé. Andrew.”

With that, Roxie De Vere’s eyes rolled back in her head and a great spasm swept through her broken body. Soon she was foaming at the mouth, seizing wildly.

“Do something! Help her!” Teddy sounded panicked. Alexia merely stared, too stunned and in too much pain herself to do anything for her daughter. Roxie looked as though she were being electrocuted, dancing in anguish before her parents’ eyes.

“Call an ambulance,” Chief Inspector Wilmott told his sergeant. “NOW!”

Chapter Thirty-one

“Interview with Mrs. Alexia De Vere, Sunday, November twenty-sixth, two forty-four P.M. Chief Inspector Gary Wilmott present. Mrs. De Vere, can you please describe your relationship with Andrew Beesley, your daughter’s fiancé?”

Alexia twisted the gold wedding band on her finger. “Not until I see my daughter.”

“Your daughter’s been taken to hospital. You’ll be given word on her condition in due course.”

“That’s not good enough. I want to know what’s happening now.”

“Andrew Beesley, Mrs. De Vere.”

“Do you think I care about Andrew bloody Beesley?” Alexia snapped. “All I care about right now is Roxanne.”

Chief Inspector Wilmott said, “Most people would probably care that a young man they knew well had been murdered and that his corpse was found buried in their garden.”

“Would they? I doubt it. Not if they knew Andrew,” Alexia said bitterly. I should stop talking. I should ask for my lawyer. But it felt so good to speak the truth, to vent her hatred at last, she found she couldn’t stop herself.

“Andrew Beesley manipulated my daughter in the most cynical, vile way imaginable. I didn’t know him well. But I knew him well enough to realize that. All he ever wanted was Roxie’s money.”

“And was that why you killed him?”

Alexia laughed mockingly, then wished she hadn’t as the pain once again shot through her ribs where Gilbert Drake’s bullet had hit her. “Don’t be preposterous,” she said through gritted teeth. “I didn’t kill anybody.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon