Sperrinâs current employer and longtime friendâto break the dogged silence.
âYou saw your mum, then, David?â
Sperrin nodded tersely.
âHad she heard about what we found?â
âA good job you went over, then.â
âWhy?â Sperrin looked at Ash pugnaciously. âItâs nothing to do with her.â
Byrfield sighed long-sufferingly. âAsh was only concerned that she might be upset. That someone might say something to her in the village and she might be upset.â
Sperrin swiveled in his chair to give Byrfield the benefit of his searchlight gaze. âYouâve met my mother, have you? She doesnât get upset. She gets angry. If anyone in Burford got smart with her, sheâd rip their ears off.â He didnât add, though he might as well have done, Instead of mine.
Byrfield shrugged. âI still think it was best. If thereâs talk in the village, sooner or later the police will hear it and theyâll want to talk to her. Better if it doesnât come out of the blue.â
âSo she can think up a plausible story, you mean?â Sperrinâs tone walked the knife edge of objectionable. âInstead of admitting that she murdered my brother, buried him beside your lake, and told people heâd been taken to Ireland?â
But Byrfield had known him a very long time and, in spite of his prickliness, liked the man. âNobodyâs thinking any such thing,â he said wearily.
Hazel chose that moment to come in and so missed the start of the conversation. That may have been why she said what she did. Or she may just have been tiring of Sperrinâs bad manners. âWhen did you last see your brother?â In the fraught silence that followed, she poured herself coffee from the pot.
Sperrin stared at her as if he couldnât believe her impertinence. But in the end he had to either answer or refuse to, and he wouldnât give her the satisfaction of a refusal. âI havenât seen my brother since I was a child. But my mother gets a card from him every Christmas and every birthday. Thatâs how I know heâs in Ireland, not under the mud down by the mere.â
Hazel nodded, apparently accepting the answer at face value. âYouâve never wanted to go and look him up? Itâs a sad thing when families lose touch.â
âI donât know where he is ,â snarled Sperrin. âTheyâre travelers, yes? They travel. Thatâs why theyâre called travelers. The clueâs in the name, really.â
At which point Byrfield judged that if he didnât change the subject, they were going to witness the top of an archaeologistâs head blow off and steam come out. âOkay. Well, we canât do any more digging until we get the all clear from Inspector Norris. Agriculture beckonsâanybody want to help me move some cows?â
Predictably, Hazel volunteered, and Sperrin grunted, âIn a parallel universe,â and disappeared into the library. Ash caught his dogâs eye and raised an inquiring eyebrow, but Patience simply turned around and settled deeper into the sofa. Ash was only grateful that Byrfield used the kitchen, with its well-worn leather chairs, as a casual donât-worry-about-your-boots sort of snug for his guests. He was horribly afraid that if theyâd been offered the priceless antiques in the drawing room, Patience would still have appropriated the sofa with the thickest cushions.
âWeâll give it a miss, if you donât mind,â he said, as if the decision had been his.
As a result, when a car drove into the courtyard behind the kitchen, Ash was the one who saw it, recognized Detective Inspector Norris, and went out to greet him. âIâm afraid Lord Byrfield isnât here. Heâs out doing something with his cows. Hazelâs with himâI have her mobile number, somewhere.â¦â He was patting