Wexford 10 - A Sleeping Life

Free Wexford 10 - A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell

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Authors: Ruth Rendell
woman was going under another name in London, this girl would have recognized her from the description in the papers. The photograph, unlike as it is, would have meant something to her. She’d have been in touch, she’d have read all your appeals.’
       ‘So therefore doesn’t it look as if she didn’t because she has something to hide?’
       ‘It looks to me,’ said Burden, ‘as if she just didn’t know her.’
       Waiting to hear from Baker, Wexford tried to make some sort of reasonable pattern of it. Rhoda Comfrey, who, for some unknown motive, called herself something else in London, had been a fan and admirer of Grenville West, had become his friend. Perhaps she performed certain services for him in connection with his work. She might - and Wexford was rather pleased with this notion - run a photocopying agency. That would fit in with what Mrs Crown had told him. Suppose she had made copies of manuscripts for West free of charge, and he, in gratitude, had given her a rather special birthday present? After all, according to old Mrs Parker, she had become fifty years old on 5 August. 
       In some countries, Wexford knew, the fiftieth birthday was looked on as a landmark of great significance, an anniversary worthy of particular note. He had bought the wallet on the fourth, given it to her on the fifth, left for his holiday on the seventh, and she had come down to Kingsmarkham on the eighth. None of this got him nearer finding the identity of her murderer, but that was a long way off yet, he thought gloomily. Into the midst of these reflections the phone rang.
       ‘We’ve found her,’ said the voice of Baker. ‘Or we’ve found where she lives. She was in the register. West Kenbourne, All Souls Grove, number fifteen, flat one. Patel, Malina N. and Flinders, Pauline J. No number in the phone book for either of them, so I sent Dinehart round, and a woman upstairs said your Flinders usually comes in around half-four.
       'D’you want us to see her for you? It’s easily done.’
       ‘No, thanks, Michael, I’ll come up.’
       Happiness hadn’t eroded all the encrusting sourness from Baker’s nature. He was still quick to sense a snub where no snub was intended, still looking always for an effusively expressed appreciation. ‘Suit yourself,’ he said gruffly. ‘D’you know how to find All Souls Grove?’ Implicit in his tone was the suggestion that this country bumpkin might be able to find a haystack or even a needle in one, but not a street delineated in every London guide. ‘Turn right out of Kenbourne Lane Tube station into Magdalen Hill, right again into Balliol Street, and it’s the second on the left after Oriel Mews.’
       Forebearing to point out that with his rank he did rate a car and a driver, Wexford said only, ‘I’m most grateful, Michael, you’re very good,’ but he was too late.
       ‘All in a day’s work,’ said Baker and put the phone down hard.

    Wexford had sometimes wondered why it is that a plain woman so often chooses to live with, or share a flat with, or be companioned by, a beautiful woman. Perhaps choice does not enter into it; perhaps the pressure comes from the other side, from the beautiful one whose looks are set off by the contrast, while the ill-favoured one is too shy, too humble and too accustomed to her place to resist. In this case, the contrast was very marked. Beauty had opened the front door to him, beauty in a peacock-green sari with little gold ornaments, and on hands of a fineness and delicacy seldom seen in Western women, the width across the broadest part less than three inches, rings of gold and ivory. An exquisite small face, the skin a smoky gold, peeped at him from a cloud of silky black hair.
       ‘Miss Patel?’ She nodded, and nodded again rather sagely when he showed her his warrant card. ‘I’d like to see Miss Flinders, please.’
       The flat, on the ground floor, was the usual furnished place.

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