The Grave Maurice
- Night Rider
- Go for Wand
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He thought about his father. In no other way was Danny Ryder a “dream.” Too bad he ain’t a horse-it’s the only thing he’s good with, he’d heard the exercise boys say. No wonder she left. Maurice spent a fair amount of time trying not to hate his mum. She had not been a weak woman; she could stand up to his father when she wanted to. She had been-Maurice searched for a word-vague. Vague, yes. She had never seemed certain of what she wanted. It was, he thought, a peculiar flaw in character, maybe even a dangerous one. His mother had been small, pretty and American. She had been as indecisive about having a child as she had been about leaving New York or choosing a restaurant or a dress. Marybeth was definitely a wait-and-see person, lazy rather than careful. Certainly not reckless. No, recklessness was his father’s style.
It would appear she had left without a qualm. It was as if he were no more than a bad climate she wanted to get away from. He had heard a good bit of this from conversations between his granddad and his uncle. Maurice could sympathize with Roger. He was nice. Distant, but nice. And God knows the distance of these last twenty months was understandable. Maurice himself felt at a distance from everyone. And because guilt weighed so heavily on him, too, there had been no one to go to for consolation when Nell disappeared.
“Kind of queer, Dr. Ryder. Why was your girl sleeping out here?”
The skin around Roger’s mouth was very white, papery and pinched, and his indrawn breath sounded more like a gasp, as if he’d lost his source of oxygen.
Maurice had followed his uncle Roger and the detectives out to the stables. He had stood back by the door, in the shadows, listening, wanting to hear her name, as if its mention were hortatory and would call her back.
In the night his grandfather sat with Roger, an arm draped over his son’s shoulder.
Maurice hung back, sitting on the stairs and looking through the rails, listening for her name.
“You’re looking remarkably well this morning, Superintendent.” Dr. Roger Ryder looked at Jury’s chart again and smiled. “You’ve got real stamina.” “Good,” said Jury, “but now aren’t you going to tell me I’m lucky to be alive? Nurse Bell reminds me of that a dozen times a day.”
Ryder laughed. “No, somehow I don’t equate three bullet wounds with good luck. You’re feeling okay, are you? I mean emotionally as well as physically?”
“Absolutely. When will you throw me back into the cesspool of police work?”
“Ah. As far as releasing you is concerned, I think another two or three days ought to do it. But as far as police work goes, uh-uh.” Dr. Ryder held up an admonitory finger. “Have to wait several weeks for that. Are you bored?”
Jury held up The Daughter of Time. “I’ve this to entertain me; it’s a policeman in hospital working on the historical case of Richard the Third. Unfortunately, as he solves it, it doesn’t leave me anything to do.” Dr. Ryder, Jury thought, was hesitating over something. He kept looking at the door and not leaving. “Something wrong?”
“I just wondered,” Ryder smiled, trying to contain his anxiety, “if you’d like a real case to think about. Fact, not fiction.” Ryder moved over to the one good chair and placed his chart on the floor.
“Of course I would. Tell me.”
“It’s about my daughter. You might have read or heard about some of this. It happened nearly two years ago. She vanished.”
For a second, Jury shut his eyes. Even though Melrose Plant had told him the story overheard in the pub, he was still unprepared. Vanished. Was there a word in any tongue, any language that was more affecting than that one? It chilled him. “My God. How old is she?” He would try to keep the girl in the present.
“Now she’d be seventeen. Then she was fifteen. And Nell didn’t run away.” Ryder, in a voice that Jury imagined would be forever tremulous when he talked about her, gave Jury an accounting of what had happened. “It was bad enough before, but it got to be worse when there was no demand for ransom. That threw us completely.”
“I can understand why. What about… Could you hand me some water? My mouth keeps drying up.”
“A reaction to the medication. It’ll soon go away.”
“What about her mother? Where was she?”
“Her mother’s dead.”
“I’m sorry.” Jury hesitated. “You’re quite sure your daughter didn’t leave voluntarily?”
“She didn’t run off, no.” Roger rubbed his hand over his cheek, a nervous gesture. “I know any parent would say that, but Nell was a very contented child. Unlike Maurice-that’s Danny’s son-who never got over his mother’s walking out. But why shouldn’t Nell be happy, given the life she led? For kids a stud farm would be, well, idyllic.”
Idylls, thought Jury, have a bad way of banging up against reality, if, indeed, they were idylls in the first place. Roger Ryder struck Jury as a doctor who took nothing at face value, but as a parent, probably everything. Such parents, well meaning and loving, weren’t unusual. And actually could hardly be blamed for not knowing what was in their kids’ minds and hearts.
Roger got up and walked over to the window, where he leaned his arm against the frame and bent his head toward the glass as if he hoped to extract some bit of knowledge from his reflection, but he said nothing.
“How did Nell react to her mother’s death?”
“She was quite accepting of it, quite cool.”
No she wasn’t. She only appeared to be.
“Your brother’s wife walked out.”
Roger nodded. “Marybeth’s leaving didn’t really surprise me. I don’t think it surprised Danny, either, to tell the truth. I think she was a token wife-you know, one more beautiful thing that sticks around for the winner’s circle, accepts some flowers, takes a bow and then departs. Danny always had plenty of women around. He had some sort of charisma that attracted women. He was flamboyant, probably trying to fill the emptiness most of us fill with food, booze, cigarettes. A jockey has to give all of that up, every habit in the book. Danny was always trying to lose that extra pound. It’s a hell of a life, so I guess you make up for it in other ways. Marybeth seemed totally indifferent to Maurice, who was and still is a very sweet boy. Just awfully sad. So much so it can be irritating.”
Jury thought he heard an undertone of something alien to sweetness and much more aligned to “irritating.” It could be jealousy or envy or even a well-tamped-down rage. His own child, Nell, was gone while his flamboyant, quixotic brother’s child was here. All of these feelings were darkly cloaked in shame or guilt. “Your daughter lived with her grandfather?”
“At his prompting. He could think of nothing better than having the grandchildren around. Danny lived in Chiswick, but Maurice spent nearly all of his time at the farm. The thing was that both of us had the kind of careers that just didn’t allow us to be home enough and the farm is such a wonderful environment.”
“What about you?”
Roger shook his head. “I have to live in London because of my work. But I go to the farm nearly every weekend.” Roger smiled. “ ‘Lucky you,’ as Vernon says.”
“What did he mean by that?”
“That Dad was taking over his sons’ responsibilities. Not that he really meant it.” Unoffended, Roger smiled and looked out the window again. “Vernon came as part of the package when Dad married again. Felicity Rice, an extremely nice but oddly colorless woman. Our mother had been quite beautiful. I never understood Felicity and Dad. Except I can say for Dad, it was no midlife crisis. Felicity wasn’t exactly one of your blond bombshells. She’s dead now, too.”
“You’re smiling, though. Why?” Jury saw the adolescent kid peering out from behind the doctor’s mask.
“Not about Felicity. About Vernon. He can say things without cutting you down, if you know what I mean. Vernon’s very smart, very ambitious and very rich. He lives in a classy penthouse in Docklands. And he’s generous. Dad got a loan from him a while back. We were-well, Dad was-assuming he had a buyer for one of the yearlings, a colt he was supposed to get one and a half million for and the buyer backed out. He knew he’d find another buyer, but he needed some money to tide him over-”
Jury interrupted. “One and a half million for a horse that hasn’t proved himself yet?”
Roger laughed. “Oh, hell, that’s nothing. Thoroughbred racing is a lucrative business. And the colt was one of Beautiful Dreamer’s. Ever heard of him? You would if you knew anything about racing. There was never much doubt this colt would perform.”
“It sounds like one hell of a gamble.”
“It always is. It’s a risky business. But one with huge rewards.”
“Your brother Vernon. What does he do, then?” Roger smiled broadly. “Money.”
“A taped interview with Dr. Ryder,” said Jury, sliding the file Wiggins had brought him onto his tray table. “Interview conducted by DCI Gerard, Cambridgeshire constabulary. Gist of it is that Nell Ryder, fifteen years old, was abducted from Ryder Stud Farm on the night of May 12, 1994. Twenty months ago, that would be. The girl was sleeping in the same horse stall as a horse named Aqueduct. He was sick, feverish and Nell Ryder often spent the night in the stables to keep an eye on a sick horse.