sheâs no good. Miss Buchanan has blotted her copy book, and you can tell her that from me.â âI canât tell her anything if I donât know where she is.â âWell, Merry Christmas to you both, at any rate,â he said absently.
There was a great deal of activity at Motherâs house. It was mostly to do with the preparations for next dayâs lunch, although the tension in Peter Gilbertâs face was caused by more troubling concerns than whether or not we had sufficient potatoes. âBrian said he spoke to you late last night,â he said. âSo you know about my son?â âIâm sure heâll turn up before tomorrow.â âIâve spoken to the police, and theyâre of the same mind. I hope to God theyâre right. I wouldnât put it past John to be doing this to punish me for some imagined wrong.â I didnât challenge his use of the word âimaginedâ, despite feeling that his adultery and Fultonâs illegitimacy were hardly figments of anyoneâs imagination. âYou havenât heard from him, have you, Will?â âNo. Why would John contact me?â âThe other day, I thought I saw â¦â I looked quizzical. âNever mindâ, he said. âIâm trying to keep a lid on my worry.â âDo you really think heâd be so cruel as to worry you half to death at Christmas?â âJohn always chose big occasions as the backdrop for his biggest tantrums.â He looked at his watch. âCloris will be here soon. She wants company, and sheâs more than happy to help Agnes with the cooking.â We had a scratch dinner of sandwiches in the kitchen. Peter Gilbert, Brian, and I sat at the table while Mother and Cloris continued peeling, pounding, and grating. The atmosphere was tense, and the tension was exacerbated for me by my concerns about Geraldine. Mother asked if she was still coming for lunch, and I couldnât bring myself to tell her that I was unsure of her whereabouts. It would look like I was offering her disappearance as competition for Johnâs. âSheâs camouflaging trucks for the army. Iâm sure theyâll release her for Christmas Day.â âI expect John will appear in time for lunch,â Peter Gilbert said. âHe knows weâll be so relieved heâs all right that we wonât make a scene.â I could tell from the strained look on Clorisâs face that she didnât believe this for a minute. Brian had said that she was sure that heâd been taken. The investigator in me wondered idly where her certainty about this came from. That night, Peter Gilbert went back to his Drummond Street house with his daughter. She was understandably nervous about being there on her own, given the signs that violence may have been committed there. After Mother had gone to bed, I went into Brianâs bedroom to speak with him. The room had been his and Darleneâs, and I hadnât been in it since her committal to a psychiatric institution. There were reminders of her everywhere, and the room retained the particular feminine quality sheâd imposed upon it. There was only one photograph of her, the wedding photograph, with her and Brian standing stiffly in a photographerâs studio. The paintings on the walls were cloying prints of Landseer dogs, a dull still-life, and above the fireplace a monochrome engraving of Friedrich Schenckâs Anguish â a painting Iâd always found repellent, but which made Darlene weep, apparently. Brian was already in bed. âThereâs something going on with you and Geraldine, isnât there?â He could be exasperatingly perceptive, although it was usually at times that were of no practical benefit to me. âGeraldine has done a runner from the production; at least we think she has. She told me she was going to Puckapunyal, and she didnât turn up