Excerpt from Martha Grimes’, “The Winds of Change”, 2004

“Wiggins snapped off the electric water pot. “I’m afraid…well, it’s your cousin, sir. Your cousin—she died.”

For an insane moment, Jury didn’t know what Wiggins was talking about. He stood there, just inside the door, with that announcement of death seeming to preclude any movement until the cousin flashed in his mind and the world started turning again His cousin up north, in Newcastle- upon-Tyne…Her talks with Jury were often barbed with sharp remarks and (Jury suspected) lies. He said, “The last time I saw her we were looking at pictures, snapshots and so forth, and she completely turned my memories on their heads. Things I thought had happened, hadn’t, not according to her. I honestly don’t know what I can depend on now.”…

…He walked across Broadway to St. James’s Park, which he wandered in for a few minutes and then sat down. He really felt it, her death. He hoped it hadn’t been a bad one…Jury hadn’t known she was sick.

It was fine for him to say he saw his cousin seldom and that he wasn’t close to her and that, actually, they had never liked each other. That could work in life; it didn’t work in death. But then nothing did, he supposed. Death had a way of kicking out the props, of smashing one’s carefully constructed defenses. Whatever comfortable conclusions he might have reached about Sarah were now as suspect as the events of his childhood. For maybe she hadn’t been lying to him; maybe he had really been but a baby when his mum died instead of the five-year-old kid who had tried to pull her out of the rubble of their bombed building

How could he possibly have got that wrong? Impossible, surely. And what about watching the kids in their school uniforms treading off to school and wanting to be one of them? What about Elicia Deauville? She had to have danced in the room next door. Perhaps it was a different door, a different time.

No. Sarah must have been making things up. And wasn’t it typical—?…

…It was this: there was an emptiness that he hadn’t seen coming and that now he didn’t see how he could fill. This, with the death of a cousin he had never really known…the last one who had been there as part of his childhood tapestry and, because she remembered, might keep it from unraveling. She was the last one he could check with and whether she lied (and she would call it teasing) seemed almost beside the point.

Jury stopped, thinking this strange. Perhaps it was beside the point because she knew the truth enough to lie about it. No one else did now except for him. For some reason that made him feel the truth had gone and taken the past with it….

…He thought again of Larkin’s poem: The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said. He liked poetry. He preferred the plainspokenness of someone like Larkin or Robert Frost. But then poetry was never plainspoken; it gave only the appearance of it. Like something almost being said. He could never have put that into any other words, yet it came as close to truth as he could get, he knew.

He told himself again he hadn’t even liked her. Then what was this tightness in his chest, this suffocating feeling (which he was glad Wiggins wasn’t around to witness)?

What came to him all of a sudden was a memory of Jenny Kennington the first time he’d seen her, running down the steps of her house in Littlebourne, holding a badly injured cat. She didn’t know Jury but she accepted a lift to the vet’s. She talked about the cat, which wasn’t hers, but a stray that must have gotten hit by a car. I don’t even like that cat, she’d said, once he was safely in the vet’s hands. Several times she’d assured Jury, I don’t even like that cat.

Right, he thought. Sure…

…He walked on, stopping here and there…Every time—the newspaper, the manikins, the peddler—he’d forget for those moments and then turn away and it came back to consciousness that she was dead.

He had thought more about his cousin Sarah in the last couple of hours than he had in the last two decades. That’s what it was, death’s legacy—now there was plenty of time to think about the time wasted, the words unsaid, the history unshared, until it was too late. It’s always too late, he remembered someone saying. One can never have done enough, said enough. It was like the lager you could never finish: jokes about the wooden leg, the hole in the pint. An unquenchable, alcoholic thirst. You can never do enough for the dead. You search around for comfort but there is no comfort; there never was and never will be. There is only a gradual wearing away of the sharp edges, so that you don’t feel ambushed at every turn, as if you saw the dead suddenly rounding the corner.

For a while he rode the Piccadilly Line, then switched over to the Northern Line at King’s Cross….As the train clattered along, Jury studied an old Kit Kat wrapper on the floor, moving between high heels and scuffed boots. He watched it shift along, liking to think of themselves, he and Sarah, as kids going cheerily along to a sweet shop, but this image was his own concoction; he doubted they’d gone much of anywhere together.

I don’t even like that cat.


He got up for his stop at the Angel.”

—- Martha Grimes, from “The Winds of Change”, 2004 —-