Come to Grief, p.1Dick Francis
Table of Contents
“FRANCIS IS A GENIUS.”
—Los Angeles Times
“FRANCIS PROVES HIMSELF STILL
AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME.”
COME TO GRIEF
New York Times bestselling author Dick Francis brings back one of mystery’s most intriguing heroes, ex-jockey Sid Halley, in this compelling tale of crime and justice. When Halley becomes convinced that one of his closest friends—and one of the racing world’s most beloved figures—is behind a series of shockingly violent acts, he faces the most troubling case of his career. No one wants to believe that Ellis Quint could be guilty—so the public and the press are turning their wrath against Halley instead. Now he’s facing opposition at every turn—and finding danger lies straight ahead ...
“SID HALLEY HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A VIRTUOSO PERFORMANCE.” —The Buffalo News
“A MASTERPIECE ... VINTAGE FRANCIS.”
WINNER OF THE EDGAR® AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
SID HALLEY RETURNS ...
“A CHARACTER TO CHEER FOR.”—Orlando Sentinel
“HONORABLE, BRAVE, AND THOROUGHLY DECENT.” —Publishers Weekly
“ONE OF THE AUTHOR’S MOST WINNING CHARACTERS.” —Houston Chronicle
“[SID HALLEY] IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER.”—Mostly Murder
“THE ONE CHARACTER WHO TOWERS ABOVE ALL OTHERS IN THE FRANCIS OEUVRE.”
—The Buffalo News
IN DICK FRANCIS’S
COME TO GRIEF
“ONE OF HIS VERY BEST ... A story that is fast out of the starting gate, smooth in the stretch, and a sure bet for the winner’s circle.” —Booklist
“WHODUNIT FANS WILL BE ON THE RIGHT TRACK
WITH COME TO GRIEF.“—The Associated Press
“LONGTIME DICK FRANCIS READERS know what to expect in his novels: a driving narrative and mounting suspense, all grounded in impeccable research and complete mastery of his subject. They will not be disappointed.”
“THE STORY IS BRISKLY PACED AND HURTLES
DOWN THE STRETCH.“—Orlando Sentinel
“JUST ABOUT THE NICEST THING you can do for a person who loves mysteries is turn him or her on to the works of Dick Francis ... still writing like a champion.”
“COME TO GRIEF MEETS THE HIGH STANDARDS
that Francis’s fans have come to expect.“ —BookPage
“A GOOD READ.” —The Boston Sunday Globe
“DICK FRANCIS IS JUST LIKE HIS BOOKS. ONCE A
WINNER, ALWAYS A WINNER.“ —Mostly Murder
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TO THE HILT
Available from Berkley Books!
Fiction by Dick Francis
FIELD OF THIRTEEN
10 LB. PENALTY
TO THE HILT
COME TO GRIEF
IN THE FRAME
Nonfiction by Dick Francis
A JOCKEY’S LIFE
THE SPORT OF QUEENS
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
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COME TO GRIEF
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 1995 by Dick Francis.
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Merrick and Felix, always.
I had this friend, you see, that everyone loved.
(My name is Sid Halley.)
I had this friend that everyone loved, and I put him on trial.
The trouble with working as an investigator, as I had been doing for approaching five years, was that occasionally one turned up facts that surprised and appalled and smashed peaceful lives forever.
It had taken days of inner distress for me to decide to act on what I’d learned. Miserably, by then, I’d suffered through disbelief, through denial, through anger and at length through acceptance; all the stages of grief. I grieved for the man I’d known. For the man I thought I’d known, who had all along been a façade. I gri
The turmoil I’d felt in private had on public disclosure become universal. The press, jumping instinctively and strongly to his defense, had given me, as his accuser, a severely rough time. On racecourses, where I chiefly worked, long-time acquaintances had turned their backs. Love, support and comfort poured out towards my friend. Disbelief and denial and anger prevailed: acceptance lay a long way ahead. Meanwhile I, not he, was seen as the target for hatred. It would pass, I knew. One had simply to endure it, and wait.
On the morning set for the opening of his trial, my friend’s mother killed herself.
The news was brought to the Law Courts in Reading, in Berkshire, where the presiding judge, enrobed, had already heard the opening statements and where I, a witness for the prosecution, waited alone in a soulless side room to be called. One of the court officials came to give me the suicide information and to say that the judge had adjourned the proceedings for the day, and I could go home.
“Poor woman,” I exclaimed, truly horrified.
Even though he was supposed to be impartial, the official’s own sympathies were still with the accused. He eyed me without favor and said I should return the following morning, ten o‘clock sharp.
I left the room and walked slowly along the corridor towards the exit, fielded on the way by a senior lawyer who took me by the elbow and drew me aside.
“His mother took a room in a hotel and jumped from the sixteenth floor,” he said without preamble. “She left a note saying she couldn’t bear the future. What are your thoughts?”
I looked at the dark, intelligent eyes of Davis Tatum, a clumsy, fat man with a lean, agile brain.
“You know better than I do,” I said.
“Sid.” A touch of exasperation. “Tell me your thoughts.”
“Perhaps he’ll change his plea.”
He relaxed and half smiled. “You’re in the wrong job.”
I wryly shook my head. “I catch the fish. You guys gut them.”
He amiably let go of my arm and I continued to the outside world to catch a train for the thirty-minute ride to the terminus in London, flagging down a taxi for the last mile or so home.
Ginnie Quint, I thought, traveling through London. Poor, poor Ginnie Quint, choosing death in preference to the everlasting agony of her son’s disgrace. A lonely slamming exit. An end to tears. An end to grief.
The taxi stopped outside the house in Pont Square (off Cadogan Square), where I currently lived on the second floor, with a balcony overlooking the central leafy railed garden. As usual, the small, secluded square was quiet, with little passing traffic and only a few people on foot. A thin early-October wind shook the dying leaves on the lime trees, floating a few of them sporadically to the ground like soft yellow snowflakes.
I climbed out of the cab and paid the driver through his open window, and as I turned to cross the pavement and go up the few steps to the front door, a man who was apparently quietly walking past suddenly sprang at me in fury, raising a long black metal rod with which he tried to brain me.
I sensed rather than saw the first wicked slash and moved enough to catch the weight of it on my shoulder, not my head. He was screaming at me, half-demented, and I fielded a second brutal blow on a raised defensive forearm. After that I seized his wrist in a pincer grip and rolled the bulk of his body backward over the leg I pushed out rigidly behind his knees, and felled him, sprawling, iron bar and all, onto the hard ground. He yelled bitter words; cursing, half-incoherent, threatening to kill.
The taxi still stood there, diesel engine running, the driver staring wide-mouthed and speechless, a state of affairs that continued while I yanked open the black rear door and stumbled in again onto the seat. My heart thudded. Well, it would.
“Drive,” I said urgently. “Drive on.”
“Just drive. Go on. Before he finds his feet and breaks your windows.”
The driver closed his mouth fast and meshed his gears, and wavered at something above running pace along the road.
“Look,” he said, protesting, half turning his head back to me, “I didn’t see nothing. You’re my last fare today, I’ve been on the go eight hours and I’m on my way home.”
“Just drive,” I said. Too little breath. Too many jumbled feelings.
“Well ... but, drive where to?”
Good question. Think.
“He didn’t look like no mugger,” the taxi driver observed aggrievedly. “But you never can tell these days. D‘you want me to drop you off at the police? He hit you something shocking. You could hear it. Like he broke your arm.”
“Just drive, would you?”
The driver was large, fiftyish and a Londoner, but no John Butt, and I could see from his head movements and his repeated spiky glances at me in his rear-view mirror that he didn’t want to get involved in my problems and couldn’t wait for me to leave his cab.
Pulse eventually steadying, I could think of only one place to go. My only haven, in many past troubles.
“Paddington,” I said. “Please.”
“St. Mary‘s, d’you mean? The hospital?”
“No. The trains.”
“But you’ve just come from there!” he protested.
“Yes, but please go back.”
Cheering a little, he rocked round in a U-turn and set off for the return to Paddington Station, where he assured me again that he hadn’t seen nothing, nor heard nothing neither, and he wasn’t going to get involved, did I see?
I simply paid him and let him go, and if I memorized his cab-licensing number it was out of habit, not expectation.
As part of normal equipment I wore a mobile phone on my belt and, walking slowly into the high, airy terminus, I pressed the buttons to reach the man I trusted most in the world, my ex-wife’s father, Rear Admiral Charles Roland, Royal Navy, retired, and to my distinct relief he answered at the second ring.
“Charles,” I said. My voice cracked a bit, which I hadn’t meant.
A pause, then, “Is that you, Sid?”
“May I ... visit?”
“Of course. Where are you?”
“Paddington Station. I’ll come by train and taxi.”
He said calmly, “Use the side door. It’s not locked,” and put down his receiver.
I smiled, reassured as ever by his steadiness and his brevity with words. An unemotional, undemonstrative man, not paternal towards me and very far from indulgent, he gave me nevertheless a consciousness that he cared considerably about what happened to me and would proffer rocklike support if I needed it. Like I needed it at that moment, for several variously dire reasons.
Trains to Oxford being less frequent in the middle of the day, it was four in the afternoon by the time the country taxi, leaving Oxford well behind, arrived at Charles’s vast old house at Aynsford and decanted me at the side door. I paid the driver clumsily owing to stiffening bruises, and walked with relief into the pile I really thought of as home, the one unchanging constant in a life that had tossed me about, rather, now and then.
Charles sat, as often, in the large leather armchair that I found too hard for comfort but that he, in his uncompromising way, felt appropriate to accommodate his narrow rump. I had sometime in the past moved one of the softer but still fairly formal old gold brocade armchairs from the drawing room into the smaller room, his “wardroom,” as it was there we always sat when the two of us were alone. It was there that he kept his desk, his collection of flies for fishing, his nautical books, his racks of priceless old orchestral recordings and the gleaming marble-and-steel wonder of a custom-built, frictionless turntable on which he played them. It was there on the dark-green walls that he’d hung large photographs of the ships he’d commanded, and smaller photos of shipmates, and there, also, that he’d lately positioned a painting of me as a jockey riding over a fence at Cheltenham ra
He had had a strip of lighting positioned along the top of the heavy gold frame, and when I got there that evening, it was lit.
He was reading. He put his book face down on his lap when I walked in, and gave me a bland, noncommittal inspection. There was nothing, as usual, to be read in his eyes: I could often see quite clearly into other people’s minds, but seldom his.
“Hullo,” I said.
I could hear him take a breath and trickle it out through his nose. He spent all of five seconds looking me over, then pointed to the tray of bottles and glasses which stood on the table below my picture.
“Drink,” he said briefly. An order, not invitation.
“It’s only four o‘clock.”
“Immaterial. What have you eaten today?”
I didn’t say anything, which he took to be answer enough.
“Nothing,” he said, nodding. “I thought so. You look thin. It’s this bloody case. I thought you were supposed to be in court today.”
“It was adjourned until tomorrow.”
“Get a drink.”
I walked obediently over to the table and looked assessingly at the bottles. In his old-fashioned way he kept brandy and sherry in decanters. Scotch—Famous Grouse, his favorite—remained in the screw-topped bottle. I would have to have scotch, I thought, and doubted if I could pour even that.
Come to Grief by Dick Francis / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes