"I saw a car parked down the road in a gateway with what
looked like a TV crew," said Cara.
"Anyway," he said, "come and see the mares."
There were five mares, bay, brown and chestnut, and three
were heavily in foal. They came rambling up the field when
Tiernan shook a bucket of nuts which he'd left prepared for
them; one mare was putting her ears back, shaking her head
and showing her teeth to the others to ensure that she got
first go at the nuts.
"How has all the fuss affected them?" wondered Cara,
studying them for lameness or sweet–itch as they
milled for position near the wooden fence. The ground here
was poached by constant hooves, so this must be an
accustomed spot for them.
"They were interested, can you believe it? Kept coming
up here and hanging around near the house to watch people
coming and going. I believe they miss Dad though. He had a
regular time to call them up so he could check them over and
they come up even though he isn't here."
"Of course they were interested," said Cara, trying to
smile at him though her heart was touched. "Probably wish
life had so much excitement all the time. And of course
they miss their owner. They're Thoroughbreds, and that means
they're intelligent. Aren't they beautiful girls?"
"You say you have Thoroughbreds too?"
"Two mares, retired at grass. They were bred for hurdling
but I trained them for showjumping." Cara extended a hand
to an enquiring nose. The mare sniffed her delicately
across the fence and regarded her from a liquid brown eye.
Gently the girl rubbed her fingers further up the wide brown
face and scratched around the eye. The mare responded by
leaning into her hand with pleasure. Horses always had
flies irritating their eyes during summer, and were glad of
"She likes you," said Tiernan happily. "I don't know
their names and I can't tell them apart very much. We didn't
grow up here, we lived near Kildare town. We had a pony all
right on an acre but I didn't go to competitions. And we
lost interest, in secondary school. But Dad liked horses
and he got into it later when he had finished putting us
through university. They came out here when Dad retired and
sold his business. Mam died seven years ago Ã¢â‚¬â€œ breast cancer
Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but Dad had made friends and kept involved in local
matters, so we didn't worry about him being isolated here."
If the man had been living in Kildare town he'd still be
alive, thought Cara. That was, if it really had been a
Another mare pushed her way closer to the newcomer and
Cara spoke gently as she allowed herself to be sniffed, then
with a careful hand she patted the mare's chestnut neck and
untangled a long dry dock stem from her shaggy, unkempt
mane. The mare stamped loudly to shake off a persistent
horsefly. Her breath smelt sweetly of grass and horse nuts.
"There's a good girl. That's better isn't it?"
"Their feet need trimming," Tiernan noticed.
"Yes. What business did your father run?"
"A hardware store on the edge of town. One of those
places that always had trade, but it was on the brink of
being too big or too small. You know, if it was a little
smaller he needn't pay for one of the staff, and if he could
have bought the space to expand he would have carried more
stock and bought in greater bulk for bigger discounts. Mam
kept the books. As Dad got older he stopped talking about
expanding, especially as the two of us were not going to
come in with him."
"No point forcing you," said the girl in total agreement.
"Has your sister been in London for long?"
"Since she finished at Trinity. She works in insurance
now. She hasn't been here for a few years."
"At least you were still in the country," consoled the girl.
"I didn't visit as often as I should have," mused
Tiernan. "I still don't know whether or not I'm glad I was
here on Thursday. It gave me more of a shock I think
because I'd seen Dad so recently. And the guards keep coming
asking me more questions that don't seem to make any sense.
They haven't asked Eilis very much at all. Well, she
wasn't here, was she?"
"I should tell you," said Cara. "A detective phoned me
asking about you visiting Belfast with Mensa and how long
you'd been coming to meetings and such. I don't know what
he was after."
"He's asked me that lot too," said Tiernan with a faint
smile. "Mainly I've been answering ones like, what time of
night did Dad lock the back door? And why hadn't he a dog?
And then they throw in something like, do you have any
relations in the North?"
Cara had queries of her own, like what were you doing
here on Thursday, and what time was your father killed, but
she pushed them firmly away and swatted a horsefly. Not her