The mournful foghorn sound carried over the bay to the small harbour whilst the beam from the lighthouse pulsed in counterpoint. The clinking of ropes on masts and the groaning of hull wood issued from the boats, barely visible in the fog. One final sound completed the symphony of Sunnyport Harbour:
“Come see the picturesque port,” said a man’s voice, dripping with sarcasm, “for a glimpse back in time to a gentler world.”
“Mon cher,” said a woman, “please.”
“The only glimpse back in time here is to the primordial soup!” said Sir John, emerging from the fog and clutching a leaflet. “Enjoy the view; an artist’s paradise.”
The couple reached the edge of the harbour and looked across to the lighthouse, barely visible in the smog.
“You know it’s not too far to get home,” said Sir John. “Half a day most. We could be sipping brandy and eating biscuits by tea time.”
Marie smiled and put her head on her husband’s shoulder.
“But mon cher,” she said, “you know how it is. There’s no peace there. Mr Bosch would come by with some invention that would break and make a mess. Miss Henderson would come in and roll her eyes at the mess. Morag would need walking and someone to go with her, so she wasn’t caught as a stray. Then Inspector Symonds would come round with another case to see if there was a supernatural influence. There wouldn’t be, but he and Miss Henderson would exchange meaningful glances.”
“Inspector Symonds and Miss Henderson?” said Sir John. “Are they sweet on each other?”
Marie smiled and nodded.
“But he’s so…” started Sir John. “And she’s so…”
“Indeed,” said Marie, “that is the way of the heart.”
“I suppose you’re right,” said Sir John. “And at least it isn’t raining. It could be worse.”
“Aha!” called an aristocratic voice. “Just out for a little walk are we, by the harbour?”
“And now it is worse,” said Sir John.
Lord Hollingbury emerged from the mist.
“That’s a curious coincidence for two people who, and I quote, aren’t investigating the disappearances.”
“It was in the tourist brochure,” said Sir John, “although having visited the harbour, the disappearances seem a little less mysterious to me.”
“We heard about Mr Wombly,” said Marie.
“Yes, it seems the old drunk was swallowed by the drink,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Seems rather ironic.”
“Apparently he was a reformed man,” said Sir John. “I don’t imagine you know what that means.”
“Someone that was dull because they drank who became duller because they didn’t, I would say,” said Lord Hollingbury. “But I’m impressed, I hadn’t heard that story. You’re ‘not investigating’ is really yielding results.”
“Why are you investigating?” said Marie.
“Well, let’s just say there was an embarrassing situation back home in Brighton. I thought it would be best for all concerned if I was out of town for a few days. The nunnery in question was asking awkward questions in public.”
“So you came here…” said Marie.
“And was thoroughly bored. I was forced to drink all day to cope. Then I found out about these disappearances and suddenly I had something to do. To complement the drinking all day.”
“These are human beings,” said Sir John. “It’s undignified to be so flippant.”
“Sir Jennings,” said Lord Hollingbury, “being undignified and flippant is a way of life for me. It’s in my nature.”
There was a silence as both men looked at each other.
“Lord Hollingbury,” said Marie, “you remember what I am?”
“Yes,” said Lord Hollingbury.
“So imagine what is in my nature.”
There was a small rise in temperature, an imperceptible change of light.
“Forgive me madam, sir,” said Lord Hollingbury. “My manners are sorely lacking,”
“Apology accepted,” said Sir John, who didn’t look like he meant it.
“So, as you are not investigating and I am, tell me how the sot Mr Wombly became a sober member of society.”
“Apparently it was Rev Phillips’ church,” said Sir John, “if that makes any sense to you.”
“Oh yes,” said Lord Hollingbury, “that makes a lot of sense to me. I keep hearing about this church. I would rather suggest we visit. It seems to be connected to more than one disappearance.”
“Good idea,” said Sir John.
“Mon cher,” said Marie, “the holiday?”
“Well the church is on all those awful tourist guides,” said Lord Hollingbury, “so you could call it sightseeing. Look, I’d go alone, but I have a morbid fear of churches.”
“Why is that?” said Sir John.
Lord Hollingbury pursed his lips and looked at Sir John.
“Well I’m hardly typical church material,” he said.