When William and DB returned to the house, Mr Blake met them at the door. He was affable now, friendly, asking whether the fishing had been good, congratulating them on catching the chub. But he only put DB on edge, and not only because of what had happened with the policeman. ‘You two are no fun,’ he’d said when his questions were only half-answered. ‘Have you been like this all afternoon?’
When DB asked if he could call home, Mr Blake showed him into the front room by the stairs and closed the door behind him. ‘I’ll give you a bit of privacy,’ he said. ‘So you can talk.’ For a while, Mr Blake was the only one talking: his voice low and insistent, a throb of life in the world beyond the door. DB sat by the phone, perched on the arm of the white sofa where Abigail had been lying. He looked at the photographs on the wall, of Abigail holding a violin, of the four Blakes standing stiff and smiling: William and his father wearing ties, Abigail and her mother in summer cotton dresses. The wall behind them pearly and blue, like a dream sky.
DB dialled home. His mother answered the phone. His father was already on the way to pick him up. His mother asked about his day, about the weather and if the Blakes had made him welcome. As DB answered, he listened to the voices in the hallway. Mr Blake must have stepped closer to the door because DB heard him say Abigail’s name.
‘And have you been good?’ his mother asked, laughing because she knew he didn’t like her to talk this way.
When she said this, DB experienced such an overwhelming sense of guilt that he had almost burst into tears. He wanted to tell her about everything that had happened that day: the fishing, the policeman, about William Blake and everything he’d said. He wanted to apologise, perhaps not for things that he had done, but for things that would happen, their inevitability. He felt prepared to answer for it all.
But in the end, all he said was, ‘Yes. I’ve been good. Of course.’
As DB put down the receiver, he saw that he had a smear of fish blood upon the back of his hand. Before he walked back out into the hallway, he retraced his steps through the room. He got down on his knees, looking down at the carpet, peering deep into the pattern of pink roses upon the pale settee, worried that the blood had still been wet when he’d walked inside, that he might have left a stain.