A Killer Opening

(unedited) Chapters


If the alarm clock hadn’t insisted it was seven am., or the birds had been less adamant in announcing the dawn, Amelia could undoubtedly have slept another seven hours straight. A night of fitful half-sleep plagued by Maud induced nightmares and interspersed with Sawubona and Tantriana’s noisy attempts at wrecking a perfectly delightful brand-new wrought iron bed in the adjacent suite had left her feeling both jetlagged and jaded. On top of that, a rainstorm roused her from bed at 4 am. She’d gotten up to close the windows to shut out the rain, which would no doubt leave a layer of red Saharan dust over everything.
Nevertheless, she dutifully dragged herself into the bathroom for her morning ablutions then staggered blindly downstairs to help Oliver prepare breakfast.

In the dining room she found him, long-handled dustpan and brush in hand, sweeping clumps of dried seaweed out from beneath the dining table. She would have commented had she not, at that moment, noticed the gauze bandage and sticking plaster wrapped around his hand. Amelia had personal childhood experience of Oliver’s perfectionistic bandaging, but never, not in her entire time of knowing him, had she seen him wounded, not even a shaving cut. Oliver was not a clumsy man; he was an extraordinarily capable, no-nonsense, military man.

‘What have you done?’ she gasped, rushing over to him and snatching the brush and pan out of his hands.

‘I was minding my own business, cleaning up half a dozen disgusting cigarette butts from one of those new terracotta planter thingamajigs outside the front entrance, when I was ambushed by broken a piece of glass which had somehow secreted itself there. Neither the offensive shards nor those dastardly cigarette butts were present in said thingamajig until our esteemed guests arrived yesterday afternoon.’

Amelia winced. Oliver did not approve of smoking and had painstakingly affixed little brass plaques all around the hotel, warning people that smoking was prohibited. Which, come to think of it, probably accounted for the clandestine butts being disposed of in the planter. 
Amelia had seen Price smoking the odd cigar the previous day, and of course Leo hadn’t been able to resist joining him when he’d brandished a box of Fuentes that evening. To be fair, even Sawubona had looked tempted by the Fuentes, before taking a comically slow blink, no doubt reminding himself that gurus were above such mortal temptations. So, plenty of cigar smokers, but she had only seen one person with a cigarette in hand, and that was Herb. 


‘Did you get Herb sorted with whatever his after-midnight complaint was?’


‘Yes… He said there was no bulb in the porch light at his chalet. Funny thing is, I would have sworn I checked all the porch lights earlier in the week. I would have replaced any missing bulbs then. I wonder if one of our guests is a kleptomaniac with a penchant for lightbulbs? I wouldn’t put it past any of them,’ he mused, shaking his head, brow furrowed. ‘Anyway, I gave him a replacement and he never returned, from which I gather the problem was resolved.’
‘And after injuring yourself, instead of waking me and asking for help, you butchered yourself with single-handed first-aid, proceeded with the juicing of forty oranges, and have now transformed yourself into a one-man clean-up crew?’ Amelia asked, while sweeping the last of the unexplained seaweed into the pan from under the table between Daisy and Herb’s place settings from the night before. Then she swept herself, pan in hand, through the swing doors into the adjoining kitchen.


‘You’re welcome,’ Oliver called after her. She was tired and cross even though it wasn’t yet seven-thirty in the morning, so although she could hear him perfectly well through the double doors, Amelia ignored her wounded friend, preferring to slam sliced of bread into her industrial sized toaster and carelessly tipped homemade muesli into enormous serving dishes.


No more than ten minutes later, the first of her guests, a surprisingly chirpy looking Tantriana, practically skipped into the room, followed immediately by an equally sprightly Sawubona. Tantriana glowed, and Sawubona looked positively invigorated. Their aliveness couldn’t have been more contrary to how Amelia felt, but hey-ho, in two days she would be past the finish line and could sleep for a month if she wanted. 


Her other guests sloped into the room a lot less perkily over the next fifteen minutes. As they sipped their coffee and helped themselves to breakfast, Amelia’s eyes kept drifting to the empty place setting. It was rather rude of Bill not to come up to the hotel to chat with her guests. And a little odd, considering one of them was a Hollywood legend.   


‘I’ve got things handled here,’ she said, noticing that Oliver had finished his breakfast. ‘Could you pop down and check on Bill for me? It’s not like him to miss two free meals in a row.’
‘On it,’ Oliver said, rising to his feet and heading towards the door. ‘I’ll check all the lightbulbs down at the chalets while I’m at it,’ he added with a wink.


As he strolled out of the room, Amelia turned back to face her guests, ready to explain the itinerary she and Oliver had finalised the night before. ‘This morning, at 10 am, we will be taking a gentle hike across to the artists community, where Barron Lancaster, who as you will no doubt know is a world-renowned artist, has agreed to give us a tour, including a much-coveted look at his most recent flamingo pieces. When we return – certainly by noon – our gorgeous guru will be leading a cleansing Puja, followed by a lunch of homemade traditional Mallorcan Tumbet out on the pool terrace. 


‘For those of you who prefer to relax this morning, rather than joining us on our walk, feel free to enjoy the beach and the pool area, and we have a well-stocked library. I’ll set you up with provisions, in case we take longer than anticipated on our tour.’


‘I’m up for a walk,’ Leo said.


‘Can’t think of anything I’d less like to do,’ Maud practically snarled. ‘The air here is depressingly devoid especially for those of us who are accustomed to good strong London air.’


Oliver’s Cheshire Cat grin appeared in the doorway. He headed to the coffee pot on the buffet, helped himself to a cup, then approached the table.


‘Bed’s not been slept in. Must have spent the night tinkering on the Titanic,’ Oliver whispered. But not quietly enough.


‘Titanic?’ Price asked, frowning. 


‘Ignore Oliver, he’s just grouchy from his injury,’ Amelia said with a grin. ‘Dear sweet Oliver likes to tease Bill about his yacht’s sad maiden voyage.’


‘You mean there is a means of escape from this island that no one told us about?’ Price bellowed.


‘Sadly, no,’ Amelia reassured him, holding her hands up palms out trying to pacify Price, whose face had turned a worrying shade of red. ‘Bill’s been marooned here longer than you have. Even our resident genius Pau can’t believe how long the repairs to his yacht are taking. I fear the poor thing might be dead.’


‘Come now Lia, don’t be a pessimistic pelican. Jordi is hand-delivering a vital part when he gets back on Saturday. After that it is blue skies and open seas for our Robinson Crusoe,’ Oliver chided.


Her guests, most of whom had contributed to the emptying of her drink’s cabinet the evening before, had been quiet through breakfast, but were still quieter as they listened to Oliver and Amelia’s exchange. 


Amelia was pleased to see Daisy, although quiet, was none the worse-for-wear after being escorted to bed. Though she should have guessed that after seeing her sneaking out of the back door at almost midnight. She was going to have to find out what the sneaking around was for; they weren’t kids with a curfew anymore, so she really couldn’t see any reason for it.
She wondered, not for the first time, if Daisy was on drugs and that was what was what had her creeping around like a ghoul in the dark; and it might explain her wooziness after her Irish Coffee the evening before. 


One thing was certain. Daisy had problems that belied the ecstatic joy-filled full-page spreads and the ingenious but ultra-feminine action heroine roles she played in the movies. In fact, Amelia wondered if Daisy had been authentically happy at any time since the kidnapping.


For some reason, the kidnapping loomed larger in her mind this weekend than it had for years, and Amelia couldn’t fathom why. Hadn’t they all got on with their lives, even Daisy after a fashion? It was half a lifetime ago. 


Though, it had never really been solved, had it? Daisy had been snatched, was missing for weeks, and when she was eventually found, only one kidnapper had been apprehended. There was no way had he worked alone, but he said he did. Amelia never could fathom how he had managed to bundle that terrified child into the back of a van and speed off, without at the very least having a getaway driver. And how had this Paul Vincent been planning to collect the ransom while at the same time guarding Daisy? 


And that wasn’t the only mystery; not in Amelia’s mind. Why had Daisy, a traumatised child, been immediately sent to live with a father she barely knew, in a country she knew not at all? And where did her mother disappear off to—like a thief in the night—the very same day Daisy was found?


She pushed the kidnapping from her mind. She had other imminent worries.
Images of Bill drowned, floating face down in the water of the harbour, or crushed by a falling mast, flashed through Amelia’s mind. It just didn’t make sense, after all the preparation and the millions of unasked-for opinions from Bill on the minutiae of her party planning, why on earth would he closet himself away in his boat? That had her worried. Even that weird tension with her guests outside the hotel the day before didn’t explain his absence.


Stop catastrophising! He’s probably cooking himself up some breakfast before cracking on with his to-do list.  


I’ll have to go and check on him though, Amelia thought. If I don’t, my head will explode with worry and poor injured Oliver will be left to clean up the bloody detritus.


Which was how Amelia found herself, after breakfast was over and her guests had dispersed to their rooms or the beach, departing for the harbour to placate her internal Pessimistic Pelican. At least she made it to the car before, once again, she was ambushed by Miserable Maud, who intercepted her as she crossed the courtyard saying, ‘I will keep you company on your journey.’ Amelia glanced at her mother whose face was pinched in disgust as she wiped red dust from the car door handle before swinging it open and wiping down the white leather seat. Last night, that unusual summer rainstorm had combined with the Sahara dust plume drifting overhead to coat her car, the pool terrace and goodness knew what else, with a thick layer of dust. Amelia had grown accustomed to the occasional red rain here on El Pedrusco, but Maud’s expression indicated she would never get used to it. At last, something to be grateful to the dust for! 


‘You don’t even know where I’m going. Aren’t you worried I’ll feed you to the sharks?’
‘Not one bit,’ Maud said. ‘There are no sharks who are wont to feast on me, not in the Mediterranean.’ 


‘I could push you off the cliff,’ Amelia suggested, surprising herself with her temerity.
‘So, you could,’ Maud agreed. ‘But that would hardly be good for business, would it?’ She climbed into the passenger seat.


Amelia only had thirty minutes before she was due to meet with her guests in reception; she didn’t have the time to argue. So, she said nothing, just threw the car into drive and sped off down Highway One.


As they passed the lighthouse, Amelia spotted Pau standing on the gallery deck, holding a steaming cup of coffee, and gazing across La Colina towards the hotel. He waved when he spotted her and she blew him a kiss, grateful for a distraction from Maud’s droning diatribe about the malicious malignment of ‘the unbearable plebs’ she was forced to sit beside on the flight from Heathrow.


At last, they reached the marina. It was empty other than Bill’s yacht moored at the small jetty.


‘You wait here while I check on Bill,’ Amelia instructed, opening the car door and heading for the yacht.


Maud, who had barely paused to draw breath on the drive, harumphed, though she did remain seated.  


Bill wasn’t on deck when she reached the yacht. He must be below, she thought, as she called out, ‘Yoo-hoo,’ and climbed aboard without invitation. She waited a beat for a response, but hearing none, she slipped off her shoes. The deck was covered by a layer of dust, just as her Caddy had been – she’d be cleaning from now until the moment the rest of the party guests arrived, no doubt – but she knew better than to wear heeled shoes on a teak deck. So off they came. 


‘Cooee. Bill, are you here?’ she called as she padded across to the cabin hatch and knocked firmly. Nothing.


Amelia’s stomach-dwelling stone rocked inside her, pounded on a sea of dread. ‘This isn’t right,’ she muttered, grabbing the handle.


The day was already warm, and as she slid open the hatch the metallic smell of blood, coupled with a nauseating fruity aroma hit her nostrils and she gagged. Bile rushed up from her stomach into her throat, and she reared back, away from the hatch. She must have made a sound, probably a horrified shriek, because moments later Maud was up the ladder and onboard the yacht.


‘What’s that ghastly smell?’ she asked, not hesitating to remove her heels before clip-clopping straight past Amelia and down the ladder, disappearing below deck.


But Amelia was hesitating. She was reliving the memory of a day, when she was barely a teen, when she’d found the body of an elderly stagehand who had hanged himself from the rigging above the stage at one of Maud’s plays. He must have climbed up there after the last performance of a not particularly successful run, so he’d remained there for three full days.


Three days in London in late autumn would likely equate to a single night here in the damp heat of the Balearics.


‘Mother—’ Amelia called, hurrying down the ladder, hoping to prevent the inevitable. But before she made it to the bottom rung, Maud let out a wail the likes of which Amelia hadn’t heard for fifteen years. 


She spun around to face a horrifying scene. There, lying in a pool of blood was a man with his face blown off – Bill – as well as her mother. Maud had slipped and was now lying her nose no more than six inches from the spot where Bill’s own nose had once been. Instead, now it was just a muddle of blood, flesh, bone, and brain matter.

Amelia’s feet were suddenly cold, then she felt a viscous sensation between her toes. She shivered, glancing down to see that her feet were coated with a thick red syrupy liquid. She retched. Every muscle in her body was screaming at her to turn and run, but her mother was lying on the floor beside a corpse, which caused her long-ingrained instinct to kick into action. 

She slipped and slid, like a foal on new legs, across the slippery mess toward her. Once there, she tried to heave Maud to her feet, but now there were two of them sliding around in the congealed mess. Amelia hiccupped out a sob, It would be like a hilarious slapstick scene off TV if it wasn’t quite so horrifying, she thought, grabbing hold of one of her mother’s arms and dragging her along on her back until the floor grew dryer and she had enough purchase to lug Maud’s quivering body up into a seat.

‘I–is he…dead?’ her mother stuttered, her normally strident voice breaking as she forced out the words. The left-hand side of her face was coated in blood and her hair was matted with it. Amelia needed to clean her up and calm her down, so she searched her pockets for a tissue. Ah-ha! She found one and used her prize to gently wipe the blood from her mother’s face. What she did not do was respond to Maud’s stupid question. Shock had frozen her tongue to the roof of her mouth and welded her jaw tightly shut.

Amelia closed her eyes to the scene, dragging in deep breaths as Maud sat panting like Tulip after a fruitless rabbit chase up the side of the mountain. In for the count of four, out for the count of six. This was the rhythm Amelia had learned as a child, to calm her mother’s frequent bouts of hysteria. ‘In for four, out for six,’ she whispered, crouching down to take Maud’s hands. ‘In for four, out for six,’ she repeated over and over until they had both stopped shaking and their breathing was less ragged.

You need to open your eyes. It took some doing—they felt glued shut. But she prised them open and scanned the room, really taking in the full extent of the mess for the first time. 
She spotted a small fridge in the galley. She hurried over and snatched open the door. She was looking for water for Maud to drink or perhaps pour over her head to revive her. But instead of water, she found that the fridge was stuffed to the gunnels with cash. American dollars to be precise. The bills were in three large stacks, each one made up of half-inch-thick bundles. She reached in and took hold of one of the bundles, saw Benjamin Franklin’s face staring up at her. Something in the back caught her eye. Are those passports?
Again, she reached into the fridge and pulled them out. Two were red and one was blue-black. British passports…three of them, the variety of colours indicating that they were issued in different eras. 

Behind her, Maud groaned. So, Amelia shoved the passports and a single bundle of cash into the back pocket of her shorts and went back to scanning the cabin for water. Bingo! she thought, when she spotted a six-pack of litre bottles half-hidden on the floor beneath the dining table. She quickly wrenched one out of the plastic wrapper and scuttled back to Maud who was sitting, eyes closed, mouth hanging half-open, grey-faced and listing to one side. 

Amelia touched the bottle to Maud’s parted lips and tipped a little into her mouth. Maud swallowed, coughed and then let out a long moan, before finally shifting to a more upright position. 

‘Everything is ruined,’ Maud half-spoke, half-wailed. ‘The police must, of course, be called and they will force you to cancel the opening. You will lose everything!’ Maud’s final words built into a screeching crescendo.

Amelia tilted her head to one side. Was that a smile on Maud’s lips? No! Even Malignant Maud wouldn’t dare to capitalise on a man’s death…would she?

‘You must come home… I insist! This place will have nothing but terrible memories now,’ Maud decided, confirming Amelia’s suspicions and consequently rebreaking her oft-broken heart. Anger flooded her veins, creeping up her neck and turning her cheeks a deep shade of red. How dare she? How dare she be so absolutely bloody horrid!

And in response to the powerful anger, words emerged from Amelia almost of their own volition. ‘I won’t be calling the police, dear mother, because I can’t. We have no means of communication until the yacht returns.’ This wasn’t true. Amelia’s emergency mobile was sitting safely in her desk draw at this very moment, but Maud didn’t need to know that.
‘We must solve it ourselves. The show must go on after all. Isn’t that what you told me time and time again when your own future was at stake and you had writer’s block? Aren’t those the very words you used to have me crafting your plays for you when you were “far too traumatised” to do it yourself?’

Maud didn’t respond, though she did tip her head back and place the back of her hand – quite dramatically in Amelia’s opinion – against her forehead. Then she groaned before listing sideways once again.

Amelia straightened her shoulders and looked around the cabin. She had just announced she was going to solve Bill’s murder, but she was no sleuth. Like the masses, Amelia appreciated a good Agatha Christie mystery movie at Christmas. But it looked like her life was about to become one. Standing stock still, she scanned the room for clues. There was the money and the passports that were now hidden away in her pocket. 

There was a lamp was on the floor, two chairs were overturned, an old copy of the Barcelona magazine lay face down and splashed in blood on the floor, a low mahogany filing cabinet was laying on its side but the drawers were not open, which meant – according to any mildly competent fictional sleuth – this was not a burglary gone wrong. After all, the thief hasn’t taken the oodles of cash secreted in the fridge, and hasn’t every mystery movie ever made shown us quite clearly that, when looking for jewels, or drugs, or cash, one should always search inside the fridge first? And even though she wasn’t a fictional sleuth, let alone mildly competent, it made no sense for any self-respecting robber to burgle a broken-down boat when there was a glamourous new hotel a stone’s throw away. 

Okay, what else? Amelia asked herself, at last turning her attention to the body. There was no avoiding it. He was laying on his back, one arm stretched out to the side about waist high, the other flung over his head. If his face wasn’t completely obliterated, it would look like he was just sleeping. But it was obliterated…just a mass of blood and pulpy flesh. The gore was everywhere, all over his clothes, which she noted were the same clothes he’d been wearing the day before.

Peeking out from beneath his bloody collar, Amelia noticed a faint glint of gold. She reached out, carefully pushing back the fabric with the back of her hand, and tugged the chain free. Dangling from it was a tiny filigree ball. It too was coated in congealing blood but Amelia could see that there was a hinge and a clasp, meaning the orb could be opened, and as she moved it about, she could hear something move back and forth inside it.

She didn’t have time to investigate further now, so she jerked hard on the orb, once, twice, three times, until the fine chain broke. Maud gasped; Amelia ignored her. Quickly she stuffed the jewellery into her empty back pocket, then stood from her crouch and scanned the cramped compartment, thinking and trying to remember every detail from when she had last seen Bill from up on her mountain. He’d been sitting up on deck, lounging on his deck chair in the shade of his parasol, papers scattered all around him as he worked, briefcase at his feet. Glancing around the room again, Amelia realised his briefcase was missing. Another clue! 

She searched the whole cabin looking for it. The engine hatch was open so she poked her head in there just to be certain it was missing. No briefcase, but the tools Bill had been using to repair the engine were laid out neatly on his workbench. 

Having exhausted herself, and any obvious clues, Amelia pulled the three passports out of her pocket and opened one of the red ones. The passport had another five years to run, it was issued in the name Bill Ash and had a fairly recent photo of the man lying at her feet. 
She could hear Maud moving around behind her so she turned back to the galley as she opened the second red passport. This one was in the name of Domonic Strathclere, but just like the other passport, the photo was also a quite recent one of Bill. Mind racing, Amelia flipped open the last passport. This one was much older and was one of the blue-black ones that British passports that were phased out in the late 1980s. There were two photos in this one. The first was Bill as a spikey-haired, pre-teen and the second was of him at around twenty-two. Although dated, the photos were definitely of Bill. The thing was, this passport was in yet another name: Corey Wilson. It was years out of date. 

It seemed apropos to Amelia that a man with so many names, but the same face, might have that face blown off by goodness knows who. Is it ghoulish of me to even think like that? Amelia wondered, looking down again at the three passports and reading the names again, this time aloud, ‘Bill Ash, Domonic Strathclere, Corey Wilson.’ 

At her words, she heard a deep intake of breath. She looked up from the passport and saw that if it was possible, more blood had leached out of Maud’s already pallid face.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.

Maud looked quite blank for a moment, like a computer that had gone offline, before she recovered herself sufficiently to snap, ‘A man is dead, right in front of me. What could possibly be wrong?’

Amelia absently righted the overturned chair and plonked herself down into it. Her mind was whirring. All that cash. Why would Bill stay here, working on the opening, when he had more than enough money to buy the parts and make the repairs to his yacht. This meant that Bill was on her island for a reason, and that reason might just be the motive in his murder. But how on earth was she going to discover that motive?

She tilted her head down to look at the three passports clasped in her hand. They raised two immediate questions. First, what kind of a person would need three passports, and second, why would someone illegally in possession of what must undoubtedly have been two fake passports, keep one even after it had expired. 

Her answer to the first question was simple, and perhaps a tad selfish; he was the kind of man who went and got himself murdered at a highly inopportune time. Scratch that, it was rude and undignified. The real reason was that Bill was a man with something or many somethings to hide.

As to the second question, she could only guess. Was it possible that Bill Ash had an attachment to that old identity? Had something happened back then that had caused him to invent a new identity, but which still held fond memories he couldn’t quiet let go of? 
For Amelia, if they said anything at all, those passports implied that the motive for this crime lay somewhere not in the life of Bill Ash, but of either Dominic Strathclere or more likely Corey Wilson.

Her mother had gasped aloud at one of those names. She’d clammed up straight after, covered her tracks with a nasty jibe, but she’d given herself away. She knew something, and come hell or high water, Amelia was going to find out what it was.

‘Which name did you recognise, Mother? Was it Bill Ash? Domonic Strathclere? Or was it, Corey Wilson?’ she asked, watching Maud’s face closely. One small wince, but Amelia couldn’t tell if it was Strathclere or Wilson that had her flinching. Either way, Maud had unwittingly confirmed some knowledge of the crime, and so, sadly, became Amelia’s very first suspect.

‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ Maud blustered. ‘I’ve had a terrible shock. Would it be too much to ask for you to cover the body?’ she pleaded. Amelia sighed deeply as she scanned the room for something to cover up Bill’s destroyed face.


Two hours later, Amelia and her mother were collapsed into high backed chairs in the hotel drawing room, Amelia staring at her shoes while her mother knocked back her fifth gin martini. 

Once her mother had recovered sufficiently to stand, Amelia had helped her off the yacht and across the tarmac to the Cadillac, sending her on an errand to fetch Oliver, who, with his military training, and further experience in tending childhood grazes, would know how to store the body while they waited for the police. She would have gone herself, but who knew what Maud might do if left in that bloodbath with the body and all that cash, and anyway, she had more searching to do in the time between Maud leaving the marina and Oliver returning with his Jeep and a heaving tarpaulin. 

Amelia made the most of that time. searching through Bill’s belongings again. A suitcase which revealed a penchant for expensive shoes but not much else. A couple of waterproof plastic storage boxes; one containing an assortment of Sellotape, scissors, pencils, elastic bands, sticky-note pads, a couple of magazines and the like, as if someone had tipped the contents of the kitchen drawer into it. The other bag was filled with more tools, not dissimilar to the ones she had seen laid out immaculately by the open engine compartment day after day over Bill’s entire stay on the island. 

While she searched, she again thought about the mobile phone she had stashed in the draw of her desk in her office. When she first saw the bloody scene, she had instantly planned on racing back to the hotel and using it to summon the police, but as she silently absorbed Maud’s words which threatened to destroy her hard-won independence, she had begun to reconsider. Her plans to contact the police, as well as her emotions, swung like a pendulum. 
Oliver had arrived, his Jeep puttering down the slope into the marina. As he climbed out of the vehicle, face pale and pinched, Amelia’s resolve dwindled and she morphed back into that same timid girl she had been a year earlier. 

Oliver’s first words on seeing her red-eyed look of utter hopelessness, were, ‘Don’t you even consider crawling back into your shell and dutifully sculking back off to London in that merciless tyrant’s wake! If you lose everything, well, so be it! But don’t you bloody dare go down without a fight.’ And with that he had marched up the gangplank and onto the Titanic. 
‘Surely,’ he called over his shoulder, ‘with such a teensy little pool of suspects, and a full three days before the party, it is not beyond the wit of man – or in this case, woman – to figure out who would want to do away with Mr Mushy Peas. 

‘And if the worst comes to the worst,’ he lowered his voice to a whisper, even though there was only a mutilated dead man below deck to overhear them, ‘we can use that mobile phone you have secreted in your desk draw to call the Guardia Civil to save us.’ 
Amelia was no longer listening. She patted the pocket on the righthand side of her shorts, feeling the outline of three passports, one blue-black and two a deep burgundy red, that were wedged in the pocket. 

No, she was no longer listening. She was thinking about those passports. If she wanted to know who the killer was, she needed to figure out who the victim was, and those passports might just be the key.