Jaggles buried the body behind the house, swearing when the shovel struck rock, fine sand filtering down into the hole almost as fast as he could shovel it out. He left the grave unmarked and returned to the shack without a backwards glance.
Back at the shack he boiled the billy, made a cup of blackleaf, and settled down in his armchair with it. He leaned back and farted triumphantly. He took a pack of cards from the coffee table in front of him and dealt himself a hand of Lone Soldier.
Eventually he got up, and went outside to the storeroom. The storeroom’s cellar door was hidden under a mouldy rug that Jaggles had, many years ago, bought from a peculiar coffee-skinned sailor from a land far away. Jaggles lifted it and Ward emerged into daylight, his face pale and drawn and dirty. Jaggles said nothing to the boy. He closed the trapdoor, rolled the rug back into place, then returned to the shack, Ward following at a distance like a dog.
When they reached the shack Ward stood in the doorway while Jaggles made a lengthy operation of brewing another cup of blackleaf. He lowered himself back into the armchair, warming his hands around the cup and blowing the steam off the top of it. Finally, he looked up at Ward. “You got some splainin to do.”
“I swam there.”
“Well you wouldn’t’ve bloody flown there.”
“Why was that man…?”
“I’m arksing the questions here. How’dya kill him?”
“Like Eden you didn’t.”
“He was waiting for me. He had a knife.”
“Nobody found a knife.”
“It fell in the water – did they find him?”
“Not before the birds took the eyes outta his head though.” Jaggles grinned.
“I didn’t mean to…”
“But you didn’t go savin his life for him either. Only nine years old and already a murderer. Goodness.”
Ward didn’t cry. He was not that kind of boy. Besides, any scrap of self pity had long ago been beaten out of him by Jaggles.