Jay, a woman with a new identity is now living in the seaside village of Oxhope. It hasn’t yet been revealed why she’s there, or what happened in her past that has meant she had to start a new life, but she’s beginning to settle into it. She’s begun to make friends, including two women similar in age to her, called Emma and Gemma. Jay and Emma unexpectedly and very shockingly find the body of a murdered woman, and are intensively questioned by the police. Jay didn’t know, Kari, the poor victim, but had seen her at a music festival at the local pub where she had seemed very interested in a local band, Off With Her Head. Several weeks later Jay bumps into one of the band as she’s walking to the pub for lunch, and they exchange a few words before he goes on his way and she goes for something to eat:
Jay sat in what she had come to think of as her ‘usual’ seat. The door into the bar was on the corner, and ‘her’ seat was on the left, just round behind the door. From here she had a good view of the bar, and of who came in and went out. Soup of the day was ham and celery which was enough for lunch with a hunk of bread. The long suppressed memories continued to bob unbidden to the surface, in the past she would have treated herself to a lunchtime glass of wine, now she had one of the new lagers promoted and on offer. She slapped the memory down and read the beer mat telling her about what she was drinking.
She was amused that the brewers were two sisters who had an indie brewery supplying only to local pubs. Their brewery was called Allis in Dunderland, because their surname was Allis and their brewery was in a small village called Dunder.
“Can I join you?”
She had been so taken with thoughts about the brewing sisters of Dunder that she jumped slightly and blurted ‘yes of course’ to the person speaking who was the man she had walked down to the pub with.
He set down his glass and a plate with a massive burger, which she remembered on the menu has been described as homemade. It looked good.
“I’m Louis,” he said and held out his hand.
Trying not to be tentative, Jay shook it and introduced herself. As usual there was the awkward exchange of comments about the pub, the village, the fact that they both lived in the village. She expected the inevitable ‘have you been here long, where were you before’ questions, but he concentrated on his burger and she studied the beer mat.
“I was just wondering,” he suddenly said. “I was just wondering what you thought of the band.”
Jay felt a flood of relief, he had no interest in her, thankfully, only in his band. She replied truthfully that she thought they were amazing, that she’d had to dance, impossible not to, that next time they were playing she would definitely be there.
He seemed pleased, in a modest almost self-conscious way. Jay said she hadn’t recognised all the numbers they’d played, had some been written by the band? Louis looked at his chips as if deciding which to eat next and then told her that in fact he had written them. She repeated that she had thought them interesting, different, dance-able.
“That’s very kind of you to say so, the trouble is we’re not sure we can go on, it seems a bit insensitive, not right.”
Jay was surprised, almost taken aback. She stared at him, trying to decide if it was false modesty, or something else. He was older than she had at first thought, in his thirties maybe, shaggy brown hair with old-fashioned blond highlights.
“How do you mean, insensitive?” she asked.
“Well, the band name, when I told you as we walked up you didn’t say anything…”
Jay was missing something, what did he mean? He’d laughed when he’d told her the band name and thinking back, maybe it had been an awkward self-conscious laugh.
“Off With Her Head,” he said in a low voice, “It doesn’t seem right, with what happened to Kari..”
Kari? Kari! The poor woman in the garden, the woman whose – How could Jay not have made the connection?