Was destroying evidence always a crime?
Clare scrunched the letter into her pocket and walked across the damp grass to the lake. It had been raining all week and the ground was soft under her boots. The wind blew her hair across her face and she swept it back, needing to see clearly.
She wasn't built for moral dilemmas, and yet here she was, required to choose between the two things she valued most. Loyalty and honesty.
Where the grass met the narrow shingle beach, she stopped. Across the water, nestling among the tall reeds on the western shore of the lake, was the boathouse. Behind it was dense woodland, offering an enviable degree of privacy. As a child, she had played there with her best friend, Becca, dodging uneven planks and cobwebs as they'd transformed themselves into pirates.
They'd launched canoes, and splashed around in the freezing water, shrieking in delicious terror as their limbs were roped by tangled weeds.
Her own child had played there, too, although she'd been less relaxed than her parents. Perhaps because she understood what degree of adventure was possible here, she'd insisted on life belts and supervision at all times.
She'd lived in London and Paris for a while, but this little corner of England with its lakes and mountains was the only place that had ever felt like home.
After her father died, she and Todd had moved here to be close to her mother. It had been Todd's idea to convert the boathouse into a luxury property. An architect, he saw potential in the most dilapidated buildings, but in this case his vision had been inspired. Splintered planks and broken windows had been replaced by stone, cedar and acres of glass. The upturned crates that had provided rough seating were long gone. Now, when Clare had time to sit down, she relaxed into deep sofas, cocooned by linen and luxury. But the true luxury was the position. The peaceful waterfront location attracted the most discerning of travelers, people seeking to escape the stress of the modern world and sink instead into the sybaritic pleasures of life on the lake, where their nearest neighbors were ducks and dragonflies. There were plenty of people willing to pay good money for that degree of seclusion. Clare and Todd rented out the boathouse for enough weeks of the year to guarantee themselves a healthy income.
The boathouse was visible from only one corner of her garden and occasionally Clare would glance across and see guests seated on the deck, sipping their champagne while watching the coots and cormorants sheltering in the reed beds. At night the only sounds were the whisper of the wind, the hoot of an owl and the occasional splash as a bird skimmed the surface of the water in search of sustenance.
Privacy was assured because this section of the lake was only accessible from Lake Lodge, and the entrance to the main house was easily missed from the road unless you knew where to turn. Hidden from view and mostly concealed by an overgrowth of azaleas and rhododendrons were large iron gates, and immediately behind those gates was the Gatehouse where her mother now lived. From there a long, graveled driveway wound its way to the house.
Clare's mother had moved into the Gatehouse after Clare's father had died, insisting that Clare and Todd move into the bigger property. Almost on impulse, they'd sold their small London apartment and moved back to a place where the pace of life moved slowly. Like others, they came to breathe the air, walk the mountains and sail on the many lakes.
Her friendship with Becca had grown and matured here. Maybe it would have ended here, but now she'd never know because Becca was gone.
The boathouse held no evidence of their final conversation, and she was glad of that.
But now she had written evidence, sent the day before Becca had died.
I wish I'd never told you.
Clare wished that, too.
Her eyes stung. Grief. Frustration. She wished they hadn't had that last talk, because now it was the only one she could remember. Their decades of friendship had somehow shrunk down to that last stressful hour. She'd been so angry with her friend, her loyalties stretched to snapping point.