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The calming crash of the sea breaking over the stony beach made Carrie forget she'd spent the morning in tears. It was probably - definitely - hormonal, the result of early mornings on top of sleepless nights, the chill of the crypt making her sleep lightly and fitfully, and all the stress and worry on top of that. Then last night she had met Guy Bishop. She had never wanted to get to know someone quite as much - but she was sure he was either spoken for or wouldn't really be interested. That had been the prelude to yet another sleepless night, and Carrie had found herself sobbing on the kitchen floor the following morning because she had run out of teabags.

She still had her trusty grey Bruce Springsteen hoody, though, and burrowed into it, head down against the brisk April wind.

Mercy came jogging over the smooth pebbles, slim figure bulked up with wellington boots and a parka jacket, hair covered by a snug, grey crocheted hat. She was followed by an eager golden retriever. "Hey! Carrie!"

Carrie waved, squinting as the wind lashed her hair across her eyes. "Hi! Who's your friend?"

Mercy grinned, stretching. "This is Branston."

Branston nosed Carrie's pockets, tail thumping against Mercy's denim straight-cut jeans.

"Branston!" Mercy grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him back, but he battled her to thrust his muzzle in Carrie's midriff.

Carrie grinned, hunkering down to his level to make a fuss of him. "I don't mind," she said, scratching his head and fondling him behind the ears. "He's a lovely dog!"

"He's a daft old thing." Mercy thrust her hands into her coat and produced a sad looking tennis ball. "Branston! What've I got? What's mummy got? Look Branston! Ball! Who wants the ball? Who wants the ball?"

The dog bounded back and forth in front of her, salivating with joy. His gleeful bark carried along the strand, and Mercy threw the tennis ball as hard as she could. He shot off like a golden bullet.

"Have you walked all this way?" Mercy asked, looking up at the cliffs behind them.

Carrie nodded. "It's about three miles? I think...? Only took me about an hour. It's a really nice walk."

Mercy gestured to the grey, unpredictable waters. "We always come out for a walk along here," she said. "Branston loves it."

Carrie watched the dog running off after some interesting scent, the coveted ball firmly gripped between his teeth. "It's really nice down here. I haven't seen it in the light before."

Mercy blinked. "When did you come here in the dark?!"

Carrie had been dying to talk about the Local History Society meeting, and Mercy, as a local, might be able to fill in the blanks for her. Blanks such as Guy Bishop's relationship status. If she had her smartphone that would be a facebook stalking mission, but she had swapped to a standard handset for £7.99 a month.

She proceeded to tell Mercy all about the night before, including the secretary's partial meltdown over her form and the way Miss Dewser had stared at her.

"Mrs Azeman is in the LHS?" Mercy seemed a bit taken aback. "Gosh. You didn't give her your address, did you?"

Carrie frowned. "Well... they all know I bought The Crows, if that's what you mean..."

Mercy rolled her eyes at her own idiocy. "Oh yeah... no, well... it's just that I've heard that she's a bit... Old School." Apparently this was supposed to mean something. "She - I heard she lost her granddaughter, and, I think she's not... I think she's unwell."

Carrie said, "Ohh..." as if she understood, but had no idea what Mercy was talking about. "Do you mean... um... traditional?" she hazarded, thinking along the lines of cultural or religious values. "Do you mean she - doesn't believe in therapy, or doctors, or...?" Carrie dipped her toe in the dangerous waters of another person's business, and squirmed.

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