Today’s bonus post for A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS is a little different. I thought I would do that which I almost never do and share a deleted scene. Warning for those of you who haven’t read it–MAJOR STINKING SPOILERS WITH GIANT FECKING BELLS HANGING OFF, as Father Ted would say. You’ve been warned…
Near the end of the book, Delilah confronts Helen about her crimes and they exchange a few choice words about her role in the tragedy that befell Kit and Gideon. Although Helen is not criminally culpable, Delilah holds her responsible for manipulating Rex into pulling the trigger. When I originally wrote the scene, Delilah confronts Rex. It was only on revision that I decided that having the seemingly weak Helen holding the puppet strings made for a much more interesting dynamic. Here is the scene between Delilah and Rex as it was originally written.
The next morning I walked to Patel’s and sent a telegram to Narok. That evening was Kit’s gallery opening in Nairobi, and I packed a bag to spend the night. I had just locked the case when Rex arrived. I went into his arms and he put a hand to my hair.
“Poor girl,” he murmured. “This has all been so much for you. I would have come sooner after the fire but we’ve had a devil of a time with the latest round of births in the herd. Glad you’re going into Nairobi. A little civilization would do you a world of good.”
“No doubt,” I said, resting my head in the hollow of his shoulder.
“I wanted you to be the first to know,” he began, pulling away to look into my eyes. “I will be making an offer on Fairlight. A generous one. I think your stepfather’s heirs will be pleased. I want to rebuild the place. It’s always been the finest house in the area and when Helen is gone…well, there will be too many ghosts for me at the farm. Here, we can begin again. Just the two of us. And someday, when the time is right, we might even rule all of Kenya from here.”
I put my head back onto his shoulder and for just a moment I let myself think of it. Fairlight, rebuilt to be even lovelier, with the gardens finished and a view from the house straight down to the lake. I thought of the sunsets shimmering on the water, of the parties with dancing on the lawn, and the champagne toasts. That dream glittered, it beckoned. It would have been easy. Rex was as malleable as most men. He was fond of me. With a little deft handling of the situation, I could make myself mistress of Fairlight. For that matter, I might even end up first lady of an independent Kenya. And it was a tempting mirage. I wanted to throw myself headlong into his beautiful world and let myself be taken care of for the rest of my life by a man who would treat me like a princess, a man who had the means to give me everything I could possibly want, who would be guided by my every wish. It was heavenly. And so I turned my face up to his and put a hand to his cheek.
“Oh, Rex,” I said breathlessly, “just how goddamned stupid do you think I am?”
His eyes widened and his lips parted in a quizzical smile. He half-laughed then shook his head. “Come again?”
“Seriously, Rex. You think you can dangle a house and a dazzling future in front of me and I won’t make a fuss?”
“A fuss about what?” But his eyes had gone cold and even if I hadn’t said another word, he would have understood me perfectly.
“I know Helen killed Kit. I’ve had a good long think. That’s one thing Africa is good for, Rex. It gives you plenty of time to think, and I’ve worked it all out. Helen was listening the night of her party, when Bianca made a fuss over the Masai bracelet I was wearing. Helen realized what a delicious red herring it would make. So she came to see me and when we were drinking, she paid a visit to the my room. I thought she in there crying, but what took her so long was finding the bracelet in my jewel box. She took it away with her, and the next day, a day she knew I was with Kit, she went in and shot him and left the bracelet behind, waiting for the police to arrest me. My God, it must have come as a nasty shock to her when the inspector fingered Gideon instead.”
“You’ve no idea,” he said, his voice dry.
“I’ve got a good imagination. I can fill in the blanks. And then when I stepped up and confessed, she must have thought she’d hit the lottery.”
“She was more confused than anything, really. In fact, it was her bewilderment at your confession that caused her to tell me everything.”
“And the pair of you called on me in Nairobi to find out what was really going on, to see how well the plan was working, because it was a plan, wasn’t it, Rex? At least on your part. You wanted Kit dead all along, didn’t you? What was it? The fact that he was sleeping with Helen?”
To his credit, he laughed.
“You think I wanted him dead because of Helen? Oh, my dear girl, how you underestimate me. No. Any proprietary interests I might have had in her died long ago. He was welcome to her. I admit I was a trifle more put out that he was dallying with you, but I can promise, my issues with Kit were purely of a political nature.”
“The weapons,” I said slowly. “He knew you were storing a cache of weapons you meant to use in an uprising against the crown. Were they at the fishing shack? Did he find them when he went up there? I imagine he was blackmailing you over it. That would explain his sudden affluence.”
“I always said you were a bright girl,” he commented approvingly. “Kit was fine with storing the weapons. It was only when he discovered my intention of holding the Duke and Duchess of York there that he lost his nerve.”
“Holding? You mean kidnapping.”
He shrugged. “Semantics, child. The plan was to keep them in complete comfort for a short period of time until London could be persuaded to see things from our perspective.”
“Not at all. Revolutions have been started with far bloodier acts. They would have had a private holiday with gin and pate. Believe me, they would have come back relaxed and fit and completely unharmed. Of course, it’s all for naught now–far too dangerous once Kit decided he wanted out. But he overreached himself. He was asking for far too much, and he was becoming indiscreet. The only remedy was to silence him.”
He gave me an approving look. “You’re quite right, you know. All it took was a bit of lamentation, and Helen took the reins. Said nothing would happen to me so long as she lived. I asked no questions, and she said nothing more until it was finished. Since Kit claimed he’d arranged to have papers sent to Government House in the event of his death, I had to tidy up a few loose ends. I cleared out the weapons so that when the authorities went to inspect the fishing shack, they found nothing but a native mistress and a bit of contraband ivory. It was all most convincing, a quiet haven for a gentleman’s little sins and the authorities winking as they looked the other way. Of course, the murder wasn’t very neatly done, but then again, what can one expect from an amateur like Helen? And that was part of the charm. If things went badly awry, I could always simply point the finger at her. Whom would the authorities believe? A pillar of rectitude like myself or a drug-addled, dying woman of dubious reputation?”
His expression turned regretful. “I do wish she’d managed to leave you out of it. That business with the bracelet was sheer feminine malice, and I saw through it as soon as she’d told me about it. I thought it best just to let that particular complication follow its own course. There was plenty of time to step in if need be, and I was quite right. Everything worked out for the best. Now all that remains is to keep quite still until the rumors have passed. They’ll be watching me far too closely during the royal visit next year for me to do anything but sit quietly on my farm and look after my cattle. I shall be the very best of boys,” he promised solemnly.
“And Kit was just collateral damage.”
“Kit was a singularly useless fellow when it came down to it. No backbone at all. I ought not to have entrusted myself to a man who wasn’t English.”
I laughed and the sound was sharp, as if bordering on hysteria. “You think he couldn’t stomach your plans because he was an American?”
He sighed. “He had no fortitude, no inherent sense of duty. If he had, he would have done what was right, what he had given his word to do. We all swore on our honor as gentlemen to carry it out. Kit is the only one who betrayed us.”
My stomach hurt with suppressed laughter. It was all so absurdly unbelievable, and yet Rex was perfectly serious. “All of you? Who else? Lawrence, I suppose. And Gervase. And Bunny. What about Ryder?”
“Ryder suspects but I would never take him into my confidence. He is not a gentleman.”
“No, he isn’t. And that makes him worth the lot of you put together.” I pushed myself away from him. “And Gideon was worth more than you as well. What you did cost him everything. And it cost Kit his life. What makes you think I would possibly forget this?”
He looked genuinely astonished. “But Delilah, you cannot be serious. These are men’s problems in a man’s world. They ought to be dealt with by men. You need us.”
“The world is changing, Rex. And I don’t need any of you.”
“You do,” he insisted. “This fire is just the latest proof–”
He broke off, realizing an instant too late that he had said too much. “Oh, Rex. Not that too.”
He clamped his lips together and his mouth was quite thin and cruel in the fading light.
“Let me put it together,” I said slowly. “You wanted Fairlight. You’ve always wanted it. You made Nigel several offers, you said. You thought that with him dead, I could persuade Edgar to sell to you. You could leave the farm and live here, the most beautiful setting in the colony for the most powerful man. Is that right?”
He said nothing, but I went on, my tone conversational. “Gates probably wasn’t even spotted in the area, was he? That was just a little tidbit you dropped to make him the logical suspect when Fairlight burned. You knew the police wouldn’t bother to investigate if the story was out that a disgruntled Gates was lurking in the neighborhood. You knew they would just laugh me off and send me on my way. But what you didn’t know was how angry that would make me.”
His brows lifted slightly as I talked. “You didn’t know that I would be so enraged by the attitude at Government House that I would make an offer myself for Fairlight.”
“I telegraphed Edgar from Nairobi with an offer. Unfortunately, I was too late. And so are you. Fairlight has been sold. It belongs to Ryder. Now, I realize that even though you have confessed to me that you are responsible for Kit’s murder and the fire here, I haven’t a leg to stand on with the authorities. They would laugh me right out of Nairobi if I accused you of anything. We both know that. But I want you to know something from me.” I took a step forward, forcing myself to stand tall as Mossy had taught me. “For as long as you and I both draw breath, I will remember what you have done and I will look for a way to bring as much harm to you as you have to others. I want you to think about that and I hope it keeps you up at night.”
He opened his mouth to speak again, but I shook my head. “I’m done with you. Now get off this land. I’m going to get my gun.”
I turned on my heel and walked away in the direction of what still stood of the house. I went inside and took down the .416 and cocked it. The sound carried through the open door and across the garden, and I hope it was the last sound he heard as he walked away from Fairlight for the last time.