The Kinsome homestead used to be by the bend in the river, and it was a three-story house with wooden walls sitting on a brick foundation. The walls were whitewashed up to about headheight, and after that the original paint peeled and drifted away until the bare wood beneath showed through and the woodworm and the beetles went after it. For a while they continued to use the attic, but then Agnes Kinsome, some forty years ago now, was upstairs in her claw-foot, cast-iron bath when a breezy summer morning blew all the wood away and revealed her to anyone looking up. There was a mighty sighing and there was very nearly a law passed after that that said that women had to wear bathclothes before getting washed.
But that's just the original homestead, and though a majority of the Kinsome clan were raised there, many of them spread out and around and didn't drift too far from the homestead or the orchards where they raised their trees, grew their fruit and made their jams, preserves and chutneys. If'n you wander yourself into the 7-11 on Main even today you can find a shelf of Kinsome preserves, and the fruit in the baskets that isn't imported all comes from those orchards. So there's a right little estate of Kinsome houses all dotted around the homestead, and one or two a bit further out when there'd been a falling out, or a need to put someone where they couldn't be rightly seen too much. Maybe just at church on Sundays and invited along to weddings and funerals so that they couldn't be turning up unannounced and uninvited.
I was sat in the lounge bar of the sports bar, a fairly modern place by the standards of Rainville. There was a tv up in the corner, a sixties black-and-white number with the rabbit ear antenna that Rita Davies, the barmaid, would twist and turn this way and that whenever the wind came in from the South-east or the north-west, or sometimes the south-west or the due-east. She suffered with that set, but the good old boys always wanted it on and they always wanted the game on, for all they wouldn't tell her what the game was. She'd stand there, hands on her hips, chest heaving and her face all reddened, demanding to know if it was the football, the basketball, the baseball or the hockeyball that they all wanted and they'd laugh and cackle and spit in the sawdust on the floor and bang their glasses on the wooden bar and she'd holler some more.
Pretty much what they all wanted was the beach volleyball but there wasn't a man-jack among them were going to tell her that.
"Evan?" That rat-blasted inspector was still tagging along after me. I'd taken him for a ride on the motorbike, no helmet, no jacket, just the metal and the rubber and the asphalt dangerously close to his face. I'd felt his death-grip on my ribs, and I reckoned the bruises would still be there in a week; it's a good job I'm not seeing anyone presently or there'd be a reckoning over that. I could smell the piss on him too, but I'd been intending to get that out of him. But he was still holding on, still hanging on in there, assessing me on things I've got no idea about. And now he was talking to me in the sports-bar. "Evan? Are we... are you... are we drinking before we go looking for Mr. Kinsome?" His hand dipped into his coat pocket and I was sure he was going to pull out his little assessment book and start writing me up in there. But instead he comes out with this linen square like what you use for keeping the sun off of your head in the summer, and blows his nose on it. I tried to hide my disgust; I don't know that I'm much good at it.
"I ain't drinkin'," I said, trying to keep a civil tongue in my head. There was a couple of the good old boys turned their heads when I spoke, and I glared at them till they turned them heads right back again. "You can, makes no bones to me. I'd advise against it though, if you're serious about seeing what the job's like. Things can happen fast."
"Well jes' like that. If you isn't a one for drinking, Evan, what're y'all doing in my bar?" And there was Rita, her wig on backwards if I wasn't mistaken, standing behind the bar in the doorway that led up to her boudoir. And I've never been up there, and I never want to. There are some places that just aren't safe for a man to go by himself.
"I'm looking for a man," I said. "Goes by the name of Mr. Kinsome, as I hear tell."
"As you hear tell," she mimicked, rouged lips moving sensually. "Well at the last count there were thirty-four as went by the name of Mr. Kinsome, and then there's another thirteen who laying claim to that with no rights as any judge would accord."
"So point me at the first one," I said, allowing myself a smile. The inspector's face was falling fast. "And I'll work my way through until I find the one I'm after."