Monday, 30 January 2017
Gary had wanted to deal with good, clean solvable murders. He could go to the fun page of any Sunday paper to solve puzzles. But there had been so many unanswered questions in the Finch case that he was forced to spend time trying to get what had happened into a clean-cut report that could be stashed away and forgotten.
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Robert taxied Cleo to headquarters and they went straight to Gary's office on the second floor. Gary was surprised that Cleo had asked Robert to give her a lift, but he resisted the temptation to send him away.
“Thanks for coming, Robert," he said instead.
A few minutes later Cleo was sitting in Dorothy's kitchen table. The smell of fresh baking was tantalising.
"Would you like some currant bread?" Dorothy said, and without waiting for an answer, put the bread, a knife, butter and plates on the table.
"Don't try and cut it thin," she advised. "It's only just come out of the oven."
Cleo cut two large corners off the loaf.
Monday, 2 November 2015
Only official persons were allowed anywhere near the security block where the suspects were grilled. There were several occupants. The Norton brothers were being accused of several serious crimes and there was no knowing what Mr Bontemps would contribute.
After Robert had gone to the shop on Friday morning, Cleo phoned Gary for any updates. Gary told her that Jessica was staying at a small hotel round the corner from police headquarters. She would be interviewed by Shirley Temple later that morning. Gary did not know what she was planning, but she had instructions not to leave Middlethumpton until told she could. Jessica seemed to have enough money to go on with and considering the two people closest to her had been murdered, she seemed in a remarkably stable frame of mind, but she was under constant surveillance. Before she could return to London, Jason's flat would be taken apart.
Nothing wrong with any of that, thought Cleo.
Julie and Colin cried off the dinner invitation.
“We need to talk at home,” said Colin. “Thanks for inviting us. You also look as if you need a quiet evening.”
“Feel at home here, Colin,” said Cleo.
“I’m living with Julie now,” said Colin. “We also need to talk about ourselves.”
Gary phoned early.
"I've got news for you, Cleo," he said, sounding rather smug.
"I’ll be with you by 10. Can’t it wait till then? "
Robert was just about to leave for the shop and Julie gestured that she and Colin were also ready to leave.
“Ring off, Gary. Julie and Colin are about to leave for town and can give me a lift, so I’ll be at HQ a bit earlier than I expected.”
By about four-thirty, Cleo was drinking tea in Edith's kitchen, waiting for the boys to come home. She had left Robert at home, angry because he was not going to have company on his free afternoon. Women were supposed to have hobbies for when their partners had no time for them, not occupations that distracted them from being available, he mused.
"Won't you tell me what you are here for, Cleo?" Edith pleaded anxiously.
"I can’t just yet, Edith."
Sunday, 1 November 2015
Back at the cottage, Robert suddenly remembered what Mrs Crighton had told him before slamming the door in his face.
"Jessica didn't hang around at the bungalow, Cleo", Robert called out as Cleo came into the living-room still burning inside from the intensely emotional minutes in Gary’s arms and a bit out of breath from the race to get home before Robert started to wonder where she was.
"How do you know?"
"Mrs Crighton told me Jessica had hurried up the road looking flushed."
"Why didn't you tell me that earlier?"
"But it might be a vital clue."
Saturday, 31 October 2015
Gary Hurley was not pleased to be called out late at night and even less pleased to be back in Upper Grumpsfield. He rang the doorbell of Laura Finch's cottage with rather more belligerence than was strictly necessary.
"I'm glad you made it," said Cleo, “though you could have spared us the repeats of those Westminster chimes.”
Detective Inspector Gary Hurley was not happy about Cleo’s outing to Bristol, mainly because she had not told him she was going there. He let fly at Cleo as soon as he stepped into the cottage. He was so vehement that Robert decided to put his foot down.
Shirley Temple had taken a shower and had breakfast. She seemed to have made herself quite at home at Dorothy’s cottage.
"I could live here. Such a sweet cottage and a nice piano."
"Nothing to report, I take it, Shirley."
"Nothing at all, except that Dorothy slipped in at about 4 o’clock this morning to get more music. I didn’t let on that I knew she was here, but it was quite creepy, I admit. I knew it was music because she left the scores she did not want on the carpet."
It hadn’t taken long for the forensic team consisting of one individual sticky-taping finger-prints and the other stabilizing the ladder against the frame of the wide shop window to declare that they had seen enough. Forensics had had long experience of smirches on walls. The only way real graffiti could be identified was by their style or when they had actually been signed by the perpetrators. But this wasn't a graffito by any stretch of the imagination. This was a mess of white paint smeared across a shop front by someone vindictive.
As Cleo turned out of the vicarage drive into the road, a white limousine appeared as if from nowhere and came straight at her. Frederick, who had heard a door slam and come to see what was going on, realized that he could not possibly cope with the two women left looking perplexed at the suddenness of Cleo’s departure. He ran all the way down the drive to catch up with Cleo and give her a piece of his mind for upsetting the ladies, but then saw the car coming straight towards them and pulled her into the shrubbery at the side of the road. The car skidded and a tyre burst as it bashed into the kerb, but the driver took no notice, accelerated and was gone in a few seconds.
As Cleo crossed the road back to Laura Finch's bungalow, a taxi drew up and she was glad to see Jason get out. Now she would be able to get back to her cottage and do some of the tasks that were piling up. He waved to her. He didn't seem particularly cut up about his mother's death.
"Would you be, Cleo?"
"She was your mother, Jason."
Friday, 30 October 2015
At Dorothy’s cottage in Monkton Way, a forensic team were going through its routine. Photographs had been taken of the message on the bathroom mirror and fingerprints taped. Good samples of Dorothy’s prints were taped and hairs from her hairbrush and would be used to determine her DNA so that she could be eliminated.
Thursday, 29 October 2015
Frederick Parsnip emerged from his study. He was depressed about Laura Finch's death. He had sharpened all his pencils several times and shifted the contents of his in-box to the deal-with-later box. He had started a sermon he might be able to use at the funeral service, but he was out of his depth. The vicar would have made a good missionary, preaching hope and glory, comfort and joy. Death and sadness were too much for him to cope with. He preferred not to think about them.
"Come on, Frederick. You know she was quite awful to some people," Dorothy remarked.
"But not so awful that someone had to kill her."
Gary Hurley moved fast. A young policewoman with the unlikely name of Shirley Temple was chosen to look after Miss Price. Hurley thought that was a rather good idea. Shirley wasn't so sure.
"I hope she won't be expecting a reincarnation," she commented.
"She won’t. Dorothy Price is not a decrepit old lady. She's fiercely independent and likely to protest at your being there.”
“At least she isn’t boring,” said Shirley.
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Cleo was stiff from sleeping on the sofa, but not surprised that she had avoided Robert’s rather inept advances, always supposing that sleep had not taken priority. She should have been starting Friday as a private investigator, but with her office cordoned off that was impossible and anyway, she could not have left Jessica alone in the cottage.
Edith Parsnip, long-suffering vicar's wife, mother of five boisterous boys and general factotum at the vicarage, was standing on the doorstep as Cleo and Dorothy scrunched their way up the pebbly path to the house. Edith hoped Dorothy would not catch a chill at the old vicarage, which was cold all the year round and lacked the cosiness and warmth of the cottage in Monkton Way. Dorothy thought it unlikely. She did not have central heating either.
Laura's bungalow was at the end of a long avenue of bungalows. Upper Grumpsfield had expanded into a dormitory for the nearest town, Middlethumpton, where there was very little building land left, and what there was did not attract private buyers. Laura had bought the bungalow in Lavender Drive secretly, had some renovations done and moved in without telling anyone beforehand. Even Dorothy Price had not been let into the secret. Laura had achieved a good price for the old family home in Lower Grumpsfield, but she was chaotic. Moving into a smaller place without getting rid of large pieces of furniture from the old family home, great carved pieces that were far too cumbersome for a small bungalow, resulted in squashed conditions exacerbated by Laura’s apparent unwillingness to unpack her removal boxes and put things away. The place was a mess.
Hours later, after her tryst with Gary and a dish of pasta, Gary drove Cleo home.
“Let’s do this again soon, Cleo.”
“We need to keep in touch about Laura,” said Cleo.
“That, too. I need you, Cleo.”
“I had noticed.”
“Don’t you want to ditch that butcher guy and do what you really want to do?”
“I can’t, Gary. It’s my cottage and his old flat is not vacant.”
Cleo Hartley turned the latchkey in the glass door of her new office, opened it, stepped inside and bent down to retrieve the mail that had been pushed through the letter flap below the security glass. She had expected mail to be waiting for her, but was startled at the shadow that fell on the wall between her and the window behind her desk. It looked as if someone was lying there.