22 April 2017

TWENTY-TWO - Final countdown

Friday August 15 into Saturday

The two patrol officers driving Mrs Bryce to HQ were in trouble, not just because the entire back window of their car had been smashed to smithereens and the front was rather battered, but they also because they had let the prisoner escape having not kept to the rule of securing the back seat of their car, not to mention going on a shopping trip with it instead of patrolling the area. After an acrid discussion they decided that finding Mrs Bryce had priority so they set off in different directions.
Unfortunately, the shooting drama had taken place on Thumpton Hill, so Mrs Bryce was able to escape into the thickets of Thumpton Wood. It did not take many minutes for the patrol cops to realize that a) they were out of their depth and b) they would have to tell someone. One of them phoned HQ and asked for help. It was promised and a message sent to Chief Inspector Hurley, who had just arrived.

18 April 2017

TWENTY-ONE - A Sticky end in sight

Thursday cont.

Gary and Cleo had plenty to talk about when they finally had time, but with a report in person delivered by Mia and Barbara due shortly, most of their talking was done in the kitchen preparing enough food for the five thousand. Robert had delivered a tray of lamb chops for the weekend. They would no doubt be enjoyed in their entirety that evening. Gary was assigned the potato peeling and chopping for the overworked chip pan, and Cleo made vinaigrette for the salad. As usual it would be a buffet served from the kitchen worktop.  It was ostensibly a working dinner.

14 April 2017

TWENTY - Moving on

Thursday August 14

“I did not get the impression that your business partner is on the point of retiring,” said Gary, as he watched PeggySue making inroads into her breakfast müsli.
“Semi-retiring, whatever that means,” said Cleo. “She’s putting a lot of thought into the Edith affair.”
“Talk about Jekyll and Hyde! Not Dorothy. Edith Parsnip is leading a formidable double life.”
“Not any more. Her wings have been clipped, Gary.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that, but at least she is leaving Robert alone.”

13 April 2017

NINETEEN - Sense and Sensibility

Wednesday cont.  (possibly unfinished)

By a few minutes before seven, everyone had arrived for dinner and had been offered an alcohol-free cocktail prescribed by Cleo since she would herself not be drinking alcohol for some months to come. Dorothy had arrived nursing a litre of homemade ice cream for afters.
Gary took one sip of his cocktail and replaced it with beer drunk out of the bottle for himself, Joe and Roger. The food was lined up on the worktop. Buffets were the rule rather than the exception at the Hurley cottage. The guests would grill their own steaks. Arguments about the state of rawness had led to that. The girls’ filet steaks were the only meat to be cooked properly, Charlie said, because she had taken charge of the frying pan as soon as she could reach it. The T-bone steaks were supervised by Roger. That was another tradition.

12 April 2017

EIGHTEEN - Spaghetti junction

Wednesday August 13 

Cleo did not particularly want to speak to her mother since her mother had not phoned her about her new domestic arrangements, but she was obliged to do so on Wednesday morning because she needed steaks for the dinner party that night.
“I don’t supposed you are surprised that I am back here since Grit will have told you and I expect that Gary has been ferreting around,” said Gloria.

10 April 2017

SEVENTEEN - Dead ends

Tuesday August 12

After devoting the rest of Monday to his family, Gary had to admit to himself on Tuesday that it was an ideal tool for escapism, but at least Cleo had an excuse for concentrating on the children and letting the agency drift until things picked up after the holiday period, with the option of closing down altogether if that did not happen. It was not possible to let HQ drift. Cases had to be solved to make having a police force feasible. People could not be allowed to get away with their law-breaking. The archives were already full of unsolved crimes, and heaven only knew how many had not even been detected let alone solved.
It was the six spoons of sugar that Gary absentmindedly dropped into his coffee mug that made Cleo decide she would have to intervene.

SIXTEEN - Precipitation (it never rains ...)

Day of rest (?)  then Monday August 11

Sunday turned out to be quite a success after all, at least for some. Cleo could not predict how Sonia and Joe would view it.
“I’m going to take the big girls out,” Gary announced when he got home from HQ. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.
“Swimming, Daddy,” said Charlie.
“What shall I call you?” Lottie said to Gary. “You look like my Daddy.”
“Call me Gary, Lottie. Charlie calls your father Joe and that works OK. Are you coming, Cleo?”
“I’ll stay here. The twins are bit crotchety.”

6 April 2017

FIFTEEN - Jollification

Weekending

The trip to Heathrow airport took longer than the family had hoped, but they were in good time to meet the direct flight from Cape Town. To describe the event would be to repeat what anyone has experienced who has met someone at an airport. Suffice it to say that waiting for the plane seemed long, but the luggage was finally collected from the revolving band and the two weary travellers made for the exit to be spotted quickly by the eagerly waiting reception committee.

4 April 2017

FOURTEEN - No smoke without fire?

Saturday cont.

To say that Gary was at a loss to know what to do about Dorothy would be an understatement. He had found it impossible to be really angry with her although the situation called for it. Chris, who was usually good-humoured and efficient, also seemed lost for words.
“I know what you want to say,” Dorothy had said when she realized just how serious her carelessness was.

2 April 2017

THIRTEEN - Vaticination

Saturday August 9


The day started badly for Dorothy Price. It wasn’t only because she no longer felt really involved in the Hartley Agency, although she was officially a partner. But she had announced to all and sundry that she was retiring to a life of Beethoven, gardening and other hobbies she had not had time to pursue. Cleo had been disappointed, but now Dorothy had changed her mind and did so want to be part of things. Sadly, Dorothy did not feel accepted in the same way. Cleo didn’t ask her advice any more. Dorothy’s many hunches and ideas were going to waste.

29 March 2017

TWELVE - Cautions and Precautions

Friday August 8

Cleo and Gary’s reactions to Dorothy’s account of her talks to witnesses were predictable. Gary pointed out that if the witnesses had seen something suspicious and had not already come forward, they were unlikely to. Some of the dwellers at number 7 had not been questioned so the information was too scanty. Frank still had a key of Rita’s establishment although he was supposed to have moved out.

ELEVEN - Arson, fraudsters and other delights

Thursday cont.

“Have you finished with your drug addict, Cleo?”
“Yes. I referred him to a doctor and he’ll no doubt join a methadone programme. It makes me so angry to see young guys ruining their lives with drug abuse.”
“I’d like to see those responsible caught,” said Gary. “But as long as the farmers in countries like Afghanistan rely on the harvest of opoid-based drug plants for a livelihood and the drug barons can profit from them, the battle to prevent drug addiction is doomed.”
“Yes,” said Cleo. “Drugs are like religion. You consume them to get through life. The drug barons are the high priests of corruption.”

26 March 2017

TEN - Robert

Wednesday cont. into Thursday August 7


By the time Gary got home, everyone else was assembled and Dorothy was expected to bring in a report of what she had found out that day. When she had delivered her report, it was clear that Gary could not put off or even refrain from interrogating Robert Jones. For one reason, there was Cleo’s oft quoted theory to be considered: If Robert Jones had killed Kelly, he might decide to wipe out the other men with whom he thought Edith Parsnip had seen fit to have sex.
That was a non sequitur.

25 March 2017

NINE - Joe gets an offer

Wednesday cont.

Joe had slept late, so he was in a rush when he did get up. He had an appointment at eleven to discuss editing the Police Gazette. The prospect was inviting. His concept was promising thanks to an almost sleepless night.
Grit had not reappeared after her outing with Roger. Joe was not surprised. He heard her creeping in at about seven thirty, but drifted back into sleep. He wondering if roger Stone would comment on his affair with his mother.

23 March 2017

EIGHT - Dorothy looks for answers

Wednesday cont.

If Dorothy had started her investigating by walking through the village she might have seen what was going on in Station Street, but she did not know about the fire at Number 5 because she decided to tramp across country to Lower Grumpsfield, so her route took her down Lavender Drive and along a public pathway that ran behind Kelly farmlands to the main road.

22 March 2017

SEVEN - Rita's salon

Wednesday August 6

It was not part of the package to have to take a phone-call from Rita Bailey at 7.30 in the morning. The twins had already needed breakfast at 5 and Gary had remarked that the nights were getting perilously short as he gave PeggySue her breakfast at 7, although it was part of the getting-up routine. Phone-calls at breakfast were at the very least inconsiderate.
***

20 March 2017

SIX -Edith gets a visit

Tuesday cont.    

“How are you this afternoon?” was Cleo’s way into the phone call with Dorothy.
“Fine, Cleo. How are you? Why the formality?”
“Are you serious about not retiring?”
“Yes. I’ll keep going for a bit. It seems like the sensible thing to do.”
“Then I have a job for you.”

18 March 2017

FIVE - Hilda joins the team

Tuesday August 5 

Hilda Bone is never late. She is one of those people who never have enough time for anything, so running late would be borrowing time from the task designated to follow the one being tackled now. It’s a bit like living in the future, but since living in the past is not an option, Hilda makes the best of things.  

16 March 2017

FOUR - A murder is announced

Monday cont.


Gary’s mobile rang again. It was Chris Winter, whose forensic team was already on the job.
“You are coming, aren’t you, Gary,” said Chris.
“I’m on my way now, Chris,” fibbed Gary. He went round the family issuing more hugs and apologies for leaving them, before roaring off in the red car.
***

THREE - Toes

Monday cont.

The drive to Upper Grumpsfield took long enough for Joe to explain that he had moved to Upper Grumpsfield the previous Saturday.
“Where are you living, Joe?”
“I’m lodging at Mrs Barker’s.”

TWO - Look-alikes

Monday August 4

The Gazette always arrived together with the Daily Chronicle in Upper Grumpsfield. The newspaper boy, usually a pensioner earning a few bob for the job, would roll the two newspapers together and push them noisily though letter flaps. If you wanted to get up early, it was convenient. If you wanted to sleep longer, it wasn’t.

ONE - Joe

Overture and beginners


Joe Butler was going to take his landlady’s dog for a walk every morning. It was part of his living arrangements in the village of Upper Grumpsfield. Mrs Jane Barker had only one lodger. She had recently lost her husband and was trying to make ends meet. But her next door neighbour, a retired pianist by the name of Miss Dorothy Price, said that Jane Barker was lonely rather than poor.