"Endings are elusive, middles are nowhere to be found, but worst of all is to begin, begin, begin." (Donald Barthelme).......“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”(Philip Roth).......“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” (Stephen King).......“Writers live twice.” (Natalie Goldberg)....."The business of life is the acquisition of memories" (Downton Abbey)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

30 - A kind of epilogue

Cleo gave Dorothy a lift to HQ next morning. Gary had got a lift home in a patrol car and spent most of the night smarting about the meeting. He had left for HQ very early without breakfast. Cleo was worried about Gary, but Dorothy had merely said that he had it coming for not being upright.
To give him credit, Gary was pleased to see them and hugged them both warmly. Well maybe he hugged Cleo very warmly indeed.
"This is a surprise, Ladies! But actually, Dorothy, we should have a special little talk, anyway."
"Should we?"

Saturday, 24 October 2015

29 - The meeting

It took a lot of energy to get back to Upper Grumpsfield. Lower Grumpsfield was nearer sea-level, so the road back was uphill all the way. Pushing on her Nordic walking sticks and trying to do the rhythm properly, Dorothy managed to get to the pub in time and was, as a result, the first one there.
"Where've you been with those sticks, Dorothy?" Delilah wanted to know. Delilah wasn't into sport.
"Out walking. Can you hide them somewhere?"
Mitch took the sticks and disappeared into the back.

28 - Dorothy's mission

About an hour later Colin rang.
"We need to talk to Delilah, Cleo. Can you arrange a meeting for tonight?"
"That's short notice, Colin, but it's usually quiet at the pub early in the week. Or we could use the snug. I'll call her. Who do you want to invite?"
“Dorothy and Gary, of course.”
”Gary’s here now. Colin.”
“And we should ask Robert. Shall I do that?”
“Yes, please.”

27 - Confrontation

Felix listened to Gary's daughter's pop music all the way back into town. He wondered, not for the first time, if he had chosen the right profession. I suppose I could still become a travel agent, he decided. Then I would not have to deal with the rats of society.

26 - Capture

By the time Gary had left Dorothy's cottage early on Monday morning to go to HQ, he was full of good intentions. He would call his mother that very day. He hadn't visited her for months, resented her pep talks and shrugged off her concern for him. Now he was acutely aware that he hadn't ever really listened to her. He felt almost virtuous. He would hurry along his divorce, visit his daughter soon, Accept that she was there for her education and get his own life back on an even keel. With murder and criminals all around him, that was the least he could do.

25 - Phyllis

Gary found Dorothy's guest bed comfortable and the catering first class. Dorothy told him that her dream of family and children had come to a sad end after her one and only romance had ended with the departure of her young man to foreign parts.
"He promised to send for me," she told him, cracking two eggs into the frying-pan rather viciously. "But he didn't."

24 - Identities cont.

It was surprisingly easy to get into the intensive care unit at Middlethumpton General Hospital. Dorothy pulled out all the stops of grieving and worrying and leant heavily on Cleo to provide evidence that she needed her support for the 'ordeal'.

Friday, 23 October 2015

23 - Identities

There was plenty to take everyone’s mind off Jay Salerno next morning. Cleo and Robert got up early and Robert and Gloria were busy in the shop well before 8. All the preparations for the weekend orders had to be finished before the shop opened, to be quite sure everybody got what they wanted. Those who came into the shop would take pot luck if they had to, but Robert was usually ready for any contingency and couldn't remember when the big refrigerator in the back room had been completely empty.

22 - Jay

The phone rang, but Cleo answered it only after it had rung several times.
The voice was muffled, but recognisable.
"Jay. Where are you?"
"I don't want to alarm you. I'm innocent, Cleo. Innocent."
"Where are you, for heaven’s sake?"

21 - Manic Friday

It was going to be one of those mornings. After Colin left, Cleo was so deep in thought about the implication of Julie being keen on Gary and Gary stripping Julie with his eyes that she jumped when the phone rang.
“You startled me, Gary.”
“Sorry. Penny for your thoughts.”

20 - Colin

Gary took Cleo to her office early on Friday morning. They had slept very little, but that did not matter. They had talked about themselves between phases of intense love-making. They were happiest together, but they were agreed that they felt committed to one another. Cleo made coffee and they embraced for a long time while the noisy espresso machine spluttered and spat.

19 - Mrs Temple

Cleo drove to the Temple house immediately. Mrs Temple asked her in and before long they were drinking tea in the Temples' living room and Cleo was listening to May Temple defending her lack of feelings. The woman was subdued but not saddened or weepy. Someone at HQ had told her anonymously about Shirley Temple’s fate and she had rung back to check with the highest instance, Roger Stone was in shock and apparently thought she should be.

18 - The three Rs (Reports, Recommendations and Riddles)

Cleo sat at her desk in the office gazing at Colin’s reports on his activities. Shirley Temple’s murder was occupying her thoughts, especially because of the parallels with Burton’s killing, but she would have to read all those reports very soon as they included various accounts about people possibly involved in current cases. The first and probably most currently relevant information was about Mrs Temple. It had been compiled before her daughter’s death, of course. Colin had really worked fast, Cleo reflected, and probably through the night to write everything down.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

17 - Shirley Temple

If Cleo thought she had done a good morning's work, at least in theory, she was about to think otherwise. The idea of Shirley Temple actually being on both sides of the fence was Gary's. Come to think of it, it was in connection with Shirley that she'd heard the name Stone only recently. It had slipped out before Gary could stop himself. But nothing Shirley had done up to now was suspicious, as far as she knew. Gary was oversensitive. Maybe he was still attracted to her and was now being cold-shouldered. He wouldn't tell Cleo that, but it might be a reason for not wanting to work with Miss Temple any longer.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

16 - Rendezvous

Next morning Cleo read the notes Colin had sent after his date with Silver’s secretary at the bistro, where she had been welcomed with open arms. According to Delilah, the secretary was a regular guest, but had never had to pay for her meal. Who else had she been there with? Colin did not get the opportunity to ask, but it was an idea worth pursuing, he thought. Miss Bee had said she would like to go to Delilah’s bistro because she knew Delilah from past visits and the food was good. That had confirmed what Delilah had said. What it would do to the divorce case was basically irrelevant. Both sides had been telling lies and having affairs. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. As an ongoing lawyer he would predict a decree nisi with no cash flow except for the children.

Friday, 12 December 2014

15 - Socks

Dorothy had agreed to go to Cleo’s the office before going to Silver’s showroom to take up her job.
Cleo would have to tell her that her job at the car showroom was cancelled and why.

14 - Lessons in love

Robert had only just opened the shop next morning when Gareth Morgan swept in waving the morning paper.
"Have you seen this, boyo?" he blurted out, pointing to a photo of Magda Kelly heading an appeal for anyone who had seen the accident to come forward. "Isn't that the wife of that Kelly bloke? The one who always charges so much for his potatoes?"

13 - Aliases and others

Dorothy was so uneasy about going to the Wellness Centre again that she phoned her next-door neighbour, Mrs Barker and told her she was sick and would not be well enough work. She put on an act of having a heavy cold and after having taken the precaution of peeling onions, her eyes really were watering and she convincingly performed most of the other common cold symptoms. She would explain her decision to Cleo as a bout of intense intuition.

12 - Mrs Silver

Tuesday morning was even more chaotic than usual. Gloria could not decide what to wear under her overall. Robert had been to the wholesalers for extra steaks, have received an order he could otherwise not fulfil. He would take Gloria to the shop in his van. In truth, she did not know how she would cope with another whole day standing and Cleo was shocked at what she had done the day before and uncertain how to deal with the gaping hole that had now opened between her and Gary.
Relieved that her mother had not changed her mind about working for Robert, Cleo finished off what was left of the coffee in the pot and the last of the toast, and a supreme effort to get a move on got her to her office earlier than usual.

11 - After the ball was over

It had not been the kind of Sunday Robert liked. He was not a social animal and Gloria definitely was. She had hundreds of friends thanks to her outgoing personality. Robert was not sure how long he could put up with it, but since Gloria would be helping out in the shop, he would have to grin and bear it until a solution to her accommodation problem had been solved so that he did not have to his working and leisure hours with her. Had he told Cleo that, she would have pointed out that he had invited her mother to help him at the shop so he should not complain. She would find a place to live eventually. Until then he should grin and bear it!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

10 - Confrontations

As arranged, Robert used Sunday afternoon to introduce Gloria to the ins and out of meat selling. The morning had been taken up by jet lag. Gloria’s bedtime was all mixed up, she said. Ours too, Cleo had replied.
“Don’t mind me. You guys get your beauty sleep,” Gloria had said.
Cleo thought she meant something else, but Robert was definitely into getting his sleep. He did not even comment again on Gary’s presence at the airport.

9 - Gloria

While Gary was still smarting about what he had to admit was Magda’s coup and sure that he had revealed to her and Shirley that he was vulnerable and impressionable, both highly dangerous character traits in a detective, Robert was negotiating the emotional state of discovering that not only was Cleo still married, but that the persona non grata was probably about to descend on them and cause even more havoc. Gary's reassurances that they were watching out for Salerno alias Samson had done little to put his mind at rest.

8 - Gary Hurley

Hatherton had been brought to Middlethumpton. Gary decided to question him about his contact with Burton before driving to the airport to observe Gloria’s arrival. If he could get the guy to talk, it would be a step forward in some direction or other. Gary also decided that every inch of Kelly’s farm premises would have to be raked through. Up to now, they'd only been looked at Burton's living quarters in detail and made a superficial investigation of the farmhouse.  

7 - Jay Salerno

"What are you going to do with your car, Cleo?" Robert fussed, as he always did when he couldn't think what to do for the best. "Do you want me to take you to the airport?"
"No thanks," said Cleo.
“How are you going to get there?” said Robert.
“I think Gary is organizing a driver.”
“Won’t you be cutting it fine, Cleo? Why don’t you collect the tickets at the airport?”

6 - Spot-on

Burton had been dead four days and no progress seemed to have been made in that investigation.
Although the coming weekend would be taken up with that trip to track Hatherton South Africa, Cleo had to tackle the problem an anxious mother had brought her. Her daughter was ‘acting funny’ and the mother thought something was eating at her.

5 - Wellness for beginners

Cleo managed to get home well before Robert had to get up. She had a feeling that her body was bruised after the passionate night she had spent with Gary. She was glowing and happy. She didn’t much care if Robert found out. She would marry him on condition he did not ask questions. At that moment it seemed the best solution.

4 - Magda Kelly

Dorothy phoned Cleo to tell her that she thought Gary was infatuated with her and Cleo should think carefully before getting up to any hanky-panky with him.
“You sound like my mother, Dorothy. That’s what she calls sex.”

3 - Cop at large

Cleo rang Gary and reported on their expedition as soon as they reached Dorothy’s cottage. No, they hadn't told the Kellys that Burton was dead. Was the forensic team going to the farm? Kelly tended to greet people with a loaded shot-gun. Magda Kelly was a termagant sporting silicone breasts, makeup to the ears and high heels.

2 - Burton's barn

Cleo was well aware that she needed Dorothy’s cool-headedness as much as Dorothy needed the excitement of sleuthing. There was no way she could tell Dorothy about that afternoon with Gary, not least because Dorothy approved heartily of her relationship with Robert, but it had cheered Cleo to receive Delilah’s blessing, so her evening with Robert had not been unbearable, even if she could still sense Gary’s irresistible passion and her own willing submission.

1 - A kind of Prologue

Upper Grumpsfield was shocked and shattered by recent events. The bell tower had all but collapsed during a concert directed by a former cruise entertainer, and that lady had subsequently been murdered, though not because of the caterwauling of her chorus, but for other reasons or none at all, depending on which view you took of the tragedy. Even Dorothy, who had been Laura’s friend in London, had not known all the secrets of the one-time cruise entertainer. Their friendship had waned in the light of events, but Dorothy missed Laura despite being almost constantly annoyed with her. But her regret at losing this difficult acquaintance had been eclipsed by the excitement of following and sometimes even sharing in the pursuit of the assassins.