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Peter Robinson's
A Novel of Suspense
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Chapter One
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When the sun rose high enough to clear the slate roofs on the other side of the street, it crept through a chink in Sally Lumb's curtains and fit on a strand of gold-blonde hair that curled over her cheek. She was dreaming. Minotaurs, bank clerks, gazelles and trolls cavorted through the barns, maisonettes and gothic palaces of her sleep. But when she awoke a few hours later, all she was left with was the disturbing image of a cat picking. its way along a high wall topped with broken glass. Dreams. Most of them she ignored. They had nothing to do with the other kind of dreams, the most important ones that she didn't have to fall asleep to find. In these dreams, she passed her exams and was accepted into the Marion Boyars Academy of Theatre Arts. There she studied acting, modelling and cosmetic technique, for Sally was realistic enough to know that if she lacked the dramatic talent of a Jessica Lange or a Kathleen Turner, she could at least belong to the fringes of the world of glamour.
When Sally finally stirred, the bar of sunlight had shifted to the floor beside her bed, striping the untidy pile of clothes he had dropped there the night before. She could hear plates and cutlery clatter in the kitchen downstairs, and the rich smell of roast beef wafted up to her room. She got up. It was good policy, she thought, to get downstairs as soon as possible and help with the vegetables before her mother's call-"It's on the table!"-.came grating up to her. At least by showing a willingness to help, she could probably avoid too probing an investigation into her lateness last night.
Sally stared at herself in the full-length mirror of her old oak wardrobe. Even if there was still a little puppy far around her hips and thighs, it would soon go away. On the whole, she decided, she had a good body. Her breasts were perfect. Most people, of course, complimented her on her long silky hair, but they hadn't seen her breasts. Kevin had. Just last night he had caressed them and told her they were perfect. Last night they had gone almost all the way, and Sally knew that the next time, soon, they would. She looked forward to it with a mixture of fear and desire that, according to what she had read in magazines and books, would soon fuse into ecstasy in the heat of passion and longing.
Sally touched her nipple with the tip of her forefinger and felt a tingle in her loins. The nipple hardened and she moved away from the mirror to get dressed, her face burning.
Kevin was good. He knew how to excite her, ever since summer began he had played carefully with the boundaries of her desire. He had pushed them back a little further each time, and soon the whole country would be his. He was young, like Sally, but still he seemed to know instinctively how to please her, just as she imagined an experienced older man would know. She even thought she loved Kevin a bit. But if someone else came along-somebody more mature, more wealthy, more sophisticated, someone who was at home in the exciting, fast-paced cities of the world-well, after all, Kevin was only a farm boy at heart.
Dressed in designer jeans and a plain white T-shirt, Sally drew back the curtains. When her eyes had adjusted to the glare, she looked out on a perfect, Swainsdale morning. A few fluffy little clouds-one like a teddy bear, another like a crab-scudded across the piercing blue sky on a fight breeze. She looked north up the broad slope of the valley side, its rich greens interrupted hem and there by dark patches of heather and outcrops of limestone, to the long sheer wall of Crow Scar, and noticed something very odd. At first she couldn't make it out at all. Then she squinted, refocused and saw, spread out along the slope just above the .old road, five or six blue dots that seemed to be moving in some kind of pattern. She put a finger to her lips, thought for a moment, and frowned.
Fifteen miles away in Eastvale the dale's largest somebody else was anticipating a Sunday dinner of succulent lent roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks lay flat on his stomach in Brian's room watching an electric train whizz around bends, over bridges, through signals and under papier-mache mountains. Brian himself was out riding his bike in the local park, but Banks had long since given up the pretence that he only played with the trains for his son's sake and finally admitted that he found the pastime even more relaxing than a hot bath.
He heard the phone ring out in the hall, and a few seconds later his daughter, Tracy, shouted through, "It's for you, Dad!"
As Banks rushed downstairs, the aroma from the kitchen made his mouth water. He thanked Tracy and picked up the receiver. It was Sergeant Rowe, desk-officer at Eastvaele Regional Headquarters.
"Sorry to bother you, sir," Rowe began, "but we've just had a call from Constable Weaver over in Helmthorpe. Seems a local farmer's found a body in one of his fields this morning."
"Go on," Banks urged, snapping into professional gear.
"Chap said he was looking for a stray sheep, sir, when he found this body buried by a wall. Weaver says he shifted one or two stones and it's a dead 'un all right. Looks like someone bashed 'is 'ead in."
Banks felt the tightening in his stomach that always accompanied news of murder. He had transferred from London a year ago, sickened by the spiralling of senseless violence there, only to find in the Gallows View case that things could be just as bad, if not worse, up north. The business had left both him and Sandra emotionally exhausted, but since then things had settled down. There's been nothing but a few burglaries and one case of fraud to occupy his attention, and he had really begun to believe that murders, Peeping Toms and vicious teenagers were the exception rather than the rule in Eastvale.
"Tell Constable Weaver to get back up there with as many local men as he can muster and rope off the area. I want them to start a systematic search, but I don't want anyone else closer to the body than ten yards. Got that?" The last thing he needed was half a dozen flatfoots trampling down the few square feet where clues were most likely to be found.
"Tell them to put everything they find into marked envelopes," he went on. "They should know the procedure, but it won't do any harm to remind them. And I mean everything. Used rubbers, the lot. Get in touch with Detective Sergeant Hatchley and Dr Glendenning. Tell them to get out there immediately. I'll want the photographer and the forensic team too. Okay?"
"Yes, sir," Sergeant Rowe replied. He knew that Jim Hatchley would be enjoying his usual Sunday lunch-time pint in The Oak and that it would give Banks a great deal of satisfaction to interrupt his pleasure.
"I suppose the super's been informed?"
"Yes, sir. It was him as said to tell you."
"It would be," Banks complained. "I don't suppose he wanted to miss his Sunday dinner." But he spoke with humour and affection. Superintendent Gristhorpe, of all his new colleagues, was the one who had given him the most support and encouragement during the difficult transition from city to country. I
Banks hung up and slipped on his worn brown jacket with the elbow-patches. He was a small, dark man, in appearance rather like the old Celtic strain of Welshmen, and his physique certainly didn't give away his profession.
Sandra, Bank's wife, emerged from the kitchen as he was preparing to leave. "What is it? she asked.
"Looks like a murder."
She wiped her hands on her blue checked pinafore. *So you won't be in for dinner?"
"Sorry, love. Doesn't look like it."
"And I don't suppose there's any point in keeping it warm?"
"Shouldn't think so. I'll grab a sandwich somewhere." He kissed her quickly on the lips. "Don't worry, I'll give you a call as soon as I know what's happening." . I
Banks drove his white Cortina west along the valley bottom by the riverside. He was entitled to a police car and driver, but he actually enjoyed driving and preferred his own company when travelling to and from a case. A generous mileage allowance more than compensated him for the cost.
With one eye on the road and one hand on the wheel, he flipped through an untidy pile of cassette tapes on the passenger seat, selected one and slipped it into the deck.
Though he swore that his passion for opera had not waned over the winter, he had to admit that he had been side-tracked into the world of English vocal and choral music. It was a change Sandra heartily approved of; she had never liked opera much in the first place, and Wagner had been the last straw for her. After she had finally gone so far as to attack one of his tapes with a magnet-the one with "Siegfried's Funeral Marcir on it, Banks remembered sadly -he had got the message. With Ian Partridge singing Dowland's "I Saw My Lady Weepe," he drove on.
Like the larger and more famous Yorkshire Dales, Swainsdale runs more or less from west to east, with a slight fist towards the south, until the humble river loses itself in the Ouse. At its source near Swainshead, high in the Pennine fells, the River Swain is nothing more than a trickle of sparkling dear water, but in carving its way down towards the North Sea it has formed, with the help of glaciers and geological faults, a long and beautiful dale which broadens out as it approaches the Vale of York. The main town, Eastvale, dominated by its Norman castle, sits at the extreme eastern edge of the dale and looks out over the rich, fertile plain. On a clear day, the Hambleton Hills and the North York Moors are visible in the distance.
He saw Lyndgarth on the valley side to the north, near the dark ruins of Devraulx Abbey, and passed through peaceful Fortford, where the remains of a Roman fort were still under excavation on a hillock opposite the village green. Ahead, he could see the bright limestone curve of Crow Scar high up on his right, and, as he drew closer, he noticed the local police searching a field marked off by irregular drysstone walls. The limestone shone bright in the sun, and the walls stood out against the grass like pearl necklaces on an emerald velvet cushion.
To get to the scene, Banks had to drive through Helmthorpe, the dales central market village, turn right at the bridge onto Hill Road, and then turn right again onto a narrow road that meandered north-eastwards about halfway up the valley side. It was a miracle that the track had ever been tarmacked-probably a gesture towards increasing tourism, Banks guessed. No good for tire-tracks, though, he thought gloomily.
Being more used to getting around in the city than in the countryside, he scraped his knee climbing the low wall and stumbled over the lumpy sods of grass in the field. Finally, out of breath, he got to where a uniformed man, presumably Constable Weaver, stood talking to a gnarled old farmer about fifty yards up the slope.
By the side of the north-south wall, loosely covered with earth and stones, lay the body. Enough of its covering had been removed to make it recognizable as a man. The head lay to one side, and, kneeling beside it, Banks could see that the hair at the back was matted with blood. A jolt of nausea shot through his stomach, but he quickly controlled it as he began to make mental notes about the scene. Standing up, he was struck by the contrast between the beautiful, serene day and the corpse at his feet.
"Anything been disturbed?" he asked Weaver, stepping carefully back over the rope.
"Not much, sir," the young constable replied. His face was white and the sour smell on his breath indicated that he had probably been sick over the wall. Natural enough, Banks thought. Probably the lad's first corpse.
"Mr Tavistock here,"-he gestured towards the whiskered farmer--"says he just moved those stones around the head to see what his dog was scratting at."
Banks looked at Tavistock, whose grim *expression betrayed a man used to death. Ex-army, most likely, and old enough to have seen action in two world wars.
"I were lookin'fer one o'my sheep," Tavistock began in a slow, thick Yorkshire accent, "and I saw that there damage to t'wall I thought there'd bin a elapse." He paused and rubbed his grizzly chin. "There shouldn't'a bin no c'lapse in a Bessthwaite wall. Bin there sin! eighteen thirty, that 'as. Anyroad, old Ben started scratting. At first I thought nowt on it, then..." He shrugged as if there was nothing more to be said.
"What did you do when you realized what it was?" Banks asked.
Tavistock scratched his turkey neck and spat on the grass." Just 'ad a look, that's all. I thought it might'a bin a sheep somebody'd killed. That 'appens sometimes. Then. I ran 'ome,"-he pointed to a farmhouse about half a mile away ---"and I called young Weaver 'ere."
Banks was dubious about the "ran," but he was glad that Tavistock had acted quickly. He turned away and gave instructions to the photographer and the forensic team, then took off his jacket and leaned against the warm stone wall while the boffins did their work.

Sally slammed down her knife and fork and yelled at her father: "Just because I go for a walk with a boy it doesn't mean I'm a tramp or a trollop or any of those things!"
"Sally!" Mrs Lumb butted in. "Stop shouting at your father. That wasn't what he meant and you know it."
Sally continued to glare. "Well that's what it sounded like to me."
"He was only trying to warn you," her mother went on. "You have to be careful. Boys try to take advantage of you sometimes. Especially a good-looking girl like you." She said it with a mixture of pride and fear.
"You don't have to treat me like I'm a baby, you know," Sally said. "I'm sixteen now." She gave her mother a pitying glance, cast another baleful look at her father, and went back to her roast beef
"Aye," said Mr Lumb, "and you'll do as you're told till you're eighteen. That's the law."
To Sally, the man sitting opposite her was at the root of all her problems, and, of course, Charles Lumb fitted easily into the role his daughter had assigned him: that of an oldfashioned, narrow-minded yokel, whose chief argument against anything new and interesting was, "What. was good enough. for my father and his father before him is good enough for you, too, young lady." There was a strong conservative streak in him, only to be expected of someone whose family had lived in the area for more generations than could be remembered. A traditionalist, Charles Lumb often said that the dale as he had loved it was dying. He knew that the only chance for the young was to get away, and that saddened him. Quite soon, he was certain, even the inhabitants of the Dales villages would belong to the National Trust, English Heritage or the Open Spaces Society. Like creatures in a zoo, they would be paid to act out their quaint old ways in a kind of living museum. The grandson of a cabinet-maker, Lumb, who worked at the local dairy factory, found it hard to see things otherwise. The old crafts were dying out because they were uneconomical, and only tourists kept one cooper, one blacksmith and one wheelwright in business.
But because Lumb was a Yorkshireman through and through, he tended to bait and tease in a manner that could easily be taken too seriously by an ambitious young girl like Sally. He delivered the most outrageous statements and opinions about her interests and dreams in such a deliberately deadpan voice that anyone could be excused for not catching the gentle, mocking humour behind them. If he had been less sarcastic and his daughter less self-centred, they might both have realized that they loved each other very much.
The thing was, though, Charles Lumb would have liked to see more evidence of common sense in his daughter. She was certainly a bright girl, and it would be easy for her to get into university and become a doctor or a lawyer. A damn sight easier, he reflected, than it was in his day. But no, it had to be this bloody academy, and for all he tried, he could see no value in learning how to paint faces and show off swimsuits. If he had thought she had it in her to become a great actress, then he might' have been more supportive. But he didn't. Maybe time would prove him wrong. He hoped so. At least seeing her on the telly would be something. Sally, after a few minut& sulking, decided to change the topic of conversation. "Have you,seen those men on the hdlr she asked. "I wonder what they're doingr
"Looking for something, I shouldn't wonder , " her father replied drily, still not recovered from the argument.
Sally ignored him. "They look like policemen to me. You can see the buttons on their uniforms shining. I'm going up there to have a look after dinner. There's already quite a crowd along the road."
"Well, make sure you're back before midnight," her mother said. It cleared the air a bit, and they enjoyed the rest of their meal in peace.
Sally walked up the hill road and turned right past the cottages. As she hurried on she danced and grabbed fistfuls of dry grass, which she flung up high in the air.
Several cars blocked the road by the field, and what had looked, from a distance, like a large crowd turned out to be nothing more than a dozen or so curious tourists with their cameras, rucksacks and hiking-boots. It was open country, almost moorland, Sally knew, despite the dry-stone walls that criss-crossed the landscape and gave it some semblance of order. They were old and only the farmers remembered who built them.
There was more activity in the field than she could recollect ever seeing in such an isolated place. Uniformed men crawled on all fours in the wild grass, and the area by the wall had been cordonned off with stakes and rope. Inside the charmed circle stood a man with a camera, another with a black bag and, seemingly presiding over the whole affair, a small wiry man with a brown jacket slung over his shoulder. Sally's eyesight was so keen that she could even see the small patches of sweat under his arms.
She asked the middle-aged walker standing next to her what was going on, and the man told her he thought there'd been a murder. Of course. It had to be. Shed seen similar things on the telly. Banks glanced back towards the road. Hed noticed a flashing movement, but it was only a girls blonde hair catching the sun. Dr Glendenning, the tall, white-haired pathologist, had finished shaking limbs and inserting his thermometer in orifices; now he stood, cigarette dangling from the comer of his mouth, muttering about what a warm night it had been, as he made calculations in his little red notebook.
It was just as well, Banks thought as he looked over at the spectators, that two of the forensic team had first examined the roadside. They had found nothing-no skid marks or tire-tracks on the tarmac, no clear footprints on the grassy verge-but it looked as if someone or something had been dragged up the field from the road.
Glendenning confirmed that the victim had been killed elsewhere and merely dumped in an isolated spot. That would cause problems. If they had no idea where the man had been killed, they wouldn't know where to start looking for the killer.
The doctor rambled on, adjusting his column of figures, and Banks sniffed the air, feeling again that it was too fine a day and too beautiful a spot for such unpleasant business. Even the young photographer, Peter Darby, as he snapped the body from every conceivable angle, said that normally on such a day he would be out photographing Rawley Force at a slow shutter speed, or zooming in on petals with his macro lens, praying that a bee or a butterfly would remain still for as long as it took to focus and shoot. He had photographed corpses before, Banks knew, so he was used to the unpleasantness. All the same, it was worlds away from butterflies and waterfalls.
Glendenning looked up from his notebook and screwed up his eyes in the sunlight. A half-inch of ash floated to the ground, and Banks found himself wondering whether the doctor performed surgery with a cigarette in his mouth, letting ash fall around the incision. Smoking was strictly prohibited at the scene of a crime, of course, but nobody 'I ever dared to mention this to Glendenning.
"It was a warm night he explained to Banks, with a Scottish tilt to his nicotine-ravaged voice. "I can't give an accurate estimate of time of death. Most likely, though, it was after dark last night and before sunrise this morning."
Bloody wonderful! Banks thought. We don't know where he was killed but we know it was sometime during the night.
"Sorry," Glendenning added, catching Banks's expression.
"Not your fault. Anything else?"
"Blow to the back of the head, if I may translate the cumbersome medical jargon into layman's terms. Pretty powerful, too. Skull cracked like an egg."
"Any idea what weapon was used?"
"Proverbial blunt instrument. Sharp--edged, like a wrench or a hammer. I can't be more specific at this point, but I'd rule out a brick or a rock. It's too neat and I can't find any trace of particles. Full report after the autopsy, of course."
"Is that all?"
"Yes. You can have him taken to the mortuary now if you've finished with the pictures."
Banks nodded. He asked a uniformed constable to send for an ambulance, and Glendenning packed his bag.
"Weaver! Sergeant HAtchley! Come over here a minute," Banks called, and watched the two men walk over. "Any idea who the dead man was?" he asked Weaver.
"Yes, sir," the pale constable answered. "His names Harry Steadman. Lives in the village."
"Yes, sir."
"Then we'd better get in touch with his wife. Sergeant, would you go over to Mr Tavistock's house and take an official statement?"
Hatchley nodded slowly.
"Is there a decent pub in Helinthorper Banks asked Weaver.
"I usually drink at The Bridge, sir."
"Not bad."
"Right." Banks turned to Hatchley. "Well go and see Mrs Steadman while you attend to Tavistock. Let's meet up in The Bridge for a bite to eat when we've done. All right?"
Hatchley agreed and lumbered off with Tavistock.
There was no chance of a roast beef dinner at home now. In fact, there would be few meals at home until the crime was solved. Banks knew from experience that once a murder investigation begins there is no stopping and little slowing down, even for family life. The crime invades mealtimes, ablutions and sleep; it dominates conversation and puts up an invisible barrier between the investigator and his family.
He looked down at the village spread out crookedly by a bend in the river, its grey slate roofs gleaming in the sun. The clock on the square church tower said twelve-thirty. Sighing, he nodded to Weaver, and the two of them set off towards the car.
They passed through the small crowd, ignoring the local reporter's tentative questions, and got into the Cortina. Banks cleared the cassettes from the passenger seat so that Weaver could sit beside him.
"Tell me what you know about Steadman," Banks said as he reversed into a gateway and turned around.
"Lived here about eighteen months," Weaver began. "Used to come regular for holidays and sort of fell in love with the place. He inherited a fortune from his father and set himself up here. Used to be a university professor in Leeds. Educated chap, but not stuck up. Early forties, bit over six-foot. tall, sandy hair. Still quite young looking. They live in Gratly." "I thought you said they lived in the village."
"Same thing, really, sir," Weaver explained. "You see, Gratly's just a little hamlet, a few old houses off the road. Doesn't even have a pub. But now the newer houses have spread up the hill, the two am as near as makes no difference. The locals like to keep the name, though. Sense of independence, I suppose."
Banks drove down the hill towards the bridge, Weaver pointed ahead over the river and up the opposite valley side: "That's Gratly, sir."
Banks saw the row of new houses, some still under construction; then there was a space of about a hundred yards before the crossroads lined with older cottages.
"I see what you mean," Banks said. At least the builders were doing a tasteful job, following the design of the originals and using the same local stone.
Weaver went on making conversation that was no doubt intended to help him forget the sight of his first corpse. "Just about all the new houses in Helmthorpe are at this side of the village. Youll get nothing new on the east side. Some bright sparks say it's because it was settled from the east. Vikings, Saxons, Romans and whatnot. Course, you won't find many traces of them now, but the place still seems to spread westwards." He thought about what he'd said for a moment and added with a smile, "Spreads slowly, that is, sir."
Much as Banks was interested in snippets of local history, he lost track of Weaver's words as he drove over the low stone bridge and crossed Helmthorpe High Street. He cursed to himself. It was early Sunday afternoon and, from what he could see around him, that meant car-washing time in the village. Men stood in driveways in front of garages with their sleeves rolled up and buckets of soapy water by their sides. Shiny car roofs gleamed and water.dripped from doors and bumpers. Polished chrome shone. If Harry Steadman had been dumped from a local car, all traces of that frisly journey would have been obliterated by now in the most natural way: soaped and waxed over, vacuumed and swept out.
Steadman's house, last in a short block running left from the road, was larger than Banks had imagined. It was solidly built and looked weather-beaten enough to pass for a historic site. That meant it would sell for a historic price, too, he noted. A double-garage had been built on the eastern side, and the large garden, bordered by a low wall, consisted of a well-kept lawn with a colourful flowerbed at its centre and rose bushes against the house-front and the neighbour's fence. Leaving Weaver in the car, Banks walked down the crazy-paving and rang; the doorbell.
The woman who answered, holding a cup of tea in her hand, looked puzzled to find a stranger standing before her. She was plain looking, with stringy, lifeless brown hair, and wore a pair of overlarge, unbecoming spectacles. She was dressed in a shapeless beige cardigan and baggy chocked slacks. Banks thought she might be the cleaning lady, so he phrased his greeting as a question: "Mrs Steadman?"
"Yes," the woman answered hesitantly, peering at him through her glasses. He introduced himself and felt the familiar tightening in his stomach as he was ushered into the living-room. It was always like that. No amount of experience purged that gut-wrenching feeling of sympathy that accompanied the soothing, useless words, the empty gestures. For Banks there was always a shadow: it could be my wife, it could be someone telling me about my daughter. It was the same as that first glimpse of the murder victim. Death and its long aftermath had never become a matter of routine for him but remained always an abomination, a reminder one hardly needed of man's cruelty to his fellow man, his fallen nature.
Although the room was messy-a low table littered with magazines, knitting spread out on a chair, records out of their sleeves by the music centre-it was clean, and sunlight poured in over the red and yellow roses through spotless, mullioned windows. Above the large stone fireplace hung a romantic painting of what Swainsdale must have looked like over a hundred years ago. It hadn't changed all that, much, but somehow the colours seemed brighter and bolder in the picture, the contours more definite.
"What is it?" Mrs Steadman asked, pulling a chair forward for Banks. "Has there been an accident? Is something wrong?"
As he broke the news, Banks watched Mrs Steadman's expression change from disbelief to shock. Finally, she began to weep quietly. There was no sobbing; the tears simply ran down her pale cheeks and dripped onto the wrinkled cardigan as she stared blankly ahead. They could have been caused by an onion, Banks found himself thinking, disturbed by her absolute silence.
"Mrs Steadman?" he said gently, touching her sleeve. "I'm afraid there are a few questions I have to ask you right away."
She looked at him, nodded and dried her eyes with a screwed-up Kleenex: "Of course."
"Why didn't you report your husband missing, Mrs Steadman?"
"Missing?" She frowned at him. "Why should I?"
Banks was taken aback, but he pressed on gently. "I'm, afraid you'll have to tell me that. He can't have come home last night. Weren't you worried? Didn't you wonder where he was?"
"Oh, I see what you mean," she said, dabbing at her damp, reddened cheeks with the crumpled tissue. "You weren't to know, were you? You see, I wasn't expecting him home last night. He went out just after seven o'clock. He said he was calling for a pint at The Bridge-he often', went there-and then driving on to York. He had work to do there and he wanted to make an early start."
"Did he often do that?"
"Yes, quite often. Sometimes I went with him, but I was feeling a bit under the weather last night-summer cold, I think-and besides, I know they get much more done without me. Anyway; I watched television with Mrs Stanton next door and let him go. Harry stayed with his publisher. Well, more of a family friend really. Michael Ramsden."
"What kind of work did they do on a Sunday?"
"Oh, it wasn't what you or I would understand by work. They were writing a book. Harry mostly, but Michael was interested and helped him. A local-history book. That was
Harry's field. They'd go off exploring ruins-Roman forts, old lead mines, anything."
"I see. And it was normal for him to go over the night before and stay with Mr Ramsden?"
"Yes. As I've said, they were more like friends than anything else. We've known the family for a long time. Harry was terrible at getting up in the morning, so if they wanted a full day, he'd go over the night before and Michael would be sum to get him up on time. They'd spend the evening going over notes and making plans. I'd no reason to report him missing. I thought he was in York." Her voice faltered and she started to cry again.
Banks waited and let her dry her eyes before asking his next question. "Wouldn't Mr Ramsden be worried if he didn't arrive? Didn't he call you to find out what had happened?"
."No." She paused, blew her nose and went on. "I told you it wasnt that kind of work. More like a hobby, really. Anyway, Michael doesn't have a telephone. He'd just assume that something had come up and Harry couldn't make it."
"Just one more thing, Mrs Steadman, then I won't bother you any further today. Could you tell me where your husband might have left his car?"
"In the big car park by the river," she replied. "The Bridge hasn't got a car park of its own so the customers use that one. You can't really leave cars in the street here; there's not enough room."
"Do you have a spare key?"
"I think he kept one around. I don't use it, myself. I have an old Fiesta. Just a moment." Mrs Steadman disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few moments later with the key. She also gave Banks the number of Steadman's beige Sierra.
"Could you tell me where Mr Ramsden lives, too? I'd like to let him know what's happened as soon as possible."
Mrs Steadman seemed a bit surprised, but she gave the information without question. "It's not so hard to find," she added. "There are no other houses within half a mile yet. Do you need me to ... er..."
"To identify the body?"
Mrs Steadman nodded.
"Yes, I'm afraid we do. Tomorrow will do, though. Is there anyone you can get to stay with you for a while?"
She stared at him, her features ugly and swollen with crying; her eyes looked fishy behind the harsh magnification of the glasses. 'Mrs Stanton, next door ... if you would."
"Of course."
Banks went next door. Mrs Stanton, a long-nosed, alertlooking little woman, immediately grasped the situation. Banks sympathized with her shock. "I know," he said. "It must seem so abrupt. To think that you saw him only last night."
She nodded. "Aye. And to think what was happening while me and Emma. were watching that silly old film. Still," she ended stoically, "who are we to question the ways of the Good Lord?" She told her husband, who sat slouched in an armchair reading his News of the World, to keep an eye on the roast, then went over to comfort her neighbour. Sure that he was leaving the widow in capable hands, Banks returned to his car and got in next to Weaver, who had regained his pinkish colour.
"I'm sorry, sir," he mumbled. "About being sick. I've--"
"Never seen a corpse before? I know. Never mind, Constable, there's a first time for everyone, mores the pity. Shall we go to The Bridge for a bite to eat?" Weaver nodded. "I'm starving, myself," Banks went on, starting the car, "and you look like you could do with a drop of brandy."
As he drove the short distance down to The Bridge on Helmthorpe High Street, Banks thought about his interview with Mrs Steadman. It had made him feel edgy and uneasy. At times, after the initial shock, her reaction had seemed more like relief than grief. Perhaps the marriage had been shaky, Banks found himself thinking, and Mrs Steadman had suddenly found herself both wealthy and free. Surely that would explain it?

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Twilight Lane, from Avon Books, at The Online Mystery Network,
is produced and published by Newfront Productions, Inc.

Copyright © 1998, 2009 by Avon Books and Newfront Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.