|Primary Characters:||DCI Barnaby, Daniel Scott, Joyce Barnaby and everyone else|
|Warning:||adult themes, murder|
|Description:||Daniel Scott and Cully are getting married. One evening, a man is found murdered in teh church and Joyce Barnaby is found lying beside him, a heavy candlestick in her hand. There’s evidence Joyce has had a relationship with him.|
Daniel noticed that he’d missed a call from London. He was hoping it wasn’t anything to do with his stepmother. Since she’d been sentenced and sent to gaol, she hadn’t tried to contact him. Even if she did, he wouldn’t let himself be dragged into her games again. He also hoped that it wouldn’t be anything to do with his brother, Will. The last time he’d seen his half-brother, Will had seemed to settle in well at the home.
Daniel rang the number and waited.
“Gemma Tanner speaking.”
“Daniel Scott here. There was a call from you.”
“Yes. Your brother, Will, is a bit upset. I was wondering if you could come up and visit him. He’s so fond of you, I think it will cheer him up.”
A guarded note had crept into Gemma’s voice, when she spoke again.
“Yes. There was an unfortunate incident here last night. Will’s friend Jake has been hospitalized. I don’t want to discuss the matter on the phone.”
“Is Will alright?”
“He’s upset. I’ll tell you more about it when you get here.”
“Right. I’ll be there first thing in the morning. How is Jake?”
“He’ll – recover.”
“I see. Thanks. See you tomorrow. Can I speak to Will?”
“He’s asleep. The doctor gave him a sedative.”
That didn’t sound very reassuring, but Daniel didn’t know what he could do this late in the evening, so he just terminated the call and went to have supper with Cully.
In the morning, he left for London on the first morning train. Joyce Barnaby had driven him and Cully had come along to see him off.
“Why don’t you bring him back here? He’s welcome to stay with us. I’m sure Tom won’t mind.”
“He can stay with us too, if you like, Daniel.”
“I’ll find out if it’s alright for me to take him and I’ll ask him.”
“Good. Give my best to him, poor boy.”
“Yes, tell him I said hello.”
“I will. I’d better get on the train now. It’s getting late.”
Cully kissed his cheek and gave him a hug. She and Joyce stood and waved at him as the train pulled out of the station.
Daniel went straight to the home and found that Will hadn’t gone to school. Gemma met her and led him into her office.
She gestured towards a rather basic chair which stood facing her desk. Daniel imagined she would bring the children in here and give him or her a talk if they’d misbehaved. It brought back unpleasant memories, but he managed to suppress them. He wasn’t here for his own sake, he reminded himself.
“Last night, Jake Clifton tried to hang himself. He’d gone into one of the staff bedrooms that isn’t used all the time. It was supposed to be empty. Will went looking for him and found him. I must say Will acted very bravely and sensibly. He held on to Jake’s legs while calling for help. Rob and Lucy who were here last night came running and thanks to Will Jake will make a full recovery.”
That was worse than Daniel had imagined. If anything, he would have guessed there had been some friction between Will and one of the other children. This sort of place usually took in children with problems. It was just luck that Daniel himself hadn’t ended up in a place just like it, or one much worse.
“That’s terrible. How is Will holding up?”
“Naturally, he’s upset. He asked for you.”
“Right. I was wondering if it would be alright for me to bring him back with me to Midsomer. My fiancee and her mother would love to see him again and so would I naturally. A change of scenery might be good for him. It might help cheer him up.”
“Of course. I’m glad you brought that up. Actually, I did have something like that in mind. In fact, if you would like to provide a permanent home for him, I’m sure that can be arranged. We do try to place them in proper foster homes when we can.”
“Oh. Yes. If Will would like that, that would be fine.”
“Excellent. Why don’t you talk to Will and we’ll handle the arrangements later.”
Daniel made his way back to Will’s room. He found his brother lying on the bed, listlessly browsing a comic book. When Daniel walked in, Will looked up, a look of sudden hope crept across his face.
“Daniel. I knew you’d come.”
“Of course I would. How are you doing?”
He sat down on the side of Will’s bed. The boy fixed his eyes on him, an eager look on his face.
“Did they tell you?”
“Yes. I’m very sorry. You were very brave.”
Will shrugged indifferently. That didn’t seem to interest him very much. Something else seemed to be on his mind.
“He wanted to die. I don’t understand. Why would he do that? I thought he liked it here. I thought he liked me.”
“I’m sure he did. It’s hard to say why, but -”
“Do you think it’s because of what his dad did?”
Daniel hesitated. Once again, this conversation came up between them and he really didn’t want to get into any of it again. On the other hand, he couldn’t very well put Will off. He might as well try to answer his questions.
“It’s possible. Did Jake leave a note or did he say something that might explain why he did it?”
“No. Nothing. I thought everything was fine. We were in the cricket team in school and we were going to see the Millennium Dome.”
“When – you – when mum and dad did those things to you, did you ever want to kill yourself?”
Daniel clenched his fists. This was exactly the sort of thing he didn’t want to discuss, or even think about. Every time he tried, he’d be transported back and the feelings of guilt and shame would bubble up inside him. He didn’t want Will to get images in his head of – but since he didn’t feel he could tell his brother to mind his own business, he forced himself to consider the question.
Had he ever contemplated suicide? He had, but not when he was a teenager. It had been right after the incident involving the trafficking. After he’d been – In a way, that had been more – tangible – though on the other hand less shameful and fraught with guilt. There had been no question of enjoying what happened. The brutality and physical trauma, if nothing else, had ensured that. But he wasn’t going to tell Will about that. It was quite enough that the boy knew about what had happened all those years ago.
“No. I – I suppose I tried to make everyone else pay.”
“What do you mean?”
“I broke windows, slashed tires and – generally made a nuisance of myself.”
“So if you ever heard dad or your mother mention me, they probably used words like vandal or hooligan.”
“They never said anything about you. I didn’t know you existed until you came to see us that time.”
“Right. Listen, if you want, you can come back to Midsomer with me. Cully and Joyce said they’d love to see you again. And naturally, I’d love to have you there too.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Of course. Gemma said it would be alright. Why don’t you wait here, while I go and check on the arrangements? I’ll be back soon and I’ll help you pack if you like.”
About an hour later, Daniel and Will set out for the station. Will had his backpack on and Daniel was carrying another bag. It looked as if Gemma didn’t anticipate seeing Will again. That suited Daniel fine. He didn’t think an institution, even one as pleasant as the one Gemma ran, was a good place for a child. Especially not after losing most of his family.
“Darling, do try to pay attention. Look. Which of these buffets would you say is the best value?”
Barnaby was trying to read his paper, but his wife’s voice kept intruding on his concentration. In about fifteen minutes or less, he would have to leave for work and he would have dearly loved to have been able to read his paper before then.
“Really, Tom. You’re hopeless. This is the aspect of Cully’s wedding that you should be most interested in. The catering. I’ve given up trying to ask you about the floral arrangements or the music. Did I even ask you about my dress? No, I didn’t, because I know you can’t bother to pay attention to colours and fashion. Do take at least a little bit of interest in Cully’s wedding. She’s your only daughter. When Gavin marries, which I hope will be soon, his wife’s family will handle the arrangements. This is our only chance to plan a fantastic wedding for one of our children.”
Barnaby lowered the paper slightly and watched his wife warily. As far as he could tell, Joyce was enjoying herself thoroughly, which meant she had very little time to cook. That was something for which Barnaby was immensely grateful. He couldn’t understand that his future son-in-law, Daniel Scott, found Joyce’s cooking delicious. Gavin, too, appeared to appreciate it.
He might as well give Joyce what she wanted. It was time to go anyway. He could afford to waste a few minutes considering the various options the caterer offered. It was a friend of Joyce’s who had decided to broaden her views, as she liked to put it. Barnaby was surprised Joyce herself didn’t try to start a business of her own. Not catering, for obvious reasons, but something else. He wasn’t exactly sure what it might be, but he was sure Joyce would enjoy the experience.
Barnaby himself wasn’t quite as sure he would, but Joyce with time on her hands, eager to try out new recipes on her innocent husband wasn’t a particularly appealing prospect either. Besides, she could use something to do during the days.
All the options seemed more or less the same to Barnaby. Pheasant. Venison. Even wild boar was offered as one of the more expensive options. Eel was another specialty, one that Barnaby could do without. He’d seen too many drowned bodies covered with slithering snake-like parasites attached, to view eel as a possible dish. There was also another fish option – salmon. Why not go with that? All that rich meat would give him indigestion and salmon or lobster might be a safe choice.
“What about that salmon? Or the lobster?”
“You get both with that option. Oh, you like that one. Good. So did I. I know Cully isn’t too keen on the meat anymore. It might be her weight she’s worried about or it’s something she picked up in London. Remember how almost all the other drama students were vegetarians? In any case, we’d better pick that one. That way everyone will be happy.”
“Did Cully invite any of those odd London friends of hers?”
“Yes, darling. Almost everyone on her guest list is from London. She said too many of her old friends from school turned out to be murderers, so she’s not taking any chances.”
“That’s true. I never thought about it that way. Oh, well. Does the caterer offer a vegetarian option?”
“Yes. Look at page five of their brochure. We’ll get the fish and the vegetarian option as an extra. Like I said, this way everyone’s happy.”
“Does that mean I can go to the station now?”
“Of course. Say hello to Ben Jones for me. Cully invited him too. I do wish Gavin had a date though. Don’t you know any nice young woman he could take?”
“Why should I get him dates? If he doesn’t know any women himself, surely it isn’t up to me to provide them for him?”
Joyce sighed in a way that Barnaby found exaggerated. Much better to leave her and Cully and Joyce’s mother. There was no getting away from having the in-laws over. The three women were hard at work until late in the evening, planning the wedding. That was alright in itself, but the drawback was that it left his old father-in-law alone in the evenings, and that placed Barnaby in a difficult situation. He was grateful for every case that took him away from home after hours.
At least three of his sergeants were coming and Cully had agreed to invite the Bullards. He’d have some decent people to talk to.
Barnaby was forced to agree to attend a rehearsal in church. After all, even if he wasn’t going to give the bride away – Cully had vetoed that – he had a part to play anyway. The rehearsal was set for the following Tuesday, around four in the afternoon. Barnaby had had to note it in his diary.
Before the actual rehearsal, Cully and Joyce and her mother were to handle some other aspect of the wedding. He had deliberately tried to avoid any details, so he wouldn’t be pressed into action himself. To his astonishment, Daniel quite happily helped out any time Cully asked him and so did her brother, Gavin. Extraordinary. Young men today weren’t like they used to. The fact never ceased to amaze Barnaby.
On the other hand, for once, he and his father-in-law, had found a matter on which they agreed. They were united by their hatred of anything like these arrangements.
On Sunday, two days before the rehearsal, Barnaby found himself going to a remote village to investigate a suspicious death. By the time Dr Granger – George Bullard was still convalescing in France – had determined that the victim had died as a result of a bizarre accident, it was close to nine in the evening.
Barnaby didn’t rush back to Causton, instead choosing to drop into a pub he’d found on another case, two or three years earlier, which had exceptionally good beer. He ordered a few sandwiches as well, hoping to avoid dinner at home. Dinner made by his wife Joyce was only slightly less repugnant than dinner made by his wife and eaten in the company of her parents.
It was close to eleven in the evening, when he returned to his house. He found it dark and silent. On closer inspection, he noted that his in-laws were fast asleep in the guest room. Cully, Daniel and Gavin must have left hours earlier.
What immediately struck Barnaby as odd was the fact that there was no meal, even a cold one, waiting for him in the kitchen. Furthermore, there wasn’t even a note from his wife describing where he could find his supper. Not that he wanted any. It was just odd. He went into the bathroom and began to undress, but found the silence rather puzzling, so he left again, and entered his bedroom.
Not wanting to wake Joyce, he didn’t turn on the main lights, but chose only to switch on a small lamp standing on the window sill. He turned, gazed towards the bed and froze. The bed was empty. It hadn’t been slept in. He knew Joyce always made the bed in the morning. If she didn’t, her mother would come in and do it for her. There was no telling when Joyce had left the house. Presumably, she’d gone to the church for another pre-rehearsal rehearsal, or whatever they called it.
Barnaby clutched his mobile phone, again regretting the fact that Joyce wasn’t keen on the things. Cully had one, but Joyce would never touch one if she could help it. There would be no point trying to reach her on the phone.
He hastily put his jacket back on, not bothering to put another tie on. For a moment, he considered waking his in-laws, but decided against it. If Joyce had left a note, it would have been for him, not a message left with her parents. Besides, there was no one else she could be visiting.
The walk to the church only took about ten minutes and in Barnaby’s current state of mind, it took rather less, but it felt as if it lasted for at least an hour. He put his hand in his pocket. Yes, the electric torch was there. He turned it on, then tried the door handle. Only ten years ago, most churches had been left unlocked, but in later years, attacks by arsonists or burglars, had made it imperative to keep the doors locked as well as connected to some sort of alarm.
Despite this, the door opened and there was no sound of any alarm going off. Barnaby reached inside and his hand groped blindly for a light switch. It wasn’t on the side of the door he would have expected, but on the other side. The light worked. The antechamber was flooded with light. He felt the handle on the interior doors. They opened as easily as the outer door.
Again, he felt for the light switch. There were in fact several and by turning a few at random, he at first managed to light up the part of the aisle closest to the doors. He turned a few more, and at last the entire church was bathed in light.
Automatically, his glances were drawn towards the altar. On the floor of the chancel, two bodies were lying. Barnaby’s legs moved as if of their own accord. One of those bodies had seemed far too familiar. He’d been right. His wife, Joyce, was lying face down, beside another body, that of a man. Clutched in her hand was a heavy candlestick, which looked as if it was made of brass, but could of course be of some other material. In any case, it looked heavy.
Despite his agitation, Barnaby couldn’t help noticing that the bottom of the candlestick looked as if it was smeared with something dark. The man, too, was lying face down, and around his head, there was a dark stain.
Barnaby put his hand on Joyce’s shoulder.
He shook her lightly. There was no reaction. A visual inspection didn’t show any apparent injuries on her head or neck, at least on what was visible of it.
Taking a deep breath, he placed his fingers against the side of her neck. He felt chilled, but after a long drawn out pause, he finally felt a pulse. At least vaguely reassured, he grabbed his mobile phone and rang Ben Jones.
“Listen carefully, Jones. I’m in the church, yes the church, here in Causton. Come here at once. Ring Dr Granger or whoever is on call tonight at the ME’s office. Yes, what looks like a crime at any rate. Thank you.”
He terminated the call, then rang for an ambulance. After a moment’s consideration, he also rang his son, Gavin, though he knew that Gavin would be expected at work the following morning. With some hesitation, he also rang Cully and Daniel Scott.
“Yes, your mother seems to be injured. At least she’s unconscious. On the floor of the chancel, yes. Could you tell Daniel to join me here? I’ve already rung Gavin. No, there’s no need for you to – Fine. No, don’t ring your grandparents. Let them sleep. Thank you.”
It was almost fifteen minutes before Ben Jones and the people from the ME’s office arrived. Ten minutes or so later, Gavin arrived. By then, Cully and Daniel Scott had come as well.
Cully looked grave and before anyone could stop her, she’d kneeled beside her mother and put her hand on her face.
“Come on, mum. Wake up.”
Barnaby gestured to Daniel Scott who gently pulled Cully away from her mother’s body. They all took a few steps back, to let the ME do his job. At that time, the ambulance had arrived and the ME had to step back, after calling out a warning to the paramedics.
Cully went with her mother in the ambulance. Barnaby and his current and former sergeants remained on the crime scene. Since Daniel Scott and Gavin Troy weren’t working in Midsomer anymore, they merely observed, as their successor and former boss searched the church for evidence. Nothing of any interest came to light.
As the ME’s people lifted the body to put it into the plastic bag waiting for it, Barnaby gave an exclamation.
“Good lord. I recognize him. It’s one of Joyce’s friends from the art society. Harold something. Harold Burne-Simmonds, I think. Excuse me, doctor. Did you find any identification on the body?”
“No. Nothing. Excuse me.”
“What can you tell me about the cause of death?”
The man made a face, then pointed at the candlestick, which was by now bagged and entered into the evidence log.
“That would be my guess, but if anything else comes to light during the post mortem, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you. What about time of death?”
“I’ll let you know later. Rigor mortis had set in so at least a few hours. It’s quite cool in here so I don’t think it’s been accelerated. If you have any more questions, please wait until I know more.”
Barnaby turned to his sergeant – his current sergeant.
“Jones – try to find out when the victim arrived here this evening or afternoon. Who last saw him, and when. You know the drill. Try to get hold of his next of kin and find out if he had any enemies. I’ll be at the hospital. Shall we?”
The last question was directed at his two former sergeants, his son Gavin and his daughter’s fiance, Daniel Scott.
At the hospital, they found that Joyce had regained consciousness. She seemed a bit blank, as if the trauma had left her a little confused. The doctor claimed that she hadn’t suffered any concussion and that the trauma was minor. Even so, Barnaby had the impression she was being unusually quiet.
“Darling – when did you go to the church?”
“What about Harold? Is he -”
“Darling, I’m afraid he’s dead. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I – had forgotten something in the church, so I returned later.”
“Excuse me. You returned? At what time did you leave the first time?”
“Oh, it must have been around five or so in the afternoon. Cully and mother and I had been -”
She went into their preparations in detail, but Barnaby did his best to shut those out. That wasn’t what he was interested in.
“Yes, but when did you return?”
“I’m not sure. Around eight or so, I think.”
“Was Burne-Simmonds there?”
Barnaby had an odd impression his wife was considering her answer carefully before replying. It occurred to him that she might be trying to deceive him about something. Of course, that didn’t make any sense. Why should she lie to him?
“He was lying there. Like you must have found him. Face down. One of the large candlesticks from the altar was lying beside him.”
“I see. Why would he be in the church?”
Again there was a long pause. This time, Barnaby didn’t think he could be mistaken. Joyce wasn’t being honest with him. The thought was absurd, yet there it was.
“I have no idea.”
“Right. Then what?”
“I don’t know. I – picked up the candlestick and looked at it. It was very foolish of me, I know, but – I wasn’t thinking. Suddenly, I felt a blow to the back of my head and I blacked out.”
“Did you hear or see anyone in the church?”
“Are you sure?”
“I thought I heard someone but I didn’t see them.”
“Before or after you found Burne-Simmonds?”
“I see. Get some rest now, darling. I’ll talk to you later.”
“I don’t understand. Who would want to hurt Harold? He was such a fine man.”
“Quite. I’ll try to find out. Ben Jones and I will.”
Cully was talking to her fiance at the other end of the room. Daniel Scott seemed to be arguing with her about something. Then he appeared to change his mind.
“Alright. I’m going. If you’re sure you don’t need me here.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll be fine. You have your work.”
“Yes, but -”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
Barnaby turned to his son.
“What about you, Gavin? Will you be staying here with your mother, or -”
Joyce looked up, a sleepy look in her eyes.
“No, darling. I won’t hear of it. Go home and get some sleep. You have your work too. Go on. Cully will stay with me and mum and dad will -”
“Alright. I’ll tell them you’re here.”
Barnaby, Gavin and Daniel left the room, leaving Cully sitting by the bed.
Barnaby closed the door to his office behind him, and sat down behind his desk, not really paying attention to his surroundings. What he’d just learned made his head spin. His wife, Joyce, having an affair? The thought seemed as far-fetched as – Barnaby failed to think of any suitable comparison – yet, according to DCI Hill, that was what the nosy lady living across the street from mr Burne-Simmonds had had to say.
When DCI Hill, had qustioned her, she had sounded as if she knew what she was talking about too. When questioned, she could not only list the visitors to the Burne-Simmonds household in the past year or so, she could back up her information with the times, dates and the registration numbers on their cars, if they had arrived by car. Some had been brought to the house by their host, presumably from the train station. Others had arrived by taxi. Yet others – mrs Beardsley had nodded meaningfully towards the house at the end of the street – had arrived on foot.
It was amazing how much the lady knew about her neigbhours. Of course, it was possible that the elderly lady was just a little gaga, but if so, she didn’t exhibit any of the symptoms during the interview. In any case, she seemed to know what she was talking about.
On her return to the police station, the painful duty of informing her colleague had come. DCI Hill hadn’t looked forward to that. She had stuttered and paused like a teenager, rather than the self-assured professional she now was.
Barnaby was inclined to believe she was right. His wife, Joyce, had been a regular visitor to mr Burne-Simmonds, in the past six months or so. On the other hand, mr Burne-Simmonds and Joyce were both ardent supporters of the Causton art society. It was possible that they were merely at work on some committee or other. Barnaby had long since learned to shut his ears to such information.
Still, somehow he didn’t think that was all there was to it. Suddenly, he was convinced that his wife, Joyce, who had seemed the most reliable and faithful of wives had been having an affair. Barnaby’s world view gave a lurch and suddenly, everything seemed askew.
There had been one occasion, only last year, when Joyce had had – not an affair – but – what Barnaby believed the younger generation referred to as a one-night stand – with their future son-in-law, of all people. Barnaby sincerely hoped Joyce hadn’t felt impelled to tell Cully about that.
In fact, Barnaby didn’t feel as if his own conscience was entirely clear as far as that incident was concerned. He’d neglected Joyce for a long time and – under the influence of alcohol and what could only be described as temporary insanity – he himself had fallen under Daniel’s spell. Only momentarily and – he reminded himself – he had stopped himself just in time, before –
That incident didn’t count, he reminded himself. Daniel had suffered from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, or whatever the psychological term was, and – Barnaby could hardly blame his wife, when he – a thoroughly heterosexual man – had found himself drawn to Daniel, just like her.
This, however, was different. There didn’t seem to be any mitigating circumstances. Joyce must have – with an effort, Barnaby controlled himself. He’d have to find out for sure, before he jumped to conclusions. Even now, there might be a perfectly natural explanation.
He forced himself to ignore the unwelcome thought that kept intruding, that if Joyce had been having an affair, it would make her one of the prime suspects in the murder. Because a murder it was. The ME’s report had confirmed that.
The sound of the phone ringing, called Barnaby’s attention back to the present. He was going to keep this new information to himself for the time being. What DCI Hill did with this information was her business, but as for Barnaby himself, he had been married to Joyce for over thirty-five years. There was such a thing as loyalty. She deserved some consideration. When he knew for certain, he would take it up with Joyce, but not until then.
Beside, the thought that Joyce had been involved with another man, made Barnaby look at her with new eyes. It made her seem more – desirable – all of a sudden. Even after all this time, she could still surprise him. Like that time when she’d quite seriously announced that she might like to make a living spanking men. That statement had forced Barnaby to take another good, long look at his wife, figuratively speaking. The thought was – appealing somehow.
But at the moment, he had a murder to investigate. This was no time to be dwelling on such – stimulating speculations.
Turning his attention to the ringing phone, he forced himself to snap out of his reverie. He was hoping there wouldn’t be more bad news.
Will was settling in quite nicely at Gavin Troy’s house, where Daniel Scott and Cully were now living. To begin with Will had spent almost every day with Joyce, but after the murder, Cully had had to take more of a responsibility.
To Daniel’s relief, Will got on very well with Cully and Joyce, and even with Barnaby. Gavin too, appeared to be fond of the boy, who seemed to return his feelings.
Daniel’s fears that Will would find it hard to get used to the change of pace, in the countryside, weren’t realized. The new school had been a pleasant surprise to Will. In fact, it looked as if he was glad to be away from London for the time being. Perhaps it reminded him too much of his parents or – his new friend Jake Clifton.
To Daniel’s surprise, Will turned out to have quite a good singing voice. He’d been asked to sing in the church choir. Even more surprisingly, the boy had accepted, looking quite pleased at the praise.
When he’d learned about Joyce’s ‘accident’ he’d been upset. The morning after, Daniel had taken Will to see Joyce at the hospital. But she’d been released later the same day, and didn’t seem much the worse for wear.
To no one’s surprise, Joyce threw herself right back into the preparations for the wedding, which had had to be postponed. They had been able to set a date three weeks later, but Barnaby wasn’t sure about that date. If the case dragged on, he for one, didn’t need the extra distractions.
Though he wasn’t allowed to investigate the case to which is wife was connected, he had another case, less puzzling, but all the more urgent. DCI Hill and DS Williams had declared that they had no need for Ben Jones, so Barnaby found himself working with his old or new sergeant, depending on how you chose to view the matter.
Only three days after Joyce had been released from the hospital, she had gathered her mother, her daughter, her husband and son in the kitchen. Daniel Scott and his brother Will were present as well.
Barnaby glanced discreetly at his wrist watch. Five more minutes, that was all he could give the wedding preparations. Even that felt more than enough. He had placed the morning paper on the table in front of him, and kept glancing at the page, while pretending to listen attentively to the noise pollution assaulting his ears.
Will was listening to some sort of deafening music in his earphones or earplugs or whatever those little things were called. Wise move, in Barnaby’s opinion. However, if the child kept listening to music that loud, he’d be deaf long before his fiftieth birthday. Though knowing how Cully had reacted to her father’s advice concerning her hearing, Barnaby wisely abstained from pointing that out to Will or Daniel Scott.
Joyce’s father had pretended to have an errand to run, and had taken his car and vanished as soon as he’d woken up in the morning. Again, Barnaby mentally applauded the old man. Funny. He’d never before realized what a sensible old man he was. Perhaps he’d misjudged him.
Joyce seemed to have said something to Cully and Barnaby looked up. He would have to go now, if he wasn’t going to arrive later than his sergeant. That wouldn’t look good.
“Darling, don’t you know any nice girls you can introduce Gavin to? You know, so he can get a date for the wedding.”
Cully made a face, then gazed inquiringly at her brother. He looked a little tense. Perhaps he would prefer not to bring a date. If that was what he wanted, Cully didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to go on his own.
“Mum – if Gavin doesn’t want to -”
“Nonsense, dear. Of course your brother has to bring a date. It’s a wonderful opportunity to -”
“Excuse me, Joyce – I do have a date.”
Suddenly, the entire kitchen fell silent and the three women – and Daniel Scott – stared intently at Gavin, whose face heated up. Even his earlobes looked red.
Joyce stared at her son in astonishment. That was the first she’d heard of any date. Where had Gavin managed to find this girl?
“I – asked Detective Chief Inspector Hill and she accepted.”
“Detective Chief Inspector who?”
Barnaby, too, stared dumbfoundedly at his son. That Susan Hill. The woman who had been promoted to DCI at a such an early age. Barnaby seemed to recall an uncompromising, strong-willed woman. He glanced uncertainly at Daniel Scott, wondering how his future son-in-law would take the news. To Barnaby’s surprise, Daniel seemed more amused than anything.
“Do you know her?”
Joyce turned to her husband.
“Eh – yes. We’ve met. Actually, I don’t know if you recall, but – DCI Hill is handling the case involving your – friend – Harold.”
“Oh. How odd. Are you sure you want to bring her to your sister’s wedding, Gavin?”
Gavin’s face became even redder and he glanced nervously over his shoulder, as if looking for a way out.
Cully came to his rescue.
“Mum. Leave Gavin alone. If he wants to take this Susan, I think it’s a wonderful idea. He’s a police officer and she’s one too. It’s perfect. I wonder if we can find a nice date for Ben too.”
Daniel Scott smiled. The circumstances under which he’d met DCI Hill the last time hadn’t been pleasant, but those days felt distant. At present, he was feeling better than he had for years. If his brother-in-law chose to take Susan Hill to the wedding, he wouldn’t object.
“She’s very attractive. Well, you’re a sly one, aren’t you? When did you and Susan meet?”
“She’s working here in Midsomer at the moment – and – It’s no big deal. I just asked her and she said yes.”
“Well, then – I suppose we’ll get to know her.”
Joyce’s mother seemed to consider the matter closed, which you might say it was. Gavin seemed to agree. He got up, rather hurriedly and began to inch closer to the door.
“Joyce – it’s getting late. I really need to go if I’m going to get to work on time. Actually, I’m late as it is. See you all tonight.”
Daniel got up, pulled the right earplug out of his brother’s ear, causing the boy to look up.
“I have to go too. Will you be alright here, or would like me to drop you off at school first?”
“No, I’ll just walk. Some of the boys and I were going to – never mind. You go on.”
“Alright. See you tonight.”
“I have choir practice tonight, remember?”
“Oh, right. I’ll pick you up at church, then. Break a leg, or whatever it is you say.”
“No, that’s in the theatre. I don’t think you have any special word for it when it comes to choirs. And don’t worry about Will. If you’re late, I’ll just take him home.”
“Oh. Good luck, anyway. Bye.”
Cully reached up and kissed her husband-to-be, on the cheek, then, after a moment’s consideration, followed him outside to say bye properly, without parents and grandparents and children watching. Her brother had already left.
Barnaby hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair, deep in thought. The information DCI Hill had shared with Barnaby had been interesting, even if nothing conclusive had come to light. At least now, it didn’t seem likely that Joyce had had anything to do with the murder. On the other hand, despite DCI Hill’s tactful hints, Barnaby became more and more convinced that she had had an affair with Harold Burne-Simmonds.
Perhaps now, was as good a time as any to bring the topic up. His other case had been successfully brought to a close, so his work situation was less pressing. Joyce was as busy as ever, with the wedding preparations, but he was hoping he could drag her away from them for as long as it took to discuss the delicate matter of her relationship with the dead man.
He lifted the receiver again and punched in his own number. The phone kept on ringing for so long, Barnaby was about to hang up, when at last his mother-in-law’s voice could be heard on the other end of the line. Barnaby resisted an unworthy and immature impulse to hang up. On the one hand, they had Caller ID so Joyce or Cully would be able to easily find out where the call had come from. On the other – he really was too old to act that irresponsibly.
“Hello. Could I speak to Joyce for a moment, please?”
“Alright. I’ll call her and see if she has time to talk to you, Tom.”
Barnaby clenched his teeth and was able to swallow the sharp comment which was about to burst forth.
He heard the phone being put down and the sound of footsteps receding. That was all he heard for quite some time. Irritation was building inside him. He could discuss this tonight. Once everyone else was in bed and they too had retreated to their bedroom, he could –
At last he heard someone pick up the receiver. He was hoping this someone wouldn’t merely hang up and that the person would be Joyce, not his father-in-law. Cully might be a less obnoxious alternative. But to his relief, it was Joyce.
“Darling – come and have lunch with me.”
“Now? I’m far too busy -”
“That’s why I think you need a break. Do come. You have to eat and -”
Barnaby considered the question. He couldn’t very well ask his wife if she’d been having an affair, in a public place. Then a memory from at least twenty years ago surfaced. That was a good idea.
“Remember the time when Cully was visiting her grandparents and we had a picnic on Rosemont Hill?”
“Surely you’re not suggesting we go there now? That was in August -”
“It’s a very pleasant and warm day. Let’s do it. It will be like old times. Come on, say you will.”
“Tom, I don’t understand, but – . Oh, well, I suppose it would be alright. Mother can hold down the fort for an hour or so. Fine.”
“Great. I’ll get the sandwiches.”
“You’re hopeless, Tom. Anything, to get me away from the wedding preparations.”
“Oh, well, you can’t blame a man for trying.”
“See you soon, then.”
“I’ll pick you up in – half an hour.”
Rather more than half an hour later, Barnaby did pick his wife up and drove out to the park he’d mentioned.
Too late, he began to wonder about the impulse that had made him suggest such a private spot. One so intimately connected with their marriage. If he recalled correctly, on that particular occasion, they’d been very late returning, because they’d known Cully wouldn’t be at home and – really they should have known better than to behave like two teenagers, outdoors.
Once her objections had been silenced, Joyce seemed to enjoy her day out. Spring had progressed rather more than you could see inside Causton. Perhaps the new date for the wedding would be much better.
Barnaby put a blanket on the grass – in more or less the exact same spot they’d been in all those years ago. Joyce began to lay out the napkins and the sandwiches, all wrapped in plastic. A cooked lunch might have tasted better, but this was rather nice, all the same.
The last time, they’d had wine, but of course, if a uniformed colleague had stopped them, Barnaby would have been in trouble. This time, he’d wisely settled for mineral water. Besides, today, he had something far more sombre on his mind, than a romantic picnic.
With a great deal of effort, Barnaby sank down onto the blanket. That was another difference. Twenty years ago, he didn’t recall having had any trouble at all sitting down on the ground. They weren’t getting any younger, that was a fact. Although, he had to admit that suddenly, he thought Joyce looked much more – attractive. Why hadn’t he paid more attention? It had been years since he’d last seen her as desirable.
He decided to get the lunch out of the way before he brought up the topic weighing on his mind. Those sandwiches didn’t taste much, but at least they were more practical than chicken wings or slices of ham. Cheese sandwiches were also less likely to cause indigetstion, even if the weather wasn’t too hot, yet.
They were sipping the last of the mineral water, when Barnaby put his plastic cup down and cleared his throat.
“Joyce – I have to ask – during the course of the investigation – certain evidence has come to light and -”
Joyce’s smile faded and she too, put down her plastic cup.
“Are you asking me if I killed poor Harold?”
“No, not at all. Sorry. I should have made that clear. Naturally, I don’t believe for a moment that you had anything to do with his death. No, it’s something – else.”
Joyce regarded him warily.
Why was it so hard to get the words out? Suddenly, Barnaby wanted to forget about the whole thing and let it go. The man was dead, after all. The affair was dead and buried, like the man himself would be soon enough.
On the other hand, if he didn’t find out not only if – because he really didn’t have any doubts there – but why, it would be hard to move on with their marriage.
“Joyce, did you have an affair with Burne-Simmonds?”
Immediately after the words had left his mouth, he regretted the way he’d put it. Couldn’t he have found a less blunt choice of words?
The words had a startling effect on Joyce. Her face lost all trace of colour and she buried her face in her hands, making a sound of distress.
Barnaby waited, but when no reply seemed to be forthcoming, Barnaby lightly put a hand on Joyce’s shoulder. She seemed to be crying.
“Darling, easy now. I’m not – upset with you, I just want to know if it’s true.”
It was a while until Joyce was able to collect herself enough to reply. She picked up one of the paper napkins from the blanket in front of her and blew her nose, then used another one to dab at her cheeks. Her eyes looked red and Barnaby already felt a dreadful brute. He knew he should have tried to find another way of putting it. Something less direct.
“You’re always working. You never want to do anything with me. Whenever I make a suggestion, you always have an objection. Harold was -”
Again, she was overcome by a fit of sobbing. Barnaby found himself called upon to offer whatever consolation he could. Awkwardly, he put his arms around his wife and held her. Perhaps it might even have been best to leave the matter entirely.
“You’re right. I have been busy and I – I’m sorry I’ve neglected you.”
After wiping her face again, Joyce looked up, this time less distressed but more – was it his imagination, or was there an accusation there somewhere?
“You don’t love me anymore. Admit it, Tom. It’s been years since you looked at me the way a husband should be looking at his wife. You don’t find me attractive and -”
Barnaby was struck dumb. Surely it wasn’t that bad? Or – he forced himself to cast his mind back over the past ten years or so. Ever since Cully had left home, and they had assumed they’d end up closer, hadn’t they in reality ended up drifting further apart? His work might have been partially to blame, but he knew that time and again he’d used work as an excuse to distance himself from Joyce. Her accusation was valid.
The question was, how did he feel about her now? When he’d learned about the night she’d spent with Daniel Scott, he had to admit that – he’d been amused. Not upset, just amused. His wife, in bed with that boy. Later, when he’d learned the real reason for Daniel’s behaviour, he’d been less amused, and – as he well knew, he wasn’t entirely blameless in that respect either.
Now, when Joyce’s partner had been someone less absurd, he found himself seeing his wife with new eyes. Suddenly, she seemed far more desirable. Someone else had wanted her and someone else had –
Then there was that matter of the spanking. Barnaby would rather have died than admitted it, but that too, made Joyce appear in a new light. More exciting, more – appealing. Perhaps it wasn’t too late to – win her back?
“You’re wrong about that. I do love you. It’s just that -”
“You don’t find me attractive anymore. Don’t lie to me. It’s not helping.”
“I might have been – inattentive in the past years, that’s true, but I do find you attractive. I suppose I’ve just been bad at showing you how I feel.”
Joyce didn’t look convinced and Barnaby didn’t blame her. He’d have to do better than that. Still – grabbing her and kissing her so soon after her lover’s death – wouldn’t that be a bit – inconsiderate?
“Give me another chance to – show you how I feel.”
Joyce hesitated. She had expected her husband to demand a divorce. This new – meek – Tom was totally unexpected. In a way, it was far more attractive than anything she’d seen of him for years. Of course, it would all depend on whether he was being honest or not. If this was just a desperate attempt to cling to what he was used to, it was just as bad as anything she was used to from the past.
“I don’t know, Tom. You have to admit that until now, you haven’t acted very – attentively.”
“You’re right. I haven’t. Give me a chance to change that. After the wedding is over and – this case is closed – let’s go away on a trip. You decide where to.”
Barnaby made a quick calculation. If Joyce wanted to go to Florida, the West Indies or – further afield – could he afford it? He decided that losing his wife would cost him far more. Besides, they hardly ever travelled abroad. That was another area where he’d let her down. He’d need to change his behaviour considerably. Still, if things worked out the way he wanted – it would be worth it.
“Yes, anywhere you like.”
He decided to sound her out, discreetly and see if his guess about her panned out.
“You know, I really have treated you very badly. I’m very sorry about that. By rights, I deserve to be punished, but don’t leave me. Give me another chance and I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
Was it his imagination, or did her eyes light up at the mention of the word ‘punished’? He was hoping he’d read her correctly, but at the moment, he felt he’d gone as far as he could. Time enough to find out later. In private.
“Hm. I’ve always wanted to go to India. Goa.”
“You did say anywhere.”
“Quite. Goa it is.”
“Not until the winter, though. It’s far too nice here in Midsomer, during the summer. And we need to get the wedding out of the way.”
Joyce regarded her husband suspiciously. Hadn’t it all gone rather too easily? Was he merely humouring her? She decided to find out.
“Are you sure you’re not upset with me? I did betray you.”
“Yes, yes, but – considering how I’d treated you, it’s understandable. I suppose it takes something like this to – wake one up to – were you going to leave me? Divorce me and marry Burne-Simmonds?”
Joyce hadn’t expected such a direct question. It forced her to consider the underlying issue. Had she been prepared to leave her husband?
No. In fact, even if it seemed rather too good to be true, this reaction had been almost exactly what she’d been hoping for. A contrite, humble Tom, eager to keep her. Eager to make things up to her.
She was wondering if she’d merely imagined his tone when he mentioned that he deserved to be punished. It remained to be seen. At least the situation was promising. She’d make the most of it.
“Another thing, Tom -”
“You know how I’ve been nagging you for years about getting in shape? About eating healthy food and working out?”
“Uh – yes.”
“Won’t you consider it again?”
“Well, since it means so much to you, I’ll try, but you know how it is.”
Joyce sighed. Perhaps some things were too much to hope for.
Barnaby thought about it. In a way, she might be right. Their sex life would probably be more – stimulating – if he lost weight and became more fit. It was worth a try.
“I’m afraid we need to get back now. I’m already at least half an hour late for work.”
“Oh, is that the time? I have to get back. Poor mother will be at her wits’ end. I’m sure Cully has left for work hours ago. Come on, Tom. I’ll pack up if you’ll carry the hamper.”
“As you wish.”
His tone made Joyce look up. He sounded perfectly sincere. Perhaps his finding out about the affair had been a blessing in disguise, after all.
As far as Barnaby understood, the brilliant young DCI Susan Hill and her likewise brilliant young sergeant, Angela Williams, were making very little progress in the murder case.
After getting to know Susan Hill, Barnaby had to admit that she was not nearly as forbidding as Barnaby’s old friend in London had led him to believe. In fact, Barnaby found himself charmed by the young woman.
The fact that his son, Gavin, would be going to the wedding with Susan as his date only mildly surprised Barnaby and now that he knew Susan better, the reason for that wasn’t the young DCI’s personality, but rather his son’s. He’d always found Gavin a bit awkward around women and he hadn’t been at all surprised to find that his son hadn’t become engaged and had mentioned no serious girlfriends from his time up north.
The real question was what Susan Hill might see in Gavin, not the other way around. On the other hand, Barnaby was gratified that despite everything, Susan found his son attractive enough to date. At least to go to a wedding together.
When the date of the wedding got closer, Barnaby realized it would be hard, if not impossible to persuade his wife, daughter and mother-in-law to delay it any more. Since Susan Hill had no objections, he didn’t mention any reservations to Joyce. This was, after all, her fondest dream. Seeing Cully married in church, in a white dress and everything else.
Two of Cully’s best friends from London would be bride’s maids. It appeared Daniel would stand alone. He hadn’t invited any of his colleagues from London and though Barnaby had half expected it, Will would not be his brother’s best man. That might have had something to do with the fact that the boy was going to perform along with the other boys in the choir.
Despite all his efforts, Barnaby realized that unless there was a major breakthrough at work, he’d be forced to endure the rehearsal. Not showing up would have seriously damaged his new relationship with his wife. He noted with satisfaction, that despite her lover’s death, Joyce had seemed to accept his new attentive behaviour towards her and hadn’t insisted on any period of mourning.
The rehearsal would be on the Thursday before the wedding, which would take place on Saturday. Joyce and her mother had anxiously watched and listened to the weather reports and it seemed the weather would be reasonably good, at least during the day. Towards evening, there was a possibility it would rain, but by then, Cully and Daniel would have set out for their honeymoon.
As most couples, they had to settle for a week, but at least they would be going to Sri Lanka. They had booked a few sightseeing tours, but mostly, they would be staying in their bungalow. Cully was already looking forward to late breakfasts consisting of a variety of exotic fruits. Daniel was thinking more about spending an extended period of time alone with Cully, without any in-laws bustling about.
Gavin had found himself pressed into action as a catsitter and – part time baby sitter. Joyce had claimed the right to look after Daniel’s brother Will, but Gavin had promised he’d take the boy to a few games and other activities more suited to a young man, than a woman Joyce’s age.
Barnaby had promised Joyce he’d be at the church at seven, for the beginning of the rehearsal and he had fully intended to be there on time – for instance, his in-laws would not be attending, a fact for which he was grateful- but around six twenty-five, the phone rang.
It was Susan Hill. She wanted to borrow Ben Jones. Barnaby realized that she was on the verge of a breakthrough and he begged to be allowed to come along, as an observer, nothing more. He could hear Susan hesitating, but in the end, she agreed. Even if Barnaby was hardly mourning his rival, he felt he had a duty to Joyce to find out what had happened to the man she’d loved if only briefly.
To his astonishment, they had a witness, or at least a potential witness. The trouble was, the man was locked up awaiting trial for a series of burglaries in and around Causton.
Ben Jones was sent off to investigate a site where the witness claimed he’d seen the suspect dump a bundle of something. A sack containing – what? Since Barnaby came along, Susan Hill sent Angela Williams with Ben Jones.
From time to time, DS Williams glanced at Ben Jones. She had to admit he was a good driver. Not quite the country bumpkin she’d expected.
He kept his eyes firmly on the road. After the incident a while back, when one of Cully’s friends had come close to killing him, or at least making Cully kill him, he was less eager to get involved with women. Once the whole thing was over, it finally sank in, how close he’d come to dying. At the time, he’d been more or less bewitched by the young woman who had claimed him as her property and been prepared to kill him for having one beer with another girl.
DS Williams glanced out the window, keeping an eye out for the smaller road they were to turn onto.
“Are you sure we haven’t passed it yet?”
“Yes. It’s another half mile or so.”
She didn’t ask him if he was sure. Since he’d grown up in Midsomer, he’d know these country roads like the back of his hand.
“It’s odd, though. Our burglar must have felt it would be worth his while, following the suspect all the way out here. I wonder what he thought it was he was carrying.”
DS Williams nodded slowly.
“At least we know why he didn’t come forward sooner.”
“It wasn’t until he got nicked for that last burglary and he needed something to negotiate a deal with.”
“Exactly. If only he’d been caught sooner.”
In the meantime, DCI Hill showed her identification to the prison guard outside the visitor’s room. He nodded respectfully. Barnaby pulled out his ID as well, and was waved along.
The man they were questioning looked awfully full of himself. Barnaby knew his type and had heard of him. Since he felt sure they needed his information, he’d be telling the truth. He’d be too smart to try to feed them a pack of lies. Barnaby was wondering how Susan Hill would handle his request for a more lenient sentence. Personally, Barnaby never made deals with criminals, but on occasion he’d interpreted the truth rather freely.
DCI Hill didn’t seem perturbed. Calmly, she regarded the slightly pudgy middle-aged man on the other side of the table. He grinned insolently at her, but she didn’t let herself be rattled.
“What is it you think you know, Ames?”
“Not what I think I know. What I know. You should be pleased. What’s it worth to you coppers?”
“I have no idea what you’re going to tell me, so it’s going to be a little hard to make an estimate. Why don’t you begin by telling me what you know, then I’ll decide how much it’s worth to us.”
Ames shifted about on his chair, still staring at DCI Hill’s chest area.
“Believe me, love, you’ll want what I have for you.”
“Oh, I’ll give it to you. The information, I mean.”
DCI Hill and Barnaby listened intently, but with growing alarm as Ames continued his narrative.
“And you’re absolutely sure it was a clergyman.”
“He was wearing his robes and things, yeah.”
“I see. Can you describe this man to me?”
Once they were sure Ames didn’t have any more information for them, they called the guard and had him take Ames back to his cell.
Barnaby got up and began to walk quickly towards the parking lot. Susan Hill followed him.
“I’ll contact my sergeant and yours too, then we’ll -”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll call for backup too.”
“But what would his motive be?”
It was as if DCI Hill was talking to herself, rather than her companion.
“We’ll worry about the motive later. I’d be happier if I got my family out of there before we have to caution him.”
Barnaby glanced worriedly at his watch. Almost seven thirty. The rehearsal would soon be over. Perhaps it would be best to let everything take its course and get their suspect afterwards, when the church was more or less empty.
DCI Hill placed her mobile phone in the holder, then punched in a number.
“Did you find it? I see. Get back here right away. Yes, the church. We’ll meet you there. Do not enter. Do you hear me, Angela? Good.”
Without taking her eyes off the road, she began to recount to Barnaby what they’d found.
“It was there, just like Ames described. He’d thrown it into the water, but it was stuck on the banks. Ben – DS Jones was able to get it. Blood all over it, by the looks of things. They’re heading back into town now.”
Barnaby requested backup, then sat back, waiting for his colleague to get to the church. The lights were still on, so perhaps it was all still going on.
Inside the church, the rehearsal was just coming to an end.
The vicar bowed slightly.
“That was almost perfect, Cully, Daniel. I think we’ll stop here. It was a shame your fiance couldn’t make it, but your mother filled in for him beautifully.”
“Thanks. What about the choir?”
“They’ve made excellent progress. I think you’ll be pleased to hear them.”
“Is their rehearsal over as well? I haven’t heard them for a while now.”
“Yes, the boys ran home around a quarter past seven. I just let the organist play the music anyway, for your benefit.”
“Mrs Randall played beautifully.”
“Ah, yes. Why don’t you run along now, Cully? I would like have a word with your mother. About some of the arrangements.”
“Alright. Daniel might be back by now and Gavin too. I don’t know what happened to dad, though.”
Joyce shook her head. She knew her husband was trying and lately, he’d been far more attentive, but she’d known all along that it would be hard to make him show up for the rehearsal. If he just made it to the wedding, she’d be pleased.
“Never mind, darling. Go on home. I’ll be right there too.”
Outside, Cully met her father, his sergeant, Ben Jones and the two female officers who she knew had investigated Daniel’s father’s murder. They looked grave.
Barnaby took his daughter aside.
“Who’s still in the church?”
“Mum and the vicar. The Reverend Boyd.”
“What about Daniel? Or Gavin? Will?”
“He said Will had run home with the other boys. Daniel and Gavin couldn’t make it. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. But you didn’t even ring me and let me know you wouldn’t be here.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry about that, darling. Go on. Ring your grandmother or grandfather and ask if Will got home alright.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“Just do it, please. I’ll explain later.”
Cully shrugged and punched in her home number, or rather her parents’ number now.
“Hello, gran. Did Will get home alright? No, the Reverend said he’d gone home. Yes, I’ll ring Matthew now. No, it went fine. I’ll be home soon.”
“Will wasn’t there. Gran said to ring Matthew. That’s a boy he’s been spending time with lately.”
“Alright. Do it now.”
Cully studied her father with increasing anxiety. She had a feeling something was wrong. It didn’t take her long to finish the conversation with the other boy’s mother.
Barnaby read her expression and realized Will hadn’t gone to see his friend either. Cully spent the next five minutes ringing two other boys’ homes, but Will wasn’t there either.
“Now tell me what’s going on.”
“Cully – I have to tell you that – your mother might be in danger. Will too. The Reverend Boyd – a witness saw him kill your mother’s friend Harold Burke-Simmonds and – we have reason to believe he might still pose a threat to certain people.”
Cully’s face lost all trace of colour and Barnaby regarded her anxiously.
“Stay here. Whatever you do, don’t go any closer to the church. Any minute now the backup I requested will be here. Wait here. When Daniel arrives, try to keep him out here too. The same goes for Gavin. Is that clear?”
“Yes, but -”
“We’ll do our best to get your mother and Will out of there safely, but – we can’t have family members running around, getting in the way of police work.”
“Yes, yes. Go on. Do what you have to do.”
It didn’t take Daniel or Gavin long to get there, but by then, the reinforcements were already there. They spread out and surrounded the church. DCI Hill and DS Williams, were poring over some plans of the church, with DCI Barnaby’s and DS Jones’ help.
As far as anyone knew, Reginald Boyd did not have any weapon, but they were taking no chances. Not with two potential hostages.
They inched closer to the church again and tried to get a good look inside. What they saw made them step up their plans. Joyce was retreating backwards, with Boyd following her, his hands stretched out in a gesture that looked decidedly threatening.
Police officers entered through three doors at once. When Boyd saw them, he abandoned his attempt to attack Joyce, who ran to her husband. Barnaby pulled her into a hard embrace, but only for a moment.
“Are you alright?”
“He – he said – Tom, I think he killed Harold.”
“I know. We think so too. Did he harm you in any way?”
“No, but he called me -”
“Go outside. I’ll talk to you later. We’ll have to find Will -”
“Will? Oh, no.”
“We’ll get him back. Don’t worry about it. Cully is outside, and so are Gavin and Daniel. Go to them. Try to keep Daniel calm.”
Joyce pulled herself together and nodded.
Barnaby’s attention had left her by then. Boyd appeared again, this time dragging Will, who appeared to be only partially conscious, towards the door leading up to the tower. Before anyone could intercept him, he slammed the door shut behind him.
It was too late now to get firemen there in time to put up something that might break Will’s fall, should the madman push the boy over the railing.
Ben Jones was the first to reach the door to the tower and before anyone else could catch up, he was inside. The door swung shut behind him.
DCI Hill and DS Williams arrived second and threw open the door to follow. To their alarm, they found Ben Jones lying on the stairs, seemingly unconscious. Angela Williams kneeled and placed two fingers against the side of his neck. When she finally felt a pulse, relief flooded through her.
DCI Hill put her mouth close to her sergeant’s ear.
“Go outside again. If the SWAT team is in place, instruct them to fire as soon as they have a clear shot. I’ll try to reason with the man.”
Gavin Troy arrived at least ten minutes before Daniel Scott. He found his mother and sister in a state of nervous tension. Joyce was more or less hysterical and Cully alternated between trying to calm her mother down and explaining to Gavin what was going on.
Gavin saw a uniformed colleague he remembered from his time working as a sergeant in Midsomer and waved at the man to approach.
“Could you take Mrs Barnaby to somewhere a bit more calm. Make sure she’s comfortable. I suppose an ambulance is on its way? You know what I’m talking about. A cup of tea, a blanket. Someone staying with her.”
It still felt odd to be addressed that way, but at the moment, Gavin didn’t have time to focus on that. He put his arms around his sister and held her.
“Is Daniel on his way?”
“I think so. Oh. When he hears about Will, he’ll -”
“Don’t worry about it, Cully. Your dad will – Susan and DS Williams – I’m sure they have the situation under control. I could try to -”
“No, don’t go. When Daniel gets here I want you to be here.”
When Daniel did arrive, he immediately noticed something was wrong. Something that would have an impact on his family and himself. Normally, police lines and a gathering of uniformed colleagues didn’t arouse any particular emotions in him, other than interest. He still loved his job, despite certain setbacks in later years.
When he saw Gavin holding Cully, he broke into a run. A uniformed colleague put a hand up to stop him, and he had to waste precious time waving his ID about.
“That’s my fiancee over there. With her brother. Let me through.”
Gavin, who knew the man on sight, decided to intervene.
“It’s alright. Let him through.”
It only took Daniel a couple of seconds to reach his fiancee. Gavin let go of Cully and stepped back. He knew what Cully had been hinting at. The second Daniel found out about his brother, he’d try to get inside. As a private citizen, Gavin could sympathize with that, but as a police officer, he knew the importance of trying to keep away family members of victims and others involved in a crime in progress.
“It’s the Reverend Boyd. He’s insane. Tried to kill mum and – I think he killed that man who was found there with mum. Daniel – he’s got Will.”
Just as Gavin had suspected, Daniel tried to make a break for it. A good thing he was prepared. For certain very personal reasons, the last thing Gavin wanted was to grab Daniel and hold on to him, but under the circumstances, he knew he had to. Cully couldn’t be expected to have the strength to hold her fiance back. Just as he’d expected, Daniel was none too pleased about it either.
“Let me go, you idiot.”
“Easy now. If you think about it, you’ll see that it’s best to let Susan and – dad – handle it. No, you don’t.”
Two passing uniformed colleagues responded to Gavin’s desperate situation. He was able to pass Daniel on to them.
“His brother is the hostage in there. Go easy on him. Just hold him back.”
Daniel didn’t look particularly grateful, but Gavin thought his brother-in-law would soon forget the incident, if his brother came out of the situation unharmed.
DCI Hill wasn’t as sure of herself as she’d tried to convey to her sergeant. Despite a special course in negotiation techniques, she had absolutely no experience, trying to talk a desperate suspect out of harming a hostage. Before she’d taken more than two steps up the stairs, she faltered. DCI Barnaby was far more experienced than she was, though come to think of it, her experience included city conditions, not the calm of sleepy Midsomer. Still, in such a situation, it might be better to be safe than sorry.
She ran silently down the stairs. To her relief, DCI Barnaby was right outside the door to the tower.
“Your sergeant – Ben Jones – I suppose Angela told you about that?”
“Yes. Is he badly hurt? Shall I send someone to get him out?”
“No. He’ll be alright. Listen, do you have any experience of negotiating with a hostage taker?”
“I can’t say that I do, I’m afraid.”
“I was afraid of that. Never mind. I’ll -”
“DCI Hill – I’m not sure negotiations will help at this point. Why don’t you let the SWAT team take over?”
“I will. It’s just that – perhaps there won’t be a clear shot and if I talk to him – perhaps he’ll let his guard down. Would you -”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine, DCI Hill.”
“Susan. But I’ll be happy to come with you. I have met Reggie on a few occasions. Never struck me as the dangerous kind, but – looks can be deceving, I know.”
They proceeded up the stairs to the first floor. There was nothing there. Only footsteps in the dust suggested anyone had passed here recently. One set of large, adult prints, and a line of vague lines, made from smaller feet. So he’d been dragging Will along. They had heard nothing from outside, so they assumed the situation was unchanged.
Even more cautiously now, they began walking up the next set of stairs. They only glanced briefly into the chamber housing the bells. There wouldn’t be room for anyone to hide and not surprisingly, no one was there. In fact, no one seemed to have entered the room for some time.
Before they began walking up the final set of stairs, the earphone in DCI Hill’s ear began to crackle. The leader of the SWAT team confirmed they’d had a sighting of the suspect. No sign of the boy, so apparently, he wasn’t holding the child over the edge. Yet.
They had no clear shot but would keep trying.
In whispers she conferred with Barnaby. He agreed that perhaps seeing a woman might be perceived as less threatening by the suspect. DCI Hill nodded and swallowed hard. She’d known it would come to this.
After a moment’s hesitation, she tried the door handle. The door wasn’t locked so she opened it a crack.
A man’s voice rang out loud and clear. There was a note of hysteria lurking in the cultured, trained voice.
“I’m warning you. Don’t come any closer. I will throw the child over the railing. Make no mistake about it. The lord has called me and I have heeded his call. I will not falter in my duty.”
“What has the boy done to offend you – or – the lord?”
“He is a child of sin.”
DCI Hill paused. Was this a general outburst of religious mania or did he have something specific in mind. Boyd’s next words answered her question.
“I know about the child’s background.”
“Then you know that he has done nothing wrong. He can’t help what his parents did.”
“The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons.”
DCI Hill turned and exchanged a glance with Barnaby. He made a gesture that suggested she should keep talking.
“Did you – punish Harold Burne-Simmonds?”
“He was a sinner. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. I would have smitten the harlot he consorted with too, if your people hadn’t arrived too soon.”
“At least let me see Will. Have you hurt him?”
“His flesh is safe, but his soul is doomed.”
DCI Hill wasn’t too sure of what that meant, so under the circumstances, she tried to hold on to what she knew. Ordinary, solid police work.
“Can I see him?”
“Are you armed?”
“Step through the door. Just one step.”
Barnaby shook his head, warningly.
DCI Hill ignored him. This was her chance to see for herself that the boy was still safe. In any case, she was only allowed to take one step over the threshold. Boyd stood a few steps away, perhaps now in a better position for the SWAT team to take a shot. The question was, had he taken this into account? Would he use Will as a shield?
The boy sat with his back to the railing to the right of the door. He looked as if he was asleep, or at least drowsy. There didn’t seem to be any obvious marks or injuries on him.
“Listen to me, Boyd -”
“The Reverend Boyd to you, woman.”
“Reverend Boyd – if you let the child go, we could discuss your grievances -”
“My grievances are against this world. Wherever we turn there is sin and wickedness. Men lie down with men. Women commit adultery unpunished. The lord -”
Boyd’s voice rose in an incoherent litany of religious quotes and ramblings DCI Hill suspected came from the man’s own unbalanced mind. She was hoping she could make him retreat, by taking a step forward, but what if she provoked him into harming the boy?
What she needed to do was herd him towards the railing, without alarming him. Could she do that by talking to him?
“Reverend Boyd – Will’s brother is down there. Can you imagine how it would feel to lose a brother?”
“He is sprung from sin, just like his brother.”
“Look at him. His fiancee is there too. Cully Barnaby. She is about to be married here, in your church.”
Boyd stared blankly at the woman facing him. It was as if he’d lost track of their conversation.
DCI Hill was hoping he was beginning to come out of whatever psychotic episode that had prompted this outburst.
“Cully Barnaby. The bride who is about to be married here on Saturday.”
Boyd walked a few paces and looked down. DCI Hill was hoping the SWAT team would take this opportunity.
“She is another child of sin. Her mother is a harlot. Like mother, like daughter.”
DCI Hill was wondering what her colleague would make of all this, but at the moment, she was too focused on the madman in front of her and the child, who still didn’t seem to have come to. She was wondering what Boyd had given him.
Suddenly, Boyd shuddered, then as if in slow motion, his body hit the railing and finally dipped over it and fell. It wasn’t until then, DCI Hill heard the shot. She leaned over, grabbed the boy and began to pull him away from the ledge and into the stairwell.
Barnaby anxiously glanced at the boy his wife had come to care about. His daughter too. If he’d had more time, he was sure he would have become fond of the boy too. Will seemed to be a nice kid. Completely unlike his murderous mother.
“Here. Let me take him.”
DCI Hill regarded her older colleague uncertainly. The child wasn’t particularly heavy, but Barnaby didn’t look as if he was in very good shape. In any case, he never had to lift the child off the floor. Two uniformed colleagues came up the stairs, following DS Williams.
One of the uniforms carried Will downstairs. The other helped DS Williams get Ben Jones down as well. Only now did he show any signs of coming to.
When Daniel saw his brother being carried out of the church, he felt faint. He nearly stumbled, clenching his fists. Then he saw his father-in-law’s face. The group of police officers reached him and the uniform handed Will over to Daniel.
Breathlessly, he examined Will’s face for signs of life.
Barnaby showed up beside him.
“Why don’t you let the paramedics take a look at him? I’m sure they’ve finished with Joyce now. Cully and Gavin and I are going there now. Come on.”
Gratefully, Daniel handed his brother over to one of the professionals.
“Are you his father?”
“I see. Hold on a sec. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
The two paramedics tended to Will for a moment, then stepped back.
“You can see him now. He’s coming to. It must have been a light sedative, nothing more.”
The relief made Daniel feel dizzy. Cully was standing next to him, a grey blanket over her shoulders. Some distance away, her mother was sitting, covered by another grey blanket, a cup of tea in her hand.
Ben Jones was sitting in the back of the ambulance, a compress taped to his forehead. Angela Williams stood over him, talking to him.
He looked up, a vague feeling of discomfort at the back of his mind. Since the incident when he’d nearly been killed by a woman he’d dated, he hadn’t been out with anyone except his mates. Angela’s attention was flattering, but it made him uneasy.
“I was just invited to the wedding, so I was wondering – would you like to be my date?”
On the other hand, he was just being silly. There was nothing to fear. Besides, Angela Williams was about two hundred percent better looking than the average Midsomer female.
“Great. I got an invitation too, so – I’d love to.”
They kept talking for a while longer, until DCI Hill called her sergeant’s attention.
Joyce was talking in a plaintive voice to her husband and daughter. Daniel was dividing his attention between his fiancee and her family on the one hand and his brother on the other. Will still hadn’t fully grasped what had almost happened to him. He was excited to see all the police officers coming and going.
“Who is going to marry you now?”
“Mum. If you think I’m going ahead with the wedding now, you’re -”
Daniel’s mind made a lurch. What? Had Cully changed her mind, after all?
“We’ll have the ceremony at the registry office. I’m not risking any more murders around us. This place is dangerous. Daniel?”
“Perhaps we should move to London? It can’t be worse than this place.”
He smiled, filled with relief. Cully was just venting. No matter where they held the ceremony, he’d be glad to marry her. Or at worst, he’d be just as happy continuing to live in sin with her. That reminded him. He’d overheard what the crazy clergyman had said about him and Will. Perhaps that was not the wisest choice of words. Not that he saw any harm in living together without being married. Especially when the vicar who was going to marry you went off his rocker.
“Wherever you like, sweetheart. I’ll live wherever you want to live.”
Will could hardly believe his ears. Move again? Now that he’d found this brilliant place to live.
“No way. I want to live here, in Midsomer. It’s the coolest place. Besides, I have my mates here. Daniel, can I borrow your mobile phone? I want to ring Matt and Joey and -”
“Not tonight. Your friends will be asleep. You can talk to them tomorrow. I think we should get you home.”
“Do we have to go already? This is so cool. Like in a tv show. I think I want to be a copper too.”
Not if he could help it, Daniel thought, remembering what had happened to him in London. But almost right away he changed his mind. Most of the time it was a fascinating job.
“We’ll see. You can ask Gavin and Ben and perhaps DS Williams about their work and see if you still think it’s so cool.”
“Alright. Can I go now, sir?”
He was facing the paramedic who had been taking his pulse and listening to his heartrate.
“Yes, you seem to be doing alright. Go on then.”
“Ben – DS Williams – can I talk to you?”
“Hold on, Will. It’s very late. You can talk to them tomorrow. Cully and I would like to go to bed even if you’re not tired.”
“Yeah, but you’re old.”
“Thanks a lot. Either way, you’re coming with me.”
Will gracefully gave up and let himself be led away. He realized he had forgotten to ask exactly what it was that had happened while he’d been asleep, but decided to wait until the morning. Clearly his brother couldn’t wait to get into bed with Cully. Which was understandable.
There was a blonde girl at his school who was almost as pretty. Now that he was practically a celebrity, she might want to become his girlfriend. That would be almost as cool as becoming a police officer. In any case, the day had been a success, as far as Will was concerned. Moving to Midsomer had been the best thing that happened to him.