Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book 4 and a bit - Hand In Glove (Chapter 23)


Three police cars, lights flashing but sirens silent, sat outside the old converted school house. Lazarus drove the car to a standstill, pulled hard on the hand brake then followed Vesper, who had already opened the car door to get out, toward the cordon. A uniformed officer put his hand up to stop both Vesper and Adam tbefore recognising who they were, let them pass. He said nothing but his look was grave.
Inside the house a half dozen plain clothes officers were moving from room to room. He recognised one, Inspector Lightfoot. Adam had shared a joke with the man about their shared initials. He went straight up to the man.
“Hello Adam.”
“What’s happened, I hear someone was shot?”
“I’ve only just arrived. Pearight sent me over as you were on the Birchtickle case. He thought a senior officer should be here.”
“The old man’s not here then?”
“Upstairs apparently.”
Lazarus didn’t like the sound of the superintendent being on site. It added gravitas but also highlighted how the old man still remained concerned over Lazarus’s handling of this case. Leaving Andy Lightfoot downstairs, Lazarus ran up the short flight taking two steps at a time. On the landing he was greeted by Clement Pearight. The man looked shaken.
“Where is she?” asked Lazarus.
“Who?” replied a startled superintendent.
Pearight held up both his hands as much to slow his Chief Inspector down as to calm him.
“Adam, there’s no one up here old chap. I was simply checking with my officers to ensure there were no other assassins in the house. Hilary is down stairs with Sergeant Sundae administering to your friend Miles.”
“Yes. It was he who first encountered the assailant. Apparently the man had broken in through a downstairs window. Miles was in his study when he heard what he described as glass breaking. Both Sergeant Sundae and Doctor Leatherbarrow were upstairs in bed at the time.”
“In bed?” queried Lazarus.
Pearight’s face coloured.
“I didn’t like to enquire,” he replied. “Anyway, having heard what Miles rightly thought was an intruder, he then took his sister’s police pistol, you may recall she trained in fire arms, then wheeled himself in front of his door. When the man came in Miles confronted him but of course had no idea who or what the man was. The then unknown housebreaker fired at Miles wounding him in the chest. Miles returned fire hitting the man in the stomach. Both Sergeant Sundae and Doctor Leatherbarrow, upon hearing gunfire ran down stairs, foolishly in my opinion, to assist your friend. Upon seeing a masked man dressed all in black armed but wounded Sergeant Sundae picked up the nearest object she could find, a bronze figurine, and hit the man over the head.”
Lazarus looked at his senior officer with a mixture of horror and disbelief.
“Are they okay? Is Miles alright?”
Pearight unexpectedly laughed.
“They are all fine. Miles is wounded as I said. Leatherbarrow has called for an ambulance.”
“And the masked man?”
“Another customer for Doctor Leatherbarrow I fear.”
“He’s dead?”
“As the Dodo. The bullet wound may have killed him if not treated swiftly but the blow to the head finished him off.”
Lazarus ran his fingers through his hair, forcing his fringe away from his eyes. He felt rather than saw that Vesper had joined them.
“I think I know the man’s identity sir,” she said.
“Yes, sir. His name was Hector Sabre. He’s the bloke the guv was onto..”
Lazarus started to move away. He wanted to see for himself how his lovers and best friend were.
“Do you mind if I go downstairs, sir?”
Pearight smiled.
“Not at all. Go ahead”
The superintendent and his sergeant watched as Adam Lazarus bounded away. Pearight turned to Highlot. He admired the girl.
“What happened at Birchtickle? I hear DCI Lazarus had the Tickpants brought in again. Does he intend to charge one of them for the murders of the two women?”
Highlot shook her head.
“I don’t think so, sir. I think they are both innocent, of murder anyway. What we found at Birchtickle, or rather what we think we uncovered as it still has to be confirmed, is possibly a splinter group of The Brethren. Both families, that is the Goslings and Trimeots, were armed. The weapons they had indicate para-military. I would not be surprised if they weren’t somehow connected to the man Debbie killed, sir.”
Pearight exhaled loudly then tugged at one corner of his moustache.
“Good lord, what a mess. I have to say I still don’t see how the two cases, the murders at Birchtickle and what happened here, are connected?”
“I’m not too sure myself sir. It might be better if you had a word with the guv after he’s convinced himself that his friends are all okay.”
Pearight made a coughing sound. His face flushed scarlet. He was embarrassed by something but uncertain how to phrase it.
“I, er, am, how can I put it delicately, a little mystified by the relationship these people share? Of course it’s none of my business but why were the doctor and Sundae in bed together? I thought Lazarus was courting Leatherbarrow? Did I get that bit wrong? Are she and Sundae lovers and how does Miles fit into all this?”
Highlot couldn’t help but smile.
“I am none the wiser sir but I could hazard a reliable guess.”
“Go on then,” said Pearight, winking at his sergeant.
“Sort of like the song sir; three in a bed perhaps?”
Pearight’s eyes went large and bug-like, then he laughed.
“Well I never. I don’t think Hibiscus would care for such an arrangement.”
“Who, sir?”
“What? Oh, a friend of mine, a lady friend that is.”
Miles sat in his wheelchair. His shirt had been removed so that Hilary could clean and dress the wound. The blood-soaked garment, having been removed, had been slung to one side. To their right, Debbie Sundae looked on, observing what Hilary did as much as keeping an eye on her injured brother. Miles looked drained and obviously sore from being shot but otherwise fine. He smiled at Adam as he approached them. Lazarus extended his hand.
“How are you feeling?” asked the detective.
Miles grimaced. “I have felt better but I’m okay.”
“What happened? How come you had a loaded gun near to hand?”
Miles groaned slightly as Hilary wrapped a bandage around his chest.
“Sorry,” she said. “An ambulance is on the way.”
Miles nodded and thanked her then responded to Adam.
“It was sheer luck to be honest. I was sitting at my desk when this dark, shadowy figure appeared. I could see his reflection in the window but obviously he couldn’t see me. I knew that Debbie had, more out of haste than common sense, stored her police pistol away in the top drawer. I merely pulled out the weapon as quietly as I could then waited for the intruder to come into the room. When he did I challenged him. Oddly enough he took no notice of what I said whatsoever and shot at me. I fired back. It was a simple as that.”
Lazarus whistled and then laughed.
“You don’t know how lucky you are, Miles.”
Miles frowned. “Who was that chap? It struck me he wasn’t after me at all.”
“He wasn’t,” said Lazarus. “He was after Hilary.”
“But why?”
“It’s a long story and one I will tell you later. For now, though, I need to de-brief Superintendent Pearight.”
Obadiah Pearight ran his hand over his suit trousers. He sat behind his desk, now having left the house that Lazarus shared with Miles, Debbie and Hilary secure; a complement of armed officers, headed by Sergeant Thomas, stood guard outside the old converted schoolhouse. The body of Hector Sabre had been taken to the mortuary. Both the Trimeots and the Goslings were now in custody as were Alice and Martin Tickpant.  It was now a question of tying together, then tidying up the various threads that linked the murders. Why his Chief Inspector had insisted that Chief Constable O’Law attend along with Sergeant Highlot and Doctor Leatherbarrow intrigued Pearight.
A coffee pot stood heating on a stand. Its pungent aroma filled the office. O’Law sat like a crumpled gladioli wilting from lack of water. Beside him, Hilary Leatherbarrow sat looking drawn and tired. Next to her was Adam Lazarus who held a clipboard that had a pad of paper littered with scribbled notes. Finally, on the far edge,  sat Sergeant Highlot with legs crossed, looking relaxed and composed.
“Right then,” began Pearight brightly, feeling justifiably proud, especially in front of his senior officer, “I think it best if you start, Adam, by explaining how you first suspected that these apparently independent murders were linked for I don’t think the rest of us believed they were.”
Before Adam could start, Lawrence O’Law waggled his arm like some campsite attendant seeking the holiday campers’ attention. His face was stiff with obvious displeasure.
“Before we all go around pouring unwarranted praise on this officer I would like to remind you that I had given strict instructions that DCI Lazarus was to be removed from the case. I see this order was not followed. There will be a disciplinary. I would also like to raise one or two concerns I, and my superiors, have regarding Chief Inspector Lazarus’ conduct during this case.” O’Law stopped to draw breath then continued with his lisping monologue.
“It is felt that a wanton lack of attention to procedure impacted on effecting a swift end to what was in reality a set of simple cases made complex by a singular lack of professionalism; the ramification of this caused spending to exceed budget and for the investigation to meander rather than be driven. It is also felt that Chief Inspector Lazarus entered into what has to be considered an odd relationship, one that could have compromised not only this investigation, his department, his colleagues and himself but also led to a situation where, as a senior police officer, his position was open to abuse, possibly blackmail. Although Detective Chief Inspector Lazarus managed eventually, after his superior officer was warned of his junior’s poor performance, to bring the case to an end, it is felt that an overly long period was taken to achieve this. In light of this I have, in my capacity as senior officer in charge of this division, to enjoin DCI Lazarus to stand down from this debriefing, to hand his warrant card to Superintendent Pearight before leaving this office. He is to return home pending a thorough police internal investigation which may lead to him either attending a disciplinary tribunal or, if the case warrants it, instant dismissal. Please take your leave of us DCI Lazarus.”
Surprisingly the only person present who seemed shocked by O’Law’s diatribe was Superintendent Pearight who for once was lost for words. However, Adam Lazarus wasn’t. Standing up as though he was about to leave he turned instead toward Chief Constable O’Law.
“Chief Constable Lawrence O’Law I am arresting you for your collusion, complicity and for being a secret member of an illegal organisation that has threatened the security of this nation; of breaking confidentiality with the Wessex Police Force; of misleading fellow officers and by recruiting said officers into an illegal organisation and for your involvement in the recent murders. I also am arresting Sergeant Vesper Hetal Highlot for the same crimes. Anything either of you say may be taken down and used against you in a court of law”.
Stunned by the sudden, unexpected response Lawrence O’Law stood transfixed. Vesper hung her head down as both Superintendent Pearight and Hilary Leatherbarrow looked on in mute astonishment. O’Law tried to regain some sort of dignity as he retorted with bluff and bluster.
“What on earth are you trying to attempt here, Lazarus? This is utter nonsense and you know it. I will have you kicked out of the force for this.”
Lazarus squared up to his boss, staring directly into his eyes.
“You are guilty and I can prove it.”
“Not only will I have you sacked I will make sure you never work again you conniving, cheating, lying, little toe-rag. You will never pin anything on me and you know it,” hissed O’Law with feeling.
“Oh but he will, sir,” said Vesper, rising from her seat.
O’Law gave her a withering look as his courage failed him. Vesper continued. She looked from Lazarus to Pearight.
“I so sorry, guv, I didn’t want this to happen. I tried to warn Penny but it was too late.”
“You were at the scene of the crime weren’t you? You were the first to find poor Penny dead,” said Lazarus.
“Yes sir, I was. I wanted to warn Penny that she was a target. She had uncovered far too much. They, the organisation I am part of, knew she was on to something. They had hired a hit man to kill Penny.”
“And that man was Hector Sabre but you didn’t realise that did you? The only reason you passed the information from Cyril Updike to me was because you didn’t know who Sabre was?” although Lazarus knew the answer he still had to ask it as much to hear it for himself as to force the final confession from his old colleague.
Vesper hung her head sighing deeply. She wiped her hand across her nose then whispered her response.
Superintendent Pearight looked from his senior officer, O’Law, then to Lazarus and then to Vesper Highlot.
“You were part of the S.O.E?” he asked Vesper, clearly shocked.
“I was recruited into what we called The Brethren after leaving the military. I was placed into a small cell of four people: Higham, Kloot, Fisher and myself. There was another cell nearby but we were not given their names or any other detail. Our cell leader was Chief Constable O’Law. It was he who had Kloot kill Higham when the latter stole company funds. He then had me run over Kloot to cover up any loose threads. I also shot Fisher. I don’t know about the other cell but I guess the Trimeots and the Goslings were part of that?”
Lawrence O’Law flew into a hissy fit, spitting and clawing at Vesper Highlot like a defensive cat in season.
Lazarus slapped a pair of handcuffs on him and then manhandled O’Law to a chair. Pearight’s face was a taut, pasty mask.
“Good Lord, this is nearly as bad as the Wynkingate scandal.”
“It is in reality part of the same thing, sir, part of the fallout if you will. You see, Vesper is right; the Trimeots and Goslings were part of the second cell. It was they, which one specifically I don’t yet know, who killed both Agatha Nosebag and Jean Grimstain. Nosebag tried blackmailing them but before they killed her she had told Jean Grimstain. They killed them both to shut them up.”
Pearight shook his head.
“Covering up their tracks?”
“Yes sir.”
“So Mr and Mrs Tickpant are innocent?”
“Yes sir.”
“What about Doctor Leatherbarrow, was the arson attack on her property anything to do with them?”
“Almost certainly, sir, for it was Hilary who first discovered that the killer of Penny Farthing was somehow connected to the paramilitary group known as the Brethren. They wanted to silence her to prevent her discovering more and informing me.”
“I see, and who was responsible for the arson, this here Hector Sabre fellow?”
“Yes sir. I believe Sabre was brought in from outside the existing two cells specifically to tidy up. By that I mean to kill Hilary Leatherbarrow who had incriminating evidence but also anyone else able to reveal information. Judging by what Sergeant Highlot has just confessed I think I am right.”
“And I take it they knew what was going on because they had a mole within our team?”
“Sergeant Highlot, sir.”
Pearight looked directly at Vesper with a look more of sadness than recrimination.
“Why?” he asked.
Vesper dropped her head then spoke softly.
“I missed the buzz of the army. I thought the intrigue would somehow revitalise me, give me purpose. I had no idea how malign, how unpleasant a force the Brethren were. I tried to leave but once you are a part of it there is no easy way out. I suspect what O’Law said is true: they will get me. I’m sorry, guv, you are one nice man.”
Peabright breathed in deeply as he seemed to steel himself.
“I shall call for officers to lock these two up. Are there more moles in the team, Adam?”
“I have no idea, sir, but I wouldn’t have thought so. The Brethren is now a fractured organisation bereft of its mother host and without true leadership. We now have to assist the SIS in hunting down every last vestige of their insidious cells.”
Obadiah still looked puzzled.
“Let me just run over things here if I may. Harry Hertlasp killed Sir Clement and Dame Matilda Fatleaf. He kept their bodies in cold storage, then sliced the bodies up to dispose of later?”
“That is correct, sir,” agreed Lazarus.
“We then have two sets of Brethren cells operating in or near Winchester. The first is a team that included Vesper Highlot, Trevor Higham, Kooper Cloot and Francis Fisher.”
“Spot on, sir,” confirmed Lazarus.
“The second cell contained these odd people who enjoyed weird hanky panky: the Trimeots and Goslings.  They killed Agatha Nosebag and Jean Grimstain because…?”
Lazarus cleared his throat. “Agatha Nosebag had been blackmailing a number of people including Harry Hertlasp, Martin Tickpant and Jean Grimstain. Agatha then discovered that her neighbours, the Trimeots and Goslings, were all ex-military people and that they worked for the Brethren. After the recent press exposé, this discovery gave Agatha an idea. Rather than keep her mouth shut or report them to the police, she thought it better to blackmail them too. Unfortunately for Jean Grimstain, Agatha told her about the two families. They then killed both Agatha and then Jean.”
Pearight sighed heavily.
“Good Lord, what a proper carry on; all on my patch and under my watch too. But what about O’Law? How did you know he was the head of these units?”
The truth, when it comes to revealing it, can sometimes be a cause for as much embarrassment as can the lie told in the first place to hide it.
“To be honest sir, I didn’t know. Of course I guessed about Highlot and proving that wasn’t difficult but finding real hard evidence as to who her leader was, who the person in charge of both cells was, was another matter entirely. I knew from Sergeant Highlot’s absences that she was taking time off, presumably to liaise with whoever it was she was reporting to. I then made a few calls to see who in the force was taking the same days off. One name came up on both occasions.”
“Chief Constable O’Law?”
“Yes, sir.”
Lazarus turned to Hilary, smiled at her then stopped. A sudden thought had occurred, something that he had nearly forgotten.
“There is one other thing sir. When we searched the Goslings’ house we came across a large bag tucked away in their coal bunker. An odd place to keep an old bag you might think?”
Obadiah Pearight agreed and said so.
“What was in the bag Adam?”
“Five hundred thousand pounds in old, circa nineteen sixties notes.”
Pearight raised his eyebrows.
“Any clues to where the money came from?” asked the Superintendent.
Lazarus smiled.
“Not really sir but I could make a good guess.”
“Go on then,” said Pearight.
“Robin Banks…”
“The notorious bank robber?”
“The very same sir,” agreed Lazarus. “Back in the late sixties he pulled a heist. One he got caught for. The money disappeared. Banks claimed he hadn’t got it. He even suggested one of his gang had made off with it. We caught all the gang apart from one. Teddy Berry escaped but it couldn’t have been him who double crossed his mates.”
“Why ever not?” asked Pearight.
“He was killed in a motor car accident only days after Banks and company were banged up.”
“But the money remained lost?”
“Yes sir.”
“And you think this Teddy Berry ran off with it, buried it in Birchtickle then kicked the bucket, so to speak, before he could return to dig it up?”
“Indeed I do, sir. I also think that Charlie Gosling accidently found it, kept it secret and hid it away.”
“Meaning to use it for his and his wife’s benefit?”
“Precisely, sir.”
Pearight bent his head, deep in thought.
“I have to say that it strikes me that both Trimeots and Goslings were all a bit, how can I put it, below par as it were. They don’t seem to be really up to scratch to be part of such a covert operation as the S.O.E.”
“Even the S.O.E need foot soldiers, sir, and that’s all those chaps were.”
Pearight nodded his head in agreement. Hilary had remained quiet, letting Adam do what was needed. She now stood up and moved next to him.
“Superintendent, forgive me but I need to visit my employee, Mrs MacCrumpet, to see how she is. Would it be alright for me to leave now? You seem to have things under control.”
“Of course, my dear, I think Adam has updated me as much as he can. Why don’t you take her Adam and maybe see how that Hertlasp chap is at the same time?”
“Thank you, sir. Will you be okay on your own?”
“I will be fine, thanks. Oh, and by the way, good work, Adam. Well done.”
Hilary and Adam turned to leave, then Hilary stopped. She turned round and spoke to the Superintendent.
“It’s just a thought, Obadiah, but the stolen money could be put to good use if it is okay to do so.”
Pearight stopped and looked at the doctor.
“Go on.”
“The two boys, one an orphan the other homeless, might they not be the ones most in need of some sort of financial security?”
Pearight smiled.
“It may not be as easy as it sounds but I will see what I can do.”
There was something cold about morgues. It was not the fact they stored the dead in what amounted to deep freeze units but rather the sense of dread foreboding, of being in a place that deals with ultimate eventualities that Lazarus didn’t like. He had visited such places many times during his career but had never grown used to them.
The sheet covering Mrs. MacCrumpet’s face was drawn back to reveal a waxy visage that seemed peaceful in death. The signs of her burns were hidden by the blue coverall that lay over the old, house cleaner’s body.
Oddly it was Adam who felt awful. Hilary seemed less upset than he thought. She had not displayed any outward signs of emotion and appeared resigned to the fact that her old friend had lost her fight.
When the couple had confronted the young doctor, indicating their shock and disbelief, he had replied that it had been the damage done to her lungs that brought on the heart attack that ultimately killed her, that and the shock.
Leatherbarrow stood now, gazing at the body of her old friend. With a deep sigh like a punctuation mark, she turned to Adam.
“I have done what I wanted to. There is nothing left now. I have said my goodbyes. She’s gone. Perhaps the truth will hit me later but for now I just want to go home.”
Lazarus took her hand in his.
“I know, but I have to check on Harry Hertlasp. I did say I would.”
Hilary sighed, then looked about the morgue.
“I have worked in places like this all my adult life. I am used to them now. They no longer hold that air of dark mystery they once did and yet seeing someone I was fond off lying here dead somehow changes that perspective completely. He’s in here isn’t he?”
“Who? Hertlasp?”
“Recovering in the ward apparently. They are going to perform some new minor surgery.”
“It’s known as angioplasty. It is a very recent development.”
“It must be, said Lazarus, “I’d never heard of it before.”
They left the morgue and took a lift up to the third floor where patients having suffered cardiac arrests were nursed and monitored. Because of the nature of Hertlasp’s crimes a guard was on permanent duty outside the ward doors. Lazarus flashed his warrant card, nodded, then walked into a small room containing three beds. In the first was an elderly man, older than Harry, who lay sleeping. His face was pale yellow, possibly jaundiced. He had a growth of whiskers on his chin. Tufts of hair grew from his nose. He was snoring gently. To his right a large man with several chins sat reading a Joanna Trollope novel. To his left lay Harry. He was propped up with three pillows plumped behind his back. In his arm was an intravenous line.
“Hello Harry. You are looking better than when we last met.”
“There was only two ways it could have gone and thankfully I seem to be on the mend.”
“You remember Doctor Leatherbarrow?”
“Yes, of course. How are you Doctor?”
Hilary smiled. For a man who had murdered, then cut up two people Harry had charm.
“Not too bad,” she replied, “and you?”
“Sorry to hear about your colleague. News travels fast in here especially when the ward orderlies spread every bit of news as it happens. They are more reliable than TV.”
Hilary smiled at him. Lazarus moved closer.
“We caught Agatha and Jean’s killers. Did you hear that on the hospital grapevine?”
It was evident from the look on Harry’s face that he hadn’t.
“Who was it, Martin Tickpant?”
Lazarus shook his head. “No, it wasn’t. The Trimeots and Goslings were part of a cell of a para-military operatives. Agatha tried blackmailing them and so they killed her.”
“She always was a greedy, stupid cow. What about Jean? Why’d they kill her?”
“They thought Agatha had told her. It was a case of damage limitations.”
“Christ, what about Sam and Todd?”
“They’ll be put into care.”
“Poor sods. If only I was there I would take them in.”
“You’ll be going into care too Harry: prison care. By the time you come out they’ll both be adults.”
Harry gave a mirthless laugh.
“Did you speak with Mavis?” he asked.
“Yes I did. She didn’t have much to say about you I’m afraid.”
“She wouldn’t. I hurt her. I didn’t want to embroil her in my life. I guess I knew that one day I’d get caught. That would have been unfair on her. Oh, by the way, buried in my garden, right by the roses, is a pouch. Inside the pouch is a letter from Mavis to me. I buried it there when you first started your investigations.”
Lazarus sighed and looked at Hilary. She looked tired and ready to go.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. We have to go now.”
“Thanks,” said Harry, “not just for visiting but acting so quickly when I had the heart attack.”
Lazarus smiled, took Hilary by the elbow, then left.
The Winchester restaurant at number seven Bridge Street was where Obadiah Pearight had taken Hibiscus. It was his favourite eating place. He had never taken his lady love there before but felt it time she tasted of its fine food.
Obadiah’s passion, after his career, was fine cuisine. It was something he indulged in when time allowed.
Hibiscus sat before him, delighted to be wined and dined in such smart surroundings. She too loved her food as her increasing waistline proved. Neither she nor Obadiah cared much for the trend of staying thin. It was a virtue both found impossible in light of their love of food.
In the back of her mind she was wondering why he had brought them here. She knew of course that his team had just solved a curious, knotty case but wasn’t sure if this was a celebratory meal or just Obadiah spoiling her.
She picked up her glass of Pinot Grigio that he had just filled for her, held it up as toast.
“Congratulations,” she said smiling.
He looked mildly flustered.
“For what?”
“Solving the case of course, isn’t that what this is all about?”
“It wasn’t me who solved it. That honour belongs to Adam Lazarus. Mind you,” he enthused, “The Commissioner indicated I would be receiving promotion.”
“To Chief Superintendent?”
“Oh well done, Obby. You deserve it. I did wonder why we were eating here tonight.”
Pearight coughed. His face had flushed when she had spoken out loud her pet name for him. He tugged on his tie then smiled.
“He also indicated Lazarus may be in line for my old job.”
“Good news all around then.”
Pearight nodded, and then sipped on his wine.
“That wasn’t why I booked this restaurant, though.”
Hibiscus pressed her napkin against her lips then accepted the menu proffered by the waiter.
“Thank you,” she said. “If not to celebrate, then what is the reason for bringing me here tonight?” she asked, looking perplexed.
Obadiah took, then thanked the waiter for, his menu, then sipped again from his glass.
“Well, it’s like this. I have reached a position in life, a point where I am happy and contented with my lot. My job was, long before I heard of promotion, one I enjoyed. I had attained a rank I felt justified and also happy with. The news of my becoming a DCS does put the cherry on the cake but it really has nothing to do with my inviting you here tonight.”
Having read the  menu and made her mind up what she wanted to eat, Hibiscus placed it back on the table and picked up her glass which she then held in her hand.
“So why then? It is rather expensive isn’t it?”
Obadiah laughed. “It is a bit but I have eaten here before and the cuisine is awfully good, well worth the prices they charge. Anyway, it’s like this. Neither of us is getting any younger. I have reached a stage of life, promotion to one side, when things are ticking along nicely. Life seldom throws up any unexpected events anymore. I have, as you know been a lifelong bachelor. It was a situation I was happy with up until recently.”
Hibiscus, trying to keep her patience but with knitted brow, sipped on her Pinot then put the glass down as the waiter returned to take their orders. Once they had given their selection, and once he had departed, she spoke.
“And what happened recently?”
“Yes, you.”
“I hardly think someone of my age just happened.”
“You know precisely what I mean. You entered my life and it has changed forever.”
“For the better, I hope?”
“Of course,” said the soon-to-be Chief Superintendent as he thrust his hand into his suit coat pocket from which he produced a small, black box, “and in view of how happy you have made me I was wondering if, well, if you’d do me the honour?” He flushed scarlet, then pushed the box toward Hibiscus.
“What’s this?” she asked, feeling her stomach flip.
“It’s a ring, an engagement ring. Would you marry me?”
Home, if often has been said, is where the heart is and for Hilary, Debbie and Adam that sentiment could not have been more true. Even Miles, though not part of their ménage a trois, felt the same.
Upon entering the door of the old converted school house Hilary felt her cares melt away. Debbie had taken Miles to the emergency desk at the hospital. Although the wound was, as Hilary had suggested, superficial, the doctor in charge had felt it wise to admit Miles for overnight observations. Having made sure he was comfortable and had all he needed she had then returned home.
As Adam opened the door for Hilary so Debbie rushed forward and threw her arms around Hilary’s neck kissing her. Adam felt a twinge of jealousy which passed as soon as it arrived.
“Why don’t we have some dinner?” suggested Debbie. “I bought some stuff after dropping Miles off. He has to stay in overnight. One of us can pick up when he phones. I bought two bottles of wine, pasta and mince. That’s alright isn’t it?”
As no one raised any arguments Debbie smiled. “Good. Once we’ve eaten I thought we could take a bath together then maybe go to bed. You know, for a bit of rest and relaxation.”
“Is that what you call it?” laughed Lazarus.
“I think I could live with that,” chortled Hilary.
Taking both her ex-boss and her new found lover by the hand Debbie dragged the pair into the kitchen. Love is after all the food of the soul.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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