In November, The Best Corpse for the Job – my first ever contemporary romantic mystery – got let loose.
When the grandfather clock—another heirloom—struck the seventh chime, the doorbell sounded and the race for the door began, Campbell winning by a paw’s breadth.
“Let me open the door, you stupid thing,” Adam said, pushing the hound’s bulk aside.
“I hope you’re not calling me a stupid thing. I could have you up for insulting a police officer.” Robin, standing smiling on the doorstep, seemed relaxed, although the suit and tie spoke of business as usual. Had he practiced that smile, to try to put witnesses at ease? If so, did he realise the unnerving effect he was bound to have on some of them? Or—wishful thinking—was that smile for Adam alone?
“If you’re going to arrest me for that, then let me lob in some proper insults en route to the station.” Adam ushered his guest into the lounge. The kitchen was cosy, but the pile of washing-up wouldn’t create any sort of good impression. “Have you eaten?”
“I’m fine. I grabbed some chips on the way back to my desk.”
“So I can’t tempt you with a bowl of chilli? Homemade. As a special treat, you can eat it in here on a tray. If you’re allowed to. Duty and all that.” Adam bit his lip. Shut up.
“No, like I said, I’m fine. I could murder a cup of tea, though.”
“Your wish is my command.” Adam decided to study his shoes, wishing he didn’t keep sticking them in his own gob. “Your part of the deal is keeping Campbell out from under my feet.”
“Best bargain I’ve had in ages,” Robin said, visibly relaxing. The dog seemed happy with the arrangement too, resting his head on their visitor’s knee.
When Adam returned with coffee for himself and Robin’s steaming mug of tea, Campbell had settled at Robin’s feet, eyes closed, and it looked like the policeman wasn’t far behind. His tie was still knotted—just—but the top shirt button had been undone. “You look all in.”
“I feel all in. Thanks.” Robin took the tray. “Always the same with murder enquiries, unless you get the big break early on. Lots of legwork and very little to show for it.” He blew on the tea, then took a swig. “This is great.”
“Glad to hear it.” Police business appeared to have been put on the back burner for the moment. Conversation turned on Campbell’s occasional disgusting habits, the provenance of the Welsh dresser in the kitchen, and the watercolours on the wall. Anything and everything except murder. It was like a first date, finding things to talk about while you sussed out whether there was going to be a second one. The disappearance of the last bit of tea put an end to that, though.
“I need some inside gen, and I’m not sure I trust anyone else to give me it. Like getting the gen from a stableboy in the run-up to the Grand National.”
“Ask away,” Adam replied, trying not to show how delighted he was at Robin’s remark.
“I’m trying to work out the likelihood of something.” Robin put his mug on a table, taking evident care not to wake the dog who’d long succumbed to slumber, and got out his notebook. “Would any of the runners for the Great Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s Headteacher Handicap go so far as nobbling their rivals? Just so the recruitment race got rerun?”
“Have you been putting the Duncans in the frame? No”—Adam put up his hands—“I’m not psychic. Our mutual friend Oliver Narraway was in school this morning and told us all how he’d tipped you the wink about them. In short, I don’t think so, although that’s no guarantee.” It didn’t seem much of an answer, but it was his best shot at an honest one. How the hell did he know what made people kill? That was Robin’s job.