Plots and Errorsby Jill McGown
Why would someone
When the owners of a struggling detective agency are found asphyxiated in their car, Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd rejects the majority opinion that they committed suicide. And his theorythat they were murderedbecomes even more likely when the doomed couple's one client, wealthy Mrs. Angela Esterbrook, is found shot to death.
Why would someone with her sort of money employ an untried agency to carry out an investigation? The super-rich Esterbrook family is a puzzle that Lloyd and his partner, Judy Hill, must solve before it's too late. For the curtain is rising on a tragedy of Shakespearean grandeur. But no one, not even the cunning killer, anticipates how the plot will take on a lethal life of its own beyond everyone's control . . . .
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Saturday, September 27th, 11:00 a.m.
The garage and various rooms of a semidetached house in Stansfield
Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd looked at the two bodies in the elderly
Ford Fiesta and sighed.
The man, he had never met. He was about Lloyd's own age--late forties,
early fifties; difficult to say at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. He had more hair than Lloyd, but most people did. He had the same dark colouring, but he was much bigger, taller. The car had been specially adapted for a disabled driver; he was in the driving seat.
The woman he had met, and had worked with, but that was a long time ago now. She had been twenty-four when he'd seen her last; she had left the job to marry the man whose hand she had been holding while their car had filled up with lethal fumes, pumped through a vacuum-cleaner hose from the exhaust pipe.
"Their daughter found them this morning, sir," said the constable. "She walked along the passage between the house and the garage, to the back door of the house, and heard the engine. She pulled the hose from the exhaust, but she couldn't get into the car to turn off the engine."
The garage, its overhead door closed and firmly locked, still held the heavy odour of exhaust gases; the small door at the rear stood wide open to admit as much fresh air as possible, but even diluted and dispersed,
the pollution in the atmosphere was unhealthy. Undiluted, confined in the small car, it would have been lethal in about ten minutes.
"It wouldn't have made any difference if she had. They'd been dead for hours by the time she got here," said the Forensic Medical Examiner,
straightening up from the car. "Life pronounced extinct at . . . " She looked at her watch. "Eleven-seventeen a.m.," she said, and smiled at
Lloyd. "I'm a bit puzzled about why you're here, Chief Inspector. How come you got called out? Am I missing something?"
"No," Lloyd said. "You're not missing anything. I'm not here on duty--the officers dealing thought I'd want to know, that's all."
He could hear his own Welshness when he spoke; usually his accent was very carefully controlled, ranging from barely discernible to impenetrable,
depending on the impression he was choosing to give. It was when he got what Detective Sergeant Finch called a gut-feeling that it popped out all by itself. From his soul, he liked to think, rather than his gut.
"I knew Kathy--twenty years ago, admittedly, but I knew her." He smiled at the slightly wary look on the FME's face. "I wouldn't rush round to see all my friends' dead bodies," he said. "But I want to be sure that this is really a suicide pact, because I don't think Kathy was a quitter."
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't realize you knew her. But there's nothing to suggest she didn't go through with it of her own accord."
"No," sighed Lloyd. "But it doesn't add up," he said, almost to himself,
then smiled apologetically at the doctor. "Kathy always had a tendency to wade in first and think second," he said. "She never thought ahead. She survived by finding a way out of whatever problem she found herself with.
She was famous for it."
"Well," said the doctor doubtfully, "this is a way out."
"True," Lloyd conceded. "And I don't know what her problems were yet--this may have seemed the only way out." He took the notes that she had made.
"Thank you, Doctor," he said, lifting a hand as she left. "Where's the daughter now?" he asked the constable.
"She's with Sergeant Alexander in the house, sir."
Mary Alexander had joined Bartonshire Constabulary on the same day as
Kathy White, as she then was, and Lloyd, and there was a bond between raw recruits all learning the ropes together that never quite went away; she had known that Lloyd would want to be sure of this one.
Lloyd walked past the young man and stood in the open door at the rear of the garage. "Odd, about this door being unlocked," he said. "Don't you think?" He didn't wait for a reply. It was just a little puzzle. "Don't stay in there," he said. "You can keep an eye on things in the fresh air."
He went along the pathway to the back door, knocked, and let himself in.
Meet the Author
A native of Argyll, Scotland, Jill McGown has lived in Corby, England, since she was ten. She wrote her first novel, A Perfect Match, in 1983. Among those that have followed are Gone to Her Death, Murder at the Old Vicarage, Murder . . . Now and Then, The Murders of Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Beale, The Other Woman, A Shred of Evidence, Verdict Unsafe, and Picture of Innocence.
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