The sixth book in the charming and critically acclaimed series set in a tiny Welsh village, Rhys Bowen's Evans to Betsy.
The charming village of Llanfair, the setting for Rhys Bowen's beloved Constable Evans mysteries, sits amid lush, rolling Welsh meadows populated with quaint cottages and is considered by many of its colorful locals to be a kind of paradise. Unfortunately, there aren't many opportunities for young people in Llanfair, so when an exciting and glamorous American woman breezes into town talking of dormant psychic powers and important social research, barmaid Betsy Edwards is quick to take her up on an offer of employment at the recently opened Sacred Grove New Age center not far away. Of course the locals, including the village constable, Evan Evans, think Betsy has gone around the bend, not to mention the nutty American who dragged her off to be "tested."
Betsy, though, is dazzled at the possibility of exploring her own sixth sense. And she's only a little surprised when her new powers are put to a real-life test; when the center's flamboyant director goes missing, clues to his fate mysteriously appear in Betsy's dreams.
It's a tantalizing mystery for lonely Betsy, who can't help doing a little investigating on her own. But Constable Evans has been involved with Sacred Grove before-looking for a missing American college student who was lured there by Druid worship. As Betsy does her own sleuthing on the spot, Evan comes to realize that there is nothing straightforward about this case and that Betsy has no idea at all of the terrible danger she is in.
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Evans to Betsy
A Constable Evans Mystery
By Rhys Bowen
ST. MARTIN'S MINOTAUR "Llanfair." The driver read out the battered sign beside the road. "I thought this might be a good place to start." He changed down a gear and the Jag slowed with a discontented growl. A village appeared aheada mere cluster of cottages, nestled under the steep, green walls of the mountain pass.
Copyright © 2002 Rhys Bowen.
All rights reserved.
The woman in the passenger seat leaned forward to peer through the windscreen. It was hard to tell her exact agethe long straight hair and lack of makeup, coupled with the jeans and T-shirt, made her look, at first glance, like a teenager, but a closer inspection put her in her thirties. She studied the gray stone cottages, the sheep on the high hillsides, the mountain stream dancing over rocks as it passed under the old stone bridge. "It's worth a try," she said. "Certainly remote enough. No supermarket, no video store, and no satellite dishes on the roofs. And it's got the proverbial pub where jolly locals meet."
The Jag slowed to a crawl as they approached the square black-and-white-timbered building. A swinging pub sign outside announced it to be the Red Dragon. "I don't see too many jolly locals around right now," he said. "The place looks deserted. Where is everybody?"
"Perhaps it's the Welsh version of Brigadoon. They only come out once every hundred years." She laughed. "Oh, wait a second. Here's somebody." A young girl with wild blondcurls had come out of the pub. She began hopefully wiping off the outdoor tables, although the sky was heavy with the promise of rain. A loud yell from across the street made her look up. There was a row of shops directly opposite the pub. G. Evans, Cyggyd (with the word "Butcher" underneath in very small letters), K. Evans, Dairy Products, and then, preventing an Evans monopoly, T. Harris, General Store (and Sub Post Office).
A large, florid man in a blood-spattered apron had come out of the butcher's shop, and was now shouting and waving a cleaver. The two occupants of the car looked at each other uncertainly as the cleaver-waving and shouting continued.
"Jolly locals?" He gave a nervous chuckle.
The young girl appeared to be unfazed by the tirade. She tossed her mane of blond hair and yelled something back and the butcher burst out laughing. He waved the cleaver good-naturedly and went back into his shop. The young girl glanced at the Jag, then gave the last table a halfhearted wipe before going back into the pub.
"What the hell was that all about?" The woman in the car asked. "Was that Welsh they were speaking?"
"I don't suppose it was Russian, honey. We are in the middle of Wales."
"But I didn't realize people actually spoke Welsh! I thought it was one of those ancient languages you study at Berkeley. You might have warned me. I could have taken a crash language course. It's going to make things more difficult."
He put out his hand and patted her knee. "It will be fine. They all speak English too, you know. Now why don't you hop out and test the waters, huh?"
"You want me to get hacked to death by a cleaver? Do you suppose they're all violent up here in the mountains? I'd imagine there's a lot of inbreeding."
"There's only one way to find out." He grinned as he gave her a gentle nudge. "And this was your idea, remember."
"Our idea. We planned it together."
He looked at her for a long moment. "I have missed you, Emmy."
"Me too. I didn't think it would take so long. I'm damned jealous, you know."
"You don't have to be."
An elderly man in a cloth cap and tweed jacket came down the street at a fast pace and disappeared into the pub. A couple of women walked past, deep in conversation, with shopping baskets on their arms. They wore the British uniform for uncertain weatherplastic macks and head scarves over gray permed hair. They paused to give the car an interested glance before settling at the bus stop.
"I should get out of here," the man said. "I shouldn't be noticed. There's a big hotel higher up the passyou can't miss it. It looks like a damned great Swiss chaletugly as hell. I'll wait for you up there, okay?"
"All right. Give me about an hour." She opened the door and was met by a fresh, stiff breeze. "Gee, it's freezing up here. I'll need to buy thermal underwear if we decide that this place will do."
"Start at the pub," he suggested. "At least we know somebody's there."
She nodded. "Good idea. I could use a drink." Her thin, serious face broke into a smile. "Wish me luck."
"Good luck," he said. "This is a crazy idea, Emmy. It damned well better work." The big car moved up the street. Emmy pushed her long dark hair out of her face as she opened the heavy oak door and went into the Red Dragon pub.
She stepped into a warm and inviting room. A long, polished oak bar ran almost the whole length of one wall, and the matching beam above it was decorated with horse brasses. A fire was burning in a huge fireplace at the far end. The girl with the wild blond hair was standing behind the bar, talking to the old man and a couple of young men in mud-spattered work overalls. The low murmur of conversation in Welsh ceased the moment the stranger was noticed.
"Can I help you, miss?" the girl asked in lilting English.
Emmy joined the men at the bar. "Sure. What beer do folks drink around here?"
"That would be Robinson's," the girl answered. "Although some like their Guinness or a Brains, even though it comes from South Wales. I don't know why we stock it, personally."
"Weak as water," the old man muttered.
"Okay. I'll take a half-pint of Robinson's then."
The barmaid glanced at the men. She was looking distinctly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, but ladies usually drink in the lounge, if you don't mind. Why don't you go through and I'll take your order."
"Okay." Emmy managed a smile. This wasn't an occasion for making waves. "Would you mind directing me to the lounge?"
"It's through that doorway."
Emmy went through the open archway and found herself in a much colder room dotted with several polished wood tables and leather-upholstered chairs. There was a fireplace in this room too, but the fire wasn't alight. Along one wall there was a long oak bar. Emmy was amused to realize it was the back of the same bar where the men were standing. The girl with the hair had turned to face her.
"Found it all right, did you then?"
"Is this some sort of law in Wales?" Emmy asked. "The women in one bar and the men in the other, I mean."
"Oh, no," the barmaid said. "Not the law exactly. It's just the way it's always been, isn't it? And the men don't feel they can chat properly when there are ladies present. They might use bad language or want to tell a joke."
Emmy smiled at the quaintness. "So the ladies sit alone in here and discuss knitting patterns?"
"To tell you the truth, the ladies don't come to the pub very often on their own. And if they're with their man, why then they all sit together in the lounge." She turned back to the elderly man leaning on the bar. "Isn't that right, Charlie? I was saying that women don't come to the pub much on their own."
"They don't come much at all," Charlie replied, "seeing as we're usually here around the time when they have to be home, cooking our dinners. Besides, most women don't like the taste of beer. My Mair says she'd rather drink medicine."
The barmaid had finished drawing the half-pint and put it in front of Emmy. "That will be one pound, miss, if you don't mind."
Emmy got out the coin and put it on the counter. "Thanks. Well, cheers then. How do you say 'cheers' in Welsh?"
"Iyched da," Charlie and the other men said in chorus.
"Yacky dah?" Emmy tried it, stumbling over the pronunciation, and making them all laugh.
"We shouldn't leave her all alone in that cold old lounge," one of the young men suggested. "It wouldn't do any harm to have her come and drink with us."
Emmy noted the muscles bulging through the threadbare T-shirt and the unruly dark hair. Not bad, she decided. This assignment may have hidden perks.
"Harry wouldn't like it," the barmaid said firmly. "Besides, she wouldn't want to hear the kind of language you use sometimes, Barry-the-Bucketit would make her blush, the kind of things you say."
"Me? When do I ever say something that makes you blush, Betsy fach?"
"Well, I'm used to it, aren't I? I have to put up with you all the time."
She turned back to Emmy with an apologetic smile. "Don't mind him, miss."
"What did you call him?" Emmy asked, fascinated.
"Barry-the-Bucket, on account of he drives the bulldozer with that big scooper thing in the front."
"Barry-the-Bucket. I like that."
The men were now all leaning on the bar, watching Emmy with interest as she took a long swig of her beer. She was tempted to drain the glass in one go, as she had learned to do in college, but it was important that she create the right image. She took one swig, put the glass down, and smiled at them. "It's good," she said. "Nice and full-bodied."
"You like beer, then, do you?" Barry asked her. "Do they drink beer in America? It is America you come from, isn't it?"
"That's right. Pennsylvania. And we drink quite a bit of beer, although you'd probably find it too weak and cold."
"That very pale stuff, fizzy like lemonade. I had some once. Budwasn't it?"
Barry turned to his mate, who nodded agreement.
"Here on holiday, are you, miss?" Charlie asked.
Emmy noted with amusement that apparently it was okay if the men talked to her through the barrather like a convent with a grille, she decided. "Actually, I'm here to do research," she said.
Excerpted from Evans to Betsy by Rhys Bowen. Copyright © 2002 by Rhys Bowen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.