26 - Guilty or not guilty, that is the question

Cleo and Gary spent the best part of the night in Roman’s apartment. Sometime after midnight he had gone to bed and left the lovers a note to the effect that they were welcome to breakfast or to make coffee in his kitchen.
“You‘d better get home, Cleo,” Gary said, astonished that they had gone to sleep and woken hours after Cleo should have left.
“I don’t really care,” said Cleo.


25 - Courtney

The events at the meeting that Wednesday had taken their toll on Dorothy. For a start, she was very disappointed in Gary. Why was he messing around with Silvia Barnet? Was he rejecting Cleo? Was all that drama surrounding her actually marrying Robert just so much hot air. She would have to ask Cleo to put her in the picture. She liked Gary and had thought Cleo was the love of his life, but now he was carrying blatantly with Anna’s bother, or so she suspected. For the rest of the day, Dorothy was in two minds about phoning Cleo and asking her what had happened, but she did not want to interfere. It was not her battle to fight, she reflected.

24 - Post mortem

You would not describe the people gathered in Gary’s office on a wet Wednesday afternoon as jolly, but they were certainly relieved, and Gary was almost smug, though he could not take the credit for actually catching Akbari. As far as he was concerned, that detail would be cast side. He hoped that the press would not make a thing of it.

23 - Night watch

The vicar was more of a lost cause than the congregation whose good shepherd he tried to be. He was always thankful for Tuesday nights. His own spiritual strife dominated his life and Tuesday night spent on his knees was his chance to build up enough strength to carry on.

22 - It never rains ...

Cleo locked the office and walked home, devastated by what she had just done. Robert was glad to see her and tried to ask a lot of questions Cleo had phoned and told him briefly about finding Sybil and the plan to drive her to the vicarage. Since Cleo had earlier intimated that she would like to adopt Anna, Robert knew she would have mixed feelings about finding Sybil. He was relieved Cleo’s plan to adopt Anna that adoption was now fortunately off the menu.
“Gary is charmed by Sybil,” she told him.

21 - Sybil

Since the Singleton case was under or even beyond his control, Gary decided to start his search for Sybil Garnet that day. After a deep internet search, he had retrieved a list of addresses for Barnet and none for Garnet, which confirmed Berta’s theory that Sybil had changed her name to avoid her family finding her.


20 - The midwife

On Tuesday morning, while Cleo was on her way to visit Mrs Singleton, Gary phoned Roger Stone.
 “Sorry I could not come to your wedding,” said Roger Stone.
“It was not my wedding. It was Robert's.”

19 - Mrs Daniels

Lunch at Romano’s was followed by a siesta in Romano’s guest room, but the lovers were troubled by the implications of the meeting with Crane. Making love seemed to be out of place.
“Are you OK, Cleo?” Gary wanted to know. “No more of that kind of interview for you, my love.”
“I’m just shocked by the whole business,” said Cleo. “Hold me close and I’ll feel OK soon.
“I could say the same,” said Gary.

18 - Alice Crane II

On Monday morning, as arranged, Cleo and Gary paid the women’s security prison a second visit. While Cleo drove, Gary described the discovery of Margot Smith’s corpse, but soon got drowsy from the sound of the car engine and his own voice and went to sleep until Cleo stopped the car.
“I was asleep,” said Gary gratuitously. “You should have woken me.”
“I knew the way and you looked so peaceful.”
“I’d sleep better with you next to me,” he said.
“I was next to you.”

17 - Smith alias Devonport

Gary was taking his Sunday turn at HQ. He was understandably delighted with the report he received from Ted Beasley. There was at last hope on the horizon for Alice Crane. Gary phoned Cleo immediately to tell her the good news
“But I suppose you already knew, didn’t you?” he said.
“Sure,” said Cleo. “Jenny is working for me, Gary. I expect Ted reported on the police procedure.”
“Only this morning. I’m holding the fort here,” he told Cleo.

16 - Miss James

On Saturday morning, Jenny drove to the Daniels’ address in Middlethumpton. The building turned out to contain four apartments on two floors and to Jenny’s relief the name Daniels was still on the buzzer. Someone saw Jenny approaching the building. A woman flung open her window, which was directly above the bay window of the Daniels’ flat and therefore the living-room, and called out.
“Looking for the Daniels? I think they’re out. Would you like to come up for a minute?”

15 - Alice Crane

After reporting briefly to Robert where she was going and phoning Dorothy to check that she knew everything relevant, Cleo made a task list for the coming days, answered a few emails, and drank a whole pot of espresso, black and very sweet. Just before one she phoned Gary on her mobile to say she was in the short stop bay outside HQ and could he join her there. Bearing a ring-binder containing printed data relevant to the Crane case and sandwiches ordered from the canteen, Gary got into the passenger seat and they drove off towards the women’s security prison where Crane was being held. Cleo negotiated the Friday midday traffic while Gary shared the sandwiches and then read the report on Crane’s manslaughter case out loud. It made gruelling listening.

14 - Hitched, but not to a star

For two days there was no contact between Cleo and Gary. He was worried about her and talked seriously to Dorothy, who reassured him that Cleo was not being beaten or blackmailed. Cleo was trying to be loyal to Robert. Dorothy thought that was why she was marrying him.
“What about loyalty to me?“ said Gary.

13 - Banu

Gary thought that Dorothy would have made someone a good wife and said so.
“Were you a sex bomb, Dorothy?” he asked.
Far from being surprised, Dorothy was accustomed to Gary’s directness.
“I had my moments, Gary,” she retorted, then looked long and hard at the photo Cleo had printed.

12 - Trysts

Sunday saw Cleo working in her office for a few hours. She had not meant to go there, but Gary had sent the photo of the dead woman through and Cleo had replied that she was going to the office print it on her notepaper and catch up on other cases. She had not invited Gary, but he turned up, ostensibly on his way to the Common to get some fresh air on a sticky July day. The inevitable happened, of course.
“I don’t really know how you had the nerve to come, Gary.”
“Dorothy sent me.”

10 - Snakes

“Is there a Beethoven Street anywhere in this area, Gary?”
“Not that I know of. Why?”
“Anna has a teddy-bear with a secret.”
“Go on! Don't keep me in suspense!”


9 - Teddy's secret

Dorothy presented herself at the information desk of Social Services very early on Friday morning. She was wearing the hat she described as her ‘sleuthing cloche’, dressed in unfashionable garment rejects straight out of a charity shop, and putting on a convincing act of distress and confusion.
“Are you all right, Mrs?” a young girl at the desk asked.

8 - Tango

On a day overshadowed by grim suspicions of child abuse and bartering, back at the cottage for lunch Cleo spent quite a long time searching for loopholes in her theory about the purported ongoing subversive trading in babies, but even in the chat-rooms she entered online with a false name and giving her age as 15 and her condition as 8 months pregnant, the advice offered was not very helpful. It seemed as though girls in that predicament did not share their worries online.

7 - Dorothy goes for a walk

Robert had been asleep when Cleo got back from the Singleton cottage, so Cleo and he talked about the previous night’s events at breakfast early on Wednesday morning, Cleo having made a special effort to get up at the crack of dawn. Cleo phoned Dorothy and asked her if she could come for a quick coffee seven thirty, an hour Dorothy found unusual for Cleo who liked her mornings to start gently and late. Realizing that something must be afoot, she was standing on Cleo’s doorstep within fifteen minutes.


6 - Mrs Courtney

It was a pleasant walk downhill towards Middlethumpton, but since Thumpton Hill was steep, the walk back would have been strenuous, so Cleo got into her car and drove there. Thumpton Close was a long cul-de-sac lined with white-painted houses and tidy front gardens. Cleo left her car in the parking area made for people wanting to take a stroll in Thumpton Wood and walked the rest of the way. Almost as soon as she had rung the doorbell belonging to house number 10, the door was flung open by a woman who proved to be Mrs Courtney.


5 - Anna

“I won’t come with you to the vicarage,” Gary announced. “I think I should get back to HQ and pursue the inquiries into those social workers.”
“That’s a good idea,” said Cleo. “Edith will be a nervous wreck by now, so your presence would probably alarm her even more. We can talk later.”
“Thanks,” said Gary. “You are worth your weight in gold and Dorothy, I love you too.”
There were tears in Dorothy’s eyes as Gary left for HQ.
“He’s a lovely man,” she sniffed.
“He is, isn’t he?” said Cleo.

4 - Mistaken Identity?

Gary’s return had created havoc in Cleo’s mind. She was overjoyed to have him back in her life. Did she need the agency at all? Couldn’t she just work alone and extricate herself from her engagement to Robert? What was stopping her? She did not love Robert. She would marry him out of gratitude. They had needed one another at one time, she reflected, but her love of Gary was undiminished despite his long absence.

3 - The girl child

Cleo and Gary were about to drink their latté when the phone rang. It was the vicar in an overexcited state.
“Cleo, thank God I’ve reached you. You weren’t at home.”
“I usually work here in the office at this time on a weekday,” she replied, thinking ruefully of the number of times the phone had rung and remained unanswered. She would not tell the vicar that she had calls put through from home. “What are you upset about?”

2 - Intermezzo

Next morning, Gary woke with a headache and much later than usual. The aroma of bacon frying soon had him sitting at Dorothy’s kitchen table, but he could not say if he would be able to eat it.
“What was in that elderberry wine, Dorothy?”
“I’ve no idea,” said Dorothy. “Probably rum. It works better than diazepam, doesn’t it?”
“Especially after vodka,” said Gary.


1 - Burnout

"You're nervous," said Cleo Hartley as she observed Robert Jones throwing the lamb chops into the frying pan. All his actions were frenetic. He seemed to be turning his cooking into a race to the finish.
"Me? No. What makes you think that?"
"Body language, Robert."
He tried to distract her.