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mobile or address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. To get the free app, mobile phone. The newspapers had been repeating the phrase for weeks now as one radiant day followed another, with no end to the heat wave in sight.
But here in Highfield, sunshine lay like a curse on empty cottage gardens. Only the hetones in the churchyard, crowding the moss-covered stone wall flanking the road, gave mute evidence of a human presence. He was an inspector with the Surrey police, a thin grey man with an anxious look. Boyce had come to the station to meet Inspector Madden and Billy. In a chauffeured Rolls Royce, no less! With less than three months experience in the CID he knew he was lucky to be there at all, ased to a case of such magnitude.
Only the August bank holiday, combined with the heavy summer-leave schedule, had brought it about. Scotland Yard had been thinly manned that Monday morning when the telephone call came from Guildford. Minutes later Billy had found himself in a taxi with Madden bound for Victoria station. He glanced at the inspector, who was sitting beside him staring out of the car window.
Among the lower ranks at the Yard, Madden was reckoned to be a queer one.
A tall grim man with a scarred forehead, he seemed more like a monk than a policeman, the young detective constable thought. He had a strange history-Billy had heard it from one of the sergeants. Madden had left the force some years before after losing his wife and baby daughter, both in the same week, to influenza.
The son of a farmer, he had wanted to return to the land. Changed, though, it was said. A different man from before. Two years in the trenches had seen to that. They had cleared the village, leaving the last cottage behind. Rounding a bend in the road, the chauffeur braked.
Ahead of them, blocking the narrow country lane and facing a set of iron gates, a crowd had gathered. Whole families were there, it seemed, the men in shirtsleeves and braces, the women wearing kitchen aprons and with their hair tied up in scarves and handkerchiefs. Children stood hand in hand, or else played together on the dusty verges. A short way down the road two little girls in coloured smocks were bowling a hoop. Billy felt the weight of their accusing stares. At the end of it Billy could see a house built of solid stone, clothed in ivy. Melling Lodge was its name. Madden had told him.
A family called Fletcher lived there. Had lived there. Blue uniforms stirred in the shadows. Nothing but woods. Miles and miles of them. Two of them wore light country tweeds.
The third sweated in a double-breasted serge suit. Local nob. He owns most of the land hereabouts. Major General Sir William Raikes. Detective Inspector. This is Detective Constable Styles.
Chief Inspector Sinclair is on his way. Pathologist, fingerprint squad, photographer How else can I help you, Inspector? His face showed s of recent shock, the eyes wide and blinking. Yes, the ridge extends for several miles. But the villagers have always had the run of the woods. Over on this side, at least. Make it clear no trespassing will be allowed and ask the police to enforce it.
Could you speak to them? Then ask them to go home. Watching, Billy could only marvel.
How did Madden do it? There was a rough unpolished air about the inspector that set him apart from the likes of his lordship. But when he talked, they listened! Even Sir William Whatsit, who could only stand there glowering. The Guildford chief was red in the face and sweating heavily in his thick suit.
Madden regarded him without expression. Norris opened his mouth to speak again, then changed his mind. He spun on his heel and reed Raikes, who stood with his back ostentatiously turned to them, glaring up the drive at the retreating figure of Lord Stratton. Madden nodded to Boyce and led the way out of the forecourt around to the side of the house. When they came into a pool of shade he paused and took out a packet of cigarettes.
Billy, encouraged by the sight, lit up himself. Under sedation. He wiped his face. Fletcher had given her the weekend off-Saturday and Sunday-but she was due back last night, and the other maid, Pepper, was to have had today off. She was seen passing through the village, running from the station, looking to be in trouble with her mistress, I dare say. Half an hour later she was back again, not making much sense by all s.
Boyce shrugged. Fainted, I would guess. But she had enough sense to get herself to the local bobby. He lives at this end of the village. Constable Stackpole. He said she was raving. So he got on his bicycle and pedalled like blazes. He rang Guildford from the Lodge.
I was the duty officer and I informed Chief Inspector Norris and he rang the chief constable who decided to call in the Yard right away. Boyce looked shamefaced. Norris tried to stop them, but It was getting to be ripe inside. The heat, you know Stackpole said she did what was necessary, confirmed they were all dead. It was she who found the little girl. She must have been there all night Lucky, I suppose, if you can call it that.
Boyce shook his head. Blackwell found her. The shock, I imagine. Madden killed his cigarette on the sole of his shoe and put the stub in his pocket. Billy, watching, followed suit. Blackwell says between eight and ten last night-based on rigor. Ann Dunn. She lives in the village. She fixed them a cold meal, then took herself off. They could have driven in. Most likely a gang. But why they had to-" He broke off, shaking his head. Boyce led the way to the front of the house, out of the shade on to the sunwashed terrace.
Shallow steps led from the terrace to a lawn bordered by flower-beds with a fishpond in the middle. Further on another set of steps led to a lower level bordered by a shrubbery. Where the garden ended the woods of Upton Hanger began, rising like a green wave, filling the horizon. They smashed in the french windows. Not professionals. One of a pair of tall glassed doors at the front of the house had been knocked off its hinges.
The empty frame lay across the doorway. Broken glass glittered in the sunlight. Madden crouched down to examine it. In the silence Billy heard the sound of flies buzzing. It came from inside the house. He wrinkled his nose at the rotten-sweet smell.Free video chat with Airth women
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