It was a body and it was dead, unmistakably so. Sophia turned to Margaret, who was watching anxiously from the path. "Dead." She turned back and looked at the little hole in the chest. It had been shot, but that was noisy. Someone should have heard that. How could all these bodies be here without anybody having seen or heard anything?
"We have all the luck," Margaret replied, but it might have been meant sarcastically.
Sophia, however, did not take it as such and answered perfectly seriously. "Yes, don't we? It's not even off-putting. But this one wasn't killed today. He smells." She was not good enough to tell when the man had been shot instead, since she generally left a close examination of them to other people.
Margaret looked bemused. "Lovely. That's not off-putting?"
"Want to have a look?"
"No, thanks. I believe you. I'm neither a policewoman nor a doctor, so I couldn't have anything of value to add. I might simply vomit."
Sophia walked back to the pram and fished her cellphone out of the basket underneath. She rang the station. "I found a dead body."
"Only you could be breastfeeding on top of a corpse," James commented.
Sophia was sitting in the grass on the other side of the path and she therefore looked indignant at the stupid comment. "They were hungry, I'm not even right next to it and what are you doing here anyway?"
"I was on my way to a meeting when the good news came in. I thought I'd check if and why you were involved."
"We're not. We've even been asked to move away after we've finished nursing." And she was going to comply when she finished.
"Surely..." James wondered if he should berate the officer in charge for not being more assertive. Breastfeeding women could move. They should not even be there in the first place. But it might be difficult to evict Detective Chief Superintendent Clarke from a crime scene, especially if she had a child at a breast that was so exposed that her actions could not be mistaken for anything else, not even by the most dense constable.
James, who knew she was good at discreetly feeding two at once, looked in suspicion at her indiscreet antics with only one child. "You're so transparent, Sophia. And so much skin and none of it is for me."
"You had a lot more last night. It's not transparent to them. What do they know? We're not in the way, but it's clear I cannot move. I've told them to check where this path leads to."
"That's the downside to the feeding taking extra long because you're doing them one by one," he nodded.
"We were going to do it ourselves, but the dead body interfered. And then they got hungry." Strictly speaking that was not true. She had checked if they wanted to drink and they had not said no, but they had both latched on obediently.
"You'd never consider yourself in the way," he chuckled. "Oh well. I've got my meeting to go to."
"Do remember what I told you to say there."
"Yes, I'll make sure not to say it."
"James!" Her advice had made perfect sense and he knew it.
"I'll see." He ruffled her hair. "Sophia, do me a favour and take them home soon."
"I don't know." There were things to look into. Someone had to do that. "I wonder who to speak to about this great oversight -- Mann, Iain, you? Who missed this body lying here?"
"I'll take care of that."
Sophia grimaced at Margaret when he was gone. "Deep down all men think we're helpless and weak. Obviously I can't stand being near a corpse. I should get counselling."
"He said to take them home, not yourself."
"They come attached to me," she said regretfully. That had its advantages, but not always.
"Have you tried pumping milk?"
"I have no time for that." Sophia felt guilty about not trying, because she would need to know how to do it in a few weeks. At the moment she had no time. She was often out of the house and the twins drank so frequently that she did not know when to squeeze it in. "Besides, I'd have to save up twice as much as you."
"You're producing more too. Could you leave them with your mother-in-law for a few hours some time? She seemed nice."
"Nice?" Sophia wondered if Mrs Riley was nice. "I suppose."
"My mother-in-law is nice. I wish we still lived next to her," Margaret said wistfully. "My mother, on the other hand..."
"Your mother looks exactly like you on the outside."
"I hope not on the inside. She's strange. I know. I should try to be nice to my mother, but the moment I think things are going normally, she comes up with these absurd things that completely throw me off balance. Somehow she always unwittingly hits a sore point. Maybe I should have had a boy, if you think I look like my mother."
"On the outside. You will age well, unless she isn't very old?"
"Unfortunately she had me at seventeen," Margaret said dryly. "So she hasn't aged all that much yet."
"You could still have a boy. Iain should have a son, if he's afraid of women. You could lure him into bed with that prospect," Sophia suggested.
"Iain is not stupid enough to think he will indeed have a son if I say he will. He must want to do it, but as long as he thinks I don't, he won't. And he's also not stupid enough to think I'd suddenly like it."
Sophia wrinkled her nose. "He's stupid enough to think that doing nothing will effect a change, though. Tell him it doesn't matter that he's bad at it. You're both stupid about this. I wouldn't know how to be sympathetic anyway."
Margaret had to laugh at that. "No, you're awful. Double success at the first try. And James is probably extremely good at it. "
"At living with me, he is. But Iain might be more willing if you didn't treat him as a sperm reservoir, but as a man."
"That's the opposite of what you've just advised," Margaret pointed out.
Sophia did not care. "Which just goes to show that you shouldn't ask my advice about personal matters. I just go to sleep every night without plans."
"Are you done?"
"Having babies?" Sophia wondered as she straightened the blanket on which she was to lay her baby in a second. She had no idea. She was old, but it was not impossible to have another. At the moment she could not say what she wanted.
"Yes. You need therapy, Margaret. Or get over it. We'll walk down the path and see where it leads. I like to see these things for myself and clearly I have to, because everyone missed this dead body lying here, either because it wasn't here or because they didn't check."
"True. But if it doesn't lead anywhere, we'll have to come back and disturb the police again."
"I'm their boss." Sophia was not worried. She transferred Lizzy to the pram and pushed it down the path.
"Where are you going, ma'am?" a police officer called.
"Oh for --" She turned. "That way." If he was nice about that, she might consider not coming back by the same route. He was undoubtedly thinking she was going to disturb their work again.
"Why would someone dump a body here?" Margaret wondered. She followed Sophia.
"It wouldn't be the first thing that didn't make much sense. Maybe he committed the other murder, someone knew and killed him for it? It could be anything. But if it was the same killer for both, he was all over, wasn't he?"
"Panicking? Running away, bloody clothes and all, and running into this person. How did he die? The knife was in the club."
"He was shot."
"Wouldn't we have heard that?"
"We should have," Sophia admitted. "Someone should have. Unless he too was not killed where he was found. But why kill two people and not leave them where you killed them?"
"Or someone dumped number two here to make it look as if the two murders were related."
"That would be..." Sophia could not imagine it. "Everyone would know the place would be crawling with investigating officers."
"But not crawling enough, since they didn't find this bloke."
"Why take the risk of driving over with a dead body in your car?" She had reached the end of the little park. The path curved towards the right, probably to end up somewhere near the terrace at the other end of the club. There was a narrow opening in the hedge, however, to reach the footpath that ran between the property of the Treminster Club and the building behind it. Sophia had no idea what it was, but it was not important: the footpath was public and led to the street.
Someone could stop there and carry a body this way, drag it through the opening and leave it in the grass. "If you dragged a body from here," she asked Margaret, "would you drop it with its head pointing this way?"
Margaret considered it. "No. I don't know if it would be face up or face down -- I've never dragged bodies -- but the head would be up and therefore pointing that way."
Sophia dug into the basket underneath her pram again and extracted a notebook. "It was face up, but with its head this way. Unless someone thought this through exceptionally well, this means the body was carried from the club, or the body walked there from here and got shot right there. But there wasn't a lot of blood. I told you it wasn't off-putting."
Margaret grimaced. "Sweet of you. You favour the dumped idea?"
Sophia was busy writing something down and she waited to speak. "Neither makes any sense to me. Maybe we'll be able to think more clearly once we know who it is."
"Right. Do we push through the hedge?" She eyed Sophia's twin pram and did not think it would fit. She would have trouble pushing Shona's pram through herself.
Sophia looked annoyed as she studied the narrow opening. "I was going to, but I keep forgetting that I'm three times as wide now. There's no chance I could go through. But I want to!"
"I know you want to," Margaret consoled her. "Let's just follow the path to see if there are more gaps."
"There's a fence that way."
"There are two of us. We can lift prams. But you go first, in case we see more bodies."
Sophia and Margaret had not seen any more bodies. They had in fact not seen very much at all, because the footpath had led to a road and that was that. There were no cars and no traces of cars or anything else. It had been a little disappointing.
They had walked home and Sophia had used the opportunity to take a nap. It had lasted all of thirty minutes. Although she had been taking naps more often since the birth, she still felt guilty if she did. The rest of her day was spent tending to the twins and getting groceries, which made up for her laziness a little.
Margaret's day was a little more varied. She had only one baby, but she had Ailsa who came home from school and she received a reminder about a job they had for her. She did not know what to do with it. The last few weeks she had not had time to think about work and she had put off responding.
She was not an actress; she was a presenter. She was not even sure she could act. The only reason she had not rejected the job yet was that it concerned a police series, which at the same time was a good reason not to have shared it with Iain yet. He would find fault with the plot or the characterisations, she was sure. Or he would simply not want her to use him for any research.
Now that she knew Sophia, however, she could ask someone else and to be able to ask a woman was even better.
James had attended his meeting and had a talk with Iain afterwards. He did not want Sophia to do these things before him while she was still away on leave. "You will have heard of the other body."
"How could it be there?" He did not like to have to ask the obvious question, as he identified more with his teams than with the people he had just met with, but he had to put a little pressure on everyone nonetheless. "Wasn't the place searched from top to bottom on Saturday?"
"They were supposed to have done that," Iain answered. "I didn't check. But how far --"
"How far? Well, the grounds certainly fall within that area."
"I'll take it up with Mann."
"Thank you. It's not the kind of oversight your boss should discover -- unless the body wasn't actually there until today." For his own sake he hoped that was not the case, however. Sophia might have stumbled onto a murderer dumping his victim there and while she had always been capable, he supposed, he had become rather protective of her -- which she did not seem to like, so he had to disguise that as protectiveness towards his children.
"I heard it was the ladies who found it." Iain did not look happy about that. "I'd much rather they stayed away."
"I can't tie her up, you know." James felt a little defensive. He was not responsible for Sophia's movements, yet he feared Iain blamed Sophia for drawing Margaret into this. "But I don't like it either that they take their babies to hunt for corpses."
"And Margaret is an amateur. A member of the public, I mean. I don't mean I lend my consent to what she does, not that I can forbid it."
James had the same problem. "All we can do is discourage and distract. Now, I have two babies, but what about you? Does your elder daughter give Margaret enough to do?"
"She's not mine."
"She's not?" James wondered if he should have known.
"She's Margaret's niece."
"Though that doesn't mean she can't keep Margaret busy. Does she? Or do you need to exert yourself a little more?"
"I have no idea. I'll talk to Mann."
There was plenty to do at work, but James felt there was plenty to do at home as well. He had no idea if Sophia was home, although she had better be, and going home was the safest way to find out. She was probably not very keen on being phoned with the question.
He came home to find her doing laundry. The twins were lying on the bed observing it all, but they were quiet. The scene looked extremely domestic and he could not suppress a snicker when he thought this was probably not at all how she liked to be found.
"Are you helping Mummy well?" he asked and Sophia gave him a disturbed look.
"Are you here to help?" she wondered.
"I was considering taking a picture of the three of you."
"That doesn't help me."
"I could cook," he offered. He preferred that to folding a multitude of tiny white things.
His cooking had improved over the past months and she was not opposed to such a plan. "Yes, do."
It took a little while before she was ready to follow him. Transporting two babies from one floor to another took some time, especially if they did not enjoy being left alone. She could still get a little nervous if they cried, but at least if she took one to James, that one was going to be content.
"How was your meeting?" she asked when she brought the second one over.
"The usual. New directives from up above and many queries about our division of labour. Seemingly the detective chief superintendent must be named properly in every report -- never mind that all these reports are long-term projects and there's enough time to get the name and tasks matched up." He did not understand why there were so insistent on something so unimportant and he did not want to become like them.
Sophia rolled her eyes. "The name and the tasks have not changed."
"Mrs Riley." He held up his hand when she started. "No, I didn't tell them that. I nodded, as befits someone young and new to this very important job, and murmured something about conferring with you, but knowing them they'll want three copies of the minutes of our meeting. Wouldn't that be fun?"
"Time: 0300 hours. Location: bed. Persons present: Detective Chief Superintendent Clarke, Detective Superintendent Riley, Mr Riley, Miss Riley --"
"You wouldn't dare." But she really did not know. It was just the thing he would enjoy.
"I would. It's what they want, everything on paper."
"Yes, but mentioning the bed?" As far as she was concerned nobody else needed to be notified or reminded of the fact that they shared a bed. She was still naively thinking some might not yet know.
"Why be boring and say the kitchen table? When are you coming back to work?"
She sighed and looked at the two babies in their seats. "I hardly have the time. Who would do my laundry?"
"I never worry about that."
"You're a man. You simply assume someone else will do it. Like me." It was not entirely fair, since he had sometimes done the laundry before the babies had arrived and he had done it a little more often in the first week.
James laughed. "No, I simply assume that I'll have time. It's only laundry."
Margaret could not refrain from mentioning it to Iain when he came home. It had been on her mind for some time and she thought it unfair not to share. She would have to do so anyway before she came to a decision. "They've asked me to consider a TV series," she began.
Iain reacted only languidly. His mind was still on the murders at the club and the possibility that his subordinates did not work as hard as they should. "I didn't know you acted. Professionally, that is."
She flared up. "Do you think I act privately?"
"You know what I mean."
Margaret decided not to get sidetracked on insecure tangents, even though she really did not know what he meant at all. He might think she always acted, but she did not. Or did she? "It's a police series."
"Are you joking?"
"Why? I can't be in one?" She had expected as much.
"You can. Someone has to be. But it would be a coincidence, wouldn't it?"
"Yes. I don't know what to do."
"Because you can't act?"
She was confused once again. "I can't? You just said I did." He gestured for her to ignore that, so she tried to push her uncertainties aside. "I don't know. You might mock the script. You might mock...everything. Besides, I don't know about the character I'd be playing. She's a woman --"
"You don't say," Iain remarked dryly.
"Iain." She almost laughed, in spite of herself. "But you know how male detectives are always either attractive womanisers or ugly old alcoholics?"
"What am I?"
"Detectives on TV. Don't be a nuisance. You know you are neither. Well, the woman I'd be playing would be one of those." She looked at him hesitantly.
"I can guess which one." He had some trouble picturing Margaret as an ugly old alcoholic.
"I have a few problems with that."
"Yes, I can imagine." He wondered how the female equivalent of a womaniser was going to be portrayed, if that side of her was going to be portrayed at all in a series he assumed dealt predominantly with solving crimes. "How would you express your...proclivities?"
"I don't know." She looked at him unhappily. "But it says she will have a new lover every episode. They'd have to be rather specific to distinguish him from a casual date, wouldn't they? If they make such a point of it?" If they simply showed her having dinner with some man, it might be anyone.
"You might have to kiss them all." Iain thought his suggestion was on the safe side. More might be required.
"I don't want to."
"You don't like kissing."
She blushed. "Not with everyone."
"Oh. I thought not with anyone."
"Iain. That's not fair. I do like it with you, but I'm simply not good at it. I keep thinking about too many things while we're at it."
"That would be my fault," he said seriously. "Obviously I'm not good enough at it."
Margaret remembered something. "Sophia said I should tell you that that doesn't matter."
"You discuss me with her?" He did not like that, yet maybe it was good that Margaret discussed it with someone. He would have preferred a complete stranger, however, especially if it concerned something at which he did not think he was very good. That she discussed him with his boss embarrassed him. He would not know where to look if he saw her next.
"I discuss myself with her. And you -- a little," she admitted. "But I never said you were either bad or good at anything. That's what she concluded."
"Hmm. And why doesn't it matter?"
"She didn't say. She only wanted to shut me up. I think it does matter on TV, so I don't think I could do it. I even have objections to kissing other men."
He was glad for that last thing. "Then turn it down."
"But I'm really bad at saying no."
He did not understand that. "Ask for platonic lovers. Are you in any position to make such a demand? Wait. How much time would this cost you on top of your other jobs?" That was an even more important thing.
"Are you afraid you're going to have to do the laundry and things?"
"They didn't take me very seriously," James complained when they were eating dinner. "As if I only got promoted because I got you into bed."
"You did," Sophia pointed out. "I mean, you will. This first promotion wasn't because of me. The next one will be. Because you got me into bed and I got pregnant."
"But I didn't actually have to do very much to get you into bed."
She pointed her finger at him. "Don't make me sound easy, because I'm not." He was right, though. He had done very little, as had she. It had simply happened.
"Trust me, no one at the station thinks so," he grinned. "But I didn't have to employ my amazing skills. You came to me."
"Sorry. Which amazing skills?"
James was not offended. "That's what I mean. But they kept treating me as your temporary replacement at such meetings. It didn't get through to them that I might be there legitimately and deservedly." He had more abilities when it came to work than when it came to getting women into bed.
"You don't always behave as if you're there deservedly." He was still occasionally immature and not always very serious. She could imagine that some who did not see too much of him could receive the wrong impression. She had for a long while thought him rather immature and irreverent, in spite of working with him.
James disagreed. "But that's a reaction! I'd behave better if they actually took me seriously."
"They don't take women very seriously either and that has never stopped me from doing my best." She understood his problem, since she had had similar frustrations in just about every rank, but it only helped to work hard and prove her worth.
"But their insistence on having the correct name matched to the correct task..." James sighed. "As if it matters! They're talking about a report that someone might write, not something that is already written, and about things that someone might have to do if the report is favourable, not before. Don't they have anything concrete to do?"
"Do you want to rethink your promotion?" Sophia tried to think what would happen in that case. She would go up alone, while he would return to being a chief inspector -- or resign. The problem was that she could no longer imagine giving up her babies to someone else for most of the week, so James and she could not both work long days. If he did not want the promotion that led to sharing the job, one of them would have to resign.
"No. I suppose it just takes some getting used to."
She looked relieved.
"If you can do it, so can I," he said.
"I'm glad. One of us would have had to resign otherwise."
"We can't raise twins if we're never home. I don't care what other people do," she said to head off arguments in that vein. "But I can't do it." She had not given the matter much thought at all, but it now felt that way to her.
James smiled. "Good. I'll have to grow into an acceptable replacement for you then -- though I prefer alternative -- but I thought they were still bloody condescending."
Sophia pulled a face at one of the babies when it started to grow bored. "I'd rather let my dinner grow cold than let them cry. Is that normal?" She had never wondered before getting pregnant, but even while pregnant it had been difficult to imagine what it would be like or how she would react. It appeared she was prepared to give up a lot.
"It's a normal reaction to my dinners, I think."
She tapped his hand. "Oh, pooh. They're edible. Do you think you could spend a few hours alone with them?"
"Now?" He wondered if she was off to the Treminster Club again, in which case he would voice his objections. It was not a good place to be if dead bodies kept turning up there.
"No, in general. In a few weeks." She did not want to commit herself to a precise date, even if everyone was pressuring her to provide one.
"It scares me to death, but I want to try. Luckily you won't be far away if they're hungry."
"I should practise pumping." Sophia closed her eyes in fatigue. "But I can't find the time. Maybe when they're in bed?"
"But I had plans."
She opened her eyes and looked a little suspicious. "The same type as last night?"
He laughed. "No. I'm not as bad as that. How about simple sleep? We both need some. I spoke to Iain," James continued. "He had no idea and would speak to Mann."
"Speaking to Mann directly might have been better."
"He wasn't in, or I would have. I don't enjoy criticising someone for something he wasn't responsible for, although technically I suppose he was."
"Of course he was."
"And I didn't want you to do it for me, so I had to be quick."
"Mann had better come up with some great discoveries for his sake," Sophia said in an ominous voice. "Such as that the body was planted there shortly before we found it."
"I don't really like that scenario."
"It's one thing or the other. It doesn't have to be five minutes. A few hours would do, I suppose. We shouldn't have been in any danger. The only problem with this scenario is that it makes so little sense. Why kill someone elsewhere and then dump him there more than a day later? He wasn't killed today."
"Maybe he killed Tony Edwards on Saturday, told someone who got angry and killed him?"
"Why tell someone?"
"Why kill someone?" James shot back.
"Or maybe it didn't have anything to do with Tony Edwards at all and it was just an attempt to make us bark up the wrong tree."
"Because we don't investigate properly anyway." He was convinced they would find the right tree, so any attempts to confuse them were useless.
In the morning Sophia first visited her mother-in-law, who was delighted to see her grandchildren. This was a rather obligatory visit as far as Sophia was concerned and she had no intention of staying very long, but the twins wanted to drink at the beginning of the visit and again at the end, so her entire morning had gone to waste.
"Are you going back to the wine lovers?" James' mother asked.
"No, I cancelled my membership. I still can't drink." Instead she had best get a subscription to the local indoor playground next year or something. She could not imagine becoming a member of a social circle that generally met at night anymore. Nowadays her priorities lay elsewhere.
"Oh. Of course. Mind you, we don't go very often, but we had planned to go to France this summer..."
"You had planned? Aren't you going anymore?"
"I suppose we could still go. You're all doing well. I shouldn't have liked to go if James wasn't coping."
"Poor James doesn't have a lot of trouble coping." Sophia hoped she was not sounding too rude. "But any problems would be for him to solve himself anyway. Otherwise he'll never learn."
"True," Mrs Riley said doubtfully. "It's just -- goodness. Last year he was such a boy and now he has a wife and two children."
His mother clearly had more trouble adjusting to that new reality than James himself, Sophia noted, but since the woman had not been involved in every little step perhaps that was not so surprising. "Really, he is fine," she said in what she hoped was a soothing tone.
Outside the police station, where she had walked out of habit, she ran into Margaret with Shona in a sling. She eyed it jealously, but she was not prepared to try out a similar contraption for twins. "What are you up to?"
"I was bringing Iain his lunch."
"He doesn't like the canteen?"
"He has to go out."
"Sweet of you."
"Well, we made some progress -- not that I would have withheld his food if we hadn't."
"Oh, you did it. I don't dispense personal advice as a rule, but I had half a mind to tell James to tell Iain that he should make a serious move on you to stop you from complaining to me about it."
"Urgh? I think?" Margaret was appalled. "How does that fall under not dispensing personal advice?"
"It doesn't. That's why I never opened my mouth."
Margaret blushed. "Well, I'm not going to talk to you about it."
"Then something happened," Sophia deduced shrewdly. "Because you kept talking to me when nothing was happening."
"I didn't say something was happening now, only that I'm not going to talk to you about it. I'll talk to Iain."
"Good, good, because I don't want to know. I don't mean that unkindly. You can talk to me if you really have a problem. I suppose?" Sophia asked herself. She did not have any friends, but she was not bad, was she?
"It was a real problem to me," Margaret said a little indignantly. If normal communication ceased, it was a serious problem. "But I should talk to Iain and he doesn't like my talking to you about it, because he thinks you'll look at him disapprovingly next time you see him. Because you said he must be bad at...something."
Sophia gave her a dismissive wave. "I only look disapprovingly at people who are extremely good at it. But they'd have to tell me about it, because I'd never find out from experience."
"Oh. So you'd disapprove of this new job they've offered me..."
"A role in a TV series. A policewoman with a string of lovers. At least one per episode."
"I don't know. If she does her job well..."
"I can't judge that aspect. Iain would probably think all sorts of things about how she does her job, but I'm really more concerned about the lovers."
"Who are they? Colleagues?"
"You can't do your job well if you're in and out of bed with colleagues," Sophia said very decidedly before she realised that was exactly what she was doing herself. "I mean you can do that with one, but not with the entire station. It leads to trouble."
"So it's unrealistic? They want to make her like a man, I think. I should just say no, but it could be fun otherwise. Why can't they give her a husband of five years? She wouldn't have to do anything with him anymore."
Sophia snorted. "Or make her pregnant with twins. I suppose that's all too dull, husbands and children. You could ask DI Jones. She's the closest we've got to such a woman. But don't tell everybody the uncomplimentary things I say about them."
"Why else would you refer me to her?" Margaret reasoned. "Surely she can figure that out?"
"Because she's your age? But would you take the role if it was realistic?"
"Only if I don't have to do things with the lovers. That's why I'd prefer it if there weren't any at all. Why can't they focus on the puzzle? That's what I like watching, or else I might as well get a role in a soap."
"Well," Sophia mused. "We could solve our own puzzle while you act in the police soap for the money? The men aren't getting anywhere yet, you know."
Margaret went home and Sophia entered the police station. Only the first time had it felt a little awkward with a pram, but by now she was used to it and everyone was used to the sight of her in turn. There was much she had to do, from speaking to her brother-in-law to checking if there was any progress in the Treminster Club case. Her brother-in-law was the least flexible one time-wise, so she went to him first.
He was in. "Ah, the nephew and the niece," he greeted her.
"I am coming to see you. They are merely tagging along." She was not going to talk about them, she hoped. That would be highly unprofessional. She was not here to show them off.
"You're returning to work," he guessed.
"Not yet. I heard from James that he's not being taken very seriously."
"By the upper management."
"Oh, you're here to complain." He looked amused.
"I came to check," Sophia defended herself. She hoped James had not been exaggerating. He had sounded believable, though. There were indeed dodgy aspects to his promotion and that was even without taking into account the family relationship between his wife and the chief constable's wife. That was another potential reason for comments.
"I haven't heard much about it."
She could tell he was lying. Of course he had heard something about it and she gave him her best imperative look. "Really."
"Other than a few questions about whether he deserved it. Cosying up to one's superior and all that."
"I do not let undeserving subordinates cosy up to me," Sophia said icily. "These people will have to make do with James until I'm back. In the meantime I don't like such comments. I'm not going to return full-time, do they know? They will have to make do with him whenever I'm not there."
"Since I don't know whom we're talking about precisely, I have no idea. But not full-time?" Although he had suggested the idea himself he managed to look surprised, as if he had never believed she would take up the suggestion.
"Neither is James."
"Poor fellow. You're going to force him to change nappies?"
"Real men don't have to be forced."
"I'm glad to hear your husband is a real man who takes the consequences of his mistakes seriously."
That was the most preposterous thing she had ever heard. She gave her twins a bewildered glance. They were a mistake? Getting involved with her was a mistake? "I beg your pardon?"
He gave her a soothing look. "Never mind. But you know people have a point. Essentially he did get promoted because of his affair with you, not to mention that the young man isn't the most serious and respectful..."
"Blaah." And on that note Sophia ended the conversation. He was right to some extent. James could smirk and look indifferent if he liked. It might give people the wrong impression, but she believed he was capable enough to have reached the next rank on his own merits. It had merely happened a little sooner right now.
She went to his office. "Any news?"
James knew what she meant. "Mann confessed to not having had anyone specifically check the lawn or the garden this weekend. The body could have been there all along. We were misled by all the clues pointing to the front: the knife in the corridor and the open window. But he could instead have come or gone around the back."
Sophia still considered it a grave oversight not to check the perimeters of the crime scene. They had had two days for it. Simply because they had had the body and the weapon did not mean there could not be clues elsewhere.
But James would know that and she did not think he would simply have nodded and accepted an excuse. She went on. "It doesn't seem likely that the killer ended up dead on the lawn. It didn't look as if he had stabbed anyone, because there wasn't enough blood on him. However, the body was positioned in such a way as to imply that it came from the club."
"He was killed first?" James suggested. "While the killer was on his way to kill Tony Edwards? Another reason for you not to snoop too much. People who are in the way are killed." He felt a chill when he thought of someone with a gun running into Sophia. She might from a distance look innocent with her pram, but from up close she would not. She would look interested and she would stare. In short, she would appear dangerous. He seized her hands as if to prevent her from running into killers.
"Oh, that would suit you just fine, wouldn't it?" Secretly she was glad for his concern, though. "And what was the body doing, coming out of the club at that early hour on a Saturday? He had a meeting with Edwards? He certainly didn't have anything to do with our renting it. Who was he?"
"I haven't got any information on that yet. If he was shot because he saw the murderer, he must have known the murderer or been able to identify him easily. Yet why use two weapons? If you have a gun, why not shoot Edwards as well?" It made no sense to James. If someone had a gun, why go to the kitchens to get a knife when the catering staff could be coming in any minute?
"Maybe the caterers had just arrived? They didn't hear a gun shot, so that obviously took place before they arrived, but if they weren't there yet, there was no need not to shoot Edwards as well. It would have kept the murderer clean, for one."
James found a blank piece of paper and began to draw on it. He hoped he could get his message across. "Why don't we have fancy computer animations?"
"Because we're not on TV."
He drew the building and some crosses. "Here, shortly before ten, he stabs Edwards. Shortly before one, he returns and leaves the knife in the corridor -- why? -- and shoves the body out of the window. He would have got dirty twice? And some time before ten he shot the man in the grass. On the spot or not. So he was at the back and then he went inside. It's possible that he left that way as well, but when he came back later I'm fairly certain he came and went through the car park."
Sophia watched his scribbles. "We don't know yet who was killed first."
"Or why. Hopefully they'll come up with an ID and some more information soon."
"Or Edwards shot the other man and someone took his revenge?" It was useless to speculate, she knew. There were too many possibilities, yet she could not keep herself from examining some of them. "Have you -- oh, you won't have. It's not your case."
James was still frowning at his drawing. The murderer's return puzzled him. Could he have forgotten something? Nobody would come back simply to shove a body out of a window. "What now, you interfering busybody?"
"Was Edwards researched properly?"
"Probably not properly, in your opinion, because he wasn't known to us as an offender and innocent people rarely get killed in that manner if nothing from the building was missing. I know as little about him as you do," said James.
"I'll go and talk to someone who knows more. Would you mind watching the babies?"
"I was about to go to the canteen, but I'll take them along."
"I don't know," Sophia said with a doubtful look. "Every woman is going to want to sit with you."
"I'd be jealous."
Sophia had let him go anyway and she went to Iain's office, forgetting that Margaret had said he was going out. She ran into him outside his door, a package in his hand. He gave her such a wary look that she wondered what she had done. Today she could not have done anything; this was the first time she set foot in the station.
She had every right to be at work, however. She ran this department. With a little shrug of the shoulders she dismissed her faint feelings of insecurity. "Are there any new developments?" she inquired.
He did not seem to know what she meant. "With Margaret?"
"Margaret? What?" she raised her eyebrows, but then she remembered he must be wary because Margaret had spoken to her. It had nothing to do with her. Good. "No. Though it's good that apparently you gave her some attention of the desired kind. She seems a bit starved for attention in any case. But I meant the case. Anything on Edwards? Anything on the second body?"
"I'm just about to check up on that. It doesn't seem to be going as it should." He hesitated. "Why does Margaret talk to you?"
"I'm trying to cure her of the habit," Sophia assured him. "But your cooperation is required. However, work on the case during the day, not on Margaret."
"Yes, ma'am." He was in a hurry to get away, rather than in a hurry to obey her orders.
She was wandered off to see if anyone else was in, but since it was lunchtime most desks were deserted. It reminded her that she still had to eat herself. Her babies had had two full meals since her breakfast, but she had only had a slice of cake at Mrs Riley's house.
James was in the canteen. He was surrounded by women, exactly as she had expected. They did not even disperse upon her arrival, which irked her a little. It almost made her want to mark her territory. For some reason men with babies were attractive to the opposite sex, but she wondered why. Above all they were taken. These women could be admiring her babies, which was fine, but at the same time they were acting as if James was so wonderful that they wanted him for their own babies. She could not approve.
However, because she was not naturally demonstrative and still wary of being too open about her relationship, she did nothing. She merely ate what she had just picked up. Fortunately someone had thought it considerate to free up a place beside James, since they were not actually sitting but hanging.
"You have to eat more than that," he said.
Because she had not really looked at what she had chosen, except to make sure it was healthy, he could be right. Still, she was not getting up and abandoning him to his admirers, so she shrugged. "I'll have some more at home."
"Good. You mustn't lose too much weight."
He squeezed her leg under the table, which made her start. She was not even aware of losing too much weight, since she had gained enough during her pregnancy that could be lost and she had not dared to weigh herself since the birth. In certain places she was much fuller than before and that was annoying enough.
She wondered if the rest of the people had hobbies other than work. They probably did. They would not come to work on their day off, let alone investigate cases. What did James and she do outside of work? Until now they had been busy preparing for a new home and new babies, but now that all of that had been taken care of they should find something new.
But what? It was difficult to take up anything with twins who needed so much attention. They always had to come along unless she compromised with regard to her principles. It really was much easier to carry out some low-key investigations with them than to join an organisation or a club.
But James would probably not see it that way. "What do you like to do after work?" she asked when the last of the women had left their table, something to which James' hand under the table had certainly contributed.
He looked blank. "Today?"
"I don't think I have much choice when it comes to that." There was dinner, housework, childcare and sleep. None of it could be ignored. The housework could be put off, but then it got worse.
"There isn't something that you've given up?"
"Nothing I mind." There was nothing he could specifically recall, except perhaps going to the pub on Saturday night.
"I was thinking I can't do much else but investigate, considering that I have to take Alex and Lizzy along to everything."
He leant sideways and nearly kissed her cheek. "Some day you will realise you're very odd. Could you, when you go about it, at least try to look sexy and brainless? Nobody would think you dangerous then."
Sexy and brainless. Sophia was not sure what that would be like. "I don't think I could do that. Would you like me to walk around in my underwear?"
"No, you simply have to look more harmless and less competent. I think competence is sexy, but someone who has something to hide will be wary of you." James visualised her walking behind the pram, looking extremely alert. She might as well be flashing her warrant card.
"Competence is sexy? I thought you were referring to a lack of clothing -- which, I remind you, is not sexy on me at the moment. It may never be so again."
"You're much sexier without that huge belly, so I don't know what you're worried about." He was certainly not worried about anything.
That was good -- or not. She had never noticed any difference in how he treated her. "It's amazing you stuck it out with a woman who grew and grew."
"It was difficult," he grinned. "If you hadn't had brains..."
"But I was saying I may never get back to what I was before I got pregnant."
"I never actually saw you naked before then," James revealed. "Since when I got you pregnant it was dark. So whether you looked better before is something I cannot know and I can only compare you to what I do know."
Sophia thought this talk was a little too private. "I'm very glad there is no one at our table. But I'm sure I still looked better in the early stages than I do now. Did you have a look at me in the early stages?"
"Of course, but it's so long ago."
She shuddered. "But by suggesting I try for sexy brainlessness, do you mean I am normally brainy and sexless?"
"You thought so once. I obviously didn't."
"Hmm. And how do you visualise -- you don't know the preferences of the killer."
"No, I don't, but looking harmless is always good."
It was not fair to draw Margaret into everything as if she needed an accomplice. It was more agreeable to have one, but James was at work and Margaret might have a life. She certainly had jobs to think about and Sophia was completely ignorant about that kind of jobs. There was also the eldest girl who needed attention when she was not at school. It was best not to claim Margaret too much.
Consequently Sophia redid James' drawing that afternoon and stared at it on her own. She wanted to fill in the details chronologically, using small cut-out figures for the persons involved. James would ridicule her, or at least laugh at her for her arts and crafts tendencies, as he had done in the Kerry case, but it made things a lot clearer.
When she was drawing a gun on her murderer, she wondered if it was easier to cut out two, one with a gun and one with a knife, to make it clearer where he had used which weapon. Using two, however, led to the idea that there really might have been two instead of one. It would explain the two weapons. One had shot the man outside the club, while the other had stabbed Edwards with a knife inside. Trying to find out why would be no easier for a single killer than for two, so that should not stop her from exploring this angle.
Knife man could have killed Edwards, a witness could have escaped, whereupon gun man could have shot the witness. Gun man could have been outside already, given the probable direction from where the shot had come, perhaps near the car.
Why kill Edwards in front of a witness? Unless he had planned to kill both, the killer would not have known the witness was there.
The dripping knife in the corridor was nothing but a red herring, Sophia was sure. There was no other reason to take it there. The killer had not dropped it upon coming across a witness, unless he had planned to take it back to the kitchen to wash it.
Would there have been time for that? The club was usually closed at that hour and quite possibly none of those involved in the crime knew about the unusual booking at ten. It was Gary who arranged bookings and in this case only the catering staff had to be notified. The killer could well have expected that he had time to wash up.
But the other man had not been one of the staff, because nobody was missing. No, nobody had been surprised by the catering staff and it did not even make sense. The knife was definitely a red herring. It had probably been dropped there hours later.
And the other body was a pal of Edwards'.
Or Edwards shot the bloke, went inside and got knifed. In that case the gun should be on him, unless for some unfathomable reason it had been taken.
People who carried guns were not innocent, though. Sophia could think of some club owners who were far from innocent, but those were mostly owners of clubs and discos with extracurricular activities like gambling, drugs or exploitation of women. None of that took place in the Treminster Club. It hosted innocent weddings and gatherings.
Edwards could have more clubs. Either he could own them outright or through some shady construction. It was worth looking into. If he was involved in shadier businesses it made more sense that he got killed. Tow dead bodies did not point to a simple crime passionel.
Just when Sophia was really into thinking, Alex and Lizzy woke from their nap and started to compete for her attention. She was glad she had written her thoughts down, because they were bound to get lost now.
Although he did not mind doing any of the legwork himself, Iain knew that was not how it should be in this case. It could not be too difficult for Mann to find out if there were prints on the knife, or to put some pressure on those who were examining it.
Was he being tested because he was new? It could be. There were people who were annoying like that. He still had to prove himself, so he had no choice but to interfere. His superiors were under close scrutiny themselves, so it was only natural that they kept an eye on what went on below them, including on him. He could speak to Mann -- and he had -- but checking the status quo himself would tell him who was really at fault here.
Speaking to several people turned out to be enlightening. The knife, doorpost and window had not been wiped and the prints of two unknown persons had been on them. This was good, although it did not tell him if it was Mann's fault that they had not worked harder at this. He would still give the man the benefit of the doubt.
But two people and neither of them Edwards. Iain tried to work that out. Only one had touched the window, but the door and the knife had been touched by both.
Instead of going back to work, he went to gain some more credit with his boss. She was at home and looked surprised to see him.
"I thought you might like the latest developments," he said, not being used to ingratiating himself with his superiors in this manner. He did not even understand why he was doing it.
"Yes." She nearly pulled him inside. "I have been thinking about it all afternoon."
He followed her into the living room, bewildered by the enthusiastic reception. He was not her favourite person, or so he felt, but now she behaved as if he had always treated Margaret properly in her opinion. Women were strange. She might swing back when he had no more news for all he knew, so he was wary.
"Tell," she ordered.
He sat down. "Two people touched the knife and the door, and one of those also touched the window."
"I thought there might have been two, but I hadn't thought they were in the same place."
"Oh. Why did you think so?" He observed her excitement. It was a little easier to understand why someone had fallen for her.
"Because of the two weapons. But why would the second one go back to the first one to help out? Ah! The one who touched the window is the one who used the gun. Clearly he felt he had to clean up the other's mess. Who was the other body?"
"We have a name, but it meant nothing to anyone. I've set some people on it."
"Would they be inclined to test me?" He disliked himself for asking.
"By not --" She raised her eyebrows. "Oh, that's possible. I had some trouble when I first came here, but I thought that was because I'm a woman. Keep an eye on it and if you think it's more than mere laziness -- because there's certainly some of that in the department as well -- let me know."
He was surprised by the apparent offer of help. "All right. But I don't know if they're incapable, testing me, or I'm imagining it. I'm not as bad as Margaret, but you never know."
"As bad at what?"
"At imagining myself wronged. Her parents -- well, they may be a little strange, but -- I don't know." He shrugged. If he did not want her to speak to Margaret about him, he should not speak to her about Margaret.
"And people say I have issues. Which I don't, by the way. Anyway, let's proceed."
With a bemused face Iain watched her lay a drawing on the table, with smaller pieces of paper she could move around. He did not suppose she wanted him to play a self-made board game. "What is that?"
"This is the Treminster Club and these are the killers."
"You know," Iain said to Margaret. "I think that as long as I keep my boss updated about the case, I can do anything to you that I like and she'll approve."
"Actually, she -- and I -- approved of anything you did. It was rather of things you didn't do that I didn't approve," Margaret said in a dry tone. If she was able to say so without fearing trouble she must have progressed, she felt.
"True, but --" He still felt it was unfair. "I was only being considerate."
"What was it that he didn't do?" Ailsa asked and she looked too curious.
"None of your business," Iain answered amiably.
"Housework," she guessed. "Men never do housework. Or bring flowers, though that isn't something I'd like personally. I'd prefer to win them at competitions."
"No, he never brought flowers," Margaret said. "And I didn't run anymore, so I couldn't win any. I'm starting up again next week, though."
"Noooooo!" Iain looked weary. He did not understand when she would have time. "Baby, job one, job two, job three..."
"It's not all starting up at once. And I'm not even sure I want to take job three. I've asked for more information and I've explained that I cannot possibly kiss other men, so that if it's an integral part of the role, I can't take it."
"Kissing men is an integral part of policing, certainly." Iain rolled his eyes. The series sounded completely ridiculous to him.
She wished she would not feel the urge to laugh. "The character is supposed to have a private life."
"That's all very realistic, Maggie. Where does the character meet all the men she has to kiss? I met a lot of different people today, but that was all on a professional footing. One of them was dead, even." Even if he had been single he would have needed to be extremely desperate to get kisses out of those meetings.
"I have no idea."
"Without the kissing and with a decent plot it might be watchable, but only because of you."
"Iain!" She was shocked. "You have never watched me on TV, not even in secret."
"Hahaha!" cried Ailsa. "If he says so, he's lying! We watched CC together and he liked it."
"Just once. A little bit. It was watchable because you were normal in it," he defended himself. "I'd rather you did that all week than chase killers looking sexy and brainless, which seems to be my boss' plan for the two of you. Well, for herself, but you can join in if you like."
"Sexy and brainless?" Margaret looked sceptic. That was just about the opposite of the image she had on television and it had never cost her too much trouble to cultivate it. "I don't think I could look either. Who said I could join in? You? Or Sophia?" It would have to be Sophia. Iain would never.
"I certainly couldn't do sexy. I could go for brainless while she tries sexy." Sophia was more confident. She could probably do it.
"Huh." Iain looked equally sceptic now. "The other way around surely?" He did not want to see Detective Chief Superintendent Clarke trying for a sexy look. It would be embarrassing.
"I'm glad you don't think her sexy," Margaret said in satisfaction.
"I don't like cold blondes." His phone rang and he picked it up. It was Mann. That was good.
"We've got a name for the second man, but we don't know who he is yet in terms of -- you know," said Mann. "We're looking into that, sir."
"Good. What's his name?" It was not likely to ring any bells, since he had only recently moved into the area and he was not familiar with notorious figures yet. He nevertheless wanted to know.
If this information had come up by looking into the dead man's wallet or something like that, he wondered why they did not know more. Most people carried more information about themselves than a simple name tag. "Look for a connection to the club or to Edwards." That should be obvious to anyone, but he did not yet know if it was to Mann.
Iain wondered if he should tell Mann to inform Clarke as well or if he should do that himself. This could probably wait until tomorrow, though. He did not want to look too eager and if he only had a name to share, it was practically nothing.
"I'm glad you're not into blondes," said Margaret when he had put away his phone. "I'm going to our headquarters to discuss the role tomorrow, by the way. Money is always good."
He gave her a puzzled look. "You have plenty."
"People tire of quizzes. I give the quiz another year at best. My income will be significantly reduced."
"Not a problem if you keep to your current spending pattern."
"But it's so many years until I die and I haven't got a clue about other jobs or investments, really." She probably did have plenty, but she liked to be safe. There was no telling if she was going to be offered another large presenting job. "I've got some of my money in an ultrasafe plan, but my bank keeps advising me to do more. I'm tempted to think it would mainly be profitable for them, but they might actually have my best financial interests at heart."
"They might. Are you taking Shona tomorrow?" He did not see what else she could do, unless she planned to leave the baby with Clarke.
"Yes, I'm not staying away for long. I wonder how she'll like the car." It was too early to leave Shona anywhere. It was easier to take her along to a short meeting.
"But..." He hesitated. "What if people there see you have a baby? Will you be in magazines?"
"We'll never know, since we don't read them." Margaret shrugged. She was not as indifferent as she let on, because she had always taken care to keep her private life private. "It was easier to hide Ailsa and I'd prefer to keep hiding my family, but it isn't always feasible. And I'm only going to an office, so the risk of being spotted is minimal."
"I don't want to be bothered."
"I know. But have you ever been bothered?"
"Once or twice by members of the public, but I think I might be more easily bothered than you." Margaret had on those occasions been recognised and he had been embarrassed by the attention. Nobody had really looked at him, however, and if it had only been twice in two years he really should not complain too much.
"I'd be bothered if they asked me personal questions, but they rarely do." She supposed they approached her more often when she was alone and he did not have to fear much. Most people were decent enough. The ones who hated the quiz were not, but they did not care about her personal life. She did not mind them.
Her mind went back to tomorrow's meeting. "If the script is too ridiculous, could I say you're with the police?"
He was suspicious. "What good would that do?"
"Your face is not going to be on the evening news as a result. It gives me some authority. I can't act and if on top of that they can't write this is going to be a huge success."
"I'll never understand," he sighed. If she could not act he did not see why she wanted to do it. "But maybe this is a safer pastime than looking for real murderers. I wonder why James doesn't do anything about his wife. He encourages her instead."
Margaret grinned. "He's clever and he knows discouraging her is useless." It made her think about the case. There was not much she or Sophia could do when it came to examining the evidence. There were other things, however. "That fellow Edwards, did he own more clubs?"
"I could go to one of the others to have a look." She did not know what she would be looking for or what she planned to find, but perhaps there was something.
"You're clever too, Iain, and you know --"
"Nightclubs," he said tersely. Two women with small babies did not go to nightclubs. They could not take them and they could not leave them at home. It was simply impossible for them to go there.
"You'll have to go with me then."
"Nightclubs." He did not think he needed to elaborate on that. Margaret would understand that he and nightclubs did not mix.
"What could happen to me if you were with me?" Margaret reasoned.
"What could happen to me is more important."
She giggled when she imagined him sulking and moving stiffly. He would absolutely hate it and feel miserable. "They're not your kind of environment, I agree, but I bet many places you visit for work aren't, so you'd just have to pretend to be professional. Have you ever been to one?"
"Professionally." That was completely different.
"So have I. I mean, with colleagues. For about fifteen minutes. But I was young and uptight and full of morals then." She had not liked it one bit.
"So was I."
"We're old now. And married. And no longer afraid of strangers pinching our bottoms."
"You're not?" He did not think he was afraid, but he would not like it and he would not know what to do if it happened. He was likely to get him behind pinched than Margaret, he would say, so it was all irrelevant.
"No, I cannot say that I am. I won't make you dance, Iain."
"I wonder what you plan to find out if the place is full of people and it's dark and noisy." He hated it already.
"Maybe I simply plan to find out if you're good at snogging?"
Iain examined the suggestion very seriously. They would see nothing and going there would be pointless. "What would you find out if that's all we did? We could easily do that at home."
"But we never do. We have children." She did not sound regretful, but rather amused.
Ailsa was still there and she had been listening. "You can't go to a nightclub. You're too old. What if someone saw you? It doesn't matter if you plan to dance or...oh my god...snog. You're too old for both."
"We might do both at the same time." Margaret was much better at being flippant about it than at actually carrying it out, although when Ailsa ran off screaming they were quite alone and with every opportunity, of course.
"Has someone told you about the fingerprints?" Sophia asked James when he came home. "Two people touched the knife and the door, but only one of those touched the window."
"No, I wasn't told yet." James was amused. "Clearly someone thinks you're more boss than I am."
"It means the second person came up to tidy up after the first."
"Does it?" He had not had enough time to think it over yet. "One would expect only one person to touch the knife under normal circumstances, unless the prints on it belonged to the cook."
"The cook wouldn't have any business leaving his prints in that office, but if you want you could have all the staff's prints taken." She had forgotten to suggest it to Iain and she wondered if he was going to think of it himself. "I don't think it's someone who works in the kitchens, though. I think there were two murderers, one with a gun and one with a knife."
"Why do I think so?" She blinked. She thought so because it was obvious.
"No, why two? Was Edwards such a big fish? Was the other bloke? The fact that one of them had a gun when decent citizens don't..." But James realised that the working day was over and that he did not want to keep thinking about this. Sophia would be able to keep her speculations going all night and he would have to cut her short. "What's for dinner?"
"You're such a man."
"I only meant that I'm off work."
"The only time I can talk about work is when you're off work," Sophia complained. "Our children don't talk. I want to keep a connection to the adult world. I have plenty of connections to the baby world."
"The adult world is not necessarily that of work. I understand you, but when my work day is over I'm more interested in what you and the babies have been doing."
"And what you're getting for dinner."
"The babies and I bought the ingredients for dinner. How interesting could that be? Oh, and we had a visit from Iain. He probably thought he should update me as soon as possible." She looked smug. He knew she was the boss.
"Is that where you got your information from?"
"Nice of him. Or should I say brave?"
"He thinks I'm strange. He doesn't think I'm scary. I sat here all afternoon thinking and then he came to confirm my conclusion."
"Nice of him." He caught her when she walked past -- to the kitchen, he hoped, because he was hungry. "I'm not as much into this case as you are. Of course I'm willing to listen, but I probably won't do any thinking on my own. I'll listen to you after dinner. Are you cooking or am I?"
On Wednesday Margaret was out of town. Sophia spent most of her time in her office accomplishing nothing, because every time she was making some progress in looking things up, one of her babies fussed. James came by now and then, but he did not want to take them because he was working. He was no help.
On the contrary, he helpfully came to bring her the wrong sort of work, things that interfered with her research. Sophia wanted to tell him she was on maternity leave and that she was not doing anything, but she knew all too well she could not. He would say something immediately.
She had missed being able to focus on only one case. It had been too long. But now she could play endlessly with her drawing and her paper murderers, trying out various scenarios -- if only people did not disturb her. She did not come to a definitive solution, but she could cross a few options off her non-existent list. This seemed like progress, but it was not much.
By the end of the day she had done no cleaning, no shopping and all she knew was the name of the second dead body and that he had been the manager of one of Edwards' other clubs. All these clubs were clean, though -- she had checked -- so why he and Edwards had to be killed was a mystery.
"But clearly it's related to their jobs," she said to James when they walked home. "You don't take a bullet because your boss has gone after someone else's wife or something like that." Unless the man had been in the way when the boss was being killed, but given the evidence that made no sense and it was really too far-fetched to think that killer one had phoned killer two, who was waiting outside for something like this to happen.
"Unless you and your boss both went after that wife. But I assume that happens even less often than people getting murdered."
"I'm not too sure of that." Particular types of women might well seduce anyone in sight. "Who inherits his business?"
James had no idea. "You'd have to ask the team."
"They were still looking into that," she said with a roll of her eyes. Obviously she had checked with them. She did not know why she asked James when she already knew the answer. Perhaps she had not expected an answer. "Apparently the grieving widow was unable to talk to them."
James smirked at her notion of what grieving widows were supposed to do. "Would you be a grieving widow unable to talk to anybody?"
"I'd at least be clever enough not to behave suspiciously. If the business was going to be all mine after my husband's death, I'd make sure to stress that I had nothing to do with his death. Luckily I don't have that problem, because you have no business and you're not going to die."
"No, I'm not, but a little compassion --"
Sophia frowned when she remembered how James had been held prisoner by a murderer once. She had tried to be cool then, but that was because it was her job. Perhaps, if it was not her job, she would be less imperturbable and she had to make some allowances for the widow. "They could find someone close to the grieving widow to give them an idea of what she's like and if her grief is genuine. But all right. If even I can't predict how I'd react, how on earth is someone else supposed to predict my reaction?"
When they were home, she received a phone call from Margaret.
"I'm not going to do it," said Margaret.
"Take the role. It would have asked too much of me -- things with men and fake smoking," Margaret said vaguely but with a hint of distaste. "However, that means I should have a little compassion for Iain, shouldn't I? I've suggested we go to a nightclub together."
"You and Iain?" Sophia asked to be certain. She did not know where the nightclub and having compassion came into things. It had nothing to do with that acting job, as far as she could tell.
"Yes. He's not eager. Have you ever been to a nightclub?"
"I have arrested people in one. Were you thinking of one of Edwards' other clubs?" she wondered suddenly. Those were the only clubs she could think of. That would make more sense than a random visit.
"Yes. But I know nothing of nightclubs, my husband would be like a frozen statue looking out of place if he came with me and I'd probably have a really bad time without seeing anything worthwhile."
Sophia thought she would look like a statue having a bad time too. She could not imagine anything enjoyable about such a place. Or not much. "One of them isn't so bad. It mostly caters to an older crowd, or so I've read on its website. It probably has music that doesn't make one completely dizzy."
"Well..." Margaret pondered it. "I can't see you go, so if anyone is going it should be me, but there is the Iain problem."
"And your baby." Sophia had that problem too. She would use it if anyone tried to force her.
"That too. But, I don't know, would it be useful to go? Nothing will be happening in a nightclub that caters to an older crowd. I can't see anyone selling drugs there to enhance the experience of listening to whatever older people listen to. But I know nothing about drugs."
"No, probably not. The other man who was killed was the manager of one of his other clubs. If you're thinking of going to one at all, go to that one. I don't know its niche, but all of Edwards' clubs appear clean."
"Exactly how many clubs could exist in this town?" Margaret wondered. "Or does he own some out of town? I assumed for simplicity's sake that they were all here, but we don't exactly live in a metropolis."
"Two here, two elsewhere." Sophia caught James staring at her and she grimaced. She was not going to enlighten him beyond what he could overhear. He would love to take her to a nightclub, she was sure, but she was too old for that sort of thing. "I don't know what you'd find out, but don't let me stop you from enjoying a night out. I know you won't do anything illegal."
Margaret giggled. "Enjoying? Haha. Oh, what if it's a club for men? Then Iain would have to go with James."
Sophia gave the wall her iciest stare when she could not look at Margaret directly. "I should think there are more likely candidates on the team, so that James won't have to go."
He had been listening. "Go where?"
"To a nightclub. Margaret is offering to go with Iain."
"Offering? I think I'm missing the point. Why is she offering? She's married to the man."
She gestured at him that she would explain it later. "Margaret, the name of the club -- of the club that was run by the other dead man -- is Sparks. Look it up to see if it's your cup of tea. I am not going there with anybody. I'm telling you that in advance in case you fail to persuade Iain."
Margaret chuckled. "Thanks. I'll try."
"What was that all about?" James asked when Sophia had put her phone away. "A nightclub?"
"I have to feed the twins," she said when she heard one of them wail. It was time again. Well, five more minutes and they would be perfectly on time.
"You can enlighten me while you feed them."
"You have to cook."
"But the idea of you in a nightclub..." he teased. Cooking could wait. They had nowhere to go and they could easily deviate from Sophia's strict schedule.
She remembered a useful fact that might silence him. "Darling, you and I were in a nightclub once when we busted a drugs gang." She was not entirely sure when that had been, but sometime very shortly after she had transferred here.
He was quick to reply. "You were in the background ordering us about, sweetheart. You were not undercover in a little black dress."
"I'm not sure I'd look very appealing in a little black dress," Sophia said dryly. "Less is more does not apply in my case. I need a little black dress for my bosom alone these days."
James laughed as he handed her a baby. "You do not. But I take it you're not going to a nightclub to investigate?"
Sophia pulled a face. It was self-evident. "I'm in my forties and I'm a mother. Of course I'm not."
"Unless you were busting criminals."
"But you won't do that anymore, because you're too important now."
"So are you."
"Maybe I'd like to keep in touch with my roots."
The next day Sophia was informed -- by James -- that they had spoken to Tony Edwards' wife, a not too bright blonde. "Oh, but those are always money-savvy," Sophia said immediately.
"They smell rich men a mile off."
She could hear his scepticism through the line. "Everyone's got to have a particular talent."
"You're a blonde."
"A natural one and not even very blonde at that." She tried to catch a glimpse of herself in the glass of the cabinet. Unfortunately she could not see her hair colour very well. This morning it had been light brown.
"Am I going to win the lottery in the future?"
"Stay on topic," she ordered. "Is she inheriting?"
"Yes, but she hasn't got a clue what the business involves."
"Oh, they fell for that?" she cried. She could imagine a tearful blonde playing the fool. Men always fell for that. "Of course she's got a clue. It involves money. She doesn't have to know the ins and outs to know she's getting some money."
"Why don't you interview her then?' James said resignedly. "Ask her if she plans to sell the clubs, because if she doesn't..."
"I will!" Sophia did not yet know what to do with the twins, but they had a father.
Sophia had prepared herself well for the interrogation of the grieving widow. She had read the reports and she had gone over her own theories again. One person had stabbed and the other had shot, whereupon the shooter had planted the knife in the corridor and shoved the stabbed body out of the window later.
The widow had not been that second person. It would be difficult for a woman to lift a dead an uncooperative body over the windowsill -- unless it had taken her all morning, which would explain why it had not happened until later. But that was pretty silly. A woman would choose another option, because so far they had not yet figured out why the body had been shoved. A woman would not be going to such lengths for something that lacked an apparent purpose. It was more likely for a man to do it to cause confusion, as it cost him less trouble.
Mrs Edwards claimed to have been home all morning, but there was no one who could corroborate it. Most of the neighbours had been out and the only one who had not been had not paid attention. The detached homes with large gardens made it difficult for neighbours to spy on each other. However, Mrs Edwards had been suitably vague about her activities that morning. There was certainly a reason to ask her some questions again now that she might be a little less upset.
Sophia had thought carefully about whom to take with her. She had gathered that Mrs Edwards was good-looking, which would dazzle the likes of simpletons like Mann. She had decided to take Daphne Jones, who had much better insights into flirtatious women than she did, even though Jones indignantly claimed to have been with her latest flame for a year now.
"You'll be able to tell me if she's faking," Sophia said to her as they drove there.
"I never pay attention to other women," Jones sulked. "Only to men and not even that since I got --"
"That's what I mean. Faux sulks and all." She thought that was exactly one of the things calculated to get a favourable reaction from men.
"Faux sulks? Oh, by the way, ma'am." It had amused or bewildered her -- she was not sure -- that they had to make their trip directly after the twins had drank. "How do you know Mrs Edwards is going to be home exactly now, because I gathered we cannot wait because of your babies and it's got to be now or never."
"Well, if she's out shopping for clothes, we can consider that a sign."
"Of not giving a damn that her husband was murdered."
"Which may not mean she was involved."
"No," Sophia agreed affably. "And we're not going to approach her as if she was. We're only going to talk to her because there's a lot more she could tell us."
"But you're not aiming for chummy. Chilly, rather," Jones said with a look at Sophia's clothes.
"Chilly?" Sophia did not enjoy the comment much, considering that James had snickered that morning and spoken of a return of the Ice Cube. Only he was allowed to say so, since she believed he secretly fancied the Ice Cube. Everyone else would probably be mocking her.
"Jacket and skirt and all."
"That's simply work wear, Jones."
"You didn't wear any of that last year." Jones had only transferred a few months ago.
"I was pregnant. Choice is limited then." Choice was still limited for the breastfeeding mother. Beneath her buttoned-up jacket she wore something easy. That was why her jacket needed to remain closed. It might look frumpy, but she did not care.
"I hope I'll never find out," Jones said with a sigh.
"It might do you good. You might actually get stuck on one man."
"I think I've got mine longer than you've got yours," Jones observed with a shrewd smirk.
Sophia wanted to phone James to tell him smugly she had been right. Mrs Edwards looked exactly like the fashionable blonde who needed a wealthy man to support her spending habits that Sophia had expected. Not all of those types might be blondes, Sophia conceded. Not naturally anyway.
Mrs Edwards was carefully and expensively groomed. Sophia guessed that she was in her early forties, but attempting to appear much younger. She wore black, but showed little sign of grief otherwise until the two women had identified themselves.
"We've come to ask you a few more questions, Mrs Edwards," Sophia said briskly. She would have tried for coaxingly sympathetic if she had been able to. Unfortunately she suspected she was not, but if Mrs Edwards was not sincere that would not matter. "We're very sorry about your husband. I hope you're capable of talking to us."
"I could try," Mrs Edwards said with a hesitant sniff.
The hesitant sniff was a little fake. Sophia returned it with a fake smile of her own. "Thank you. DI Jones?"
Jones smiled as well. She had the notes about Mrs Edwards' first statement in her hands. "On Saturday, you said, you were at home."
"Has it come back to you what precisely you did that morning?"
The woman passed a hand over her eyes. "Oh no. I've been too affected by everything to remember."
"What do you usually do? Did you have a reason to deviate from your usual pattern?"
"I don't suppose so."
"Then what do you usually do?"
"I sleep in, take a bath, get dressed, do my make-up -- that sort of thing."
Sophia supposed all these things would take Mrs Edwards far longer than they would take her. "And this usually takes you until...?" she inquired.
"Well, I sleep in, so...about noon?"
"What time do you usually rise during the week?"
"Oh, about nine," Mrs Edwards said vaguely. "Or ten? I'm not really a morning kind of person."
If she really was not, it was unlikely for her to have been at the Treminster Club before ten. Sophia exchanged a look with Jones. Mrs Edwards could be clever, although she did not really look it. "And your husband?" Jones asked.
"He gets up earlier than me. He needs to go to work."
"Did he go to work on Saturday?"
"Sometimes, so I guess so."
"Would you know if he was meeting Mr Perry that morning?"
"I guess so, since he's also dead?" Mrs Edwards was puzzled by the question.
"They could have met by accident," Jones explained. "Or was he meeting someone else?"
"He didn't say."
"He didn't generally involve you in his business then?"
Sophia sat up a little straighter. This was what they wanted to hear about. How much did the wife know about the business?
"No. I'm not interested in his business." Mrs Edwards was at least two decades too old for that innocent look.
"But I suppose it pays for your comfort," Jones said as she gave her surroundings a pointed glance. While not all of it was tasteful, it was clear that some money had been spent on the house.
"Yes. I like that. I've no head for business, though. And he has people who work for him."
"Who will run the business now?"
"I have no idea."
"Wouldn't it be interesting to know if you could keep up this lifestyle?" Jones raised her eyebrows. She would want to know if anything changed after her husband's death, especially if she did not have a source of income herself.
"I get the business. Someone else will have to run it. I don't know who."
"Is the business going well?"
Mrs Edwards looked startled. "I should hope so. Just like him to die and leave me broke."
"The relationship between you and your husband wasn't very good then?" Sophia cut in.
"It was good," the woman said quickly when she evidently could not predict the consequences of calling it bad. "He was just a little selfish, you know? Thought I spent too much on myself."
Which was probably true.
"But," Mrs Edwards continued, "he did like for me to wear the best brands, because it showed other people he had made it. I can't be blamed for buying lots of those brands then, can I?"
"No, of course not," Jones agreed. She had been taking notes and signalled to Sophia that she had run out of questions.
"Did he ever take you to his clubs?" Sophia asked. If the woman did and she had an affair with someone else who worked there, they might be on to a motive.
"Yes. It's where we always held our parties."
"Did you ever go there alone?"
"Not often. Only when I was to meet him there. There isn't much happening there during the day and he wouldn't let me go out alone at night."
"I don't know. Does your husband?"
Sophia did not answer the question. "But you do know everyone who works in his clubs?"
"I know the managers and such. I don't know all the young people behind the bar. They change so often." But it was likely that she made sure they all knew her.
"Which is your favourite club?"
"Bangles, probably," Mrs Edwards said after some thought.
Sophia was a trifle disappointed that she knew nothing at all about that one except its name. Possibly Mrs Edwards and the manager at Bangles were out for a takeover, but in that case the manager would have to know who ran the other clubs.
It was too silly an idea. She went on. "Mr Perry worked at Sparks and he was found at the Treminster Club. Would he have any reason to be there?"
"I have no idea."
"What do you know about the Treminster Club?"
"It's a different type, that. It's not a nightclub and it's mostly for group events."
"So you didn't go there often?"
"Not a lot to do there. Besides, that Gary drove me up the wall."
"Why?" Gary had not been murdered. It had not been a takeover.
"He might be flirting with me." She looked as if she had nothing to do with that herself. "I can't tell."
Sophia gave Jones a glance. There were women who could tell and there were women who could not. Jones would know what they were dealing with here.
"Oh, we'll ask him," Jones said cheerfully.
Mrs Edwards blanched.
Sophia could hardly wait to share her thoughts with Jones. She restrained herself until they were out of the gate. "I don't think Gary is what Mrs Edwards is really looking for, but he might be a good errand boy."
"Thanks for killing my husband, now be off with you?" Jones suggested.
"For example. But..." Sophia lingered emphatically. "He wouldn't have involved a second man if he was looking to win the boss' wife and if Mrs Edwards is the using type, she wouldn't have got her own hands dirty. I think her husband's death is convenient to her, but I don't think she had anything to do with it."
"But that rules out Gary on his own as well."
"He might not be as interested in Mrs Edwards as she thinks he must be. I've seen him drool over other women. Not me." She was not a celebrity like Margaret.
Sophia was unperturbed. "I wouldn't like it, so I'm not concerned about your thinking it's impossible. Let's return to the case. It has nothing to do with a struggle for power."
She spoke with too much conviction for Jones, who looked sceptic. "How can we rule that out?"
"We cannot, but it doesn't sound likely to me. Mrs Edwards gets the business -- if we can trust her on that -- and she's not going to share it with someone else. She may know a lot less about running it than she thinks, but that's of later care. Anyone with his eye on the business will have to get Mrs Edwards on his side. Offer a lot of money, which a simple manager doesn't have, or offer himself. But given that there were two killers, that's unlikely."
"So..." Jones did not think they had discovered very much. "We still don't know who did it."
Sophia had not expected that kind of progress and she shrugged. "A process of elimination. Do you think we should talk to Gary?"
"A woman-to-flirt kind of chat?"
"If you like."
"It couldn't hurt."
"Unless you've got more pressing cases to work on." She tried to recall what was going on in the department, but she had not given everything the same kind of attention.
"Well, yes, but...you're the boss." Jones grinned. "You carry more weight."
"I hope you don't mean that literally."
Sophia and Jones drove to the Treminster Club. Sophia had checked the time and she had just about half an hour before her twins would be hungry. It was short, so hopefully James would be sensible and take them for a stroll when they began to fuss. She considered phoning him to suggest the idea, but both he and Jones would think that utterly ridiculous.
Gary recognised her. Although Margaret was not with her this time, apparently friends of celebrities were very interesting people as well. "What can I do for you?" he asked with a broad smile.
She flashed her warrant card at him.
"Oh," he said with a sigh. "Yes, Tony. Have you found out who did it yet?"
"What's your opinion of Mrs Edwards?"
He frowned. "Mrs Edwards? Do you think she did it?"
"We haven't got a specific suspect in mind yet. We're trying to get a better idea of how the clubs were run. Was Mr Edwards' wife involved?"
"Yes and no."
"What does that mean?" Sophia thought she could guess.
"She showed her face a lot, but she didn't do any real work."
"She showed her face a lot?" She raised her eyebrows. Had the woman herself not said something different? "How much is a lot?"
"Once a week at least, which is a lot if you're not doing anything. But maybe she didn't have anything better to do," Gary conceded.
"Did she only come here?"
"I doubt it. There's not much to do here and there are so many more people to check up on at the other clubs."
She wondered why he stressed there was not much to do here. Perhaps there was. "Did Mr Edwards know?"
"I honestly couldn't say."
"What attracted her here?"
"I have no idea. I didn't tell her about any problems with the staff anymore. I did that once and that went wrong."
"But you do have staff problems?" Sophia inquired. He had been here that Saturday morning when he was not supposed to be. Something must have brought him here. And he had had a sort of argument with someone.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, but yes. Like a staff member who likes to take bottles home to her alcoholic boyfriend." He shrugged as if it was nothing.
"On Saturday mornings especially?"
"Could be. I don't know when. I should be lying in wait, but I only recently discovered that is where the bottles went. Probably went, I mean."
She was inclined to believe him because it sounded plausible. For the time being anyway. "You didn't tell our colleagues that."
"No," he admitted. "Not exactly. I only said I was checking up. If I'd said what I was looking for it would undoubtedly have got out to the person involved and she wouldn't have done anything for weeks."
"But what were you hoping to find by going there at the beginning of the shift?" Jones wondered. "Shouldn't you be there when the staff go home?"
"I wanted to see whether a particular person was at work. Sometimes they change shifts without my knowledge."
Sophia tried something else. "Did Mr Edwards have any enemies?"
He looked a little startled by the sudden change of topic. "Not that I know of."
"No competitors in the same branch?"
"There are a lot of party venues, but they tend to be run by civilised people," said Gary. "And we're not so big that we get all the customers, so we don't have a problem with them or they with us."
"And how about the clubs?"
"No real competitors since Mr Edwards took over Sparks a few years ago."
Jones made a note of that, but Sophia had already discovered it during her research. It had not struck her as unusual at the time. "Mr Perry was the manager there. Did he get along with Mr Edwards or did he prefer the previous owner?" It made no sense to kill Perry as well, unless he had recognised the murderer.
"I have no idea."
Sophia explored the idea of Perry having recognised the murderer. Perhaps the murderer had been taken by surprise by Perry's presence and Perry had run outside, whereupon an accomplice had shot him. It made more sense than anything else she had considered so far. But it could also work if Perry had not known the murderer by name at all and he would simply be able to describe him or her.
How would the man outside have been notified? Phone? Or had he simply divined something was wrong? Or Perry could have recognised the man outside and not the one inside. Or both.
She was convinced it was something like that. For a brief moment last year's suspicions crossed her mind. If these murders were connected to Sparks, she would still not have solved the mystery of the security guards and the figurines at the Treminster. She did not want to be distracted now, though it was tempting to ask Gary whether there was security to keep wine bottles safe. Murders took precedence.
"What was the club's reputation before Mr Edwards bought it?" She wondered if anything had changed.
"For younger people, I think, but that could be because we were all younger then ourselves."
"Is that a reputation?"
Gary looked confused. "Is that not what you meant?"
Sophia let it pass. She thought Margaret would like it that the club was not for a teenage crowd, if she was still thinking of going. There was probably more she should ask, but she did not know enough about clubs to be able to ask intelligent questions. How did one change, for one? Play different music?
"We'll need to investigate that," said Jones when they sped back to the station.
"If you're thinking you could have a good laugh watching me go out to a nightclub I have to dash your hopes. I'm sorry. DCI Scott may go." Sophia alternately checked their speed and her watch. Her little babies might be crying.
"Scott? He's got a stick up his -- you know what."
"So do I then? Thanks." Sophia was unaffected by these types of insults by now. She hoped Scott was too. "He may go. It depends on his wife."
"With respect, ma'am, DCI Scott wouldn't know what to ask."
"He may not like dancing, but I doubt he's brainless. But if you think he's useless, why don't you go with Ms Maxwell? Mrs Scott, I mean." That would solve the problem nicely. Margaret could not go on her own and nobody else wanted to go. James might want to, but he was not allowed.
Jones frowned. "She's a member of the public. Why her?"
"People talk to her. You may find her useful in that regard. I suggest you discuss it with DCI Scott."
"I'm not on this case." It was not clear from her tone whether Jones regretted that.
"He'll put you on it if he thinks you'll be useful. We do allow for flexibility, you know."
"I'm sure the victims in my cases would love to hear I put their cases on hold in order to go to a nightclub. Mrs Edwards wouldn't care if we solved her husband's murder quickly or not."
"Yes, life's unfair," Sophia agreed. "However, we need to make use of developments as they come up, regardless of which case has been on our desks the longest."To Be Continued . . .
© 2009 Copyright held by the author.