New who­dun­nit se­rial:

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! - By Geral­dine Ryan

On the day that Princess Diana died, the body of a young girl, Diana Hunter, was found at Keeper’s Cove. Though an ar­rest was made, this was soon dis­missed as a hasty mis­take, and the true killer was never caught. Now, over 20 years later, while vis­it­ing her son Fin­lay’s school, a chance meet­ing sparks De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Casey Clunes’ quest to fi­nally bring the mur­derer to jus­tice...

She must have agreed to this event at Fin­lay’s school. Not least be­cause Fin­lay had thrust the proof un­der her nose when she’d ques­tioned it. There, un­de­ni­ably, squat­ting on the con­sent form Fin­lay had brought home, was her sig­na­ture. A black, spi­dery scrawl that said Casey Clunes.

At some point in the dim and dis­tant past – prob­a­bly when she’d been in such a hurry to get to work she’d have signed her own death war­rant – Casey had agreed to speak to her son’s class about what it was like to be a De­tec­tive In­spec­tor with the Brock­haven Con­stab­u­lary. And now that day had fi­nally dawned.

Thirty pairs of eyes gazed up at her ex­pec­tantly. All apart from Fin­lay’s – he shifted awk­wardly in his seat and re­fused to look at her. Once upon a time he’d have met her at the door, proudly an­nounc­ing that here was his mummy, come to tell them all about catch­ing the bad men and lock­ing them up.

But times had changed. One night he’d gone up to bed with a cheery wave and a smile and next morn­ing had come down with a new vo­cab­u­lary of snarls and grunts and one-syl­la­ble words. He’d be­come a teenager and Casey, his mother, was an em­bar­rass­ment.

‘It wasn’t my idea,’ he’d scowled, when Casey initially de­nied all knowl­edge of the event. ‘I should have kept my mouth shut when Miss Moody asked us if our mums had in­ter­est­ing jobs.’

Miss Moody was sit­ting next to her now, the two of them bar­ri­caded be­hind the form teacher’s desk. It sep­a­rated them from what felt like the di­rect line of fire of the class of 13-year-olds. With a name like Miss Moody, Casey had imag­ined a grumpy teacher count­ing down to re­tire­ment. It had been a pleas­ant sur­prise to dis­cover that she was, in fact, a woman in her 30s, pretty and smil­ing.

She re­minded Casey of some­one she’d met be­fore. There was some­thing about the eyes and the slope of the mouth. The name, too – Rowan – struck a chord. She told her­self she was be­ing ridicu­lous. Wasn’t there a web­page that con­tained pic­tures of ev­ery mem­ber of staff with their names at­tached? She must have looked at it some time, if only for a minute or two. With her mem­ory for faces, this one must have stuck. And yet...

‘So, who has a ques­tion for De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Clunes?’ Miss Moody’s ques­tion dis­rupted her thoughts.

She willed Fin­lay to help her out since no­body seemed to want to be the first. But he seemed more in­ter­ested in slid­ing as far down into his seat as pos­si­ble. Any sec­ond now and he’d dis­ap­pear com­pletely. Fi­nally, a round-faced, con­fi­dent-look­ing girl with thick chest­nut plaits raised her hand.

‘What qual­i­fi­ca­tions do you need to join the Po­lice?’ asked the girl, whose name was Gemma.

Casey made a men­tal note to keep an eye out for this promis­ing young lady a few years down the line.

‘Would you like to join the Po­lice, Gemma?’ she asked, once she’d ex­plained as briefly as pos­si­ble the var­i­ous routes into the Po­lice Ser­vice.

‘Me? Oh, no,’ Gemma said quickly. ‘I want to take over my dad’s busi­ness. He sells cars. I reckon I’d make far more money do­ing that than be­ing a cop.’

There was mas­sive gig­gling and some eye-rolling at this. The boy sit­ting next to Gemma gave her a shove with his el­bow.

‘What?’ she said, turn­ing her ag­grieved face towards him. ‘She asked, didn’t she?’

‘Set­tle down, ev­ery­one,’ Miss Moody said with a frown. ‘And let’s have some more ques­tions.’

In the end Casey had cause to be grate­ful for Gemma, de­spite her lack of diplo­macy. Now she’d got the ball rolling, the ques­tions be­gan to flow thick and fast. How many mur­der­ers had she caught? Who was her favourite TV de­tec­tive? What was the worst thing she’d seen? (She had to dodge that one.)

Casey be­gan to re­lax. Even Fin­lay re-emerged from be­neath his desk and ap­peared to start tak­ing an in­ter­est. All too soon, her al­lot­ted 40 min­utes were up.

‘There’s just time for one more ques­tion,’ Miss Moody said.

He’d be­come a teenager and Casey, his mother, was an em­bar­rass­ment

Casey had no­ticed a girl who’d been wag­gling her hand for a long time.

‘Go ahead,’ she said, with a nod in the girl’s di­rec­tion.

‘You said you started off as a Po­lice Constable,’ the girl, who gave her name as Aisha, said. ‘That’s right,’ Casey replied. ‘So what did you have to do to get pro­moted to

De­tec­tive Constable?’

‘Well, that’s an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion and I’m glad you raised it,’ Casey replied. ‘I think we have the TV po­lice dra­mas to thank for por­tray­ing plain­clothed of­fi­cers as su­pe­rior in rank to uni­formed ones.’

She ex­plained that in fact that there was no dif­fer­ence in rank be­tween the two. The dif­fer­ence was sim­ply in their roles. Uni­formed of­fi­cers were generally first at the scene of a crime and were more foren­si­cally aware, she ex­plained. They also made the ar­rest as a rule, whereas de­tec­tives were more in­volved in the in­ter­view process. She’d had to at­tend cour­ses to learn how to ques­tion a suspect and to get a more ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the law, she said. But if she wanted to, she could ask to be trans­ferred to uni­form any time she liked.

Right on cue the bell rang. Casey’s or­deal was over. Ex­cept in the end it had turned out to be no or­deal at all. If only she could stay here all morn­ing. That way she could avoid that tricky meet­ing with the Su­per.

hey were in the staffroom, T

where Casey had been in­vited to join Rowan Moody for morn­ing cof­fee. Rowan had led her over towards a bat­tered old sofa where she now sat, tak­ing in the hus­tle and bus­tle of the busy staffroom and wait­ing for Rowan’s re­turn with her much-needed drink.

It was from there she no­ticed some­one on the other side of the room scru­ti­n­is­ing her. As soon as the woman caught Casey’s eye she beamed at her as if they were the old­est of friends and came bustling over to join her on the set­tee.

‘Sally Sed­don, Head of English,’ the woman said, ex­tend­ing a limp, veined hand. ‘You must be Fin­lay’s mother.’

‘Oh, dear. What’s he done now?’ said Casey, only half-jok­ing.

The woman threw back her head and chuck­led, re­veal­ing a great deal of gum and long, yellow teeth. The black suit she wore drained her com­plex­ion of any bright­ness. Her lips were painted a deep, blood red and the colour bled at the edges of her mouth.

‘Oh, you have no cause to worry, Mrs Tal­bot,’ the woman said.

Casey didn’t cor­rect her. Tal­bot was Dom’s name. It had been much eas­ier, when Fin­lay was born, to give him his father’s name rather than go down the dou­ble-bar­relled route.

‘It’s just I heard from Rowan that you’d be com­ing in to­day and I wanted to take the op­por­tu­nity to have a chin­wag,’ she said. ‘In fact, Fin­lay has a great talent for writ­ing sto­ries.’

A rush of motherly pride re­placed Casey’s sus­pi­cions that her son was in big trou­ble.

‘Oh well, it’s his dad he takes af­ter in that de­part­ment,’ she said. ‘Not me.’

Dom was a jour­nal­ist by pro­fes­sion, though since the Brock­haven Gazette – where he’d worked for years – had amal­ga­mated with two other small lo­cal news­pa­pers, his writ­ing ca­reer had di­verged in sev­eral other di­rec­tions.

‘Well, who­ever he gets it from, his last story was bril­liant,’ the teacher said. ‘The ti­tle I gave them all to write was ‘A Busy Place’. Fin­lay set his story in­side his head.’

‘Such an imag­i­na­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion,’ she added, beam­ing. But then her ex­pres­sion changed.

‘The thing is, how­ever,

Mrs Tal­bot,’ she said, lean­ing in closer. ‘I’m not sure how the ex­am­i­na­tion board would re­act to his some­what quirky in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ti­tle.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Well, they might think he wasn’t an­swer­ing the ques­tion,’ she said. ‘They might fail him.’

Casey didn’t think this sounded very plau­si­ble but there was a chink of mugs and Rowan was back. Sally Sed­don greeted Rowan with a frosty smile which was more than matched by Rowan’s own glacial greet­ing.

‘Do you mind if I take this seat, Sally?’ she said. ‘Only I

She no­ticed some­one on the other side of the room scru­ti­n­is­ing her

Con­tin­ued over­leaf

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