New whodunnit serial:
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
‘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