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Ghost of Christmas Past

Yes, I know, it isn't much closer to Christmas than it was last week. I'm still feeling cuddly though, so here's an extract from the latest Amy Hammond for you


“You will come, won’t you? I’m sorry it’s such short notice but I’ve only just found out about it and I really need you there because things could turn nasty if Bethie and Miles decide to get their own back for the way Ellie teased them last year. I don’t want anything to spoil the evening and they listen to you and Peter far more than either of them ever will to me.” Laura went on without giving Amy a chance to answer what had been more of a summons than an invitation, then showed more uncharacteristic nerves as she finished. “It’s not like Ellie to be so impulsive or inconsiderate and don’t you dare laugh at me, Amy Hammond.”

“I’m sorry,” Amy murmured with genuine contrition but she still couldn’t resist adding. “It’s just that I’ve never heard anyone condemned for being rich, handsome and besotted by a girl before. It doesn’t automatically have to make things more complicated, does it?”

“Doesn’t it for you and Peter? And you’ve got to admit that the aristocracy aren’t like the rest of us. We all know how it ends when normal people try to join that sort of outdated world and they’re bound to not welcome Ellie on principle.”

“I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t welcome her and anyway, Peter and I are entirely different.” Amy protested even though she was long past the stage of bothering to try to work out how her sister could find a way to turn the tables on her so thoroughly when she’d been convinced that she was on unassailable ground.

“Really?” The combination of Laura’s raised eyebrows and amused, sceptical expression made that single word say far more than it should have been able to and none of it did Amy’s confidence any good at all.

“For one thing he’s not rich, and...” She gave up a fight that she was never likely to win because she didn’t know how much money Peter had. She had to admit that he was handsome in an austere, ageless sort of way that meant that he wore his fifty-seven years what sometimes struck her as being unfairly lightly. He also seemed to know everyone who mattered and mixed in the sort of circles that she’d only ever read about in the papers if she’d run out of other things to read and had been trying to put off doing stuff. Anyway, none of that mattered to her because he’d long ago walked away from that world and had made it very clear that he’d chosen her. She still had no intention of letting Laura know that she’d been stunned when he’d casually mentioned that he was off to have lunch with the Prince of Wales when she’d asked him what he’d be doing while she was at work the other day. Having a point about that didn’t mean that she was right about everything else though or that there was anything that either of them needed to worry about.

All that mattered was that Peter loved her and she loved him. Anything that they were or weren’t doing was their business and no one else’s and that was how they intended it to stay no matter how many leading and downright rude and intrusive questions people asked. Unfortunately, she wasn’t daft enough to think that any amount of dignified silence would stop anyone trying to find out or dropping increasingly heavy-handed and arch hints about imminent weddings. That meant that it was a shameful relief to realise that she wouldn’t be the only one in the firing line this Christmas and it’d only need a smallish amount of luck for her to be overlooked altogether.

“I can definitely come but Drew’s arriving that afternoon, and I can’t expect Peter to abandon him.” She limited herself to saying because there was no point in giving her sister any more ammunition when she already used what she had so effectively.

“Is that Peter’s cousin? The one you stayed with in Wales a few months back? You didn’t mention he was coming for Christmas.” Laura’s always well-developed curiosity might have diverted her for a moment, but there was still an uncharacteristic worry line between her eyes that made Amy feel guilty even though this was one time when she knew that she had nothing to feel guilty about.

“That’s right.” She nodded agreement while sending a silent prayer of thanks heavenward that her beloved but bossy older sister didn’t have a clue what else had happened in Wales. It was rapidly followed by a far more fervent prayer that she wasn’t about to find out because that’d make it a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons.

“Then bring him as well.”

“Is that fair?”

“We’re not that bad.” Laura protested, then did two more things that were out of character by sighing as she reached for the biscuits. “But I see what you mean and every conversation that Ellie and I have these days seems to end up with a row so I can’t see how this can end anything except badly. Why does everything have to be so complicated these days? Christmas used to be so simple and fun.”

Amy nodded in silent sympathy and resisted the temptation to point out that her big sister actually meant that until now she’d always organised every last detail of Christmas. This year she’d lost control long before Ellie had made her announcement because the sheer amount of stuff that soon to be one year old twins seemed to need for a day away from home had made it only sensible for everyone to gather at Miles and Bethany’s new house. The proud father and husband of Laura’s youngest daughter had been known to complain that Arctic expeditions had an easier time of getting ready than they did and Amy would concede that he had a point as long as she could be sure that his wife wasn’t listening.

Her great-niece and nephew were as lively, inquisitive and unpredictable as their parents and had just begun to master the art of what their parents claimed was walking. It looked to her more as if they were lurching from one near disaster to the next so it was better for everyone if they were in childproofed territory, with their cots close at hand when life got too much for them in the way that it all too often seemed to.

She and Peter had been summoned to join the festivities, but they’d negotiated it down to going over on Christmas morning for brunch and to see their godchildren open their presents. She was definitely looking forward to that and had bought far more for them than she should have done when she knew that their parents would do most of the parcel opening while Laura’s husband took pictures that’d be sent to what felt like half the world. Meanwhile, Caitlin and Simon would almost certainly either play with the boxes or chew their contents before the evil mixture of over-tiredness and over-excitement hit and they dissolved into sobs and fury. With any luck, that phase would be short-lived and then they’d fall into an exhausted sleep while their equally exhausted elders had lunch, but she and Peter wouldn’t be there for that. They’d planned to leave at about twelve o’clock and come back for a late lunch at Peter’s before they spent the rest of their first Christmas as an official-ish couple in blissful peace but last night, Peter had said diffidently.

“Would you mind very much if Drew joined us for Christmas? He’s got so fed up with everyone fussing about him being on his own that he’s told them all that he’s coming to us. He said he’d go to a hotel and all he needed was me to confirm that he’d been here if anyone asked, and he’d drop in for half an hour or so on Christmas morning so I didn’t have to lie but...”

“You did the right thing and it’ll be lovely to see him.” She liked Drew and could see why everyone would have been fussing over him after a so-called suicide attempt that had actually been attempted murder. She didn’t want him to be on his own either and she suspected that Peter felt the same way, no matter how carefully he always tried to camouflage his better nature beneath a hefty layer of pragmatism.

“I’ve already told him we’re going to Miles and Bethie’s on Christmas morning and he said he’d be fine on his own here and for God’s sake to find him a decent excuse to avoid a concerted attack by a pair of rugrats.” For once, Peter didn’t quite manage to hide his relief as he finished with a comment that had to be a direct quote.

“So what have you come up with?” She’d asked because Peter was so good at concocting elegant excuses that it’d be fun to hear how he’d evade Laura’s determination to be a good hostess.

“Nothing at all. I’ve told him that he can find his own way out but he almost certainly won’t because he’s always been curious about what my life’s like these days and he enjoys all the social stuff. It’s just everyone being nice to him and concerned about him that he’s finding a bit much because it’s been going on ever since he got back to work.”

“So why hasn’t he come down before?”

She’d wondered about that for a while because she hadn’t known that Drew existed until she’d been about to meet him, let alone that he and Peter were not only cousins but close friends. She’d known that Peter regularly went hillwalking in Wales but somehow she’d never asked where and with whom he’d stayed. That was no surprise because she’d long ago realised that he was unfairly good at diverting conversations away from himself, and accepted that it was one of the downsides of loving a man who had such a complicated past. Besides, very few people would have believed her if she’d been daft enough to tell them that he’d ever been a strange sort of spy, or that he wasn’t anything like as retired as he’d always claimed that he’d wanted to be on the rare occasions when he couldn’t avoid discussing his past. It wasn’t that he was ever rude or secretive, but if you were foolish enough to try to talk about anything that he considered personal then either the subject somehow got changed or he found something that he had to do and roped you into helping him.

“No. I wanted to keep my lives as separate as I could.” Peter had said quietly, and she’d nodded and said a truthful.

“It’ll be nice to see him again.”

“Actually, it’s more a case that he’s...” She said to Laura when she realised that she’d been distracted by memories and her sister was now looking at her in a way that made it clear that she’d been expected to say something quite a while ago.

“Please don’t tell me that he’s as prone to finding bodies as you and Peter? But you seem to have given up doing that recently so maybe he’s been a good influence on you. If he has, then he’ll be even more welcome than he’d have been otherwise.” She didn’t need to add ‘because someone needed to be’ because this was such old and well-trodden ground that Amy could predict the rest of the lecture and didn’t feel at all guilty about interrupting.

“It was never my fault, and he’s...” It was odd how hard it was to come out and say it when it had never bothered her and she was sure Laura wasn’t prejudiced. “Gay.” She therefore added before she could be tempted to evade the subject or dress it up because if it turned out that Laura couldn’t handle it then it’d be best to find out before anything could happen that’d hurt Drew.

“Oh, Amy,” Laura’s laugh was simultaneously reassuring and patronising. “As if that matters these days. Anyway, are you sure? Remember how many people thought that about Peter at first?”

“Very, very sure and he lost someone special in the autumn, which is one of the reasons why he suddenly decided to see if he could join Peter for Christmas. Not Aids.” She added because it had been far more complicated than that and he’d been lucky not to die as well. “Anyway...” She made a conscious effort to shift the conversation back to Laura’s dilemma before things could get any further out of hand. “What’s so wrong with Jonathan?”

“He really loves Ellie.”

“Yes?” Amy reckoned that she could be forgiven for sounding confused.

“Oh, he’s not a stalker or anything like that, but it’s not like Ellie to go into things so quickly and intensely and then there’s everything that comes with him. A title, for heaven’s sake. I know he doesn’t use it but it’s still there and he’ll inherit an estate that’s far bigger than Swansmere and... well, he simply isn’t what I expected her to choose when she decided to settle down and she’s been awfully sheltered. Going from the grammar school to Oxford and then back to the grammar to teach hasn’t given her the same exposure to the world that Bethie and Callie have had. Frankly, I’m not sure that she understands what she’s taking on, or what she could have if she was only prepared to widen her social circle. I know she claims that she’s far too busy at work to go out much in term time but there are always the holidays and there’s so much that she could do if she wanted to.”

“Isn’t that prejudice?” The sense of humour that was the curse of Amy’s existence left her asking but she could see that Laura had got a point. It worried her too because it was so unlike her to say a word against the daughter who had never previously caused her any trouble. And it really was a day for firsts because Laura ate a second biscuit before conceding.

“Quite possibly, but I don’t like the idea of her spending Christmas with his family. That’s the sort of thing that leads to engagements and they’ve only known each other a few months. Bethie says I’m being daft and I should have learned my lesson with her, but Ellie sprang the fact that she wasn’t coming home for Christmas on me out of the blue. Then she wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to explain why it wasn’t a good idea to stay there and it’d be much better just to go during the day. She told me that I was hopelessly old-fashioned and an inverse snob, and we haven’t talked about anything that matters since.”

Laura’s youngest daughter had a point because it was only a year since she’d sprung a pregnancy and a far less suitable seeming boyfriend on them. It also meant that Laura could be forgiven for starting to feel that her Christmases were jinxed, which she as good as admitted that she was doing because she ate a third biscuit before finishing. “I know that things have to change now that they’ve all grown up and it will be lovely seeing Caitlin and Simon have their first combined Christmas and birthday. Bethie and Miles’s new house is lovely too but you will come, won’t you?”

“What could I say except yes?” She asked Peter later that day, then added a hasty and ever so slightly untruthful. “But I can easily go by myself.”

“Don’t be daft. I won’t abandon you and I’m sure Drew will be happy to come, especially if you give him some of the background. He’s always been good value at a party so he’ll be able to smooth over any awkward spots and it may well help him if he realises that he’s doing us a favour by coming.”

Amy could well believe that because Drew was as outgoing as Peter was reserved but they both shared a refusal to take life too seriously which meant that it was very rare for them to be seen to be thrown by anything. Jonathan had it too from what Laura had said, so maybe it was something that was bred into the upper classes? If so, then she could only hope that some of it rubbed off on her very soon, because the more she thought about Laura’s uncharacteristic worry the more worried she was getting.

“Do you know Jon’s family?” She asked because Peter knew all of the great and good for miles around so he’d also know if there was anything to worry about.

“No, but I know of him because he was at school with Colin Underwood and they’re still close friends.”

“Oh no. Please no.” She said as a truly awful idea occurred to her and Peter didn’t have the sense not to smile as he shook his head and didn’t help himself much by taking pity on her a second or so later and saying.

“As far as I know, he doesn’t have and has never had any connection to any department of the oxymoron that is British Intelligence and neither has any other member of his family. Do you want me to check them all out to make sure that there aren’t any skeletons lurking in cupboards?”

For a minute she was very tempted by the idea of running a full security check on her potential nephew-in-law and his family. Then she accepted that it had to be out of the question, but still felt better for knowing that he and Colin were friends. The young spook that Peter was mentoring was so kind, decent, charming and considerate that Laura would have welcomed him with open arms as a potential son-in-law as long as she didn’t find out what he did for a living so the chances were that Jon was perfectly nice.

“I wonder if Ellie’s met him?” She was diverted enough to ask.

“A couple of times.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t want it to worry you, which it has, hasn’t it? But there’s nothing suspicious about it. It’s just that the Establishment is a very small world.”

“And it’s not very kind to outsiders,” Amy muttered as she remembered Laura’s fears and a young woman who’d become a Princess without, she was pretty sure, having a clue about what the life she was taking on would do to her. It looked as if Peter had read her mind yet again because he was at his most gentle and rueful as he said.

“Ellie’s not exactly Eliza Dolittle, is she? And you don’t need to worry about it being a Charles and Diana situation because Jon’s only a year or so older than her and has as much experience of the ordinary world as she has. I’ll happily admit that neither of them has had as much of that as they undoubtedly think they have but Ellie is definitely not a shy, naive nineteen-year-old who believes in handsome princes who’ll make her the centre of their universe and ensure that she lives happily ever after. Anyway, Jon’s family set-up is almost in the nineteen sixties, which makes them a long way ahead of the Royal Family. ” Something about his smile left him wondering what he’d talked about at that lunch with Prince Charles but she was far too used to his devious nature to let herself be diverted into asking.

“Maybe not, but she hasn’t got anything like as much experience as you’d think. She went to an all-girls school, and she always worked so hard there and at uni, and then she threw herself into teaching. She’s never really had a serious relationship before while Jon.” She trailed off because one of the other things that Laura had said was that Jon had cut a wide swathe through the daughters of the county set before he’d fallen for Ellie. She’d seen the repercussions that that sort of behaviour could have and they’d been messy and ended up with people dead so she didn’t want them to be repeated. Obviously, she couldn’t imagine Ellie losing her mind and ending up as a multiple murderer but Laura had been right to say that things were complicated, which made it all the more annoying that Peter still didn’t seem bothered.

“Jon’s had a fair few girlfriends, but as far as Colin’s aware he’s never parted from any of them on bad terms. I suspect that a lot of them were more down to parental machinations on both sides than any inclination on either part. More to the point, Colin’s mentioned that Jonathan’s parents both think that Ellie’s lovely and exactly what he needs. He agrees so strongly that I got the impression that he half wishes that he’d taken you up on your threat to introduce him to Ellie and Callie a few months back so I don’t think he’d mind too much if you happened to introduce him to Callie the next time he’s down here.”

“Oh good - I think.” Amy didn’t bother to try to explain why his attempt to reassure and distract her had made her feel more uneasy or why there was no way she intended to let her middle niece get involved with an active spook. Instead, she swore that she’d make her mind up about Ellie’s boyfriend once she’d met him and do her best to postpone worrying until she’d seen what, if anything, she’d got to worry about.

The ridiculously short grey day was already fading into a wet, dispiriting night so it wasn’t only to change the subject that she got up and headed across to draw the curtains. She was still happy to be able to say. “That’s Kerry’s new car.”

“Do you want me to go?”

“Don’t be daft.” She relished being able to turn the tables by saying then felt guilty when he looked uncharacteristically uncertain as he said

“Am I? She’s bound to associate me...”

“With finding out what Chris had been doing? How can that have been your fault?” Chris was Kerry’s ex-boyfriend, and the circumstances under which he’d become an ex had been so complicated that Amy had to concede that Peter had a point. Trouble seemed to follow him; or more accurately, he’d spent so long dealing with a very specialised form of trouble that involved what he referred to as the great and the good that he spotted signs that most people would miss. Being the man he was, he acted on them no matter how much it could hurt him. It definitely had this time so she wasn’t surprised when all he did was shrug as if the answer was too obvious to need to be put into words.

It wasn’t as far as she was concerned and she was fed up with them pussyfooting around each other so she got to the front door before Kerry could ring the doorbell, opened it, and then said a cheerful. “How lovely to see you. Peter and I were just talking about you.”

“Please don’t tell me you two are up to something.” Detective Inspector Kerry Sawyer shook her head as she came in and took off her denim jacket and hung it up in a way that signalled to Amy that she was planning to stay for a while. That was nothing unusual because the officer had started by being assigned to protect her after she’d been threatened a couple of years back and had become a cross between a close friend and an extra niece. That made her decision to stay a relief because she’d been avoiding Peter as much as he’d been avoiding her.

“Of course not.” She protested, but she still smiled as Kerry went on.

“Our crime figures are looking really good at the moment, so if you are, then would you mind going somewhere else when you do it? No one would notice if you did it in Boscombe and if you don’t fancy going over there then I can recommend a couple of bits of Poole or Weymouth where people would just shrug and say ‘not again.’ ” Her grin faded as she followed Amy into the L-shaped lounge diner that opened onto the kitchen and paused to stroke the overfed and indulged Persian cat who’d raised her head from where she’d been dozing in an armchair, defiant inches away from the quilt that Amy had made in a forlorn attempt to stop the wretched animal shedding incredible quantities of silvery fur all over her new three-piece suite.

“Hello, Kerry.” Peter was still standing as he greeted her, which was nothing unusual because he was such a self-proclaimed dinosaur that he always stood up when what he insisted on calling a lady regardless of anyone’s attempts to educate him on the finer points of political correctness came into the room. Amy still had a feeling that he was looking for an opportunity to retreat and began to wonder if he was right to when Kerry watched him in her best police officer way. She’d never been able to define exactly what she did, but the effect was ‘I know you’re up to something and it’s only a matter of time before I find out what so you may as well come clean before I have to do something that you won’t like.’ It always left her examining her conscience so it was a relief that this time it was entirely clear.

“Who’d like some tea?” Amy asked when the two of them seemed happy to watch each other; or if not actually happy, then at least determined not to be the first to back down. “There’s a ginger cake in the tin if anyone fancies a slice.” She added because she knew it was one of Kerry’s favourites and the Detective Inspector was more prone than ever to working silly hours and forgetting to eat proper meals now that she was living on her own.

“Thanks,” Kerry said as she stayed crouched down in front of Fluffy while she continued her pampering duties. Amy made what could only be a temporary escape, then eavesdropped every bit as shamelessly as Peter would have done if their roles had been reversed while she filled the kettle and sorted out mugs and plates and forks.

“How are things?” Peter opened what she couldn’t help thinking of as proceedings by asking.

“Much the same as usual. Stupid busy and all too often just plain stupid.”

“Is anything in particular bothering you?”

“Oh, come on, Brigadier! Can’t you come clean just this once? Or is it all a game as far as you’re concerned?” Kerry sounded so angry that Amy could see why Fluffy had shot into the kitchen and was now demanding a snack to calm her frazzled nerves.

“I’m sorry?” Either Peter was genuinely puzzled or he was doing an even more brilliant imitation of it than usual. Amy was pretty sure that it was the first option as Kerry went on furiously.

“I saw Colin Underwood this afternoon and we both know what that means, don’t we?”

“Where?” Peter’s voice hadn’t done anything as dramatic as getting harsher or louder, but that didn’t mean anything because he’d had control trained into him to what she sometimes considered a ridiculous extent. Sometimes it frightened her, but she was currently so curious that she sloshed water into the teapot as soon as the kettle boiled and hurried through with the tray as Kerry continued.

“Don’t you know? Hanging around with you two’s made me the unofficial go-to woman for the weird, so I need it straight.”

“Okay then.” Peter said as he shifted into what Amy had long ago privately christened ‘working mode’ “Until you arrived our worst problem was working out how we’d juggle our families because my cousin’s decided to come to stay for Christmas and Amy’s sister has sprung a last-minute dinner party on us for the day he’s arriving. What’s your worst problem?”

“The Countess of Strathmore.”

“What’s she done?” Amy asked because that was Jon’s mother so it looked as if Laura had been right. That wasn’t anything unusual, but it would have been so much easier if she’d been an over-protective mother who was struggling to accept that her chicks were flying the nest. But maybe it wasn’t too bad, because Kerry was relaxing as she said.

“Nothing as far as I know, but it’s still odd.”

“I wouldn’t have thought that she’d have caused you any trouble because that family have been part of the backbone of the county for centuries. There’s nothing more than a speeding ticket that was dealt with by a speed awareness course in the last ten years; and that was for the Earl, who’s not what you’d call a boy racer any more.” Peter said so absently that Amy was pretty sure that it had been easy for him to offer to run a check on Jonathan and his family because he’d already done it without finding anything that she needed to worry about. That would have been far more reassuring if he’d thought to tell her that he was doing it and if there’d been any way that she could have told Laura that he’d done it so it was probably a good job that Kerry was distracting her by going on.

“So what was Colin doing there? And your niece was there too, Amy, looking far less confident than I’d have expected any of Laura Cartwright’s daughters to be able to.”

“What’s happened?” Amy demanded as she poured tea for all of them and handed out wedges of a lemon iced, crystallised ginger decorated ginger cake that was one of her favourite recipes because it was easy to make, kept well, and people always seemed to appreciate it even though fancy cupcakes drowned in far too much sweet icing for her liking seemed to rule the cake world these days.

“I’m not sure,” Kerry said once she’d taken a couple of mouthfuls. “It could be nothing at all, but I had an all too familiar feeling of wheels within wheels so I thought I’d come and see you before things could get totally out of control yet again.”

“You thought right,” Peter said. “Now tell me what you don’t know that’s annoying you so much.”

“That pretty much sums it up.” Kerry managed a tired grin as she went on. “They’ve had someone hanging around the house and there’ve been a fair few burglaries at stately homes recently, so...”

“It’s not your usual patch, is it?”

“No, but it’s like I said. These days it automatically gets dumped in my lap if it looks odd and nasty .”

In a way that was fair enough because Kerry was a fast-tracked cop who was so personable that she was ideal PR material for the police service. It had never seemed to bother her that much before, but a lot had changed for her in the last year as well and it hadn’t been anything like as nice as the changes in Amy’s life had been.

“Do you want me to ask Colin if he was there officially or if it was a social call because he and Jon have been friends since prep school?” Peter’s question made it clear that he’d come to the same conclusion and was about to offer to help in a way that anyone else would have called ‘taking over.’

“It’d be a big help. Actually, I was expecting him to be here,” Kerry admitted. “But it looks as if I shot my mouth off and I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m the one who should have apologised long ago for all the trouble I’ve brought you.”

“By settling here? Did you?” Things couldn’t be too bad because Kerry had seized the opportunity to restate a question that had always fascinated her as much as it did Amy.

“As I’ve explained I don’t know how many times, I resigned and chose this area because it was quiet and dull and don’t either of you dare laugh at my naivete.” He finished, almost exactly as Laura had a few hours before, and Amy raised her mug of tea to her lips so that she couldn’t get caught a second time. “What sort of robberies?” He asked before anyone could comment.

“Artwork and antiques.” Kerry finished her cake and then drank half of the second mug of tea that Amy had poured for her without bothering to ask if she wanted it before she went on. “Good stuff from all accounts - not that I’d know.”

“Any potential links to terrorist funding?”

“Trust you to home in on something that I hadn’t worried about before. No one’s mentioned any to us, but we all know how little that means. You’re unofficially official, so…”

That, Amy decided as cut Kerry some more cake without bothering to ask if she’d like it, summed up Peter’s current role perfectly. If one of the very tiny group that he’d consider the right people asked him then he’d admit to mentoring younger spooks and sharing what he claimed was a lifetime of making mistakes that he’d rather that they didn’t repeat.

But Colin wouldn’t call him ‘The Old Master’ if that had been all he’d done, and he did see things that most people missed. She didn’t want her oldest niece to get mixed up with terrorists or anything else nasty so if there was anything lurking in the background then it needed to be sorted out before anything could happen.

“I’ll ring Colin.” Peter must feel the same way because he pulled out his new I-phone. He didn’t call up a stored number because he never programmed numbers into his phone. Instead, he tapped in a number in a way that made it clear yet again what a good memory he had and then put it on speaker so that they could all hear the call. Kerry and Amy exchanged glances as it rang and rang until Amy was expecting it to go to voicemail. Then Colin apologised for the delay because he’d had to find somewhere to pull over before Peter said.

“Jonathan Steadman. Connection to Eleanor Cartwright. As in Amy’s niece. You were there today, weren’t you?”

“That’s right and so was Kerry Sawyer.” Colin sounded as startled as he ever allowed himself to. “So?”

“Why were you visiting him?”

“Because he’d invited me to drop in for lunch on my way down to spend Christmas with my family. I’m pretty sure it was so he could sound me out about being his best man because he’d planned for us to go for a good long walk after lunch. Then Inspector Sawyer arrived about a suspicious character and Jon had to go and deal with her, so I made my excuses and went on my way and... Look, I’m not all that far away and I bet Kerry’s already with you, so how about if I come over to you so that we can all compare notes?”

“Do you think that would be best?”

“If she’s involved, then yes.”

And Amy was so horrified that it didn’t occur to her to find it funny that both professionals were automatically suspicious because the other was involved.


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