Gary’s mobile rang again. It was Chris Winter, whose forensic team was already on the job.
“You are coming, aren’t you, Gary,” said Chris.
“I’m on my way now, Chris,” fibbed Gary. He went round the family issuing more hugs and apologies for leaving them, before roaring off in the red car.
“I know who the corpse is,” said Chris, walking across the grass towards Gary, who had parked on the road. The forensic van had driven over the grass to the corpse. A crowd of nosey onlookers was assembling.
“Are you going to tell me or are you protecting me?” said Gary, “Is it a gruesome sight?”
“Not particularly. Remember that Irish guy who popped up out of nowhere and got away with killing his parents, if they were his parents? He was mixed up in one or two other cases, I remember.”
“Paddy Kelly; a weird guy. Swore he was innocent. A typical example of how we cops can run into brick walls.”
“Unless rescued by cute females.” said Chris.
“That too,” said Gary. “I don’t suppose Kelly had his passport on him, did he?”
“No. The British like to be anonymous, don’t they?” said Chris, a Scandinavian immigrant who had never quite got used to the lack of registration and consequent difficulty in tracing anyone.
“Especially if they are about to be done in,” said Gary.
“Kelly might have been framed, of course,” said Chris. “Someone definitely had it in for him in a big way.”
“He antagonized quite a lot of people. It will be fun finding out who was irate enough…”
“…to take a pot shot at him. Whoever did it emptied the barrel.”
“Do you think he was killed here?”
“Shot in the back, Gary, so he was presumably taken by surprise.”
“So it’s a yes.”
“It’s a probable yes.”
“Why would he be on the Common when he has a perfectly good farm to run around in?” said Gary.
“Was he meeting someone, perhaps? Your guess is as good as mine,” said Chris.
Gary took photos of the dead man. There was no way he could have survived the barrage of cartridges that had ploughed into his back. Paddy Kelly looked older than his years, quite apart from being stone dead. Gary reflected that he could not be much over 50. Had he been in some sort of trouble, got into bad company, built up bad debts?
Gary thought Dorothy Price might be the person to ask around in the village. He did not like gossip, but sometimes it was the only source of information. He would get onto it as soon as he could get away. Dorothy could come to dinner and discuss it with him and Roger. He did not think Cleo would know anything about activities connected with Kelly because she would have told him. A quick phone call to Cleo provoked the comment ‘someone was bound to get the guy eventually’. She agreed that Dorothy should be informed and would be invited to dinner. She would be anyway even without having Kelly’s demise to consider.
The local GP, Dr Mitchell, turned up on the Common, examined the corpse for signs of life and issued an interim death certificate.
“Nasty business,” he said, and went on his way, ‘to the next house visit’ as he put it.
The paramedics turned up eventually and wheeled a stretcher towards the little crowd standing around and staring and beyond that to Chris and Gary.
It did not take long to deal with routine matters. The paramedics left and would deliver Kelly to the lab at HQ, since there would have to be a post mortem and that required an official medical report as to the cause of death. The Coroner would announce a decision on the available evidence. There could be no doubt that Kelly had not died a natural death. It was up to the homicide squad to find the killer.
Cleo phoned to order steaks from Robert’s shop. She found it difficult to talk to her ex-husband, but she needed those steaks.
“Everything OK, Robert?” she asked.
“Yes. Shouldn’t it be?”
“You sound strained.”
“I am strained. When do you want the steaks?”
“By seven this evening, please.”
“I’ll send my assistant, shall I?”
“Do what you think fit, Robert.”
After Cleo had explained to Joe that she had been married to the village butcher and he was angry that his world was still being disrupted by various elements, Grit and her newly found son departed for Mrs Barker’s house in Monkton Way. Cleo would have rung Dorothy to invite her to dinner, had not Dorothy rung first. She lived next door to Mrs Barker and just happened to be looking out of her window.
“Cleo, Gary’s just passing my cottage with Grit. Where’s he going?”
“That isn’t Gary, Dorothy. That’s one reason why you are coming to dinner.”
“Sure. I’m inviting you for this evening at eight. Can you come?”
“Of course. But why is Grit going next door?”
“This evening we want to celebrate the unexpected arrival of Grit’s lost son and Gary’s identical twin, Dorothy. You’ve just seen him pass. He lodges there. Mother and son only found one another today.”
“Just explain in plain English, please. I can’t follow you.”
“You saw the Gazette this morning, didn’t you?”
“No. I haven’t had time.”
“Well, get it. I’ll hang on.”
Barely three minutes later Dorothy exclaimed down the phone “That’s really odd! I could swear that is Gary. I would not have thought he would like having his photo in the Gazette, even by mistake.”
“That is Gary’s twin brother, sold at birth after Grit had been told he was dead.”
“Goodness. Like those goings on at the nursery on Thumpton Hill?”
“Similar. I would have told you tonight, Dorothy. I wanted to see if you knew who is who. I didn’t know you’d see him passing your cottage.”
“I do have windows, Cleo!”
“But you don’t always spend time gazing through them.”
“That’s true and the story is amazing!”
“And you’ve already confirmed that Joe looks like Gary,” said Cleo.
“So dinner will just be a social event, I expect,” said Dorothy.
“You could call it that except that Gary has a murder to solve.”
“Do we know the corpse?”
You don’t sound very surprised, Dorothy.”
“I’m surprised that he survived this long.”
“He was acquitted of murdering his parents.”
“If they were his parents.”
“There was no proof otherwise, Dorothy.”
“Do you know why he was killed?”
“Gary wants to ask you that question.”
”I’ll bring a fruit pi, shall I?”
“I’ll make ice-cream. See you later!”
A phone-call from Gary followed closely on the heels of Dorothy’s.
“Yes Gary, what is it?”
“Can you invite Dorothy to dinner?”
“Done, Sweetheart. That lady is very curious.”
“About the corpse?”
“About your look-alike passing her cottage with Grit!”
“Going to visit his landlady, I expect,” said Gary.
“Sure. Dorothy just happened to be looking out of her window.”
“Tired of thumping away at Beethoven, no doubt. I just wanted to tell you that they are just taking Paddy Kelly to HQ. I’ll be home soon. Shall get some wine on the way?”
“Are you sure it’s Kelly on that stretcher?”
“Yes. What are we having to eat?”
“Steaks, but bring red and white wines. Dorothy prefers white even with beef. She says it’s OK now.”
“French red and German white?”
“Great! Did you mean that it’s definitely Paddy Kelly? Maybe he has a twin too!”
“That would confuse the issue even more. Kelly was shot in the back as if he were labelled ‘Shoot here to kill!’ That old scar on his forehead confirms his identity.”
“Who could have done it?”
“I think the Hartley Agency will have to find out.”
“Frank Wetherby has left, Gary. He would have been ideal, but he went off to London since there was nothing challenging for him here.”
“I think Dorothy would do a better job,” said Gary.
“But she’s sort of retired, Gary.”
“Only sort of.”
“What about Hilda Bone?”
“The nosy-parker who lives near Kelly’s farm?”
“That’s her. If anyone knows anything, she does,” said Cleo.
“But we can’t bypass Dorothy.”
“We might have to, Gary.”
“Let’s use them both!”
“I’m not sure either would be pleased about that,” said Cleo. “We’ll have to straighten it out with Dorothy first and maybe not even tell Hilda Bone that she has a colleague.”
“I’m on my way home now.”
Cleo rang Hilda Bone.
“ Can you come to the office tomorrow at 10, Hilda?”
“Is that you, Miss Hartley? I’m surprised you remember me.”
“How could I forget you? You were so helpful in that exotic animal case.”
“Yes, I was, wasn’t I? I’ll be there.”
Cleo wondered if how much Hilda Bone knew or even understood about what she thought was an exotic animal case. Her neighbours had, to use Hilda’s words, ‘passed on’ and she had been told that violence was involved. Hilda’s observations had been useful in that case, though she did not know just how vital her information had been. Maybe the woman would have lost interest in espionage now that drama was over and a family with noisy children had moved into next door. They would hardly have been worth observing through the net curtain.
Shortly after six Robert Jones delivered the steaks personally. Joe was sitting at the dining table pouring over Bertie Browne’s used car adverts when he came in with the tray and stopped short when he saw Joe.
“I didn’t know your new husband was at home,” he said drily.
Robert was nervous. His hands shook as he deposited the tray of steaks on the kitchen worktop.
“Gary isn’t at home, Robert. This is my brother-in-law. Joe. Meet my ex-husband,” said Cleo.
“You must be joking,” said Robert. “Are you avoiding me, Gary? No need. I have everything under control.”
“I’m Joe Butler and Cleo is not joking.”
Joe immediately disliked Robert.
“I didn’t know that Gary has a brother,” said Robert. “Wasn’t that Gary’s photo in this morning’s Gazette?”
“No,” said Cleo. “How much are the steaks, please?”
“I don’t want your money, Cleo,” said Robert.
“Then take mine,” said Joe, fishing some banknotes out of a jacket pocket.
Cleo was thankful that Joe had realized what was going on. Robert had no choice but take payment for the steaks from a stranger. He accepted the banknotes with a brief nod of acknowledgement and left. Cleo followed him.
“I thought you were going to send an assistant, Robert.”
“I had the afternoon free, but I needed to check the steaks, Cleo. I hope they come up to scratch.”
“I’m sure they will, but that’s not what’s worrying you, is it?”
“What makes you think something is worrying me, Cleo?” said Robert in a loud, cross voice.
“I thought you might want to tell me. We are friends, aren’t we?
“Friends don’t need to know everything, Cleo. I’m late. I’ve got to go.”
Robert hurried down the drive to his delivery van leaving Cleo wondering what had got into him and hoping he was not associating with Edith again. Only a masochist would want to be friendly with someone who got a kick out of humiliating him.
“Let me pay you back, Joe,” Cleo offered. “Tonight’s my treat.”
“Certainly not. I could see that you’re ex’s visit was not a happy one.”
“On reflection, my whole relationship with that guy was a shambles.”
“Are you going to tell me why?”
“To cut a long story short, I was having an affair with Gary before and during my marriage.”
“You should not have married that guy.”
“I had my reasons then, Joe. It took me a long time to understand myself.”
“But you do now, I take it.”
“Yes. I’m so grateful that Gary hung on till I came to my senses.”
“You cannot imagine what finding my family means to me,” said Joe.
“I think I can, Joe, and I’m glad for Grit that her story finally has a happy ending.”
“Beginning, Cleo. We are starting a new life together.”
"Thanks for stepping in just now, Joe.. Robert likes to think I depend on him, though he actually left me.”
“From the way you said that I think it was a lucky break.”
“He left me for another woman.”
“The plot thickens.”
“It really does. Gary will tell you the whole story. To be honest, I don’t want to go through it again.”
“OK Cleo. I dislike the man. He’s a bit too two-faced for me.”
“That’s what Gary says.”
“And for the record, tell that guy of yours that I have no designs on you, but if you have a sister, I’d like to meet her.”
“No luck there, Joe. My mother gave up men for about forty years until she met her Italian boyfriend a few months ago.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting her, Cleo.”
“Who?” said Grit, entering. She had changed and looked glamorous.
“Wow, Mother. You are quite a catch,” said Joe.
“That’s what Roger thinks,” said Cleo.
“I’ve changed because this is the happiest day of my life,” said Grit aloofly.
“Mine too, Mother,” said Joe. “Can I borrow one of Gary’s shirts without checks, Cleo?”
“I’ll get you one,” said Cleo, deciding that she would also dress for dinner.
By shortly before eight all the guests had arrived. Gary had rushed in a few minutes previously, kissed everyone in sight and taken a one minute shower before dressing casually. Everyone was astonished at how alike Gary and Joe were.
“I’m quite glad you ditched the checked shirt,” said Gary, reacting to Joe’s smarter look.
“This one’s yours,” said Joe.
“Keep it!” said Cleo. “Gary has about thirty more.”
Charlie was thrilled to have an uncle, even if it would be hard to explain the likeness to her friends. She drew Cleo aside to consult her.
“Just tell them you have twin brothers and a twin father,” Cleo explained.
“What if I get them mixed up, Mummy?”
“You won’t. You don’t get Tommy and Teddy mixed up and your daddy is very special.”
“But Joe is special too.”
“Not in the same way, Charlie.”
“Will I love Joe?” Charlie asked.
“Of course you will. Your Daddy and Joe are two special people who look alike. They think their own thoughts and have their own life stories. You will know who your Daddy is because you are special to him too, Charlie.”
“That’s simply awesome!” said Charlie, using Cleo’s evergreen exclamation.
“It is, isn’t it?” said Cleo.
“Are you going to love Joe, Mummy?”
“Not like I love your Daddy, Charlie,” said Cleo. “I’ll let you into a little secret if you promise not to tell anyone until I tell everyone.”
“I promise,” said Charlie, now very serious.
“I hope we’ll have another Hurley baby in about seven months, Charlie.”
“That’s simply awesome,” repeated Charlie as Gary came over to them and asked what they were whispering about.
“It’s a secret,” said Charlie.
“OK, Sweetheart. I won’t make you tell me.”
“Thank you Daddy, I gave Mummy my word.”
Gary looked at Cleo. He had no trouble guessing what the secret was, but no intention of saying anything. To describe him as being over the moon would be an understatement.
Dinner was a great success. Robert’s steaks, grilled perfectly by Roger, were praised to the heavens.
“What’s it like having an even bigger family, Gary?” Roger could not resist asking.
“Fantastic. The bigger the better,” said Gary, giving Cleo a knowing look.
“Are you looking for a job, by any chance, Joe?” said Roger.
“That really depends what it is. I studied journalism, but I’ve been odd-jobbing as a tennis coach after finishing my competition career.”
“We need a new press secretary. Interested?”
“Are you offering me the job?”
“Give it a try.”
“OK, I’d love to, but a trial first. If I’m not right for the job I’ll move on.”
“And…” Charlie started, but Cleo shook her head vigorously and the child said no more.
"What a great Idea!" said Grit.
“Are you a journalist too, Mother?”
“I was. I still write occasional articles for one or two S.A. papers.”
”So I might even have read them,” said Joe.
“I wrote under the name of Porter. I got a divorce and came here to work. I remarried and my husband adopted Gary, hence the name.”
“So I was adopted twice,” said Gary. "And had three names. What was the first?"
"My maiden name of Geiger, but don't think badly of me. I was just a kid and your father was a participant at a conference. He simply disappeared and never knew about you."
"We'll find him," said Dorothy.
"I doubt it," said Grit, “and I'm not sure I want to."
"Oh!" said Dorothy.
“Mummy adopted me,” said Charlie.
“That’s right, Sweetheart,” said Gary. “What was the ‘and’ for, Charlie?”
“And I’m playing hockey on Saturday. Are you all coming?”
“Yes,” said Grit firmly. “Roger? You said you wanted to take more time off!”
“I’ll be there,” said Roger. “This family has captured me totally, but I’ll leave now. Tomorrow as arranged, Grit?”
“Yes, Roger. I’ll see you out.”
Dorothy decided that Grit had definitely made a conquest. Then she looked at Cleo and decided that they would all have even more to do by next Easter. She could not possibly retire when the agency needed her.
“I’m not retiring, after all,” Dorothy said, looking pointedly at Cleo.
“We’ll have to tell them,” Cleo whispered to Charlie. “Dorothy has guessed.”
Charlie nodded. So much for the grownup secret.
“There’s going to be another Hurley, folks,” said Cleo coolly.
Perfect timing, thought Gary. He had welcomed his brother with great enthusiasm, but Joe was his spitting image and might find his way into Cleo’s affections. Now there was even less chance of him being usurped. Anyone taking on Cleo would be taking on five kids. Not that he would let someone else rear his children even if it were his brother.
“I thought as much,” said Dorothy.
“Why am I the last to know?” said Gary.
“Don’t say that, Gary,” said Dorothy. “It reminds me of the late vicar. He always said he was the last to know about anything.”
“Charlie was simply the first,” said Cleo.
“I can live with that,” said Gary looking at Cleo in the way that made her go weak at the knees.
When Charlie had gone to bed, the business of Paddy Kelly’s corpse was taken up, but soon dropped again because too little was known about the man’s recent activities. Dorothy was not exactly pleased to hear that Hilda Bone was to be asked to investigate.
“But you said you would like to retire from active duty, Dorothy,” Cleo argued.
“That was before …”
“OK. That’s fine by me, but I’ve already asked Hilda to come to the office. You’ll have to work together.”
“Two old girls on the warpath,” said Gary. “Unbeatables on broomsticks.”
“Don’t mock us, Gary,” said Dorothy. “Or would you like me to recite a list of the helpful things the agency has done for HQ?”
“Spare me that, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“So what do you want us to find out?”
“What did Kelly do in the days before he was shot? Did he have strange friends, gamble, take to drink, or whatever?”
“We’ll find out, Gary,” Dorothy promised.
“I thought you would,” said Gary.
As usual at the Hurley cottage, the day would end with milk coffee and a review of the day’s events. The family had grown with the addition of one brother and one expected junior, remarked Gary, who was nothing less than delighted, despite Kelly’s murder.
“I woke up an only child,” said Gary. “It’s strange not being just me anymore. I hope you don’t get me mixed up with my newly acquired brother, Cleo.”
Joe decided that Gary was being serious.
“No chance of that and you know it,” said Cleo.
“How do you feel about today, Joe?” Gary asked.
“Not like a rival for Cleo’s affection, Gary. I’m surprised that you could think of it.”
“Do you miss anyone in South Africa?” Cleo asked.
“No. I’m glad I followed my intuition. My friends in S.A. thought I was mad to even try to find you. I’m so over the moon about finding you.”
“I’m stunned,” said Grit. “I love you all, and Joe, I’m so glad to have you back.”
Mother and newly found son embraced warmly.
“I’ll join you, shall I?” said Gary.
“Come on, Cleo. Let’s get some more coffee,” said Dorothy, and the two sleuths left the newly reunited trio to their bear-hugs.
“How long have you known about the baby?” Gary asked Cleo.
“For sure since I went to the clinic a few days ago.”
“And you harboured the news over the weekend? What else do you do secretly, Cleo?”
“Our love-making is not a secret, Gary.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean, Gary?”
“I’ll think of something.”
Dorothy thought it was time for her to leave.
“In fact, nothing is really secret in this household. My ex was here today, Gary.”
“A rather unpleasant guy,” said Joe.
“I think he has problems with his libido, Joe,” said Gary. “I’ll tell you why, one day.”
“He doesn’t look gay,” said Joe.
“That’s not his problem,” said Gary.
Dorothy remained silent during this repartee. She had defended Robert too often, she thought.
“I tried to talk to my ex when he turned up with steaks after saying he’d send his assistant,” said Cleo. “He did not seem normal and he had trouble believing Joe was not Gary. I wonder if he’s latched on to Edith Parsnip again.”
“I would not put it past him. He’s naïve and deceitful and the vicar’s wife is surprisingly experienced at seduction. He may even be getting the thrill you did not provide him with, Cleo,” said Gary, getting his revenge.
“Hey!” said Joe. “Show me that lady!”
“Don’t bother with Edith, but that little curate at the church might be an interesting challenge,” said Gary.
“Robert thought Joe was you, Gary, and I could see how his face changed when he realized that I was not kidding.”
“Robert is a bit of a buffoon,” said Gary.
“A sad one,” said Dorothy.
“Clowns are sad, but their tears are painted on,” said Gary.
“Hey, don’t get dramatic,” said Cleo. “I don’t even like him anymore.”
“I never liked him,” said Gary.
“Shall I walk you home, Dorothy?” Joe offered.
“I can find my own way, thank you.”
“Is it safe round here?
“I have my pistol in my bag. I’ll get it out for the walk home,” said Dorothy.
Joe was amused.
“Is it licenced?”
“I’m leaving now, too,” said Grit.
“I’ll walk you both home,” said Joe. “No argument, Dorothy!”
“Shall we have a community shower while the three of us can get in the booth, Cleo?”
“I don’t earn enough for another two at once.”
“You could do a paper round,” said Cleo.
“That’s not a bad idea.”
“When we’ve showered I’ll see to the twins and you can warm my duvet.”
“You could warm mine and I’ll see to Tommy and Teddy,” said Gary.
“They need me for their snack,” said Cleo.
“OK. Message received.”
“If the sophisticated scheduling gets me to bed in time to get some sleep, I’d be grateful,” said Cleo.
“I’ll think about it.”