School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 5

There was a momentary pause while Blandford took in the enormity of this small bag. He stood up stiffly and moved towards the door. “Perhaps we could break for a moment?” He signalled another police officer into the room and ushered Anna out and into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

“Right.” Blandford continued, with his hands wrapped around a mug of hot sweet tea and with one of Barry’s Hobnobs in his lap. “That was a surprise. I have sent it away, as you suggested.”

“I haven’t kept it from you. I only found it late last night.” Anna wasn’t sure if, or why, Blandford was cross.

“No, it’s not that.” Blandford’s face relaxed. “We’ve been looking for something, anything, to make some headway into this case and we have been unsuccessful, no one seems to know anything useful, but now it’s clear I began at the wrong end of the group.” He smiled. “Where shall we start?”

“Perhaps we’d better start with the victim.” Anna proposed. Blandford nodded, settled back into his chair and munched his biscuit. “I didn’t know Janice before we came here and I obviously didn’t know her for very long, but I think I have pieced together the sort of person she was which helps me understand why she was killed.”

“Go on.” Blandford reached for another biscuit.

“Janice played the ‘fragile-little-girl-lost’ character but she was, in actual fact, a very shrewd operator, manipulative and controlling. She has been entwined with this group since she was a teenager and her crush on Jeremy meant that the boys, as they were then, tolerated her but didn’t pay her much attention” Anna stopped, realising that Blandford wouldn’t know about Jeremy.

“That’s OK, the Jeremy incident is in Robert’s police file, there was quite a detailed investigation at the time.” Blandford reassured her that she could continue.

“After Jeremy died the boys went off to university and you’d think that would be the end of it, but Janice found her way back into the group when they all returned to work in their home town by attaching herself to Colin, Jeremy’s younger brother. At that time, Colin was involved with Rebecca and began playing golf with Robert, Neville and Elden, as his brother had done, I think they all wanted to help Colin, so they invested in his Fitness Club idea.”

Blandford tried to get it clear in his head. “Rebecca and Colin?”

“Yes but Colin left her for Janice when they started working together on setting up the Club and Robert was there as a shoulder for Rebecca to cry on.”

“I see.”

“So with the Club proving to be a success, Colin became more settled and, finally admitting he was gay, fell in love with Anthony. Janice then moved, perhaps rather too swiftly, on to Elden and his money.”

“Nobody else has talked about any of this.” Blandford was astounded at all this detail.

“It is just a case of listening to them all when they talk, and also what they don’t say.” Anna replied. “I spend a lot of time in my job listening to others.”

“So, what is going on?” Blandford was keen to hear more.

“It’s clear that Janice and Elden’s marriage has been struggling. I think he has grown tired of her ‘china doll’ persona, he wants someone who can be a Stepmother to his children and I don’t think they get along very well as a family. Elden might be very wealthy but he is unhappy that the Club is failing and he is worried about losing his investment.” Anna took a breath and a sip of her tea. “Indra and Neville seem pretty solid, I think Indra was good friends with Elden’s first wife, so her relationship with Janice was strained. Robert is still wracked with guilt over Jeremy which affects his marriage but I think they’ll be OK, they’ve got a major event on the horizon.”

“And Colin and Anthony?”

“I think they are a very strong couple. They have similar interests but their age gap puts them at different stages in their career.”

Blandford looked over the notes he had been making. “So, on the face of it, this is a happy group of friends in Cornwall for a golf tour holiday, what makes you so sure it was one of them?”

“There were a few initial clues that made me want to look a bit deeper. In my line of work we say that trust is not a control, everything has got to be evidenced.” Anna looked thoughtful. “I guess I’ve just got used to listening to my instincts and then looking for answers.”

“What were the first clues?” Blandford’s team hadn’t yet been able to put any of it together.

“For me, the sand in the Boot Room was the first clue.” Anna replied. “I’ve had an advantage over your team in that I was here earlier in the day and also at the time of the murder. As usual with holiday lets, the house was spotless when we arrived. The building and contents are a little dated but the cleanliness was impressive. No one walked from the beach through the Boot Room but the following morning, the floor was covered in sand. We had all arrived at midday, then Barry and I went down to the beach, and everyone had joined us by four o’clock.”

“Yes, everybody has agreed that you were all on the beach by four and stayed until Janice was the first to return to the house at nine thirty.” Blandford continued to write in his notebook and absent-mindedly nibble biscuits.

“Janice returning alone to the house was the first thing that I thought was odd,” Anna explained. “Elden had a sweater with him but he didn’t offer it to Janice when she complained of being cold. She had probably hoped her husband would come back with her to the house, a natural expectation, but he didn’t and no one else offered. She will have arrived at the house at nine forty, we watched her go in the front door and turn on every light in the house.”

“Is that unusual?”

“Every light seemed a little over the top to me, I wondered at first if she was signalling something, but now I think she was terrified of being on her own, she must have known her life was in danger and if she knew that, it must be someone in the group that she was afraid of. When we all arrived at the house at ten past ten, we also went through the front door, and left a lot of sand in the hall too, I noticed.”

“So, just to go back and clarify what I think you are saying, Janice was not afraid of Elden?” Blandford looked as though he’d had a revelation.

“That’s right, Elden didn’t kill his wife.”

Blandford looked over to the window and saw that it was nearly dark. “Let’s stop there for now. I need to take this back to the office and look at it with my team. We’ve been working hard to find evidence that Elden killed his wife, you’ve just blown a big hole in that.”

“The thing you must remember Blandford,” Anna pointed out, “Is that while the killer thinks your main suspect is Elden, they feel safe to carry on at the house.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t be sharing this with anyone other than my immediate team and I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning. If you are at all concerned, just let my officer know.” Blandford indicated towards the young uniformed man at the door.

“YOU DID WHAT?” Barry’s rage was evident. “How could you do that Anna?” In a big dramatic flurry, Barry turned on his side, with his back to his wife and inched right over to the edge of the bed to demonstrate just how cross he was. Anna reached out her hand; she was very tempted to give him a firm shove to send him flying onto the floor, but relented.

“I’m sorry, that is all there was available.” She smiled to herself in the dark. “I promise to go to the shop tomorrow and get you some more Hobnobs.”

“Unforgivable.” Barry humphed, but then turned back into the middle to give her a hug. “I’ll let you off this once as you’ve had such a difficult day.”

The following morning, and back from her walk to the shop; Anna sipped coffee and felt rather sad to be spending such a beautiful day in a room with Blandford. “First of all, can we go over what you think happened? I’ll then talk to my team and we’ll resume again this afternoon.” Anna had noticed that there were a considerable number of officers in the house.

“Of course.” Anna was keen to get going and be outside. “We all arrived back at the house at ten past ten and found that the front door was locked, everyone spent time looking to see if they had a key, I eventually found one in the bottom of my rucksack and we opened the door and talked in the hall before Barry and I went up to bed. It was just after twenty to eleven that Elden found Janice.”

“OK, The forensics report says that Janice had been dead for about half an hour. But that would mean she would have been killed before you all got back.” Blandford looked confused.

“I believe the killer was extremely opportunistic. On approaching the front door, they saw Janice through the kitchen window, went through the Boot Room picked up a golf club and glove on their way and struck her over the head with it before she knew what had happened. They then picked up a kitchen knife and thrust it into her back before wiping the golf club with the glove and putting it back in a bag, before tossing the glove into the bushes and rejoining the group as we all went in through the front door. It would probably have taken less than a minute and in the darkness of the porch, no one noticed that they were gone.”

“So it was possible then.” Blandford couldn’t help but be impressed.

“Yes, all the killer needed to do was stall the discovery of the body for as long as possible. It is fortunate that Elden went for a glass of water in the kitchen after their round of whiskey in the lounge, otherwise she may have lain undiscovered for a lot longer.”

“So, whose is the glove?” Blandford was still struggling to put it together. “Wouldn’t they need two?”

“The glove is Robert’s. He is right handed so the glove would be worn on the left hand. Barry is left-handed.” Anna added by way of explanation. ”The putter that was used to strike Janice was Neville’s. He is also a left-handed player. I think that is why the blow to the head caused so much internal damage, it was wielded by a right-handed person.“

“The autopsy did say there was unusual damage to the base of the skull, it is likely she was rendered instantly unconscious.” Blandford flicked back through his notebook to verify and then nodded. “The strike alone may have been enough to kill her without medical attention. Why drive the knife in as well?”

“Dramatic effect?” Anna paused. “A ‘knife in the back’ is an expression used to describe someone who has betrayed you.”

“Who had Janice betrayed?” Blandford’s notebook wasn’t any further help.

Anna looked straight at Blandford. “To some degree…over the years…everyone in the group.”

School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 4

The full moon lit the way back up the cliff for Anna and Barry and they chatted quietly as they made their way up the steep path. They were close to the house when Anna stopped. “That makes me so cross,” she hissed.

“What’s that?”

“Can you give me one of those poo bags that are always threatening to clog up the washing machine?” Barry sighed, he had to accept that his failure to remember to empty his pockets before his clothes went into the wash was one of Anna’s pet hates.

“Useful sometimes though” he smiled, handing her a small black plastic bag. Anna wrapped it over her hand and dived under a very prickly gorse bush, picking up the offending mess and securing it tightly before placing it in her jacket pocket. “Totally yuk!” Barry exclaimed, “please don’t ask me to hold that hand again tonight.”

“Are we spending the day on the beach tomorrow?” Anna asked brightly. “I’d like to do some rock pooling.”

“As long as you’ve got decent picnic supplies.” Barry laughed.

 

Blandford arrived early the following morning and had decided it was Barry’s turn to answer some of his questions. The blue skies promised another stunning day so he agreed to meet Anna on the beach when he was finished and she started down the cliff. “May I join you?” Robert, carrying a towel, was on his way for a swim.

“Of course.” It was difficult not to like Robert. He was, as Rebecca had observed, very handsome and aging extremely well. He had a relaxed ‘trust-me’ air about him and Anna guessed that this was what made him such a good estate agent. “If I may join you for a swim?” Anna smiled.

Anna was competent but she wasn’t a strong swimmer and she was nervous about swimming in the sea alone. “Everyone should be able to swim well.” Robert said forcefully “You never know when it might save your life.”

“Is that what happened to Jeremy?” Anna enquired cautiously. “Only if you want to talk about it.”

“It was a long time ago. I still find it difficult to talk about.” Robert stumbled slightly on the path and Anna put out a hand to steady him. “Thank you. I’m sure Janice would have happily told you all about it, she would never let me forget, and she was full of ideas about what had happened, even though it was ruled an accident at the time”

“How was Janice involved?” Anna was astounded that there were further connections that she hadn’t yet discovered. “She wasn’t involved, she had a complete crush on Jeremy, wouldn’t leave him alone. He couldn’t wait to go off to university and escape. She’s never forgiven me.”

The water was cold and Anna was annoyed to find the warm gentle lapping of the shallows had deceived her. By the time she’d waded up to her thighs she realised she was either going to have to dive in or head back to the shore. “You OK?” Robert was beside her in the water. Anna nodded and launched herself under the water.

“Next time, I’m bringing a surf suit.” She gasped on surfacing, trying to block out the cold and keep moving, they started to swim. Robert maintained an even pace alongside her, matching her crawl stroke with very little effort and slicing efficiently through the water with long tan arms. As they swam farther out, Anna slowly became aware that Robert seemed to be swimming closer to her, every time her face turned towards him he met her eyes and Anna could feel herself becoming anxious at his proximity. His body’s rhythm appeared to be locked in synchronisation with hers as if watching and waiting for an opportune moment to strike her. His eyes bored intensely into hers, he looked desperate, almost wild. Panic started to rise in her chest and the tightness gripped inside her, interrupting her own rhythm and making breathing difficult. In an effort to keep calm, Anna concentrated on swimming off to one side, trying to put at least an arms length of distance between herself and this man.

As if to compensate, Robert manoeuvred even closer to her. At every arm stroke Anna’s fear grew, aware that if he locked his arm over hers he could pull her under the surface without any difficulty. She had nothing with which to defend herself and started to contemplate whether stopping dead in the water and turning back to the shore would give Robert the opportunity he was looking for. Anna looked behind her, the shore wasn’t so far away, she turned in an arc away from Robert who continued to keep pace. “I’m going back.” Anna knew that her terror was causing her to flail ineffectively in the water and she was splashing like a frightened child. Seawater was going up her nose causing her to splutter the acrid salt taste as it went down her throat. Her arms and legs burned in protest at the demands she was making on them and her brain seemed to disconnect from her limbs. She could feel herself sinking in the water.

At that moment, Anna felt Robert grab her roughly. His long arm stretched around her chest under both arms and he flipped her onto her back. Anna gasped, a mouthful of seawater flooded in and knew she was helpless. In the next movement, Robert’s strength lifted her upright onto her feet and she realised she was standing in three feet of water. Coughing and choking, Robert half dragged and half lifted her back onto the beach and dumped her in the sand.

“What on earth was that?” Robert asked crossly. “Can’t you swim?”

“Of course I can swim.” Anna’s terror had turned to indignation and anger. “Just not when someone is practically swimming on top of me.”

Robert’s face softened “Oh God I’m so sorry was I doing that?” Anna finished coughing and turned to look at him, realising she wasn’t in any danger. “I haven’t swum with anyone in open water since that day with Jeremy.” Robert slumped beside her on the sand, he suddenly looked older and more worn out than his years. “It was so awful, we did it for a dare, to race across the lake at the golf club. I’d got right over the other side before I realised Jeremy wasn’t with me. I shouted and searched but I couldn’t find him. It took Police divers two hours to recover his body. He was such a good swimmer, I still don’t know what happened, he should have beaten me easily.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“Yes it was, it was my idea and I should have stayed with him.” Robert’s raised voice indicated just how much rage was still within him.

“You couldn’t have known what was going to happen.”

“I’m so sorry Anna, the water in the lake was freezing too, I just didn’t want the same thing to happen again. I needed to be close to you, protect you.” Robert was beginning to compose himself.

“Well, thank you for rescuing me before I swallowed the whole English Channel.“ Anna smiled. “No harm done.”

 

Barry waved from the top of the cliff and started down the slope, Anna couldn’t help but be relieved to see him and started to dig the picnic out from the bottom of her rucksack. “How did it go?”

“It was OK, I think Blandford wants to talk to you next but he said it would have to be later this afternoon. He’s gone now.” Barry bit enthusiastically into his cheese roll. “How’s the water?”

“Freezing.” Robert replied, accepting a proffered roll. “I’d stick to paddling if I were you.”

“Anna wants to go rock pooling, I’ll be carrying the bucket.” Barry laughed, proudly holding aloft the child’s red plastic container, he held out his other hand to his wife. “Ready?”

 

Anna and Barry strolled back up to the house after a happy afternoon picking their way over the rock pools, turning boulders and watching the tide recede down the beach, uncovering new shoreline plants and wildlife as it went.

Blandford was waiting for Anna and directed her into the small family room behind the kitchen that had been set up as an incident room. Anna sat in a comfortable chair and looked at Blandford as he patted his jacket pocket and opened a small notebook. “I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get to you.” Blandford started. “Your husband was very helpful this morning and suggested it might save a lot of time if I talked to you next.”

“No problem.” Anna had decided to wait and see in which direction Blandford took his questioning of her. He seemed to be struggling in that decision himself.

“I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to try something.” Blandford started. “Your husband thinks that you know who did it and that you could prove it, but he tells me that I will have to ask the right questions.” He looked directly at Anna who remained impassive. “Do you know who killed Janice?”

“Yes.” Anna replied.

“Do you know why she was killed?”

“Yes” Anna replied.

“Do you know how she was killed?”

“Yes” Anna replied

“Do you have any evidence?”

“Yes” Anna replied.

Blandford considered his next question carefully. “Do you think there is any likelihood that he or she will kill again?”

“No” Anna replied.

Blandford smiled. “Normally I would just now sit here and wait for you to crack under the pressure of my stare and tell me everything, but I have a feeling that won’t work with you.”

“No and before we go into any detail, I’ll need you to do something for me” Anna reached into her jacket pocket, pulled out the small black poo bag and passed it to Blandford.

“What’s this?” Blandford held it cautiously.

“I think that should give you all the evidence you need. It’s a golfing glove. You should get it tested because it is likely that you will find Janice’s blood on the outside and the murderer’s DNA on the inside.”

School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 3

The meal that evening was the first time they were all together again since the barbeque on the beach, and it felt like a world away. Blandford had, once again, left for the night leaving a colleague guarding the door. The day had been a long one but as Anna had bought the makings of a massive lasagne with her she’d got on with cooking, especially as it was clear that Blandford wasn’t going to get to her statement today.

Elden was the first to speak. “I haven’t told the children yet but I can’t imagine they will be very upset.” He clearly viewed this sentence as self-explanatory, but, of course, Barry didn’t understand.

“Not upset?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, Janice and I have only been married for five years and to say she wasn’t a maternal type is the understatement of the century. The children live most of the time with their mother and we were seeing less and less of them. This week they are with my parents and next week I had planned to take them to our house in France on my own, just to spend some time with them.”

Everyone continued eating quietly, respecting Elden’s need to talk for as long as he wanted. “I realise that it was a mistake to marry Janice but I wouldn’t have wished this on her. Have the police said anything about what they think happened?” He looked around the table in anticipation.

“What? You mean apart from that you did it?” the laughter broke the tense atmosphere and Anthony’s witty retort earned him a slap on the back from Colin. Anna looked at Anthony. He was much younger than his partner and clearly spent much of his time working at the fitness club showing clients how to use the equipment. He was fit and lean with strong features and a broad smile. Probably very photogenic, Anna thought, marvelling that he was such an accepted member of the group, considering the age difference. On a roll now, Anthony continued, “Are we still going to get some golf in this week?”

“I don’t think it is appropriate for me to join you, but don’t let me stop you.” Elden was pragmatic. “I guess you’d better clear it with Blandford though.”

The men moved into the lounge after dinner. Anna hung back, not liking the assumption that the women would clear away, but wanting to be part of the conversation. Indra was subdued and Anna got the distinct impression that there was a complex history between her and Rebecca. In contrast, Rebecca chatted about her work, her exhibition and her frustration with Robert. It was clear that Janice and Elden’s wasn’t the only marriage that was difficult.

“What shall we do while the men are playing golf?” Anna tried to change the subject. “As they are going out that way, we could go to St Ives?”

Indra’s enthusiasm for the idea brightened her demeanour considerably. “Oh yes, I would like that” she declared. “Let’s go to the Tate Gallery, their coffee shop does amazing cake.” It wasn’t quite what Anna had in mind but she knew someone at work who would be thrilled with some Tate Art postcards. “That’s arranged then.”

 

Persuading Blandford to let them have a day “off” was surprisingly easy, especially as Elden was remaining behind and would be available for further questions. Following last night’s conversation in the lounge, Barry was of the opinion that, in concentrating heavily on Elden, Blandford didn’t seem to be making much headway. In contrast, Anna’s ability to listen, notice the detail and ask the right questions meant that she was, he thought, probably close to wrapping it up. As they travelled alone together in the car, it was a good opportunity to catch up.

“Most of the conversation in the lounge last night centred around the Fitness Club. They all seem to be involved in it but they can’t work out what’s going wrong” Barry began. “They are talking about bringing in a forensic accountant to go through all the books.”

“Elden, Robert and Neville have all put a lot of money into the business,” Anna replied. Barry had learned not to be surprised at what she knew, or ask how she knew it. “I would think analysing the accounts is going to give them answers they don’t want to hear. Did they talk about Janice’s involvement?”

“Briefly.” Barry replied. “From what they were saying, Janice and Colin worked together to set it up, drawing up the Business Plan, securing investors and purchasing equipment. I also think Janice was involved in appointing the first staff.”

“Now that is interesting,” Anna responded, “So it is likely that she bought Anthony in? I wonder if Colin knew him before he started working there?”

Barry wasn’t sure how that was relevant. “I’ll see if I can find out today.”

“Also see if you can find out if Janice was still involved in the payroll. It seems to me that Janice was intent on bringing the Fitness Club down,” Anna said thoughtfully. “It is strange after all the work she put in but I think she was manipulating everyone to try to make that happen.”

“Really?” Barry looked even more confused. “Why?”

“I’m not sure, maybe to punish Elden for the failure of their marriage and his siding with his children. She was clearly planning to discredit everyone in the group, one way or another.”

“Clearly,” Barry smiled, knowing that most people would join him in thinking that it wasn’t clear at all.

“I need you to do something for me today Barry, while you are playing golf. It is important but you have to be subtle.” Subtlety had never been Barry’s strong suit. “You are going to have to be observant. Look out for anything that isn’t quite right.”

“That isn’t much to go on,” Barry grumbled.

“I know, but if I tell you what I’m looking for you’ll be too obvious.”

Barry had to concede that his wife knew him well. “OK, I’ll do my best.”

Anna, Rebecca and Indra arrived in St Ives and headed straight for the coffee shop where they discovered that Indra had been right, they did sell amazing cake. Indra chose a huge slab of coffee cake. “I’m having a holiday from being a dentist,” she laughed. It was the first time Anna had really seen her smile and, as Rebecca went off in search of facilities, it seemed an appropriate time to ask Indra. “You are such a close knit group, how did you all meet?”

Indra was pleased to talk about her friends. “Well, Neville and I met at university and the practice opportunity came up in his home town after we graduated so we went for it. Neville, Robert and Elden were all thick as thieves at school along with Colin’s older brother, Jeremy, and that is how they got into golf, they played together as often as they could during the sixth form. How they all managed to get decent A Level results as well, I don’t know.” Anna laughed, pleased that Indra was opening up.

“Elden’s first wife was a local girl, she was lovely but she moved away when Elden’s head was turned by Janice, around the time she first started working with Colin on the Fitness Club.” Indra looked thoughtful, her love of gossip getting the better of her. “I think Colin is driven by the memory of his brother, Neville says it was always Jeremy’s dream to get into sports psychology, he’d accepted a place at Loughborough University.”

“Talking about me?” Rebecca bounded up to the table. “The ladies is miles away,” she laughed “what did I miss?”

Anna interrupted Indra’s denial that she had been the topic of conversation, “How did you meet Robert?”

“Oh, err, how dull, OK, well…” Rebecca seemed completely flummoxed by the question and took a sip of her coffee. “A boyfriend liked to play golf so I hung around in the club house on cold days and met Robert. He was so handsome and wise, a lot older than me of course, and when my boyfriend dumped me for someone else,” she shot a swift cautionary glance at Indra, “Robert was there for me and swept me off my feet.”

“Come on, lets get moving, I want to visit that fudge shop on the front after we’ve been round the gallery.” Indra bustled them all along on their afternoon exploration of St Ives.

“They are good golfers, that is for certain.” Later that night, after an evening meal of Chinese takeaway, courtesy of Neville and Indra, Anna and Barry took a walk down to the beach. Hand in hand, and with the light fading, they reached the sand and paddled in the lapping water. “I must get some more practice in if I want to keep up, Neville’s a left-hander like me but he’s got a much lower handicap.” Anna wasn’t really interested in their golf skills. “There are some things, to report,” he continued, smiling at her obvious impatience. “Firstly, Robert had to buy a new glove, which was odd because I was with him last weekend when he bought one at the club. He looked all through his bag but eventually just went back to the golf shop.” Anna looked thoughtful. “The second thing was that Neville couldn’t find his putter, can’t play without that, but we found it in Robert’s golf bag.”

“In Robert’s bag? Could it have fallen out in the boot room?” Anna asked.

“You tell me, you’re the only klutz when it comes to golf bags, everyone else manages to navigate around them.” Barry chuckled.

“The one and only time I’ve knocked them over, none of the clubs fell out and I didn’t see a glove, no” Anna replied indignantly, although she had to concede that golf bags did seem to throw themselves about when she was near.

“Things are becoming a lot more organised in my head now.” Anna waded a little deeper into the surf. “Janice had such a lot to be angry about, I just wonder who she pushed the hardest.”

“Are we in any danger?” It was the first time the thought had crossed Barry’s mind.

“I don’t think so,” Anna replied. “Of course I wouldn’t want to let the murderer know that they are about to be rumbled, so you might want to be careful what you say but I think this has been in the planning for a while, very clever it is too. We just need a few more strands of evidence to take to Blandford, he has got to be the one that concludes the case.”

“OK,” Barry pulled her away from a larger wave, “I don’t want to lose you, and I think our children would be quite upset,” he joked.

“Who would make your cheese rolls?”

“Quite.” Barry laughed “Disaster.”

School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 2

DI Blandford had an irritating vaping habit. Not in the inhaling of it but in the constant fiddling with the vaporizer in his pocket. A tall and dark man with a friendly face, Anna thought that if he paid as much attention to what the people around him were saying, rather than his additive checking that the liquid nicotine was still safe in his jacket, he might learn something to help him with the case.

Blandford stood in front of the rather ugly fireplace, with its layer of ash left over from the last fire of spring in the grate and the recently spent whiskey tumblers on the hearth. He quietly surveyed the group. The lounge was bathed in the blue lights of the emergency vehicles still shining outside the front door. Everyone had been ushered into the front room so that the experts could get to work analysing the scene in order to piece together the chain of events that had led to the tragedy.

Anna knew he was waiting for someone to speak and, of course, he wasn’t going to be disappointed. Barry, with his dislike of silence and love of gory detail that came as a result of having a mother who had been Ward Sister of an ICU, couldn’t resist. “Do we know when Janice was attacked?” Anna was grateful that he had at least tried to ask the question gently in front of Elden. Blandford shook his head but saw it as an opening and turned towards Barry. “Could you tell me who you are, Sir?”

In a rather subdued fashion, they all gave Blandford their name and address, explaining why they were here, each of them giving a little more information as if trumping the last with what they thought would be important background clues. Anna was less forthcoming, she didn’t want to talk about what she already knew in front of the others until she was ready, so she was careful to stick very closely to what she was actually being asked.

Now wasn’t the time to discuss the situation in any depth, it was gone 3am, by the time the emergency teams had completed their work. Blandford ascertained that they all intended to remain at the house for the week and seemed content to let them retire for the night, to resume his work in the morning. A police officer was to stand guard as reassurance until he returned later.

Anna looked at Blandford as he patted his jacket pocket. She knew, of course, that this meant that he thought Janice had been murdered by one of them, and the police presence was to ensure that no one left the house in the night. Elden was offered a sedative, which he accepted, and they all went upstairs to bed.

“You’re not really planning to sleep are you?” Barry was still clearly wide-awake and wanted to talk about it. “Come on, I know you know stuff, tell me what you are thinking. What can I do to help?”

“OK,” Anna started. “I don’t know much for sure yet, neither of us know these people very well, but have you noticed that they are all inter-connected in some way?” Barry hadn’t. He really was under the impression that they were just a group of golf buddies who had hit upon this idea of a Cornwall tour and he felt very pleased to have been asked along too.

“No, unfortunately that is not the case.” Anna continued searching in her mind for an example that she felt confident enough to share. “I think we have to assume that one of them killed Janice and we need to get to the bottom of why.”

“How could it have been one of them?” Barry looked shocked and confused. “Janice came back to the house on her own when we were all together on the beach. We all came back up to the house and went to bed. That is when Elden found her. She’d been dead for a good half an hour I overheard the doctor say. It couldn’t have been one of us, and anyway, if she had been stabbed when we were in the house, we would have heard, surely!”

“I hope you’re not including me in that ‘us’” smiled Anna. Barry gave her a dry look and sat down heavily on the bed. “I think I know how it was done.” Anna revealed as Barry’s eyes widened, “I’m just not sure yet by who, that’s what we need to find out.”

“I can’t imagine Blandford’s going to have much success, unless he gets someone to confess.” Barry observed and then shifted slightly, realising he had sat on his toilet bag. He pulled it out from under him and peered inside to find, as expected, that his sudden weight had caused toothpaste to explode over everything.

 

The expanse of blue sea sparkled in the morning sun as Anna pulled the curtains on the new day. It was mid morning but she wasn’t surprised to find the kitchen deserted, it had been a long night. The coffee machine was similar to the one they had at home so Anna was able to switch it on and went looking for cups. On opening the door to the boot room, Anna sent all the golf bags flying on her way to the fridge. “God, it’s like being at home,” she muttered as she picked up all the bags, balancing them back onto their triangle stands and noticing again all the sand on the floor. The door to the outside was open and she smiled at the police officer. “Would you like coffee?” Anna asked.

Colin was sat at the kitchen table when she returned to the coffee machine, his head in his hands. He looked up when she entered and tried to smile. “Morning, you making coffee?” She poured him a cup and then delivered one to the officer outside, reluctantly going back inside.

“Barry tells me you own the Fitness Club?” she ventured, hoping to take his mind off whatever was weighing so heavily on him. “Yes, not for much longer though.” He looked like he might be about to cry. “You’re in finance I heard, I just can’t work out what is going wrong.”

“Not exactly,” Anna replied “but it is a big part of my job, what do you think is wrong?”

Colin seemed relieved to be given an opportunity to talk about it. “Our turnover is really close to the original business plan that Janice helped me put together. I think all the overheads and expenditure are as we forecast, but the club just doesn’t seem to be making enough to cover the basics. I’ve got a massive water bill coming up and I just don’t know how I’m going to pay it.” Colin put his head back into his hands, his nose practically dipping into his coffee.

“I thought I could smell coffee.” Rebecca came into the kitchen from the boot room, clearly having been for a morning swim. She was a tall, beautiful woman with long limbs and an ethereal look about her. “Where do the cups live? I’d better take one up to Robert too.” Anna could hear Neville talking to the policeman outside who was telling him that DI Blandford was on his way over. It wasn’t going to feel much like a holiday today and she wondered wryly whether the DI might consent to taking statements on the beach.

Blandford, on arrival, had clearly decided to start with the men, and Elden in particular, presumably working on the age-old theory that it was most likely the husband who had despatched his wife. Anna went out into the garden to look for a quiet place to read, someone to talk to and to see if the sun loungers were at all comfortable.

Rebecca was already there. “Mind if I join you?” Anna asked and Rebecca started as if she had been falling asleep. “Best not to fall asleep in the sun” Anna laughed. “No. Thank you for waking me. I am so tired recently. I’ve been so busy with work, my exhibition and all the other demands Robert makes on my time.”

“Exhibition?” Anna enquired. She usually kept up with what was going on in town, and hadn’t heard about an exhibition. “Oh no, not my usual country craft market stuff, I’ve got images going into a top London gallery in September. It’s very exciting, they think it will make my name in the world of erotic photography and want me to display in a gallery in New York next year.”

“Wow, that does sound exciting.” Anna was impressed with Rebecca’s sudden enthusiasm. “How did you come from estate agency to that?”

“The estate agency is Robert’s thing, I’ve been trying to support him but it is hard to keep finding interesting ways to make a tiny kitchen look spacious. I just started taking photographs of something I found more appealing, the human body.”

Anna could sense Barry was approaching long before he actually appeared. “Blandford’s looking for you, Rebecca.” She lifted herself off the sun lounger and smiled. “Right, my turn I suppose.”

“I’ve been talking to Neville.” Barry obviously had something to tell her. “I found out that Neville, Robert and Elden were all friends at school with, get this, Colin’s older brother”

“That’s interesting” replied Anna “Why is he not enjoying this holiday of a lifetime instead of us?”

“Because,” Barry’s voice quietened, “He died just before they all went off to university and Neville gave me the distinct impression that Robert had something to do with the death. He told me that Robert has never forgiven himself. You were right, all these people have been living intertwined lives for years. How did we get ourselves involved in this?”

“We…?” exclaimed Anna as she slapped him with her book.