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Authors: Geraldine Evans

Deadly Reunion

BOOK: Deadly Reunion
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Recent Titles by Geraldine Evans from Severn House
The Rafferty and Llewellyn Mysteries
DYING FOR YOU
ABSOLUTE POISON
BAD BLOOD
LOVE LIES BLEEDING
BLOOD ON THE BONES
A THRUST TO THE VITALS
DEATH DUES
ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE
DEATH DANCE
DEADLY REUNION
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A KILLING KARMA
DEADLY REUNION
A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel
Geraldine Evans
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
  
This first world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Geraldine Evans.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Evans, Geraldine.
Deadly reunion. – (A Rafferty and Llewellyn mystery)
1. Rafferty, Joseph (Fictitious character)–Fiction.
2. Llewellyn, Sergeant (Fictitious character)–Fiction.
3. Police–Great Britain–Fiction. 4. Class reunions–
Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
823.9'14-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-7801-0016-6  (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8016-1  (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-337-3  (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
ONE
‘
P
oisoned? Are you sure?' Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty regretted his rash query as soon as it left his mouth. For Dr Sam Dally let him have it with both barrels.
‘Of course I'm sure. Would I be telling you the man was poisoned if I wasn't? I never question
your
professional judgement –' which was an out and out lie – ‘so I'd thank you not to question mine.
Conium Maculatum
was what killed him. Or, to your uneducated ear, hemlock.'
‘Hemlock?'
‘That's right. A very old-fashioned poison. Goes back to the ancient Greeks, so I believe. Maybe even further back. Now, is there anything else you'd like to question while you're at it?'
‘All right, Sam. Keep your hair on,' said Rafferty. Which, given Sam's rapidly balding pate, was another unfortunate slip of the tongue.
But this time it brought nothing more than the testy, ‘Well? Is there anything else you'd like to question my judgement about?'
Rafferty felt – given his mounting foot-in-mouth episode – that a simple ‘no' would suffice.
‘Hmph.' Dally sounded disappointed as if he was just in the right frame of mind to have another go. ‘Ainsley had been dead between fourteen and sixteen hours before he was discovered. The first symptoms would have started after around half an hour. He'd have experienced a gradual weakening of muscles, then extreme pain and paralysis from the
coniine
in hemlock, the effects of which are much like
curare
. It's probable he went blind, but his mind would have remained clear till the end.'
‘Christ. What a horrible way to go.'
‘Yes. Death would be around three hours later from paralysis of the heart.'
‘Is the poison likely to be self-inflicted?'
‘Well, it wouldn't be my choice.'
Nor mine, thought Rafferty. He couldn't believe that a sportsman like Adam Ainsley would choose such a way to go.
‘But figuring that out's your job, Rafferty. I suggest you get on with it.'
Bang went the phone. Or it would have done but for the frustrations caused by modern technology, which didn't allow anything so satisfying.
‘Sam and Mary must have had a domestic this morning,' Rafferty said to Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn as he leaned back in the now shabby executive chair that Superintendent Bradley had decreed was the appropriate seating for his detectives. ‘He just bawled me out something chronic.'
Llewellyn, who had never been known to make an ill-advised remark, gave a gentle sigh. ‘Dr Dally has never appreciated having his professional conclusions questioned.' It was a gentle reproof, but a reproof nonetheless. ‘You were talking about the body found in the woods, I presume?'
Rafferty nodded. Adam Ainsley had been found in Elmhurst's Dedman Wood around eight in the morning two days ago by a local woman walking her dog. There had been no visible signs of injury and it had been assumed the man had had a heart attack while out for too energetic a run; the tracksuit and trainers had suggested the possibility. Ainsley had been attending a reunion at Griffin School, an exclusive, fee-paying establishment for eleven to eighteen year olds situated two miles outside the Essex market town of Elmhurst, where Rafferty's station was located.
‘Did I hear you mention hemlock?'
Rafferty nodded. ‘I thought that would make you prick up your ears. That's what Sam reckons killed him. Said it goes back to your pals, the ancient Greeks.'
‘Yes. According to Plato it's what Socrates used to kill himself after he was sentenced to death. He drained the cup containing the poison and walked about until his legs felt heavy. Then he lay down and, after a while, the drug had numbed his whole body, creeping up until it had reached his heart.'
‘Yeah, Sam said it was paralysis of the heart muscle that would have killed him. Sounds like hanging would have been quicker, even without an Albert Pierrepoint to work out the drop required. Anyway, enough of this classical Greek morbidity. We'd better get over to the school,' said Rafferty. ‘Can you get some uniforms organized, Dafyd? I'll go and tell Long-Pockets what Sam said and meet you downstairs.'
‘Long-Pockets', otherwise known as Superintendent Bradley, was obsessed with the budget, in Rafferty's opinion, hence the nickname. As far as he was concerned, crimes took what they took, in time, money and manpower.
The uniforms were quickly mobilized by the simple expedient of roistering those on refreshment breaks out of the canteen. After Rafferty had gone to see Bradley, he returned to his office and rang the school to let Jeremy Paxton, the headmaster, know the results of the toxicology tests and that they were on their way; that done, he went down to reception to meet up with Llewellyn and the woodentops and headed out to the car park.
The August day was gloriously fresh and bright, just as a summer day should be, with a light breeze, to stop it getting too hot, and a deep blue sky without a cloud in sight. Rafferty, Llewellyn and two of the constables, Timothy Smales and Lizzie Green, piled reluctantly into the car, which was as hot as Lucifer's crotch as it had been standing in the sun. Rafferty, not a lover of air conditioning, which, anyway, would barely have started to work by the time they got to the school, wound his window right down and stuck his head out to catch the breeze.
The run out to Griffin School was a pretty one, past lush farmland, via roads overhung with trees whose leaves formed a soft green bower over the tarmac. On days like this, it felt good to be alive, though this latest suspicious death lowered his spirits a little. Winter was a more fitting season for death.
Adam Ainsley had been staying at Griffin for a school reunion. Unusually, the reunees had opted to get back together for an entire week rather than the more usual one evening and, conveniently for Rafferty, were still put up in the school's dormitories. He wondered if they were regretting it now. Being cooped up beyond one's desire with old enemies, as well as old friends, was a recipe for rising antagonisms that could be helpful to their investigation. There was nothing like spite for encouraging gossipy revelations.
Griffin House was an imposing building, dating back to the late 1500s. It had been recently featured in the local paper, the Elmhurst Echo, as part of a series on Essex's historic houses and Rafferty, keen on history and old buildings, had kept a cutting. The school was approached by a long, straight drive with mature trees and shrubberies either side of the road. It was built of red brick that had mellowed over the years to a deep rose and it had the tall, twisted chimneys so typical of the Elizabethan age. Like a lot of the houses of the period, it was constructed in the form of a letter E, in tribute to the virgin queen. It had once been the main home of the mad Carews, a family of aristocrats who had gambled and fought and wenched their fortune away. It had gone through various metamorphoses over the years, including being a bawdy house and the county lunatic asylum, but had been a private school since the 1880s.
They found the headmaster, Jeremy Paxton, waiting for them outside the huge grey oak door of the school's main entrance. Paxton was a tall, gangly man who seemed to be all elbows and knees. The headmaster was a surprise to Rafferty. He'd expected an older, donnish type, with a gown and mortarboard in keeping with the school's venerable status. But Paxton could be barely forty and seemed to have adopted an eccentric mode of dress comprised of a cream silk cravat and a scarlet waistcoat reminiscent of some Regency rake. To Rafferty it seemed as if he was trying to mitigate for his youth by adopting the fashion popular during the Carew family's last dying days.
Paxton led them to his study. Considering the school was a prestigious establishment with fees to match, the headmaster's study was not even shabby-chic. Yes, he had the obligatory computer and other high-tech gadgetry on his desk, but the oak-panelled walls with their scabby varnish looked as if they had some unfortunate disease and the furniture appeared to have stood here since the school was founded in the late nineteenth century. And while the mahogany desk was large and inlaid, its leather surface was scuffed and stained with ink blotches. There were several ill-assorted heavy Victorian chairs in front of the desk and Paxton invited them to sit down.
Paxton had a foppish manner to go with his dandy clothing. He tended to wave his arms about a good deal and generally gave off an air of being like an escapee from a St Trinian's farce. But, in spite of the clothing and mannerisms, he must have been considered suitably qualified for the post. Perhaps the parents expected an eccentric character given some of the post's past incumbents, one of whom had been a scientist in the mould of Dr Jekyll, who, instead of using himself, had used his pupils as guinea pigs for his outlandish experiments. If Rafferty remembered his local history correctly a couple of the pupils had died and the headmaster had been removed from his post and just escaped a murder charge.
Rafferty had explained about the situation with Ainsley over the phone and now Jeremy Paxton displayed an efficiency entirely at odds with the foppish appearance, He gave Rafferty a list of the school's old boys and girls who were currently staying at the school as well as a detailed map showing the school's sprawling buildings, which dated over several centuries.
‘You said over the phone that Mr Ainsley would have died within two or three hours of ingesting the poison. That being the case, I've taken the liberty of inviting those who shared his table at lunch that day to wait for you in the Senior Common Room.' Paxton paused, then added, ‘You'll need somewhere to interview the reunees, I imagine. There's a room opposite the Senior Common Room which is empty and which has a desk, chairs and a phone. I hope it suits you.'
BOOK: Deadly Reunion
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