Table of Contents
Titles by Ann Purser
Lois Meade Mysteries
MURDER ON MONDAY
TERROR ON TUESDAY
WEEPING ON WEDNESDAY
THEFT ON THURSDAY
FEAR ON FRIDAY
SECRETS ON SATURDAY
SORROW ON SUNDAY
WARNING AT ONE
TRAGEDY AT TWO
THREATS AT THREE
Ivy Beasley Mysteries
THE HANGMAN’S ROW ENQUIRY
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by Ann Purser.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN : 978-1-101-44588-4
1. Meade, Lois (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. England—Fiction. I. Title.
E SHALL NEED A SUBCOMMITTEE, OF COURSE,” SAID MRS. Tollervey-Jones.
Derek groaned inwardly. He waited for the chair’s eagle eye to fall on him. Sure enough, she said that the one person who knew all about organising was Derek Meade. He ran a successful one-man electrical business in Long Farnden, a small village in the heart of England, and was, so said Mrs. T-J, just the man to mastermind the centenary celebration event.
This would celebrate the hundredth birthday of the village hall, a wooden structure that had miraculously survived rising damp, woodworm and rot. But without serious attention, its days were now numbered. Estimates for repair and renovation had been sought, and the most conservative of those submitted was still a very large sum of money. This would need to be raised. In the present climate of financial belt-tightening they could not rely on grants.
“So the event has to be really spectacular, Derek,” said Mrs. T-J. She added that she was sure the subcommittee would come up with something remarkable, which they would submit to the parish council at the next meeting in a month’s time.
The subject was then thrown open for discussion, and, as expected by most of the eight members of the council, was at once hectic to the point of violent disagreement. In other words, Mrs. T-J was faced with a punch-up. In her best justice of the peace voice, she quelled the riot. “Now settle down, all of you,” she said severely. “I am well aware we have two factions in this matter.”
“Three,” said Derek glumly. “There’s us, and them, and then the others.”
“Very clear,” said the vicar, Father Rodney. “Perhaps you could elucidate, Mrs. Tollervey-Jones?”
“Not in here, I hope,” whispered young farmer John Thornbull to Derek, who managed to turn a guffaw into a sneeze.
“Bless you,” said Floss Cullen, the newest co-opted member of the council.
“Youth,” Mrs. T-J had said, “we need a young person, preferably a woman, to represent young people in the village.” Derek and John had sighed. Their chair, as she liked to be called, was known for getting sudden bees in her bonnet. These would be pursued enthusiastically, and when achieved, she would be on to the next innovation. Old Tony Dibson, the oldest and longest serving councillor muttered on each occasion that he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the council as it was, and if it weren’t broken, why fix it?
Floss had been co-opted, and had indeed brought a breath of fresh air to the council proceedings. She could persuade even diehards like Tony Dibson to her point of view. She worked for Derek’s wife, Lois Meade, who ran New Brooms, a cleaning service based in the village, and with an office in Tresham, the nearest large town. Now married to Ben Cullen, Floss continued her cleaning work because she enjoyed it, though she had done well at school and had been expected by her parents to do something better than scrubbing other people’s floors.
Now the three factions had settled back into their seats, and Father Rodney asked again if he could be told exactly what the proposals were.
Derek looked at his watch. “I can tell you, Vicar,” he said. Mrs. T-J nodded her approval, and he said, “Repair the village hall. Knock it down and build a new one. Adapt the old catgut factory to be the village hall. That’s the three, and I suggest we have a vote right now on which one we’re going for.”
“Just to recap on these,” Mrs. T-J said, taking charge, “the first, to repair the hall, is a straightforward job. Expensive, but straightforward, and well in line with a celebration of one hundred years serving the village. The second would be hugely expensive, and the third is impractical, the catgut factory being outside the village and the other side of the railway line.”
“Which may one day be reopened,” said the vicar. “And anyway, that factory is an eyesore and a danger to the children who play there.”
“We always played there,” said Tony Dibson. “Never came to any harm, not none of us.”
Mrs. T-J said that was irrelevant, and could they please get on. She took a vote, and the first of the proposals won. “So there we are, Derek,” she said. “Repair and renovate, and in due course a celebratory opening. Perhaps I can persuade my son, who is, as you all know, a well-known barrister, to perform the ceremony.”
“Hold yer water, missus,” Tony Dibson said. “Let’s get the money first, do the work, an’ then it’ll be time to think about openin’ ceremonies. As fer who should open it, I reckon we should be thinkin’ of somebody off the telly. One of them celebrities,” he added.
The rest of the agenda was swiftly dealt with, and Mrs. T-J closed the meeting, saying she would leave it to Derek to get a representative subcommittee together and report to the next council meeting.
THE PUB WAS ALREADY BUSY, AND DEREK AND JOHN THORNBULL pushed their way to the bar. “Usuals?” said the barman. They nodded, and took their pints to a table in the corner just vacated by a couple from Waltonby. “Evenin’,” Derek said. “Bit chilly out there. Winter’s comin’ on.” He and John settled down, took long drafts of ale, and were silent for a few minutes.
“Who shall we ask, then?” Derek said finally.
“And how many?”
“Oh, I should think five of us would do it. Don’t want too many, else you get nuthin’ done. So there’s us two, old Tony, for what he can remember about the village in the past, and who else?”
John frowned. “We need somebody with a bit of experience of fund-raising,” he said. “After all, we’re aiming for a really big lump sum. Don’t want a load of footling little craft fairs, book sales and all that. Hard work for everybody and tuppence-ha’penny profit at the end of it.”
“What about the vicar?” Derek said. Father Rodney was new and untried. He had replaced a nice, gentle man, who had been popular with the older ladies, but ineffective in raising the church’s profile and certainly not a great money-spinner.
“What do we know about him, apart from the fact that he’s a widower?” John said. “I suppose one of our churchgoers would know a bit of his background. After all, vicars get interviewed, like anybody applying for a job. He’s youngish and seems keen.”