Mystery/Crime, 284 pages, cover art provided by author
The significance of the noose left hanging outside James Palmer's barn is obvious to everyone in the village. When threats turn to violence DCI Peter Hatherall has to unmask a master of disguise determined to have their revenge.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Hatherall stretched his legs out, interlocked his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. The last two weeks spent with Sally and the boys at her mother's house in Cornwall had been wonderful. With unlimited time together, free from other pressures, they'd talked and found one another again. The genuine love and concern in Sally's eyes still made his stomach muscles curl up in unworthiness.
When they had discussed it together, it made perfect sense for Sally to stay in Cornwall with the boys until the end of the school holidays. Since his return home alone, old doubts and fears had crept into the corners of his mind and they continued to relentlessly churn away in the background.
He dreamt last night she'd telephoned and asked for a divorce. They'd come pretty damn close to going down that route. The fear it left behind prevented any hope of sleep for the rest of the night.
Story of his love life, he thought, always coming pretty damn close. Like he'd nearly started an affair with Fiona, his junior officer. With closed eyes, he speculated about what could have happened if he'd taken that step.
Peter dropped his hands abruptly, leaving his head unsupported and he was momentarily disoriented as he was dragged from the warm floating place between consciousness and sleep. Superintendent Rogers looked less than impressed. Peter looked over for some support, only to see Detective Inspector Fiona Williams sitting primly in front of her lap top, looking the perfect teacher's pet, leaving him to play the role of the class dunce.
"Hatherall, I know you work in unusual ways, but could you at least try to appear awake?" Rogers said.
Peter pulled his legs in and crossed them, trying to look suitably contrite.
"What are you working on, if anything, at the moment?" Rogers asked.
Peter pulled the yellow post-it note from his laptop screen. "Mrs Archer of Frampton is very concerned about the theft of her daffodil bulbs."
Rogers frowned and looked down at Peter through his spectacles. Undeterred, Peter carried on, "They dug them up in the night from her garden."
"Peter! Pass it to uniform. You're not paid to concern yourself with flower arrangements."
"The village-in-bloom committee view it as a most serious matter."
"Well, as you're not busy with anything else…"
"I'm tying up the loose ends on the Bert Jones case and waiting for preliminary dates of his hearings. We're also trying to capture the underwear thief of Littleton."
"So, nothing new. Good. I'd like you to visit a Mister James Palmer, out at Lamington." Rogers handed over a thin file to Fiona, but spoke directly to Peter. "He's received a number of threats and is experiencing problems with petty vandalism on his farm. He thinks the two are linked and is claiming there is some sort of local vendetta against him. He's a fellow member of the Kendleshire Golf Club and I'd like him reassured we are taking his concerns seriously. Give him some advice on security and leave him feeling his taxpayers' money is being used wisely."
"So he'll stop bothering you on the nineteenth hole. And that's more pressing than daffodil bulbs and stolen underwear?" The look of annoyance on Rogers' face warned Peter his humour wasn't appreciated. He pulled himself up straight and asked, "What's he like?"
"I don't know him well. He seems a nice enough chap and he's always generous at the club bar, although a little flirtatious with the female members." Rogers turned and smiled at Fiona. "I'll leave it in your capable hands," he added, leaving the room.
Peter furrowed his brow into a pained expression. He walked towards the window while Fiona studiously ignored him, flicking through the thin file left on her desk. He leant one arm against the window pane and watched life happening down below on the busy high street of Tibberton. He turned from the window. "Well, that's a pleasant morning arranged for us. A drive through the countryside followed by us saying all the right words over a civilised cup of tea."
"It's the next village along from Littleton. There could be a connection to the thefts from washing lines."