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First pages

Chapter 1

The small group of mourners filed out of the arched doorway from the church and along the small path behind the vicar. It was a grey, damp day that seemed to have covered the world in a veil for the occasion.

A crow circled above the group, fighting against the light rain. It released a low, sorrowful call as it swooped to the safety of the trees at the back of the graveyard.

The mood had shifted amongst the small congregation. They had gone from the sense of duty of paying their respects, to wanting to get the whole thing over and done with.

The drizzle from above seemed to fill the air. It attacked the group at a right angle, sneaking under the assorted black umbrellas as they shuffled along the path to the graveside. There wasn't enough of them to circle the grave completely, so they bunched together on one side. Opposite, the simple coffin was laid on the wet grass, ready to be lowered into the large hole which had been dug from the sodden earth.

Kate Haversham watched the vicar wipe his glasses for the third time since leaving the safety of the church. She let her eye drift across the pathetic congregation. Was this all a life amounted to? Five or six people who didn't really know you gathered in the rain and hoping for a lump of cheese on a cocktail stick afterwards?

Well there wasn't going to be any of that. There would be no wake for Edie Gaven. Not that it would have been worth it anyway with the terrible turnout. She turned her head, looking around the sloped graveyard. There were still no signs of the one person who should have been here and wasn't. She sighed and looked down into the gaping hole of the grave.

Poor Edie. The village she had lived in all her life had abandoned her. So apparently, had her grandson.

Something caught her eye in the black gloom. A small piece of soil had shifted in the downpour revealing the pale white skin of an elbow.

Something gave way in her chest, she tried to scream but nothing came out.

She turned to her husband Paul and grasped his arm.

"It's ok love," he said, squeezing her arm in sympathy.

"No, you bloody idiot!" Kate screamed, her husband’s incompetence being the only thing that guaranteed to snap her out of her horror.

"There's a bloody body in there!"

"No dear," Paul said, smiling sweetly and patting the back of her hand. "They haven't put her in yet."

"That's what I'm saying, you bloody cretin! There's a body already in there!"

The mourners leaned in as one towards the hole. A man on her right shouted and pointed towards the arm. They all saw it now. Frozen in terror they all turned to the vicar, waiting for him to lead them in a response to this horrific news.

They watched him bend to his knees, his hands grasping the edge of the hole as he peered down into the gloom.

"I think," he said, leaning further in, "that someone should call the police."

The earth gave way under his hands and he slipped forward, tumbling into the darkness towards the pale arm.

* * *

Detective Sergeant Guy Poole stared at the building in front of him. It wasn't much to look at. The side of the building was cold, grey concrete. The lack of effort to beautify the building was telling. This was a functional place, built for a purpose. The mirrored windows added to this feel, hiding the interior of the building from the outside world.

The sign above the entrance which Poole guessed had meant to read Bexford Police Station had had the ‘P’ and ‘O’ removed. He stared at it, wondering whether this was just a happy coincidence or if the youth of Bexford had a sense of humour.

A small reception area was visible through the plate glass automatic doors; a desk at the back wall and a few plastic seats on the right. More functionality over design. The station at Oxford hadn't been much to write home about either, but it had at least been grander and more impressive than this.

He took a deep breath and tried to shake off the nerves he was feeling. He had nothing to feel nervous about, he knew that. Yes, this was a new station in a new town in a new county, but this was still police work. This was what he had trained for, this was what he wanted. Bexford, Addervale would be no different to Oxford, Oxfordshire; other than his past wouldn’t be quite so present here.

This was his chance for a real fresh start and he had worked hard for it. Forgoing the usual activities of people in their early twenties in order to study, to learn, to push himself. It had worked, and now here he was. A newly qualified detective sergeant, at the age of just 25.

Although it felt like he had been waiting all his life for this moment, in reality, it had been just ten years, from the moment his life had been changed forever. From one of innocence of the world around him, to one of hard reality.

This wasn’t the time to relive old wounds, but it was becoming hard when in a few days there was a chance it would begin to catch up with him again.

Would all of that follow him here?

He shook his head to clear the thoughts from his mind, turned back out towards the carpark and looked at his watch again. Nine fifty. He felt uncomfortable about starting late, but that's what his instructions had been. Inspector Brock, his new superior, had wanted him to pick up the car he had been assigned first.

For someone who had walked from his new rented flat to the station for the last two mornings just to look at the place, the wait was frustrating.

This morning he had picked up the car (a blue Ford Mondeo that seemed to enjoy leaping between gears without warning) at nine as he had been instructed. He had then driven straight to the station and spent the last half an hour milling around the surrounding streets waiting for his allotted time.

He took another deep breath, turned back towards the steps and clattered into a blur in blue.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Poole said before he had even finished staggering backwards. His natural instinct to apologise was so strong that he often even found himself apologising to himself under his breath.

“No problem, I was miles away,” said a light voice in a thick Yorkshire accent.

Poole looked up into an angular but beautiful face of golden coloured skin, smiling back at him with straight, white teeth. With a sudden panic, he realised that she was dressed in a police officer’s uniform, her hat tucked under her arm.

“Yes, well what’s your name, Constable?” he asked, trying to sound as authoritative as possible.

“Sanders, Sir,” she answered, standing up a little straighter and the smile fading from her lips. “Sanita Sanders.”

“I don’t need to know your first name, Constable, and you should consider looking where you’re going in future.”

“Yes sir,” she answered, her jaw tensing.

“Ok, well… carry on,” Poole said putting his hands behind his back and lifting his chin slightly.

The young woman gave a curt nod and set off up the steps towards the station.

Poole exhaled and closed his eyes. His guts squirmed with guilt at his treatment of the constable, but he clenched his fists and pushed it down inside. This is how it was going to have to be. He had never had the respect of his colleagues in Oxford for reasons relating to his past. Here though, things were going to be different. Here he had a chance to make a new name for himself. Great, he thought, his new name was going to be pompous twit if he carried this on.

He finally climbed the steps to the station itself, pausing for a moment to check his reflection in the window to the side of the doorway. He adjusted his tie for what must have been the hundredth time that morning and stepped through the automatic doors and into a small waiting area. He walked across the cheap blue carpet and up to the front desk which sat, curved in one corner. There was no one behind it, but a door in the back wall led to an office from which voices drifted through.

He rang the small brass bell which sat on top of the counter and waited. After a few moments, a large, pasty looking man squeezed through the doorway and came to the counter.

“What can I do for you?” the man said, leaning on the counter heavily. Poole took a small step backwards in case it gave way.

“I’ve been transferred here from Oxford. I’m Detective Sergeant Poole.”

The man’s face broke into a broad grin. “Oh, nice to meet you sir. So you’ll be working with Detective Inspector Brock then will you?”

“That’s right,” Poole said.

“I’ve got your building pass here sir, just hold it against the sensors by the doors.” He rifled through some unseen papers behind the desk and lifted up a small grey key fob.

“Thanks,” Poole said taking it. “Where do I…”

“Through that door on the right, straight to the end of the corridor, through the door at the end and then through the next office and through the door at the back. Then all the offices have names on them so you should find Inspector Brock’s ok.” His grin widened.

“Right,” Poole nodded, and turned to go, but then stopped. There was something about this man’s inane grin that was bothering him. “What’s your name, Constable?”

“Roland Hale sir,” the man said, the smile sliding from his face.

“Is there something funny about my arrival here, Constable Hale?”

The large man swallowed causing his chins to wobble. “Um, no sir, sorry sir.” He cleared his throat and busied himself with the hidden paperwork again.

Poole turned, swiped his fob and stepped through the door. He made his way along the corridor and into and office that was full of desks lined up in rows. He felt the eyes of the dozen or so constables who were dotted around follow him across the room.

The new guy.

He had been expecting this. Moving to a new place was always going to have its difficult period, and he had steeled himself for it.

He noted Constable Sanders looking at him. She caught his eye and quickly turned back to the paperwork which sat in front of her on the desk.

Poole had almost reached the door at the far end, when it opened revealing a man with a chiselled jaw, blonde hair and blue eyes. He was roughly the same six foot two that Poole reached, but the way they filled that height could not have been more different. Poole’s frame was made up of long, pointy limbs which seemed to jut out of his thin body. This man on the other hand was muscular and toned. The tight white shirt he wore, straining over his chest.

The man paused in the entrance and looked Poole up and down. “You the new chap then?” he said in a loud, sneering voice that Poole was sure was intended to carry across the whole office.

Poole held his hand out. “Detective Sergeant Poole,” he said smoothly, having practised many times over the last few weeks.

The broad shouldered man grasped his hand like a vice, his eyes narrowing under his cropped blonde hair. “Detective Sergeant Anderson,” the man said, more quietly now, his fingers squeezing down on Poole’s hand like a boa constrictor.

“Nice to meet you,” Poole said in as level a voice as he could manage bearing in mind the pain that was shooting through his hand.

The man snorted with laughter as a wide grin spread across his handsome face. “Hold on, you’re Brock’s aren’t you?”

“If you mean am I his new sergeant? Then the answer is yes,” Poole replied pulling his hand away and trying to stand as straight as he could.

Poole prided himself on always seeing the best in people, but this Anderson was grating on him already.

“Well good luck with that.” Anderson laughed. He turned to the officer that Poole had met outside who was sitting at her desk.

“Sanita, grab me and Inspector Sharp a couple of coffees, will you? There’s a love.” He winked at her and turned back towards the door. Poole glanced back as Sanders stood up looking embarrassed.

“No,” Poole said quietly, but loud enough so both would hear. Sanders stopped and frowned at him. Anderson paused with his hand on the door and turned back towards the room.

“What?” he said, his voice a mixture of annoyance and surprise.

“It’s not a constable’s job to make tea for a sergeant,” Poole continued. “They might do it if they like you, but although I’ve only met you briefly, that scenario seems unlikely.”

Blood screamed in Poole's ears, what the hell was he doing?!

“Wha…” Anderson managed, his bright blue eyes swivelling around the room which had become strangely quiet. Eventually his expression settled on blind fury and he advanced on Poole like an angry mountain. “And who the hell are you to be telling me what I can and can’t do?!” he screamed, his chest puffing out so far it almost touched Poole’s.

“I’m not telling you what to do, I’m telling Constable Sanders here what she doesn’t have to do. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Now why don’t you stop making a scene and go and get your own coffee?”

Anderson’s breathing became heavier, faster. His eyes bulged and his face glowed crimson. His fists clenched and his mouth opened as a click from behind broke the deathly silence of the office. The door opened behind to reveal a man that on first glance appeared to be a giant. He wore trousers that finished a couple of inches from his shoes, a white shirt that had noticeable wet patches around his armpits and a tie pulled so loose it hung like a necklace.

“Everything alright out here is it, Anderson?” the man said as he moved round, standing between the two men.

“Yes sir,” Anderson replied between gritted teeth.

“Well that’s good,” the man replied, his grey eyes switching between the two of them. “And you must be Poole, eh?” he said looking him up and down.

“Yes sir,” Poole said, panic rising in his throat. This was not the first impression he wanted to give. Please don’t let this be him, please don’t let this be him.

“Well it’s good to meet you, Poole.”

He held out his hand and Poole took it. It was like shaking leather baseball glove.

I’m Inspector Brock, so I think it’s me you are looking for. Shall we go and get all of us a coffee?” he said looking between Poole and Anderson again. “Would Inspector Sharp like one too, Anderson?”

“Um,” Anderson appeared to have calmed down now, and if anything looked slightly sheepish. “No need sir, I’ll get our coffee.”

“Ah, splendid. Well mine’s milk and two sugars, Poole?” he said turning to him.

Anderson opened his mouth to say that that wasn’t what he meant, then closed it again.

Poole smiled. “Milk, no sugar please.”

Anderson’s mouth squirmed before opening. “Yes sir,” he said to Brock before trudging off with a murderous look in his eye.

“Come along then Poole, let’s show you your desk, eh?”

“Yes sir,” Poole said, trying to subdue his grin. He turned back to see Sanita who had returned to her seat smiling at him. He gave her a small wave and followed the inspector through the door.

The corridor beyond was short, with three doors on either side and one at the far end. The first door they passed situated on the left had a metal plaque attached to its surface that read:

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR SHARP

They moved on to the next door, situated on the right, which read:

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR BROCK

Brock opened the door and held it for Poole who stepped into the small space and looked around. The office was a cramped mess of paperwork and cheap furniture. A desk sat in the middle of the small room and was covered in files and sprawling sheets of paper. A filling cabinet which looked like it had taken its fair share of abuse sat in the corner looking forlorn. A lamp stood in the opposite one, its lampshade torn on one side.

“This is your desk," Brock said gesturing towards a small, cheap looking desk that was also covered in paperwork. "You'll need to chuck that stuff on the floor."

Poole made his way to the small desk and hovered by it awkwardly.

Away from the pleasing warmth of Constable Sanders’s smile, Poole was now feeling the familiar rise of nerves deep in his gut. He had been in his new job roughly ten minutes and so far had embarrassed himself in front of Constable Sanders and then in trying to overcompensate he had made an enemy in fellow Sergeant Anderson. Now he was sat in an office that was too small for two, even more so when one of those was the size of an international rugby player.

“So, take a seat,” Brock said, gesturing at the blue office chair that was positioned by his desk, its back scuffed and the arm that raised it up and down, broken off.

He sat and turned to the inspector who had taken his place behind the mountain of paperwork on his desk.

“I tend to let it build up a bit and then have big clear out, just dump it all in the file room for Gerald to sort out,” the inspector said, gesturing to the piles of paper.

Poole decided not to ask who Gerald was in case it was something he should already know and he embarrassed himself even further.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in!” Brock barked, his face clouding as though a knock on his door was a personal insult.

“Ah, Anderson, thank you,” he said, brightening as the blonde sergeant entered holding two mugs of coffee.

“No problem sir,” he said placing them both on Brock’s desk.

“One of them is Poole’s, I think?” the inspector said, his face a picture of innocence.

“Yes sir,” Anderson said, lifting one of the mugs and placing it in front of Poole who was almost sure he could hear his teeth grinding. He backed out of the room glaring at Poole.

“You’ve made an enemy there,” Brock said once the door had closed.

“Sorry sir,” Poole said automatically.

“Sorry? Best thing you could have done. The man’s an absolute arse. The fact that you’ve got on the wrong side of him already makes me think that you might be alright."

The inspector surveyed the gangly figure in front of him.

"You look like you're made out of golf clubs," he said frowning.

"Um, thank you, Sir," Poole said, unsure of what else to say.

"Well if you've finished alienating your new workforce, maybe we can get to business."

Poole smiled. Despite the inspector’s gruff manner, there was something likeable about him. "I'm ready sir," he said, putting his coffee down and sitting up straight.

“I’m sure you are, but let's finish our coffee first, eh?”

“Of course sir,” Poole picked his coffee back up.

The inspector eyed him for a moment. “I looked through your file,” he continued. “Very impressive.” His grey eyes seemed to be boring into the back of Poole’s skull, making him feel as though he was being cavity searched with his clothes on.

"Thank you, Sir.”

“And I see you’ve taken every course that’s been offered to you, aced them all.”

Poole sipped at his coffee, desperate for a distraction. Although this was all true, something about the way the inspector was repeating it made him feel uncomfortable.

"And how did you get on with your fellow colleagues?"

The question threw Poole for a moment. This wasn’t a job interview, he was already here. With a sickening feeling, he realised his confrontation with Anderson might have raised doubts in the inspector’s mind.

"I never had any issues with them sir," he said truthfully.

"Mmm," Brock said, scratching the untidy stubble that circled his jaw. The back of Poole's neck began to prickle.

The inspector stood suddenly and grabbed a coat that hung on a hat stand in the corner of the room.

“You have a car assigned to you already I believe?”

“Yes Sir,” Poole answered, rising from his own seat. “But it’s not the best I’m afraid.” What he really meant was that he had already had several murderous thoughts about the bucket of rust currently parked outside, even on just the short ride to the station this morning. The mechanic, who worked on all the local force’s cars, had told him with a chuckle that he had been given the runt of the litter.

“Has it got an engine and can I fit in it?”

Poole hesitated slightly, sizing up the inspector’s large frame. One, large eyebrow rose questioningly on Brock's face and Poole answered hurriedly.

“Yes Sir,”

“Then I think we’ll be ok."

Chapter 2

“A body?" Poole said slowly.

"Yes," Brock answered

"In the cemetery, Sir?”

“That’s what I said Poole.”

They were leaving Bexford and heading west towards the small village of Lower Gladdock.

Addervale’s lush countryside streamed past their window; its high hedges and rolling fields patch working the land on all sides.

The passenger seat of the car had obstinately refused to slide back and so Brock’s knees were pitched up by his chest. Poole swore that he could feel the entire car leaning to the left from the extra weight as he guided it along the small lanes.

“I agree,” the inspector continued, “a cemetery is not the most surprising place to find a body, and neither is a funeral, which is what was happening there at the time. The difference in this case was apparently the extra body.”

“Ah, I see," Poole said. The idea of pursuing a murderer on his first day was causing a mixture of fear and excitement that was making it hard to focus on the road ahead.

"And where was it discovered?”

“In the same grave as the woman whose funeral it was, though we’re not going to be able to get much of a look at it. From what I've been told by Constable Davies, there’s a vicar in there at the moment. Not that he's the most reliable source of information."

Poole blinked.

"The vicar's in the grave, Sir?"

"Bloody hell Poole, yes! Is there a problem with your ears or something?"

"No sir, sorry Sir."

Brock grunted next him and pulled a bag of boiled sweets from his coat pocket. Poole waited patiently to be offered one, but the invitation never came.

“Funny time of year this,” Brock said, staring out of the window. “Winter’s over, but spring hasn’t got going yet. The old life’s dead and gone, but the new life hasn’t come along.”

Poole wasn’t sure what to make of this seasonal philosophy and didn’t fancy being told off again, so he kept quiet.

The sat nav attached to the window announced that they should turn right and Poole did so.

After another quarter of a mile, a battered sign half submerged by brambles confirmed that they were now entering Lower Gladdock. After another few minutes the lane gave way to a wider road that loop the bottom of a pretty village green.

“The church,” Brock said, pointing at a small, squat tower of stone. It rose above a pretty cemetery that sloped gently down towards the green.

Two police cars and an ambulance were parked in a semi-circle around the wooden gate which led into the cemetery and two or three sorry (and soggy) looking people were gathered in the middle of them.

Poole pulled the car to the side of the road a few yards away along the church wall and stepped out into a deep puddle that came over the top of his black leather shoe, filling it with muddy rainwater. He leaned against the wall, pulled his shoe from his foot and began to shake it. Brock, who had reached the back of the car looked at him and shook his head before staring up at the church.

Poole quickly rammed his shoe back on and joined him. He stood in silence for a moment, expecting instructions of some sort, but they didn’t seem to be forthcoming.

“Shall we go and see what’s going on, Sir?” Poole said uncertainly.

Brock nodded. “That would be a good idea, yes.”

Poole turned and walked towards the small crowd, trying to compose his face into one of absolute professionalism despite the fact that his right foot was squelching as he walked.

This was it. A body found in suspicious circumstances. A scene to be looked over. People to be interrogated. He could feel the adrenaline coursing through his body.

The knot of people gathered in the middle of the space were all dressed in black. Clearly the funeral goers, thought Poole. No one was crying. They were talking animatedly with each other. Eyes wide as they stared across the churchyard to where white-suited crime scene figures stood in the distance.

Brock and Poole ignored the questioning eyes of the few onlookers and headed through the wooden gate. Brock nodding at the constable guarding it as he opened it for them.

As they climbed the winding path through the graveyard, the scene around the grave appeared before them. A young constable was lowering a ladder down into the hole while the ambulance crew, a couple of crime scene people and a young woman watched.

They moved to the edge of the grave and peered in. It was a sorry sight. The pale flesh of an elbow jutting from the earth at one end, and the small form of a very dishevel looking vicar curled up at the other. The young constable had just reached the bottom and was attempting to get his arm around the vicar in order to lift him up.

“Oh bloody hell,” Brock muttered. “They’ve sent bloody Davies down!”

Poole guessed this was a bad thing but wasn’t sure why. He looked to his right and saw the young woman who was knelt looking in.

Her eyes were wet with tears under a mass of wild brown hair which hung around her defined cheek bones like curtains. He noticed that her hands were gripping the edge of the grave so tightly her fingers had sunk into the soft earth.

“Excuse me, miss,” Poole ventured moving across to her, "I think you’d be better off moving back from the hole, we don’t want anyone else to fall in do we?”

Her head snapped up to his, her eyes as black and wild as her hair. She jumped to her feet before turning and running towards the church.

Poole turned back to Brock in confusion.

“My daughter,” the vicar called up from over the shoulder of the young constable who was now climbing the ladder. Clearly having heard the exchange. “She’s very... sensitive I’m afraid. She’ll be ok once I’m out.”

“Ok vicar, don’t worry,” Poole answered, staring after the figure of the girl. “She’s gone into the church.”

“Oh good, good,” the vicar said, in a voice so soft they could barely hear him over the sound of the light rain hitting the earth.

Eventually the constable stepped out onto the grass where he immediately slipped on the wet grass and landed on his back with the vicar on top of him.

“Bloody hell,” Brock said, shaking his head at the scene.

The ambulance crew rushed to them and held them both up.

“Well done, Davies,” Brock said. “At least you didn’t drop him back into the grave, eh?”

“Thank you, sSr,” the constable replied, picking his hat for the floor and ramming it on his head.

“Poole,” Brock said turning to him, “follow the vicar to the ambulance and have a quick word with him before they take him away will you? Ask him when the grave was dug and who did it.”

“Yes sir,” Poole said trying to contain his excitement. He was being given first interview of the case. A murder case. There was no other way a body accidentally ends up in a grave like this. He couldn’t imagine this small village generated enough bodies that a mistake could have been made. He followed the limping vicar back down the path with a determined look on his face.

* * *

Poole stood at the back of the ambulance as the crew assessed the vicar’s injuries and made the necessary preparations to ready the van for leaving.

“You’re taking him into hospital?” he asked as one of the crew stepped out from the doors and moved to close them.

“Just to be on the safe side,” he said brusquely. “It looks like he’s just twisted his ankle, but with the swelling it’s best to get it checked.”

“Can I talk to him first?”

“If it’s important?” he shrugged.

Poole resisted the urge to explain that uncovering a dead body that shouldn’t have been there was pretty important, and instead opted for what he hoped was a stern look as he stepped up through the back doors of the vehicle.

The vicar lay on a cot to the left of the vehicle, the other ambulance worker sat on a fixed bench to the right.

“Can I have a moment alone with the vicar please?” Poole said to him.

The man grunted and squeezed past Poole and back out of the doors leaving Poole and the slightly soiled vicar alone. He had a crop of short white hair and a top lip that struggled to cover his sizeable teeth. His frame was thin but wiry and Poole guessed that he was actually younger than he appeared at first glance.

“I just need to ask you a few questions vicar, it shouldn’t take too long.”

“No no, quite alright,” the vicar said, giving him a weak smile. “Though there is not actually much to tell I’m afraid.”

“You were presiding over a funeral today I understand?”

“Yes, that’s right. Mrs Gaven. Not much of a turn out I’m afraid…”

‘She was from around here though?” Poole asked.

“Oh yes, she had been in the village all her life.”

The vicar looked up at the roof of the ambulance and sighed. Poole wondered if he had also hit his head as he’d fallen into the grave.

“She was an older woman, was she?”

“Oh yes,” the vicar replied, “and I'm afraid she’d been ill for some time.” The vicar paused and swallowed. “Multiple sclerosis," he said, softly.

Poole nodded. “And do you know how she died?”

“Pneumonia, I believe.”

Poole nodded, scribbling furiously in his small black notebook.

“And the body was spotted as the congregation gathered around the grave side is that correct?”

“Yes,” the vicar said quietly, his eyes scanning the roof of the ambulance again. "The rain must have disturbed the soil and the body…um…”

“Can I ask when the grave was dug?”

“Two days ago I think. We have a man to take care of that sort of thing, Stan Troon his name is. He’ll be able to give you a more accurate time.”

“And do you have an address for Mr Troon?"

“Stan is a bit of an odd chap I’m afraid. Lives out in the woods in a caravan. Nice fellow though."

Poole nodded and made more notes before pausing.

The body he had seen in the grave hadn’t been an old corpse exposed by the digging of the new grave. His mind flashed back to the flash of milky white skin against the dark earth. No, that body had been put there recently. Almost certainly since the grave had been dug. He circled the name Stan Troon.

“I’ll need your contact details as well of course,” Poole said. The vicar nodded.

“Do you inspect the grave at all before the ceremony?”

“Well, I always check everything is in order beforehand yes, and I looked at the grave yesterday as well, but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.”

“Did you look in it?” Poole asked, watching the vicar’s expression turn to one of hurt professional pride.

“I check the surrounding area is clean and presentable, I generally don’t have much call to look into the graves.”

Some of the colour was returning to the vicar’s cheeks and he pulled himself up into a sitting position with a wince of pain from his ankle.

“And do you know of anyone who might have gone missing from the village over the last few days?” Poole continued.

The vicar stared at him. "Not missing exactly," he said.

"And what do you mean by that?"

The vicar sighed. "I was expecting Edie's grandson to come to her funeral."

"Her grandson? And what's his name?"

"Henry Gaven."

Poole scribbled again in his notepad.

"You suspect foul play?" the vicar asked.

Poole looked up at him. “We’re not suggesting anything at this stage sir, just looking into all possibilities. How many people would have known about the grave being dug ready for today?”

The vicar frowned. “Well, everyone in the village I suppose. Word gets around quickly and I’m sure that everyone knew Mrs Gaven had passed away.” He looked up as though he had said something inappropriate. “When am I going to be able to continue the service? The poor woman needs to be buried.”

“I think it might be best if a new grave is dug, this one’s going to be tied up for some time. Thank you for your time, we’ll need to speak to you again at some point. I hope your ankle’s ok.”

“Thank you.” The vicar smiled as Poole began made his way back out of the ambulance.

He paused at the doorway. “Would you like me to go and fetch your daughter? I assume she’d want to go with you?”

“Oh no, it would be too much for her I’m afraid. I won’t be long and she’ll wait in the church until I’m back.”

Poole frowned, said his goodbyes and stepped out onto the road.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

A.G. Barnett is a British author writing traditional mysteries with a cosy flavour. Originally from North Devon, he moved to Oxfordshire many years ago where he now lives with his wife, daughter, and ridiculous spaniel. He has been known to describe life with a toddler as ‘Like a psychological thriller, but with more Play-Doh’


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