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Authors: Bernard Knight

According to the Evidence

BOOK: According to the Evidence
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A Selection of Titles by Bernard Knight
The Crowner John Series
THE SANCTUARY SEEKER
THE POISONED CHALICE
CROWNER'S QUEST
THE AWFUL SECRET
THE TINNER'S CORPSE
THE GRIM REAPER
FEAR IN THE FOREST
THE WITCH HUNTER
FIGURE OF HATE
THE ELIXIR OF DEATH
THE NOBLE OUTLAW
THE MANOR OF DEATH
CROWNER ROYAL
A PLAGUE OF HERETICS
The Richard Pryor Mysteries
WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS
ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE
ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE
Bernard Knight
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.
 
First world edition published 2010
in Great Britain and in 2011 in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2010 by Bernard Knight.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Knight, Bernard.
According to the evidence
1. Forensic pathologists–Fiction. 2. Wye, River, Valley
(Wales and England)–Social conditions–20th century–
Fiction. 3. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title
823.9′14-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-116-3 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6986-9 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-317-5 (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.
PROLOGUE
May 1955
B
renda Paxman stopped her grey Morris Minor outside the chemist's shop in the High Street, ignoring the nearby ‘No Parking' sign. A few miles from Stow-on-the-Wold, Eastbury was a sleepy haven of peace, well off the main roads. No one was likely to object, as the small Gloucestershire town had no traffic problem – and even if it did, who was going to complain about the local District Nurse?
Short and dumpy in her navy-blue uniform, Nurse Paxman went into the shop clutching her large medical bag and advanced on the assistant with a list of items she needed replenishing.
‘Get these together for me, please, Molly.' She brandished an order form at the skinny girl behind the counter, just visible in a gap between a pyramid of baby food and a pile of assorted cough medicines.
‘Can you have them ready first thing in the morning, dear? I can't stop now, I've only just finished at the Parkers.'
At this, there was a rapid clicking of heels from the dispensary at the back of the shop and an older woman appeared alongside the girl. She had sharp features and a narrow mouth, with greying hair pulled back severely into a bun at the back of her head. A long white coat and a glass measuring-cylinder in her hand marked her out as the pharmacist. In fact, Sheila Lupin, MPS, owned the business, being the only chemist in the town.
‘How is she now, Brenda?' she demanded abruptly.
The plump middle-aged nurse shook her head sadly.
‘Not much different from usual, Miss Lupin. She should be in hospital, just for nursing care, but she won't hear of it.'
‘The other nurse will be in this afternoon, I hope?' snapped the pharmacist.
Brenda nodded. ‘I'm doing mornings this week; Audrey will go in again about three o'clock.' As she turned for the door, Sheila Lupin called after her. ‘Is he there now?'
‘Arrived back from a call just as I was leaving,' she answered as she left the shop. The nurse walked to her car and sat in it for a moment, a frown on her face. It was such a pity that Sheila was so antagonistic to her brother-in-law Samuel. It was common knowledge that she had been dead against her sister Mary marrying the local veterinary surgeon fifteen years ago. Brenda, being in the same age group as the sisters, knew that they had not been all that attached to each other, each going away to different boarding schools at an early age. Sheila was always the plain one and Mary the prettier of the pair, which she felt was the root cause of Sheila's antipathy to Samuel Parker. Never having married, the pharmacist seemed to have devoted her life to disliking the ‘vet', and now that Mary was terminally ill she never missed an opportunity to disparage the long-suffering husband. With a sigh, the nurse started her car and drove off to visit her next patient.
A few minutes after the Morris left, Sheila Lupin hurried out of the shop. She had changed her white coat for a mackintosh, as a few spots of drizzle were falling. Walking rapidly, she crossed the road in front of the parish church and continued down the pavement for a few hundred yards until she turned into the drive of a substantial Victorian house set well back from the road. A wide expanse of gravel lay before it, on which was parked a maroon Lanchester car. The house had a central porch with bays each side and a red gabled roof surmounting a row of upstairs windows. Built on to the further side was a large extension, with a muddy Land Rover standing outside. This was Samuel Parker's animal surgery and waiting room. It had its own entrance, but Sheila went straight to the front door, which she opened with a key.
Entering the rather gloomy hall, she took off her raincoat and hung it on the hallstand. She could faintly hear distant noises of pots and pans, but the kitchen was down a long corridor leading past the stairs, where the cook-housekeeper, Mrs Cropley, was no doubt making lunch.
The first door on the left, which had been the lounge, was now her sister's sickroom, as for some months she had been incapable of climbing the stairs. In fact, for several weeks she had been unable to leave her bed, except to be helped on to a commode by the nurses or members of the family.
Sheila turned the knob and walked in, familiar with the dim light penetrating the partly closed blinds. A hospital bed was against one wall, with a locker on one side and the commode on the other. She walked across the room, her heels clicking on the parquet floor.
‘How are you today, dear?' she asked gently, but was not surprised to get no reply from the still shape in the bed. Mary was now on twice-daily doses of morphine to alleviate the pain in her bones from secondary tumours, and much of the time she was either asleep or in a state of near stupor from the drug.
When she reached the side of the bed, Sheila stood looking down at her sister. Though not a woman given to emotion or dispensing much of the milk of human kindness, her eyes blurred with sadness and compassion, for this was her sister. Though they had never been all that close, mainly due to Sheila's rather flinty nature, Mary was all the family she had left, and to see her fading away in this pathetic fashion wrenched even her lukewarm heart.
She whispered her name again, not wanting to wake her if she was sound asleep, but again there was no response. Sheila gently laid her fingers on Mary's hand, which was lying palm up on the coverlet. It was then that she noticed that there was a bead of blood in the crook of her elbow. Both arms had a number of needle marks, as painkillers had been given frequently for the past few weeks, but this one looked very recent. There was a kidney dish on the locker containing some lint swabs, and the fastidious pharmacist took one and gently wiped away the dribble of blood.
‘That's better, Mary,' she said softly, but then looked more closely at her sister's face as she lay on the pillow. Her eyes were half open but they were fixed and sightless. Sheila was not a nurse or a doctor, but she had worked in the dispensary of a London hospital during the wartime Blitz and knew death when she saw it.
At first almost rigid with shock, she rapidly recovered and felt for a pulse in the wrist and then the neck to confirm that life had ebbed away. Though she was quite sure that her sister was dead, she realized that a doctor should be called immediately and hurried out of the room. Back in the hall, she brushed away a haze of tears with the back of her hand and turned down a passage that went across to an internal door into the veterinary annexe. As soon as she went through it, she was in the waiting room, lined with a collection of hard chairs, now empty as the next surgery was not until the late afternoon. Another door led into Samuel Parker's examination room, and as she burst in she urgently called out his name. He was not there, but she could hear the sounds of a dog barking and water running. Yet another doorway led to several more rooms containing animal cages, an operating table and all the paraphernalia of a vet's practice.
‘Samuel, quickly!' she cried out urgently. ‘Where are you?'
‘Coming, just washing my hands. What is it?'
He appeared in the doorway, rubbing his hands on a towel. A tall, stooping man, Samuel Parker was in his late forties, his dark hair forming a prominent widow's peak on his forehead.
‘Mary! It's Mary. I've just been in there and I think she's dead!'
His long face, normally ruddy from working outdoors, instantly blanched. Without a word to her, he rushed from the room, the doors crashing open as he ran towards his wife's bedroom. Sheila suddenly felt dizzy, overpowered by the suddenness of events, and she leaned on the zinc-topped examination table where clients presented their cats and dogs. In spite of the urgency of the situation, as the room stopped spinning her eyes focused on some objects near her supporting hand. There was a used syringe, an open box of glass vials and a bottle half full of a colourless liquid.
An experienced pharmacist, she automatically glanced at the labels and a moment later was tottering after her brother-in-law, screaming at the top of her voice.
‘Samuel, you bastard! What have you done, damn you?'
ONE
Breconshire, September 1955
T
he burly youth pedalled his way along the lane, its high hedges still green, with just a few signs of approaching autumn. The Raleigh was old and clumsy and he made heavy weather of the slope up towards the barn. The bike was his father's cast-off and, though Shane had tried to modernize it with a pair of drop handlebars, it still remained an old bone-shaker. If his employers weren't so tight-fisted, he grumbled to himself, he could have got in a bit of overtime to afford the down payment on a new machine.
It was just seven o'clock when he dismounted at the gate and leaned his cycle against a post. Hauling a pair of keys from the pocket of his stained dungarees, he undid the padlock and pushed the metal gate wide open with a squeal of protest from the rusty hinges. He was always first here in the mornings, as Jeff and Aubrey were milking down at the main buildings, almost a quarter of a mile away. That lazy bugger Tom Littleman never got here before eight – or even later if he'd been hitting the beer the previous night.
Shane wheeled his bike into the large yard, the ground sticky with yesterday's rain mixed with years of old oil from the vehicles scattered around like an elephant's graveyard. Land Rovers, tractors, a couple of small trucks, muck spreaders, reapers and even an ancient threshing machine littered the area, laced with old tyres and unidentifiable pieces of rusty metal. Some of the debris had been there so long that grass, nettles and even briars were growing through it.
BOOK: According to the Evidence
4.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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