‘He certainly seemed very keen to get a look at it,’ said Emily. ‘I can’t believe I thought David might have bashed Dizzy.’
‘It’s not such an outrageous idea,’ said Dr. Muriel. ‘After all, David Devereux does sometimes seem to be too good to be true.’
‘Never mind him,’ said Morgana. ‘Wasn’t there also a dog that died? Killing a dog is unforgiveable.’
‘I think Seema was responsible for the death of both landlord and dog,’ said Dr. Muriel. ‘The police are interviewing her now, of course. But I think they’ll discover her motive was to drive Victoria to have a nervous breakdown and hand over the daily running of the school to Seema, while also removing any worries about Showstoppers having to move to new premises, of course. It wasn’t very far from the school to the landlord’s cottage. Seema could have nipped down there at any time and tampered with the wiring – she seemed to fancy herself as something of dab hand electrician, on top of everything else.’
Emily continued, ‘The “rictus smile” on Barrymore’s and Precious’s faces was caused by the electric shocks they received when Seema went to the cottage and tampered with the wiring earlier this morning. Seema would have seen Dizzy swipe the video from her desk and then seen Mr Barrymore sneaking off after him–’
Dr. Muriel interrupted excitedly, ‘And she’d have known she had just enough time to go to the cottage and wire up the taps in the kitchen. The current passing through him would have made the landlord’s body stiffen, his hands gripping the taps and keeping him standing upright. It would have contorted his face into something that David Devereux might have mistaken for a smile as he walked past the kitchen window.’
‘Mr. Barrymore didn’t die laughing,’ said Emily, ‘though when you asked James, the police constable, and he didn’t deny it, Victoria, it fitted with your “dying of laughter” theory about the video. Of course, Seema knew it would.’
Dr. Muriel said to Victoria, ‘But still you refused to give up on the show and stand down from the school. So next Seema tried tinkering with the wiring at the school so that when the metal of your tap shoe struck the live wires poking out from just under the stage, you’d get a shock. The faulty wiring would be blamed on Mr. Barrymore or Dizzy, or both.’
‘Poor Dizzy!’ said Morgana.
‘Poor old Barrymore!’ said Dr. Muriel.
‘Poor Precious,’ said Emily.
‘I feel very ashamed that I didn’t realise Dizzy had acting aspirations,’ said Victoria. ‘You know he’s the one who chased down Seema and held onto her until the police arrived? He’d do anything for this place – he doesn’t always do it very well, of course. But he does it with a true heart and a great deal of enthusiasm. I’ve put in a good word at our old drama school. He’s auditioning for a summer school for mature students. David Devereux is going to coach him for his audition speech before he gets on the plane to Hollywood.’
‘Why did David try to enrol his daughter at Showstoppers if he knew he might be going to LA?’ asked Emily.
Victoria laughed, slightly bitterly. ‘If every actor who had ever got the call from Hollywood – or been told they were down to the last two for a part in a movie or a starring role in the theatre – if every one of those actors just put their life on hold and waited to hear if it would happen, then they’d never get married; their children would never get an education; their bills would never get paid. You have to assume it will never happen and go about your business accordingly and get your car taxed and pay your TV licence and enrol your children for music lessons and stage school and state school. If it happens, as least you can cancel. If it doesn’t, well… at least you’re covered for the basics, and you can work towards the next audition and hope it will happen for you next time.’
‘Victoria’s still up for Desdemona in Branagh’s
,’ said Morgana.
‘Technically,’ said Victoria. ‘Though that was nearly twenty years ago, and the film has been made and shown in cinemas and is now available on DVD. I think if they cast me in that part now I’d be inclined to sit up in bed and punch his lights out if Othello tried to stifle me.’
‘Punch whose lights out?’ asked Emily, impressed. ‘Othello’s or Kenneth Branagh’s?’
‘Emily and I have tried to piece together Seema’s movements,’ said Dr. Muriel, making an effort to get the conversation back to the events of that afternoon. ‘The memory of a glimpse of her white trousers every now and then has worked like a very low-tech tracking device.’ She chortled at the idea of it. ‘She disappeared just before your
Wizard of Oz
number – we think she was under the stage with a screwdriver – and reappeared again to watch the results of her handiwork.’
‘I wonder if Seema thought it would kill me,’ said Victoria. ‘Or if she just wanted to give me a shock.’
They heard the sound of the key in the lock, then Piers’ voice calling out as he came through the door after a day at work. ‘Victoria?’
They heard Piers hang up his coat, find a place for his laptop computer, wash his hands in the sink in the downstairs bathroom.
Morgana said to Victoria, ‘With your last-minute change of plan, all those children in tap shoes with metal plates on the bottom for the finale, in a big snaky line, joined together with damp hands and sweaty feet…’ She shuddered. ‘What might have happened just doesn’t bear thinking about.’
Victoria called out to her husband, ‘In here, darling!’
‘Thank God you’re home,’ he said as he walked into the kitchen. ‘You won’t believe the day I’ve had.’
Thank you for reading Showstoppers. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked Showstoppers, you’re going to love the Emily Castles mysteries. The series can be read in any order, but most people go on to read
Invitation to Die
next. Emily investigates when an American blogger who writes under the name of Tallulah is lured to her death at a romance authors’ conference in London. Cerys Pugh is one of the authors who will be attending…
Cerys Pugh was getting her roots done at home in Cardiff, south Wales, in the United Kingdom. She was fortunate enough to know a hairdresser who would come to her house with all the equipment necessary, and charge a very reasonable price. Cerys was a writer and she worked hard at her job, and she liked to spend as little time as possible on distractions during the day. Even while Pam, the hairdresser, was attending to the dark pathways of Cerys’s elegant silver-blonde bob, Cerys had her fancy phone in her hand, checking her emails.
Cerys and her hairdresser Pam chatted for a while about technology, men, grandchildren and the like. And then Cerys said, ‘I picked up something nasty on the Google Alert last week.’
Pam was a creative individual who worked with her hands and rarely used a computer – though both her teenage sons had laptops at home – and at first she thought that Cerys was confessing to having a communicable disease. She couldn’t continue with the appointment, if so – the risk of passing something on to other clients was too great. Pam had disposable gloves on her hands to protect her from the hair dye, and the strength of peroxide she used in it was likely to kill most germs. But even so...
‘Goobie what?’ said Pam, nervously. She paused in her work with her hands held up, about half a foot from Cerys’s head, and slightly above it, as if preparing to contain invisible, toxic rays if they should leak out from Cerys’s brain.
Whether she guessed what was going through Pam’s mind, or she was just determined to get her point across about how nasty this thing was, Cerys held up her phone to show Pam that she was talking about an article she had found on the internet. Pam bent, squinting a bit to try to see what this was all about.
Cerys explained, ‘I set up an automated search on the internet, see, Pam. Every week I get an email with a round-up of any mentions of my name or the title of any of my books. That way I can keep in touch with my fans and thank anyone who’s left a review.’
Pam wondered if calling her readers ‘fans’ wasn’t a bit self-indulgent. Cerys, God love her, wasn’t Shirley Bassey. Still, we’re all allowed our foibles. ‘There’s nice,’ said Pam. Scare over, she continued with the application of the hair dye, wrapping the pre-cut silver foil squares around segments of her client’s hair, her fingers quick and sure, like an old-timer rolling cigarettes in front of a novice smoker.
‘It would be nice, except that people don’t have the manners they were born with, never mind what their mams taught them and what they learned in school.’ Cerys touched the screen a few times and then proffered the phone again. ‘Tell me what you think to this, Pam.’
Pam bent again to look. ‘Never mind, love,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry about it.’
Cerys took the phone back. ‘It’s my baby, that book. That’s how I feel. I’ve nurtured it into being and now I watch over it as lovingly as any child, Pam.’
Pam thought for a moment. She was used to playing the counsellor for her clients – what hairdresser isn’t? ‘Well,’ she said, ‘instead of a child, a living thing, why don’t you think of it something that your body’s expelled? Does that help? Think of it as waste matter, Cerys. See what I’m saying? You’ve done it, now leave it. Get on with producing the next one.’
Unfortunately this didn’t help. ‘You’re not suggesting that my book – which took me the best part of a year to write: a product of my imagination, the blossoming flower of my passion – you’re not suggesting, Pam, that I should look upon it as a great big poo?’
‘Well...’ Cerys was a regular client and she tipped well. Pam backpedalled cautiously. ‘Well, hopefully you’ll never meet this woman. Least said, soonest mended, I always say.’
‘You’re right,’ said Cerys. ‘Good job she lives in America. If I ever came face to face with her, I’d treat her to a few home truths.’
‘Does she now?’ said Pam, impressed. ‘All the way in America, and she’s read your book.’
‘Jealous – that’s what she is.’
‘Well, never mind,’ said Pam. ‘At least you’ll know not to send her the next one. What’s her name, love?’
‘Tallulah,’ said Cerys. ‘Ms. high-falutin’ Tallulah of Tallulah’s Treasures, if you please.’
Invitation to Die
“Helen Smith has created a great little cozy series with the charming Emily Castles.”
are offbeat comedies featuring the adventures of private detective Alison Temple, her best friend Taron, and Mrs Fitzgerald, Alison's boss at Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation, an all-female detective agency in Brixton, London.
“Smith is gin-and-tonic funny.”
A dystopian novel set in England in the near future, The Miracle Inspector follows the story of a young married couple, Lucas and Angela, and their disastrous attempt to escape from London.
“A beautifully written, and almost unbearably sad, depiction of a society's downfall.”
Helen Smith is a British novelist who lives in London. In addition to The Emily Castles Mysteries, she is the author of
Being Light, The Miracle Inspector
, and two children’s books. Her books have reached number one on Amazon's bestseller lists in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany, and her work has been optioned by the BBC.
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Copyright © Helen Smith 2011
This edition first published by Tyger Books in 2013
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