Authors: Sally Spencer
Table of Contents
THE BUTCHER BEYOND
THE DARK LADY
DEAD ON CUE
DEATH OF A CAVE DWELLER
DEATH OF AN INNOCENT
A DEATH LEFT HANGING
DYING IN THE DARK
A DYING FALL
THE ENEMY WITHIN
GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER
A LONG TIME DEAD
MURDER AT SWANN'S LAKE
THE PARADISE JOB
THE RED HERRING
THE SALTON KILLINGS
SINS OF THE FATHERS
THE WITCH MAKER
The Monika Paniatowski Mysteries
THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY
THE RING OF DEATH
ECHOES OF THE DEAD
LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER
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First world edition published 2012
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2012 by Alan Rustage.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Lambs to the slaughter.
1. Paniatowski, Monika (Fictitious character) â Fiction. 2. Police â England â Fiction. 3. Detective and mystery stories.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-300-6 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8192-2 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-442-4 (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.
he woman was in her middle-to-late twenties. She was wearing a bushy black wig, which was both beautifully constructed and very expensive, and she thought it was most unlikely that there was a single person in Bellingsworth Miners' Institute that night who would even question whether or not it was her real hair. She was heavily made-up, almost theatrically so, but the make-up had been applied with a great deal of skill, so that instead of looking like a slapper â as she so easily could have done â she appeared merely temptingly exotic. She had a slim figure â she had once heard someone call it âpixieish', and rather liked that â and carried herself like a model. She had never been to a miners' institute before, and as she glanced around it with undisguised curiosity, she decided that she very much liked what she saw.
It was its simplicity and lack of pretension that she appreciated most â its stark, stripped-down functionality. It was a place to drink and to play dominoes or snooker, and if you wanted anything else from your evening out, you'd be well advised to look elsewhere.
been wanting something else from her evening â and was still hoping to get it later â but Harry Price, the young miner sitting next to her, had been most insistent that before they got down to the only thing which would ever have drawn them together, they would at least have to show their faces at the Institute.
âWe won the cup today, you see,' he had explained to her.
âThe cup?' she'd repeated.
Price had looked at her as if she was from another planet, and â in so many ways â that was exactly what she was.
âThe Brough Cup!' the miner had explained.
âI still don't . . .'
âWe always knew we had the best brass band in the north-west, and now we've got the cup, it's official.'
Brough Cup!' she'd exclaimed. âWe'd better go celebrate the famous victory, then, hadn't we?'
And so they had.
They'd arrived at around half past seven, and it was a little after eight when the main door opened, an old miner walked in, and Harry Price said, âOh, I don't like that at all.'
âDon't like what?' she asked.
âThe feller who's just come in is called Len Hopkins, and there's nobody in the village who's more against calling a strike than he is.' Price paused. âYou know there's going to be a strike ballot, don't you . . . err . . . err . . .?'
As he turned red, the woman smiled.
âYou've forgotten my name, haven't you?' she asked.
âYes, well, I mean, it's not really a very common one, and . . .'
âBut that's not your real name, is it?'
âIt's real enough,' the woman said, enigmatically. âWhen we're doing what I came here to do, I will
Zelda â although tomorrow morning, of course, I might be someone else entirely.'
Harry Price still seemed uncomfortable.
âLook, even if it isn't your real name, that's still no excuse for me forgetting . . .'
She raised her index finger to his lips, to silence him. The fingernail was long, artificial and the colour of congealed blood.
âLet's not pretend this is a new experience for either of us, Harry,' she said softly. âI was with someone else last week, and I'll be with a different someone else next week, so it's not exactly going to break my heart if you forget my name, now is it?'
âYou . . . you have a different partner every single week?' Harry asked, amazed.
single week,' the woman admitted. âOccasionally, when things get a bit too rough, I need a little healing time between dates, but let's just say it's most weeks.' She smiled again. âNow what was it you were saying before you got all confused over forgetting who I was?'
âI was asking you if you'd heard about the strike ballot,' Harry said, glad to be back on more conventional ground. âHave you?'
Oh yes, she'd heard about it, she thought. Everybody in her line of work had heard about it â and a not insignificant number of them were shitting themselves at even the idea of it.
âI think somebody may have mentioned something about a strike to me in passing,' she said aloud.
âYou don't pay much attention to current affairs, do you, Zelda?' Price asked, using the name with both emphasis and confidence this time. âI bet you know as little about the strike as you do about brass band music.' Then he grinned and added, with a roughish tone to his voice, âStill, as long as we share one interest, that's all that matters, isn't it?'
He really was rather cute, she thought, and hoped that he wouldn't turn out to be
cute â that the hard muscle she'd noted when they first met, an hour earlier, would come into its own later.
âWhen Hopkins walked in, you said you didn't like it,' she reminded Price. âWhy was that?'
âDo you see that other old man, standing at the bar?' Price asked, by way of an answer.
âWell, that's Tommy Sanders, and he's as much
the strike as Len is
Len Hopkins wasn't looking for trouble, and when he saw Tommy Sanders leaning against the bar, he almost turned around and walked out again. Then he told himself that this was
institute as much as it was Tommy's, and that he had as much right to celebrate the victory of the Bellingsworth brass band as the other man did. Besides, as long as they kept out of each other's way, there was no real reason for unpleasantness, and Tommy, he was sure, was as eager not to do anything to spoil the night as he was himself.
He walked up to the long oak bar, carefully selecting a place at it two men down from where Sanders was standing. Then, once he had got his elbows firmly ensconced, he signalled to Ted, the bar steward, that he wanted a drink.
âYour usual?' Ted asked.
âThat's right,' Len agreed.
His âusual' was lemonade, because although record numbers of pints of bitter were being consumed all around him that night, the particular Christian God he subscribed to was known to be dead set against alcohol.
And wasn't it more than a little ironic, he thought whimsically, that of all the men in the bar that night, the two furthest apart in their views should be the only ones who were stone-cold sober â though in Tommy's case, it was doctor's orders, rather than a firmly held belief, which prevented him from getting hammered.
Behind him, he heard a voice call out, âPhil, Walter, you're on.'
The two men he had chosen as his shield between himself and Tommy turned around, and ambled over to the snooker table. Now, there was only a stretch of empty counter dividing him from Tommy Sanders, but that was more than enough, as long as they behaved themselves.
As it happened, it was Len's hand which misbehaved, knocking over the glass which the steward had placed on the bar. A stream of bubbly liquid cascaded through the air, and then descended again â with enviable accuracy â on to the left sleeve of Tommy Sanders' best sports jacket.
Tommy looked down at the stain, and then across at Len.
âWatch what you're doing, you clumsy old bugger,' he said, though using the kind of light-hearted tone he would have employed if they were still the friends they had once been.
âI'm sorry, lad,' Len replied. âCan I buy you another drink?'
âIt wasn't my drink you spilled,' Tommy pointed out.
âWell, then, let me pay for that nice jacket of yours to be dry-cleaned,' Len suggested.
âIt's only lemonade â it won't stain,' Tommy said.
He should have left it at that â a slight accident and an amiable resolution. But those who knew Tommy well â and most of the people in the Institute did â were not in the least surprised that he didn't.
âI'll let you buy me a drink â in fact, I'll buy you one â but only if you're willing to start being more sensible about this strike ballot,' he continued, in a much louder voice.
âDo you think you can buy my soul for the price of a glass of lemonade?' Len asked, and though there was an edge of anger to his tone, it wasn't yet an anger which could not be reined in should he choose to.
Around them, all talking had ceased, and the attention of everyone in the room was focussed on the two old men.