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Authors: Jill McGown

Scene of Crime

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Praise for Jill McGown’s Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd and Judy Hill mysteries

SCENE OF CRIME
“As sound an example of pure classical detection, including Agatha Christie-style whodunit misdirection, as you’ll find in the current market.”
—Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

PLOTS AND ERRORS
“A dazzlingly devious tangle of clues and coincidences … Rich flavor.”
—Chicago Tribune

PICTURE OF INNOCENCE
“[A] fantastically intricate murder plot … It’s a pleasure watching McGown’s wheels of justice grind.”
—Kirkus Reviews

VERDICT UNSAFE
“A cleverly constructed, realistic courtroom drama that keeps you totally involved.”
—A
NNE
P
ERRY

A SHRED OF EVIDENCE
“Compelling … The characters are devious, cunning, charming—and truly, truly wicked.… Lloyd and Hill at the top of their form.”
—Publishers Weekly

THE MURDERS OF MRS. AUSTIN AND MRS. BEALE
“Sophisticated and satisfying.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

MURDER AT THE OLD VICARAGE
“A first-rate mystery … A spider’s-web of a tale … Fiendishly clever.”
—The Washington Post

A Fawcett Crest Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 2001 by Jill McGown

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

First published in Great Britain by Macmillan Publishers Ltd. in 2001

Fawcett is a registered trademark and Fawcett Crest and the Fawcett colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.ballantinebooks.com

eISBN: 978-0-307-55953-1

v3.1

Contents
C
HAPTER
O
NE

“I felt like a prat,” said Lloyd as he and Judy made their way downstairs from the room in the Christmas-decorated Riverside Family Center in which the so-called relaxation classes were held. It had been his first visit to such a thing. And, if he could possibly work out how to get out of it, his last, because the one thing it had not been was relaxing.

Judy snorted. “And I didn’t?”

“Well, at least you’re pregnant. Why do I have to do the breathing?”

“They explained why. Anyway, you’re supposed to be relaxing, too.”

“As far as I’m concerned, relaxing is a malt whiskey and a crossword. Or maybe a video. Or both. Not squatting on the floor making stupid noises.”

“I don’t think the malt whiskey and crossword method of childbirth has proved all that successful,” said Judy.

“I’ll bet no one’s tried it.” Lloyd looked at the people going down ahead of them and lowered his voice. “Apart from anything else, all the others look about sixteen,” he said. “And there am I, fifty and bald.”

Judy arrived on a landing and turned to face him. “I’m forty-one,” she said. “How do you suppose that makes me feel?”

He smiled and took her hands in his, looking at her dark, shining hair, and today’s choice of color coordinated pregnancy outfit. She had scoured the county to find clothes she regarded as fit to be seen in when you felt like a whale. Even in her eighth month, she didn’t
look
like a whale, pleasant though these creatures were, in Lloyd’s opinion. She looked wonderful. There really was a glow. He’d told her that once, and she thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.

“I don’t know how you feel,” he said. “But you look great.”

“Rubbish.”

“It
isn’t
rubbish,” he protested. “You do look great. I think I’ll be a little sorry when you’re not pregnant anymore.”

“Well, I won’t.” She frowned. “Didn’t you go to classes when Barbara was pregnant?”

Lloyd shrugged. “I don’t think they’d invented them in those days,” he said. He didn’t have the faintest idea whether they were fashionable then, but he was fairly safe in assuming that neither did Judy.

Life had been easier back then, he reflected. His marriage had been uncomplicated, basically, until Judy’s arrival in his life made it complicated. By and large, Barbara had done the female stuff and he’d done the male stuff. He wasn’t the archetypal Welshman; he enjoyed cooking, and he didn’t mind housework. He had never expected women to be at his beck and call. But having babies had always seemed to him to be beyond his remit, as the Assistant Chief Constable would say, and he really didn’t know if Barbara had done all this relaxation business. He became aware that he was being subjected to dark brown
scrutiny, and felt uncomfortable. “It was different then!” he said.

“Different how?”

“I was in uniform. I worked shifts.”

It was different because Barbara hadn’t been a police officer. Judy was, and she knew what was what; he couldn’t plead a heavy caseload or the sudden necessity to work overtime; she would want chapter and verse. And it had been almost twenty years since he’d had anything to do with a pregnant woman; times had changed. Men weren’t just encouraged to be involved, they were expected to be.

“Were you present when the children were born?” she demanded.

“Well …”

“Lloyd!”

“It wasn’t—”

“Don’t try telling me they didn’t do that in those days, because they most certainly did. Where were you? Pacing up and down outside? Waiting to hand out cigars?”

“No.”

“You mean you weren’t there at all?”

“I meant to be there, but it wasn’t possible. Things came up at work.…”

“Both times? Oh, sure they did.”

“Look, if Barbara didn’t give me a hard time about it, why are you?”

She didn’t answer.

“Good evening, Chief Inspector Lloyd,” said a voice. “What are you doing here?”

Lloyd turned to see the long, thin frame of Freddie, their friendly neighborhood pathologist, loping down the steps from the rooftop car park. Lloyd had parked in
the street—he wasn’t a fan of rooftop lots, or rooftop anything elses, come to that.

“I’m here because I’m going to be a father,” he replied. “Apparently I have to learn how to bear down. What’s your excuse?”

“When it comes to being a father, I think you’d be better off learning how to bear up, but I expect you know that better than I do. I’m here to play squash.” Freddie beamed at Judy. “Hello, Judy—positively blooming, I see. And I believe it’s Detective
Chief
Inspector Hill now, isn’t it? You’ve caught up to this one.” He jerked his head in Lloyd’s direction. “And not before time. How’s the new job?”

“It’s fine, I suppose. I can’t honestly say I know what I’m doing yet, but Joe Miller does.”

“Ah, yes. He’s the computer buff, isn’t he? My only regret about your promotion is that I won’t see you anymore.”

Judy smiled. “Don’t take this personally, Freddie, but as far as I’m concerned, the absence of mortuary visits is a major plus about this job.”

“Dead bodies are more interesting than most live ones—present company excepted. Besides, you should be used to them by now.”

“I’ll never get used to them.”

“Still—there’s always the housewarming. I presume you’ll invite me, if I promise not to bring any dead bodies. Have you found somewhere to live yet?”

“No,” said Lloyd.

“You mean you’re
still
living in separate flats?”

Not exactly, Lloyd thought. He wasn’t sure if Judy had noticed yet, but he’d more or less moved in with her.

“We keep looking at houses, but we can’t agree on
what we want,” said Judy. “It’s all going to have to wait until after Christmas now.”

“Well, there’s one for the books,” said Freddie, glancing at his watch. “You two failing to agree. Sorry—must dash. I’m on court at quarter past. If I don’t see you before, have a happy Christmas.”

“Same to you,” said Judy. She caught Lloyd’s wrist and looked at his watch as Freddie disappeared down the next flight of steps two at a time. “Is that the time? I’m ten minutes late for the rehearsal. She wanted us all there at eight prompt.”

Lloyd followed as she made her way down. “I thought you just did their books for them,” he said. “How does that involve rehearsals?”

“I’m doing the sound effects tonight because someone’s away sick.”

Lloyd grinned. “Do you have to moo and things like that?”

“There isn’t any mooing in
Cinderella
.”

It had been the mildest of jokes. When she was in this sort of mood, he thought, she was hard work. “Can I come?” he asked. “Or would you rather I went home and came back for you?”

“Suit yourself. But if you come, make yourself useful.”

Lloyd walked with her through a maze of corridors that would apparently take them under cover to the Riverside Theatre, rather than having to go back out into the rain. The complex had been built with help from the lottery, and as far as he could see, it was still being built. “Watch your step,” he said as Judy briskly walked past wooden panels and pots of mysterious smelly stuff.

She didn’t slow down.

“What should I do to make myself useful?”

She didn’t answer.

Lloyd sighed. “I can make tea,” he said. “And you said you would need to eat—I can nip down to the snack bar for sandwiches or something. Will that be useful?”

“Fine. Just don’t get in the way.”

The theater, which they entered by a rear door that took them along another corridor into the wings, was just about finished. Not too much builders’ debris to catch the unwary mother-to-be. They walked out onto the stage, where a spare, tall woman of uncertain years and flaming hair, dressed in what seemed to Lloyd to be a remarkable number of scarves and very little else, was dramatically glad to see Judy.

“Thank
God
you’re here, darling!” she said. “I was beginning to think no one was going to turn up.”

“Sorry, Marianne, we got held up. This is Lloyd, my partner. Lloyd—Marianne.”

“How lovely to see you here, Lloyd.” She extended her hand, palm down, and Lloyd felt certain he was supposed to bow and kiss it, but he settled for giving it a necessarily ineffectual shake. “It was my fault that we were late,” he said. “I ran into an old friend.”

Marianne tilted her head to one side and regarded Lloyd. “I don’t suppose you could possibly read Buttons for us, could you, darling?”

Lloyd blinked. “Yes,” he said. “If you’re serious.”

“Oh, I’m
desperately
serious.” She turned to Judy. “Dexter rang and said he’s come down with something. So I haven’t got Buttons
or
Cinderella now. And I don’t know
where
Carl Bignall is. He’s supposed to be bringing the chimes, apart from anything else.”

“Chimes?” said Lloyd.

“Midnight,” said Judy. “The clock has to strike midnight.
Carl does the sound effects, and understudies Buttons, amongst other things.”

Lloyd frowned. “I thought you said you did the sound effects.”

Judy didn’t see fit to explain; instead she very obviously ignored his puzzlement. Lloyd blew out his cheeks, shrugged, and threw an it’s-her-hormones look at Marianne, which Judy fortunately didn’t notice.

“I specifically said I needed everyone here tonight on time, and what happens? Half of them come down with the flu and the other half are late—well, if no one knows where they’re supposed to be on the stage, it won’t be my fault.” Marianne turned to Lloyd. “You might have to double up if Carl’s got the flu as well, darling. And if the principals and the understudies all get it, we’ll just have to cancel.”

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