Lock, Stock and Peril (Lindenshaw Mysteries, #6)
They may be locked down but this case isn’t.
Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.
Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.
Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Themes: angst, bullying, Covid, duty, family, geeks / nerds, grief, hurt / comfort, illness / injury, internet culture, isolation, marriage of convenience / fake relationship, protection, reunion, self-confidence, Shingles, stalking / harassment, trust issues, workplace romance
“No murders allowed, right?”
Robin Bright glanced up from doom-scrolling the news to view the pleasing sight of his husband, Adam Matthews, who’d broken the silence. Hair tousled from where he’d been snuggled up on the sofa having forty winks—with Campbell their Newfoundland providing a useful blanket for his feet—Adam gave the impression of only being half-awake. Perhaps he’d not known what he was saying, still partly in a dream world.
“Eh? No murders allowed when?” Robin asked.
“Now. Anytime, really. I was saying that if we do get away for a holiday this summer, we don’t want it being spoiled by you getting called in to a murder case three days before we go.” Adam grinned, in a way that could still turn Robin’s knees to water. “You weren’t listening, were you?”
Robin held up his phone. “Exhibit A. I was trying to keep abreast of the news. If it’s possible to keep abreast of it.”
What a year 2020 had been, and the start of 2021 wasn’t shaping up that great, either. Some activities that had been allowable the previous January were now—in his opinion quite rightly—an offence, and the patterns of crimes had changed. One thing hadn’t altered, although it had been emphasized: you were most at risk from those people you knew, friends and family, rather than a homicidal stranger.
“Keeping abreast? We believe him, don’t we, boy?” Adam patted the dog’s head, getting a yawn in response.
“Pfft. Tell you what, I’ll get in contact with all the villains on the patch to ask them to keep their hands to themselves when it’s coming up to the school holidays. Maybe a leaflet drop round all the houses would work for the ones who aren’t on the radar yet.” If only such a thing were possible and, if possible, effective. During every run up to an important family event, like a holiday or their wedding, Robin found himself worrying whether mayhem would break out in Abbotston or any of the local towns. As a result of which, all leave would get cancelled until the culprits were safely locked up.
“We’ll help you distribute them.” Adam patted the dog again. “I keep thinking that it’s been a while since you’ve had a complicated murder case to deal with and that our luck can’t keep going forever.”
“You’re tempting fate.” The last such occasion Robin had dealt with had been off their patch, when he’d been called in by his old boss to cover a team that was short-handed. This part of the world rarely saw killings that weren’t easily solved. All in line with his proven belief that you were most likely to be hurt by your nearest and dearest. “May I remind you what has a habit of happening when one of us says something like that?”
“Don’t remind me. You’re too good an officer, so I keep worrying that you’ll get whisked away to the other end of the country because the local police can’t cope or have all come down with it. Maybe when you’re handing out these flyers, can you print on them that any crimes that happen have to be within a thirty-mile radius?”
“Shall I start a blog and put my diary on it so the crooks know when they have to behave themselves? Maybe you want to put in a time frame where it would be acceptable for them to commit crimes?” Did other coppers have this kind of conversation with their partners or did his and Adam’s quirky sense of humour mean they were unique?
“That’s a great idea. Not sure your chief constable would approve, though. Campbell’s giving me a look of disapproval. Very law-abiding, this dog.” Adam tickled the Newfoundland behind his ear. “Is it wicked to hope that if you do have a major case to deal with soon, then it happens during this lockdown period, where it can’t get in the way of anything else?”
Not wicked so much as pragmatic. However . . . Robin addressed the dog. “Campbell, is your other dad hinting that he’s likely to get fed up of having me under his feet again?”
The question didn’t need a reply: banter like that had eased them through the previous lockdowns and any other occasions where they’d had no other company but their own. Being lovey-dovey all the time, with no jibes or jokes at your partner’s expense wasn’t in their repertoire.
The Newfoundland slipped away from his comfy perch on Adam’s legs, crossed the room, and rubbed his head against Robin’s hand, wagging his tail contentedly.
“He must have heard the magic word lockdown.” Adam shook his head. “Clearly looking forward to weeks of people being confined to barracks again. He loves it.”
Campbell had never been so fit and healthy as over the past year. They’d walked miles with him, singly or together, and when they’d been able to form a bubble with Adam’s mum, she’d volunteered to take him out. Ostensibly, this was so the lads could have a break from doggy parental duties and get on with the odds and ends they needed to do on their new home in Cranshaw, but Adam was in little doubt that it was really about being able to spoil the dog rotten. He also suspected the dog formed a useful excuse for her to stop and chat to people, getting the sort of contact that was proving difficult otherwise. Everybody wanted to ask about such a handsome hound, despite the fact they couldn’t get close enough to be favoured with his slobbery chops in their hands.
To bubble or not had caused some of their colleagues a lot of angst, but Adam and Robin had escaped lightly on that front. Despite Robin’s mum being widowed, they hadn’t needed to feel guilty about not choosing her, given that she’d already formed a bubble of her own with his aunt Clare. A more formidable duo than those two women was unimaginable; woe betide anyone who didn’t wear a mask or keep their distance when they got on the case. The government had no doubt missed a trick by not employing an army of retired women to make sure that everyone was obeying the rules.
Aunt Clare had a flat over at King’s Ashley, which reminded Robin . . . “Have you had any further thoughts about that headship at King’s Ashley Primary?”
“Yes. And no, I don’t think I’ll go for it.” Adam was still on the young side for taking over a school, and he reckoned the one he’d seen advertised there was going to be a poisoned chalice. It had gone through four headteachers in ten years, a stuck school that needed a big kick up the backside: anybody taking that over would either make their name as the genius who turned it round or be listed as yet another failure.
“I think that’s the right answer.” Robin hadn’t wanted to force the issue, given that he believed Adam would make a bloody great headteacher, even in such a challenging situation, and the school concerned was within easy travelling distance of their new home. But it hadn’t felt right, for whatever reason. Maybe his copper’s brain had filed away something he’d heard or read about the place, perhaps from Aunt Clare herself, which had left a definite don’t touch this with a bargepole impression.
“Oh, really? Is that why you’ve been so noticeably neutral about it?” Adam knew him too well. “Anything you want to share? A murderer on the board?”
“Nothing so concrete. If there had been, I’d have told you. Just a feeling that I’ve come across the place in the past, like the feeling I had about Aunt Clare’s Jeff.”
“That sounds ominous, given what your rozzer’s nose turned up then.”
Jeff had come on the scene the previous summer, his name ringing a worrying bell. It turned out he’d been a suspect in a peculiar burglary case back when Robin was a constable, and the months before Christmas had seen Abbotston’s finest—both Robin and his exceptionally efficient sergeant, Pru Davis—solving the cold case and clearing Jeff of suspicion in the process. Satisfying all round and further evidence that if Robin’s instinct was that something was worth investigating, it should be done.
“You know what’ll happen now, don’t you?” Adam continued. “You’ll get a case come up at King’s Ashley, and it’ll turn out to be centred on the school. Some ex-colleague of mine who’s the prime suspect, and I’ll have to sweet-talk him into giving me the golden nugget of a clue.”
Robin rubbed Campbell’s ears. “Tell your other dad that I don’t deliberately set it up for him to be involved in my cases. They seem to want to draw him in.” Too often to be healthy. “He shouldn’t have so many useful connections.”
“All my useful connections have dwindled to a handful of people with whom I have the occasional Zoom chat. Most of which end up being extremely awkward.” Adam stretched out his arms, yawned, then snuggled down.
“Are you having another nap?”
“No. I’m assuming my thinking position. Those Zoom chats had me wondering whether you can murder somebody over the internet. It’s been tempting at times.”
“Sounds like perfect fodder for one of these noir television series. From Norway or somewhere else on the Baltic.” Interesting concept, though. The internet had proved a breeding ground for old crimes in new variants—a con artist’s paradise—but Robin had yet to see that taken to its ultimate variation. Except in the hideous case of people being egged into taking their own lives. “Perhaps you should use the new lockdown to start writing a murder mystery. You have plenty of ideas.”
“I have my own tame technical advisor too.” Adam shook his head. “Nah. I know too much about what cases are really like to put down a made-up version. Too mundane, no good cop, bad cop anymore, not as much reliance on forensics as the fictional varieties portray. I could write a light-hearted version, though. A super-intelligent Newfoundland who solves mysteries that leave his owners—a sassy detective and a super-sexy teacher—totally baffled. Campbell the Clever Canine. Dougal the Dog Detective.”
“Hamilton the Holmesian Hound. Write it. You’ll make a fortune.”
Adam gave a contemptuous snort. “Oh yes? In what world do the majority of writers make a fortune? I used to know one through Lindenshaw church, and he always told people who wanted to write a book not to plan on giving up the day job.”
“See, you have all the connections. If I end up with a murder case that needs specialist publishing input, I know who to come to.”
Adam had provided specialist educational input in the past, along with tales of what it was like serving on a jury. Linking up with old pals, snitching on choir colleagues—Adam’s input to solving cases had gone above and beyond on occasions, including the time he’d joined an archaeology club simply to get Robin the information he needed. The bloke was a diamond.
Robin’s mobile rang, jolting him out his thoughts, bringing the unpleasant suspicion that they’d tempted fate again and this was indeed the station calling him in for a case that would interrupt the normal running of the Matthews-Bright household.
He suspected wrongly. It was work related but nothing worse than his ex-sergeant, Stuart Anderson, picking his brains about a series of armed robberies he was investigating. Now based at Hartwood, some two hours’ drive north, he still sought help from his old and—he professed—favourite boss.
“How’s he doing on his new patch?” Adam asked, when the call ended.
“He sounds happier than ever. Taken to Hartwood and environs like a duck to water, loving fatherhood, and full of praise for Rukshana Betteridge.” If Anderson had a soft spot for Robin, the man himself had a softer one for his former superior officer, the woman who had helped form the policeman he’d become.
“She’d have been happier if you’d relocated up there, but I guess she’ll find him a chip off the old block. As long as she doesn’t have to live with him—I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.” They’d accommodated Anderson temporarily when he’d had a domestic falling out, and it wasn’t an experience they’d hurry to repeat. “I was sure that phone call was the duty officer wanting you to come in and deal with some incident or other. It usually happens when we’ve been talking about it. Perhaps we should ban the subject.”
“Like we’ve banned Covid clichés? What would there be left to talk about?” A cushion striking Robin’s head showed what Adam thought of that.
By the time January was nearing its end, the dreaded major case still hadn’t reared its ugly head. Irrespective of them tempting fate. Adam had settled into his new work routine and had started to keep an eye on the primary headships that were being advertised. There were still vacancies around, in this county and over the border into Hampshire, so all he’d need was one within a reasonable travelling distance of their home. If the right one came up, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a whirl, despite his not having many years as a deputy under his belt. Good interview practice if he got short-listed, if nothing else, and his experiences when they’d recruited a new headteacher at Lindenshaw would help. Poacher turned gamekeeper and all that. His existing boss, Jim Rashford, would give him a glowing reference, despite the fact he’d told Adam he didn’t want to lose him and would do everything he could to give him further responsibility and wider experience while still retaining his services.
They’d had a conversation that very Thursday morning about whether an acting headship for a term might be a good way to tick all the boxes. And if it was within the Culdover cluster of schools, Rashford would still have Adam’s brains available to pick. The headteacher had promised he’d get on to the county education department to register Adam’s interest, as they were always desperate for good people they could parachute into empty seats. Quite a pleasant prospect to consider as Adam drove home, ready for an evening of cottage pie and football on the telly with the two people he loved most in the world.
Robin’s car wasn’t there when Adam got home, which wasn’t unusual, given that the bloke didn’t necessarily keep regular hours, but seeing his usual parking space empty produced a hollow feeling in Adam’s stomach. Maybe Robin’s copper’s nose had rubbed off on him, and now he was sniffing something wrong. He pulled out his phone, saw that he’d forgotten to put the sound back on, so had missed Robin messaging him half an hour earlier. Adam decided to go into the house before he read the message. He could pretend it was because Campbell would have heard the car and would be straining to make a fuss over him or be made a fuss of; however, the truth was that he was a touch scared that this would be notification of another case. Worse still, a case that would take Robin halfway across the country again.
Adam got out of his coat, put down the stuff he’d brought home, fussed over the dog, and then gave himself a talking to. Fine bloody headteacher he’d make, not being able to read a text in case it carried bad news. He swallowed hard.
I’ll be late home. Have tea without me. We’ve got word of a murder in Kinechester. Not really our patch but guess what—bloody Covid has hit the team there so we’re taking over the case. I’ll tell you about it when I do get home.
Kinechester? That was a relief. The main county town—technically a city because of the cathedral, though neither of them were that large—was within easy travelling distance of their house, so Robin wouldn’t need to stay away. There’d been nothing about the murder on the local radio news, however, and when Adam checked the BBC site on his phone, the story only appeared as a report of a police incident in the Ramparts ward of the city.
Kinechester was an odd place. As the name suggested, it had been founded by the Romans, although the large Iron Age hill fort a couple of miles south of the city indicated the area had been occupied long before the legions came stomping in. The city centre still based itself on the great east-west and north-south roads, although very little of the original walls and gates now remained.
“Your average Roman would have recognised what’s for sale in the local shops,” Adam told Campbell, who seemed incredibly interested in his history lesson. Perhaps he was thinking of food, although olive oil, spelt flour, fish sauce and Italian wine were hardly his cup of tea. “A deli-worshipper’s paradise. You’d have had to develop a taste for falafels if we’d moved there.” The phone ringing interrupted their mutual love fest. “Hi, Mum. How’s life?”
“Busy busy. You wait until you’re retired. Never a moment to call my own, lockdown or not. What’s this I heard on the traffic news about avoiding the Ramparts because of a police incident? Houses prices there are so astronomical you wouldn’t have thought they’d have such things.”
“Now, why do you think I’d know what this is about?” Adam chuckled. “Or that I’d tell you if I did. Anyway, Kinechester has its rough areas. One of my pupils used to live on the council estate there, although his parents had plenty to say about the prices in the cafés. Arm and a leg for a coffee near the Ramparts. Poshest of the postcodes.”
It was an area of Victorian and Edwardian housing taking its name from a much-used, much-loved and much-envied open space that was riddled with humps and bumps. At some point in the past—allegedly during the civil war although nobody was quite sure—earthworks had been set up there and cannon stationed behind them to protect the city.
“It’s as well you didn’t move there, then.”
“Exactly.” Adam and Robin had strolled around the area in the run-up to the Christmas before last, when Robin had recently completed investigating a gruelling assault case and needed some fresh air. Somewhere far away from anywhere he’d visited for work. “Nice place to visit, especially the Christmas market and the restaurants, but beyond our means.” That had put paid to any idea they’d entertained of moving to the area. “Anyway, your maternal telepathy is spot on. Robin’s got the investigation, and that’s all I’m saying.”
“Isn’t that off his patch?”
Adam snorted, always amused when his mum broke into police slang. “It’s the bloody ‘rona.’ Hit the local team so he’s got to cover for them.” A sudden silence down the line. “Hello? Are you still there?”
“Sorry, dear. I was thinking about Robin. Kinechester’s a Covid hotspot, you know. Numbers off the scale. I . . . I hope he takes care of himself.”
Ah, so that was what the call was really about. his mum was obsessed with the latest data, able to tell you exactly which local areas had the highest infection rates. Less worried for herself or Aunt Clare than for her son and son-in-law, she said, especially with Culdover usually being another hotspot.
“He’ll be fine. The king of hands, face, and space.”
After the normal goodbyes, Adam ended the call to find Campbell staring up at him. He rubbed the dog’s ear. “Don’t you go worrying yourself, as well. Anyway, your other dad’s going to be late in, mate. Maybe past your bedtime. Maybe past mine.”
However, his partner would be snug at his side in bed in the wee small hours of the morning, alive and well. Which was more than could be said for the poor victim, whoever they were. Naturally, Adam could never help worrying whether Robin would make it through a case intact—hell, the man had been threatened at gunpoint in their old kitchen. But, despite that and other incidents, they’d all three managed to get through unharmed. So far.
His mum’s phone call had left Adam feeling strangely uneasy, though. A gun or a knife were visible dangers; you couldn’t see this bloody bug. We’ll have to dodge that viral bullet too.
Robin, Pru and Ben—their favourite and most reliable constable from the Abbotston team—had headed out to Kinechester as soon as needed. They’d been on standby all day, having heard first thing that the detective inspector at the city station had tested positive and the team members he’d been in close contact with were self-isolating, with at least two of them showing symptoms. Please God they didn’t end up with anything serious kicking off on both patches.
Various machinations were going on in the background about ensuring the incoming officers had a safe workspace to operate from in Kinechester, given that Abbotston, at twenty miles away, wouldn’t be a practicable base.
“Not as bad as going two hours up the motorway to Hartwood,” Pru had said, when they’d been summoned.
Robin couldn’t help but agree. “Thank God for that.”
Ben hadn’t said much at all, although the grin he’d been clearly striving to hide showed how delighted he was to have been chosen for the task over his fellow constables. Robin had been passing word up the chain of command that the lad was ready for promotion and the experience would do him the world of good.
They’d had a briefing over the telephone from the senior officer at Kinechester that dispensed the basic information. A woman’s body had been found in a house in Cromwell Road, the street that adjoined the Ramparts green space. She’d been found by a delivery driver, Sam Hoskins, who’d come to drop off a mirror that the deceased had ordered and paid extra to have brought on that particular afternoon. He’d arrived about half past four, got no reply to his ringing the bell, so having a note of a safe space to leave the package in and—perhaps more importantly—not wanting to have to come back another day to somewhere right on the edge of his area, he’d nipped round the back.
The terraced Victorian properties in Cromwell Road were tall, with basements in the bottom where the servants would have worked and attics at the top where they’d have slept. Because there was no side access, a service path ran along the back of all the gardens, separating them from the gardens of the houses in Ireton Avenue.
Hoskins’s paperwork said to leave the package in the back garden by the French windows. He’d found the garden gate wouldn’t open, but it wasn’t that high and he was a tall bloke, so he’d easily climbed up to peer over. He’d been about to shoot the bolt when he’d glanced across at the house and spotted that something was wrong. When he’d found out just how wrong things were he’d had a hell of a shock. Well, Robin reflected, he’d had the decency to do his duty and ring 999, despite knowing the inconvenience he’d cause himself. Other folk might have simply walked away and left it for someone else to report.
They found the driver still at the scene, being cared for in the back of an ambulance, where he was clearly in a state of shock. After a brief look inside the house, so that they could get a mental image of the scene—and a horrible one it proved—Robin and Ben took a few moments to compose themselves. Such a sight was bad enough for a case-hardened officer like Robin but, in fact, Ben coped remarkably well, turning green about the gills yet keeping the contents of his stomach intact.
Once the fresh air had worked its magic, they went to interview Hoskins while Pru liaised with the various people already at the crime scene. The local constable who’d been keeping the place secure could then fulfil the important task of seeing off some of the gawpers.
The first thing Hoskins said after Robin had introduced himself was, “You wouldn’t pay a delivery premium and then not be there to receive the package, would you?”
It seemed an odd thing to come out with, until Robin reflected that the driver must have been mulling everything over in his van as he waited for them to arrive. “No, I suppose not.”
“That’s why I wondered if she was out in the garden, so I went round to see. I’ve delivered here before and knew about the back path.” He clasped his hands as they began to shake. “I didn’t expect to see her like that.”
Robin’s team would all sympathise with the man. A body that had apparently been dead for a fair amount of time—in a house where the heating had been on, albeit turned down, according to the first officer on the scene—was a sight to turn the strongest of stomachs. He’d seen plenty of corpses by now, attended autopsies, the whole works, but this instance had made him queasy, not least because of the unique smell of decay.
“I know it’s hard, but can you describe what you saw while it’s fresh in your mind?” Robin asked, in his most soothing tones.
“I . . . I spotted something on the floor of the lounge, through the French windows. It’s not that big a garden, so you get a good view. Too good a view. I saw the shoes, so wondered if the customer had suffered a fall, which could be why she hadn’t answered the door. I opened the gate, went up the path and . . .” Hoskins turned green, grabbed a bowl, and vomited into it. After wiping his mouth with a towel the paramedics must have given him, he apologised and continued. “I’ve never seen a dead body, not in real life. I’ll be having nightmares about it. Those flies and things.”
“You’ll feel better eventually, I promise. If you can tell us everything now, it might help.” Hoskins would likely be needed as a witness if the case came to court and have to relive the experience as a result, but Robin wasn’t going to mention the fact. “The lounge curtains were open?”
“Yes. Or else I don’t suppose I could have seen in. She had nets at the front. I tried to look in there earlier but couldn’t.”
Many people along Cromwell Road had net curtains or had grown a front hedge tall enough to maintain their privacy. If the curtains were open, why hadn’t she been spotted before, though? They’d have to return tomorrow in the daylight to do a proper reconnoitre, but it seemed likely the back of the house would be visible from the windows of those properties that were on the other side of the alley, if not from the neighbouring gardens.
“So, you saw the body and then what did you do?” Ben smiled encouragingly.
“Heaved my stomach contents into her flowerbed. If your CSIs find vomit, it’s mine. Then I got my phone and dialled 999 while I legged it back to my van. My mind was going round like a roller coaster and some of it’s almost funny. I kept thinking I didn’t want to get a parking ticket and would a warden believe me if I said I’d found a dead person and was waiting for the police to come? Would you lot suspect me of having killed her? What was I supposed to do with the mirror? It took me ages to realise I should ring head office and tell them what had happened too. I was doing it when the police car arrived.”
“Why did you think she’d been killed?” Robin asked. “She might have died of natural causes and then not been found. It happens with older people.”
“Have you seen the state of her?” Hoskins grabbed the bowl again, although he didn’t use it. “I may not have seen a body before, but I’ve watched plenty of stuff on the telly. It seemed like the carpet was stained with blood and—”
Robin and Ben waited while he dry retched, but before they could ask any further questions, the paramedics appeared again and insisted they get some fluids into the bloke as he’d puked so much he was at risk of dehydration. They’d take him to the local hospital where he could be properly cared for—with the unspoken implication that getting him away from prying policemen would be part of the treatment. Robin thanked them for being so conscientious and then thanked Hoskins, saying they’d be taking a proper statement when he felt up to it.
Pru was waiting for them as they emerged from the ambulance. “Victim’s name appears to be Ellen Wilkins, sir, according to what’s been found in her handbag, although the Photo ID isn’t all that useful under the circumstances. She was stabbed, several times, with a weapon that might have been anything from an illegal blade to a large kitchen knife, although there may have been several weapons. At least one of the wounds was either expertly placed or a lucky strike, straight into the heart. The doctor thinks death may have been pretty well instantaneous, given the blood loss. Likely to have splashed onto her attacker, unless he—or she—was very fortunate with that as well. The lounge carpet’s probably been cleaned, although the crime-scene lot should be able to find residual evidence. No incriminating bloody footprint on the carpet or even mud in the hallway, like you might expect in the winter. I’d say there’s a possibility that the killer had taken off their shoes, so were in their stockinged feet and slipped back into them before leaving.”
“Wouldn’t that make the victim suspicious, if the visitor took off their shoes?” Ben asked.
“You’ve clearly not been a guest at a house where they insist on it.” Pru shook her head. “I hate it when protecting your carpets takes precedence over making your guests welcome.”
“Do you get the impression she was that house proud? She was wearing shoes, herself.” Robin wrinkled his nose. Now they were into gathering all the bits of the jigsaw, building up a picture of the victim and what was unique to her.
“Not particularly, but first impressions can be deceiving. Got a puzzle, though. The doctor thinks the victim has been dead for weeks rather than a few days. Initial guess is at least a fortnight and possibly over a month, although they may be able to narrow that down. Which begs the question of how she’d arranged for a delivery this afternoon, unless she did it ages ago.”
Odd to pay a premium to fix a particular date so far in advance, though. Braving the wrath of the paramedics, Robin got back into the ambulance. “Sorry about this, Mr. Hoskins. One thing we need to check now. We’d like to know when the order was placed, so have you got any of the delivery paperwork we could see?”
“Placed last week, I think, but I wo