Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation - a poisoning, courtesy of a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty. Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the number of Rafferty and Kelly family attendees has grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim's fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.
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A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel by Geraldine Evans
EXCERPT from Chapter One
‘Poisoned? Are you sure? Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty regretted his rash query as soon as it left his mouth. For Dr Sam Dally let him have it with both barrels.
‘Of course I’m sure. Would I be telling you the man was poisoned if I wasn’t? I never question your professional judgement’ – which was an out and out lie – ‘so I’d thank you not to question mine. Conium Maculatum was what killed him. Or, to your uneducated ear, hemlock.’
‘That’s right. A very old-fashioned poison. Goes back to the classical Greeks, so I believe. Maybe even further back. Now, is there anything else you’d like to question while you’re at it?’
‘All right, Sam. Keep your hair on,’ said Rafferty. Which – given Sam’s rapidly balding pate, was another unfortunate slip of the tongue. But this time it brought nothing more than the testy,
‘Well? Is there anything else you’d like to question my judgement about?
Rafferty felt – given his mounting foot-in-mouth episode – that a simple ‘no’ would suffice.
‘Hmph.’ Dally sounded disappointed as if he was just in the right frame of mind to have another go. ‘Ainsley had been dead between fourteen and sixteen hours before he was discovered. The first symptoms would have started after around half an hour. He’d have experienced a gradual weakening of muscles, then extreme pain and paralysis from the coniine in hemlock, the effects of which are much like curare. It’s probable he went blind, but his mind would have remained clear till the end.’
‘Christ. What a horrible way to go.’
‘Yes. Death would be several hours later from paralysis of the heart.’
‘Is the poison likely to be self-inflicted?’
‘’Well, it wouldn’t be my choice.’
Nor mine, thought Rafferty. He couldn’t believe that a sportsman like Adam Ainsley would choose such a way to go.
‘But figuring that out’s your job, Rafferty. I suggest you get on with it.’
Bang went the phone. Or it would have done but for the frustrations caused by modern technology, which didn’t allow anything so satisfying.
‘Sam and Mary must have had a domestic this morning,’ Rafferty said to Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn as he leaned back in the now shabby executive chair that Superintendent Bradley had decreed was the appropriate seating for his detectives. ‘He just bawled me out something chronic.’
Llewellyn, who had never been known to make an ill-advised remark, gave a gentle sigh. ‘Dr Dally has never appreciated having his professional conclusions questioned.’ It was a gentle reproof, but a reproof nonetheless. ‘You were talking about the body found in the woods, I presume?’
Rafferty nodded. Adam Ainsley had been found in Elmhurst’s Dedman Wood around eight in the morning two days ago by a local woman walking her dog. There had been no visible signs of injury and it had been assumed the man had had a heart attack while out for a too energetic run; the track suit and trainers had suggested the possibility. Ainsworth had been attending a reunion at Griffin School, an exclusive, fee-paying establishment for eleven to eighteen year olds situated two miles outside the Essex market town of Elmhurst, where Rafferty’s station was located.
‘Did I hear you mention Hemlock?
Rafferty nodded. ‘I thought that would make you prick up your ears. That’s what Sam reckons killed him. Said it goes back to your pals, the ancient Greeks.’
‘Yes. According to Plato it’s what Socrates used to kill himself after he was sentenced to death. He drained the cup containing the poison and walked about until his legs felt heavy. Then he lay down and, after a while, the drug had numbed his whole body, creeping up until it had reached his heart.’
‘Yeah, Sam said it was paralysis of the heart muscle that would have killed him. Sounds like hanging would have been quicker, even without an Albert Pierrepoint to work out the drop required. Anyway, enough of this classical Greek morbidity. We’d better get over to the school,’ said Rafferty. ‘Can you get some uniforms organized, Dafyd? I’ll go and tell Long-Pockets what Sam said and meet you downstairs.’
‘Long-Pockets’, otherwise known as Superintendent Bradley, was obsessed with the budget, in Rafferty’s opinion, hence the nickname. As far as he was concerned, crimes took what they took, in time, money and manpower.
The uniforms were quickly mobilized by the simple expedient of roistering those on refreshment breaks out of the canteen. After Rafferty had gone to see Bradley, he returned to his office and rung the school to let Jeremy Paxton, the headmaster, know the results of the toxicology tests and that they were on their way; that done, he went down to reception to meet up with Llewellyn and the woodentops and headed out to the car park.
The August day was gloriously fresh and bright, just as a summer day should be, with a light breeze, to stop it getting too hot, and a deep blue sky without a cloud in sight. Rafferty, Llewellyn and two of the constables, Timothy Smales and Lizzie Green, piled reluctantly into the car, which was as hot as Lucifer’s crotch as it had been standing in the sun. Rafferty, not a lover of air-conditioning, which, anyway, would barely have started to work by the time they got to the school, wound his window right down and stuck his head out to catch the breeze.
The run out to Griffin School was a pretty one, past lush farmland, via roads overhung with trees whose leaves formed a soft green bower over the tarmac. On days like this, it felt good to be alive, though this latest suspicious death lowered his spirits a little. Winter was a more fitting season for death.
Adam Ainsworth had been staying at Griffin for a school reunion. Unusually, the reunees had opted to get back together for an entire week rather than the more usual one evening and, conveniently for Rafferty, were still put up in the school’s dormitories. He wondered if they were regretting it now. Being cooped up beyond one’s desire with old enemies, as well as old friends, was a recipe for rising antagonisms that could be helpful to their investigation. There was nothing like spite for encouraging gossipy revelations
I hope you enjoy the book should you decide to read it.