The Sting of Death

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Authors: Rebecca Tope
that.’
    They quickly made amends. ‘Why would someone keep their old phone anyway?’ Maggs concluded. ‘And it was all charged up, ready to use. It was the mobile that finally did it for me.’
    Both men looked at her. The detective nodded slowly. ‘Good point,’ he said. Then he sat up straighter. ‘Look, there isn’t a lot we can do, with no evidence of any foul play or violence. But I’ll put an alert out and get in touch with MissStrabinski to see what she can add. From now on, there’ll be a lot of people watching for Miss Pereira and her car. Have you got a description of her?’
    Drew and Maggs both shook their heads. ‘She’s small,’ said Maggs eventually. ‘And drives a beige Metro. An old beige Metro.’
    ‘How do you know she’s small?’ Drew asked her.
    ‘Her clothes in that wardrobe, for one thing. And the shoes in the bedroom were only about size 4.’ Maggs glanced down at her own size 6s, with a tiny sigh. ‘Oh, and she’s got black hair, quite long.’ She glanced at Drew smugly. ‘There was a rather unhygienic hairbrush in the bathroom.’
    ‘I don’t remember going into a bathroom.’
    ‘You didn’t. I dashed in while you went downstairs. You can learn a lot from bathrooms.’
    ‘Did you find anything else?’ Cooper asked.
    Maggs shrugged. ‘Just soap and shampoo – oh, and a fairly new-looking toothbrush.’
     
    They drove home briskly, Drew finding himself irritated at being so upstaged. ‘Why didn’t you mention the toothbrush right at the start?’ he demanded. ‘You were playing games with him and me.’
    ‘It just seemed such a cliché,’ she defended.‘And I thought she might have another one, an old favourite, that she’d taken with her. I still think she might. I mean, for a person to leave without even a toothbrush does seem very dramatic.’
    ‘There wasn’t a handbag anywhere,’ he reminded her. ‘Which would a girl choose first, if she was in a tremendous rush?’
    ‘That isn’t really the question. If she thought she’d be back by bedtime, she’d just take the bag. I bet she leaves it in her car most of the time, anyway. My mum does that – drives Dad crazy. She puts it under the passenger seat. I’m forever having to go out and fetch it for her.’
    ‘The policeman was nice, wasn’t he,’ Drew interrupted.
    ‘Tall. Not the most cheerful bloke in the world.’
    ‘There’s something about very tall people, isn’t there,’ he mused. ‘They always seem unusually dignified , somehow. Especially when they’re thin as well.’
    ‘He’s got a bit of a pot,’ she noted. ‘Must be fond of a beer.’
    ‘Seemed a good listener.’
    ‘Sensible, too. Weren’t we lucky to find him!’
    ‘Weren’t we,’ he agreed, with only slightly less enthusiasm.
    * * *
    Karen was much more interested in his findings than he’d expected her to be. Since the children had arrived, she’d become a somewhat less reliable confidante than before. The long discussions they’d had in the early days, where she followed every twist and turn of his thinking, were now very rare. They both knew that Maggs had in some ways taken Karen’s place, and although most of the tensions arising from this development had been accommodated, there were still moments when it mattered.
    ‘I wish I’d come with you,’ Karen said, having heard the story. ‘After all, Penn is my cousin.’
    ‘Justine isn’t, though,’ he corrected her. ‘And you didn’t miss much.’
    ‘Except that nice policeman,’ she chuckled. ‘He sounds quite something.’
    ‘He was unusual,’ Drew agreed. ‘I think we just caught him on a quiet day, when he was glad of anything to relieve the boredom.’
    ‘Surely not. I thought they were all working their socks off these days, with crime levels soaring and all that.’
    ‘Evidently not in Okehampton. Not this week, anyway.’
    ‘He won’t really do anything, though, will he? What’re you going to tell Penn? You ought to phone her.

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