Back at his desk, typing up the interview notes, something Peter Thorpe had said preyed on John Barclay’s mind. “Why would I conceal the evidence in my own stables if I was fiendishly clever?” The obvious answer was that he had panicked. But that didn’t fit at all with the ingenious method, the meticulous planning and the sheer audacity of the perpetrator. The issue of Deirdre Wells’s keys continued to nag at Barclay, too. That was still a loose end. There was also something else, a connection he couldn’t put his finger on. Something to do with the major general’s study. Barclay stopped typing, cursed quietly under his breath, and reached for the phone. ****“Oh, hello, Detective Inspector, this is an unexpected surprise. I’ve just made a cuppa, would you like one?” “No, thanks, just a quick word. What was your father’s regiment, Miss Burrell?” “The Third Paras, why?” “That was Major General Tompkins’s regiment, too. Did you know that?” “No, I didn’t. That is a coincidence.” “Oh, but it gets better. They both saw service in the Falklands. In fact, the major general was your father’s commanding officer. I’ve spent the afternoon digging, Miss Burrell. Your job in London, in the Civil Service? You actually worked for the MOD. It would be easy for you to access sensitive information; like, say, the home address of retired officers. Your presence in Palmerston is no coincidence.” “I came here to kill him, just like he killed my father.” Jean Burrell looked him straight in the eye, showing no sign of remorse. “With respect, Miss Burrell, your father died tragically in an armed conflict. You can’t blame one man for that.” “Oh, indeed I can.” A fierce, unsettling light burned in her eyes. “After Dad died Major Tompkins, as he was then, came to visit us. I was only a child, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Dad was a hero, a grateful nation, all that.” She sniffed and pulled her shoulders back. “About six months ago, I was working on archiving some documents when I came across a military report which made it clear that Tompkins had panicked during the attack which led to Dad’s death. He was guilty, not just of incompetence but cowardice. He was directly responsible for my father’s death, but it was covered up. For the sake of morale, the report said. He got a medal from the Queen while my mother was left with nothing. I vowed then and there that he would be called to account.” Jean Burrell suddenly convulsed into sobs. “I didn’t have it all planned out. I just thought I’d come down here and wait my chance. The Immobilon, the whole sword thing, it all just fell into my lap, as if fate had intended it. Even Deirdre resigning. I took it as a sign of approval, somehow.” “So you stole the drug when you were at the farm for one of your riding lessons?” “I’d overheard Pippa joking about it how if she caught Peter with another woman she’d inject him with Immobilon. I looked it up. One day Peter and I were having coffee and he left the office. The cabinet was open and I saw my chance. I had no idea how I planned to use it at that stage.” “And then the play provided the perfect opportunity. You had access to the sword. You also planted the empty syringe in the stable, didn’t you? I’ve spoken to Mr Thorpe and he confirmed you offered to stable his horse the week after the murder.” “Poor Peter, I feel sorry for setting him up but I had to do it. You do see that?” “What I see is a woman who is clearly in need of some help,” DI Barclay said gently. ****As she was being led away some time later, DI Barclay reflected how so often it was an insignificant detail that unravelled a case. On this occasion it was Deirdre Wells’s keys. If Jean Burrell hadn’t lied about receiving Deirdre’s keys, presumably to place Deirdre under suspicion, she might have got away with it. Making his way up the cottage path, he met someone on the way down. “Hello, DI Barclay, I was looking for Jean.” “I’m afraid Miss Burrell is unavailable.” “I just wanted to give her these.” Deirdre Wells held out a set of keys. “I was certain I’d given them back, but what with all the goings on, I must have been mistaken. Have I said something amusing, Detective Inspector?” ****“Here’s to me finally getting my woman.” John Barclay raised his glass. “I’m referring, of course, to the successful resolution of the Palmerston case,” he added. Briony Powers, looking in a little black number a million miles from her normal self, took a sip of her wine. “Hmm,” she said sternly, but the effect was spoiled somewhat by the smile at the edge of her mouth. “I believe you are getting even more forward, DI Barclay.” “Well, a chap can always hope. Anyway, what do you think?” The forensic scientist looked at her plate, considering it carefully for a moment, as if examining a specimen. “Apart from the fact you’ve spelled Briony wrong, it’s the best Alphabetti spaghetti on toast I’ve ever had.” The End.