Mrs Norman was a small, round woman in her eighties, whose sitting-room was set up like the business enterprise it obviously was. Against the far wall, there was a kind of wooden dovecote arrangement that housed large balls of wool in a selection of colours, and on the table was a state-of-the-art laptop computer. Mrs Norman’s television was the size of a billboard. The sound was turned down, but the picture was of Formula 1 racing.
“Blimey,” Karen said again, this time under her breath. Never again would she underestimate elderly ladies.
After all the preliminaries had been observed, Karen showed Mrs Norman the balacalva without saying where it had come from.
“Oh, yes,” Mrs Norman said, “that’s one of mine. That’s a pattern I do for outdoor workers. There’s a bit that goes across the bridge of the nose, for extra warmth.”
“I don’t suppose you can remember who bought it?”
Mrs Norman shook her head with a smile.
“I’m sorry, no, I can’t. But I sell far fewer of those than I do the regular ones. People say they’re a bit hot and itchy. I can see why. I did that one in heavy duty double knit.”
They chatted for a few more minutes.
“So how are you getting on with this murder?” the older lady said suddenly.
Karen was momentarily taken aback.
“Still early days, I’m afraid.”
“I do love a police drama on telly,” Mrs Norman went on. “I’m sure I could give you a few hints.”
“Did you know Mrs Simpson?”
“Only by reputation. She didn’t have anything on me. My business is entirely above board, and I seldom leave the house. My daughter keeps me up to speed on village events, and I do see quite a lot from the window.” She looked thoughtful. “I believe quite a few people had it in for Marcia Simpson.”
The old lady shrugged.
“I don’t know for sure, of course, but one person who really bore her a grudge was Arnold. Arnold Lynch. Owns the butcher’s shop and lives in the flat above. He made the mistake of giving her short measure, and she never let him forget it. She put lots of people off going there. If anyone had cause to feel murderous, it was him. And that’s only for starters.”
“Right. And do you have any other information that might be useful? Did you see anything yourself at the appropriate time?”
“Funny you should say that, but I did see someone walking past on Friday evening. After nine, maybe. Well before the news at ten.”
Karen’s brows rose.
“Really? Wasn’t it dark by then? Didn’t you have your curtains closed?”
“It so happens that I forgot on Friday till quite late. Then I got up to close them, and that was when I saw him. He was quite clear under the street lights.”
“Saw who, Mrs Norman?”
“Why, Harry West. He must have left the wedding reception for some reason, but it was definitely him. Such a good-looking boy. Have you met him?”
“Not yet,” Karen said, a touch grimly. “Let me give you my card, Mrs Norman. Phone me if you remember anything else.”