Sandra Williams was every bit as desolate as Harry West had been. And her sense of timing was surprisingly accurate. Harry had left her at twenty to ten, and Lily had seen him ten minutes later. He simply didn’t have time to murder anyone.
It was on the way back to Thistle Cottage that Karen voiced her thoughts.
“Seems a shame, sir. They’re obviously devoted to each other. If her husband’s that grim, she really should leave.”
“Unfortunately, that’s none of our business, Sergeant. However . . .” he paused and smiled down at her “. . . I have the feeling that young Mr West won’t take no for an answer for very long.”
“Oh, good. Let’s hope it all turns out well.”
At that point her mobile went off, and Mrs Norman yelled into the phone.
“Can you bring back that balaclava, Sergeant? It was so wet, I don’t think I looked at it properly.”
In the midst of the Harry and Sandra emotional trauma, Karen had entirely forgotten about the damp balaclava still in its poly bag inside her own bag. Who was thinking about church roofs when there was murder and romance in the air?
“I’ll be right with you, Mrs Norman.”
Jim Owens came with her. Like her, he was deeply impressed. This lady was no slouch, and would make a pretty reliable witness.
Mrs Norman took the woollen hat and turned it over in her hands.
“Yes, I was right. That’s what I didn’t think to check. There’s a little lion rampant in red wool right at the nape of the neck. See? There it is.”
The others looked, and sure enough, in red wool darkened by damp, was a delicate little lion rampant.
“That was a special commission,” she said. “I do a few of these. These lads in Bremston seem to like them. This one was for the Fleck boy. Danny Fleck.”
“Thank you, Mrs Norman,” Jim said. “I know exactly where to come when my daughter wants a winter hat. She likes those ones with the coloured ties that hang down the sides.”
“Nothing simpler, son,” Mrs Norman said, and Karen laughed out loud.
The pair of them drove back to Bremston, each with their own thoughts. Although it looked as though they might have found who took the lead from the church roof, they were just as far off finding Marcia’s murderer as they had been at the beginning. It was still only Sunday, but no-one wanted the trail to go cold.
It was as they came into the outskirts of Bremston that Karen spoke.
“We’re quite near where the Flecks live, sir. I’ve had occasion to call there before.”
“Mmm,” her boss agreed grimly. “Me, too. Let’s go and see how Danny explains away his hat on the church roof.”
Danny answered the door himself, on his way out to meet his friends in the middle of Bremston.
“Not just yet, Danny,” Jim Owens said. “We’d like a word with you first.”
The boy was a mere teenager, full of bravado and yet anxious at the same time. Jim looked at him in despair. Stripping lead and still only eighteen. What kind of future did the boy have?
“Into the car, son,” he said. “We can chat at the station.”
When shown into an interview room, the boy threw himself down on to the plastic chair and folded his arms.
“I thought you were an inspector,” he sneered as Jim Owens took a seat opposite and Karen hovered behind him. “Should you not be out looking for a murderer, instead of getting all excited about a poxy bus shelter?”
Jim raised his brows.
“Ah. So that was you, was it? I believe the artwork is very good. Why don’t you get yourself to art school instead of bothering us with your stupid capers?”
Danny was surprised on several counts, but said nothing. If they hadn’t known about the bus shelter, why was he here?
Without a word, Detective Sergeant Parker held out the balaclava. Danny’s face was a picture in non-comprehension.
“It is yours, isn’t it?”
Danny took the hood and studied it, before tossing it on to the table.
“OK, so it’s mine. So what?”
“Weren’t you wearing it on Friday night, or possibly Saturday?”
“No, I wasn’t. I gave it to never mind.”
“Oh, you can’t leave it there,” Jim said.
Karen sat down beside her boss and leaned over towards the boy.
“Who borrowed it, Danny? Was it Lee?”
The boy’s silence said it all.
“You see, Danny, we found this balaclava on the church roof. Were you up there? Or was it Lee?”
This time the boy was astonished. He clearly knew nothing of any church roof.
“Didn’t Lee tell you where he was going?”
“He said he said he was doing a big house out beyond Peterford, and I was to ” he tailed away.
“Provide a diversion?” Karen said.
“Needn’t have bothered,” Danny said with a shrug. “No-one saw me. It’s a right dozy place, that. I was all set to run, but I didn’t have to. No coppers, no nothing. No-one saw anything.”
“And no-one did any big house out beyond Peterford either. The church roof, on the other hand, is now minus its lead.” Jim got up and opened the door, calling to the nearest constable, “Go and bring in Lee Fleck. We’ve got a right pair of idiots here.”