It was well past six thirty before the last guest left and Bethany was at last on her own. The funeral had started at eleven that morning, over seven and a half hours ago, and she was worn out. Both physically and emotionally. She had almost had to push Mrs Tullage out of the door in the end as her neighbour, who had hated Gerald, apparently saw her role as being to support his widow, Bethany.

St Mark’s on Redcar Road had been not full exactly, as it was a large church for such a small village, but had had very few empty pews. Almost all of his employees had come, even though most of them lived in Middlesbrough or on Teesside. They had travelled to Marske to pay their last respects. Of course they had, Bethany thought, as they’d been given the day off from work to allow them to come and Mr Lambert, the chief engineer who was taking over running the company, was there and would take note of any who missed the service. Then of course there were the villagers and all of Gerald’s friends. No, Bethany thought, his acquaintances. Gerald hadn’t had many real friends given his temperament and character. She thought that most of the locals in the congregation had come to see him safely buried and if not to gloat, at least to feel satisfaction as his coffin was put into the ground.

The funeral service had lasted over an hour with the vicar, who like Mrs Tullage disliked Gerald, giving a long and fulsome eulogy. Beth had thought this extremely hypocritical given his feelings towards her husband. At the conclusion of the service, the vicar had said that everyone was invited by Mrs Gaunt to go to her home on Cliff Terrace after the internment, for light refreshments. The burial would take place, he went on, in the cemetery which was at St Germain’s, the old parish church of the village. As this was quite a distance away from St Mark’s and the weather being as it was, anyone who couldn’t face the walk there was welcome to stay in the church if they wished, as the verger wouldn’t lock it until the cortege had returned to the village. After giving this invitation, the vicar went into the vestry to put on a waterproof cape over his robes, and the pall bearers took the coffin out to the waiting hearse.

The war had only been over for a couple of years and petrol was still on ration, and so the funeral directors had only provided the hearse and one other vehicle and these, together with just two private cars, were the only vehicles available to take people to St Germain’s which was about a mile away. Despite the weather, there was a good crowd walking along behind the cars. The day was a typical March one for the north east, with a strong blustery wind and heavy rain blowing off the sea.

The procession made its slow way along Redcar Road to the roundabout and then down the High Street to the Ship Inn. At the end of the valley gardens it went down the slope and joined Church Street, past the vicarage and out along St Germain’s Lane. Here, with meadows on both sides and the sand dunes close to the left of the lane, the full force of the gale hit them. Such umbrellas that the mourners in the procession had were soon blown inside out.

The vicar stood in the lee of the small church and took off his cape. He had walked in front of the hearse beside the funeral director and was already quite wet despite his waterproof, but went to stand beside the open grave in just his full vestments. He didn’t rush the proceedings despite the weather and at the end of it, as Bethany and some others threw handfuls of earth on to the coffin, he was thoroughly soaked. He would, he told Bethany, call in at the vicarage on the way back and get changed, then come on to her house for the refreshments she was providing.

DI Silas Roberts and DS Peter Danby, who had been in charge of the investigation into Gerald Gaunt’s death, had been at the back of the church during the service. They had then, after a decent interval, followed the cortege in their large black Wolsey behind the procession. They had stood in the shelter of St Germain’s during the internment, watching the ceremony. It was DI Roberts’ custom to attend the funerals of victims whose death he had investigated. Not that Gerald Gaunt had, in the end, been judged a victim, as the Coroner had brought in a verdict of misadventure. His investigation however was one of the reasons why the burial had been delayed for several weeks, as the Coroner had forbidden the funeral to take place before it was concluded. Then, after the investigation, the Coroner had also had to hold his own hearing which delayed it even more. Bethany, on her way back to the car on her way home, saw the two policemen sheltering in the lee of the church and went over to them to say that she hoped they would come back to the house to join the others for a drink and a sandwich.

DS Danby looked uncomfortable at her invitation, as part of their investigation of her husband’s death was to establish if it had been murder, suicide or an accident. And if it had been murder, then she would have been the prime suspect. DI Roberts had no such inhibitions however and said that yes, they would be pleased to pop in for a short while, thank you very much.

It was nearly a quarter past two when Mrs Gaunt got back to her house on Cliff Terrace, where Mrs Pace and her daughter Hilda were waiting for them. Mrs Pace was the Gaunts’ daily help and Bethany had asked her to prepare the refreshments for the mourners on their return. She and her daughter had prepared the sandwiches - meat paste, fish paste, jam, and egg and cress - and brewed tea in a large metal pot borrowed from the WI. There were also bottles of beer, three bottles of whisky and four of sherry. Not real sherry of course, that was unobtainable in 1948, but ‘British’ sherry. This was a sweet dark brown liquid which was all that she had been able to obtain. The landlord of the nearby Ship Inn had supplied the drinks and loaned Bethany enough glasses for the occasion. Close behind Mrs Gaunt came all those who had been at the graveside. Shortly after that those who had stayed at St Mark’s joined them, having been told by the verger that the internment was over. Last to arrive was the vicar, who had changed from his sodden robes into a suit of clerical grey. The house was a large one of three storeys but all of the ground floor was soon overfull of cold and wet mourners. They filled the lounge, dining room, kitchen and hallway with some sitting on the lower half of the stairs which were in the hall near the front door. Soon the atmosphere was warm and muggy and smelled of wet clothes, tea, beer and tobacco smoke. The noise of raised voices soon drowned out the sounds of the wind and rain beating on the windows and the roar of waves from the beach just below the row of houses on the cliff top.

From a strategic vantage point in the hall near the foot of the staircase, DI Roberts and his sergeant could see into all three rooms. From here they could see many of the guests and recognise a lot of them. Quite a few of them he and his sergeant had questioned on the days and weeks after the death. It had been Mrs Pace who had discovered the body on that Monday morning in January, when she came in at nine o’clock to start her week’s work. The house had been silent, “dead as a grave” was how she had described it to the police. Words that were followed by a gasp as she realised what she’d said. She had then carried on, saying, “I expected him, Mr Gaunt that is, to have left for work. He always caught the eight o’clock bus, regular as clockwork. But Beth, Mrs Gaunt that is, well I expected her to be up. But she weren’t. She was fast asleep in the spare bedroom. She often sleeps there when he has a headache, or can’t sleep. So as not to disturb him, like. He’s often got a bad head, stress I thinks it is and he’s one of them insom... something or other.”

“Insomniacs,” Roberts had finished for her.

“Well,” she had gone on. “Well, I went up and into their bedroom, and there he was, just as you saw when you come. I made a noise, a cry or something and it must ’ave woken her up, Beth, and she came in, still in her nightie. And then, well, we phoned Dr Creasy, and you lot.” Here she had come to a halt. The two detectives had then questioned her for some time, but she couldn’t tell them anything else. Except to give her views on her employers’ marriage. She had told them, at length, of how “Gerald Gaunt, that sod of a husband of hers” as she put it, had bullied his wife. Bullied was her word for his treatment of her, which appeared to be a mixture of physical and mental abuse. “Yet she would hear no word against him, loyal and faithful she was,” Mrs Pace had insisted. This was a view confirmed by all those they questioned with the exception of one man, Ned Woodside, who had been a friend of Gerald Gaunt.  He had said that Gerald had been subjected to constant nagging from his bitch of a wife. From where he stood in the hall, the inspector could see Dr Creasy in the lounge in earnest conversation with someone out of sight behind the door. When the inspector and his sergeant had arrived, on the morning of the death, the doctor was already there having just completed his examination of the body.

“Well, Inspector,” Creasy had said. “You can see for yourself that he’s dead. Has been for some hours, I’d say, probably since about two or three in the morning. Tell you more after I’ve had him on the slab if I can. But you can see for yourself what happened. I’ve told him time after time not to take more than two of those sleeping pills, barbiturates they are and quite strong. And never with alcohol or other tablets, but he was a stubborn old sod. Not that fifty two’s all that old. But he always knew best and did as he wanted. He had a dicky heart too, I’d told him that more than two pills were dangerous. But would he listen, not him. And he had a temper on him, poor Bethany was often... but no, I’ll say no more. It’s over to you now.”

The two detectives could see for themselves what the doctor had meant. There was a glass half full of whisky on the bedside table alongside a nearly empty bottle. Next to them were two small glass jars both on their sides, with the contents of both mingled on the table. One was clearly labelled ‘Aspro’ whilst the other contained red and white capsules that Dr Creasy had said were barbiturates. Gerald Gaunt had obviously gone to bed with a headache and in the night, unable to sleep, had taken both whilst drinking. In doing so, either befuddled with drink or pain, he had knocked over the two jars. Or perhaps someone else had made it look as if he had.

The post mortem later established that he had about four Aspros and perhaps five barbiturates together with nearly half a bottle of whisky in his stomach. This had resulted in him having massive heart failure which had killed him. The question was, was it suicide, murder or simply an accident?

When DI Roberts and DS Danby had interviewed Mrs Gaunt the first time, she was still in her nightdress with a dressing gown over it. She was in shock and had been crying. Mrs Pace had brought them all cups of tea, but Bethany’s remained on the coffee table next to her untouched. Because she wasn’t dressed, they could clearly see bruises on her arms and neck. Some were old and fading but others were still purple which they thought had probably been inflicted the day before. Her story was simple. Yesterday her husband had been working in his study, looking at his firm’s accounts and designing some new product his works were going to make. When they had finished with her, they verified this when they went into the study where the accounts were still on his desk and there was a drawing on the drawing board. She had then gone on to say that he’d worked all day, and as often happened on these occasions, the stress and concentration had brought on one of his migraines. At about seven he had told her that he was going upstairs and would take some of his sleeping pills. So as not to disturb him she had decided to sleep in the spare room.

“I often do.. er did this when he had one of his migraine attacks and bouts of insomnia.” She said that to make sure the house was quiet she had gone down to the beach for a walk.

“It was a lovely night, clear and cold of course. Well, it’s only January but there was no wind and the sea was calm with a bright moon shining down on it. I walked all the way to Saltburn and back as the night was so lovely. When I got back, it must have been about ten or so and I crept upstairs. There was no sound from our bedroom so I thought Gerald must be asleep. I went into the spare room and got into bed. I read for a while, I don’t know how long, and fell asleep. I didn’t wake until I was disturbed by Mrs Pace crying out this morning. I must have been worn out with the worry about Gerald and the walk, as I usually get up about seven, before Gerry goes to catch his bus. To cook his breakfast, you see. He is.... was always so particular about his breakfast.”

As the two policemen stood in the hall, sipping whisky and holding paste sandwiches that Mrs Pace’s daughter Hilda had brought them, Giles Fortune, the Gaunts’ solicitor, came to have a word with them. He was a short thin man of about sixty with a full head of grey hair, sharp features and bright intelligent eyes.

“Hello, Inspector,” he said. “Sergeant,” he added with a nod towards Peter Danby. “Are you happy with the Coroner’s verdict?” The Coroner had brought in a verdict of accidental death. “Silly sod,” he went on before they could answer. “Got himself half sozzled and knocked over his pills and took too many. Always went his own way, Gerry did. Took no notice of what anyone said, he always knew best. It was why he was so successful in business, ruthless and .....” He paused, uncertain, searching for words. “Er..... deaf to anyone else’s point of view. Well, she’s better off without him, even if she doesn’t realise it yet. Violent old bugger, used to hit her something awful and kept a strict hold on the purse strings. Well, she’s free of him now.”

DI Roberts simply nodded. The solicitor was the worse for drink, he thought. He’d not been this outspoken before. When interviewed he’d hummed and hawed, been cautious and hedged his words with care. A typical lawyer, Silas had thought at the time. But the solicitor was talking again. “And that daily of theirs, she couldn’t stand Gerald, she was always complaining about him. How he would shout and order her about, still, she’s come out of it alright, hasn’t she? He left her a couple of hundred and more to that girl of hers, Hilda. Damned attractive young woman, that.” And he walked unsteadily away from the inspector and sergeant.

“He never told us any of that before, sir,” Peter Danby said to his superior officer. “Still, I don’t think it alters anything,” he added, bringing a grunt from DI Roberts.

Did it make a difference? the inspector wondered. The cleaner had a key and she, or even her daughter, could have come in later that evening after Bethany had gone to bed. And both of them stood to gain from the Will. Mrs Pace had known this, he knew, as the solicitor, Giles Fortune, had said as much when he had interviewed him. Added to this, she had disliked Gerald Gaunt and had suffered at his bullying. As so many others had apparently done, as had become apparent during the course of his investigation. Yet it didn’t alter the facts revealed by the autopsy and the crime scene itself. Roberts’ thoughts were distracted by a nudge from his sergeant, who pointed through the dining room door. Looking, he saw that Mrs Gaunt was having an animated conversation in there with Mr Lambert and Mr Blowfield. Lambert had been the Chief Engineer of Gaunts’ business, who had worked alongside Gaunt in designing the artefacts the firm had made, whilst Blowfield was the manager of the shop floor. Also part of the group was Alfie Tegus, who was the shop steward of the union.

“I wonder what they’re up to?” the sergeant asked. Before Roberts could answer, their attention was diverted to a rumpus in the kitchen. They made their way there as the sound of the fracas taking place grew louder. They were joined by Bethany, who was also coming to see what the problem was.

In the kitchen they found Ned Woodside, who had obviously drunk too much, in the middle of an argument with Mrs Tullage. Ned Woodside was the exception that proves the rule. He was, or had been, not just an acquaintance of the dead man but a friend. Or at the very least a drinking companion who had actually liked Gerald. Roberts and Danby had interviewed Ned, as they had all Gaunt’s friends and neighbours. They thought him a strange friend for Gaunt, and had speculated as to whether the friendship had been just one sided. Gaunt was a wealthy and successful business man, whilst Woodside was a farm labourer with a bit of a reputation as a ne’er-do-well and a drinker. It had appeared from what Ned said, which was borne out by regulars at the pub, that the two men had been on the friendliest of terms. Gaunt had never lost his temper with Ned or tried to bully him as he did with everyone else they’d spoken to. One other thing had been easily established. Ned never had to spend a penny as his mate Gerry, as Ned called him, bought all the drinks. Now however he had lost his benefactor and, much worse from his viewpoint, he had not been named in the Will.

As Bethany got near to the drunken shouting Ned, he saw her coming and shouted, “Here she comes. She murdered him. Did me out of a mate and got all his money. Made sure I never saw a penny either.” At this point he gave a large hiccup and lunged towards Bethany to be halted first by Mrs Tullage with a, “No you don’t,” and then by DS Peter Danby who caught his arm and held it in a half nelson. “No you don’t, sir. I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink. It’s time you went home.”

“She’s a bitch, she killed....” Ned began, before gasping as Peter jerked his arm higher and led him to the door.

When all was calm again, Roberts stayed in the kitchen talking to Mrs Tullage and the others who’d been in there, whilst Mrs Gaunt went back to her discussion with her three employees. Peter Danby returned to his vantage point in the hall, and absently accepted a top up of his whisky glass and nibbled an egg and cress sandwich watching them. The day after the death, the sergeant had interviewed the widow whilst his inspector had attended the post mortem. His first impression was of how, now she was dressed, she showed no signs of the regular beatings he now knew she had been the victim of from her husband. Her long sleeved jacket and long skirt, together with a chiffon scarf, covered all signs of bruising. And she had skilfully applied make up to conceal those he had seen the day before on her face. His second impression had been that she was very worried as well as distressed.

Under his careful questioning, she had at last almost broken down. “I’m not sure what I’ll do now,” she had said. Then it all came out. Gerald had controlled her life completely. She had married him when she was just nineteen and he much older. He vetted all her movements, gave her housekeeping money, as she put it, and from time to time money for clothes. She had no independence or freedom at all. And he bullied and hit you, Danby added silently. She ended by looking at him helplessly. “What am I to do, Sergeant? I’ve only a couple of pounds left. How am I to live?”

Danby had gone into the study the previous evening and looked through the accounts on the desk. He knew that Gaunt had a large income and bank balance, and that his engineering works were in very good shape. Yet this woman, his wife, seemed unaware of it and was worried what she was to live on now her husband was dead. He had told her gently to go and talk to their accountant, Robert Flint, in Redcar. She had no need to worry, he had added, she had plenty of money. He knew that since then she had spoken to Flint and had agreed to his suggestion that she appoint Mr Lambert to run the firm for her. Looking at the group in the dining room, he saw a confident woman discussing the future of the firm with her two senior employees and the men’s representative. What a difference a few weeks make, he thought. He saw that she had not just gained in confidence, but that she had recovered her looks with that confidence. She was no longer a hesitant browbeaten housewife but an attractive thirty plus woman. Did that, he speculated again, make her a suspect in the death of Gaunt? A murderess? But the facts had spoken for themselves.

His thoughts were interrupted by Roberts’ return. “I think it’s time we made a move, Peter,” the inspector said. “Where is PC Black, do you know?”

PC Rodney Black hadn’t been having a good day. He had been driving the two detectives around in the black Wolsey for what seemed to him to be hours in atrocious weather. First he’d taken them to St Mark’s, where he had sat outside with the wind and rain pounding the car for over an hour whilst they’d attended the funeral. Once the car had stopped, the heater had gone off of course and by the time they’d returned he’d been frozen. Then he’d taken them out to St Germain’s Church, where the cemetery was, at a snail’s pace behind the procession of mourners walking in front of them. When they got there he’d waited another half hour or so whilst the coffin was put in the ground, once more chilling off. It was even worse parked here than it had been in the village. Exposed on the top of the sandbanks the car was buffeted by the full force of the gale which the roar of the nearby sea made it sound even worse. Yet again the car had become a cold steel box. It couldn’t get worse, he’d thought, only to be proved wrong. He’d driven them back to the house on Cliff Terrace and once more been left in a rapidly cooling car. Here the vehicle was even more exposed to the elements and he resigned himself to being freezing cold again.

Then a miraculous thing had happened. A woman, who PC Black later discovered to be Mrs Gaunt, widow of the late unlamented - as far as he could see - Gerald Gaunt, had looked out of the door and seen him. She had been checking to see there were no more stragglers coming to the house. She’d crossed to the car and knocked on the window. “Come in, Constable, you must be starving,” she’d said. Since then the world had become a nicer place for him, and it was to get even better. A young woman of about twenty or so had come up to him and offered refreshments. A very attractive young woman at that. She’d smiled and offered tea, whisky or beer, and a plate of sandwiches. He’d regretfully declined the whisky and beer - “I’m on duty, miss, driving the inspector and his sergeant,” - but accepted the tea with pleasure.

“Call me Hilda,” she’d said. “My mam’s the daily here, Mrs Pace, and we’re doing the food and stuff.”

Warm and in out of the weather he’d relaxed and they’d chatted for a long time, in between her going off from time to time to take tea and sandwiches to the other guests. He’d listened to her chatter each time she came back to him.

“He was a right old sod, that Gaunt,” she said and then later added, “He drank like a fish, you know. Why, on the day after he died, my mam found an empty whisky bottle and a broken glass in the dustbin. And there was another bottle nearly empty by the bed.” He’d listened but not been very interested, what he wanted was to make a date with her. This had proved hard as she’d flirted but wouldn’t commit to it. Then, just as they saw the inspector and sergeant returning, she’d hurriedly agreed to meet him to go to the pictures at the weekend. As his inspector said, “Right, Black, we’re off,” he’d seen her grin and wink at him and realised she’d just been keeping him guessing. She’d decided to go out with him when he’d first asked but had just been playing him along. He’d gone back out into the cold, windy and wet afternoon to drive them back to the station a happier man. It hadn’t been a bad day after all, he’d thought, starting the car.

Over the course of the afternoon the guests had started to leave. The first to go had been the vicar, who sneezed on his way out. He thought he’d probably caught a chill from his exposure to the elements. He wished now he’d taken a whisky and not just a cup of tea when he’d had the chance. The next to go were those of the firm’s employees who’d come back to the house and not left straight after the church service. They were probably looking to be noticed by Lambert and Blowfield and so get Brownie points, Alfie Tegus the union rep thought cynically. But the exodus was slow as not many people fancied going out into the cold and wet. After Ned Woodside had been ejected by the police sergeant, several more followed. Then the three policemen had also left and by ten to six there was only a small hardcore of mourners who all gathered in the kitchen.

‘Oh, why don’t they all just go and leave me in peace,’ Bethany thought. She was however too polite to say it. Mrs Pace and Hilda were clearing up by then and Hilda was telling her mother about PC Rodney Black and her date with him. “He’s really nice, mam,” she said. “I liked him a lot.”

In the car, the two detectives were discussing the case and the afternoon. The inspector still held to his theory that it had been suicide.

But Danby didn’t agree. “There was no motive,” he said. “He was a rich and successful man, his firm was doing well. And,” he concluded, “There was no note.”

The inspector’s view was that he’d done it as his migraines had got too bad. “And that Mrs Pace could have destroyed the note, to spare Bethany Gaunt’s feelings. She’s obviously very fond of her, and she hated her husband.” Which brought them back to thinking it could have been murder.

“If it comes to it being murder,” the DI said. “Then Mrs Pace has a key and, as you’ve just said, she hated Gaunt. Also Mrs Tullage, that neighbour of theirs, has a key, for emergencies Bethany Gaunt says, and like Mrs Pace obviously hated Gerald Gaunt and felt a great sympathy for Mrs Gaunt. Either of those two could have gone into the house in the middle of the night and done it.”

For a while there was silence in the car, which was now halfway between Marske and Redcar and once again on the edge of the sandbanks and subject to the full force of the storm which hadn’t abated at all.

“His wife of course had the best chance of them all to tamper with his drink,” DS Danby said at last, breaking the silence. “But I talked to her the following day and she appeared to be very distressed and almost lost, not knowing how she was to survive without Gerald.”

The inspector said, “Then there’s a lot of others in that village that were not sorry to see the last of Gaunt. Everyone I’d say, except that Ned Woodside. He’d lost two or three nights’ free booze a week and was the only one I saw at that do that seemed at all sorry that Gerald was dead.”

They had been all over this ground before and, as the inspector said, they came back to the evidence of the post mortem and crime scene. What had been established was that Gaunt had died of massive heart failure brought on by consuming too many sleeping pills and Aspro tablets, along with a lot of alcohol. The whisky left in both the bottle and the glass was just that. Whisky. Neither of them had been tampered with. The only fingerprints on the bottle, glass and the two vials of pills were Gaunt’s. The Coroner had ruled that Gaunt had gone to bed with a severe migraine and taken the pain killers and barbiturates, swilled down with whisky, despite having been warned that this was dangerous. He might have taken more than two sleeping pills, the Coroner had said. The doctor had warned against this but Gaunt was known for his stubbornness and habit of doing what he wanted. Then, he continued, Gaunt must have woken in the night, befuddled with pain and alcohol, and taken more whisky and pills which resulted in massive heart failure. In the light of this, he had brought in a verdict of accidental death.

“Without any new evidence, we just have to accept this,” the inspector said. “On the face of it, it looks like the right verdict. Case closed, I think.”

In the driving seat, PC Rodney Black heard the two detectives talking but paid no heed to the words. He had not been involved in the investigation at all and therefore had no knowledge of the case. He was now just their driver and lost in his own thoughts. All these were on Hilda. She was pretty with a shapely figure, long elegant legs, long shiny chestnut hair and sparkling eyes. Above all, she had agreed to go out with him and he couldn’t wait for Saturday night to come. They didn’t ask him about a broken glass or bottles in the bin, and he didn’t’ tell them about them. Why should they? He wasn’t part of their team, just a chauffeur, and he had no knowledge of the case. Once they reached the police station, he was off home for his tea.

It was well past six thirty before the last guest left and Bethany was at last on her own. The funeral had started at eleven that morning, over seven and a half hours ago, and she was worn out. Both physically and emotionally. She had almost had to push Mrs Tullage out of the door in the end. Bethany knew that she had only wished to support her and hadn’t wanted to leave her alone. But now, thank God, she’d finally gone and it was all over. Gerald’s death, the police enquiry, identifying the body, and then the waiting. The wait for the post mortem and then the Coroner’s inquest where she’d had to give her evidence. Then the two day wait for him to consider all the facts before giving his verdict. During these weeks she’d also had to attend the reading of Gerald’s Will and reorganise his firm. Then two days ago the body had been released at last for burial and now, at a quarter to seven, it was all over and she was laid exhausted on the settee.

All through the funeral and the wake, as that obnoxious man Ned Woodside had insisted on calling it, she had refrained from drinking any alcohol, sticking to tea. Now she got up off the settee and went in search of a whisky bottle with some left in it. She found one after a long search and poured herself a large glass. She took off her black chiffon scarf and unbuttoned the black jacket she’d been wearing, dropping it on to the floor. Then she took off the black skirt and the formal white blouse. She would never wear any of these things again, she decided, kicking them into a corner of the room. There was a full length mirror on the wall and she studied herself in it. She removed her bra and panties and twirled naked in front of it. She was, she thought, a good looking woman for someone in her mid thirties, and rich. She knew she’d have no trouble finding a new man. But she’d take care this time to make sure he wasn’t like Gerald.

Carrying the glass and the bottle, she went up to the spare bedroom and got into the warm bed. Mrs Pace had put hot water bottles into it earlier just before she and Hilda had gone home. She hadn’t gone into the master bedroom since Gerald had been found dead in the bed. Now it was all over she would get rid of the bed, she couldn’t sleep in it ever again. Then she’d buy a new one and have the whole room redecorated. Even in these days of austerity that should be possible, she thought, and money was certainly no object.

Looking at the glass and bottle on her bedside table brought back a memory. On the night he’d died, Gerry had taken pain killers and barbiturates washed down with whisky, despite warnings from his doctor, and she had then gone out for a long walk. It had been no problem to go into the bedroom in the middle of the night and crush up several Aspros and sleeping pills and put them into his whisky bottle. Then she’d slammed the door and woken him up. He’d sat up and poured out more whisky and swallowed two more barbiturates. Sometime later she’d taken the glass and bottle away and replaced them with ones that only had whisky in them, carefully wrapping his hands around them. She’d been wearing gloves herself of course as she did it. Then she’d washed out the ones with the contaminated spirit in them and put them in the dustbin, breaking the glass as she did so as it wouldn’t look if a good glass had been thrown away.

She didn’t think she’d forgotten anything or made any mistakes. What she didn’t know, of course, was that Hilda would tell that handsome young police constable about her mother finding the bottle and broken glass in the rubbish. Nor that if it hadn’t been that Constable Black was so enamoured with Hilda, and dreaming of his date with her, he might have remembered it when the detectives were discussing the case in the back of his car, and mentioned it to them.

Life, death and justice can hang on such thin threads.