The Miss Gascoigne books are a series of cosy mysteries set in Britain in the ‘Swinging 60s’. They feature Diana ‘Dee’ Gascoigne as an amateur detective who stumbles over dead bodies almost as often as your average dog-walker.
A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1
Mildred Evans, headmistress, was looking dismayed. ‘I’m so sorry, Dee. Believe me, my dear, I did try to reason with them. In losing you, I shall be losing not just an excellent modern languages teacher but also a very popular, very dear member of staff. But I’m afraid they are rather a bunch of old stick-in-the-muds. The collective view was that divorce—or even as in your case, a marital separation—does not accord well with the traditional values of Lady Adelaide Joseph’s Academy for Young Ladies. Especially as Martin is working here too. You’ve scandalised them, my dear. I’m sorry.’ Miss Evans was on her feet and coming round to this side of her grand mahogany desk. ‘You will, of course, be paid up to the end of the school year in July, if that’s the slightest consolation.’
Feeling numb, all Dee Gascoigne could do was nod, and try a polite smile, and say of course, she quite understood, and thank you so much for trying to help. She was on her feet too, and almost at the door before she knew she’d moved from her chair. Mildred Evans handed her a small visiting card.
‘Contact me, dear, if anything changes. Would you like me to ask around amongst my chums? I have a few acquaintances who are senior staff at Secondary Moderns.’ Miss Evans lowered her voice on those last two words, and all but shuddered. ‘Not ideal, obviously, but a job’s a job at the end of the day, and in your present situation, you may find it hard to come by another place at a more exclusive establishment.’
Again, Dee could only nod and say thank you politely as her mother had taught her. She opened the door.
Miss Evan’s hand was on her arm. ‘I shall miss you, my dear. But for what it’s worth, I think you’ve done the right thing. You’ve got to do what’s best for you. Keep in touch, won’t you? God bless you, dear.’
Dee was relieved she made it all the way to her car before bursting into tears.
How many bridges had she burned? She had acted on impulse, and couldn’t possibly regret it, yet she felt a shimmer of fear at what the future might hold. She clamped down hard on the shimmer, saying viciously as she stamped on the accelerator, ‘Nonsense,’ in the time-honoured fashion of the women in her family.
Besides, her family would never let her starve. With nowhere else to go and all that she possessed already packed in the car with her, she headed for Hertfordshire and home.
Dee halted her car in front of the ancient family retreat Ville Gascoigne and steeling herself, grabbed her bag and suitcase and crossed the gravel drive to the front door. She had warned them she was on her way. They knew why, of course. That her mother had been looking out for her was clear as both she and the aged butler opened the door to Dee before she got anywhere near it. They were already coming down the steps.
‘Hello Mother, hello Mr Greeley.’ She sent a bright beaming smile in the direction of the ancient butler who winked at her and relieved her of her suitcase and jacket. Her mother was not in the least deceived by the attempt at cheerfulness.
‘Oh Dee, darling! Are you all right? Oh you’ve lost so much weight! I’m so glad you’re here.’ Flora Gascoigne swept her only daughter into a tight hug. Tears threatened, and Dee pulled herself out of her mother’s grip, turning away to fuss with her handbag.
‘Gosh it was a horrid drive down,’ she began, and concocted a story about an entirely fictitious traffic jam just outside London. She just needed something, anything, to talk about. Anything other than why she was here and what had happened.
‘Come into the drawing-room. Your father’s not here, he’s off somewhere with his cronies, but he said he wouldn’t be late. My goodness, you look so pale, dear, and so thin! I’m sure you girls don’t eat properly.’
‘God, Mother, no one eats these days. Don’t fuss. I’m not a child.’ Dee rolled her eyes. It was not easy to maintain her appearance of trendy self-sufficiency when all she wanted was to curl up in a ball and sob her heart out. Bloody men. What had happened to the happy-ever-after stories of her teens? ‘Is Freddie here? I thought he said he would be.’
‘Tomorrow, apparently. I suspect him of a romantic dinner or something this evening. I only hope she’s a decent sort of girl. That last one…’
‘Lord, yes. Freddie can’t half pick ‘em. And what about Rob, is he home?’
‘Oh of course he is. When does your youngest brother ever go anywhere?’ Her mother sighed, and they went into the drawing-room.
As they came into the room an earnest-looking, bespectacled young man looked up from a book. He grinned at his sister. ‘Deedee, about time.’
‘Hello yourself, Boffin.’ She flung herself down in the seat next to him and hugged his arm. Her baby brother. Her rock.
He was frowning down at her with what was known in the family as the Hardy Frown, his dark brows drawn together over long-lashed hazel eyes just like his mother’s.
‘What are you doing here anyway? You’d better not be interfering in my investigation. I’m not like my father. I don’t allow private citizens to meddle in official police business.’
‘Oh shut up, Bill, you’re so bloody pompous,’ Dee said and stormed off.
‘I take it you know that lady, sir?’ the sergeant said, eyes wide with curiosity and following the lady as she went.
‘You could say so, sergeant. Listen to me. On no account are you to tell that woman anything about this case. Don’t give her documents to read. Don’t accidentally leave your notebook lying around for her to ‘just happen to find’ and snoop through. Don’t answer any of her questions, or tell her our line of questioning, anything about our suspect, anything. She comes from a long line of nosy women. Do you understand me, sergeant?’
‘Ye…’ the sergeant began.
‘Because if you do any of those things, believe me, I shall make your life a living hell.’ Hardy caught himself and stopped. Then added, with just a hint of a smile, ‘Not that I don’t already, I expect you’re thinking.’
‘Oh sir, as a mere sergeant, I’m not paid to think.’ Sergeant Nahum Porter risked a grin at the inspector.
Stifling a laugh, Hardy said, ‘I’m very glad to hear it. Now come on, we’ve got people to see.’
End of sneak peek – thanks for reading!
all content is copyrighted © Caron Allan 2013