A first for DCI Woodcock, a countryman copper with a predator’s instincts, patience and ruthlessness. A series will follow if readers want it ....
' ... Let's say I thought it best to arrange to do quite a lot of filming abroad for a while.' The girl looked down at the gun in her hand and seemed surprised to see it there. 'You won't be allowed to keep this, surely? It seems so un-English.'
'The Chief Constable has decided to consider it a tribute to the whole force if suitably housed in the HQ trophy cabinet. I may oblige him if he asks me nicely.'
'And can you prove any of this extraordinary tale?'
'As I told you, Dawn, no proof is needed. Nobody gets into trouble over what has happened, and all accounts are already closed – by order.'
'Even so, people will talk, and as you have just reminded me, silly Colin is so prone to liste to rumours.' She dropped her arm, closed one eye and stared at him along the barrel. The Tomcat Titanium's little barrel, he suddenly noticed, barely extends beyond its trigger-guard. 'That Chief Constable of yours is right, you know. Dangerous toys like this shouldn't be allowed to just lie about. Accidents will happen. Think of poor Cocky Cottrell.'
For the first time in his life, Woodcock felt nervous, clumsy and stupid. In all his years in the force, no-one had ever pointed a gun at him, and now it occurred to him that the damned thing might even be loaded. He had not thought to examine it since Melanie Dunphy presented it to him, not being very fond of handguns. Would The Great White Ram have emptied it? He tried to remember how heavy it had felt. What did a Beretta sub-compact weigh anyway? Five hundred grammes? Loaded it would be more, not that that made much difference since a single round up the weapon's unique tip-up barrel would do the job.
'Forget it, Dawn,' he said as calmly as he could. 'You have never made an indecorous or flamboyant gesture in your life – and you've every reason not to now. You are neither in love with Fraser nor in hate with me. Not now, not ever. For you, passion is just therapy and hobby, not a mode in which to conduct the serious business of life. Anyway, you've too much at stake to risk losing it now.'
'Really?' She squinted along the barrel, her wrist at an acute angle. If she did pull the trigger, if the gun were loaded, the kick would probably break her wrist. But that would be small consolation to him since at that range she could hardly miss. 'How do you mean?'
'Getting Fraser to propose to you again won't have been difficult. The bombastic little martinet needs a new housekeeper, companion and moneybags now that his sister is gone, and you'll save him the bother of having to scout around for her replacement. You've got your own income, and he won't even have to get used to seeing you about the place. On the other hand it wouldn't take much to put him off again. As you remarked the last time you were in this room, Dawn, the spiritual heirs of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry don't approve of the irregular rubbing out of non-combatants. Chaps get drummed out of the regiment for less. Anyway, what were you doing in another bachelor's pad at midnight in the first place?'
The gun remained aimed between his eyes for a second or two longer before she turned casually and shot the Quimper bowl she had bought him that was standing on his fly-tying bench. It collapsed without fuss into several pieces like Antony I'Anson's skull after Georgiana Fraser dropped a 28lb weight on it. The hit was certainly a fluke, but its concussion made their ears sing anyway.
Then she was gone. He heard her new car start up and seconds later saw its main beams sweep over the shelter belt of trees he had planted to the south-west of Gillhead. There had been no slamming of doors, no flouncing. Dawn Blanchard was not the type. She had even laid the Beretta carefully back on the table beside her coffee cup. She was a neat, seductive little body who abhorred all mess.
Woodcock removed the magazine and checked the flip-up barrel, opening the windows to clear the room of explosive stink. At least there had been just the one round up the breech – as in Cottrell's case. He made a mental note to get Royle to clean it properly before donating it to the Chief Constable's trophy cabinet.