Mysteries on the cozier side of crime

Human remains and a lonely pile of clothes on the beach. Is it murder, suicide… or an impossible conundrum?

Detective Sergeant Norman Norman likes the idea of a permanent home in the small Welsh coastal town. With his reinvented career invigorating him, he finds himself enjoying working for his younger female boss, DI Sarah Southall.

But when she asks him to investigate a puzzling seaside suicide, his first job is to find the corpse belonging to the discarded clothing left on the sand. But, with the deceased man’s remains presumed lost at sea, DS Norman believes his case has run up a blind alley.

But then local builders dig up a female human skull, and now with a pair of unsolved deaths on his hands, the dogged policeman’s work takes a tricky turn when he discovers an astonishing link between them.

Can the shrewd detective solve a complex puzzle and lay two souls to rest?

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I cannot wait for the next one in any series. The characters are so real and relatable.

Chapter One

Monday 4th November 2019 07.00

The jogger padded quietly through the small sea-side town of Llangwelli and turned onto the coast road which ran past the picturesque harbour. He had chosen the hooded tracksuit to make himself less recognisable but now, as he felt the chill breeze off the sea, he was grateful for the warmth afforded by the unfamiliar outfit.

As he passed the harbour he slowed and gazed across at the familiar sight. It was deserted at this time of the morning just as he had known it would be. He gazed longingly at the handful of pleasure cruisers, medium-sized yachts, and power boats. This was one of his favourite places, and his boat had once been his greatest pleasure. For a moment his resolve weakened and he wished he could carry on as if nothing had happened, but he knew that was no longer possible; the die was cast now, and there could be no turning back.

He knew the sun would be up in another fifteen minutes so he reluctantly turned his eyes back to the road ahead and continued jogging along with just the beach stretching between him and the widening estuary off to his right. Two hundred yards beyond the harbour was another car park on the left. At this point the man crossed the road, followed the path that led through the barrier on the other side and onto the beach.

As he headed across the beach in the early morning light, off to his right, back by the harbour, he could just make out the tiny figure of a man and a dog heading his way. Yet again he had second thoughts, but his doubts quickly subsided and he smiled to himself. Wasn’t this exactly why he was wearing the unfamiliar hooded outfit?  Yes, he might be seen but at this distance he was just a tiny speck and could be anyone.

He carried on jogging across the sand until he was about thirty feet from the sea where the beach sloped sharply down to the water. The tide had already turned so he knew his clothes would stay dry and safe from being washed away if he left them here.

He stopped, carefully removed his running shoes and tracksuit, slipped off his tee-shirt and placed the rolled towel on top of both. He had chosen the whitest towel he could find to ensure it would be easily visible. Satisfied everything was in order he took one last look around, and then walked deliberately, and steadily, down the slope and into the water.

* * *

Monday 4th November 2019 09.30

PC Winter was Llangwelli station’s newest, and youngest, PC. Having completed all of his probationary training and passed with flying colours, he was enjoying his first day out in a patrol car on his own. From what he had been told by his colleagues, this job was going to be a doddle as nothing exciting ever happened around here. He should expect long periods of boredom interspersed with equally long periods with nothing to do.

Sitting on his backside twiddling his thumbs wasn’t exactly what Winter had signed up for when he joined the police, and he was beginning to wonder if he’d made a mistake. Then he got the call telling him he was going to be first on the scene to a potential suicide. This was more like it!

Now he was down on the beach interviewing the witness who had contacted the police to express his concerns. Apparently someone had jogged onto the beach, discarded his clothes and walked into the sea. The young PC pointed at the neat little pile of folded towel, tracksuit and shoes.

‘Now then, Mr Jones, you’re sure this is the same stuff?’

The man called Jones looked at the PC.

‘I already told you; I was a long way off, but there was no-one else out here. This must be his towel, and I assume those are his clothes. I’m sure it’s exactly the same stuff because my dog came over to investigate, and I shooed him away. I didn’t want him piddling on it, see.’

‘And you say this was at 7 am?’

‘It was probably a few minutes after, but near enough.’

‘D’you walk here every morning?’

‘Not every morning, but I walk my dog along here three or four times a week.’

‘And you’ve not seen this man swimming here before?’

‘I don’t think so. We see the odd nutcase some mornings in the summer, but not this time of year.’

‘And you’re sure it was a man, but you didn’t recognise him?’

Jones pointed back down the beach towards the harbour.

‘I was too far way to make out who he was, but I’m sure it was a man. The posture wasn’t right for a woman. I assumed he was a holidaymaker.’

‘It’s a bit late in the year for holidaymakers, isn’t it?’

‘Like I said, I was a long way off, and I didn’t recognise him.’

The PC nodded and made a note in his notebook.

‘And you say he swam out to sea?’

‘I saw him walking out against the tide. I watched until he got out far enough to swim, and then I lost sight of him. I dare say I wouldn’t have thought any more about it, if I hadn’t decided to come back this way. It’s been well over two hours now, and his things are still here.’

‘And you’re worried about him?’ asked the PC.

‘Yes, of course I am. Aren’t you?’

The PC looked suitably chastened.

‘You’re not local are you son?’ asked Jones.

‘No, I’ve not been here long.’

‘Aye, I thought not, because if you were you’d know.’

‘I’d know what?’

‘The reason I assumed he was a holidaymaker. The locals know how cold the sea is this late in the year, no matter how warm it might be on shore. And this guy wasn’t wearing a wetsuit or any other sort of protection. I mean, the sea’s freezing this time of year. How long would you stay out there?’

‘Who me?’ asked Winter. ‘It wouldn’t matter to me if it was mid-summer; I wouldn’t go swimming off this beach because of the signs warning about riptides.’

‘There we are, then. That’s two reasons not to swim off this beach, and that’s precisely why I called your lot. So, what are you going to do about it?’

The man stared at Winter expectantly.

This was the first time the young PC had had to deal with anything like this and whilst he was keen to appear competent, he was also determined not to be rushed into doing, or saying, something that would make him look a fool. In reality he wasn’t certain what the correct procedure was but he knew someone who did.

‘If you can just wait here for a couple of minutes,’ he said. ‘I need to call this in and get the wheels turning.’

He walked a few paces away from Mr Jones and spoke into his radio.

Chapter Two

Monday 4th November 2019 10.00

DI Sarah Southall walked across to the open door of her office and called out.

‘Norm? Have you got a minute?’

She walked back to her desk, picked up a sheet of paper, then leaned back against the desk. A few seconds later DS Norman Norman peered around the door.

‘What have we got?’ asked Norman.

‘They’ve asked us to look at this.’

Southall handed Norman the sheet of paper.

‘Is it anything exciting?’

Norman was reading.

‘This looks like a suicide to me.’

‘It looks like a potential suicide,’ she corrected him. ‘But a body hasn’t been found.’

‘Yeah, well, that doesn’t surprise me. The sea’s a big place to find a body.’

‘The Coastguard is on the way to manage the search, but I want you to go down there and make sure we have done everything we could.’

‘Can’t we pass this on to Region? I thought they were the cream of the crop and we were the crap, so how come we get first dibs at this?’

‘You mean you want to pick and choose which cases we take? Wouldn’t that make us as bad as them?’

‘You’re right,’ said Norman, sheepishly. ‘It would be pretty dumb to hand the moral high ground back to them after you fought so hard for the last case.’

‘Precisely,’ said Southall. ‘And anyway Supt Bain has asked me to make sure we don’t ease up while we’re making a good impression. He thinks this could be a critical period for us. Apparently the Chief Constable is impressed that we solved a murder on our own. He wants to see if it was a fluke.’

‘Does that mean he thinks there was something wrong with our investigation?’

‘No, it’s not that, it’s the opposite. According to Supt Bain, the Chief Constable says he feels it’s time to pull the rug from under Region’s feet, but he wants to make sure we’re trustworthy. The thing is, the CC’s never had time for Bain before, so we can’t be sure if he means it, or if Region are pulling the strings and we’re being set up for a fall.’

‘Ah, I see,’ said Norman. ‘So it’s possible any case we get could be some sort of trap, and if we get it wrong, we take Nathan Bain down with us, right?’

Southall nodded.

‘We can’t ignore that possibility, but we can’t turn any cases down without looking weak.’

‘What about the cold case we were going to use as a test case; the mystery woman in the graveyard?’

Taking a break one day, Southall and Norman had been strolling through a graveyard when they discovered a headstone to an unknown woman erected by the local villagers. They had planned to use her as a cold case training exercise when things were quiet.

‘Yeah, it’s a pity. I wanted to make a start on that this week, but we must put her on the back-burner for now. This has to take priority.’

‘I’ll get down there right away,’ said Norman. ‘Hopefully the guy just likes a long swim and he’ll be back on the beach by the time we get down there.’

‘Can you handle this without me? Only I’ve got a mountain of paperwork to catch up on. I’ll be here if you need me, of course.’

‘I can use the team?’

‘Yes, of course. Take Dylan. Just keep me in the loop, will you?’

* * *

‘So where are we going?’ asked DC “Dylan” Thomas, as he drove Norman out of the car park.

‘Apparently some guy went for a swim off the beach early this morning and he hasn’t come back.’

‘Is it a suicide?’

‘Possibly,’ said Norman, ‘so I want you to drive us to the beach where he disappeared.’

‘He’s been in the sea for over three hours. Don’t you think it’s a bit late to start looking for him now?’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘Because no-one in their right mind goes swimming in the estuary at this time of year.’

‘Is that right?’

‘There are warning signs up on the beach about the current and the rip-tides. They’re really treacherous, and the water’s cold this time of year. Anyone who lives locally would know this, but then I suppose, if he was a visitor, he wouldn’t be the first one to ignore the signs and regret it. They had to call the lifeboat out to a guy who got carried away by the current back in July, and that was when the water was much warmer.’

‘Crap!’ said Norman. ‘I was rather hoping we’d find him still swimming back and forth across the estuary.’

‘Ha, ha, ha, very funny Sarge,’ said Thomas. ‘Unless this is a human dolphin we’re talking about I think this guy has no chance.’ 

‘You sound like you know about this stuff. D’you do a lot of swimming?’

‘I used to swim a lot when I was a kid, but not so much now. I can still do a few lengths if I need to, but I’m not so keen these days. I suppose I’ve grown out of it.’

‘I’ve never seen the attraction myself,’ said Norman. ‘Any sport that involves holding your breath under water, and the possibility of drowning, can’t be a good idea, can it? Surely, if they meant us to swim, we’d have been born with gills and fins.’

Thomas grinned.

‘I didn’t think you were an athlete.’

‘Definitely not,’ agreed Norman. ‘And just you remember that if ever we have to chase anyone. I didn’t do running when I was younger, and I don’t intend to start now.’

‘Does that mean I’m on my own if there’s a fight?’

‘I’d never leave you in a fight on your own,’ said Norman. ‘Just make sure you chase your opponent towards me before it starts and we’ll be fine.’

Thomas took a sideways look at Norman. He hadn’t yet got the hang of his new sergeant’s sense of humour, and he had no idea if he was being serious now.

‘Can I ask you something?’ he said.

‘Sure, you can,’ said Norman.

‘What d’you think of Catren?’

‘Morgan? She’s pretty smart. I think she’ll make an excellent detective. Like all of you, she just needs a chance to grow some confidence.’

‘I didn’t mean that,’ said Thomas.

Norman looked at Thomas.

‘You didn’t?’

‘No. I meant what do you think of her. You know?’

Norman sighed.

‘You mean, do I think she’s good looking? Is that what you’re asking me?’

‘Yeah, exactly.’

‘How is that relevant?’

Thomas frowned.

‘I’m not sure what you mean by relevant,’ he said.

‘What she looks like doesn’t determine her ability as a detective.’

‘Well, no, of course not. But I’m not talking about her ability as a detective. I’m talking about her as a woman.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Norman. ‘You want us to compare our colleagues, is that it? Well, let me tell you, if that’s where you’re going with this, you’re asking the wrong guy.’

‘I don’t mean it like that,’ said Thomas. ‘The thing is I asked her out, and she’s not interested. I don’t understand why.’

‘Seriously?’ asked Norman. ‘You’re upset because she doesn’t want to date you?’

‘I wondered if perhaps she was, well, you know.’

Norman sighed.

‘Jesus, Dylan, this is going to take all day if you’re going to talk in code. Just remember I’m the old guy around here. That means you need to talk in complete sentences if you want me to understand. Perhaps she is, “well, you know”, but I’m afraid that’s much too vague for me. You need to be more specific.’

‘Do you think maybe she prefers girls?’

Norman turned to stare at Thomas, then guffawed.

‘I can’t believe you just said that.’

Thomas reddened as he realised the folly of mentioning this to Norman. He thought there may be an escape route if only he could change the subject, but he was suddenly tongue-tied and couldn’t think of anything to say. Then Norman was speaking again, and by the tone of his voice, Thomas knew it was too late.

‘So you’re telling me you mean you think you’re such a great catch there can only be one reason she won’t give in to your charms? Is that it?’

Thomas stared resolutely at the road ahead as Norman chortled gleefully at his discomfort.

‘Jeez, Dylan, if that’s what you think, you need to do some serious growing up before it’s too late. How many women have you actually been out with?’

‘Loads.’

Norman was still staring at Thomas, and now he sighed.

‘Loads?’ he echoed.  ‘D’you know, I can’t decide if you’re trying to convince me, or yourself.’

‘Well, okay, maybe not loads. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration.’

Norman rolled his eyes.

‘No shit,’ he said. 

‘All right. So it’s not loads.’

‘So, how many is it?’

‘Just one or two, but the thing is no-one has ever turned me down before.’

‘Really?’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ demanded Thomas.

‘Getting turned down is no big deal. Yeah, sure, it’s disappointing, but it’s just part of the game,’ said Norman. ‘Do you have any idea how many women weren’t interested in me before I met my wife? There must have been dozens, but it never occurred to me that maybe they were lesbians. I just accepted they didn’t want to go out with me, end of story.’

‘You think I’m wrong, then?’

‘Yes, I think you’re wrong. In fact, I know you’re wrong.’

Thomas’s eyes widened.

‘You do? You mean… You haven’t, have you?’

Norman gave Thomas his best pitying look.

‘Oh, come on, Dylan. Do you seriously think an attractive young woman like Catren Morgan is going to be interested in an old fart like me? I mean, look at me; I’m old enough to be her father, and I’m worn out. And besides, do you seriously think I would start a relationship with a subordinate?’

‘Ah!’ said Thomas, triumphantly. ‘So, you admit you think she’s good looking.’

‘It’s an undeniable fact,’ conceded Norman, ‘but it changes nothing. I’m not interested in dating her, and she’s not interested in dating me. I don’t even know why we’re having a conversation about this. In fact, we’re going to stop talking about it right now.’

‘Sorry,’ said Thomas. ‘I just–‘

‘Let’s just stop right there,’ said Norman. ‘I’m going to give you some advice now, and then this subject is closed, okay?’

‘Okay, yes, right,’ said Thomas.

‘First, when a woman says she doesn’t want to go out with you, remember she has the right to choose who she spends her time with. Don’t take it as an insult, just accept her decision, and move on.

‘Second, it’s never a good idea to take any relationship with a colleague beyond friendship. And third, I don’t care if my colleagues are straight, gay, or come from Mars. As long as they’re honest and can do their job, I really don’t care.’

‘Is that it?’

‘That’s my last word on the subject. I’m going to put this conversation down to an error of judgement on your part, and from now on we’re going to behave like adults. Is that okay with you?’

Thomas looked suitably chastened.

‘Er, yeah, of course. I didn’t mean to–‘

‘Unless you want to ruin my morning and put me in a seriously crappy mood, I don’t want to hear another peep out of you until we get to the beach. Got it?’

‘Ah. Right. Gotcha,’ said Thomas.

They drove on in stoney silence until they reached the car park opposite the beach. As Thomas parked the car, they could see a bitter north wind was carving ripples in the sand. Down towards the sea the wind was gradually tearing away the police tape which had been used to cordon off an area of beach. A lone PC was doing his best to keep the tape in place and keep himself warm.

‘Come on, then,’ said Norman. ‘Let’s take a look.’

‘You mean you want to go down there, in this wind?’

‘What did you think I meant when I said I wanted to see where he walked into the sea?’

‘But you can see from here, can’t you?’

Norman opened his door.

‘Don’t be such a wimp,’ he said as he climbed out.

He walked around to the back of the car and popped open the boot, reached inside for the thick, padded coat inside and slipped it on. Thomas sidled optimistically alongside him, but there was only the one coat in the boot.

Thomas muttered a curse and turned up the collar of his suit jacket.

Norman looked at the young detective.

‘Are you all right?’ he asked. ‘Only I’m sure you just swore.’

Thomas frowned.

‘Who me? You must be mistaken.’

‘You definitely used a word that begins with “f”,’ said Norman, bluntly.

‘Well, of course I did. This wind’s going right through me. I’m freezing my bloody balls off,’ said Thomas. ‘I hope you’re not expecting me to take notes; my hands are shaking so much my writing’ll be illegible.’

Norman beamed and patted his chest to emphasise the thickness of the coat.

‘Next time maybe you should bring a coat. I’m toasty warm in here.’

‘Well, that’s good to know,’ said Thomas bitterly. ‘It makes me feel so much better. Perhaps if you’d told me we were going to stand out here in a gale force wind, I could have brought a coat of my own. The only good thing about this is that it’s not raining.’

Norman looked up at the sky.

‘Yeah, that’s unusual,’ he agreed. ‘But I’m sure the rain gods will see to that before the day is out.’

He looked at Thomas. Maybe he was giving the young guy a bit of a hard time.

‘You’re not just cold, are you?’ he asked. ‘D’you want to share?’

‘It’s just a bit weird to think someone would be that desperate he’d just walk into the sea like that and sort of give up.’

‘So this is your first suicide, right?’ asked Norman.

Thomas nodded.

‘Well, let’s not jump to any conclusions just yet. We don’t know for sure that’s what the guy did,’ said Norman.

He opened the back door of the car, reached under the front passenger seat and pulled out a waterproof coat which he handed to Thomas.

‘I get to keep the warm coat on account of my old age, but I’ll let you borrow this one. It’s not as warm as mine, but it’ll keep the wind out.’

Gratefully, Thomas grabbed the coat and slipped it on. Norman was right, it did keep the wind out.

‘Right, come on,’ said Norman. ‘Let’s see what PC Winter can tell us.’

They set off across the beach towards the struggling PC and his cordon, which began just at the point where the beach dipped sharply down to the sea.

* * *

They stopped at the cordon tape and Norman spoke to the PC.

‘It’s PC Winter, isn’t it? Are you the guy who spoke to the witness?’

‘I did, yeah. He’s going to the station to make a proper statement, but I’ve got it in my notebook.’

‘D’you mind if my colleague has a look at your notes? It’ll save us some time.’

The PC handed his notebook to Thomas.

Norman pointed at the neat pile of clothes a few feet beyond the tape.

‘Shouldn’t we bag them up?’

‘My relief is bringing a bag with him.’

‘Is there any form of ID in there?’

‘Not a thing that I could see,’ said Winter. ‘There’s not even a label on anything to say where it came from.’

‘That’s odd,’ said Norman. 

‘They’ve been cut out,’ said Winter.

‘That’s even more odd,’ said Norman.

He stared out at the sea.

‘So, he just stripped off and walked straight into the sea?’

‘That’s what the witness says happened,’ said PC Winter.

‘And he’s sure it was a man?’

Winter pointed at the pile of clothes. 

‘I don’t know many women with size twelve feet,’ he said. ‘And I reckon the clothes would fit someone about six feet tall.’

Norman nodded approvingly at the young PC’s assessment.

‘And this was at 7 am? Jeez, I was eating my breakfast and thinking about driving into work then. What on earth was he thinking?’

‘Well, if it’s a suicide, I suppose he wouldn’t have been thinking straight,’ suggested Winter.

‘Yeah. I guess you’re right there,’ agreed Norman.

He looked at the young PC.

‘Are you all right, son?’ he asked. ‘Only you’re looking a bit green around the gills.’

Winter looked puzzled.

‘You look like you might want to throw up,’ said Norman, bluntly.

‘Oh, I see.’

‘Is this your first one of these?’

‘It’s just a bit weird. To think someone would be that desperate, he’d just walk into the sea like that.’

Norman looked suspiciously at Thomas and then back at Winter. 

‘Do you two use the same scriptwriter?’

Winter frowned.

‘Sarge?’

‘This is the first suicide for both of you, and now you’ve both said almost exactly the same thing about it.’

Winter looked hopefully at Thomas, but he was reading the PC’s notes and scribbling some notes into his own notebook and missed the exchange.

‘Oh, never mind,’ said Norman. ‘The thing is, we don’t know this is a suicide yet, do we?’

‘We don’t?’ asked Winter

‘Have you ever heard of Reginald Perrin?’ asked Norman.

Winter looked totally confused.

‘Sorry?’

‘It was a TV series about a guy who faked his own suicide by walking into the sea and leaving his clothes on the shore.’

‘You’re saying you think this man has faked his suicide?’

‘I have no idea,’ said Norman. ‘I’m just saying things aren’t necessarily what they seem.’

Winter didn’t look convinced.

‘But why would you even think that?’ he asked

‘If you were about to drown yourself, do you think you’d bother about folding your clothes and making a neat pile, or do you think you’d just throw them anywhere?’

‘Maybe he was one of those people who is compulsively neat and he just couldn’t help himself?’

‘Okay, so how about this?’ said Norman. ‘If you wanted to drown yourself, would you strip off, or go in fully clothed? I know little about swimming, but I’m pretty sure wet clothes are heavy, and clingy, and make it harder, don’t they?’

‘Yes, they do,’ agreed Winter. ‘But I still don’t understand why you think he would fake his own suicide.’

‘As I said, I have no idea,’ said Norman. ‘And I’m not saying that happened, I’m just suggesting it’s a possibility we have to consider. Isn’t that why we investigate? So we can determine what actually happened rather than guess?’

‘Well, yes, I suppose it is.’

‘At the moment we know a couple of facts. Now, we can speculate, based on those facts, but we haven’t actually investigated anything, so we can’t say what happened one way or the other, can we? For all we know, aliens have abducted the guy, but again, that’s speculation, it’s not–‘

‘All right, Sarge. I think I’ve got your point,’ said Winter.

Norman grinned and pointed across to the car park.

‘It looks like your relief has arrived. Write up your report and get a cup of tea. You’ll feel better for it.’

They watched as Winter made his way slowly back across the beach, exchanged a few words with his relief, and then continued on his way.

Norman grinned at Thomas.

‘Is that your balls I can hear rattling?’

‘At the moment it’s just my teeth chattering, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.’

Norman laughed.

‘Come on, let’s get back to the car before you freeze.’

They turned and headed back across the beach.

‘I vaguely remember that TV series you were talking about,’ said Thomas. ‘It was on about ten years ago, wasn’t it? I didn’t get it.’

‘I’m not talking about the remake,’ said Norman. ‘The original was hilarious. At least, the first series was.’

‘Don’t you worry people will think you’re mental, comparing an old TV series to a crime scene.’

‘I’m too long in the tooth to care what people think, and anyway I was just trying to lighten things up a bit.’

‘You don’t really think this is a fake, do you?’

‘I’m trying to keep an open mind,’ said Norman. ‘But I’ll tell you one thing; if I intended to fake my suicide, I can think of better ways of doing it. I’d certainly make sure there was no chance I might die while I did it.’

‘So you don’t think it’s a fake.’

‘There again, I wonder why he made such a big deal of folding his clothes into a pile. And why place a brilliant white towel on top?’

‘Maybe he wanted someone to find it.’

‘But why? Come to think of it, why bring a towel at all? I mean, he won’t be needing to dry himself, will he?’

‘You make it sound so elaborate it’s like some sort of conspiracy,’ said Thomas.

‘Yeah, you’re probably right,’ said Norman. ‘It’s probably best to ignore my flight of fancy and focus on the facts.’

They were back in the car now.

‘What else do we know so far?’ asked Norman.

‘Not much more than you said before. A man came down to the beach, took off his shoes and tracksuit, then walked into the sea.’

‘How did he get here?’

‘The witness said he jogged across the beach, and according to Winter’s notes there was no car parked in the car park opposite, so maybe he jogged all the way out here.’

‘Or, maybe he left his car somewhere else.’

‘What if he didn’t bring a car?’ suggested Thomas.

‘Why not?’

‘Perhaps he wanted to make it harder for anyone to identify him. I mean, it’s easy for us to find out who owns a car, isn’t it?’

Norman looked at Thomas with renewed respect.

‘That’s good thinking,’ he said. ‘Now, if only you could do that a bit more often, and cut out all the stupid schoolboy shit, there just might be a slim chance we’ll be able to make a decent detective of you.’

Thomas smiled at what he perceived to be a compliment, but his joy was short-lived.

‘So what are we going to do now?’ he asked.

‘You are going to walk to every car park within 400 metres of the beach and make a note of the registration number of every car you find and then when we get back I want you to contact every owner to find out what time they arrived and why their car was here.’

‘Oh Jesus, really?’

‘Yes, really,’ said Norman. ‘I know, it’s dull, and it’s boring, but there you go; a lot of our work is. If you want constant excitement, I hear they’re looking for a new James Bond.’

‘What are you going to do?’ asked Thomas.

In the distance they could hear a Coastguard helicopter approaching. Norman pointed to the rapidly growing dot in the sky.

‘I’m going to speak to those guys; they’re the experts on tides and currents, and they’re the ones who are going to run the search.’

‘D’you think they’ll find a body,’ said Thomas.

‘Searching the sea isn’t my speciality,’ said Norman. ‘But I would imagine the odds are against them anytime they have to find someone at sea. The words needle and haystack sound as though they fit the bill.’

Books in The Rejoiner series

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