Today's Reading

Agatha waited impatiently while Bill and Alice struggled into their forensic suits and boots. When they pulled hoods over their heads and masks onto their faces, they became two anonymous creatures in white. As they headed into the undergrowth, there were more sirens, more blue lights, and an ambulance arrived, followed by an unmarked police car. The road was now completely blocked and officers were marking the crime scene, rolling out miles of blue-and-white tape. Traffic was starting to queue outside the taped cordon. Agatha, forbidden by the police to leave the side of the road, was shouting instructions to Bill when, from the unmarked car, there emerged the unmistakable figure of Chief Inspector Wilkes.

"You again," he said through clenched teeth. "I might have known."

"Shh!" hissed Agatha. "They're getting close."

Silence. Thin, cold rain began to fall. A forensic team arrived. When they too had suited up, they walked into the undergrowth and headed for the gleam of Bill's torch. An owl sailed overhead. Agatha Raisin lit a cigarette and fretted. What on earth were they doing?

Suddenly Bill erupted from the undergrowth, branches tearing at the flimsy fabric of his forensic suit.

"Agatha," he said, "this is some sort of joke. The leg is a fake."

"I thought— Ouch!" Toni exclaimed. Agatha had begun to shake and had burnt the back of Toni's hand with her cigarette.

"Sorry, dear," she said. "Nerves."

"You thought what?" demanded Bill.

"I thought I knew that foot," said Toni.

Sirens sounded in the distance. More police were arriving. "Knew that foot? How can you know a foot?" demanded the chief inspector.

"Mrs. Dinwiddy, the secretary to the chairman at Morrison's. She wore brogues like that, and wool stockings. I remember wondering about those stockings and thought she might have an allergy to synthetic fabrics."

"This is typical of your amateur theatrics," roared Wilkes, storming back to his car. "Sergeant, get this lot out of here and get this road opened again. And you two," he added, turning to Agatha and Toni, "are lucky I'm not charging you with wasting police time!"

Bill Wong looked at Agatha, sighed, and shook his head.

"You have to admit," said Agatha, "that from a distance it did look like a—"

"Just drop it, Agatha," he said, tugging at his now grubby and shredded white suit.

Agatha flopped into the passenger seat and slammed the car door. She looked down at her tights, dragged, snagged, and ruined, and brushed raindrops and hedgerow debris off her jacket and skirt. They would have to go to the dry cleaner's, or possibly the bin.

"It did look real," she said.

"It looked exactly like Mrs. Dinwiddy's," agreed Toni. "But didn't we leave her back at Morrison's?"

"No. She left after handing over the typed contracts, remember? Her afternoon off. Said she had to go to the hospital in Mircester to see her sick sister. We stayed to sign the contracts and discuss how we would tackle the case. Then you insisted on telling Albert Morrison all about your whole long list of successful cases, and as you know, that can take forever."

"That was a bitchy remark!" said Agatha.

A rap at the car window interrupted the conversation. A police constable, his hat dripping with rainwater, motioned for her to wind the window down. They were going to have to make detailed statements.

It was to be the beginning of a long evening of questioning. Agatha's only comforting thought was that word would spread quickly, as it always did in this neck of the woods. She was also pretty sure she had seen a reporter lurking by the roadside outside the cordon. The incident was so ludicrous that it was bound to make the local press. All of that meant that Charles would soon hear about it and come running, as he had done so many times before.

Few words passed between Agatha and Toni as they drove to Carsely. Turning off the A44, they cruised down into the village, which sheltered in a dip, hidden away in the Cotswold Hills. Passing the church and the line of shops and terraced stone houses in the high street, Agatha told Toni to turn into Lilac Lane and drop her right outside her garden gate at the end of the straggle of cottages. Even in the darkened lane, she was loath to be seen in her current bedraggled state—and in Carsely there was always someone watching.

"Agatha..." said Toni as she got out of the car. "I wondered..."

"What?" Agatha really didn't want to hang around.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth means no rendezvous with the young doctor tonight, thought Toni. She'll drag me inside for a lecture that could go on for hours. Best stick to the work bit. "There was no sun," she said. "No setting sun to shine on that leg. I think some hoaxer was holding a torch."

"The world is full of nutters," said Agatha. "See you tomorrow."

But as she swiftly opened her front door and slipped into her cramped hallway, she thought: who would know that we would drive past on that road at that time?

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