Sophia was still a little miffed by the plastic when she came home, but the care for her twins occupied her for a while. James helped her. Bathing two babies still kept them so busy that there was no going out for them anymore in the evenings, although they had not been doing that often anyway.
"I was very proud that you trusted me with two babies and no directions on how to take care of them," James remarked. "Because you do leave me notes at work."
"I leave you pertinent information," she corrected. "And work is a little more complicated than changing a nappy."
"Arresting an unwilling offender is easier than changing a nappy. Well, it was in my days." He had people to do that for him now. "But you are so good at it."
"Don't flatter me."
"I mean it. You stay patient and sweet. I merely try to, because they have no idea they're making my life more difficult." He had nevertheless been on the verge of giving up once or twice when they soiled new nappies again instantly.
The praise was nice, but she could not forget her feelings of frustration. "But I really hate that we found nothing. I am so sure."
"I'll help you," said James, putting his arms around her. "I'll fake a crime there for you to solve."
"James!" She pushed him away, looking incredulous. He could not be serious. She did not want a fake crime. This was not a joke and he should not be treating it as such.
"In the manner of mystery dinners. People would pay to play such a game. Your friend would be a good hostess. She's a presenter. Unless she'd like to have a go at solving the crime herself? I could be the presenter in that case."
"But they have real things going on there."
"I thought you only wanted to stay busy. I can arrange that for you."
"Yes, you got me pregnant," she said dryly.
"I do have more abilities, unless you'd like a third?" James raised his eyebrows teasingly. If she said yes he would not know what to do. Taking immediate action was still out of the question, as far as he knew.
"James, don't forget that I'm forty-three. You might not be as successful next time and it wouldn't be your fault. I could probably let you try all I want," she mused. "But not yet, so don't get excited. It's really the last thing on my mind right now."
Every time Sophia was awake during the night she pondered James' idea. Although she did not see how it could work in itself, it would be an excellent opportunity to get into the Treminster Club. It led her to think of other ways to achieve that goal. She could host a party there, but what kind?
James had jokingly mentioned a baby shower once, but she would have to investigate what those were all about and if she wanted to expose her children to lots of unwanted attention. A birthday party? But her birthday was a long time away and she was too old to attract attention to it. James would turn thirty-six, but that was hardly a cause for a celebration either.
She would also have to invite enough friends to justify renting a large party room, but she did not think she could come up with so many. Maybe only if she combined something with Margaret. A joint baby shower? Margaret's birthday? She made a note of this on a piece of paper in case she would have forgotten all about it in the morning. Brilliant ideas had a habit of disappearing when she was sleep-deprived.
In the morning, however, Margaret was in a small athletics stadium watching Ailsa. Iain had come with her, which was nice, and she felt they might be on their way to some kind of solution. He had been a little more talkative and demonstrative last night than he usually was and she wished she could tell him that such things paid off instantly, but she could not. There was too much she could do better as well and being patronising, as encouraging as it was supposed to be, was not the way.
He was right, of course. She should be patient and take things slowly. Today that meant that she should not immediately expect enormous improvement. He might not instantly move in with her, although that would be nice, but she would first have to see if he stayed all weekend. It was Sunday already, so he was nearly there.
"Your house..." she began. He worked here now and it was a little too far for a commute. It could be done, but she understood he had been staying in a hotel.
"Would you like me to go back to it?"
"No! But what will you do with it?"
"I have looked into selling it, since I now have a job here."
"You should live with me." Margaret could not contain herself, but she wondered if she was too eager.
"It's easier to keep an eye on you that way," he agreed. "I think I could work here for a while. The people seem nice enough, if a bit odd. Your friend especially."
"She likes puzzles more than she likes people. What's odd about that?" She did not think Sophia was so very different from Iain.
"She drags you into things."
Margaret shrugged. She was not being made to do anything against her will. "Maybe it's all her show and all that, but I haven't got anything else to do at this moment. I'm available. Besides, it was fun to investigate."
"What will she do next? What did you find out?"
"Oh, that those figurines were plastic. We told you -- oh, you had left the room. Why?"
"She's my boss. I don't want to see her breastfeed everywhere. Bosses don't."
"Bosses don't!" Margaret laughed at him, but then she turned serious. "But do you mind if I do it?"
"No, but that's different. That's my child." He might feel a little uncomfortable if she did it in public, but he did not even know why. If she was not, why should he be?
She did not know if she could laugh at that. "Their children deserve to be fed as well. Do you mind having a woman for a boss? James doesn't."
Iain thought about it. "Bosses should keep their clothes on. The figurines were plastic? How does that change things?"
"I have no idea, but I suppose it's less likely to be anything if it's cheap stuff. She's still suspicious and wants to hold an event there, only she doesn't know what type of event. I don't think she's a party girl."
"As long as you don't make me attend any parties."
"A baby shower?"
Iain's eyes bulged. "That can only be horrible. Aren't they for women only?" He imagined a roomful of women cooing over babies. It would be awful.
"Well, I don't know. I don't think Sophia would go alone with two babies. She probably needs James. Besides, I think he likes to keep an eye on her too, but for reasons other than yours. If he's there, you'll have someone to talk to. But this is only a wild plan. She might not actually carry it out." But Sophia had rung her about it, so it was obviously something she was considering very seriously.
"You know I don't like parties."
"I know. It wouldn't be a party-party, but an excuse to spend lots of time in that building and getting some idea of how the place works, because obviously we have lots of questions and demands beforehand." It was a better plan than peering into windows from the outside, although any shady business would be kept far from them.
Iain had become a little contrary after the mention of parties. "I wonder that the chief superintendent is willing to hold a party in a suspicious place. It can't be good for her career, but maybe she's thinking of giving it up?"
"Yes, she and I are contemplating starting up a company that organises baby showers. In our own homes, of course. I'd always be home that way. You'd like that."
Iain had no idea if she was serious.
Margaret suddenly gripped his arm. "Oh no, is that my mother?"
"Your mother? What would she be doing here?" He tried to see what or whom she was looking at. He had only seen her mother once, but he remembered she looked a lot like Margaret. The only one who looked remotely like her was a dark-haired woman with a pushchair.
"She was involved in athletics when I was young. I don't know what she's doing here now."
"She's coming towards you." He did not know whether to look at the woman to see if it was really Margaret's mother or at Margaret, who sounded unnecessarily anxious.
"And I can't hide." Margaret looked around nervously.
Iain was surprisingly less nervous when it was not his own relatives he had to deal with. "You can tell her you had a baby. She doesn't know, does she?"
The nails digging into his leg were slightly painful and he removed them, only to find them digging into his hand instead. "What could she do?"
He tried to remember what had caused him to tell Mrs Maxwell she was not welcome in his house two years ago. She had not been very nice to Margaret, but he could not remember the details. At the time he had just been in love with her and anyone making his darling upset was evil, naturally. Two years later he had sobered up enough to know some of the blame might lie with his wife.
"Cause a scene? Mothers always do."
"Get down from the stands," he urged her. "If she's looking for you she probably already saw Ailsa."
"I'd only make things worse." She had a sharp tongue on occasion, especially when she felt she was under attack. She would be upset before, during and after the confrontation. Her mother never made her feel good.
Margaret descended without looking in her mother's direction, but when she reached the ground she found her mother had been looking for her indeed. She stood waiting. "Hello," she said guardedly. This was her mother. She had to start out by being polite.
"Margaret," her mother said equally guardedly, but with a hint of reproach. "I spoke to Ailsa."
"Yes, Ailsa is running today."
"Why is she running as Ailsa Scott?"
Margaret interpreted that as the first attack. She tried not to react, but it was difficult. "Because that's her name."
Mrs Maxwell raised her eyebrows.
"My husband adopted her."
"Yes. Ailsa wanted it."
"You're married then."
"Obviously," Margaret said a little condescendingly, but she was far from feeling condescending. She had no idea what Ailsa had told her grandmother either.
"To the man we once saw or to another?"
"Because I have so many?" It was beginning already. She would either cry or become bitter and angry. Then she would lose her common sense and say hurtful things.
"Well, I don't know. You never told us." There was some more reproach in her mother's voice.
"You always told me not to," Margaret said a little incredulously. "I don't understand how you could be surprised that poisoning my mind had some effect."
Mrs Maxwell was taken aback. "Poisoning your mind?"
"Against boys and -- even worse -- men. Don't get involved with any. Don't let them touch you. It will be awful. You will regret it for the rest of your life. Blah, blah, blah."
"I don't think I ever literally said anything to that effect. I may only have warned you about the consequences. I didn't want you to go through what I went through or what Catriona went through."
"Those situations were completely different." Besides, she did not think either of them had gone through anything horrible. The worst consequences had been for Ailsa, who would never know her biological father, and for herself.
"But let's not speak about them now. What about your husband? Is it the one we saw?"
"Yes." Margaret expected to be reprimanded or questioned because she had never let her parents know. Her mother was not Iain's mother. There was far less understanding here. Her mother would not smile and pretend nothing had happened, leaving it to be discussed at a more comfortable time.
Mrs Maxwell looked up at the stands to where Iain was sitting. "I thought so. When were you married?"
"Practically right after you saw him."
"How long had you known him?"
"Since about a week before you saw us."
Mrs Maxwell blinked and spluttered. "A week? And you married him?"
Margaret coloured angrily. "Well, I was always told not to mess about, so yes, I married him."
"But you're still with him."
"Y-Y-Yes." She hated how uncertain she sounded. She did not like how her mother caught her at such an uncertain time in their relationship. Of course her mother would say it was no wonder after marrying him so quickly. Anyone would say that.
"And what does he have up there? A pram?" Her mother peered up again.
"Yes." She glanced up too and saw that Iain was just looking at Shona. At first she wanted to be angry with him for giving it all away, but then she calmed down. It was best to deal with all these surprises at once.
"No wonder you're a little fatter than you used to be."
Margaret kept her mouth shut. That was best, she told herself.
"When did you give birth?" her mother inquired.
"Monday," Margaret said reluctantly.
"Last Monday?" This clearly astonished Mrs Maxwell. "And you're up and about already?"
"Yes?" Of course she was up and about. It was six days ago. She could even have walked around six hours later. She wondered when her mother was going to ask why she had not been told. Iain's mother had not asked, but she was a lot more normal than any Maxwells combined and she knew that the explanation would come to her in due time. "Didn't Ailsa tell you?"
"She only told me you were here."
"Where's Dad?" Her father was a lot more normal too, she suspected. Margaret wished she looked more like him. At least Ailsa had inherited a good dose of normalcy from whoever her father was.
"We were sort of separated," Mrs Maxwell said with a little frown. "He doesn't always come with me now."
Margaret was wide-eyed at this unexpected news. "Separated? When? How? Why?"
"There were things he did not like, but who knows what goes through his mind if he doesn't talk?"
It was horrible to think she was a carbon copy of her mother, down to having similar husbands. It was worse than being criticised for having kept them in the dark about her pregnancy. That could be remedied, but this could not. She could only sound subdued. "And now?"
"Well, he can't cook or do anything around the house, so he didn't have many options, did he?" Mrs Maxwell said a little derisively. "And I don't know anything about money."
"I'm not sure I want to hear about it." Margaret looked longingly at Iain. She wanted him to come and help her out, but why would he if he had found it impossible to talk to even his own parents? He was gone and she assumed he was on his his way down at the back of the stands, but he could be headed anywhere. He might not be coming here at all to assure her she was normal.
"No, of course not," said her mother.
Margaret's eye did not fall on the pushchair until then.
Sophia spent the morning doing very little. For some reason her twins slept a large part of the morning and she could not do the same. It was the first day that they were all at home together without having to go anywhere. She enjoyed it. While the babies were still sleeping it was not so very different from before, she thought, but James thought differently.
"I have a wife and two children now," he commented. "That's amazing, isn't it?"
"You've said that before, I think. What is amazing is that someone wanted to marry you, the way you were behaving before I did some work on you."
He had his answer ready. "The same goes for you, darling. What shall we do today?"
"I was looking forward to doing nothing."
"What, you didn't even want to walk to the Treminster Club?"
The possibility had crossed her mind, but she did not say so. "I'd look suspicious if I went there every day. I really wanted to stay home. Maybe we could talk about when I go back to work. When do you want me back? How hard has it been without me?"
James chuckled. "I don't know if you want me to say I've been completely stressed out or if you want me to say I haven't missed you at all."
"Both," Sophia said after a moment. "Be honest."
"I can't give you a real opinion, since this week I was thinking of you and the babies a lot and hurrying to go home. It wasn't really a normal week. I'd like it if you came back to work, but I'd manage to do my work if you didn't. Would you like mornings or afternoons when you start?"
"That depends," Sophia said vaguely. "They sleep now, but maybe they'd be awake and hungry then. What happened to my original plan?" She had never spoken of going in either mornings or afternoons, but she had always thought of whole days. This new plan of James' did not sound so bad now that she thought of it.
"The babies did. I thought half a day would be easier to manage than a whole one."
"For you or for me?"
"You. But we'll see. Since we share our salaries and we are bound to a maximum together it doesn't matter who works more hours, does it? I can work for you and you can work for me."
"But it will come down to you working my hours, not the other way around." Rationally Sophia wanted to protest. It would be sexist and unacceptable. Unfortunately hissing at James that something was sexist only ever seemed to amuse him. He rarely agreed. "I could never become chief constable like that."
"Do you want to?"
"That's telling. Tough as nails career women have ways to work around lust." And Sophia had clearly not had that. She had not been able to live on as if nothing had happened and she had chosen to have her babies. And their father. He smiled.
"What a simplistic thought. What do you know about tough as nails career women and lust anyway?" She looked a little suspicious.
"Nothing. That's my point." James grinned. "But tough as nails career women don't go hobbying after hours. They spend that time furthering their career."
"And you don't think that anything that goes on at the Treminster Club could further my career?"
"Politics will further your career. The smuggling or stealing of plastic artefacts will not. But that's merely my uninformed opinion. You know I furthered my career by sleeping with my boss and not by doing my job well. It was my looks, not my brains. Does that fall under politics?"
"Your boss does not sleep with people who don't do their jobs well," Sophia said arrogantly. "She has her standards."
"Who is that?" Margaret asked as she pointed at the child in the pushchair.
"Where did you get him?" Margaret wondered if her mother had somehow developed an interest in children after she no longer saw her grandchild, to the point of borrowing them from other people.
"That's what your father asked as well."
"But he's not here, you said."
"He asked that two years ago. I really wasn't pleased with him."
"You've been borrowing children for two years? No wonder he said something. The habit strikes me as a little unhealthy."
"Good heavens, Margaret!" Mrs Maxwell exclaimed. "You can be rather stupid sometimes."
"It is unhealthy," Margaret maintained stubbornly.
"Which habit precisely? Just to clear that up, although you may think the other one unhealthy as well."
"Well, walking around with other people's children." She did not understand why her mother behaved as if she was not the stupid one. It confused her.
"You don't think walking around with my own would be unhealthy?"
"No, but that's not the point here." Margaret looked for Iain, who was taking his time. He was not in sight.
"So you don't think it would be unhealthy if I had one?"
To that Margaret could only let out a confused sound.
"Your father did," said Mrs Maxwell. "He was sure that I had engineered it on purpose to make up for the loss of two daughters and that I was only setting myself up for a failure with the third. He wanted no part of it."
"That's what I'm saying."
"No, you're saying I borrowed a child."
"Wherever and however you got him, it was for that." The particulars did not matter; the motivation remained the same.
"I didn't arrange it on purpose. I didn't arrange you on purpose either."
"That's nice to hear. Makes me feel so wanted," Margaret said sarcastically. She hated the tears that sprung into her eyes. She was in public and a reasonably public figure if people managed to recognise her, which they had thankfully not yet done, it seemed.
"I did want you when I found out you were on the way. I wasn't sure about Alexander."
"But he wasn't on the way, was he? You got him somewhere."
"Yes, the same place."
"Tell me I'm adopted," Margaret begged. It would be the only way out of this mess. It would be instant sanity and relief. Unfortunately it made little sense, given how she had always been told that her mother had had her at seventeen. People did not adopt babies at seventeen. Maybe her mother was secretly ten years older, but a close look at her dashed that hope. Maybe she had even been younger than seventeen. "Oh, bugger it." She was not adopted. She had inherited all this madness.
Her mother confirmed it. "You weren't adopted. Alexander wasn't either."
Margaret sat down on the grass. She felt tired and awful, so much that she stretched out flat and closed her eyes. When she opened her eyes again, Iain was staring down at her. "I'm fine. Well, I'm not."
He seemed to be ignoring her mother. "Are you sure?"
"You had best divorce me. I'm going to be insane when I grow up."
He held out his hand and pulled her to her feet. "I've been aware of that for a long time."
Margaret wondered what that meant, but she was afraid to ask. She looked at Alexander, who had to be her brother.
James was called on his mobile in the afternoon. It was Iain, who was not on duty until Wednesday, as far as he knew, so this made it a social call and not some emergency. When he listened he was not sure sure it was not. He was asked if the chief superintendent was reasonably sane. It was the strangest question he had ever had on a Sunday afternoon and it amused him for that reason.
Apparently Margaret needed a sane friend, but preferably not one who threw parties with her that the men needed to attend. That amused him even more, since he had no objection to parties. He would rather have her plan a party than an investigation, but he gathered it was different for Iain. There was no end to his amusement.
His loyalty necessitated him to say something, however. "But she is not one of those sympathetic commiserating types, you know. Someone who's counting on pouring out her heart will be disappointed."
"So much the better." Iain hesitated. "How serious should I take the chief superintendent's suspicions? How right is she, as a rule?"
"I have to be honest and say I had no idea she entertained any suspicions in her spare time until she involved me last year and that led to nothing. A murder case came up and after that we were too busy looking for a house and moving into it. If she ever thought of the club, she never told me. On official cases, though, she is usually right."
"So there will be a party?" Iain sounded as if it was going to be the end of his life. "I understood that holding a party is the only way in."
"You don't have to attend, do you?"
"Ha," Iain said with an incredulous snort. "Who'd have to watch the baby if they're off exploring? If it's a baby shower type of event, which it probably will be, so the attention is not on them and they can easily get away? Who?"
"I'll leave mine with you too then if you volunteer, while I see to it that the ladies don't get into any trouble," James said easily. "Have I ever told you that in one case last year I was rescued by a bunch of women? Never underestimate the trouble they may get themselves into. Three of the four were pregnant, with four babies. Now that most of those babies are out, they may get into worse trouble." He hoped that having Margaret would suffice and that Sophia would not get that crowd together again, although Judy Lewis still had to give birth and she would not be dangerous any time soon.
On Monday Sophia walked her twins to Margaret's house. James had mentioned something about Margaret needing company, which she had not really understood considering that she had ordered DCI Scott to stay home. He was not, but Margaret was. "I hope he's not at work," Sophia said in an ominous voice. She had no idea what she would do, but he would not like it.
"No, he went home to do something about his house."
"I didn't send him home for that."
"I know," said Margaret and she looked a little guilty. "But I think I might have been driving him a little crazy. I ran into my mother yesterday." Her voice was just as ominous as Sophia's now. "There's no hope for me."
"I tend to stay away from crazy people off duty," Sophia warned her. Margaret had never struck her as too crazy, however, and she manoeuvred her pram into the house. There could be no harm in that.
"My mother had a child at forty-eight or forty-nine."
"Mine had children at forty-three and forty-five," Sophia shrugged. There was no particular problem with being in one's forties, but very likely she missed the point. "I had two at forty-three."
"But did your mother have them when you were thirty-two?"
"No, I was one of those children, though my eldest sister wasn't thirty-two. Do you mean you have a little brother or sister?"
"Yes!" Margaret cried. "It feels so messed up."
Sophia pondered it. Suddenly she felt a little better about her own family, in which her husband was only a few years older than her eldest niece. "I'm glad there are families who are more messed up age-wise than mine. Thanks. Let your mother have her fun at her age."
"Fun at her age!" Margaret shuddered. The idea of her parents getting up to making babies would have made her sick at any age, but especially now.
"Be careful what you imply," Sophia advised icily. She still had fun at her age, although others were not likely to agree with her on what she saw as fun. But this particular kind of fun was something she would still have in a few years, she supposed. "I'm not much younger."
"Yes, but you're not my mother."
That might make a difference, she agreed. When she was younger she had often cringed at the idea that her mother would remarry, but thankfully she never had. Mothers should not change. "I suppose I was lucky that by the time I could be embarrassed by such things my mother was far too old for them. She's eighty-seven now. She does other things that embarrass me. But what happened? You ran into your mother."
"And she had a child. Of about two."
"And you found out she hadn't told you about the child?"
"Exactly. Of course she couldn't say anything about my not having told her about mine, which was good."
"So you're messed up psychologically as well in your family?" At least the Clarkes were normal in that regard.
"Thanks," Margaret replied morosely.
"Relief all around because it was all cleared up," Sophia predicted. Why waste time on it afterwards? "Maybe she'll come to your baby shower." She had not given up on that idea.
"Iain is scared witless by the whole idea of a baby shower."
"Why? He's over six feet and he's a police officer and he's scared of babies?" She frowned. He had always struck her as fairly normal, although she had not seen very much of him.
"No, of women, but there are bound to be lots of women."
"Scared of women? How did he ever get hooked on you?"
Margaret shuffled uneasily. "Well, I can be similar. But I'm sure we've both asked ourselves that same question in the past months. Anyway, women and gushing women especially are bound to give him the shudders." She could imagine Iain slowly retreating to some corner with a scowl. He would hate gushing women, even if they gushed over his own flesh and blood and she did think he liked his daughter.
"Invite men only. Or do you have dozens of female friends?"
"None? Oh, wait. I like Iain's sister and she might like me, but I haven't seen her in ages and she doesn't know -- I should call her."
"Find some friends," Sophia ordered as if she was sending someone out on an assignment. "I only have acquaintances and we need to populate that room."
Margaret did not think it was that easy. "Why don't you have friends?"
"I have a pregnant constable about to give birth," Sophia mused as she thought of Lewis. "She might still have lots of friends. The rest of the department might think it suspicious if I suddenly started being social."
"Well, you're very proud of your children."
"I am, but I do not rationally accept that this could change me." She was not really sure that it had not, which was annoying. "Are you up for a walk?"
Sophia, having rung Lewis to see if she was home, walked there with Margaret and the three babies. Perhaps she walked too much, but there was so much to do. They found Lewis looking huge and fed up. "It will be over soon, Judy," Sophia said in a motherly tone. "This is Margaret, DCI Scott's wife. I can't remember if you've seen him."
"We have plans."
Lewis seemed more interested in the babies than in those plans. "They're so adorable! I had heard they were."
"Heard? Where?" Sophia had only taken them in on Friday and it was Monday now. Nobody could have seen them and told Lewis.
"When I was at the station this morning for a cuppa. Everybody said they were adorable."
"I cannot imagine that, because we work with mostly men. They probably said it was clear they took after James," Sophia said dryly. She could not imagine any of the men calling her babies adorable, unless it was to express their surprise because of who their mother was. She was sure they did not think her adorable.
"Well," said Lewis and she hesitated. "Someone did say that, but --"
"Say no more. I know these people."
"I can't imagine Iain telling anyone they're adorable, no," Margaret giggled. "But I don't know if all policemen are like him. At his previous station they weren't."
"Well, you seem to think he wouldn't even talk to Judy because she's a girl. I'm not sure he wouldn't. Did he, Judy?"
"He wasn't there this morning, but he did talk to me a few weeks ago."
"See?" Sophia said to Margaret. "The man is probably normal and he'll just have to get used to attending a baby shower. Don't pamper him, Margaret. Judy, you need to participate in this shower with us. "
"Which shower?" Judy looked confused but interested.
"We're thinking of holding one at the Treminster Club, because that's a place I want to know more about because I don't trust it. Holding an event there is the best way to get inside and I can't think of any events except something to do with babies. Birthdays wouldn't be logical, neither in this period nor in this time of life, and it's a bit late for a wedding reception."
Judy's eyes were huge. "Gosh, you're married?"
"Yes," Sophia said curtly. She did not want to draw any attention to that. "But the baby shower?"
"My baby's not even here yet."
"No problem. We need to plan it anyway. Do you have friends at work? We could make it a department thing with some family thrown in, if the department can be persuaded at all to come and celebrate our offspring." Sophia disliked such uncertain factors as people while planning. It was easier to make plans involving subordinates; those simply had to do as they were told.
"They did think them adorable," Judy said with a little shrug. "But if they'd only come to socialise, would that defeat your purpose?"
"My purpose is to get to know the building and who work there. Legitimately. It may all come to nothing and we may be wasting lots of money, but at least I'll have tried without jeopardising my job."
"Money is not a problem," Margaret offered. "Channel 9 pays me well."
James had not been able to help himself and he had looked up if there was anything on the Treminster Club in their systems. He had found nothing, however, and supposed that Sophia had done the same thing herself a few months ago. She was thorough enough for it. It looked as if nothing suspicious had come up there in the meantime except in her imagination. She was not a fanciful person and he wanted to believe her, but it was difficult if there was nothing to go on.
He had liked their Sunday, doing absolutely nothing, and he felt as if it was his job to make sure she had such days more often. Maybe he should take their little family away for a weekend, to some place where they did not have to think of meals and laundry. The babies would like it anywhere as long as they got fed, he assumed. They were too young to want anything special, but Sophia and he would be helped by not having to think of domestic tasks. He was even prepared to work on travel-safe work things with her. The poor dear would think it utterly relaxing.
He began to look up hotels.
Iain had gone home to pick up some more things because it looked as if Margaret wanted him to move in. He had packed a suitcase and then visited his parents.
"Kirsty is interested -- if you're selling at a decent price, that is," said his father. "Did she phone you?"
"No, she didn't. I assume she was told about..." He was not sure whether he should say Shona or baby. Baby sounded so impersonal, but Shona sounded as if he had been very involved at all times and he was too honest to make it look like that.
"Yes, of course I told her," said his mother. "I couldn't help it."
"Then she's preparing her attack, no doubt," Iain said wryly. His sister's attacks were always pretty effective. He ought to fear what she was going to do.
"I don't know. What a sweet little thing she was, Iain. So pretty. And Margaret certainly looked very fit again."
"She told me she was fat and overworked."
Mrs Scott blinked. "I hope you didn't say yes to that."
"I didn't." He paused. "She was getting better, but she ran into her mother yesterday. Maybe I need to take her away on holiday. She's also talking about a baby shower I'd have to attend. She's befriended my boss somehow."
"Darling, I think you're leaving a lot out, because I can't follow that at all. She ran into her mother, so she's overworked again?"
"So you need to take her away. I see. With or without the girls?"
"With?" They could not leave Shona and it would be unfair -- and impossible -- to leave Ailsa alone.
"Are you off work today?"
"I'm entitled to two days off and my boss ordered me to take them." That sounded stupid, he realised when he spoke the words. Was he supposed to be an adult in charge of his own life or not?
His father had been listening, but work was something he knew and cared more about than all the other business. He had asked Iain about his new job before. "The woman?"
"Yes, Margaret's new friend. I'm not sure if this is good or not. She seems rather cool, which is good for Margaret, but on the other hand she's taken her to spy on suspicious places. With the prams. I told you my boss was pregnant. She had twins. Margaret and she are walking all over town getting into places with the prams as cover. I don't know what to think."
It was Mr Scott's turn to blink.
"So," Iain continued, "if I took Margaret away for a weekend she would be away from all that. I don't want her to get into trouble." Although he knew of only one case in which Margaret had come close to trouble, he had been nearby then and now he was not. There was a possibility that Margaret getting involved in trouble was more than a coincidence. He would rather not take the risk.
"But would she come or is she still angry with you?"
He shrugged. "She wasn't angry with me, but I don't want to tell you the particulars. That's private. If I'd wanted to tell you that I would have done that a few months ago. Now it's..."
"Now it just seems silly?"
"No, it's not silly. I need to go." He stood up. "I'll ring Kirsty about the house. I need to go and see if Margaret and the chief superintendent have been arrested yet for breaking into places."
Later that week Sophia and Margaret went to the Treminster Club after Sophia had made an appointment by phone. She had not wanted to waste any time and it had felt as if she was doing exactly that, sitting at home taking care of her babies. That she never literally sat was something she did not understand. At the end of the day she had accomplished nothing, yet she had been busy all the time. Planning a party, whatever her feelings about parties in general, was a welcome diversion from thinking she was not doing anything.
They were shown around -- but interestingly only in the public rooms -- and received some information on booking one of the rooms for a few hours. Surprisingly there had turned out to be one large room and three small ones that Sophia had never known of.
"What did you think?" Sophia asked Margaret as they walked back. "How did we come across? We couldn't really tell the man how many guests we were thinking of." This had bothered her, but thankfully Margaret, who had done most of the speaking, had not really focused on that.
"First we need a venue; then we can narrow down the number of guests. That sounds reasonable to me and to him too, I'm sure. I thought he was rather helpful. How did you like my flexible hours plan? It would kill Iain, but it's better for you to be here for five hours than for one. I hope we can find enough guests to keep the room filled for five hours."
"Yes, it would be an excellent plan if it weren't for the number of guests required," Sophia said dryly. "I cannot expect my handful of people to stay five hours."
"Well, you'll just have to find more than a handful. Come on, Sophia. You're normal."
"I used to be, but then I joined the police. Friends have a habit of disappearing when you don't have much time for them."
"So do wives." Margaret was glad she was not the only one who had found the working hours slightly problematic. "But I have to say I have had awful weeks myself. I was doing two shows, see."
"But you blame the police?" Sophia felt she had to stand up for Iain.
"How are you and he doing right now?"
"Oh..." Margaret blushed. "He's been...good...in the last few days. I hope it will last if we both make an effort. Of course we can only still kiss and I'm not back to work yet, so that is all easy. My job is a little more negotiable than his, but they do expect something in return for the salary they're paying me."
"I'm glad he's been good." She had heard he had returned to work on Wednesday, exactly as she had ordered. "When do we hold this party?"
"I start recording in three weeks."
"Three shows a week, but it will cost me a lot of time to memorise."
"The questions. It's a quiz."
"Nobody memorises quiz questions," said Sophia, although she really had no idea if they did.
"I do. I also have to go over them to see if they aren't stupid or wrong. I know. It's all extra work, but it pays. Apparently. You'd never heard of me, so the show isn't all that famous."
"Well, I'm not sure," Sophia defended herself. "I might have, but I have little interest in things that don't pertain to work." The man at the club had known Margaret and he was not even the same man as the other day. Even James had heard of her or seen her. What had she missed?
"Didn't you read about the Hargreaves case two years ago? I'm sure I got mentioned. I didn't read about it, though."
"Of course. I reread it recently when your husband applied for a transfer, but that was a file, not a tabloid."
"He was good, wasn't he? That was all my doing, though I'm sure he could have done it alone."
"Where will you leave Shona?" Sophia did not know if she was ready to leave her twins for so long in three weeks. She assumed Margaret did not work in town.
"I'll take her with me. The recording takes about an hour. I can leave her with the dresser during that time. The rest of the time is -- well, I need to be there, but I don't have to do much."
"What a job."
"Sorry. No benefits can make up for your husband loathing it, though," Margaret added in a regretful voice.
"Why does he loathe it?"
"Because he doesn't know the first thing about it. He's slightly odd. Never mind. He'll get used to the idea of a party. He kissed me and danced with me at a ball once, so he's really only fretting in advance. What would you really want to do at the party? Stay with the guests or slip out?"
"That depends what I think at the time. If we decide to hold a party there, we'll have to go back and discuss our wishes and if we do that, we may find out more. So far we still know nothing. We were shown a few rooms, but they were all empty."
"The room was empty. I'm glad you didn't ask what had happened to the figurines," said Margaret. They had not been shown in, but the door had been open and they had looked in.
"I'm not stupid. Did the man strike you as though he wanted to keep you out of rooms?"
"Er...well...we had no reason to want to go into every room, so he had no reason to show them all. I don't know." No doors had been closed in haste, but not all had been open.
"But was he friendly because he had something to hide or because he recognised you?" As soon as the man had recognised Margaret, he had been all charm and he had spoken almost exclusively to her.
"Maybe he was naturally friendly. Such people seem to exist. Oh man, I thought I had a suspicious mind when it came to people, but you're ten times worse."
"It's my job. What do we do in the meantime? When is a good time to hold the party?"
"People have to be invited. Suppose we book the place on Monday. We can't invite people until we know for sure and we can't invite them on Monday and tell them we'd like them there on Tuesday. We should give them at least a week. Weekday or weekend? He said both were fine as long as it was during the day."
"Weekend. We cannot invite the entire department otherwise." Sophia did not want to say again that she was not close to anyone else. Knowing people in various jobs did not mean she could invite them to have a look at her babies. Well, she could, but they would think it strange. They knew nothing about her private life.
She suddenly got another idea. "Don't you have any famous friends who could distract the staff?"
"I could maybe think of one or two," Margaret said hesitantly. "But I'm friends with the more normal ones."
"What about your mother? Or father?"
"They're coming over tomorrow. I don't know. I haven't seen them for a really long while, so it might be odd if I asked them to a party."
Sophia conferred with James. He did not mind any date and as she spoke to him, she realised something she had overlooked: the babies had fathers who might have friends. James certainly had a few she had met once or twice. He also had parents, a sister and he mentioned uncles and aunts. This, in addition to their colleagues, would make for a large enough crowd.
She notified Margaret after she had checked with Judy, who was not at home. That could only mean one thing: two weeks from now Judy would be able to show off her baby.
Margaret had other things on her mind. The week before they had had Iain's parents there, but that was not so stressful as expecting her own. For him it was the reverse, of course.
She had not seen them for two years. In those two years she had wondered if she should call them, but more often she had rejoiced in the peace of mind it gave her. There had been no nagging, no criticism and when things with Iain turned out to be more difficult than expected, she had even more preferred to keep her parents in the dark.
Her mother had not said much the week before. There was no telling if anything was still to come. Her father, she hoped, would simply be glad to see her again. His main fault had been never to interfere in any fights.
She wondered what Iain thought, since he was the one who had told them they were not welcome in his house.
"I wouldn't have minded if you had invited them sooner," he said.
"You tell me now!" Margaret's eyes shot fire.
"Don't pretend you wanted to."
"I didn't, but I still thought you would have minded." It was good and not good at the same time, both protective and patronising.
Iain shrugged. She had not tried to change his mind, so it could not have been very important to her. She had not wanted to see her parents and his assistance had been welcome. That was all.
That Margaret now had a brother was a good thing. It took the focus off her. He did not really understand how it could have happened; her parents must be a good deal younger than his. He expected Margaret to say a lot more about it, but she did not. She stuck to the facts she knew and she shook her head, but she did not indulge in speculations and complaints. He was glad, because she had always had a tendency to get a little overexcited about nothing.
For his part he had tried to get a little more excited about things and it seemed to have worked. It had almost been like in the beginning, but not quite. There was so much more awareness under the surface.
The parents, he found, had problems of their own and were not interested in adding more by bothering Margaret. The father said next to nothing and the mother was guarded. It was good that there was a little boy who did not care about these things and who drew the attention towards himself.
Margaret was relieved when they were gone. Iain could see Ailsa was dying to discuss the visit, however, and he was not sure she was going to be very mature. He wondered why he could see that so clearly. Perhaps he was on her level in some ways.
"I don't suppose they adopted Alexander, did they?" Ailsa inquired the moment her grandparents' car drove away.
"No," Margaret answered curtly.
"Then they must have got him by..." She raised her eyebrows and looked at her mother, wanting her to fill in the rest.
"I totally can't see it."
She was silent for a few seconds. "But you know, this also means they had you when they were my age? I totally can't see myself doing that either."
"I'm even more thankful for that, but they were a little older than thirteen. And don't worry. It's not hereditary in our family, because I was much older, as you know."
"I don't plan to be as old as you," Ailsa said very seriously.
"You never know," said Iain. "Maggie, what's the news on that party? You invited them for it, but you hadn't invited me yet for a specific day." He had listened to that conversation, but he had not interfered. It would look odd if he turned out to know very little about it.
"Either you come along as a duty or you don't. I didn't think you or Ailsa had to be invited formally."
"Which party?" Ailsa wanted to know.
"Sophia and I are showing off our babies."
"But they really want to burgle the building they hold the party in," Iain explained. He supposed he should attend to keep an eye on them. His presence might keep them from foolish actions.
"Oh! Count me in! I love that sort of stuff!" Ailsa cried enthusiastically.
On Monday Iain found Detective Chief Superintendent Clarke spying at work again as if she did not have two young babies or a house to tend to. He had something to ask her, however, and he decided to use the opportunity. "Precisely what are you and Margaret going to do at that party?"
"Subject all the men to nappy changing contests?" she suggested, being in the middle of changing one on her desk.
He looked horrified, because he was not sure that silly women did not really think of such things at silly parties. She pulled a face, as if he was stupid to believe her. Maybe he was. Margaret was too intelligent and he supposed that Ms Clarke, given that she did not appear to have reached her position through social machinations, must be too. "Ma'am, my wife and daughter aren't professionals. I'd like to know what you'd like them to do."
"They're only your wife and daughter when it suits you," she remarked shrewdly. "You feel responsible for their safety now, but not a month ago? Or is this just a way to sabotage our plans?"
"I'm not trying to sabotage your plans." He did not like her reproaches, but she was his superior and he could not say so. Besides, she might be a little bit right. "I'd merely like to know what you'd be getting them into, since Ailsa has expressed an interest in participating and Ailsa is only thirteen."
"That is too bad for her. Nothing is going to happen and she is not going to be a part of even nothing."
He did not know if he could believe that last bit. "But Margaret. You don't know Margaret. She climbs off balconies."
Clarke looked at him icily. "There are no balconies at the Treminster Club. Besides, so what?"
"She searched the room of a murderer."
She shrugged. "Not a problem if the murderer wasn't there."
"She gets into trouble." That was a better way of putting it. He should have said it like that instantly. Of course climbing off balconies was not a cause for concern in itself.
"We won't get into trouble. We may simply have a look around. There are no murderers that we know of there, but if I get murdered I'll know I was right."
She looked rather too cheerful for Iain to be reassured. "I thought you were sane," was all he could say.
"But you cannot want to be murdered just to prove yourself right."
"I did not say that. Did you always let other people interview your suspects?"
"Why?" he wondered.
"Because your insight into people seems to be a little..."
"Then you shouldn't have hired me," said Iain, crossing his arms. He did not want to be caught at being wrong. Being stupid was a better description, but he did not want to get caught at that either.
"You have a desk job, no problem now anymore." She had finished dressing up her baby and she lifted it. "Or was it good that the majority of offenders are males?"
He frowned. What did that mean? "But the party. Please."
"Well, I don't know. What does one do at parties? Informal ones? I have no idea. Presumably people will come to admire my babies -- and yours. And we'll answer questions about them, like how many times they wake during the night and what size they're in now. Quite simple."
Iain was not sure that was simple.
She continued. "But really, parents don't have to talk much, I find. People would love it if you knew nothing, because then they could enlighten you." Suddenly she smiled rather smugly. "Basically we'll have a role reversal. How lovely. The men have to look pretty and clueless at this party and all will be well."
"Look pretty and clueless?" Iain was horrified again. "I'd rather change nappies." He was probably not as quick as she was, because she was already halfway through changing the second one, but he would be a lot better at it than at looking clueless and pretty.
"And so you should, or else your daughter gets a rash."
"And the women..."
"Well, we aren't clueless," she said matter-of-factly. "We'd be off not being clueless. We may have to be a little pretty, but I don't know that yet. I'll let Margaret do the pretty thing if necessary. She's young."
He shook his head and left her office. Perhaps he should not have got himself transferred. Perhaps he should simply have sought out Margaret, made love to her on the spot and dragged her home. It seemed to be what she wanted, more or less, and then he could have kept working with the normal people at his old station. People here were odd.
He stuck his head into James' office. "How good are you at looking pretty and clueless?"
"Depends on who's watching," James grinned. "Why?"
"The chief superintendent wants us to look like that at the party."
"No problem." James returned to his keyboard.
"But --" Iain had expected more support from another man. "This is while they go off not being clueless, she said. They'll leave us with lots of old women."
"No problem. I love old women."
"But I hate the implication that we're not to break our pretty little heads over what they'll be doing." It was frustrating that he was not going to be told.
"Sophia hates sexism."
"Only if it's directed at women."
"Then she did not hiss?"
"No, she looked very self-satisfied and smug."
"Pity. I love the hisses. But don't break your pretty little head over what we're going to have to do, Iain," James said with a grin. He got up and locked his computer. "I'll see if she wants to tell me. I'll let you know if it's anything to worry about, but I really don't think it is. Once they're in the middle of showing off their children, they'll forget all about it. They're mothers, you know?"
Iain knew and he thought of going to ask one of his teams how they were doing. It was best not to sit alone. Solitude would make him wonder. Thinking of his teams he thought of his previous department, which had been so much smaller. Before he immersed himself in robberies, he first phoned DS Randall.
She sounded pleased. "I never thought you'd call, sir."
"Well, I -- why not?"
"Never mind. How is your new job?"
"It's a lot busier, but interesting. I was just wondering which team I should talk to and I thought of the difference at home, where there was only one team." He hoped he did not sound wistful, because he was not. It was simply different.
"And what about your other reason for transferring?" Lisa Randall asked cautiously.
"Starts with an M."
"Oh, Margaret?" He tried to sound careless.
"Yes, Margaret. Surely you must have found out by now that she's pregnant?"
Iain could not immediately answer. He was too shocked. "How did you know?" he asked after a while. "And why didn't you tell me if you knew?"
"Why should I tell you if she didn't?" she argued very reasonably. "She didn't tell me either, but I could see it in her face."
"In her face?"
"Yes, rosy cheeks and just a general -- I don't know. Was I right?"
"Yes, she gave birth a week ago to a little girl." He ought to sound more proud, but as it was he merely sounded cool. His closest colleague knowing and not telling him felt like betrayal, not to mention that he felt under attack by too many women these days.
"Congratulations, sir. I hope it all went well."
"Yes, thanks. It's all going well, except for the party she wants to organise."
Randall chuckled. "You love parties."
He got an idea. "Indeed. I'll let you know when it is, so you can come and admire my daughter."
"I'd love that."
"Why do you want the men at your party to look pretty and clueless?" James inquired in a very interested voice.
"I don't want them to interfere. They may look ugly and clueless for all I care." Sophia sat reading on the couch in her office and moved the pram back and forth with her foot. Life was easy like this.
"Ugly? You cannot mean that, darling."
"Well, you may look pretty then and Iain may look clueless. But on no account are you or he to leave the room if we do. I thought your looking pretty and clueless would bring out the most knowledgeable of older ladies, who would be dying to instruct you."
"Why, do older ladies like to instruct?"
She held up her finger warningly, but it was to no avail.
Chief Constable Davenport cleared his throat a while later. "If all wives came to the station to distract their husbands in that manner here..."
Sophia was instantly indignant. "You speak as if only men work here, but in spite of all sexist efforts we still have 27.6% who are female . Besides, this is my office and clearly he came to distract me."
"It didn't look as if you minded. But if exact percentages are the first thing that come to you in such a situation, maybe he should do a little more work on you."
"Everyone should know the exact percentage, because it's much too low." She suspected, however, that James would care more about doing a little more work on her than about percentages and that her brother-in-law just wanted to have a laugh at her expense.
"Maybe that's related to their ability to have babies? How does your maternity leave affect the percentage?"
"Not at all."
"Don't tell me you're working at the moment." He pointed at the two dirty nappies on the desk and the two babies in the pram.
"I want to keep up to date while I'm forced to be away," Sophia said defensively. "But if you came to my office, you actually expected me to be here. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to know if the two of you had come to a decision about your working hours yet, but maybe if you have to use your office to cuddle, you don't see much of each other at home."
"No, we haven't come to a decision yet." She could not even remember the last time they had talked about it. "We were reading this report together, not cuddling."
"I'm sorry I mistook it for that," the chief constable said smoothly. "Some places at an interesting course have become available and I wanted to check if either of you -- or both of you -- were interested in attending. It's called Balancing Work and Family Life."
"There is a course on that?" James was incredulous. "Can't you just spend that money on an in-house nursery?"
"No, it doesn't cost us any money. It's an initiative to keep more women in the force. Sophia will have heard about it."
"I tend to forget stupid initiatives."
"So you're going to forget about..." James began.
"Do we really need to attend a course to know how we could balance work and family life?" Sophia asked James. "A course couldn't tell us how Alex and Lizzy will behave in a few weeks, could it?"
"We could pretend to attend and hit a hotel instead." Unless it was held at a hotel; then they could simply stay there and go their own way, but he could not imagine such a course could last for more than a few hours. Hotels were probably not necessary. What indeed could a course teach them?
"Hit a hotel?" Sophia spoke the words as if she did not know what they meant.
"The four of us. I'd been thinking we should book a weekend away. Or the four of us could attend. What better to present the organisers of the course with a case study? Two police officers, two babies. If they don't know what to do with us they have no business making money from that course." James imagined taking the babies to lectures and disturbing everything. He grinned.
"I don't want to plan two different things at once." She hoped her brain was not shrinking.
"I'll plan it. You will only have to come along. You know, I've never taken a woman to a hotel. It'll be very exciting."
His childish enthusiasm was infectious. Sophia smiled. It could be exciting to go away as a family for the first time. Even she and James had never gone away together so far. "All right then. I'll plan that party in two weeks to accommodate Judy, so don't do anything then. You will attend?"
"I'll confer with Margaret and make the invitations."
Within two days Sophia had done all that. The party was taking place when the twins were three weeks old. She had invited everyone she could think of, but leaving their department for James to invite. Margaret said she had invited a few people as well and together they had visited Judy and her new baby, a little boy.
At the end of the week they went to the Treminster Club to discuss their wishes. They had an appointment with a man named Gary who noted down what they wanted with regard to food and drinks, which seemed to be all there was to organise.
"And why do you employ security?" Sophia asked after Gary had discussed everything with Margaret. Since Margaret was paying, she had allowed him to focus on her.
"We've had some burglaries," he said smoothly.
"Unreported," Sophia could not help but point out.
He looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that if you've had any burglaries, they haven't been reported to the police. Therefore not much of value was taken or damaged and you didn't want to go through the trouble, but in that case getting a security service seems rather drastic."
"How would you know if they were reported or not?"
She showed him her warrant card and smiled. Should he ask why she had looked that up, she had her answer ready. It was quite natural that she wanted to know where she was going to hold a party.
"Oh. Well, I have no idea about that."
She was not sure she could believe him, but she should not raise any suspicion or everything would be closed off to them on the day of the party. He might simply be the one who handled the bookings. "Will our guests be bothered?"
"Oh, not at all," he assured her, but he was looking a little more guarded after having seen her warrant card.
"That's good. I want an informal gathering, not in some kind of fortress. Also, since the majority of my guests will be police officers, perhaps it's wise not to have too much security in place. It may be irksome to them."
Gary made a note of it, but he looked a little worried. "Will your guests be women or men?"
"Er..." Sophia did not see why that mattered, unless he somehow believed that female officers were less dangerous. A dangerous assumption, that. "Both?"
Margaret did not say anything about it until they were walking home again. "This could mean the security man will hide somewhere in the building instead of at the door and you won't be able to snoop."
"Better one than two. I doubt they'd do anything about my request, though."
"You never know. He was a little impressed with your warrant card."
"And he didn't even see my rank. Not that I'm any more dangerous now than when I was a constable. I simply make more money. Oh, speaking of money, you mustn't pay the entire bill."
"Oh, why not?" Margaret asked affably. "I earn enough. If it bothers you, just watch Shona for a day if I go to work and you don't."
"All right. Would Iain let me? He seems to think I'm a bit strange." Sophia did not usually ask such questions of anybody other than James and she wondered why she did it now. She did not care about people's opinions of her. "He might not want to leave his daughter with me."
Margaret chuckled. "He only told me that you wouldn't tell him what we were going to do, but I told him you really didn't. He said he was concerned about Ailsa."
"He was concerned about you," Sophia corrected. "But why on earth he cannot come out and say so, I don't know. There was something about you and a balcony."
"Oh yes. I was searching a room once and someone was coming, so I thought I'd jump off the balcony, but it was higher than I'd thought, so I was hanging off it and suddenly Iain lifted me down. He didn't think I should be doing such things."
"Well, he was right, although if you had been in the habit of doing that you would have been able to make a better assessment of the height of the balcony, so he could know that you weren't."
"There are no balconies where we're going, so he doesn't have to worry."
"He may not believe it, but I am two years wiser now. He'll be at his best if I need to be protected, but I'd rather have a more structural effort."
"Oh, nothing like protectiveness to stir up a man's feelings," Sophia agreed. "I had a murderer send me threats. James was beside himself. He moved in immediately. I was already pregnant by then, by the way. Suppose he hadn't cared? I might not have kept the babies." She looked into the pram and could not imagine not having them. "Or I might have."
"Of course you would have."
"I could never do anything dangerous now that I have them, so nobody needs to worry about me at all."
When the Saturday in question arrived, Sophia was still convinced she would not do anything dangerous. She was curious and a little excited and dressed her twins up in their nicest clothes, packing four spare outfits just in case. They had no idea what was going to happen and looked sweetly at her running around.
Margaret had less to pack, but she was dealing with reluctant family members. Ailsa wanted to come, but she was not ready, and Iain was dragging his heels. He knew he had to come, but he found it difficult to hurry. As for Shona, she was hungry at the wrong moment.
Shortly before ten they all met up at the Treminster Club. It took some time to load everything for the babies out of the cars, but then they were all set up in the main room and the guests could arrive.
Two people in the kitchen seemed to have an argument. Apparently the man named Gary should not be there today. The woman who was the head of catering was speaking to him and shortly afterwards he left. Sophia raised her eyebrows at Margaret. That was one person less to look out for. She had not seen any security guards either.
"I do hope someone is coming," Sophia said nervously when it was ten past ten and no guest had come yet.
The first person to arrive after that statement was Judy Lewis, her boyfriend and her baby. "I hope I'm not late," she said with a worried glance around the empty room.
"You've just missed all the guests," Sophia commented.
"They're not here yet. Calm down, Sophia," James admonished. "Your family will be here. And mine."
"And mine," Margaret added. "And Iain's."
Luckily people then arrived to relieve Sophia's worries. One of her sisters had brought her mother and DI O'Neill came in at the same time with his wife. After this more and more people trickled in. They sat down and had something to eat and drink, while they admired all the babies that were being passed around. The advantage of having four of those present was that nobody had to wait for one for very long.
Sophia was too busy to think of slipping away. There were people to be greeted and babies to be fed and every time new people kept arriving. It turned one o'clock before she could think of exploring, but then she found that James was missing and she would not leave her babies without at least one parent.
When she looked around for Iain, because she had last seen James with him, he was missing as well. "Where are they off to?" she asked Margaret.
Margaret understood who 'they' were. She glanced around as if she had no idea either and as if their absence surprised her. "We can rule out nursing, smoking, secret drinking..."
"Do men go to the loo together?"
"Don't think so."
Sophia looked dissatisfied about her husband's bad timing. "I wanted to step out of the room, but I can't if James is not here."
"I'll hold the baby fort," Margaret promised. "I have to. I see an acquaintance of mine coming in."
"I won't be long." She walked past Judy and stopped. "Leave your baby with Margaret. We're going to do something exciting."
James and Iain had amused themselves tolerably well for an hour. They had survived the next hour because a few relatives had appeared, but then there was a lull and it got a little boring.
"I'd like to see what's going on here before Margaret does," Iain informed James. He had thought about it, but this seemed such a perfect moment for the women to start snooping, when Clarke was ready to go. "So I'm going to have a look."
"Not without me," James said after a glance at Sophia, who was changing a nappy. She would not notice a thing. He moved towards the door and Iain followed. "Though the last time I did something behind her back a murderer tied me to a bed and four women had to rescue me."
"Why would a murderer tie you to a bed? Was it a woman?"
"I was conscious. I was most easily tied horizontally, I suppose, although I've never tied anyone, conscious or unconscious."
"Strange," Iain commented. "Why didn't the murderer just murder you?"
"I'm glad he wasn't logical."
"Well, if we run into a murderer he's got to tie two men to a bed and that's not going to be as easy."
James felt he had to say something. "In normal circumstances nobody would be able to tie me to a bed, not even Sophia, but I was unconscious."
"It's not going to be easy to render two men unconscious. Of course you struggled valiantly when the murderer attacked you, but..."
"I have no recollection of it. I saw him and the next thing I really saw was Sophia. But I see your point, although it felt a little condescending." They entered the hall and he looked around. Except for two people he did not know who were just coming in, there was nobody. Iain did not show any signs of recognising them, so they were probably Judy Lewis' guests.
James pointed at the couch in the corner. "I sat here with Sophia once. She sat in my lap and then my mother appeared. She told my mother we were undercover and my mother didn't believe it."
"Yes, to be caught with your boss in your lap by your mother!" He rounded the corner and looked into the corridor. It was not empty.
"I wouldn't like to be caught at anything by my mother," said Iain. Not even if he was married. He wondered what James' mother had been doing here. They had odd ways in this district, involving family in everything. "What's that thing ahead?"
"It looks like a knife." James hurried nearer.
"That's what I thought. And blood drops on the floor." Iain held him back. "Erm."
"Are you sure we're not being set up?" He looked a little uncomfortable as he spoke, but it was really something he wondered about. It was simply too good to be true to be finding something and a knife and drops of ketchup completely fit into that scenario.
"Set up? Do you mean someone planted a knife for us to find?"
"Well, I don't know. Why should there be one today of all days? The day that our wives planned to do something? What if we get all excited over a knife and ketchup and they'll laugh at us? Because we were initially sceptic, yet we fell instantly for the knife?"
James saw his point, but he was not as afraid. "We did not pack either a knife or ketchup this morning."
"Neither did we, but I suppose it came from the kitchen here."
"I did suggest to Sophia that I could organise something like this for her, but I really don't think that she went to do it herself. This must be real. Let go ahead and see where the blood drops will lead us."
They left the vicious-looking knife where it was and followed the trail. The amount of blood increased as they went along. They came to a door that was ajar. James pushed it open with his foot. There was much more blood on the floor of that office, but there was no body and the window was open. He tried to look out of the window without stepping in the blood, but that was difficult. "I hate to upset my children's first party like this, but we've got to phone."
While he rang the station, Iain tried to reconstruct what might have gone on. Something would have happened here in this room, after which the source of all the blood had been shoved or climbed out of the window itself, while the person with the knife had left it in the corridor. Presumably that person had left through the front door.
If there was a victim, it might still be outside. Iain gestured at James and went to investigate.
Sophia and Judy watched Iain rush past. Curious, they rounded the corner into the corridor. "Oh god, it's a knife," said Judy, looking faint.
"Where is James? He'd better not have got himself into trouble again." Sophia was a little afraid nonetheless, but she was relieved when he looked out of one of the offices.
"Back away, ladies," he said.
"Is there a dead body in there?" She was intrigued. "Someone killed Gary?"
"Who's Gary and why should anyone kill him? No, there's no body. There's only a lot of blood. What have you come to do?"
"I knew something was up here." Sophia could not help sounding a little smug. He knew what they had come to do. She had told him that numerous times in the past weeks.
"There's a lot of blood," he said warningly. He did not think Sophia had planted this. She could not have. She was looking far too excited.
"Darling, do you think I'd faint? You wouldn't have dared to make such a sexist remark to a female colleague a year ago." Just because someone was a woman did not mean she was afraid of blood. She had worked with men who had vomited at the sight when she had not. "Just because I have babies now you think it makes me --"
James grabbed her around the waist. "Yes, it makes you squeamish and brainless. I admit it! But real men like squeamish and brainless women."
She gave him a stern look. "Do not flirt with me on a crime scene."
"You're on maternity leave. I have to ask you to step away." He could not even sound regretful. "Why don't you go and shield our babies and guests from this awful sight?"
"Oh, the menial tasks," she said contemptuously. All she was good for was keeping people at a distance. She was still trying to look into the room and it was a little annoying that Judy, who was not being held, managed to do so first.
"No body," said Judy. "And the window is open. And DCI Scott is now outside. He seems to be indicating that there's a dead body outside."
James felt Sophia gasp and shake, and he tightened his hold on her in case she was thinking of sagging to the floor. "Get yourself together, woman. We're in public."
"I'm sorry about the dead body, not excited. But I knew something was up here! Do you believe me now?"
"We considered the possibility that you planted a knife with ketchup," James revealed. "But you couldn't have done a body. I don't know if I believe you. There is as yet no link to the mysterious figurines. Of course, should that dead body have its pockets full of them, I may reconsider."
"Why aren't we going out to have a look at it?" She struggled against his arms.
"Iain is having a look at it. If he thinks we -- I -- ought to see it, he'll tell us. Tell me why you aren't more concerned about a madman possibly stabbing guests at random right now." He had not yet thought about the guests himself either.
"With what? The knife is on the floor. Besides, why aren't you?"
"The blood doesn't look very fresh. Besides, we would have encountered him, since there's only one way into the main room from here. And why should someone wait until Iain and I are out of the room if he doesn't know us? Too much time passed."
"You're right, sir," Judy spoke up. She had been bending over the drops. "I'd say they've been here some time. Not hours maybe, but definitely not seconds."
"How could I go back to my guests knowing there's been a murder here?" Sophia asked. She wanted to be involved and she would be thinking about it all the time.
"You need to get over that, Sophia. You have two hours of hostessing to go."
"But I want to know who, what, how!"
"You will be informed."
"But James, I wanted you to look pretty and clueless, not to have all the fun!" It was really aggravating how this was turning out.
He grinned. "Come on, Sophia. You knew that you'd have to hand it over if anything real came up, didn't you? So does that mean you were really assuming nothing would come up? Or..."
"The catering woman may have killed Gary because he was here when he shouldn't be," Sophia speculated.
James snorted. "If everyone killed people because they were somewhere when they shouldn't be..." He gave her a little squeeze.
"Point. Let me just check who the victim is and how he died --" She ignored his pointed look at the knife. "-- and I'll return to playing hostess and mother. Deal?"
"Deal." He released her and she almost ran to the front door.
She found Iain standing by a stretched-out shape. "Damn, it's not Gary," she exclaimed. It was a man she had never seen before. He was not wearing either a security or a catering uniform and she could not imagine what he had been doing here.
"Who is Gary?"
"He's the man we arranged the party with. I saw him having words with one of the catering ladies earlier, because he was here when he shouldn't, but maybe he was here to kill this man."
Iain was not as quick to speculate. "I'll have to see who's on duty today to come and investigate, and question the catering ladies." He wondered if the guests should be questioned as well. Many of them were colleagues. None of the others would have anything to do with this either.
Sophia returned to the main room and found that no new people had arrived for her in the short time that she had been out. She wanted to talk to Margaret, but her friend was talking to a man she vaguely knew. Perhaps he was on television. Sophia did not watch enough to know.
Finally she could speak to Margaret. "There's a dead body outside."
Margaret gasped. "Not one of our guests?"
"Er..." Sophia had not wondered if he might be one of Margaret's or Judy's guests. It had not even occurred to her that he could be anyone's guest before she had taken a look. "Not one of mine, at any rate. He was stabbed in an office. I doubt it was anyone's guest."
"Oh. But how do you know he was there?"
"Our men got to him first. You'd think they'd be supportive, but no, they're subversive."
"You mean my man and your man? They were off finding dead bodies? That's indeed totally unacceptable."
"You think it funny," Sophia said accusingly.
"No, I'm relieved that it wasn't me who found the man. I'm not sure I'd really like dead bodies. How did he die?"
"He was stabbed and someone shoved him out of the window."
"Into the car park or the other side?"
"The car park, but it looks like whoever shoved him, also shoved him a little out of sight between two cars."
Margaret looked uncomprehending. "Someone must have seen that. People keep coming and going. Well, I suppose that before he shoved -- must be a he -- he would have looked out of the window to see if anybody was out there, but he couldn't have counted on nobody coming out of the front door just that instant."
"So, did he climb out as well?"
"No. Unless he walked into the corridor to drop the knife and then walked back and climbed out of the window? He might have done that. He might have dropped the knife first, then shoved the body out of the window and followed it immediately. He would only have needed the car park to be deserted for a minute that way."
Sophia tore a sheet out of the notebook in which she kept track of when she had nursed. She wrote down her assumptions for whoever Iain was going to put on the case. It was difficult to have to sit on her hands, but she had to let him handle that. It was his job and only if they were very short-staffed could they rearrange that. She was, as everyone insisted on reminding her, on maternity leave.
Of course when she was only halfway through one of her babies got hungry. She was by now proficient at holding a book as she nursed, but writing was still difficult. By the time she had written it all out, more guests had come for her. They had admired the second baby in the meantime, but nobody could leave without having compared the two.
She got involved in exactly the type of conversations she had planned for James and Iain to have with the guests. "No, they don't sleep through the night, but I don't mind," she assured Mrs Patterson.
"Doesn't the little girl look exactly like the chief superintendent?" Mrs Patterson asked her husband.
"Um..." DCI Patterson knew that both parents currently went by that title. He had no idea which of the two she meant. "Yes, she does."
"And they had a good weight when they were born, didn't they? Have they gained much since then?"
Sophia had no idea if it was considered much. "Everybody was happy with it."
"That's good," said Mrs Patterson. "When I had my first everyone told me it was too little."
"I'm not likely to panic if I see they are doing well." She did not know how she knew, but she did. They were happy and they had no idea that there was blood in another part of the building and a dead body outside. By now people would have come for it and she was missing out on any new discoveries if there were any.
Thankfully Sophia had a good memory. She took it upon herself to question everyone who had come in just before she had left the room, whether she knew them or not. These people had come through the car park and they might have seen something that struck them as a little odd.
Most people, it turned out, had not looked at anything but the front entrance. She did not tell them about the dead body and nobody except a young woman knew about it.
"My husband is a pathologist and Margaret sent him outside," the young woman said with a shrug. "We didn't see anything when we arrived, but we weren't paying attention. I'm sorry that your party is being ruined."
"Oh, not ruined," Sophia assured her. "It may sound a little disrespectful towards the victim, but..." Her party had not been ruined at all.
"I take it it was no one you knew."
"I doubt he was connected to us in any way. I also doubt any guests were involved."
The young woman held out her hand. "DS Lisa Randall, by the way. I used to work with DCI Scott. May I ask if it's easy to combine your two babies with a career?"
Sophia looked blank. Her mind was completely on the murder and not on her career.
"I was thinking of applying for an inspector position, but I've been told my age may work against me. They wouldn't want to risk my getting pregnant. Margaret told me you were Iain's boss."
"Oh." Sophia hoped she was not coming across as too stupid. "I -- I have yet to see if it's easy. So far having them has been both easier and more time-consuming than I had expected. I really don't know how it's going to be when I go back to work." She did not even want to think about it. Her babies still got hungry in the middle of important things. Of course they would probably not be with her once she was really at work, but how she was to provide them with enough milk was a mystery.
"That's the problem, isn't it? Men know exactly how it's going to be for them after the birth: the same."
"Not for mine. But I don't see why you can't have babies and every man your age can. It doesn't affect their career, does it? Take the father of my babies. He's actually been promoted because of it."
"Yes. And even now he's having all the fun of looking for the first clues, whereas I have to take care of my babies and guests. He could do the guests, but not the babies."
"It would get a little crowded out there if everyone went. Your husband is there, mine is, Margaret's is. I don't begrudge my husband his job, by the way," Lisa Randall laughed.
That sounded very reasonable, but Sophia still had a point to make. "They're all husbands. It would be easier if I hadn't suspected anything all along and it wouldn't be my disbelieving husband taking care of it now. I'd like to finish what I started. I have all the time in the world -- I'm on maternity leave."
Lisa Randall looked sceptic.
"Theoretically," Sophia amended. "I may be interrupted frequently and at bad moments, but enough time remains to make myself useful."
After the arrival of two uniformed policemen, James could finally have a look at the body. He was glad that Sophia was no longer there. There was very little to do for her here and she was better off inside. He and Iain were about to hand things over to Mann anyway. There was not much to say. Someone had killed this man, whose identity still had to be established, and then heaved him out of the window. Who and why were for Mann to find out.
James had no idea why the victim could not have remained in the office. He would not be found as easily there, but apparently the murderer had not cared about that. The knife in the corridor was another strange touch.
And why had they not heard anything? It was not that far from the main room and the babies' crying was not so loud as to drown out every sound.
"Between three and four hours ago, is my guess," said the pathologist after a quick look, which was all he could do until their own pathologist arrived.
"That would explain why we didn't hear anything -- I was just thinking about that - but not why this body could be here without us or any of our guests seeing it." James looked around again. They had been the first and there had not been this many cars here, only a few that belonged to the staff. He would have noticed a body.
"We didn't get a lot of guests in the first hour," Iain added. "That means this man might have been dead, but not outside. Why don't you go back inside? I'll tell Mann about it. The ladies may need you at the party."
James chuckled. He went inside and joined Sophia, who was being social with one of the babies. The other was on his mother's arm. "So..." he said.
She was on the case instantly. "Why was the knife in the corridor? We didn't think that was the way the killer left, because there was too great a chance that someone would have seen the body by the time he came out of the front door."
"I don't know about the knife." He had something else to say. "There is a possibility that the victim was dead when we arrived. He just wasn't outside yet. What do you make of that?"
"That makes no sense," Sophia decided immediately. "Why kill him at ten and shove him out at one? Who would wait around for three hours to do that? Because we didn't see the body when we arrived. I always look very carefully when I come here. I suppose it wasn't outside until just before you found it, or someone would have seen it."
"The murderer came back? And was interrupted while trying to get rid of the body?" He snickered at Sophia's always looking very carefully. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined a body in the car park.
"Gary? He was here around ten. He had just killed the man, was interrupted by the catering woman and argued with her, had no choice but to leave and come back to finish his business later." She shook her head. "But I told him there would be police officers around. It would have been stupid of him to kill someone in the five hours we were here."
"Unless it was the only time to do it or it wasn't premeditated. If they had a heated argument he might have forgotten about those police officers. Or he simply wasn't that Gary that you like to mention."
"I don't like mentioning him per se," Sophia said a little haughtily. "He just got himself noticed this morning. That is all. I think someone should ask him why he was here."
"I'll pass the suggestion on." James looked around. "Or you can do it yourself. Hand me that baby."
When Sophia had detailed to Mann everything he should know and should look into -- surprisingly he was not even looking grateful -- she went back inside. She had seen some more guests arrive. They were not colleagues, or they would have come to have a look, and none of them had been acquaintances of hers, but she should remember that she still had people in there she was supposed to speak to before they left.
One of her babies was still with Mrs Riley. She had not deliberately ignored her mother-in-law, but what with all the other guests she feared it had happened anyway. She sat by her. Her own mother had left earlier with Susannah and John.
"What a nice idea, such a party," said Mrs Riley.
Sophia wondered if she should tell James' mother the truth, about her ulterior motives and the dead body in the car park. These could probably not be reconciled with Mrs Riley's idea of a nice party and she decided not to mention them. "Yes, it does seem to have worked out."
"But what was James doing all that time?"
"There was a small accident outside," Sophia said diplomatically. "But other people are handling it now."
Mrs Riley was clearly more interested in her grandchildren than in other people's accidents. She did not ask on. "Alexander looks so much like James."
"I wonder how people can remember that after thirty-five years." She was inclined not to believe such things. Everyone today had said something else. There were many combinations possible if one had twins and she had heard all of them.
She saw Mann go to question the kitchen staff. That was good. Hopefully they would not be so shocked as to be incapable of working on, but that depended on who the victim was. She was curious, but she had to accept that nowadays she had a different type of job, more passive when it came to these kinds of things.
Margaret thought Iain was loving the opportunity to be away from the crowd. He had dutifully sat with her for most of the morning and he had even talked to a few people, but he could only take so much of that. Since he had tried, she did not mind.
She had spoken to her colleague Edwin, who had brought an awfully stupid new girlfriend, which she could of course not tell him in the girl's presence. He never learnt and it was probably useless to tell him, since she had done so at least ten times before. She had also spoken to Lisa Randall, who had put her through some sort of interrogation about her marriage.
"You know us. We're strange," Margaret said. She feared that an outsider, especially one who knew them, would not see as many problems at all.
"I know. I"m very glad he invited me so I could have a look, though!" Lisa replied. "She's an absolute sweetie."
"Thanks. Are you going home after this party or are you free to come home with us? We've had so little chance to chat. I don't call an interrogation chatting."
"We could probably do that. Is Iain coming or is he working?"
"He's only working because there's socialising going on. I'm surprised Sophia is staying here instead of working."
"Oh, his boss? I just spoke to her. She's a little hung up on equality, isn't she? Not in a very bad way. I thought she was amusing enough."
"Well..." Margaret lowered her voice. "She dragged me into this. She was convinced there was something fishy going on here. We went here together and I even had to send Iain here at night to peek into windows. It was quite fun. I don't know what to think of a real murder, though. We were betting on smuggled or stolen goods."
"Someone threatened to spill the beans?" Lisa suggested.
"If there are any beans at all. We didn't really find any. I wonder what she will do next. I have to go back to work soon." It would be more difficult to go on snooping trips.
"Already?" Margaret said, not to her but to Iain, who sat down with them. "I expected you to be busy for much longer."
"The men can do it on their own. They have to. I cannot interfere with every team simply because you were a little involved."
"Of course. And you were a little involved in making Shona, so you came to interfere here..." She squeezed his leg and he blushed, which made her laugh. He was still not used to it.
Mann came to update Sophia after half an hour, something she appreciated. The dead man was a Tony Edwards, the owner. She had looked him up before and he had been clean then. Clean people far less frequently got themselves killed, though. They would have to look him up again and see if there were any links to something less savoury.
She still did not feel her party had been ruined, but she did not feel it had been extremely successful either. For that to be the case she would have had to discover something herself, preferably related to the figurines. As it was, she was simply satisfied.
"He did look rather shady. He had a gold bracelet," she said to James.
"That definitely makes one a criminal," he nodded.
She said nothing. She was grasping at straws, he would say. There was a certain amusement in his eyes. It was better not to tempt him. He had always been dangerous when tempted, even before they had got together.
"I'm glad I don't have a bracelet and that Alex doesn't either," he said. "Though maybe with his genes he'd be safe."
"His mother will make sure of that."
"Of course he may not be a criminal when he grows up, but I do recall you had some issues with my taste at first."
"It was nothing in the order of bracelets and could wholly be ascribed to your mama thinking you were still eight years old. She's still surprised that you change nappies, by the way. I think that when I'm at work and you're at home, she won't trust you at all."
He raised his eyebrows. "When you're at work and I'm at home?"
James had to double-check. When he was at home and she was at work? He would like to know what she meant by that precisely. "We'll divide our hours fairly, I thought."
"No matter what we choose, you will have to be home for some part of the week. I trust you. Your mother may not." And that was her point. She would not worry about James, but his mother would.
"But, but, but," he protested. They had not really discussed it yet, but he was afraid she would simply skip the discussion and take a decision herself. "No matter what we choose? Why do I fear you will take the lion's share?"
She was amused at his slightly frightened look, but she could not show it yet. "Because I'm your boss? And the lion's share of what exactly? Working? Caring?"
"Don't tell me I have breasts and I --"
He grinned. "I assume you're more than aware of that at the moment. No, I need to check this, because I fear you will say the opposite of what you really want."
Sophia nodded. "Because I'm either incapable of being honest or incapable of knowing what I want."
"Oh, you patronising -- you're only thirty-five. What gives you the idea that you know anything at all?"
He laughed now. "But I'm not too young to take care of our children? Darling!"
Sophia was open to certain kinds of persuasion. It might be cheesy flattering on his part, but she had needs too and sometimes one had to give into them.
Sophia was a little disappointed that she had ignored her phone while she was busy, but since the arrival of the twins she had become quite good at ignoring it when it rang at a bad moment. It did not cost her much guilt anymore. When she checked there was a voice mail from Mann that said he would email her.
That the owner had been found dead had not impressed the catering staff much. There had been one woman in her forties and three girls. The girls had no idea who the owner was because they did not work often enough, but the woman did, although she said she never had anything to do with him personally.
Apparently they were operating on minimal staff during the day and they had more people in for events that took place at night. Sophia's suspect Gary was not supposed to come in until three o'clock and his presence earlier had annoyed the catering woman, because she felt as if he was checking up on her. She had told him she was capable of handling everything on her own and he had gone away again, she said. She had not know there was anybody else in the building.
She and the girls had come in through the kitchen entrance and opened all the rooms they needed, without having to go to the offices. They had come in shortly before ten, because they had been told the guests would be here at ten and that they would not need anything but coffee or tea right away.
As to why there were security guards on other occasions, the catering woman did not know. She thought it was a little unnecessary, but she had never asked any questions. There had not been any security on the morning of the murder, but she did not know why either.
Other staff would have to be found, Mann reported, but not Gary, who had come to work at precisely three o'clock and appeared very surprised. Of course he had not seen or heard anything that morning.
"Of course," Sophia said to James. "Did Mann expect him to say he did it? If he'd wanted to do that, he would have phoned the police right after the murder."
James was reasonable. "So maybe he didn't do it. You and I didn't see anything either this morning. If this Gary person stuck to the kitchens and the front entrance, he might really not have seen anything, especially not if the body was still in the office at that time."
"Would it make sense for him to come back at one to place the body outside? He knew we were there. It could have been our busiest hour." Sophia did not think it would make much sense. If he was due at work at three, when their party ended, he would only have needed to wait a short while before the car park was quiet again. The next event would not start until five.
"No. Unless he'd think we'd think it made no sense."
"Murdering rarely makes much sense. Could it have been someone who was thinking we were there for brunch only? Or someone who didn't care at all?"
On Monday Margaret visited Sophia because she was curious. She had been curious earlier, but on Monday the men were back to work and Ailsa was back to school and nobody was in her way. "Iain wouldn't tell me anything," she complained. "He's probably afraid I'll interfere, but I don't even know how. What do you know?"
"There's not much to tell. We're no closer to knowing what goes on there. They don't have security because people get murdered there frequently. It has to be something else and this Tony may have been killed because of it."
"He found out what went on and disagreed," Margaret suggested. "Although it would be pretty stupid to draw attention to it that way."
"Murder is stupid in any case. Why don't we walk that way and see what we can find?"
"Would we find anything? Isn't the place roped off?"
"I know everybody," Sophia said confidently. "If I want a look, they must let me."
"Well, I'm glad I don't have to exploit my fame this time. It occurred to me belatedly that someone might have informed the press about Shona and that they could have crashed my party. I wonder why I didn't think of it. I was always very cautious with Ailsa. It must be Iain's fault." She had been thinking about him too much, when she was not busy with her baby.
"Are you interesting enough for the press?"
"Thanks, Sophia, but sometimes they have to fill those pages. How do we go? Do we walk?"
"That's good for us. I could lose a little more weight, even though James didn't mind. I do. I have no time to renew my entire wardrobe and I don't fit into my skirts yet. I should, before I go back to work. I can't go to work looking like this."
Margaret snickered. "Of course not. Why not? I've only seen you in skirts, I think, so which ones don't fit?"
"I can't go to work in these." Sophia eyed her summer skirt and top.
"Well, I can't go to work looking like this either, but I have a special outfit."
"So do I. It's called a business suit."
"I'm sorry, but what did you wear when you were pregnant? With twins?" Margaret was still amused.
"Nobody took me seriously at all!"
"That might have been because of the belly, not because of your clothes. And they've all seen you in these clothes. But all right, let's walk."
"I do occasionally meet with important people who have not yet seen me after the birth."
"Important people tend to be ugly and fat men. Just saying. They are in no position to make demands. Or are they? You'd better not look too good for them. Oh, hence the business suit, of course."
"What do you know about that?"
"Oh," Margaret said airily. "Network executives can have their oddities."
"Do they want you to look good for them?"
"Of course. There are some who try out every new face, since you can go a long way if you cater to their needs, but I don't go along with that." She had a sharp tongue -- if she chose to use it.
"I know. We have them too."
They compared experiences as they walked to the Treminster Club. There was plenty to say about ugly and fat men who were important. Sophia was not as careless about her job as Margaret was, however. She would not be rewarded with more money if she spoke her mind to her superiors.
"I'm slightly fed up with it," Margaret confessed. "But I don't want to give it up just because Iain wants me to."
"What would he say if you did?"
"Nothing. As always." She laughed, but it was without much amusement. "I just want to be sure. Once out, you're not likely to get back in, especially not when you're already in your mid-thirties."
"Already." Someone in her mid-thirties was so very young. "What would you like to do instead?"
"Well, that's the problem. I don't have any experience doing anything else. Well, a bit of coaching, but I don't have any qualifications. I won't be able to do that once people don't know me anymore. I'd probably end up doing nothing."
Margaret sounded cheerful enough about that, Sophia thought. "But what would people say?"
"Well, people." Sophia could think of too many who would have something to say if she ended up doing nothing. "The entire force would say I was a waste of resources. They let me come this far and then I give it all up. They'd never spend any effort on another woman again."
"I thought you were simply good, not female."
"Until I fail." She was determined not to fail and she was equally determined to get to the bottom of what was going on at the Treminster Club.
There was an officer outside, but she did not immediately approach him. "Let's first walk around the building. I assume they've sent all personnel home." Even their own party had had to be broken up a little early on Saturday. She did not know when the police would finish here, but the club's business was not going to resume today.
"What are we going to do there?"
"Look at the back. Maybe someone went in and out on that side. Not the kitchens, but somewhere else."
"There are no other doors." Margaret wondered if they were going to wheel their prams through the grass. They were, but the grass had still not been mowed. "Wouldn't we ruin any traces this way?"
"Yes," Sophia admitted grudgingly. "We'll stay on the path and see where it leads. Around the little park maybe? Or maybe onto a road where the murderer could have parked." She pushed her double pram over the narrow path and Margaret followed.
Sophia was too busy looking ahead to look at the grass, but Margaret could not help but look to her right now and then. "Stop! I see something. Clothes?"
Sophia stopped and turned, following where Margaret pointed. She could see something blue in the grass. "More than clothes. A body? I'll have a look. Coming?"
"Er...I'd rather not see bodies who are dead or having sex. I'll protect our babies."
"Margaret, bodies lying in the grass are obviously dead. They can't hurt our babies. But anyway." Sophia stepped off the path.
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