“Have you brushed your teeth?” I yelled up the stairs. No answer. I took a breath, then raised my voice a notch. “Toby, have you brushed your teeth?” I looked at my watch and tried not to grit my teeth. “We’re going to be late.” The only response was a faint gurgle. My seven-year-old son is notorious for skimping on his personal hygiene. This time I dialed it up to drill sergeant. “Kit?”
The appeal to our almost-fifteen-year-old was met with silence.
Charlotte’s curly head appeared at the top of the stairs. “Mummy, Kit’s listening. And Toby’s running the water in the bathroom.”
Our foster daughter had adjusted well to the changes in her life this past last year, but she still didn’t like raised voices or anything that upset the family harmony. “Okay, lovey, I’m coming,” I said, but under my breath I muttered, “Bugger,” as I started up the stairs. I had to get three children to different schools, then get myself across London to Brixton Police Station. Detective inspectors were expected to be on time. This detective inspector would have managed much better if her detective superintendent husband had not taken off early for work.
We were used to juggling schedules, with two senior police officers and three kids—not to mention the two dogs, the cat, and the two kittens who were probably at this moment climbing the curtains—but lately Duncan seemed to be pleading work as an excuse to leave early and come home late. I was annoyed—no, honestly, I was bloody worried—but every time I tried to talk to him, he changed the subject or had to make an urgent phone call.
I gave Charlotte’s candy-floss hair a tousle as I reached the top of the stairs. “Are you ready, darling?” She had her school blazer on and her little pink back pack already firmly in place. The snout of Bob, her plush green elephant, poked coyly out of the flap. At three-and-a-half, she was getting very grown up, but Bob she was not willing to part with. “Good girl,” I said, and gave her a hug.
When I looked into the boys’ room, I saw that Kit was struggling with his tie, eyes closed, earbuds firmly in place. It was only when Tess, his little terrier, jumped off the bed and barked that he opened his eyes and saw me. “Two minutes,” I mouthed, and he nodded, giving me a thumbs up and a cheeky grin. When had he shot up like that? I suddenly wondered, realizing I was looking up at him. For just an instant I wished I could slow him down, slow them all down, but then I spied the clothes spilling from the boys’ laundry hamper and revised that sentiment. My weekend loomed before me.
And then there was Toby. I rapped on the bathroom door, then tried the handle. It was locked. “Toby James, open that door this minute.”
There was a rattle and the door swung open, revealing my imp of a son, a smear of toothpaste on his lip. “Ready, Mummy,” he said, radiating innocence, and I wondered what on earth he’d been doing. His white-blond hair looked darker than usual and was suspiciously spiky.
“You’ve been into Kit’s hair gel. Wipe it off and wash your face. Two minutes, or I’ll not let you go to ballet tomorrow.” His face fell and for once he scrambled to do as he was told. It was a serious threat.
Who would have thought that this unruly boy would have fallen madly in love with ballet? But he had a flair for drama—or I should say he could wring drama out of a stone—and he’d always been constantly in motion. The newly discovered passion for dance seemed to still something in him, and his Saturday classes were the focus of his entire week. Missing a lesson at the Tabernacle was unthinkable.
Three minutes later, we clattered down the stairs. A glance at the kitchen showed the dishes unwashed and my half-eaten slice of toast still on the kitchen table, along with my half-drunk cup of tea.
I would catch up, I thought. It was Friday, and I would have the whole weekend. Duncan had promised to entertain the flock while I did the big supermarket run. We would do the washing, enjoy the beautiful May weather, go to the park or Portobello Market, spend time with the kids. I might even do some gardening.
Just please God don’t let a big case come up at work today, I added in a silent prayer. No murders, no assaults. I would just get through the day. I would even get lunch. Tomorrow Toby would go to ballet and we would all have a couple of hours’ peace. Duncan would be his old self. Maybe we would even snatch a few minutes together.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
You can read more about Gemma in GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS, the 17th book in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series.
Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are drawn into separate investigations that hold disturbing—and deadly—complications for their own lives in this powerful mystery in the bestselling series.
On a beautiful morning in mid-May, the body of a young woman is found in one of Notting Hill’s private gardens. To passersby, the pretty girl in the white dress looks as if she’s sleeping. But Reagan Keating has been murdered, and the lead detective, DI Kerry Boatman, turns to Gemma James for help. She and Gemma worked together on a previous investigation, and Gemma has a personal connection to the case: Reagan was the nanny of a child who attends the same dance studio as Toby, Gemma and Kincaid’s son.
Gemma soon discovers that Reagan’s death is the second tragedy in this exclusive London park; a few months before, a young boy died in a tragic accident. But when still another of the garden residents meets a violent end, it becomes clear that there are more sinister forces at play. Boatman and Gemma must stop the killer before another innocent life is taken.
While his wife is consumed with her new case, Kincaid finds himself plagued by disturbing questions about several previous—and seemingly unrelated—cases involving members of the force. If his suspicions are correct and the crimes are linked, are his family and friends in mortal danger as well? Kincaid’s hunch turns to certainty when a Metropolitan Police officer close to him is brutally attacked. There’s a traitor in the ranks, and now Kincaid wonders if he can trust anyone.
As Gemma begins to see a solution to her case, she realizes she holds a child’s fate in her hands. Can she do the right thing? And can Kincaid rely on his friends, both inside and outside the Scotland Yard force, to stand beside him as he faces the deadliest challenge of his career?
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Meet the author
Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who has had a life long love affair with Britain. After living in England and Scotland, she began writing the Kincaid/James crime novels, featuring her two Scotland Yard police officers, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James, and their now blended family.
Crombie, who lives in an old house in Texas with her husband, two German shepherds, and three cats, travels to England several times a year to do research for her books. Garden Of Lamentations is her 17th Kincaid/James novel and she is hard at work on the 18th. Connect with Deborah at deborahcrombie.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Garden of Lamentations is available at retail and online booksellers.