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The Deadly Dance

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The Deadly Dance

(15/30) The Deadly Dance 30 [15] Beaton, M. C. Minotaur Books (2010)

    ?

    Bossy, impulsive, and unlucky in love, the all-too-human Agatha Raisin has proved to be asurprisingly effective---and endearing---amateur sleuth. But can Agatha make it as a privateinvestigator? After getting mugged on vacation, in what she will always think of as the ParisIncident, she decides to find out.

    Agatha soon learns that running her own detective agency in the Cotswolds is not quite likestarring in a Raymond Chandler movie. Instead of dames in distress with big shoulder pads,her clients are ladies with missing cats and a man whose son has run off with his car. Agathaeven worries that she might be outclassed by her sixty-seven-year-old secretary, Emma Comfrey.

    But then wealthy divorcée Catherine Laggat-Brown walks in with their first "real"case. Mrs. Laggat-Brown's daughter has received a death threat, and when Agatha thwarts anattack on the girl at a dinner dance, she recognizes an opportunity to show what RaisinInvestigations can do. Even better, the case gives her a chance to reunite with her long-absent friend, Sir Charles Fraith. As they scour the Cotswolds in search of leads, Charles'insights prove invaluable and his charms irresistible, leading poor Emma to fall madly in lovewith him.

    As ever, Agatha bumbles her way through the case, trying her friends' patience and flirtingshamelessly with the chief suspect. Will she put her tiny agency on the map, or has even theoutrageous Agatha finally bitten off more than she can chew?

     30 [15] Beaton, M. C. Minotaur Books (2010) (15/30) The Deadly Dance

    Bossy, impulsive, and unlucky in love, the all-too-human Agatha Raisin has proved to be asurprisingly effective---and endearing---amateur sleuth. But can Agatha make it as a privateinvestigator? After getting mugged on vacation, in what she will always think of as the ParisIncident, she decides to find out.

    Agatha soon learns that running her own detective agency in the Cotswolds is not quite likestarring in a Raymond Chandler movie. Instead of dames in distress with big shoulder pads, herclients are ladies with missing cats and a man whose son has run off with his car. Agatha evenworries that she might be outclassed by her sixty-seven-year-old secretary, Emma Comfrey. But then wealthy divorcée Catherine Laggat-Brown walks in with their first "real" case.Mrs. Laggat-Brown's daughter has received a death threat, and when Agatha thwarts an attack onthe girl at a dinner dance, she recognizes an opportunity to show what Raisin Investigationscan do. Even better, the case gives her a chance to reunite with her long-absent friend, SirCharles Fraith. As they scour the Cotswolds in search of leads, Charles' insights proveinvaluable and his charms irresistible, leading poor Emma to fall madly in love with him. As ever, Agatha bumbles her way through the case, trying her friends' patience and flirtingshamelessly with the chief suspect. Will she put her tiny agency on the map, or has even theoutrageous Agatha finally bitten off more than she can chew?

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    CRITICS HAIL AGATHA RAISIN AND M. C. BEATON!

    “Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series just about defines the British cozy.”

    —Booklist

    “Few things in life are more satisfying than to discover a brand new Agatha Raisin mystery.”

    The Tampa Tribune-Times

    “Beaton has a winner in the irrepressible, romance-hungry Agatha.”

    —Chicago Sun-Times

    “The Raisin series brings the cozy tradition back to life. God bless the Queen!”

    Tulsa World

    THE DEADLY DANCE

    “Its been 40 years since Dame Agatha Christies death, and in that time, reviewers have oftenbestowed her mantle on new authors. M. C. Beaton is one of those so honored, and she deserves

    it. When it comes to artfully constructed puzzle plots and charming settings, Beaton serves itup … This is a classic British cozy plot, and a setting done with panache. Maybe M. C. Beatonreally is the new ‘Queen of Crime.’”

    The Globe & Mail

    “It is always fun to read an Agatha Raisin mystery, but the latest installment freshens up adelightful series by converting the heroine from amateur sleuth to professional withoutchanging her caustic wit. Agatha remains crude and rude even to clients, but also retains thatvulnerability that endears her to readers ”

    —Midwest Book Review

    “A very satisfying change for the smart woman of mystery with a new cast of colorfullyrealized characters blending with a few old favorites.”

    Mystery Lovers Bookshop

    “The story was first-rate and moved along with many twists and turns that kept me alwaysguessing … I read this book in one sitting, which I think speaks for itself”

    I Love a Mystery

    “Fans of Agatha Raisin will be absolutely delighted at this latest addition to the series. Ms.Beaton has surpassed herself in The Deadly Dance.”

    —Reviewing the Evidence

    ALSO BY M. C. BEATON

    Agatha Raisin

    Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

    Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate

    Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came

    Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell

    Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam

    Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden

    Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham

    Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death

    Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist

    Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage

    Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley

    Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener

    Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

    Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

The Skeleton in the Closet

    Writing as Marion Chesney

    Snobbery with Violence

    Hasty Death

    Sick of Shadows

    THE DEADLY DANCE

M. C. BEATON

St. Martin’s Paperbacks

    NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolenproperty. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed ” to the publisher, and neither the authornor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

    For Richard Rasdall of Stow-on-the-Wold,

    his wife, Lyn, and children, Luke, Samuel, and Bethany,

    and with many thanks to Richard for freeing up Agatha’s brain

    THE DEADLY DANCE

Copyright ? 2004 by M. C. Beaton.Excerpt from The Perfect Paragon ? 2005 by M. C. Beaton.

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoeverwithout written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articlesor reviews. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2004049036

ISBN: 0-312-98474-XEAN: 9780312-98474-8

    Printed in the United States of America

    St. Martin’s Press hardcover edition / November 2004St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / January2006

    St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY10010.

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

    ONE

    THE thing that finally nudged Agatha Raisin into opening her own detective agency was what shealways thought of as the Paris Incident.

    Made restless by the summer torpor blanketing the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds, Agathadecided to take a week’s holiday in Paris.

    She was a rich woman, but like all rich people was occasionally struck by periods of thrift,and so she had booked into a small hotel off Saint Germain des Prés in the Latin Quarter. Shehad visited Paris before and seen all the sights; this time wanted only to sit in cafés andwatch the people go by or take long walks by the Seine.

    But Paris, after the first two days, became even hotter than Carsely and her hotel room did nothave any air-conditioning. As the heat mounted to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and she tossed andturned on her damp sheets, she discovered that Paris never sleeps. There were two restaurantsacross the road with outside tables, and, up until one in the morning, the accordion playerscame around to get money from the diners. Agatha, as she listened to another rendering of “LaVie en Rose,” fantasized about lobbing a hand grenade through the window. Then there was theroar of the traffic and the yells of the tourists who had drunk not too wisely. Later on, asthey felt not too well, she could hear moans and retching.

    Nonetheless, she decided to see as much of Paris as possible. The Metro was cheap and went allover the place.

    On the fourth day of her visit, she went down into the Metro at Maubert-Mutualité. She sat downon a hard plastic seat on the platform and pulled out her subway map. She planned to go to W.

H. Smith on the Rue de Rivoli and buy some English books.

    As she heard the train approaching, she stuffed the map back in her handbag, flipped open thedoors of the carriage with that silver handle which had so bemused her when she had first triedto board, and went inside, aware that someone was crowding behind her, and at the same timefeeling a sort of tremor reverberating from her handbag up through the shoulder strap.

    She glanced down and saw that her handbag was open again and that her wallet was missing.

    Agatha stared wrathfully at the man who had crowded behind her. He was of medium height, white,with black hair, wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans.

    “Here, you!” Agatha advanced on him. He nipped out of the carriage and into the next one,with Agatha in pursuit. Just as she was leaning forward to grab him and the train was movingout, he wrenched open the doors of the carriage and escapedonto the platform, leaving Agatha,who did not have the strength to do the same thing, being carried furiously away to the nextstation.

    Agatha blamed the hairdresser. A Parisian hairdresser had told her that there was no crimearound Maubert because of the huge commissariat. So Agatha took the Métro back to Maubert,darted up the escalator and demanded directions to the commissariat. She was told it was justround the corner.

    It was an ugly modern building with steep steps up to the main entrance. Dripping with sweatand bad temper, Agatha erupted into the entrance hall. There was a very beautiful girl withlong dark hair sitting behind bulletproof glass.

    Agatha poured out her tale of the mugging, expecting to be shown to some detective’s roomimmediately, but the girl began to interview her. Agatha thought sourly that someone so youngand attractive should give way to someone with a bit more authority.

    She was fortunate in that she had only had sixty euros in her wallet and that she had left hercredit cards in the hotel safe. Her passport was in another compartment of her bag.

    After she had been interviewed and had handed over her passport, she was told to take a seatand wait.

    “Why don’t you have air-conditioning in this place?” she grumbled, but the beautiful girlmerely smiled at her benignly.

    At last a tall policeman came out and led her into a side room. He sat down behind a desk andwaved her into a chair opposite. He looked like those illustrations of Don Quixote of LaMancha. Once more, she described the mugger in detail, ending with “Paris is crawling withgendarmes. Why don’t you get down the Metro and catch thieves?”

    “We do, every day,” he said calmly in perfect English.

    “I myself am a detective,” said Agatha grandly.

    “Indeed!” said Don Quixote, showing a glimmer of interest. “To which police station inEngland are you attached?”

    “I’m not. I mean, I’m going to open my own detective agency.”

    The flicker of interest died. “Wait here,” he said.

    There was a mirror behind his desk. Agatha rose and stared at her face in it. She was brightred with heat and her normally glossy brown hair was damp and limp.

    Agatha sat down again as he re-entered the room with a typed letter for her to sign. All inFrench.

    “What’s this about?” demanded Agatha.

    “It is for your insurance and states that if we catch him, he will receive three years inprison and a fine of three thousand euros. If we find your wallet it will be sent to theBritish Embassy. Sign here.”

    Agatha signed.

“That will be all.”

    “Wait a minute. What about mug shots?”

    “Please?”

    “Photographs of criminals. I’d know that bastard anywhere.”

    “Three other people have had goods stolen this morning by the same man. They are French. Thereis no need for your services.”

    Wrathfully, Agatha got to her feet. “I could do a better job than you any day.”

    He gave a faint, uninterested sort of smile. “Then I wish you luck.”

    Agatha went straight back to her hotel and checked out. She was going home and she was going tostart her own detective agency. She had been dithering about it for weeks, but the theft of herwallet had left her with a feeling of not being in charge of events. Agatha Raisin liked to bein charge of everything.

    At Charles de Gaulle Airport, she was just heading for the gate but ran into a crowd of peoplebeing held back by police. “What’s happening?” she asked a man next to her.

    “Someone’s left a suitcase or package unattended.”

    Agatha waited, fuming. Then there was a huge blast. From the chatter around her, she gatheredthat they had blown up whatever it was with a controlled explosion. At Heathrow or otherairports they might appeal to the owners to come and claim their suitcase or package, but inFrance it seemed that they just went ahead and blew it up.

    As Agatha drove from Heathrow, black clouds began to pile up in the sky and by the time sheturned down the road to Carsely, the countryside was rocking and rolling under the blows of atremendous thunderstorm.

    Agatha’s two cats, Hodge and Boswell, came to meet her when she opened the door. Her cleaner,Doris Simpson, came round every day while Agatha was away to feed the cats and let them in andout of the garden.

    Agatha dumped her suitcase in the hall and went through to the kitchen and opened the backdoor. Rain poured down from the thatch overhead, but the air was cool and sweet. Anxious not tolose her determination to set up her own detective agency, Agatha decided to visit her friend,Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife.

    Ten minutes later, Agatha rang the bell of the vicarage with a guilty feeling that she shouldhave phoned first.

    But Mrs. Bloxby answered the door, her gentle featureslighting up in a smile of welcome. “Mrs.Raisin! How nice. Come in. Why are you back early?”

    “I got mugged,” said Agatha. She recounted her adventure.

    “Well, you got pickpocketed,” corrected Mrs. Bloxby mildly. “Unlike you to let somethinglike that put you off Paris. I thought you loved Paris.”

    “I do, most of the time,” fretted Agatha. “It was mainly the heat and the lack of sleep. Andbeing dismissed by the police, just like that! The trouble is they spend all their timepolicing demonstrations, they haven’t got time for the public.”

    “You don’t know that.”

    “Anyway, it gave me the jolt I needed to start my own agency. You do think it’s a good idea,don’t you?”

    “Oh, yes,” agreed Mrs. Bloxby. Although she thought the work would be dreary and sordid, itwould occupy her friend’s restless mind and keep her from falling in love again and gettinghurt. Agatha was addicted to falling in love.

    “I’ve been thinking about starting a detective agency for a time,” said Agatha. “I feel Ineed some official status. I’m a good businesswoman and I feel sure I could make it work. Thepolice are so busy these days and the countryside police stations have been closed one after

    the other. The police haven’t got time for small burglaries, missing teenagers, or errantwives and husbands.”

    “And if it doesn’t work out?” asked the vicar’s wife.

    Agatha grinned. “I’ll take it off my taxes. Anyone taken James’s cottage?”

    It had not been Agatha’s ex-husband James Lacey’s cottage for some time, but Agatha alwaysdreamt that one day he would come back to the village. She could never think of that cottagenext to her own as belonging to anyone else. Agatha had fallen in love with two of the previousowners.

    “Yes, as a matter of fact. A Mrs. Emma Comfrey, retired civil servant. You should call onher.”

    “Maybe. But Eve got a lot to do. I’ll go to the estate agent’s in Mircester tomorrow and seewhat’s on offer in the way of an office.”

    Mrs. Bloxby reflected ruefully that Agatha’s interest in her new neighbour had died as soon asshe found out it was a woman, and a retired one at that.

    It took much more money to set up a detective agency than Agatha ever dreamt it would. Broughtup on Raymond Chandler-type movies, she had assumed that one sat in an office and waited forthe beautiful dame with the shoulder pads to come swaying in—or something like that.

    She quickly found out by surfing the net that detective agencies were supposed to offer a widerange of services, including all sorts of modern technology such as bugging and de-bugging,photographic or video evidence and covert and electronic surveillance.

    Then someone would be needed to man the phones while she was out of the office. Agatha wasshrewd enough to know now that one-woman operations were for novels. She would need to investheavily in employing experts if she expected to get any return.

    Once she had found an office in the centre of Mircester, she put advertisements in the localnewspapers. For the photographic and video evidence, she hired a retired provincial newspaperphotographer, Sammy Allen, arranging to pay him on a free-lancebasis; and she secured theservices of a retired police technician, Douglas Ballantine, under the same terms to cope withthe electronic stuff.

    But for a secretary, Agatha wanted someone intelligent who would be able to detect as well.

    She began to despair. The applicants were very young and all seemed to be decorated withvarious piercings and tattoos.

    Agatha was just wondering whether she should try to do any secretarial work herself when therecame a knock at the door of the office. The door did not have a pane of frosted glass, whichAgatha would have found more in keeping with the old-fashioned idea she had of detectiveagencies.

    “Come in,” she shouted, wondering if this could be her first client.

    A very tall, thin woman entered. She had thick grey hair, cut short, a long thin face and sharpbrown eyes. Her teeth were very large and strong. Her hands and feet were very large, the feetencased in sturdy walking shoes, and the hands were ringless. She was wearing a tweed suitwhich looked as if she had had it for years.

    “Please sit down,” said Agatha. “May I offer you some tea? Coffee?”

    “Coffee, please. Two sugars, no milk.”

    Agatha went over to the new coffee machine and poured a mug, added two spoonfuls of sugar andplaced it on the desk in front of what she hopefully thought was her first client.

    Agatha was a well-preserved woman in her early fifties with short, shining brown hair, a goodmouth and small bearlike eyes which looked suspiciously out at the world. Her figure wasstocky, but her legs were her finest feature.

    “I am Mrs. Emma Comfrey.”

    Agatha wondered for a moment why the name was familiar and then she remembered that Mrs.Comfrey was her new neighbour.

    Agatha found it hard to smile spontaneously but she bared her teeth in what she hoped was afriendly welcome. “And what is your problem?”

    “I saw your advertisement in the newspapers. For a secretary. I am applying for the job.”

    Mrs. Comfrey’s voice was clear, well-enunciated, upper-class. Agatha’s working-class soulgave a brief twinge and she said harshly, “I would expect any secretary to help with thedetective side if necessary. For that I would need someone young and active.”

    Her eyes bored into Mrs. Comfrey’s thin face and flicked down her long figure.

    “I am obviously not young,” said Mrs. Comfrey, “but I am active, computer-literate, and havea pleasant phone manner which you might find helps.”

    “How old are you?”

    “Sixty-seven.”

    “Dear God.”

    “But very intelligent,” said Mrs. Comfrey.

    Agatha sighed, and was about to tell her to get lost when there came a timid knock at the door.

    “Come in,” called Agatha.

    A harassed-looking woman entered. “I need a detective,” she said.

    Mrs. Comfrey took her coffee and moved over to a sofa at the side of the office.

    Vowing to get nd of Emma as soon as they were alone again, Agatha asked, “What can I do foryou?”

    “My Bertie has been missing for a whole day now.”

    “How old is Bertie?”

    “Seven.”

    “Have you been to the police? Silly question. Of course you must have been to the police.”

    “They weren’t interested,” she wailed. She was wearing black leggings and a faded black T-shirt. Her hair was blonde but showing dark at the roots. “My name is Mrs. Evans.”

    “I fail to see …” Agatha was beginning when Emma said, “Bertie is your cat, isn’t he?”

    Mrs. Evans swung round.

    “Oh, yes. And he’s never run away before.”

    “Do you have a photograph?” asked Emma.

    Mrs. Evans fumbled in a battered handbag and took out a little stack of photographs. “That’sthe best one,” she said, standing up and handing a photograph of a black-and-white cat toEmma. “It was taken in our garden.”

    She sat down beside Emma, who put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Don’t worry. We’llfind your cat.”

    “How much will it cost?” asked Mrs. Evans.

    Agatha had a list of charges but that list did not include finding stray cats.

    “Fifty pounds plus expenses if we find him,” said Emma. “I am Mrs. Raisin’s secretary. Ifyou will just give me your full name and address and telephone number.”

    Numbly Agatha handed Emma a notebook. Emma wrote down the particulars.

    “Now, you go on home,” said Emma, helping her to her feet, “and don’t worry about a thing.If Bertie can be found, we’ll find him.”

    When the door closed behind a grateful Mrs. Evans, Agatha said, “You’re rather high-handed,but here’s what I’ll do. Find that cat and you’ve got a job.”

    “Very well,” said Emma calmly, tucking the notebook into her capacious handbag. “Thank youfor the coffee.”

    And that’ll be the last I’ll hear from her, thought Agatha.

    Emma Comfrey checked the address in the notebook. She went into a pet shop nearby and bought acat carrier and asked for a receipt. Mrs. Evans lived on a housing estate on the outskirts ofMircester. Emma tucked herself into her small Ford Escort and drove out to the housing estate.She noticed that Mrs. Evans lived in a row of houses whose back gardens bordered farmland. Thefarmers had been getting the harvest in and Emma knew that meant lots of field mice for a catto chase.

    She parked the car and made her way to a path that led to the fields. She walked into the firstfield, her sensible shoes treading through the stubble. The day was warm and pleasant, withlittle feathery wisps of cloud on a pale blue sky. Emma studied the field and then looked backto where the Evanses’ back garden was located. There were a bordering of gorse bushes and tallgrass at the edge of the field. She made her way there and suddenly sat down on the ground,feeling rather shaky. She could not believe now that she’d had the temerity to ask for thejob, and felt sure there was no hope of finding the cat.

    Emma had been married in her early twenties to a barrister,Joseph Comfrey. He had a goodincome, but barely three weeks after the honeymoon, he said that it was bad for Emma to sitaround the house and she should get work. Emma, an only child, had been bullied by her parents,and so she had meekly taken the Civil Service exams and settled into boring secretarial workfor the Ministry of Defence. Joseph was mean. Although he spent quite a lot on himself—thelatest Jaguar, shirts from Jermyn Street and suits from Savile Row—he took control of Emma’swages and only gave her a small allowance. When she retired, he grumbled day in and day outabout the paucity of her pension. Two years ago he had died of a heart attack, leaving Emma avery wealthy woman. She did not have any children; Joseph did not approve of children. At firstshe had spent long days and nights alone in their large villa in Barnes. The habits of stricteconomy forced on her by her husband were hard to break. She could still hear his nagging,hectoring voice haunting the rooms.

    At last she found courage to sell the house. She packed up her husband’s clothes and gave themto charity. She presented his law books to an aspiring barrister and bought the cottage inLilac Lane next to Agatha’s. Although the women in the village were friendly, she becameinterested in the stories she heard about her next-door neighbour and then she saw Agatha’sadvertisement for a secretary. Time was lying heavy on her hands. It took a great deal ofcourage to walk into Agatha’s office and ask for the job. Had Agatha been less pugnacious, thenormally timid Emma might have apologized her way out of any chance of securing the post, butAgatha’s manner brought forcibly to Emma’s mind her bullying husband and various nasty peopleshe had worked with over the years and that had given her courage.

    Emma sighed. Her little moment of glory was over. The wretched cat could be anywhere: picked upas a stray, flattened by a truck. Emma had been brought up as a Methodist, but gradually shehad ceased to attend the services. She still believed vaguely that there must be a power forgood in the universe. She sat for a long time, hugging her bony knees and watching cloudshadows chase each other across the golden stubble. She suddenly felt at peace, as if the pastand its miseries and the future and its uncertainties had all been wiped from her mind. At lastshe rose and stretched. Time to go through the motions of looking for the cat.

    Just as she was turning away, a shaft of sunlight struck down on the tall grass and gorsebushes and she caught a glimpse of something. She parted the grass and peered down. A black-and-white cat was lying fast asleep.

    Emma went quietly back to the car and got the cat box and returned, hoping against hope thatthe cat was still there. Her luck held. She bent down and caught the cat by the scruff andpopped it in the box. She looked at the houses and at the Evanses’s house in particular. Noone in sight.

    “First bit of luck I’ve had in my life,” said Emma. “Just wait until that Raisin femalesees this!”

    Agatha looked up hopefully as the door of the office opened, and her face fell when she sawEmma. And then she saw the cat carrier. “Good heavens! Is that Bertie?”

    “Indeed it is.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “I found him in a field at the back of his home. I’ve checked with the photographs. I have areceipt for the carrier and I will need to buy cat food and a litter tray and litter.”

    “Why on earth? I mean, phone the woman up and get her here.”

    “Not a good idea.”

    “May I remind you who’s boss here?”

    “Listen. Would it not be better to wait until this evening? Don’t want to make it look tooeasy. Tell her we found Bertie wandering on the motorway and saved his life. Then I’ll phonethe Mircester Journal and give them a cosy story about the new detective agency.”

    Agatha, who had never been outclassed when it came to public relations before, felt a stab ofjealousy. As Agatha never recognized jealousy in herself, she put it down to too much coffee.

    “Very well,” she said gruffly.

    “So I’ve got the job?”

    “Yes.”

    Emma smiled happily. “I’ll just get the necessary for the cat and then we can discuss mywages.”

    The Mircester Journal knew that happy stories were what really sold the paper. After somediscussion, Emma and Agatha decided to keep the cat in the office overnight, present it to Mrs.Evans first thing in the morning and make sure a reporter and photographer were present.

    Emma could barely sleep. She had visions of Bertie dying in the night and of one of Mrs.Evans’s neighbours coming forward to say that she had seen a woman snatching the cat out ofthe field the day before.

    But everything went amazingly smoothly. Agatha longed totake all the credit but could hardlyclaim any with Emma standing there. She felt quite sulky when the Mircester Journal used a

    photograph of Mrs. Evans, Emma and the cat, but did mention the new detective agency.

    TWO

    AFTER a week of working—or rather barely working—for Agatha, Emma could feel the littlepersonality she had found for herself crumbling away bit by bit. Agatha was very much the boss.She had instructed Emma to prepare computer files for all the cases she hoped to get. Otherthan that, she barely spoke to her, and in the evening they went off in their respective carsto Carsely.

    Agatha was cross that the first publicity for the new agency had given praise to Emma. Thephotographer had taken a photo of Agatha and she had worn her new power suit especially for theoccasion, but that photograph had not been used.

    Of course she told everyone in the village who asked that she was lucky to have “found” Emma.Only Mrs. Bloxby was not deceived.

    Agatha had chosen an office in one of the old medieval lanes of central Mircester. It wassituated above an antique shop. Now she wished she had gone for a cheaper place, perhaps out inthe industrial estate. She felt tucked away and it was impossible for anyone to park outside.

    After two weeks, Agatha felt she had good reason to sack Emma. It was silly to pay wages to asecretary who had no work to do.

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