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Evanly Bodies

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Evanly Bodies

Evanly Bodies

Also by Rhys Bowen

    The Constable Evans Mysteries Evan Blessed Evan's Gate Evan Only Knows Evans to Betsy Evan Can Wait Evan and Elle Evan Help Us Evans Above Evanly Choirs The Molly Murphy Mysteries Oh Danny Boy In Like Flynn For the Love of Mike Death of Riley Murphy's Law

Evanly Bodies

Rhys Bowen

    EVANLY BODIES. Copyright ? 2006 by Rhys Bowen. All rights reserved. Printed in the UnitedStates of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any mannerwhatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied incritical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue,New York, N.Y. 10010.

    www.minotaurbooks.com

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Bowen, Rhys.

    Evanly bodies / Rhys Bowen.—1st ed.

    p. cm.

    ISBN-13: 978-0-312-34942-4

    ISBN-10: 0-312-34942-4

    1. Evans, Evan (Fictitious character)—

    PR6052.O848 E888 2006

    823'.914—dc22

    2006048380

    First Edition: August 2006

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    This book is dedicated to my husband, John, who has championed my writing, been chauffeur,bodyguard, editor, chief cook and bottle-washer, put up with me throughdeadlines, bad reviews, signings to which nobody came, and rejoiced with me when things wentright. May the next forty years be even better.

    Contents Glossary Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28

     Glossary

    bara brith — speckled bread. Bread with mixed fruits in it (pronounced as it looks)

    cariad — darling. Term of endearment. (pronounced ca-ree-ad )

     — thank you very much. (pronounced ) Diolch yn fawr dee-olch en vower

    Escob Annwyl — literally, Dear Bishop. Good Heavens! (pronounced escobe an-wheel )

    fach — little. Feminine of bach (pronounced vuch with the ch like the gutteral in loch

     )

    Iechyd Da — Cheers (pronounced yachy dah )

    Ydych chi'n siarad Cymraeg? — Do you speak Welsh? (pronounced idich-een sharad cumr-eye-g

    )

     — How are you? Used as term of affection, same as "love" or "dear." (pronounced Sut wyt ti?

     ) sit wit tee

    Evanly Bodies

Chapter 1

    It was the postman who noticed it first. As he careened down Llanfair's one and only street,half in control of his motorbike and half not, he glanced at the small row ofshops to his left. The village boasted three shops and a petrol pump. First in line of shopswas a butcher, G. EVANS, CIGGYD, the Welsh word for "butcher" in large letters, and thenPURVEYOR OFF INE MEATS in tiny ones; then R. EVANS, DAIRY PRODUCTS. These twohad been known locally for years as Evans-the-Meat and Evans-the-Milk, respectively. Only thelast store in the line, T. HARRIS, GROCER AND SUB-POST OFFICE, had spoiled the Evans'smonopoly. But T. Harris was long dead, and his widow had finally given up theunequal struggle of trying to compete with the nearby Tesco's and had retired to live with herson near London. How she could want to spend her final years among foreigners had been a

     lively topic of discussion.

    And so the corner grocery store had remained vacant for some time. The postman, yet anotherEvans, naturally nicknamed Evans-the-Post, had been modernized like most things inNorth Wales. He now made his deliveries by motorbike, enabling him to cover the outlying farmsas well as the villages of Llanfair and Nant Peris. He had been riding the motorbike for atleast a year now but was no nearer to mastering it. The look of wide-eyed terror inhis eyes matched that of the pedestrians who were forced to scramble out of his way. One ofthem leaped aside now as Evans-the-Post turned to stare at what he had just seen, lost control,and almost mounted the pavement. It was Mrs. Powell-Jones, the minister's wife.

    "Idiot! Fool!" Mrs. Powell-Jones shouted, as she reclaimed her dignity after the leap. "I'llcall the postmaster about you! You'll end up killing somebody."

    But Evans-the-Post was already well past her and out of hearing range. He finally wrestled thebike to a halt, extracted a letter from the mailbag, and loped toward the frontdoor of a whitewashed cottage across the street. Instead of posting the letters through aperfectly good slot, however, he rapped on the door and waited until it was opened.

    "Letter for you, Mrs. Williams," he said. "From your granddaughter, the one who's studying inLondon. She loved that jumper you knitted for her. And the bara brith you

    made."

    The round, elderly woman smiled, not unkindly. "Thank you, Mr. Evans, although one of thesedays you'll find yourself in trouble if you keep on reading everyone's letters.You'll read something that's not good for you."

    "I don't mean any harm," the man mumbled shyly.

    "I know you don't. Go on then, off with you, or you'll be late checking in at the post officeand that new postmaster will be after you."

    Evans-the-Post went to leave, then swallowed hard, making a prominent Adam's apple dance up anddown. "Somebody's moving into the old grocer's shop," he blurted out. "I've justseen them."

    "No! Escob Annwyl! Are you sure it wasn't just the estate agent?"

    "No, really moving in. I saw them doing carpentry in there, fixing things up."

    "Well I never. I wonder who's taking it after all this time? I hope they're not thinking ofturning it into something heathen. They turned one of the chapels in BlaenauFfestiniog into a betting shop, you know. And remember that Frenchwoman who turned the chapelinto a restaurant? I'm not surprised the Good Lord burned it down."

    "A café wouldn't be bad," Evans-the-Post said. "Especially if they served fish and chips. Wedon't have anywhere to eat in the village, apart from the pub."

    "Decent, God-fearing people should be eating in their own homes," Mrs. Williams said, foldingher arms across a vast expanse of bosom. "I don't hold with all this eating fancymuck in restaurants. It isn't healthy. They say there's an obesity epidemic, and I say it's toomuch eating away from home." Since Mrs. Williams could never be described as slim, anyone elsewould have smiled at this remark, but Evans-the-Post nodded seriously.

    Mrs. Williams leaned out her front door and peered up the street. A van was parked in front ofthe row of shops. Then she nodded to herself.

    "I think I might make a custard today," she said, thoughtfully. "I'll just pop up to Evans-the-Milk and get an extra pint, just in case."

    With that she put on her coat, tucked her basket on her arm, and started up the street. Shehadn't gone far when she met Mair Hopkins on a similar journey.

    "I'm putting Charlie on a diet," Mair confided, "So I thought I'd get some cottage cheese."

    Together they walked in silence until they reached the shops, each knowing perfectly well theintention of the other, but each being too polite to mention it. The three shopswere set back from the street on a broad stretch of pavement. The sound of hammering floatedout of the former grocer's. Mair Hopkins's face lit up.

    "So it's true what they were saying. There are new tenants in the corner shop. Thank the dearLord for that. I'm that tired of having to catch the bus down the hill to Llanberis or sendingCharlie out in the van when I run out of something."

    "We don't know that it will be another grocer," Mrs. Williams said. "I'm just praying it won'tbe a betting shop, like that old chapel in Blaenau."

    "A beauty parlor wouldn't be bad," Mair said. "Charlie told me it was about time I got my hairdone more often."

    "Well, I'd like to see the post office counter opened up again. You should see the line at thepost office in Llanberis when I was there to pick up my pension."

    "I know. It's terrible, just." Mair Hopkins shook her head.

    The two women were about to cross the road to the shops when Mrs. Powell-Jones came flyingtoward them, seemingly out of nowhere, her pea green cardigan flapping as she ran.

    "You've seen it then?" she said. "New people at the shop. I went in to welcome them to thevillage and to invite them to chapel on Sunday, as a minister's wife should, andyou'll never believe it . . ."

    "What?" The two women leaned closer.

    "Heathens. Foreigners." Mrs. Powell-Jones almost spat out the words.

    "You mean more English people?" Mrs. Williams asked. "Church not chapel?"

    "Worse than that," Mrs. Powell-Jones whispered. "See for yourselves."

    A man had just come out of the shop. He opened the back of the van and removed a long plank ofwood. "Is this the size you wanted, Daddy?" he called.

    "No, not that one, the thicker one," another voice called back, and an older man came out tojoin him.

    " Escob Annwyl, " Mrs. Williams muttered, putting her hand to her heart. The men were darkskinned, and the younger one had a beard and was dressed in a white, flowingovershirt and leggings.

    That evening Detective Constable Evan Evans was driving home from work when he noticed a lightshining out from the formerly empty shop. Even though he was no longer a communitypoliceman charged with keeping the peace in the village of Llanfair, his curiosity got thebetter of him. He parked and pushed open the shop door. Two brown-skinned men were bending overa sheet of paper. There were wood shavings on the floor, and sawdust floated in theair.

"Good evening," Evan said. "Doing some work on the place, are you?"

    Both men looked up at Evan's voice.

    "That's right," the older one said.

    "We're trying to get this finished in a hurry," the younger one said in a dialect that camemore from Yorkshire than Asia. "So I suggest you leave us in peace."

    "I'm only doing my job, sir," Evan said pleasantly. "I'm a policeman and I live in this villageso naturally I wanted to make sure no vandalism was going on in an empty building."

    "A policeman?" The younger man still looked scornful. "Can't they even afford uniforms in NorthWales, then?"

    "I'm in the Plain Clothes Division," Evan said.

    "Then it's not really your job to be checking up on us, is it? You're just plain nosy like therest of them. In and out all day they've been, poking their noses in on somepretext or the other."

    "That's enough, Rashid," the older man said. He wiped his hands on the apron he was wearingover normal street clothes, then held out his hand as he came toward Evan. "How doyou do, Officer. I'm Azeem Khan. I've just bought this place."

    "How do you do, Mr. Khan. Welcome to Llanfair then." Evan shook his outstretched hand.

    Azeem Khan nodded for his son to do the same, but the boy was studying the building plan as ifthey didn't exist.

    "Please excuse my son. He's going through a militant phase. It happens to most of us when weare students, doesn't it?" Unlike his son, his accent was still the liltingPakistani of his forebears. He was clean-shaven, dressed in normal European-style clothes, andhis black hair, now streaked with gray, was cut short and neatly parted. "Rashid, please stopacting in this manner and behave like a civilized human being."

    Rashid Khan gave Evan a cold, challenging stare. "I've had enough encounters with the police toknow that they don't like us, and we don't like them," he said.

    "We're not in a big city now, Rashid," the father said. "We're in a small village, and it'simportant that we get along with everybody or we'll have no customers."

    Evan smiled at the boy. "I suppose I should warn you that folks around here are suspicious ofany strangers. It has nothing to do with race or anything like that. Any Englishperson is considered a foreigner here. So don't take it personally. But I'll tell you onething, if you're opening a new grocer's shop, everyone will be pleased. The older women in thevillage don't drive, and it's a long haul to take the bus all the way down to thesupermarket."

    "That's exactly what we thought when we first saw the place," Mr. Khan said enthusiastically."A great opportunity, I told my wife."

    "Did you have another shop before you moved?"

    "For a while, yes, but the neighborhood went downhill so badly I was afraid to let my daughterout of the house. And now that my son is attending the university here in Wales, Isaid to my wife, 'Why not give it a try? Good clean air and peaceful surroundings.' She hasn'tbeen well, you know. Her heart is not strong."

    Evan turned back to Rashid. "So you are at university in Bangor? How do you like it?"

    "All right so far. I've met other Muslim boys so at least I've got mates to hang out with."

    "Good. Well, I'll let you get back to work then." Evan turned toward the door. "I live here inthe village if you ever need me. Or at least not in the village anymore-just abovethe village. That little cottage just above the pub."

    Mr. Khan beamed. "I was looking at that place when we first came by to see the shop, and I saidto my wife, 'What a lovely view they must have.' And of course she said she

couldn't imagine anybody living up that steep track."

    "She's quite right, of course. That track is impossible on a rainy day. It's a sea of mud, butwe're getting used to it."

    "So you've just moved in too?"

    "About a month ago. I just got married, and we rebuilt the cottage in time for the wedding. ButI've lived in the village for several years. So has my wife. She was the localschoolteacher until they closed the school. Now she has to take the bus to the new school inthe valley."

    Old Mr. Khan nodded. "That's progress for you, isn't it? Everything changes and not always forthe better."

    "Are we going to get back to this, Dad?" Rashid demanded. "I've got a paper to write, youknow."

    "All right, all right." Mr. Khan gave Evan an apologetic smile and turned back to theblueprint.

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