The Impossible Detective


A shaft of sunlight from a window high in the chapel wall flashed on the blade poised to commit murder.

Matthew tried to brace himself for the fatal blow, but sheer terror overwhelmed the potion intended to calm him.

Was this really the way everything was meant to end? He did not want to transcend and become one with Jesus. There was a long life ahead of him and he could not care for his younger sister from beyond the grave. Was this a judgement for disobeying his senior officer and striking out to investigate on his own?

A hand stifled his scream as the knife plunged into his heart.

Blinding, swimming pain… a fountain of blood... then blessed shock. Matthew was borne up by the chanting of his killers, floating over the shell of his mortal remains. He could see through the timbered roof to the heavens and, on the road leading to the chapel, a convoy of police cars screaming to his rescue.

DI Coleridge was first at the heavy, barred doors, hammering on them until they were battered down by a log waiting to be sawn for firewood.

The members of the murderous cult offered no resistance. They were rounded up like submissive sheep, secure in the knowledge that their offering to God had been set free into his dimension of light.

Matthew wanted to tell Manny Coleridge that it was all right, but his superior could not see beyond the heart cut from young man's blood-soaked corpse.


If there was a diploma for domestic chaos, Gillian Sparrow should have achieved one by the age of 11. It might have been a reaction to the mismatch of a house-proud mother and laid-back Jamaican father, but was more likely the result of too many other things going on. Why bother ironing or brushing your hair when there were crime scenes to process, fraudsters' paper trails to follow, or police community constables to rescue when out of their depth?

DS Sparrow, or Tweet as she was more generally known, had enough bolshie charisma to talk a scavenging Tasmanian devil out of a dustbin, charm hostile witnesses who loathed the police into making statements, and get away with insubordination that would have labelled any other officer a troublemaker. She was also expert in martial arts, and her car boot contained the tools and technology to deal with anything from a flat tyre to major emergency.

The one thing her superior, DI Maurice Bolton, drew the line at was the haystack she called hair, so he had ordered Tweet to his barber who gave her a stylish bob, albeit somewhat boyish, which just needed a quick comb every morning.

With nothing more serious than a shoplifter to charge, there was no excuse for DI Bolton and DS Sparrow to avoid the piles of paperwork on their desks any longer.

They would have carried on with the backlog if the report of a missing child had not come in. Fortunately most of children turned up soon enough. Infants could find the oddest nooks and crannies to hide in, and officers with children were well-tuned to what they were. But six-year-old Jobey had never run off before. Perhaps he should not have been allowed to play outside on his own but, being a sensible little boy, why would he come to harm?

After several hours had passed it didn't look good.

Demented drivers, serial burglars and eloquent drunks with a prophet complex were all in the line of duty, but looking for missing children when there was a strong chance of them no longer being alive was the downside of the job. After the search by uniformed officers and local residents came to nothing, the next morning the case was handed to the detectives. While DI Bolton interviewed the parents for the glimmer of a clue, Tweet set out to scour the brickfields where a dog walker had claimed to have seen Jobey running away from someone. The rubble-strewn area local children played on had already been thoroughly searched; it wasn’t that large. And just how far could a child of six travel before becoming exhausted? Surely common sense would have told him to turn back at some point, which to Tweet suggested that someone else had persuaded him not to.

So just how mischievous was Jobey? His parents swore he was a sweet, well-behaved boy, but then - they would, wouldn't they.

DS Sparrow hadn't been a sweet, well-behaved child. From smoking in the cemetery to painting defamatory slogans on the Portland stone of the town hall with lipstick, she knew all the mischief that could go through a young mind.

On the far side of the brickfield was a track, probably made by troops of child-sized feet, which no doubt led to some distant, secret den. Pursuing another of her annoying hunches without reporting in first would only mean a resigned reprimand from DI Bolton if she found nothing. But then, if she didn't come across Jobey, there was always the chance she could meet a Heathcliff in this windswept desolation - as though she would have been so lucky. Young men tended to flee from this disorganised young woman with an ample bosom and waistline to match, even before finding out that she was a black belt at karate. The only male at the station to show any romantic interest in her had been a police dog, now fortunately retired.

Tweet trudged up the long, winding track to a better vantage point. Halfway there a young man appeared. He was no Heathcliff, with fair skin and hair and slight frame. And, much to her amazement, Tweet thought he was rather delicious so she immediately took a surreptitious snap with her smartphone.

‘Seen a six-year-old boy come this way?’ she asked.

The young man gave a serene smile.

She felt her knees buckle.

Tweet pulled herself together. He was too delicate for her robust approach to life and probably spouted poetry.

The stranger lifted a slender hand and pointed to a derelict farm building that had been destroyed by fire years ago.

‘They searched down there.’ Every police instinct told her it was a waste of time. Her libido insisted otherwise. ‘Show me?’

The young man seemed to glide ahead of her through the long grass, his cotton shirt barely brushing the cow parsley, while Tweet's boots busily crushed buttercups.

They stopped by a wind-damaged fence and he pointed to some large drainage pipes.

Drainage pipes! Child-sized hideaways for adventurous infants.

The detective vaulted the broken fence with a vigour that belied her ample proportions and poked her head into the widest one, which was long and curved, to call, ‘Jobey! Are you there?’ Her voice was amplified about the yard.

There was a faint whimper.

Tweet got on her hands and knees and crawled through the pipe. ‘Keep calling darling! I'm going to find you!’

She reached the curve only to discover that it was blocked by an ancient pile of aggregate.

‘Oh shit!’

Again the muffled sound, obviously not coming from the pipes. Unable to turn, Tweet backed out and toppled at the feet of the young man, revealing more cleavage and underwear than was decent. She should really get round to sewing those missing buttons on her shirt. He seemed unfazed, and slightly intrigued, by the law-enforcing baggage that had landed before him. Thankfully he didn't offer to help her up, and instead beckoned her to follow him to a drainage cover. It was obvious a child could not have moved it, so where would have been the point of the search team looking down there?

Tweet noticed the indentation where it had been propped open with a nearby pipe that had been dislodged.

‘Are you in there Jobey!’

There was a muffled reply.

‘Sweet Jesus! He must have been down there all night!’

Tweet immediately reported in to request assistance before tossing her jacket aside to haul at the deadweight trapping the six-year-old. All thought of dignity and the young man gone, she cursed Bazalgette and Victorian drainage engineers in general before managing to move the cover over far enough to shine her torch into the gloom below. What were they going to breed on this farm? Alligators to release into the sewage system?

There was the wail of a child who had spent too many hours sitting in water and total darkness.

With a supreme effort, Tweet levered the cover up and allowed it to fall aside so she could drop into the drain and lift Jobey out.

Once wrapped in her jacket and reassured, he pointed to the young man. ‘How did he get out?’


‘He helped me when that man chased me. I was frightened and hid. Then he stayed with me when the lid fell down.’

Tweet assumed that the trauma was making the child fantasise and relieved when medical assistance came. Her instincts may have been many, but mothering wasn't one of them.

As the boy was checked over and taken away in an ambulance, DI Bolton arrived. He looked at his mud-spattered, dishevelled DS like a queen bee annoyed at an unruly worker. ‘What the hell persuaded you to come here, Sparrow?’

‘That young man.’ She pointed to where he had been standing. But her hope of a more intimate encounter had disappeared.

‘I think it was just another of your barmy hunches.’

‘No honestly, boss, there was this rather tasty young man.’

‘Oh shut up. You're beginning to sound hormonal.’

‘Nothing in my terms of service says I can't lust every now and then.’

‘Not surprised he ran off. For pity's sake clean yourself up and get back to the station.’

‘Can I buy some chips first? I'm starving.’

‘No. It’s a wonder all those black belts are long enough to go round your waist.’

‘It’s muscle!’

‘It’s too many fry-ups and creams buns.’

Then her superior realised why she was more dishevelled than usual. ‘Did you actually manage to crawl through one of those pipes?’

‘I was being thorough.’

‘Wonder you didn’t get stuck.’


After a quick tidy up, coffee and chips, Tweet returned to the station determined to persuade DI Bolton that the subject of her non-romantic encounter existed. It wasn't until she had printed out the snap she had taken of the young man that he believed her.

His reaction was totally unexpected. As he examined the fair, fine features of the stranger, Maurice Bolton’s expression fell as though he had been doused in cold water.

‘You know him?’

He gave her one of those penetrating looks usually reserved for the worst villains. When in the best of moods this man, in his ridiculous striped pullovers, resembled a cross between Mr Pickwick and a bumblebee. When challenged, out came that sting which immediately quelled the impression. ‘You're not pulling my leg, are you Sparrow?’

She was baffled. ‘'Course not boss. For some reason the image didn't come out well. Must have been shaking with anticipation.’

DI Bolton always knew when his subordinate was telling the truth and placed the print in his pocket. ‘Think you could find him again?’

‘Sight of my boobs probably scared him off for good. Don't tell me he's a felon of some sort? Won't believe it.’

‘No, far from.’


Tweet went home that evening, phoned her mother who was busy polishing the porcelain as usual, and father in the Caribbean bar he ran, tidied the lounge, ironed the pile of clothes that had accumulated over the last month, and sewed on buttons.

About 9.30 there was a knock at the door of her basement flat.

She opened it.

It was DI Bolton. He looked about her unusually tidy residence with a wide, smug smile. ‘You all right Sparrow?’

‘'Course. Why not?’

‘You really fancied this young fellow, didn't you?’

There was a deep voice behind the detective. ‘He was a very attractive young man, but too shy to take advantage of it. Don't think he ever did have a girlfriend.’

‘This is DCI Coleridge.’

‘Long retired,’ added the elderly man. ‘The knees may have gone, but I can still remember a face, especially this one.’ He held up the photo she had taken.

Tweet ushered them to the settee. ‘I'm teetotal at the moment. Tea or coffee?’

DI Bolton's grin became even smugger. ‘We will have a glass of that sherry you keep tucked away for a new boyfriend. Must have matured to a nice vintage after all these years.’

‘Bitch… ’ she muttered under her breath as she went to the cupboard.

‘I'm very sorry,’ Manny Coleridge called after her, ‘but you might as well drink it now because you’ll never see this young man again.’

She brought the bottle and three glasses to the coffee table. ‘So who’s this mysterious stranger then?’

Maurice Bolton turned to his retired colleague, his mood suddenly sombre. ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’

‘His name was Matthew... Matthew White.’

‘Was?’ interrupted Tweet.

‘He was my oppo in the early 80s.’

She missed a glass and poured sherry over the TV remote. ‘What?’

‘Murdered by Justin J Kaynam. It was all kept quiet. Connections in high places. That sort of thing happened back then.’ Manny Coleridge took a folded A4 sheet from an inside pocket. ‘Journalist I knew wrote the whole thing up against the chance of it being made public. Never happened though.’ He handed the page to her. ‘I ensured he didn't get too purple for the sister's sake.’

Tweet mopped up the sherry with some tissues, and then sat down to read aloud:-

‘The Blood of Christ

‘In the late seventies a group of aristocrats and influential wealthy decided that the best way to emulate Jesus was to totally invert the Transfiguration into something evil beyond comprehension.

‘The cult formed by Justin J Kaynam had all the respectable trappings of a monastic order - albeit with servants and silverware. They built a chapel at the farm, which was all that left of a member’s estate after death duties.

‘These like minds probably devised this cult as a reaction to the legislation of the socialist government. Instead of sponsoring a reactionary MP, their distorted reasoning decided that it was their God-given right to draw the blood of the lower orders who had voted in Labour - literally!’

Tweet stopped reading. ‘Good God!’

Manny Coleridge indicated that she carry on.

‘The premise on which this sad collection of privileged elite based their cult was that the Blood of Christ ran through the veins of the meek. Any innocent soul who had dedicated his (he had to be male of course) life to the needs of another was deemed blessed. One or two reclusive altruists of no great note had gone missing since its inception and their bodies never found. By the time someone made the connection, too much time had passed for useful investigation... Until DC Matthew White decided to follow up a lead, that was. Years later, one of the servants at the monastic community admitted that he had been ordered to phone the young detective. He was told to come alone and inform no one else if he wanted to learn about the disappearances. The inexperienced officer realised he was making a mistake, yet must have felt he could not ignore a lead which would establish his credentials as a detective. So he jotted down a note for his superior, DI Coleridge, and left.

‘Matthew White's parents had died in a train crash when he was 15, leaving him to raise a 10-year-old sister, despite the efforts of the authorities to move her into foster care. Becoming a police cadet and entering the service enabled them to stay together.

‘The young man believed good of everyone, something his superior attempted, unsuccessfully, to knock out of him. As a consequence Matthew innocently entered that nest of evil where he paid the ultimate price for being a decent, guileless human being.’

Tweet lowered the article. ‘I don’t want to read any more.’

‘Go on,’ DI Bolton ordered. ‘You know damn well shit happens.’

‘By the time DI Coleridge saw the note it was too late. DC Matthew White was dead – his heart cut out. The cult members were arrested and charged with murder. None of them were prosecuted. Matthew White's body disappeared from the morgue and the cult's farmhouse headquarters went up in flames the same night. For years his 17-year-old sister, Alice, was inconsolable, made worse by the fact all charges against his murderers had been dropped.’

Tweet took a swig of sherry. ‘So the case file disappeared as well then?’

‘Oh yes.’ Manny Coleridge removed a flash drive from his wallet. ‘But we did have photocopiers back then.’ He would have handed it to her, but Maurice Bolton took it.

‘Don't let her have the thing. You've no idea what she's like.’

‘Oh come on...’ Tweet protested.

‘This is mine. You're too infatuated to be sensible.’

‘Matthew wasn't the sort to want revenge,’ added the retired DCI, ‘but his sister deserves closure. Most members of the cult are dead. Justin J Kaynam, knowing he couldn’t be touched, slithered out of the country and built an oil empire. Dead now as well.’

But Tweet was thinking out loud to herself, ‘Why would Matthew suddenly appear to me out of nowhere…? And why now…?’

‘Ignore her,’ whispered DI Bolton. ‘She's away with her father on this tropical island serving hash and mint juleps. Not surprised her mother threw them both out.’ He turned to Tweet. ‘Well, what do you make of it?’

‘That farm where we found Jobey was this cult's headquarters, wasn't it. And all that rubble in the brickfield used to be the chapel. And those pipes meant they were laying a mains sewer to build something pretty big. Don't suppose anyone found out what that was either?’

‘Not a clue. Enough funds were raised to bulldoze the chapel so we never will now.’

‘So that dog walker we thought was senile didn’t imagine that little Jobey was being chased…’ Tweet took a deep breath. ‘This cult is back in business, isn’t it?’

‘There, what did I tell you, what she lacks in charm she makes up for in deduction.’

‘I only wish she had been on my team back then,’ said Manny Coleridge.

‘Her, a black belt in martial arts? She would have beaten the lights out of the murdering buggers, not to mention the blokes on your team that gave women bother back then. And you really don’t want to know what she keeps in the boot of her car.’

The retired DCI came to a decision. ‘May I borrow her?’

‘Do what?’ Tweet and Bolton asked in unison.

‘Oh come on, Maurice. You know I'm a cold case consultant.’

Bolton obviously didn’t. ‘Well bugger me! Though I should have known you'd never retire.’

‘Well, you know what they used to call me - The walking dead.’ He could see that Tweet was intrigued. ‘Been shot twice, fallen off a cliff, and survived three car crashes.’

DI Bolton could have added more to the list, but saw that expression of respect creep over his subordinate's face. The domesticated detective had no way of competing with that just to impress her. If he couldn’t manage dangerous situations by being prickly, he just ducked and called for backup. Most of the old coppers he knew were either mad, corrupt, or committed beyond the call of duty, like the ill-fated Mathew.

‘How am I supposed to manage without this disorganised baggage?’ he complained. It was the nearest to a compliment Tweet had ever heard from him.

‘Adopt one of those blokes wetting themselves to be detectives,’ the ex DCI told him.

‘Well I'm game,’ announced Tweet. ‘All that annoyed buzzing was starting to give me tinnitus.’ She topped up Manny Coleridge’s glass. ‘When do we start-’

‘Don’t you dare call him boss!’ warned Bolton. ‘He's Sir to you.’

‘And I may need you to get the odd search warrant,’ Coleridge warned him.

Bolton sat back and drained his sherry. ‘All right, boss. You’re entitled to that before the Grim Reaper decides your time’s really up.’

Coleridge handed Tweet a card. ‘I share an office with an archivist in this broom cupboard at the County Hall. I'll see you there at ten tomorrow morning.’

‘Ten!’ scoffed Bolton.

‘I'm an old man now, Maurice. Takes longer for the brain cells to warm up.’

‘That’s senility,’ Bolton muttered.

‘But I'm not deaf.’


The broom cupboard turned out to be an office next to the stacks containing the county records of births, deaths, land ownership, et cetera... Plus - most importantly - old police records. It was an Aladdin's cave for recent history. As well as being a cold case consultant, Manny Coleridge was engaged by the council to dig out documents to settle land disputes and movement of suspect businesses that slipped the attention of Companies House.

Tweet felt overwhelmed by the towering shelves of document boxes, being too used to her smartphone and laptop. Fortunately the retired DCI was not counting on her office skills. He sent her back to the farm where she had encountered Matthew.

Now that a child's life was not in danger, Tweet didn't believe for one moment that the shade of the dead DC would reappear, so she sat on a rotten log by the brickfield watching bumblebees in the buddleia and wondering how DI Bolton was getting on without his DS. With a shudder, it occurred to her that she could have been relaxing on the very log Manny Coleridge's team had used to batter down the chapel doors, too late to save Matthew. No sooner had the thought crossed Tweet’s mind than she became aware of a slight figure standing by what few bricks remained of the chapel wall. He was no longer distinct and she doubted that her smartphone would capture enough of the phantom to print out.

‘Been waiting for you.’

Again that serene smile. Why couldn't the man be angry? He had been horribly murdered after all.

‘Help me out here. Tell me what I'm looking for?’

Matthew made an expansive gesture then lifted his palms to the sky.

‘You ascended?’ Tweet tried not to sound amazed.

He made another motion which she took to be rising smoke.

‘Your body was cremated?’

He spread his hands, palms down to the ground.

‘And your ashes were scattered.’ She sighed. ‘Well that's that then. No forensic.’

Then Matthew opened his shirt.

Tweet was a pretty tough cookie, but recoiled at the gaping wound in his chest where his heart had been ripped out.

Then she realised what he was telling her. ‘Oh my God! Of course! They collected the blood of their sacrifices – their hearts! But why come back now, Matthew?’

The ghost indicated the height of a child with one hand while lifting a dagger with the other.

It could only mean one thing. ‘It can’t be the same Justin J Kaynam who murdered you? He’s dead.’

He held his arms as though cradling a child.

‘His son!’

Tweet pulled out her mobile.

‘It's me Sir. You were right. This cult’s back in business. Don’t ask me how I know, but I’m sure it’s been resurrected by the son, probably with the old man’s oil money. Can you find out where he is? If that bloke chasing little Jobey was connected to the cult the new HQ probably isn’t too far away.’

Matthew began to fade. Tweet longingly watched him go, knowing she would never see him again.


The address Manny Coleridge tracked down for Densel Kaynam arrived in a text message which warned Tweet to wait for a plan of action. But another child's life was at stake and, unable to explain to her superiors how she knew, she drove to it like an 18-year-old on legal highs.

It was late evening when she arrived at the rambling mansion large enough to have its own chapel. The grounds were surrounded by high electrified walls patrolled by dogs. Tweet may have been a black belt in martial arts, but wasn't a pole-vaulter. After a brief call to DI Bolton to reassure him everything was under control - which alarmed him even more than her prolonged silence - she took a drone from the boot of her car and set the night sites of its camera. The low throb of a generator and amplified chanting in the chapel masked the sound of her spy in the sky as it circled the monastic community.

Tweet flew the spy drone as low as she dared over the chapel, and then took it higher as a crocodile of hooded men carrying a semiconscious child ceremonially made their way towards its doors.

Matthew was right.

Tweet pulled out her phone. ‘Boss, I think you'd better mobilise a squad to get out here and batter down the gates.’

‘Coleridge called me, you stupid cow! What the hell do you think you're up to!’ Bolton erupted.

‘No time to explain. Child about to be murdered. Check out the drone surveillance I’m sending.’

‘You had better be right about this...’

‘Can't chat. I'm going through that wall.’ She disconnected the call before hearing the inevitable stream of expletives.

Tweet opened the boot of her car and put on her protective vest, Wellington boots and rubber gloves. She then took out some bolt cutters and headed for a side gate. That was electrified as well, but once the padlock had been sheared off the system was short-circuited, setting off alarms across the property. The grounds were immediately lit up and two guards with dogs dashed towards the intruder.

Tweet used her pepper spray on the Dobermans and kicked off her Wellington boots to immobilise the guards with several karate blows as they obviously had not been trained to combat standard. Fortunately the congregation's confidence in their security was misplaced and the chapel doors had been left wide open. The interior was bathed with a lurid glow in keeping with the blood cult’s murderous mores, and a dozen hooded men were gathered about the altar.

For a second Tweet imagined Matthew laying there, his heart cut out. Fortunately this young teenager was still alive. But wouldn’t be for long if she didn’t do something. The DS wasn’t going to waste time showing the congregation her identification when it was more effective to announce her arrival by hurling a hefty candlestick at the gathering. It bounced from the back of the tallest member and landed in the pews where the candle in it guttered out.

The hooded men turned to see the unlikely avenging fury.

‘Who the hell are you?’ demanded their leader, Densel Kaynam.

‘The fuzz, arsehole! Release that kid!’

The knife poised to make the sacrifice instead sliced past her ear, nicking it. Then there was the distinctive click of an automatic weapon. The tall man threw back his hood to reveal the tattooed features of someone who believed that the SS insignia was an artistic statement.

Tweet used the seat of a chair as a shield and charged towards him, plunging one of its legs into his groin before he could fire then disarming him with a few bone-breaking karate kicks.

The other members of the cult scattered in all directions.

Tweet would have pursued the robe of their leader if she hadn't been bowled over by the squad of armed officers who had stormed into the church.

‘That one's mine!’ she yelled and dashed after Densel Kaynam.

Her quarry moved like a panicked meerkat, but she was determined to explain that the sacrifice of innocents was no longer regarded as a perk of the privileged. Apart from that, she was hoping that he would resist arrest. As he was the son of the man responsible for Matthew's murder, inflicting some pain would be very therapeutic - for her anyway.

Densel Kaynam headed into a side chapel where there was a rack of loaded shotguns.

A glass-fronted cabinet facing them contained something that made Tweet stop dead in her tracks. Behind its glass doors were three dozen or more reliquaries - the hearts of the innocents!

In the shock of recognition, Tweet hardly registered the sudden blow to her protective vest that hurled her back out of the side chapel. Recovering her balance, she was aware of blood on her hands.

Her face had been peppered by shot.

The cool control of the martial arts expert went out of the stained-glass window and she was after Densel Kaynam before he could escape through an outer door. Bringing him down with a rugby tackle, she snatched off his cassock hood with the intention of laying into him like a demented fury. The fact that Tweet recognised his face from some newscast or other meant nothing. By the time she had finished, even his trophy wife wouldn't recognise him.

As serious injury was about to be inflicted, a breathless DI Bolton shouted, ‘Pack it up Sparrow! We want him alive!’

Before he could catch his breath and launch into a tirade about reckless insubordination, the sight of her face stopped him dead. ‘My God! What happened to you?’ He pulled his DS off the cult leader and beckoned another officer over to arrest him. ‘You don't believe in doing anything by halves, do you?’

‘If I hadn't come in when I did they would have killed that kid!’

‘I know. We all saw the feed from the drone. Don't mean you're off the hook for disobeying orders though.’

Tweet was beyond caring. She pointed to the cabinet of reliquaries. ‘You'll find Matthew over there.’


Tweet was persuaded to stay with Manny Coleridge in County Hall, ostensibly to avoid the public being exposed to the sight of her face after the shot had been surgically removed, when it was actually to keep her away from the cult suspects: Densel Kaynam had already made a complaint against the fury from Hades who had attacked him. The fact he had just shot Tweet should have proved a reasonable defence, but Maurice Bolton knew better than to count on it when dealing with the rich and powerful. His efforts to persuade the prosecution not to call her to give evidence backfired and he was removed from the investigation as well, which was handed to a more senior officer. Tweet could well imagine the furious buzzing his wife had to listen to that evening.

It may have been intended as consolation when Manny Coleridge invited DI Bolton and DS Sparrow to lunch at an expensive hotel. The surroundings in the huge marquee by the lake were idyllic, the food delicious, and arrival of two unexpected guests would have been intriguing if the detectives were not still stewing resentfully at being marginalised in the crime of the year.

Manny Coleridge introduced them to an elegant, slightly built woman a few years younger than him.

‘This is Alice. She insisted on meeting the detectives responsible for arresting her brother's killer.’

Tweet dropped her pastry fork. ‘Oh my God! Matthew's sister.’ Despite the discomfort it caused, her macerated features lit up. ‘Sorry about the face. It might be an improvement for all I know. The miserable bloke here is DI Bolton. We were going to toss up for who got into the interview room with Densel Kaynam first, but they took us off the case before we could put on the knuckledusters.’

If Alice had been taken aback at the odd couple before her, she graciously did not show it. ‘We are so grateful you brought us closure. Now Matthew can rest in peace.’

Tweet shuddered a little as she inexplicably imagined that the young man’s ghost was there with them. ‘We?’

‘My grandson particularly wanted to meet you, DS Sparrow. I think you have a lifelong admirer.’

Only then was Tweet aware of the fair-featured young man smiling benignly at her face, which looked as though a manic woodpecker had attacked it.

Incredibly, he seemed infatuated.

Alice gently pushed the shy young man forward. ‘Here is my daughter’s son.’

Tweet sat gawping until Maurice Bolton groaned under his breath, ‘Oh good grief, she's getting hormonal again.’

‘He works in cybercrime forensics,’ Alice explained.

‘And his name's Matthew, isn't it?’ Tweet suddenly announced.

‘Well yes.’ Matthew's grandmother cast an enquiring glance at Manny Coleridge.

‘I never said anything,’ he assured her.

‘How did you know?’

‘You wouldn't believe it,’ said Tweet, ‘because I'm not sure I do either.’