Maxwell's Crossing

Maxwell's Crossing by M.J. Trow Read Free Book Online

Book: Maxwell's Crossing by M.J. Trow Read Free Book Online
Authors: M.J. Trow
fate, but he did it anyway. ‘Let’s hope there’s no murder and mayhem today, but if there is, let it be at one minute past nine,’ he said.
    â€˜If I had a drink, I would drink to that,’ Jacquie said, raising an imaginary glass.
    â€˜Clink,’ said Maxwell, waving his real glass at her. ‘Scrabble?’
    â€˜Don’t mind if I do,’ she said and they pushed back their chairs and went across the landing to the sitting room. ‘No proper names, nothing foreign and absolutely nothing historical. You cheated last time with “defenestration”.’
    â€˜Only because I inadvertently put two effs in it.’
    Metternich listened carefully from under Mrs Troubridge’s abandoned chair for the faint pop as the gas fire was lit, then crept out stealthily. He was allowed a lot of leeway, he realised, especially now he had experienced Happy Paws cattery and all that that had entailed, but he knew that even he would be pushing his luck if he licked the gravy off the plates in full view of everyone. So he waited a while longer and then, when the tiles had been shaken out and Jacquie had let out her usual wail when Maxwell could get rid of all seven letters on the first go, he sprang onto the table and started with the dregs in the gravy boat. Ah, the hint of turkey!
    It was eight fifty-nine and the Maxwell house was quiet. Nolan had gone to bed without a problem, clutching his hamster to his chest, and Maxwell had done thewashing-up while Jacquie dozed in front of The Sound of Music. She couldn’t stand the film, but Maxwell hated it with a mad passion, so it amused her to watch at least the beginning whenever it was shown. The Scrabble had been a rout as usual, the cold turkey and bubble and squeak a mere formality as they were all so full still, and so Christmas Day had wound its usual uneventful way down to night, sleep and Boxing Day.
    Maxwell was sprawled on the sofa, with Jacquie sprawling the other way, so that he could massage her feet and she could refrain from tickling his. Metternich was tucked neatly in where their bodies crossed in the middle and something totally mindless was happening on the television. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. They both tried not to look at the clock.
    Nine o’clock, and all was well. Jacquie heaved a sigh of relief and Maxwell wordlessly passed her the gin and tonic, poured while he was last on his feet, against the day. She raised it to her lips and muttered, ‘Cheers.’ He raised the amber glass of Southern Comfort.
    Then three things happened, so close together that to a casual observer they all seemed to happen at once.
    The phone rang.
    Metternich leapt out from his cosy nest, severely clawing both Maxwell and Jacquie in his passage.
    And Jacquie Carpenter Maxwell, Detective Inspector with the Leighford Police, said, ‘Bugger and poo – what’s the matter with them? Can’t they tell the time?’
    She scrambled off the sofa and reached the phone bylying on the floor and pulling it off the coffee table. ‘Yes? What? But I’m … Now, just hang on … Well …’ She frowned at Maxwell and ran a finger across her throat. ‘I think I should ring DCI Hall … Oh, is he?’ This time she sighed. ‘I’m on my way.’
    She rang off and rolled over, lying on the rug with arms splayed out to her sides.
    Maxwell wasn’t sure what the correct length of pause was in situations like these, but after what he judged to be the right length and time, he said, ‘Problem?’
    â€˜Yes. A shooting, out on the Barlichway.’
    â€˜Of course there is,’ he said. ‘It’s Christmas, the time of peace, goodwill to all men and getting tanked up and taking a potshot at the neighbours. Why do they need you? More to the point, why have they called you? It’s gone nine.’
    â€˜Two reasons. Bob Thorogood

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