Past Tense

Past Tense by Catherine Aird

Book: Past Tense by Catherine Aird Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Aird
Tags: Mystery
surprise? You could have knocked me down with a feather when Carruthers called me back to the office from the site. He’d had this email from Head Office, you see…’
    At this point the train driver sounded his horn preparatory to departure, the noise echoing round the station, drowning whatever else William Wakefield might have said.
    â€˜What email?’ asked his wife when she could be heard.
    â€˜The one ordering me to report to Head Office in London without delay, of course.’ He grinned. ‘As Carruthers pointed out it was marked “Private and Confidential” and he said he didn’t know anything about it so he couldn’t tell me anyway, darling, and I couldn’t tell you – not until I’d been back to Head Office. Then they said it was all right if I let you know now.’
    â€˜Let me know what?’ she asked anxiously. ‘You haven’t been sacked or anything, have you?’
    He chucked her cheek. ‘No, I have not. What on earth put an idea like that into your head?’
    â€˜Your being called back to Head Office like that,’ she retorted promptly. ‘Have you just dropped a clanger or something, then?’
    â€˜No, my dearest, I have not. On the contrary, you might say.’ He started to fumble for his ticket.
    â€˜And what does that mean?’ she asked, still anxious.
    â€˜It means, Mrs William Wakefield,’ he said impressively, ‘that I’ve had some promotion.’
    â€˜Darling!’ Impulsively she kissed him on the cheek and then stepped back. ‘Bill, where on earth did you get that bruise on your face?’
    â€˜The hotel bedroom door. I didn’t realise the spring was as strong as it was and hit the door as it closed behind me. I thought you’d be pleased about the promotion,’ he said modestly.
    â€˜But why all the secrecy?’ she said as they stepped out of the station. ‘Oh, dear, I do hope I haven’t got a parking ticket.’
    â€˜I daresay we’ll be able to afford it now,’ he said comfortably.
    â€˜I still don’t see why it’s all been so hush-hush,’ she protested.
    â€˜I didn’t either to start with,’ he said, slipping automatically into the car’s driving seat and adjusting it to accommodate his legs as opposed to his wife’s, ‘but I do now.’
    â€˜Tell me.’
    He steered the car carefully out into the stream of traffic, deftly joining the inner lane. He stretched luxuriously in the driving seat. ‘If you could see the roads I have to drive on out there.’
    â€˜Hang the roads, Bill, and tell me what’s happened.’
    â€˜You are now talking to a regional manager, South America!’
    â€˜Bill, how lovely. Isn’t that good?’ A shadow crossed her face. ‘But won’t that mean you’re going to be away from home more than ever?’
    â€˜It might,’ he admitted.
    â€˜The specialist isn’t going to like that,’ said Jan.
    â€˜No.’ He twisted his head round to look at her. ‘But I couldn’t turn it down, could I?’
    â€˜No, no, of course not, darling. It’s only…’
    â€˜I know.’ He reached over and patted her knee. ‘I know.’
    â€˜So why all the secrecy?’
    â€˜Oh, I can understand that now,’ he said confidently. ‘You see, old Carruthers really wanted the job for himself and they couldn’t very well let him find out from an email to me that I’d got it and he hadn’t. Now, could they?’
    â€˜No, I suppose not.’
    â€˜Definitely not,’ he said firmly. ‘Now, young lady, suppose you tell me what man it was you were out to dinner with last night. I’m quite jealous.’
    Mrs Connie Marshall was hovering expectantly outside number 2 Stortford Villas, in Stone Street, Berebury, and welcomed Detective Inspector Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby with evident

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