Today's Reading


We'd prayed for rain for weeks. Or maybe it was months? It's hard to remember a time when griping about the heat wasn't a national fetish. When days weren't spent sighing and swearing and spraying yourself with Magicool, and nights weren't spent tossing and turning, wondering if sleep was now a pleasure of the past.

And then there were the arguments. Christ, there were the arguments. Civil war over air-con settings. Men carping at women, jealous at the sight of us drifting around in lightweight dresses while they sweated buckets in the same suits that saw them through winter. Old versus young: Steele and Parnell crowing that this was no way near as brutal as the summer of '76, when the rivers ran dry and the asphalt melted, and using your hose was a crime routinely punishable by social death.

Of course, we—"The Young"—stated long and loud that, as we weren't even twinkles in our parents' eyes in 1976, "The Olds'" point was entirely moot and, frankly, not helping. You can only play the hand you're dealt, we'd endlessly argue, and we'd been dealt this cursed summer. The paralyzing heat wave of 2018. We were living through it, sweltering through it, surviving it—just—with the aid of desk fans and ice packs, and the constant yet sagging hope that it might one day rain again on England's green and pleasant lands.

And now here, on a grassy dirt track, running alongside a remote field in the molten heart of Cambridgeshire, our prayers are finally answered.

"Fucking rain," I say, scowling at the sky. All our sweaty, parched misery forgotten in an instant.

"You don't get rain in London, no?" DC Ed Navarro—our crime scene guide, and boy, does he resent it—is smirking in a way that makes me want to to flick his pale, waxy face, like a boiled potato with a goatee. "Because seriously, you're looking a little frazzled there. Do you want to go and sit in the car for a bit?"

"Why, is it acid rain?" I bite back.

He rummages in his pocket, retrieves an opened packet of Polo mints. "Not that I'm aware."

"Well then, I reckon I'll survive."

"Ah, come on, Kinsella, this is bliss," DS Luigi Parnell raises his hands, letting the rain patter off his palms: pennies from heaven. "It's not even that heavy. And remember what the boss says, It's good for the garden."

"I don't have a garden." I lift my plastic file of crime scene photos above my head, a macabre makeshift umbrella. "I do have frizzy hair, though."

Immediately, I regret saying it. Holly Kemp doesn't have to worry about frizzy hair anymore. Or the fact that her cheap cotton work shirt is getting more see-through by the minute.

Holly Kemp hasn't worried about anything in a long time.

"So, yeah, this is where we found her."

Navarro nods toward the deep ditch at the side of the track, then leads us to a gap in the covering hedgerow, presumably cut away to give Forensics easier access. Just yesterday, a crime scene tent would have stood here, preserving evidence and privacy for the army of white suits going about their crucial black art, but we're quick to get them down these days. It's not "resource efficient"—to use the term à la mode—to keep them under guard for a second longer than necessary.

Money. Budgets. PR. Stats.

The four horsemen of modern policing.

"Well, of course, we didn't find her. Lady Persephone III did—that's a dog, before you ask." Navarro pops two mints in his mouth, not bothering to offer them around. "Honestly, I don't know what planet some people are on. What's wrong with Patch or Rex or Rover all of a sudden? Proper dog names."

"I like it," I say, just to agitate him. In my defense, we're under strict instructions from DCI Kate Steele to play the agitators today. The standard "up from London" arseholes who think the rest of the force are an el cheapo version of the mighty Metropolitan Police. Steele's hoping a blast of belligerence might put a rocket up their backsides.

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