DS Carmichael is accompanying his step-sons on their ‘trick or treat’ rounds in Castle Farthing, while DI Falconer holds the fort at Market Darley police station this Hallowe’en. In fact, it is DC Roberts who has drawn the evening’s short straw and has been dispatched to the small town of Carsfold, to the south of the market town, for a second interview with a householder, without a clue that an unexplained explosion will not only land him in hospital yet again, but kick off another case of murder for his two colleagues.
Harry Falconer is summoned to an address in Carsfold on the evening of 31st October when a man is found dead in his garden, a hollowed-out pumpkin jammed over his head, and his garden shed blown-up and fire-damaged. Carmichael is immediately summoned to join him and, together, they interrogate the victim’s neighbours, uncovering a plethora of damaged and broken relationships, in their search for his killer.
Definitely a blanket stitch in stout black wool, she thought, surveying the vulnerability of the material as it fell to the hem of the vast floor-length garment. It was only a loose weave, and wouldn’t stand up to the abuse of being dragged roughly over the unforgiving ground for hours on end without fraying away to nothing. The garment coming apart from the bottom upwards would not sustain the illusion necessary for the occasion.
Kerry Carmichael selected a ball of black nylon, unbreakable by mere human hands, cut a length from it, and threading a large-eyed needle that would work well with the open weave of the costume, she began to stitch round the bottom. Her husband, DS Davey Carmichael of the Market Darley CID, would be the best dressed Frankenstein’s monster on trick or treat duty this Hallowe’en, or she was a Romanian paisley-weaver with purple dandruff.
He had not used all his considerable powers of persuasion (not to mention begging and whining) to secure this special evening for the children, off duty, to have his appearance spoilt by shoddy needlewoman-ship. She had been certain in her own mind, however, that he would not be needed to uphold the law tonight, as his immediate superior, DI Harry Falconer, although appearing stern and unyielding, was a closet pussycat. He knew full well what the children meant to his sergeant, and how much he had been looking forward to escorting them around their home village of Castle Farthing in fancy dress, hoping for the neighbours’ largesse of sweets, chocolate, and even pieces of fruit from the more health-conscious amongst the inhabitants.
A roar of despair from the sitting room claimed her attention, and she called out, to find out what was amiss. ‘I can’t find my fake head top,’ floated back a baleful bass voice, in despair. ‘I was sure I’d left it on the dresser, and now I can’t find it anywhere. I can’t be seen out tonight without a tall flat head. I’ll be laughed out of the village and the kids’ll never forgive me.’
‘It’s in the right-hand cupboard. I slipped it in there so that one of the dogs wouldn’t mistake it for a plaything and chew it. You know how long it took me to glue all the wool on to it in parallel lines so that it looked like hair.’
‘Good work, Mrs Carmichael. That’s the sort of intelligent thinking I’d expect from the wife of an up-and-coming detective sergeant. You will help me stick it on straight, won’t you? I can’t go out with a wonky head,’ he stated with all seriousness, returning to his original task of hanging the evening’s decorations from the ceiling, for the party they had planned for later, an easy job for him, as he was just about six and-a-half feet in height. He was constantly grateful that the ceilings of the two cottages knocked together, in which he and his family lived, had higher-than-average ceilings for the style and age of dwelling it was.
‘I will, when it’s time. Honestly, you’ve got hours before you go out, yet. You’re worse than the boys. I’m still working on the costumes.’
‘I think I’ll just phone the inspector one more time. He may be working, but he might fancy driving over here on a patrol round, to see the Carmichael gang out doing their stuff. We could always find a black sheet, make a vampire cloak for him, if he’s in the mood when he arrives.’
‘I shouldn’t waste your breath, Davey. I really can’t see Inspector Falconer being in the least interested in going tricking or treating with our crew. You forget, Peter Pan, that he actually grew up, and lives in the adult world, as do quite a lot of other people of our acquaintance.’
‘Daft rumour, woman: that’s just a daft rumour,’ her husband muttered darkly, as he went off in search of the bolt for his neck.