Gripping mysteries that twist and turn!

If you don’t know how things are supposed to be, how can you know when they’re not?

Katie Donald formed an unlikely partnership with Flutter Gamble after he was released from prison. Now they would love the chance to prove themselves as private investigators so, when an old friend asks for help, Flutter thinks this could be the case they’ve been waiting for. But solving a mystery which occurred over 60 years ago takes more than simple enthusiasm and its only Katie’s training as a journalist that might enable them to find an answer.

Meanwhile, Flutter finds he now has a probation supervisor. This is a shock as he’s sure probation was never mentioned when he was released from prison. But then paying attention to rules has never been his strong point so it’s quite possible they told him, but he missed that bit.

Any lingering doubts Flutter might have about being on probation soon become irrelevant when he finds out who has been appointed to supervise him. The chance to rekindle an old romance is something he just can’t resist. Katie has her suspicions about the unusual probation set-up, but even with a crystal ball she could never have predicted what was about to happen next.

The problem is, if you don’t listen when things are explained to you, you don’t know how things are supposed to be. And then it’s easy to find yourself at cross purposes, as Flutter discovers when the police come hammering on his door with a search warrant.

It seems, not for the first time in his life, Flutter is being framed for a crime he didn’t commit.

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I loved this 2nd book about Flutter. P. F. Ford has done it again with style, humour and a cracking good story line.

Chapter One


It was 08:00 as Flutter put a lead on Winston, his rather odd looking dog, and prepared to leave the small house they now called home.

‘Are you ready?’ he asked the dog.

The dog looked up with his big, sad eyes.

‘Oh, no. Not the sad eyes again,’ said Flutter. ‘I understand you’re missing the big house, but there are benefits to this place. It’s cosier for a start and, whilst I understand you’re missing the enormous garden, the park’s only two minutes away. I think you’ll find a leisurely stroll around there every morning before we go to the office will be far more enjoyable than walking along all those streets into town. You’ll even have time to stop and sniff stuff without me hurrying you along.’

The dog managed a solitary wag of his tail.

‘That’s more like it,’ said Flutter. ‘Trust me, you’re going to love it here. In a couple of weeks, you’ll have forgotten the other place.’

He led the dog out to the street, pulled the door closed and together they took the short walk to the park gates.

‘Here we go,’ said Flutter. ‘Didn’t I tell you it wasn’t far?’

The old dog’s tail wagged furiously as he strained forward, eager to explore the park, and Flutter bent down to unclip the lead from the dog’s collar.

‘Now remember, I’m trusting you to behave yourself and not run off.’

Winston gave him a look that suggested such an idea was preposterous and shambled off to sniff at the base of the nearest tree.

Flutter had never had a dog before, and had never even considered owning one, but Winston was inherited and, in just a few short weeks, the dog had captured his heart. Now he couldn’t imagine life without a dog, and he watched with pride as Winston headed away.

Short, stocky legs and a long body caused Winston to roll from side to side as he moved, turning his walk into something more akin to a waddle, and making the word “graceful” redundant to anyone wishing to describe his movement. In addition to his body shape, Winston’s huge, dangly ears hinted at the possibility of Basset Hound ancestry, but if this was indeed the case, those pedigree genes had been well-diluted by the time of his birth.

As Winston sniffed around the tree, Flutter ambled ahead along the path towards the narrow river that wound its way through the park. This early, it was quiet in the park and he soon became lost in his thoughts. He had come back to Waterbury seeking a new start and a quiet life, but so much had happened in the first few weeks after he had been released from prison there had been a point where he was wondering if he’d done the right thing.

At least things had calmed down after that, but now they were too quiet. He and local journalist Katie Donald were hoping to work together as private investigators, but there’s a big difference between hoping to do something and actually doing it, and now, two weeks into the venture, they were still waiting for their first job!

As Flutter led Winston towards the front door of his tiny, terraced house an hour later, he reflected on his decision to forgo the spacious luxury of the house he had been left by his father. The more times he did this, the more he came to believe he had done the right thing.

In the short time he’d been at the big house, there had been nothing but trouble, whereas life had been trouble free since he had moved into the terraced house. Yes, it had been in a state when he moved in, but now, after a lot of hard work, it was almost finished. Clean, warm and cosy, as far as Flutter was concerned, it was the perfect home.

As he opened the front door, he saw a letter on his doormat. This was a surprise because the postman rarely came before mid-morning, so that meant it had been hand-delivered. He knew it couldn’t be personal correspondence as no-one he knew was aware of his address, so he assumed it was junk mail.

As he carried it through to his kitchen, he turned the envelope over and experienced a moment of panic that stopped him in his tracks. There was something about the typeface, layout, and logo that reminded him of the official prison service letters he knew only too well. He took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself.

‘Come on, Flutter,’ he said out loud. ‘You can’t go through this every time a letter arrives. You’ve done your time, you’ve got a release letter, and you’ve kept your nose clean. If you were in trouble, they wouldn’t write and tell you, would they? Of course not. They’d send half a dozen big, hairy-arsed coppers to drag you away. Now, pull yourself together and let’s see what this is about.’

Impressed by the positivity behind his personal pep talk, Flutter made his way through to the kitchen and placed the letter to one side as he attended to the more pressing matter of feeding Winston. Only when the old dog had buried his face in his bowl did Flutter slit the envelope open.

As he unfolded the letter, he could see it was from the Probation Service. This was both concerning, and puzzling, as he wasn’t on probation. He sat down and read through the letter in growing disbelief. When he got to the end, he cursed in vividly colourful tones.

‘Bloody ‘ell, Winston,’ he said. ‘I’ve been stitched up. They say there’s been an administrative error and I should have been fixed up with a local probation supervisor when I came out.’

The dog looked up at Flutter and wagged his tail.

‘Don’t wag your tail, mate. It’s not good news. It appears I’m now officially on probation, although I’m not exactly sure what that means. I’ve got to call this Mrs Rodgers and arrange a meeting so she can get me started.’

Winston’s tail had stopped wagging and now he looked uncertainly at Flutter, who immediately felt guilty and bent down to him.

‘Hey, it’s okay,’ he said, stroking Winston’s head. ‘It’s not your fault. I’m the idiot who mixed with the wrong people, and I’m going to have to toe the line for a bit longer, that’s all. Let’s just hope they don’t make life too difficult. Anyway, it could be worse; at least I haven’t been sent back inside.’

Winston acknowledged this positive thought with more enthusiastic tail wagging.

Flutter grabbed his mobile phone, keyed in the number he’d been given in the letter, then changed his mind and put the phone back down. He looked at Winston, who seemed to offer a reproachful look in return.

Flutter sighed.

‘Yeah, I suppose you’re right, Winston. It won’t go away, will it? I might as well bite the bullet and get it over with.’

Reluctantly, he prodded the numbers on his phone, then raised it to his ear as it rang.

‘Hello? Is that Mrs Rodgers? My name’s Harvey Gamble. You sent me a letter.’

‘Ah, Mr Gamble. Thank you for calling. It’s very good of you to get back to me so soon.’

‘I didn’t know how long you’d wait until you called the police and had me dragged in.’

‘This isn’t the dark ages, Harvey. We only get the police involved as a last resort. I’d like to think we’re a bit more enlightened nowadays.’

He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something about the sound of her voice. Slightly seductive, and vaguely familiar, it immediately made him comfortable speaking with her.

‘So they won’t be knocking my door down anytime soon?’

‘Not on our account. We’re the ones at fault, which is why I asked you to call me, rather than demanding you come here. I hope you feel that’s reasonable?’

Flutter was impressed. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone in a position of authority had apologised to him.

‘I’ve got to admit it makes a change from the usual heavy-handed approach.’

‘I’m glad you think so. I always try to make the probation experience as pleasant as I can.’

‘So, what happens now, then?’

‘I appreciate this has probably come as something of a shock as you were released several weeks ago, so I’d like to make our first meeting an informal one.’


‘Our offices are being refurbished right now, and it’s all a bit of mess. So, I thought we could meet for a coffee. This way we can ease you in gently, as it were. Do you think that would be okay?’

Flutter had to admit, the more he listened to her voice, the more he liked the idea of Mrs Rodgers easing him in gently.

‘Yeah, that sounds fair enough. Have you got somewhere in mind?’

‘There’s a coffee shop in town called Leslie’s.’

‘Oh, yeah. I know the one.’

‘I suggest we have our first meeting there. We can get to know each other as I explain the rules to you over a coffee. Does that sound okay?’

Flutter thought this definitely sounded like a more enlightened approach than anything he’d ever heard of.

‘Yeah. I mean, I’d rather not be doing it at all, but if I’ve got to do it, your way sounds all right. When do you want to start?’

‘Could you make it today?’

‘Today? Blimey, that’s a bit sudden.’

‘I know it’s not your fault but, as you can imagine, we’re already weeks behind schedule. That’s why I’d like to get started sooner rather than later.’

‘I had plans,’ said Flutter, evasively. ‘What time do you have in mind?’

‘I should be able to get there at around three, so what if we say three-thirty?’

‘What if I’m late?’

‘Then I’ll have another coffee and wait a little longer.’

‘The thing is, I can’t guarantee exactly what time I’ll be there.’

‘I understand this is being arranged at short notice, so it would be unreasonable of me to expect you to be there on the dot, wouldn’t it?’

‘Yeah, I suppose so. But how will I know it’s you?’

‘How many women are you expecting to be working on a laptop in Leslie’s at that time of the afternoon?’

Flutter couldn’t recall seeing anyone using a laptop in Leslie’s at any time.

‘Right. Fair enough. I’ll be there around three-thirty.’

‘This is an excellent start,’ she said. ‘If we can maintain this level of co-operation, we’re going to get on very well.’

‘The way I see it, I’ve got no choice, so there’s no point fighting you, is there?’

‘Try to look at me as your friend, and you’ll find the entire process much easier.’

‘My friend? Well, I suppose I can try,’ said Flutter, doubtfully.

‘Good. I’ll see you this afternoon.’

‘Righto,’ he said, but she had already ended the call.

‘Right, Winston,’ said Flutter, as he put the phone down. ‘I’m going to ask Katie to look after you for an hour this afternoon, so you’re going to have to promise to behave. That means no sneaky farts from under her desk. Understand?’

Winston yawned expansively, as if bored with the conversation, then turned his back on Flutter and curled into a ball in his bed.

‘But what exactly am I going to tell Katie?’ muttered Flutter to himself, as he tidied the kitchen. ‘Do I tell her the truth? Or should I wait and see how it’s going to work before I tell her?’

After a few minutes deliberation, he elected to err on the side of caution. He would go to the meeting and find out how being on probation would affect him before he broke the news to her. Hopefully, it wouldn’t affect their plans and she would be okay about it. In the meantime, he would tell her he had an appointment booked with the dentist this afternoon, but he had forgotten to tell her before.

At roughly the time Flutter was discovering the letter on his doormat, Katie Donald was just settling at her desk. She slipped a small mirror from her handbag and gazed at her reflection. She frowned and uttered a sigh at the sight of her pale-face and the growing bags under her eyes. What she wouldn’t give for a worry-free week in the sun. But holidays cost money, and that was in short supply which was the cause of the sleepless nights.

There was a solution to the money problem in the form of a large cheque sitting in the top drawer of her desk, but it came with its own set of problems. She had recently been sent the cheque by gangster Jimmy Jewle after finding out what had happened to his nephew. 

The cheque was in the top drawer of her desk, but she steadfastly refused to cash it on the grounds it was dirty money. She also had the suspicion if she accepted his money, he would assume she was in his pocket and she had promised herself that would never happen!

The strident sound of her mobile phone rudely interrupted her thoughts. Making a mental note to find a new ringtone, she reached for the phone and smiled as she saw the caller’s name on the screen.

‘Morning, Flutter,’ she said.

‘Hi, Katie. How are you?’

‘I’m fine. If you’re hoping to hear we’ve got a case to investigate, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.’

‘Actually, I’m calling to ask a favour.’

‘What sort of favour?’ she asked suspiciously.

‘I’ve got an appointment at the dentist this afternoon and I’d completely forgotten about it. I couldn’t leave Winston with you for an hour, could I?’

‘Has he eaten anything I’m going to regret?’

‘I’ve told him sneaky farts are off the menu, if that’s what you mean.’

‘Yes, but did he take any notice?’

‘We won’t know that until this afternoon, will we?’ said Flutter. ‘Come on, you know you love him, really.’

‘Oh, all right then.’

‘Katie, you’re an angel. I’ll see you just after three.’

Chapter Two

Flutter was feeling nervous and, as he reached Leslie’s, he peered through the window, eager to identify the mysterious Mrs Rodgers before he entered the shop. There were only half a dozen customers in the shop, so he couldn’t fail to spot the only woman with a laptop open on the table before her.

She was facing him, with a mobile phone pressed to her ear, but was bent over the table, making notes on a pad. Her long, dark hair had tumbled forward, making it impossible for him to see her face, but somehow he felt a little more at ease just knowing where she was sitting.

He took a deep breath, pushed the door open, walked into the shop, and headed for the counter to order his coffee. He kept his eye on Mrs Rodgers, but her head was still bowed down, and as he took his coffee and headed for her table, she still seemed unaware he had arrived.

As he reached her, she barely glanced up, but pointed to the chair opposite her with her pen, then covered the phone for a second.

‘Take a seat,’ she said. ‘I won’t be a minute.’

Flutter sat down and watched the woman. He had yet to get a clear view of her face, but there was something about her that seemed vaguely familiar, although he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was.

At last, she finished her call, placed the phone on the table, made one last note, and placed her pen down next to the phone. Then she used her two forefingers to push her long hair back behind her ears, and as she sat back and smiled, it all came rushing back to him.

He stared at her face, his mouth open, lost for words.

‘Hallo, Harvey,’ she said with a smile. ‘You look surprised to see me.’

Flutter’s brain had suddenly turned to mush, and his mouth flapped wordlessly. Jenny Blake had been Flutter’s first and only serious girlfriend.

‘Surprised?’ he said, finally. ‘Blimey, Jenny, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.’

‘You mean after you ran off and left me without saying a word?’

Flutter squirmed uncomfortably.

‘It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I had to leave. I just couldn’t take it anymore.’

‘You didn’t even say goodbye!’

‘I seem to recall you dumped me. You told me we were finished.’

‘You dumped me first,’ she said. ‘You ditched me for a girl with big boobs. Or have you forgotten?’

Flutter didn’t need reminding. Even now, fifteen years later, he could vividly recall how he had given in to temptation, then been tossed aside once the other girl got what she wanted. He had dumped Jenny after going steady with her for 18 months, just to become a notch on a bedpost. How stupid was that?

‘No, I haven’t forgotten. It was the worst decision of my life. I must have told you that a thousand times after we got back together.’

‘Probably two thousand,’ she said. ‘It got boring in the end.’

‘You got your own back, though, didn’t you?’

‘I certainly did. You thought I’d taken you back because I had forgiven you. You should have known—’

‘Yeah, hell hath no fury, right?’ finished Flutter. ‘So, why would I say goodbye after that?’

‘But we were even after that,’ she said. ‘The slate was clean, level playing field, and all that.’

‘You really think it would have worked like that?’ he asked. ‘Two wrongs would have made a right?’

‘I don’t know, but I was willing to try.’

‘How was I supposed to know that if you didn’t say?’

‘My plan was to let you stew for a few weeks and suffer like I did, then I would tell you. But you cleared off before I got the chance.’

‘Yeah, well, I was young and lonely, and brokenhearted. How could I possibly have known you planned to do that?’

There was an awkward silence as she pulled a file from a briefcase on the seat next to her, set it down carefully on the table and flipped it open. As she looked at what Flutter assumed were his case notes, he sipped at his coffee. Having got over his initial surprise, he was now feeling a lot more confident about the situation and he looked up at her with a cheeky grin.

‘Even though your, er, you know,’ he used his hands to indicate his chest, ‘weren’t as big, you had much nicer legs,’ he said. ‘Beautiful, they were. Long, and slender…’

She looked questioningly, but Flutter misunderstood her meaning.

‘I’m sure they still are,’ he said, keen not to offend. ‘I didn’t mean to suggest—’

‘Yes, thank you, that’s enough of that.’

‘I’m just saying. Unfortunately, I was too young to realise it back then, but I’m older now and I appreciate that sometimes less is more, you kn—’

‘Let’s just remember why we’re here, shall we?’ she said sternly. ‘Our relationship, such as it is, will be strictly professional, nothing more, nothing less.’

‘Sorry. It’s just that seeing you has brought it all back. I can still remember—’

‘Harvey!’ she snapped. ‘Will you stop it? I’m your probation supervisor. We’re here to discuss your future, not to reminisce about old times.’

‘Flutter,’ he said.

‘I’m sorry?’

‘You used to call me Flutter. Everybody did. They still do.’

‘As this relationship is professional, I will address you as Harvey. Is that clear?’

‘Whatever you say. You’re the boss.’

‘Yes, I am,’ she said. ‘So, let’s get down to business, shall we?’

It surprised Flutter to find he fancied her just as much as he had all those years ago, and now an image insinuated itself into his consciousness.

‘Oh, I wish,’ he muttered.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I said, as you wish,’ he lied.

‘Good,’ she said.

‘Can I ask a question?’


‘Do you remember that day we tried to count the ducks down by the river?’

She sighed in exasperation.

‘This really has no relevance to your current situation—’

‘Yeah, but do you?’ insisted Flutter.

For a moment, it looked as if she was going to lose her temper, then she seemed to relent, and a half-smile flickered on her face.

‘I seem to recall you were the one counting,’ she said. ‘I had more sense than to expect hundreds of ducks to stand still while I counted them.’

‘D’you remember how many there were?’ asked Flutter.

‘No, I don’t.’

‘237,’ he said.

‘Only you could remember something as trivial as that,’ she said. ‘Now, please, can we get back to business?’

‘Isn’t there a conflict of interest here?’


‘A conflict of interest. I mean, we were, well, you know…’

‘That was years ago, and we were just kids,’ she said. ‘It isn’t the same as two adults.’

‘How’s that, then? What do adults do that we didn’t do? I seem to remember we were pretty adventurous or have I been missing out?’

She was blushing, but he couldn’t tell if it was embarrassment or anger.

‘It’s just different, that’s all.’

‘It seems the same to me.’

‘Well, trust me, it isn’t,’ she snapped. ‘Anyway, I’m a happily married woman now.’

Flutter grinned.

‘Ah, so that’s why I’m missing out,’ he said. ‘I’m still single. I didn’t realise sex was different for married couples.’

She looked around, clearly embarrassed now.

‘Keep your voice down,’ she hissed. ‘That was a long time ago. The past is the past. It’s over and done with!’

Flutter studied her face. She sounded adamant, but he wasn’t sure which of them she was trying to convince. He decided it was probably time to stop teasing before she got any more annoyed. Anyway, she was right. It was in the past, and there was no point in dwelling on it, especially if she was going to play the “happily married” card.

‘Can I ask another question?’

‘Now what?’

‘How come you’re still in Waterbury? I thought you would have been out exploring the big wide world.’

‘I could ask you the same question. Now, can we get on?’

‘I have another question.’

She sighed.

‘Is it relevant to our professional relationship? If it’s not, then the answer is no, you can’t.’

‘How come you took my case?’

‘What makes you think I had a choice?’

‘Did you?’

‘If you really want to know, we get handed cases, we don’t get to choose. But I’ll admit when I saw your name, I was curious, and I had a word with my boss and pointed out that, as we had made a mistake, it might make things easier as I knew you.’

‘Yeah?’ Flutter smiled a smug little smile.

‘Don’t flatter yourself,’ she said. ‘It wasn’t anything like that. I just wondered how you had sunk so low—’

‘I didn’t sink so low,’ he said. ‘I was stitched up.’

‘Aren’t you supposed to show a degree of contrition?’


‘Contrition. It means—’

‘I know what it means, but I’m buggered if I’m going to admit I was in the wrong for doing something I didn’t do.’

The atmosphere seemed to have cooled rather rapidly, and she stared at him for what seemed like a very long time, but he didn’t back down.

‘Okay,’ she said, finally, all businesslike. ‘Let’s get this done, shall we?’

It only took a few minutes for her to run through the rules, Flutter carefully, and deliberately, nodding his head in all the right places.

‘Jesus,’ he said, eventually. ‘All these conditions!’

‘This is what happens when you stray from the straight and narrow. Just make sure you remember them, and abide by them, and you’ll be fine.’

‘I’ll do my best, but I might have stopped listening after the first hundred or so.’

‘Don’t exaggerate. It’s not that bad. Anyway, it’s your own fault. And don’t think because you know me, I’m going to be lenient. I’ll probably be tougher.’

‘Yeah, that figures.’

‘This has got nothing to do with what happened fifteen years ago, and if that’s what you think, I suggest you should ask for a different supervisor. You have the right if that’s what you want.’

But that was something Flutter definitely didn’t want.

‘No, you’re all right. I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.’

‘And remember, if you have any problems, I’m always here for you, at the end of the phone. Anytime, day or night. Oh, and I nearly forgot, you’re also not allowed a computer or a laptop.’

‘I don’t have either of those.’

‘And no mobile phone.’

‘Ah. We might have a problem there.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You just said I can call you anytime, day or night. How am I going to do that without a mobile phone?’

Her expression told him she obviously hadn’t considered this, so he emphasised his point.

‘And before you ask, I don’t have a landline, and the nearest call box is miles from my house.’

He sat back and watched her face as she considered what to do.

‘What sort of mobile phone is it?’ she asked. ‘Can I see it?’

Flutter stuck a hand into his pocket.

‘It’s not one of those smart phones, if that’s what you mean,’ he said, placing the phone on the table. ‘I can’t stand them. This one just does calls and texts.’

She looked at the phone.

‘It’s not really allowed,’ she said.

‘Take it if you must, but how are you going to be a phone call away if you do?’

‘I suppose you have a point,’ she said grudgingly.

‘And you said I was a special case,’ added Flutter with a grin.

‘Don’t push your luck,’ she said. ‘I’m going to let you keep the mobile phone for now, but if I find you’re using it for anything nefarious…’

‘I’m not sure what that means,’ said Flutter.

‘I think you know exactly what it means.’

‘Seriously, I don’t.’

Jenny sighed. She knew it was important she stayed professional, but now he was getting under her skin. And that cheeky grin had just the same effect it had all those years ago…

‘If you don’t know what nefarious means, perhaps you should go to the library, borrow a dictionary, and look it up,’ she said. ‘And I suggest you stop trying my patience.’

‘All right,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry. You’re the boss here, and I’ll try to remember that.’

‘Good. I hope you do.’

She glanced down at her notes, then gave him an icy smile as she looked up.

‘There seems to be some mistake with your paperwork. We seem to have two addresses for you.’

‘That’s right.’

‘I recognised the one in town. Isn’t that where you lived with your uncle when we were kids?’

‘It’s where I grew up. My uncle left it to me.’

‘And you also have a house in Willow Grove. Is that correct?’

‘That’s right. Know it, do you?’

‘No, I don’t think I do.’

‘It’s my real dad’s house. He died a few months ago and left it to me in his will.’

‘That’s nice.’ She thought for a moment. ‘Hang on, I thought your real father died when you were little.’

‘Yeah, so did I, but it turns out things weren’t quite as I was told. Apparently my uncle thought it would be better if I grew up not knowing the truth, if that makes sense.’

‘So, what is the truth?’

‘Funnily enough, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks finding out who my real father was, and what really happened back then.’

She raised an eyebrow.

‘Oh, really? So, what is the story?’

Flutter thought telling her he had been associating with gangsters wouldn’t work in his favour, even if it hadn’t been his choice. Perhaps this would be good to time to be a little economical with the truth.

‘It’s complicated, but it seems my real dad had another brother, as well as the one who raised me, and that he didn’t die years ago, like I was told.’

Jenny looked rather taken aback.

‘And this other brother was your real father?’

‘You’re surprised?’ said Flutter. ‘How d’you think I feel? It’s no wonder I was all mixed up as a kid, is it?’

‘You must be sorry you never got to meet him.’

‘Not really. I mean, he never gave a damn about me when I needed him, did he? I’m not sure I can forgive him for that.’

‘Aren’t they big, expensive houses out that way?’

‘Oh yeah, it’s massive. It’s worth a fortune.’

Her interest was obvious now.

‘And yet you’re living in the small house?’

Flutter nodded.

‘It’s more like the sort of home I’m used to. Don’t forget, I was living in a cell for months. You get used to being cramped up. Big open spaces take a bit of getting used to after that.’

‘You know you mustn’t move house without letting me know?’

‘Yeah, I know. It was rule number one hundred and ninety-something, wasn’t it?’

‘I’m serious.’

‘I’m not planning on moving away from Waterbury. I like it here and I intend to settle here. It’s a new start.’

‘Even if you move to the bigger house, or go away for just one night, you must tell me.’

‘Yeah, yeah. And I must be home by 8 pm, or I’ll turn into a pumpkin, and I can’t re-emerge until 6 am. It’s a bit like being Dracula, but in reverse.’

‘I’ll have to visit the house to make sure it’s suitable.’

‘Suitable? You know the house. It’s where I grew up. It’s where we used to go when we wanted to—’

‘Yes. All right, Harvey. I’ve got the picture. So why don’t I check out the house in Willow Grove?’

Flutter wasn’t sure this was a good idea. What if Jimmy Jewle turned up while she was there?

‘Check it out?’

‘Yes. Check the location, see what the neighbours are like, that sort of thing.’

Flutter couldn’t help but smile. Jenny obviously did not know about the houses in Willow Grove.

‘It’s not a bad area,’ he said. ‘There are one or two dodgy neighbours, but most of them seem okay.’

Her head snapped to attention at the mention of dodgy neighbours, but he held her gaze without flinching.

‘I’m not joking. I will come and see it,’ she warned, ‘and I don’t have to call ahead to give you notice.’

‘I think it’ll be better if you let me know you’re coming.’


‘Because I don’t live there, and there’s a security system. You won’t be able to get in if I’m not there.’

‘I could ask the police to let me in.’

Flutter definitely didn’t want the police sniffing around the house.

‘I think they’ve got better things to do than that, don’t you? Look, I’m happy to show you around if you really want to see it. Just let me know when and I’ll make sure I’m there.’

This seemed to satisfy her for now, and she glanced down at her notes again.

‘Have you found a job yet?’ she asked.

Flutter wondered what she would make of his current setup with Katie, and once again decided on a little factual economy.

‘I’ve been doing odd jobs for the local newspaper,’ he said.

‘Doing odd jobs isn’t exactly what I meant.’

‘It’s just temporary at the moment, but it keeps me out of trouble, and it might turn into something permanent. The thing is, I was left some money as well as the house, so I’m not short of readies.’

‘I’ll need a number so I can speak to someone there,’ she said.

‘There’s just the one lady. She owns and runs the place.’

‘Then I need her number.’


‘Because I have to make sure it’s proper employment, and she’s not taking advantage of you.’

‘Well, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t mind if she did,’ said Flutter, ‘but, sadly, she’s not like that.’

She studied his face again, trying to decide whether to ignore this latest attempt at being a smart-arse, or make a big deal out of it. Flutter gazed innocently back at her.

‘Sign here,’ she said finally, sliding a sheet of typewritten paper across to him. Without bothering to read a word, Flutter signed and handed it back to her. She slid a blank piece of paper across the table.

‘I’d like your newspaper lady’s phone number.’

‘Her name is Katie Donald,’ said Flutter.

‘Well, if you write that down with her number, I won’t forget it, will I?’

Flutter scribbled Katie’s name and number on the sheet of paper and handed it back to her. She slipped it into his folder.

‘Our next meeting is on Thursday afternoon, at the same time, but in my office this time. And remember, these meetings are crucial. If ever you think you will miss one, or even be late, you must let me know.’

She handed him a business card.

‘Here’s my number. As I said, you can call anytime. If I can’t answer, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.’

‘Don’t worry, I don’t intend to miss any meetings,’ he said, slipping the card into his pocket.

‘Just make sure you don’t.’

She put her head down and began writing notes in his file. As she did, her hair spilled back over her ears and hid her face.

Flutter waited for her to tell him the meeting was over, but she seemed to have forgotten he was there.

‘Is that it? Can I go now?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said, without looking up.

Flutter got to his feet.

‘Same time on Thursday then, yeah?’

‘And don’t be late,’ she warned.

‘I won’t. I’m here in Waterbury because I want to make a new start.’

‘Remember, I’m here to help you with that, and don’t forget to call if you even think you will be late.’

‘Yeah, right, got it. I’ll do it.’

He walked over to the shop door and opened it but, disappointingly, she didn’t look up. As he closed the door and looked down the street, he got the impression he might have seen someone, possibly a woman, running away. He thought there could have have been something vaguely familiar about the runner and, on another day he might have been a bit more curious but, right now, he was too preoccupied to care.

As well as feeling confused and intrigued, Flutter was feeling deflated. It was as if his mission to go straight had just become much harder, and he wondered what the odds were that of all the people who could have been his probation officer, he should end up with the only person he had ever really loved.

Of course, he had been too young to realise it was love when he had been dating her. It was only several years after he had dumped her he understood what a fool he had been, but by then it was much too late to do anything about it. Sadly, this seemed to become the template for Flutter’s life and, since then, he had perfected the unfortunate knack of nearly always turning his back on a good thing.

As he wandered away from Leslie’s, Flutter wondered about Mr Rodgers and what he was like. Then he wondered why he’d allowed Jenny to invite herself to inspect the house in Willow Grove. Of course, it was a perfectly reasonable thing for a probation supervisor to want to check out his living arrangements, but he had been so busy trying to be clever she had caught him off guard.

Showing her the house wasn’t a problem because it meant he would get to spend more time with her. The real issue was that Jenny had known him when they were teenagers, and she knew how poor his family had been. So, it was inevitable she would want to know more about his real father and where the money had come from to buy such a big house.

If he couldn’t come up with a believable story, she might decide to make enquiries through the legal system and if she opened that particular can of worms, who knew where it might end!

Books in The Donald & Gamble Series

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