Gripping mysteries that twist and turn!

Can anyone really be taken at face value?

In February 2008 Julie Harris left home to spend the weekend with an old friend. Several weeks later her battered body was found on a caravan site in Wales. Her husband was later found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. Steve Harris always protested his innocence, and now, ten years later, evidence has come to light that suggests he may well have been wrongly convicted.

Slater and Norman are tasked with the job of uncovering the truth, but with a widening pool of suspects, and a shrinking list of potential witnesses, can they discover what really happened on that fateful weekend and catch the real killer?

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Very well-written and easy to read, and the interaction between Slater and Norman is just brilliant.


It was 10 a.m. on Monday morning. Norman Norman was sitting at his desk, staring out of the window at the grey, lifeless day outside. A carefully folded newspaper before him exposed a neglected crossword puzzle with just two clues filled in. This was fast becoming his daily routine, and he was beginning to wonder if maybe his former partner Dave Slater had been correct when he had suggested months ago that they might struggle to find enough work.

The only jobs he had managed to secure so far were precisely the sort he had promised himself he was never going to take: spying on supposedly errant husbands. On the plus side, he was being paid for his services, and unless someone was to knock on the door and offer to pay him to twiddle his thumbs, he had little choice but to temporarily compromise his principles. But Norman had a dream, and he was sure the work would come. It was just a question of time.

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door, and it opened just enough for a woman to peer around it. ‘I’m looking for the detectives,’ she said.

Norman made a point of looking around the room before he answered. ‘I guess that must be me.’ He jumped to his feet, walked across to the door and swung it open.

‘Please, come on in,’ he said with a smile. He offered his hand. ‘Norman Norman, at your service.’

She shook his hand and walked into the office, her eyes nervously darting back and forth.

‘There’s only me here,’ he said.


‘You look as if you’re expecting someone else to appear.’

‘It says “Slater and Norman” on the door.’

‘That’s right,’ said Norman. ‘Dave Slater’s my partner, but he’s not here right now.’

‘Oh.’ Her disappointment was palpable. ‘I was told there would be two of you.’

‘He’s out right now, but he’ll be back soon.’

Slater was actually in Thailand that morning, as he had been for several weeks, but Norman thought sometimes a little white lie was needed here and there, and he was fairly confident Slater would return at some stage.

‘Take a seat,’ he said, indicating two armchairs with a small table between them. He followed across the room and lowered himself into the chair opposite hers. The visitor was carrying an impressive shoulder bag, which she placed carefully by the side of her chair before she sank into the soft cushions.

‘I didn’t catch your name,’ he said.

‘Debbie,’ she said. ‘Debbie Thomas.’

‘Okay, Mrs Thomas, how can I help you?’

‘Call me Debbie. I stopped being Mrs a long time ago.’

Norman waited for her to continue, but instead she stared down at her hands. She seemed to have run out of words.

‘I don’t want to seem in a rush,’ said Norman, ‘but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what the problem is.’

She tried to stand up, but it was a struggle to free herself from the chair, and she didn’t seem to have the energy to fight it. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come. I probably can’t afford you anyway.’

Norman reached across and placed a restraining hand on her arm. ‘Hold on a minute,’ he said, gently. ‘You must have felt you had good reason to come or you wouldn’t be here.’

She stopped struggling against the chair, and for the first time, she looked him right in the eye, and he could see the weariness deep within her.

‘I don’t know why you came here, Debbie, but I’ve been around long enough to know you need to talk to someone about something. I don’t charge for a first consultation, and I know a thing or two about confidentiality, so now you’re here, why don’t you talk to me?’

She stared at him, absently biting her lip as she thought.

‘If you’d prefer,’ said Norman, ‘I can call my girlfriend, Jane. She’s great at handling more delicate stuff.’

‘No, it’s not like that,’ she said. ‘It’s not about me. It’s about my brother.’

‘Okay. So, tell me about your brother. What’s his name?

‘His name is Steve Harris. He’s been in prison for ten years for something he didn’t do.’

‘What is he supposed to have done?’

‘He was accused of murdering his wife, but he didn’t do it.’

Norman wasn’t expecting an answer quite like that, but he was professional enough not to show it. ‘You seem very sure of that,’ was all he said.

‘He couldn’t have done it. He just wouldn’t, and anyway, he was with another woman a hundred miles away from where she died.’

‘That’s quite an alibi. So how come he got convicted?’

‘Because the other woman denied she was with him, and someone said they saw his car near the scene of the crime.’

‘Ah, right,’ said Norman. ‘I can see how that would complicate things. Do you know why she denied it?’

‘She lied so her husband wouldn’t find out where she had been.’

‘Surely the police must have had other evidence to build a case?’

‘It was all circumstantial. The thing is, Steve’s marriage was in trouble. Everyone knew. There had been more than one big argument in public. I believe that counted against Steve so much that he was the only real suspect.’

‘And his car was seen near the scene,’ Norman reminded her. ‘That’s pretty incriminating, and it makes his alibi pretty hard to believe even if the other woman hadn’t denied it.’

‘You sound just like them,’ she snapped. ‘Steve was the husband – they were having problems. Therefore, he must be guilty.’

‘That’s not what I meant, although you need to understand that husbands are often the first suspects because, statistically, wives get murdered by their husbands more often than by strangers. And if his car was nearby, and he had no alibi …’

‘But what if his alibi had come forward to say she lied all those years ago? You’d think that would make a difference, wouldn’t you?’

‘She’s come forward? It’s a bit late now, but it should be worth an appeal at least,’ said Norman.

Debbie shook her head. ‘It’s not quite like that. She didn’t come forward. She had cancer and confessed to a priest before she died.’

‘She’s dead?’

‘I’m afraid so. The priest came and told me.’

‘Isn’t a confession supposed to be confidential?’

‘He said some things couldn’t stay confidential, especially when a man is wrongfully in prison.’

Norman puffed out a breath. ‘Has he spoken to the police?’

‘He won’t. He says he’s done his duty by speaking to me, but the police say they won’t accept it second-hand from me, and the defence won’t risk an appeal unless they can get the priest in the witness box.’

‘And he won’t do it?’

‘He’s gone missing. No one knows where he is, or if they do know, they won’t say.’

Norman pursed his lips as he thought. ‘Do you think the confession was for real?’

‘What would she gain by lying when she’s about to die?’

Norman nodded. ‘Fair comment, but why didn’t she come forward before? Why wait all this time?’

‘She told Steve she didn’t want her husband to find out, and he stopped saying she was with him after that.’

‘And she was prepared to let him go down for murder? Jeez, she must have been some piece of work.’

‘Yes, you could say that,’ Debbie agreed.

‘And what about the car?’ asked Norman. ‘That’s a powerful piece of evidence, don’t you think?’

‘Steve swears he never drove down there. He says he couldn’t drive it anywhere because he was waiting to have his brakes repaired.’

‘So how was his number plate seen?’ asked Norman.

‘I have no idea,’ she said, bitterly. ‘That’s why I need help.’

Norman considered for a few seconds. ‘Let me be honest with you, Debbie,’ he began. ‘If your brother’s alibi is dead, and the priest has vanished, we have no way of offering an alternative scenario even if we could prove the car wasn’t there. I don’t see how I’m going to be able to help, and I won’t take your money just for the sake of it.’

‘When I realised the confession wouldn’t be any good without proof, I managed to get a newspaper to do an article about my brother. It was my last resort. The thing is, someone read the article and contacted me,’ she said. ‘He claims to know someone who was boasting about being paid fifty thousand pounds to kill a woman in a caravan.’

Norman sat forward in his chair. ‘What exactly do you mean, he claims to know someone?’

‘He did six months in prison, and while he was in there, his cellmate confessed to having been paid to kill a woman in a caravan ten years ago.’

‘Let me guess – the police say he’s not a credible witness,’ said Norman.

She nodded. ‘They warned me to expect more than one con man to come along offering information for money, and it turns out the man in question was guilty of fraud.’

‘I’m afraid ex-cons always have something of a “credible witness” problem,’ explained Norman, ‘and being inside for fraud makes it worse. I can understand where the police are coming from.’

‘The defence team won’t take it any further without more proof,’ added Debbie. ‘That’s why I’m hoping you can help me.’

‘So where is this guy?’ asked Norman. ‘Does he have a name?’

‘His name is Peter Brooks.’

‘And how much is he demanding for his information?’

Debbie sighed. ‘You sound just like the police again, but what if he’s telling the truth? He says he doesn’t want a penny.’

‘You truly believe your brother is innocent, don’t you?’ asked Norman.

‘Yes, I do. I always have. I know Steve’s not perfect, Mr Norman, but he’s no murderer. Will you help me?’

Norman considered again. He had to admit, he was intrigued by the story, and there was no denying the sincerity behind her belief that her brother was innocent. And let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly overloaded with work right now, was he?

‘Having the car seen in the area is going to be a big problem,’ he said, finally, ‘but I am intrigued by your story. I’ll tell you what I’ll do – if you can give me some details about the police officers involved, I might be able to pull a few strings and get hold of the case files. I’ll also see what I can find out about Peter Brooks.’

She reached down for the bag at her side and lifted it onto her lap. ‘I was hoping you might be interested,’ she said, rummaging in the bag, ‘so I have some stuff that might help.’ She produced three folders from the bag. ‘Steve’s defence team weren’t prepared to spend any money to get this investigated, but one of the secretaries took pity on me. She made copies of the evidence the police put forward at the trial, the trial transcript, and just about everything else they have. I’ve also added a file of my own stuff: newspaper cuttings, photographs, the name of the priest and his last known whereabouts, and the email from Peter Brooks.’

Norman couldn’t stop the broad smile that spread across his face.

Norman yawned expansively, leaned back in his chair, and stretched. He looked at the clock and was surprised to find it was after 5 p.m. He had spent the entire day at his desk studying the information Debbie Thomas had left with him, and he had been so engrossed he hadn’t realised how late it was.

It felt good to be back in the old routine: sifting through information, looking for clues. At last, he had a real case to investigate, and for the first time in weeks, he felt the old buzz of excitement about his work. Maybe this would be the one that opened a few doors for him.

He wanted to get started right away, but experience told him now would be a good time to close the files, shut down for the day, and go home. He would sleep on it tonight, let his subconscious mull it all over, and then start again in the morning.

Carefully, he placed everything back in the correct folders and then stacked them neatly to one side of his desk. He sat back and admired the orderliness of it. Being neat and tidy was a new experience for Norman, and as it didn’t come naturally to him, it was what you might call a work in progress.

It was a habit he had been encouraged to develop by Jane Jolly, his girlfriend. Jane had three children, and she had made it clear to Norman that if he was going to become part of their lives, he had to be prepared to do his share of keeping things tidy. For someone as naturally untidy as Norman, this should have been the ultimate challenge, but the truth was he was happy to do anything that would make her happy.

Now he was in his fifties, Norman felt the idea of having a ‘girlfriend’ didn’t quite sound right, but what else should he call her? Maybe ‘partner’ would be more appropriate, but then he didn’t want it to appear he was taking her for granted. Although he had been spending a lot of time with her, it was still early days, and he was trying desperately hard to get things right.

He was about to shut down his computer when he realised there was an email waiting in his inbox. He wondered how long it had been there, and, as he was about to close up for the night, he thought about ignoring it, but curiosity got the better of him. He clicked the icon and leaned forward to see who the sender was. To his surprise, it was from Dave Slater, and for a moment he thought again about leaving it until the morning.

He had become increasingly irritated with Slater, who, apart from two or three vague emails, had kept Norman in the dark about what he was doing and what his plans were. Norman was living in Slater’s house when he wasn’t at Jane’s house, but what was he supposed to do if Jane asked him to move in with her? He wasn’t even sure if Slater intended to come back.

Then he felt guilty as he recalled how Slater hadn’t even hesitated for a moment when Norman had needed somewhere to stay, and who had been there for him when he’d had his heart attack? Slater, of course. Okay, so the guy could be impetuous, but whenever Norman had been in trouble, he was always the first one there beside him, ready to drop everything and help. Guiltily, he opened the message.

Are you free tonight? My flight arrives Gatwick at 23.00. Can you pick me up? If not, no problem, let me know, and I’ll hire a car.

For a moment, Norman wondered how Slater had managed to send an email from mid-air, then noticed the message had been sitting in his inbox, unnoticed, since eleven o’clock that morning. He wondered how he had managed to miss it, but then realised that was what happens when you turn off the notification sounds on your computer. Maybe silencing those annoying beeps wasn’t such a good idea, after all.

‘And so the wanderer returns,’ he muttered. ‘I suppose I’ll have to go and pick him up.’

In truth, Norman hated the nights when he didn’t see Jane and the kids, and being Wednesday, this was one of those nights, so he was actually pleased to have something to do tonight. Plus, he had to admit he had missed Slater.

Norman shut down his computer, switched off the lights, locked up the office, and climbed into his car. As he put the car into gear, he realised he was smiling, and he was whistling too.


It was only as he reached Gatwick Airport and parked his car that it occurred to Norman Slater’s car should be here somewhere. It would be in one of the long-term car parks, but even so, if he did have a car here, why would he need picking up? As he walked across to the terminal, Norman hoped this wasn’t going to be a wasted journey. If he had come all the way up here for nothing, he would be seriously annoyed.

At this time of night, the airport was relatively quiet, and he knew there wouldn’t be the usual daytime crowds of people waiting for arriving passengers. He stopped to buy a coffee, then made his way to the seating area, from where he could watch the arrivals. He reasoned this was the right approach to take as he was supposed to be irritated with Slater and shouldn’t appear too keen to see him.

As the clock ticked on and the time approached when Norman expected his friend to appear, he began to watch the arriving passengers more closely. At first, they arrived in ones and twos, but after a while, the numbers swelled as they all cleared customs together. Among them, a well-tanned woman with short bleached-blonde hair caught his eye. For a moment, his instincts told him he should know her, and on another day, he may well have paid her a bit more attention, but then he remembered he was here to meet his friend, not admire passing women.

It was another fifteen minutes before a deeply tanned man with a scruffy beard and straggly hair emerged. He was wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and was dragging a suitcase behind him. It was only when the man stopped to gaze around and then waved to him that Norman recognised him.

Before he had left England, Slater had remarked on going to ‘the promised land’, and ever since, Norman had harboured a fear that maybe he was going off to join a cult of some sort. Looking at Slater now, he thought perhaps he had been right to be concerned, but despite his friend’s wild appearance, there was no doubting the sincerity of his greeting, and the hug was long and heartfelt. When he finally let go, Norman took a step back and looked him up and down.

‘Come on, then, let’s hear it,’ said Slater. ‘I suppose you’re going to tell me I’ve let myself go.’

‘Actually, I was thinking how well you were looking. I’m not sure about the beard, but I wouldn’t mind looking half as fit and healthy.’

‘I’ll take that, Norm, but you don’t look so bad yourself. Being with Jane must be good for you.’

Norman smiled shyly. ‘I have to admit, it does add a bit of a spring to my step,’ he agreed. ‘I can’t help noticing you’re not exactly dressed for February in England, are you?’

Slater gave him a wry smile. ‘It was thirty degrees when I left Thailand. I had intended to get changed before we landed, but I got distracted, and then it was too late.’

‘Distracted? That sounds intriguing.’

‘It’s a long story,’ said Slater. ‘You had to be there.’

Norman watched his face for a clue, but Slater stared back blankly. He wasn’t going to elaborate.

‘I should warn you – it’s freezing out there,’ said Norman. ‘Do you have anything more suitable to wear?’

‘I have some jeans in my case if you don’t mind waiting while I change.’

‘Another five minutes won’t matter. I have nothing to rush back for tonight.’

A few minutes later, they were heading for the car park.

‘So how come you needed me to collect you? I thought your car was up here in long-term parking.’

He could see the discomfort on Slater’s face. ‘Ah, yeah, it was,’ he said, vaguely.

‘But it’s not now?’

‘Er, no.’

‘Has it been stolen?’

‘No. Watson landed at Gatwick without a car. She asked me if she could borrow mine to get home.’

Watson, aka DS Samantha Brearley, had been Slater’s partner at his old job, before he had walked out.

Norman shook his head in surprise. ‘You let her borrow your Range Rover?’

‘It’s no big deal. She’s used to driving it. She often drove it when we were working together. I trust her with it.’

‘Yeah, but even so. I mean, you wouldn’t be so keen to let me drive it.’

‘No offence, Norm, but I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of dents in your car.’

Norman couldn’t argue with that. He never claimed to be the world’s best driver, but he knew he was on to something, and he wasn’t going to let it go. He was sure he had just put two and two together, and he wanted to see what Slater was going to say.

‘How did she get to Gatwick in the first place?’


‘You said she landed at Gatwick without a car. Presumably, she’s been away somewhere, and the flight was to and from Gatwick. I’m curious to know how she got to Gatwick in the first place. People usually have transport arranged – they don’t fly into Gatwick on the off-chance someone’s going to lend them a Range Rover to get home.’

Slater stopped walking and turned to face him.

‘Seriously, are you pissed off just because I let her borrow my car?’

Norman laughed. ‘Of course not. Even I wouldn’t lend me a Range Rover. I’m curious, that’s all. I mean, how did you get the key to her? Or, does she have her own? I could swear the spare is in the key drawer at home.’

He waited for a response, but Slater seemed to be struggling for words.

‘And another thing,’ continued Norman. ‘You couldn’t have emailed me from the sky, right? So, you must have known this morning that she was going to borrow your car.’

Even behind Slater’s beard and the deep suntan, Norman could see his cheeks reddening. He looked away from Norman and stared up at the sky for inspiration. Norman guffawed loudly and slapped him on the shoulder.

‘Don’t tell me – it was an amazing coincidence, right? She landed at the same time as you, and I suppose you just happened to bump into her, and as luck would have it, you had emailed me to come and meet you just in case this should happen. Am I close?’

Slater stared at the grinning Norman and knew the game was up. ‘You knew all the time, didn’t you?’

‘I saw a familiar face coming through arrivals,’ Norman confessed as they started walking again. ‘I knew I should know her, but I couldn’t think who she was at the time. Then, when I asked about the car and you mentioned her name, the penny dropped. Hey, look, there’s no need to be embarrassed, I’m not going to tell anyone. Has she been out there all the time?’

‘God, no, she would have lost her job. She had some leave, so she came out for the last ten days.’

‘You can tell me to mind my own business, but my curiosity is getting the better of me now. Has this been going on for long?’

‘If you mean, was I having a relationship with my junior officer? Not at all. We were very professional while we were working together, but once I quit … well, that’s when we told each other what we were thinking.’

‘So, when you said about going to the promised land that day—’

‘I wasn’t talking about Thailand. That came after.’

‘What happens now?’

‘She’s gone back to start a new job, and I’ve come home.’

‘And that’s it?’ asked Norman. ‘You let her take your car, and you don’t even know if you’ll see her again?’

Slater smiled. ‘Yeah, I guess that’s about the size of it. It’s just a car, Norm. Anyway, I trust her. I know she’ll get it back to me in one piece.’

‘Yeah, but when?’

‘I dunno,’ Slater admitted. ‘Whenever it gets here, I guess. And just so you know, you haven’t uncovered some big, secret romance.’

‘I haven’t?’

‘We’re just two consenting adults who fancied spending a few days together, with no strings attached.’

They had reached the car now, and as they loaded Slater’s case into the boot, Norman shook his head. ‘And that’s it? You spend ten nights with a beautiful woman and then you go your separate ways?’

‘It’s not that hard to understand, Norm. Sam’s a career girl, and no one is going to get in the way of that.’

‘What about you?’

Slater gave a wry smile. ‘Have you ever known me keep a relationship going for long?’

‘Jeez, I don’t think I’ll ever understand you and women.’

‘Ha! I’ve never been able to, Norm, so what makes you think you can? 

As they headed back towards Tinton, Slater listened as Norman told him about his developing relationship with Jane Jolly and her three children. Norman was happier than Slater had ever seen him, and he was immensely pleased for his friend. If any couple deserved to be together, it was Norm and Jane. They’d been through some crappy times through no fault of their own, and he genuinely wished them the best.

‘Hey, listen to me,’ said Norman, about an hour into the journey. ‘I’ve done nothing but talk, and you can’t get a word in anywhere.’

‘It’s good to hear you sounding happy,’ said Slater. ‘I’m pleased it’s all working out for you and Jane on the romantic front, but what are you doing for work?’

Now Norman felt uncomfortable. He had been hoping they might avoid that subject, at least until the morning. ‘Remember that office we were cleaning up? Well, I finally got one room finished and opened for business.’

‘As a detective?’

Norman wasn’t sure if he could hear any sarcasm in the question. ‘Yeah, as a detective. What else would I be doing?’

‘Have you got much work?’

‘I’m getting by,’ said Norman, vaguely.

Slater looked across at him. ‘You mean you haven’t got any work, right?’

This was definitely without sarcasm. ‘I could give you a load of bullshit, but I’ll be honest and admit I haven’t had any real detective work. In fact, the only job I’ve been working the last couple of weeks is one I’d rather not have – spying on some guy whose wife thinks he’s cheating on her.’

Slater grimaced. ‘And is he?’

‘Not that I can see,’ said Norman, ‘but she insists I’ve got to keep following him and she keeps on paying …’

‘You always said you wouldn’t take jobs like that.’

‘I seem to recall we both said it,’ Norman reminded him, ‘but it’s a necessary evil. I have to make money somehow. Even though I don’t eat anywhere near the amount of food I used to, I can’t live on fresh air.’

‘I said it would be like that,’ Slater told him, but again there didn’t seem to be any hint of smugness.

‘Yeah, I know, but I’m sure if I’m prepared to put up with a few crappy jobs to start with, the good stuff will find its way to me in the end,’ said Norman. ‘Anyway, enough about my work. What are you going to do now you’re back?’

‘I have no idea. I’ve burnt my bridges with the police, that’s for sure.’

‘Walking out the first time was risky,’ agreed Norman, ‘but doing it the second time certainly wasn’t your finest hour. I know you were upset, but maybe you should have waited for the dust to settle first.’

‘I wouldn’t want to go back again, Norm. It was a mistake going back last time. I’ve always believed right is right and wrong is wrong, but the older I’ve got, the more I find I have to compromise my principles to do my job. Bad people get away with bad things far too often for my liking, and as a police officer, I just had to sit back and let them get away with it. Even when we know they’re guilty, we have to let them free on some stupid technicality, and they laugh in our faces as they walk out! I’ve done a lot of soul-searching while I’ve been away, and I know I can’t work like that again.’

‘I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think there’s a vacancy for Superman right now,’ said Norman.

Slater smiled. ‘Just as well, really. I’ve never felt comfortable wearing my underwear on the outside. It’s not a look that suits me.’

‘But seriously, what are you going to do?’

‘I’ll think of something.’

‘You could come and work with me,’ suggested Norman.

Slater looked across at him. ‘I thought you said you only had one job.’

‘Yeah, well, I’ve been looking at another one today, and I think it may be the one I’ve been waiting for.’

‘I’m not sure spying on cheating husbands is my thing.’

‘This isn’t about spying on anyone.’

‘I don’t know, Norm …’

‘Look, if this is because of me being selfish, I promise you I’ve changed. And you won’t believe how tidy I have had to become to keep Jane happy.’

‘When did I ever complain about you being selfish?’ asked Slater.

‘You didn’t,’ said Norman, ‘but when I was working with Naomi, she pointed it out to me. She told me how I always used to leave you to do all the paperwork and crap that I don’t like doing. She said I was selfish, and it must drive you mad, but you wouldn’t complain because you’re you. She said you went back to the police because you didn’t want to work with me.’

‘I went back to the police because I was an idiot,’ said Slater, grimly.

Norman wasn’t sure how to respond to that and settled for saying nothing.

‘You did tend to leave me to do the crap,’ admitted Slater, ‘but it never stopped me wanting to work with you. I can honestly say I enjoyed working with you, I always did.’

‘So why don’t we start again? Only this time I’ll do my fair share, and if I don’t, you’ll let me know.’

‘I thought you and Naomi were a team.’

‘We were, sort of, but when that homeless kid got killed, she took it badly. She felt it was her fault. Now she’s decided she can’t do it anymore.’

‘I thought she wanted to make a difference.’

‘Yeah, but didn’t we all at one time? She still does want to make a difference, but now she thinks she can do more good by working with people who need help, like the homeless.’

Slater nodded his approval. ‘She’s probably right. Maybe I should do something like that.’

‘The point is, Naomi’s out of the picture, so what do you say?’ asked Norman.

Slater thought about it. ‘But if you’re getting together with Jane you’re going to need the money, Norm. It wouldn’t be right for me to come barging in now, not after you’ve spent money and done all the work getting things set up for yourself.’

Norman felt his face begin to redden. ‘Ah, yeah, well, that’s where it gets a little embarrassing,’ he said, sheepishly. ‘The thing is, I haven’t exactly spent any money. The business remains “Slater and Norman”, and I’m using the stationery we had printed that says the same thing. I was going to get it changed once I started to make some money.’

Slater laughed at Norman’s discomfort. ‘And you were worried about telling me that?’

‘Well, I thought maybe you wouldn’t want your name to be associated—’

‘Jesus, Norm, I’ve never been embarrassed to be associated with you. Why would I? You’re my best mate, for God’s sake. If anything, I’m the embarrassment, the way I go storming off in a huff every time things don’t go quite how I want them to.’

‘I wouldn’t put it quite like that,’ said Norman. ‘You have principles. I understand that.’

‘You don’t have to dress it up, Norm – we both know I’m a forty-something who can behave like a toddler.’

Norman wasn’t sure quite how he should respond to Slater’s honesty, but luckily, he didn’t have to.

‘However, in my defence,’ Slater continued, ‘I’ve just spent several weeks learning how to be a better person, so I should be able to behave a bit more like an adult in future.’

Now it was Norman’s turn to laugh. ‘You’re going to be an adult? You’re kidding me, right? Does Watson know about this?’

Slater could see the funny side, and he was smiling too. ‘Having shared a hotel room with me for two weeks, she says she likes the new, adult me even better than the old one.’

‘Is she gonna be upset that I know about you and her?’

‘Nice try, Norm, but you’re not going to catch me out. I already told you there is no me and her. She was happy to walk through customs with me, but I was the one who suggested we shouldn’t come out together because I thought it might not look good for her new job if anyone saw her with me.’

They drove on in silence for a few minutes until Norman spoke again. ‘Well, while you’ve got nothing else to do, I could do with some help.’

‘What about this guy you should be spying on?’

‘They’re in Portugal for three weeks, staying with her parents. She says he wouldn’t dare risk messing around in front of them. And if you’re worried about an early start, I don’t usually start until ten. It makes up for all the times I have to work late.’

Slater grinned. ‘You don’t give up, do you?’

‘What else have you got to do?’ asked Norman. ‘Why don’t you sleep on it and let me know in the morning?’

Books in the Slater & Norman series

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