"Sorry, Mike, she's taken. She's married to DCI Lloyd over at Stansfield."
Even better, thought Michael. Married women didn't expect anything from you. "She kept her own name?"
"Only to avoid confusion. They are happily married, with a two-year-old daughter."
"More fast-track coppers?"
"No. This is second time around for both of themshe's ten years younger than him, though. I think you've met DCI Lloydhe's Welsh, not particularly tall. Very dark hair, what there is of it."
"Oh, yes. I remember him." Michael smiled. "A two-year-old daughter will keep him on his toes."
"They've been together for years, but they only got married about eighteen months ago." Ray asked for the menu, and once they had ordered, he settled in for a gossip. "Apparently, it all started twenty-odd years ago when they were both in London, at the Met. He was married, but she wasn't. Then next thing, she goes and marries some man and goes to live in Nottingham, while he gets a divorce, but she doesn't know that. Anyway, she manages to persuade her husband to move to Stansfield . . ."
Michael stopped listening, as he often did with Ray. He liked his brother-in-law, but he seriously suspected that he never actually stopped talking. Having a conversation with him was almost impossible, once he'd got going. Michael wondered if he was like that at work.
Being related by marriage to casino owners was not something the constabulary recommended to its senior officers, but it hadn't held Ray back, because in his line of work Michael heard the odd whisper of use to the police, and it sometimes worked to their advantage. And Michael played it straight, for the most part. His business dealings were squeaky clean and always had been, but if Ray really believed that he just resigned himself to writing off large gambling debts that he couldn't recover in court, that just showed how little imagination he had.
During the meal, Michael was given a minute assessment of everyone's chances in the Bartonshire Constabulary promotion stakes, and by the time he was being deposited at his front door, he could have opened a book on the outcome himself. He retrieved his golf bag from the boot, slammed it shut and tapped the roof of the car, watching as the X-type Jaguar swept back down his gravelled driveway. He raised a hand in salute as its taillights disappeared from view, and smiled. He had never bought a Jaghe drove a modest Ford Focus, and it got him from A to B in comfort, so he was quite happy with that.
All his adult life he had consciously veered away from the overt trappings of self-made wealth; no camel-hair coats and gold identity bracelets for him, no flashy sports cars or Havana cigars. He wasn't about to play the part of the East End boy made good, even if he was one. His family had moved to Bartonshire from London when he was fifteen, so the accent had been ironed out, but he was an East End boy at heart.
The Grange was the only ostentation he had ever allowed himself, and it was different, because Josephine had grown up in Stoke Weston village, and her dream had been to live in the Grange, so when it came on the market twenty years ago, Michael had bought it. It sat in several picturesque acres of Stoke Weston, and had once been someone's country house. Whoever that was had probably only used it part of the year, and that was ostentation in Michael's book. At least he lived there all year round. But he did employ a full-time housekeeper and gardener, not to mention part-time cleaners and groundsmen, and it was a hell of a size for just him and Ben.
Come to that, Ben was hardly here now that he was at universityperhaps he should think about selling. But then, Ben loved it, too; it had been a great place for a boy to grow up. He and his friends had played for hours in the woods, and the old summerhouse by the lake had in its time been everything from a prehistoric cave to a spaceship.
Excerpted from Unlucky for Some by Jill McGown Copyright © 2005 by Jill McGown. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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