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Marion Konstantinov spared a glance at the poorly dressed woman beside her. Honestly, didn't the Met have standards? Sparing another glance at the drab Barbara Havers, their liaison from the Met attached to their case, she sighed inwardly.
She would have to make do.
Walking up the steps to a well-appointed house in an exclusive suburb, she paused at the door to look at her partner. "Perhaps I should handle this," she said politely. She was much better suited to talk to London's elite.
Barbara Havers didn't seem the least bit perturbed, shrugging her shoulders. "By all means."
Taking a moment to compose herself, running a hand over her coiffed hair and straightening her jacket, she plastered a confident smile on her face and rang the doorbell.
She led the way when they were ushered in by the butler. Ready words on her lips, Marion found herself speechless when the tall woman before them completely ignored her and stepped forward with arms open for... surely not...
"Hello Deb," came the warm reply.
All she could do was watch and obey when a hand was flapped in her direction. Taking it as an order to sit – as if she were a servant! – she did so.
"And how is Tommy?" the woman asked with great familiarly. "Still being a pain?"
Barbara Havers actually smiled – something she had yet to see – as she responded. "He's taken to bed rest as much as can be expected."
"Oh yes," Deb replied.
Finding her looking briefly looking in her direction, Marion managed a weak smile, marvelling that she should feel so inferior.
"So," the redheaded woman said. "How can I help you?"
Leaving the property a short time later, having promptly nixed the idea of afternoon tea in the bud, Marion turned her attention to Barbara Havers. "Why didn't you say you knew Deborah St James?"
She shrugged. "You seemed to have it under control."
Marion sighed inwardly at what she had to put up with these days. Think of the promotion. Think of the promotion. "Well," she replied, feeling like a schoolteacher. "In the future, please advise if you have knowledge."
"As you wish."
Marion resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She was just like a sullen teenager!
Arriving back at the station, Marion made to move to her desk to type up her report. She hastily changed her plan when Constable Doris Neville hurried toward her.
It was vital to have ears and eyes placed in strategic positions – each a closer step to promotion – and Constable Neville was her mole on the frontline. "Inspector Lynley is here," she spoke in a loud whisper.
"Inspector Thomas Lynley?"
"Yes." Neville was bouncing on the balls of her feet in ill-concealed excitement.
Intent on making her first impression, Marion ignored Barbara Havers as she made for the bullpen. She had never met the inspector before, but knew him to be a key player at the Met.
It was easy to spot the aristocrat: Inspector Lynley stood at the whiteboard, propped up on crutches, his right leg in a moonboot. Preparing herself, she had words on the very tip of her tongue when he turned in her direction.
"Barbara!" cried the Inspector.
As he looked right by her, Marion had a sinking feeling that she had just come off second best for the second time today.
"Aren't you supposed to be at home in bed?"
This was the "Tommy" that Deborah St James had been referring to?