Authors: J.M. Gregson
Table of Contents
Lambert and Hook Mysteries
AN ACADEMIC DEATH
CRY OF THE CHILDREN
DEATH ON THE ELEVENTH HOLE
GIRL GONE MISSING
A GOOD WALK SPOILED
IN VINO VERITAS
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN
TOO MUCH OF WATER
AN UNSUITABLE DEATH
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Detective Inspector Peach Mysteries
TO KILL A WIFE
THE LANCASHIRE LEOPARD
A LITTLE LEARNING
LEAST OF EVILS
MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD
MURDER AT THE LODGE
ONLY A GAME
REMAINS TO BE SEEN
A TURBULENT PRIEST
THE WAGES OF SIN
WHO SAW HIM DIE?
LEAST OF EVILS
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First published in Great Britain 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS of
110 East 59
Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by J.M. Gregson.
The right of J.M. Gregson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs Â Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Cry of the Children.
1. Lambert, John (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. Hook,
Bert (Fictitious character)âFiction. 3. Policeâ
EnglandâGloucestershireâFiction. 4. Detective and
mystery stories. 5. Missing children-fiction.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8286-8 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-466-9 (epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Do you hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
Elizabeth Barret Browning
To Lesley and Malcolm Pease,
long-time friends and splendid people
LL THE FUN OF THE FAIR!'
It took Lucy Gibson a little while to get all of the words on the poster. They were scrawled in big blue letters and Lucy wasn't used to reading everything in capitals.
She was a good reader now. She'd heard her teacher tell her mum that she was coming along fine, after a difficult start. These weren't big words, any of them, but it took her a while to make out what the notice said because of the capitals. And she didn't quite understand what the strange punctuation mark at the end meant. Mrs Copthall had told them about exclamation marks, but said they weren't to worry too much about them yet. Lucy had promptly dismissed them from her thoughts â there were quite enough difficulties with this strange business of reading, without struggling with things Mrs Copthall said she shouldn't worry about.
The man used his staple gun to pin down the edge of his poster, then stood back like an artist to admire his handiwork. He looked big and powerful to Lucy. Squat and powerful, an adult might have said. But to Lucy Gibson the man was tall as well as wide; when you are seven, all adults seem tall. Even the girl standing beside her, Daisy Cornwell, seemed tall to Lucy, though she was only nine and looked thin and bony to the adults who controlled the world.
It was Daisy who now took Lucy's hand firmly in hers, conscious of her responsibility and very proud of it. It wasn't far from the school to the road where they lived, scarcely more than two hundred yards. There were no major roads to cross. That's what Lucy's mum had said when she asked Daisy to bring her daughter safely home from school. Nevertheless, it was a responsibility. Daisy's mum had stressed that to her and told her to come straight home and keep a tight hold on Lucy's hand. From the lofty experience of her nine years, Daisy recognized the tone in her mum's voice. Adults, and mums in particular, always fussed about things that were really quite straightforward.
But it was the first time she had done this, so she was being very grown-up and responsible. âWe'd better get you home,' she said officiously to Lucy. âWe don't want your mum getting worried, do we?' That was the kind of silly question adults asked; Daisy felt herself very much an adult today.
âWhat's a fair?' said Lucy.
âIt's good, the fair,' said Daisy. âYou'll enjoy it. That's if you're allowed to go. It costs money.' That was all you needed to say. If things cost money, grown-ups always became keen on them.
Lucy looked doubtfully after the big man who had put the poster up on the noticeboard on the edge of the common. He was now stumping away towards the battered white van in which he had come here. âWhy d'you have to pay?'
Daisy gave the superior smile that comes from experience. âYou pay to go on the rides. They'll be putting them up tomorrow, ready for the weekend.'
âWhat sort of rides? Donkeys?' Lucy frowned. She remembered racing along the sands and screaming, whilst a rough man trotted beside her and told her to hold on tight. She'd pretended to enjoy it, because she'd been told it was a treat, but in truth she'd been glad when it was over, glad when she'd no longer had to feel the rough coat of the donkey scratching the tender skin on the insides of her bare legs. She didn't want donkeys coming to the common. That was a place where you threw tennis balls and tried to catch them, and patted friendly dogs.
âNo, not donkeys!' Daisy Cornwell shook her head with a condescending smile at such ignorance. âThere'll be proper rides, with things going round and round and up and down. You pay to go on those. You can ride on a motorbike or on a little bus or on the footplate of an engine.' She couldn't remember what else there had been. It was a whole year ago now and she'd only been eight then, hadn't she?
âI can't drive a bus. I'd fall off a motorbike.'
âYou don't have to drive, silly.' Daisy's immensely superior experience edged her voice with contempt. But she found it difficult to explain exactly why small people didn't need to drive. âThey're toy ones, fastened to the floor of the ride. But big enough to sit in. You pay when the man comes for the money. Then you go round and round and up and down on the ride. It's good. Your parents pay for you and wait for you at the side.' She looked down at the small, round face that was gazing at her so trustingly. âYours might go on with you, because you're still small.'
small!' The protest sprang readily to Lucy's lips because she'd made it so often.
âThey won't want you going on the big rides on your own. Not at your age.' Daisy knew that she wouldn't be allowed to go to the fair on her own either, but she wasn't going to admit that to Lucy.
âShan't go, then. Not bothered.' That was Lucy's unthinking, petulant reaction, her seven-year-old determination to assert herself in the face of this condescension from the bigger girl who was holding her hand so firmly. She knew that she wanted to go to the fair really, that her heart was eager for this new, exciting, perhaps frightening experience. It was all right being frightened when you had your hand held by a grown-up person and could bury your face in your mum's coat if it got too bad.
She told her mum that the fair was coming when Daisy delivered her to her home. She acted as if she knew all about fairs and had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this one for weeks. Her mum seemed to accept that.
âThey grow up so fast, don't they?' Lucy heard her saying to their neighbour over the garden fence a few minutes later. It was a thing Lucy often heard her mother saying; she didn't know why she said it, but it seemed on the whole a good thing to say, because other people always agreed with her about it.
Mrs Gibson had greater things than fairs to worry about at present.
They had fish fingers and chips and peas for tea. Lucy liked that and left a very clean plate, which always pleased her mother. She felt better when she'd eaten. She'd only just started at the junior school and it was hard work after being one of the big girls last year in the infants. Mrs Copthall told them that they were in the big school now and had to work hard, and they didn't get the rest period they'd had in the afternoons in the first school, when they'd laid their heads on the desks on top of their arms and closed their eyes for a little while.
And you had to be careful at playtimes. You had to keep to your own bit of the yard and out of the way of the big boys and girls. They played their own games and didn't want little kids getting in the way. There were all kinds of things she was having to learn, as well as the things in the classroom which the grown-ups seemed to think were the only things that mattered. She came home very tired, but she always felt better after her tea.
They had homework now. Lucy had welcomed the idea at first, as another acknowledgement of her new school status, but after six weeks she had decided it was a nuisance, when she wanted to be playing with her toys or stroking next door's new kitten in the garden. It wasn't too bad tonight, because her mum seemed preoccupied with other things and was just as anxious to have it out of the way. She reeled off the ten words she had to learn to spell and was pretty sure she'd made a couple of mistakes, but her mother didn't seem to notice. She slammed the book shut as if she was as glad to be done with it as her daughter was.
Lucy talked about the fair again as she was putting on her jim-jams and getting ready for bed. âThere's different rides. They go round and round, faster and faster.' She added the last bit herself to make it sound more exciting. Mrs Copthall said you had to use your imagination to make things more exciting when you were writing. She wasn't writing now, but you had to practise, didn't you?
âWe'll talk about it later in the week. You need to go to sleep now. And I need to get on with my jobs downstairs. There isn't time for a story tonight. I expect you'll be reading your own stories soon. You're getting to be a big girl now.'