Saturday 3rd December

Tack back after misplaced hope, like one rejected by Dane (8)

Phil and Marie-Claire have gone away for a “romantic weekend break” to Amsterdam when the call comes.

Dad is out playing bridge at 147 Banbury Rd and I am feeling a little sorry for myself, if truth be told. A couple of cans of Snecklifter Special have slipped down the gullet very smoothly and I am just contemplating polishing off the last one in the fridge. Should I wait up for Match of the Day? The Black Cats have beaten Leicester, after all, thanks to an unbelievable save from Pickford in the 96th minute.

It’s not often that the landline rings these days so I contemplate ignoring it completely, but there is just the chance that it will be the Premium Bond people.

“Mr Hogg? Alex Hogg?”

The voice sounds oddly familiar but I am unable to place it immediately.

“Speaking. Who’s that?”

“It’s DI Hunt from the Met. You remember that I asked you a few questions.”

“Of course …”

“Well, the thing is … there’s no easy way to put this, Mr Hogg ….”

Fear stalks my entrails as if I were a 1970s BBC radio DJ.

“A body has been found.”

“A body?” I whisper. It is as if I have suddenly joined the cast of particularly dire B-movie.

“Yes, a woman’s body. In the Serpentine. Now I don’t want to alarm you, sir, and this is one of many lines we are pursuing, but …”

“It’s Hattie.”

“I think it’s highly unlikely but it is a possibility that we’d like to eliminate as quickly as possible. That’s why I’m calling. To be frank, the body had been underwater for some considerable time and there is no quick means of identifying who she is or, rather, was.”

I have no idea how to respond to this news.

“Under water? I’m not exactly Hattie’s nearest and dearest. I’m sure her sister …”

“Yes, we’ve tried the sister but got no response. And her ex-husband, Dr Sherborne.”

“He’s in Amsterdam, I believe.”

“So-o …”

“You’d like me to come and try to identify the body.”

“If you could …”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“As soon as you can. Purely as a matter of routine, so we can cross her name off the list of possibles.”


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