Inspector Bright, looking just as attractive as he’d had earlier—maybe more so, given that his collar had clearly been loosened a bit—stood on the step, smiling. “Thanks for seeing me. I know it’s a bit late, but the more we can get sorted early on, the better.”
“Not got your sergeant with you?” Adam, trying not to sound too pleased about that fact, ushered his guest into the hallway.
“He’s got the job of contacting Ian Youngs’s family. I got the long straw for once.”
Adam wasn’t sure how to answer that, apart from showing the way to the kitchen and hiding his grin. “Bloody awful job that must be. How can you bear to do it?”
“I was going to say you get hardened to it, but I suspect if you did, you’d be no use at it.” Robin slipped onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar, then took out a notebook and pen. “Black coffee, please,” he said, in response to Adam’s gesture towards the coffeemaker. “This house is really nice. I thought teachers were poorly paid.”
“We are.” Adam poured the drinks. “This was my grandparents’ cottage. As their only grandchild, they left it to me. I’d rather still have them here and be a lodger or something.” Oh God. Already pouring my heart out. “Sugar?”
“No. Just as it comes, thanks.” Robin took the mug. “Have you always lived around here?”
“God no. Born and brought up in Hampshire.” Adam fetched his drink and a plate of biscuits—maybe he’d get his appetite back?—over to the breakfast bar. “One of life’s coincidences, the job at Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s coming up just about the same time I got this place. And a bit of a promotion—inclusion coordinator as well as class teacher.” Nerves were getting the better of his tongue. Shut up with the life story.
“I bet you think that’s a two-edged sword, now. Being at St. Crispin’s.”
“You mean because of this murder?”
“Not just that.” Robin took one of the biscuits, tapping the crumbs off but not eating it. “It’s not exactly a high-flying place.”
Adam shrugged. “I knew it wasn’t all the local reputation cracked it up to be. It was going downhill even before I got there, in case you think I’m the one who scuppered it.”
Robin laughed, wearily. “It’s always had a high opinion of itself.”
“I don’t know, it’s . . .” A scratching noise at the back door made them both turn round. “Excuse me. That’s Campbell.” Adam hopped off his chair.
“The dog. I inherited him with the house too. Come in, boy.” He opened the door for a large Newfoundland to make a regal entrance. “Does he bother you? I’ll lock him in the bedroom if he does.”
“No. I like dogs.” Robin tapped his leg, encouraging Campbell to come over for a pat. “I don’t have the regular hours to let me keep one.”
Adam slipped back onto his chair. Funny how the arrival of the dog had eased the atmosphere immediately, creating a common point of contact that had nothing to do with dead bodies or schools. “Unlike us teachers with our allegedly short days and long holidays.”
“I didn’t say that.” Robin smiled, caressing Campbell affectionately behind the ear.
“You’ve made a friend. Just don’t give him any biscuits. He’s spoiled enough.”
“Noted.” Robin flashed another one of his devastating, dark-eyed smiles. “You were saying?”
“I was going to say that there are plenty of people who’d leap at the chance to run the school.” Adam watched the interaction of dog and rozzer. George had never really established more than a wary truce with Campbell, even when he’d been living here for weeks on end. Didn’t they say that animals knew? “If someone comes in and turns us around, it’ll be a real feather in his or her cap. Campbell!”
The dog, suitably chastened, took his nose out of Robin’s pocket where it might have hoped to find a stray custard cream.
“Where’s your chewy toy? Go find it. Go on, boy.”
Campbell, reluctantly, went to his bed, rooting around under it.
“He’s a daft beggar. I’m sure it’s not there. Still, it’ll keep him out of mischief.” Adam sighed. “For whoever gets the headteacher job, there’s every chance it’ll turn out to be this year St. Crispin’s, and two years down the line some failing inner-city primary school with a mega salary to boot. People should be falling over themselves to get it.”
“Really?” Robin made a sour face, swiftly hidden. “If the job’s such a plum, then why did nobody decent apply the first time?”
Campbell, proving his owner wrong, waddled over with a teddy bear firmly clenched in his jaws, depositing the vile object in Robin’s lap.
“I said you’d made a friend. You’ll have to pretend to be pleased, even if it’s revolting.” Adam found the sight of dog and man together strangely comforting.