The morning was cold but dry and bright and it seemed to Frank Shunter that it was the perfect day to rake up the leaves on the lawn and add them to his compost heap. He still had a hundred and one small jobs to do indoors on the new extension but the weather was too good to waste. An ancient radio stood on a wall belting out a crackly version of the altogether appropriate Autumn Almanac by The Kinks. There was a perfectly good digital radio in the kitchen but Shunter persevered with his old, paint-spattered, and held together with duct tape radio. He had once claimed that the radio was a metaphor for his life; that just because something was old and there were newer options available, there was no reason to throw it away if it still worked. But having made this declaration, he was now lumbered with terrible sound quality until the radio was truly beyond repair.
Mrs Shunter emerged from the kitchen with two steaming mugs of tea and he propped the rake up against the wall and stretched.
‘Perfect timing,’ he said, pecking her on the cheek. ‘I was thinking of taking a break. No biscuits?’
‘And undo all the good work you’ve done?’ said Mrs Shunter, patting his stomach. ‘I hope you’re minding your back.’
‘I am,’ said Shunter, blowing on his tea. ‘I’m not a masochist. I know when to stop and … hang on …’
He turned the volume control on the radio. The local news was on.
‘… where the body of a woman, identified as Phoebe Kingshaw, a secretary at Harpax Grange School, was discovered last night. A man is helping police with their enquiries. A confidential telephone number has been set up for anyone who might have any information. Miss Kingshaw had been at the school for just a few weeks and …’
‘I know that face,’ said Mrs Shunter, folding her arms.
‘What?’ said Shunter.
‘That’s the same face you pulled two years ago when that author woman was murdered in the village.’
‘I was only having a listen. I’m not getting involved,’ said Shunter.
‘You said that last time and look what happened. Explosions, police shoot-outs …’
‘Hardly my fault,’ said Shunter. ‘And I did help to catch the murderer.’
‘You stick to your composting,’ said Mrs Shunter. ‘Let the youngsters deal with it. You’re too old for all that kind of thing now.’
‘I’m fifty-six. I’m not Methuselah.’
‘Just behave. We don’t want a repeat of things, do we?’
As his wife walked back indoors, Shunter turned the radio up to make a point about obsolescence. And then turned it down because it sounded atrocious.