Ken McClure: Tangled Web

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Ken McClure Tangled Web
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    Tangled Web
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    thriller_medical / на английском языке
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Tangled Web: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Used to the sleepy tranquillity of village life in rural Wales, the residents of Felinbach are shocked by the brutal killing of a local baby, Anne-Marie Palmer. None more so than GP Tom Gordon, the only friend left to John Palmer who, faced with irrevocable evidence, stands accused of his daughter’s murder. Just days later Tom is co-opted to investigate the disappearance of the body of a three-month-old cot-death victim from Caernarfon General’s Pathology Department. But the hospital is anxious to keep publicity firmly on their upcoming symposium on in vitro fertilisation, headed by world-renowned specialist Professor Carwyn Thomas, so Tom’s investigations seem thwarted at every turn. That is, until he makes the chilling discovery that Professor Thomas has more than just a passing interest in the murder of little Anne-Marie Palmer... and seems prepared to go to any lengths to stop Tom finding out why. Suddenly a disturbing link between the murder of the Palmer baby, the missing body of a child and the IVF clinic at Caernarfon General begins to emerge. And with John Palmer about to be tried for a murder Tom is sure he didn’t commit, things are starting to look desperate — and dangerous — for all of them.

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Ken McClure

Tangled Web

O what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott — Marmion 17 — (1771–1832)


John Palmer came into the room and placed another log on the fire. He made sure it was stable before turning round and looking at his wife, Lucy, who sat with their baby daughter on her knee.

‘You know, Lucy this is how I always hoped it would be,’ he said, ‘You and me and our baby in our own home.’

‘You’re just a big softy when it comes right down to it,’ smiled Lucy. ‘But it’s not going to be easy, you know.’

John knelt down beside them and brought his forefinger gently down the baby’s cheek. ‘She’s our daughter,’ he said. ‘That’s all that really matters. We’ll cope with the problems as they come along.’

‘We will,’ agreed Lucy.

John tickled the baby’s tummy and she responded with a gurgle. ‘See,’ he said. ‘She knows it too.’

‘You smell of sawdust,’ said Lucy.

‘I’ve been cutting logs, I’m entitled to smell of sawdust,’ said John with a grin.

‘I didn’t say it was unpleasant,’ countered Lucy. ‘It’s quite macho really in a lumberjack sort of a way. Is it still snowing outside?’

‘A little, but this’ll be the last snow of the winter, I’m sure,’ replied John. He moved over to the window, leaning both hands on the sill to look out at the garden.

‘The weather forecast said it was going to get warmer towards the end of the week,’ said Lucy.

‘If it’s going to thaw then maybe I should build Anne-Marie a snowman today,’ said John thoughtfully.

‘A snowman?’ exclaimed Lucy through stifled laughter. ‘She’s only three months old!’

‘No matter. We can take her out into the garden and show it to her — make sure she appreciates the finer points of her father’s artistic talents.’ John turned round, his face filled with growing enthusiasm for the idea. ‘Tell you what, you have a hunt for clothes for the snowman and I’ll get started. Play your cards right and you can have the honour of naming him. Come on, let’s get cracking!’

‘Oh, all right,’ agreed Lucy, knowing that any argument would be pointless once John got a bee in his bonnet. ‘I’ll put Anne-Marie down for her sleep and then have a hunt through the wardrobes, see what I can come up with.’

‘We’ll also need a carrot for a nose and buttons for eyes and — ‘

‘One thing at a time,’ protested Lucy.

‘C’mon, chop, chop!’

‘First, your daughter is going down for a nice nap.’ Lucy cradled Anne-Marie in her arms and stood up. ‘So don’t make too much of a racket.’

‘Maybe I should build it in the front garden instead,’ said John, hesitating at the door.

‘Good idea — you do that.’

‘I’ll expect you outside in ten minutes if not before.’

‘You took your time,’ said John but not unkindly when Lucy finally reappeared a good half-hour later, carrying a laundry basket full of bits and pieces. ‘I’ve practically finished. What kept you?’

‘It’s amazing what you find when you start emptying out the wardrobes,’ said Lucy. ‘I came across things I hadn’t seen for years — stuff I’d completely forgotten about This is the blue dress I wore to your sister’s wedding, remember? Here are the beach sandals I bought in Greece, and that top I spilled spaghetti down — I’ve never been able to get the marks out. I found lots of things, including some of yours. I’ll show you later.’

‘Well, look, I’m just about finished here. You can dress him and put the final touches to his face, if you like.’

‘Thank you — I shall enjoy that,’ said Lucy, tongue in cheek. ‘It does need a more artistic hand...’ She inserted the button eyes and carrot nose and stuck a little piece of red material below them as a mouth. She adjusted it into a crescent shape. ‘Let’s give him a nice big smile,’ she said.

Lucy stood back to admire her handiwork and John put his arm around her shoulders. He said, ‘This is fun. It’s like being a kid all over again. I can’t wait to go to the zoo and have picnics at the beach. I’ll build her a little house in the garden too and she can keep her dolls in it. Maybe we can get a dog when she’s a bit older.’

‘Steady on,’ smiled Lucy. ‘She’s only little.’

‘It’s going to be great,’ said John. ‘You’ll see.’

Lucy smiled but her eyes held a hint of sadness. She tilted her head so that her cheek touched John’s hand on her shoulder. After a few moment, she said, ‘I’ve just remembered, I’ve got a red scarf somewhere — hall cupboard I think, I’ll get it.’

‘That would be perfect,’ agreed John.

Lucy went into the house and returned a few moments later with a scarlet woollen scarf. She wrapped it round the snowman’s neck then she and John stepped back again to look at the rotund white figure standing proudly in their front garden. ‘Handsome devil, isn’t he?’

‘What have you decided to call him?’ asked John.

‘Captain Mainwaring,’ replied Lucy.

‘Perfect!’ agreed John, appreciating the definite resemblance to the pompous Dad’s Army TV character. ‘Captain Mainwaring it is then. Is it too soon to wake Anne-Marie?’

‘We’ll have a cup of tea first,’ said Lucy.

They came inside and had tea and biscuits in the kitchen, warming their hands by the wood-burning stove and creating small puddles around their boots from melting snow.

‘Anything good on telly tonight?’ asked John.

‘Haven’t looked.’

‘Saturday night — let me think. There’s a Ruth Rendell thing on at eight if I remember right, but that’s going to be a bit too early for me I’m afraid, I’ve still got some marking to do. I’ve skived off long enough making Captain Mainwaring.’

‘Have you got a lot?’

‘Well, all of Class 3c’s thoughts on the biological basis of life. In terms of intellectual ability, I think Captain Mainwaring might make the middle of that lot if he put his mind to it.’

‘You don’t mean that,’ said Lucy.

‘Maybe not,’ agreed John with a smile, ‘But they can be exasperating. Let’s wake the baby and introduce her to the Captain.’

‘All right,’ agreed Lucy. ‘But I’ll have to wrap her up warmly. We don’t want her catching cold.’ She left the room and John washed out the mugs they’d been using.

Suddenly a scream tore through the air making him drop the second one in the sink. It broke into three pieces. His blood ran cold as he ran through the house to Anne-Marie’s room where he found Lucy staring at an open window. The Disney pattern curtains were billowing gently in the icy breeze.

‘She’s gone!’ Lucy said hoarsely, her whole body beginning to shake.

‘But how?’ protested John. ‘Where? How could she?’

‘Someone’s taken her!’

‘Oh my God.’ John looked disbelievingly at the empty cot with its covers thrown back and its sidebars dropped. Coming quickly to his senses, he ran round to the back of the house to look for footprints in the snow, but his heart fell as he discovered he couldn’t make anything out: he had trampled down most of the area when he’d been out there earlier chopping logs. There was no trail to follow.

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