domestic accident. Rewired electrical boobytraps, loosened carpets on the stairs, combustible gas leaks in the kitchen ... he contemplated them all, but none promised the guarantee of success. And many would put him too near for safety to the scene of the crime.

Through the night too he lay sleepless, his mind churning over other ways of eliminating the woman who lay softly sleeping beside him. And it was only as the gleamings of a truculent winter dawn could be seen though a crack in the bedroom curtains that Greg Lincoln’s great idea came to him.

Rather than in the house, it would be much easier to engineer his wife’s death in the garden.

At lunch the following day, Shelley was surprised when, for the first time in their relationship, Greg showed some interest in her hobby. “Will you be doing gardening stuff over the next few days?” he asked casually.

“Yes, I’ll hope to,” his wife replied. “Dan’ll be back at work tomorrow, and there’s a lot we need to do.”

“I’m sure there is,” he replied with an uncharacteristically generous smile. “Planting seeds and things... ?”

“More planning this time of year.”

“You and Dan in a huddle in the shed?”

“Yes, a bit cold to be outside too much.”

“I’m sure. I was just interested, Shelley...”

“Yes, Greg?” There was a pathetic hopefulness in her look. Was her husband finally getting interested in gardening?

“...because I’ve got a golf thing on tomorrow, so I won’t be here.”

“Ah.” She looked crestfallen.

“But you’re here today, are you, Shelley?” She nodded. Greg smiled and took an envelope out of his pocket. “Unless, of course, you decide to go off and spend these... ?”

A hundred pounds’ worth of gardening tokens, which he had been out to buy that morning. There was a childlike gleam of excitement in her eye as she took the present. For Shelley, the tokens represented the possibility that her husband might finally be showing some interest in her life. For Greg, they were a means of getting his wife away from Lovelock Manor while he devised a way of ending that life.

Predictably, she went straight off to a garden centre. Greg Lincoln made sure that her car was out of sight before moving to explore what was new territory for him, the garden of Lovelock Manor. As he pottered around, his mind catalogued potential murder methods. Poisoning, yes ... there must be plenty of poison in gardens. Commercially available mixtures to kill off weeds and insects. But how much would be needed to kill a healthy woman in her forties? And, more importantly, how could she be persuaded to swallow the stuff...? In a manner that would appear to be accidental ...?

Then again, there was hazardous garden equipment. Greg had hazy recollections from his school days of reading books in which horny-handed sons of the soil suffered terrible injuries from sickles and scythes. Then, of course, farmers kept getting trapped under tractors. And didn’t people die in grain silos?

He realised his fantasies were getting a little out of hand, and decided to curb them until he had actually assessed the possibilities offered by the garden shed.

So far as he could recollect, Greg Lincoln had never been inside the place. Lovelock Manor had come as part of the package with Shelley, and he’d had no curiosity as to what happened outside the house itself. So walking down the path to the shed was a new experience. There had been rain on Boxing Day, the red bricks underfoot were slippery and Greg winced at the idea of getting slime on his tasselled loafers. He passed an almost-dead bonfire from which tendrils of smoke fought their way up though the mist. Amazing how long some things burned for. Dan, the gardener, who must have lit the fire, hadn’t been to work since the day before Christmas Eve.

Greg was surprised to find how spacious the interior of the shed was. Also how neat and well-maintained. He had never taken much interest in Dan. A muscle-bound young man probably around thirty, the gardener seemed to be a man of few words. (That was to say that Greg had never heard many words from him; then again, he’d never addressed many to the young man, either.) But the neatly aligned hanging spades, forks, hoes, rakes, and other garden implements suggested a tidy mind, which was confirmed by the carefully labelled pots, boxes, and jars on the benches that ran below the small windows. The minimal light these gave was further diminished by creepers growing outside, and Greg was not surprised to see that Dan had a large fat candle in a holder. Nor that there was a lighter lying on the bench beside it.

There was no electricity running to the shed, but the space was surprisingly snug. Two dilapidated armchairs gathered round a butane-gas heater, and a sofa-bed slumped against one wall. A small butane-gas stove suggested Dan could keep himself supplied with hot drinks and snacks. There was a small cabinet containing instant coffee, UHT milk, sugar, a biscuit tin.

Greg Lincoln only vaguely took in these details. What his mind focused on was the predominant smell inside the shed. Petrol.

The odour emanated from a large fuel can, and from the mower, chainsaw, and strimmer which had been filled from it. Greg smiled at his own good fortune, as all the elements of the plot that had been eluding him fell neatly into place.

The next day Dan would be back at work. The next day Shelley would inevitably join him in the shed to discuss their future planting strategy.

The next day there would be an unfortunate accidental conflagration in the shed. An explosion caused by leaking petrol coming into contact with a naked flame.

Of course, the plan probably meant that Dan would die as well as Shelley. But, Greg Lincoln reflected with a self-satisfied grin, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Having decided where and how to arrange his wife’s murder, Greg Lincoln began to concentrate on the details of his plan.

It was absolutely certain that she would spend some time the following day in the shed with Dan. Shelley, for whom—inexplicably to her husband—a day without gardening was a day without meaning, had been restless over the holiday period, and the presents of gardening books she’d received had clearly been a poor substitute for actually getting her hands dirty. And yet she seemed unable to do anything in the garden on her own initiative; she needed Dan there as a guide and sounding board. Shelley really did have a very weak personality. Once the shock of her death had passed, Greg felt sure he would have real difficulty in remembering anything about his former wife.

Anyway, by then he would be permanently with Vicki Talbot. The tantalising image of her body strengthened his resolve—which didn’t really need any strengthening—to dispose of Shelley as quickly as possible.

So ... a conflagration in the garden shed. The windows would be too small for Shelley and Dan to escape through, but the door would need to be locked somehow. Locked in a way that would not be a giveaway to post- conflagration forensic examination ...?

Greg Lincoln enjoyed the challenge this problem presented to him. He was feeling even more confident than usual. The energy given to him by his passion for Vicki would be channeled into devising Shelley’s death.

He studied the outside of the shed door. A broken old-fashioned wooden latch had been superceded by a more robust system with an eye screwed into the frame and a clasp to the door. An open padlock hung from the eye. It could be removed to fit the clasp over the ring, then replaced and closed to secure the building. But a locked padlock in the embers of Shelley Lincoln’s funeral pyre would be far too much of a giveaway.

Greg concentrated on the older fixture instead. It was a traditional Sussex design—a wooden bar pivoted by a screw in the door and fitting, when the door was closed, into a wooden slot on the door frame. A rectangular hole cut into the door would once have held a handle attached to the bar, which someone inside could lift to let themselves out. But the crosspiece was missing, and the bar hung downwards.

He tested the bar, which he found still rotated on its screw-fitting. Hardly daring to believe his luck, he moved it round like the hand of a clock until it stood upright above its pivot. He then gently banged the door closed. Shaken off balance, the bar very satisfyingly moved through an arc to settle into its welcoming groove in the door frame. The shed was locked from the outside.

Greg Lincoln felt a surge of glee. The Sussex craftsman who had made the latch had made it good and robust. Greg used a screwdriver to tighten the screw and, after a few adjustments, found that every time he closed the door, the bar would infallibly fall into the locked position. With no inside handle to reopen it.

Deliberately leaving the latch bar hanging in its downward position, he moved into the shed. Petrol next ... petrol to fuel the conflagration. The smell inside was already so strong that he didn’t reckon Shelley or Dan would

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