Dr. Grace Murray and her husband, Phillip, walked along the paths of Clifton Down. It was a favorite afternoon walk for the middle-aged couple, a way to reconnect when the demands of their academic lives pulled them in different directions. The high cliffs over the milky-brown River Avon were covered with green – trees, grass – and the blue sky above created a vibrant contrast. Grace loved Bristol. The light wind ruffled her pixie-short, mostly-gray hair and the fringe on her white pashmina. As she unsuccessfully tried to smooth her hair, her wrist-full of bracelets jingled.  Grace and Phillip walked along in silence; she distracted by thoughts of the article sitting on her computer at home, awaiting a few tweaks before she sent off the publishable version. The peer review comments had been gratifying – her peers saw this as a major contribution to understanding the roles of, and pressures on, women who occupied executive positions in medium-sized businesses. It had been the goal of her professional life to shed light on various aspects of women in society and she was pleased that her latest effort would be well received. Even at this stage, after carefully nurturing her nearly three-decade career and fostering collaborative relationships like the one she had now with Sheila Flanagan, she was still thrilled by the approbation of her peers. If she was honest with herself, she had started to worry, mildly, that younger scholars might start to push her out; that she might cease to be relevant. Well, not yet, old girl, she thought to herself as she linked her arm through Phillip’s and turned her attention to him, to them, and to Phillip’s work that was taking him on an extended trip to South Africa starting next week. She smiled up at him as he squeezed her arm against his side. She raised her eyebrows and he nodded.  Together they turned back the way they had come, heading now toward the Clifton Tea Shop for their last tea before his departure. 


Felicity Woods walked out of the university building, adjusting the strap of her large courier bag across her chest. She glanced around to be sure there were no people nearby and, seeing no one, she treated herself to a self-conscious frolic. Just a tiny skipping jump in the air, which would have gone unnoticed by passersby. Professor Harrington likes my ideas and work, she grinned at the thought, brushing her long brown hair away from her face. This was her second meeting with him since he agreed to be her mentor for her final projects and she was thrilled by the positive and thought-provoking feedback he had given her. She almost needed to pinch herself to be sure that she was awake and actually here in Bristol, a graduate student in film. As she turned toward home, she pulled her cell phone from her jeans pocket to call Henry; she pressed the call button while she made mental calculations about the time difference between Bristol and Boston and then quickly cancelled the call before it woke him. Her parents would both be at work so there was no calling them now either. Well, I’ll just have to contain my joy for a few hours! She changed directions, deciding to head to the library to get her thoughts and ideas organized while her energy and enthusiasm were at their peak. So many ideas about how to develop her film projects, how to use what she was learning about perspective, setting, and technology to create films that would reflect what she saw in her mind and how she viewed the world. Felicity felt that combination of nervousness and excitement that always accompanied her creativity. As she walked across campus she wondered if the authors of some of her mystery heroes – Agatha Christie, PD James, Louise Penny, Elizabeth Peters – felt the same nervous but excited tension when they were creating their wonderful fictional characters. Hercule Poirot, Adam Dalgliesh, Inspector Gamache, Amelia Peabody, these characters embodied their authors’ worldviews and perspectives in the same way that films represent filmmakers, she said to herself.  Felicity entered the library and headed toward her favorite, secluded area to get to work, thinking ahead to the evening when she would hunker under her duvet and re-read Peril at End House. Poirot in Cornwall, what could be better!

Inspector Dunstable

Herbert Dunstable signed the final page of what seemed an endless stack of papers. He carefully stacked the papers together to realign them before putting them in the folder and putting the folder in his out box. Then he tossed the pen onto the desk, leaned back in his chair, and interlaced his fingers behind his balding head. The old, government-issued chair groaned as he pushed back further and lifted his feet, in well-polished shoes, up on the desk. He smiled as he thought about the two resolved cases represented by that pile of paper – his team had done well. They had solved the bus-tire slashing case that had plagued Bristol for months. And, to add to the joy, the punks who had been breaking into homes around Queen’s Square were in holding cells downstairs. Tomorrow he would have to interview them and bear witness, once again, to the inevitable fragility of human beings whose lives have had more pain than happiness. Nearly twenty-five years of being a copper, he was more hardened than when he started but had worked hard not to become immune to the sorrow that always accompanied crime. Unbidden, he started whistling Hey Jude, the lyrics running through his mind: and anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain, don't carry the world upon your shoulders. For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder. Dunstable, a reflective man, thought of this as one of his major character flaws – he almost always, without thinking about it, had a song playing in his head when he thought about crime. The worst was when this happened at crime scenes and his colleagues overheard him. Oh, yeah, he had taken more than a little razzing about this quirk over the years. Lifting his feet off his desk, Herbert stood, tidied his desk, and got ready to go home – a good day, a job well done.