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Deadheads by Reginald Hill

Patrick Aldermann, an accountant with a company that makes toilets, is passionate about his roses, which he prunes ruthlessly, ‘deadheading’ any blossoms a minute past their prime so as to make space for the younger blooms. Not much of a gardener, Dalziel views Patrick as a strong contender for the title of Most Boring Man in Yorkshire. Pascoe, though, has noticed that senior executives at the toilet company ‘gentlemen, you might say, just a minute past their prime’ have an unlucky habit of dying. And when they do, it’s all but inevitably Patrick who, like a lucky young bloom, is poised to take their place.

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Deadheads by Reginald Hill

Mrs Florence Aldermann hated to see her garden looking so neglected. Her old gardener, Caldicott, and his son, Dick, had not been working properly. That was because she had refused to employ Dick’s son Brent. Brent had stolen some fruit from her garden, and that was a serious crime to Mrs Aldermann. She would have to get rid of the Caldicotts.

With this thought in her mind, she took her sharp knife and angrily cut the dead flowers from a rosebush. As the deadheads fell into her bucket, she realized that someone was watching her.

‘Patrick,’ she called crossly, ‘come here!’

Deadheads by Reginald Hill

Slowly the boy came up to her. Aged about eleven, he was still small for his age. His face was pale and expressionless.

Mrs Aldermann could never see Patrick without feeling angry. She had been angry when her niece Penelope had produced this unwanted child. She had been even angrier when Penelope refused to say who the father was. Mrs Aldermann’s anger was strong and long-lasting. She still felt angry with poor Eddie Aldermann, her husband, for dying two years ago and leaving her alone to look after Rosemont, this big house and its demanding gardens. Finally, she was angry with herself for growing old and tired, angry with herself for having a heart attack while shopping in London six months ago.

It was lucky that Penelope had been with her when illness struck. Penny was sensible, calm, and an excellent nurse. Nothing upset Penny. She had shown no anger or bitterness, for example, when told that after Mr Aldermann’s death the money he had given her for years would stop.

Florence Aldermann came out of her private hospital as soon as she was well enough to travel, and returned to Rosemont. Penny came with her and looked after her perfectly. The only problem was that where Penelope went, Patrick had to go too. Despite this, Mrs Aldermann had asked her niece to stay with her at Rosemont permanently. The house was too big for her to live in alone, and Penny would be grateful, she felt sure, to be offered a home in such a lovely part of Yorkshire. She could not believe her ears when Penelope said she was missing London, and would have to think about her aunt’s offer. How could anyone prefer a tiny, dark London flat to a fine old house like Rosemont, with its beautiful gardens!

Mrs Aldermann was about to speak crossly to Patrick, but before she could open her mouth, the boy said, ‘Uncle Eddie used to do that. Why do you do it?…

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