Evan and Elle

Constable Evans Mysteries (Volume 4)

Rhys Bowen

Minotaur Books

Chapter 1
The Reverend Tomos Parry Davies, minister of Chapel Bethel in the village of Llanfair, sang loudly to himself as he drove up the pass from Caernarfon. Heaven had certainly smiled on him today! What a stroke of luck that he had spotted the advertisement for a government surplus auction. This van was the answer to his prayers—high mileage, of course, and painted a depressing institutional gray, but it seated fifteen and was perfect for his needs.
He had long been aware that his congregation was dwindling. There was little interest in religion these days, and no fear of the hellfire that he preached so eloquently. All over Wales chapels were being abandoned and turned into beauty parlors, garages, or even worse, New Age healing centers. Tomos Parry Davies shuddered.
Chapel Ebenezer, only a couple of miles down the pass from Llanfair, had been abandoned last year. Tomos feared for the souls of its former flock. If a way could be found to bring them up to Llanfair . . . but many older parishioners didn’t drive and there were no buses on Sunday. That’s when the idea of a van came to him. To put it in non-Christian terms—if Mohammed couldn’t come to the mountain, then the mountain would come to Mohammed. He had said nothing to anyone except his wife, and Roberts-the-Pump at the petrol station, who always had an ear to the ground when it came to secondhand cars for sale—and he had watched, waited, and prayed. And now his prayers were answered!
He closed his eyes and pictured all those new worshipers pouring out of his van and into Chapel Bethel, while his rival, Rev. Powell-Jones of Chapel Beulah across the street, could only stare in disbelief. A satisfied smile spread across his plump, middle-aged face. And so cheap, too. A stroke of luck indeed—or rather the Lord’s doing. The Lord knew which chapel He wanted to prosper!
And this was just the beginning, Rev. Parry Davies said to himself. A bigger congregation meant more money coming in. Then he could replace the oil stove in the corner with a real central heating system, and maybe update the sound system to reach out to the young people. He’d have slide shows and video presentations to enhance his sermons. He was going to bring religion back to Llanfair in a big way.
He drove through Llanberis, carefully negotiating the last vacationers of the season as they crossed the street to catch the mountain railway to the summit of Yr Wyddfa, which the English insisted on calling Mount Snowdon.
Right after Llanberis the road began to climb. He put his foot down and heard a satisfying roar of power from the engine. He chose not to notice the black smoke that hung behind him in the clear mountain air.
The village of Nant Peris passed by in a blur. He knew he should have slowed to thirty but he was so excited by the power of his new vehicle that he couldn’t slow down. Besides, there was no policeman closer than Constable Evans up in Llanfair. Nobody here to give him a ticket.
He came to the last straggling buildings before the pass narrowed and climbed again to reach Llanfair. He turned to look at the abandoned chapel whose congregation he hoped to round up every Sunday. It had been a sad sight, with windows boarded up and door nailed shut. He had almost passed it when he realized that something was going on there. He braked and rammed the heavy gear into reverse with much grinding, followed by an ominous clank. A builder’s lorry was parked outside and two men were carrying in a slab of marble.
Tomos’s face grew hot with anger. What kind of dirty trick was the Lord playing on him? To reopen the chapel when he’d just spent his savings on the new van! Was his beautiful plan now doomed to failure?
Then he saw the sign over the arched doorway to one side:
CHEZ YVETTE. RESTAURANT FRANÇAIS.
HIGH QUALITY FRENCH CUISINE.
Over it a banner proclaimed, Grand Opening Tomorrow! Tomos felt his blood pressure rising to boiling point. The Lord’s house—or what had been the Lord’s house until recently—being turned into a restaurant! And not only a restaurant, but a French restaurant. Chez Yvette. Even the name sounded positively sinful.
Tomos Parry Davies put his foot down and roared on up the pass to spread the dreadful news.