Evanly Bodies - By Rhys Bowen

Chapter 1

It was the postman who noticed it first. As he careened down Llanfair's one and only street, half in control of his motorbike and half not, he glanced at the small row of shops to his left. The village boasted three shops and a petrol pump. First in line of shops was a butcher, G. EVANS, CIGGYD, the Welsh word for "butcher" in large letters, and then PURVEYOR OFF INE MEATS in tiny ones; then R. EVANS, DAIRY PRODUCTS. These two had been known locally for years as Evans-the-Meat and Evans-the-Milk, respectively. Only the last store in the line, T. HARRIS, GROCER AND SUB-POST OFFICE, had spoiled the Evans's monopoly. But T. Harris was long dead, and his widow had finally given up the unequal struggle of trying to compete with the nearby Tesco's and had retired to live with her son near London. How she could want to spend her final years among foreigners had been a lively topic of discussion.

And so the corner grocery store had remained vacant for some time. The postman, yet another Evans, naturally nicknamed Evans-the-Post, had been modernized like most things in North Wales. He now made his deliveries by motorbike, enabling him to cover the outlying farms as well as the villages of Llanfair and Nant Peris. He had been riding the motorbike for at least a year now but was no nearer to mastering it. The look of wide-eyed terror in his eyes matched that of the pedestrians who were forced to scramble out of his way. One of them leaped aside now as Evans-the-Post turned to stare at what he had just seen, lost control, and almost mounted the pavement. It was Mrs. Powell-Jones, the minister's wife.

"Idiot! Fool!" Mrs. Powell-Jones shouted, as she reclaimed her dignity after the leap. "I'll call the postmaster about you! You'll end up killing somebody."

But Evans-the-Post was already well past her and out of hearing range. He finally wrestled the bike to a halt, extracted a letter from the mailbag, and loped toward the front door of a whitewashed cottage across the street. Instead of posting the letters through a perfectly good slot, however, he rapped on the door and waited until it was opened.

"Letter for you, Mrs. Williams," he said. "From your granddaughter, the one who's studying in London. She loved that jumper you knitted for her. And the bara brith you made."

The round, elderly woman smiled, not unkindly. "Thank you, Mr. Evans, although one of these days you'll find yourself in trouble if you keep on reading everyone's letters. You'll read something that's not good for you."

"I don't mean any harm," the man mumbled shyly.

"I know you don't. Go on then, off with you, or you'll be late checking in at the post office and that new postmaster will be after you."

Evans-the-Post went to leave, then swallowed hard, making a prominent Adam's apple dance up and down. "Somebody's moving into the old grocer's shop," he blurted out. "I've just seen them."

"No! Escob Annwyl! Are you sure it wasn't just the estate agent?"

"No, really moving in. I saw them doing carpentry in there, fixing things up."

"Well I never. I wonder who's taking it after all this time? I hope they're not thinking of turning it into something heathen. They turned one of the chapels in Blaenau Ffestiniog into a betting shop, you know. And remember that Frenchwoman who turned the chapel into a restaurant? I'm not surprised the Good Lord burned it down."

"A café wouldn't be bad," Evans-the-Post said. "Especially if they served fish and chips. We don't have anywhere to eat in the village, apart from the pub."

"Decent, God-fearing people should be eating in their own homes," Mrs. Williams said, folding her arms across a vast expanse of bosom. "I don't hold with all this eating fancy muck in restaurants. It isn't healthy. They say there's an obesity epidemic, and I say it's too much eating away from home." Since Mrs. Williams could never be described as slim, anyone else would have smiled at this remark, but Evans-the-Post nodded seriously.

Mrs. Williams leaned out her front door and peered up the street. A van was parked in front of the row of shops. Then she nodded to herself.

"I think I might make a custard today," she said, thoughtfully. "I'll just pop up to Evans-the-Milk and get an extra pint, just in case."

With that she put on her coat, tucked her basket on her arm, and started up the street. She hadn't gone far when she