<b><p> Chapter One </p> <p> Carmen O’Inns </p></b> <p> “What a beautiful building," said Carmen O’Inns. </p> <p> "What's more, it's a school with an excellent reputation," added Isaac Tonñu. "So prestigious nobody would suspect anything could have happened here." </p> <p> The iron gates slid silently open. As Isaac pulled into the drive, the taxi wheels seemed to make each pebble on the gravel path crunch. The drive was circular, with the school on the far side, so you approached the building from one side and left from the other, after passing the rhododendron bushes, then a well-tended rose bed, and finally the green-framed sash windows of St Severin College. </p> <p> "What do we know about the victim?" </p> <p> Carmen O'Inns consulted her black notebook. Name: Oscar Beil. Age: 11 years. Time last seen alive: in the gym class at 10.30 a.m. Cause of death: apparently by drowning in the school swimming pool – yet what were those marks, those marks… </p> <p> "What marks, O'Inns?" </p> <p> "It's still too soon to say exactly. But, although we haven't seen the results of the forensic report, according to the boy's father there was a crescent-shaped indentation on his left temple." </p> <p> "Anything suspicious about his death?" </p> <p> Carmen O'Inns stretched her legs. She always travelled in the front passenger seat rather than in the back, so that she could comfortably extend the full ninety-two centimetres of her limbs in their Wolford tights. </p> <p> "Who found the body?" asked Isaac Tonñu, but Carmen O'Inns didn't reply to this question either. She had taken her powder compact out of her handbag and was conducting the inspection that was a feature of every case she worked on: she needed to confirm she was looking as attractive as possible. First she examined her jet-black fringe, satisfying herself that it was neither too long nor too short; too thick nor too thin; that it set off her features to perfection, with its combination of indigenous traits and the jade-green eyes of her Irish ancestors. Then she checked her lips: a skilful blend of a natural outline enhanced by a touch of silicone, that made her look a lot younger than the thirty-seven years that featured on her identity card. The rest of her looks only added to her charms: she had the posture of a ballerina, and strong thighs slender enough to enhance her flat stomach, as she shifted in her seat. </p> <p> When asked where she came from, Carmen O'Inns always gave the same reply: "From the land of rum, with a few ­extra drops of whiskey." "Whiskey" and not "whisky" she would add with a knowing wink. "No Scotch mists about me. In other words, I'm half from the Caribbean and half from the land of Erin." </p> <p> She also liked to point out that she was a psychoanalyst rather than a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and that she believed in world peace, the forces of nature and man's innate goodness, but that for some reason she still couldn't fathom, she always found herself up to her neck in deep water. Like now, for example. </p> <p> "Was it the boy's parents who came to you?" </p> <p> "It was the boy's father," O'Inns corrected him. "Oscar Beil didn't have a mother, and he was an only child." </p> <p> "It's such a dreadful tragedy! He was so young. And then, those marks on his temple…" Tonñu shuddered as he drew up in front of the main school building. </p> <p> Isaac Tonñu was not his real name. He was born Isaac ­Newton, but when he arrived in Spain from his native Belize, he had decided to reverse the two syllables of his surname: Tonnew or, better in Spanish, Tonñu. It sounded less foreign and much more suited to his height and his colour: one metre, eighty-nine centimetres of sleek black male. It also led to fewer jokes, although he would never have let anyone make fun of him. Whether it was Isaac Newton or Isaac Tonñu, he knew how to look after himself. </p> <p> When they pulled up outside the school entrance, O'Inns didn't move, but waited for Isaac to walk round the taxi and open the door for her. They had been working together for more than three years now and kept faithfully to their set rituals. They had faced danger together many times, as during The Mysterious Balanchine Affair and in the case known as Death Dances to a Latin Beat. </p> <p> "Thank you, Isaac," said Carmen O'Inns, almost whispering into his ear as she glided out of the car. Both of them could feel the electric current flash between their bodies. "Not now," O'Inns told herself, "now's not the right moment." But her rebellious side couldn't stop two irresistible images from ­surfacing in her mind: first, the inky black of his skin submerged in her pale, Irish flesh; then the faint fragrance of musk that enveloped their nights together as they lay naked on the terrace of his new penthouse overlooking the Royal Palace, the two of them alone in the darkness, in the vast, slumbering city. "Why do we always think of sex when death is in the air?" mused Carmen. "Why is death so orgasmic?" She was about to answer her own question when… </p> <p> "When… When what? When what, for God's sake?" Luisa asked herself, pausing at the keyboard and reading through the paragraph she had just written. "Can death be orgasmic?" That's what she'd written. And how about someone like Isaac Tonñu – or Newton? Could he be a taxi driver and be living in a penthouse? That was before she started getting into the other inconsistencies in what she'd just written, such as how unlikely it was for someone, however intrepid a detective they might be, to string together so many ideas in the short distance between the iron gates and the school entrance. And what about that school? Wherever in Spain would you find a school (a boarding school, least of all a co-educational one, and called St Severin to boot) so similar to du Maurier's Manderley, with a rhododendron drive and all the rest of it? Do rhododendrons actually grow in Spain? How do you spell them anyway? Rhodendros? Rhodedendrons? </p> <p> Luisa put her hand over her mouth. It was a habit of hers, as if this was the only way to rein in her rampant imagination, the imagination which had created Carmen O'Inns in the first place. It's said the characters that writers create are their alter egos, the summary of all they might wish to be but aren't, and yet that was clearly not the case here. Perhaps thirteen years earlier, when Luisa Dávila, moderately successful as a children's author and with an even more muted track record in serious literature, had decided to create this sexy and inquisitive busybody of a psychoanalyst, the hypothesis might have held true. That is why she made Carmen several years younger than she was; gave her a physique similar to her own, but even more appealing, with green eyes she didn't possess; and invented an exotic background for her along with an equally evocative name. </p> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Child's Play</b> by <b>Carmen Posadas</b> Copyright © 2010 by Carmen Posadas. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.