Because of the fragmentary and top-down nature of this blog, a number of friends, having missed a few sections, have had to give up reading it.
For this reason, I am also posting each chapter, as I finish it, to my website. You can therefore catch up with anything you’ve missed from the first four chapters at http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html
Now, if you’ve caught up, read on…
The story so far: Joseph Makumbo has witnessed an old lady being murdered during a prayer meeting at church. Police Sergeant Ernie Bulstrode and his junior, Constable Terrence Dawson, have been investigating…
Monday 4th November 1985: 14.00 – 14.45
Ernie Bulstrode and Terrence Dawson had been assigned to watch the interview room door. That was – Dawson had been assigned to watch the door; Ernie had assigned himself to watch Dawson. ‘Lad in there decides to do a runner,’ he’d said, ‘you won’t have a bleedin’ clue what to do.’
The fact was, he wasn’t going back to the front desk without his junior. The hour or so he’d been there while Dawson was at the church had been bad enough. Some woman had come in and asked where her missing cat was, for God’s sake!
He’d pointed her in the direction of the pet shop, telling her it was under observation for suspected pussy-napping. He’d happened to read the phrase in Busty just before she rolled through the door.
Now Dawson said, ‘I really don’t see why Makumbo’s been hauled in, Sarge. He told us everything he knew down at the church.’
Ernie raised an eyebrow. ‘He’s here, lad, because Inspector Clouseau’s decided that because he’s black, he’s got to have committed some crime or other. If he can’t get him for the murder, he’ll get him for the robbery. Or cat-napping,’ he added, thinking of the woman who’d disturbed his peace earlier on.
‘Is DI Hampshire really that prejudiced?’
‘He once had a dalmatian dog arrested for not being totally white. That answer your question?’
‘Oh, right.’ Dawson’s face creased into a frown. ‘But since we’ve been assigned to watch Makumbo doesn’t get away…’
‘Well – shouldn’t we be on the inside of the interview room?’
Ernie spluttered. ‘What? And maybe learn somethin’ useful, all on our own? Like who really did the old lady in, and whether Makumbo saw the burglars at work? We wouldn’t want to do that in five minutes flat when the Great Plodhopper can take all night, now, would we?’
‘But Makumbo explained the murder…’
‘Oh, yeah. Little old ladies with pointy things.’ He gave Dawson a pitying look. ‘You really think that’s likely, lad?’
Dawson looked taken aback. ‘You saying he’s lying?’
‘Of course he is!’ Ernie tutted. ‘Thought we were beginnin’ to make a copper out of you.’
‘But why would he lie about something like that?’
‘’Aven’t a clue, lad. Probably thinks it sounds better than, “I run away when the burglars arrived, and left a little old woman to tackle them on her own.” Anything’d sound better than that; leastways, if I was tellin’ it, it would.’
‘But what about the vicar bloke? All that business about people being beaten to death with a lecture, or whatever it was? That’s got to be connected, surely? Why hasn’t he been hauled in as well?’
‘Oh, him!’ Ernie gave a snort. ‘Nutty as a monkey’s breakfast, lad. All this persecution complex these religious bods have. Get him in here, he’d be tryin’ to convert us to North Sea Gas, or whatever it is they believe in.’
‘There were loads of bodies down in the basement, though.’
‘Pound to a penny they were somebody’s pet gerbils or something.’
‘Gerbils? Sarge, they were people!’
‘Gerbils are tricky buggers, lad. Had one convince me and Mrs Bulstrode for years he was our son. Ate ’is way through ’ouse and ’ome before we realised he was nothin’ more than a rat with delusions of grandeur.’
‘Oh, all right.’ Dawson sounded annoyed at the joke. Ernie was pleased by that. The lad was beginning to show some spunk occasionally.
It wouldn’t stop him giving the constable all the grief he could, though. That’s what subordinates were for.
There was silence for a while, then Ernie said, ‘Anyway, lad, it’s not our problem now Hampshire’s involved. Though why Charlie Meredith chose him to lead this particular investigation’s beyond me.’
‘Why is the DI so prejudiced, Sarge?’ Dawson seemed to have got over his annoyance for the moment.
‘Ah. Goes back a long time. All to do with his missus.’
‘I didn’t know he was married.’
‘He ain’t, now.’
Ernie tapped his nose meaningfully. ‘Not the time, lad.’ He nodded towards the door that led to the CID corridor. ‘I reckon I hear the dull plod of an even duller detective comin’. With luck, he’ll have brought the CID brain-cell with him. Though personally, I reckon that Amita Chowdhary lass has got it on permanent loan.’
‘That’s what he calls her. Though -’ and he gave Dawson the hardest stare in his repertoire ‘- if I ever hear you refer to her by that name, I’ll take you out the back and beat seven shades of shit out of you.’
To his satisfaction, Dawson’s face went the colour of beetroot. ‘Sorry, Sarge. I don’t usually…’
‘Good.’ He turned his glare down a few notches; the lad wasn’t really that sort of tosser, and he’d have learnt this particular lesson good and proper. ‘Anyway, I’ve gotta go. When the Great Defective lets you bugger off, don’t forget to come straight back to the desk. Lots of work to be done.’
‘Work, Sarge? We’ve got work to do?’
‘Yes, lad, work. For a start, I’ve missed my elevenses and my lunch. Three sugars, as usual. And four caramel wafers.’