Murder At St Marmaduke’s

To catch up on the story so far, see my website, http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html for previous chapters, and the other sections of Chapter 5 below.

Chapter 5

Monday 4th November 1985: 14.00 – 14.45

Section (c)

Ernie Bulstrode was staring out at the waiting area, his copy of Busty lying disregarded underneath the reception counter.

Something was up. The beat of the station – normally as regular as his trips to the Gents – was out of gear. He didn’t know how he knew. It was just he’d been part of the furniture so long, he could feel it in his tea-induced water.

Everything’d been fine until ten minutes before. Then something had gone ‘clonk’.

Footsteps sounded, and Dawson appeared. ‘I’ll put the kettle on, Sarge.’

He sounded distant, and his normally cheerful face held a frown. ‘What’s up, lad?’ Ernie said, following him into the kitchenette.

Dawson filled the kettle, and set it onto its base. ‘I don’t really know, Sarge. It’s just – DI Hampshire was a bit weird when he came out from the interview.’

Ernie quirked an eyebrow. ‘Weird, lad? What did he do? Let Makumbo go with a pat on the back and a pledge to donate his next month’s wages to the Orphans in Africa appeal? By the way – that’ll boil a lot quicker if you switch it on.’

Dawson looked down, surprise on his face. ‘Oh. Sorry, Sarge.

‘Well, it was more or less that,’ he continued, depressing the switch. ‘Just stomped out and growled, “Get rid of the bastard.” No holding in the cells for as long as we’re allowed. He didn’t even look down his nose at me like he normally does. And he looked worried. I’ve never seen him look worried before.’

‘Now that is odd; I’ll grant you that.’

‘And besides, he’d only been in there five minutes. If he was getting Makumbo to repeat the story he told us, it should’ve taken far longer than that.’

‘Mmm.’

Ernie nodded. This was linked to his own unease. He knew it, as sure as he knew that eggs were little round things that came out of chickens’ bums.

He’d already reached a decision, but this reinforced it. ‘Right, lad,’ he said, heading out, ‘you look after things here; I’m going to see a man about a rottweiller.’

‘Sarge?’ Dawson stared down at Ernie’s empty mug, and at the kettle, which was beginning to steam.

Ernie waved a hand. ‘You can do me one when I get back.’

Some things were even more important than tea break.

And some aspects of tea break were more important than anything else. ‘By the way, Dawson…’

‘Yes, Sarge?’

‘I know the exact number of caramel wafers in that cupboard. And I know how many do a vanishing act when I’m not around. Just remember that.’

 

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For Sale, Des Res

Eric’s latest writing prompt (https://erick79.wordpress.com/), is ‘That door wasn’t there before!’

My interpretation follows…

 

‘So, Mr and Mrs Foster,’ the estate agent said. ‘Happy?’

‘It all looks perfect, doesn’t it, darling?’ Linda said.

‘Absolutely,’ Jack agreed.

Linda turned towards the old lady who was selling. ‘A lovely home, Mrs Prendergast.’

‘Oh, I’m so glad you think so.’

Jack stroked his chin in thought. ‘Mrs Prendergast, would you mind if we looked round again? Just to make sure?’

‘Please do, dears. I tell you what; I’ll make us all a nice cup of tea.’ She headed towards the kitchen.

‘And I’ll phone the office,’ the agent said. ‘I’ll be with you in a few moments.’

Linda and Jack walked through into the dining room. ‘The Welsh dresser will go perfectly against that wall,’ Linda said.

‘You’re right.’

‘And against that one -’ She stopped. ‘Oh. That door wasn’t there before, was it, darling?’

Jack stared at the adjacent wall. ‘I don’t remember it.’

‘How odd.’

‘Yes.’ He strode towards it. ‘I suppose it must have been here. It’s strange Mr Anderson didn’t show us what’s behind it.’

He tried the door. It swung open easily.

‘It’s pitch black inside.’

‘Is there a light switch?’

He felt round and found one. ‘Oh.’

‘What is it, darling?’

‘It’s another large room. Another recep, or maybe a downstairs bedroom. Come and see.’

They went through, and looked around. ‘It’s huge,’ Linda remarked.

‘It is.’ Jack frowned. ‘No windows, though. And no furniture. I wonder what it’s used for.’

‘Perhaps it’s a storage room.’

‘I suppose -’ He pointed to the far wall. ‘That’s a strange painting.’

‘Yes, and it’s enormous. What is it, though?’

They moved closer. ‘What an odd-looking creature,’ Linda said.

‘Most peculiar.’ Jack leaned in closer. ‘You’d almost believe it was part of the wall, the way it blends in.’

‘That mouth looks rather fearsome. Those teeth!’ She shuddered.

‘What a strange picture to hang in an empty room.’

Jack turned away. ‘Hang on,’ he said.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘Where’s the door gone?’

‘What?’

‘The door. The one we came in by. I can’t see it.’

‘Don’t mess around, darling.’

‘I’m not.’

They hurried over to the point where they’d entered. ‘It’s not here,’ Jack said.

‘We must be in the wrong place.’

‘We’re not. This is where it was.’

He began to feel around the wall. ‘Where the hell’s it gone?’

‘Darling – I don’t like this.’

‘Neither do I.’

He started hammering on the wall and yelling. ‘Hey! Hey! Can anybody hear me?’

Linda joined in. ‘Hello? Hello!’

Sounds came from behind them. Slobbering, slithering noises. Jack’s blood froze.

Together, they turned. Linda began to scream.

*

Mrs Prendergast listened to the sounds die away from behind the wall, and sighed. A pity; such a nice young couple.

But when the house was hungry, it had to be satisfied.

‘Hello, Mrs Prendergast.’ Mr Anderson entered the room. ‘Mr and Mrs Foster not with you?’

‘I’m so sorry, dear. They changed their minds, I’m afraid. They asked me to thank you and give you their apologies.’

The estate agent looked crestfallen. ‘Oh. I really thought those two would be buying.

‘Oh well,’ he added, brightening. ‘I’ve been told by the office that there’s another couple would like to come and view. Next Tuesday; is that okay?’

Mrs Prendergast considered. Tuesday; five days.

‘That will be perfect, dear,’ she said.

Murder At St Marmaduke’s

The story so far: A murder – witnessed by Joseph Makumbo – and a robbery have taken place at St Marmaduke’s church. Joseph has been taken to the police station for an interview, to be conducted by racist DI Jack Hampshire…

Chapter 5

Monday 4th November 1985: 14.00 – 14.45

Section (b)

Jack Hampshire thrust open the interview room door, and stood on the threshold.

One, two, three, four, five…

He eyed the bloke sitting at the table; the young, black bloke.

His lip curled. Well – he’d terrify this one in no time.

What was the bloke’s name? He glanced down at the file Constable Dozy, the woodentop plonk, had given him on the way in. Oh, yeah. Makumbo.

Not far removed from the name of the bastard who’d run off with his missus all those years ago.

He gave himself another ten count, then moved forward a pace. Just one.

He reached behind himself, and slowly swung the door closed.

One, two, three, four, five…

These were tricks that Archie Cosgrove, his old DI, had taught him. He’d never seen a suspect fail to be cowed by them. And this suspect was cowed. He could feel it.

‘Good afternoon,’ the suspect said. ‘Have you come to take my statement?’

Huh?

He felt his legs wobble, and his mind went blank. No suspect had ever wished him good anything before.

‘Erm -’

What was next?

His gaze dropped to the file. The file…

That was it! The next stage in the intimidation process. Open the file. Stare at the piece of paper it contained, the one giving a brief summary of the tissue of lies this bastard had probably come up with to explain away the murder. And the robbery.

He gave it a long, hard stare, reading nothing, trying to get his brain back into gear.

Okay. He felt steadier. Back to business. One, two, three, four…

He didn’t get to five. The world ripped apart, and a dizzying, terrifying sensation came over him, as if he’d been crumpled into a ball and hurled a vast distance.

When the world had reformed, he found himself seated at the table, Makumbo leaning forward earnestly and saying, ‘And that, as I told your sergeant and constable, Mr Inspector, is what happened.’

What?

He stared around in confusion. The recorder used for all interviews was working, the tape in it a good way through its length. His pad – that was open, a page filled in as if he’d been taking notes. ‘So one old lady stabbed the other in the eye, and you know nothing about the robbery,’ he heard himself say.

Where the hell had he got that from?

‘That is correct, Mr Inspector.’

His head still spinning, he dropped his gaze to the file again, which was on the table in front of him. He hadn’t even read the report. He didn’t have the first clue what excuses Makumbo was making, about either crime.

Except that it seemed he did.

What the hell was going on?

There was silence; then he realised the suspect was waiting for him to say something else.

‘Well, Mr -’

His voice sounded thin and weak. With an effort, he pulled himself together.

‘Well – Mr Makalumbo, if what you say is true, and St Marmalot’s has been the scene of these fantastical happenings, be sure that they’ll be investigated. Thoroughly.’

That was better. At least it sounded like normal him.

Had he had some kind of blackout? Conducted the interview while under the influence of an epileptic fit or something?

He certainly wasn’t under the influence of anything else. True, he’d had his usual three whiskies and two pints at lunchtime, but they’d never had this effect before.

‘It is true, Mr Inspector; honestly,’ Makumbo was saying. ‘And – I am sorry – but my name is Makumbo, and the church is St Marmaduke’s.’

Maybe he should have had a third pint after all.

He cleared his throat, then put the best sneer he could into saying, ‘I think I’ll be the judge of what names are what in this investigation, sir.

That was better, too. Much more like himself.

He had to get out of there, though. Take the tape, maybe; process just what had been said.

He stood abruptly, and reached over to the recorder’s stop button. ‘Interview ends -’ he checked his watch ‘- 14.15.’

Fourteen fifteen? How the hell could that be the time?

He stared at his watch, aghast. He hadn’t entered the room until ten past. From the length the tape had gone, and the notes he’d scribbled, surely the interview had lasted a good half-hour or so?

There was a clock on the wall behind Makumbo. He checked it. It echoed his watch exactly.

That did it. Something too bloody weird was happening. He needed a drink, and needed it now.

He’d normally have stood staring down at the suspect in an intimidating manner, before saying, ‘I’d advise you to get a lawyer, sir. I think you’re going to need one.’

Instead, he heard himself mumble, ‘I’ll get the constable to show you out.’

And with that, he showed himself out, fast.

The Conquest That Came A Cropper

Something different today.

A friend, Eric Klingenberg (https://erick79.wordpress.com/), has begun setting a weekly writing challenge; a phrase to inspire a short story or flash fiction.

Last week’s phrase, The potato is the key, prompted the following. Unfortunately, it’s a few days late, simply because a stomach bug curtailed my writing temporarily.

Ironically, this week’s prompt is about aliens. If I take the challenge, I will have to make it as different as possible from what you’re about to read…

 

When I saw Dylan, he was diggin’ the ground like there weren’t no tomorrow. Which there weren’t, on the face of it.

‘Dylan? What’re you doin’?’

Dylan stooped and picked a potato out the ground. Threw it into the sack beside him. ‘Diggin’ my crops.’

‘Why’re you botherin’?’ I pointed at the sky. ‘That spacecraft’ll be here soon. It’s destroyin’ everythin’ in its path. Won’t be nothin’ left before long.’

Dylan carried on diggin’. ‘Don’t mean I can’t get my food out the ground.’

Another potato went in. Lookin’ west, I saw the spacecraft gettin’ bigger.

‘Heard on the radio the armed forces’ve been destroyed,’ I said. ‘That ship up there’s unbeatable, they’re sayin’. Taken out everythin’ to the west of us, ’s well as the whole of Asia and eastern Europe. Soon get round to the rest.’

Dylan looked up then. ‘That the only ship they got?’ he asked, surprise in his voice.

‘Yeah, ’pparently so. A thousand miles across each way, the radio said. Just ’fore the transmission went dead, that is.’

‘Hmm.’ Dylan pulled another potato.

He straightened, and lifted the sack. ‘Makes it all the easier,’ he said. ‘Thought there’d be thousands of ’em.’

I followed as he lumbered over to where he kept Daisy, his crop-dustin’ plane.

‘What’re you thinkin’?’ I said. I looked up again. The spacecraft was almost fillin’ the sky now. ‘You ain’t thinkin’ of takin’ them on?’

He shrugged. ‘Could be.’

‘You’re insane!’

He hauled the sack into Daisy, then climbed aboard. ‘Maybe.’

He fired the engine. ‘What’re you gonna do?’ I yelled. ‘You gonna do like in that Independence Day film? Fly into their laser beam thing and blow them up from the inside?’

‘You’ll see.’ With that, he took off.

I stared after him, and said a prayer to whatever god might be listenin’. Then I settled back to wait for my cremation.

’Bout twenty minutes after, I saw that spacecraft give a lurch. Like it was drunk, or somethin’.

I watched, fascinated. It wobbled a bit, like it was tryin’ to steady itself. Then suddenly, it gave a nosedive, and carried on goin’ down.

The crash came with a dust-cloud I had to bury my face not to get choked by. When it cleared, I was just in time to see Daisy flyin’ in. Coupla minutes later, Dylan landed.

‘What the hell happened there!’ I asked. ‘Was that you?’

He began haulin’ his sack of potatoes outta the plane. ‘Yeah; guess it was.’

‘But what did you do?’

He grinned. ‘You know that trick you can stop a car workin’ by?’

‘Huh?’ I had a think about it. ‘Hell! You don’t mean…?’

‘Yep.’ He looked up at the sky. ‘Knew all I had to do was find the exhaust and stick a potato in it. Stops anythin’, that.’

He picked up his sack, and started walkin’ towards the homestead. ‘Fancy some potato fries?’ he asked.

 

Back to St Marmaduke’s soon…