Murder At St Marmaduke’s

To read the first six chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html. To read the first part of chapter 7, see the post below this one.

Chapter 7

Monday 4th November 1985: 16.20 – 17.15

Section (b)

In Father Rawlings’ blacked-out study, Clarissa was performing a lingering striptease. Her blouse was almost undone, the basque beneath – bought two days before – peeking out scarlet. Several candles flickered in the twilight, and Clarissa was hoping against hope that her husband’s nether regions were responding likewise.

She’d taken to surprising Frank with these performances, brooking no argument from him as to inappropriate time of day, or urgency of completing his latest sermon. And for his part, after the briefest of protests he always fell in with a will that excited her, working on himself to try to achieve the longed-for arousal.

‘You like this, don’t you?’ she purred as she slid the blouse from her shoulders and let it slip to the floor.

‘Yes,’ he gasped back as she bent towards him, giving him the full benefit of the basque’s effect on her chest. His free hand groped forwards, and she drew back teasingly. ‘Not yet, you naughty boy.’

The doorbell rang. The atmosphere went from red hot to turn-off instantly.

‘Aww, damn!’ Clarissa groaned.

Frank began hastily fastening his trousers. ‘I suppose we’d better get it, my dear,’ he whispered. ‘One doesn’t know if it might be something important.’

‘I suppose.’ She reached to the floor and picked up her blouse, then pulled open the study door. ‘I love you,’ she said softly, turning back to him before she passed through.

He smiled. ‘I love you too, my dear.’

She donned the blouse as she headed towards the front door, neglecting to do up the top few buttons.

You going to answer it like that? her blasted conscience queried.

‘Oh, shut…’ she began aloud, then closed her mouth. It was right, and she couldn’t be bothered to argue.

She fastened the other buttons before opening the door.

‘Oh, hello Joseph,’ she said.

Irritation coursed through her. Yes, for all the young black man was cute, he’d interrupted a special time with her husband, and probably only so that he could drool over her breasts again; almost literally.

Perhaps she’d done herself a disservice acting as she had with him that morning.

Beginning to think twice about our infidelities, are we?

Shut up!

She suddenly realised he was staring at her, a puzzled frown on his face, and wondered for a moment if she’d spoken aloud. ‘Oh – sorry, Joseph,’ she said hastily. ‘Please – come in.’

She stood aside for him, and as a sop to her conscience ensured she was far enough back that he didn’t have to make contact with any part of her as he entered.

She led him into the sitting room, and motioned to the sofa. ‘Would you like some tea?’ she asked as he sat, then regretted the question as she saw his eyes spring wide. Damn! She’d need to get the basque off double-quick while the kettle was boiling, to give him the eyeful he wanted; and the ties were so fiddly.

Oh, and there was me hoping we’d mended our ways.

She gritted her teeth and closed her eyes. It’s not doing any harm! she snapped back.

Methinks we doth protest too much…

‘Are you unwell, Mrs Rawlings?’

She opened her eyes again and forced a smile in Joseph’s direction. ‘Just a little tired, that’s all,’ she answered. ‘I’ll make that tea.’

To her surprise, he held up a hand to stop her. ‘I do not wish to keep you, Mrs Rawlings,’ he said. ‘I merely wish to ask a question, if you do not mind?’

‘Oh.’

A dozen questions he might want to ask instantly passed through her mind; all of them variations on the same subject, and all of them ones she’d had to answer in the negative before, to any number of men.

Slowly, she lowered herself into an armchair. What looked like disappointment flickered across his face, presumably that she was sitting opposite rather than next to him.

‘What is it, Joseph?’

‘I would like to ask,’ he began, and she braced herself. To her astonishment, he continued, ‘the prayer meeting this morning? The – erm – the unfortunate trouble that occurred?’

‘Oh. Oh – yes?’

‘Well,’ he said. He appeared to be searching for the right words to use. ‘There were other ladies there, apart from – apart from Miss Cartwright? There was one named Hettie, I think?’

‘Hettie Foster?’ She wondered where on earth this could be leading. Surely he couldn’t want anything of that cantankerous old –

‘Is that the lady’s name? Well,’ he went on, ‘she was quoting words of scripture during the meeting, and I wish to ask her something concerning them. I wondered if you might be able to tell me where she lives, so that I might go and speak to her.’

She felt her eyes widen. ‘Oh,’ she said again. ‘Is that all?’

‘I am sorry?’

‘No, it’s me who should be sorry,’ she said hastily, relieved and yet puzzled. Why on earth would he want to ask Hettie Foster anything about her King Jamesy rantings?

Or was that just an excuse? She felt a nagging doubt creeping up on her.

She realised that in all the confusion that morning, she hadn’t even asked Joseph exactly what had happened at church. And it had been patently ridiculous when the police had marched him off to their station as if he might be in some way culpable.

And Frank, bless him, had only been concerned about the robbery, and had interrupted Joseph just as he was about to give them information about Mabel’s death.

Could it be that Hettie Foster was involved somehow? She wouldn’t put it past the old woman. Especially given the number of fatalities Frank told the sergeant had occurred in the past; a revelation that had astonished her, given that he’d never even mentioned them before.

She came to a decision. Standing, she said, ‘I’ll see if I can find Hettie’s address for you. I shan’t be a moment.’

She blessed the fact that Frank must still be holed up in his study, so wouldn’t hear her leave. Grabbing her overcoat and scarf from the hallway cupboard, she opened the front door and slipped out, closing it quietly behind her.

She knew the addresses of all the congregation by heart. Not waiting for the bus in case Joseph came to look for her, she began to walk briskly in the fading light towards the part of town where Hettie Foster lived.

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Murder At St Marmaduke’s

Chapter 7 begins today. To read the first six chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html.

Chapter 7

Monday 4th November 1985: 16.20 – 17.15

Section (a)

Darren Chafford was feeding Ringo, his dad’s pet kakariki.

Strictly speaking, the bird wasn’t theirs at all; it actually belonged to their elderly next-door neighbour, Owen. However, they’d discovered one night many months ago – when Owen had been rushed into hospital with a suspected case of death, and they’d casually dropped into his flat to check he hadn’t left anything valuable lying around – that the green monster made for one highly efficient guard-bird.

After Darren’s fingers – which Ringo had apparently mistaken for a plate of sausages – had been patched up, the bird, its cage, its food and sandpaper had been moved lock, stock and malevolent beak into the Chaffords’ flat; since when, it had already foiled three break-in attempts, and the only contact Owen had had with it since his recovery was a conjugal visit every Saturday afternoon.

He’d just finished carefully manoeuvring the food bowl into position, and was sliding off his steel-tipped gauntlets, when a knock sounded at the front door.

Ah – his dad had said the rozzers would be around sometime today. He slipped the gauntlets into a drawer, then checked round to make sure there was nothing in view that might be seen as too swish for their benefits-fuelled lifestyle.

Having secreted away the Ming Dynasty vase his dad used as an ashtray – the proceeds of a job on an antiques’ place that still had the police of two different counties running around in ever-despairing circles, he’d seen on the telly – he wandered out of the sitting room and into the hallway as another knock sounded.

‘Yeah, alroight, comin’,’ he called.

When he opened the door, he was surprised to find a young Asian woman standing there. And – Mmm, very nice indeed, he thought.

He leaned himself against the door jamb in what he hoped was an alluring fashion. It also served to block the door from entry, which was a bonus.

‘Alroight?’ he said. ‘Yo want somethin’?’

He locked his gaze onto the woman’s eyes. They were very large, and very, very attractive. And they held something he struggled to identify for a moment.

Then he realised what it was. Intelligence!

He was going to have to be careful with this one.

She pulled a warrant card from her jacket. ‘Darren Chafford?’

‘That’s roight.’

‘Detective Constable Chowdhary, Camtown Police Station. Just like to ask a few questions, if that’s okay?’

She paused, obviously expecting an invitation to enter. He maintained his alluring/blocking position, pretending not to notice.

‘Right,’ she said eventually, sounding slightly thrown.

He smiled to himself. Always best to get them on the back foot, Dad said.

Though just on her back might be good.

‘Can you tell me your and your father’s whereabouts this morning between eight and nine o’clock, please?’ she said.

She had a really good voice to go with the looks. Refined, like, but not too posh. He bet she had a great figure, too, underneath the overcoat.

He began to wonder whether he could get her in as far as his bedroom but no further. Then he remembered the copies of Busty scattered around, and decided his dad’s room might be the better bet.

Or he could just invite her into the sitting room anyway, and she might take the overcoat off. I bet her skirt goes really short when she sits down.

Maybe she’d got some handcuffs as well. He’d always wanted to do something with handcuffs, having read some very entertaining articles about them.

‘Your father in, by the way?’ she continued, breaking into his thoughts; which, although extremely pleasant, he suddenly realised weren’t the sort he should be having about a woman who was here to pin something on him – and not in the way he was imagining.

He shrugged in a non-helpful kind of way. He’d got an ‘A’ in his Shrugging In A Non-helpful Kind Of Way O-level, so he knew how good he was at it.

‘’E’s out.’

‘Any idea where?’

Darren waved his hand in a vaguely somewhere-ish direction.

Her lips tightened. That was good; his teachers’d be pleased how obstructive he was being.

In actual fact his dad had left a couple of hours ago to catch the train for Glasgow and Tam McPlank, his regular fence. The proceeds from the church job were safely stowed in Ronnie’s second-best suitcase, the one with the triple-combination lock on each clasp. At some time in the early morning he’d be back with the suitcase empty and his pockets full.

‘So, your and his movements this morning. Any ideas?’

Darren allowed his brow to crease in a slow frown, as if trying to remember something from a long time ago. ‘Oh yeah,’ he said, feigning a sudden lightbulb moment, ‘we were ’elpin Owen next door move ’is cabbages.’

He saw the copper’s eyebrows rise. ‘Cabbages?’

‘Yeah. In ’is allotment. Tricky buggers them cabbages. You gorra take ’em by surprise, otherwise they fight back.’

Her lips tightened again. ‘Look, Darren…’ she began.

‘Not sure I like yo usin’ my first name,’ he said. ‘Not bein’ acquainted, like.’ Though maybe when you’re off duty.

The copper breathed in deeply; he recognised aggravation, and gave himself another mental gold star. ‘Mr Chafford,’ she corrected, with more than a hint of sarcasm, ‘would your neighbour – Owen, was it? – be able to verify this story of yours, do you think?’

‘Oh, yeah,’ Darren said. And it was true; Owen was willing to give them an alibi any time they wanted. When they’d gone into his flat the night of his heart attack or whatever it was, they’d found more than a malevolent bird. There’d been some very interesting pictures hidden in a locked drawer in his bedroom.

‘Thank you,’ the copper said. ‘Be sure I’ll check with him, and come back if necessary.’

‘Right-o,’ he said. ‘Yo do that.’

And don’t forget to bring yer ’andcuffs, he thought at her as she headed next door.

He went back into the sitting room, and found that Ringo had emptied his water bowl through the bars and all over the carpet. As the bird seemed to have been using the bowl as a makeshift toilet, large black globs of kakariki poo lay in a congealed heap on the shagpile.

‘Oh, yer bugger, I were goin‘ to empty that and give yer a fresh one!’ he told the bird, and went to get a cloth.

Murder At St Marmaduke’s

As promised, now that NaNoWriMo is finished for another year, the adventures of Joseph Makumbo and friends continue…

To catch up on the first five chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html. For the first two sections of Chapter 6, see the previous posts below.

Chapter 6

Monday 4th November 1985: 15.30 – 16.15

Section (c)

Terrence Dawson opened the third drawer down in DCI Meredith’s filing system, and heaved a huge sigh.

So far, he’d managed to find – and relocate – all the cases from 1970 onwards that had involved any villains having surnames beginning M to T inclusive. Now he was starting on profiles of those officers (initials U to Z) serving from 1376 to the present day; though he suspected that the start date was some secretary’s typo rather than an interest in medieval policing on the DCI’s part.

At the moment, he was rather missing Ernie Bulstrode demanding tea and caramel wafers.

He raked out the contents of the drawer, and began to leaf through them:

– Various murders, most of them of the domestic variety. Including one very interesting case of a woman drowning her husband in a bowl of rice pudding, he noticed;

– The closure of a brothel next door to a retirement home in Dunroamin Street. Oh, that was being run by two of the home’s residents as ‘something to stave off boredom while waiting for the cottage pie to be served at dinner time’;

– A case of shopfitting… He grabbed a pen from the DCI’s desk and amended that typo too;

– And… What was this?

A case of suspected abduction in ’72. Involving…

His eyes widened as he saw the name.

Keeping a wary eye on the door in case the DCI should come back, he seated himself in the inspectorly chair and began to read the file.

It turned out that the ‘abductee’ had actually run away of her own accord. With – hmm. A Nigerian, was that?

Or… No – the Nigerian was proved to have nothing to do with it.

He turned over the final sheet.

And saw the name and rank of the person with whom the woman had actually run away.

There was a photocopier in the office adjoining the DCI’s. It took Terrence less than five minutes to copy the entire document, then re-file it under ‘H’.

End of Chapter 6