Chapter 7 begins today. To read the first six chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html.
Monday 4th November 1985: 16.20 – 17.15
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?’
‘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.
‘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.