Murder At St Marmaduke’s

Chapter 7 continues. To read the first six chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html. The first three parts of chapter 7 can be found below.

Chapter 7

Monday 4th November 1985: 16.20 – 17.15

Section (d)

Amita Chowdhary wandered away from Jack the Ripper Court, her mind playing over both interviews she’d conducted there.

She wasn’t happy with either of the mental recordings. For one thing, she wondered if she should have been firmer with Darren Chafford; she might have been able to shake his obviously absurd story if she’d shown more contempt, say.

And for the other thing…

Owen Sheadley, the Chaffords’ next-door neighbour, had confirmed that, yes indeed, Ronnie and young Darren had been with him for the whole of that morning, including whatever time it was that whatever it was had happened, wherever it had taken place.

And did she by any chance have a younger sister at home?

She could still feel her skin crawl at having been in the same room.

He hadn’t been too specific about what he and the Chaffords had been up to together, playing the ‘old man with a touch of the doolallies’ card. He had, however, been extremely specific about the age he wondered if her sister might be, and while the number only bordered on the illegal rather than crossing into it, the fact that he must be seventy years older than that made his enquiry sickening in the extreme.

That aside, he’d obviously been lying through his lack of back teeth about his morning’s activities. Unfortunately, she had, at least for the moment, to accept his word as proof of the Chaffords’ innocence.

The early-evening air was chilly, and she drew her coat snugly around her. She was only dawdling, reluctant to hurry back to a work situation where she felt as welcome as curry-flavoured ice cream.

Maybe she should seriously think about asking for a transfer to somewhere less white-centric. The trouble was, if she got the wrong place, she might well be stepping out of the frying pan into the roaring blaze.

Of course, she didn’t have to go back to the station quite yet. Not if she could find a reasonable excuse to stay out.

An area of further investigation would help. Naturally, the boss wouldn’t approve; but then, if it led to a breakthrough in the case, maybe one of the higher-ups would take notice and it might even be pursued properly.

And if it didn’t, she wouldn’t actually have to tell anybody. Even if the DI noticed her absence, she could blame it on a delay in the enquiry he’d given her.

She shivered as she realised how devious her mind was becoming. Was this really what being a copper was all about?

Uneasily, she shrugged the thought off and tried to concentrate instead on where to begin.

Really speaking there were two crimes to be solved. The murder and the robbery. The DI, in his muddle-headed, prejudiced way, was trying to pin both on Joseph Makumbo; but what if they were separate from each other?

Well – she’d failed to get anywhere with the latter; suppose she thought about the former for a while?

There was some woman involved, for example. She’d read the notes that Terrence Dawson and Sergeant Bulstrode had taken at the scene. The ones where Joseph Makumbo was adamant that a woman named…

Named…

Hettie, something. That was it. According to Joseph Makumbo, this woman, Hettie, killed the other one. That piece of evidence (if evidence it was, rather than blame-shifting) was being totally ignored at the moment.

Maybe she should try to ascertain Hettie Something’s exact role in proceedings.

But how? Her heart sank as she realised she’d have to go back to the station anyway, to find the woman’s surname and address. That was bound to mean getting sidetracked by some worthless job given to her on a whim, and she’d never get to Diamond Crescent at all.

She stopped dead.

Diamond Crescent? Why had she thought of Diamond Crescent?

But then – her eyes widened as she reflected on the idea – didn’t it make a kind of sense?

Diamond Crescent. Very smart, a collection of OAP bungalows looked after by the council, each with a small garden out front, most of them well-tended and blooming with flowers and shrubs.

It was the kind of road she could imagine an old, churchgoing lady residing in.

But where on earth had the idea come from to look there?

She shrugged. Did it matter? Even if there was nothing in it, it would keep her away from the station for a bit longer.

Okay. She crossed the road and began to head towards Diamond Crescent. She hadn’t a clue what number this Hettie might live at, if she lived there at all. But if it was meant to be, maybe something would turn up to give her guidance.

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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 two parts of chapter 7, see the posts below my recent ‘Doctor Who’ one.

Chapter 7

Monday 4th November 1985: 16.20 – 17.15

Section (c)

DI Jack Hampshire was fuming, and not only because of the cigarette he had stuck between his lips.

He was hammering at Joseph Makumbo’s front door and yelling, ‘Come on, I know you’re bloody in there!

That bloody interview. What the hell had happened?

He’d listened to the tape, and been astonished how much he knew of what he’d heard on it.

All that guff about little old ladies and pointy objects, for example. He remembered every bit of it; he just couldn’t remember actually being told it.

And he wouldn’t have had time to be told it. He’d been in that room for five minutes; seven, tops. That was definite; he’d verified how long he’d been gone with the blokes in the squad room. And yet he had thirty-four minutes-worth of interview on tape.

Come on! Open up!

It must have been bloody Makumbo! Some kind of voodoo trick, no doubt. It was just what his kind did!

He beat a few more minutes-worth of tattoo on the door. It remained stubbornly unanswered.

Right!

Stepping back, he raised a foot, prepared to give the offending piece of timber a good, Sweeney-style kicking-in.

A clicking of locks sounded from inside, and the door swung hesitantly open.

‘Hello?’ a small, elderly, mousy man said. ‘May I ask what on earth you’re doing?’

Hampshire shot forwards and grabbed the man’s cardigan, hauling him nose to nose. ‘Where’s bloody Makumbo!’ he barked.

The man recoiled; his eyes widened and his jaw began working as if he wanted to speak but couldn’t remember how. Smoke from Hampshire’s cigarette curled up between them, and he snatched it from his mouth and brandished it in front of the man’s face. ‘Makumbo! Where is he? Quick, you bastard!’

The man went cross-eyed. His jaw continued to wobble severely; then, just as Hampshire was choosing which of his captive’s nostrils to hide the impromptu weapon up first, a quavering sound emerged from the man’s lips: ‘Who – who are you?’

‘I ask the bloody questions!’ Hampshire snapped. Half-regretfully, he shoved the cigarette back into his mouth. ‘Who the hell are you, if it comes to that!’

‘I – I’m Mr Jones. Mr Makumbo’s upstairs neighbour.’

‘Right, Mr bloody Jones, Mr Makumbo’s upstairs bloody neighbour, I’ll ask again. Where the hell is Makumbo!

Jones’s eyes were like ping-pong balls. Any wider, they might well have left their moorings and begun rolling around the floor.

‘I – I’ll call the police,’ he whimpered.

‘I am the bloody police!’ Hampshire shot back.

He didn’t bother reaching for his warrant card. He always figured that the only credentials he needed were his natural air of authority and the threat of a knuckle sandwich. Besides, he’d lost the card months before, and didn’t want to confess this at the station and go through the rigmarole of getting another one.

Instead, he tightened his grip even further; so much so, his fingernails nearly met the back of his hands through both the other man’s clothing and his own palms.

‘I – I think he might have gone to see the vicar of St Marmaduke’s,’ Jones whimpered. ‘He went out about an hour ago. I was just coming in from the shops as he passed me at the door, and he said something about the church. Some terrible crime. He was very distracted. I got the impression he was off to the vicarage.’

‘At bloody last!’ Hampshire released his grip, sending the luckless Jones flying, and wheeled around.

Right!

He marched down the path and out onto the pavement. By God, Makumbo had better be at the vicarage or he’d start arresting everybody within a five-mile radius for obstruction, whether they had anything to do with the case or not.

And after he’d banged Makumbo away for murder, robbery and playing merry hell with time, he’d get on with his task of finding the bastard who’d run off with his missus thirteen years before.

And he would find him. If it was the last bloody thing he did!

Who’s Good

If you read any of my previous posts on the subject, you will see that I wasn’t in favour of a female Doctor Who.

Not for any sexist reasons, just to reiterate (and to save you from having to look up ancient posts). My objection was from the point of view of consistency of character, something that every author has to try to cope with. Here was a character who has been on our screens (with a slight break) for over 50 years, and up until about 5 years ago there was no hint that he could ever be anything other than male. To me, suddenly turning him into a woman would be like JK Rowling getting halfway through book seven of the Harry Potter series and suddenly revealing that Harry was, in fact, Harriet, and had been hiding the fact from everyone around her for the last six years.

However, having said all that, I was willing to give the new, female Doctor a chance. And I have to say that Jodie Whittaker has well and truly won me round. Not only is her Doctor warm, funny and engaging, but her storylines, under the care of programme head Chris Chibnall, have been a darned sight better than most of those served up to her predecessor, Peter Capaldi.

So good on you, Jodie, and here’s hoping you have a good long run in the Tardis!

Meanwhile, I’ll be back at St Marmaduke’s soon.