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.
Monday 4th November 1985: 14.00 – 14.45
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.’
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…’
‘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.’