The story so far: Joseph Makumbo attends a prayer meeting at St Marmaduke’s church with five elderly ladies. During the meeting, one of the ladies murders another with a hatpin through the eye.
Joseph flees the church and heads towards the vicarage…
Monday 4th November 1985: 09.15 – 10.00
Father Frank Rawlings clicked his tongue in dismay as he reached the lychgate and saw the heavy oak door to the church standing open. Oh deary me, he thought. How very careless.
He hastened up the path and into the church.
‘Oh no!’ The cry erupted from his lips. ‘Not the silver chalice and plate!’
But yes. As he reached the front, he was able to confirm the worst. Not only had the candlesticks and cross that habitually adorned the altar been lifted into not-thereness, but the safe that held the sacramental silverware had also been forced open. It, like the holy table, was empty.
He closed his eyes. This was a disaster. Worse, in fact, than the notorious collection-plate scandal of ’81, when the entire offering for one Sunday morning had disappeared somewhere between the back row of the congregation and his waiting arms at the front.
That disappearance had eventually been traced to the organist, who it transpired had needed the money to buy a new Zimbelstern knob, having pulled the old one out during a passionate rendition of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.
Frank doubted that this present theft could be laid at the door of the current organist. She was approaching ninety, and could hardly lift the lid of her instrument, let alone break open a safe.
He’d left Joseph, gibbering wildly about eyes and pointy things, in the tender ministrations of Clarissa, his young wife. He supposed she’d be giving the boy a nice reviving drink of tea; he suddenly felt the need for a cup himself, and wondered if the kettle in the vestry might be working.
And of course, the pay-phone was in there too; he must send for the police immediately. He headed towards the side of the church, stepping over the prone form of the elderly woman cluttering up the floor. Oh yes, and she’d have to be moved as soon as possible too, and all the blood – and whatever that was lying near to her – mopped up.
He shook his head, aggrieved. Really, Joseph was such a silly lad. Fancy forgetting to lock up the church. He’d really have to have a word.
Oh yes – he could phone Clarissa after the police, to see if she could bring a mop and bucket. He was sure there was one at the vicarage somewhere; she’d know where it was.