The story so far: Joseph Makumbo attends a prayer meeting at St Marmaduke’s church, during the course of which one of the five elderly ladies also present murders another. The vicar, Father Frank Rawlings, gets to the scene to find that a robbery has also been committed…
Monday 4th November 1985: 09.15 – 10.00
Police Sergeant Ernie Bulstrode was about to launch into his own reviving mug of tea. He’d spent a hard twenty minutes studying the latest copy of Busty, confiscated from the top shelf of Mr Singh’s newsagent on his way to the station, and was wondering how the lass on page 8 didn’t spill out of the magazine and all over the reception counter. However she managed it, her statistics were a damned sight more entertaining than the latest crime ones, currently acting as a thick and papery coaster under his mug.
‘Hurry up and get that phone, Dawson,’ he yelled towards the kitchenette behind him. The damned thing had been ringing at his elbow for thirty seconds, and the jangle was driving him spare.
Terrence Dawson raced out of the small room, his six-foot-two, ten-stone frame reminding Ernie of somebody whose limbs didn’t quite belong to the same person as the rest of him. ‘Sorry, Sarge,’ he said. ‘I was just making my coffee.’
Ernie, who was quite happy with his own more comfortably upholstered frame, scowled at his subordinate. ‘Priorities, lad. Get yer priorities right.’
Dawson reached for the phone. ‘Oi!’ Ernie barked.
Dawson’s hand hovered. ‘Sarge?’
‘Where’s me bleedin’ caramel wafer, then?’
Dawson’s gaze dropped to the phone, then back up to Ernie, then back to the phone. ‘Erm…’
‘Priorities, lad! What did I just tell yer?’
‘Oh. Right, Sarge.’
Ernie tutted as Dawson raced back into the kitchenette, then out again, dropping the prescribed biscuit onto the counter. ‘’Bout bleeding time,’ he muttered.
Dawson snatched up the phone. ‘Camtown Police Station.’
Ernie went back to the page 8 girl, trying to work out if she and the one on page 9 would fit into the photographer’s studio at the same time and still leave room for the camera.
‘Hey, Sarge.’ He’d been vaguely aware of Dawson talking to whoever the nuisance on the other end of the phone was. Now he sighed, and said, ‘Well?’
‘It’s the vicar bloke from that churchy place in town. Saint – Saint -’
‘St Marmalade’s, lad. Well – what about him?’
‘Says there’s a crime been committed.’
‘Too bleedin’ right there has,’ Ernie growled. ‘And you’re the felon; obstructin’ me in the course of my tea break.’
Dawson looked nonplussed a moment, then recovered. ‘No, straight up, Sarge. Says there’s been a robbery. Lots of items of -’ he glanced down at the pad he’d been scribbling on ‘- “exceptional value” been taken. He’s really in a lather, Sarge. Does sound important.’
Ernie raised an eyebrow. ‘Everybody’s crimes are important to them, lad. It’s what makes our job such a pain in the bleedin’ arse.’
‘Shall I give him the usual?’
Dawson unclamped his hand from the mouthpiece, and said, ‘We’ll get straight onto it, sir. Yes, we will. Goodbye.’
He placed the phone back in its cradle, and said, ‘Asks if we can send our most senior man, Sarge. Shall I go and tell CID?’
Ernie tutted again. Dawson and his CID obsession. Anybody’d think the rest of the police force were there to make up numbers and issue parking tickets. ‘No, lad, you shan’t go and tell CID. They won’t want to waste their time with robberies at bleedin’ churches.’
Dawson’s face registered confusion and shock; a combination that had his eyebrows unsure whether to project themselves in an upwards or downwards direction.
Eventually, he settled for one going either way. ‘But Sarge -’
‘Look,’ Ernie said, ‘who is this bloke whose valuable items are so important? Take it you got his name?’
Dawson consulted his pad again. ‘Father Frank Rawlings, MMM, RCD, LFN.’
Ernie gave the constable the benefit of his best stare. ‘Impressive list of initials there. Any of ’em mean anythin’?’
Dawson stared hard at his notes, then coloured. ‘Oh, sorry Sarge. I think Fred on the night shift has been doodling over my pad.’
Ernie let the stare linger. Dawson’s colour heightened. ‘So what should I do, then, Sarge?’
The lad was like a puppy about to be kicked. Ernie reached a decision. The street outside was quiet; it didn’t look like the great unwashed would be flocking in with their aggravating problems at the moment. ‘I can spare you for a couple of minutes, Dawson. Go and see what’s occurred, then I can decide whether to go and tell CID or not.’
‘But Sarge -’
‘The vic said he wanted our most senior bloke.’
Ernie sighed. Young coppers nowadays… ‘And, constable, if you go on your own you’ll be the most senior bloke there, won’t you?’
Dawson opened his mouth as if to comment, but Ernie forestalled him with another look. ‘On your way, lad.’
Dawson put his greatcoat on and opened the door to the reception area. ‘Oi,’ Ernie said. ‘Ain’t you forgettin’ something?’
‘Erm… What, Sarge?’
Ernie brandished the empty biscuit paper. ‘I’ve only had one caramel wafer.’
He turned his attention back to the pages of Busty, as Dawson raced back towards the kitchenette. ‘I told you, lad. Priorities.’