The story so far: An old lady has been murdered at St Marmaduke’s church. The church has also been robbed, and the vicar has reported this – but not the murder – to the police. Constable Terrence Dawson has been despatched to investigate. His sergeant, Ernie Bulstrode, waits for him to return…
Monday 4th November 1985: 10.30 – 11.30
The phone beside Ernie Bulstrode’s elbow jangled into life. ‘Dawson!’ he yelled in the direction of the kitchenette.
He grabbed the receiver. ‘Camtown Police Station,’ he said, turning over another page of Busty. Korporal Karen smouldered up at him, wearing combat knickers and a tommy gun slung over her shoulder. He wondered how much damage her twin howitzers would cause if pointed in the wrong direction.
‘Oh, it’s you, Dawson. Where the blue blazes are you? My bleedin’ mug’s been empty for hours.’
There was a sharp indrawing of breath at the other end of the phone. ‘Listen, Sarge, this is important. There’s been a murder.’
Ernie wrenched his attention away from Korporal Karen and his lack of refreshment, and onto the phone call. ‘Say that again, Dawson.’
‘There’s been a murder, Sarge.’
Ernie clapped the hand that wasn’t holding the phone onto his head. ‘What the ’ell ’ave you done, Constable? I told you to go and find out what was going on; not to kill anybody.’
‘No, Sarge!’ The agitation in Dawson’s voice increased. ‘There’s an old woman here, lying on the floor. Looks like she’s been dead a while. The vicar doesn’t seem bothered. Keeps wanting me to help move her down to the crypt.’
‘Yeah. Reckons he’s got about five others stored down there.’
Ernie gripped the phone tighter. ‘You listen to me, lad. I’m comin’ over there. You tell that vicar fella nothing gets moved until I get there. You got that?’
‘Yes, Sarge. Oh. Hang on.’
Ernie heard a stream of muffled dialogue for a moment, then Dawson said, ‘Erm – he reckons the choir’s coming in at four o’clock to practise. Says he needs to clear up before then.’
‘Dawson!’ Ernie could feel his pulse quicken. He’d been warned about getting too agitated; the doctor reckoned his blood pressure could only go so much higher before his arteries exploded. ‘I couldn’t give a tinker’s goolies about the choir. Tell him they can practise up the bell tower or something!’
There was another stream of muffle. ‘Erm – he reckons they’ve tried that; the acoustics aren’t right, though.’
There was a loud clunk, as if the phone on the other end had just hit something very solid; the floor, for instance. This was replaced by a scrabbling noise.
‘Erm – sorry about that, Sarge.’
Ernie controlled his patience. Just. ‘You tell that vicar that his choir can go -’
No, he decided, I am going to lose my patience after all, and bugger the arteries.
‘They can go ************************************** so far as I’m concerned!’
There was dead silence from the other end. Then Dawson said in a very small voice, ‘Do you really want me to put it in so many words?’
Ernie felt rather better for his outburst; and nothing inside him appeared to have gone bang. ‘Look, lad, from what I’ve heard of church choirs, I doubt they’d know an acoustic if they fell over a bucket of ’em. Nothing moves till I get there – right?’
He slammed the phone down, lifted his overcoat off its stand, and shrugged it on. As he left, he hung the ‘closed’ sign on the reception window. The great unwashed public could go solve their own problems for a while.