The story so far: A murder – witnessed by Joseph Makumbo – and a robbery have taken place at St Marmaduke’s church. Joseph has been taken to the police station for an interview, to be conducted by racist DI Jack Hampshire…
Monday 4th November 1985: 14.00 – 14.45
Jack Hampshire thrust open the interview room door, and stood on the threshold.
One, two, three, four, five…
He eyed the bloke sitting at the table; the young, black bloke.
His lip curled. Well – he’d terrify this one in no time.
What was the bloke’s name? He glanced down at the file Constable Dozy, the woodentop plonk, had given him on the way in. Oh, yeah. Makumbo.
Not far removed from the name of the bastard who’d run off with his missus all those years ago.
He gave himself another ten count, then moved forward a pace. Just one.
He reached behind himself, and slowly swung the door closed.
One, two, three, four, five…
These were tricks that Archie Cosgrove, his old DI, had taught him. He’d never seen a suspect fail to be cowed by them. And this suspect was cowed. He could feel it.
‘Good afternoon,’ the suspect said. ‘Have you come to take my statement?’
He felt his legs wobble, and his mind went blank. No suspect had ever wished him good anything before.
What was next?
His gaze dropped to the file. The file…
That was it! The next stage in the intimidation process. Open the file. Stare at the piece of paper it contained, the one giving a brief summary of the tissue of lies this bastard had probably come up with to explain away the murder. And the robbery.
He gave it a long, hard stare, reading nothing, trying to get his brain back into gear.
Okay. He felt steadier. Back to business. One, two, three, four…
He didn’t get to five. The world ripped apart, and a dizzying, terrifying sensation came over him, as if he’d been crumpled into a ball and hurled a vast distance.
When the world had reformed, he found himself seated at the table, Makumbo leaning forward earnestly and saying, ‘And that, as I told your sergeant and constable, Mr Inspector, is what happened.’
He stared around in confusion. The recorder used for all interviews was working, the tape in it a good way through its length. His pad – that was open, a page filled in as if he’d been taking notes. ‘So one old lady stabbed the other in the eye, and you know nothing about the robbery,’ he heard himself say.
Where the hell had he got that from?
‘That is correct, Mr Inspector.’
His head still spinning, he dropped his gaze to the file again, which was on the table in front of him. He hadn’t even read the report. He didn’t have the first clue what excuses Makumbo was making, about either crime.
Except that it seemed he did.
What the hell was going on?
There was silence; then he realised the suspect was waiting for him to say something else.
‘Well, Mr -’
His voice sounded thin and weak. With an effort, he pulled himself together.
‘Well – Mr Makalumbo, if what you say is true, and St Marmalot’s has been the scene of these fantastical happenings, be sure that they’ll be investigated. Thoroughly.’
That was better. At least it sounded like normal him.
Had he had some kind of blackout? Conducted the interview while under the influence of an epileptic fit or something?
He certainly wasn’t under the influence of anything else. True, he’d had his usual three whiskies and two pints at lunchtime, but they’d never had this effect before.
‘It is true, Mr Inspector; honestly,’ Makumbo was saying. ‘And – I am sorry – but my name is Makumbo, and the church is St Marmaduke’s.’
Maybe he should have had a third pint after all.
He cleared his throat, then put the best sneer he could into saying, ‘I think I’ll be the judge of what names are what in this investigation, sir.’
That was better, too. Much more like himself.
He had to get out of there, though. Take the tape, maybe; process just what had been said.
He stood abruptly, and reached over to the recorder’s stop button. ‘Interview ends -’ he checked his watch ‘- 14.15.’
Fourteen fifteen? How the hell could that be the time?
He stared at his watch, aghast. He hadn’t entered the room until ten past. From the length the tape had gone, and the notes he’d scribbled, surely the interview had lasted a good half-hour or so?
There was a clock on the wall behind Makumbo. He checked it. It echoed his watch exactly.
That did it. Something too bloody weird was happening. He needed a drink, and needed it now.
He’d normally have stood staring down at the suspect in an intimidating manner, before saying, ‘I’d advise you to get a lawyer, sir. I think you’re going to need one.’
Instead, he heard himself mumble, ‘I’ll get the constable to show you out.’
And with that, he showed himself out, fast.