To catch up on the first five chapters, see my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html. For the first section of Chapter 6, see previous post below.
Monday 4th November 1985: 15.30 – 16.15
Joseph sat in his one comfy chair in his small living room, trying to blank out the last few hours. The local newspaper – the Camtown Herald – was open on his lap, and every now and then he turned a page, as if trying to convince himself he’d read the previous one. The fact was, for all he’d taken in, he might have been reading the wall opposite.
He kept seeing the thrust of the pointy object again, kept hearing the screams and then the gurgle in Mabel Cartwright’s throat. Then he’d replay the interview he’d had to endure with that terrible police inspector.
The inspector who’d looked somewhat peculiar. Glassy-eyed, as if he was wearing spectacles inside his eyelids.
He stood, allowing the paper to slide down his legs onto the floor. If only he hadn’t telephoned work and asked for the day off. It would be so much better if he had something to do.
Perhaps reading the local newspaper would help. He had it here somewhere.
Glancing round, he located it on the floor in front of him. That is strange, he thought. What can it be doing down there?
He picked it up, tidied its pages, which appeared to have become disarrayed, sat in his comfy chair – which he was surprised to find directly behind him – and began to study the front page.
For all he took in, he might have been reading the wall opposite.
He saw the thrust of the pointy object again, heard the screams and then the gurgle in Mabel Cartwright’s throat…
He threw the newspaper from his lap. This was silly thinking!
Mabel Cartwright. Surely the police were speaking to Hettie Number One, the woman who’d killed her?
He suspected not. He began to replay the interview he’d had with that terrible police inspector.
The police inspector who had taken an interminable length of time to reach the table in the interview room, pausing after every movement he made and, Joseph could swear, counting under his breath while he did so.
‘So, Mr Makalumbo,’ the inspector had opened with once he’d eventually seated himself, ‘why did you murder the old woman in the church?’
The question – not to mention the mispronunciation of his name – had floored him metaphorically as much as the murder had done literally. ‘I assure you, Mr Inspector…’ he’d gasped.
But from then on, he’d hardly got another word in edgeways. The inspector had kept up a relentless battering of ‘how did you kill the old woman?’ and ‘when did you commit the robbery?’ not even stopping to listen to an answer if Joseph cared to give one.
It was only in the final few moments before the interview ended that he’d managed to explain exactly what had happened. At which point the inspector’s eyes had unglazed and he’d merely looked extremely confused instead.
The final insult had been when he was escorted from the police station by the constable who had been at the church; the one Clarissa Rawlings had smiled at in such a friendly way.
Perhaps that constable had sneaked into the church and set off the whole series of events! Perhaps he had been the mysterious voice that had spoken to him, Joseph! Perhaps he, the constable, had even committed the murder, making it appear as if Hettie Number One had done so! Perhaps he, the constable, had engineered everything so that he, Joseph, would be blamed and jailed; so that he, the constable, would have clear access to Clarissa Rawlings with he, Joseph, incarcerated for life!
And perhaps, to be completely sure that he, Joseph, would not be able to escape the clutches of supposed justice, he, the constable, had also sneaked back afterwards to commit the robbery too!
Do not be so silly, Joseph!
He shot to his feet again, heart pounding. ‘I am sorry, Mother!’
He gazed around the room in confusion. ‘Mother…?’
But of course, his mother was miles away in East Anglia.
Oh my goodness! Have I relied on her so much in my life that I must speak to myself as she would have spoken to me?
The thought appalled him.
Then, he realised something else. The newspaper was back in his hands.
He stared at it in horror. It was no longer recognisable as reading material. Instead, it had been torn and twisted into a tableau; a tableau depicting someone that looked like he, Joseph, strangling the life out of a gangling uniformed figure, with another person, so obviously female it sent hot flushes into his face, watching on admiringly.
He dropped the paper as if it had scalded him. What on earth was he becoming?
That did it! It was obvious that the police were doing nothing with regard to Hettie Number One. He would go and see her himself; try to force her to confess to the authorities.
But how? He had no idea of her address; or even of her surname.
Somebody would have, though.
Clarissa Rawlings sprang back to his mind. Of course! She would know!
He hurried into the hallway to collect his coat. The vicar’s wife would surely help him.
And if not, she might at least bend over to pour him another cup of tea.