To read the first seven chapters, please go to my website: http://www.colin-z-smith.com/masm.html. For the beginning of chapter eight, please see section (a) below.
Monday 4th November 1985: 17.20 – 18.00
‘Well, I’m off then, Sarge.’
Ernie Bulstrode flapped a hand in Terrence Dawson’s direction. It was the nearest to a ‘good night’ he ever gave the lad; and would be for another – he made a mark in the five-year desk diary that lived under the counter along with three back-issues of Busty – 1,295 days. After that, the constable would have concluded his Keep-the-bugger-guessing Probationary Period, and would qualify as a copper to be taken notice of.
He waited a minute or so before climbing into his own overcoat. Locking up the enquiries area, he followed Dawson out into the street.
Something was up. He’d known it since the lad had come back from Charlie Meredith’s office a short while ago. For a start, there was a suspicious bulge in Dawson’s shirt-front. Not huge, and the lad obviously thought it wasn’t noticeable; Ernie estimated three sheets of A4 at most. The frustration had been that there wouldn’t be time to prise it from him and find out what the hell it was.
Short of simply ordering the constable to hand it over, of course. And Ernie Bulstrode was no way going to resort to the bloody obvious, aggravating as the alternative – not knowing – was.
He’d briefly contemplated ordering the lad to strip from the waist up. Much as that would have been in his power to do, though, it might have led to some awkward questions in Complaints Authority Land, a place he had not the slightest desire to visit.
Dawson’s first action on returning to his post had been to casually – and again, obviously thinking Ernie wasn’t taking notice – flip open the St Marmalade’s file and study the topmost sheet. That, Ernie knew, was the one holding the names and addresses they’d gathered that morning.
Dawson had spent the remaining time before leaving staring at the map of the town pinned up beside the reception counter. Ernie had never taken anything approaching a maths degree, but he knew damn well that two and two made a bigger number than two, and he knew just as damn well what Dawson was thinking.
The top person on the list was Hettie Whatsit, the woman Makumbo insisted had committed the murder. It’d been that barking vicar’s wife who’d supplied her address, along with those of the others who’d been present. (And their names. For some reason, the Makumbo lad had insisted on talking about them in numbers. Ernie couldn’t help feeling sorry for the boy, but did wonder if he was a sight more off his meatloaf than the vicar.)
Ernie allowed his mind to dwell on the wife a moment. By ’eck, that church had been cold…
He snapped back to the present.
It was a pound to a pre-decimal penny that Dawson was on his way to the Hettie woman’s place to have a quiet word or three. And mathematically speaking again, Dawson plus a material witness quite likely equalled a bloody disaster waiting to happen.
He could see the lad just down the road, heading in completely the wrong direction to be going homeward. Keeping a careful distance, he began to follow towards what was obviously going to be Diamond Crescent.