To read the first eleven chapters, please go to my St Marmaduke’s page.
Monday 4th November 1985: 18.28 – 18.30
Ernie Bulstrode followed Dawson into Diamond Crescent, then turned a sharp left through the first garden gate he came to.
Not because he didn’t want his constable to maybe turn round at the last minute and spot him; although he much preferred it if the lad didn’t know he’d been following him. But Dawson was so intent on where he was going he wouldn’t have spotted a Busty model bent backwards in front of him with nothing but a python wrapped round her for covering.
Ernie paused a few seconds to dwell on that one.
No – (he threw off the image and determined he’d send in a suggestion to the editor for a future issue) – he wanted to shake off the many other bods that seemed to be queueing up behind him, albeit at several-hundred-yard intervals, for the privilege of also following the lanky young copper.
Every one of them would, he’d no doubt, have been amazed to know that he was aware of their presence. At no point on the journey there had he turned round to actually see them. But there were more senses than sight, and Ernie had roughly half-a-dozen more than the average mortal. He could have quoted sex, age-range, height and clothing (including underwear) of every one of the pursuers. And he had no doubt – none whatsoever – that the whole lot of ’em were heading for exactly the same destination.
Including, intriguingly, that Amita Chowdhary lass from CID. Ernie nodded acknowledgement of a thought he’d had many a time; she’d be in Charlie Meredith’s chair a few years down the line. The force’s institutional racism and sexism having been blasted to hell with an average-sized atom bomb, of course.
And, secondly, including that vicar’s wife, as well. The one who also wouldn’t look out of place wearing nothing but a squeezy reptile. She’d been walking ahead of Dawson down the road, and must have got here a couple of minutes before. She hadn’t turned round either, but Ernie Bulstrode was an expert on walks. Especially those of young women whose underwear, as witnessed earlier, ranged from the non-existent to the even more non-existent.
And, thirdly and fourthly, the Chaffords, father and son. Now what did those conniving sons of a word you mainly read in Busty want down these parts?
And, fifthly, including the Vauxhall parked outside one of the bungalows, the back of a head clearly visible on the driver’s side. Another party interested in this old biddy Dawson was intent on questioning, Ernie had no doubt.
Quite a party. He hoped the old biddy had got in enough jelly and ice cream.
Ernie had already booked two drivers on the way, taking the opportunity to keep some distance between himself and Dawson. One had parked his Mercedes two inches over a double yellow; Ernie had written out a ticket just for the hell of it, on the grounds that anybody who owned one of those posh German efforts deserved one.
The other had been a fishmonger, parked on a single yellow at one minute to six, about thirty seconds before the parking restrictions ended. Ernie had written that ticket just for the halibut; which now nestled securely in the right-hand pocket of his greatcoat.
Maybe he could get this one on some technical detail as well. He’d never done the hat-trick before.
As he crouched below the level of the privet, he heard Dawson break into a run.
And then the crash of a near-distant garden gate, and his constable’s footsteps pounding up an equally near-distant pathway.
And then there was silence.
He glanced at his watch. Six twenty-nine.
He waited a minute to see what would happen.
And then he heard an equally equally near-distant scream.
Ernie Bulstrode wasn’t the type to be easily spooked, but he felt his hair spring to attention as if the chief constable had just marched up to it. ‘Dawson, what the bloody hell have you done, lad?’ he muttered, and reached for the garden gate.
And then he heard the equally equally equally near-distant crash of a door being taken off its hinges.
He relaxed. Ah, he thought. The young pillock’s fallen over his own feet again. That’s all.
Hopefully that meant the scream was nothing that he, Ernie, had to worry about.
And then something went ‘clonk’.
Hang on. Clonk?
That was it. That same something that had happened at the station a few hours earlier.
What the hell was it?
‘Why don’t you check your watch again?’ a voice behind him said.
Unthinkingly, he glanced at his wrist. And saw the hands on his timepiece jump two minutes backwards.
What the f…?
He stared at it, long and hard. The sweep hand continued to click forwards, second by second. But now the other two registered six twenty-eight, not six-thirty.
And he heard another car putter round the corner and draw to a halt close by.
‘What the bloody hell’s all that about, you bastard?’ he growled to whoever it was behind him.
And then he looked round.
And then he looked further round, and back again, and round the other way.