As always, to read previous chapters, please click here.
And to read the first three sections of Chapter 29, please see posts #29a to #29c.
Tuesday 12th November 1985: 14.30 – 15.30
‘So what do you think?’ Ernie asked, as they waited for Clarissa Rawlings to fetch her husband from whatever part of the vicarage she could find him in.
‘Disappointing,’ Meredith said.
‘True. Not as outstanding as she was in the church that morning.’
‘I meant the information, Ernie! Or lack of it.’
‘I knew that, Charlie.’
The vicar’s wife had told them straight away that she hadn’t seen anyone else at Harriet Foster’s on the evening of the murder. Apart from an urge to think carefully, Meredith hadn’t seen any point in pressing the woman. (Ernie had made an extremely vulgar comment when Meredith had mentioned this, in those exact words, after she’d left the room; Meredith tried giving him one of his stares, but with no effect as usual.)
‘So,’ Ernie continued, ‘young Chowdhary’s still mixing herself up in the case.’
‘It would appear so.’
‘Clever, the way Mrs Vicar helped them try to cover the fact they’d all been sitting round talkin’ about it.’
‘It was. I didn’t know whether I should arrest her or give her a round of applause.’
‘Oh, the former, definitely. She’d look good in handcuffs.’
‘Ernie! Will you keep your mind above the gutter!’
‘The gutter’s where the villains are, Charlie. Didn’t they teach you that at posh police college?’
‘I’ll ignore that, Sergeant, luckily for you!’
Ernie gave a wide, very annoying smile. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘what’re you going to do about young Chowdhary. Goin’ to clip her wings at all?’
Meredith wrinkled his nose in thought, then shook his head. ‘You know what, Ernie? I don’t think I am.’
Ernie nodded with satisfaction. ‘Good call.’ The smile expanded into what was undoubtedly a smirk. ‘Told you — she’ll be occupyin’ your chair next time you go in that office of yours, you’ll see.’
Meredith grunted. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all, Ernie. And you know what? She’ll probably deserve it.’
‘She will — definitely. Anyway, might I ask what you want the vicar for? If his wife didn’t see the murderer, he won’t have. He was a few places behind her in the list of people who went in.’
‘Oh, just thought that while we were here I’d indulge in a bit of a theological discussion with him,’ Meredith said, adopting what he was sure was an air of mystery. ‘You never know when these things are going to come in useful.’
To his satisfaction, Ernie’s eyebrows shot up again. ‘Whoa!’ he said. ‘Don’t tell me you’re thinkin’ of becomin’ one of these Jehovah’s Whatnots, or somethin’!’
Meredith laughed. ‘I think they’re a different branch, Ernie. And no, I’m not. But think back to that scene of crime report. It’d be interesting to get his take on it.’
Ernie began to splutter, sounding not unlike the dying engine he’d been on the doorstep earlier. ‘What — the murdered woman comin’ to life and murderin’ the woman who murdered her! That bollocks!’
‘So you’re admitting to the possibility that Foster did murder the Cartwright woman as Makumbo said?’
‘As to that, I refer you to my previous sentence. And even if she did, all this supernatural mumbo-elephant is just that. Surely you can’t seriously be wantin’ to look into that side of it?’
Meredith sighed. ‘Well, we’ve got nothing else to go on, let’s face it. We’re hitting brick walls whichever way we turn. And there was that DNA stuff all over Foster’s carpet; you said yourself it looked like zombie drippings, or whatever.’
‘Well, yeah — but come on…’
‘It can’t hurt to at least talk it over with an expert, Ernie. Indulge me.’
Ernie snorted. ‘You know the definition of an expert, don’t you, Charlie?’
‘No. Do enlighten me.’
‘An “ex” is a has-been, and a “spurt” is drip under pressure. Never heard that one before?’
‘I haven’t, Ernie. But I’ll bear it in mind while we’re having our conversation. Anyway, shut up now. I can hear footsteps coming along the passage outside, and if my ears don’t deceive me, the twinkle of feminine feet is accompanied by a duller plod.’
‘Yep — that’s the best way to describe him,’ Ernie muttered.