Murder At St Marmaduke’s #30a

To read the first 29 chapters, please go to my St Marmaduke’s page.

Chapter 30

Tuesday 12th November 1985: 16.15 – 16.30

Section (a)

‘So,’ Ernie said as they were walking to Meredith’s car, ‘regarding voices…’

‘Well?’ Meredith said.

Well — goin’ back to your question to me of about — hmm, let’s see, a week ago now, I reckon it was…’

‘Meaning it was exactly a week ago.’

‘Uh huh. The question bein’, are you sure you wouldn’t like a period’s sick leave, Detective Chief Inspector? Like the rest of your life?’

‘You’ve even got the exact wording, haven’t you, you bastard?’

‘Reckon so.’

Ernie hummed to himself in a manner that he knew would infuriate his senior officer to almost beyond endurance. Then he gave a snort and decided to drop the act. ‘Seriously, though, Charlie, what the full unadulterated is goin’ on? I hear voices — you hear voices. You say you’ve heard yours twice, now?’

‘That’s right, Ernie.’ The DCI gave a deep sigh. ‘I thought the first time it must have been lack of sleep. Now I’m wondering if it’s lack of a functioning brain.’

‘You and me both, if that’s the case. And somebody else, accordin’ to the vic.’

‘Yes — young Makumbo. That was an eye-opener as well.’

‘Had to laugh when he was talkin’ about callin’ the quacks in for the lad. I thought these religious johnnies were supposed to believe all this “hearing from God” bollocks?’

‘I did too.’ Meredith paused as he rounded the car to the driver’s side. ‘What do you think of this “Lazarus Phenomenon” Mrs Rawlings spoke about?’

Ernie shrugged. ‘Probably as much as I think of the rest of it, Charlie. About as likely as me winnin’ the three-thirty at Chepstow with Lester Piggott on my back. In fact, about as likely as the idea of Clarissa Fluff-brain even knowin’ what The Times is, let alone readin’ it.’

‘I can’t say I disagree with you. However — I suppose it’s one more piece of jigsaw we have to try to fit into the puzzle.’

The DCI sighed again, then shook his head. ‘Listen, Ernie, we need a serious break-through in this case. We’re just sinking deeper into the mire at the moment, coming up against more supernatural rubbish everywhere we turn. And there’s the robbery, don’t forget.’

Ernie waved a dismissive hand. ‘Huh, that one’s easy. The Chaffords, no question.’

‘We both know that. Trouble is, we need to prove it.’ The DCI opened the driver’s door. ‘Come on, Ernie, back to the station. Let’s divide the brain cell between us again and see what next step we can come up with. Before I start to tear what’s left of my hair out.’

‘Okay — you’re the boss.’

‘Oh — you’re finally acknowledging that, are you?’

Ernie grinned. ‘Long as you’re the one gettin’ flack from the grown-ups above us all, yep.’

He was gratified to hear a reply that even he wouldn’t have repeated in mixed company.

‘First thing though,’ Meredith said after the invective had floated away to wherever rude words make their home in the ether. ‘Tomorrow, I want you to put the frighteners on the Chaffords, see if we can rattle them into revealing something. We’ll get a couple of the lads to start tailing them; Johnson and Hardy are pretty good, and they’re not so under Jack Hampshire’s influence that they’re likely to wander off in search of evidence against Makumbo like half the rest of them still are.’

‘Right-o,’ Ernie said. ‘That’ll be more than a pleasure.’

He glanced down at the bundle he’d carried out from the vicarage. ‘What’re we goin’ to do with these, by the way?’

‘Chowdhary’s and Makumbo’s coats? Put them in the back for now. We won’t have to keep them long, if I judge correctly.’

Ernie opened the rear door. ‘Reckon we’ll be seein’ ’em again before long?’

The DCI nodded. ‘Oh yes, Ernie. Reluctant as I am to admit to you being right about anything, I think you have young Amita spot on. We’ll be seeing them — or at least her — around this case again, all right. Pretty soon, I’d guess.’

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