Sorry for another looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong delay, but at last the fun continues with a complete chapter…
The first 31 chapters, as ever, are here.
Wednesday 13th November 1985: 11.00 – 11.15
Terrence Dawson hesitated as he opened the vicarage gate. Now — how did that look go again? The firm-but-friendly one he’d practised for half an hour before leaving home?
He tried it on for size. Bugger — to pinch one of the Sarge’s favourite sayings — why hadn’t he brought along a mirror so he could make sure it was the same one? As far as he could feel, it was; but unfortunately, most of the looks he’d experimented with before he’d got it right had made him look like a constipated yak, so if he was off by a fraction, Mrs Vicar Rawlings — Clarissa, wasn’t it? — might well burst out laughing instead of being intimidated-but-not-so-much-as-to-complain-to-headquarters-and-get-him-into-a-whole-lot-of-offal, as he was hoping.
He was taking a hell of a risk just being there. But — he glanced down to check his uniform was as pristine as it could be after a week of non-usage — turning up masquerading as a policeman while suspended could not only have him sacked, but possibly hung, drawn, quartered, buried alive, boiled in oil, served up to the station cat as a tasty supper and given the biggest bollocking the world had ever seen before being sacked. Not to mention incurring the wrath of Ernie Bulstrode, which would be far, far, far worse than any of the rest of it.
But without the uniform, or a warrant card to flourish, who the hell was he? Certainly not somebody who could force the vicar’s wife into telling him whatever she might know. He had no illusions about that. And — although he could swear the woman had been flirting with him at the church on the day of Mabel Cartwright’s murder — he was also under no illusion that he could charm information out of her by dint of sheer maleness. He knew he had about as much maleness as a week-old kitten that had already had its balls cut off; he’d been told that by his stepbrothers (accompanied by dire warnings of what they’d do to him if he ever, ever told their mother or his father, with graphic illustrations in red ink for emphasis) almost every day of his life from the time the two families joined together when he was aged thirteen.
No — the voice in his bedroom had been wrong on that score. As a private citizen, he was pants. Double pink pants with lacy lilac trimmings, in fact. But at least it had given him the oomph to come out and try. And for that, even though it had freaked the whatsit out of him, he was grateful.
Taking a deep breath, and trying to summon up the spirit of Michael Brandon in Dempsey and Makepeace, he strode up the path and reached for the doorbell.
Another voice from behind him — sadly, one that was all too familiar, this time — yelled, ‘Oi, you! Bloody woodentop! What’re you bloody doing here!’
‘Oh for God’s sake, not another one,’ Clarissa muttered.
The reverberations from the doorbell floated away, and she stomped out of the sitting room and along the hallway to the front door, not even bothering to check her appearance in the mirror as she passed it. Hell fire, all she wanted was to flop out, a slice of lemon drizzle cake in one hand and, if he could be persuaded out of his study into the world of her for five minutes, her husband in the other. Instead — who knew which male excrescence would be standing on the doorstep this time, ogling her chest and demanding to know what she could tell them about the day of Mabel Cartwright’s murder, the night of Hettie Foster’s murder, and for all she knew, the Whitechapel Murders of 1888-91?
‘And you can shut up as well!’ she snapped at her conscience as she reached for the latch.
I didn’t say a word.
‘Well, shut up anyway!’
‘I’m sorry, Mrs Rawlings?’
The young man standing there was one she recognised, but it took her a second to place him. The uniform provided the clue. ‘Oh, constable. Nothing — I was just talking to myself. It seems to be the only way I can have a normal conversation at the moment.’
‘Oh.’ The constable’s eyes were wide, but at least he had them trained on her face, which was nice.
And then she noticed the individual next to him, and the immediate thought that came to mind was: ferret.
Ah yes. She’d seen him before as well. Outside Hettie Foster’s on the night.
Another policeman. Oh joy, what with the pair yesterday, plus Miss —
— erm, Joseph’s girlfriend, definitely not somebody she’d even noticed that much — they seemed to be coming in bunches these days, albeit separate bunches without the first clue as to what the other bunches knew or didn’t know.
Oh well… ‘Do come in, officers,’ she said, with the breezy air of somebody with nothing else to do in the world but entertain agents of the law. ‘I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about either murder, or the robbery,’ she added as she reversed to let them through the door, ‘but in case you’re working separately to them, your chief inspector and the sergeant, who were here yesterday, had a fascinating theory involving dead people coming to life. Would you like to hear it?’