Murder At St Marmaduke’s #33a

Another long break, unfortunately, but on with the motley today…

If you’d like to read the first 32 chapters, please click here.

Chapter 33

Wednesday 13th November 1985: 12.00 – 13.00

Section (a)

‘I still say it’s bollocks.’

Meredith sighed. ‘I know, Ernie. And deep down, so do I. But we don’t have another working hypothesis; and besides, there’s this report to add to the Harriet Foster scene of crime one…’

He waved the offending document that had just emerged from the explosion in a paper factory that was Jack bloody Hampshire’s desk. How the hell anything ever came to light from in there, God alone knew; in fact, he didn’t actually know how the hell this particular report had come to light. If he was being fanciful, he would have sworn it had stood up on end, waved a corner at him, then taken a standing leap into his hands. But — well, he wasn’t a fanciful person, was he, so that quite definitely was not, not, not the way it had happened.

‘Run it past me again, Charlie?’

Meredith sighed again. He seemed to be doing a lot of sighing at the moment. Sarah was complaining she was getting blown out of bed every night where he was even doing it in his sleep.

‘Hamish McStrapp, security guard at the morgue,’ he read, ‘testifies that while in the course of his duties on the evening of the 4th — the day of Mabel Cartwright’s murder, remember — one of the bodies broke out of cold storage and legged it out of the building — his words — leaving the door to the room in “a state not even that Schwarzenegger bugger could have managed” — his words again. I’m not sure his manager needed to take down his statement exactly as he said it, but I suppose the gist wouldn’t have conveyed it quite as well.’

‘And you’re goin’ to take the word of a drunken Scotsman, if that ain’t sayin’ the same thing twice…?’

‘Now, Ernie,’ Meredith interrupted, ‘you know full well security guards aren’t allowed to be drunk on duty. And when the manager, Thomas, arrived at the scene, first thing he did was sniff McStrapp’s breath, and found it clear of any suspicion of alcohol.’

‘And the second thing he did was to give the bastard a blood test to make doubly sure?’

Meredith frowned at the report. ‘No — the second thing he did was to confiscate the twelve Mars bars he found on McStrapp, just in case they contained anything suspicious. And then ate them himself, apparently, to make sure they didn’t.

‘No, Ernie,’ he continued, ‘we might not think a sniff of somebody’s breath is conclusive proof, but without any evidence to the contrary, we’ve just got to take this as kosher, I’m afraid.’

‘But for God’s sake, Charlie, all this supernatural bollocks is gettin’ on my wick!’

‘I’m as exasperated by it as you are, Ernie! But until we can find a rational explanation for it, all we can do is run with it, and take this thing —’ he waved the report again ‘— seriously.’

There was a muttering from the sergeant that Meredith chose to ignore as probably not being able to understand most of the phrases it contained.

‘So,’ he continued after it had finished, ‘the question is: where do we find a dead woman who’s a suspect in a murder enquiry?’

‘Well,’ Ernie said heavily, ‘leavin’ out the obvious place, the morgue itself…’ His face creased into a frown. Meredith waited.

‘Okay,’ the sergeant went on after a few minutes, ‘how about this? We’ve got a woman who’s one of these religious nut-jobs, and been killed at one of their spout-crap-into-the-air meetin’s, ain’t we?’

‘Right.’

‘So, a bit later she’s found herself come back to life — not that she has —’

‘Ernie!’

‘— and confused, maybe; so, what else is she goin’ to do but try and find somebody who can tell her what the blazes is goin’ on? And who’d be best for that…?’

‘The vicar,’ Meredith said, nodding. ‘That’s logical, I’ll grant you. But I think we can be pretty sure she hasn’t sought him out, don’t you?’

‘Why’s that?’

‘We’ve seen the vicar, and his wife, since this breakout —’

‘— supposed breakout —’

‘— supposed breakout, if you insist — and neither said anything about having seen Mabel Cartwright.’

Ernie gave a splutter. ‘Well, they’re not exactly goin’ to say, “Oh, by the way, we’ve got a dead woman sittin’ in the kitchen; like to come along and ask her why she murdered Harriet bloody Foster?” are they?’

‘Agreed, no. But on the other hand, I can’t conceive that they’d have sat through that discussion we had about the dead coming to life without betraying something if they had seen her. I mean, you’re the best judge of human behaviour I know, Ernie. You can smell when somebody’s having you on. Did you get the impression they were hiding anything?’

‘No, I bloody didn’t,’ the sergeant agreed, somewhat reluctantly, Meredith thought.

‘So,’ the DCI continued, ‘let’s rule out the possibility she made her way to the vicarage…’

‘He’s still the most likely bloke she’d seek out, though.’

‘Agreed. So…’

A wry grin came over Ernie’s face. ‘So, you’re thinkin’ exactly the same as me, I reckon.’

Meredith nodded. ‘I think I am. The church, right?’

Ernie returned the nod. ‘Yep. The church. Nice and big, an’ all those vaults to hide in. Be the ideal place, wouldn’t it? The dead slippin’ in among her own kind.’

‘It certainly would.’ Meredith returned the return of the nod, and raised it by a puffing out of the cheeks. ‘Okay, Ernie, let’s go corpse hunting.’

‘Well, if we must go on a fool’s bloody errand…’

‘We must, I’m afraid.’ Meredith turned to go.

‘First one to find her gets a mug of tea from the other one, though. One of which, incidentally, I haven’t had for more hours than it takes the whole of this CID shower to get their brains in gear every day, present company excepted, of course.’

Meredith gave a wry smile of his own. ‘Careful, Ernie. One of those “CID shower”, as you put it, is you at the moment, remember?’

There was another muttering. Something along the lines of, ‘Only ’cause some bastard hijacked me into it,’ Meredith thought; though again, he couldn’t be 100% certain, so decided to let it go.

‘Besides,’ he said instead, ‘some things are more important than tea, Ernie, shocking as it may be for you to hear.

‘And if we do find her,’ he added, ‘given this report’s description of those doors, it’s possible we’ll need something a little stronger than even one of your infamous brews.’

Ernie frowned. ‘Such as?’

‘Such as, do you know whether that church stocks a decent supply of holy water?’

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