As ever, to read the first 32 chapters, please click here.
And to read the first part of Chapter 33, you need to find post #33a somewhere below this one.
Wednesday 13th November 1985: 12.00 – 13.00
Terrence Dawson just managed to stop himself doing a Bodie and Doyle on the vicarage door as he made his way out. As it was, an old man walking a Yorkshire terrier took one look at him as he crashed out of the front gate, snatched up his dog in fright and bolted for the safety of the nearest tree; probably the fastest either man or dog had moved in about fifty years.
It wasn’t Mrs Rawlings’ fault, of course. She’d been perfectly reasonable; as reasonable as somebody who’d obviously gone so far through the insanity barrier that she was well out the other side and heading back round to go in again, that was.
Mabel Cartwright coming back from the dead and killing the woman who killed her? Really?
Surely the DCI and the Sarge couldn’t have put that in whatever brain she had under that blonde mop, could they?
He wanted to stop and have a good, long, hard think about it. But he didn’t want to stop and goodly, longly, hardly think about it here, not with sodding—
‘Oi, bloody woodentop!’
Oh for f—
The real source of his ire was pounding along the pavement behind him, like a rat running after a drainpipe, or whatever that expression was. All through the talk with Mrs Rawlings, Hampshire had been rude, dismissive, sneering, jeering — the thesaurus just didn’t have enough synonyms, or the rhyming dictionary rhymes. And that was before she’d given them the revelation about the Cartwright woman. The synonyms had gone off the scale after that.
And now the bloody twenty-seven-expletives-deleted had caught up with him, and the same sneer was on his face, the same jeer obviously on his lips, and Terrence was suddenly overwhelmed with pissed-off-to-the-eyebrows-with-it-allness. Come on! he thought. You just say one word!
‘Suppose you fell for that load of bollocks, you pencil-headed bastard.’
Terrence reran the sentence. It contained more than one word; but breaking it down, it was one followed by another one followed by another one and so on, so that was good enough. ‘Shut up, you stupid little tosser!’ he snapped.
Hampshire’s eyes sprang wide, and his mouth dropped open. It wasn’t a good look for him; but then, Terrence reflected, the only good look the cretin could possibly have was several layers of black plastic bag over his face.
For possibly the first time in his life, Terrence didn’t flinch; even though the storm of exclamation marks that shot in his direction would have had Michael Praed’s arm flying off if he’d released as many arrows at once in an episode of Robin of Sherwood.
Instead, taking a firm hold of Hampshire’s collar, he hauled the DI’s face to within an inch of his own. This involved quite a lot of effort; glancing down, he realised that most of the effort came about because, as Hampshire was around five inches shorter than him, it also involved a great deal of foot-dangling on the detective inspector’s part.
Ignoring the agony that had begun shooting through his pipe-cleaner arms, he snapped, ‘I said, shut your bloody trap, you moron! And sober up, for Christ’s sake! You smell like a brewery’s drainpipe!’
Now Hampshire’s eyes narrowed down to slits that Michael Praed’s arrows wouldn’t have stood an earthly chance of getting through. ‘Take your bloody hands off me, you bastard! I’m gonna have your bloody badge for this!’
‘So sodding what!’ Terrence bit back. He did, however, lower the DI, breathing an internal sigh of relief as the strain on his arms ceased. ‘You think I care?’ he went on. ‘Not having the likes of you and Ernie bloody Bulstrode pissing on me every minute’ll be a sodding relief. And listening to you going on about blacks, and crapping on Amita Chowdhary every day, just because you’ve believed a bastard lie for years!’
‘I’ll believe what I —’ Hampshire began. Then, it was as if a switch flicked to ‘open’ in his brain, and he stopped dead. ‘Whaddya mean?’ he growled, staring at Terrence hard. ‘What bloody lie?’
Terrence stared back, giving hard for hard and adding VAT. ‘What I say, tosser! All this bollocks about a black bloke running off with your missus. And you fell for it, you moron.’
This time, it was Hampshire’s turn to grab Terrence by the collar. There was a brief struggle as the DI tried to pull him down into a face-to-face of his own, and Terrence felt a surge of triumph as he realised Hampshire either didn’t have the strength, or was too pissed, to do so.
‘You bloody leave my missus out of this, you bastard!’ Hampshire barked, letting go. ‘What do you bloody know about it anyway?’
‘Just this!’ Terrence pulled the photocopy he’d taken from Hampshire’s file out of his pocket, and thrust it into the DI’s face. ‘Here! Proof that all the time your boss, Cosgrove, was sending you out on pointless night-time surveillances, he was screwing your missus and they were both laughing their tits off at you. And the day he retired, they made it a permanent thing and he gave you a load of bullshit about some Nigerian running off with her. God, they took you for an arsehole, and you’ve proved them right ever since!’
‘I’ll bloody have you —’ Hampshire began. But all the same, he was reading the copy, and his eyes were already saucer size and heading into bread-and-butter plate territory, presumably on their way to being able to hold a substantial dinner.
Suddenly, all the anger drained out of Terrence like a washing machine pouring its liquid content over the kitchen floor at the most inconvenient moment. You poor sod, he thought. Incredibly, he found that he felt nothing but sorrow for the CID man, and knew that above everything else, he just wanted out of there.
‘If you’ll excuse me, Detective Inspector,’ he sighed, ‘I think I’d like to go and try and catch a criminal — albeit a dead one, if she really exists.’
With that, he turned and made his way along the street. And from behind, there was such an eruption of anger that he instinctively swivelled his head to make sure a couple of volcanoes hadn’t suddenly forced themselves up through the genteel pavements around him.