Murder At St Marmaduke’s #36-38

Three chapters today. Don’t worry – two of them are only tiddlers.

Once more, for any newcomers (and a warm welcome to you if you are), to read all the stuff that’s come before, please go to my St Marmaduke’s page.

And now – read on…

Chapter 36

Wednesday 13th November 1985: 14.26 – 14.34

Section (a)

‘I pray for dear Mabel,’ Lavinia Marple intoned, head bowed, eyes closed and hands clasped together in her lap.

‘Amen,’ the other two chorused.

‘Help us to find her so that we might help her to rest,’ Lily Marple added.

‘Amen,’ the other two chorused.

‘And please, dear Lord, keep us safe while we do so,’ Daphne Marple quavered.

‘Amen,’ the other two chorused.

‘And make sure that Hettie Foster goes to the hell she deserves,’ a fourth female voice was heard.

‘Amen,’ the others —

Lavinia’s eyes sprang open, and her head jerked up. ‘Pardon, dear…?’

Section (b)

‘I am afraid that I cannot get it to open,’ Joseph said.

He’d been rattling the handle of the crypt door for a few minutes, twisting it one way and the other, then back again. Beside him, Amita had her ear not quite to the door, which had a texture that promised not so much splinters as whole tree trunks through the skin to the unwary.

She drew back. ‘I can’t hear anything; but then, this door’s probably about three feet thick.’ She turned away uncertainly. ‘I guess if it’s locked, then Mabel can’t be in there.’

‘I suppose so too.’

Slowly, they began to walk away…

Section (c)

Terrence Dawson was currently giving vent to so many swear words, he’d lost count. Many of them, he hadn’t known that he knew (and could only guess that he’d picked them up from the sneaky peeks he’d sometimes take at the sarge’s magazines when the old sod wasn’t in reception); but by God, they fitted the way he was feeling exactly.

This bloody church was a death trap; and not only to little old ladies, neither.

He’d set off after Makumbo and Chowdhary okay. Very Carl Lewis, in fact.

And then he’d faced some significant hurdles.

The main ones being — hurdles.

Or, to be more precise, pews.

And that was when he’d begun to wish he’d tried channelling Roger Kingdom instead.

Those pew enclosures were bloody high. But the fact was, they were the most direct route to the crypt door.

To add to his throbbing knee and shoulder, he now had barked shins, smarting hands and a nose that he was sure must be spread in all directions over his face.

And he was now clambering gingerly over the remaining pews, not so much an Olympic athlete as an awkward sod wishing he’d taken the long way round in the first place.

And by the looks on Makumbo and Chowdhary’s faces, he was wasting his bloody time anyway…

Section (d)

‘I do hope that there won’t be trouble, my dear. But if there is, please get to safety as fast as you can.’

Clarissa tightened her grip on her husband’s hand. Frank had taken hers as they entered the porch; and now they were inside, she felt a distinct hum of tension in the air, and she didn’t — but didn’t — want to let go.

‘But what about you, darling?’ she whispered. ‘You’re not going to put yourself in danger, are you?’

He turned his head and smiled down at her. ‘I think I am prepared, Clarissa. And, for possibly the first time in my ministry, I believe I have faith that I’ll do the right thing, whatever that may be. And that I’ll be protected.’

To her astonishment, he bent and kissed her full on the lips. In public! ‘I do love you, my dear,’ he said.

‘I love you too, Frank.’

Still hand-in-hand, they began to walk towards the front of the church…

Section (e)

‘I don’t like the feel of this place at all,’ Meredith muttered.

They were on the threshold, and he was staring at the activity going on further inside the church: the old women whatever-they-were-doing at the front; the vicar and his wife wandering ahead of him and Ernie; Makumbo and young Chowdhary wandering away from the far wall; Constable Dawson…

What the hell was Dawson doing?

‘Neither do I, Charlie,’ Ernie growled beside him. ‘But then, that could be ’cause this is a holy place and we’re a couple of unholy bastards.’

Meredith stared at him in surprise. ‘Getting religion, Ernie?’

Ernie snorted. ‘Nah. Just feelin’ the lack of a cuppa and a caramel wafer; that’s my religion. An’ I tell you — when this bloody lot’s over, I ain’t steppin’ out from behind my counter again for you or nobody else.’

Meredith nodded slowly. ‘I don’t blame you. Depending on what happens in the next few minutes, I might well join you there…’

Section (f)

‘I — I don’t understand,’ Daphne was quavering. She was staring around the church, her eyes wide and wild. ‘I’m sure that was Mabel. But it didn’t come from anywhere. It was just — here.’

Lavinia nodded, trying to keep her own face under control. She didn’t want to let the other two — Daphne in particular, who’d always been prone to ‘the vapours’, as they’d been called in the genteel days that Lavinia remembered so fondly and wished she’d never left — how shaken she was at the moment.

Lily seemed more under control, but even her expression was far from serene. ‘I do wonder if this was a mistake,’ Lavinia heard her mutter.

‘There’s really nothing to worry about,’ she said, realising as she said it that she was trying to reassure herself as much — if not twice as much — as them. ‘Look — there are policemen here, and Mr Makumbo, and Father and Mrs Rawlings, and that young Asian lady. We’re in no danger.’

‘I wish I could be as confident,’ Lily said. She was staring over at the wall that contained the crypt door. ‘I think I can hear some very odd noises coming from somewhere.’

Lavinia hadn’t wanted to draw attention to those. They were muffled thuds, as though somebody was trying to break through something. Like that door over there, perhaps?

And then…

End of Chapter 36


Chapter 37

Wednesday 13th November 1985: 14.35 and a couple of seconds

…the organ pipes exploded, right beside where they were sitting…

End of Chapter 37


Chapter 38

Wednesday 13th November 1985: 14.35 and a few more seconds

…and Lavinia turned the kind of backwards somersault she hadn’t performed since she’d been on that haystack in 1944.

A few seconds passed. Groggily, lying stomach-down, she lifted her head a fraction to shake it and try to clear the ringing in her ears.

There was a pair of feet in front of her. Bare feet. One of which had a tag attached to it.

End of Chapter 38

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