Murder At St Marmaduke’s #39a&b

This bright and merry New Year’s Day kicks off the next chapter of proceedings at St M’s.

As ever, to read what’s gone before, click here.

Wishing you, gentle reader, a happy, peaceful, safe and fulfilling 2022, wherever you may be.

Chapter 39

Wednesday 13th November 1985: 14.36 – 14.55

Section (a)

‘Don’t try to get up, Lavinia,’ Mabel’s voice —

Came into her head, like it had a few minutes before.

Which was fortunate, as she still couldn’t hear a thing in the normal way.

Not trying to get up seemed like a good idea. Instead, she stared at the feet in front of her, and couldn’t help noticing the bunion on the right one. She’d told Mabel to get that seen to — how many times?

The bunion and the foot attached to it stepped closer; the mercifully unbunioned left foot followed, and both were now directly under Lavinia’s nose. They smelt of dirt, decay, tights that had been in situ for about four weeks non-stop until recently and, frighteningly, something she could clearly identify as intense rage. She re-evaluated her thought of a few sentences back. Nothing about this situation was fortunate at all.

‘Get to your knees and look at me!’ the voice in her head commanded.

She’d never heard Mabel Cartwright speak like this; not even in years gone past, when Mabel’s brain had resembled something approximating an object for thinking with, rather than something that kept her moving and breathing and very little else. Despite having a distinct preference for continuing not to try to get up, Lavinia slowly and stiffly lifted her body into a kneel, sharp pain punctuating every move, then raised her head in obedience.

A long, wickedly-pointed object was mere inches from her eyes.

Section (b)

‘What the fu—’ Ernie had yelled.

Fortunately, the rest of the final word had been lost in the clatter-clang-C-R-A-S-H of falling pipework.

As far as they’d been from the scene of the eruption, it had still bloody hurt. Meredith shook his head to clear his ears, which had suddenly ceased to perform their normal function.

And then he realised he had his hands clamped tightly over them. Hoping to God that the junior members of the force hadn’t noticed, he rammed his arms back downwards, then nonchalantly stared around as if nothing at all was the matter.

That was better as far as the sound went. There was a mere echo reverberating round the church now, combined with the frightened squeals of at least one little old lady, a woody-sounding kerchunk which, on checking, he saw was Dawson falling over another pew-end, a shout of ‘No!’ from young Chowdhary, and another of ‘Miss Mabel!’ from Makumbo, and the clump of boots as Ernie, the bloody idiot, stomped towards the front of the church.

Then there were other footsteps, as Chowdhary and Makumbo began to run that way as well; and, after a brief pause, the also-footsteps of an upright-again Dawson joining in. And immediately after, an imperious voice in his head commanding, ‘Stop! Don’t come any closer!’

That would be the Cartwright woman, no doubt. Funny, that hadn’t come via his ears. But then, so much of this case had reached into the lunatic and carried on out the other side, that didn’t surprise him at all.

It was at that point that a sudden thought struck him. All this activity going on around him; or rather, not going around him at the moment, since everyone had frozen to their respective spots, presumably having had the same voice beamed into their heads by whatever means. And he, the senior policeman present, and therefore the one with most authority to sort the whole mess out, wasn’t doing a bloody thing.

What kind of example did that set for the youngsters? And for Ernie Bulstrode, come to think of it; though frankly, trying to set the sergeant any kind of example would be a bigger waste of time than trying to convince a Manchester United supporter that just because they were top of Division One at the moment didn’t necessarily mean that Ron Atkinson was nailed-on to be appointed God by Christmas.

Right! So what was he going to do, then?

The front of the church. That was where the action was. One old lady, on her knees, with another — Mabel Cartwright, no doubt — looming over her, a short-but-pointy-looking object gleaming in her hand.

Well, there wasn’t going to be another murder at this church. Not on his watch. Drawing in a deep breath, he bellowed with all the authority — and volume — he could muster, ‘Drop that hatpin!’

There was a pause of quite a few seconds, during which his voice replaced the pipework’s reverberations round the church, bouncing off the walls and returning to him multiplied by several thousand Merediths plus a few million more. He suddenly became painfully aware that all heads present had swivelled in his direction, and the eyes attached to those heads were now staring at him with varying degrees of what-the-hell-was-that-edness.

‘Did I really just shout that?’ he asked of nobody in particular.

One of those staring was Ernie Bulstrode, about five yards in front of him, and with his head turned so far round with respect to his body he looked like an owl, only minus the customary ‘wise old’ prefix.

‘Yeah,’ the sergeant now said. ‘And don’t you really wish you hadn’t?’

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