Powderfinger by Keller Yeats

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 22

“I definitely missed my calling,” he remarked earnestly, as he turned over yet another leaf of the old news print. He was being distracted by another ongoing yarn about Lady Margaret Gildabrooke, nae Herriot’s, proceeding legal argument with ‘His Lordship,’ over a matter of infidelity. Due to his Lordship’s uncompromising nature, it had ended up in a rather lengthy court case. To Nick’s surprise, it was a rather diverting tale, regarding the parentage of a male infant and the ownership of The Stables at Gildabrooke Hall.

Despite several attempts to analyze his interest in this ancient legal argument, Nick could not find an answer. “It’s like a soap opera gone mad,” he mockingly commented to himself. “Lady, now that’s a good one. Who does Mags, think she’s fooling?” Even the deferential Press Barons of the day, could not resist making snide remarks about her legendary number of lovers and extravagant sexual appetites. Nick, smiled inside and thought out loud, “Now there’s a fine example of economy with the truth. It should have read, The Lady Jezebel, or whatever the hip term for that sort of thing was back then,” he mused. “So, why do I give a shit about this load of historic societal crap?” Nick, took a deep breath and found a moment to consider this disturbing insight into his soul.

When he had resumed his news archive research of the Ravens Gate, he had started with such high hopes of instantly hitting on a rich vein of pertinent information. However, sadly this was not to be. Initially Nick had been extremely dedicated to his task, refusing to be deflected from the main prize. He had been following a similar routine, night after night but had found very little information, with anything but a tenuous link to the bridge, or the Tar works. So, occasionally, like now, he found himself diverted by a ripping tale or some monumental struggle. Like this presently fascinating tale, of a land owner, his wife and a mistress who thought, that she could be so much more. Even though, it appeared from what he had read, that the man in question had absolutely no intention to leaving his Spouse, who incidentally was loaded, for the transitory pleasures of a roll, or two in the hay.

Then, there it was, before his very eyes, “Murder once more, at The Ravens Gate.” Nick, quickly gripped his pen and fumbled with it, as if holding it would prevent the headline from disappearing. “1787 and it begins again Mister Moriarty,” he thought. Margaret Herriot was instantly forgotten and her plight was suddenly of no more interest to him. There was the matter of ‘murder most foul,’ to consider first. He excitedly, sought out more information on this new murder. It wasn’t hard to locate. There on pages 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9, eyewitness reports could be found, he noted the page numbers and began to read.

In amongst all the tales of ghouls, ghostly apparitions and artists lurid impressions of spectral creatures, Nick sensed a trail of smoke, winding it’s way through the words of the witnesses. “Who says that blanket overkill, is a modern affectation. Strikes me, they’ve been doing this sort of things for a long time. Which idiot, thought it was a new invention, to saturate the media with all this repetitive bullshit?” Now Nick, produced his secret weapon, his iPhone, and took pictures of even the slightest detail of this item.

Upon inspection, it appeared that the recently married Joel Battersby Junior, had just taken over the Tar Works, on the death of his Father, the heartless industrialist. His heir had decided, that if the Battersby Works was going to be a long term success and provide a good livelihood for his family well into the future, then it was going to have to expand its parameters, along with the families holdings. At the meeting of all the local entrepreneurs, which was held in the March of 1785, he had put forward the proposition that, “There is no point in considering growth, if it’s limited by scale. What is the point in being controlled, by your own small ambitions?” He then, set about buying out anyone who would sell their interests to him, for a mutually beneficial price and purchasing adjacent land from the Gildabrooke Estate. So, in 1787, workmen moved onto The Ravens Gate site and began to expand the boundaries of the complex. It was the mysterious disappearance of Hermione Battersby, the Wife of Joel Junior and the subsequent reports regarding the discovery of her body in one of the newly excavated areas of the growing works, that rang a bell in Nicks mind. He read on, hoping to find some reference to the earlier incident, regarding the Battersby family.

“Eureka,” he yelled, as he came across exactly what he was hoping to find. “Oh yeah. You da man,” he embarrassingly exclaimed and punched the air in triumph. The papers editor sympathised with the ‘grieving parents,’ and promised a reward of Ten Guineas, if the culprit was found and convicted of this heinous crime. Close to the end of the piece, it stated in black and white, “That this was a doubly cruel happenstance and such a bitter twist of fate, that the Good Lord, had chosen to inflict on this fine upstanding family. Another mortal blow to the family, a mere 32 years after the daughter of Mr. Battersby Senior, had similarly been taken from their bosom.”

Having read this, Nick couldn’t help but smile. In those intervening years, a family could have grown up and matured sufficiently, to have produced a new family all of their own. So, it had been many long years, since the press reported the first tragedy and to be honest, Nicks bum felt like it. He stood up and walked around the room a little, attempting to get the blood moving again in his legs. Henrietta, the young daughter of Battersby Snr, had died in almost identical circumstances to the wife of his son. Suspicion, instantly fell upon the workforce again. This was not unusual for those times, the class system was in full swing and workers generally doffed their caps to the bosses. Later on, things would change but not in the late, 18th Century.

Nick realised that this method of searching for clues was somewhat overshadowed by the morays of the time, only those occurrences which affected the more privileged members of society, received a mention in the papers. “Hmm, things don’t appear to be going as easily as I thought.” Nick considered this new realisation and decided to plough on regardless. “What’s reported, is all I’ve got and it’ll have to do for now.” He chastised himself, for thinking this was going to be an easy task. “You’re looking for the unusual, masquerading as the normal, while attempting to find your way through a maze blind folded.” He felt his summary of his predicament was accurate and it frustrated the hell out of him. “Get back to your original assessment of the situation and look for the keywords” he said out loud, as if that made it somehow, more reasonable.

Meanwhile, at the station, Alex Findlay was lazily leafing through the files on the supposed bankruptcy of The Masterson Mill Company. His heart wasn’t really in this financial stuff and he was longing for a return to what he considered, proper police work. When that was going to be, was anybodies guess. He sighed audibly. At the time Briscombe Sykes had seconded him to the Finance Department, he had assured Alex, it was merely a temporary reassignment, just to give him a break from the hectic world of everyday duties. Initially, he had been thankful for the quasi break in his normal routine, this new, though temporary position offered. He needed time to reflect, time away from dealing directly with any murders.

However, it had been going on just a little too long and Alex, was beginning to wonder, if he had been conveniently forgotten in this backwater. Briscombe Sykes, was only a few weeks from retirement and Alex distinctly got the impression that he was being left out to dry, so that he couldn’t throw any inconvenient spanners into the works, until Sykes had retired with his reputation intact. In a way he was glad of his distance from Sykes, but he was itching to get back into his natural field of police work. He was fervently hoping Sykes‘ retirement would see an end to this boring financial stuff and he’d be back into the world of serious crime again. After all, he reasoned, surely any incoming Commander would see his talents were being wasted in this position. He sighed again.

The original case, that revolved around The Ravens Gate was growing colder by the day and he had heard nothing from Arch Deacon, for weeks. In fact, it was since Commander Sykes, had moved him and Westie to a liaison role with the guys in C.I.D. This present powerless position, that he found himself in, was becoming intolerable. Try as he might, Alex could not control his mind, which was becoming obsessed with the lack of progress in this case.

“Sitting here, feeling sorry for yourself, isn’t going to get anything moving. So, instead of just wasting your time thinking about it and driving yourself crazy, get off your fat arse and do something more constructive.” Alex, thought about it and resolved to give Arch a call, after he had dealt with the Masterson Mill’s fall from grace.

As if by magic, he had no sooner finished his viewing of the evidence regarding Daniel Masterson’s petition, than his phone started to give off it’s deep, “perrp, perrp,” sound and vibrate in his pocket. It was DS. Deacon calling him.

“Hello Sir, long time, no see. I thought that I would give you a bell, to see how things are going at your end.”

Surprisingly, hearing Deacon’s familiar voice, made Alex feel strangely happy and a touch weird at the same time.

“Hello, are you there,” the voice on his phone enquired.

“Yes, yes, I was just thinking about you a few moments ago and the phone rang. Spooky, or what?”

Arch, was sitting in his newly appointed office, organizing the duties of the day and reviewing his available options. Commander Sykes had strangely, moved both him and Kaylie Western, to Peel Park Station, which was the most sought after posting in the whole department. Under normal circumstances, getting a posting at Peel Park was considered by many officers, to be a real step up the ladder. It was seen as a move which brought you closer to the real hub of things. Anybody who mattered in the great scheme of things, was in that building and if you wanted anything done, you had to get your suggestion, passed through Peel Park, first.

However, despite this new lofty position, giving off the illusion of promotion and all that accrued from that, he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this new posting. The novelty value of the new, clean and crisp surroundings, soon wore off and the many problems with this new ’Manor,’ became apparent. Arch, felt the pristine conditions, provided for ‘the departments brightest’ to shine, were overshadowed by it’s sterile atmosphere. He weighed up his next words carefully.

“Spooky maybe, but over here, it’s more like deathly, if you ask me Sir. So, I thought I’d give you a call and see if there’s anything happening with the canal murder enquiry?”

Alex had hardly thought about the case for weeks. “I’m still waiting for that Turnbull character, to deliver, on his promise.”

“What was that then Sir, if you don’t mind me asking?” enquired Arch. Alex Findlay immediately knew, that as usual his D.S, had struck the nail on it’s head.

“Mr. Turnbull, says, that he can provide me with a potted history of the goings on, along the canal bank, stretching back to ’the beginning of it’s history.’ I thought it may give us some other avenues or ideas to go on.”

Arch was clearly impressed but obviously doubtful. “Do you believe him,” he instantly responded.

“Well, I have no choice,” replied Alex. “Until we get something else to go on, we’re a little bit hamstrung.”

Arch’s disappointment was palpable and he cursed the librarian, for his apparent tardiness. “I think you may need to give him a swift kick in the pants and see what shakes loose. What do you think, Sir?”

Alex agreed, “I’ll phone Alan Turnbull and ask him, what’s happening with his search, as soon as we’ve finished with this conversation. Then, I’ll get back to you, if that’s O.K?”

Arch, had no problem with that and made his feelings clear on the matter. “Don’t let him get away with another excuse. Keep him on the ball, Sir. He can piss around, as much as he likes, when he hands over the report.”

Alex, detected a new tone in Deacon’s voice. His whole demeanour, seemed somehow different. More confident and certainly more thrusting in his approach. “Well, somebody’s positively thriving, in his latest role. Are you sure that you really want to continue this case, or are you just bored and you thought that you’d call me, your old boss, for a natter?”

Arch, was suddenly, overwhelmed with a feeling of self consciousness. “No way, Sir,” he apologetically stated. “To be honest Sir, this place is driving me fucking crazy. Everybody, is always watching their arse and nothing ever happens, without a word from above. They’re all too scared of their shadows, to get anything done, on an intuitive basis.”

He was plainly on a roll, so Alex, left him enough space to compose his thoughts and then,continue when he was ready. “Around these parts, it’s all played by the book and somehow, it just feels totally wrong. There’s no intuition, or ‘Gut feelings,’ allowed here. To take a leap in the dark, is totally unthinkable.” Just as Alex, was about to speak, Arch, let out a long, indefatigable sigh, signifying his underlying frustrations. “Urrgghh.”

He, was smiling at the sound of his old DS, getting into a state of apoplexy. “Tell you what Arch. Why don’t we meet at the usual place after work, about Eightish, it’ll be good to chew the cud again” and then finding himself unable to hold back his barely disguised excitement, he enthusiastically asked, “What do you say?” This response, coming from his old boss, took Arch a little by surprise and he spluttered his reply,

“Yeah, fine. Whenever’s good by me. Bye Sir. See you later.” Alex took his garbled reply, to indicate acceptance of his proposition and he began to input the number, that Alan Turnbull had provided him with and pressed ‘Dial.’

As the mobile number began to ring, Alex Findlay, was thinking about Arch and the curiously clipped ending to their call. “Yeah fine. Bye Sir,” was not like the person he used to know. Upon consideration, he thought that maybe Arch, had felt that he was unable to mention something on an open line. He would delve a little deeper, when they got together after work.

Arch, just stared at the now silent phone resting in his hand. “Jesus, that must have sounded strange on the other end,” he thought to himself, as he slipped the device back into his breast pocket, then another, more shrouded thought crossed his mind. The old sod would guess that he was hiding something and he had just agreed to meet up after work.

Even if he diligently directed all conversations away from interaction with the opposite sex, the voice inside his head, told him that Alex Findlay would not take long to figure out just what it was he was so clumsily attempting to conceal. Nobody, could know about his relationship with Kayleigh. It was still a secret at work and they had jointly decided, that it would remain so, until that is, it became convenient to expose to their colleagues.

It had begun for no obvious reason, on one still day in late November and their relationship, had just grown from those unexpected beginnings. When their shift had started that fateful morning, her smile of recognition, as she approached the car and saw Arch patiently sitting in the passenger seat, waiting for her, was warm and affectionate. He noticed the pale sunlight playing off some of the wisps of her hair, as she stepped out of The Canteen, fully prepared for another stint doing, 'The Town Centre Shuffle,’ as it was called by all those at Peel Park. This duty had been named 'The Shuffle,’ due to the challenging, yet liberal nature of the policing it required of the average 'beat bobby,’ to be successfully carried out. All the old hackneyed phrases, such as “you have to give a little to get a lot,” applied on this shift, and tolerance was the watchword. That was, unless you wished to spend several days, explaining to your superiors, why there had been a riot in the middle of the main retail zone which had been quintessentially caused by your intransigence. To successfully complete ‘a dance,’ in this arena, you had to be light on your feet and be fully aware of the difference between an arrest and a warning.

He had looked at her, as she approached the Squad car and smiled back as they almost simultaneously realised, that simply working together, was no longer enough and they were going to have to take this further. She had, for some reason, been strangely attractive to him that day, even her smile had seemed brighter, her face more radiant.

Somehow, on that day in particular, she had appeared to be different but he just couldn’t put his finger on it. “Jesus man, get a fucking grip. You’ll be wanting to marry her next.” He had admonished himself, but it was too late, he now viewed his partner in a different light.

When she sidled into the vehicle, he looked at her legs, encased as they were in blue Police Serge and marveled at their shape. As she turned the key in the ignition and started the squad car, he found himself observing her profile and her breasts. She was all muscles and Arch simply sat and looked admiringly at Kayleigh, as she went about her driving duties.

He realised, as the day wore on, that he was dying to kiss her and he had resolved to do something about it before this shift ended. These feelings had been fermenting in Arch for weeks and now they were coming to the surface, more and more, as each day passed. He suggested they take their lunch break in the car park overlooking the old renovated millpond, at The Annafest Mill Apartments. What had once been an old Victorian textile outlet, was nowadays, a rather swanky redevelopment, aiming for the pockets of the aspiring middle management strata of society. Calling in at The Mrs. Lucky Fish Restaurant on the way, had in fact, been a godsend. Without that single dropped chip, their relationship, may never have got underway at all and he may have been left wondering for ever.

Previously Arch, had always been too reticent when it came to young ladies. In his youth, he always seemed to hesitate and somebody else asked the girl out, before he plucked up the courage to make his play. This time, he resolved, he was not going to make that mistake with Kayleigh Western. This time, he would go for it, just as soon as an opportunity arose. He determined that he was not going to let her go quietly through today’s shift. No, he was not going to miss another chance, only to regret it forever. So, they sat silently by the dark millpond, that had been gentrified to add character to the new mill conversion. The windows of the squad car, wound down and bags of fish and chips, on their knees. Kayley, was devouring her food with all the usual gusto, when a solo French Fry, made a bid for freedom by leaping from her lap onto the floor by her feet.

As she bent to retrieve the chip, Arch reached out and put his hand on her leg, as if giving her some support. She froze and straining her neck to look up, she said meaningfully,

“Don’t touch me again, unless you mean it, Sir.” Stung, he immediately withdrew his supporting hand and she sat bolt upright.

Then, almost instantly, he realised, that it was all drifting away from him again and he was not going to let that happen. So, taking all of his courage in both hands, he replaced his hand on her leg and reached up to touch her face and gently turned her towards him. She did not resist his advances and then, they hesitatingly looked into each others eyes, for what seemed like an age and after a swift check all around, in order to evade the gaze of any prying eyes, they softly kissed each other on the lips. In that moment of revelation, a plot of silence was born.

Arch, taking a deep breath, spoke first and attempted to clarify the position which they now found themselves in.

“I don’t think.....” and that was as far as he got, before Kayley interrupted him with,

“I know.” They were both aware that any escaping revelations concerning their newly formed partnership, could very easily have resulted in an almost instant duty separation and though that day may come soon enough, he was not willing for it to happen right now. It was all too new and exciting.

Later, they had both agreed to keep their developing relationship very quiet for the time being. However, it had not been easy to keep up the subterfuge and now their secret may carelessly slip out later, when he went for the proposed drink with “The Boss.” Alex Findlay, had a weird way of making people relax in his company and Arch was fully aware of it. The number of suspects, that he had seen coming into The Station to be interviewed by “The Boss” and then subsequently observed them being charged, was amazing. No amount of professing, that they knew nothing and had seen even less, saved them from his mild, inoffensive manner. His voice seemed to lull them into a stupor and they would talk themselves up a Cul-de-Sac discovering too late, there was be no way out.

“Clever, very clever,” he thought. Maybe it would be best, to just tell him, that he and Kayleigh, were now an item and ask him to be discreet. The news about his new relationship with D.C Western, was going to hit the fan one day and it was probably safer for it to be from his old boss, rather than one of the ‘Jobsworths’ at Peel Park. After all, Alex Findlay could keep an inconvenient secret, as well as anybody he knew. Having considered his options and balanced them against an overwhelming desire to tell somebody about his latest love affair, Arch smiled and opened the file in front of him, in order to check, where their next call was.

“Come on Westie, you and me, are going to see a dog about a bone and some missing jewellery.”

Alan Turnbull, was in the process of climbing down from the high shelves, when his phone started to ring. As he reached the last step, he retrieved the annoying object from his pocket and looked to see who was calling. He saw that it was just another general library enquiry and now, slightly out of breath due to his rapid descent of the ladder, he gruffly answered the caller.

“Alan Turnbull here, how may I help you?” When he heard DCI. Findlay’s voice on the other end of the line, his whole demeanor changed. “Good to hear from you again, Mr. Findlay and just how may I be of service?”

Alex, remembering Arch’s words, simply stated, “Sorry to be a pain in the proverbials but I really need that report you promised ASAP.”

Alan, stared up at the ceiling and his heart sank. “Jesus, I hope Nicks has cracked on with his part of the deal.” He took a deep breath and answered, placatingly “It’s nearing completion. I just need to check with my colleague regarding some of the details, then I’ll get back to you ASAP.” He quickly cut the call and switched it to answer mode before Alex, had time to question him further. Next, he input Nicks’ number but his first attempt proved utterly fruitless.

“Nick’s not here today. I think I heard him say something about going fishing but I can’t be too sure about that. Would you like to leave him a message?” On saying this, Beryl Green, who was on duty at the hostel had a thought. What if Nick, was expecting this call and more to the point, what if it was about some urgent matter? So, as an afterthought she added, “If you really need to get hold of him, you might try his mobile.” She then finished with “I’m sorry Nick wasn’t here today, please call again, anytime.”

Nick, had given Alan his work and mobile numbers during the evening at The Dutch Barn,

“Stupid, stupid,” he said, as he made the second call.

“Hi there” the tinny sounding, disembodied voice said before adding, “Make it quick, I’m reading.”

Alan, took a breath before beginning. “Hi man, listen I’ve just been talking to that Findlay guy and he’s asking for that report.” There was a pregnant pause, which neither of them cared to break. Alan, the more desperate and distinctly the more concerned of the two of them, spoke first. “I promised him that report, weeks ago. The fucker, is now expecting something ASAP, as he put it.” He paused and then having found the words that he was seeking, blurted out, “Please say, that you’ve got something to show him, that will make some sense. Or, my name’s are going to be mud, if you get my drift.”

Nick, let him hang for a moment, just to build up the tension and increase the air of expectation, at Alan’s end of the line. “No problermo signor,” he began. “Tell you what man, I haven’t had so much fun in years. It was an absolutely fascinating thing to do. Some of the details get a little sketchy, the further back you go but there is a sort of pattern, that starts to emerge over the years. Certain people, keep on getting mentioned, and you’d be amazed how similar some of the eye witness reports are.” He was on a roll now and Alan wasn’t going to try to derail this particular train. Nick, was obviously excited, “Anyway, it all seems to have started with the death of Battersby’s daughter, Henrietta and continued all the way through to the point were the Journals run out.”

Alan, could sense, that his buddy had a heightened feeling of impatience and a certain air of frustration about him.

“There must be something else to look at. What comes next?”

There was a discernible release of the tension in Alan’s throat, as he listened to Nicks being enthusiastic, about his partially completed report. “Listen Nicks, to get a better picture of what’s going on, you’re going to have to see the Fiche archive and then there’s the last twenty-five years on computer. The stuff from early on, is only half of the picture. Trust me, on that. You should have seen the pool of crap, that the history society got itself into, when we didn’t cross reference things properly. Things got researched and written down by at least two people and that caused chaos, when it came to the final report. It was truly amazing, how such a small thing could cause so much turmoil in the collating of the report.”

There was a distinctly heavy silence on the line at this point and it took a moment, for Alan to arrange his thoughts about what he was going to say next, so as not to put Nicks off. “There is no other way to say this, that will make it more palatable, so I’ll just come straight out with it.” Nick, tensed with anticipation. “You’re not going to like this but,” he got no further than that, as Nick interrupted him,

“For fuck’s sake, just spit it out man. I might actually like the idea, you never know?”

Alan, didn’t need any second invitation to the ball and he just let it rip. “I think there can only be one man, namely you, collating the information garnered.“ Nick was already starting to grin. “That means you’re going to have a hard time of it, for a while. I can give you the password so you can access the stuff on computer from home but the Micro Fiche archive, can only be viewed, here at the library. In addition, I’ll give you a copy of the Listing Report so you can include any relevant info in your report.” He paused then asked, “Is that OK with you?”

Nick replied, whilst trying not to overplay his hand, by sounding too eager, or needy. “Sure, it sounds like fun a lot of fun.” In reality, he was ecstatic, this was precisely what he wanted to hear.

Alan breathed a sigh of relief then asked “How long do you reckon that you’ll need, to beat it into shape?”

Nick thought for a minute. “Dependent upon the volume of information” and then paused, thinking back to the last piece of research that he’d done with the newspapers, before adding, “Let’s say, a couple of long days, to a week top side to gather all the info, then a few days to collate it all and draw any conclusions. Two weeks topside. Is that alright with you?”

This, was more than he could have hoped for and he was just about to thank Nicks, for his kind offer, when he was interrupted by a squeaking voice on the other end of the phone. “All the stuff in The Journals, I’ve stashed on this memory stick, that I’ve compiled,” replied Nick. “I think, that I could wangle a couple of days early next week, to spend some time at The Central Library, if that’s O.K, with you?”

Alan, would gladly give Nicks, the time he requested. He knew Nicks’ diligence and insight of old, so he knew that they would then be able to present DCI. Findlay, with a report that would blow his socks off. Well, it would if it matched Nicks’ enthusiasm, he thought.

“So it’s OK if I go ahead and arrange a meeting to hand it over in say a couple of weeks?”

“That’s fine by me man, just let me know when and where and I’ll be there. Bye.” Nick grinned to himself and halted in his archive search for a few seconds in order to congratulate himself on a job well done. “Just a few more photographs and we’re laughing,” he said to himself, as the flash attachment illuminated the room once more.

“You see, as one avenue of investigation draws to a close, another one opens up and the road goes on for ever....”

Having now contacted Nicks, Alan was ebullient and decided to trust his old compadre and arrange a date and time, to hand the completed report to DCI. Findlay. Not being all that familiar with his number, he found that he kept on having to check, that he was getting the number right, as he dialed. It was ringing, well burring actually, at the other end of the line and just when he thought that maybe, he had made some kind of stupid error, when punching in the numbers for this call, someone answered.

“Alex Findlay. How may I help you?” Alan, for his part, put on his very best Librarian tones and responded.

“Hello” he heard himself say and then he just paused. What was he going to call this guy? “Alex,” sounded like you knew him well. It was just too familiar. “DCI. Findlay,” was simply too official sounding. He might as well have been arrested and taken down to the station for questioning. So, he cancelled that option as well. Now, he was hemmed in on all sides, so he just relaxed and carried on, where he had left off, as if nothing had happened.

“AlanTurnbull here. The report that you wanted, is almost finished. It’s just having one, or two of the finer points verified and then you can have it. I think this is best done in person as you will find, we have a few things that we need to discuss. I have been working with a colleague on the crux of this report and I will invite him to come along to our meeting. I think, that you will want to talk to him about his findings, with regards to this case. Shall we say a week next Saturday evening, at about eightish at the Toll House, if that’s alright? I’ll cook dinner, just bring a bottle of Wine, or whatever your poison is, with you and prepare to be amazed. Oh yes, just one more thing. Do you want to bring anyone with you like that curious chap, what’s his name......Arch, I think it was, or something like that anyhow?”

Alex was trying to suppress a giggle, when Alan closed the call. Luckily, he didn’t hear the undignified grunting sounds, that were emanating from the DCI, who was struggling to hold it together, after speaking with him. “Oh, he’ll love that, should I ever tell him.” Snorted Alex, then repeated the words that Alan had used to describe Arch, again, to himself. All control was lost as the words crossed his lips.

“Curious chap,” he said again and he just howled with laughter.

As he put the phone down, Alan, began to wonder what Nicks was going to say, when he told him that he’d invited two cops, to the meal a week next Saturday?

Alex, on the other hand, was now getting the feeling that at last somebody, was taking the incongruities of this case seriously. Perhaps they would finally make some sense of the fragmented series of events, possibly pointing to some new leads in this unusual case. Things were beginning to happen after this long period of stagnation.

Indeed, he had begun to fear that the whole case was being conveniently forgotten. Alex smiled to himself, a smile which grew broader as he thought of this evening’s meeting with Arch Deacon. Yes, indeed the horizon was finally looking much brighter.

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