The Saturday of the ‘Powderfinger Conspirators’ get together, around the dinner table at Alan’s place, dawned with a suitably dark sky. Rain threatened all day, but produced not one drop of precipitation. Only the temperature fell and by the evening, the gauge was reading one below zero. From his chair behind the darkened window, Alan looked out upon the cold water of the canal and noticed, there was an icy sheen forming on the surface.
The commotion of the last few days was beginning to calm down as the weekend approached, but the disquiet in his head, was not. Nicks had warned that Powderfinger struck when there were changes occurring to this area of the canal banks. On Monday, Alan had noticed as he looked down the water, what appeared to be a disturbing amount of activity taking place at the old Tar Works. He saw that 'Sheila,' had moved to the opposite side of the cutting and on top of that, somebody had disgorged her wrecking equipment and gained access to the site. Through his telescope, which these days, seemed to be mostly trained on the area of The Ravens Gate works and its ornate bridge, he could see the path that the 'Caterpillar’ had taken, to gain entry to the desolate factory area.
The starting of the renovation and imminent destruction of the Tar Works, had most likely awoken Powderfinger, from his dormancy and more to the point, made him furious.
Murderously so, if the amount of flashing lights and wailing sirens, had been anything to go by. When he first saw them crossing the road bridge and turning onto the Toll Road, he
knew some serious incident, had taken place inside The Ravens Gate. The rapidly erected tarpaulins, had efficiently prevented any press, or public intrusion into the old works, until The Police had carried out all of their investigations. Even Alan, from his lofty perch, could see nothing other than the comings and goings of various individuals, in official vehicles and the surreptitious removal of what appeared to be two bodies, into an unmarked black van. An insistent voice inside his head was telling him this was the work of Powderfinger but without some form of confirmation by Alex Findley, or at least a nod from Arch, it was all speculation and nothing more. Any further thoughts of dastardly deeds and foul play, would have to wait. As for now, he must review his plan for tonights soiree and he guessed he would be informed later, of any relevant happenings in the Powderfinger case.
It was never easy to organize a successful working dinner and the subject of tonights meeting, was a little on the heavy side, for any glaring mistakes to be made.
“Me, Nicks, Alex Findlay and Arch,” he counted out loud, as he touched the backs of their allocated seats. Plus, of course, 'one other important guest,' was what the DCI said, when he rang to confirm the number of settings required. So far, everything had gone relatively smoothly and he decided, if by the time they had all finished their coffees after the meal, no one had brought it up, then he would ask about the activity at Ravens Gate. 'Yes, that will do nicely,'he thought and went back to his detailed planning, for the evenings repast.
He had thought long and hard about such trivia, as the placing of the guests. Who, would sit next to whom, and the correct arrangement of the table. Alan was a perfectionist, when it came to events such as this. He considered, 'The detail was everything,' when the ambience of the evening was at stake. Each place had been meticulously set. The requested dishes had all been carefully prepared. An extra portion of each main dish had been prepared, should it be required by a hungry guest.
Satisfied with his preparations, he again mused as to the identity of Alex Findlay’s 'important person,' guest but ‘no worries,’ he would discover it soon enough. To be honest he was enjoying the mystery, all this cloak and dagger stuff was more than a little intriguing.
In Willowbank, Nick was also peering out of the window. He wasn’t thinking about spectral killers, who stalked the canal bank. His mind was deep in thought about his future at St. Joseph’s Probation Hostel. He had already decided he was going to give in his notice, just as soon as a new member of staff was appointed. Then, the place could rot, as far he he was concerned. He glanced over at the Skeleton Clock, ticking away in the corner. It said 2:49. He still had a few hours before he needed to think about the evening’s main event, round at Alan’s place. So he sat down, with a cup of Coffee and closed his eyes, for a few minutes.
When he opened them again, it was almost 5.35pm, according to the still ticking timepiece. As his senses returned from ‘The Land of Nod,’ it struck him that he still had to have a shower and get kitted out for tonight bash.
“Fucking hell, Man,” Nick cried, as he attempted to do far too many things, all at once. Having showered, shaved, changed and ensured he had the info for tonights ‘bash’, he looked again at the clock as it rhythmically marked the progress of time. “Tick, tock.” It beat. “Tick tock.” It was nearing time for him to set off for 'Chez Alain,' but first, before he even considered picking up his car keys and driving ‘Deke,’ over to 'La Maison Turnbull,' he was going to roll himself a big joint and smoke the fucking thing.
Memories of his younger self, all pumped full of hormones and dreams, flitted across his mind, as he placed the ‘Roach,’ in his mouth and lit the other end of his spliff. He inhaled the aromatic smoke with a relish and turned up the music on his iPod. Those eight minutes he spent getting 'wasted,' with The Grateful Dead playing in his ears, were eight minutes that he considered well spent because when he reopened his eyes, he felt utterly relaxed and ready to take on the world again. Tonight was not going to be easy to get through and a poor man, needed a little something extra to ease his road. Nick, contentedly took one final toke, stubbed out the butt, picked up his keys and set off for ‘Deke,’ who was, as usual patiently waiting in the driveway.
Jinx on the other hand, was nervously waiting for Alex to collect her and whisk her off, to god knows where, for a working dinner with some associates of his, in this undercover escapade concerning, Powderfinger.
“Spooky stuff Jax,” she said to her reflexion in the hall mirror. “Oooh, spooky,” she said and made herself laugh, when she tried it again, with the hand movements thrown in. “Ooooooooooh, spooookeeeey.” Having relieved the nervous anticipatory tension, she returned her attention, to the almost empty beer bottle, she held in her hand and downed the last of it’s contents in one.
“That’s better,” was all that she had time to say, before there was a sharp rapping on the front door. Jaqui, quickly checked her appearance again, satisfied she opened the door, pecked Alex on the cheek, picked up a box and followed him towards the waiting taxi.
“Got everything have you?” Alex carelessly enquired, as he walked towards the Pronto taxi. In reality, he was admiring Jinx’s choice of dark blue leather pants and a cornflower blue silk shirt, that highlighted her beautiful blue eyes but he knew, it would probably be an inappropriate moment to admit it. As she turned to close the front door, Jaqui, stopped to give herself time to think and then,
“Oh, buggery,” she exclaimed and quickly spun on her heels and went back inside, to pick up her Spanish leather briefcase. The contents of which, she had meticulously prepared earlier. One thing, led to another and only when she was completely satisfied she had gathered all the components that could possibly be required for tonights bash, did she turn again towards the door.
In truth, she was so excited to be asked to accompany Alex to this private function, that she would have forgotten her head, if it had been loose. He would introduce her, to the other members of his secret group, which he had always referred to as, ‘The Cabal,’ if he mentioned them at all. She had often wondered, about this group of Alex’s surreptitious friends, the existence of which was always lying just beneath the surface, whenever the killer on the canal, Powderfinger, was mentioned. Jinx, was fully aware, that non conformists were ten a penny in the scientific community, after all, she only had to look to Mason for all the proof that was required. He had the knack, of seeing an alien in every shadow, or a conspiracy in every official statement.
However, this was somehow different and distinctly more serious. For a while now, she had been able to detect a distinct change in Alex’s demeanour, whenever Powderfinger was mentioned. She could plainly see, that this evenings get together over a meal, was important, and she had spent quite some time preparing for it.
“Christ almighty,” she cursed under her breath, “I’d forget my knickers, if they weren’t nailed on properly,” she commented and pulling the door shut, did a quick trot and caught up with Alex, just as he opened the car door for her.
“That must be good,” he said. “Anything worth talking about?” This, was obviously, just a matter of politeness, as before he had finished the question, or she had the opportunity to answer, Alex, was walking around to the other side of the taxi.
Jinx settled herself into the back seat and placed the box and briefcase on her knee. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” she said, as he sat down next to her and the car pulled away. “It just may be the key to this case, that’s all,” she stated and patted her hand on the luggage in her lap. “I don’t know, how your friends will interpret what I’m going to show them, but the mystery is held inside this box,” she said, tapping it again. “You’re just going to have to wait a little while longer, before all this potentially vital information I’ve gathered for your benefit, is revealed.”
This was the Jinx he knew. Serious, when it was required but just about the best time you could ever have, when it wasn’t.
“By the way, do I know any of these people, or is this another charm offensive,” she enquired?
“Some you know, like Arch and me of course, but I don’t think you know the host, Alan Turnbull. He is the evenings chef, as well as being The Head Honcho, at The Central Library and Chair of The Local History Society. Then there’s his friend, Nick Swann, who’s a Deputy Warden at St. Joseph’s Probation Hostel.” Alex could sense the confusion coming from Jinx, as he hurriedly imparted information to her, so he tried to alleviate the strain by adding some more background information.
“You know, the Hostel which is almost opposite The Ravens Gate Bridge.” She nodded her head and occasionally hummed, so he felt, that it was safe to carry on. “He’s a bit of a wizard, when it comes to research. I don’t believe you’ve met those two,” he replied and then felt the need for a little further explanation. “Alan cooks and Nick collates,” he hurriedly added. “I think they will like you and if I’m not mistaken, you will like them.”
She looked at him quizzically and smiled. “Lead on, my consort, take me to the ball,” she commented mischievously, holding onto her box and briefcase, a little tighter, to be sure she couldn’t forget them again.
Arch, was running a little late, due to making several attempts, to get Kayleigh to accompany him to the meeting. No matter how persuasive he thought he was being, nothing could make her budge from her intended night of indulgence. He was only now realising, that she was not going to change her mind and come to this meeting with him.
“No way, Arch. This is your thing. I’m not getting involved, with your clandestine mates and their undercover investigation. Not now, not ever. So just fuck off and leave me alone with this chocolate, will you, or there’ll be no extra’s for you when you get home.”
With that, Kayleigh deliberately and very obviously, applied another coat of nail gloss as the waiting taxi again honked it’s horn, urging it’s passenger to hurry. Arch thought of just one more thread, to bolster his argument and sway her resolve. As he opened his mouth to make one last remonstration, Kayleigh waved her bright red, freshly painted fingernails at him and said,
“I’ll pretend to be asleep and you’ll never wake me.” Then added for good measure, “You honestly believe, that I’m joking, well if you’re so sure, just ask me again and then you’ll find out.” Satisfied, that he wasn’t going to beat her down he realised he was going to have to eat all that good food, that Alan was preparing, on his own.
“Well, it’s your loss Kay, you can’t say that I didn’t try.” With that, Arch smiled wistfully and called out to her, on his way through the front door, “I’ll tell you how delicious it all was,” and he left a long gap before he added, in his finest cartoon voice, “You’ll be sorry.”
To which she quickly responded, “And you’ll be farty. Now fuck off, Arch and go put some more weight on.”
It was useless, once she had made her mind up, Jesus and The Apocalypse, would have trouble changing it back again. Dismissing her from his thoughts, Arch climbed into the taxi which drove off for his meeting at The Old Toll House.
Alan was upstairs looking out of the window at the lights reflecting on the surface of the water in the canal, when he saw Nicks’ Maroon Volvo, pulling into his driveway, closely followed by Alex Findlay’s taxi, which he surmised contained himself and his mystery guest. He rapidly descended the narrow stairs and opened the front door for his guests. Just as he stepped outside to welcome them, Arch rolled up, in his Pronto cab.
“May I introduce, Doctor Jacqueline Pinnock, our Medical Examiner from the morgue.” Alan offered his hand politely, as Alex went on with his introductions. Turning back to her, he continued, “Jaqui, you may be interested to know, that this handsome gent, who welcome’s us all to this evenings revelry, is Mr. Alan Turnbull, Head Librarian and our host, for this evenings banquet and this gentleman, getting out of the red Volvo, is Nicolas Swann.” Jinx, looked at Nick, as if she were trying to size him up. He looked back at her, with his usual stoned gaze and held her eyes for a brief moment.
Surprised as always, Nick, just stood slack jawed, at this exuberant introduction from DCI. Findlay and wondered, what he might have said about him? Still, his significant 'other’ appeared to be pleasant enough and she was wearing leather pants. 'Not many women get away with that,' he thought. 'Nice shape. Leather pants and killer blue eyes,' his trousers insistently commented, every few seconds. Then, suddenly realising how sexist that would have sounded, had he said it out loud, he quickly turned away to greet Arch, as he finished paying his taxi driver and made his way to the front door.
“You ready for another night of revelations, music and good food?” Nick said, trying to recover his self opinion, but Arch just grinned back at him absentmindedly, as though his thoughts were elsewhere.
Alan, who had always been far more polite, than Nick ever managed to be, was now showing off. “A fish dish, for the beautiful Lady and the same for Sir, he said, as he waved Alex in through the door. Then, he lightly kissed Jaqui’s hand, before she followed Alex, up the stairs. “Braising Steak and all the accoutrements, for Mr. Deacon and finally and most definitely last, it would be a Braising Burger, for the gentleman in the crappy Volvo, if my memory serves me well.”
Nick, dutifully followed the other guests upstairs, for what promised to be a night to remember. At least Alan’s remarks, had derailed the train his pants were on and he wasn’t going to go back there again this evening. He was nicely stoned, right now and had been looking forward to this evening, all week. So, he really didn’t need to ruin his standing in the group, by going up against DCI. Findlay, over a woman at this point in the proceedings.
In the lounge things were going ever so smoothly, as the guests mixed with surprising ease. “Get a drink down their necks and the wolves, will lie down with the lambs,” Nick said under his breath, as he sat down in one of Alan’s soft armchairs and took another sip of his Cognac. He looked around the room, on the surface he saw people having a pleasant time, but just beneath this exterior, he could detect another, darker agenda playing around in the shadows.
“Come and get it,” called the voice, from just beyond the door, as Alan waltzed into the room, with something delicious looking, on what appeared to be a silver platter. “This way, please”, he smiled and led the way to the dining room.
“Whoa, he’s pulling out all the stops tonight. Is this some sort of last supper, or what?” Said Nick, carefully observing his companions eyes, as they politely smiled at his quip, to see if they were giving anything away. They all took their places at Alan’s meticulously prepared table and the food appeared and then disappeared, as the evening drew on. Nick, assumed correctly, that this evening, would proceed similarly to last time. After the meal, they all retired to the lounge to have coffee and another drink, to allow the food to go down before the real reason for this evening’s gathering, could commence.
Nick took the opportunity to exchanged a few words with Alex, when he noticed him standing by the window, looking out into the nothing.
“A penny for them,” he said. The intrusion, made Alex jump a little. “My apologies,” said Nick, “I didn’t mean to startle you but I noticed you looking off down the canal.”
Alex, his self induced spell broken, turned to address Nick. “No sweat. I was miles away. Thinking about another case” he quickly declared, when he realised that it was only Nick, who had interrupted him.
Then, it was Alan, who like some Master of Ceremonies, called the room to order, as he stood up and simply asked, “Who wants to go first?”
To help his friend out, Nick jumped into the pregnant pause, with both feet. “I believe I know, that this, Powderfinger character, has a range to his lethal operations.” He paused to allow this idea to sink in then stood up and inserted his USB into his lap top connected to Alan’s smart TV. “Bare with me a minute...” Nick flicked through files quickly whilst continuing to talk.
“First off, I recently had an intriguing story recounted to me that seemed to demonstrate that Powderfinger could not pass beyond Jenkins Walkway towards Barton. Now, during my intensive trawl through the police records, held in Peel House, I came across many criminal acts committed along the canal bank. However, when I discarded all the petty crimes and concentrated solely on murders similar to the M.O. of Powderfinger, you’d be surprised how narrow the area of the towpath, that it entails.”
On hearing this, the others, all looked at him intently. Apparently, their curiosity was piqued when he opened the meeting, with this revelation. Nick saw their responses and just continued.
“Fortunately, I came across a reliable corroborating source, namely a senior Watchman, who wrote a study of the murders that had taken place along the canal bank since it’s inception. It makes fascinating reading. It details murders with a disturbing similarity to those of present day. He was prompted to make this study, by an encounter he had with a ‘Spectral Being,’ as he put it, by Jenkins’ Walkway. This led him to believe that, this ‘being’ could not pass beyond, that point.” Nick then displayed, the Watchman’s report of this incident on the screen. The assembled cabal, read it silently. Looking from face to face, Nick gauged when the entire group had digested the report, before he continued.
“The Watchman, found that the murders up to his date, had only occurred between Balaclava and Jenkins’ bridges. So, I checked all the murders with similar M.O’s, from his date, right up to today and the present killings and they concur with his findings.”
Then, he again paused to let this information sink in before continuing, “In addition to this source we, that is Alan and I, recently received a very interesting document written, by one Constance Goodchild.” He could tell, just by looking at their faces, that these new revelations, held them enthralled. So, he continued.
“Constance, in her day, was something of a latter day historian and researcher, as you will observe shortly,” he stated and then brought up pages from her ‘diary’ on the screen. “It seems that Connie, had a hot line to this Spectre and had many encounters with it, until the thing killed her and her lover, by pinning them together. Leaving them for The Quakers to find and how should I put this, surreptitiously dispose of their fused bodies.”
At this juncture, Alan intervened. “As most of you will be aware, a coffin was uncovered, during the dig in the old unconsecrated graveyard opposite The Quaker Crossing, which contained two bodies, grotesquely fused together. Unfortunately, they have since been cremated by the Quaker’s and placed in a new mausoleum, recently built behind the main meeting hall. I only found out myself, when Mr. Jones mentioned it, during a recent meeting. I was surprised when he informed me, as the original plan had been to reinter the bodies.” He paused and took in a good deep breath before he continued. “All that historic evidence, gone up in smoke, it’s such a damn shame.”
Jinx, looked at him. “We had a run in with your Mister Jones, down at The Morgue. He appeared, when the afore mentioned bodies arrived and informed us, we were not permitted to remove any materials for testing, or use any other invasive methods, during our investigations to try and identify the individuals and discover how they died.” She shook her head in retrospective recollection of those events. “He told us, that we were to gather any identifying data from observation alone, then clean and prepare the corpses for ‘The Brethren,’ to collect and reinter, with a suitable reverence. Now, we all know what that meant. Reinter their ashes only, what a hypocrite.”
Alan looked on with a certain helpless resignation, as Jinx continued. “Well, it’s a good job my colleagues are driven more by scientific interest, than by god and his minions,” she pointedly said. “We made a full external study of the bodies. We took X-rays of the wounds, photographed them and surreptitiously removed a few samples of bone and clothing from each of the individuals, before 'Jonesy,’ returned and took the bodies away again. Now we all know what happened next, don’t we?”
Then, with her protest aired, she leant over to retrieve a file of photographs, from within her briefcase. She proceeded to carefully lay out a dozen pictures on the table, in front of her.
“Gentlemen, if you would care to look at these images I’ve brought with me, this evening.....” She said and took a step back from the arrangement of photo’s she’d put on the table, allowing enough space for them all, to fully investigate the images. The gathering were clearly shocked by Jinx’s photographic record of the dead bodies. There were six photo’s of the seven bodies recovered from the Quaker burial ground and then those of all the recent murder victims, including those of the two recent ones from within the Tar Works itself.
“Taking the bodies from the dig first,” Jinx pointed at the top layer. “Initially, I’d like to point out the skeleton with roses. This appears to be an anomalous burial, as it shows no sign of any disease, or Powderfinger interference. There is evidence of blunt force trauma to the skull but insufficient to kill the individual, it may be that his demise, was due to drowning. Anyway, who knows why this gentleman was buried in unconsecrated ground, that is something that we can only speculate about, at our leisure. I included him, in this collection, only for completion purposes and now I will remove him from the table” she swept his photo from the table and slipped it back into her briefcase.
The assembly appeared mesmerised by the remaining photo’s, so she continued, “The other six, we carbon dated and despite the similarity of their individual look, the screaming countenances and all that, they actually date from the early 1700‘s, as in the case with the number one body,” and she pointed a finger at the now first picture on the table, “all the way up to the turn of the last century, as is the case with the sixth photograph, as you can observe here,” she said, tapping her finger on the selected photograph. “The documentation for each of them, is here, attached to the back of the photograph, for you to peruse at will.” She looked at the incredulity, which was written on each of their faces, as they all studied the array of images that she had laid before them.
“Then we come to the final six bodies. All the way,” she said while pointing her pencil along the line, “From number seven to number thirteen.” Then, once more, she stopped in mid flow, to try and accurately gauge the mood in the room. When she was satisfied that her words were having the correct impact, Jinx continued.
“The thirteenth corpse, which we only received at the morgue, earlier this week, was an oddity, when compared to the other cadavers. Apparently, it was purposefully stripped of nearly all it’s flesh and arranged, out in the open, in a position akin to praying.” She rapped her fingers hard on the final two photo’s.
“Number’s twelve and thirteen, though still use the same weapon of dispatch are different, there is something else going on here, there’s a new fury, in these two killings, he seems to have brutalised the bodies of these two, as if he were making some kind of twisted point.”
Her audience were spellbound, as Jinx went through the photograph’s and attempted to put life back into the images of the dead, splayed out before them. “The recent killings, begin here, with Debra Foxx and Eleanor Ross,” she said pointing once more, at the first two pictures “And end, down here,” she said, tapping her finger on the last two photographs again, “with this weeks two grizzly discoveries, from within The Ravens Gate Works.”
At this point Alan spoke “Ahh, so that’s what all the commotion was about I feared as much.......”
Alex, was almost in a state of shock as he stared at the dead faces of Nesbitt and Draper. When they had been killed, he had only recently had his close call, with whatever it was, that inhabited No.1 Shed. Because he had been in charge of the investigation, Sykes had sidelined him from the Nesbitt and Draper cases, whilst his conduct during the investigation was considered by the review board.
Consequently, he had not seen the bodies of his men and due to the brutal, gory detail of their deaths, they had both been placed in closed coffins and buried. So, now he found he couldn’t bring himself to view the corpses of Draper and Nesbitt, with any detachment.
“You should have told me,” Alex, whispered to Jinx. She touched his hand and quietly replied,
“I’m sorry Alex. I should have realised it would be a shock to you.”
Nick, on the other hand, found the pictures fascinating. “Look at all those screaming faces and just look at their clothes. Fuck me, it’s like a riot inside an historical costume shop.”
Jinx, looked up and smilingly said, “If you think that’s weird, you should see the data we got back, on the clothes and the injuries suffered by these unfortunate victims.” A silence descended across the room, as they all waited for her next comment. “It may be difficult to believe, but the carbon dating results of the bodies and their clothing are the same dates.” She looked around and saw several non plussed expressions, so she decided to elaborate “In layman’s terms, that means that although the cadavers are mummified, a process which appears to occur within days of their deaths, and don’t ask me how that happens, but the clothing that they died in remains as fresh in it’s appearance, as if they had been buried yesterday.”
Again, she peered into the eyes of the others, searching for the perfect moment, to continue her recantation. “Furthermore, I can confirm that all these bodies have been murdered in a similar fashion, stabbing and slicing with a particular weapon.” With that, she reached for the box, that she had almost forgotten to bring with her and slapped it on the table, in front of her. She slowly opened it and retrieved Melissa Gilbert’s model of the weapon, that she and her team, believed had been used in these killings, both ancient and contemporary.
With a dramatic flourish she brandished it around in front of them, demonstrating a stabbing and slicing action.
“Whoa there Jinx!” cried Alex “You’ll have someones eye out with that if you’re not careful!” That comment broke the tension and Jinx, with a chuckle, placed it down on the table for Nick and Alan to investigate.
“There it is and you can make of it what you will but I think that you will have to agree, gentlemen, that it’s an awesome, though well balanced implement of death.”
Watching Nick handle the model, Jinx continued, “All the wounds were identical and had good deal of bone dust deposited around each of the penetrating wounds, which incidentally, were all cauterised, thus preventing any great amount of blood loss,” she added. “We had this dust analysed for each victim and found the composition, was identical throughout. We also, had the dust samples carbon dated. For now, we don’t have the results for the last two recent victims, but all of the others, including those from the dig, give the same result.” She paused again to ensure they were all paying attention.
“That date is 1630, give or take ten years either way.”
Alex Findley was looking intently at Arch, just waiting for the inevitable response and once again his DS, did not disappoint his Chief.
“Get away, they must have screwed up on something, or other, with that one,” interjected an until now, silent Arch. “If everything you’ve just told us, is true, then what you’re actually saying is, that all these mummified people, were killed by the same person, who appears to have been around since 1630, using the same weapon to dispatch them, over centuries.” He was looking straight at Jinx, as he asked the one question, that was on everyone’s lips. “Excuse me, Jaqui but how the fuck, is that possible?”
She stared at her inquisitor and shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t know Arch, isn’t that your job?” Then added, “All I will say, is that the testing was rigorous, double and triple checked, performed by recognised experts in their field, and the results are independently verified and conclusive.”
Alan, suddenly broke into the conversation after a long thoughtful silence, “O.K, let’s just assume for the moment, that Constance Goodchild’s, ghostly spectre and our Powderfinger, are the same entity. Well, despite the small matter of it’s apparent immortality, there are two other things that we know for certain. The first is that its power is limited by the confines of the two bridges, Balaclava to Jenkins’ Walkway, the second is that it only strikes when the area is disturbed” All his guests, were now looking at Alan and waiting for his next utterance. “The solution is quite simple, it only requires somebody to volunteer to be the bait and then.....” His voice tailed away at that point.
“Then.......Thenwhat?” said Alex and Nick, simultaneously.
“I don’t know,” said Alan, “I’ve not got that much experience of this kind of thing, to be honest, I was hoping that you two policemen might give me some assistance.”
Alex was lost in his own thoughts regarding Powderfinger and more to the point, how he could win back his self respect, by catching this monster. Jinx had noticed how quiet he had become, ever since he’d seen the pictures of Nesbitt and Draper.
“Are you all right Alex?” she quietly enquired.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I was just considering something. Don’t worry about me. Everything will be just fine.”
Nick saw this exchange and looked over to Alan, to see if he had also been watching his guests. He could instantly tell, Alan was thinking exactly the same thing. Nick picked up his Cognac glass and moved across, to his friends seated position and sat down.
“Fantastic interpretation of the term, Braising Burger, Man. You really must give me the recipe.”
Alan, just looked at him through tired eyes saying, “Yeah, and you can fuck off, Nicks” and smiled.
“What do you think that meant?” Alan said quietly, then inconspicuously tilted his head towards Alex.
Nick surreptitiously responded, mimicking Alex’s statement to Jaqui, “Don’t worry about me. Everything will be just fine” he paused, then added “Hmmm.”
Arch was standing slightly apart from the others, sipping his drink and quietly listening to the sounds emanating from the group and was sharing, many of their expressed sentiments. Nick noticed he was standing, rather comically, before the smoked glass window like some Lord in his Palace, looking out in the direction of the gloomy canal banks and the bridges, that periodically spanned the waterway. To Nick’s jaundiced eye, Arch looked like he was awaiting the arrival of a mighty foe. Whereas, in actual fact, he was simply peering off into the gloom seeing nothing in the all enveloping darkness. It was at moments like this, Arch obtained the greatest clarity and he realised something dangerous was starting to form, in his subconscious.
“We must have a word with our DCI. Findlay. He’s got something on his mind,” said Alan.
“Indeed,” Nick replied and looked for an opportunity to corner Alex. “He’s not the easiest of guy’s to strike up a conversation with. He usually starts and finishes any repartee but I’ll give it a go, if you like.” Alan smiled, his agreement and ‘shook’ on the deal, with a barely noticeable movement of his head, that only someone close to him would recognize.
That chance came easily as Alan conspiratorially engaged Jinx in conversation about the view, whilst they both followed Arch’s example and looked out of the darkened panes in the windows of his lounge. Nick observing this diversion, managed to wheedle himself into position and now, unobtrusively stood talking to Alex, as he poured himself another shot of Alan’s fine single malt whiskey.
“Skol,” he said as he raised his glass.
“Heineken,” responded Nick and they sat down grinning, at that moment of mirth, amidst all the talk of death and destruction. Smiling, Nick engaged Alex quietly in a deep conversation, about their next move regarding, Powderfinger.
“You and Mr. Turnbull, do realise that we’re going to have to meet again, just the four of us, to get an action plan organised,” interjected Alex, speaking through his teeth.
“Indeed,” responded Nick. “How about Tuesday, here again at 7.00 O’clock. Is that O.K. With you?” Alex, thought for a second and answered, in the affirmative.
“Fine, you tell Alan and I’ll tell Arch but not a word to Jaqui, promise me.” Nick, now understood the hidden meaning behind the DCI’s original phrase. He knew, that Powderfinger posed a far greater danger than he was letting on and he obviously had a rather perilous plan to defeat him, that he didn’t want Jinx involved in. He wanted to protect her.
Nick, didn’t have enough time to form anything, even resembling a cohesive response, when Alex suddenly got up to greet Jinx, who was rapidly approaching, having concluded her conversation with Alan about living so close to The Ravens Gate. Alan smiled as he sat down on the small settee.
“That is some woman,” he said to Nick, as he got comfortable in Alex’s warmed spot. “I fancy another drink, how about you, Man?” A gentle smile cracked Nick’s features, as he spoke to his friend and passed on Alex’s message.
“Fine. I’ll see to it. Now stop grinning like a loon, it makes you look crazy."