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The Murder - Suspect Interviews

 
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Maisie

 



From their footsteps alone, Shadow could tell which ones were Maisie's as

they came up the stairs. A person's gait reveals a lot about them, and by his

judgement, she was in one of her foul moods she'd become known for around

town. Maisie was what Shadow would call a 'brick shit-house'; a big lass with

little to fear in retribution from her vicious tongue. Alana led, then took her

place to the side of the table. Shadow gestured at the chair opposite him, and

it moved outward at his whim. She sat, looking rather displeased and put-out

about the whole situation, and Shadow was just as eager to find out why as

to get rid of her. Ignoring the steaming mug offered to her, she simply stared

into the Chief Constables eyes.

 

He met that stare equally, as he hit the record button on the dictaphone.

 

   Interview starts. We are on the second floor of The Constabulary, Hope

   Springs. The date is Friday the 29th of November, 2165. The current time is

  15:13pm. I am Chief Constable Shadow, also in attendance is Police Constable

   Alana Myers. Can you please state your name and occupation?”

 

   “Maisie. Nurse.”

 

Her tone grated on him, and he could see her tongue scrape by on the other side

of her lips.

 

   “Can you confirm that no other persons are present other than those already mentioned?”

 

   “I can.” She said, after giving her immediate surrounding a look so stony, he could

   almost hear her eyeballs grinding beneath the lids.

 

   It seems our meetings are gaining a little bit of a common theme to them... I don't

   want to take up much of your time, I'm sure you have plenty of important things to

   be getting on with, so let's get started. Two nights ago, the trainee doctor, Magrat, was

   murdered in town between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. I...have your initial statement

   here, you told a constable that you were at the clinic between those hours but no-one

   could verify that, is that right?”

 

   “Well for a start. Magrat was training to be a medic, not a doctor. And yes, I have plenty

   of things to be getting on with.”

 

Shadow paused briefly, she hadn't answered his question and seemed more interested in

her little correctional victory. Rather than press her further, he took her silence as an answer

of its own and continued with his counter-attack.

 

   Unless I'm mistaken, the clinic has a single entrance, no? Would the Lightbearer guard

   not be able to vouch that you were inside during your stated time?”

 

Her brutish arms folded, and her lips pursed at his question, but once again – silence. He

had expected her to be prickly, defensive, perhaps argumentative, but he'd fenced her in

very quickly. Shadow leaned forward, peering down at her statement, before continuing.

 

   “It says here that...you smiled at people on your way back home.”

 

Though he'd read the statement many times by this point, he found himself sceptical of

that particular fact each and every time. He shot Maisie an inquisitive and doubtful look, which

broke her stoicism enough to make her writhe slightly in the chair.

 

   “Look, Chief. Maybe I didn't stay quite as long as I made out to your constable. Truth is, I

   went into Flag for supplies. Not that I'll get any overtime for it, or even thanks, but it took

   my mind off Magrat leaving. Okay?”

 

A million questions flooded Shadow's mind at her admission, but he decided not to press

or chastise her so long as she was starting to co-operate.

 

   You mentioned that yourself, Tuki, and Magrat were saddened at her departure. So, despite

   the rocky start noted in your statement, what was your relationship with Magrat like?”

 

Maisie smirked and gave Alana a sideways glance that made both constables uneasy.

 

   “I don't know how many teenage girls you know, Chief, but you have to start off letting

   them know right away who is boss. But aside from that we got on fine, we worked well

   together. We were a good fit.”

 

Rather than point out that she was subordinate to Tuki, who herself had not long left the

realm of her teenage years, he moved on.

 

   You must have spent a lot of time with her during her work hours. Did you notice anything

   that may be important to the investigation? Anything at all.”

 

Maisie leaned forward conspiratorially, Shadow just about caught himself from tilting his

chin up in defiance and kept a calm facade.

 

   “Well, keep this under your hat, son, but one or two folks in town might not have liked

   her quite as much as you'd expect.”

 

Shadow's calm facade remained, though he had to fight for it. He figured it was the best

way to let her know what a sarcastic bitch she was, rather than point out the obvious.

 

   And did you know much about her time outside of work? Young girl like that must have

   made some friends at least, had things she liked to do.”

 

Maisie's body language shifted, subtly, but enough to catch his cold, grey gaze. She

swallowed and Shadow thought he could see her tongue at work behind her lips

again, though not in annoyance, as before.

 

   “Magrat had to be back in the camp by sunset, that was the rule. But she was

   popular with the old biddies in town – what do they call themselves, the Hope

   Springs Old Guard or some such? She told me she even liked the tea.”

 

She smiled at that, and he filed that detail into memory.

 

   What happened during her last few days in town. Anything noteworthy?”

 

   “That's the sad thing. She'd just about won everyone over, except for the usual

   suspects of course, like the Barrets and that asshole in the store.”

 

   “I see. Well...that's all the questions I have for you right now. Before you go, I

   need you to sign this form – just a little formality swearing that you answered

   all questions truthfully. This time.”

 

Maisie looked sceptical for a moment, perhaps even annoyed or embarrassed that

he'd pointed out her conflicting statement, but shrugged and signed the form. Shadow

eyed her carefully, making note of her being right-handed.

 

   Can I go now?”

 

   “Aye. Thank you for your time, if we have any further questions, we'll be in touch.”

 

Maisie lifted her imposing form from her chair and made no attempt to hide her eagerness

to leave. Alana readied herself to escort her out, but she caught Shadow's forbidding look.

 

   “Interview concluded. The time is 15:20pm.”

 

He hit the stop button and walk over to the window, watching Maisie make her way back to town.

 

   She didn't drink from the cup!” Alana said, confused and a little worried.

 

   “It doesn't matter. If we really need any of her DNA, I'm sure we can find some of the venom

   she drips everywhere when she speaks to people.”

 

Alana giggled, then went silent. Shadow waited for the questions he knew were coming.

 

   “You said something about your meetings with her having a theme. What did you mean?”

 

   “I first met her years ago, in Embry, at the hospital. She wasn't always like that, in

   fact she seemed a meek little thing back then, soft-spoken and afraid. She was

   working for a woman I'd been hunting, one who was experimenting on young girls. Not

   willingly, of course, but...you have to wonder if it played a part.”

 

   I...I had no idea. You really think she could have done it?”

 

   Could have? Absolutely. She wasn't exactly forthcoming with details we already

   know, she lied on her statement. But...”

 

   “But...?”

 

   We have a lot more people to interview. Go sort the recording out while I write a brief

   report, then go bring me Winona Barrow in about 20 minutes.”

 

   “Yes sir!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lance Striker's picture

Winona Barrow



The door closed and almost immediately came Winnie's little inquisitive sounds, her oohs and aahs.

 

   “This way, Miss Barrow.” Alana said warmly.

 

Her audible exertions with each step made Shadow feel a tad guilty, but there was nowhere else really

suitable to conduct the interviews. Still, Winnie's enthusiasm seemed to give her a vigour that he hoped

gave her knees some relief. Her eyes darted about the room, and Shadow noticed her hands were clasped

tightly together as her excitement boiled to the surface. He smiled at her, gesturing to the chair, and she

sat, with Alana closer behind to make sure she was comfortable before taking her position to the side of the room.

 

   “Oh my, this is so exciting! Just wait until I tell Effie, she'll be so jealous. Sure beats her going to see the

   mayor about the terrible state of the sewers. Not that they're not in a terrible state of course. Do you know, if

   I don't keep my sinks plugged all the time you start to get the smell of, well, you know, wafting through the

   house. Well of course the mayor promised something would be done, but we all know what that means so no

   one is holding their breath. Except of course we all are, aren't we...? Because of the smell, Sergeant, because

   of the smell!”

 

As Winnie grew more excited, Shadow could've sworn she was practically vibrating with the occasion, and

although he couldn't care less about the state of the sewers, he was pleased that she was in a good mood

and fond of talking. He expected she might need some encouragement on keeping on topic, however.

 

   “It's Chief Constable, actually. Been around 120 years on the dot since I was a sergeant. Now...on to the matter

   at hand,” he hit the record button, “interview starts. We are on the second floor of The Constabulary, Hope

   Springs. The date is Friday the 29th of November, 2165. The current time is 15:47pm. I am Chief Constable

   Shadow, also in attendance is Police Constable Alana Myers. Can you please state your name and occupation?”

 

Winnie was nodding at the dictaphone, then at Shadow in a slight trance as her excitement showed no signs of wavering.

 

   Oh, I'm so sorry, Chief Constable. You see I used to step out with one of your predecessors, he was a

   sergeant.” She sighed wistfully. “Wonderful man, but it never went anywhere.”

 

Her head sunk slightly, but then she turned to Alana, in full elderly advice mode.

 

   Don't make the same mistake I did, dear. If he really wants to, then you let him. Just make sure you use plenty of

   goose fat and it'll be fine.” She continued, turning back to Shadow without a pause.

 

The constables gave each other a look. Alana was biting down on her lip trying not to laugh, and Shadow was going

through one of those exceedingly rare moments where he was grateful for his long life and overly-taxed memory; ensuring

that the horrific image Winnie had pasted into the album of his memory had plenty of opportunity to slip through the

cracks and disappear, never to be seen again.

 

   “Now then, what was the question? Oh yes. My name is Winona Barrow and I'm retired, I suppose. Not that I don't keep

   very active, I'm chair of several organisations, all aimed at helping make Hope Springs a nice place to live for decent

   folk. Which reminds me, I've got the ladies looking out for miscreants and trouble makers, so if you want a list of ne'er-do-wells

   then I can certainly oblige.”

 

Shadow was beginning to think he should have hired her, but he was terribly fond of his peace and quiet.

 

   “Can you confirm that no other persons are present other than those already mentioned?”

 

Winnie looked around the room, a little flustered and a little determined.

 

   Oh dear, should there be? Is this a test? I can't see anyone, I'm afraid. Is that right? Did I pass?”

 

   “I've summoned you here to ask some questions about the murder of Magrat which took place between 6pm and 8pm

   two nights ago. Now I have your statement here, you say you were occupied between the hours of at least 5pm to past

   8pm, but no one can confirm your location between the hours of 6 and 7, is that correct?”

 

She gave a little shake of her head.

 

   I'm afraid not, no. Oh dear. Oh, wait a moment. As I was unlocking, I did hear the Stanton boy shouting at that poor

   baby, he lives behind my house but I could hear him from the front garden. The elder boy, Arthur, not Evan. Evan is a nice

   boy. You know, Archie really should get himself a woman to look after little Dudders.”

 

She wilted again, and Shadow couldn't get a word in edgewise to steer her back on track before she started up again.

 

   Oh, but that wouldn't count, would it? It's no good me hearing some else, is it? You want to know if someone saw me, don't you?”

 

She shot Shadow a plaintive look, and he wasn't sure if she was disappointed in herself, the situation, or both.

 

   “Does that mean I'm a suspect then, Chief Inspector?”

 

Again, she'd gotten his rank wrong and his sometimes overly-working mind began to wonder if she'd been reading crime

novels, and if she had, if it was for nefarious purposes or just some manner in which people more mundane than him entertained

themselves.

 

   We're just trying to get a picture of events, Miss Barrow. I understand you and your friends were quite fond of Magrat, you spent

   a lot of time with her outside of her working hours?”

 

Winnie lit up once more, the shadow of Shadow lifted from her mind and an opportunity to natter on saw to that.

 

   Oh yes! Such wonderful stories she had to tell. Sad, of course,” she looked down and shook her head, “all those children being

   stolen and often orphaned. But such courage. It brought a tear to everyone's eyes.”

 

   Did she tell you much about her personal life? We're primarily interested in her time in town, but anything you may think is relevant

   would certainly help.”

 

Winnie tilted her head up while she thought. Shadow was keeping a watchful eye on her body language, as was Alana.

 

   “Well, let me see. Do you mean how she came to be captured? No? Oh...OH! I see. Well, she did try, and we did

   ask, but it seems that the drudges don't have much of a personal life as we know it. So when she came to Hope she

   found it all a bit overwhelming at first. Then, what with all the bad-mouthing her, she was scared too. Now I know that

   some young people, decent young people, mind you, did try, but she had nothing in common with them of course, so

   they just gave up in the end. I think she felt safer with us oldies. No threat you see.”

 

She paused, but not for breath. Shadow figured he must have had a certain look on his face because she started being

considerably more useful when she looked at him.

 

   “Well she ask us if we could get her a weapon, you know, just in case. Of course we said no, that we would protect

   her, but...that didn't happen, did it?”

 

Shadow leaned forward, feeling like he was actually getting somewhere with the whole case.

 

   “A weapon? Well...you have my gratitude for keeping true to the town's colours. Did you get the impression she was

   trying to protect herself from anyone in particular?”

 

   “Mmmmmmmm...no, no I don't think so. Well, at least she didn't say so. But I do know that those assholes who didn't

   welcome her here rattled her more than she let on.”

 

   I presume you mean Hank Godsen and his friends, among others. I understand she was quite selective of her friends, were

   there any that stand out in your memory?”

 

   Oh, let me see. Well, Nurse Maisie, of course. I'd say she was probably Magrat's best friend. And the doctor, but she was a

   bit intimidated by her. Theis, at the wafflehouse, he made her laugh it seems...despite him being...you know.” She raised

   her eyebrows and tilted her head towards him. “Oh and young Evan, that was so sweet the way he'd follow her

   around. Ahhhh, young love eh, inspector?”

 

Shadow's brow furrowed, and not just in annoyance of her getting his rank wrong again.

 

   Constable. Evan had a romantic interest in her? Did she remark on it to you?”

 

Her mouth hung open and a look of surprise covered her face.

 

   Well of course he did! Poor wee lamb. She was out of his reach of course, not to mentioned way too old, but it

   didn't stop him trying.” She gave him a coy little smile and leaned over the table. “Don't tell me you never had a

   crush on a girl when you were a boy, Constable, because I just won't believe it.”

 

That was the kind of stereotypical behaviour he'd expect from a woman of her age on such a subject, which made

it all the more confusing, and horrifying, when the goose fat anecdote came sliding back into focus. He banished it

once more, and tried to remember a time when he wasn't lovestruck with Hyle, which he found surprisingly difficult.

 

   “Probably many more than I can actually remember. Now, was Magrat aware of his infatuation, to your knowledge?”

 

Shadow heard a little whispered 'aww' pass Alana's lips, apparently below the threshold of Winnie's ears.

 

   Oh yes. I know because she talked about it, you know. She found it flattering but she was old enough to know it was

   just a crush. She asked us how she could let him down gently...” She paused in thought. “You do know he was in

   the wafflehouse waiting for her that evening? He was there every day when she came in for her pastries to take back

   to camp. She'd stop and chat with him for a few minutes, ask Theis. I'm sure it made the little lad's entire day.”

 

Shadow and Alana looked at one another for a brief moment which felt like an eternity as they both came to several conclusions.

 

   “I see. Surprising that a girl of her background would be aware of such a concepts, but she was at that age, I

   suppose. Miss Barrow, I'd like to ask you about the last few days leading up to her death. I imagine you and your

   friends would have been sad to see her go. What were those last days like?”

 

She thought back for a long few moments.


   “A mix, I suppose. We all knew why she was here and she herself had told us just how much of a change it was going

   to make in her life when she got back. So we were happy for her, and proud too. But yes, we were sad as well – we

   were losing a friend we had just made. I saw that in the ladies so...now I don't want to blow my own trumpet

   here, detective, but it was me who was the driving force behind her leaving do. We wanted to make the day special

   for her. The Clinic provided a monogrammed stethawotsit for her so we had a nice box made for it and the mayor

   was only too happy to do the speechifying. Then someone had the brilliant idea of having Evan present it to her.” She

   clapped her hands together. “It was just so perfect. Anyway, the important thing is that everyone was just too busy to feel sad.”

 

Shadow was pretty sure speechifying wasn't a word, and found himself being too drawn in to deciding whether she

was having a dig at Hyle for showcasing, or if she was jealous that sometimes other people get to talk instead of her.

 

   And what was the mood like at her leaving party? Any strange behaviour? Any notable absentees?”

 

   Again, it was a mix of happy and sad.” She lapsed into her thoughts again. “No, I think everyone who was invited was

   there, and of course word had got out so there was quite a crowd of well-wishers too. No assholes were there, I can

   assure you of that. I would have remembered.”

 

Shadow wondered if it had clicked for her that making such a public spectacle of her leaving do could have tipped

off her killers of when she was leaving. He hadn't the heart to ask. She turned to Alana with a smile.

 

   “Any chance of coffee for an old lady, dear?”

 

Shadow lifted his hand just in time to stop Alana's never-ending need to mother people.

 

   Actually, that's all the questions I have for you right now, Miss Barrow. You'll have to forgive me for not offering you

   a drink earlier, it had completely slipped my mind.” He pushed a sheet of paper across the table to her, along with

   a pen. “I'll need you to sign this form declaring you've answered truthfully and to the best of your knowledge this

   afternoon. Alana will escort you down the stairs and Constable Hill will see you home. Thank you for your help, it

   was been most enlightening.”

 

   This is all very exciting.”

 

Shadow made a mental note of which hand she signed with, though in truth he didn't care nearly as much as he had with Maisie.

 

   When you're ready, Winnie.” Alana said warmly, helping her to her feet and escorting her down the stairs.

 

Shadow sighed and hovered his finger above the stop button.

 

   Interview concluded. The time is 16:19pm.”

 

Alana came jogging back up the stairs moments later.

 

   “We're not doing a very good job collecting DNA from people.” She said.

 

   “Doesn't matter, there's no way she did it anyway.” He shrugged.

 

   “I don't think so either, but what she said about little Evan...you'll have to talk to him.”

 

   On the contrary, you'll have to talk to him.”

 

   “What? Why me?”

 

   “Call it a hunch, but I think the lad's probably a bit sceptical of men having good intentions for him. Between his

   dad, that twat of a brother of his, his mother being gone, and Magrat...he'll be more likely to open up to a woman.”

 

   “Right...shall I go get him?”

 

   “Tomorrow. Wanna hear from our suspects first, but...I have a feeling he's the key to all this.”

 

Lonely are the brave...

Lance Striker's picture

Stella arrived, albeit slowly, at the Constabulary. Benjamin opened the door, offered a smile and let her

and Alana inside. Alana gestured at the stairs.

 

   “You have got to be joking.” Stella proclaimed, looking at Alana and leaning on her crutches.

 

Shadow came down the stairs, holding a chair and placed it at the base.

 

   “Got you covered, Miss McFarlen. Truth is, we're in a bit of a need of renovation, but there are financial

   priorities, of course. Please, sit, and...try not to move too much.”

 

A bit bemused by the idea, she struggled over to the chair and sat in it quite awkwardly.

 

   Hold on to your crutches.”

 

Shadow concentrated his thought onto the chair, lifting it steadily into the air and guided her up the

stairs, settling her into position at the interview table. While his intent to offer her relief was genuine, it

was also his intent to show a little of what he can do. So far, each of the suspect's statements had given

him a pretty accurate representation of what to expect, and Stella's was uncooperative to say the least. He

sat and Alana took her usual place, Stella hid her initial shock well enough and offered him a wry smile.

 

   “Can I get you anything to drink, Miss McFarlen?” He asked.

 

   Whiskey would be good. Thanks.”

 

Alana cocked her brow at the request and looked at Shadow, a little unsure of what to make of it. He returned

her look with a mixture of amusement, slight annoyance, and a tinge of embarrassment. It was presumptuous

of her to think she'd be getting anything other than tea, coffee, or water, and saying thanks instead of please

just grated on him even more. Even so, he did have whiskey on-site, it's just the done thing in this line of work.

 

   “Second draw in my desk...” He said, turning back to Stella.

 

Alana's brow raised a good deal higher at the revelation and she smirked at him before strolling over to his

desk, fetching the bottle and the mug over to the table and poured Stella a measure. Alana stepped back into

her position and folded her arms behind her back, with the bottle still in hand.

 

   “I hope the journey here wasn't too much of an inconvenience.” Shadow said, pushing her statement out ahead of him a ways.

 

Stella took a sip from the mug, placed it back on the table and began to twirl it round a few times. Her fidgeting did

not go unnoticed by either constable.

 

   Not for me, but plenty of folk saw your constable take me away so how much of an inconvenience that may cause, I don't

   know. Look, I'm not happy with that girl being murdered, I'm sure she was a very nice person, but I think bringing her here

   was a huge mistake. Now I'm sure you've got a whole mess of questions you're just dying to ask, but let me say right off

   the bat, I didn't kill that girl or have her killed. I don't know who did either, if it was one of my folk then they did it without me

   finding out.”

 

Shadow had depressed the record button on the dictaphone with a quick thought, but hadn't caught the beginning of her

reply. That bothered him. It seemed oddly threatening to him, and her segregation of the refugees from the rest of Hope

stuck with him too. Rather than press his concerns, he kept his own reply on topic.

 

   A mistake for who? For her? Perhaps it was a mistake to assume that people would return the hospitality shown to them

   when we gave them food and shelter. Now then...Interview sta-”

 

His concentration was broken by the front door opening, and Benjamin's voice flowing up the stairs with urgency.

 

   Uh, Chief. There's a bunch of guys outside with mattocks!”

 

Instinct took Shadow, and he rose quickly from his chair and walked over to the window. Figures lingered outside, making a

fair bit of noise. He turned back to Stella.

 

   Your lot?”

 

   “I reckon.”

 

A million scenarios flooded his mind. The cold rage that welled inside him when he desired control began to spread, and dark

intent marred his eyes. Alana had seen it before, and his personal investment in the case concerned her greatly. She shook

her head at him, urging him to calm, and, to a degree, he did. His eyes glared at Stella's crutches, and his body widened and

bulged in anger.

 

   “Don't go anywhere.”

 

He strode to the stairs, storming down them with heavy-booted steps, nearly tearing the door off its hinges as his hackles

raised. He pushed past Benjamin, who was valiantly keeping guard and had one hand on his truncheon, and strode right up

the group of five men sitting in a circle between the narrow patch of grass between the Wafflehouse and the Constabulary.

 

   “Explain yourselves. Now.” He demanded, his face like thunder.

 

The men seemed cheerful enough, though their smiles were clearly forced. Their pickaxes lay on the ground, all within easy

reach. They each looked up at him, but remained silent until a sixth man joined them, carrying a tray of cups from the

Wafflehouse – which was an active crime scene and meant to be closed. Immediately his mood plummeted and his suspicions

almost spurred him to physical action, until one of them spoke.

 

   “Chief Constable, explain what? We are on our way to clear a ditch...for the good of the town, you know? And as we passed

   the Wafflehouse there, sure the smell of the coffee pulled us like a magnet so we said to ourselves 'now a good strong coffee

   would set us up right for a morning pounding stubborn rocks, so here we are, enjoying the fresh air and drinking coffee. How's yourself?”

 

Shadow was buying none of it. Smell of coffee from a closed Wafflehouse? Their convenient, and unwarranted appearance, just

as Stella arrived at the Constabulary...he hadn't forgotten her strange wording of her being 'taken away'. And if these men

were intent on breaking rocks in the morning, they were many hours too late for that.

 

   “What ditch?” He sneered.

 

   There's always a ditch, Chief Constable.”

 

The men began to laugh, and the one carrying the tray set it down. They had sandwiches along with their mugs and

they began to argue amongst themselves about who ordered what, with a little too much conviction for Shadow, who

was being utterly ignored.

 

                                                                                                                                    ***

 

Hearing the noise outside, Stella turned to Alana.

 

   “Not much of a people person, is he?”

 

The remark seemed oddly judgemental to Alana. While she wouldn't disagree he was not the most outgoing man

around, she had a deep respect for him and the faith she'd shown her. Not to mention his address at the school, which

all in all had endeared him to a great many people and spurred a recruitment drive that far exceeded how many

constables they could reasonably sustain. She gave Stella a diplomatic smile.

 

   “Everything he has done this past year has been solely for the benefit of people, Miss McFarlen.”

 

Stella gave her a curious look.

 

   “What a strange thing to say. Surely, everything we have all done is for the benefit of the town.”

 

Stella's masked reply annoyed Alana more than she'd care to admit, and she started to get an uneasy feeling. Her smile

dimmed, and she looked at the files on the table, the dictaphone, and then Stella sitting at the interview table.

 

   “And yet here we are.”

 

                                                                                                                                    ***

                                                                                

Shadow's suspicions deepened further and without hesitation, he pulled their picks away with the force of his mind, suspending

them in mid-air to his side, and making his authority known.

 

   You can have these back after you've gone to the mayor explaining why you're obstructing the investigation of the murder

   of a little girl, why you think you'd get away with trying to threaten the very people who protect you, and why you think I'd be

   stupid enough to fall for this idiotic little show. Now fuck off to town hall, I'll come and check on you when we're done here.”

 

The smiles disappeared from the men's faces, but they were not replaced with the fear any rational, honest man would

have. The man who had spoken previously rose slowly to his feet, his hands clear in sight.

 

   “Chief Constable, we have committed no crime here, unless having a picnic is a crime?” He gestured to the other men. “We

   aren't obstructing anything, as you can see. We want the killer caught as much as anyone, after all, it's us the fingers are

   being pointed at. The tools we have are for clearing a ditch and we are not threatening anyone, and you would have to prove

   otherwise. So we won't be going anywhere sir.”

 

The man sat down again, and the others waited in silence for the next move. Shadow's blood burned hot, and he was one

stray thought away from burying each pick into his skull. He peered hard at the man.

 

   “Stella's already confirmed you're with her, so don't play coy with me, little boy. Get over to town hall right now, do as you're

   told. Or see what happens to that reputation of yours when you start undermining us.”

 

The man didn't even bother meeting his gaze.

 

   “No, sir. We are committing no crime.”


                                                                                                                                    ***

 

   “Indeed. Here we are.” Shadow's fury outside had reached the two women. “Growing distrust. Finger pointing. Thinly veiled

   insults. What next? Who throws the first stone?”

 

Alana's guts began to churn. Stella's words were far too prophetic and pre-meditated for this to be coincidence. Her motherly

instincts sent her subconsciously to the window, needing to check on her little 'family'. She felt threatened, uncertain, and

lost. She saw the crowd outside, silent and tense, but the sight of Shadow gave her a moment of conviction. The dictaphone

was recording, she'd noticed it moments earlier, and though Shadow was temporarily indisposed, she could still get a little

more out of Stella and whatever she was up to. She turned to Stella, feigning disappointment to mask her growing disgust.

 

                                                                                                                                    ***

 

Shadow, similarly, was coming to a similar conclusion as his favoured colleague, but he knew he had the right of it. His authority

was not one of power, but of responsibility, and it was bequeathed to him with complete and utter trust by Hyle. This was his

turf, it was a crime to loiter and disrupt his investigation, especially here, within literal spitting distance of the cordoned off

area. Whatever they were up to, Shadow was convinced they wanted him to boil over, to lose control. Control was his

domain. He grabbed his radio, tuned it to the right frequency and spoke authoritatively.

 

   Mendez, Laurie, Holmes. Report to the Constabulary.” He calmed, and the picks clattered to the floor in a pile. “Constable Hill...”

 

   “Chief?” Benjamin, responded.

 

   “Arrest him.”

 

Benjamin was the very image of a model professional as he walked up to the defiant man. The other five began making

noise, and Shadow simply watched on in silence, gauging their every reaction. The spokesman motioned for calm before

Benjamin put his arms behind his back and cuffed him.

 

   “What's the charge, Chief Constable?”

 

   “Dan White, you are under arrest for the obstruction of a serious police investigation, suspicion of threatening behaviour, and

   contempt of law.” Benjamin said, with authority and a slight hint of regret.


                                                                                                                                    ***

 

   “You could stop this from getting worse.” Alana said to Stella, more as an offer, than a plea of any kind.

 

Stella looked surprised.

 

   “How can it get worse? Unless your constables are intending to beat out some sort of false confession out of that man.” She

   finished the whiskey. “The way I see it, your Chief Constable went off half-cocked, accused those men of god knows what after

   they had explained what they were doing, and has now arrested one of them.” She rose to her feet and grabbed her

   crutches. “I'm afraid you've left me with no alternative. As the elected representative of the refugees currently living in Hope, I

   must now get the mayor involved in a case of what is obviously false imprisonment.” She put her crutches under her

   arms. “Unless, of course, you are going to arrest me too?”

 

It took everything she had not to scoff at Stella. Alana couldn't help but think of how quickly this all came to pass. There was

no way, in her mind, that this wasn't what Stella had planned all along. Whatever she had against Shadow baffled her, but her

arrogance led her to believe she was probably jealous of his relatively short jump up the ladder of Hope Springs. Stella did not

speak for everyone, no matter how much she might think. She sighed.

 

   Nobody's been imprisoned, and if you've been listening, the mayor's already been brought up. By Shadow. Did you plan

   this, Stella? More than half of this constabulary are refugees, myself included.”

 

   Plan this? No, I didn't 'plan this'. I came here because I was summoned. The men outside came probably because they are

   concerned for my safety. It wasn't until your boss stormed outside and started demanding explanations and making unfounded

   accusations and demanding they traipse off to the mayor and admit to something they weren't doing that things started to get out

   of hand.” She stomped over to stand directly in front of Alana. “Tell me, constable, how are half a dozen men standing around

   obstructing any investigation when I am in here answering questions and they are out there drinking coffee?”

 

So many things swam through Alana's mind. How did she know how many men are out there, despite never getting out of

her chair? Was she really so stupid as to think that sitting outside wasn't obstructive? If they could hear outside, they could

certainly hear inside. After all, Benjamin's job was to keep people away from the building during interviews. Again, Stella

had made a point of belittling Shadow despite him having done nothing but exercise his absolute right. If those men were

truthful, then why resist? He had offered them an opportunity to clear everything up. As Shadow would do, she didn't

press, letting Stella make mistakes in her perceived position of superiority. Instead, she just looked her defiantly in the eyes.

 

   “That is a cordoned-off crime scene, Miss McFarlen, a little girl was butchered mere feet from where we are. Don't try and

   defend their behaviour, nobody is buying it.”

 

   “Actually, more like twenty yards, not that it makes the slightest bit of difference. I am well aware the girl was murdered and

   that the killer needs to be caught. But how is driving a wedge between the hostel dwellers and the rest of the town going to

   help? All people are going to know is that a refugee has been arrested. They are going to draw their own conclusions and

   make mine and the mayor's jobs a damn sight harder. As to the behaviour of those men...what exactly is it that needs

   defending? Has Hope become a police state? Are we no longer allowed peaceful assembly? No more hanging around

   drinking coffee? What have those men done that needs defending, constable? And more importantly, what evidence is

   there that they have done anything except drink coffee?”

 

Alana became increasingly unsure if Stella had an actual angle or if she was just plain stupid. Her own little threat of

tattling to the mayor was a much bigger wedge than anything going on outside, at least for now, and Stella's language

further segregated the refugees from the rest of town, and it was her who was referring to them all in the same pile.

 

   “Either those men are here to dig their ditch, as they say, or they're here because they are 'concerned for your safety', Miss

   McFarlen. If they'd cooperate, this could easily be cleaned up, no? Because their work would have been sanctioned and

   verification would be a simple matter. Why would your safety be a matter of concern? That is ours, miss, not theirs. I'm sure

   Mayor Troy would be very interested to hear that men carrying mattocks were guarding you. It almost calls to mind the time

   Shadow spoke about when he announced his and Hyle's plans at the school.”

 

Stella sighed.

 

   This is a farming community, constable. Nobody needs 'permission' to clear a ditch. Ditches clog up every day and if farmers

   had to seek official sanction before every one of them was cleared then the fields would be waterlogged every time it rains.”

 

Alana, while definitely not a farmer, was still around Shadow a lot, and he had more farming experience than anyone in

town. Not to mention it doesn't rain nearly as much as Stella implied. Stella grunted as she eased her backside onto the

edge of the table and then continued.

 

   “Oh, I'm sure if they 'cooperated' and meekly toddled off to the town hall like the nice policeman asked them to...Oh wait, it

   wasn't like that. Like the angry, power-mad, mutant clone demanded them to, there, that's better. If they did that then yes

   everything could be brushed under the carpet all nice and tidy like. Six refugees admitting to false charges of obstruction...” She

   gave Alana a hard look. “Still waiting to hear the evidence for that by the way. Six refugees now tarred with a criminal act, marked

   as criminals. Just perfect. And as for my safety being a concern, well, your Chief Constable has just demonstrated how volatile

   he can be and, with his powers, then yes, my safety and the safety of anyone who angers him is a concern, yes indeed. Oh, and

   talking of what Mayor Troy would be interested in, I'm sure she would be interested in hearing the other side of the story, the

   alternative to the possibly biased 'truth' the officers of the Constabulary will be presenting. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way.”

 

Twice more she'd stated the number of men outside and Alana was feeling hot inside with anger at just how disrespectful she

was being towards her boss, and friend. He'd fought, bled, and died for the town. Her jumping the gun on how the whole affair

was going, putting words in her mouth, and dictating to her, a constable and representative of the law, on how the law actually

works. Stella had mocked the option of the men outside just doing as they're told, and actually clearing things up, but it was a

valid one, one they hadn't given thought to entertain. Alana was sorely tempted to show Stella that you don't need mutant powers

to be a concern for her safety. Still...she had her on the ropes, she felt, and it gave Alana a huge lift to see that the dictaphone was

still recording every last detail.

 

   “A farming community in which our angry, power-mad, mutant clone was head of agricultural affairs for 6 months prior to being

   trusted with his current position by the mayor, Miss McFarlen. Am I to understand you are walking away from a police investigation?”


                                                                                                                                    ***

 

The three constables arrived at the scene, looking confused and shocked at the scene. They look at Shadow, and he knew in

an instant they were wondering if they were involved in the murder. He shook his head.

 

   “Escort these gentlemen to town hall. Constable Hill, go with them, let Hyle know what happened. If by some miracle these men

   are telling the truth, they can have their picks back.”

 

Benjamin was quick to push Dan onwards, but the other three looked uncertain and waited for the refugees to rise, as expectant

of respect as Shadow had been. They didn't.

 

Shadow's frustrations grew by the second, but there was a silver lining to it all. He grabbed his radio once more, and tuned it to

Hyle's frequency.

 

   “Fine. We'll just have the mayor come to us... Hey, skat, it's me. I know you're busy, but I need you at the Constabulary, there's

   a bit of an incident.”

 

He cut the conversation short before she could reply, if for no other reason than he knew she liked to have the last word and

so she'd be extra quick to run over. He looked over at the men, and noticed Theis leaning out of the doorway of the

Wafflehouse. Shadow frowned at him, he was supposed to go home, the place was supposed to be shut. Hyle would almost

certainly make sure of it when she got there.

 

                                                                                                                                    ***

 

   “The fact that he was the head of agricultural affairs is neither here not there, constable. I have witnessed his powers and

   heard his anger, anger aimed at men who have committed no crime other than to stop for coffee on their way to do work to

   aid the community which has sheltered them. I came here to be interviewed by the Chief Constable, constable.” She smiled

   at her own perceived wordplay. “It was he who walked out of the interview, not I. Now, I have more pressing matters. An

   innocent man in my care has been arrested on trumped up charges and I need to be with him. So, constable, are you going

   to arrest me or am I free to go.”

 

Alana was simmering inside at her growing arrogance.

 

   “And here I thought the farms were on the other side of town. You can choose to leave if you wish, Miss McFarlen, but it is

   my duty to inform you that doing so will be held against you in the course of this investigation.”

 

   “How very observant of you, constable, and the ditches which take the drainage away from the fields run alongside the

   road, so a good place to start would be a point from where a blockage ceases to be a threat to those fields, no? Anyway, as

   you wish, constable, I'll be sure to inform my people that failure to be at the beck and call of the increasingly authoritarian

   constabulary will be 'held against them'. Now, if I may have my copy of the interview tape, I will be on my way.”

 

Again, Alana knew nothing about farming, but she knew that made absolutely no sense. Shadow would know more, especially

after hearing the playback. Alana wasn't sure what a tape was, but she assumed she meant the recording.

 

   “There has been no interview, Miss, as you have pointed out. We no not hand out evidence during an active investigation.”

 

   “Oh that's good. If there has been no interview then anything on that tape is inadmissible as evidence, doubly so if you are also

   refusing me a copy.” She leaned forward. “That's the law, my dear, because audio tapes can be edited.”

 

Alana remained silent, and smirked as Stella hobbled off down the stairs. Dictating the law on a regulation that didn't exist prior

to the constabulary might be the most foolish thing Stella had said all afternoon. She left the recording running, just in case, but

she was utterly convinced no-one in their right mind would support anyone after all that. She looked at the whiskey bottle, still

in her hand, and took a long swig.


                                                                                                                                    ***

 

Stella limped along outside the building.

 

   “Would one of you gentleman be so kind as to get me a coffee? I understand that we are shortly to be joined by the mayor.”

 

Two of the men helped her to sit down and she turned to the youngest of them.

 

   “Billy? Be a dear and go and let our people know that we are having a picnic, that Mayor Troy will be joining us, and that

   everyone is welcome to come along with food and drink.”

 

Shadow quickly walked up behind him, pressed his hand down on his shoulder and shot Stella a fierce glare.

 

   Nobody's going anywhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely are the brave...

Hyle Troy's picture

It really was not long before Hyle’s less than inconspicuous car rolled up. She parked up just past The Waffelhus, taking her time to get out of her car. As she stood she took a moment to straighten her clothes. Outwardly, she did this to look the part of Mayor, but more importantly it gave Hyle a few moments to sum up the mood and situation which confronted her outside the constabulary.

 

She noticed Theis, he was standing on the waffelhus porch. She also noticed, on the other side of the street, Harold Johnson, arms folded, leaning in the door frame of the isenkræmmer displaying even at that distance his disdain for Hyle. But these two were peripheral, present but not relevant.

 

More important was the group of men, constables, and of course Stella McFarlen. Hyle noted Stella was seated on the ground with the men around her. Shadow and his constable stood between this group and the constabulary building. And all eyes were on Hyle. Hyle gave a final smoothing to her knee length skirt and walked forward, smiling good-naturedly.

 

God Morgen!” She breezed. Muttered ‘mornings’ came back. Hyle noticed Stella’ s face was set and she had not replied to Hyle’s greeting. Hyle noted that. She selected one of the men instead.

 

So, What can I do for you all?” Hyle asked the group in general but the one man man she had selected in particular, forcing him to be the spokesman. Now on the spot, the man stood up. As he did, Hyle shot a quick glance to Shadow, she recognised his demeanour instantly, the suppressed anger, the volatile side of him bubbling under.

 

The group of men mumbled as the one Hyle had chosen as spokesman cleared his throat. Stella looked hard at Hyle, she knew Hyle had deliberately picked one man to speak who was neither Stella or Dan White, Stella bristled and Hyle noticed.

 

Well it’s like this your Mayorship, ermm, Miss Troy ermm We were on our way to clear a ditch, see. And...”

I see, that would explain the picks, hmm?” Hyle indicated the pile of tools on the ground, she raised a smiling eyebrow at the man, having successfully derailed his flow. “Do go on..”

 

Well we stopped here for coffee, all peaceful like, an’ the Chief here comes out all bawling and stuff saying we can’t sit here and take a rest! Then he arrests Dan, for nothing!” The man nodded to a chorus of ‘Aye’s” from his colleagues.

Hyle saw Shadow drawing breath to speak, but a flash of ice blue eyes stopped him, telling him she had control for now.

 

And Stella? Surely you were not about to go ditch digging?” Hyle smiled down at the still sitting, Stella. “What brought you here?”

 

Shella folded her arms under her bust, showing indignance. I was here to make a statement, you know, about the murder and all that.”

Still engaging those before her with smiling eyes, Hyle nodded. “And have you done so?” She asked.

Yes, well..No, not yet. Actually.” Stella involuntarily let her eyes find Shadow. And she regretted it.

Hyle raised a questioning eyebrow to Shadow. “Not yet.” He confirmed.

No?” Hyle’s attention was back with Stella.

No.. We were interrupted.”

By..?” Still smiling, Hyle pressed.

The.. guys… here. Outside.”

I see.” Hyle nodded then turned her attention back to the ‘spokesman’ she had selected.

The HE came out all angry and stuff, asked us to move on.” The spokesman blurted out.

Stella shuffled, realising her control was slipping away, tried to re-establish her righteousness.

They just came for a picnic. No law against that is there!”

 

No, of course not.” Hyle turned back to Stella still keeping the good natured smiled on her face. “But as the constabulary is in the middle of a very important murder case which, you, have kindly agreed to help with. Simple common sense would say that there are many other, better places to take a picnic. Don’t you agree?”

 

Well..”

 

And as you can imagine, the urgency of the situation. Because we ALL want to find out the guilty party as soon as possible, perhaps Chief Constable Shadow needs to deal with any ‘interruptions’ as you said, more firmly. Again, don’t you agree?”

 

Stella again drew breath but Hyle stopped her.

Now.” Hyle turned to the group of would be ditch-diggers. “Fortunately, and most coincidently, I was just speaking with my Clerk of Works. It seems that we need some guttering alongside the road, both sides, for about 500 metres north, starting from the garage by the Life-net pod.”

Now, as you already have your tools and are generously offering your labour to the town. Rather than clearing random ditches. Don’t you think it would be better to work in that job? I mean the pay will be good, and it should only take about three days.”

Hyle, still smiling, nodded directly to each man in the group. “Yes?”

 

Hyle’s self-effacing, good humoured nods elicited the desired response from the group and after a few grumbles she had their agreement, although almost to a man they realised that Stella’s little ‘stunt’ had earned them three days hard labour, albeit for good pay. Stella earned begrudging glares from more than a few of them.

Excellent!” Hyle beamed. She took her notebook from her bag, scribbled a few lines on a sheet before handing it to her ‘spokesman’.

I’ll have the Clerk of Works meet you at the garage in say, twenty minutes? He can explain what is needed. Meantime if you take this note to Mr, Johnson over at the isenkræmmer, he will happily supply you with new trench-spades on the Town Hall account. Ok? Right, off you go then!”

 

Hyle almost shoo’ed the new workers away from The Constabulary.

She turned to a sullen faced Stella.

 

Right, Stella. Now that’s all sorted out, you can help The Chief Constable with his enquiries. Undisturbed, hmm?

 

As she turned for her car, she shot a glance at Shadow, he might have seen her wink.

But then Hyle turned back to the angry looking Stella McFarlane. Her smile dropped from her face like a wet towel, the cold blue eyes penetrating Stella’s chagrin.

Oh, would you be so kind as to call in to see me in my office when you are done here. Please.”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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