The Dead Shall be Raised
The Singing Policeman
When the day’s work was done, o’er a pint of home brew,
He would sing by the hearth the old songs that he knew.
On Christmas Eve 1940, Detective-Inspector Littlejohn, of Scotland Yard, stepped from the well-lighted London to Manchester train into the Stygian darkness of the blacked-out platform of Stockport. Passengers and ticket collectors climbed furtively in and out of the train, anxious to keep all its light bottled-up within it. Dim forms, like the shades of the underworld, fumbled about the station. Piles of boxes, mail-bags, platform-trucks and the hundred and one benches, baskets, lamps, cans, brushes and the like which clutter up such places strove like living things to make progress a vast and ghastly obstacle race. The detective, after extricating himself from a pile of parcels, destined to arrive at their goals well after Christmas, dropped his bag and waited for something to turn up in the shape of a railway official, from whom he might take his bearings. At length, a peaked-cap silhouetted itself against a thin streak of light emanating from a luggage van.
“Porter, where can I find the train for Waterfold?” asked Littlejohn.
“I’m a Salvation Army man, but I think I can tell you,” came a pleasant reply from the night. A firm grip was taken on his arm and he was piloted to a shadowy train, waiting, without lights, in a nearby bay.
“This is the train. I’ve just come in by it. It leaves in half an hour,” said his guide and with a cheery good night, left him to his own devices.
Littlejohn stumbled into a carriage, groped for the rack, tested its capacity by gently swinging on it, and slung his suitcase upwards. Then, he slumped on a hard seat, sucked the dying embers of his pipe into activity again and settled to wait patiently for something to happen.
No-one but his wife could have persuaded Littlejohn to make such a trip on Christmas Eve. One November night, he had arrived home to find all the windows of his Hampstead flat smashed and the roof blown-in. Far worse, his wife, Letty, was a casualty at the local hospital. Luckily, the worst that German frightfulness had done to her was to cause superficial cuts and slight concussion, but the detective, tied as he was to duty owing to the stress of official work, did not feel happy until he had packed her off to a quiet area. He had the greatest difficulty in persuading her to visit an old friend of her schooldays, whose cottage, high on the Pennine backbone which separates Lancashire from Yorkshire, afforded not only quiet nights but strong moorland air, a tonic for overwrought nerves. So, to Hatterworth, the village, or town, or whatever it was that held his wife, Littlejohn went to spend Christmas. He had ten days’ well-earned and long postponed leave on his hands and until he stepped into the inky depression of Stockport, he had been as high-spirited as a boy on vacation.
The jolt of an engine being violently connected with the train shook Littlejohn out of his reverie. A streak of light from a passing goods-train illuminated the compartment for a moment and it was then that the Inspector perceived that he was not alone. Another dark figure was sitting huddled in the opposite corner, apparently asleep. Littlejohn was not in the habit of inflicting his company and talk on strangers, but from sheer desolation he addressed his fellow-traveller.
“Am I right for Waterfold in this train?”
Asleep, thought Littlejohn, and yet he had the vague feeling that he was not right. Somehow, he felt that the eyes of the stranger were open in the dark. Be damned to you then, old curmudgeon, muttered the detective inwardly. His own voice had sounded eerie and hollow in the strange atmosphere of the black carriage. He felt quite detached from the living world, the thousands of people all around him in the town below, people making merry for the season as best they could under the circumstances, in their isolated, well-illuminated little communities, each shut-off from the other by the pitch-darkness of the black-out night. By some strange association of ideas, Littlejohn recalled reciting at a Christmas party when a boy, some lines very apt under the present conditions. In spite of all the years between, he remembered them pat, and glowed with pleasure in doing so.
O solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms
Than reign in this horrible place.
The irony of it tickled Littlejohn’s fancy. He even chuckled and felt better for it. Let’s see… what else?
I am out of humanity’s reach,
I must finish my journey alone,
Never hear the sweet music of speech;
I start at the sound of my own.
“Was you sayin’ somethin’?” came a thin, old voice from the corner.
Littlejohn started. He wondered if in his enthusiasm he had been declaiming aloud.
“If you were, yo’ll have to speak up. You see, ah’m a bit deaf,” went on the voice.
“Oh! I’d just been asking you if I was right for Waterfold in this train.”
“Eh? You’ll ’ave to speak up.”
Littlejohn repeated his query, fortissimo.
“Oh aye, ye’r all reet for Waterfold. Ah say, ye’r all reet. Ah’m goin’ to th’ station beyond that, so ah’ll tell you when we’re theer. Ah say, ah’ll tell you when we’re theer.”
The stranger kept repeating himself, as though proud of his utterance and taking relish in quoting his statements over and over again.
With a jolt, the train started. They bumped over points, halted for signals, stopped at what seemed to be an unending succession of stations. The harsh clanking and snorting of the engine indicated a continuous gradient.
“Don’t they light these trains?” bawled Littlejohn.
“You needn’t shout so loud, mesther. Ah can ’ear you all right now that train’s started. Funny, isn’t it? When there’s a row goin’ on, ah can ’ear what folk says to me.”
Littlejohn agreed that it was very funny indeed.
“They don’t light these trains, because they’ve forgot there is a railway to Waterfold and sich like places. An’ judging from th’ lights they’ve put in some o’ the local carriages round Oldham way, they might as well save theirselves th’ trouble wi’ these. Noborry can see their way into ’em, let alone read or see chap’s face next to you. Where you come frum, mesther?”
“Oh, aye. Bin havin’ a rough packet there with bombin’ ’aven’t yer, mesther? We’ve had our share ’ere, too, though. A redler blitz we ’ad one night about ten days ago. Two land-mines, we ’ad! They fell on th’ moors just a mile or two out o’ th’ town, but they give us a rare shakin’ up, I’ll tell you.” And he repeated himself several times with obvious pleasure.
The stranger suddenly retired within himself, either sleeping or meditating on his recent news, leaving Littlejohn to his thoughts. “You change to the Waterfold train at Stockport,” Mrs. Littlejohn had written, “and from Waterfold there’s a ’bus to Hatterworth. They only run once every hour and I hope your train’s in time, because you’ve only a margin of ten minutes. The distance by ’bus is seven miles, right into the hill country.”
The train stopped and started again with monotonous jolts and tugs. Station after station. Sometimes there would be the sound of lonely footsteps on a platform; at others, utter stillness and silence, as though men had scornfully packed-up and gone home, leaving the forlorn train to fend for itself. Now and then, a gloomy signal cabin seemed to sail past the window, or a green or red signal light. Not a sign of habitation on either side of the line, which apparently ran through a succession of tunnels, making mighty yawning sounds, or deep cuttings which flung back the rattle of the train, the clank of the engine and the rhythmic clicking of the wheels on the rails. At one station, Littlejohn lowered the window and looked out. A vociferous porter was incoherently yelling the name of the mysterious place to nobody in particular. “Iggle-oop, Iggle-oop,” he screamed, and then, “Faraway!” Whereat the train crawled off.
The night was bright with stars and the air was cold and as invigorating as wine.
“Poot up th’ window, if you doan’t mind, mesther,” said the shadow in the corner, suddenly stung to life by a draught of fresh air. “Ah’m bad on my chest and it’s cowd enough in ’ere, without lettin’ any more of it in.”
No faces or knowledge of what was going on. Only voices and noises. Depressed, miserable, Littlejohn wondered if the journey would last for ever.
“Waterfold next stop, mesther.” Blessed relief! The train slowed down, braked hard, and seemed to totter into the station. Littlejohn bade his companion good night and a Merry Christmas and received a thrice-repeated reply.
Waterfold station was utterly desolate. A cold wind blew through it, stinging the cheeks and ears, but filled with the fresh scented breath of moorland. A porter shambled past.
“Where can I get the Hatterworth ’bus, porter?” called the Inspector.
“It went a quarter of an hour since,” came the reply.
Littlejohn cursed under his breath. Never again! If his luck continued in this fashion he would probably meet his wife somewhere about New Year!
A cheery Yorkshire voice broke the gloom, speaking from the darkness somewhere to the left.
“That you, Inspector Littlejohn?”
“Yes,” replied the detective, surprised that in this forsaken spot somebody should know him.
“I’m Haworth, Superintendent Haworth, of Hatterworth…”
Littlejohn’s spirits sank momentarily. Just his luck to be recalled after his endless treck!…He pictured a call from The Yard to the local police to pick him up and turn him back to duty.
“…Mrs. Littlejohn and my wife are friends and I promised to run out and meet the train. We’ll get along better in my car than the ’bus. Glad to meet you, Littlejohn, and a Merry Christmas to you.”
Two cordial hands met in the darkness and Littlejohn was glad he had come after all.
The little car sped swiftly over the moorland road, now climbing, now coasting easily downhill as the country undulated. The season had made local traffic all the busier and passing cars were frequent. Haworth’s dimmed headlamps illuminated the white stone landmarks, erected by the roadside to indicate the route. There was a heavy, healthy smell of peat on the air and the wind hissed in the heather. Littlejohn could make out none of the details of the country through which he was passing, but had a feeling of being amid vast, open spaces. His companion concentrated on driving and said little. The Inspector did not even know what his friend looked like, except that he was medium-built and broad and he spoke with a crisp Yorkshire accent.
“We’re crossing Milestone Moor and soon we’ll drop into Hatterworth,” said Haworth. “Sorry I can’t be a bit more sociable at the moment, but this driving in the black-out is the very devil.”
“Don’t you worry, Haworth. I’m enjoying this. It’s nice to sit beside a companion, even if he’s not saying much, after the lonely journey I’ve had! Since dark fell at about Stafford, I’ve been playing a sort of blindman’s-buff. I’ve just been borne along by vehicles, seeing nothing of the countryside. I’ve not the faintest idea where we are or what the landscape looks like, and that’ll be a surprise for to-morrow morning.”
“Yes. You’ll not find it too bad here. Our town’s the centre of a moorland area of hundreds, nay thousands, of healthy acres. We’ve about thirty thousand people in our district and in the town itself, farmers, woollen mill operatives, iron workers; and the rest are shopkeepers, policemen and the like, to look after them. Here we are…Hatterworth. Mrs. Littlejohn’s spending the evening at my place, which is only a couple of hundred yards from where she’s staying. It won’t be long before we get indoors, with a warm fire, lights and something to appease our hunger and thirst…”
“Yes. It’s a night for a fire, and as I’ve not had a bite since Crewe at a little after five, a bit of food and a drink won’t come amiss.”
The car halted and, with the help of their torches, the two men groped their ways into Haworth’s home, a neat, detached house on the edge of the town. The night was still crisp and frosty, with stars bright like jewels. In spite of the black-out, there were plenty of people astir in the darkness. Sounds of merry voices, shouts of goodwill and here and there groups of boys carol-singing at the doors of dwellings and holding noisy discussions concerning the alms doled out by their patrons in between their wassailing.
In the bright light of the hall, the detectives cheerfully regarded each other. The darkness had been a barrier between them and now, aware of each other’s physical appearances, they greeted one another again, shaking hands and exchanging Christmas greetings, more from shyness than necessity.
Haworth was a sturdy, pink-faced, smooth-shaven man, with a bald head and keen blue eyes. His chin was square and determined, but his whimsical smile and twinkling eyes gave relief to an otherwise stern face. Littlejohn realized that when the merriment died from his face, the Superintendent would be a difficult man to deal with, especially if his antagonist were on the wrong side of the law. They entered a cosy room. Mrs. Haworth, a buxom, homely woman came smiling to greet them, with Mrs. Littlejohn hurriedly making up the rear. The spirit of Christmas and homecoming met them at the door. For Littlejohn the long journey was forgotten.
After the pleasures of re-union, the comfort of warmth and a meal of Christmas fare, the little party settled down for a spell of sociability round the fire. Cigar smoke thickened the air and Littlejohn found his host’s whisky to his taste. They talked of many things, including the Littlejohns’ adventures in the London bombing, but the session was shortly interrupted by the sound of tramping feet in the garden outside. Almost before Littlejohn had realized that an unexpected invasion had occurred, there was a great burst of music. The Hatterworth Methodist Choir was in first-class voice and loudly serenaded the Haworths, who were respected members of the congregation. “It Came upon a Midnight Clear,” “Christians Awake,” and “Once in Royal David’s City” were reeled off in rapid succession and then the front door was flung wide and a chattering crowd of carollers surged in and were given the freedom of a larder which, in spite of wartime restrictions, seemed to hold a goodly supply of mince-pies, parkin, plum-cake and ginger wine. Invaders and invaded shouted seasonable greetings at each other, private jokes were bandied about, especially among the bright-cheeked, unmarried choirgirls and then the Reverend Reginald Gotobed, resident minister and master of ceremonies of the troupe, called for silence.
“And now, Superintendent, for your quid pro quo. A song to pay for a song, eh?” The parson tittered and bared his teeth genially.
Littlejohn thought that, judging from the amount of food polished-off by the visitors, they had been very well paid indeed, but was curious to know what the parson was getting at. He received a surprise. With a deprecating gesture, Haworth strove to avoid the issue, but the choir would not be gainsaid. A tall, cold-looking man emerged from their body and sat down at the piano in the corner. He massaged the blood back into his blue fingers and waited expectantly. “Little Cattle, Little Care”, demanded the choir. Whereat, Superintendent Haworth of the Hatterworth Police rose from his chair by the fire and sang. His was a robust, well-trained baritone voice and it warmed Littlejohn’s heart to hear it. The song, which was apparently an annual institution, was a north-country one, written by Edwin Waugh, and carried a chorus which the choir sang in harmony after each verse.
Laddie, good dog, the day-wark’s done,
The sun’s low in the west;
The lingering wild birds, one by one,
Are flitting to the nest:
Mild evening’s fairy fingers close
The curtains of the day,
And the drowsy landscape seeks repose
In twilight shadows grey.
The choir chanted the refrain:
Little cattle, little care;
Lie thee down, Laddie!
Soon, Littlejohn and his wife were carried away into joining the chorus.
“Well,” said Littlejohn to his colleague, when the singers had departed to carol and merrymake and refresh themselves elsewhere, “I’ve heard of policemen being first-class boxers, footballers, long and high jumpers, and even darts champions, but you’re the first real singing policeman I’ve met.”
“Oh, there are plenty of them in the force, Littlejohn. It was just by chance you heard me to-night. I used to do a lot, but now I’m too busy to make a proper job of it.”
“If Philip Grisdale doesn’t turn-up to-morrow, you’ll be busy again, too, my lad,” interjected his wife, and Littlejohn regarding her with a puzzled look, seemed to detect in her voice a hope that Grisdale, whoever he might be, wouldn’t put in an appearance.
“O, he’ll be here all right, never worry,” said Haworth. And turning to Littlejohn he explained.
“You’ll no doubt have heard of Philip Grisdale, the big London singer. Well, he’s a local lad, who’s made good and risen to fame, but he never forgets the old place. He used to attend the Hatterworth Methodists when he was a boy and every Christmas Day, he comes back to sing in the Messiah, which is always given there in the evening. This year, he wrote to say that he was laid-up with tonsillitis. That was last Wednesday. He advised them to find a deputy, but he’d come if he possibly could. I’m the deputy. He’ll turn up right enough. Folk’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t.”
The Littlejohns got to bed about three o’clock on Christmas morning. Somewhere in the distance, a choir was in full spate and the strains of a brass band in full blast, with a euphonium freely improvising in the bass, could be heard. Littlejohn felt full of the spirit of Christmas as he climbed into bed. He was wearing gaily-striped pyjamas, like the colours of some football team. He had once bought them himself and was proud of them.
“You’ve surely not brought those with you again!” laughed his wife.
“Why not? They’re jolly nice. I bought these the night before I ran Tossy Marks to earth at Cardiff…”
“Put out the light, Tom, before anybody sees them.”
“Do you know, Letty,” ruminated Littlejohn irrelevantly, “I hope that Grisdale chap doesn’t turn up to-morrow.”
“So do I.”
“If he doesn’t, we’ll go to church, eh? It’s not once in a lifetime you hear a policeman, and a Super at that, singing in the Messiah.”
“It’s a bargain, then.”
The brass band, playing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” with the euphonium rioting all over the shop, drew dangerously near, but before it arrived under his window, Littlejohn was deep in a sleep from which the last trump itself would only have roused him with difficulty.
The Murder of a Quack
Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show;
But wonder on, till truth make all things plain!
—Act V. Sc. I.
P.C. Mellalieu, representative of law and order in the village of Stalden, sat with his stockinged feet resting on the mantelpiece of the living-room of his cottage and gravely pored over the daily paper. He had a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles half-way down his large, bulbous nose and a short briar pipe, which he puffed enjoyably, between his teeth. The light of the summer evening was fading and he gradually drew the newspaper nearer and nearer to his eyes. Now and then, he gave a contented grunt, not quite knowing why he did it, but expressing his happiness thereby and from time to time he took a draught from the glass of beer at his elbow. After each drink, he gathered his moustache into his mouth with a large underlip and sucked the drops from it. He was a tall, heavily-built man and every time he moved, the arm-chair which held him creaked ominously. In his shirt-sleeves, bootless, his pipe burning beautifully and his beer nice and mellow, the bobby had been granted the very circumstances in which to enjoy his liberty. His wife had gone with her sister to the nearest town, Olstead, to have a good weep at the pictures and his three kids had gone with a tribe of others and a teacher to pick foxgloves for the war effort. Like a small boy in mischief, P.C. Mellalieu counted the precious minutes of peace yet to go. In half an hour, all the family would be back. Better be in uniform and his boots on by then, otherwise Mrs. M. would have something to say.
The constable’s wife was as proud as could be of the exalted position of her husband, William Arthur, but prouder still of the new police-house. Up to twelve months ago, it had been a small cottage hardly capable of holding their growing family, to say nothing of temporary prisoners. Then, the County Authorities had decided to erect a brand new home for the policeman. It had three bedrooms, a kitchen and a parlour, a cell, a greenhouse, a bathroom and hot and cold. Mrs. Mellalieu could only be persuaded with great difficulty ever to leave the place. She seemed to think that once she was out of sight, some jealous neighbour might squat in it with her family, or else remove it on a magic carpet. Also, she expected her husband to be as trim and spry as the house and he was rarely allowed even to unfasten the collar of his tunic. She would, had she dared, have insisted on William Arthur wearing his helmet, that symbol of his office, all the time! He was only allowed to relax when doing his garden. There seemed acres of it to the sweating constable as he dug his potato and bean rows and hoed his flower borders.
To-night, Mrs. Mellalieu’s more masterful sister from the next village had called and whisked her off, protesting, to a most pathetic film in town. In departing, his wife had given the P.C. a last word.
“Don’t forget them potatoes want rakin’ up a bit, Will. They’ll all be green when we get ’em else. You’ll jest mannige it afore I get ’ome.”
“Oh cripes!” groaned the bobby, who had been hoping for an hour or two of perfect peace. The only thing was to get a move-on over the job; and move he did. Rushing hither and thither down the potato rows like someone demented, P.C. Mellalieu did the work in half the scheduled time and here he was, gently cooling-off, sipping his beer and priming himself with the strategy of the war ready to tell the folk he met on the morrow a thing or two.
“The grand strategy of the war…” said he, without taking his pipe from his mouth. Then he removed it. “The grand strategy of the war.” He rolled it on his tongue sonorously. Somebody was going to get it on the morrow. He sipped his beer.
“Ah…ahhhhhhh…” and he gave a sharp intake of breath and a sweep of his nether lip, whereat his moustache leapt into his mouth as into some strange vacuum cleaner. Like a great comfortable cat the policeman wriggled his body in the cushions and flexed and relaxed his feet and toes in his heavy grey socks…Then the telephone bell rang!
P.C. Mellalieu’s eyes flashed fire.
“Oh ’ell,” he groaned and the bell persisted. “Sharrup! Sharrup! I’m comin’…wot the ’ell…” And still muttering and grumbling he walked softly across the room and took up the instrument. Why couldn’t they leave him alone on a night like this! With every prospect pleasing and then this…
“’Ello. Yus, perlice. Yus. ’Oo? O Yus, Mrs. Elliott and wot can I do for you?”
An excited voice quacked in his ear at great speed.
“’E has? Can’t you make ’im ’ear? Can you see anythin’ through the window?…Haven’t you got another key to the room? Well, I’d better come round. Right. I’m on me way, Mrs. Elliott.”
The constable slowly replaced the receiver and reached for his boots and tunic.
“Bet the old cock’s not in the room at all,” he muttered as he dressed himself properly.
As the constable hurried heavily down the village street to his destination, heads bobbed over garden walls and hedges following his progress with inquisitive eyes. Women seeing the bobby pass, peeped round curtains or came to the doors of their cottages and then compared notes with their neighbours, for it was unusual to see Mellalieu hurrying, especially at this time in the evening. The village main street was a secondary road, macadammed, with causeways of moss-grown cobblestones. Houses lined it, small dwellings for the most part, until eventually it widened into a small square, bordered by a few shops and several large, old houses, sedate and well preserved. There also stood the village inn, The Mortal Man, the doctor’s house, and the village hall. Behind the latter and well off the main thoroughfare, were the village green, the market-cross, the vicarage, and finally the church.
The house to which the constable was making his way was the last of the larger dwellings in the square. It had no front garden, but gave boldly on to the cobbles of the footpath. Small beds under its wall held tiny bushes, lichens and other rock plants. The building itself was three-storeyed, with sash windows dotted in its red-brick façade. The main door had a bright brass knocker and was painted cream and very clean. The whole place belonged to a gracious past, when builders had time to pursue their trade with care and solid materials. The date over the graceful fanlight was 1787.
Let in the wall to the right of the door was a large brass bell-knob. The policeman heaved at this and could hear the jangle of the bell indoors. Mellalieu whistled tunelessly to himself as he waited and cast his eye down the three brass plates which adorned the door. The first of these was scarcely legible, so well had time and metal polish done their work.
The next in succession was also weathered but easily made out.
Finally, bright and comparatively new,
NATHANIEL AND MARTIN WALL
The three plaques, one beneath the other, constituted the family tree of the Walls since their arrival in Stalden years ago.
The door opened and an elderly lady, Nathaniel Wall’s housekeeper, appeared. A small, wiry, trim woman of sixty or thereabouts, with bright eyes, now anxious, a healthy wrinkled face with a small nose and pointed chin. Her hair was white and gathered straight back, in old-fashioned style from her brow to a knob on the crown of her head. Her dress was black and voluminous in an out-of-date fashion. She was evidently in a fearful stew about something as she greeted her visitor.
“Come in, constable. I’m sure there’s something wrong with Mr. Wall. The surgery-door’s locked and I can’t get any answer. He must have had a seizure or something, for I’m certain he’s inside.”
“Now, now, calm yourself, Mrs. Elliott,” said Mellalieu heavily, raising his great hand as if in blessing. “Everything’s probably h’allright. ’Ow long ’s this bin goin’ on?”
“Well, constable, I was away last night. I went over to Sleeby to see my sister yesterday afternoon and they asked me to stay. I said I couldn’t on account of the master, though I’d left his supper on a tray and all he needed was to open his bottle of ale. They pressed and, in the end, my brother-in-law telephoned the master to ask if it would be in order for me to stay overnight and come back this morning, like. Mr. Wall said certainly. If I got back in time to-night to make his bed, I could stop all day there to-day as well. It was a bit since I’d had a change and he’d go for his meals to The Mortal Man. I was very pleased. Very nice of the master. I got back at eight o’clock to-night, cleaned up the supper dishes, made the bed, and then went to tidy up the surgery, thinking Mr. Wall had probably gone out, me not having heard anything of him moving about. The door was locked. The master never locks that door…I thought a bit and the more I thought the more anxious I got. I banged on the door and tried to peep through the window from the front. Then I found the blind was down, which I hadn’t noticed before. So, I rang you up.”
“Quite right, too, Mrs. Elliott. Quite the right thing to ’a done. Probably it’s h’allright. I’ll jest knock on the door fust.”
The bobby solemnly approached the offending article and smote it with his closed fist.
“Anyone in?” he asked timidly at first and then more boldly. “H’anyone in?”
There was a chilling silence, punctuated by the steady ticking of the great case-clock in the hall.
Mellalieu applied his eye to the keyhole, after removing his helmet, without which he looked almost naked.
“Carn’t see a thing, Mrs. H’Elliott.” He shook the door with increasing vigour, first with one hand, then with the other and lastly with both. “Hey! hey…!” he grunted, as though expecting to make the occupant relent and speak-up. Finally, he dropped his hands to his sides in a hopeless gesture.
“No good,” he panted. “Sure Mr. Wall didn’t lock it and go out?”
“Why should he lock it? There’s nothing in there to lock it for. I don’t like it. I think you ought to force it.”
It was gradually dawning on the brain of the constable, which ground slowly but exceedingly small, that force the door was what he ought to have done from the start. Instead, he had dilly-dallied and talked all round it when a man’s life might be in danger. Suppose old Wall had had a stroke or something…Beads of sweat broke out on the officer’s brow and bald head and he reacted vigorously.
“Right oh, Mrs. Elliott, provided you say so…provided you say so.”
“I do,” replied the woman wringing her hands.
Mellalieu gathered himself together in a mighty effort, coiled his body grotesquely and then unwound himself in a mighty heave. There followed a terrible anti-climax, in that the old screws which held the lock gave at once and precipitated the policeman full length into the room. The blind was drawn and no light showed within. Mrs. Elliott switched on the electric light, screamed and fell in a dead faint on the floor. The bobby recovered himself, seized his helmet with one hand, and still on one knee like a worshipper genuflecting, raised his head to see what Mrs. Elliott was doing. Instead, he saw something which made his blue eyes pop almost from their sockets. He gave a strangled cry and sprang to his feet with remarkable agility.
Dangling from a rope passed over a pulley in one of the beams of the ceiling was the stiff body of a man. As Mellalieu looked at it, the draught from the open door caused it to turn and face him. It was the livid-faced corpse of Nathaniel Wall!