Dear Departed

Dear Departed by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Book: Dear Departed by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
noticed the bag, so it was only Mrs Rose’s word.
    Running Man had also been fingered by three people, independently of each other. He was young, black, wearing baggy fawn chino pants, a loose grey hooded jacket over a black T-shirt, and trainers. He had raced ‘like the wind’ out of the park gate and up Paddenswick Road towards the Seven Stars. A further witness had seen him ‘run madly’ across the road at the Seven Stars, dodging the traffic filtering round the double roundabout there, and disappear up Askew Road. The time given was about eight o’clock, just before eight o’clock, and five or ten to eight. Against Running Man was the fact that none of the witnesses said he’d been carrying a bag, though one witness thought he had been carrying a mobile phone.
    Probably they would turn out to be nothing, but both Running Man and Bicycle Man would have to be looked into. A media appeal was planned, asking them to come forward and get themselves eliminated from the inquiry. If Bicycle Man were innocent, there was good hope that he would turn up; but young black men in gangsta gear were generally suspicious of the police, and Slider was afraid that he would continue a thorn in their side for some time.
    Porson got back from Hammersmith and scooped up Slider on his way upstairs. Slider scurried in his wake, feeling like Alice. Porson’s legs were long, and he moved at a terrific rate, like an ostrich, his summer coat flapping around and behind him like shabby plumage. In the winter he wore a tent-like green ex-army overcoat, but his summer tegument was a beige mac. It had once been expensive, and had flaps and capes and pockets and buttons everywhere.
    Reaching his room he barked, ‘Close the door,’ over his shoulder, shucked off his coat, threw it at the old-fashioned elk stand in the corner, and seemed slightly soothed when itcaught and stayed. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve done it. It wasn’t easy. Mr Palfreyman wasn’t best pleased, and I had to do a bit of fancy footwork, but I’ve got us the case
and
the budget. But we’ve got to get on with it. We can only have the extra uniform for a week. Have you got anything yet?’
    Slider told him about Running Man and Bicycle Man. ‘Of course, they may not turn out to be anything. What we really need to do is find people who saw the victim in the park that morning, but we’re hampered because we can’t issue a mugshot through the media until we’ve informed the next of kin.’
    ‘And you don’t know who they are?’
    ‘We’re going through her papers now, hoping to find out. It’s a vicious circle, really – if we could publish her picture, we’d have all sorts of friends and family coming forward.’
    Porson looked gloomy. ‘Got to respect the susceptitivities of the great GP,’ he said, without conviction. ‘If someone finds out about it the wrong way, they’ll start screaming bloody murder.’ Then his frustration burst forth. ‘Everyone wants to sue these days. Nation of crybabies, that’s what we are now. Everything you do, you have to look over your shoulder all the time in case a writ’s coming flying at you.’
    Slider murmured something sympathetic, and Porson stared at him, flame-eyed, working up to something.
    ‘Fact is, I’m sick of all this pussyfooting PC malarkey. They tie both your hands, won’t let you talk to anyone in case it upsets them, and then wonder why your clear-up rate’s down. I’m thinking of pulling the plug after this case, promotion or not.’
    ‘Oh, no, sir, don’t do that,’ Slider said.
    Porson snorted. ‘Miss me, would you?’ he enquired ironically.
    ‘Yes,’ Slider said sturdily. ‘We all would. A good super is hard to come by, more especially these days. Everybody admires and respects you, sir.’
    Porson looked surprised. Then he turned away to stare out of his window and spoke with his back to Slider. ‘Fact is,’ he said again, and with the awkwardness of one unused to making personal

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