Gently Sahib

Gently Sahib by Alan Hunter

Book: Gently Sahib by Alan Hunter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Hunter
were people who knew more than they’d said.’
    ‘Well yes . . . actually.’ Perkins said moistening his lips. ‘There was a letter, an anonymous letter – not to us, to the boy’s father. Said the writer had evidence that would have altered the verdict – made us a lot of trouble with Amies. He threatened to go to his MP.’
    ‘What does that look like to you?’
    ‘There’s always people writing letters like that.’
    ‘To me it looks as though Cockfield were showing sales resistance to Shimpling, and Shimpling put on the screw and brought him to heel. Which means that Cockfield’s support for Hastings’s alibi is dubious, leaves us with only Ashfield to credit.’
    ‘I just can’t believe it of Alderman Cockfield!’
    ‘He’s human, isn’t he?
    ‘I know . . .’
    It was a glimpse of a world, a world different and apart from the metropolis. One where values were static and unrelative, where easy cynicism was out of place.
    Where a CID inspector like Perkins could sit blushing like a shamed child, when someone cast aspersion on a Somebody to whom he allotted automatic innocence . . .
    And was Gently so superior because he questioned all innocence, all values?
    ‘Anyway, I’ll have a talk with this chemist. He may be fireproof though the others aren’t.’
    ‘He’s a decent fellow,’ Perkins blurted eagerly. ‘There’s never been anything against him.’
    ‘One other thing. I want you to ring Groton and to pitch him a yarn about poachers.’
    Perkins was too much bowled out to ponder the ethics of this manoeuvre, though no doubt he would remember and be unhappy about it later. Now he rang Groton, who was at home, and simply repeated what Gently’d told him.
    ‘There was some poaching over your way last night . . . did you hear any shooting around midnight?’
    A simple trap – and Groton fell into it.
    ‘Yes . . . I heard shots around half-twelve.’
    ‘Mr Ashfield?’
    ‘He’s in the dispensary. I’ll ask if he can see you. What name, please?’
    She was an austere woman with facial hair and a flat figure. She was one of three, none of them beauties, none of them much under fifty, who were kept busy behind the glass counter, serving the brisk Saturday trade.
    When Gently had come in there’d been scarcely standing room in the shop, and he was pushed up against a tall cabinet containing displays of cosmetics.
    The air smelled of stale bath salts with whiffs of camphor and more subtle odours, besides a scent of ground coffee proceeding from the basket of one of the shoppers.
    For they were country women. Each one of them carried a stuffed bag or basket, seemingly unconscious of the weight, since their burdens were never set down. Yet they dressed well, were apparently affluent. Some of them wore jewellery that wasn’t Brummagem. And they were cheerfully paying down crinkled notes for expensive scent, lipsticks, hair-lotions.
    At the end of the shop, behind mirror panels, was the cubicle marked DISPENSARY , from which came a shuffle of feet and occasional clinks and now and then the sound of voices.
    Two fans turned overhead. The shop furnishings were modern and expensive. The assistants, though dour, were efficient, could identify items sketchily described.
    A good business . . .
    Shimpling would have noticed, if he’d dropped by for some after-shave lotion.
    ‘This way, sir.’
    Was it an accident that the three assistants were such dragons? Policy perhaps; the pretty young ones would come and go too quickly.
    This one smelled strongly of menthol lozenges and had a definite tuft on her chin; one of the others had a chopper-like profile, the third a cast in the left eye.
    ‘Mr Ashfield.’
    They’d gone through the mirrors into a small, square compartment. Two sides were fitted with benches and a sink and a doorway on the right had stairs descending to it. On shelves above the benches were packed glass bottles, some clear, some dark blue, and the benches were littered with porclain

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