Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE CURSE OF AMURABIS

D.I. Darling and D.S. Sweetheart observed Lucy from behind the two-way mirror.

‘Think we’ll crack her, Sir?’

Darling turned to face his sergeant. The crumpled skin of his face hung loose and quivered as though he had just been put through a wind tunnel. ‘Crack her? Crack her?’ he scowled. ‘I think she’s cracked enough. We’ll go through the motions just to satisfy procedure and then charge her. She’ll soon tell us where the body is. – Come on.’ The Inspector turned and the two detectives walked into the room and sat down opposite Lucy.

Sweetheart pressed record on the tape recorder leaning against the wall at the edge of the table. He gave the names of the people in the room and the date, time and place of the interview and pulled his chair up which squeaked against the polished floor. Darling gritted his teeth and gave Sweetheart a disapproving look. ‘How many times have I told you about that? Eh? You know it puts my teeth on edge.’

‘S-Sorry, Darling….. Sir,’ he quickly corrected himself. ‘Pans. Pans does it with me.’

‘What?’

‘Pans, Sir. If you scratch a metal pan with a knife. Goes right through me it does.’

Darling shook his head and sighed. His cheeks wobbled. ‘Let’s get on with the interview. Shall we, Sweetheart?’

Sweetheart opened his mouth to ask Lucy a question and then stopped. He turned to Darling. ‘Chalk, Sir.’

‘Chalk?’

‘Yes, Sir. Chalk. When the teacher underlined anything on the blackboard and the chalk squeaked. Ooooohhhhh! Didn’t half set my teeth tingling. Did you have the same problem? Your teeth being sensitive and all that.’

Darling smoothed down the few remaining dark strands of greasy hair on the top of his balding head and creased his brow. He pursed his lips and let out a slow breath. ‘From what I remember from school – No, chalk did not have that effect on me. Now – ‘ he pointed to Lucy, ‘Interview.’

‘Ah – Yes. Sorry, Darl…….Sir.’

Sweetheart turned once again to Lucy but then stopped as a thought occurred to him. He laughed quietly. ‘Cotton wool.’

Darling strummed the table top with his podgy fingers. He twisted a pencil in his other hand and broke the point on his notepad. ‘Cotton wool? Whatever are you blithering on about?’

‘Cotton wool does it too. Wouldn’t think that would you? But when you rubs it between your fingers, well, I have have to clench my teeth together. See, like this, Sir.’ Sweetheart grimaced his teeth together and growled like an angry Rottweiler about to attack.

Darling growled back. ‘Grrrrrrrrrrr………..’

Sweetheart growled louder. ‘GRRRRRRR…………’

Darling’s face went redder and redder as he growled louder still. ‘GRRRRRRRRRRR……’ His cheeks flapped like an angry bulldog and he pounced at Sweetheart.

‘Stop the recording!’ he barked, hitting the button on the tape recorder.

Sweetheart rocked against the wall. His chair almost toppling over. ‘S-Sorry, Sir. I don’t know what got into me. Y-Yes, I do. it was the cotton wool. Thoughts of it made me go all funny.’

Darling ignored his sergeant’s remarks and rewound the tape. ‘Here. Swap seats.’

The WPC standing against the wall tried to stifle a laugh but failed. Darling shot her an angry glare. Red veins splintered his cheeks. ‘Yes?’

The WPC coughed to compose her laughter. ‘Can I get you anything? Tea, perhaps?’

‘Yes – Yes. That’d be nice.’

‘And if you sit really still you can have a biscuit,’ the young policewoman laughed as she hurriedly left the room.