Gently through the Mill

Gently through the Mill by Alan Hunter Read Free Book Online

Book: Gently through the Mill by Alan Hunter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Hunter
Lynton. All that London did was to breed petty criminals, and when they upset Lynton you sent for a London copper.
    Gently unbuttoned his jacket and passed a handkerchief over his brow.
    The young assistant was pulling out the Madeiras, each with its garnish of peel; the aroma would have seduced an angel, but the heat destroyed any vestige of one’s appetite.
    Blythely had reached for a ladle and was beginning to dole out his mixture into paper-collared tins.
    ‘Trying to find out what the others missed, are you?’
    ‘That’s roughly the idea …’
    ‘We didn’t notice anything here, I can soon tell you that.’
    ‘All the same, you were here when the job was being done.’
    ‘We were making up the buns. They could have delivered a whole cemetery. As far as I know, there was nothing stirring all night.’
    Three ladlefuls went to a tin, and there was scarcely a speck remaining in the bowl. Blythely was still talking to the mixture as though Gently were a mere passing nuisance.
    ‘I shall have to have more than that, I’m afraid.’
    ‘Ted! Shove these Vanillas into number three, will you?’
    ‘If you can spare me half an hour, Mr Blythely …’
    Confound it, he was going on his knees to the fellow!
    At last the baker condescended to notice his melting visitor. Hands on hips, he regarded him shrewdly with small hazel eyes.
    ‘I’ve got to interrupt my work, have I?’
    ‘Yes – if you don’t mind.’
    ‘You’re wasting my time and yours, but I suppose that’s the way they run things. We’d better go into the house before you turn into a grease-spot.’
    The rub of it was that he was making Gently feel he was wasting the baker’s time. Out here in the bakehouse real work was going on …
     
    Blythely’s sitting room over the shop struck a note of nostalgia. It had been furnished in the early thirties but the style was of ten years previous, this being the usual aesthetic gap between London and the provinces.
    There were traces of nouveau art about the table and straight-back chairs. The three-piece suite was dumpyand upholstered in leather, the arm-fronts being tacked with big brass-headed nails.
    ‘Can I offer you something?’
    Blythely had left his apron below stairs, seeming to have shed with it a great deal of his cross-grained authority. Up here he appeared awkward and more than ever colourless. The daylight gave a greyish tinge to the pitted skin of his face.
    ‘No thank you … I’m on duty.’
    ‘You won’t mind me having a drop. At my trade you get a thirst – not that I ever touch alcohol, mind you.’
    He went to the top of the stairs, which descended straight into the shop.
    ‘Clara, bring me up a glass of that cold tea when you’re at liberty …’
    Through the muslin half-curtains Gently could watch the passers-by in Fenway Road. Well wrapped up, they still looked perished; the east wind was sweeping straight along the rather dingy thoroughfare.
    ‘Take a seat, won’t you?’
    Gently turned one of the straight-backed chairs around so that he could straddle it.
    ‘I realize you’ve got to do this – every man to his job. But the Good Lord knows that I had no hand in the business, nor, I feel certain, did anyone else in these parts …’
    Gently made a wry face. ‘That’s what everyone says.’
    ‘It’s the truth, you’ll find.’
    ‘I hope you’re right, Mr Blythely.’
    The baker sat down stiffly, placing his hands on hisknees. Through the open door one could hear his wife chatting amiably to a customer in the shop.
    ‘Go on – ask me your questions.’
    Gently nodded without complying.
    ‘You want to know when I started work – very well, it was a quarter to ten. Ted, he turned up at a minute or two after.’
    ‘And you worked through till seven?’
    ‘We had the bread to bake as well as the buns.’
    ‘But surely you left the bakehouse once or twice?’
    ‘The toilet is by the door.’
    It was so simple and so convincing. There was nowhere to pick a hole

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