Maxwell’s Flame

Maxwell’s Flame by M. J. Trow Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Maxwell’s Flame by M. J. Trow Read Free Book Online
Authors: M. J. Trow
When a body is found, men in blue suits form lines and crawl forward, like a bizarre Tai Chi.
    ‘She didn’t die here, then?’ Warren took in the wall behind the dead woman’s head. There was no space in that tiny stock cupboard to crack an egg, let alone someone’s skull.
    ‘No, sir.’ McBride was sure. ‘Out in the corridor would be my guess. Then she was dragged in here.’
    ‘Why?’
    ‘The old problem,’ McBride shrugged. ‘It’s all very well to put somebody’s lights out, but you’ve then got the perennial puzzle of what to do with the body.’
    ‘So you store it in a store room?’
    ‘It’s not good, is it?’
    ‘Not ideal, no,’ Warren nodded. ‘Perhaps just a temporary hiding place, until our man had time to think. Time to arrange something more permanent. You wouldn’t care to hazard a time on any of this, I suppose?’
    A smile flitted across McBride’s face. ‘Well, the body’s cold and loose. That means rigor mortis has come and gone. At least forty-eight hours, I’d say.’
    Warren nodded again. ‘Allowing for temperature variations, state of the body and so on.’ He glanced around him. ‘That’s odd,’ he said.
    ‘What, sir?’ McBride hated being upstaged, even by Warren. ‘The door. It opens outwards.’
    ‘It would have to, wouldn’t it?’ the Inspector asked. ‘Seeing as the store room is so small.’
    ‘Possibly,’ Warren said, ‘possibly. Bit of bad luck on our man, though.’
    ‘Sir?’
    ‘Well, I assume that Mrs Striker was walled in behind those boxes of paper. They must have fallen and their falling forced the door open. If the door had opened inwards, that couldn’t have happened.’
    ‘Still,’ McBride reasoned, ‘that would only delay the finding of the body for a while.’
    ‘Possibly,’ Warren said again, narrowing his eyes.
    McBride hated it when that happened. He could never read his boss’s mind. And because of that, he would never be one step ahead. Always one behind.
    ‘Tell me,’ Warren said, ‘have we got everybody still on site? The guests, I mean? Staff?’
    McBride nodded. ‘All except a few teachers who are somewhere out on the bay, problem-solving.’
    If Warren was a smiling man, he’d have done it then. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘when they get back, they can solve a few problems for me. I’d better have a word with the guests. Don’t want any of them doing a bunk. It’ll cost an arm and a leg to track them all down. Oh, John …’ He turned in the corridor. ‘Let me know when Graham Anderson arrives, will you? And when you’ve taken Mrs Striker out, build up that wall again.’
    ‘Sir?’
    “The boxes. The wall of boxes he stashed her behind. Build it up again. I want to see the room as it was before the stationery toppled. OK?’
    Maxwell had been this way before. Or nearly so. Two of his own sixth-formers had died in mysterious circumstances, so he was no stranger to police enquiries. Even so, he’d never actually crossed a police cordon before. Now, he had no choice.
    ‘Good God,’ Phyllida Bowles said, taking in the ambulance, the squad cars, the crowd of holiday-makers parked along the road. ‘They must have found Whatsername’s body.’
    ‘What?’ Wynn asked.
    ‘Thing. You know. Your colleague. That funny little vicar chap was pestering everybody about her yesterday.’
    ‘Mrs Striker,’ Margot Jenkinson remembered. ‘Do you know, Michael, that gin and orange before we left has really affected my swim bladder. I really must take more orange with it.’
    It was then that they were stopped by the long arm of the law in the form of a particularly officious WPC who reminded Maxwell of Helen Mirren in that television cop programme – forty but desirable. They each gave their name and it came as no surprise to Maxwell when Margot Jenkinson’s cliché, ‘What is all this about?’, elicited an irrelevant statement from the girl in blue. ‘The Chief Inspector would like a word.’
    Miles Warren had his word in

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