CHAPTER TWO –
Following the dismissal of the men, Mainwaring motioned for Walker to join him the next room. When both men had disappeared behind Mainwaring's closed door, and most of the men had vacated the parade square, Wilson pressed his ear up against the office door, intent on eavesdropping.
"Take a seat, Private." The Captain said, seating himself behind the desk.
Walker hesitantly sat down.
"Do you have anything you'd like to say?" Mainwaring asked.
"Let's start with you're arriving 20 minutes late to parade this evening. You never gave me any sort of explanation."
"I'd like to give you one, sir, I'd really like to. I can't get my head around it, but…I don't remember why I was late."
"What sort of an answer is that?"
Walker set his jaw in frustration. How was he supposed to explain something that he himself did not understand?
"On to my next grievance." Mainwaring continued. "Where did you get all those cuts and bruises?"
"I. Don't. Remember." Walker repeated, beginning to feel just as angry as he was confused.
"And your rifle? I suppose you don't remember where you left that either?" Mainwaring shouted, leaning forward across the desk top. The men almost never took their rifles home, but since they had met earlier that same day for an exercise, they had been allowed to take the weapons home for the brief time between the exercise and the evening parade.
"No, as a matter of fact!" Walker snapped back. "Either it was stolen while I was passed out, or I left it at home for some bizarre reason!"
Outside, Wilson jumped when Pike tapped him on the shoulder.
"Goodness, Frank, don't do that!" Wilson admonished.
"Sorry Uncle Arthur." Pike said, not sounding all that sorry. "What is Captain Mainwaring yelling about?"
"He's having a talk with Walker. It's private."
"Oh, I see." Pike said, adopting Wilson's position, pressing himself up against the door.
"Passed out?" Mainwaring repeated, easing himself back into his seat. "What are you playing at, Walker?"
"I don't know. The last thing I can remember was leaving my house, on my way over to parade. Next thing I knew, I was laying in some alley on the other side of town. The nearest I can figure is it that I was mugged."
"Muggers? In Walmington-on-Sea?" Mainwaring asked doubtfully. "Do you really think that was it?"
"I don't know." Walker repeated. He felt like he had run that phrase into the ground.
"Is it possible that you had too much to drink, got into a bar fight and were thrown into a back alley behind some public house?"
"Maybe." Walker answered. "Listen, sir, I've told you all I could remember. Can I go now?"
"I suppose so, Private. If you arrive home and your rifle is NOT there, you need to call me at once on my home telephone. A stolen or misplaced weapon needs to be reported to the police."
"Understood." Walker said.
He shouldn't have been surprised to see Wilson and Pike jump back from the door as he swung it open to leave.
Walker sent a dirty look their way. He was in a bad mood, and this wasn't any of their business.
"Good evening, Walker." Wilson said politely, with a smile.
"Sure." Walker muttered and stormed out of the parade hall. Outside, it was raining.
Perfect. He held his collar tight to keep the rain out, and began home. As he walked, he tried, despite his terrible headache, to put the pieces together. He was unsuccessful. A sizable lump had developed on the side of his head, and he had this awful persistent ache behind his eyes. It was much worse than having a hang over.
The only thing he was able to focus on at the moment was getting home. His warm bed seemed very appealing at the moment.
0330 hrs -
On the far edge of town, a police car without its lights on (air raid hazard, you know), pulled to a stop in front of a boarded up old shop.
A police detective by the name of Porter got out of the car, wearing a navy mac raincoat overtop of his suit, and holding a torch. He walked over to a pair of constables, who were standing between the old shop and an building that had been recently ruined by a nearby bomb. They were visibly shaken.
"Evening gentlemen. What's the situation?" The detective asked.
"W-we've never had something like this in Walmington-on-Sea before, sir." Said the younger of the two constables. The elder of the two switched on his torch and motioned for the detective to follow him into the alley between the two buildings.
When the light fell on the victim, the detective, seasoned as he was, felt a twang in his gut.
"We found her while walking our beat. Actually it was young Constable Lorne who spotted her. Lad's a bit shaken up." Then he added a bit quieter "He's not the only one."
"Did she have any identification on her?" Detective Porter asked.
"No sir, afraid she didn't." The constable replied. "Nor did she have any jewellery on her. Robbery gone wrong?" He suggested.
"Single gun shot wound to the head." The detective observed, crouching to observe the body in closer proximity. "Various defensive wounds. She was small, but she fought to protect herself..."
"Unfortunately, it's difficult to protect yourself against a rifle shot." The constable interjected.
"Rifle." The detective repeated, taking a closer look at the wound. "Interesting weapon of choice. Anyone could be spotted walking around with a rifle, so why not use a hand gun?"
"Unless he had a car, sir, and drove away." The constable suggested.
"Or perhaps, the weapon is still here someplace." The detective stood back up. "This entire alley, and those around here are lined with rubbish containers. Get Constable Lorne to help you search. I'll help you after the coroner has seen to the body."
"Right, sir." The man said, and he returned to the foot of the alley, where his young partner had remained.
Detective Porter glanced woefully down at the body. She would've been around 25, and looked like a nice girl. He couldn't imagine taking the life of someone like that. Wasn't there enough fighting and death these days? Some people disgusted him. He decided that from that moment on, the case was personal.
A rifle was discovered at the end of the same alley, in a large waste bin. It was removed carefully so as not to disturb fingerprints.
"Now we're getting somewhere." Detective Porter said as he was handed the weapon. He looked over it once, frowning.
"What is it, sir?" Asked the younger constable, who had apparently regained his composure.
"This is a standard service issue rifle." Porter mused. "Not many people have access to these. This means that our killer is either a regular soldier, or a member of the Local Defence Volunteers."
"I believe they go by home guard now, detective." Explained the young man.
The detective nodded politely at the irrelevant piece of information, and asked if the constables knew of a local platoon.
"Oh, Mr. Mainwaring, the bank manager, is head of a platoon on the other side of town." Explained the older constable. "Next to his platoon, I think there's one in Eastgate…"
"I'll start with the bank manager."
"They parade a few times a week at the church hall near the bank."
"Good." The Detective said. "I'll ask after him tomorrow. I'm sure he would know if one of his rifles were missing. Or if one of his men were absent from parade during the time of the victim's death."
"I hope it isn't one of Mainwaring's lot. Some of my mates are members of that platoon. So are old Mr. Jones and Mr. Godfrey. I couldn't see anybody in that platoon as a murderer!" Constable Lorne said.
"Well, I doubt that Mr. Godfrey or Mr. Jones would've been capable of inflicting the wounds." Explained the young man's partner…
"Still, even an elderly gentleman would be capable of pulling the trigger of the gun that killed her." The detective cut in. "Remember, constables. Looks can be deceiving."
A/N: Thanks for reading : ) Sorry it took so long, but I've been away.