Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (52)

Detective Superintendent Howie Moore paused, as the Wanchai police station tea lady unsteadily lowered a cup in front of Hewitt. “Gavin, this ain’t no inquisition, all right?” he said, as the old woman eventually shuffled back through the door, her task completed. “All I want yer t’do is recount the events o’ yes’day morning. As you remember ’em, like.” But the school’s Deputy Principal was squirming. Wringing his hands uncomfortably, he was unable to look his inquisitor in the eye. “Gav,” the Detective Super continued, noting the other man’s unease. “I ver’ much doubt there’wll be a criminal aspeck t’this case, in terms of yer own pers’nal involvement, like. Jus’ relax,” he reassured him, holding out a plate piled high with an assortment of filled rolls. Whatever the circumstances, Howie Moore never missed his breakfast.

Tormented by guilt, Hewitt had been unable to rest. In fact, he had been up all night: he looked wrecked. But, during the small hours, the habitually thorough schoolmaster had at least had the presence of mind to write down what he could remember of the sequence of events back in Guilin’s ancient marketplace. And now, thankful for the foresight to have created what had become a useful crib sheet, he painstakingly walked Moore through every step of the party’s final outing, from the formation of the children into three groups, and the assignation of a teacher to supervise each of them, to the painful recollection that white group, of which Sophie Blake was a member, had brought up the rear.

“…And so whilst it’s not at all my intention to abdicate responsibility, it was Sally Henderson who should’ve been at the cow’s tail of white group, sweeping up any wee stragglers. But for whatever reason, Howie, this didn’t happen.” “Some’ow, the girl slipp’d through the net.” The big Detective bit into a cheese and pickle roll, gesturing for to Hewitt to take one from the plate that now sat on the table, between them. “That’s right,” the Deputy Principal, now gaining a little confidence, agreed. “And so as soon as we realised there was one missing, Brad Taylor, Sally and me sprinted back to the market. We scoured it for over an hour, Howie, without result. We turned the place upside down, inside out. Asked all sorts of people whether they’d seen her. She was – is – a striking young girl: all curly, blonde locks – a kid who’d stand out, particularly in those type of surroundings. But there was no trace of her. Nothing.” Playing with his hands again, Hewitt was once more showing signs of his frustration, and anxiety. “And wha’about the loc’l police? They get involv’d?” “By this time, we’d already managed to communicate with them. Got them to understand what the problem was. The severity of the situation. The trouble with that was that they wanted to take over. Virtually herded us back on to the bus and told us to go. Clear off, like. That it was their issue now, not ours any more. Poor Brad… I feel so sorry for him.” “What d’ya mean?” “They made us leave the lad behind, to help with their enquiries, they said. It felt like he was being… well, taken hostage. I’ve not heard from him since, Howie. And I’m worried about him. He’s just a lad. In his twenties. Apart from finding the young lassie, contacting Brad Taylor should be a secondary priority, in my view.”

“All right, Gav,” concluded Moore, licking some errant pickle from his fingers while jotting down some notes. “I fink I’ve got enough to go on fer now. I’ll be gettin’ in touch wiv Guilin this mornin’. Let y’know wha’ ’appens, later. Meanwhile, why don’tcha go ’ome get yer ’ead down for a while. You look knackered, like…”

It was a visit the Detective Superintendent was dreading, but one he knew he had to make. Let into the Blakes’ Caperidge apartment by someone he presumed to be a close family friend, he found Kate curled up in a ball on the sofa, staring absently out to sea, through what was, he noted, a rather dirty window. Sentinel-like, the other woman remained stock still by the door, as he moved across the room. “Mrs. Blake–” he began. “Find my daughter,” Kate cut him off, abruptly, while drawing on a cigarette. She dabbed at her eyes with a well-used ball of tissues. “Don’t waste time talking, just go and find her.” “Mrs. Blake, we’re doing our bes–” “Don’t give me that shit!” Kate screamed. “Find my daughter, you bastard!” Detective Super Howie Moore raised his eyebrows. “Fucking find her, OK?” She was sobbing now, her head buried between her knees, which she had pulled up so as to hug. The other woman moved silently away from the doorway, to sit beside the distraught mother and place an arm around her, in comfort. Looking at Moore, she suggested with her eyes that he might as well leave, the good his visit was doing.

Sighing, the portly Detective turned on his heels and retraced his steps to the exit, acknowledging that the woman was right. There was nothing he could offer the Blakes, except some form of contribution to the mission that brought about the successful return of their daughter. But what the fuck am I act’yally gonna be able to do? he asked himself, as he quietly closed the door behind him.

posted by Kirk at 5:28 am  

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