Ruth Gentry emerged from the kitchen carrying two mugs of tea, one strong the other milky. She offered the darker of the two to James then nestled into the sofa opposite him and looked into his eyes as she delicately sipped her own.
James stared into his cup, not connecting with her at all.
"Doesn't HE want one?" he asked, referring to the sergeant who stood just inside the doorway.
"He'll be fine." she replied, sipping once more.
"Can't we just get this over and done with?"
"We'll have to wait for DCI Mallard. Just drink your tea, it'll do you good."
James had felt this woman's eyes burning into him all the way home in the car, and she was still staring him out. What the hell is her problem?
"I don't drink tea normally. I prefer coffee." he told her
"Tea's good for shock." she told him.
"My Dad always says . . . " He paused for thought. "SAID that."
"Your Dad knew best."
James looked across at the garish pink, oversized alarm clock on the sideboard. They had only been in the flat for fifteen minutes but it seemed so much longer to him.
His father loved that clock. It was given to him as a present on Pride Day two years ago by fellow Drag Artiste Patty O'Doors. He always enjoyed surrounding himself with the campest tat possible. Cheap and tacky to anybody else, but to him...
"Watch yourself, you're spilling it! We don't want you scalding yourself on top of everything else, do we?" Actually, there was a sharp quality to her voice when she spoke loudly. He hadn't noticed that before as up till now her tone had been soft; almost seductive.
James took a sip from his mug. He cringed.
"Augh, too much sugar!" he complained.
"Drink it. It's good for shock." Why did she keep telling him that? He didn't feel shocked, he felt numb. Was that normal? His father splattered all over an already filthy little dressing room and he felt nothing.
"Where are my shoes?" he asked looking down at his thoroughly soaked socks.
"I had to take them from you in the car, don't you remember?" She had asked him to remove them within a couple of minutes of the journey and had put them in a plastic "Zippy Bag." "I'm going to have to ask you for the rest of your clothes as well, I'm afraid." she said.
"Am I a suspect?" he asked.
"It's just a formality." she said in that seductive tone, smiling once and then sipping her tea again.
He looked at the clock again.
"Where the hell is he? I just want to get cleaned up and go to bed."
"He won't be too long, I'm sure. Just be patient. Drink your tea."
"I don't feel like drinking tea!" he said, placing the cup on the carpet at his feet. He buried his face in his hands and rubbed his eyes, exhaling a long, drawn out breath as he did so. At that moment he was aware of heavy foot steps behind him. He turned to see that DCI Mallard had let himself in through the open front door.
"Right then!" Mallard announced as he sat on the sofa opposite. Ruth Gentry immediately rose and went over to where the Sergeant was standing by the door.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. Now then Mr. Threadgold, we'll need those clothes you're wearing, I expect Ruth has told you that?"
"Soon as you like!" he said, opening a notebook and extracting a pen from an inside pocket in his jacket without once looking at James. Ruth was unfolding a much larger plastic Zippy Bag behind him.
"Not shy are we? Don't worry, you can keep your underwear on; it's just your shirt and trousers we want."
"I'm not wearing any underwear." James replied, almost embarrassed. Mallard let out a sigh. "Is there a dressing gown or something in your bedroom?"
"Yes, behind the door." Mallard looked across at Ruth and she immediately left the room and returned with a dressing gown, handing it to James.
He took off his shirt, handed it to her and then put on the robe and unfastened his trousers, aware that all eyes were on him. As he handed them to Ruth, Mallard noticed the tattoo on James's lower leg.
"Interesting choice." said Mallard.
"What?" James pulled the robe round himself and sat back in the chair as he tied the waist-band.
"A ceremonial Chinese dragon. You like the orient do you?"
"I like dragons." said James.
"Yes, but of all the styles of dragon out there you choose a ceremonial Chinese dragon. Now that I do find fascinating. I mean, there are Tolkien style dragons, Harry Potter style dragons, and yet you pick what I consider the least dragon-like dragon for a tattoo. It's more like a long bodied lion, don't you think?"
"I suppose..." James was confused. His father was in pieces and this guy only wanted to talk about dragons. What the hell was going on? "Does it really matter what I have tattooed on my leg? I thought we were going to talk about what has happened?"
"Yes, let's talk about it."
James waited but it seemed that there were no questions forthcoming.
"What do you want to know?"
"Alright; I want to know if you were the last person to see your father alive?"
"Well, obviously not. Whoever killed him was..." James felt the blood pressure in his head increasing to the point his cranium felt like it was going to explode. His mouth suddenly dried up and he reached for his tea at his feet. Clumsily he knocked the cup and it delivered the liquid to his foot instead of his mouth.
"Why don't you tell me the last time you saw your father alive?"
"When he was on stage. He'd just sung his last number then disappeared off to the dressing room."
"I see. Did the show go according to plan?"
"I don't know. I've never seen my Father's act before tonight."
"Did you love your father?"
"And yet you had never attended any of his performances until this evening? Not a very supportive son, if you don't mind my saying so."
"I don't particularly like drag acts, that's all."
"So what made tonight different ? Why choose tonight to see your father perform?"
"I've already been over that. I got my exam results through, I'd been celebrating and Dad wanted me to go to the club to meet his friends and colleagues."
"Was your father homosexual?"
"That must have really ticked you off. I mean, a father is supposed to be a role model isn't he? What sort of example is that to set a teenage boy hmm? Are you straight son?"
"I had no...yes I'm..."
"Had your father ever been indiscreet?"
"Did he ever abuse you as a boy?"
James stood up, infuriated at such a suggestion.
"Damn you!" Mallard smirked but remained seated, scribbling into his note book.
"Please sit down, Mr. Threadgold." he said calmly. "Do you have anything you wish to say to me?"
"I don't even want you in my home." James was beginning to feel nauseous again. Now Mallard was on his feet. He closed the note book, slipped it into his breast pocket and returned the pen to the inside of his jacket.
"James, Ian Threadgold, I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of George Stefanovic. Anything you..."
James emptied his stomach all over the tea-sodden carpet.