Ruth entered the busy Duty Office absolutely dripping wet, but before she could take off her top coat and compose herself her elbow was grabbed by DCI Mallard.

"No time for the comforts of home, you're coming with me!" he said, man-handling her back the way she had come.

"What's going on?" she asked as they clattered down the concrete stairs and out through the back door into the car park.

"Our enquiries into the drag queen murder have just stepped up a notch." he said as they climbed into a squad car. "There's been another killing."

"At the club?"

"The owner, Arthur Goodfellow...Daisy to his friends. A right sleaze-ball by all accounts. Well, according to McCreedy anyway."

"Well, that at least gets Threadgold off the hook anyway." she said as the car screeched out onto the main road, blues and twos  warning other road users of their presence.

"Does it?"

"Well yes, of course. If he's locked up in a cell..."

"He could still be in on it. It doesn't prove a thing. Come on Gentry, wake up! You've been an officer long enough to know the score."

There were times she could have gladly taken a cheese wire to Mallard's neck as he could be very abusive and aggressive in his manner sometimes.

As they pulled up outside the Cabaret venue they noticed that an ambulance had got there before them. It must have been the paramedics that made the call.

"Becoming a bit of a habit, this!" Mallard shouted out to no-one in particular as if to announce his arrival. "Where is it?" he asked a uniformed constable. The younger man nodded to an area behind Mallard who turned to see Daisy's head perched on top of a microphone stand on the stage. The body lay prone on the carpet in front of the platform.

"My god!" was all Mallard could express.

"Nice clean cut all the way through. Bone and all." It was Clive Ward's voice.

"How the hell did you get here before me, Ward? I thought you rode a push-bike?" 

"I do, which means I can take all the short cuts and weave in and out of the traffic. Now, in my humble opinion it was a weighted, bladed instrument that dealt the fatal blow. My guess is a sword."

"A sword?" Mallard was aghast. "Who the hell carries a sword these days?"

"Well, come and look at the wound, then you tell me what you think the weapon was if it wasn't a sword."

"I can see fine from here." Mallard answered. He may have been a big brawny man but his stomach was as delicate as the next man's.

"There's no indication of sawing being used and no sign of a struggle. The cut was clean and swift, and to slice through the spinal column without so much as a splinter meant that the weapon had to have been swung thus..." He demonstrated. "therefore it had to be a sword. My guess is that this poor chap didn't know what hit him as the assault came from behind."

"He died as he lived then." quipped Mallard. Ruth threw him a dirty look.

"Any prints?" the DCI asked one of the forensic team who was powdering the door handle.

"Plenty, but not necessarily the killer's"

"Keep an optimistic mind; it could include the killer's dabs." He strode over to a young woman who looked familiar. "Haven't we already met?" he asked her.

"Yes. I work here." She had obviously been crying as her eyes were blood shot.

"Did you see anything love?" Mallard asked her.

"One minute he was walking around and the next minute..."

"His head just flew off and landed on the mic stand?" He was being sarcastic.

"I was down in the cellar. I was bottling up for tonight. I couldn't have been down there for more than five minutes. I came up with a box of WKDs and found him like this."

"Where does the cellar go?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean is it directly beneath us or does it go off in another direction?"

"It's right under here."

Mallard stamped on the floor.

"Floor boards."


"Floor boards. Which means that you should be able to hear anybody walking about up here whist you're down there. Am I right or wrong?"

"Yes, you can."

"So forgive me if I am being particularly thick, but wouldn't you have noticed if anyone came into the bar whilst you were poncing about downstairs?"

"Guv'nor, I think you should adopt a softer tone; she's obviously traumatised by her experience." Ruth interrupted.

The reply he received from the girl was equally aggressive.

"Daisy is always having people in for private drinking sessions! That's nothing out of the ordinary. He likes the company. But it was only his footsteps I heard; nobody else."

"Yes, I've been told about his little drinking sessions." said Mallard disapprovingly. "Alright love, get your things together, we're going for a little ride."

"Where are you taking me?"

"Down to the station."

"Am I under arrest?"

"Why? Do you know of any reason why I should arrest you?"

"Guv." Ruth cautioned him again. The girl gathered up her coat and handbag and walked towards the door.

"The car's outside. Just climb in the back and I'll be out in a second." Mallard instructed. But the girl still hesitated. "Well, go on! There's a uniformed officer sitting at the wheel, he won't bite!" The girl walked out onto the street and Mallard turned towards Ruth, putting his face very close to hers.

"And if you  ever criticise my interview techniques in front of anybody again DC Gentry, I'll have you back in uniform so fast, your feet won't touch! Do I make myself fully understood?"

"Perfectly." she replied, biting her lip.

With that Mallard stormed out of the place leaving Ruth Gentry to follow behind.





The End

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