CAUGHT IN THE CHURCH
Benjy Smith was weeping in the church.
The noise was tortured, his sobbing creaking like a rusty gate in a storm (what does a rusty gate in a storm sound like? I've no idea!) But if you know that then you'll know what Benjy Smith sounded like.
“I'm getting out of here!” hissed Ginny Longbottom, one of three elderly ladies sitting in their pews towards the back of the church. She stood up and started to slide past the rather plump Hilda Buttocks in order to get out.
“Stay where you are!” snapped Benjy Smith, spinning round, his face a tortured mass of emotion.
“Yes sir,” squeaked Ginny before she could stop herself.
“Why are you sirring him?” demanded Martha Shortarse, the third of the three women. “You shouldn't go around sirring wretches like him! He's a bad 'un and no mistake. Look what he did to that pretty young girl he was courting, and he's still walking free!”
“What … what do you mean?” demanded Benjy, halving the distance between himself and the three women with a half a dozen teetering footsteps. “I've done nothing – why shouldn't I be walking free?”
“We know what you are, lad,” retorted Martha, feeling there might just be strength in numbers. “Never any good, you or your folks. And somebody took a blade to that lass of yours. Somebody stuck her with it. Somebody did the deed, and I reckon you know who that somebody might have been!”
“Well it weren't me no matter what you think,” mumbled the young man. “I loved her, I did, loved everything about her. We was goin' to get married, that's what we was going to do. She were pregnant!”
The oak door of the church opened again, and Inspector Humperdinkle walked in, quietly.
“What's that, lad?” he asked, interrupting the conversation, much to the relief of the three elderly ladies who only wanted to sit in quietness and let the world pass them by for a few moments. “Did I hear rightly? Did I hear you say that she was pregnant?”
“Might have done,” responded Benjy, cautiously.
“What made you think that, lad?” asked the Inspector, and anyone sufficiently close to him would have noted the sudden gleam in his eyes. It was what an angler might display when he's teasing a fish out of the water.
“She said,” muttered Benjy. “We done it, and she said as she was pregnant!”
“You done it, lad?” queried the Inspector, moving slowly closer to his quarry with small menacing steps. “You better tell me what you done!”
“we done it!” almost yelped Benjy.
“Just you be thinking where we are,” piped up Martha Shortarse. “We're in the Lord's house and he don't want any of that kind of talk! Not in here where he lives and breathes and judges us sinners!”
“It's the copper as asked!” howled the wretched youth. “It was him as said we done it!”
“You've got a very short memory, son,” said the Inspector benevolently. “But tell me, what was it you claim to have done?”
“It!” wept the lad. “We done it!”
“And she was pregnant because of it?”
“I said so, didn't I?”
“Son, you've said a lot! You said you saw the preacher with a blood-stained blade...”
“I did! I did! I gave it you, didn't I?”
“And you just said you had – er – intimate relations with the deceased?”
“I loved her, I did!”
“Lad, you're burying yourself! Burying yourself under a mountain of lies! The vicar did nothing but spot your girl dying in the street and the shame of it is he might have saved her if he'd done something. So he's got a lot to think about, a lot of reconciling to do. And this girl, on her way home for some clean undies … women have such a bad time sometimes … because it was that time of the month and she'd been stricken … or maybe she was just going home and to bed … maybe you'd quarrelled and lost your cool...”
“I told you! She was pregnant and having my baby!”
“Because you two had done it?”
“I said, didn't I?”
“Lad, she was that rare of young women in this day and age. She was a virgin, it was the wrong time of month, and she'd done it with nobody! Not in all her life.”
“Inspector!” quavered Ginny Longbottom. “What will the Almighty think, talking dirty in his home?”
Inspector Humperdinkle eyes her severely.
“I only said she was a virgin, like your Almighty's dear mamma,” he said with mock seriousness. He turned back to Benjy Smith.
“Guess what?” he asked the youth.
“I dunno,” almost spat his prey.
“You're nicked, my son! I'm arresting you for the murder of Mandy Cartwright. You don't have to say anything … but I reckon you must've heard that caution a thousand times before, the amount of trouble you've been in. Come on, son, and to tell the truth if they still hanged people I'd love to watch you dangling from the gibbet!”
“You won't catch me, you prat!” shrieked Benjy, and he ran towards the Inspector intending to swerve round him and out of the door, but the knowing officer stuck one leg out and he sprawled, howling and screaming, onto the stone flagged floor.
Behind him the wooden crucifix gazed down, sort of judgemental.
© Peter Rogerson 18.01.13
I seem to be creating another of my characters. That's the trouble with me: I set a scene and then want to get my teeth into it! So here are links to the previous parts.