Fandom: Life on Mars/Miss Marple
Word Count: This section, 7,100 words. In total, just over 15,500 words.
Notes: Life on Mars/Miss Marple. Gen. For neuralclone, who is absolutely wonderful. More notes after the cut (s2 spoilers.)
Summary: Sam Tyler. Gene Hunt. Miss Marple. Murder.
A/N: Since ‘1973’ is apparently all in Sam’s head, and his last second lasts for an eternity, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that he might start concocting amusing narratives to keep himself entertained. So – any and all discrepancies are explained away by, “lah lah lah – it’s all fantasy.”
Sam had spent the past five and a half minutes extolling the virtues of Manchester United to one very bemused Chris, who sat, eyes wide, mouth clamped on a bacon buttie, apparently listening intently. Sam was completely unaware that Chris had drifted off after the first minute of him describing Ryan Giggs in all his brilliance. Sam had explicated Giggs’ playing style and flair down to the finest minutiae, not caring that Giggs was not yet born in July of 1973. The truth was, even had he known, Sam wouldn’t have much cared. He had listened to Chris talk endlessly about his girlfriend, after all. They were about even when it came to boring each other senseless. He was just starting into the second half of the sixth minute when Gene tramped into the canteen, his eyes set upon Sam.
“Tyler, you’re wanted.”
“Aren’t I always?” Sam returned with a mischievous smile and Gene grunted in annoyance, his finger pointing solidly at the ground.
Sam gulped down the last of his water, said his goodbyes to a still catatonic Chris, and followed Gene. He observed that there was something amiss in Gene’s swagger, it was just slightly off-kilter. Sam had remarked before that, for all his barrelling bull-like manner, Gene was oddly graceful. The grace was gone.
They arrived at Lost & Found. Gene, in an uncharacteristic act of civility, allowed Sam to enter first. Walking around the shelves of all that had not yet been pinched by various members of the force, Sam entered into the space where they usually interviewed suspects and found, instead of the rogue he had expected, a small elderly woman with crisp grey curls. She smiled at him and he smiled back, a millisecond later turning around to gaze at Gene.
Sam didn’t say, “I’m confused.” He desperately wanted to. He peered at Gene’s face, that housed a grin Sam was convinced was artificial. Gene went to sit down opposite the cardigan-wearing old biddy, but he did so with some unease. He was immediately restless, his fingers drumming on the table. Still, he kept up an aura of joviality, welcome and charm. Sam placed himself on the chair next to him.
“Hello again, lovely-love – can I get you a tea?” Gene asked, gesturing smoothly. “Biscuits? We’ve some pink wafers around here somewhere – if Chris and Ray haven’t scoffed them all.”
The elderly woman fixed her eyes on Gene and Sam perceived a twinkle in her look. “No, I think I’ll forego the tea and biscuits, thank you all the same, Detective Chief Inspector.”
Gene chose to actively ignore her quiet but firm dismissal. “How’s about a nice bit of fruit cake?”
“Come now, Eugene – would I really have travelled all the way to Manchester only to sample the station’s afternoon fancies?”
Sam choked, shock and contained laughter constricting his throat. When he stopped coughing, he noted that something had changed in Gene’s expression and attitude. Sam couldn’t put his finger on exactly what, but the warmth of Gene’s eyes most decidedly dimmed and the line of his shoulders arched into a curve.
“So what do you want?” Gene queried, a vaguely threatening undercurrent emerging in his tone.
“I expect you’ve heard of a little matter that was recently in the paper? A case in St Mary Mead.”
Gene shook his head, but the plodding lack of speed of the action revealed the lie.
“Oh, I think you have. And it’s not unlike one we’ve worked on before – when you were still required to wear a uniform,” the woman said, her expression lightening with humour once more. “Such a bright young officer. I always knew you’d go far, and look, here you are, a mentor.”
Sam inwardly reflected on Gene’s mentoring abilities and wondered if he should explain that it involved a crash course in kidney-punching and frequent insistence of male-bonding, but decided against it. Gazing at the delicately wrinkled face, with the eyes that were wise but still alive with a youthful exuberance, Sam couldn’t help but think that he wouldn’t be saying anything that wasn’t already known to all in the room.
“You’ve come to confer on an old case, Miss Marple?”
Sam started, his neck cracking as his head whipped around.
“No. I’ve come to ask you to help me with another, DCI Hunt,” Miss Marple replied. “And please, you’re no longer a young boy of twenty-three. Call me Jane.”
Sam was not going to fret about this. He most certainly was not going to vex himself over this. Sam had a short but powerful panic attack in a cubicle of the men’s toilets. Fictional characters were coming to life. This didn’t happen every day. He’d greatly prefer it if it didn’t happen at all. But the truth was inescapable. Sitting across from Gene was someone who, by rights, shouldn’t exist. And the manner in which Gene had responded to her was --- odd, for Gene. He seemed almost fearful. Why else would they be in the Lost & Found, instead of the canteen or the office?
Sam cleaned himself up, running water over his face, and hurried out, back to where Gene was still talking with Miss Marple. He had to keep it together. He’d made it this far. He couldn’t crack now.
“- of course, you wouldn’t be able to be there in any official capacity. In fact, I rather think it would be wise if you came disguising your identity, as it were.”
“Right,” Gene replied. Sam stared at the back of his head. Gene did not sound overwhelmingly cheerful.
Miss Marple stood. “I’ll go wait in your car then – I would be right in saying that it’s the bronze Ford Cortina Mark III, correct?”
Gene affirmed this and she left the room, striding as opposed to shuffling, as one might expect a little old lady to do.
“So you’re going with her?” Sam asked. He sat down on the chair next to Gene and angled towards him.
“Correction, we’re going with her.”
“But --- the station!” Sam protested.
“I’ll put Carling in charge.”
“Oh yeah, because that worked so well the last time.”
“My word is law, Tyler. You’re coming with me. And if you say boo to a goose, I’ll wring your neck.”
Gene left the room rapidly, leaving Sam to stare at the floor and try to figure out how he got here. He assumed they were going to St Mary Mead, but why? Surely there was a regional police force quite capable of solving crime. Sam bashed the palm of his hand against his forehead and groaned.
Sam ran up the stairs and saw that Gene was already standing with CID crowding around him. He looked like a king addressing his royal subjects and Sam knew that Gene would welcome the analogy.
“Tyler and me have a case to solve in the country. Whilst I’m gone, DS Carling here is going to be in charge. You will do what he says when he says it. You will keep my city clean from scummy bastards. And you will save up all your spare cash to buy me beer and whisky when I return. Understood?”
There was a dull murmur.
Gene placed his hands on his belt and raised his voice to a tremendous roar. “I said - understood?”
“Understood, Guv,” several voices chorused.
Ray was beaming brightly, his moustache fairly quivering as he chewed and grinned at Chris. Sam strode over and placed a hand on his forearm. Ray’s expression transformed into a deadly glare.
“I want you to play it straight this time, Ray,” Sam said, keeping his words only just above a whisper.
“Who are you-” Ray began, but Gene signalled him over.
Sam only heard part of their conversation, but the words, “mistake”, “prickish pillock”, “by the book” and “Raymondo” filtered through.
“We’re really going, aren’t we?” Sam asked as the lift doors closed in front of them.
“Why? Why not refuse?”
“Sure you can. Politely decline. Give her two other officers. Ray and Chris. Go on.”
“You don’t know her like I do, Sam,” Gene said bitterly.
Sam almost launched into a spiel about his mother’s Agatha Christie obsession and how he had been forced to sit through countless productions of David Suchet as Poirot, not to mention Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, thereby rendering his knowledge of her at least triple that of Gene’s. But he didn’t. He bowed his head and scuffed one boot over the other, and the lift-bell rang with an ominously cheerful chime.
The car trip was an unforgettable experience. Sam sat in the back. After two hours, muscles and bones he hadn’t even known he had ached. Climbing out of the Cortina was a blessed relief and he surveyed his surroundings with a keen eye. They were not yet in the village of St Mary Mead. Miss Marple had insisted they stop off on the outskirts of the nearby county of Midsomer and walk. First, she handed Gene and Sam two pairs of overalls and told them to change. She walked up the road, still no sign of frailty in her gait.
Gene’s face flushed with what Sam convinced himself was anger, not embarrassment, and took his coat off with a thinly veiled grumble. Sam followed suit and soon the majority of their clothes were neatly tucked away in the Cortina’s boot – neatly tucked because Sam had placed them there, not Gene.
“Do we have to be workmen?” Sam asked, referring to what Miss Marple had said earlier and tugging on the tight collar of his overalls.
“You could be the interior designer, if you wish, Gladys,” Gene replied, adding a singularly offensive lilt and lisp to his voice.
“You’ve done your buttons up incorrectly.”
Sam picked up the box of tools they had acquired before leaving Manchester and started off down the road after Miss Marple, who was cutting a fine figure several yards ahead. Gene came alongside him before long and they marched into St Mary Mead.
The exterior of Miss Marple’s cottage was small and quaint. Inside, it housed numerous modern conveniences. It was as deceptive as its occupant, in more ways than one. Miss Marple ushered Sam and Gene into her living room, flourishing her arms expressively.
“I don’t think Mrs Templeton has yet mastered lip-reading, or at least I hope she hasn’t. If she is watching this conversation, I would very much like her to get the impression that I am telling you about the building work I would like done.”
Sam nodded his head mechanically and then got a notepad out of his back pocket – pretending to write down Miss Marple’s requests. Gene blinked a few times with lazy disinterest and scratched his backside. Sam wasn’t sure if he was getting into the part or just being himself.
“The murder was down at Great Hall. Harold Worthington. Some might say ‘disgustingly rich’, and he certainly had an arrogance to match. The body was found half lying in the open fireplace, charred and blackened until it hardly looked human. The police – the other police, should I say, took samples to be tested. There was digitalin present in his bloodstream.”
Gene swore under his breath.
“Not a nice way of killing someone,” Sam remarked, unable to think of anything but the most banal response.
“Not a nice way indeed,” Miss Marple replied. “And quite familiar, wouldn’t you say, Eugene?”
Gene agreed. “Familiar,” he muttered, still clearly thinking.
“Now I suppose I better tell you about the work I really do need doing.”
Sam expected to have suggestions of enquiry passed his way, for places where one could observe without being observed, but instead Miss Marple explained all about the weak balustrade that needed replacing and the plastering on the connecting wall between her living room and kitchen.
“You’ll have to appear as if you’re doing work, so you might as well,” she finished with a cheerful smile. Sam caught a glimpse of Gene scowling in his peripheral vision. “I’m going to be quite underhanded and invite various members connected with the case over for tea. No one ever worries about workmen. They’ll all speak quite freely with you in the hallway.”
Quite underhanded seemed an apt description, Sam mused.
“Do you think that we’re actually here because she wanted some free building work?” Sam queried, brushing sawdust out of his hair. They had set to work immediately, finding that Jane Marple had already made provisions for all the wood they could need in fixing her rickety staircase. The deceptively placid Miss Marple had said she was going to the main street to fill some errands, but that she would be back soon and then they could start the investigation.
“Wouldn’t put it past her.”
“So tell me about the case.”
“She’s already done that.”
“No. The one you worked on. Before. When you were twenty-three.” Sam frowned. “I can’t imagine you as a twenty-three year old.”
“Don’t know. I just can’t imagine you any other age, I guess. To me, you’ll always be forty-four.”
“Yeah. Not all of us are as baby-faced as you, Dorothy, looking seventeen at the age of thirty-six. Some of us show our maturity.”
Sam ignored him. “It’s been twenty years.”
“It’s been twenty years since the first case. That might explain it. That’s why she came for you instead of going it alone.”
“If you say so.” Gene wiped sweat from his brow and stopped sawing. “Look, we’re not doing any good chatterboxing away. We’ve more chance of winning a weekend away with Jane Seymour than solving a murder.”
“I knew we shouldn’t have been to see Live and Let Die last week,” Sam said, rolling his eyes. Gene had not shut up about Jane Seymour and he couldn’t get the vision of Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman out of his head. “What do you propose we do, then?”
“We’re doing nothing. I’m going to find out the lay of the land.”
“Could you get one of the old dears to make me a coffee?”
Sam continued working by himself, passing from the living room to the hallway, occasionally aware of a glint of light hitting his eye, like the flash of sunlight off a camera lens. Remembering Miss Marple’s previous mentioning of Mrs Templeton made him think he was not far from the truth. Half an hour passed, and Sam was beginning to think he had been completely abandoned, when the door opened with a creak. Sam absent-mindedly decided that he’d get some oil on the hinges and looked up to see Miss Marple coming in with a basket. He hurried to help her and she let him, although not without a knowing smile.
“Gone, has he?”
“Yes, he has.”
“I thought he might. Never one to sit down and wait, Eugene. He was always convinced that action was the only way. Reminded me of a friend of mine who lives in South America now. Eugene hasn’t changed much, I suppose?”
“Well,” Sam said, dozens of instances of Gene simply sitting, though not exactly waiting, more like actively avoiding waiting, flitting through his mind. “No, I guess he hasn’t.”
Miss Marple prepared and poured out a cup of tea and handed it to Sam, who took it with a grateful murmur.
“Miss Marple, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“No, my dear, go right ahead.” The spinster waited attentively with a shrewd gaze.
“Why did you need – ah –” Sam would not and could not call Gene Eugene, but the name he usually used seemed just as wrong. “The Guv?” Sam finished lamely.
“It wasn’t so much need as want. I suppose I could have handled the matter satisfactorily, but there’s great strength and support to be had from old friends, wouldn’t you agree?”
Sam nodded, his curled hand hovering by his chin and his eyes half-closed as he absorbed Miss Marple’s words. He snapped himself out of his reverie and took another gulp from the cup in his other hand.
Gene came back when twilight fell. He had on him several new sets of nails and screws. Sam noted his forward thinking with an inward smile. He sidled up to Sam and enquired as to when a guest would be arriving, to which Sam responded that he believed it was within a few minutes. Gene assessed how far Sam had come and assisted. He was surprisingly proficient and Sam learned, through offhand remarks, that Gene’s father had been a carpenter as well as a soldier in the first world war and an abusive child-beating drunk. Gene’s nonchalance made it difficult to take the added information and fully comprehend just what sort of effect this might have had on an impressionable young man. Sam knew that one of the messages Gene had learnt was that fists were made for fighting.
There was a knock on the front door and Miss Marple went to answer it. A tall, lanky man was outside and asked if they might retire immediately to the living room. The door closed and Sam and Gene were kept from the conversation. Sam raised his eyebrows. What happened to the ignoring of workmen? Without physically placing oneself outside the door and leaning an ear against it, little could be heard. It was quite frustrating, but Gene seemed to take it in his stride.
It was twenty minutes or so later that Miss Marple showed the man out of her house with a wave.
“I’ve lent you out,” Miss Marple said, her tone light and full of cheer.
“Sorry?” Sam asked, not understanding what she meant.
“To Great Hall. They have some odd jobs that need a handyman’s touch and I said I had two fine young specimens at my disposal.”
Sam concluded that young was, perhaps, wishful thinking. Then again, in comparison, he supposed they were in the full flush of youth.
“You’re just a little bit sly, really, aren’t you?”
“Why Eugene, whatever do you mean?” Miss Marple asked innocently. Her innocence was frightfully believable, but it was also indubitably a rouse. “Now, I’ve booked you both rooms at the Blue Boar, you remember where that is, don’t you Eugene?” Gene nodded and she continued, “I said that you would begin work at Great Hall at six am, so you better have some supper and rest. You’re to come here at noon and continue work for me, and that is when we’ll pool our information.”
Sam and Gene mumbled as they walked to the Blue Boar, unused as they were to being bossed around by an interfering septuagenarian. But Sam had to quietly admit to himself that there was an element of excitement attached to the whole thing that was sometimes lacking from his usual 1973 existence.
Great Hall lived up to its name in several ways. It was majestic. It was opulent. And it was somewhat cavernous, with plenty of space. The furniture was a mixture of old, antique and startlingly modern. Designer chairs at odd angles sat next to Anglo-Indian brass elephants, expensive handmade rugs adorned the timber floor on which a bright and - to Sam’s mind - tacky standard lamp stood. All in all, it was a mishmash that screamed ‘money, but no taste’, and Sam rather liked it, against his better judgement. It felt like a home.
Henry Worthington had asked the butler of the household, Jenkins, to assign them their chores. Sam had never thought he’d get to meet a real butler and he was disappointed when Jenkins didn’t bother with airs and graces.
“Been some bad business here at Great Hall,” Gene had said, opening up the space for free dialogue, or, in his own words, ‘trying to get the bastard to talk, like.’
“Yes,” was all Jenkins had said, and left them to their own devices.
They had been working solidly for three hours. Sam and Gene’s fifth task was to fix the mantelpiece. This was not the same fireplace that Harold Worthington had been found in - no, he had been in his Library – a well-worn cliché, but true nonetheless.
Jenkins having gone, Sam and Gene were alone. Sam didn’t know how they were supposed to be successful if they weren’t able to converse with members of the household. But it appeared that for now they would have to rely upon observation. Presently, a young woman with auburn hair came floating into the room. Observation would not necessarily be a joyless occupation.
“Oh! I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t realise anyone would be in here,” she said, addressing herself to Sam. “I asked Ethel to fetch me my notepad, but the silly girl forgets everything. She’s quite useless and she’s been working here for six months at least. I wanted to have a look in this room, if you don’t mind?”
The woman was visibly staring at Sam, seemingly transfixed, her cheeks pink. He had undone the top three buttons of his overalls and it was on the exposed part of his neck that her attention rested.
“We shouldn’t be much longer,” Sam said. He wasn’t sure how polite or impolite it was for him to offer his hand, but he brushed it against his leg, stepped over, and held it out anyway. “I’m Sam.” He dipped his head towards Gene. “And he’s Gene.”
She took his hand with a small, unsure smile and glanced at Gene, but her eyes were back on Sam’s attentive face after the briefest of moments.
“Chloe,” she replied, inclining her head. “You don’t live in the village, do you?”
“No. Jane Marple brought us in – you know her? Hired us from the city ‘cause she said village boys always do a substandard job.”
“Yes, that sounds like her,” Chloe said with a disgruntled wrinkle of her nose that looked entirely wrong amongst her pretty features.
“Anyway, when that was heard about, we were summoned here to do stuff at Great Hall, as a favour of some kind, you know.”
“You’re working on the fireplace?”
Sam heard Gene expel a breath in what sounded like exasperation.
“Yeah,” Sam said, not giving any acknowledgement of the noise. “Yeah, it’s come loose. We’ll be pottering around here for the next few hours.”
“Have you heard about the other fireplace?” Chloe asked. She said it in a calm manner, but there was an enticing tone underlying her words. She was trying to impress Sam.
“No,” he said, “what about it?”
“That was where Harold Worthington was found dead!”
“Harold Worthington? But… we just saw him, before, didn’t we, Gene? He’s the one paying us?” Sam said, affecting ignorance and lying through his teeth.
Gene shrugged in response.
“No, that must have been Henry, his brother. I’m Henry’s secretary. He’s an odd sort of man.” Chloe stretched her hand out and placed it on Sam’s arm. He glanced at it, the elegantly painted nails, the long fingers. “Harold was murdered.”
Henry Worthington came into the room at that moment, stopping suddenly.
“M-M-Miss Norman!” he said, his expression halfway between shock and outrage.
“Yes, Mr Worthington?” Chloe replied, seemingly unperturbed by his reaction. She moved away from Sam towards him.
Sam gazed at Henry Worthington in curiosity, something he had been unable to do in the short time he had seen him at Miss Marple’s. He looked to be a very weak man. Everything about him was pale. His skin, his eyes, his clothes. He was almost translucent.
“I need your assistance immediately.”
“Yes, Mr Worthington.”
“You’re not going to be distracted from your work like you were the other afternoon, speaking with that old man?”
“No, Mr Worthington,” Chloe said, quietly firm in her assurance. She left the room.
“G-get back to work, both of you. There’s plenty more for you to be doing,” Worthington said. Sam noted his stutter and wondered if it was a genuine speech impediment or temporary ailment brought on by his brother’s death. He turned back to work and listened as the sound of uneven footsteps rung out.
“You and women,” Gene muttered.
“I’m not the only one,” Sam responded. “Miss Marple would only have you for the task. Oh the hearts you must have won and broken over the years.”
“Enough of your lip, or I’ll split it.”
Their list of things to be tackled took them to seven different rooms in the establishment, including one that was filled to the brim with curios and artifacts on rows and rows of shelves. Jenkins stood watch the entire time they were there.
“What’re these, then?” Gene asked, still trying to win the unresponsive man over.
“None of your concern.”
“They look Greek,” Sam said. Jenkins fixed a hardened stare on him. “I studied stuff like this in school,” he added, not really knowing why he was trying to justify himself, but feeling like he had to anyway.
“They are Greek,” Jenkins said.
That was all that they could elicit from him. They finished up just before noon and trekked back to Miss Marple’s.
“Fat lot of good that did us,” Gene said, and Sam thought it would have been a whine were it coming from any other man.
After they had worked several hours, Miss Marple came home from visiting the Vicar and offered them tea and biscuits, a mirror of Gene’s offer just over twenty-four hours previous. They sat in her living room and consumed them, ‘pooling their information’, as she had suggested they do the night before. Mrs Templeton had apparently gone to visit her niece in a nearby village.
What they found, however, was that there was little Sam and Gene had discovered that Miss Marple didn’t already know – especially concerning Harold Worthington’s favourite past-time. She said that this was of little consequence, however, as shortly after they must have left, Henry called up and requested their assistance the next day and possibly the day after that – there was plenty of time for them to ascertain more.
“Worthington had an interest in Ancient Greek artifacts,” Sam said. It was a statement, but he intended it as a question. He waited and nibbled on a ginger nut.
“Yes, that’s right.”
Gene crunched down with one fell bite. “He had a lot there.”
“Most collectors apply themselves exclusively to one exact period or form of work,” Miss Marple explained, her expression and manner docile. “Harold Worthington chose everything and anything he could lay his hands on. I always found that very interesting. He would get anything he could regarding Troy, or Sparta, or Athens, or the Minoan civilisation, from any age. He even collected some Roman pieces, although I’m unsure as to whether he knew they were Roman or whether he assumed they were Greek.”
“So you think he did it for the sake of doing it, to make himself look important, as opposed to any real interest in the subject?” Sam queried. Jane Marple diverted her attention to his questioning face and her eyes twinkled with benign humour.
“A very perceptive observation.”
Gene’s eyebrows sat high on his head as he regarded them both.
“He didn’t really know anything, you see,” Miss Marple said. “He was convinced Helen of Troy was an absolutely true story. I’m not saying there aren’t elements of truth there, but he’s quite forgetting that she was supposed to have hatched from an egg. All in all, I always had the impression that Harold Worthington talked a lot, but said little, if you follow my meaning.”
There was a certain impatience attached to the way Gene rocked back in his chair and crossed his arms. He let out a heavy sigh.
They talked some more, Miss Marple recounting various elements of interest regarding St Mary Mead, although Sam reflected that most of it sounded like gossip and conjecture as opposed to actual news. There was a knock on the door. Miss Marple’s calm expression transformed into confusion. She rose to answer and came walking back into the room followed by a short, compact, muscular man with blond hair several shades lighter than Gene’s, but the same length.
“Tobias, how lovely of you to visit.”
He didn’t just walk into the room, he threw himself in. One upper body arc swinging with the full force of twelve cups of coffee. He rocked himself back and propelled himself forward. It was not an elegant movement. He was neither delicate nor graceful. There was something decidedly spidery about him, as if he’d cast a web and was travelling suspended on silk.
“You’re just saying that, Miss Marple,” Tobias said, emitting a short, fake laugh. “Hello, hello, what do we have here? You’re decidedly too wicked, my dear.” Tobias examined Sam and Gene with an appraising eye and found them wonting. Sam felt vaguely insulted.
“This is Sam and Eugene. They were just taking a break from fixing my staircase.”
Sam and Gene stood, glancing at each other in shared understanding.
“Got a couple of wobbly planks, have you?” Tobias asked, throwing his head back with another coarse, artificial show of mirth.
Sam watched intently as an ice-cold veneer came crashing down over Miss Marple’s usually warm exterior. “Tobias, was there something that you wanted?”
“I came to ask if you told the police about the argument I had with old Worthington.”
“I mentioned it, yes. Inspector Idle wanted to know everything I saw and heard.”
Tobias scowled bitterly. “I thought you might have. Never happy until you’re meddling in other people’s business, are you, you crazy old bat?”
“If you’re innocent of any wrong-doing, it shouldn’t concern you,” Miss Marple replied.
Tobias narrowed his eyes. “They already have it in for me, as you well know.”
“Antagonism generally has repercussions.”
“Yes. It does.”
Tobias stared at Miss Marple, unwavering. Miss Marple didn’t flinch from his gaze. If anything, she was more forceful.
“Was that all?”
“I suppose it has to be. Keep in mind that if there’s ever anything I can do for you, you can look the other way. I’ll not be rushing to your assistance any time soon.”
Tobias whisked out of the room and the front door slammed with a loud, cracking thump.
“He was a nasty piece of work,” Sam remarked. It appeared he had been relegated to the role of always stating the very obvious.
Miss Marple explained the argument she had overheard between Tobias and Worthington. Tobias was a writer and had wanted to use a few of Harold Worthington’s artifacts as the basis for his latest detective fiction. He had wanted access to them, in order to describe them in detail.
“It was a racket, I can assure you. A great deal of shouting.”
“Seems like the shouting type,” Gene commented.
“Takes one to know one,” Sam responded with a soft smile. Gene poked him.
“Do you think he’s the killer?”
Miss Marple tilted her head to the left, giving the appearance of a seagull watching a tasty morsel. “I can’t be sure, but I would say not.”
“Then we’re left with no definite suspects and no real idea of motive,” Sam replied, gloomily. He wandered to the coffee table and picked up another biscuit, as if hoping it would magically solve the case.
“From what we’ve learned so far, are there any hypotheses?” Miss Marple asked, following him.
Gene plunked himself down in one of Miss Marple's armchairs with all the aplomb of a second world war panzer tank. “The butler did it.”
Sam rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried to imagine himself in the Bahamas somewhere, with a nice tall drink and scantily clad beach babe. His imagination wasn't up to scratch, because the next vision to come to him was Gene in a loud and colourful unbuttoned shirt and glittering medallion.
“Jenkins? I shouldn't say so,” Miss Marple replied. “Been in service for years. He's a very reliable man.”
Gene signalled to Miss Marple, requesting permission to light his cigarette. She nodded, picked up an ashtray, and brought it to the little side table next to Gene.
“It would be too obvious for it to be Henry, wouldn’t it?” Sam said, miserably.
“I often find that the obvious answer is the right answer. What we’d really have difficulty with regarding Henry is the opportune time for him to commit the crime. He has witnesses that provide him with an alibi. He was dining ten miles away at Mrs. Featherstone’s.”
“So you want us to disprove his alibi?”
“It would be nice. After all, Henry stands to inherit a great deal of money now that his brother has passed on.”
“The things people do for money,” Gene said with disgust.
Sam quirked an eyebrow. “What, you don’t think it’s worth it?”
“I’ve not thought of you as having such disinterest. I mean, think of what you could do with some money, some real money, as opposed to a piddling DCI wage. You could buy yourself a new car. You could buy yourself an Audi Quattro.”
“An ow-dee whattro?”
“Oh. Not made yet, are they? Guess you’re stuck with your junk.”
Gene loomed, indignantly. “The Cortina is not –”
“Boys, if you don’t mind, I am trying to think,” Miss Marple interjected with a faraway glint in her eye.
Sam stopped taunting Gene, grinning with malicious glee.
“No, no, this won’t do. We need more,” Miss Marple muttered, tapping a finger against her lips thoughtfully. “Tomorrow, Eugene, I want you to use some of your ingenuity,” Miss Marple said, taking on a commanding tone. “No more acting like a bull in a china shop. I know you’re quite clever with plans and ideas when you put your mind to it. Now, you two better head off back to your lodgings, you have another early day tomorrow.”
They did as she said, Gene gesturing for Sam to follow him into his room. He brought out the whisky he had bought the previous night and poured one glass for himself, one for Sam.
“Infuriating old bag,” Gene snarled suddenly. Sam glanced at him, shocked. In a way, Gene seemed even more violent than usual. Perhaps it was due to everything being tightly contained, wound within him like a spring. He wasn’t able to release his fury on the object of his frustration. Having been the object of frustration more than once, Sam was rather glad.
“Gene,” Sam began. He took a look at the burning ferocity of Gene’s eyes and decided against advising he calm down.
“What?” Gene barked.
“Maybe you should go back to Manchester. I can stay and assist Miss Marple and you can go do what you do best – beat the bad guys to a pulp.”
Sam had expected Gene to be happy with this suggestion, for him to nod and start giving Sam instructions on how to continue. Instead, Gene’s face crumpled into an expression of pure resentment. He balled his fists by his sides, then released them and let out a large breath of air.
“Is that all you think I’m good for?”
“No, of course not. It’s just… you’re clearly not –”
“Clearly not what? Helping?” Gene interrogated with a stentorian voice.
“No. Look,” Sam said, “I was just trying to placate you.”
“I don’t need placating. I need time to think,” Gene said irritably.
Sam consciously willed himself not to snort.
Gene was sitting in an uncomfortable looking fold-up chair when Sam went back to his own room. Sam shrugged off his overalls and felt naked and dejected without his jacket.
Sam awoke at five in the morning and decided to go for a stroll. He didn’t like his room. It smelled of alcohol and vomit. It was, altogether, too like his own flat, and he hated spending time there as well. It was dark, the sun unlikely to rise for a while. The village mainstreet was deadly quiet as Sam made his way along, the only sound being a pebble scuttling across the ground as he kicked it. He passed shops and houses in which the occupants were all tucked up, despite their farming brethren already being up and about at the day’s chores.
He came to the end of the street, to the lane that serviced other St Mary Mead residents. In the corner of his eye he saw a figure. Very quickly hands were grappling him, wrapping him up and forcing him to the side. He spun around to attack his assailant, but found his mouth covered by a bear claw of a hand. He was going to bite down, but his eyes adjusted and he saw familiar features assemble to become a familiar face.
Gene let him go, giving him a sharp eagle-eyed look that Sam had always inwardly interpreted as, “if you piss me off, I will cut you.”
“You scared the ever-living shit out of me,” Sam whispered furiously.
“Yeah. Where were your advanced kung fu moves, then? If I’d’ve been a murderer, you’d’ve been toast. Fruit toast, you little sissy girl.”
“What’re you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m just going for a walk.”
“Well so am I.”
Sam blinked several times, ridding himself of residual sleep. “No. Really. I was just going for a walk.”
“And you think I’m not, because…?”
“You only ever walk when you absolutely have to?”
Gene flicked and crunched the end of his cigarette under his shoe. “And you only ever shut up when you’ve a hand blocking off your blowhole.”
There was a noise of rustling bushes and Gene gave a warning signal. Someone – Sam couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman – came out of the wood and travelled right by them, seemingly with no idea that they were there.
“Oh, so you were spying,” Sam said when the person was safely out of hearing distance.
“Well, it’s what we’re here to do.”
“Who was that, then?”
“As far as I can make out, Worthington.”
Sam looked back, trying to see what Gene had seen. He didn’t succeed. All he had was a vague impression that it didn’t seem like Henry Worthington, the movement being too confident, too assured.
“So have you been plotting and scheming?” Sam enquired once they started back towards the Blue Boar.
“Yeah, but not in the way you think.”
This time, when they went to Great Hall, Henry Worthington spoke to them. If he had seen them in the dark before sunrise, he didn’t say anything, but merely explained the damage he wanted them to fix. He did so with the same nervous disposition he had displayed the previous day. There was a little problem in that Sam and Gene had exhausted their knowledge of all things construction, and what Worthington wanted required skill levels far above their own. Luckily, Worthington left them after a short period of time to go remonstrate one of the maids for accidentally breaking a lamp. Sam and Gene proceeded to pretend they knew exactly what they were doing, chatting aimlessly about football, Live and Let Die and anything else they could think of that didn’t involve work. During the past two days they had had the most non-policing related conversation in the entire time they’d known each other.
The room they were in was directly next to the collection. Sam contemplated having a look for clues whilst no one was around, but figured that if he were caught he’d be accused of either immediate thievery or casing the joint for a heist. Whilst he was usually somewhat of a risk taker, he thought it might be prudent to give it time.
Sam was aware of Chloe Norman’s presence before he saw her. He knew that she was standing there for several minutes and he felt fairly disconcerted. He eventually spoke to her, contriving an approach that was open and friendly.
“Been sent to check we’re doing everything to the best of our abilities?” Sam asked with a cheeky grin.
“No. No, I… you’ve been doing work at Miss Marple’s you said?”
“She’s a bit of an amateur detective.”
Sam tensed. “Oh, really?”
“I don’t suppose she’s said anything? It’s just that Inspector Idle seems like a very thorough police officer, yet so far, there’s nothing much but village gossip.”
“Er, no,” Sam lied. “She hasn’t said a word.”
“This is going to sound terrible, but I’m really rather glad old Harold’s gone. He had a terrible temper. It was so strange. On occasion, he could be the most generous man in the world – attentive and kind,” Chloe said, her carefully made-up face expressive. “And then other times he’d fly right off the handle and bark and shout at you, even if you’d done nothing wrong. Let’s not even get into his collection. I know more about the Minoan civilisation than he did.”
Sam reflected that, by the sounds of it, a twelve year old knew more than Harold Worthington, but didn’t comment.
“Sorry to interrupt your seduction of my colleague, sweetheart, but this job requires four hands,” Gene said, taking Sam’s arm and physically dragging him away. Sam turned and saw Chloe staring in shock. She straightened her back and walked from the room.
“Gene! She was providing valuable information,” Sam hissed.
Gene gave Sam what could only be described as a pitying look. “She was trying to get into your pants.”
“Well, why not let her try whilst providing valuable information?”
“I’ll remember to tell Cartwright you said that,” Gene said with a malevolent smirk.
“Fine, then, I’ll tell your Missus all about your exciting adventure with Mrs Luckhurst. Look, in future, could you try to intervene only when it looks like I’m in peril of death? Even if her sole mission in life was to get me into bed, I can handle myself, I’m a big boy.”
“Sam, has it ever occurred to you that I wasn’t protecting you so much as I was protecting her?”
“What do you –” Sam began, but was interrupted by movement.
Henry Worthington strode into the room in his own, imprecise manner, followed by the writer, Tobias. Sam almost wanted to laugh as he watched their erratic steps across the floor.
“I shouldn’t think there will be any trouble,” Worthington was saying. He sounded positively cheerful.
Tobias cast his gaze around the room as they kept walking and fixed Sam with a cold glare. Sam didn’t respond.