Monday, 2 January 2012

Little Haversham Police Station

Little Haversham Police Station had a car park that was three times larger than it needed to be for the number of cars in it so Miss Flava pulled easily into a space that was one of a bank of six.  She turned the engine off, and looked at her boss, who had unbuckled his seat-belt but so far not got out.  Since he often managed to get the passenger door open before she'd finished parking, she was wondering what the matter was.
"The barrier should have been down," said Playfair.  The barrier to the car-park had been up, allowing anyone to come in and park.  Or, as Playfair was now considering, come into and plant bombs underneath police cars.
"I think that's more of a London worry," said Miss Flava.  "Out here I don't think they have to worry too much about terrorists.  Lost livestock, pensioners, and a lack of traffic wardens seem to be Little Haversham's main concerns this year."
"If you start sloppy you stay sloppy," said Playfair.  "And that applies to many areas of life."
Miss Flava got out of the car rather than ask him what he meant by that, and he slowly followed suit.  The car-park was black tarmac with painted white lines, and a space near the door had the letters CC painted in front of it.  There were six cars already there, not counting her own, and they all lined up neatly as close to the door without infringing on the labelled space as they could get.  Four were patrol cars, and the other two were unwashed and looked as though they hadn't been driven in a while.  Three sides of the car-park were lined with trees, with the fourth side being the side of the police-station and the short drive they'd come up.  Birds sang and whistled in the trees, and there was a rustle and a scamper that might have been squirrels.  Miss Flava found herself feeling oddly relaxed.
Playfair strode across the car-park and examined the door in the side of the building.
"Locked," he said, with some satisfaction.  "Though I think I can probably get it open if you've got a credit card...?"
"No, Playfair," said Miss Flava.  "Let's go round to the front desk and introduce ourselves.  You're not here for an inspection, we're here to solve a murder."
Playfair looked a little disappointed, but fell into step alongside Miss Flava as they walked round the building to the front door.  His gaze constantly swept the path, the side of the building, and the fence that separated the drive from the road, but didn't find anything else to comment on.  The front doors opened with a squeak, and Playfair rang the bell on the counter several times with the flat of his hand.  The officer who'd been stood at the front desk had to wait, with his mouth open, until the ringing died away.
"I'm right here, Sir," he said, his voice indicating disapproval.  "There was no need to ring the bell, was there?"
Miss Flava cringed inwardly.  Telling Playfair off might have worked, but asking him to agree with the telling off was an invitation to an argument.
"I was testing it to see if it worked," said Playfair.  "I know what you provincial lot are like, you put a dummy bell on the counter and then all go off down the pub for lunch, and lunch ends slightly after your shift."
"I wasn't at the pub though," said the officer, with what Miss Flava felt was commendable patience.
"And the bell worked, so there's two surprises in two minutes," said Playfair.
"What can I help you with?"
"Detective Inspector Playfair," said Playfair, producing his Oyster card from his pocket and looking at it as though it had deliberately become the wrong card.
"Now him I can't help you with," said the officer.  "You'll have to sort that out yourself."
"No," said Miss Flava while Playfair sorted the contents of his pockets onto the counter.  'He is DI Playfair, and I'm Miss Flava."  Her warrant card appeared like magic, while Playfair had only managed to find string and, by the looks of things, sealing wax.
"Oh," said the man behind the counter, his face visibly falling.  "Bugger."

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