“Who’s next?” asked Playfair.
“I’ll see if we’ve got that list yet,” said Miss Flava. She stood up and walked out of the lounge into the institutional green corridors that the clinic favoured. She felt a little like a rat in a maze in the corridors, as they were a uniform height and width, all painted the same colour, and there always seemed to be more of them wherever you looked. She found herself inexplicably missing rooms that led into other rooms, and small ante-rooms that broke corridors up in the buildings she was used to.
Reception was two corridors away, and Miss Flava was surprised to see someone new sitting at the desk. She looked up as Miss Flava approached, and she looked interested and alert. Miss Flava smiled.
“Hello,” she said, offering her hand. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
The receptionist shook her hand and smiled some more. “I’m Jacquie,” she said. “I’m on reception. People don’t normally shake my hand.”
“I’m Miss Flava,” said Miss Flava producing her badge. “Police.”
Jacquie smiled harder. “Oh, I did hear that you’d come in,” she said. “Nurse Wendy said something as she was hurrying off, but I didn’t catch all of it. Has something been stolen?”
“There’s been a murder,” said Miss Flava. “Or, at least, there’s been a body found, and we’re investigating to find out if it’s murder or not.”
Jacquie’s hand flew to her mouth, and then she put it down by her side again. “I see,” she said, with just a faint tremor in her voice. “Can you tell me who?”
“The day-shift manager is what we’ve been told,” said Miss Flava. “We’re looking at the body now. Inspector Playfair and myself are interviewing everyone who’s been in the clinic during the window of opportunity, and I was wondering if you could get me a list of names. I did ask the Nurse who was here, so she may have left the print-out for you.”
“I doubt it,” said Jacquie, scanning the reception desk. “She thinks all this kind of work is beneath her. She resents having to fill in when I’m not here, and she does a piss-poor job of it too. Oh, sorry!”
“I hear far worse all day,” said Miss Flava.
“Oh… oh, yes, you associate with all those criminal types, I suppose. Well, let me get a list of everyone – since when?”
“Yesterday morning,” said Miss Flava, wondering if she should correct Jacquie’s impression of who she hung out with. But since it was Playfair who was the source of most of the swearing and bad language that she heard day in and day out she decided not to. Let Jaccquie find out for herself what he was like.
Jacquie tapped some keys on the keyboard, and a second later the familiar whine of a laser-printer came from underneath the desk. She reached down and took a sheet of A4 paper from it with what looked like 10 names. “That’s all the guests,” she said. “Do you need the staff as well?”
“Right, that’ll take a little longer as I’ll have to check the rosters and the signing-in sheets,” said Jacquie. “Shall I bring it to do when I’ve got it?”
“Yes, we’re in the lounge,” said Miss Flava.
As she walked back, she read through the names, but none of them meant anything to her. She handed the list to Playfair who didn’t even bother to read them, but just shouted out the name of the list.
A man who had to be nearly six foot six stood up at the far end of the lounge. He loomed when he walked, and he walked with exaggerated care. He was wearing a wife-beater than showed off his hugely muscled arms and shoulders, and sweat-pants that were cut off just above the knee. His calves looked to be the same size as Miss Flava’s arms. His skin was mahogany brown, but there was something slightly unnatural about it, as though it had been painted on over a lighter skin tone. His eyes were grey, and his head was shaved. When he sat down, he inspected the chair he was sitting on first and then sat down with the same care as he walked. The chair creaked.
“Kevin Laferme?” Playfair produced a pen from a pocket and held it poised over the paper.
“Yep,” said Kevin. His voice was quite high-pitched and chirpy, completely different from what Miss Flava had expected when she saw him. “Call me Kev.”
“Right, Kev,” said Playfair, placing a tick against his name. “What are you doing here then?”
“You asked me to come over,” said Kevin happily. “I was going to go to the gym, but then you said you wanted to talk to me, so I came here instead. I’ll go to the gym when this is over. It’s leg day today, and I’ve got three hours to do.”
“Inspector Playfair meant, what are you doing at the clinic,” said Miss Flava.
“Oh, altitude training,” said Kevin. His eyes darted from Miss Flava to Playfair and back again.
“Altitude training? I thought you were a body-builder,” said Playfair. “You look like a body-builder.”
“Thanks! Yeah, altitude training’s all the rage these days, so I thought I’d give a try.”
“I thought altitude training was for runners,” said Playfair. “To build up red blood cells so that when they return to lower altitudes they’ve got more oxygen carrying capacity and better aerobic performance, for a short while.”
“So how is body-building aerobic?”
“Right, it isn’t, right?”
Playfair’s head sank into his hands.