Winnie entered the room, eyes bright with curious excitement. She sat down in the chair.
"Oh my, this is so exciting! Just wait until I tell Effie, she'll be so jealous. Sure beats her going to see the mayor about the terrible state of the sewers.
Not that they're not in a terrible state of course.
Do you know, if I don't keep my sinks plugged all the time you start to get the smell of, well, you know, wafting through the house?
Well, of course, the mayor promised something would be done, but we all know what that means so no one is holding their breath. Except of course we all are, aren't we...
? Because of the smell, Sergeant, because of the smell!"
By now Winnie has worked herself up into such a state of excitement about being interviewed by the constabulary that her whole frail body shuddered with the sheer exhilaration of it all.
"So, Sergeant. How can I help you?"
"It's Chief Constable, actually. Been around 120 years on the dot since I was a sergeant. Now...on to the matter at hand. Interview starts.
We are on the second floor of The Constabulary, Hope Springs. The date is Friday the 29th of November, 2165. The current time is 15:47pm.
I am Chief Constable Bartosiewicz, also in attendance is Sergeant Alana Myers. Can you please state your name and occupation?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Chief Constable. You see I used to step out with one of your predecessors, he was a sergeant." She sighs wistfully. "Wonderful man. But it never went anywhere."
She looked at Alana.
"Don't make the same mistake I did, dear. If he really wants too, then you let him. Just make sure you use plenty of goose fat and it'll be fine."
She turned back to the Chief Constable.
"Now then, what was the question? Oh yes. My name is Winona Barrow, and I'm retired, I suppose. Not that I don't keep very active.
I'm chair of several organisations, all aimed at helping make Hope Springs a nice place to live for decent folk.
Which reminds me, I've got the ladies looking out for miscreants and trouble makers so if you want a list of ner-do-wells, then I can certainly oblige."
"That's very good of you Miss Barrow. Could you confirm that no other persons are present other than those already mentioned?"
Winnie looked around.
"Oh dear, should there be? Is this a test? I can't see anyone, I'm afraid. Is that right? Did I pass?"
Shadwell forced a smile. He took a breath.
"I've summoned you here to ask some questions about the murder of Magrat which took place between 6pm and 8pm two nights ago.
Now, I have your statement here and you say you were occupied between the hours of at least 5pm to past 8pm, but no one can confirm your location between the hours of 6 and 7, is that correct?"
"I'm afraid not, no. Oh, dear. Oh, wait a moment. As I was unlocking, I did hear the Stanton boy shouting at that poor baby, he lives behind my house, but I could hear him from the front garden.
The elder boy, Arthur, not Evan. Evan is a nice boy. You know, Archie really should get himself a woman to look after little Dudders." Then Winnie's shoulders droop.
"Oh, but that wouldn't count, would it? It's no good me hearing someone else, is it? You want to know if someone saw me, don't you?"
She looked plaintively across at Hope's head constable.
"Does that mean I'm a suspect then, Chief Inspector?"
Stella arrived, albeit slowly, at the constabulary headquarters. Leaning on her crutches, she looked at the stairs, then turned to the constable.
"You have got to be joking."
Once she was seated, with her crutches beside her leaning against the table, Stella looked around at her austere surroundings.
Being in a police interview room was a new experience for Stella, but then, since the day the raiders came, there had been a lot of those. New and unexpected no longer phased her.
She sat quietly, confidently and with a small smile playing about her lips as she looked at the Chief Constable and waited to see what would happen next.
"Can I get you anything to drink, Miss McFarlen?"
"Whiskey would be good. Thanks."
Alana cocked a brow at the request, then looked at Shadwell unsure of what to make of it. He returned her look with a mixture of amusement, slight annoyance, and a tinge of embarrassment.
"Second draw in my desk..." He said, turning back to Stella.
Alana's brow arched a good inch higher and she smirked before walking over to it, fetching the bottle and a mug, then poured Stella a measure.
She stepped back to her position, arms folded behind her back, still holding the bottle.
"I hope the journey here wasn't too much of an inconvenience."
Stella took a sip of the whiskey and then sat back, twirling the mug around and around on the tabletop.
"Not for me. But plenty of folks saw your constable take me away so how much of an inconvenience that may cause I don't know.
Look, I'm not happy with that girl being murdered, I'm sure she was a very nice person, but I think bringing her here was a huge mistake.
Now I'm sure you've got a whole mess of questions you're just dying to ask but let me say right off the bat. I didn't kill that girl or have her killed.
I don't know who did either; if it was one of my folk, then they did it without me finding out."
In a slight rush to not miss anything she was about to say, Shadwell used the power of his mind to hit the record button on the dictaphone.
One of the reasons for hiring Bartosiewicz was that fact that he was one of those rare clones who had spent his long years enhancing and developing his inbuilt but experimental mental abilities.
Like Reavy, Bartosiewicz was purpose-designed by pre-Fall genetic engineers.
"A mistake for who? For her? Perhaps it was a mistake to assume that people would return the hospitality shown to them when we gave them food and shelter. Now then...Interview sta-"
Shadwell's concentration was broken at the urgent sound of constable Benajmin's voice from below
"Uh, Chief. There's a bunch of guys outside with mattocks."
Shadwell rose from his chair, walked over to the window and looked out. He turned back to Stella.
"Don't go anywhere."
With rising anger, Shadwell stormed down the stairs, nearly ripping the door off its hinges before striding right up the gathering of men with a face like thunder.
"Explain yourselves. Now!"
The men, five of them were sitting in a loose circle on the ground. They seemed cheerful enough, but the smiles are forced and every man's tool is within easy reach of his hand.
As Shadwell waited for an answer from the upturned smiling faces, a sixth man returning from the wafflehouse, a tray of coffee cups in his hands. One of the men in the circle spoke.
"Chief Constable? Explain what? We are on our way to clear a ditch...
For the good of the town, you know? And as we passed the wafflehouse there, sure the smell of the coffee pulled us like a magnet so we said to ourselves.
Now a good strong coffee would set us up right for a morning of pounding stubborn rocks, so here we are, enjoying the fresh air and drinking coffee. How's yourself?"
"There's always a ditch, Chief Constable."
This brought a round of laughter from his friends. The man with the coffee arrived, and Shadwell saw that there were sandwiches too. It seemed a picnic was in the offing.
The men, maintaining the fixed smiles, began to share out the food and drink, even arguing over who ordered what and making a big show of the whole procedure.
The agitated law-enforcement head was purposefully and deliberately ignored.
In the constabulary, Stella turned to Alana.
"Not much of a people person, is he?"