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The Museum Mystery: Thirtysix

...It puzzled Hartley why his boss always had to go out of his way to try and impress him. He must have known it was hopeless...

John Waddington-Feather continues his murder mystery story.

By coincidence, Sir Jeremy had been invited to open a new wing at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, because, his company had given a substantial amount. Years before he’d been given an honorary degree for financing research work into Middle Eastern affairs and his knighthood had followed not long afterwards. More contracts from the Middle East followed, too.

The Chief Constable was invited to the opening as a friend of a friend of Listerton’s; and (Blake Hartley never fathomed how) Superintendent Arthur Donaldson was on the guest-list! He was full of it. The day his invitation arrived he flashed the gold embossed card all round the office. Under Inspector Hartley’s nose first.

It puzzled Hartley why his boss always had to go out of his way to try and impress him. He must have known it was hopeless. Inspector Hartley wasn’t impressed by names or honours, yet the more he showed his indifference, the more Donaldson tried to impress. As if he was trying to educate him somehow.

Blake Hartley put it down to two things: Donaldson’s size and his ego; between which there was an inverse ratio. He was a small man, much smaller than Hartley. But his opinion of himself was huge. The inspector came to the conclusion that Donaldson’s chronic name-dropping was because the superintendent wanted to look big. And the longer they worked together, the more Arthur Donaldson inflated himself with names.

But there was something else. Envy. Hartley was an experienced policeman. He come up through the ranks after years on the beat, whereas Donaldson was a graduate entrant. He’d shot to the top And another thing. His dad was a bishop and he had to keep caste. Hartley was only a parish priest - and an unpaid one at that.

The day he received his invite, he had Hartley in his office at once. The inspector found him strutting like a bantam cock. He waved his card at Hartley as soon as he came in.
Hartley read it slowly then handed it back.

“Congratulations, sir,” he said. “I wonder who else will be there. The Chief Constable perhaps?”

“Of course,” he snapped back.

“I hope you don’t mind my asking sir,” Hartley said , “ but are the Chief Constable and Sir Jeremy what’s-his-name in the same Lodge?”

Donaldson pocketed the card. “Casting pearls before swine again,” he thought, but only said, “ You’re being cynical, Hartley. You always have to bring that subject up, don’t you?”

Hartley shrugged his shoulders. “Just wondered, sir. I can’t recall either you or the Chief Constable having much interest in Middle Eastern studies. As a matter of fact, sir, you’ve always given me the impression you were rather averse to gentlemen from that part of the world.”

“Watch it!” barked Donaldson, going up on his toes and wagging his finger. “That borders on the impertinent! The fact that the Chief Constable and myself belong to the same Lodge has nothing to do with being invited to the Institute. In case you’ve forgotten I happen to be very much in charge of the museum murder case And that has a great deal to do with the Middle East.”

Inspector Hartley looked sufficiently tail-between-leggish for the Super to cool off. He adjusted his tie which always came adrift when he was angry. Then he said more calmly, “As a matter of fact, though I don’t know why I’m telling you this, the Chief Constable and Sir Jeremy were at Cambridge with me. We went to the same college. Does that answer your question?” Hartley nodded dumbly, then Donaldson added, “And Sir Jeremy Listerton has long been interested in Middle Eastern affairs. It’s his speciality.”

He had other specialities, too, according to Kathy Burton’s book. But Hartley had to give the Super full marks for doing his homework on Listerton. It was another name he could drop.

Hartley offered nothing on the minister. The less Donaldson really knew about him, the better. That way no one would be alerted if Donaldson started bleating. And with a bit of luck, the Super might inadvertently pick up a bit of useful information at the Institute jamboree. Inspector Hartley would make a point of quietly milking him later. Arthur Donaldson was great one for telling what had gone on and what people had said to him at events like these.

So Hartley buttered him up. He made a point of saying the Super would enjoy himself. The architecture there was stupendous. Worth a visit any day for anyone with an intelligent interest in architecture. Donaldson smiled. Said he was looking forward to the treat. Hartley also smiled. He knew the Super’s interests didn’t stretch much beyond Lodge nights and his weekly twitter at the Royal Ridings Golf Club. He’d be braking new ground at the Insititute.


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