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The Museum Mystery: Fiftytwo

Inspector Blake Hartley sets out on a dangerous mission.

John Waddington-Feather's murder mystery story moves towards a dramatic conclusion.

The three detectives met at Hartley’s house before driving to Pithon Hall. Hartley realised that if anything happened to Sally Anwar, he was finished. There’d be no going back off leave. He’d be kicked out of the force at once in disgrace.
There was that other girl, too, Kathy Burton. Her death weighed heavily on his mind. He was her mother’s parish priest. And then some time in the future he’d have to confront Rosie Adams’ mother and tell her the facts. Tommy Driscoll’s death, too, had been partly his fault. There must be no mstake this time.

Before the others arrived he went into St John’s to say the evening offices as he often. That done, he left the priest’s stall to kneel at the altar rail where he prayed long and hard. Going over the events of the past few weeks. Asking for guidance to see his colleagues and himself through when they went to Pithon Hall to get Sally Anwar back safe. Seeking strength to fight the malevolent forces of evil he felt at work about him. This was no ordinary crime he was trying to solve. There were dimensions to it which needed all his priestly power.

He opened his eyes and looked round the church. Mary and he had been married there. His children had been baptised there and he’d attended it ever since they’d moved into their one and only home after their wedding. He’d been licensed to the church after his ordination as a non-stipendiary minister fifteen years earlier. And since then he’d seen three stipendiaries come and go. He was the longest-serving priest in the deanery and the parish saw him as their own. It was his spiritual home.

The church had been built in the middle of the last century when Ingerworth was a new suburb of Keighworth, spawned like the rest of the town from mills and factories and mean streets. The Whitcliff family had made their fortune there and built the first mill. Families like them had made Keighworth the richest town in England, and with the greatest poverty. Miles of fine worsted cloth had rolled from its mills to all parts of the world and made their owners millionaires. Tons of mucky soot had poured from the same mills and factories and left their workers dead or stunted.

Blake Hartley was lucky. He’d been born into a cleaner, healthier Keighworth which was now contracting. The great families had taken their wealth elsewhere, usually down south to play the squire and marry into the gentry there. Hartley’s family had stayed on and new people like Khan’s family had come in. Keighworth had changed.

The great houses at High Royd and Pithon Hall were among the very last of their kind still owned by the original families. All the others had been turned into nursing homes, or knocked down and built over. Many of the churches and chapels endowed by those same great families had gone with them.
But somehow St John’s at Ingerworth struggled on. Its congregation was small but active and the Revd Blake Hartley was their priest. His ministry rippled through the parish, often to those who attended church least: the winos, junkies and wayfarers who made church graveyards and porches their homes, and were a deal closer to God than they imagined.
Mary had his meal ready when he got in. She sensed something was up. He wasn’t usually so late coming back, but as a copper’s wife she’d learned long ago not to quiz him. He’d tell her in time what she needed to know.

“I’ll be going out later, love,” he said, “so there’s no need to stay up.”

She suspected it was to do with Sally Anwar. He’d told her Donaldson had stood him down, but didn’t say where he was going. Nothing about the deal he’d struck with Whitcliff.
She’d just finished clearing the table when the doorbell rang. It startled her. When she opened the door, Sgt Khan and Colonel Waheeb stood there, looking grim like her husband. They made small-talk while Blake put on his coat and hat. As they left he embraced her more warmly than usual, and said again he didn’t know when he’d be back. How many times she’d heard those words, but tonight they had a sombre ring. She said nothing, only wishing them goodnight and seeing them into the pick-up, which held the mummy. Then she stood waiting at the gate till the dusk swallowed them up.


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