It was not difficult to follow the shouting. The voice belonged to someone who probably did a lot of it, shouting that is, and had therefore had much practice. Our two heroes made short work of half running, half falling down a steep slope and soon found themselves emerging onto a muddy track, where two men waited for them. One was quite dead, and more on him anon.
The other was still alive, though clearly in pain. He rubbed with one meaty hand at a sizeable purple bump of his forehead, then slapped his blue cap back onto his head. Perhaps he was worried the newcomers wouldn’t recognize him without his official uniform headgear in place.
He wore the blue tunic and polished boots of a police officer. He had a brass badge pinned just above his heart. At his hip he carried a short billy club and a pair of handcuffs. The hat just confirmed what was already quite obvious.
“Is this your property?” the policeman asked. He pointed with one long accusing finger at the golf ball that lay in the road before him.
Reggie looked over at Neville in his golfing togs. The mummy was still carrying his golf club. He considered denying the accusation, but there seemed little point. “Officer,” he said, “let’s be clear of one thing first, this was an accident and—”
“I am not currently operating under the assumption that this was an attempted homicide by golf ball,” the policeman said. “Names?”
Neville stepped forward and held out his hand. “I’m Neville Imsety and this is my chauffeur Reggie. I’m the new owner of Grimbly Hall.”
“Right,” the policeman said, ignoring the out-stretched hand. He took a small notebook from his pocket and removed the pencil stuck inside it. “Imsety, Neville. One account assaulting a police officer.”
“Hey, now,” Reggie tried. “Like I said, it was an accident—”
The policeman shook his head. “Serious charge, that. Could land you in pokey for a fair stretch. Seven years hard labor, I believe, is the maximum sentence. Of course, there’s the alternative.”
“There is?” Neville asked.
“Surely there is,” the policeman replied. “You may give me one hundred dollars right now and I will forget to press charges.”
“Oh,” Neville said.
“This is not what one might call a bribe-type-situation, of course,” the policeman went on. “That would be illegal.”
“I suppose it would,” Neville replied.
“I prefer to think of it as pre-emptive policing. You see, if I were to charge you, there would be a fair amount of paperwork to complete. Then there would be a trial, which might take up valuable hours of my time. I would of course be paid for those hours, but the check would take weeks to come from the courthouse. So if you pay me now, we will simply save everyone involved considerable labor and time lost.”
Neville nodded in comprehension. “The smooth running of the wheels of justice is something I’ve always valued.” He looked to Reggie, who dug around inside the golf bag until he found the required funds. Neville liked to keep some mad money around at all times. A hundred dollars in 1926 was no small sum, but he could afford it.
“An attitude the police force of Pinemont appreciates,” the policeman said, pocketing the money. “I don’t suppose you’ll require a receipt.”
“That would be a kind of paperwork, wouldn’t it?” Neville told him. “Which is just what we were trying to avoid.”
“Wonderfully put. Now that’s cleared up,” the policeman said, and stuck out his hand, “it is a pleasure to meet the new owner of the Hall. I’m Chief Superintendent Detective Sergeant Muldoon.”
“That’s quite the title,” Neville said, pumping the man’s hand.
“It’s a small force, the Pinemont Police Department. We all have to wear multiple hats.” He adjusted the one he was currently wearing, as if to prove a point. “For instance, Mr. Imsety, I am operating in my role as sergeant when I say it is my sad duty to inform you that a deceased person’s mortal remains have been found on your property.”
Reggie looked down at the dead body that lay quite nearby. “I was wondering when we would get to that,” he said.