The clouds lifted a little, and the sun peeped out. Henry and Harriet, snuggling together on the sofa, didn’t notice. Moira continued her knitting. Graeme put down his book and looked up.

“It seems to have finally got sunny out there,” he said. “Shall we take those dogs of yours out now?”

“All right,” Moira said. She came to the end of the row, then folded the knitting safely away. The dogs, realising what was about to happen, got off the sofa and began dancing around, tails wagging.

“How’s that new girlfriend of yours?” Moira asked.

Graeme winced a little. “I wouldn’t really call her that,” he replied. “She’s a colleague, at least, at present, is all.”

“Mmm-hm,” Moira put a lead on Henry’s collar and passed the end of it to Graeme. She took Harriet’s lead for herself.

They walked out of Moira’s cottage in silence, heading down the road, past the post office and the pub out of the village towards the church. An old man, thick bearded and scrawny, nodded a greeting as they went past, Moira waving a hand in return.

“That’s Mr Pearson,” she explained. “He was very helpful when…”

“When Robert died?” Graeme prompted.

Moira nodded, and they continued walking.

“You never told me exactly how that happened,” he said. “Not that it’s much of my business.”

“No,” she sighed. “It isn’t.”

“But I did tell you to leave him several times.”

“You did,” she said. “And I didn’t.”

“And then he fell down the stairs,” Graeme said. “Except I don’t see any stairs in your cottage.”

“Ladder, Graeme,” Moira looked straight ahead. “He was on the roof, trying to repair a slate and he fell.”


They walked on to the church in silence. Moira opened the lych gate and held it open while Graeme and the dogs entered.

“It looks a lovely church,” Graeme said.

Moira turned to look at him. “Go inside,” she said. “Have a look around. We’ll wait out here.”

“All right,” he nodded.

The church door was oak, with a smaller door set inside it. Graeme pushed at the smaller door, and walked inside.

“Good day,” said a voice to his left, and he turned to see a small balding man, with thick round glasses. “Can I help you?”

“I just wanted to look around. Are you the…” Graeme faltered. “Is this your church?”

“It is,” The man nodded. “Are you a student of church architecture, of theology, or simply curious?”

“Simply curious,” Graeme smiled. “I’m here visiting my sister and we were walking the dogs, now that the rain’s gone.”

“Ah. Then you must be the famous music critic.”

The man held out his hand. Graeme hesitated for a moment, then shook.

“I’d hardly say famous,” he replied. “I work for a national newspaper is all.”

“That’s as famous as it needs to be, for us,” the priest replied. “Round here, anyway.”

“I see.” Graeme said.

“Of course,” the priest continued, “We were all very worried for your sister a year ago, when there was the trouble. But you know all about that, I expect.”

Graeme nodded. “There was nothing to tell really, though, was there? He fell off a ladder.”

“Of course he did,” the priest smiled. He held up the hymn books in one hand. “Do you mind if I continue? I have a service later tonight and I want to get things ready beforehand you see.”

“Don’t let me stop you,” Graeme said.

The priest continued putting the hymn books, evenly spaced, in front of each pew.

Graeme wandered off to look at some of the inscriptions around the church.

“I saw Mr Pearson on the way up,” Graeme said, idly. “Moira said he was a great help.”

The priest nodded. “He was the one, of course, that did the deed, as I’m sure you know.”

Graeme turned and looked. “Him?”

The priest stopped and looked across at Graeme. “Who else did you think it was?”

Graeme had no answer.

“He was the one came out of the pub, that last time,” the priest said. “When she started screaming. They could hear it through the wall, you know. He had the poker in his hand, because he was stoking the fire, so he says, and he came in through their front door and just hit him with it before he even realised what he was doing. Took three or four men to hold him back in the end, they say.”

“I see.” Graeme said.

The priest continued smiling.

“I just didn’t expect…” Graeme tailed off. “That he’d be so old. To be, for, you know, something like that.”

The priest nodded. “I understand.”

Graeme stood there for a moment, digesting this information. Why hadn’t she told him? His relationship with a crime reporter? That wasn’t… He shook his head.

“What time is it?” he asked.

The priest checked his watch. “About quarter to three.”

“Ah,” Graeme said. “Well. Best get back for the football.”

“Precisely why I want to get my church in order early today,” the priest said, walking over to pick up another pile of hymn books.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s been… interesting.”

“Good day to you,” the priest said, placing more hymn books in neat order.

“Bye bye,” Graeme said. He placed some money in the donation box as he left.

Every church collects for something, he thought, even if it’s only to repair the roof.

The sun was shining when he left the church, and Moira was sitting on one of the benches, making Henry and Harriet jump for biscuits.

“Hello,” she said. “Did you learn anything interesting?”

“I did, as a matter of fact,” he said, and for a brief moment, he considered telling her exactly what the priest had told him.

She looked at him, with a blank expression, and he smiled.

“Did you know that the transept is always in the shape of a cross?” he asked. Moira shook her head. “Or that the aisles are actually at the sides, and the nave is in the middle? It’s fascinating stuff.”

Zero Nine Records, he thought, I think I’m going to give your box set of 17th Century church music an extra star just for the booklet.

The post “Zero Nine” first appeared on and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.

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