A Race Against Time – Episode 06

Christian woke up and when he tried to move his shoulder there was an excruciating pain. At least it wasn’t his duelling or writing arm, he thought, amused. The pain increased with every little movement. He was feverish. He moaned with the effort to sit up.

“I need something for the pain,” he said weakly when he realised George and Elswita were on chairs beside his bed.

“I’ll go and fetch the doctor,” George said.

As he opened the door Edward, Christian’s cousin, burst into the room. George left, giving Edward a quick nod in acknowledgement. Christian sank deeper into his mattress. Edward was the last person he needed to see.

“My dear Christian. I came as soon as I heard the news.”

The pain from Christian’s shoulder seemed more significant now his cousin was here. Nevertheless, his manners had not left him.

“Elswita. Meet my cousin, Edward Salisbury.”

Elswita, Christian saw, gave Edward a warm smile.

“Pleasure,” Elswita said.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Edward returned charmingly, giving Elswita a little bow.

Christian rolled his eyes.

“How are you feeling, old chap?” Edward asked.

“I’m in terrible pain.”

“Have the police been yet? Some nonsense is being circulated about it having been some sort of practical joke gone wrong. The shooting club are trembling in their boots.”

“Is that what they’re saying?” Elswita asked, concerned.

“Yes,” Edward said. “It can only be something like that, surely. You’re very lucky. Don’t worry, old chap. I’m sure they’ll catch the blighters who did it.

“Anyway, must dash. ‘The Iliad’ calls. I’ll pop in again when Uncle arrives.”

“Edward seems friendly enough,” Elswita said when he’d gone.

“You don’t really know him,” was the abrupt reply. “When will George and the doctor come? The pain is getting worse.”

* * * *

Elswita was surprised at Christian’s reaction to his cousin. As far as she was concerned, Christian was hiding something, but he was in no condition for her to ask any questions.

Elswita was eventually interviewed by a Detective Inspector Peters. It seemed the detective inspector wasn’t as concerned with Elswita’s worries as she was.

He interviewed her outside her lecture room, standing in the hallway as people passed by, which Elswita found quite disconcerting.

DI Peters was a rather large man. He sported red untidy hair. He was freckled and his green eyes reminded Elswita of a cat. He asked her what she’d seen and heard that day. She told him. He asked her if she knew of any enemies. She said no.

“You weren’t angry at him yourself about anything?” he asked.

“What are you implying, Inspector?”

“I’m not implying anything,” he said. “I’m just trying to get to the truth of the matter.”

It seemed that he was inclined to believe that Christian’s shooting was an accident, a prank or high-jinks gone wrong. He indicated that his own opinion on young people at university was that they were mischievous and irresponsible because they had too much time on their hands.

“I think you have a skewed view of university life,” Elswita said.

Elswita had garnered some additional confidence from her friendship with Christian. One day, in one of his melancholy moments, he had told her, “Always do and say what you mean, Elswita. Don’t be afraid of anyone or anything. You’ll go far that way.”

“I already have a pretty tough outlook on life,” Elswita had said.

“Yes, I can see that. I wish I could, too.”

“You always come across as being very confident to me. In fact, your confidence sometimes astounds me.”

Christian had smiled, but it wasn’t a smile full of mirth.

“In most things, yes. But all is not as it seems. I do have one weakness that I’d rather not speak about.”

She’d looked at him quizzically.

“Is it the alcohol?”

Christian had laughed.

“I wish it were that, my dear.” And he wouldn’t speak of it further.

DI Peters stared at her, appalled, after her comment about his skewed view, but she wasn’t about to be intimidated.

“You claim it is just high-jinks gone wrong,” she said. “Then how do you account for the chances of a gun being fired at almost exactly the same moment as the umpire’s gun?

“In all probability, if it was high-jinks, the bullet would have hit someone closer, not Christian, who was on the other side of the tracks.

“The bullet passed through the crowd and across the track. It hit Christian head on. Therefore I simply cannot believe it was an accident.”

DI Peters rolled his eyes and cleared his throat.

“I’d rather you didn’t broadcast your thoughts to the world, Miss Williams. We wouldn’t want to spread panic, would we?”

Elswita stood up straighter and clasped her hands in front of her.

“The truth will out, Inspector,” she said.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.