3. The speeding pace of events at least brings some good luck to someone: - Book Four - Fog on the Clyde by A.J. Hall
It was 16.36 in the RCMP’s provincial head offices in Fredricton, New Brunswick. The Mountie officer had been sitting in the outer office for nearly an hour when the harsh sound of the buzzer and the brief nod from the dragon behind the desk told him that he was finally permitted to enter the inner sanctum.
The Chief Superintendent did not look up as Petersen entered. Nor was he acknowledged by more than a non-committal grunt. But - the dossier was spread over the blotter. He allowed himself a glimmer of hope, as ruthlessly tamped down. The Chief Superintendent turned over the unfinished letter to the Psychical Research Society and gestured Petersen to sit.
After a period of silence - Petersen could hardly have told if it was ten minutes or three hours - he spoke.
“So you’ve definitely linked the Fraser woman to the American journalist’s kidnapping?”
Petersen nodded. “Sir.” A hand gesture invited him to expand on that.
“Hair and fingerprints from the vehicle registered in her name, sir. You’ll find the lab records complete. It gave me enough grounds to interrogate the chauffeur. You’ll find his confession -“
“I’ve read it. A remarkably - frank - document. And far-reaching.” For the first time the Chief Superintendent raised his head. “I notice that throughout this - very thorough and productive - investigation - you make no reference to your commanding officer.”
There was nothing he could think of to say to that. He braced himself back against his chair and murmured woodenly, “Sir.”
The Chief Superintendent’s expression softened slightly. “I’d heard rumours before. Not enough to act on - at least, so I thought. I hoped it wasn’t true - and I kept on hoping. Too bad I got it wrong. But thank God for the Force someone didn’t.”
Petersen’s head shot up. The Chief Superintendent hit the buzzer on his desk; the dragon of the outer office came in.
“Get me a call to Ottawa,” he said crisply. “Priority.”
She nodded, and retreated. The Chief Superintendent looked fully at Petersen for the first time.
“You know the rules for an internal investigation, Petersen. I’m not planning to second guess Ottawa, but you can assume MacMurtry will be suspended on full pay until the investigation’s over.”
Petersen nodded again, wordlessly. The weight that he had carried for so many months was being lifted, and yet he had been so bent under it that it did not feel, as yet, as though his back had been relieved of the burden.
The Chief Superintendent smiled slightly. “And - equally in accordance with protocol - I’m assigning you to detached duty, away from the station. I hope you packed an overnight bag before you came up here.” He looked at his watch. “I sent word, before you came in, for them to hold the last flight down to New York for you. I take it you’d want to be the one to finish what you started?”
And he pushed a package of papers across the blotter to him; travel warrants, the green crispness of new US dollar bills, and, beneath them all, a thick cream-coloured form, embossed with more seals than Petersen had ever seen in one place before, but which, nevertheless, he recognised instantly.
There were ways he had rehearsed this interview, in the sleepless hours and the long watches of the night. There were speeches he had written in his head, to befit this very moment.
But in the end all he did was gather the packet, somewhat clumsily, off the desk in front of him, rise to his feet, and salute.
“Sir,” Petersen said, drawing himself up straight for the salute.