Medium-sized bluestone church — probably Catholic, maybe Church of England, remote possibility of Episcopalian — do we have Episcopalians in Australia? It’s early afternoon. The sun is low and bright, The previous christening party have just left, reluctantly — a bit of glaring from the parents when the minister/priest has to shoo them away so that the next christening can begin. Four stone steps lead up to the large green wooden doors — which are wide open. Fake wrought iron hinges painted black.
“They pack ‘em in, don’t they?” said Sergeant Wilson.
Even though Sergeant Wilson wears a suit and a tie every working day, today, his shirt collar is bothering him.
“Religion is a business, like everything else,” said Inspector McBride. A very pretty young woman from the previous ceremony caught his eye. She held his gaze as he pivoted away from his Sergeant.
Helen, the Inspector’s wife, is cuddling her infant and trying to occupy it. She doesn’t want the tiny child to start crying any earlier than necessary.
Helen notices her husband’s interest in the young woman and her interest in him.
‘Women like my tall, handsome husband,’ she thinks. The thought pleases her and frightens her at the same time.
“Come inside everyone,” says the minister/priest, and the waiting group shuffle up the steps and into the place of worship. The temperature drops noticeably, and the windows cast streams of light, and as if Woody Allen had produced the scene, a shaft of coloured light strikes the baptismal font. The assembled group of friends and family head towards the light.
Gathered around the font, the minster/priest speaks the words that will bind the child and its parents to the Church forever, or at least until the child is old enough to shed these ideas.
“Do you renounce Satan?” said the celebrant.
“I do,” says Sergeant Wilson, who wonders why the answer is precisely the same as when someone marries. Did he just inadvertently marry Satan? Probably not, but who can tell with these ancient and confusing rituals.
Sergeant Wilson is now the godfather of Inspector and Helen McBride’s son and heir.
Wilson hopes that he will never have to fulfil his duties, but a policeman’s lot can be deadly.
Wilson had only met the child’s godmother once — when they went through the procedure with the celebrant about a week ago. It rained, and the church was lit dimly, but the candles gave it a golden glow. Someone had given the ancient timber pews a good going over and the aroma of furniture polish filled the air.
Wilson’s attempt at humour had fallen flat, ‘so you’re the fairy godmother’ — and now Helen’s best friend thought he was a lame policeman — no coming back from that.
What did he care? After the ceremony, he probably would not have to see her again, unless something unspeakable happened.
Wilson came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a show for Helen’s family. It didn’t make practical sense to have two people who didn’t know each other responsible for a child.
From the child’s point of view, it guaranteed at least two extra presents come birthday time.
The assembled multitude wandered outside for photos.
The smokers in the group dispersed to the downwind side — no need to draw the wrath of the grandparents.
Once the main photos had been taken, the two policemen found each other.
“Coming back to the house for a sandwich and beer?” said the Inspector.
“I’ll poke my head in, but I want to interview the neighbours one more time. Most of them were out when the plods knocked on doors,” said Sergeant Wilson.
“If we don’t get a break soon, this one is going to get away from us,” said the Inspector.
“The blood samples came back. Nothing but her’s. No smears, no footprints, no nothing. How did he get out of the room without leaving any marks?”
“Maybe the bugger had wings.”
“The photographer wants a few shots of you holding the baby,” said Helen. Neither of the men had seen her approach.
“Do I have to?” said the Inspector. His wife didn’t answer, she didn’t need to.
He took the infant from her and walked to the appointed spot.
“Just one on your own,” said the photographer trying to disguise his indifference. He did an excellent job of it, and most people thought he was genuinely in love with taking their photo. In his mind, he was on a beach with scantily clad women who all wanted an intimate portfolio.
“Now one with the grandparents.”
“Now one with the godparents.”
The Inspector and his child stood in the middle, and Wilson stood on his right. The photographer didn’t complain, so he stayed there.
The godmother, who was wondering if she looked as good as she felt, stood looking at the lens as the photographer instructed.
The finished photograph showed three adults and one child, all wondering what the future would bring.
“Now one with the aunties.”
Wilson didn’t go back to the house for a sandwich and a beer and the godmother was sorry that he didn’t. She was sad that her nerves made her react badly when she first met him. She’d let the child’s mother colour her thoughts, something she tried to avoid. She liked to make up her own mind about people. But, on the occasion of a christening rehearsal, she let her impatience show through, and the godfather had taken it as yet another rejection.
Sergeant Wilson was not ‘good with women’. He never knew what to say to them, so he usually said nothing or something that made him look a bit off.
Sergeant Wilson knocked on the doors surrounding the murder scene and found a woman who remembered the night in question. She saw a man leave the apartment.
“I know it sounds weird, but he looked like he had wings,” said the neighbour of the murder victim.
“Have you ever seen him before?”
“I’m pretty sure he delivers pizza.”
“Which pizza place?”
“Fallen Angel Pizza, on William’s road. Just near the bank.”
“Do you think you could pick him out if we arranged a line-up?”
“Yes. Especially if he’s wearing those wings.”
Inspector and Helen McBride’s house. A double fronted Californian bungalow. People are spilling out of the front of the house and onto the lawn. The conversation is lively. Inspector McBride is sitting on his front fence with a bunch of sandwiches in one hand and a beer in the other. When his mobile phone rings, he puts his beer on the wall and answers his phone.
“Inspector, it’s Wilson. I’ve found a witness. Remember when you said you thought the killer must have flown out of the scene?”
“My witness says the bugger had wings!”
This was the first chapter in what became a novelette, “Dark Angel Pizza”. If you would like to binge read the rest of the chapters, here they are in order: The Christening, Flying Pizza, Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery Driver, And Just Like That He Was Gone, Profiler. Blood and Despair
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