TUESDAY MARCH 17th, 1959
“. . . Just remember these three simple rules. One, don’t talk to strangers. Two, never go off with a person you do not know, and three, remember that the police are your friends. We are here to listen and help you whenever we can.” Jack Callum looked down upon the assembled faces. They stared back at him, their faces a sea of utter boredom.
The headmistress, Cynthia Arnold, sprang to her feet and walked to the front of the stage.
“Very informative,” she said. “I’m sure that you would all like to show your appreciation to Chief Inspector Callum for giving up his valuable time to speak to you today.” The applause rippled listlessly around the assembly hall and quickly died away. “Now, if you could all make your way out to the playground, slowly please, where . . .” She looked down at the piece of paper in her hand. “Where Sergeant Grant and Constable Cooper will tell you how to stay safe on the roads.”
The hall emptied in a rumble of voices and shuffling feet.
“Thank you, Mr Callum. I’m sure they appreciated your words,” said the headmistress.
“I suppose the ones who managed to stay awake might have learned something,” Jack said. He tucked his speech into his jacket pocket. “I apologise again that Superintendent Lane couldn’t be here today.”
The headmistress clucked. “Never to worry. I’m sure it couldn’t be helped. In any case, you proved to be a very successful last minute substitution. Full marks.”
“You’re very kind.”
Henry Lane was more comfortable swinging a golf club than standing in front of a microphone. He had been trying to wheedle his way out of the school talk for weeks. Jack had taken his place following a convenient attack of laryngitis. He enjoyed public speaking even less than Lane.
“I hear your men have brought a police car along with them to help with their demonstration. I have to see this. It’s all rather exciting,” said the headmistress. She bustled out of the hall.
Jack made his way to the side of the stage and trotted down the short staircase to freedom.
He pulled up short when a voice spoke from out of the shadows. “Did you mean it?”
The speaker was hidden by a fold in the stage curtain.
“Did I mean what?” said Jack. A teenage girl stepped out from behind the heavy brocade. She stood facing him.
“That the police are our friends? We should come and talk to you and you will help.”
Jack smiled indulgently. “We’ll always listen, and we’ll help if we can. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Gerry . . . Geraldine Tanner.”
“Well, Geraldine, do you have a problem you want to discuss?”
The girl nodded. A lock of curly blonde hair escaped from beneath her Alice band and fell across her face. “It’s my brother,” she said.
“And what do you want to tell me about your brother?”
“He’s dead,” she said, biting her lip pensively. “I killed him.”
PRIME EVIL - Sample