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31. The evidence gatherers: questions we would have liked to ask

Present for the second meeting are:

J Durham, DS Leane, J Cowan

The speaker is not one of them.


‘Who wants to go first, Jim?’

Jim Durham makes an art of appearing relaxed but his fingernails betray him.

‘Fingerprints. How about we start with them. You took a full set?’



‘It’ll be on the card.’

‘I looked, it doesn’t say.’

Leane coughs, ever so quietly.

‘Where did you do the job?”

Jimmy D can’t remember. Shrugs.

‘On the card?’

‘Doesn’t say. Doesn’t say who did the job either. Says nobody did. Afraid something’s going to go arse-up one day, do you young Jim?’

The twist of a smile from the condemned.

James Cowan is a dapper little man, widely experienced, wisely advised. Expensively dressed. Hair oiled, brushed back. Heart to sword tie. In armoured battle he would have fought left-handed.


Cowan removes his gaze from Leane, who is looking at the ceiling. Turns his eyes to his inquisitor.

‘The black powder. Give me something believable.’

Cowan shrugs. ‘I only examined it in passing, left it to a qualified junior. He came up with nothing and I had no time to run it through the tests again.’

‘What did the black powder look like?’

‘Very small particles, blackish, some clotted together. The young fellow tested for most things, paint, chalk, dye, etc.’

Said disinterestedly, his mind, no doubt, on other matters.

‘One thing struck me.’


An elegant pause, a La Cowan.

‘The brush held a lingering odour.’

‘Of what?’

‘The nearest I can guess is a physical condition caused by focal hyperhydrosis.’*

‘Could you be less specific?’

Cowan smiled, showed all his specimen teeth at the one time.

‘Foot odour. Unmistakable.’



* Author’s note. This condition, commonly called Eureka Footrot, also effects those of us who insist on walking around bare-foot in the wet season.

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