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Harry Singh and the . . . oooh still can`t think of a title

by  Murphy

Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Word Count: 1235
Summary: Same book but here Harry visits a Free Church to investigate an apparent suicide of a young woman.
Related Works: Harry Singh Novel 2 (Can`t think of a title!). • 

It didn’t strike Harry as odd that the Halebury Church of Christ should be located on one of the business parks on the outskirts of town. After all, the Sikh temple had taken over a disused warehouse and no one had seemed bothered. What did surprise him, in this apparently Godless society, was the car-park; it was heaving. Having completed two circuits, without finding a space, he bumped his Audi up on the kerb, right outside the entrance, switched off the engine and got out.
He gave the building a cursory glance. A standard metal-clad unit, non-descript beige, just like the rest. If it hadn’t been for the imposing notice board listing personnel and the times of services you’d have no idea it was here. A look at his watch told him it was 8:15. The board told him the service started at 6:30. Surely they must be nearly done. Was he right to call on Sunday? He thought so. It was the one day he’d guarantee meeting the man in charge. He ran his finger down the board until he found what he was looking for: Pastor Geert van de Sar.
He walked the short distance to the double glass doors, pulled the right-hand one open and stepped into large foyer. To the right where doors leading to toilets, to the left another door marked kitchen and a large serving hatch through which he could see an urn gently hissing steam. Straight ahead another pair of double doors though which he could make out rows of shoulders and heads all facing forward, and all the women appeared to be wearing hats. At the front, a tall man, who looked a bit like Lurch from the Adams family, was parading up and down, pounding the air with his clenched fist. Whatever he was saying was just a series of low mumbles; the sound-proofing was almost doing its job.
Everyone rose and started to sway to what Harry heard as a faint strain of music. Several members of the congregation raised their arms and waived their hands. He recognised the dance. It couldn’t be? But it did look like it; Bhangra. Perhaps they weren’t so weird after all. He nudged the door open a crack, Bhangra it wasn’t. The music and singing stopped and the tall man began to talk again in an unmistakable American accent.
‘Brothers and sisters it’s been so good to share our time this evening. It’s especially good to see all the young people here tonight. Do you know that so many of the town’s other young people are in pubs tonight?’ The tall man stretched forward and coaxed a low murmur from the congregation. ‘I can see there are one or two new faces here this evening. If you’ve been touched by anything, if Jesus has spoken to you, just raise your hand. There’s no need to stand up or anything. Just raise your hand. Someone will come and pray with you. Just raise your hand.’
Harry could see a number of hands being raised. One was dyed blue with tattoos and belonged to a thick-set skin-head who seemed to be crying into the lap of the elderly lady sitting next to him.
Looking up Harry saw the tall man step down from what must have been some sort of staging. Harry walked forward his arm raised to attract the man’s attention.
‘No need to stand. We’ll find a quiet corner and pray together.’ A voice whispered in his ear.
‘Sorry,’ said Harry, swinging round.
‘Your hand.’ A blue suited man, with plastic looking skin and gum-shield teeth, pointed at Harry’s arm. ‘You’ve raised your hand.’
‘Eh? Oh, sorry I was just trying to get the, what you call them, Pastor’s attention.’
‘And now you have it.’
Harry felt a tingle ripple up his spine. Turning round he looked what seemed like a long way up at the face of the tall man.
‘You must be Geert, Geert van de Sar.’
‘And you?’
‘Inspector Harry Singh, Halebury CID.’ He held his warrant card just beneath the pastor’s nose. ‘It’s about the girl we pulled out of the river. Is there somewhere we can¬—’
‘Talk? Of course, Inspector, please follow me.’
They walked to the front of the Church where the pastor led Harry into a small office and closed the door behind them. There was a table underneath a window on top of which was a laptop computer; the screen was displaying a flying angel as the screen saver. Towards the back wall was a pine desk with chairs either side. The room smelt of new wood.
‘Please.’ The pastor gestured to a chair in front of the desk before taking the seat behind. ‘How can I help?’ Considering one of his members had just died he didn’t seem all that concerned.
Harry took a photograph from his breast pocket and placed it on the desk in front of the pastor. ‘Did you know this girl?’
Van de Sar shook his head slowly and picked up the photograph. ‘Tragic. Such a waste. She was His, you know, and now . . .’ Another shake of the head.
‘And now . . . ?’
‘Lost, lost forever to the evil one. Satan has claimed his reward for tormenting her soul. She was weak, Inspector, as all flesh is weak. But God gives the power to stand firm against all the gates of hell in Halebury, to those who are faithful. ’ He slid the photograph back towards the inspector.
So that was all that the pastor had to say about one of his ex-flock? ‘I was rather hoping you could let me know a bit about her involvement with the church when she was alive, not what might have happened to her since.’
‘Oh. She came once or twice from what I recall. I didn’t have too much contact with her. There are so many. The harvest is great but the helpers are few.’
‘So you didn’t know she’d just had a child?’
Van de Sar looked at the desk-top and spoke without raising his head. ‘We did know there’d been a problem.’ Now he looked up. ‘But she’d stopped coming here quite a while ago. We sort of lost contact.’
Harry tried hard not to shake his head. A problem, lost contact; what sort of a church was this? He was sure the pastor knew more than he was letting on. ‘What about anyone else?’
‘Oh, I’ll ask around for you, Inspector.’
‘Thanks.’ Harry fished a card from his inside pocket and gave it to van de Sar. ‘You just do that.’ He stood and turned to leave.
‘What about you, Harry?’
‘Where will He find you, if He comes for your soul tonight?’
Harry took two hurried steps to the door and let himself out slamming it behind him.
He kept up his hurried steps all the way to the foyer, the last words of Lurch still rattling around his head, when he felt a tug at his elbow.
‘It’s about her, isn’t it?’
Harry turned round to see the woman who had been comforting the skin-head being led away by the man with the gum-shield teeth. He thought about following but decided he’d come back another time when he could speak with the woman alone. He felt himself shudder. Halebury Church of Christ – you’re welcome to it.