The incessant rain dripped off the brim of Inspector Graham Thompson’s trademark trilby as he stood and stared at the pavement outside the Astoria Palace Picture House. Long since converted to a nine screen Movieplex, the Astoria was Grantham’s answer to Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre. Rainwater pooled in the ten sets of handprints, footprints and signatures impressed in the neat pavement squares spread across the Astoria’s forecourt. Ten people; actors, directors, singers, each celebrated for their fame and their birth in Grantham. Inspector Thompson was acutely aware of the other connection they had in common – they were all being held at Her Majesty’s pleasure, seven for murder, three for theft. This stretch of pavement had always had a local curiosity value, but with each arrest worldwide notoriety increased – so much so that the council abandoned plans to dig up this rogues gallery.
Despite his trilby the rain found its way down Inspector Thompson’s back, the damp, cold trickle interrupting for a moment his contemplation of the imprints. Shaking water from his raincoat, he stepped through the puddles to a sheltered vantage point under the cover of the Astoria’s entrance way. From here he could continue to study the pavement.
For the Inspector, there was one more connection, a niggle that refused to be quieted even two years after the tenth villain, the actress Emma Barns, was jailed. In all ten trials, for ten clearly unconnected crimes, the primary evidence was the accused’s fingerprints found at the scene – scenes all ten claimed never to have visited.
It was time.
Inspector Thompson adjusted his trilby, turned up the collar of his rain coat, and stepped out once more into the rain. He made for Emma Barns’ handprints, bent down, and carefully removed the gum he’d pressed into the thumb mark twenty minutes before. In the cold and damp the gum had, as he wanted, stiffened.
As he turned the gum in his palm, the swirls of Emma Barns’ thumb print came into view. Here was one way Emma’s prints could turn up where she had never been. The Inspector smiled, another connection had fallen into place. Pocketing the gum, Inspector Graham Thompson, contemplating his next move, adjusted his Trilby and strode off through the rain.