the trees they were walking through, though giving a bit of shade, made it even hotter.
wilkinson wanted a drink.
margrave needed a drink.
mercer was on the verge of weeping for want of a drink. however, as the assistant manager of the main plantation, and de facto manager since the murder of hawkins, it was up to him to escort the man from the colonial office, who had arrived to investigate the crime, around the plantation and the settlement.
despite their differences, wilkinson, margrave and mercer had been united in hoping the colonial office (100) fellow would regard his mission as a formality, and quickly retire with them to the relative cool of the bar at the hotel.
but ashley, the man sent from cairo, was having none of it. right keen, he was, and determined to "get to the bottom" of the matter.
he insisted on being led to the spot where the body of hawkins had been found.
the spot mercer led him to was quite indistinguishable from the rest of the path and the wood around it.
ashley looked around. "so, this is where the body was found?"
"close enough," mercer answered (200) , after a slight hesitation.
"close enough, eh?" ashley snorted. he looked the sweating mercer up and down like a colonel inspecting a private on parade. "but it was you who discovered him, was it not?"
"one of the boys discovered him. he came to me. i was the first white man to see him."
"so far as you know you were the first white man to see him."
mercer winced. behind him margrave and wilkinson rolled their eyes. "what is that
supposed to mean?" mercer asked.
"what does it mean? it means that if he had been shot (300) by a white man, that white man would have been the last to see him, would he not?"
"he wasn't shot by a white man. he was shot by a native."
"you know that, do you? how do you know that?"
good god, was this son of a bitch a bloody barrister as well as a sniveling bureaucrat? "it's what the natives do," mercer answered gamely. "besides, none of us had any reason to kill him. why would any of us want to do him in?"