Who: Ernie Macmillan, Wayne Hopkins
Where: The Fat Fryer
When: 27 June 2001, lunchtime
Ernie was ignoring his rising guilt about not directly posting Stephen’s results to Stephen by piling on different guilt with a large bowlful of chips instead.
He sat opposite Wayne and took out the document, placing it on the table and pushing it over. “I think I’ll just let this speak for itself.”
Wayne had no idea what to expect in coming here. What could Ernie have possibly uncovered that was maybe a clue for the murder, but not something he felt he had to rush to the DMLE with? Wayne was anxious for the Ministry to have a reason to stop digging through the evidence, so his stomach was flip-flopping a bit as he unfolded the document Ernie pushed toward him.
He scanned it quickly, and then read through it again, more slowly, to make sense of it. “Wow,” he finally said. “How did you get this?” Meanwhile, the various implications of this information were rushing through his head.
“Came in the post,” said Ernie. “Can you believe it!? He must have suspected or he wouldn’t have asked for such a procedure.”
“Wow,” Wayne said again. “I wonder if he only suspected now that everyone’s been talking about it, or if he kind of new before. I mean, didn’t he work for him? That’s kind of messed up.” And that hair the investigators had found on the body — well then that wasn’t that suspicious, if they worked together. Either way, the DMLE was definitely going to want to look at him more closely.
Ernie raised an eyebrow. “Messed up enough for murder?” He frowned. “But then he would’ve had to have known already. In that case, why order the test?”
Wayne rubbed the back of his neck. “Well it would only make sense if he had found out Orpington was definitely his father before he — killed him, right? And apparently he didn’t know, not for sure, if he just got the test done.” There was a good reason Wayne wasn’t in the DMLE. Too much uncertainty. He preferred Arithmancy, where every question could be answered if you just knew how to manipulate the numbers the right way.
“So what are you going to do with this now?” As he glanced down at the paper he noticed that grease from his basket of chips was starting to ooze into the paper, and he quickly pushed it back toward Ernie, smudging it further with his greasy fingers.
“Send it to the DMLE, I suppose. Though really I should give it to him,” Ernie replied. “Maybe it has to do with the will… or lack of will. If you’re going to come forward as an heir you need proof.”
Parts of the paper looked definitely tampered with now, thought Ernie with dismay. He dabbed it with some napkins and laid another over the top. He pushed it to one side.
“I’m kind of surprised no-one suspected him, given everyone else under the sun has been accused.”
Wayne nodded at the mention of the will. That certainly made sense. And if Stephen had grown up without a father, and not even knowing who he was — well, he deserved his share.
“I don’t think the Prophet was really basing their guesses on anything. I’m just glad I wasn’t part of their list,” he said, making a face. The last thing he would have wanted was more publicity about his connection to his parents.
Wayne glanced at his watch and started eating more quickly. He didn’t normally step out for lunch and the office might be looking for him. “I guess the DMLE will sort it out,” he said, mouth somewhat full.
“Maybe,” said Ernie, doubtful about the DMLE’s effectiveness. Well, he supposed they were doing their best. Maybe they just needed a vital clue, like Stephen’s paper. “Can’t wait to see what the papers make of it.”
“Finished?” said a hurried-looking waitress, not a moment after Ernie had placed down his cutlery.
He had hardly finished saying “yes” before she had whisked everything off with the table with a flick.
Wayne opened his mouth to protest when the waitress whisked away what was left of his meal as well, but he didn’t say anything — he had to be getting back to the office anyway. He grabbed a napkin off a nearby table to finish wiping the grease off his hands and remarked to Ernie, “Remember when this was a quiet town and we weren’t front page news every day?” He felt kind of bad for Stephen, knowing this would all blow up in the paper, but oh well — it was inevitable.
“No. What was that like?” deadpanned Ernie. He grinned. “Too bad I’m no longer a reporter. I could have made editor by now with this information. Ah, well. Propelling celebrities up the celebrity ladder is my life now.”
He nodded a goodbye to Wayne as they both hurried to work. “Talk soon.”