O’Brien heaved something akin to a sigh of relief as the door closed on the last man of no.3 section.
"Well, it seems as though McCallion has a cast iron alibi on this matter," he said.
"Yes. But I will still have to interview him and I’ll have to tell the lad that his girl is dead. Not something I’m looking forward too," replied Broomfield.
"May I ask, what happened to her," stumbled O’Brien. "I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, how was she killed? If you can tell me …"
Broomfield collected his notes and picked up his cap. He brushed the crown lightly.
"Her throat was cut from ear to ear. In fact, whoever did it virtually cut her head off," he said.
In the hospital interview room, McCallion’s shoulders shuddered with grief.
Broomfield coughed: "I’m sorry lad. There was no easy way of breaking this news to you. I’m quite satisfied, having talked to your comrades, that you were back in billets before this murder took place.
"I need you to think hard. Can you think of anyone who may have had a reason to kill this girl? Were you aware of anyone who may have been jealous?"
McCallion shook his head: "I can’t think of any reason why Amanda would be killed. She was just a lovely girl. She did her work in Vincent’s and she was always friendly to the boys. Aside from that, she looked after her mother and her little sister.
"The last time I saw her, she was going in to do some sewing. They took in laundry and repair work from officers to earn a little extra money. She was an ordinary girl sir .. but I loved her .. and she loved me."
Broomfield knew that attempts at consolation would be worthless. He had mastered the art of sensible silence.
McCallion allowed himself to sink into the comforting arms of outright despair. He cried for a long time.
When he raised his head, the policeman had gone.
Author’s note: Major Dennis Broomfield was killed when his motor vehicle was strafed and set ablaze by an Albatros ground attack aircraft just outside Ypres the following day.