"You believe in Heaven then?" DeVille seemed genuinely interested but his attention was divided. He kept glancing up the stairs.
White followed his gaze but could see nothing up there. "I suppose so. I mean, I was raised C of E but who wasn't in those days?"
"To be offered the sight of God but turn away from it is the path to damnation, according to the bible. If you believe in Heaven you have to believe in Hell too." DeVille's raised eyebrow was disconcerting. White imagined him practising in front of a mirror after watching old re-runs of Star Trek. "If you have a carrot to aspire to you have to be wary of the inevitable stick."
"I suppose." White stared at one of the paintings on the wall, a life-sized full-length portrait of Alfred Lord Waterman, 1876 – 1942, set against a background of the London Blitz – a landscape not so very far from the Hell they were discussing. In the corner of the painting, behind the subjects left knee, a dog was worrying at a corpse. "But you can always repent your sins on your deathbed, can't you?"
"Actually no. That loophole was repealed by Pope Innocent the tenth in 1654. He was a bit cheesed off that not enough people were donating to the church in the belief that they could just apologise for their sins later. Deathbed confessions only count in poor historical romances and True Crimes magazine.
"Oh? That's me buggered then."
"Yes. Probably with the splintery pole for all eternity." DeVilles clapped him on the shoulder. "Not to worry. Technically, souls don't have bodies, so any pain you might feel is entirely in your own imagination."
White brushed off his shoulder where the taller man had patted it. "I never took you for a religious zealot, Mr. DeVille. I can't say it has any real place in the matter under investigation."
"Don't worry Detective-inspector. I'm not trying to convert you to religion or anything. I was just interested in your viewpoint. Don't all police officers swear to serve God and Queen?"
"Not any more. The Queen, yes, but we took religion out of the oath when we went multidenominational in the seventies."
"Splendid. So all you need now is a spiritualist to question the deceased."
White frowned. "Now you're having fun at my expense."