Archive | March, 2017

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 9

29 Mar

9. THE HANGOVER

“Peter, you and I will go and take a look at the other neighbours, those at number five,” said D.I. Rosie Baur when the morning’s assessment meeting was over.

“I saw them the morning the body was discovered,” volunteered D.C. Martin Thrives. “There are three of them there. They didn’t see anything or hear anything or suspect anything. And they maintain they certainly didn’t do anything!”

“We’ll go anyway,” replied Rosie, “three brains might be lucky and catch something that one brain misses.”

“Yes ma’am,” murmured Martin. “What do you want me to do?”

“Take a look at that Charity shop she manages,” Rosie told him, “pay particular attention to the staff and the way they talk about Mrs Buttery. I’ve got a few reservations in my head about that good lady!”

The Superintendent put his head through the doorway. “You mustn’t get blind racism mixed up with the will to murder husbands,” he said. “The woman’s got some unpleasant views and it got to be a shock to her system when she discovered that the officer she was complaining to was even blacker than the woman she wanted to complain about!”

“I’d like to have been a fly on your wall that day, sir,” grinned Rosie. “And of course I won’t mix the two things up. I can take blind racism for what it is, the shallow workings of a feeble mind. She even takes the Daily Mail, I noticed!”

“Carry on, then,” rumbled Superintendent Flibbert. “Don’t let me keep you.”

“What was that about the Daily Mail?” asked Peter Jenson when they were in her car and on the way to Binyard Close. “That’s the paper I take when I take one, which is about once in a blue moon.”

“As long as you don’t believe half of what it says,” said Rosie, “Now for number five Binyard. “Winston and Jodie McCarthy with their son Brendon or Brandon, something like that…”

“Brandon,” confirmed the Sergeant, consulting his list.

“He’s a teenager, seventeenish, and as harmless as a flea on an elephant,” murmured his Inspector.

“How harmless is that?” asked Peter.

“A mild irritant and no more, like most teenagers, and like most teenagers he’s never been in any kind of trouble though he probably gets up the noses of his parents from time to time. But Martin found out something about Jodie, that’s Mrs McCarthy to me and you when we get there. It seems that unlike the objectionable Buttery woman she did have a fling with the deceased some years ago, when she was her son’s age. The good constable Thrives seems good at digging out this kind of information and as long as he gets it right he should go far!”

“Is there any significance in a teenage fling, ma’am” asked the sergeant.

She shook her head. “I very much doubt it, but it might be best to keep it in mind … just in case. He’s quite a bit older than her, around fifteen years or so, so it says more about him than her.”

“Many an older man has an eye for pretty young totty,” suggested Peter.

“Well, here we are, let’s go and take a peek at her and see what’s what,” she said, pulling up outside the McCarthy house.

Number five was an exact replica of numbers one and three. The small front garden was neatly tended and the front door smelt as if it had been recently painted. That door was opened almost immediately by a teenage boy with hair dyed with a green streak in it and wearing jeans that had less denim in the knee region than seemed either tidy, sensible or even practical.

“I saw you coming,” he said quietly, his voice cultured, his attitude polite despite his streetwise appearance.

“Mr McCarthy?” asked Rosie, flashing her warrant card as ID.

“We were expecting you,” said Brandon McCarthy. “You can’t have a murder next door without the cops wanting alibis from one and all!!”

“Do you need an alibi?” asked Peter.

The boy shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “at least I hope not. I was in bed watching my telly.”

“What was on?” asked Rosie.

The boy hesitated, then: “it was a porn channel,” he said, “but don’t tell my parents, will you? I’m old enough to join the armed forces and die for my country but not old enough to enjoy watching the antics of angels in the altogether!”

“We’ll keep schtum,” assured Rosie, “what you choose to watch on the television is no concern of ours. Now are your parents both in?”

He shook his head. “Mum is, in the kitchen nursing a hangover, but dad’s at work.”

Mum was a red-headed woman in her forties and she was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in front of her and a troubled look on her face, which would have been pretty had she chosen to smile. That fiery red hair could do with a brush through it, thought Rosie.

“Cops, mum,” said her son. “They’ve come to quiz you about murders!”

“Er … yes,” she stuttered, “you’d better sit down,” she added, “I’m sorry, but I had quite a night yesterday and I’m suffering for it this morning.”

“Like you do most mornings,” said her son, dislike suddenly etched on his face. “She drinks,” he added. “Too much,” he concluded.

“We wondered if you noticed anything amiss two nights ago when the man next door was murdered,” asked Rosie, “around eleven, we think, though it may have been a bit later.”

“I was out of it by then,” muttered Jodie McCarthy, “like I am quite often these days. There’s not much else to live for round here. There’s just got to be something that makes life worth while.”

“Handsome sons aren’t enough,” muttered Brandon, “I’m off to watch the box in my room,” he added. “Some antiques programme,” he added when he saw the expression on Sergeant Jenson’s face. “I like antiques.”

“Any particular period?” asked Peter.

“Georgian furniture. They were classy back then,” replied the boy, his eyes showing more enthusiasm for old tables and chairs than they had for porn.

“I’m with you there, lad,” said Peter.

“What do you mean, you were out of it by then?” asked Rosie of the hung-over Jodie McCarthy.

“Look, I like a drink and it’s not illegal,” almost snarled the red-head. “And as for killing the silly old fool next door, I’d have done it years ago, when he raped me, and not left it until now!”

“He raped you?”

“I was only, what, nineteen or so. It was more than twenty years ago and a time I’d prefer to forget. I never reported it because I knew what you cops would have said, that I asked for it bearing in mind what I was wearing when I met him. I liked short dresses and looked good in them, and sometimes forgot to put on underwear. I still do like short things, though Winston doesn’t approve so I don’t wear them any more.”

“Were you neighbours back when..?” asked Rosie.

“No. I worked at the library after I left school, and then I met Winston. I felt safe with him because he’s almost ten years older than me, but it didn’t take long for me to discover he’s a boring old sod with a minuscule sex drive. Then I found out where … my rapist … lived and got Winston to want to live here, next door to him. He’s easy to manipulate, is Winston.”

“Are you trying to say you wanted to be raped again?” asked an incredulous Rosie.

“I dunno. I just wanted something, I suppose. I was pregnant with Brandon so he couldn’t have made me pregnant again … but it never happened … don’t ever shit on your doorstep, he said when I made my hopes obvious, and he never did.”

“Did Mr McCarthy find out?” asked Sergeant Jenson.

She shook her head. “He couldn’t have,” she said, “neither of us would have dropped the teeniest hint. And anyway, he stuck to his word and never did anything dirty on his own doorstep, not once.”

“If he had found out it would have been a motive for murder,” murmured Rosie.

“Winston murdering people? Now you have proved you’ve not met him. Winston won’t even swat a fly!” laughed the red-head. “Now if you’ve got no more questions I need to lie down for an hour.”

“It’s only mid-morning,” whispered Peter to Rosie as they made their way back to her car.

“She’s in a bad way if she gets wasted like this,” said Rosie, “and detective sergeants who visit superior officers and their bottles of red at the dead of night might take note of the downward trail and where it can lead.”

“Especially if those superior officers have a penchant for personal nudity whilst having a body most men would die for,” sighed Peter. “And, ma’am, that’s exactly what you’ve got!”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 02.03.17

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ROSIE BAUR D.I. Chapter 8

27 Mar

8. A GLASS OF RED

Rosie Baur poured herself a glass of J.P. Chenet Red and sipped at it before sitting down. The twins were in bed and there was no way they would wake up, they never did, and she just wanted to feel comfortable, so she was dressed solely in her birthday suit and to remind herself that she wasn’t so bad to look at she glanced at herself in the mirror on the wall opposite her television set.

“Not bad for a bird of my age,” she thought. She was only in her thirties but along with quite a lot of people in her age range she saw middle age looming like a dread beast in her future. Not that she’d have gone to many lengths to stave off the ravages of time. She wasn’t that vain.

And she didn’t look bad, anyway. There’s hardly a mortal on the planet who could say she had anything but an attractive body, dusky as it was, with long natural hair for once allowed to fall round her shoulders. For work she always had it piled up on her head but once at home comfort was more important than considerations of health and safety, so down it came.

She sipped the wine and sat down, and sighed. And the doorbell rang.

“Sod it!” she muttered, and pulled the dressing gown that she always kept handy over her body and reached the front door before the bell had a chance to ring a second time. Doorbells can wake children, and she didn’t want them woken.

It was Peter Jenson.

“I hope I’m not disturbing anything,” he mumbled as he walked in. “But I felt I ought to see you before the meeting first thing tomorrow.”

“Do come in,” she said pointedly, and he grinned at her.

“Ready for bed already?” he asked.

“You know me better than that!” she said, and she slipped her dressing gown back off in the certain knowledge that he wouldn’t see anything he hadn’t seen a dozen times before. He knew her fondness for being au naturel and knew it wasn’t a come-on when she stripped off in front of him, though there had been a time… “You’re going to have to put up with me like this,” she added with a smile. “I’m going to relax my own way no matter what I put on display for Detective Sergeants to ogle at!”

“And if the Superintendent calls?” asked Peter with a cheeky grin.

“Then he’ll have to put up with my bronzed acres too,” she said, “a glass of red?”

He shook his head regretfully. “I’ve got the car,” he explained.

“Then what’s so important you had to barge into my paradise?” she asked, pouring herself a second glass and ignoring his excuse by pouring him one too. “One won’t hurt,” she added.

“It is paradise, isn’t it?” he murmured thoughtfully. Rosie was a hard working woman and put in long hours when necessary, but she still had time to turn a bog standard modern semi-detached little house into what he acknowledged as a paradise. “It must be in your genes,” he added.

“Just because I’m a dusky maiden,” she grinned, “I’ve told you before that my heritage in the UK goes way back to the seventeenth century. Most of the white part of my ancestry arrived last century, though, chased by fascists from Germany.”

“It’s a lovely mixture,” he said, meaning it.

“Right. So what won’t wait until tomorrow, and be quick because there’s a programme on the box I want to catch in ten minutes.”

“I’d have thought real life gives you enough crimes to solve,” he said, guessing what programme she meant.

“Ah, but Barnaby has it a lot tougher. I’ve only got the one murder, but he gets them in droves!”

“OK, I get the drift. Well, it’s the post mortem. The doc reckons the man was still alive when his eyes were dug out. He reckons he was unconscious or just about so, his mouth taped up so if he wanted to he couldn’t cry out, and he was left there for a good hour before his head was bashed in for the last time.”

“That’s horrible!” Rosie shuddered. “The depths some people will sink to! Why his eyes, I wonder?”

“That’s just guess work at the moment, though I reckon it must be someone thinks he enjoyed looking at something or someone a little bit too much and wanted him to know what he thought.”

“But what? His kids … the Swanspottle duo … were there until he put the bin out at night, and that was around the time of his death.”

“He died between eleven and one next morning, give or take, according to the doc., and it seems he usually had his bin out by ten. Neighbours said you could almost set your clock by him putting his bin out.”

“So his kids were gone by ten…?” she said thoughtfully.

“If you can believe the neighbours, yes.”

“How do they know that’s when the kids left, just because it’s when the bloke usually put his bin out? And there’s something about that pair that worries me. I don’t like the clingy way they have, as if they can’t bear being apart.

“They’re twins, Rosie, and you know a thing or three about twins.”

“Blast it! I’ve missed the start of the programme! Hold on. Let me switch the set on before I miss any more.” She steed up, glorious and bronzed and beautiful, and turned the television on. “I always switch it off properly because I read telly sets use up electricity even when they’re on standby, and it’s me paying the bills,” she said.

“Makes sense,” said Peter.

“There have been two Barnabies in this programme,” said Rosie thoughtfully as she watched the opening credits fade away on her screen. “The first one had a cousin, I believe, and he was scripted to take over when the first one was clearly too old to be believable. They’re not like twins, though … very different from each other. Twins often are different from each other, don’t you think? I mean, they may look pretty similar, some even so similar even friends and family can be hard pressed to tell them apart, but their personalities, they can vary, don’t you think?”

Peter shrugged. “You’re the twin expert,” he said.

“It makes me wonder, though…” murmured Rosie. “Are you staying?”

“I’ve not much else to do. As long as I don’t have to strip off to my skin to match the hostess!”

“You know I’m not like that! Go on, you’ve got a glass of red, so have another. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. You can even doss down on the settee if you get too hammered to drive!”

“I might just do that. I’ve nothing cooking at home.”

“Then stay if you like. Did Dingle say anything else of interest?”

“One thing. There were signs that Mr Buttery might have had sex not long before he died.”

“Were there, now! Who with, I wonder?”

“It might have been with himself, Rosie. You know, he might have taken himself in hand … who can tell? Cardew’s going to see if he can find evidence of a partner, but he’s not holding his breath, so I’m not holding mine.”

“Who would he have sex with, though? His wife is of the there’s no point at our time of life school, and the neighbour’s ex is selling fish and chips miles away.”

“Someone we don’t know about?”

“Obviously, but who?”

“We’ll have to look a bit deeper, Rosie.”

“Well, at the moment it’s all food for thought. Now be quiet and let’s see what’s happening on the telly. Ah, they’re having a garden party. They have a lot of those. And there are probably going to be fireworks and a corpse, followed by more corpses. I find this quite relaxing, don’t you?”

“If you say so, ma’am…”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 01.03.17

ROSIE BAUR D.I. Chapter 7

26 Mar

7. THE PROF

“There’s something that might interest you, ma’am,” said D.C. Martin Thrives, from the doorway of the D.I.’s office.

“Come in,” responded his boss, waving him towards her, smiling. She liked the young constable, mostly for his enthusiasm though she had to admit he was quite a good looking lad as well.

“The Buttery case,” said Martin, “I’ve a bit of interesting info on the bloke’s neighbour, the one at number one.”

“Oh yes. What might that be?”

“I’ve dug around a bit and it turns out that around twenty years ago the bloke’s wife, that’s a Jean Wilton when she was married to him, hut they’re divorced, was convinced he had an affair with Mrs Buttery, that’s Miriam Buttery, the corpse’s misses.”

“Now let me get this straight. The gent at No 1 may have had an affair with the dreaded Miriam Buttery? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to have an affair with her, but there’s no accounting for taste.”

“It was only a suspicion on the aggrieved wife’s part, but it was serious enough to lead directly to her divorce from the bloke who still lives at number one, that’s Andrew Witton, known colloquially as the Prof on account of his fondness for the library.”

“The late Mr Buttery’s library?”

“The very same one, ma’am. It seems he’s a retired gent who goes there most days, mostly to the reference section. Seems he’s into astronomy, and when he’s not in the garden he catches documentaries on catchup.”

“I suppose he can’t have access to the Internet, then?”

“I don’t know, ma’am. I just thought I’d best report what I heard.

“Then I think I’ll have a word with this Prof. If he blames the Buttery duo for the breakdown of his marriage then he might have been tempted to take a belated iron bar to one of them even if he was the guilty party himself.”

“Anything’s possibly, ma’am, especially if it’s been left over a low heat to simmer for a couple of decades!”

“You come along with me then, Constable, and we’ll go and see what she will see. Peter’s down the morgue checking on the finer points in the PM, and better him than me. Did you see the state of the man’s eyes?”

“Fair made me puke,” muttered Martin Thrives.

Binyard Close was quiet when they got there, though Rosie couldn’t help wondering when it wasn’t quiet with just four dwellings, one of them the short drive to a farmhouse. There were no cars parked on the roadway, and little evidence of life anywhere. But when they knocked the door of number one an elderly man with only wisps of silvery grey hair and a pair of wire-framed spectacles balanced precariously on the tip of his nose opened it.

Constable Thrives had called briefly before, and the man recognised him with an acknowledging nod of his head.

“Good to see you up and well, sir,” said Thrives. “This is my boss, the Detective Inspector in charge of the case, and she wanted a word.”

“She can have a sentence if she likes,” replied Andrew Witton. “I’ve got all the time in the world, the library being closed out of respect for its murdered librarian. Though I’m sure the council is quite happy saving on the wages of its staff!”

They entered his house and sat down in the front room while he did the usual householder’s job of putting on the kettle in the kitchen and making tea.

“It was dreadful,” he called through as he rattled cups and saucers on the work surface. “Phil and I got on very well, you know. I can’t imagine what kind of scum would want to harm him, let alone kill him!”

“We’re determined to find out, sir,” replied Rosie. “But whoever it was didn’t leave many clues. Not that we’ve found, at the moment anyway.”

“Well, there’s not much I can say that will be helpful, Here we are. Tea for three.”

Andrew Witton carried a small tray with three cups and saucers completely occupying its surface. He went back to the kitchen and returned with a bowl of sugar.

“I’ve been told you’ve had history with the Buttery family,” said Rosie. “Something that happened around twenty years ago?”

“Oh, you mean the imagined affair I had with Miriam? It was all a fantasy in my then wife’s head. You see, they had twins, delightful little toddlers playing delightful little games in their front garden, small as it is, and we couldn’t help wanting at least one of our own. And at the same time my then wife, Jean, had discovered that she couldn’t have children. Something wrong with her plumbing, I believe, though I never understood it fully because she didn’t like to talk about it. But it changed her, did the knowledge of her own shortcomings, and she started accusing me of going off with any woman who passed the house! It was no fun, I can tell you!”

“They must have been difficult times, sir,” murmured Martin sympathetically.

“They were, constable! I’d already had enough when she set her sights on a chance word I had with Mrs Buttery across the road. Mrs Buttery hasn’t changed much over the years and back then I couldn’t understand why an intelligent man, he was the librarian then as now, could fall under the spell of such a know-all harridan. But he had, and I felt sorry for him.”

“The chance word, sir?” asked Rosie respectfully.

“Good morning. I just said good morning as she was leaving her place and I was returning to mine from work. I taught back then, you know. We passed by my gate and I said good morning to her, and she replied the same. And Jean saw that brief exchange from our front door where she’d been standing and turned it, in her head, into an enormous affair. And she was one for laying down the law, was Jean when she was in one of her moods. As if I’d have anything to do with a woman like Phil’s wife! For a start, I’m a man of science in my own small way, and I struggle to understand the enormity of the Universe, and instead of doing any thinking she has one word for it all: God. That’s the answer to all the big questions as far as she’s concerned. God. I couldn’t spend a minute in the company of a woman as shallow as that even if she had the biggest bazookas in the kingdom and I was sex-starved, which I wasn’t and she hadn’t, begging your pardon for my language!”

“No problem,” smiled Rosie, “it’s odd how old stories continue down the years, isn’t it?”

“We divorced, against my better feelings,” said Andrew shortly. “I didn’t want to, and still regret it. You see, if I ever knew anything about love it was about Jean and although the years have passed I still … I still miss her.”

“And Jean now?” asked Rosie.

“She never married again. The last I heard was she works for a mobile chip shop in Swanspottle and district. I never see her, which is just as well. You know, when she left I had a full head of hair, and look at me now! It’s not her fault, not at all, but I doubt she’d recognise me if we passed each other in the street.”

“And there was nothing between you and Mrs Buttery then?” asked the constable.

“Nothing whatsoever and now she’s single I’ll still cross the street if I see her, and walk the other side!” vowed Mr Witton.

“Well, thanks for the cuppa,” smiled Rosie, “and one more question and we’ll be off. Did you hear or see anything unusual the night that Philip Buttery was killed?”

He shook his head in reply. “I’d have said already if I had,” he said shortly. “After all, I’ve never had many personal friends and with his death I’ve lost a hundred percent of them!”

“I see…. Come on then, Constable. We’ll leave Mr Witton in peace.”

Back in the car Rosie turned to her junior colleague. “What do you think?” she asked.

“He seems genuine enough to me,” replied D.C. Thrives slowly.

“That’s what I think,” murmured his Inspector. “I think we could do worse than check on that charity shop where Mrs Buttery works before we get back to the station. You never know, you might spot a tasty pair of shorts for the summer months on the sale rail!”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 28.02.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 6

23 Mar

6. A TINY HOUSE
Swanspottle was a small village about ten miles from Brumpton unless you took the winding road, which made it a great deal further. An ancient place, little more than a hamlet even though there was a mention in the Domesday Book, it had been built around a church that had been rebuilt more than once since then and was still in a state of considerable disrepair. And there was a pub run by Thomas the Greek (who wasn’t Greek) and a single row of cottages with an odd seemingly purposeless scattering of old, some even long disused, houses that had apparently been built and dropped randomly in the neighbourhood so long ago that memory has no knowledge of their builders or why they were where they were.

“I wouldn’t recommend that place unless you like your beer diluted with tap water,” said Detective Sergeant Jenson to his Inspector, pointing at the Crown and Anchor as they drove past.

“I’ll bear that in mind,” smiled Inspector Baur. “Look … we’re here!”

They pulled up just past a tiny house, one of a terrace of similar tiny houses.

“Built in Victorian times when it was widely thought that the ordinary Joe didn’t need much in the way of privacy,” said D.S. Jenson. “There used to be a quarry, now a wildlife sanctuary, and these were built to house the workers and their families, poor sods.” he added.

“Let’s go and knock the door, then,” said Rosie Baur, “I’m anxious to see what twins are like when they’ve grown up!”

The door was opened by an attractive young woman in her twenties, and Rosie was struck immediately by the similarity between her and the racist wife of the corpse whose demise she was investigating. The daughter had certainly inherited her mother’s best features and, hoped Rosie, not her worst. She introduced them and their warrant cards, and was invited in.

“I can tell who you are,” she said, “you’re the spitting image of your mother.”

“Everyone says that. It’s about my dad, isn’t it?” said Amelia Buttery, the daughter. “My brother’s about somewhere, I’ll call him.”

“Just a minute,” interrupted Sergeant Peter Jenson, “let’s start with you. When did you last see your parents?”

She looked down at her feet, nervously. “I think it was the evening he was killed,” she said, “a couple of evenings ago, we called in to see them like we do about once a week or so, and he was perfectly okay. In fact, he was too much his usual self.”

“What do you mean, too much?” asked Rosie. “How can a father be too much his usual self?”

“You know, all hearty and quoting books as if book quotes solve every problem.”

“I don’t think I do know,” coaxed the D.I. “Can you elaborate a bit for me?”

“I don’t think I can. It was just a chance thing for me to say, like he wasn’t changed or moody, just himself. It wasn’t as if he was expecting to bump into a homicidal maniac any day soon!”

“You think it was a homicidal maniac rather than someone with a grudge?” asked Jenson.

“Is there a difference?” There was something defiant about the way Amelia addressed the question. “I mean, to kill someone you’ve got to be some kind of maniac, haven’t you?”

The door opened before either officer could continue with their line of questioning and a young man walked in. He, unlike his twin, bore little resemblance to either of his parents. He was tall, probably worked out at a gym as often as he could, and smiled as if he was forcing himself to smile.

“I was expecting Mr Plod before long,” he said, “but I’m glad to see it’s Mrs Plod instead!”

It seems that this family is determined to get under my skin one way or another, thought Rosie, but instead of reflecting her true feelings she smiled, warmly she hoped.

“Detective Inspector Baur,” she said by means of self-introduction, “and you’re right. I am married,” to a wonderful man in the graveyard, she added to herself.

“Well then, Mrs Plod, what do you know about my father’s sad demise?” asked Denis, Amelia’s twin, and nothing like her in any physical way, was giving the impression that he had nothing like her brazen attitude either. Physically, he was larger than his twin in just about every dimension, being taller and generally a great deal heavier, most of the weight looking as if it might be muscle rather than fat.

“The name’s not Plod but Baur, and I’d appreciate being called Detective Inspector rather than Mrs,” she said, sharply. “I don’t need to remind you, but your father’s been murdered, rather savagely, and his body mutilated, and you’ve got to depend on me to sort the wheat from the chaff and put the killer behind bars before he can kill again.”

“You said he,” put in Amelia. “How do you know it’s not a woman?”

“We don’t, not for sure, but killers who think that they’re clever always give too much away,” replied Rosie, her voice laced with ice. “This one mutilated the eyes of your father, tried to make sure that his dead body could see no more, not that that makes much sense to more normal humans like us. And it would be a man that did that. A man who puts so much emphasis on vision when it’s not an issue anyway, the dead being blind as well as dead. At least that’s how it is normally.”

“Where were you when he was killed?” asked the sergeant, not liking the way the interview was going.

“Not far away from him, I suppose,” replied the son. “We’d called on him, and when we left he was just about to put his wheelie bin out for the next day’s collection.”

“He’d been talking to me like he did sometimes,” put in Amelia, “he liked to talk to me. It was his way.”

“His way?” asked Rosie, frowning, “his way of what?”

“Passing the time of day,” said Denis Buttery, his voice turning acidic.

“His way of saying he loved me,” whispered Amelia. “A father should love his kids, don’t you think? A father should always be there for them…?”

“And didn’t he like to pass the time of day with you?” asked Jenson, directly addressing Denis.

“With me? Don’t be daft! I’m a lad, a man, and men don’t do that kind of thing,” protested Denis. “Men wrestle and joke. Men aren’t soft.”

“Dad was,” whispered Amelia.

“This is quite a small house for two adults, isn’t it?” asked Rosie, changing the subject and sounding as conversational as she could.

“It does us,” murmured the woman, a smile flickering across her face. “It does us fine.”

“What is it? Two beds?” asked Rosie. “I noticed a similar property for sale a couple of doors away, and I know a couple…”

“Just the one, so Denis and I share…” said Amelia hesitantly. “We’re twins, you see, so it isn’t so odd…”

“Oh. My friends would need two beds,” frowned Rosie.

“It depends how it was modernised. With ours, one of the two original bedrooms was turned into a bathroom. They may have had the bath put into a ground floor extension, and have kept two bedrooms,” said Amelia. “It might be worth checking.”

“I’ll tell them. So back to your father. You left as he put the wheelie bin out? Can anyone confirm that?”

“Are you accusing us?” almost shouted Denis, his face suddenly masked with something Rosie didn’t like.

“Of course not,” D.S Jenson said, smoothly. “It’s just questions that have to be asked. So can anyone?”

“What? On that quiet little road at the dead of night? I very much doubt it,” snapped Denis.

“Then we’ll be leaving you, for the time being. I’ll keep in touch, just so that you’re kept in the loop,” said Rosie quietly. “Just the one bedroom, you say?”

Back in their car and with the D.S. behind the wheel driving to Brumpton, Rosie glanced at Peter.

“What do you think?” asked Rosie.

“There’s something right dodgy there,” he said. “I don’t think it can have anything to do with the murder, but it’s still dodgy.”

“That’s what I’m thinking too,” nodded the D.I.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 27.02.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 5

22 Mar

 5. A COMPLAINT

Superintendent Desmond Flibbert had reached his position behind a polished Superintendent’s desk through a unique mixture of hard work, intelligence and persistence. He’d had to do the latter because the greasy pole was one normally reserved for ethnic Brits and he was black, which meant he had to prove himself time and time again. Now he was in this seat in front of this desk he wanted to remain where he was and be acknowledged as a leader of leaders by those with even shinier desks and paler faces, and one thing he didn’t like was the arrival of complaints from the public.

And he’d had one.

He’d been forewarned, by detective sergeant Jenson, who was one of his Inspector’s biggest fans. If you work with someone for as long as he had you get to see the real them and the Inspector had worked with Rosie Baur for some years.

He waited behind the aforementioned desk, and the widow of the recently deceased librarian Buttery flew, as predicted, in a rage into his office and was about to explode into a cascade of words and accusations when she noticed that the awful woman Inspector’s superior officer, the man sitting behind a gorgeous polished mahogany desk, was considerably darker than the woman she hated with such a vengeance for being brown.

“I want a change,” she said, eyes blazing, “I want a change because my Philip is dead and I want it investigated properly.”

“Let me see,” growled the Superintendent, shuffling some papers on his desk, unnecessarily as it happened, but it gave him time to think. He knew full well who was in charge of the murder of Philip Buttery because there was only one Inspector on the force who was qualified to do the job. And she was good, bloody good with the best clear-up rate in a dozen counties.

“Is it because she’s a woman or is it because she’s of, let me see, of mixed race?” asked the superintendent, taking the metaphorical bull by its horns and hoping to nullify any complaint there and then.”Oh

“No!” squawked Mrs Buttery, who knew it was possibly for both those reasons. “But she’s going to see the twins and I don’t want them questioning!” The notion that her complaint was based on a suspected questioning of her perfect offspring came to her as an afterthought, but seemed better than having to admit to this black man that she had racist views.

“The twins? Who might they be?” asked the superintendent, only aware of one set of twins, those growing up in the home of the Inspector herself and widely regarded by one and all as perfectly delightful.

“My twins, in Swanspottle,” replied the irate widow.

“Oh. The deceased’s offspring?”

“Yes. They’ve grown up now, but they’re his.”

“But it’s normal procedure,” murmured the Superintendent, who could see straight through this woman’s offensive attitude to the real motive for her visit, and he didn’t like it. He had suffered from the worst brands of racism himself, all his life, and even now there were very few people who asked to guess the country of his birth would say England. But it was just that. He was probably more English than the next white man in a bus queue (who may well be Polish), and if you forgot the stony-faced, thick-necked brutes who claimed superiority without being able to spell it, he was proud of it.

“What is?” asked Mrs Buttery, doing her best to think of an argument and wishing she wasn’t there. At the back of her mind was the notion that she might be arrested and incarcerated for illegal racist views (illegal in the sight of the law, that is, but not in the sight of the god she claimed to believe in, but didn’t) and spend the rest of her days rotting in a cell for being British. She knew the depth of her own prejudices and the poison they were crafted from.

“Asking questions of the deceased’s nearest and dearest, establishing his routines, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary that might explain why someone saw fit to kill him,” replied the Superintendent, seeing through her bluster with a clarity she would never be able to understand. “I’m sure you want the culprit brought to justice, don’t you, and Inspector Baur is the best officer we’ve got, even though she is a woman,” he said.

“But she’s…” And her voice petered out. She was going to say brown but stopped herself just in time when images of the barred window of a Victorian prison cell flashed into her mind.

“You mean you don’t believe her to be British?” asked the Superintendent, in for the kill. “Let me tell you a little about Inspector Baur. Her surname is continental, I agree, because she married a continental gentleman who possessed it. He was a German, to tell it all, but he tragically died some time ago and Inspector Baur was left with two children, and as chance would have it you have something in common with her, because the two children she was left with are twins, one of each. She herself was born here in Brumpton, went to Brumpton schools and from there to University,, up North, where she achieved great things. And now she’s the Inspector in charge of your husband’s murder enquiry, and in my opinion it couldn’t be in safer hands. Is that all?”

“I didn’t mean…”

“Of course you didn’t. But it’s as well to put our cards on the table, isn’t it? It’s as well to make our feelings plain, don’t you think?”

“Of course.”

“Let me see. You work in the hospice charity shop, I believe? That’s a wonderful thing to be doing, earning funds for the benefit of those whose time remaining on Earth is short, isn’t it? Providing comforts for those who may be on their way out next week, next month or next year, it’s a wonderful job that you do, and the Inspector will be calling on your shop, I should think, as she tries to sort the wheat from the chaff and find a vicious killer…”

“I must go… at the shop?”

“Of course, dear lady. No stone will be left unturned. And you are in a choir, I believe? A soprano amongst many who entertain elderly folks in their retirement homes, helping them through the difficult years of old age? That is a wonderful thing to be doing as well…”

“She … the woman … she won’t?”

“Interview your fellow choristers as she delves deep for answers?” He shook his head slowly. “It’s up to her, but I shouldn’t think so,” he rumbled.

“Thank you … superintendent…”

“I’ve put your mind at rest, I trust?” he rumbled.

“Yes … yes … thank you, thank you very much…”

And she backed away as if a spear had been thrust into her gut, and slowly twisted.

Which maybe one had.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 26.02.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 4

21 Mar

4. THE WIFE

The front door opened at the second knock and Rosie Baur took the briefest of moments to assess the recently created widow as she stood there expectantly.

Miriam Buttery was in her mid fifties and held a duster in one hand. She smiled at the D.I and her D.S and merely glanced at the ID wallets they held open for her inspection.

“Come in,” she said, her voice uncontaminated by grief, her tones even and almost seductive.

I was never this calm the day after I lost Paul, thought Rosie Baur, I was all over the place… She let her mind slip back for the briefest of moments, two years to when her husband had been killed in what had subsequently proved to be no accident but a deliberate act of sabotage on equipment in what proved to be a dangerous sport. Then she shook herself, knowing people can be so diverse you should never compare their reactions, not even to grief. But she was troubled.

“We need to ask some questions,” she said, smiling sympathetically.

“I was busy…” muttered Miriam, indicating her duster, “can’t you come some other time?”

“The sooner we get started the more sure we are of catching whoever did this and turned you into a widow,” put in D.I Peter Jenson. “It’s a well known fact that time is of the essence, especially in murder.”

“Can’t it have been suicide?” almost whispered the widow, “he’d been a bit upset lately, things as work not going well, the council down-sizing the library and making one of his staff redundant…”

“We might have considered suicide,” grated Peter Jenson, “but we just don’t see how he could have walloped himself over the head with something really heavy leaving an instantly fatal wound and then gouged his own eyes out when he was dead.”

“I suppose…” wittered Miriam Buttery, sounding, but not looking, confused.

“I can see you’re upset, but we must get on,” insisted Rosie, and she pushed politely past the not-so grieving woman, “is this the way to the front room?”

Miriam yielded and nodded and they sat down in the tidiest front room Rosie had seen for some time. Everything was in its almost minimalist place, even the television remote control, which had a neat little pocket next to the set. It made her own home look like gale had whipped through it.

“You say he was unhappy?” asked Rosie. “Tell us more, please. Quite often the state of a person’s mind can tell us more than you’d think possible. Now then, this problem with his job?”

“There were rumours…” murmured Miriam, “what with the council having to tighten its purse strings… redundancies, you know.”

“Just rumours?” put in Detective Sergeant Jenson.

Miriam nodded. “He didn’t like rumours,” she said. “He thought that rumours could be destructive and self-fulfilling.”

Well, that’s gobbledegook when it comes to murder, thought Rosie.

“What about you and him?” asked the D.S. “Was your marriage all that a marriage is supposed to be? I mean, was he happy and fulfilled at home?”

“Of course he was!” almost snapped Miriam. “He always ate his meals, well-balanced from a healthy-eating guide, no chips, loads of fresh vegetables and salad. And he had a shower every day, keeping himself clean and healthy.”

“There’s more to happiness than a diet that you might not like,” suggested Jenson. “Did he like his healthy-eating regime?”

“Of course he did!” said an apparently outraged widow, “He had to! I told him to!”

“What about sleeping?” cut in Rosie, “did he have any problems with sleeping? Was he restless at night, wakeful, that sort of thing?”

Miriam frowned. “How do you expect me to know that?” she asked, “I always slept very well, and still do. He snored a lot so I made him sleep in the spare room. He liked it in there. It was his little den where he could read his perverted books and do whatever he liked, and I’ve got an inkling that he liked it too often!”

“Do what, Mrs Buttery?” asked Rosie, guessing but wanting a woman she found irresistibly unpleasant to put it into words.

“You know. You must do. What men do. Or don’t your sort do it?” she asked Rosie with chillingly cold eyes.

“What do you mean, my sort?” Is this racism creeping into her words? Is this woman any more than a creature grieving in her own xenophobic way? Does she make important judgements based on such irrelevancies as race and colour?

“You know. Brown.” almost spat the corpse’s wife. “It’s the reason I vote UKIP. To get rid of all the … foreigners.”

“We’d better see his room, then,” put in the D.S. This was a situation that needed defusing before it exploded and fortunately he managed to do it.

“Up the stairs, then,” said Miriam, aware that in some way she might have overstepped the mark and equally sure she must put it right before it rebounded on her. But she was a racist through and through, she knew it and could see nothing wrong with it and before the day was out she would complain to someone up high in the police force about this brown woman. Or maybe not. It all depended on … she wasn’t sure what.

“Was your sex life all it should be?” asked Peter as they paused on the landing.

“Sex life? What need did we have of one of those?” she asked, eyes open wide. “The children have grown up and flown the nest and we never planned to have any more, so what use would a dirty sex life have been?”

Rosie caught Peter’s eye, and he smiled imperceptibly. Sometimes sex can be the answer no matter what the question is. Miriam coughed.

“This is his room,” she said.

Rosie nodded at Peter, and that nod, unseen by the woman who was pushing the door open, suggested he should take over the questioning for a while. And he saw the sense in that. There was no need to let unfounded prejudice, either racial or sexual, skew the truth in a murder investigation, but it should be borne in mind. After all, it might, just might, be relevant at the end of the day.

“I’ve not tidied it yet,” said Miriam, “he didn’t like me tidying it. He did what needed to be done himself, so you must excuse it and not blame me for being a dirty hussy!”

Rosie looked around. So it hadn’t been tidied? It might as well have been. Everything was in order, there were no dirty socks or underwear on the floor (Paul had been a devil for dropping things on the floor, it had been one of those things she had decided to put up with years ago), the open book that he had clearly been reading was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and after a general look around she had to conclude that he’d probably been as tidy as his wife in every way bar one.

Under the bed was a part-empty whisky bottle and a small tumbler, both half-hidden under a spare pillow.

She examined it, and replaced it under Miriam’s shocked and scowling eyes.

“We don’t drink in this house,” she said flatly.

“I guess he needed something, though,” said Rosie, smiling.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 25.02.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I Chapter 3

20 Mar

3. FOR STARTERS…

By the time Rosie had parked her caravan in the awkwardly sized place behind her semi-detached home and tidied things up, it was too late to return to the station and come to grips with the murder of the librarian. She managed to make sure that her neighbour would be happy to watch the twins while she was at work. He was an elderly man, what she looked on as a typical grandfather-type, and both kids liked him even though he could be a bit tetchy if they stepped out of line. The discipline was good for them and their enjoyment of some of the old man’s stories made the chore of being baby-sat bearable to ten year old twins.
Next day she arrived at the station bright and early.
Her first port of call was the pathology department where Cardew Dingle had the body on his table ready to show her what he’d discovered so far.
“Rosie, it was a savage attack, but I would imagine very brief,” he said, indicating a bloody contusion on the man’s head. “This would have done the deed. He would have known no more, not ever, poor sod. We don’t have the murder weapon, though officers are busy looking under every hedge and down every drain, but I’d say it was a metal bar, rusted, you can see specks of oxide in the wound, and wielded with huge force. A second blow wouldn’t have been necessary.”
“And the eyes, Doctor?” queried Rosie.
He shook his head sadly. “Yes, they’re particularly nasty. Someone went to great trouble to dig them out using what I should imagine was a largish spoon, maybe a table spoon or something like that. There are traces of gravy…” He pointed a latexed finger at one of the eyes. “See the darker brown within the dark of the dried blood? That’s beef gravy, or I’m a Dutchman.”
Rosie shivered. “Most unpleasant,” she muttered. “It seems that our librarian might have seen something that his killer didn’t approve of.”
“Or read something, if he worked in the library. There are plenty of books there that not even I approve of, Rosie.”
“You think … I’ve heard they keep some books for release on request only, behind the counter, because they’re not considered suitable for some readers…” mused Rosie. “You know semi-porn, so-called classics over-brimming with flesh.”
“It might be a starting point,” nodded the pathologist, “but it’s no more than a vague suggestion, really. But why would a man be killed for what he’s seen? How would killing him in cold blood, and gouging his eyes out with a spoon dripping with gravy, do anything about what he’s seen?”
“There are some cranks about,” said the DI sadly. “Anyway, anything else, doctor?”
“Death was some time between 10 and midnight yesterday, and I’d like to think you catch the bastard who did this,” muttered Doctor Dingle, almost savagely. “I’ve not seen anything as rotten as this outside of television dramas!”
“I’ll do my best,” assured Rosie. “Let me know if anything else crops up under your microscope,” she added as she made her way out of the laboratory.
“Our librarian’s not a pretty sight,” she said to DS Peter Jenson when she returned to her office and waved him into a seat. “What do we know about suspects? I mean, do we have any?”
“Binyard Close, where he lived, is a cul-de-sac with only four houses on it,” replied Peter. “And his was one of them, leaving three others. So I guess all the neighbours could be suspects, though none of them seem to have anything to say against the man. I’ve got Martin trying to dig deeper, though.”
“What about other buildings nearby? Say, round the corner?”
The DS shook his head. “There aren’t any,” he said, quietly. “Binyard close, named after a philanthropist who owned the land back in Victorian times and not the dreaded wheelie bins that decorate our streets these days, is out of town on the way to Swanspottle, which is ten or twelve miles away, as the crow flies. It’s open farmland on the main road, and not housing, I’m afraid.”
“So either it was one of the neighbours or a visitor gone there with the sole intention of sending Mr Buttery to the hereafter before his time,” sighed Rosie Baur. “What about his wife?”
DS Peter Jenson consulted his notebook. “Mrs Miriam Buttery. I met her after she discovered the body. A quiet, probably timid woman in her fifties. Said she would be distraught without her husband, but didn’t look too distressed. I doubt she could have done it. Not the type and if she had been the killer she would have put on more of a show, with tears and gnashing of teeth and so on.”
“Any family?”
“Two. You’ll like this|: twins, one of each. But grown up and living away from home, though not far enough for us to think they wanted to put a distance between them and the the old folks. They share a terraced house in Swanspottle and do visit their parents every so often.”
“When were they last there?”
Peter shook his head. “I’ve yet to ask them,” he said. “But it’s good to note that a pair of twins can grow up and still want to be together without being at each other’s throats!”
“They share a house, you say?”
“A small one. Victorian terraced, there’s a row of them in Swanspottle, built for the workers when they quarried for building stone out there back in the good old, bad old days. There’s no quarrying any more, but the terrace still stands. I should think they’re sharing for economic reasons. It’s not easy these days, at least not for the young, housing being what it is.”
“We’d best see them some time. Are they in the frame, do you think?”
“I doubt it. There’s no indication that there’s any friction between parents and kids.”
“Then let’s get to it, sergeant. I’d like to take a look at the scene of the crime and have a word with the wife and maybe any neighbours who’re not at work. Then the twins. I know a bit about twins…”
“Young ones, ma’am!”
“Talking of young ones, my Jack was upset to hear who was murdered. He likes going to the library and said the librarian knew a lot about the best books in the kiddie’s section. Said he was an expert on Biggles!”
“Who’s Biggles?”
Rosie shrugged and giggled. “Some hero, I suppose,” she said, “Jack likes his heroes! Come on, or the day will be over before we’ve done a single thing.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
© Peter Rogerson 24.02.17