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

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