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

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