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

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