ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 10

1 Apr

10  CHARITY TALKS

Detective Constable Martin Thrives was a little uncertain as he stood outside the charity shop managed by Mrs Buttery and looked in the window. He was of the opinion that charity shops were the lowest in the chain of clothing outlets, and only frequented by those who couldn’t afford to go elsewhere. He was quite wrong, of course, but it was a common preconception among his class of the young.

The trouble with you, my good man, he said to himself angrily, is you’re a snob! Afraid that someone you know might see you going into a second-hand shop, as if it really mattered. Anyway, I’m a copper, I’m on duty and the charity shop is where I’ve got to ask questions, so it’s into the charity shop I go!

There were two women in the shop, both behind the counter and both sorting through a large carrier bag of clothes, debating their value and marking their decisions on tags that they punched onto the garments where they might easily be seen, and talking in loud voices, with their words interspersed by giggles and bursts of laughter.

“Detective Constable Thrives,” he said, holding his warrant card for their inspection. “I wonder if I can have a few moments of your time?”

“Is it about Miriam’s old man?” asked Alice Boneham, and judging from the way she pushed herself to the fore the constable decided that she was probably the senior of the two women if seniority played a part in the staffing of charity shops.

“Yes. Mr Buttery. You will have heard of the tragic circumstances surrounding his death?”

“Someone did for him, poor sod,” said Alice.

“We hardly ever saw the man,” put in Jackie Mansford, the other assistant, clearly aggrieved at being pushed to one side. “From what Miriam said he was a bit of a wash out, always on the look out for a bit of young skirt, and he the librarian too. Though I wouldn’t put too much truck on what she said about him because she didn’t seem to like him any more than she liked any bloke.”

“Now that’s not quite right,” snapped Alice Boneham. “Miriam said as he did that sort of thing, chasing skirts and bosoms, when he was young. Now he’s older he does as he’s told. She makes sure of that! And Miriam’s not perfect, believe you me. She might be boss of this shop, and I wouldn’t like you to think that she doesn’t do a good job, because she does, but she’s most particular in the moral department, especially where men are concened.”

“Meaning what?” asked an already bemused Constable.

“Well, from what she says, and she said it lots of times, she doesn’t appreciate being used as a woman, for, you know, womanly things…”

“You mean cooking and so on? Housework?” asked Martin.

Jackie gave a sharp laugh and shook her head. “Not that sort of womanly thing, silly,” she said.

“She wasn’t into sex,” explained Alice. “She said so many times I’ve lost count that once a woman’s had her kids then there’s no place in the bedroom for anything but sleep. And she said as her old man sometimes expected her to accommodate him, if you see what I mean, and she wasn’t going to have any nonsense like that, her words, begging your pardon, and not mine.”

“So she put him in the spare bedroom and made him stay there!” laughed Jackie. “I can’t see my old man taking kindly to that sort of thing, but she made her old man have a room on his own and said as he wasn’t even allowed to step foot in hers, which had once been the matrimonial bedroom! Even if she was dying, she said she told him, he was to keep out!”

“It’s no wonder their kids have grown up strange,” mused Alice.

“Strange? What do you mean by strange?” asked Martin.

“Well, they’re twins, you know, in their twenties and never out of each other’s company. It’s like they cling together for security or summat. Sometimes I think it ain’t natural, and then I remember that mother of theirs and think it stands to reason as they’re going to be different.”

“They’re nice enough,” put in Jackie, “at least she is, and he ain’t so bad either. If I was a bit younger I’d make a play for him, old man at home or no old man at home! There are things that a woman appreciates about a man, you know, important physical things … and you’re not bad yourself, for a copper!”

Martin was beginning to feel a little out of his depth. He was in a relationship (with Judy, a uniformed constable at the same nick, and he was pretty sure that he loved her with a heart-warming intensity), but was not used to strange ladies of a certain age, who had most likely brought up kids older than his Judy, making suggestive and provocative remarks to him as if he was some kind of ambassador of maleness.

“Mrs Buttery sings, I believe?” he asked, turning a statement into a question by inflecting his intonation.

“She’s got a good singing voice,” confirmed Alice. “She’s in a choral thingamajig, and they go out entertaining the old folks.”

“They sing opera stuff, and hymns. I’ve got no truck with hymns or all that religious rubbish, but she sings them fair well anyway.” declared Jackie.

“The old folks like them, or so she says,” added Alice.

”Well, ladies, I think that’s about it,” said Martin. “I seem to have a good enough picture of the way Mrs Buttery is. Tell me, do you enjoy working here?”

“You mean, do we like being bossed around by her?” asked Alice. “Well, she can be a bit of a tartar and she does believe a bit too heavily in the god-stuff, or says she does, but taken all round she’s okay and gives us summat to do with our time. And we mustn’t forget the discount. We get discount.”

“She’s into God much too heavily, if you ask me,” said Jackie.

“Well, it’s not a crime, ladies. Thanks for your time. Our little conversation has given me food for thought, I can tell you.”

“You can have a pair of nearly new boxers for half price!” teased Jackie, “special discount for a copper!”

“No thanks … I’ve no shortage in my underwear drawer,” he said, blushing.

“I’ll bet you haven’t,” giggled Jackie.

“Now don’t be so unkind to the young man,” chided Alice, “or he might get the wrong idea about you.”

“Or the right one,” grinned Jackie.

But by the time she’d finished he was out of the shop and the door was shut behind him. Furious with himself for blushing and showing his embarrassment he walked as quickly as he could to where he’d parked his car.

The sound of laughter, dimmed by the closed door, made him blush even more.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 03.03.17

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