ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 11

3 Apr

11. A CARAVAN

“Right, gather all,” called Rosie Baur as she stood by the white board on which the few things that were known about the murder of Philip Buttery were pinned or drawn, with not so many lines of various colours connecting them.

“We should have more than this by now,” she said, “so let’s see where we are.”

“It’s such a limited dramatis personae,” pointed out Peter Jenson. “Are we right ruling out strangers?”

“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence for even a stray cat,” sighed Rosie. “But you’re right. We must keep our minds open.”

“That’s what I meant,” agreed Peter.

“Let’s look at what we have got,” insisted Rosie. “First, the body. Philip Buttery went, as was his wont on this day every week, to put the wheelie bin out for collection on the following day and wasn’t seen again until his body was found next morning. His wife sleeps on her own, and was, she says, already in bed by the time her twins left. She went out to the bins for some reason or other and found him there around eight in the morning. His eyes had been mutilated by what the doc. thinks was a spoon-like object and he’d been bashed on his head, one single blow that sent him into the next world. Do we have any more on that auspicious opening?”

“Doctor Dingle reckons the eyes were damaged before he died, possibly as long as an hour,” said Peter, “and he can’t be sure but he reckons there were two blows on almost exactly the same spot, the first rendering him insensible but not dead and the second taking him off. There are traces of what he thinks might be a strip of medical plaster, so it’s possible his mouth was taped up, and then untaped when he was finally sent to the hereafter. It’s a conundrum, and no mistake.”

“Nobody mentioned the possibility of the killer returning,” said Rosie. “Why wasn’t I kept in the loop seeing as I’m in charge?”

“It’s only guesswork, ma’am, and you were out when he mentioned it,” replied Peter. “He says there are anomalies that might be understood if there was a subsequent blow about an hour after the first.”

“Still with a metal bar?” asked Rosie.

“Yes, and possibly the same one,” nodded Peter, “there’s only one kind of rust from one kind of iron in the traces on the wound.”

“So that suggests that the killer might be local,” mused Rosie, “and there are only three or four suspects, the neighbours. What do we know about the farmer?”

“His place is on the maps as 2 Binyard Close, though it’s approached by a drive rather than the property being built against the road. Bernard Croft of Croft’s Farm, he’s got a bit of a record. He was up before the magistrates after an incident involving an egg and a politician, and bound over, but that was all of twenty years ago and he’s kept himself to himself since then. Apparently he does a lot of reading … and uses the library on a regular basis.”

“I doubt there’s any significance in egg-throwing at politicians. Most of them earn the odd double-yolker if you ask me!” smiled Rosie. “Well, I’ll go and pay him a visit this morning and see if he knows more than he’s already said to the uniforms who first saw him. You come along with me, Constable, and Peter, you pop back and see those twins again. They trouble me. There’s something not quite right there, and I want to know what it is.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Peter Jenson. “They’re a spooky pair, and mistake.”

“There’s not much else,” sighed Rosie. “The few neighbours seem as innocent as the day is long, Martin says the women at the charity shop look on the wife as a bit of a prim and proper tartar with a dislike of normal inter-gender relations. The McCarthy woman reckons he raped her when she was still in her teens, but spoilt the story by saying that she went back for more of the same, even moving house to be near him, but got turned down, and anyway she’s hardly ever sober at bed-time and her husband, Winston wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Their teenage lad’s not in the frame, and neither, I suspect, is Andrew Witton, who usually has his head in a book and calls the deceased his friend with what seems like genuine affection. But amongst them, in the frame or not, is our killer.”

“What about patricide, Ma’am?” asked Peter.

“The twins? They need looking at but … no, I can’t see any kind of motive there. They even called to see their parents the day of the murder and left when he put the bin out, before he was killed. And there doesn’t seem to be any friction there.”

“We’ve only got their word for it, that he was alive when they left him,” murmured Martin darkly.

“Constable! I’ll bet you even suspect your dear old granny when the cat catches a mouse!” grinned Rosie. “Now about it, folks, and let’s get a handle on this murder before there’s another!”

She and the constable made their way to her car whilst the rest of the team went about their business.

“Have you met farmer Croft?” asked Rosie when they were under way.

Martin shook his head. “It was one of the Uniform plods who interviewed him,” he replied, “and there didn’t seem anything interesting to report. From what I hear he’s an okay sort of guy, especially if he thinks politicians need the odd egg to spur them on!”

“Slinging eggs is still an assault,” Rosie told him.

“There are some politicians who deserve more than eggs,” said Martin, “but yes, I know you’re right.”

“His name rings a bell,” mused Rosie, “I wonder where I’ve heard it before?”

“There’s only that old egg business on record, ma’am. I’ve checked the records, and double checked with County. He’s been cleaner than your average whistle since then. He writes articles on farming and the intrusions of politics into farming, for an on-line magazine that’s mostly read in France and elsewhere on the continent. I’ve looked at it. His pages are in English, but it’s mostly in French and there’s very little you’d call controversial about it.”

“Well, we’ll see.”

Binyard Close wasn’t far, and they were soon there. As ever, the area had about it a calm and homely feel to it, as if murder was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Rosie steered her car onto the drive leading up to Croft Farm. It was a fairly wide track that presented her with a bump every time she met one of the pot-holes that had been over-filled with rubble, but eventually she reached the house, and parked in front of the door, next to an elderly caravan that was hitched to a Landrover as if it was about to sally forth into the wilds.

She climbed out, and saw the farmer and remembered how it came that his name was familiar to her. Her heart dropped a foot or two as he approached her, smiling.

“Why, hi there, Rosie! And it makes a change to see you with your clothes on!” he said, smiling broadly.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 04.03.17

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