ROSIE BAUR D.I. Chapter 12

7 Apr


What in the name of goodness is he doing here, thought Detective Inspector Rosie Baur as the farmer, smiling broadly, half-ran towards her and her constable. Then it struck her with a lightning-type bolt. So this is why the farmer’s name rang a bell! She could remember, quite clearly now that she put her mind to it, how he had lingered talking to her while she was sun-bathing on the same dress-optional site that she’d had to leave only two days earlier, in order to solve a murder that was proving to be obstinate.

He never went around in public in the altogether so far as she could remember, though, which was probably a blessing, she thought, when she considered his large paunch and remembered the spindly legs that supported it.

“Farmer Croft! Bernard!” she greeted him with the falsest smile she’d worn that day so far, if not that week. “I’m here in my official capacity,” she added. Did he know that I was in the force? Have I told him that I’m a detective inspector?

He answered her unspoken question with, “Well, I’m blowed, so you’re a copper are you?” as she held her warrant card for his inspection.

“Detective Inspector, and this is Constable Thrives,” she said, smiling faintly.

“Well dust me down with a feather!” he exclaimed, “who would have thought that the loveliest woman on the circuit was anything more than a bathing belle?”

“Now then, Bernard, that’s enough of your cheek! I’m on a murder case, if you hadn’t guessed, and popped in to see if you’d noticed anything.”

“You mean old Buttery across the road? A bad do, that, a really bad do, but maybe in a roundabout way it was a something waiting to happen.”

“Really?” She perked up when he said that. So far she’d heard nothing about Philip Buttery that was anything but positive. Now he was a murder waiting to be committed, was he?

“It more that wife of his,” said Bernard Croft. “Are you coming in for a cuppa and I’ll explain.”

“That’d be nice,” grinned Rosie. “Earl Grey, I seem to remember?”

“That’s still my poison, lass,” he replied as he led them into the kitchen of what had once been a family farmhouse, but since his wife had left him for a butcher he’d been on his own and seemed happy enough that way.

“There’s two ways for a marriage to end,” he said when he’d poured teas and seen to a yapping scruffy mongrel dog that also seemed to enjoy Earl Grey tea.

“Now don’t slurp it all at once, Rusty,” he advised the dog.

“Two ways? There are?” asked Martin, interested. It was from such conversations that this might turn out to be that he had amassed a great deal of wisdom when it came to people and the lives they lived.

“That there are, laddie,” grinned the farmer. “There’s those that end amicably and those that don’t. Take my little excursion into matrimony for instance. I got wed and after ten, twelve years it was clear we were both fed up with each other, barely had the time to say good morning or good night to reach other. Then the Butcher from Goosesomer came along and spoke all nice and proper to my Julie and before I could say thanks ever so she was off with him. That’s a sensible way to end something that was a mistake in the first place. She’s even got nippers now. I see her ever so often and give her the odd tenner for her kids, for old times’ sake. Not that she needs it. They’re doing well enough.”

“You said two ways?” coaxed Martin.

“Then there’s the Buttery way. Him across the road, librarian and a nicer bloke you wouldn’t hope to find. Knows his stuff, he does, and is happy to spend the time of day with a customer like me when he’s at work. Oer I should say was now that he’s dead. But his marriage ended around the time mine did, in fact if not in appearances. There were kids, of course, two of them and right little devils they were. I’ve never seen a lass look more like her mother than that girl did, and still does. You might look at them together and wonder if the twin was the mother or the other way round, if you see what I mean. The lad’s a bit thick, beg your pardon but it’s God’s truth. He’s Denis by name, Denis Buttery, and he runs a market stall selling crap and out of date rubbish. And he dotes on that sister of his! She can do no wrong in his eyes. She’s Amelia and training to do hairdressing, or so her dad, bless him, told me. They’ve even moved into a nice little place together down Swanspottle way, and best of luck to them, I say. But that leaves old Buttery alone with a fiendish dragon who can’t bear the sight of him and won’t let him anywhere near her, not even on Valentine’s day!”

“I see,” murmured Martin, deciding to mull the man’s theory over when he had time, at home later.

“Did you see them around the day Mr Buttery was killed?” asked Rosie.

“I’ve got a bit of a drive with a bend in it, so I don’t see the road from the house,” pointed out Bernard, “but I let the young scallywag park up at the end of the drive, where it’s wide enough to let an army of tanks through, and he were there that evening because I could see his lights when he pulled up and again when he left. He’s got those lights that are always on while the key’s turned on and they’re bright white and draw attention to themselves. He came, what, about eightish and left soon after ten. That’s it: ten. I could swear to it!”

“That agrees with what we’ve been told by them,” said Rosie.

“They do come visiting every so often, like good kids should,” added Bernard. “The thing is, and don’t quote me on this ‘cause I could be totally mistaken, I was in bed at the time and my eyes were shut, but I could swear I heard his car again, after dark had fallen. But this time I heard rather than saw his car. It makes a funny little squeaky popping sound when it’s ticking over, and it did then. Or I dreamed it. There’s always that possibility, me dreaming stuff. Times many I can’t tell what real and what’s a dream. Rusty didn’t bark, but then he wouldn’t if he knew who it was, would he?”

“That’s really interesting,” said Rosie.

“If it was him I don’t know how long he stayed,” added the farmer, “because I didn’t stir until next morning, and if he was ever there he was gone by then.”

“We’ll bear all you’ve said in mind,” smiled Rosie, standing up, “if you’ve got nothing else to tell us, that is.”

“I could give you a potted history of the agrarian revolution of the eighteenth century and what it meant for the ordinary Joe and his ankle-biters, but nothing to do with poor old Buttery.”

“You said it was a murder waiting to happen, sir,” said Martin.

“I did, didn’t I? And it was,” sighed the farmer.

“Well? How?” asked Martin.

“It’s like this. Old Buttery was a man. He had a man’s dreams and a man’s desires and he was prone to looking at the sort of things he dreamed of, like the fair sex. I used to reckon he might have dallied, chatting and grinning and, who knows, maybe even touching, once too often for his own good, and maybe that’s what he did. I remember how he was when he was younger, the way he was with Miriam, his misses, before his kids came along. Touchy-feely, he was, very touchy feely.”

“I see,” murmured Rosie, “I will certainly bear everything you’ve told us in mind, and thanks again. I see you’ve got your van hitched up. Where are you off to?”

Bernard laughed. “Remember that site we first met?” he asked, “the one where clothes aren’t essential and you were… you know? Well, I’ll be going there. In a day or two.”

“I was there when this Buttery thing blew up,” sighed Rosie, “and the sun was hot. But I had to come back. The twins were upset.”

She grinned her goodbyes, and they left the farmer in his doorway.

“What was that about seeing you in clothes, ma’am?” asked Martin, with assumed innocence.

The D.I’s little eccentricities were well know at the station, and she knew she didn’t have to answer.

“Just mull over marriages,” she advised her Constable. “And when you do bear this in mind. There’s a third way for marriages to end, the way mine did, and it’s heartbreakingly short of being funny.”


© Peter Rogerson 05.03.17


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