ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 20

10 May

20. AN ACCUSATION

“Did she say anything of interest?” asked Rosie Baur when Peter Jenson had left Amelia in the interview room with time to contemplate her future.

“She’s a silly girl,” he told her, “It’s a complicated story that she let out inch by inch, syllable by syllable, and even now I find it hard to believe.”

“Do you think it was she who killed her father?” asked Rosie. “After all, somebody must have, and I’m sure it wasn’t her brother.”

Peter shook his head. “I’ll put you in the picture according to Amelia Buttery,” he said, “though goodness knows whether it’s a complete picture or not.”

“Shoot, then,” invited his D.I.

“For starters, she’s a muddled creature,” began Peter Jenson, shaking his head a little sadly, and he continued, “it might seem at first glance that she had fantasies about her father. All that stuff she told us, clandestine meetings since she was sixteen, she admitted bit by bit that they all were imagined, but to make herself feel better she said that she almost believed them. Her problem was she really hated her mother, the critical and often offensive Miriam Buttery. At the same time she was aware that her twin brother had a burgeoning love-life. That’s why the bedroom they ostensibly shared had very little male accoutrements in it … because he hardly ever slept at home.”

“That’s surprised me,” conceded Rosie, “I thought there was something odd about the set-up but he never mentioned the existence of a girl-friend!”

“He probably thought it was nothing to do with her and wanted to keep her out of something as sordid as a murder,” said Peter Jenson. “Anyway, her father came round last week, on the Wednesday just as we were told, and she needed her bed mending. It was collapsing, apparently, and he agreed to take a look at it in the way that fathers might. She said her twin would have done it but he was simply rarely there these days. It was while he was struggling with something under the mattress that the lad must have looked in and completely misinterpreted what he saw. He was rather vague, remember.”

“I thought it a bit odd when you mentioned it to me at the time,” agreed Rosie.

“Anyway, all the talk of her having sex with her father dissolved away when I explained to her that the doctor had noted that she was still intact down below,” continued Peter. “It would have been nice to have known that at the beginning of the investigation, but she kept it to herself and we didn’t think of questioning it. But virgo intacta she is. In the end she admitted that she hated her mother for the way she treated the man and put the stories about in the hope that the woman would hear them and do something about it. She’s a really silly young woman and thought that might work, but it never would, of course. She says she felt sorry for her dad, and she probably did. I do, even!”

“Especially now that he’s dead,” said Rosie, drily.

“Especially that. I don’t know about you but my mind’s been on a wild goose chase. I even thought she might have been the killer, probably in cohorts with that brother of hers. But now you can see why he put so much time in at the market because he always paid his share of the rent whilst just about keeping a lass at the other end of Swanspottle, half a mile away. His home address was with the sister, but when it came to bed-time he wasn’t there so often.”

“This doesn’t make our job any easier,” muttered Rosie, “with two of our little tribe of suspects off the list.”

“What about the farmer bloke, what’s his name, Bernard Croft? You let him go off in the wild, and no questions asked.”

“I know exactly where he said he was going,” corrected Rosie, “and he didn’t have even the shadow of a motive. He’s divorced, but it was nothing to do with the Buttery duo. His wife went off with a butcher from Goosesomer, leaving him high and dry on his own with a farm to run. In his few spare hours he’s into criticising politicians by writing to The Times, and editing a column about farming for an on-line magazine rather than having a sex-life. I know him from his caravan exploits, and he’s never tarnished the impression he gives of a slightly misogynistic cynic.”

“He seems to like you all right!”

“Maybe it’s my dress code that he appreciates,” joked Rosie.

“Good grief, don’t go down that route!” groaned Peter.

“No, but seriously, I ruled him out at the word go, and he’s still ruled out in my mind. But come to think of it that labourer of his isn’t. Nor is Winston. They’re both still on my list, and we’re going to talk to the pair of them before the day’s out. I’ll take Joey Boneham. He’s got one hell of a motive, and you take Winston McCarthy. Then if we draw blanks there we’ll have to take another look at the neighbour on the other side, Andrew Witton.”

“I’ve mentally ruled him out.”

“So have I, but who knows what really happened?”

“Not me, that’s for sure.”

The Detective Inspector nodded reflectively as her sergeant went into the interview room in which Winston McCarthy was sitting, as miserable as a man can look and studiously ignoring a no-smoking notice by exhaling clouds of smoke at it.

“We’re sorry about your wife, Winston,” he said, quietly, “and would have much preferred to leave you to mourn in peace, but you must see what things look like from our perspective.”

“But she’s dead, and I’m locked up here!”

“You’re not actually locked up, you’re simply helping us with out enquiries, sir, and if you think about it I dared say it’s quite an important thing for you to do, rule yourself out as the killer of Mr Buttery.”

“I didn’t touch the b*****d!”

“But we’ve got to be sure of that, Mr McCarthy, because someone sure as hell did and there’s a body in the mortuary as evidence.”

“I was at home with my wife! I can’t remember, but I think we were both in bed by ten! We often are. She passes … passed … out quite early and it makes my life a damned sight easier if I get her to bed while she can still walk!”

“Why did she drink so much?” asked Peter, not quite convinced by the tale of an ancient and long forgotten love-affair breaking the spirit of a strong woman after so long.

“It was him, damn you, living next door, wooing her with his eyes!”

“You mention his eyes, sir. Why mention those?”

“Because that’s what people use to see out of! And I’ve seen him fluttering his eyes at her when he didn’t know I was looking! And when she was still in her teens he … he raped her!”

“You know that for certain, sir?”

“It’s why she wanted to live near him, and when this house came onto the market it’s why she coaxed me into buying it…”

“Because he raped her?”

“Because she was obsessed by him! Because … because … because…”

“Because she wanted to be raped by him again, sir?” suggested Peter. “That’s altogether rather odd.”

“Yes, damn you, yes, it’s odd, and now she’s dead!”

Winston McCarthy was openly weeping and Peter couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

But he had a job to do.

“So is that why you killed him, sir?” he asked, gently.

TO BE CONTINUED….

© Peter Rogerson 13.03.17

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