ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 21

15 May

21. COLOUR COMMENTS

There was no doubt about it: Winston McCarthy was flabbergasted by the suggestion that he might have been responsible for Philip Buttery’s demise.

“If you’re daft enough to think I’d risk everything in my family in order to do anything to that bloke then you’ve got another think coming!” exclaimed Winston, staring back at Peter Jenson inb much the way as he might have stared at dog droppings in the street. “And look here: my wife fell down the stairs and broke her neck, my son’s due home from college with shavings in his hair any time now, and I want to go home before he finds the house empty and his mum’s blood smeared on the stairs!”

“You had what I’d call one hell of a good motive…” suggested D.S. Peter Jenson.

“I might have done, twenty years ago!” rasped Winston, “but I told you: I was in bed when you say she was killed, and there’s nothing you can say to contradict me! Nobody saw me, no witnesses lurked anywhere, because I was in bed and we don’t allow strangers anywhere near there!”

“And you always go to bed early, like that?” asked Peter.

“If I have to and when I’m not at work!”

“Ah, of course. You wait on at the gastro-pub in Brumpton Parva, don’t you? And you get home when?”

“Midnight, if I’m lucky, maybe later if we’re busy.”

“And that night, the one when Mr Buttery met his Almighty?”

“You tell me! You’ll have done your research, I suppose, checked out who was doing what and who was where?”

“You were home, Mr McCarthy. And in bed, according to you.”

Winston fixed Peter Jenson with his eyes, deep and brooding and even intelligent, until the latter felt more uncomfortable than an Olympic swimmer would when he realises his trunks have fallen off with a thousand people watching and horrified by what they caught a glimpse of, and said, “I’ve done nothing and you must know that. So let me go. I’ve got more on my mind than a dead pervert. I’ve a funeral to arrange!”

Ten minutes later the sergeant shrugged his shoulders when the D.I. asked how the interview had gone.

“I had to let him go,” he sighed, “and we know where to find him if it turns out I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it. As he said, why wait for twenty years in order to exact revenge? It doesn’t make sense. Revenge is a dish best served warm for it to satisfy real hunger, and anyway I think he realises that there was more to his good lady’s unhappiness than an ancient affair.!”

“I’ve remembered something the young woman, Amelia Buttery, said,” murmured Rosie, frowning. “She said, let me see, that her mother saw the deceased staring at his daughter who was sitting on the toilet with the door swinging open. They had quite a row about it, I presume. I mean, what father would spend even a fragment of a second doing something like get gratification by watching anyone on the bog, let alone his own flesh and blood?”

“I’m confused,” murmured Peter, forking some change out of his pocket for the coffee machine. “It’s all the suggestions of inappropriate sexual nothings. The girl said and then withdrew suggestions that she was having a ding-dong with her dad. Then the McCarthy woman apparently spending a lifetime regretting an alleged rape. And she said she had no intention of putting any distance between herself and the rapist, but actually moved next door! That doesn’t make sense to me either. I mean, I know some women are supposed to like it rough, but rape? Twenty years ago? Then the farm labourer, blaming Buttery for the breakdown of his marriage, and there’s scant evidence that very much, if anything, happened, just innuendo and guesswork. It’s as if the deceased invited unfounded accusations like confetti! Yet the two women he worked with at the library, both young and, if you don’t mind me saying, ma’am, both gorgeous, said he was the perfect gentleman with them.”

“We’ve been sidelined by sex!” decided Rosie, “all the rumours and accounts of the man spreading his loins over the neighbourhood, and all without real evidence! It might simply be a case of give a man a reputation and everything you see confirms the rumours behind that reputation. And the lass Amelia didn’t help with her half-baked fantasies. Did she let little snippets of wishful thinking drop on fertile soil? Did they take root and grow until a caring father became a sex fiend in the eyes of others? And if he did stray a little, not towards his daughter but in flirtation with other women, who could blame him with a wife like his? I know men and I know they don’t like rejection and the woman as good as rejected him since her now-adult twins were born, by all accounts.”

“I see where you’re going,” mused Peter. “The farm labourer and his wife. There was never any substance to what he said happened. She still works for Mrs Buttery in the charity shop and most certainly would have put as much distance between herself and the entire Buttery family if she’d been wooed by the man to the point of her marriage disintegrating. That sort of thing doesn’t happen even after a fling, does it?”

“I’m going to see Joey now,” said Rosie, “and you can sit in with me. I’ve got a feeling that we’re near the end of the road and Joey is on duty at the crossroads!”

“I think I see what you mean, ma’am,” grinned Peter.

Joey was glowering in the fourth interview room.

“I ain’t done nothing,” he muttered.

“You know the English language, I presume?” asked Rosie. “You know about double negatives and that by saying that, and I quote, you ain’t done nothing you actually mean that you have done something?”

“I’m English, I am, unlike some round here?” muttered Joey.

Rosie was used to guilty men choosing to use the race card, and it held no truck with her. She was of mixed race, the negro component of her family tree being traced back, by her own research, for over two hundred continuous years in the UK. The white part was much more recent, from Germany in the 1930s, as refugees from Nazi terrorism, two generations ago. So if there was any question about her nationality she was comfortably English. But not always proud of it.

“Do you want to face a charge of racial terrorism?” she asked, knowing that such a thing would never stick but fed up with the assumption amongst a minority of people that the colour of her skin marked her as foreign.

“Well …” his voice petered out. He was clearly thinking it might be better to avoid that kind of confrontation with a senior police-woman.

“Tell me about what you did to Mr Buttery,” suggested Rosie.

Joey looked flustered suddenly and she could almost see his brain wondering if he’d been at all wise by implying that she might not be as English as him.

“What ya mean?” he asked, “what I did to her … it weren’t me!”

“What wasn’t?” asked Rosie.

“As tied her up an’ gagged her, an’ put her eyes out…” he gabbled.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 14.03.17

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