ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 25

3 Jun

25. THE FUNERAL

“She just went and left me all alone when there was a rush on, just so she could go and sing her lungs out down the church,” moaned Jackie Mansford in the Hospice shop when Alice walked in, accompanied by the two officers. “I hope you’re back for good and all or I’ll shut the place up and go home for a nice cuppa,” she added to her co-volunteer.

“I’m back,” confirmed Alice Boneham, “but she ain’t due at the church for a practice till six, that’s what she told me when she started that warbling back there,” she indicated the rear room of the shop with a carefully flicked thumb.

“She had a call just after you went,” grumbled Jackie, “and she was off without saying a word, but carrying her music case, leaving me high and dry with a crowd to serve.”

“And she’s gone already?” Constable Elena Davies was on the alert already. To her mind there was something about the dead man’s wife that was highly unpleasant. It may well have had to do with her sour attitude to normal bodily appetites (at least they were normal to the young police woman) or maybe it had something to do with the way she tried to apply her own standards to everyone else.

Alice nodded. “I complained, I did, but she didn’t take a blind bit of notice. She just breezed out like a ship in full sail, all high and mighty.”

“Which church?” asked Peter Jenson, alerted by the young constable’s concern expression.

“Saint Michael’s,” grumbled Jackie. “I’m going to jack this job in. It isn’t as if we got paid or anything. We do it because we want to be useful, and I reckon that should earn us a modicum of respect. But no. We’re slaves as far as madam’s concerned.”

But Peter and Elena were already climbing back into the police car and setting off, blue lights flashing with a wonderful urgency, towards the church, which was at the other end of Brumpton, in the leafier corner where wealth and possessions collided and nobody did anything unpleasant to anyone else.

“The boss was quite definite about needing her,” growled Peter, “and I reckon I can see why. Eliminate the rest of the rag-tails and you arrive at the guilty party.”

“I thought that was Joey?” asked Elena.

“The boss says that he was the one who put Buttery out of his misery,” Peter told her, “but in order to have done that someone must have put him in his misery in the first place.”

“You reckon it was his wife?”

“The boss seems to. Hold on tight. This could be hairy!”

He switched the siren on and made for a narrow gap down the centre of the road, weaving wherever necessary and almost losing a wing mirror on the first bend as he hurtled past a supermarket delivery van. But he made it and the car remained, thankfully, in one piece.

The church was peaceful and had about it an aura of timeless calm with shafts of sunlight shining through stained glass into mottled shadowy corners, until, that is, the two officers pushed the main door open and walked in to the middle of a funeral service, the coffin being about to be lifted and carried out to a waiting hearse by six black coated sombre men whilst the choir sang a liturgy in Latin. And right at the end of the choir, her nose higher than any other as if suspended from Heaven by an invisible rubber band, stood Miriam Buttery, mouth open and the sweetest of sounds being generated around her almost obliterated by a repeat of what Peter and Elena had heard earlier emanating from the back room of the charity shop.

Peter signalled to Elena that they should remain inconspicuous at the back of the church until the mourners had gone, and they sat down on a pew just out of sight of the main event. Slowly the coffin was carried towards them down the aisle and they bowed their heads out of respect.

“Is that…?” whispered Elena, indicating the last resting place of a deceased stranger.

“No!” hissed Peter back, “his body’s not been released yet!”

“Good,” sighed Elena. “Funeral’s always make me tetchy,” she added.

“They remind us all of our own mortality,” breathed Peter.

The funeral procession slowly left the church until all that was left was the choir and its tuneless leader.

“Come on,” whispered Peter, and he led Elena towards where the liturgy was still being wrecked by the lead singer. The melody came to a thankful end and the choristers quietly placed their music on the shelves in front of them and with sombre dignity made their way out of the stalls and into a vestibule where, no doubt, they would disrobe and eventually disperse.

“Mrs Buttery!” called Peter Jenson with what he considered to be the right amount of subdued gravitas, though even so his voice sounded unnecessarily loud and coarse.

She looked round at the sound of his voice, annoyance clouding the attempted serenity of her face.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, “isn’t it bad enough for a woman to have to mourn the passing of a beloved husband without mindless policemen putting their noses in and spoiling things?”

“Inspector Baur needs to have a word,” replied Peter, “and you’re to come with us.”

“Who told you I was here?” she demanded. “I’ll bet it was that b***h at the shop! I thought you’d solved my Philip’s murder by arresting that farm labourer from Croft’s place. So what more can I add that you don’t already know, and why barge into a church when Christian folks are saying goodbye to a loved one?”

“It was hardly barging in and certainly not disrespectful,” retorted Peter with just the right amount of a threat in his intonation to make her scowl. “Now please come with us and don’t make it necessary for us to use handcuffs.”

“Anyone would think it was me who killed him,” she grumbled, but started to follow the two officers.

“And did you?” asked Peter, mildly.

“You know that I didn’t!” she squawked in reply. “That Boneham bonehead did, and when I get back to the shop as sure as eggs are eggs I’m going to sack his wife!”

“You know that he did it?” asked Peter, “how come you know so much about our investigation?”

“What do you mean?”

“How come you seem to know that he killed your husband? We haven’t said that he did. We haven’t mentioned him to anyone. We haven’t told a single soul who we suspect…”

“It must have been him,” gabbled Miriam Buttery, “there’s nobody else … and someone knew where the hammer was! It was him, I swear it was him, the foul drunkard!”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 18.03.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 24

27 May

24. ALICE BONEHAM

Detective Sergeant Peter Jenson fixed Alice Boneham with two eyes that seemed tl penetrate to the very depths of her soul. A new perspective on the truth was being unveiled, and he wanted to find out more.

“You mean, he was a wife-beater?” he asked.

Alice looked down, examined the hands that were on the table in front of her, then looked up again. “You might say wife-beater, but I don’t like to call it that,” she admitted, “but only when the drink was on him. You see, he’d go to the pub and be tempted by its one-armed bandit thingy, you know, fruit machine that gobbles up more money than a weak man can afford, and he’d come home with one pint short of a belly-full inside him because he was skint, and think it was my fault. Other times he was a real gent with the kindest of hearts. It was the drink that did it to him, the drink that ruined him, that and a weakness for gamblin’!”

Detective Constable Elena Davies nodded sympathetically. “So you had a rough time,” she said quietly, “some men can be the worst of fiends when there’s alcohol around. I’ve met a few. So that’s why you left him, because of the violence?”

“No man’s going to rough me up and get nothing in return,” retorted Alice, meaningfully. “He was a good man when we met, though, and I sometimes wish he’d stayed the same. But a man’s a man, and the truth about him and his deeper secrets will out in the fullness of time, as they say…”

“There are men and there are men,” said Elena, deliberately obtuse. “My boyfriend wouldn’t harm a soul, not now and I hope not ever, though who can see into the future with 20/20 vision? Not me, that’s certain.”

“My Joey wouldn’t have hurt a soul when I met him,” muttered Alice, “but life changed him. I don’t know what triggered it. Was it work, labouring on the farm with Eggy expecting too much of him? Was it the kids that never came along, his and mine, and the doctor said as his tadpoles weren’t swimming well enough…”

“Tadpoles?” asked Elena, wondering what on earth the woman was rambling about.

“You know, them sperms a man’s so proud of. Joey had them, of course, plenty of them according to the clinic, but they’re not so hot at swimming and were going nowhere.”

“Oh. I see,” Elena tried not to smile, and just about succeeded. “I suppose that can get a man down?” she suggested. “After all, men are proud of their … sperms.”

“Summat got him down all right. Not that he let on much about it. He was very private when it came to his tadpoles, especially when he found out they were getting lost on their way to … you know where. Didn’t like talking about it. Anyway, what with worrying himself about them and not talking about it and working hard for Eggy he sort of changed.”

“It’s not easy for a man when his manhood’s put in doubt,” suggested Elena.

Alice nodded. “Then he started drinking,” she sighed, “and that put the brakes on his good heart. And there’s that charity shop, the one where I work. Run by Mrs Buttery, it is, and she can be a tartar, take my word for it, though there’s one thing that stops her being too much of a tartar with us…”

“There is?” asked Elena, and Peter Jenson raised his eyebrows curiously.

“We’re volunteers and if she tries to ride rough-shod over us then we’ll unvolunteer ourselves,” smiled Alice, “then where would she be? Running a shop she don’t particularly like all by herself? It might eat into her singing time!”

“You mentioned it as one of your husband’s problems?” suggested the Sergeant.

“The silly man got it into his head … Mr Buttery sometimes gave me a lift when he was taking his wife to the shop, and Joey got into his head that he was chatting me up. He was pleasant enough, was Mr Buttery, but he never mentioned my knickers, not once, not even in passing!”

“But Joey thought he was after you?”

“That he did! Again, it was when he was in drink, he rowed with me about it, said as Buttery was only after me on account of him being the one with good tadpoles…”

“Maybe he should have worn looser jeans,” murmured Peter. That shop she runs. It supports the Hospice?” asked Peter, though he knew the answer.

“It does, and that Hospice does some good work for folks as need it,” replied Alice stoutly.

“I know. My father was there when he died,” said the Sergeant thoughtfully. “They made what might have been a real hundred carat nightmare into little more than a quiet dream,” he added.

“Anyway, I’ve told you about Joey. When he’s sober there’s no harm in him, but as soon as liquor touches his lips he’s the devil himself,” sighed Alice, “and the shame of it was I like a glass of something warming of a winter night myself, but I couldn’t have the stuff in the house or he’d get at it.”

“Do you think he’d kill a man?” asked Peter, seeing that the talk of domestic violence and antisocial drinking habits was unlikely to get them anywhere.

“What? My Joey?” spluttered Alice, “he wouldn’t hurt a mouse when he was sober, but if he had drink on him he’d slaughter a herd of elephants at the drop of a hat!”

“And a man?” coaxed Peter. “Would he kill a man who got in his way?”

“I’ve seen him gently take a spider and place it safely where it might thrive when any other man would have squashed it,” replied Alice thoughtfully, “but if he came on a dog that had been made to suffer and was dying, and he saw that the only way he could help it would be to put it out of its misery, then he’d do that, though he wouldn’t like it…”

“And if he saw a man with a hole in his head and bleeding from his eyes…?” suggested Peter.

“I dunno. I really dunno,” she replied slowly, thoughtfully.

“Would he put the poor bloke out of his misery?” insisted Peter Jenson, “you probably know Joey better than any of us. What would he do if he came upon a dying man on his way back home from the pub?”

“Normally? He’d phone 999, of course he would. But if he had drink on him there’s no telling. If he had drink on him he’d do whatever seemed best to him, and he wouldn’t give much thought as to consequences. Consequences wouldn’t even enter into his head. He’d just go ahead and …. I dunno.”

“Do the best?” suggested Elena.

Alice nodded. “Do he best,” she whispered, then louder, “what has that silly man done now? What trouble has he got himself into?”

“It’s no worry of yours and we don’t know anything for sure,” Peter told her, “come along, you’ve been a tremendous help. We need to know a great deal of background information before we can prove anything. That’s all for now, we’ll take you back to the shop where we found you.”

“I can’t think…” mumbled Alice. “If it were Joey, poor man, poor, poor man.”

They were making for the door to the interview room and Alice was wiping a tear from one eye when Rosie pushed her way in and beckoned Peter to her.

“We need Mrs Buttery,” she said quietly.

“I’m going back to the charity shop with Mrs Boneham,” nodded Peter, “Mrs Buttery was there earlier. I’ll bring her back with me and that’ll kill two birds with one stone.”

“Make sure you get her,” said Rosie, “and if the bird’s flown her nest go after her wherever she’s gone to. She holds the answers to all of our questions.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 17.03.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 23

23 May

23. JOEY BONEHAM
“But,” said Joey Boneham defiantly during a pause during which the officers and his brief absorbed his confession, “he would never have lasted the hour, not him, not considering the sate he was in.”

“But it wasn’t you who tied him up, stuck plaster over his mouth and gouged his eyes out?” queried Rosie Baur.

Joey Boneham shook his head, as close to violently as he dared when being faced by the intense gaze of two police officers and a solicitor.

“I did the Christian thing,” mumbled Joey. “The bloke was blind and probably brain-damaged what with all that blood oozing from a hole in his head. And anyway it was him as walked all over my lovely marriage with my Alice, wasn’t it, and him as wrecked everything!”

“What are you saying? That you killed him out of mercy or you killed him because he’d wooed your wife?” asked D.I Rosie Baur.

“I need time to consult with my client,” put in the solicitor. “This has been an unexpected turn of events,” he added, “and we need time to prepare our explanations.”

“You mean…” began Peter, and he clammed up. He had been going to say that the solicitor needed time to work out the most convincing set of lies with Joey Boneham, but decided that it wasn’t a wise thing to suggest at this stage.

“We’ll leave you for half an hour,” said Rosie, “that should give you plenty of time to massage any explanation you feel like making!” She was braver than Peter Jenson, but then she was his senior officer and knew she would get away with it.

“This is a turn up for the books,” she said to Peter. “We need that ex of his, and we need her soon, to find out what on earth was going on in their marriage and what input Mr Buttery had to its breakdown.”

“I’ll send Martin to fetch her,” nodded Rosie. “It shouldn’t take long it she’s at work in the hospice shop. Then you take her and I’ll carry on with dearest Joey”

“You think it might have been she who blinded him?” asked Peter, doubtfully. “Revenge by the injured wife?”

“Goodness me no,” replied his Inspector, “I think we all know who did that!”

“You might know, but I can’t say it’s all that clear to me,” mumbled Peter as he made his way to find Constable Martin Thrives and give him fresh orders.

“Don’t let on that we’ve got Mr Boneham iun custody,” he said to the younger officer, “just say that there are a few ends to tidy up and we need her here to help do it.”

The constable took the police car allotted to him and drove it to the charity shop run by Mrs Buttery, where Alice Boneham should be working. He felt he was at the sharp end of something or other, but had no clear idea what that might be.

The three women were in the charity shop, the two assistants in evidence and gossiping behind the one and only counter whilst the third, Miriam Buttery, was clearly and audibly somewhere in an inner room running through a vocal warm-up routine by squawking loud enough to waken the dead in seven counties. He knew she was in a choir somewhere in Brumpton and guessed from the row that she must have a choir practice some time soon.

“Someone auditioning for the “X” Factor?” he asked, wincing at a particularly painful and barely reached higher note.

“It’s Miriam,” said Alice, pulling a face, “she does that when there’s singing to be done after work, and she’s got singing today.”

“Mrs Boneham?” asked Martin, showing his badge.

“You were here last time, constable! That’s me,” declared Alice, “and what can I be doing for you, or is it Miriam as you want? I’ll get her if you like. It was her husband as got done in and we both reckon it’s brave of her to have come to work so soon after, when she could have had a bit of compassionate.”

“It’s brave, it is,” echoed Jackie Mansford, clipping a price-tag onto a pair of boxer shorts that looked as if they might well be brand new. Martin winced as he noticed them.

“You’re to come with me, Mrs Boneham. Odds and ends to clear up, that sort of thing,” he said as forcefully as he dared.

“You’ll want Miriam, surely!” protested Alice. “I’ve not done anything as might need questions at any police station!”

“Just odds and ends,” repeated Martin. “You’d best go and tell your boss.”

Alice slithered round the back of the shop into an untidy store-room where untidy piles of unsellable underwear and dirty outerwear and broken toys littered the floor.

“It’s the p’lice, Mrs Buttery,” said Alice, calling through from the doorway, “they want me to clear up a few ends. I’ve got to go,.”

“What’s it to do with you?” asked Miriam, “it’s not that ex of yours, is it, up to trouble again? That’s what it’ll be. He’s been up to no good.”

“I don’t know what it is and the copper ain’t telling me,” replied Alice, looking at Martin Thrives pointedly.

“You shouldn’t be long,” he said, “if you’re ready,”

It was only a matter of minutes before they arrived back at the police station, and Martin showed her into an interview room.

Rosie was back interviewing Joey Boneham and it fell to her sergeant together with Elena Davies, the new detective constable, to ask a few questions of Alice Boneham.

“I don’t know what you’re doing talking to me, ‘cause I don’t know anything about what happened to that horrible Buttery man,” she said before either of them could get a word in.

“You say he was horrible?” asked Elena, feeling it was about time she contributed something to the case.

“Well, he used to sneak up on folks,” sniffed Alice. “He used to say things that could be taken all wrong if you had a mind to take them wrong, and a woman isn’t always in the right mood to be chatted up.”

“So he liked chatting you up? What sort of things did he say?” asked Peter.

“You know. Things. What some might call pervy things, though I’m sure he meant no harm. Not that I ever took any notice, and he never did anything about them, just said them, like in fun but you knew they weren’t all that funny. Like only last week he sneaked up on me and said as my slip was showing, all nice and white and lacy, but I knew it wasn’t because I knew I haven’t worn a slip in more years than I care to think of!”

“Is that why you and Mr Boneham are living separately?” asked Peter, “because of something he said?”

Alice Boneham laughed out loud. “Lord bless you, sonny,” she said irreverently, “it had nothing to do with the charmer Buttery! I left my husband because of his temper! He hit people, he did, and he hit me once too often when he’d been drinkin’! That’s why I left him for good and all, and I’m going to stay left! But it had nothing to do with Miriam’s old man, nothing at all!”

TO BE CONTINUED….

© Peter Rogerson 16.03.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 22

17 May

22. THE KILLING

“So we’re getting somewhere now, are we?” said D.S. Peter Jenson leaning forwards and looking Joey Boneham straight into his eyes.

“What ya mean?” demanded Joey, suddenly assuming arrogance now that he wasn’t being spoken to by a dusky female police inspector but someone he felt more equal to, the sergeant being both white and male.

“You said something about his eyes?” suggested Peter, “about them being, as you put it, put out?

“Well, they were, weren’t they?” It was as if Joey had seen a chink of light in a darkened room and was reaching for it yet uncertain what it might be.

“Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t. I’ve not said anything about those eyes, and neither has the Inspector. The big question is, how would you know anything about them?”

Joey looked furtively around him, at the Inspector and then back at the sergeant.

“I read it in the local rag, of course,” he said, “like any bloke would.”

“Really? On the astrologer’s page, perhaps? Because the last issue of the Brumpton Gazette was on sale the day before Mr Buttery was murdered….”

“Must have been the radio, then. Yes, that’s it, on the radio.”

“But no information regarding Mr Buttery and his eyes was released to any branch of the press, and that includes Radio Brumpton,” said Peter Jenson evenly, “in fact, the only two people who knew anything about the state or otherwise of Mr Buttery’s eyes were his wife and the man who killed him!”

“You won’t get evidence!” snapped Joey, not aware of his own singular lack of intelligence. “There’s nothing to say as I killed him, nothing at all, and you’re fishing, like they say! And I want a solicitor and I want one now! I watch murders on the telly, and I know my rights and all about cops who go fishing for evidence against the innocent!”

“Oh dear,” sighed Rosie, breaking in. “That’s about proved it then.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Joey.

“When a suspect asks for his solicitor it means he’s as guilty as guilty can be,” explained Rosie, “or why should he think he needed a solicitor to help him twist the truth into lies? But you can have one.” She looked at her watch, “interview suspended at thirteen-fifty-five.” she added, and switched the recorder off.

“Do you think we’ve got enough, sergeant?” she asked as they left the room and deliberately paused in the open doorway on her way out.

“More than enough,” agreed Peter, and they closed the door behind them.

“Well, he’s our man or knows who is,” said Peter when they were out of earshot of the farm labourer behind the interview room’s closed door.

“There’s not actual evidence bar his own determination to prove himself guilty,” sighed Rosie, “let’s get him that duty solicitor … he’s probably still on the premises … and get back to him while he’s trying to work out what he did or didn’t do or see.”

“I reckon he’s the killer,” said Peter. “It’s a classic, trying to seem clever but using information that only the killer would have.”

“Or a passer-by,” sighed Rosie, “don’t forget what Eggy said, about lying in bed and hearing the distinctive engine of the Buttery twins’ car.”

He paid for two coffees from the automatic machine (it needed a good kick as usual), and they retired to Rosie’s desk.

“You still think that they…?” asked Peter. “I’d ruled them out. Mr Croft said he might have imagined that car engine, you know, dreamed it.”

“He’s a canny old bird, is Farmer Croft, and I’ve a lot of respect for him,” murmured Rosie. “He likes his caravan holidays, you know, and that says something, surely?”

“Says what?” asked Peter, amused because he knew that Rosie looked on everyone who shared her main hobby of a life on the road with her twins as members of a sacred club, and not one member was capable of anything but goodness and shining with irreproachable light.

“That I’ve seen him out and about with that caravan of his, and I’m capable of making pretty accurate judgements when it comes to people,” she replied. “He’s not perfect, but he’s no killer.”

“You caravanners,” sighed the sergeant.

“The thing about Boneham, I reckon he knows a lot more than he’s said, but he didn’t tie Buttery up. He didn’t stick elastoplast on his mouth and he didn’t do his eyes in. Yet he saw the scene, and it strikes me that he might know more than he knows that he knows, if you get my drift.

Peter nodded.

The duty solicitor was still on the premises, and he was introduced to Joey and given a few minutes to be consulted by him, and then the police interview was continued with Rosie holding Joey Boneham’s eyes with her own.

“So how did you find out about Mr Buttery’s mutilated eyes?” she asked, pleasantly. “We’ve established that the only person to know about them was yourself because you mentioned them and the actual killer, if that wasn’t you.”

Joey looked towards the solicitor, who nodded at him.

“I did see,” he mumbled, “I saw because I heard. There was this car that drove towards the farm while I was out watering the hedgerows…”

“Pissing, you mean?” asked Peter.

“It was late, nobody was about and I needed one, and if that’s against the law you can forget that I said it,” mumbled Joey.

“I’d have done it myself under those circumstances,” agreed Peter using his best hail fellow well met voice.

“Anyway, it was their kids’ car, you know, the twins car. It was the lad driving, and when he saw me he scarpered.”

“Did he get out? Was his sister with him?” asked Rosie.

“No and no,” muttered Joey. “As I said, he scarpered. An’ he was on his own.”

“And what then?” asked Rosie.

“I heard this noise, sort of strangled, from across the road. It was quiet and muffled, but I heard it all right. So I went to take a peek at what might be making it. It were dark, but the Buttery bloke fixed one of them lights as come on when there’s someone about, and it detected me and blazed out bright as summer. He was there, all right, was Buttery with his mangled eyes and plaster on his gob. He was struggling like mad, he was, so I took the tape off and untied him, like a fellow would, out of kindness. You’ve never seen such a mess as he was in, though! I felt sick as a … sick as a dog at the sight.”

“But he was alive?” asked Rosie.

“Alive and hollering sort of painfully an’ quietly at the same time,” mumbled Joey. “Right next to him was the rusty old hammer as had done all the damage to his head. It was covered in blood and hair. His head was bleeding, like, from a horrible wound.”

“And you left him there?” asked Peter.

“Course I did!”

“And that was it?”

Joey shook his head. “If he was a dog I’d have put him out of his misery, all that pain and with bleeding eyes like he had. I’d certainly do the right thing, if he was a dog.

“So I told myself the right thing was to do the same.

“I picked up that hammer, and I put the swine out of his misery. Right out, dead out, like any Christian soul would. It was the kindest thing for me to do.”

© Peter Rogerson 15.03.17

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

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

ROSIE BAUR D.I. Chapter 19

1 May

19 DRIBBLING

It was getting late and the interview rooms at Brumpton Police Station were occupied by a selection of murder suspects, all of whom seemed to have been on the cusp of confessing to the murder of Philip Buttery, librarian and until recent times an all-round good egg in the eyes of most people.

But he can’t have been an all-round good egg, or he wouldn’t have been murdered. That was Detective Inspector Rosie Baur’s conclusion, and it made sense though it didn’t help her decide who the killer was.

She was suffering from a lack of evidence. The man had been blinded, and the pathologist Cardew Dingle had suggested that the most likely instrument had been some kind of spoon. She couldn’t imagine how anyone could actually do that kind of thing to another human being and concluded that whoever it was must have been truly emotionally angry and believed he (or she, it might have been a she) was right. It was cold-blooded, pre-meditated and gory. The killer had been offended by the man’s eyes, and had left him blinded and unconscious, and traces of medicated elastoplast showed his mouth had been covered, probably to prevent him being heard when he regained consciousness, and then had been ripped off and discarded (probably in the already emptied wheelie bins and probably along with the murder weapons, she included the blinding instrument as a murder weapon) post-mortem.

There had been two blows to the head, one before the other, the first at the time of the gouging of the man’s eyes in what must have been a real fit of anger, but it had been the second blow possibly an hour later that had actually killed him. But the weapon used, something rusty and made, obviously, of iron had most likely been the same as had caused the initial head injury.

That was the evidence of the body, and that was all she had with the exception of four people sitting in four interview rooms.

She sighed out loud and called Peter Jenson to her. “You take the girl and I’ll take the lad,” she said. “I don’t think either of them did anything, though they both had motives. The trouble is, I’ve got four suspects with four sexual-ish motives, and I don’t like it one bit.”

She and Constable Thrives walked purposefully into the first of the four interview rooms. There were only four such rooms at Brumpton nick, and she hoped nobody else would be foolish enough to commit a crime that needed an interview before she had sorted this mess out. He was already there, and a duty solicitor was sitting next to him, a bored expression on his legal face.

“Right Denis,” she said crisply, sitting in front of him and contriving a severe expression on what was probably a weary-looking face. “Let’s get this over with, shall we? The last time we spoke you said you loved your sister. Explain, and don’t make it difficult for me to understand or I’ll simply charge you with murder and have you locked away for the duration.”

“You can’t say that…” began the solicitor.

She looked at him, and unusually a member of the legal profession withered under the stare from her almost black eyes.

“A man has been murdered and I plan on finding out who did it,” she said firmly. “Why, for goodness’ sake, if I let the guilty man go on the whim of a pasty-faced legal-eagle then I wouldn’t be surprised if the next person he killed was that legal-eagle. Get me?”

The man nodded and decided that silence would be the best policy until he had something really substantial to complain about, and he knew that Detective Inspector Baur had quite a reputation in the town, and not one of making mistakes.

“So what did you mean by loving your sister?” she asked.

“Of course I love her!” he said, quietly, thoughtfully, his voice devoid of anger. “We’re twins. We’re almost joined at the hip, like most twins are. It’s natural, like breathing. I look out for her.”

“I’ve got twins at home,” Rosie told him, “and think I can see what you mean. But tell me. You told us that there was a remarkable similarity between your mother as a younger woman and your twin sister as she is now…”

“That’s right! I’ve seen old photos.”

“And you implied that your father was a lonely man who found himself being mentally transported back into his youth by looking at the girl he’d fathered because he reminds her of his first love…?”

“Well, he would, wouldn’t he?” asked Denis defiantly. “And mum wasn’t kind to him, you know. He even had to sleep in his own room!”

“Had to or chose to?” asked the Constable, needing to be seen as part of the team. Rosie looked at him and nodded with a smile. “Answer the Constable,” she said.

“Had to. He had to.” mumbled Denis.

“What do you think your father got up to with your twin sister?” asked Rosie.

“I think he … I think they had … sex!” almost spat Denis.

“You’re sure of that?” asked Rosie.

“Absolutely! She told me!”

“Who did? Your mother?”

“How would she know? No, it was Amelia. She said they had sex. I hated her for doing it!”

“Hated her? Why her?”

“Because she’s too young and pretty to be messed around with by an old man, and letting him!”

“You know that one of the things that we do when there’s a question of sexual activity is to have girls checked over, to see that they’re all right, to make sure that nothing inappropriate has been done to them?” asked Rosie, “well, a doctor took a peep at your sister and there can be no doubt about it: she’s a virgin and has never had sexual intercourse with anyone. What do you say to that?”

“A dirty old doctor messed with my sister?” There was the start of an explosion in his voice as he stared at Rosie and then, giving in, looked down.

“There are female doctors,” said Rosie.

“And you’re sure … are you saying … it’s not possible … that she lied to me!”

“She must have done if she told you different. Now, young man, tell me what really happened that evening when you visited your parents.”

“I was with mum, on the landing…” Denis looked up at Rosie, and then away. “I’ll tell you everything,” he decided. “Amelia had gone to the toilet and not shut the door properly, and it swung open, and we both saw it. We both saw dad staring at her where she sat, and almost dribbling!”

“You saw dribble?” asked the Constable, a stickler for detail. “Actual real dribble?”

“He was! He must have been! Mum told me. Look at him dribbling, she said. Then he must have known we had noticed because he told her to shut the door. And she leaned forwards, and shut the door and dad went on his way.”

“Still dribbling?” asked Rosie.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” whispered Denis. “He just went.”

TO BE CONTINUED

© Peter Rogerson 12.03.17