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ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 6

23 Mar

6. A TINY HOUSE
Swanspottle was a small village about ten miles from Brumpton unless you took the winding road, which made it a great deal further. An ancient place, little more than a hamlet even though there was a mention in the Domesday Book, it had been built around a church that had been rebuilt more than once since then and was still in a state of considerable disrepair. And there was a pub run by Thomas the Greek (who wasn’t Greek) and a single row of cottages with an odd seemingly purposeless scattering of old, some even long disused, houses that had apparently been built and dropped randomly in the neighbourhood so long ago that memory has no knowledge of their builders or why they were where they were.

“I wouldn’t recommend that place unless you like your beer diluted with tap water,” said Detective Sergeant Jenson to his Inspector, pointing at the Crown and Anchor as they drove past.

“I’ll bear that in mind,” smiled Inspector Baur. “Look … we’re here!”

They pulled up just past a tiny house, one of a terrace of similar tiny houses.

“Built in Victorian times when it was widely thought that the ordinary Joe didn’t need much in the way of privacy,” said D.S. Jenson. “There used to be a quarry, now a wildlife sanctuary, and these were built to house the workers and their families, poor sods.” he added.

“Let’s go and knock the door, then,” said Rosie Baur, “I’m anxious to see what twins are like when they’ve grown up!”

The door was opened by an attractive young woman in her twenties, and Rosie was struck immediately by the similarity between her and the racist wife of the corpse whose demise she was investigating. The daughter had certainly inherited her mother’s best features and, hoped Rosie, not her worst. She introduced them and their warrant cards, and was invited in.

“I can tell who you are,” she said, “you’re the spitting image of your mother.”

“Everyone says that. It’s about my dad, isn’t it?” said Amelia Buttery, the daughter. “My brother’s about somewhere, I’ll call him.”

“Just a minute,” interrupted Sergeant Peter Jenson, “let’s start with you. When did you last see your parents?”

She looked down at her feet, nervously. “I think it was the evening he was killed,” she said, “a couple of evenings ago, we called in to see them like we do about once a week or so, and he was perfectly okay. In fact, he was too much his usual self.”

“What do you mean, too much?” asked Rosie. “How can a father be too much his usual self?”

“You know, all hearty and quoting books as if book quotes solve every problem.”

“I don’t think I do know,” coaxed the D.I. “Can you elaborate a bit for me?”

“I don’t think I can. It was just a chance thing for me to say, like he wasn’t changed or moody, just himself. It wasn’t as if he was expecting to bump into a homicidal maniac any day soon!”

“You think it was a homicidal maniac rather than someone with a grudge?” asked Jenson.

“Is there a difference?” There was something defiant about the way Amelia addressed the question. “I mean, to kill someone you’ve got to be some kind of maniac, haven’t you?”

The door opened before either officer could continue with their line of questioning and a young man walked in. He, unlike his twin, bore little resemblance to either of his parents. He was tall, probably worked out at a gym as often as he could, and smiled as if he was forcing himself to smile.

“I was expecting Mr Plod before long,” he said, “but I’m glad to see it’s Mrs Plod instead!”

It seems that this family is determined to get under my skin one way or another, thought Rosie, but instead of reflecting her true feelings she smiled, warmly she hoped.

“Detective Inspector Baur,” she said by means of self-introduction, “and you’re right. I am married,” to a wonderful man in the graveyard, she added to herself.

“Well then, Mrs Plod, what do you know about my father’s sad demise?” asked Denis, Amelia’s twin, and nothing like her in any physical way, was giving the impression that he had nothing like her brazen attitude either. Physically, he was larger than his twin in just about every dimension, being taller and generally a great deal heavier, most of the weight looking as if it might be muscle rather than fat.

“The name’s not Plod but Baur, and I’d appreciate being called Detective Inspector rather than Mrs,” she said, sharply. “I don’t need to remind you, but your father’s been murdered, rather savagely, and his body mutilated, and you’ve got to depend on me to sort the wheat from the chaff and put the killer behind bars before he can kill again.”

“You said he,” put in Amelia. “How do you know it’s not a woman?”

“We don’t, not for sure, but killers who think that they’re clever always give too much away,” replied Rosie, her voice laced with ice. “This one mutilated the eyes of your father, tried to make sure that his dead body could see no more, not that that makes much sense to more normal humans like us. And it would be a man that did that. A man who puts so much emphasis on vision when it’s not an issue anyway, the dead being blind as well as dead. At least that’s how it is normally.”

“Where were you when he was killed?” asked the sergeant, not liking the way the interview was going.

“Not far away from him, I suppose,” replied the son. “We’d called on him, and when we left he was just about to put his wheelie bin out for the next day’s collection.”

“He’d been talking to me like he did sometimes,” put in Amelia, “he liked to talk to me. It was his way.”

“His way?” asked Rosie, frowning, “his way of what?”

“Passing the time of day,” said Denis Buttery, his voice turning acidic.

“His way of saying he loved me,” whispered Amelia. “A father should love his kids, don’t you think? A father should always be there for them…?”

“And didn’t he like to pass the time of day with you?” asked Jenson, directly addressing Denis.

“With me? Don’t be daft! I’m a lad, a man, and men don’t do that kind of thing,” protested Denis. “Men wrestle and joke. Men aren’t soft.”

“Dad was,” whispered Amelia.

“This is quite a small house for two adults, isn’t it?” asked Rosie, changing the subject and sounding as conversational as she could.

“It does us,” murmured the woman, a smile flickering across her face. “It does us fine.”

“What is it? Two beds?” asked Rosie. “I noticed a similar property for sale a couple of doors away, and I know a couple…”

“Just the one, so Denis and I share…” said Amelia hesitantly. “We’re twins, you see, so it isn’t so odd…”

“Oh. My friends would need two beds,” frowned Rosie.

“It depends how it was modernised. With ours, one of the two original bedrooms was turned into a bathroom. They may have had the bath put into a ground floor extension, and have kept two bedrooms,” said Amelia. “It might be worth checking.”

“I’ll tell them. So back to your father. You left as he put the wheelie bin out? Can anyone confirm that?”

“Are you accusing us?” almost shouted Denis, his face suddenly masked with something Rosie didn’t like.

“Of course not,” D.S Jenson said, smoothly. “It’s just questions that have to be asked. So can anyone?”

“What? On that quiet little road at the dead of night? I very much doubt it,” snapped Denis.

“Then we’ll be leaving you, for the time being. I’ll keep in touch, just so that you’re kept in the loop,” said Rosie quietly. “Just the one bedroom, you say?”

Back in their car and with the D.S. behind the wheel driving to Brumpton, Rosie glanced at Peter.

“What do you think?” asked Rosie.

“There’s something right dodgy there,” he said. “I don’t think it can have anything to do with the murder, but it’s still dodgy.”

“That’s what I’m thinking too,” nodded the D.I.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 27.02.17

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