A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Who caused the gas leakage leading to the death of June?


Tom Coppleby leaned on a corner of his exploded caravan and there was a mixture of anger and fear in his eyes combined with the frozen rigidity of ice when he seemingly forced himself to calm down and think.

His wife had been carted off in an ambulance to the police mortuary and he knew his reactions had been all wrong. But he didn’t know what right was. He felt nothing, he had a cold sort of ice sheet inside himself through which the warmth of human emotion would never surface. He’d felt the same when Anne had died, suddenly and equally painlessly. At least, he hoped it had been painless. He’d been there that time.

Rosie decided no good would be served by keeping the twins close to such a horrific scene even if the horror was only suggested by the minimum disturbance the explosion had caused. The horror was all in her head, and in the dead body of the pretty June Coppleby. She’d managed to keep the twins well clear of that, though. They were too young to be exposed to such evils as murder even though they knew what she did for a living. But the word murder is without the touch and feel of life and its ending, it’s little more than a concept, it has no flesh in itself, no broken bones, no stilled heart, none of the anguish of life extinguished violently. You can know a person was murdered but have no idea of how the blood flowed or the poison filtered through the flesh, or the blade was turned.

But this here and now explosion was real, and she was determined to keep the twins away from it.

We’ll take them to the beach if you like,” said Jerry by her shoulder. “We understand how it must be for you.”

She breathed a sigh that was pure relief. She liked Jerry, and what’s more she trusted him and Cat. They were just what she wanted, someone to provide a distraction while she had a good poke around in Tom’s caravan. She had a theory that she needed to put to the test, that for some reason he couldn’t fathom Tom had deliberately murdered his own wife by destroying his home, because it was plain as anything to Rosie that the two of them had actually lived in the van.

And he had announced out of the blue that he was relocating to Wales. That was something he never did. He was an almost permanent fixture on Twelve Trees Park. He merely travelled off it for short periods to prevent questions of his actual residence and postal address being asked.

Not even Rosie knew where that might be. He might not even have one, but drift through life with nothing tying him to the outside world. He might not even use banks or building societies, who would certainly require him to have an address. He might, and this was hard to believe, be no more than an illegal alien in his own country, make no use of medical services and draw no attention to himself so that the eyes of officialdom never sought him out.

Until now, that is. Until the explosion in his caravan. So why had he arranged that? Why had he risked failure (June may not have been killed by the explosion, it was highly possible that it might not ever have happened, she may not have tried to light a cigarette when the air was laden with butane because she only normally resorted to electronic cigarettes which would hardly have ignited the gas.

When the twins were safely on their way to entertainment by Jerry and Cat ... and she had seen the metal detector vanish with them … she searched out the Seaholme police, who were still taking measurements because it seemed likely that the explosion had been a deliberate attempt at murder, or if not actual murder serious and possibly fatal bodily harm.

I’ve been co-opted to head the enquiry into the body in the woods case,” she said to the sergeant, “and I believe the cases are probably linked.”

So you’re the famous Inspector Baur?” asked the sergeant, “they never said you had beauty as well as brains!”

That’s the kind of sexist comment I find quite flattering,” she said with a smile, “the thing is, when the SOCO team have gone I need to look around, but I don’t want Coppleby to know.”

He’ll be coming with us,” said the sergeant, “there are too many questions and not enough answers, and a woman’s dead. So when we’ve upped and gone you can have your look around and he’ll be none the wiser. What are you hoping to find?”

I’m not sure,” she said quietly, “though an old car registration plate might help. But more than that I’d love to find a three inch computer disc.”

Never seen one of those,” murmured the sergeant, “It’s all on-line downloading and clouds these days. Even CD’s are part of history. I’ll give you a shout when we’ve gone. You’re in luck: the door won’t lock so we can’t, erm, lock it.

I’ll be careful and not do anything to prejudice your enquiry,” said Rosie, “I’m only concerned with a thirty year-old case and today’s disaster may or may not be connected, but it’s yours and not mine.”

Well, SOCOS are just about done, and I’m taking Coppleby in for questioning,” said the sergeant, indicating his car with the wave of a thumb. Tom was sitting in the back seat with a constable, hunched up and not seeming to be aware that something as disastrous as the death of his wife had occurred.

You’d think he’d put on a show of grieving,” murmured Rosie, “but all I can see is shock. You know, I don’t think he’s the one who turned on the taps.”

You think it was the deceased?” asked the sergeant.

I can’t think of anyone else,” replied Rosie, “though it doesn’t make any kind of sense to me. She seemed so happy and contented, and had prepared a chop suey.”

What’s the Chinese food got to do with it?” asked the sergeant, frowning.

Well, if I was going to do myself in by causing a titanic explosion I wouldn’t waste most of my last bit of life prepping vegetables, would you?” asked Rosie. “But she did. And by all accounts she was proud of her oriental cuisine. No, there’s too much here that doesn’t add up for me to believe it was either Tom Coppleby or his good lady wife June who either deliberately or through carelessness caused the explosion, and you might well keep that in mind when you get him back to Seaholme.”

Yes,” said the sergeant thoughtfully, “yes, I will. Thanks for that.”

She went with him to the car, and asked for the rear window to be wound down for a moment.

Tom,” she said quietly, “you may be a racist pig but I somehow don’t think you’re responsible for this tragedy, and I’m sorry about your wife. She was a fine lady.”

And I loved her,” said Tom, though there was still ice in his eyes.

I’ll see what I can do,” she said, and the window was wound down so she didn’t hear his farewell response.

Please, Rosie,” he whispered, “please help me.”


© Peter Rogerson 01.04.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 1, 2017
Last Updated on April 1, 2017
Tags: investigation, explosion, victim, number-plate, computer disc


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..