A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Poor old Josiah. It seems that lasting love is always out of his reach...


Josiah Pyke might have exploded with Christ, not again, but he didn’t because his pounding heart seemed to be on the verge of thrashing itself to a standstill when he saw what life had done to him.

He was in bed, it was almost light but not quite, birds were twittering in the sacred burial garden of Tomm’s Playground, and his companion of last night lay so motionless in bed next to him that he knew with an absolute certainty that she was dead. He’d seen it before. He knew a dead woman when he lay next to her.

This time the deceased woman was the Reverend Beryl Faith and from the expression on her face he concluded she must have passed beyond the vale of tears not long after she had screeched her love for him last night, and he had done his best to convince her of his for her. That expression was one of almost delirious passion. But it was a dead expression. Those lips would never move again, the eyes would never open wide like they sometimes did and her breath would never come in any form, least of all the gasping pants of ecstasy that she was so good at filling the world with.

This has got to be some sort of joke, he thought, wildly hoping that it was and that she would burst into peals of unexpurgated laughter as she rose from an obscene slumber and grabbed him where she never ought to but often did. But his common sense told him that it was no joke at all. There was no jester orchestrating the scene and Beryl was simply cold and dead.

It turned out that a third occasion in a man’s life, when he awoke from slumber next to death, was too much of a coincidence for Detective Sergeant Ruth Coxon, a woman not given to much in the way of humour and even less in the way of belief when she had a juicy suspect in her sights.

This must have become a habit of yours, Reverend Pyke … it is Reverend, isn’t it?” she hissed at him when she had him neatly arraigned in an interview room at Brumpton Police station, the very same interview room where he’d been equally neatly arraigned years earlier when he’d woken up on a river bank next to the murdered body of his first and tenderest love.

He nodded. He didn’t like the use of the word habit but he was wise enough to understand that some people might choose to see it that way.

I’m a Reverend,” he told her, answering the second element of her question first.

I’m under the impression that you no longer preach?” she purred, “yet the late lamented Reverend Beryl Faith does. Is that the case? Now I’m a police officer and when I retire if I’m described as anything I’ll be described as an ex-police officer. So by that argument I assume you must be an ex-Reverend.”

No. I am the Reverend Josiah Pyke,” he told her. “The fact that I don’t do any preaching or work in a church any more has nothing to do with my status as an ordained clergyman.”

But you do enjoy waking up after a good night’s sleep next to ladies who have shuffled off this mortal coil, to coin a phrase.”

No you didn’t,” he said, pointedly, not liking her very much and taking distinctly against her humourless demeanour.

Pardon?” she asked.

Coin the phrase, It wasn’t you who coined the phrase, it was Shakespeare. It was he who mentioned the shuffling off of mortal coils.”

That annoyed Sergeant Coxon. She didn’t like being corrected, least of all by those she was going to incarcerate behind bars for the rest of their natural lives like she was going to incarcerate this offensive ex-Reverend.

That’s very much besides the point,” she said coldly. “The question we have to consider is whether it is too much of a coincidence for one man, be he a Reverend or otherwise, to awaken next to a dead woman more than one time in his life, and you’ve contrived to do it three times, which sets my suspicion juices flowing.”

I’m aware that it must be unusual, and it is, but I find it offensive that you can suggest that I might have had any kind of hand in the demise of the ladies who passed away,” he said, firmly. “The Reverend Faith is a dear friend of mine and we would have married years ago had she not already been in possession of a husband resident in Canada.”

She’s a dear friend yet you refer to her as the Reverend Faith? Isn’t that a little bit odd? I mean, formal, as if she were little more than an acquaintance?”

He shook his head sadly. “It would be if I was talking to her. Then I’d use other names, like Cuddles or Smoochy or even Sexy-drawers, but I’m talking to you and don’t wish to compound any jealousy you may be feeling when you consider that a lady of the cloth might also be cuddly and smoochy whilst a lady police officer rarely is.”

Sergeant Coxon blushed ever so slightly. This interview was going nowhere and the offensive man in front of her seemed to have an answer for everything. She would have to up her game or the wretched man might find himself back on the streets due to insufficient evidence, and that would never do. It might even adversely affect her career, and that was the one shining light in her existence.

I put it to you that you murdered the Reverend Beryl Faith in the early hours of this morning whilst she was asleep and incidentally going against her sworn vows by being in the same bed as a man or person of the male gender, that is yourself,” she grated.

She told me of no such vows,” replied Josiah Pyke. “She wasn’t a nun of one of those strange sects that forgoes human love, you know. She hadn’t taken any kind of vow of chastity. She would have found such a thing abhorrent.”

But she was in bed with you!” snapped the Sergeant.

I told you as much when I reported her tragic death,” sighed Josiah, “and I suspect that when your pathologist has chopped her about and looked at her insides he will be able to report to you that her death was perfectly natural, because that’s all it could have been.”

And your last vict … the last woman you woke up next to when she was dead, your own wife?” grated the Sergeant, digging deeper than she should.

There was no greater love than that I felt for her,” sighed Josiah, “so you will forgive me if I find your line of questioning offensive to the extreme. But she had been ill for some time, terminally ill, we were told, and the physician's predictions were all too accurate.”

And then there was the bloody corpse of the young woman you admitted having had a relationship with in the past,” grated the Sergeant.

You mean the one murdered by her husband, who confessed to the crime when he was caught and is even now in prison?” asked Josiah, “am I being accused of being part and parcel of that crime too?”

The sergeant shook her head. She had introduced her cards too quickly, and knew it. But this man … an ex-Reverend and that ex must mean something, and the coincidence of actually being asleep whilst three female lives fluttered out of existence. Coincidence? In her mind there was no such thing.

You might think this is one huge joke,” she snapped, “but I can assure you that it isn’t!”

The joke needs a jester, and I was never one of those,” sighed Josiah. “Now, if that’s all, can I go home now?” he added, softly.

© Peter Rogerson 20.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 20, 2018
Last Updated on April 20, 2018
Tags: Josiah Pyke, death, bed, realtionship. police sergeant, accusation, murder



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..