A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

The policemen meet the professor's wife


Professor Reuben Styx stared at Sergeant Stone with an expression that was mixture of surprise and anger on his face.

Of all the cheek,” he said after a few uncomfortable moments. “If my wife was missing or dead I would have notified you, and not the other way round. You see, she’s my wife and I know where she is. It’s what husbands do. And she’s alive and well. You can ask her if you like.” He took a couple of steps towards the door of the small reception room they were in.

Dolly,” he called in an imperious voice, “won't you come here for a moment?”

There was a pause, and nothing happened. Then, “she’s around somewhere,” he said, his voice displaying clearly the annoyance he was feeling.

The trouble with this place is it’s so large and my voice can’t carry into every corner,” he said when it was clear nobody was responding. “She will come, though. It’s not my wife in your arctic little laboratory. She is here. We had tea together not an hour since.

He went to the door, opened it wider, and bellowed in a voice loud enough to waken the proverbial dead, “Dolly! I hate to interrupt whatever it is you’re doing, but will you come here for a moment? Please?

This time there was a response almost muted by distance.

Coming, darling,” cooed a female voice, “I won't be a moment. I was just ironing a few things before the housework gets out of hand, and you know how you get cross when that happens.”

They clearly heard her feet as she made her way along corridors and eventually appeared, smiling, at her husband’s elbow. She was pretty and surprisingly young, thought the sergeant, when compared to the bedraggled corpse in the canal. But there could be no doubt. There was an uncanny resemblance.

I was just ironing these silly things,” she said, “some people think I’m a bit daft pressing underwear, but it relaxes me. And there’s nothing like a pair of frillies to help me perfect my technique.”

In her hand she was holding a pair of scarlet red knickers, no doubt her own as she appeared to be the only woman in the house.

But it wasn’t the item of clothing that took the two policemen back, but the woman herself.

As far as they could tell, she was a slightly younger version of the woman from the canal. Smartly dressed in a knee-length summer dress and wearing, it seemed, very little make-up, her questioning expression seemed untroubled. And she was smiling, happy, and clearly very much alive.

These two police officers have a problem,” said the professor in the kind of voice that intimated they’d even have a problem if their only task was adding one to one and making two.

Really, dear, what’s that?” she asked.

They seem to think that you drowned yourself in the canal,” he said, “they found a body, a dead lady, by the way, one that they believe looks a little like you, and in their suspicious minds they seem to think I’ve done away with you in some macabre imitation of a detective drama from the television.”

We never intimated anything of the kind, sir,” interrupted the Inspector before anything else was said. “It’s just that we have a dead body on our hands, an attractive lady who bears a striking resemblance to the image of Mrs Styx that was published on the cover of a magazine recently, and it was our duty to ensure that all was well with you, seeing as there have been no reports of missing women in the area. But I can see that all is well, so we’ll leave you in peace, and I’m sorry that our duty obliged us to trouble you.”

I quite understand,” smiled Mrs Styx, “and as you can see I’m alive and well and rather busy with domestic chores, the kind that Reuben here thinks are beneath him.”

Now then, darling,” admonished the professor mildly, “no washing our dirty linen in public!”

She smiled at him. “I wasn’t washing it,” she said, a trifle coldly, “that was yesterday. I was ironing it.”

We’ll be off then,” said Inspector Wasp, “we’re satisfied that you’re alive, Mrs Styx, and all the better for making your acquaintance.” he turned to the professor. “You do understand that we have to do everything we can in order to identify anyone who dies unexpectedly in our manor, don’t you?”

The professor sniffed. “I suppose so,” he mumbled grudgingly. “See yourselves out, won’t you. I’ll open the gate when you reach it.”

The two officers, feeling like two schoolboys who have had the telling off of a lifetime in the headmaster’s office, retreated through the doors and to their car.

What do you make of that, then sir?” asked the sergeant once they were safely on the other side of the gate.

Two things, sergeant,” replied Inspector Wasp grimly, “firstly, not everything is what it seems to be in that cold and rather ugly mansion, not at all. What did you make of the lady?”

She seemed all right, sir,” replied the sergeant slowly. “I mean, she wasn’t stressed or anything, and that dig about domestic chores was exactly the same as some of the digs my misses gives me!”

And how old would you say she was, Stone?”

Oh, I dunno. Thirtyish. Something like that.”

Yet our records show that the Professor and his wife are both in receipt of state pensions because of their ages. They’re both, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind me suggesting this, very old indeed.”

Crikey, sir, now that you mention it...”

Now that I mention it you can see what I’m getting at. The body in the morgue gives us the impression of being younger than pension age, but even so she’s certainly several years senior to Mrs Styx. How do we explain that?”

It said in the magazine, in fact it was what the article was all about, that the professor has discovered the secret of immortality, that he can extend his lifespan indefinitely. Maybe that’s how it is they both look so much younger than they should. Think of it, sir: living forever. Immortality. Being around to see the end of time.

Now don’t fantasize, Stone. And what about the lady in the canal?”

Is someone else, sir. Not connected. Nothing to do with the prof.”

Really? And do you also have a fascinating theory about the bright red underwear, Stone?”

© Peter Rogerson, 06,09.19

© 2019 Peter Rogerson

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It'll be above a week before I post the next part because my good lady and I are off for a break on the continent.

Posted 4 Years Ago

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Added on September 6, 2019
Last Updated on September 6, 2019
Tags: mansion, atmosphere, wife, scarlet underwear


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 80 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..