A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



There was more than a single moment of silent chaos as two policemen and eight fire fighters stared in horror at what was revealed under the steaming and smoking mattress.

It had been a head once upon a time, a human head, it will once have had flesh clinging to its bony surface, but now it was a skull without a hint of any soft tissue and a horrible vacancy in the empty orbits of its eye sockets.

Then Rosie turned to the gaping Ted Baker, her brow knitted, her eyes piercing.

Well, Mr Baker, what do we know about this?” she asked, “and, what’s more important, who do you think it might be?”

The expression on his own face suggested huge disbelief that he was seeing what everyone else had seen because it was plainly before his eyes.

I don’t know...” he stammered, “I just brought the stuff as Miss Denton said we didn’t need and wanted putting to flame,” he muttered, shaking his head, “I never knew there was a head inside one of the bags! I don’t know of anyone’s head goin’ missing!”

We’d best get the whole lot damped down so that any evidence of whatever is here can be somehow preserved without being burned any further,” said Rosie to Tom Bangle, “but if you can, not too much water either.”

I’ve got a SOCO team on the way, ma’am,” interrupted Bob Short, proving that he was on the ball and didn’t always need detailed instructions before he acted, “and the pathologist,” he added.

Well done,” Rosie complimented him because she was on the point of arranging that herself and liked to learn she could depend on her subordinate to do what was necessary off his own bat. “I’m really looking forwards to seeing Jake Greaves face when he finds this place,” she added, adding a hint of humour to a grim situation.

There are more bones in here,” called one of the firemen, poking the still smouldering mattress with a stick, “looks like the better part of a skeleton. Thank goodness there’s no flesh. That would make it worse somehow.”

I think it might be best to leave it for the forensic team. They’re on their way,” Rosie advised him gently, “please keep well back, everyone, we don’t want to corrupt the scene any more,” and she signalled to Bob that they should have a few more words with Mr Baker while he was close at hand because, she thought, given half a chance he might melt away into the woodland and never be seen again. In her mind he was mentally, little better than a child, but a dangerous child if he thought that he was being threatened.

They moved to be close to her car and away from remnants of the smoky steam while the firemen continued to gently damp down the fire. Bob had Ted Baker firmly by one arm, but the man looked uneasy and his earlier arrogance seemed to have melted away.

Well, Mr Baker,” began Rosie, frowning at him, “where do you think that skull came from? It was a human one, you know, as, I suspect, were the other bones that the forensic people are going to examine under a microscope. Someone put them there, and it was you carrying the stuff for burning. Have you any idea whose they might be?”

I dunno, miss,” he replied, “I mean, officer,” he corrected himself. “I was doing as I was told, like I’m paid to do, by Miss Denton. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Tell me about her, the lady we saw earlier. Miss Denton, you say she is. Tell me about Miss Denton.” asked Rosie.

There’s two of ‘em.”

Two what? Two Miss Dentons?”

Yes. There’s two of ‘em. Miss Denton who’s takin’ a dip in the steam down on the Bottoms and the Miss Denton who writes stuff on a, what you call it, a typewriter,” he said, sniffing.

Tell me about the Miss Denton in the stream,” said Rosie, “tell me about her taking, what did you call it? A dip in the stream.”

I saw her I did, down by the stream, taking a dip,” he confirmed, “this morning it was. She was off to the shops for milk, but decided to take a dip instead. She does that sometimes, in the water.”

Excuse me,” put in DC Short, “but that was hours ago, and she wasn’t exactly taking a dip, was she?”

I said, she does stuff like that all the time. Dawn to dusk sometimes,” explained Ted Baker, “she says it’s good for her skin, makes it all young and lovely. This morning I saw her with that spooky guy, the one as waves his kids off in the morning. He was talkin’ to her, he was, and he went with her to where she decided to take a dip. His wife was watchin’, so you ask her if you don’ believe me.”

You mean Mr Butcher?” asked Rosie.

Aye, that’s his name, but he’s a spooky guy all right,” nodded Baker.

And he was talking to Miss Denton? By the stream where you saw her?”

That’s right,” he nodded, “I told you I wasn’t up to anything wrong.”

Did you notice anything else about her?” asked Bob.

Like what? She was there, water splashing on her face and all smiling,” replied Ted, “she smiles at me a lot. She likes me, she does, likes me quite a lot and even kisses me sometimes. I like it when she kisses me in secret like my mummy used to do. It makes my tummy go all squirmy.”

And did you notice anything else?” asked Bob, his voice teetering on the edge of being threatening.

No. As I said she was just letting the nice clean water make her skin look all young and lovely,” nodded Baker, “I like her face. She’s got a pretty face. But then, so has the other Miss Denton, the one in the cottage. She’s got a pretty face too, but she don’t go to the stream to wash it in pure water. She sits at her typewriter, she does, and that keeps her young looking. She said so.”

Might you have noticed if the Miss Denton with her head in the stream was just the teensiest bit dead?” asked Rosie.

Her? Dead? Never!” said Baker in the sort of voice that suggested he’d believe anything but that, “she’s not dead is she? She can’t be! I seen her!” he asked, almost unbelievingly.

Doctor Greaves seems to think so,” Rosie told him, “and Doctor Greaves is a pathologist who’s an expert on people who are dead. He says someone close to her jabbed her with a syringe. He says someone murdered her. And we’re looking at you, Mr Baker, and wondering if it was you.”

I never did nothing of the sort!” he protested, and Bob thought better of pointing out that his double negative indicated that he was actually saying the opposite of what he meant to say.

Well, somebody did,” she said quietly. “Now what were you saying about Mr Butcher?”

I love her...” almost wept Ted Baker, “I really love her, and that spooky Butcher guy was with her. I saw him. I watched. He was doing rude things with her, really rude things… And I heard her say get off, but he didn’t straight away, but she was laughin’ as if she didn’t mean it. Then he goes ‘cause he hears ‘is misses call him, an’ she went to make her face all pretty in the nice spring water as flows through Swanspottle Bottoms...”

I see,” said Rosie quietly, “well, thank you for being so honest with us, Mr Baker.”

And she’s dead, you say?”

Bob nodded, “Very,” he said.

I don’t want her to be dead… I want to love her,” and Ted Baker started weeping like the child he almost was.

© Peter Rogerson 30.03 20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 30, 2020
Last Updated on March 30, 2020
Tags: stream, water, watching, sex


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 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..