A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



I want an A-Z on everything to do with that cottage in the woods,” demanded Rosie when they were back in the station and her team was looking at her expectantly, waiting for instructions. “I want to know its history, when work was done on it because it’s incongruously got double glazing, and the two Denton women. One of them’s on Jake’s slab, but who was she and who is her sister? Where is she? All hell was going on outside the cottage but she couldn’t be found. Are they really sisters? And then the two kids, a boy and a girl, possibly at the comp in Brumpton though the uniforms they were seen in were all wrong, who are they? Do they live at the cottage? If not, why were they heading that way?”

A young officer in uniform, constable Strauss, replied after a moment.

Ma’am,” he said, frowning, “as far as I can make out the Denton women don’t exist. But then, neither does their home, though there was a derelict cottage there in the distant past according to old records. The ancient Swanspottle woodland has a preservation order on it, which means that no new building can be erected inside its boundaries.”

Rosie frowned. “Yet we’ve been there. The fire brigade is still there. Doctor Greaves is probably still poking around in the remains of a bonfire. We knocked the door, but nobody replied even though the Baker man who’s awaiting my more difficult questions in a nice cosy interview room says Miss Denton (whoever she might be) gave him instructions about what to put on the bonfire not so long ago. And that bonfire was illegal, being where it was in a protected area.”

How is it possible for two women to live where they do and not be on any records?” asked Bob Short, frowning.

That’s easy,” replied Rosie, “changing their names and not telling anyone. Pinching a name from a cemetery gravestone. It’s been done, probably more often in fiction than in real life, but it has been done.”

That’s macabre,” he grunted, “but two women?”

I know, and it needs looking into. I want to get an order from a magistrate to gain entrance into that cottage. I’m concerned that there are children unaccounted for. Kids who may be in danger.”

Ma’am,” said the young female officer, looking up from her computer monitor, “there’s a suggestion that there were people living in that place in the forties. Records back then were vague, for obvious reasons, and it’s not much more than a whisper… and they couldn’t be the same people because the women of today weren’t even twinkles in their father’s eyes back then.”

Keep looking, Monica,” encouraged Rosie.

Ma’am,” she grunted in reply, grinning at what she perceived as faint praise.

Right, I’m off to get that order and we’ll try and get along before dusk. It’s going to be a long day, Constable, but you’ll come with me, and a back-up team of uniforms. We’ll take that derelict place to pieces if we need, to, but we’ll find out what’s behind all this because the dead woman lived there and it’s all got to be tied in together.”

A thought, ma’am. The Butcher guy, the one who first notified us, he ought to be checked out too.”

Yes. Get on with it will you, Monica? He’s coming along to make a statement at six,” she reminded herself, “I’ll get back with my order before then. We’ll see what he’s got to say, particularly about what Baker said. You have a word with Baker now, Constable, take Richard Strauss with you, he seems an intelligent type, and push about what he saw Butcher doing this morning with the deceased woman.”

It’s like going shopping for my ma,” grinned Bob, “Butchers and Bakers … I’m waiting for a candlestick maker to put in an appearance!”

Just hope one doesn’t,” grinned Rosie, “things are looking complicated enough already. Off you and Constable Strauss go, then, and push that Baker bloke as hard as you can. Ih he needs a brief the duty solicitor will do.”

Yes, ma’am,” he replied, and he and the young uniformed constable made their way to the interview room.

Well then,” he said to a pale looking Ted Baker, “that bonfire. What was it all about?”

Miss Denton said,” he replied, “Miss Denton said as I was to burn the rubbish. That old mattress and some bags and boxes of stuff. She said as it was time for her to have a clear out.”

And where was the rubbish?” he asked.

Up in a spare room. Where the old folks used to sleep, I reckon.”

Old folks? What old folks?”

Years back, they were, after the war.”

The war? What war?” Bob was puzzled and couldn’t understand why he was suddenly being faced with possible inhabitants of the cottage from above seventy years ago.

Hitler’s war, it was, when the old folks came...”

I still don’t know who the old folks you’re talking about were. Who were they and where did they come from?”

Ted Baxter looked confused. “I dunno,” he muttered, “I jus’ know as they lived in that room in the olden days. Two of ‘em, and a kid. And the kid grew up, a girl it was, pretty as a picture considering, they said...”

Considering what, Mr Baker?” asked the young uniformed constablewho had been digging into whatever was available online. Rosie had completely failed to find anything, but he was more adept at finding his way where she failed to tread, and there had been shadows, hints that people may or may not have lived, strangers from a far land.

Considering. That’s all they ever said, “Considering.”

Considering they were Jewish people fleeing from persecution?” asked Constable Strauss, “fleeing during that war from Germany?”


This is no time for maybe’s or could’ve beens!” snapped Bob Short, frowning. “This is a murder investigation, and unless you feel like spending the rest of your days behind bars for murder, you’d best be dead straight with your answers!”

I weren’t there!” wailed Ted Baker, “I weren’t born back then! How old do you think I am? It’s just stuff as I’ve picked up, bit by bit, and there’s no promise that it’s even true! It’s just the pickings of words I heard when I were working an’ bored.”

So did these pickings of words, as you call them, involve foreigners settling down in Swanspottle woods? Did they suggest where the foreigners might have come from? Did they mention how long they were here?”

Ted Baker glared at him, confused. He might have been a useful odd-job man but he was no great genius, not by any stretch of the imagination.

I dunno,” he almost wept, and Bob was even beginning to feel the odd twinge of sympathy for a man who was clearly completely out of his depth.

Just tell us what you do know,” he asked more gently.

There was the old folks, the foreigner folk. Then there was the young woman, and she lived there until she grew big with bairns. It was she who had twins. Forty years or more ago she had two lasses, and they grew up to be the Denton Misses.”

Forty years ago? What about the two kids we saw this morning down Swanspottle Bottoms?” asked Bob, “they looked like twins to me. Who and where are they?”

Ted grinned suddenly. Here was something he could answer honestly and truthfully.

They ain’t twins,” he said, “them’s Ernie and Alice, and Miss Phoebe Denton is Ernie’s ma and Miss Beverly Denton is Alice’s ma!”

Bob whistled. “So they’re cousins,” he said.

They’s cousins. And me, you’ll like this, copper, me, I’m their dad!” grinned Ted Baker, “both of ‘em!”

© Peter Rogerson, 31.03.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 31, 2020
Last Updated on March 31, 2020
Tags: Mr Baker, cottage, unknown persons, German refugees 1940s


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..