A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



What do you think, Bob?” asked Rosie quietly after they sent Aaron Butcher home.

I don’t think he had anything to do with it,” confessed Constable Short, “he made whoopie with her all right, probably did it as a regular thing, but I doubt he had it in him to kill her, not straight after what they’d been doing. He probably wouldn’t know much about syringes either.”

He’s been done in the past for possession,” reminded Rosie, “but I agree with you: he wouldn’t know one end of a syringe from the other and anyway he had absolutely no motive as far as I can see.”

That’s the trouble. I don’t see anyone with a motive for killing an unknown woman, someone so invisible that she’s on no records anywhere, unless there’s something devious afoot, like spooks or the like,” muttered Bob, creating a conspiracy theory inside his own head.

Rosie shook her head. “No, it’s a great deal closer to Swanspottle than Porton Down,” she replied, “from what I can make out, and I may well be wrong here, but some time in the nineteen forties a small group of two or maybe three Jews escaped the Nazi persecution that has been well documented, and arrived, probably on a small boat, somewhere on the British coast. Then slowly, probably at night and probably as invisibly as they could, they wandered along unlit roads and across a land that had war-blackout until they found somewhere that nobody wanted: a semi-derelict cottage in a patch of woodland where people feared to tread because of superstition of witches and witchcraft.”

And they’re still there?” asked Bob Short.

It could be. But remember, it’s only guesswork. Now, lad, I suggest we call it a day. I’ve got twins to feed and you must be getting peckish.”

He grinned at her, “tired, more like,” he said, “and I could well spend an hour poking among some of my dad’s other books. He’s always had a thing about local history, and who knows? He might have something that will help us piece together the story of Witch Cottage in his collection of tittle-tattle.”

Enjoy, then, Bob,” she said, “and be back bright and early tomorrow. I want to keep the two murders, the old one and the new one, if murder it was, and not see another team take over one of them because some out-of-touch senior officer thinks they’re unrelated.”

Will do, boss?” he grinned.

And I’m not boss. I’m Rosie!” she retorted, and gathered her things ready to go home.

The twins, Jack and Jill, would have been home for at least two hours. She, being a working single mother, tried to make arrangements that fitted into the school day but when something like a murder cropped up, that had to take precedence even over feeding the twins. But then, Jack and Jill were in their teens and quite capable of looking after themselves. So when she arrived home it was with no surprise at all that she found dirty plates in the kitchen and screwed up paper in which fish and chips had been wrapped half out of the bin.

You’re late, mum,” murmured Jill, looking up from her French text book and smiling.

A murder,” explained Rosie, “and where are my chips?”

In the air fryer thing,” contributed Jack, who was deeply engrossed in something totally unsuitable on the television, but as it was on a channel that was supposed to be for children Rosie ignored the image of a naked woman and assumed there was some solid educational reason behind it.

What’s the fish?” she asked.

Mini haddock. You only left a tenner in the cup,” Jack told her.

I remember when fish and chips was a cheap meal,” she complained, “and a tenner would have fed a family of six for a month!”

And I remember when pigs could fly,” grinned Jill.

Cheeky! I’m going to enjoy this tiny haddock and half dozen chips, and then I’ll take a shower and get the blood and gore and bits of bony gristle off my skin,” she said.

Is it that sort of murder, mum?” asked Jack, “the sort you can have real fun solving?”

Not quite. There’s no actual blood and just a tiny prick in the woman’s neck,” she told him, and he deliberately misinterpreted her and cackled.

The trouble with you, young Jack, is you’ve got a grubby little mind,” she said.

He catches it off his mother,” put in Jill, “and I left some coffee in the machine for you because I knew you’d be short of caffeine if the only coffee you have is the muck they sell in your canteen.”

Now that’s what I call an angelic daughter,” she smiled, and sat down to enjoy her fish and chips and well infused coffee.

So it’s a poisoning,” said Jack, “and we all know what that means, don’t we, children?”

We do?” asked Rosie, frowning.

You taught us, mother dear,” said Jill, “poisoning is a woman’s crime. Men don’t go around poisoning those they despise, but women do. Men use more brutal things like knives and guns, women are subtle and use poison.”

You remember well,” sighed Rosie, “better than me, I’m afraid. I hadn’t thought of that angle. If it was a woman it must have been the victim herself because there were no other women around!”

Ah, but women can be tricksy,” said Jill, making her voice go all mysterious and dark, “a dedicated murderess could well dress up as a man to put you off the scent!”

And anyway, where would a woman get her poison from?” asked Rosie, “you can’t just go to any old shop and get a syringe full of deadly poison, and keep the change, thank you very much!”

But where would a man get the gun?” asked Jack, “and enough bullets to fill his victim full of lead?”

Anyway, where did all this happen?” asked Jill, “because the site of the murder might tell you more than you think it would.”

You’re getting too clever for your own good,” Rosie told her, “but it was down the Bottoms if you must know, you know, where that stream runs, next to the old woodland.”

The mysterious witchy woods,” said a sombre-voiced Jack, “where evil lurks and old women with warts cast all sorts of atrociously delicious spells...”

They’re not evil, silly,” laughed Jill, “they’re Germans. Refugees from the war, whenever that was.”

Who told you that?” asked Rosie, surprised that her teenage daughter was in possession of information that she herself had only picked up that day.

The woman did, mum, when I was down there with Judy yonks ago. She was washing her hair in the water of the stream, said it was the best beauty treatment available anywhere, and then swore us to secrecy when she explained that years and years ago her family had sneaked into the country as refugees.”

She told you that much, did she?”

She also said they had a caravan as a refuge in the woods. An old one, but clean, she said. I think she’d been drinking,” grinned Jill, “because she had a bottle with her and her breath smelt absolutely horrible, like old men smell when they stagger out of the pub.”

Or how coppers smell when they sneak out of the Copper’s Nark,” added Jack.

So what you’re looking for,” said Jill, “is a jealous woman whose husband enjoys a noggin in the Nark.”

I’ll remember that,” murmured Rosie, “now let me do some thinking while you finish your homework.”

Or watch naked ladies on the tele,” laughed Jack, who was by then deeply involved in a vigorous and violent game on his tablet.

© Peter Rogerson, 04.04.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 4, 2020
Last Updated on April 4, 2020
Tags: twins, teenagers, information, ww 2 refugees


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..