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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Ma’am,” said Bob Short, “I thought they must have told you. The woman got hysterical in the night, really mad, and the night sergeant decided to release her pending a medical check up because he was afraid she might do real harm to herself. He thought she might cause some injury if he didn’t, and then he’d be held to account. She was brought home by an officer so there was no chance of her absconding.”

Most unusual,” growled Rosie. She’d never heard of such a thing and didn’t approve of it, but she did know the kind of trouble that would land at a police officer’s door if a prisoner died in custody.

Anyway, she’s still around and it hasn’t cost us the price of her breakfast,” joked Constable Short.

And it gave her plenty of time to pile all those branches and twigs up on the lane,” muttered Rosie, and she turned towards Beverley Denton. “I’m afraid I’m going to have take you back to the station,” she said in the sharpest voice she could muster, “for a start, there’s a body to be identified and it seems you’re the only person in the Universe who can do that. No, scratch that, instead I’m going to phone for a car to take you and bring you back, and I’ll let Dr Greaves know you’re on your way. And when you get to look upon your twin sister I want you to make absolutely sure that you know it’s her. No stupid games, no pretence, no lies, just a statement of fact that the body you’ll be looking on is or is not her.”

You seem like a nice woman, so what are you doing, being one of those,” muttered Beverley Denton.

We must discuss this indoors, and we have quite a lot to discuss before you go off to see your sister again,” said Rosie, and the woman nodded, then turned round.

If you must,” she muttered, and led the way into the very dated front room of the cottage.

What do you mean, one of those?” asked Rosie.

Gestapo. Bullies. I’ve read about you and your ways, killing folks, sending them to the camps… I know all about you.”

There haven’t been any Gestapo for above seventy years, and you must be aware of that, an erudite woman like yourself,” snapped Rosie, “and my constable and I find it quite offensive that you should refer to us in such tones!”

Granny educated us, and she was always right...” But her voice trailed away as if she was troubled by uncertainty.

Then if she was always that right, why did one of you kill her?” asked Rosie, firmly, “why did you find it necessary to end her life in the way you did.”

She’s been dead above thirty years! I was only a kiddy when she passed on! And I couldn’t have hurt her even if I’d wanted to. Neither could Phoebe. How old do you think I am?”

You were probably a teenager. You could have done the deed.”

Well I didn’t and you can’t prove that I did! And neither did my sister. We were together when she died.”

Rosie leapt on that last phrase. “So you remember it happening? Your granny getting clobbered over the head?”

The woman sank onto the easy chair that didn’t seem to have anything like a spring sticking through the seat.

I’ll tell you if you don’t blame me,” she mumbled.

The truth is all I want, and if the truth blames you, so be it,” said Rosie firmly.

All right then. It was winter. A very snowy winter and she was outside chopping the wood for the fire. We have to do that, you know, chop wood for the fire. And she slipped on thick ice, and got into a tangle with the axe and ended up banging herself on the head. We were proper scared, my sister and me. There was blood everywhere. Phoebe and I tried to stop it, but we knew straight away she was dead. I knew it because she’d taught us that people die. She taught us everything, reading, writing, numbers... Phoebe tried to dig a hole in the ground, to bury her body because we knew that’s what you should do with dead people, bury them, but the ground was solid, with ice.”

Rosie looked at the constable, then nodded. “We rather thought something like that had happened,” she said, “but tell me: why did you want to burn her?”

When we couldn’t dig a hole however hard we tried, and we did try, I got blisters, we put her into a bag. We put her into a large bag, one that had been wrapped round the new mattress. We struggled and got her into that sack and put it in the same room as the rest of the stuff that nobody wanted, and I suppose we forgot about her, with an old mattress on top of her, and other stuff. Then when you lot came round I remembered and knew that if you searched like Gestapo do she’d be found and we’d end up in a camp, and killed. We’d be gassed. So we asked Ted to burn the rubbish.”

And he didn’t know that your grandmother was in one of the bags?”

How could he? We didn’t know him back then, when we put her in it.”

There was the sound of a vehicle outside and Rosie looked out of the door.

They’re here to take you to the station in order to identify your sister,” she said, “and if it helps, I believe what you told me about the body of your granny. Where were your parents when that happened, by the way?”

Gone back to the homeland,” muttered Beverley, “they’re coming back for us when they find our home.”

When did they go?” asked Bob.

Before Granny died,” sighed the woman sadly, “but not long before that.”

That’s thirty years or more! We’re going to have to talk more,” Rosie told her, gently, “when you get back. Before then we’ve got things to do and places to look. You go and say goodbye to Phoebe, and when you get back you can show us how to make a cup of tea in your kitchen.”

The woman, accompanied by two officers, left the cottage slowly.

That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” murmured Constable Short, “two girls, probably only just in their teens, having to dispose of an old woman’s body, and all the while waiting for the return of parents who probably never intended to come back.”

They might have,” Rosie said quietly, “or think of it, they were probably born here and if their knowledge of this country is as limited as the Denton twins seemed to be, then it’s almost certain that, having made their way, somehow, onto the continent, and that would have been a proper challenge with no papers, no passport, no identity, they might never have been able to come back again, and if they came back across the channel, how would they find an obscure unmapped place like Witch Cottage buried in an ancient patch of woodland? It was probably only discovered by accident in the first place. They might still be looking!”

It’s quite a story,” muttered Bob quietly, “the like of which I wouldn’t believe if I wasn’t standing here, right now!”

So let’s find that caravan and the children, that’s my priority,” instructed Rosie, shaking her head to dislodge sombre images and return to the present, “And I guess it’s this way, somewhere lost in that thicket!”

I hope so,” mumbled Bob as they struggled towards a wall of intertwining green, looking for a hidden way in.

© Peter Rogerson 06.04.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 6, 2020
Last Updated on April 6, 2020
Tags: Beverley Denton, grandmother, accidental death, parents


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..