A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



The caravan, when they found it, which was after a considerable amount of poking through a thicket until they stumbled on traces of where people had gone before them, was dirty, had soiled curtains across all of its windows, curtains drawn so tightly that there was no chance of anyone seeing in.

They paused by its grubby door, which was smeared with dust and dirt and finger marks, because they heard the murmur of quiet voices from within.

Bob Short was about to knock on the door when they were disturbed by rustling behind them, and Ted Baker stumbled out of the gloomy thicket. It was early morning still, but he had clearly been drinking.

Wha’ you doin’ here?” he slurred, “this is no place for coppers, this is my ‘ome.”

A bit early to be in the state you’re in, sir,” said Bob Short, frowning.

She ‘ad me up ‘alf the night blockin’ the drive,” he replied, “it gave me a thirst. So wha’ ‘re you doin’ ‘ere?”

We’ve come for the kids,” said Rosie firmly. “Firstly, they’re witnesses in a murder enquiry and secondly they need to have proper care taken of them, and dossing in a filthy caravan is not my idea of proper care when they should be at school.”

They don’ go t’ school,” slobbered their self-proclaimed father, “they do ‘ome schoolin’.”

From you?” asked Bob.

From Miss Denton,” growled Ted. “She writes stuff, she does, so she’s clever. Now ged outta my way, I wanna kip!”

And he tried to force his way past them to the caravan door. Those inside must have heard the kerfuffle because as he got to it the door swung open and knocked him off his feet, and he was in no condition to keep his balance and ended up sprawling on the ground.

Ernie and Alice, the children, stood there. They had discarded the strange school clothing they had been wearing the previous day and were just wearing pyjamas.

This is home schooling, is it?” asked Rosie, and she looked severely at the two gawping at her from inside the caravan.

Like a switch had been thrown, the two became silent, yet she had clearly heard their voices from inside the caravan before Ted Baker had turned up in his drunken state.

It’s no good,” Rosie said to them, “pretending that you can’t speak. You are coming with us, no ifs or but if you care to vocalise them or need them coaxing out of you, we’re going to get proper statements from you at the station. Now the pair of you, you can come dressed like you are or you can put proper day clothes on, but you’re coming!”

Miss Denton wants ‘em...” put in the still prostrate Ted, “she’s goin t’ edicate ‘em. That’s what she’s goin t’ do. Edicate ‘em.”

I’m afraid that Miss Beverley Denton is at the police station having a meeting with the late Miss Phoebe Denton,” put in Bob, “and she’ll probably be there for a day or two, until this mess you’ve got yourself involved in is sorted out.”

Just you come with us,” instructed Rosie, “and get on your feet! You’re coming too! Now you two get dressed!” Had her own twins heard that order in that tone of voice they would have leapt to obedience, and so, in a more lethargic fashion, did the Denton two. They both pulled outer clothes over their pyjamas, which didn’t matter so much as the weather had turned slightly cooler over night.

Then, escorted by Detective Constable Short and Detective Inspector Baur they were taken back to the tumbledown cottage, to wait for the return of Beverley Denton and her police escort.

It was almost an hour later that the entire group from Witch Cottage were back in the police station, Beverley squawking again about cruel Gestapo tactics and the two cousins as mute as ever. Rosie thought that it was most unnatural, children of that age resolutely failing to say anything. Her experiences had led her to expect exactly the opposite.

She decided to start the series of interviews she intended to conduct with the two youngsters and then move on to the adults, and as the law demanded that an appropriate adult would be needed to ensure that all was fair and because Beverley Denton claimed to be the mother of one of them, she thought it might be interesting if she was that appropriate adult. After all, thought Rosie, she was obviously literate and spent a great deal of her time writing her rather scant knowledge of her family history. Whilst waiting for the woman to be returned she’d taken an opportunity to read several typed pages and considered it to be a confusing mixture of fantasy and history.

I want you to be present when I interview the two children,” she said, “and if that works out it’ll be easier for everyone. After all, I’m sure you’d be happier being there rather than being obliged to know that they’re being interviewed in the presence of a stranger.”

Harrumph,” grunted Miss Denton, and Rosie chose to interpret that as acceptance.

It was the oddest interview Rosie had ever conducted, yet possibly the most productive as it had started at such a low base level, with two mute teenagers.

Well, Alice,” she said, facing the girl, “let’s start by establishing exactly who you are by you telling us your full name.”


And you, Ernie? Is Ernie your full Christian name?”


Then we might have to do it the hard way,” she sighed.

Further silence.

Rosie looked back at the girl. “I’ve got you down as Alice Denton, but your father is apparently Mr Baker, so in the real world rather than the pretend one you live in you should be known as Alice Baker.”

Silence, but with an awkward flicker of the eyes.

And your father seems vague about your age. Not much of a father eh? Who doesn’t know the age of his own children even though they seem to live with him in his, er, caravan.”

Don’t!” squawked Beverley, “he’s a good man and not Gestapo fodder!”

Rosie had heard enough references to Gestapo tactics, so she turned to face the woman, who was sitting diagonally opposite her, the two children facing her.

Once and for all, Miss Denton,” she said, “there never has been a force resembling the German Gestapo in this country. You must be aware of that if you are writing an accurate history. We are not here to do anything but determine what the truth is and whether any laws have been broken. By truth I mean an exact account of events that really happened with no fictitious flippery added. And as I see it there appears to be quite a lot wrong with your situation. To start with, it would appear that you don’t exist so far as official records are concerned, yet there you are, large as life, sitting in that chair, and making free with offensive references to a past and very discredited force in another country.”

Don’t exist?” blurted out the boy, “Gestapo?”

Well, you’ve got a very pleasing voice, Ernie,” smiled Rosie, “you need to use it more often.”

Shut up, Ern, we’ve been told about the tricks they use to get us to confess,” snapped his cousin, Alice, “they do exist. Our mothers taught us that!”

Beverley suddenly beamed with pride. To her it was a positive thing that lessons taught the two youngsters had been learned in much the same way as she had learned them from her own parents and grandparents. It was how truths passed on from generation to generation without being soiled by the falsehoods in a rotten world.

You go out and about,” suggested Rosie to the two youngsters, “you were seen, trying to look as though you were going to school when that was the last thing on your minds. Where did you see these dreadful Gestapo, then? And how did they hurt you?”

Police,” snapped Alice, “they’re called police!”

That’s me and the constable here, then,” sighed Rosie, “and all we really want to be is helpful. Round up bad people, and help the good ones. Which kind are you?”

That’s enough!” snapped Beverley Denton, “these children know right from wrong! They know good from bad, and they know they’re not bad!”

I didn’t suggest that they were,” said Rosie calmly, “in fact, I’m certain they’re not bad at all. But it seems to me that it’s in your own interests to make them think there’s a non-existing danger in the world and that they should hide away from it. Maybe that’s what your own parents have done, eh? You told me they went away, to return to their homeland. Maybe they got back there and found that all the bad things have gone away, and now they’re getting to be old themselves and have got to see reality for what it is, have settled down to a life of love and harmony, and never will return to the nightmare that was Witch Cottage in the ancient woods of Swanspottle!”

Now what would that mean to you? And your manuscript, writing about nobody. It would turn fact into fiction and vice versa, wouldn’t it?”

© Peter Rogerson. 07.04.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 7, 2020
Last Updated on April 7, 2020
Tags: interview fact, fiction, belief, brain-washing


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..