A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



You know my avian friend, the next day was the start of what has possibly been the very worst few days of my life,” murmured Annie, shaking her head, and the thrush, now safely perched on the topmost pole of a fence that she could just about see if she strained her neck, not easy to do when you’re on the brink of being one hundred and two, shook his too. She was sure he understood.

Memories had become difficult because it had been an arduous time. Scary, actually. There were always tales of misunderstandings that had disastrous outcomes. Innocents, maybe, taken to the gallows and hanged...

The thrush chirruped sympathetically, a cheeky, cheery little chirrup that cheered her up and made her smile.

You’ll never understand how I felt,” she sighed, “and I haven’t forgotten. Not for one moment has the memory left me in peace, yet I have learned to live with it… You have to, don’t you? You had to live on after losing that egg from your nest last year, didn’t you? I saw it, smashed on the grass with a tiny skeleton smeared on its broken shell. I could get out then, but I can’t any more. I’m a prisoner in my own home...”

Her mind drifted back to that dreadful day. That worst kind of day. That day she would love to forget, but couldn’t.

There was a knock on the door, the same door but many years before someone had the bell push fitted. It was an important, stentorian sort of knock. Mother hadn’t long taken herself off to the kitchens of the big house and she herself was wearing anything but that pink dress because it left her feeling bad. She was still confused, though she guessed that Gertrude had seen something in her husband’s eyes, something that she didn’t like and wanted to evict from her life. So she was wearing an older dress, one too small for her if the truth was told, but the last thing she wanted to do was feel any worse than she had to, and that pink dress and the memories trapped in it would certainly do that.

So she opened the door even though she didn’t like stentorian knocks.

She’d never seen such a big policeman, He was tall and bursting out of his uniform trousers, he had the kind of moustache that policemen used to have, all bushy and almost completely concealing his lips, which Annie felt must be harsh and even cruel if she’d been able to see them. Even though he was almost obeying the rules about social distance, six or so feet between him and his victim, he was a giant.

Miss Annie Stoker?” he asked. That had been her name before she got married. “Miss Annie Stoker, maid at Captain Davidson’s house?”

I was,” she said, defensively. Why should a policeman call on her like this? After all, she’d done nothing to warrant the attention of a policeman, had she? The law didn’t leap on a girl just because she’d been dismissed from a menial job, did it?

What do you mean, you was?” he asked brusquely, “you mean you aren’t now? Is that why you’re here and not there?”

That question all but tied her mind in knots. But anyway, what did it have to do with any policeman?

Can I come in?” he asked, “or will you come with me, to the Station?”

What for?” she asked, “I ain’t done nowt!” I sounded like one of the urchins from the bad end of the village, those that talk in slang and look mucky, she thought, saying it like that!

Let me see,” he growled. “Let’s get things in order. I like things to be in order. Firstly, you’re employed at Captain Davidson’s establishment, mostly to polish their silver, so you know all about where it might be found. Secondly, you were dismissed by Mrs Davidson yesterday for trying to entice her poor husband with your body, and he being a cripple; thirdly the silver you polish has mostly disappeared and fourthly Mrs Davidson has been done in. Killed. Murdered. Now what does that sound like to you?”

Annie gasped. She had to. The news was terrible. “Gertrude is dead?” she asked, “really dead?”

Don’t look so surprised, young lady, because it’s everyone’s opinion that it was you as done her in! The odds are it was you as was loading her precious shiny stuff into a swag bag, and she caught you at it. Maybe you made too much noise and she went to investigate on account of the fact that her husband couldn’t. He’s got a bad leg and can’t manage stairs so easily...”

His studio is at the top of the longest staircase I’ve ever seen!” she almost exploded, “and he’s up and down that more times than enough! Of course he can manage stairs!”

Anyway, that’s besides the point. It was his good lady as went to see what was going on, what with her silver being rattled in a swag bag, and when you knew you’d been rumbled by her, you knifed her! That’s what you did. Stuck her good and proper, in the heart they reckon. Used one of her own shiny silver knives too, which shows a distinct lack of planning, not takin’ your own to do the dirty deed with, but what are you, an uppity miss with her eye on the easy chance like youngsters are these days!”

The memory faded for a moment and she jerked in her chair as the thrush returned.

Mister thrush, darling,” she whispered from her easy chair, “he believed that! The stupid policeman! He really thought that I, a girl still short of twenty by more than a couple of years, had robbed and killed the Davidson woman, who I liked even though she’d turned against me like she did.”

And Mr Thrush cocked his head on one side as if to say life’s like that, old lady, most unfair. There’s a cat in the next house, blind in one eye, it is, and yet it still manages to sneak up on me so that I barely get away, and if it was less blind and a bit younger I probably wouldn’t. I might not even be here talking to you and listening to your tale of woe if that cat had its way! So carry on while we’re conversing and say what happened next, I wasn’t around back then, being a mite younger than you

Mother came home just as the policeman was actually putting me in handcuffs,” explained Annie to the nodding thrush.

What’s going on here?” shrieked Annie’s mother, “what you doing to my lass, damn you?”

Now I’d advise you to mind your language or you’ll be joining her,” growled the policeman, “and if you’re joining her I expect it to be when she’s on the scaffold with the rope round her neck!”

I ain’t done anything, mum!” wept Annie, now that the word rope had pushed the danger she was in home to her, “I wouldn’t do anything like that, not in a million years!”

That she would not!” snapped Mrs Stoker, suddenly rising like a peahen when her chicks are being threatened, “She’s a perfect angel, is my Annie, and I should know it! I’ve never heard such nonsense in all my life! And when was she supposed to have done this, pray? Because I can tell you here and now that she’s been here, under my nose until I went off to the big house this morning, so put that in your pipe and smoke it you bloomin’ daft copper!”

Annie had never seen her mother so animated. For once she was grateful that the older woman had developed a sharp tongue over the years.

But the policeman looked at her distastefully.

But you would say that, wouldn’t you?” he asked, “being a mother and all. You’d tell as many lies as it takes to keep your daughter out of the hands of the hangman!”

And he grabbed hold of Annie by one shoulder with vice-like fingers and pulled her. “Come on then, lass, or I’ll have to drag you!” he said.

The thrush banged the window lightly and tapped its beak on the stone of the window sill.

And the neighbours were watching, all of them, all leering, all knowing more than was real,” she muttered to the deaf window. “There was me, being dragged away by a revolting fat policeman, and, you know, he stank of his pipe and old socks! That’s what he stank of! His pipe and old socks!”

The thrush nodded again. It knew all about smells like pipes and old socks.

© Peter Rogerson

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 10, 2020
Last Updated on May 10, 2020


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..

3. Exodus 3. Exodus

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson