14. What a to-do.

14. What a to-do.

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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TALES FROM THE BOOKSHOP (14)

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Jennifer wasn’t quite sure why she’d been carted off to the local police station and put into an interview room with a bored looking uniformed officer watching her as if it was expected she might do something drastic and against the rules, not that she had any accurate knowledge as to what those rules might be. But she was apparently waiting for someone to interview her even though she’d made it quite plain that she knew nothing about what poor Mr Archer had done after she’d been asked to leave his flat by him. And the very idea that he might have been remotely suicidal came as much of a shock to her as the notion that someone had heaved him out of his window.

The door opened and the crimson slash that marked Detective Inspector Joy Delerium’s face made its gloating way in, and from the way she strutted it was quite clear to Jennifer that she had something on her mind. There was a cocky confidence about her as she sat in a chair opposite to where her victim had been placed, a chair that creaked in the kind of way that suggested it could well be on its last legs.

D.I Delerium tried to smile with a gentle softness that was intended to suggest that she and Jennifer were really on the same side and that there couldn’t possibly be any conflict between them, but she wasn’t any good at smiling. Her lipstick saw to that because it portrayed her mouth as a vicious slash that divided her face into two equally unpleasant parts. Joy had never been attractive and gave the impression of being a woman who accepted that her role in life involved being ugly and that she used lipstick as a means of underlining that aim.

Well, Miss Dewberry,” she began, “tell me about the late Mr Archer...” Her voice trailed off as if she was inviting Jennifer to use her few words as a kind of introduction to a long spiel in which the personality of a deceased neighbour was to be carefully analysed.

I hardly know the man,” she replied, then smiled, “I mean knew,” she corrected herself. She had yet to come to terms with his new place in the scheme of things as neighbour who had converted himself into a dead man.

Tell me about his late wife?” suggested the D,I, fishing, no doubt, for a way into a more serious and relevant conversation.

Jennifer thought for a moment because, truth to tell, she hadn’t known the woman “What? His Peggy?” she asked slowly, then, “she passed away a decade ago and I doubt I’ve lived at Newholme that long myself,” she said, “and for most of the first few years I was there I spent a considerable amount of time with a gentleman friend, usually at his place. So no, I never met Peggy.”

So how do you know her name was Peggy?” That, thought the D.I., was the killer question. The woman across from her would be bound to give herself away when trying to lie about knowing the name of someone she’d allegedly never met, wouldn’t she?

Why, the silly man was always on about her! It was Peggy this and Peggy that as if even from the grave she was ruling his life, and, as I said, she’d been in that grave for a good ten years, or so he said.”

Oh. Maybe it could be said that you resented her? Wanting to form a relationship with a man who insisted on calling you Peggy?

What? With her being dead? What’s to resent about a person being dead?”

The fact that he still thought about her to, it seems, the exclusion of all others?”

Hardly! I never wanted to control him the way she had. Did you know they were married for ages and never shared the same bed? It was a bit on the odd side, if you ask me. He even said that on their honeymoon they had separate rooms! Can you imagine that for a honeymoon! I mean, what could they get up to in separate rooms?

I’m asking the questions if your don’t mind!”

Ah,” murmured Jennifer, “then go ahead, but it’s always best if you ask me things I can answer and not stuff that’s got no bearing on the real world.”

The D.I sniffed. Then what sort of man was Mr Archer?she asked.

A stranger, just about: yes, that’s it: we were strangers who occasionally passed each other on the stairs.”

But without his trousers?”

Not on the stairs! That would be too daft to laugh at!”

Impasse. No way in for the D.I. yet if the woman was right about them being strangers.

Yet you shoved him out of the window? Why was that, I wonder?”

I can think of one or two reasons why I might want to push a person out of a window, but not someone I knew so little about as Mr Archer. You see, as I said, in truth I hardly knew him, though I am sorry he’s dead.”

And his trousers?”

What about them?”

He wasn’t wearing them. Why would any man want to jump, unaided, to his death and not be wearing his trousers?”

Why would any man want to jump to his death with or without his trousers?” asked Jennifer, not at all certain where the D.I. was going with her line of questioning.

I’m asking the questions, if you don’t mind!” snapped the frustrated officer who couldn’t make much sense of a situation she had instinctively decided was cold-blooded murder. The trouble with her instincts, though, and she was well aware of this, they often tended to lead her to jump to unfounded conclusions.

Go on, then,” invited Jennifer.

Tell me,” asked Joy Delerium, trying to infuse her voice with a confidentiality that was alien to her, “about your personal life with Mr Archer. I mean, he was quite the attractive gentleman and you must have, you know what…?”

I know what?”

Personal intimacy.”

Never!” responded Jennifer with a determination she hoped would draw a line under any suggestion that she and the late lamented had enjoyed more than the odd cup of coffee together.

But his trousers!” snapped a frustrated D.I., “he wasn’t wearing his trousers! He must have taken them off.”

That’s all he ever seemed to do, take his trousers off, usually because he wanted the waist taken in,” replied Jennifer with assumed weariness infusing her voice.

There was a knock at the door and P.C. Humphrey Truman put his head in and, in a whisper bordering on a shout, hissed “we’ve found his note!”

What note?” barked the D.I., dreading what she was sure he was going to say.

His suicide farewell,” murmured the constable, consulting his notebook, “says he can’t carry on any more with his foul and distorted body … his words … and that maybe sweet Jennifer would learn to remember the happy times they had together, when he made her that cup of coffee.”

How sweet of him,” sighed Jennifer.

Is that it?” croaked the D.I.

No,” continued Humphrey, consulting his note book. “There’s a bit about meeting up with Peggy again after all these years and hoping she’d understand that he’d never been unfaithful,” replied Truman, smirking.

Get rid of this woman!” almost shrieked Detective Inspector Joy Delerium, leaping to her feet so that her chair collapsed under her, “no more questions!” and she stormed out of the room as if being drawn by a huge and powerful vacuum pump.

Humphrey Truman looked at Jennifer with a lop-sided grin making him look almost handsome. “Come on, duckie,” he said, smirking, “we all knew she had it wrong. She always does, bless her! Where to?”

Take me to the book shop,” replied Jennifer Dewberry, smiling, “I’ve an awful lot to tell Mrs Bookworm and I know she’ll be fascinated! What a to-do! I mean, what a to-do!”

© Peter Rogerson, 06.07.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on July 6, 2020
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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 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..

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