6. Betsy Bullard's Last Gasp

6. Betsy Bullard's Last Gasp

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Betsy Bullard had run the shop on the corner of the street where she lived since she had married, in her early twenties. Her husband drove a white van for a living, mostly self-employed though he did some contract work as Christmas approached. He would never have admitted it over a pint at the pub, but his own casual approach to paid employment meant he did more child minding than did most men, though as an approach to his own particular life this fitted in beautifully. Deep down he was a loving family man and work came second to that.

When the shop owner retired (aged seventy-something and becoming feeble) Betsy took over and managed the business and the old lady who owned it went to live in a seaside retirement home and left all commercial decisions up to her. That was years ago, and eventually Betsy came to own the shop in its entirety when the old lady passed away. She had been unmarried and childless and her one bequest was the shop, to Betsy.

But all that was in the past. Eventually Betsy herself retired and the shop was sold on to a young couple who had big ideas for it and Betsy and her husband, still as much in love with each other as they’d been the day they first met in the shining years after school when she had worn very full skirts that excited him when she spun in rock ‘n’ roll dances at the town hop, and gave the world a glimpse of her choice of underwear.

But these days they were less mobile and had their own easy chairs facing the large television, which was their one concession to modernity. And that’s where they sat one morning, coffee cups near at hand and the huge television set not yet switched on.

There’s someone at the door,” he said, stating the obvious because their doorbell was loud enough to be heard in every room, even the topmost tiny boxroom under the eves.

I’ll go then, shall I?” she asked.

Would you mind. I’ve got a bone in my leg,” he replied with a grin, so she detached herself from her easy chair and, boxed his ears lightly as she walked past him murmuring that he’d even be too lazy for his coffin when the grim reaper calls, and went to see who was calling.

Who is it?” he called, when she’d been gone several minutes and he’d heard nothing.

There was no reply, and after a few more minutes he became worried enough to go and see what was keeping her, and when he got to the door it was to see the woman he loved lying in a spreading pool of her own blood and barely alive.

Darling!” he shouted, “What’s happened?”

It was obvious what had happened because a small kitchen knife was still protruding from her chest, in the vicinity of where a life of experience had taught him that her heart might be, and there was no sign of any caller.

He couldn’t help the tears that flowed as he stared at her.

Len…” came weakly from her mouth, “help, me, Len…”

Who did this to you?” he asked as he cradled her head in his arms and kissed her forehead, “for Christ’s sake who did this? I’ll kill the b*****d!”

...Car…” she managed to force between bloodied lips, and to make absolutely certain he knew what she was saying, she repeated it.

I’ll phone for an ambulance, old girl,” he said, still weeping, “hold on, darling, just you hold on for me…”

She died there and then as he shouted his address down the telephone, weeping and sobbing and virtually inaudible. And when he’d made the emergency phone receptionist understand, he returned to Betsy, and told her dead body to hold on, just for him.

It was the police who arrived first, Rosie and sergeant Bob Short, shortly followed by an ambulance and then the pathologist. The ambulance went away when it was clear that resuscitation was out of the question, leaving medical expertise in the hands of Doctor Greaves, the pathologist.

Rosie sat Len down in his chair in the living room and would have suggested a nice cup of tea, but he still had a coffee cup, half full, where he’d put it when he went to see why Betsy was taking so long opening the door.

And you say she was still alive when you went to her?” she asked, as soothingly as she could, but she wanted details and to her mind the sooner one started chasing a killer the easier it would be to catch him before he killed someone else.

He nodded.

And did she tell you anything? Anything at all?” she asked, stroking the back of his hand gently, soothing him, trying to take away his pain.

She just said … car, it might have been car,” he wept, “I didn’t take much notice because all I wanted to do was help her, but I’m sure that was what she said … her last word was car and I was too damned stupid to listen to her!”

You couldn’t be expected to react in a sensible way,” she told him, “the whole thing must have been one dreadful nightmare, and nobody reacts well in a nightmare.”

Car. That was what she said. Car.”

Could you see if there was a car outside the door?” she asked, “the door was open, I presume. Was something parked there, or maybe driving off?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t see, I didn’t think to look,” he almost shouted, not at her but at his own failure to see what might have been under his nose.

Is there anyone who can sit with you?” asked Rosie, her voice filled with sympathy. “A relative or friend or even neighbour?”

Our Brett’ll come, or Gay,” he mumbled, “One of them’ll come if I ring them.”

Are their numbers on that pad I see next to your landline?” asked Rosie, and he nodded.

Bob,” she murmured to the sergeant who had been taking what few notes he needed to from her conversation with Len Bullard, “see if you can find numbers for either a Brett or a Gay.” She turned to Len, “are they relatives?”

The kids…” he replied, “they’re the kids…”

We’ll see they learn what’s happened,” comforted Rosie, “maybe an address?”

Bob Short soon found addresses for both of the Bullard offspring, now well into middle age themselves, and went personally to see them and arrange for one of them to take care of their father, who was in a terrible emotional state.

Meanwhile Rosie had the word car to worry about.

Did it have any significance, and if so, what? Maybe the dying woman had seen the car her killer had travelled in. Maybe her last gasp was a failed attempt at telling her husband that. Or maybe it was something else altogether.

© Peter Rogerson, 11.01.21

© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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I mistaken. The first lady was gone and the poor second lady. Just holding on. This is a outstanding book Peter. I would buy. You allowed the reader to see and know every step of the story. Thank you Peter for sharing the excellent chapter.

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Added on January 11, 2021
Last Updated on January 12, 2021
Tags: shop keeper, retired, doorbell


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..

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