7. Talking of Clergymen

7. Talking of Clergymen

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



As serial killers go, this guy is in a hurry,” said Rosie Baur at the afternoon briefing following the murder of the second victim. “Two bodies in two days is most unusual. The thing is, what have the two ladies got in common?”

Their age,” suggested Bob Short, “both ladies were born within a few weeks of each other seventy one years ago, and not so long after World War Two.”

Might that mean something was said or done in a maternity ward to cause murderous revenge seventy years later?” mused Rosie, “I can’t see it myself. When I was giving birth to the twins I was too preoccupied to take much notice of anything else.”

Bob shook his head. “I’ve looked into that, ma’am,” he said, “Betsy Bullard was born in the local hospital’s maternity ward, but Amelia Armstrong was born at home. I couldn’t trace who the midwife was in Amelia’s case, though hospital records list maternity ward staff from the period. Home records either weren’t kept or have since been lost. It was a long time ago, after all.”

So there’s nothing about the birth of these two elderly ladies to suggest a common motive,” sighed Rosie, “no suggestion that babies might have got mixed up, nothing like that? Then what about their school days?”

They both went to Brumpton Primary School,” said Bob, “but there’s nothing out of the way there. All kids in their age-group went there seeing that it was the only school to serve the catchment area that they both lived in. I’ll check the school records if you like, there might be something that has lain dormant for sixty-odd years, though it seems unlikely.”

Unlikely or not, let’s be thorough,” Rosie told him with a smile, “but I rather suspect that if there was ever a connection between the two ladies it’s far more recent than in a sixty year-old playground kerfuffle. How about hobbies and interests? Miss Armstrong loved the amateur theatre, didn’t she?”

Detective Constable Sheila Robinson waved one hand nervously in the air.

I’ve looked at that, ma’am, and it seems that she was widely respected and I couldn’t find any suggestion of any kind of jealousy like you hear can erupt in the world of theatre egos. She was a natural for roles like Lady Bracknell, and as far as I can tell nobody says they would like to see another actress, er, actor isn’t it, these days, playing the part instead of her.”

But Mrs Bullard wasn’t involved in that kind of thing,” added Bob Short, “according to her husband Len Bullard, she was a home-loving woman who had few hobbies outside their marriage. He said that neither of them even visited the theatre let alone got involved in any of its activities.”

What about past relationships?” asked Rosie, “I’ll start this part of the debate by saying that when I made enquiries of Miss Armstrong I got the distinct impression that she’d never been involved even slightly with any man.”

Do you mean she may have preferred her own sex?” asked D.C Robinson, “I’ve got a friend like that, not a close friend you’ll be pleased to hear...” She paused for a general twitter to do the rounds of the room before continuing, “...but there’s no harm in her,” she concluded lamely.

Mr Bullard is convinced that his Betsy never so much looked at another man, and when I popped into the shop where she had worked and even owned for a few years, the staff that remembered her thought it most unlikely that she would encourage any bloke to look twice at her.”

It always seemed unlikely to me,” contributed Bob Short, “women in their generation usually kept their noses clean, if you see what I mean.”

It’s a mistake to be guided by such generalisations, though,” Rosie told him, a little sharply, and then she smiled, “I always think that when you see one of those huge flocks of starlings blackening the sky, there might always be one in their midst flying the other way.”

True, ma’am,” he replied, slightly crestfallen.

So we have no link there,” continued Rosie, “the thing is, do we treat these two murders as separate events that are totally unlinked, or do we beat our heads out trying to find something that isn’t there?”

My instinct says they’re connected in some way,” said Bob.

Rosie nodded. “I tend to agree,” she said, “but open minds, folks. Now what about Mrs Bullard’s supposed last word? Car?”

Well, she had just opened the door when the doorbell rang, and the first thing she would see looking through the front gate to her property may well have been a car that isn’t usually parked on the road outside her house,” pointed out D.S Short.

No,” said Rosie, “the first thing she saw, and possible the only thing she saw, was her killer. If she did say car as Mr Bullard insists then might it not have been an abbreviated longer word? Carnation? Cardigan? Carmichael?”

Or,” suggested D.C “Robinson, might it have been vicar? That might be a connection, the first old lady having been discovered by a vicar?”

Rosie nodded at her. “Good thinking, Sheila, good thinking indeed, not that I’m leaping to the conclusion that a vicar, or even the particular vicar who discovered Mrs Armstrong’s body, might be our killer. Vicars don’t usually go around killing now, do they?”

In my opinion, like some men there are vicars who might go to any length to preserve their good name,” growled Bob Short, “I think we should have in him and ask him how come he knew about the back door to the Armstrong house, and the existence of the path behind it, if he’d never been there before, and ask if he knew Mrs Bullard?”

Oh come on, Bob. That row of houses are identical. You only need to know the geography of one to know the layout of the lot,” pointed out Rosie, “you don’t like clergymen, do you?”

I don’t love any, if that’s what you mean,” growled Bob, “it’s all right them doing what you might call good deeds, caring for the dying, that sort of thing, but do they have to make out that biblical fairy stories are actually true when a person with half a brain cell must know that most of them are twaddle?”

Just keep an open mind,” advised Rosie, “but yes, I think I must have a word with our vicar, the Reverend Roper, and see if I can worm anything more substantial than hot air or, as you like to put it, twaddle, out of him. And that was good thinking Sheila, good thinking indeed. Come on, everyone, noses to the grindstone. If we catch our killer today the first pint in the Copper’s Nark is on me!”

© Peter Rogerson 12.01.21

© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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I will return later and I will read more. I must feed the grandchildren. The story is so good. You make the reader need to know and read more. Thank you Peter for sharing the outstanding chapter.

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Added on January 12, 2021
Last Updated on January 12, 2021
Tags: discussion, history, vicar


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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