9. Too Much Water Under too Many Bridges

9. Too Much Water Under too Many Bridges

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



He’s in the first interview room, boss,” Sheila told Rosie Baur. “He’s a bit agitated, seems to have something on his mind. I reckon we’ve got the right man.”

We may have,” Rosie told her, “but we might be quite a long way from proving it. It’s evidence we need, not wishful thinking I’m afraid.”

And I get the feeling he’s a bit crafty,” admitted Sheila, “I mean, pretending to be tying his shoe laces when his shoes don’t have any!”

I know. Bob told me, but there’s one thing that troubles me. According to what little information survives intact from sixty years ago, and a great deal was destroyed in a blaze around the nineteen seventies, before my time, our vicar went to the same primary school at the same time as our two deceased ladies, and that’s beginning to sound too much like a coincidence for me to explain it away solely as a geographic necessity. Anyway, I’m going to play it softly with the clergyman, put him at his ease, which is why I want you to sit in with me. Bob’s pathological hatred of men of the cloth might be a barrier, but he’ll be watching from the observation room.”

I don’t love them either,” Sheila told her, “there was one when I was a kid who had a thing about choirboys, which is why he struggled to get enough to form a choir.”

Well, I’m off to see what the man’s got to say. And you can hold me hand! If there’s anything you want to ask him, just do so. I won’t bite if you interrupt me.”

Yes, ma’am.”

Come on, then.”

Rosie and Sheila walked into the interview room where the Reverend Richard Roper was scowling at the wall as if it offended him.

Ah, your reverence,” began Rosie when she and the constable were seated opposite him, “it’s so generous of you to find a few minutes of your crowded diary to help us.”

It’s not as if I had much choice,” he growled back, his pulpit voice buried somewhere for the time being.

Oh dear!” exclaimed Rosie, “you are here voluntarily, you know, just to help us catch a vicious thug who seems to want to slaughter all your old Junior school mates once they reach seventy.”

My mates?” he stammered, “I don’t understand.”

Well, the lady whose body you discovered was one, and on the very next street another lady who shared your childhood lessons with you way back when you were knee-high to the fabled grasshopper was also murdered. Then, today, you were found hovering outside the front gate of a third old school chum of yours, the ex-mayor Paul Pritchard.”

He was at my primary school? I hadn’t realised! You do know, Inspector, that I can remember very little of my primary school days: they were so long ago and a great deal of water has flowed under a great number if bridges since then! I mean, there was grammar school, and I’ve all but forgotten those years, though I had a crush on the French mistress, I recall. University does a little better, though if you were to ask me to name a dozen of my fellow students I’d probably fail. So it’s hardly surprising that small girls and boys from further back in my life are little more than a blank in my memory.”

Really? Yet I believe that when you are work and in your pulpit you speak very warmly and affectionately of, say, the apostles as if you knew them all personally, and they’ve been sadly deceased for some two thousand years,” put in Sheila. Rosie frowned, then nodded her approval.

My young colleague makes a good point,” she said, “they may only be characters from a book…”

They were real human beings!” snapped the vicar, roused, probably, by implied criticism of the foundation of his faith.

That may be so, but Amelia Armstrong was a real living person who touched your life on a daily basis when you were a child,” explained Rosie, “She and thirty others lived in the same space as you, breathed the same air, sang the same songs, were part of your life. It’s sad, isn’t it, when real living people who share your timelines on planet Earth are less memorable than dusty characters from ancient stories?”

That ... that’s offensive!” he snapped.

Really? Anyway, to the reason you’ve been asked to assist us. It’s not a theological point, I’m afraid, but one that needs clearing up. When you discovered the late Amelia Armstrong you told my officer, I think it was, that her killer may have entered her house the back way. Were you aware that there was access to the rear of that row of houses?”

Of course I was! At least, I must have been, mustn’t I? Those houses are all very much the same as each other and I have several parishioners on that road, have been in several houses and actually through the back doors of some, to where a path leading behind them had access to the park.”

And you were aware that Miss Armstrong’s back door was open, then? I mean, if it had been locked no sadistic killer would have been able to enter that way, would he?”

I suppose not.”

Then there’s the sad case of Betsy Bullard.”

Betsy who?”

Bullard. But that won’t have been her maiden name when she was at school with you. No, when you shared your school lessons with her she was known as Betsy Jones. Poor little Betsy Jones learned her three r’s, spent a long life serving her neighbours in the corner shop only to have her life brutally ended by a sadistic killer. It’s sad, really, enough to make a person wonder, don’t you think?”

Especially,” interrupted Constable Sheila Robinson, “when you remember that there were loads of other children in that school year and we’re concerned that, one by one, they might end up the same way.”

Then Rosie came out with what she thought was her killer stroke. “And especially,” she murmured quietly, when it crosses your mind there was a girl called Rebecca Rowbotham in that same school and Rebecca Rowbotham was knifed by a small penknife that somehow managed to kill her, in the playground, and the boy who found her, who said he was trying to save her, was a little tyke called Richard Roper, though it was a long time before he went to college and became a clergyman.”

The colour of the vicar’s face drained away when he heard those words.

I wonder,” almost whispered Rosie, “how many more dying people that boy might be planning to save? Before you go, Reverend, we’ve got a doctor on the premises and he’ll be happy to help you with your eczema, advise you, you know, and offer advice about the right sort of gloves for you to wear…”

© Peter Rogerson 14.01.21

© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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The story is adding-up now. A lot of twist and turns. The vicar is very smart and organized. I like how you write conversation. I need to learn my friend. Thank you Pater for sharing the excellent chapter.

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Added on January 14, 2021
Last Updated on January 14, 2021
Tags: interview, questions, school days


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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