26. What Happened to Coleridge

26. What Happened to Coleridge

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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A SUMMER UNDER THE SUN Part 26

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The first person Darren saw on leaving Spooks’s Detective Agency while he was clutching a small sheet of paper and a photograph was Jennifer Sagebrush, the girl he knew must surely be the love of his life.

I thought I’d see how you were,” she said, “this is where my mum said I’d find you if I waited long enough, though she thinks I’m at the library researching Coleridge and not looking for you at all.”

Darren knew that Violet Sagebrush worked for half a day a week for the private detective. He’d worked out that the small wage she received from Spooks was pin money that her husband knew nothing about. He also suspected that the regularity implied by a working schedule gave her the feeling of being in some way useful to society.

I don’t know,” he said frankly, and showed her the address he had to check out.

Marion Girdler,” murmured Jennifer, “I’m sure I know who that is. Let’s go spying!”

You want to come with me? I thought you were writing an essay about some long dead poet?”

Coleridge, but that can wait. This is much more interesting.”

I’ve even got petty cash for the bus fare,” he told her.

Phooey! Look at that address. We can walk there in ten minutes.”

The two of them set off, and because her knowledge of local geography was better than his, she led the way.

Why are you doing this?” he asked, “it must be quite a chore for you, even if you know the woman.”

I like being with you,” she said simply, and he reached for her hand, held it and squeezed her fingers gently.

Is that why you’re wearing that dress?” he asked, somewhat mischievously, because the dress she was wearing exposed a great deal of her legs and concealed very little.

I’m wearing it because it’s a warm summer’s day and I know you like looking at me,” she replied, taunting him.

Just don’t distract me too much. I’m doing paid work,” he jested.

So let’s be serious about it. Marion Girdler. If that’s the woman I think it is then she’s a teacher at the infants school and was Marion Bisset before she married. She was in the upper sixth at school when we were in the first year and nobody liked her because she made out she was something special when she wasn’t. The last I heard of her, and this is a year or two back, her husband found her in bed, their bed with the window cleaner, when he came home unexpectedly with a stomach upset. They had a row that was heard the length and breadth of Brumpton and the window cleaner wasn’t paid!”

So she’s a flighty girl?”

Woman, not a girl. She wears old fashioned skirts and has her hair in a bun on top of her head. Come on, down here, this is her street.”

Jennifer led the way, and Darren checked the address n his sheet of paper. “Number sixteen,” he whispered, “look: over there. Let’s stand around here talking, but watching at the same time. If she’s only, what, six or seven years older than us what’s she doing being frumpy like you said?”

She always was,” Jennifer told him, “she came from a very poor family. I don’t think her mum ever knew who her dad was: it was a strange story, which is most likely why I remember it. Her mum was a barmaid at the Crow’s Nest, and apparently she did some extra-curricular work with quite a few men when the pub shut. One of them must have gone too far and made her pregnant, and she had no idea which one it was and nobody would lay claim to the deed. So she brought Marion up on her own, and the girl did her best to improve on the family reputation by going to college, and fed up with a life of living on the bread-line she set about finding a husband who would provide her with everything her heart desired. So she found Edward Girdler, bank manager, when she was twenty one and he was sixty three. The rumour has it that he was gay and needed a pretty wife for cover, but failing to find a pretty one settled for a young one.”

That’s all very sad,” murmured Darren.

I know, but wait until you see her … and hey, look who’s coming out of number sixteen as we talk!”

The woman appearing at the gate of the house opposite could have been anything between twenty and fifty years old and was frowning, apparently at nothing.

She’s always scowling like that,” whispered Jennifer.

It was a warm summer’s day, but she was wearing several layers of plain clothing which must have baked her in the heat from the sun. She was even wearing a hat, a tall one that was probably perched on top of a bun rather than her head. She had apparently used a vast amount of lipstick because her mouth, the one that was scowling, looked like a bloodied gash on her face.

Darren look at the photo Mr Spooks had given him a copy of and, yes, it was the same woman.

The woman turned left out of her gate, and when she was far enough away the two teenagers started to follow her. Darren was holding his phone at the ready, and took a photo of her as she walked ahead of them.

They followed the woman for a good half hour, weaving through an estate that neither of them had ever been to before, until they watched her vanish into a gate that led to a small inconspicuous house. Darren took another photograph, and they paused, watching.

When Marion Girder reappeared she looked like a different woman. Gone was the multilayer of clothing and the tall hat, and instead she was wearing clothes more appropriate to her real age and the weather. The only identifying feature left, it seemed, was the red slash of lips on a face that could never be beautiful.

Well, that’s an eye-opener,” murmured Jennifer as Darren took several photographs.

Letting her go far enough in front for their following to be deemed accidental, the saw her go up to a large saloon car and climb into the passenger seat.

More photographs, and the car drove off.

Darn it!” groaned Darren, “that’s lost her!”

Not quite,” smiled Jennifer, “I know that car all right, and if I’m wrong Mr Spooks can check the number plate if it’s not out of focus on your phone. That car belongs to Harry Grouch, and as you probably know, Harry Grouch is our local Member of Parliament with a reputation for clean living and a renowned contempt for those who fall by the moral wayside.”

And she’s gone off in his car,” muttered Darren. “I’d best get back to Spooks and let him see what we’ve got.”

All thanks to me,” grinned Jennifer, “but don’t tell him I was with you or he might tell mum and she’ll want to know what happened to Coleridge!”

© Peter Rogerson 24.05.21

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© 2021 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 24, 2021
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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
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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