A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Horace is told the details of an unexplained death


    “Wow!” exclaimed the usually studious and well mannered Horace, “You mean I’ve got the job? Without even trying?”

Jennifer Marple frowned, then smiled. “As I said, the job’s yours, though this isn’t anything to do with auctions. And I’ll repeat my question, what do you know about murder?”

Killing people? What do I know about stabbing or shooting or … or poisoning folk? Nothing I’m glad to say. Why, my mum says I’ve never been able to so much as swat a fly!”

Well, you might have to use your peace-loving nature to our advantage,” Jennifer said, “and to help you along the way I’m expecting a client any moment, but before she comes I’ll fill you in with the little I know. To start with, her husband was a window cleaner.”

Was? You say was? Does that mean he’s now doing something else?”

Jennifer sighed. “If pushing up the daisies is another job, then that’s what he’s doing.”

She could see that Horace was confused. Maybe the idea of pushing up daisies was from an age before most dead bodies ended up in the local crematorium and actual burials were becoming rare. “No, the man’s dead,” she said, “and Mr Stubbs, the late Mr Stubbs, is currently residing in a jar or ashes on the widow’s mantel piece. And we’re expecting Mrs Beryl Stubbs in to see us any time now. In fact, she’s almost late.”

So was he murdered?” asked Horace, already experiencing the start of a thrill as a possible problem (he loved solving problems, which was why he was already a crossword addict in his teens) trickled into his mind.

His widow believes so,” murmured Jennifer.

But isn’t it the police who usually solve murders, if that’s what it was?”

I think we’ll let Mrs Stubbs explain. Ah, I hear someone on the stairs…”

The Agency office where they were was on the first floor of a multi-use block of offices which had been created in a converted abattoir. There was little left of its earlier use, but a savage hook on a chain hanging from the ceiling in one corner may well have been part of it. Anyway, Horace heard the footsteps that Jennifer Marple alluded to, and after a knock on the door a well built woman in her forties and dressed in a tight tee-shirt and bulging leggings walked in.

Ah, Mrs Stubbs. So pleased to meet you again. Let me introduce you to my assistant, Mr Sorrse.

The widow looked Horace over and shook her head.

Bit young, ain’t he?” she grumbled.

It’s what we need, Mrs Stubbs. A young mind can grasp what an older one might be blind to.”

If you says so.”

Horace decided to establish himself as being a little more than merely a bit young.

Miss Marple has been explaining about the case you’re so sadly involved in, but it would be good for me to hear it in your own words,” he said, and Jennifer looked at him gratefully.

Oh, yes,” gabbled Mrs Stubbs, “let me see. My husband, the Lord bless him, was cleaning the vicarage windows, the upstairs ones on the second floor, the vicarage has a second floor, though why I don’t know because it ain’t used these days. Anyway, Bill was up there, on his ladder, leather in hand, and then he weren’t.”

You mean, he was pushed down?” asked Horace, and Jennifer could have kissed him for making the suggestion without being prompted by either herself or the widow,

That’s exactly what I mean! You’re quick on the uptake, young man, and that’s what this case needs! A young brain. Miss Marple, you’ve hit the nail on its head, you have, getting this young man on the case.”

Jennifer blushed, and let her carry on.

The cops came. Of course they did, it being an unexplained death, and their experts measured stuff and took samples. Then they decided he’d fallen. My Bill, falling! Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous in your life! He’s been up that ladder half his life, and never put a step wrong! And they reckon it was an accident! Well young fellow, accidents like that don’t happen, not to the Bills of this world, they don’t.”

Of course they wouldn’t,” nodded Horace, “I’ve got an uncle who uses ladders at work and he swears a man can’t fall off them! Not without help, that is. So if someone helped your poor husband to the ground, from the second floor, you say, then it’s our sworn duty to find out who and get them behind bars for the duration!”

For the duration! I like the sound of that!” squawked the widow.

But first, we’d best familiarise ourselves with who might have done it,” continued Horace, as if he’d been solving murders all of his life, “we need suspects, and in my book anyone within spitting distance has got to be on the list.”

Spitting distance! I like that!” grinned the widow

So you see why we need the brains of Mr Sorsse,” put in Jennifer, more grateful for the way things had been going than she’d ever expected to be with a teenager taking charge of the conversation.

Well, let me tell you, then. I know everyone as was in that vicarage that morning. The cops, they made a list and talked to them all, but all they said, every last one of them, was they heard or saw my old man falling to his death! And that was it! Accidental, that’s what the cops said. He tripped on a rung of his ladder, they said, and landed on a metal spike sticking out of the concrete, where the bins were tied. I mean, whoever heard of tying up your bins!”

A tall story, if ever I heard one,” nodded Horace, “so who was there?”

The Reverend. He was there, which makes a change for him ‘cause he’s usually on the streets beggin’ for cash for a new church roof, not that I can see much wrong with the one its got.”

Vicars do a lot of that,” agreed Horace, “what’s his name?”

Oh, the Reverend Pyke. Rolf Pyke,” said a frowning Beryl Stubbs, “and his wife, Gloria. Pretty as a picture, is Gloria, and too good for the Reverend, that’s my opinion. Then there, was the local copper, of all folks. Bob Grungeworthy, been a constable all his life and soon to retire. He’s good at seeing nothing and hearing less!”

Horace nodded. “I know the sort,” he said, forgetting that he didn’t.

And lastly, the choirmaster with a fancy name. Cedric Saint Maurice! Whoever heard of such a daft name? Anyway, he wins prizes with the choir, singing in competitions, and they’ve even been on the telly! And that’s it.”

Four people,” murmured Horace, “the vicar, his wife, the choirmaster, and the local bobby. One of those caused your husband to fall to his death, and if it’s humanly possible I’ll find out which!”

© Peter Rogerson 09.09.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on September 9, 2021
Last Updated on September 9, 2021
Tags: detective agency, window cleaner, death, suspects


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..