Murder in the Cotswolds

“Lovely spot,” said the inspector, parking the car neatly on the verge of the lane outside the cottage. “Nice and rustic.”

“Too bloody rustic if you ask me,” said the sergeant, tearing angrily at a bramble that had inveigled itself into his jacket, and struggling to push his way through the narrow space between the car door and the thick hedge that the inspector had allowed him.

He had to suck his stomach in to get through the gap, and was red faced and out of breath as he followed his boss up the path to the cottage door, past the green Ford Fiesta parked in front of the house.

“The Old Smithy,” said the inspector, taking his eyes off the car to read the prettily painted sign beneath the thatched eaves. “I’m waiting for a house called The Old Video Rental Shop, but haven’t found one yet.”

His knock on the door was answered by a little old lady in a pink cardigan, with a pink face to match.

“Mrs Anstruther-Adams? Police.” They pushed their ID cards at her like a stage double act. “May we come in?” A gruff voice from behind her called sharply, ”Who is it? If it’s those Jehovah’s Witnesses, tell them to bugger off!”

“It’s two policemen, dear.”

The old lady stepped aside to let the two detectives pass. The man who rose irritably from an armchair clutching a copy of the Daily Telegraph had a red face and a white moustache, and introduced himself as Colonel. Sadly for him he had missed the war by a good thirty years and had had an undistinguished career as manager of a white goods shop, but no-one who met him would have guessed that.

There was another person in the small living room, a girl in her mid thirties with her handkerchief to her mouth. She was slim and bespectacled, pretty in a mousy sort of way. She had obviously been crying. She was introduced as Millicent, the couple’s only child.

“Please take a seat,” said the old lady. “Now, what can we do for you?”

The inspector took out his electronic notebook. “Do you know a man named Leslie Cruttwell, from Swindon?” he asked. There was silence.

“You know him, miss?”

She nodded, unable to speak.

“I thought so. We found your contact details in his phone. I’m sorry to tell that he’s been found dead. In fact - he has been murdered.”

There was another stunned silence. Then, “Murdered?” she shrieked. “When? Who? Why –"

“That is what we want to find out. May I ask the nature of your relationship with this man?”

The Colonel threw down his newspaper and started angrily from his armchair.

“I’ll tell you what the bloody relationship is!” he shouted.

“He is the bounder who’s put my poor innocent daughter in the family way! That’s who he is!”

Mother and daughter huddled together, arms around each other, the girl sobbing.

“I see. Well, it appears that somebody went to Mr Cruttwell’s house last night and beat him to death with a poker.”

There was a collective gasp of horror.

“I shall have to ask you all to account for your movements yesterday.”

“You can’t suspect us!” shouted the Colonel. “We were all here together. Nobody left the house.” He glared at his womenfolk and they nodded mutely. “Anyway, neither my wife or I even know where this man lives. It’s news to me that he came from Swindon.”

“Did you go there yesterday, miss?” persisted the sergeant.

“No! My daughter doesn’t drive. She’s never even taken a test. And neither has my wife. You can check.”

“Oh, we will, sir. But what about you? Did you perhaps go there yesterday to confront the man, lost your temper, and killed him?”

The Colonel’s face went redder than ever. “How dare you, sergeant!” he cried. “Accusing me of murder? That car hasn’t been out of the drive for days! Isn’t that right, my dears?” Again the women nodded, their terrified eyes never leaving his face. The inspector clicked at his iPad again.

“What’s that thing?” sneered the Colonel. “I. T. nonsense? Can’t beat the old methods, I say. Paper and pencil, telephones, maps – good enough for my generation, don’t you know!”

“Don’t go in for that sort of thing, sir?” enquired the inspector. “Computer, mobile phone, sat nav… any of that?”

“Certainly not! Lot of damn nonsense if you ask me!”

“Indeed. By the way, do you let anyone else use your car at all?” ”Certainly not!” snarled the Colonel. “Do you think I’m mad?”

“Then you won’t mind if we take a look, will you? The car keys, please?”

Outside, the inspector unlocked the car door and leant across the passenger seat to open the cubbyhole.

“Well, well,” he said softly. “Look what we’ve got here. Tom Tom the piper’s son…. A sat nav. Do you know, I’d never even have thought of looking if he hadn’t said he hadn’t got one!”

“How did you know he was lying, sir?”

“Tut, sergeant. Didn’t you notice the faint semi circular smear on the inside of the windscreen? Dead giveaway that there’s been a sat nav suction pad stuck to the glass. You should remove those marks if you don’t want to send a signal to a thief.”

“Blimey. Never thought of that,” said the sergeant mournfully.

“Let’s plug it in.”

After a moment the device came to life with its little tune.

“Now then --- let’s see. RECENT DESTINATIONS. Ah yes, here we are…. Beverley Road, Swindon. Dated yesterday at 2116 hours. Handy little computer, this. Never lies.“

“Fits in with the time of death nicely, sir!”

“Certainly does. I think we’ll go back and have another word with the Colonel. Looks like his alibi is as phoney as his military rank.”

“So I. T.’s a lot of damned nonsense, eh?” chuckled the inspector.

The two men went back towards the house.

Richard Vaughan-Davies

I retired to the Cotswolds ten years ago after selling the retail business in North Wales which I had built up over forty long years. Fortunately for my sanity most of my time was spent creating advertising copy and promotions, which dramatically increased the business and taught me the power of words. Being a member of the Chippy Writers’ Group encouraged me to attempt a lifelong ambition to write a novel. Recently published, In the Shadow of Hitler is a romance set in the ruins of bombed-out Hamburg in 1946.

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