Copyright: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
– I´m afraid I need reinforcements, Sir. I´ve just found a dead body in an antique ward… eh cabinet.
– Reinforcement, Constable Penrose? One constable in Aldburgh should be more than enough, and with twenty per cent of my officers on paternity leave right now…
– But I have a dead body on my hands, Sir.
– Is there anything but old stiffs down there? Sir Mars-Wrigley guffawed at his own joke.
– I know it´s inconvenient, but the manager of the local antique shop has just been found dead in…
– Antique stuff, eh? Why don´t you ask your sweet little librarian for help, then, Penrose? Antiques must be right up her alley, and I´m sure Miss Gershwin will be able to put the handcuffs on the scoundrel before I´ve had my after-dinner nap.
– But are you sure…
– Constable Penrose, do you know how much overtime you people squeezed out of me last month? No? Well, if you had, you´d know reinforcement on a Sunday was out of the question. But if you haven´t arrested anyone tomorrow morning, I´ll send Constable Winchester down to help you.
Of course Rhapsody jumped at the thought of helping him. His fiancée was helpfulness incarnate, and besides she was both intelligent and inquisitive. He just hated the thought of putting her at risk.
– Don´t worry, darling, I´ll just sit down quietly in Chesterfield´s study and take down people´s statements while you run about doing all the dangerous stuff. She smiled sweetly, apparently so chuffed at being in on the excitement that she forgot to remind him she wasn´t some little damsel who needed male protection.
– I told him so, didn´t I? The new constable. Again, Reverend Sheridan Thwing forgot to introduce himself. He strutted into the dusty study and plonked down on the ladder-back chair across Chesterfield´s wide desk.
– And you are Reverend Sheridan Thwing, I presume? Rhapsody Gershwin eyed him sternly; she knew as much, but she wanted neat and tidy statements, not casual affairs which might indicate she wasn´t up to the standards of a professional constable.
– Sorry, Miss Gershwin. I was a bit put out. One thing is knowing you were right, but you cannot exactly gloat when a fellow human being has paid with his life, can you? He swung a long leg round that of the chair, much like a tentacle, and Rhapsody watched the manoeuvre in fascination.
– Eh, yes. No, I mean. I mean, I know you´ve already spoken to my fi… to Constable Penrose, but let´s begin with the beginning this time, shall we? You feared something was going to happen in the antique shop?
– I knew something would happen. Avarice and greed. And vanity. He shook his head. – A lethal cocktail. Lethal! Of course it was very generous of Earl Chesterfield to let us have his ground floor for free. And so very convenient, seeing that it´s so close to the village green and our beautiful, Norman church and all.
– But you actually feared for Mr Chesterfield´s life? Rhapsody was determined to be brisk and businesslike; gossip could be helpful, but she had less than twenty-four hours to prove her worth.
– Sure, that´s what I said to Constable Penrose, wasn´t it? Earl was one of the illegitimate Chesterfields, of course, yet he was always on about the old family castle with the hedge maze and the famous aviary. And then he found that King George with his nose out of joint and…
– Reverend Thwing!
– Sorry. Because he let us have the rooms for free, we accepted all his silly notions of calling himself the manager and talking about an antique shop and so… And then there was his small stamp collection and his first editions. You see, all these figments of a poor, deluded man´s imagination might have left the impression he had something worth stealing. Very dangerous, don´t you see? He leant forward to make sure he had Rhapsody´s full attention. – But I´m sure the real Chesterfields only gave him the house to shut him up.
To be continued tomorrow