Copyright: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
– Your name is George Hepplewhite, and you´re one of the volunteers?
– Retired joiner. Hepplewhite was a tall and handsome man with a broad chest. He beamed a proud smile at Rhapsody.
– When did you last see Earl Chesterfield? She knew she spit out questions like a machine gun, but as she was working against the clock, she couldn´t help it.
– Ehm, I´m afraid… Well, this is a bit embarrassing, but…
– Please, Mr Hepplewhite, we really need to get to the bottom of this tragedy. Rhapsody felt it was a smart move to leave out the sinister word ´murder´. She believed that keeping a few facts secret might help them trap witnesses who lied. Now, if one of them mentioned a chisel maul, he would be her prime suspect.
– Okay, then. I couldn´t sleep last night so I took a short stroll around the village green. And when I noticed the lights were on, I went into the shop to see what was up. And there I saw Earl.
– And you weren´t surprised to find him there at that time of the day?
– Well, no, not really. Eh, have you met Mrs Chesterfield? She natters a lot, that one. Besides, Earl had an idea someone was stealing from us so he hung about in the shop or out back all the time, wanting to catch someone red-handed.
– It would probably have been better to go to the police, Rhapsody put in.
– Course, but as it was just old furniture, no one had imagined… Hepplewhite took a deep breath, and she noticed that his hands trembled.
– You mean there was nothing valuable to steal?
He shook his head.
– No really valuable antiques, or one of Chesterfield´s stamps or something?
– His stamps? Ah, King George, you mean?
– Perhaps. Why don´t you tell me about it? Again, Rhapsody felt her interview technique was going really well.
– Chesterfield didn´t know that much about stamps, so I doubt it´s really valuable, but… Well, he found some old stamps among his late father´s possessions, and then he noticed something odd in one of them. King George´s nose looked as if it had been broken.
– Ah, that´s what the vicar… Quickly, she stopped herself. She was here to get information, not dole it out. – Do you have any idea where Mr Chesterfield kept his stamps? Would they be in a safe or something?
– No, I don´t think so. You see, he loved that stamp so much that he always kept it near him. So he could take it out and flash it around, see.
She didn´t think Hepplewhite could contribute with more information right now so she ticked him off and sent for the next volunteer on Mrs Chesterfield´s list.
– Thomas Chippendale. Volunteer and retired carpenter, Constable Gershwin.
Rhapsody coloured, constable sounded so much cooler than librarian, but her vanity mustn´t make her forget the task at hand. Chippendale could have been Hepplewhite´s twin except that he was a bit squarer and slightly bowlegged.
– Good, Mr Chippendale. And when did you last see Earl Chesterfield?
– Around midnight.
She wondered if he also had a career in the army behind him; he looked as if he was ready to salute her after each of his clipped remarks. – Please tell me about it.
– Went by the shop on my evening walk. Lights on, wanted to check.
– Ah, you were afraid some villager was stealing from the shop?
– No, I… Well, truth be told I wanted to check on Hepplewhite.
– You won´t tell him, will you? I´ve kept an eye on him for some time. Thought he was the one who tried to keep the best items to himself.
– Aha. But what did you see last night? Inwardly, Rhapsody sighed. What was it with these people? Running about in the night, seeing thieves everywhere.
– I just looked in through the windows. Saw Hepplewhite and Chesterfield so I thought all was well and went home.
– So they seemed amicable enough to you?
– Heplewhite did. Chesterfield may´ve been a tad agitated, but then he often was. Huge, choleric fellow. Would´ve butted in immediately if I´d thought anything was amiss, Constable.
– And you saw no one else around? In the shop or anywhere near the village green?
– No, I… Wait, was it last night or…? You see, I go for a walk most nights so… But I´m almost sure I caught a glimpse of William Morris.
– William Morris? Rhapsody began scanning the list of volunteers.
– Young student. Lives in the attic.
Annoyed that Mrs Chesterfield hadn´t thought to mention someone who lived under her own roof, Rhapsody added Morris´s name to the list. – And you saw him somewhere last night?
– When? Where? She noticed that Chippendale´s style had already begun to rub off.
– Hm. He scratched his cropped hair. – Headed down North Street, I think. Just caught a glimpse in the dark.
– But you are sure it was William Morris?
– Not much risk of mixing him up with anyone. You´ll see.
Rhapsody went in search of the student, and at a glance she saw what Chippendale meant. The gangly youth had long curls and wore something that looked like an embroidered tapestry.
– You are William Morris, and you live upstairs?
– Bill among friends. He screwed up his cornflower blue eyes and sent her a mischievous smile.
– Right, Mr Morris. Could you please tell me about your movements last night? She pursed her lips though she was sure many young women would have fallen for his charm.
– Last night? I was sitting upstairs in my lonely bachelor nook, writing a letter to my old mum in Ipswich. The blue eyes beamed again.
– So you didn´t leave your room at any time?
He licked his lips. – Nooo, not as far as I recall.
Smart young man, she admitted to herself. But she could also play games. – So if someone believes he saw you in the shop last night, he was mistaken?
– Eh, perhaps… He fiddled with his frayed cuffs. – Ah, of course! I grew a bit hungry after all that writing so I nipped down to see if the volunteers had left any of Mrs Chesterfield´s delicious apple pie with the clotted cream. That woman bakes the most…
– I see. And did you see anyone else downstairs?
– No, I wouldn´t say I saw anyone, but I could hear that Chesterfield was in the shop. The fridge is in the back room, and Mrs Chesterfield doesn´t mind my partiality for clotted cream.
She tapped the pencil on the desk, and he hurried on. – Well, I heard Chesterfield talking to Hepplewhite in the shop.
– And did you get a chance to hear what they were talking about?
Now it was obvious that he squirmed underneath his flowery rug. – Well, it´s not as if I wanted to snoop on them or anything, but…
– But? She tapped the pencil again; the action seemed to terrify him.
– But I think Chesterfield said something about stealing. And I could hear that Hepplewhite didn´t like that one bit.
– So it was your impression that Chesterfield might have accused Heplewhite of stealing?
– Well, I don´t want to implicate anyone but…
– But you must tell us what you heard, Mr Morris. Rhapsody assumed a stern teacher frown.
– Okay, I think that was what they were talking about, but I´m not ready to swear in court or anything.
– And you didn´t worry that anything might happen to Mr Chesterfield?
Again he licked his lips. – No, that… If I´d thought anything of the kind I would have reacted, of course. He straightened his slight body, trying to look like an action hero.
– And then you slipped back upstairs again and went straight to bed?
– Yes, I did. But if I´d known what was going on downstairs… He shuddered.
– So if someone says he saw you outside the house after midnight, he was mistaken, Mr Morris?
– After midnight? Yes, he must´ve been mistaken because I am sure it was some time before midnight that I popped down to the letter box with my letter. The one to my mum, you know.
– Is there anything else you have forgotten to tell me? You didn´t nip, steal or pop anywhere else? She couldn´t keep the annoyance out of her voice. The shop must have been like rush hour on the Øresund Bridge.
To be ended Thursday (tomorrow I have scheduled Sweden´s Day)
Dorte – This is going along so beautifully! I especially like the variety in speaking styles you have here! You’ve done that very well I think. And I’m getting all sorts of interesting little clues as to what really happened and what the vicar was talking about…
Another great chapter. Rhapsody is absolutely correct…it’s getting downright crowded in that shop!
Loving the different styles but I can’t believe you are making us wait until Thursday.
Margot: I am so relieved you can see I tried to differentiate between the furn… eh, the volunteers 🙂 I was afraid this part would be dreadfully boring.
Linda: I was quite relieved I succeeded in adding that Øresund bridge 😉
Tracy: I am a cruel and heartless writer – thought you had figured out by now 🙂
At least you’re giving us a Sweden’s Day post to make up for making us wait until Thursday! 😉
Kelly: yes, at least I am doing that 🙂
Oh, the suspects are piling up. That town never sleeps. Can’t wait until Thursday.
Clarissa: I have learnt in ´Midsomer Murders´ that in those British villages, they are all planning to bump each other off when proper folks would have been sleeping in their beds 😀
Enjoyed this. Great dialogue and pace! I think maybe, all three bumped off Earl!! Well, it’s Thursday downunder but I guess I can wait until late tonight for the ending! 🙂
“The Charity Shop” is a charming story, and I eagerly await the final installment. How I envy your wit, Dorte! Your stories are so entertaining, and your characters’ names are always a hoot 🙂
Joanna: tadaaa! NOW it´s Thursday 🙂
Kathleen: I thought you´d like it. It struck me a couple of weeks ago that Hepplewhite and Chesterfield were great names for cosy characters 🙂
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