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)