A QUESTION OF MURDER • by Frances Pawley

Detective Sergeant Ball dropped himself in the usual seat he took each time he visited Miss Twigg, on the far right of the sofa. She sat opposite, on a dining room chair, her right arm resting on the pine table.

“I have to tell you, Miss Twigg, it has been decided, after intensive investigations, the file is to be closed.”

“Closed?” she questioned. “But I know he murdered his wife.”

It had been a long day and all he could think of was returning home, having a drink and putting his feet up. He observed the demeanour of the woman before him, whilst taking his notebook from his pocket; small framed, almost mouse-like, dressed like one of his old schoolteachers: jumper, cardigan, pleated skirt and sensible shoes.

He flicked through the pages of his notebook, well aware she was watching him. He looked up, making eye contact.

“Miss Twigg, over the past eight months we have investigated your accusations continually, and after all this time, we have nothing whatsoever to prove that Mrs Calderwood is dead; or, may I add, that her husband is in any way involved in her disappearance.”

Her shoulders appeared to slump. “Well, where is she, then? Tell me that!”

“We don’t know where she is, but unless a body comes to light, we have no way of proving that her husband has killed her… or in fact that she has been killed at all.”

She leaned forward. “Well, he admitted it to me, I told you.”

He sighed before saying, in an exaggerated way, “Really?”

“Yes,” she nodded, “I’ve told you this time and time again — you just refuse to listen!”

“Madam, we have investigated every avenue open to us. We have even dug up the man’s garden, for God’s sake.” He raised his voice to get his point across. Coughing, he composed himself.

“I’ve had officers observing the house, watching his movements for months. We have nothing to prove your allegations.”

He stood now, his 6’2” bulky figure towering above the slender woman sitting before him, returning the black notebook to his pocket. “May I suggest you put this behind you? Just concentrate on your own life, and not your neighbour’s.”

“You mean, mind my own business… Huh! I might have known.”

“We’ve done all we could,” he said, buttoning up his overcoat. “The file is closed.”

She looked down at her own hands, neatly held in her lap.

“I’ll call on Mr Calderwood and tell him what has been decided,” he said, moving toward the door. It was clear she wasn’t going to move. Sarcastically he said, “I’ll see myself out.”

Turning now, he looked back at her. “I trust I will have your co-operation, that you will not continually accuse Calderwood of this offence?”

“But…” she tried to interrupt. He wouldn’t let her.

“Because I can assure you that if Mr Calderwood is forced to take action against you… in a court of law, you could be in very serious trouble.” He raised his voice. “Do I make myself clear?”

She looked up at him confidently, before nodding. “Quite clear.”

Vincent Calderwood was still working on his patio when D.S. Ball called around to see him. After ten minutes or so, the officer left. He continued to work, aware of Irene Twigg watching him from her upstairs window. She was always watching him. Turning towards her, he saluted and smiled, then continued to offload sand from his wheelbarrow.

The matter was sorted, he thought. Case closed.

He glanced again at Irene’s bedroom window, where the lace curtain twitched. He could sort her out now.

Under cover of darkness, he walked the length of his garden, slipping through the broken fencing, and gingerly made his way to her back door. Trying the handle, he found the door unlocked. He smiled to himself as he removed his muddy shoes and stood on the cold quarry tiles in the kitchen. Moving silently to the hallway, he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. The television was announcing the police programme — ‘Morse’. Ironic, he thought, smirking. Hiding in the shadows, he watched as she made her way towards the living room door; she hadn’t heard him.

Stealthily like a cat, he walked on the thick carpet, approaching her from behind. Holding both hands out towards her he slipped his arms around her slim waist, as she visibly jumped. He then squeezed his arms tighter.

Turning now she slipped her arms up over his shoulders and around the back of his neck, smiling a beautiful smile, he held her tighter, placing his lips on hers. Gone was the ‘matron’ look. This lady had been expecting him. Low-cut neckline, flouncy skirt, stiletto heels, rich ruby-red lips and the delicious smell of expensive perfume.

“It’s all over?” she asked.

He nodded.

She smiled slyly. “I don’t think they’d believe me if I dug her up and took her to the police station myself now, do you?”

“It was a good idea of yours to bury her in your garden,” he said, “instead of mine.”

Furrowing her brow, she gave him a questioning look. He kissed her again, before saying, “Don’t worry, I showed D. S. Ball the postcard this morning… all the way from Queensland, Australia!”

“That took its time, didn’t it? I posted that over three months ago, by snail mail.  What did he say?”

“He just smiled and nodded. Repeating what was written, that she’s happy and wasn’t coming back. He thinks you’re an interfering busy-body. You know that, don’t you?”

“Ha,” she giggled, “I thought I played my part well!”

He lifted her hand and kissed the finger that held the diamond ring he had purchased for her some months ago. “You can wear it all the time now,” he whispered.

Frances Pawley writes for children from 12 – 112! From 1999 to 2009 she wrote three books, Merlin’s Crystal, Secrets of Manor Parsley and Old Ghosts of Manor Parsley — these were published as a trilogy in August 2009 under the name of Merlin’s Crystal. She is currently working on three more books for children and a family saga she hopes to publish for the adult market. Frances lives in the UK in a beautiful part of the Midlands, along with her husband Andrew.

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