NO ENEMY BUT TIME • by Jenny Schwartz

“If he’d stayed like that, I wouldn’t have killed him.”

Wouldn’t-‘ve-killed-‘im, wouldn’t-‘ve-killed-‘im, whispered the tyres of the London bus as it travelled through the wet, wintry streets.

On board, Dora Chadwick wrapped her navy blue coat closer about her, rubbed her cold nose and tried to think.

Could her client, Mrs Rachel Bowler, really have confessed to murdering her husband?

They’d been seated in the woman’s peach and cream lounge room, looking through old photo albums. Dora had commented on Peter Bowler’s handsome appearance in his wedding photo.

Rachel’s finger traced the outline of her husband’s youthful, happy and hopeful face. Her mouth trembled.

“If he’d stayed like that, I wouldn’t have killed him.”

Hysteria, thought Dora. She’d found a phone number for the woman’s sister, and called her over. Together they’d bundled Rachel into bed with a cup of hot sweet tea, spiked with brandy.

The sister had promised worriedly to stay.

How had Peter Bowler died? Dora thought there had been mention of a home handyman accident, something treacherous involving electricity and this fortnight-long drizzling rain.

She sighed. Accidents happened. Sudden death took families by surprise. They spoke and behaved irrationally as they tried to cope with their grief.

Rachel couldn’t have meant she’d killed her husband. Probably she felt guilty for all the times she’d thought how much easier life would be without an annoying middle-aged man in it. People did feel guilty when loved ones died. They regretted all the lost chances to say, I love you.

Dora arrived home to find her own annoying middle-aged man unexpectedly occupying the kitchen. A younger man sat opposite him at the table, and leapt to his feet at Dora’s entrance, exhibiting old fashioned good manners.

“Hi, love,” said Detective Inspector Stuart Chadwick. “Dora, this is my new detective sergeant, Josh Mitchell.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Chadwick.”

“Call me Dora.”

She felt comforted by their presence and the warmth of the kitchen. The yellow walls and vase of winter roses from the garden, provided a splash of colour and life in the grey day. She popped on the kettle.

“Anyone like a refill?”

Both men held out their mugs.

Dora poured the tea, and joined them at the table, cutting herself a piece of boiled fruitcake.

“How was your afternoon client?” asked Stuart, and as an aside to Josh, “Dora writes eulogies for people. She helps them remember a person’s good points; something we tend to forget in the irritations of daily living. I tell her she should write a book the way she brings the past alive. It’s a gift.”

“I trained as a grief counsellor,” Dora added when Josh looked baffled at his boss’s wife’s odd job. Her explanation didn’t seem to help, and she turned back to Stuart. “My client was hysterical.”

“Ah,” he said sympathetically. “It’s the shock that does it.”

“So, why are you home?” She changed the subject.

Stuart glanced up at the daisy-faced clock over the sink. “We’ve an appointment down the road in ten minutes. It wasn’t worth going back to the station. In fact, we’d better stir our stumps.”

He stood, a massive but familiar presence in the warm kitchen.

“Thanks for the cup of tea and cake, Dora,” said Josh. He shrugged on his coat and turned up the collar. “I’ll go start up the car, sir.”

“Good bloke,” said Stuart when he’d gone. He shrugged on his own coat.

Dora watched him over the rim of her tea cup, warming her hands around the warm china.

The years had changed them both: Two miscarriages; no children; the stresses and danger of Stuart’s work. He wasn’t the handsome rugby player she’d married twenty-four years ago. Now his hair was grey, his square face lined, and his body settling into middle-aged comfort — and she loved the bones of him; their love proven and strengthened by time. If anything, he was a better man now than when she’d married him.


He stopped in the doorway.

“Mrs Bowler killed her husband.”

Jenny Schwartz is an Australian writer. Double Dragon eBooks published her first fantasy novel, The Walk Alones. Her short stories have appeared in From the Asylum, Alienskin, and Coyote Wild.

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