I am glad to report that my murder mystery spoof-in-progress, The Doyenne of Didsbrook, is taking shape, and DCI Middleton’s investigations are bumbling along nicely. A 3 minute 50-second read.

INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY

Excerpt from The Doyenne of Didsbrook © 2020 Tessa Barrie

‘Hello Darling, I’m just coming.’ Arthur Boniface sang the words from behind his front door, blinking into the sunlight as he opened it, while tying his kimono around his waist.

‘Mr Boniface?’ Humphrey flashed his badge.

‘Heavens! The strong-arm of the law? I thought it was my wonderful neighbour, Jocelyn Robertshaw, checking up on me after last night’s frivolities. What have I done to warrant a visit from the boys in blue?’

‘I’m DCI Middleton, Sir, and this is Sergeant McCorkingdale who, I assume, you know?’

‘Yes, of course, I know Corky!  His wife played one of my wives in the DADS production of Run For Your Wife. And very good she was too. How can I help you both?

‘Can we come in, Sir?’

‘Yes, of course, you’ll have to excuse the mess and my attire. I’ve just got out of the bath.  Naughty I know, it’s afternoon now, but I was entertaining last night. I had an old friend down from London for the evening, and things got rather late, so I decided to have a pyjama day today. I wasn’t expecting any visitors today, apart from Joc, who always checks in around now, to see if I’ve survived the night.  Come on through. Can I make you a cup of anything?  Coffee? Tea? Or, I’ve just made myself a jug of Bloody Mary, it’s such a wonderful pick-me-up.’

‘No, thank you, Sir, I need to ask you some questions…’

‘Fire away.  I am all ears.’

‘But, first of all I need to give you some bad news.’

‘Bad news? No news is ever bad in dear old Didders, Detective Chief Inspector. That’s one reason I decided to retire here. I fell in love with the place over forty years ago when darling Joc first introduced me.  I made up my mind then, that I wanted to be here in my dotage.  More than anything else, I wanted to be close to her, to Jocelyn, in my dotage. We go back many moons, you know? Joc and I.’

He flopped on the sofa, kicking his legs out in front of him, crossing them, then tucking them in.

‘Do take a seat, gentlemen. The round snuggle chair is particularly comfortable.  Joc gave it to me for my sixtieth birthday. Of course, it’s better when you’ve got someone to snuggle with.  Joc and I have spent many hours in it together, watching Netflix. Joc was my first love at Cambridge you know, as well as my first Juliet at Stratford.’

‘You say was…’  Humphrey interjected.

‘Yes, well sadly, neither of us are treading the professional boards any more, but Jocelyn is my best friend and my soulmate. In fact, these days, now dear Peter is no longer with us, we are everything to each other. Except for lovers, of course, Jocelyn has always preferred someone a bit more, you know, macho, in the bedroom department.’  Sergeant MacCorkingdale’s boots squeaked together as he shifted his feet, as Humphrey cleared his throat. Arthur’s flamboyant monologue was beginning to irritate.

‘Mr Boniface! I’m afraid your neighbour, and friend, Mrs Robertshaw, has been found dead in her bed this morning.’ Sergeant MacCorkingdale sucked in an audible gulp of air.

‘That’s a bit brutal, Sir.’

‘Dead!’ Arthur surprised them both by countering Humphrey’s statement with a laugh. ‘Don’t be so silly. She’s been having you on, darling. Jocelyn can’t possibly be dead. People like Jocelyn don’t die! Don’t be so ridiculous. She was drinking Pink Gin like a trooper yesterday evening. I know she’s been out of sorts recently, but she can’t be dead! There must be some mistake.’

‘Mr Boniface.’ Sergeant MacCorkingdale, sensing his senior officer’s increasing frustration, found his voice. ‘There’s no mistake, I am afraid. I’ve known Mrs Robertshaw all my life, and I can promise you, Sir, she’s as dead as a dodo.’

Arthur sat silently for a few seconds before rocking off the sofa and sinking to his knees. Holding both arms above his head, he wailed at the ceiling.

‘Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death!’

‘Mr Boniface, are you alright, Sir?’

“He’s quoting Shakespeare, Sergeant. Romeo and Juliet, I think.’

‘Jocelyn, my first, my only Juliet! Alack the day, she’s dead, she’s dead. She can’t be dead!’

‘I think he’s in denial, Sir.’

‘He’s in shock certainly, Sergeant.’

Humphrey raised his voice in an attempt to be heard above Arthur’s sobs.

‘Is there anybody we can call, Mr Boniface? Someone who can come and sit with you for a bit?’ Still looking at the ceiling, Arthur sobbed.

‘Sit with me? Joc is the only person I would ever want to sit with me! Wherefore art thou, my darling Jocelyn? You must come back to me. I’m nothing without you. You can’t be dead!’  Arthur’s voice trailed away, exhaled with a squeak.

‘You better get the paramedics out here again, Sergeant. They can come and give him something to calm him down, and they can take a sample while they are at it. Stay with him… until they come, and try and find out who he was with last night. We need to talk to him, or her, a.s.a.p.’

‘Surely you don’t think Arthur can have had anything to do with Mrs Robertshaw’s death, Sir?’

They both looked down at Arthur Boniface lying in the foetal position, pounding his fist against Chinese Art Deco rug.

‘It’s terrible to see him like this Sir, they were joined at the hip, those two.’

‘I thought you said nothing was going on between them?

‘Metaphorically speaking, I meant, Sir.’

‘Innocent, until proven guilty, Sergeant, to quote the British barrister, Sir William Arrow, that’s my MO. Now get the paramedics round here.’