Murder at the Seaside
“Can I help you Sir?” the desk sergeant asked the elderly man who had just walked into Wimbourne police station.
As the sergeant rummaged for a biro among the clutter on the desk, his mind ran through a range of options. Had the man mislaid his car in the multi-storey car park? Locked himself out of his house? Maybe he’d come to complain about a ball that had gone into his garden? Old people were notoriously absent minded and intolerant. His fingers finally found a black biro and he looked up expectantly at the person before him. The man appeared to be in his seventies, clean shaven and wearing a crisp white shirt with trousers which had a knife edge crease. His shoes were highly polished.
“I’ve come to report a murder,” said the man.
Sergeant Jenkins’ mind went blank. This was not at all what he’d expected. He wasn’t sure that murders happened in Wimbourne - down the road in Bournemouth certainly, but not here, and certainly not on his watch.
“A murder, Sir?” he repeated.
“Perhaps I should put it more plainly,” said the man. “I’ve murdered my wife. I think some-one had better arrest me.”
“All in good time Sir,” said Sergeant Jenkins. “Let’s just start by you giving me a few particulars.”
The man’s eyes went cold and he said in a voice like steel,
“Is there some-one more senior I could talk to? My wife is lying stone dead in a room at The Crown Hotel and you want to know my particulars. My date of birth is of no consequence here.”
“Perhaps you could take a seat, Sir, while I find out if the Detective Inspector is available.”
The man looked about to protest but instead changed his mind and sat down somewhat heavily on a wooden chair which had been purchased specifically for its lack of comfort.
Sergeant Jenkins disappeared through a door and asked of no-one in particular, “Is the Governor back? I’ve got a customer out front who claims to have killed his wife. Looking at him, though, it’s not very likely.”
As he finished speaking, he noticed a gleaming silver Audi speed out of the car park and he saw that the driver was the elderly man he’d been speaking to moments earlier.
“Blimey, has he forgotten to switch off the gas?” he asked. “I guess we needn’t bother Detective Inspector Harper after all. The chief suspect in the non-murder case has just left.”
“You are going to look really stupid if he did actually kill some-one and you just let him get away,” said WPC Atkinson. “We’d better get round to his place and check things out. Let’s have the address.” She held out her hand expectantly.
Sergeant Jenkins looked aggrieved. “The man mentioned something about a hotel, but I didn’t write down the details.”
“You’d better hope that his wife has just fainted or that he’s some kind of nutter then, because if it transpires that he is a murderer you can probably kiss your pension goodbye.”
Sergeant Jenkins went back to his desk and wondered why it was that women were so aggressive these days. Were they all on steroids? He was so thankful that his lovely June never spoke to him like that at home. Dear God, supposing you had to live with some-one like WPC Atkinson? You really might be driven to murder. He decided to go back to his crossword now that he had a pen in his hand.
As he puzzled over seven down “Jail room, two words’’, the phone rang.
“Wimbourne Police Station, Sergeant Jenkins speaking.”
“You’d better send some-one over here. One of our maids has just found a body in room three. She’s dead, the woman, not the maid.”
Sergeant Jenkins’ training and years of experience meant that he was able to find out that the speaker was the manager of The Crown Hotel and that the body in question belonged to a Mrs Lillian Driver. She had checked into the hotel with her husband the previous evening, they had breakfasted together, but he was now nowhere to be found. He’d driven off in his silver Audi according to reception staff.
“Please make sure that no-one touches anything,” said Sergeant Jenkins. “Our men will be with you in no time.” He hoped that this was true, and that Detective Inspector Harper was back in the building because then he could take charge.
Right on cue a tall, slightly stocky man with slicked back hair came through the front door.
“Anyone like a doughnut?” he asked brandishing a greasy paper bag.
“Sir, there’s been a murder at the Crown Hotel. And I’m not entirely sure, but the murderer may have been in earlier to confess.”
“Do you mean to say you’ve already got some-one in custody? Well done Jenkins.”
“Not exactly, Sir. The man did a runner before I could ascertain the facts of the case.”
“How long ago did he leave?”
“It must have been less than five minutes.”
“OK, we’ll get roadblocks on all the main routes. Get over to The Crown, Atkinson. Jenkins go with her.”
The police car sped through the streets, blue light flashing. They stopped outside an imposing white building. D S Atkinson was out of the car almost before it stopped, followed by a much slower Sergeant Jenkins. If they solved this, he knew that Atkinson would be off like a shot – to one of the big cities where crimes like this happened every day. He shuddered slightly at the thought.
The manager met them at the front door.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” he said as if he was to blame. He wrung his hands in anguish. “This could be very bad for business.”
“If we could just see the body, Sir?” said Atkinson.
The manager led the police officers up the stairs to the first floor. He unlocked the door and stepped aside.
“That’ll be all for now thank you,” said D S Atkinson. The manager gave a little bow and left.
The room was immaculately clean. Jenkins made a note to bring Mrs Jenkins here sometime. Not to murder her, obviously, but as a treat for her birthday.
A woman was lying on top of the bed on a gold leaf printed bedspread. She was fully clothed, looking for all the world as if she was having a nap. Her twinset perfectly complemented the colour of her tweed skirt. Grey curls framed her face. There were no signs of violence.
“It’s pretty clear who did this, what we may never know is why,” said D S Atkinson. Her mobile rang and she answered.
“They’ve got the husband,” she said, turning to Sergeant Jenkins. “He’s made a full confession. She was about to leave him for younger man. He couldn’t stand the humiliation.”
Atkinson made a face as she spoke. She seemed to find the notion of Mrs Driver having a young toy boy, distasteful.
They left the room and went downstairs. As they headed for the car park, they failed to notice a man in his forties, with highly polished shoes and his trousers pressed immaculately – a younger version of Mr Driver. He was sitting in a wing backed armchair, a silk scarf peeping out of his jacket pocket and a look of satisfaction on his face.