Inspector Lynch’s plump hand brushed the raindrops off his wool cloak. He tucked the hood tighter around his ruddy, stubbled chin. Thirty minutes had gone by since he’d received a phone call and made his way straight across town to the pub as the sun tried to peek through the clouds. Aw, my England, my England, he mused and thought of his favorite author, D.H. Lawrence. This distracted his mind before dealing with the dead. Passing by the statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham brought a wry smile to his lips. He really didn’t like the piece. It seemed to send the wrong message to the community—redistribution of wealth by any means. The idea was a bit repugnant to him. The copper cast statue had been hauled to the small park in 1952 and serenaded by a band from the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment at its dedication. Since then, thirty years had passed. Like the statue, he had become worn around the edges and had acquired a hitch in his left hip from arthritis. But he knew his opinions on local artifacts shouldn’t be his prime concern this particular day, they should be on the pub. Yet he couldn’t help thinking of other things on the way to the alleged crime scene as the latest community project was hard to miss. All over town, there were synthetic robin birds with pointed caps covering their crests mounted in plain sight. There were thirty-odd birds, five-foot tall with multiple patchwork colors painted over every inch. He knew they would only remain in place for a mere twelve weeks then be collected and auctioned off in October, but he thought they were gaudy. The proceeds would go to Nottinghamshire Hospice; a good cause he couldn’t fault.
A few more paces and he’d be at the pub. The name of the place, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn, never made much sense. Yet, he couldn’t argue with anyone on that subject either. After all, the establishment opened in 1189, and he did enjoy going there from time to time for a pint of ale. The various wee rooms were cozy and had a distinct air about them. The place was rather charming, embedded in the rocks beneath the Nottingham Castle.
Passing through the stone-lined courtyard, into the building, Lynch headed right to the bar to find the young woman who’d called the precinct. Liz, was sitting on a stool downing what appeared to be her second pint. He hoped she hadn’t touched anything at the scene beyond the phone and the glass. She gripped it so tightly that he worried it might explode.
“Morning, my dear, I’m the local DCI. You can call me Inspector Lynch. Tell me, what happened here?”
“Oh, hiya. I remember you. Seen you in here a few times.” Liz responded in an accent that sounded British, but a little American, too.
“Right, you are, love.”
“Sorry, what’s a DCI?’
“Detective Chief Inspector. You’re not from these parts, are you? I hear a hint of something else in your voice.”
Liz loosened her grip on the glass, and her hand twitched. “Yes, I’m from the States, but I’ve been here long enough to work on the accent. I like to blend in. When I found my manager—Mrs. O’Connell—I didn’t waste a minute and rang the police. She’s over there in the back room by the well.” Liz pointed with a bent finger that began to tremble, then rubbed her hand on her muslin peasant blouse. The inspector knew from previous visits that everyone was provided with a blouse and either a roughshod pair of trousers or a long-skirt to adhere to a Medieval ambiance.
“Right then, I’ll go have a look.”
The old well was framed by a wrought iron rail, to prevent guests from stumbling into the opening. There lay a woman prostrate on the floor with a gash in her head, one arm stretched forward with its palm splayed wide open. A line of blood trickled away from her head on the unlevel floor.
“Tsk-tsk.” The inspector clicked his tongue. He pulled his digital camera out of the pocket in his cloak and began taking photographs. The forensic team would take more when they arrived and go over every inch of the area. There weren’t likely any useable fingerprints anyway due to the public nature of the place. Yet, there was one thing unusual sitting just beyond the manager’s reach.
“Sir,” Liz’s weak voice emerged.
He turned around, and she was standing by the nearest corner.
“Sir, what, are those roses? Is she reaching for them?”
“When I saw the bouquet of 7 roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell.” He jumped through the cases in his mind.
“Who could do such a thing?”
“It wouldn’t be prudent to say. I can’t put you in danger. The apron strings wrapped around the roses are odd.” He scratched at his face. “Might be coincidental or could mean something important.”
“Not knowing who might have done this will make me more nervous.”
“Perhaps, but I still can’t tell ye. At least I can’t until the forensic work is carried out.” He scratched the welt on his cheek that got bigger as he fussed with it.
“You all right? Your face is getting red.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just a bug bite. A cold rag would help.” He needed her to leave him alone to think. While she hurried off, he popped an allergy tablet into his mouth. Last time he saw a dead body with roses had been eighteen months before. It hadn’t been publicized because the family of the old woman wanted to keep things quiet. The situation here wasn’t going to be kept under wraps. The press would get a hold of this case. Nottingham murders were rare.
She returned with the rag and handed it to him.
“Liz, do you have a lot of shifts here?”
“Mostly on weekends, I’m at Uni during the week.”
“Were there any regular customers on your shifts?”
“And, if I describe one of them, would you know the bloke?”
“Description, maybe not, but a photo, probably. No need really, there’s a surveillance camera in the corner. You know, a CCTV? Trouble is, it’s only aimed at the bar, not the well.”
“Can you show me?”
“Yeah, no worries. My brother taught me. He works in a security firm back home.”
“Very good, let’s have a look.” He followed Liz into a back room that was more of a closet. After making a quick decision on his part, he decided he wouldn’t divulge anything. If he recognized a possible suspect, he wouldn’t point to the person for fear of putting her life in danger, too. “Liz, show me random footage from last night. About an hour before closing. Point anyone out you recognize as a regular.”
“Yeah, all right.” She clicked the computer mouse here and there as he looked on. “Nothing was stolen, either. I looked. And there are no more treasures of Grantham in the caves below us.”
Twenty minutes passed. Lynch saw the man who was most likely the culprit. She pointed to him and about six other gents. The pieces were coming together in his mind. The accidental death of an old woman, Mrs. Crump, came to mind. The case had been cited as an accident, but now he was pretty sure it couldn’t have been. Mrs. Crump’s son, Jerald, was at home the night his mother died and here he was on the CCTV screen swaying on the bar stool. It might be a coincidental connection, but he now had probable cause to revisit the ‘accidental’ death. There had been seven roses at Mrs. Crump’s house, too.
“Liz, put a sign out front on the far side of the courtyard saying; ‘Sorry, closed until tomorrow.’ We can’t have people mucking about. You can go on home when you’re done.”
“Yeah, al’ right. No Sunday Roast, the clients aren’t going to like that.” She scurried over to the bar, shuffled about for paper, pen, and string. A few minutes later she was out the door and didn’t return. Instead, the forensic team appeared. Inspector Lynch went over what he knew with them before heading out to find Jerald Crump. With any luck, the man would be home at this hour sleeping off his stupor. The inspector pulled out his mobile and searched through the directory for the address. Finding what he was looking for, he called it in and asked for back-up at the residence. A half hour later, his hand wrapped on the door while the officer stood off to the side.
At first no one answered, but then a disheveled, dark hair man opened the door. It was Jerald Crump. He was visibly startled and backed up into a woman standing behind him. Lynch explained the scene at the pub and compared it to Jerald’s mother’s prostrate body with the bouquet of roses. Jerald was quite agitated but didn’t recall ever being at the pub the night before. He went on to lament the death of his poor mother whose dementia had turned her into an often angry and confused woman over the last seven years of her life. Not being particularly sympathetic, Lynch signaled for his officer to take the man into custody. The woman, who had been standing quietly behind him grabbed her coat to accompany him. A handful of rose petals fell to the floor unnoticed by Lynch.
A concise story with a touch of good humor even about a murder! Well done!
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