When Mrs Walker stepped into her garden at precisely 7:10 am on a bright, July morning, she did not expect to see a dead body tied up in her washing line.
Her chest tightened in surprise and she scowled. Not only was the blue, puffy face unpleasant to look at, but it was also incredibly inconvenient. Mrs Walker hadn’t made time in her schedule for a dead body, or interviews with the police, for that matter. She bit the inside of her cheek. Though retired, she had her routine to consider.
Every day, Mrs Walker rose promptly at 6:30 am and would be washed and dressed by 7 am, sharp. By 7:10 am, she’d be checking the garden, cup and saucer in hand, (no mugs please, she is not, after all, a tradesman), and by 8 am she would have eaten a light breakfast and be waiting for the number 127 bus to town. You see, the library opens promptly at 9 am and Mr Grosvenor is a devil for nabbing the best books if you don’t get there on time.
The old lady ran a hand through her sleek, bobbed brown hair and stared at the woman’s body. She took a sip of her tea. The poor things hands were tied either side of her head and the washing line was wrapped around her neck. She wore what can only be described as ‘tarts’ clothes on her more than ample frame. Her skirt was three inches too short and her neckline barely covered a bosom that, when alive, heaved even if the owner hadn’t intended it to.
Mrs Walker tutted, brushed down her clothes and turned on her heel, silently cursing. With a rather petulant look on her face, she headed inside to call the police.
What on earth would the neighbors say?
The call made, Mrs Walker stood in her living room, staring at the bookshelf wondering what Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple would do.
As a retired headmistress of St Madeleine’s School for Girls, her fondness for books had often endeared her to the students. A love of classic crime novels had sharpened her quizzical mind and proved useful when investigating the girls’ various misdemeanors.
She looked back through the kitchen window into the garden, pushed her glasses further up her nose, grabbed the notebook and pen from next to the telephone, and strode outside.
A gentle breeze carried the sweet scent of flowering honeysuckle, giving a strange and delicate perfume to the macabre scene. Mrs Walker approached the body with caution, examining it without touching. After closer inspection, and looking past the bruising and bulging eyes, she recognized the body as that of Judith Bramble, local barmaid and well-known trollop.
Her thick make-up was still intact, even death couldn’t shift it. Her clothes were not disheveled, though Mrs Walker stopped short of checking to see if her underwear was still in place. Even a slattern like Judith deserved some dignity, especially in death. Her usually long fingernails were broken which, Mrs Walker felt, indicated some kind of struggle. She noted all this down in her notebook.
Before she could examine the garden any further, police sirens sounded from the front of the house and Mrs Walker made her way indoors, dropping her notebook and pen back in place as she went. She opened the front door of her cottage and admired her prize winning roses, hoping the policemen wouldn’t trample them.
“Mrs Walker?” asked a man in a badly fitting suit.
“Yes,” she answered, eyeing him suspiciously.
“I’m Detective Inspector Graves.” He flashed a badge held in a black wallet as he marched up the garden path.
“May I have a look again, please?” asked Mrs Walker as he neared the door. Not because she hadn’t seen it, but simply because she wanted him to slow down and not go charging through the house without wiping his feet first.
“Certainly,” he said through gritted teeth, displaying his badge again. “I understand you found a body this morning?”
Inspector Graves was quite a young man by Mrs Walker’s standards, being in his late thirties with dark blond hair and tired grey eyes.
Mrs Walker went through the morning’s events with such precise timings Inspector Graves looked at her as though she had made them up. He then examined the body and investigated the garden. To Mrs Walkers chagrin, he also ruffled her begonias.
“Did you know the deceased?” he asked, making notes in his own notebook.
“Yes. Judith Bramble, the barmaid from the Hare and Hounds.”
“Do you have any idea who could have killed her and put her here?”