News of Harry Hertlasp’s confession spread round Fekenham and the neighbouring villages and towns like wildfire. This was the second murder to have happened in under two years which, when assessing the history of the area was something unusual and unpleasant.
The Frog and Radiator buzzed with the subject as folks swarmed in to drink and discuss. Mille Meade had a field day stocking up enough gossip to last several weeks.
The madness of Henry Hertlasp became like the legend of ‘Jack the Ripper’ built as large a myth as you could conceive. Harry became the first and only serial killer ever seen near the village. He was now known as ‘The Hand in Glove Axe-Man.’ It didn’t matter much that he had never used an axe to kill anyone. His notoriety was made in minutes.
The other concern, naturally enough, even though many villagers believed Harry had also killed Agatha Nosebag and Jean Grimstain, was that perhaps he hadn’t and just perhaps there was still a homicidal maniac out there shoving garden shears through people's jaws.
The other person who was getting his ears burnt by all those talking about him was Adam Lazarus who, having got Harry to confess to murdering Sir Clement and Dame Fatleaf was out dining with Doctor Leatherbarrow.
“You said the restaurant wasn’t too swanky,” said Hilary reproachfully.
“It’s not so bad,” replied Adam.
“I didn’t say it was bad, I said swanky of which it definitely is.”
“You don’t like it?”
“I like it fine I just feel a little underdressed.”
“You look great to me.”
“My being naked would look good to you but it still wouldn’t be appropriate for this place.”
“Just thinking about you being naked.”
And with that Hilary kicked Adam under the table. The waiter approached again. He had tried to take their order some minutes before but they hadn’t been ready.
“Have we made up our minds yet?” said the waiter with collective bonhomie in an attempt to inject some humour into his dry-as-dinosaur-bone question.
“Sorry,” said Hilary.
“Sorry,” echoed Adam.
The waiter smacked his lips together before forcing them into a resigned smile. He then retreated to a safe distance while pretending to do something other than wait for their order.
“I feel uncomfortable,” said Hilary, fiddling with the hem of her dress.
“Listen,” said Adam with as much authority as he could muster, “you look fantastic.”
“Yes, well, you are bound to say that.”
“It’s the truth. Anyway, why am I bound to? I was merely speaking the truth.”
“Your truth perhaps.”
“Wait a minute, you didn’t answer me. Why am I bound to?”
“When a man wants to get inside a girl’s knickers he will say all manner of flattering things.”
“Oh really, and that’s what I am up to is it? That is my master plan: the getting inside of your knickers.”
“Well, isn’t it?”
Adam thought for about two seconds.
“Yes, actually it is but it isn’t the only plan.”
“Really, you have two?”
“I am a man of many parts.”
“I am only interested in one.”
“So, you are a girl with a similar end in mind then.”
“If you mean that I want to get inside your knickers too then, yes, you are right.”
“I don’t wear knickers.”
“Underpants, Y-fronts, Boxer shorts, whatever.”
“And you want to get inside them?”
“Sort of, yes.”
“And by that, you mean what exactly.”
“That your undergarments are of little interest to a girl like me as are my knickers to you. What I am interested in is the beast that lies within.”
“I see. How do you know it’s a beast?”
The waiter appeared again at Adam’s shoulder.
“Any luck?” he smiled, all aquiver.
“We are working on it. What do you know about undergarments?”
“Silly question, sorry. Can you give us just one minute more, sorry?”
The waiter went away again doing his best to hide a pained expression.
“It’s been one heck of a day today for you, hasn’t it?” asked Hilary. “The third tattooed man murder then Jean Grimstain. How did it go with Harry Hertlasp?”
“He confessed to murdering and then dismembering Sir Clement and Dame Fatleaf but denies killing either Agatha Nosebag or Jean Grimstain.”
“As I suspected.”
“Let’s not go near the pants thing for a while. What happens next in the investigation?”
“I need to establish who else may have a motive for killing either victim.”
“Possibly Martin Tickpant, but I have to find out why first?”
“What about Tim Trimeot or Charlie Gosling?”
“Maybe, I do wonder about that group...”
“They all seem a little self-satisfied, self-centered and a bit smug for my liking. It was something Jean Grimstain said that got me thinking. She described them as being a unit. They do seem incredibly close. Tim acts gormless but I wonder if that is all it is: an act. Charlie seems to have more drive but even then I am not sure if either of them is the sort who would kill someone.”
“It could be a crime of passion?” proposed Hilary.
“How do you mean, in what way?”
“Tim wants Jean, deeply desires her so much so that when he tries yet again to persuade her to join their ménage a trois…”
“There are four of them and adding another makes five,” interrupted Lazarus.
“Just bear with me will you.”
“I would love to bare all with you.”
“Oh, just shut up and listen. He invites her again, Jean that is, to join their odd gathering but she refuses. In a fit of pique, he picks up the garden shears and kills her.”
“And what about Agatha, I can’t see anyone asking her to join a ménage-a-anything can you?”
“I suppose not but then who?”
“The only candidate left, if we accept Hertlasp’s confession as being true, and discounting the possibility of there being an outside killer, is Martin Tickpant.”
“So now all you have to do is prove it. Ah, here comes the waiter again and this time he looks like he’s taking no prisoners.”
They had eaten their first course and were now studying the main that had just been set before them.
“What was your starter like?”
“Mine too. How’s the main course taste?”
Hilary pulled a face.
“Pretty vile to be honest, it’s cold and undercooked. I think the steak is about to run off and join another herd heading east.”
“Same here. It looks and tastes disgusting.”
“So much for posh nosh.”
“Tell you what, let’s pay then leave. I know a place close by where we can get something decent to eat.”
And so, they paid the indifferent waiter, collected their coats, then made their way out onto the Winchester thoroughfare.
“Where are we going?” asked Hilary.
“It’s not far; it’s just down here a bit.”
“I’m simply ravenous, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse, come to think of it I think we nearly did!”
“Here we are.”
“A fish and chip shop?”
“One of the best and at no extra cost.”
“You really do know how to spoil a girl don’t you?”
“So then, what’ll you have?”
“A large portion of chips please.”
“Two large portions of chips please,” said Adam to the girl behind the counter.
Then Adam dug in his pockets and paid the shopkeeper who smiled graciously at the couple in their smart clothes. Adam poured vinegar on his chips as Hilary sprinkled salt.
“Vinegar?” asked Lazarus.
“Still a bit a chilly at night isn’t it, are you warm enough?”
“My home is just a short walk away. Let’s go there and I can make us some coffee or wine if you’d prefer.”
They walked on, eating their chips as they went.
“Better than horse flesh any day,” stated Lazarus through a full mouth.
“And that waiter too, I swear he was on commission.”
“The restaurant came highly recommended. The chap I share with swears by it. He regularly frequents it.”
“Perhaps it was just an off night, we all have them.”
“You share a house with someone then?”
“Miles Sundae, the ex-athlete. Have you heard of him?”
“The Olympic hopeful who all the experts were tipping for gold back whenever it was? Yes, I heard of him. Tragic the way it all ended.”
“He’s a remarkable man. Nothing seems to faze him. He’s confined to a wheelchair now but doesn’t let that stop him. Where we live now is his house. He bought an old school house, re-designed it, then had it shaped as he saw fit. I’ll have to take you to meet him, have a spot of dinner with us, no horse flesh either.”
“I’d love that. Let me know when. This is it; this is my little place, nothing as exciting as a redesigned school house but its home.”
“Looks fine to me.”
“If it’s okay with you I’d rather not have coffee to warm up.”
“Wine will be more than acceptable.”
“What I meant was I’d rather have a hot bath, with you that is, that way we could both warm up.”
Lazarus felt a huge grin cross his face as Hilary opened the door to her home and ushered him in. The night was running fast. It was now after one but there were still several hours before dawn.
They stood looking at each other as the water had run. Hilary had poured a capful of scented oil into the bath that gave off a pleasant smell. She had faced him fully dressed still holding a glass of wine. He had taken the wine from her hand and had placed it on the floor. Then he had kissed her. His mouth tasted of Pinot Grigio. Their tongues met, their lips brushed against each other then he slowly started to unzip her dress. She let the frock flutter to her ankles before she slowly undid his shirt buttons, taking in his look and the scent of his aftershave. His body was lean but not overly muscled. He obviously trained for his chest was developed and his stomach, although having no obvious signs of a six pack, was flat.
They kissed again. His shirt hung around one wrist and so he shook it until it fell to join Hilary’s dress on the floor. Hilary unbuckled his belt then unzipped his fly then, hooking her thumbs into the fabric of the trousers she tugged them off along with his underpants. She took his erection into her mouth briefly then stood up. As he removed his socks so she took off her bra and knickers then both Hilary and Adam stood looking at each other in the candle lit room.
Time stood still in a fragile hush. It was as if both knew precisely what they wanted but were slowly taking in the moment before it passed, savouring every second. Hilary picked up her glass of wine then stepped into the bath.
They lay facing each other, both holding a glass of wine with their legs thrown over each other. The conversation was a verbal foreplay. Their words flew like pretty flamingos dancing, exciting them. Her laughter dovetailed neatly into his fantasies whilst his cascaded as they caressed her libido. The wine was nothing more than a relaxant, the fundamental aphrodisiac was supplied by their desire. He wanted her and she, him.
Taking the initiative Hilary stepped out of the bath wrapping a bath sheet around her as she did. Adam followed suit. Each of them dabbed themselves dry then Hilary turned to look at Adam and was pleased to see the effect her naked body had on Adam. Taking him by his erection she led him into her bedroom where they turned to face each other. Standing on tip toes she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. He was taller than her so he bent his knees slightly and as he did she felt him enter her. She let out a soft Oh, of surprise and delight.
His right hand ran across her buttock then down over her thigh. He lifted her leg so that it hung hooked over his hip then the pair of them collapsed onto the bed. They lay locked together momentarily then he slowly moved within her; slow thrusts that made her pant in time to his movement. With his right hand, he cupped her breast, his fingers toying with her nipple. He withdrew from her then slid down her body planting kisses upon her breasts, her stomach and then her vulva. She parted her legs for him then pulled her arms over her face as he peeled apart her labia with his fingers. His mouth caressed her; his tongue lapped at her clitoris then probed her cleft.
He continued to eat from the fruit of her sex then, as her breathing grew more urgent, he stopped and retraced his kisses up over the camber of her belly, then on to her chest, nibbling her breasts, sucking on her nipples. He kissed her mouth and she could taste herself on his lips, on his tongue. The thought excited her all the more and then he penetrated her again. The sensation gave her a tiny shock of pleasure, then he started to thrust again slowly at first but then with more power, more urgency. She felt her climax grow and she curled her legs around his back pulling him in closer to her. Her hands raked across his back leaving little bloodlines like a signature. She heard herself moaning as if from far away, heard that low animal sound as her orgasm growled from the depths of her sex all along her body and then out of her throat.
She heard him groaning too as she bucked beneath his weight. Heard his final gasp, felt his final, desperate thrust, felt her second orgasm crash through her like a tsunami breaking against the shore.
They fell apart then, Adam with his face hidden beneath the crook of his elbow, one leg raised and bent the other out flat. He was covered in a fine sheen of sweat and his breathing came in deep gasps. She pulled her legs together and lay blinking at the ceiling. She felt suddenly exhausted, blissfully so as the traces of physical pleasure gradually withdrew.
She rolled over toward him placing her hand on his chest. It was clammy but this didn’t bother her. She kissed him long on the mouth. He responded by pushing himself up onto his elbows and taking her in his arms.
“You’ll have to let me have the name of your bubble bath,” he said as he planted kisses upon her throat.
“It had the desired effect then?” she smiled as she kissed the corners of his mouth.
“Would you like some more wine?”
“I’d like some more of you.”
“Wine first and time to recover, even you will need a minute or two.”
Hilary climbed out of bed and pulled on her dressing gown. “I won’t be a tick,” she called out over her shoulder.
Adam lay back in the bed with one arm tucked behind his head. He looked around the room as though for the first time, taking in the décor. Her taste in furnishings gave him an insight into the woman he was rapidly falling in love with. It was all very simple, very minimal but attractive: the single large gilt mirror, the large painting (a copy of a Don Van Vliet), the walls painted a delicate, pale blue. The first light of morning was showing itself through the closed blinds. He heard the telephone ring, heard her voice as she answered it.
“Yes, he’s here. Who shall I say is calling?”
Then he heard the soft padding of her naked feet as she came back into the bedroom.
“It’s your office. Apparently, you left your comwand in the car. They need to talk to you urgently.”
Her voice carried a tone of resentment even though she looked relaxed about the situation. Adam took the call.
“Lazarus. “Christ, when? No, it’s okay. I’ll be there shortly.”
He sat, still naked, on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. He was visibly upset and deeply shaken by something. Hilary put her hand on his shoulder.
He turned his head toward her and she was shocked to see tears in his eyes.
“Penny Farthing’s body has been found. She has been stabbed. I have to go, I’m sorry.”
A little after Hilary and Adam had made love, over in another part of Winchester daylight had crept in through Penny Farthing’s window. She had been working so hard going over the evidence that she hadn’t realised that the night had been and gone. She had remained dressed in the same clothes she had been wearing the day before. As that thought registered so it dawned on her that, apart from a stale sandwich yesterday lunch time and cups of coffee throughout the night, she had eaten nothing for nearly eighteen hours.
Her flat was small having one bedroom, a tiny bathroom and a living room come dining room come kitchen. She opened her fridge door to find a vast amount of unoccupied space with little evidence of food apart from three eggs and a carton of yoghurt. She took the eggs out, broke the shells into a Pyrex bowl, then ripped the top of the yoghurt which she preceded to spoon into her mouth. Yoghurt eaten, she then lit the gas, placed a small saucepan, the only one she owned, onto the hob, then started to whisk the eggs with a fork. Picking out and leaving aside the green bits of her half-used loaf of bread she shoved two slices into the toaster then went back to whisking the eggs. Within minutes she had scrambled eggs on toast.
She took the plate of food into her bathroom where she pushed the plug into the hole, then turned both hot and cold taps on. The water cascaded out as she took off her clothes off which fell in a heap by her feet. Sitting naked on the edge of the bath she waited as the bath filled, eating her eggs and toast.
Penny was not an ambitious girl. She was nothing like Debbie or Vesper; she simply didn’t have that drive. She enjoyed her job and loved every minute of working on the ‘Tattoo case’ but she had no unfulfilled dreams to become an inspector. Sergeant would suit her fine and when it came, if it came, then all well and good. Like her mother before her, all Penny wanted was security, a happy home with a decent man and two children. If she achieved those ambitions then she would be fulfilled as she could be.
The bathwater came up to her neck and she closed her eyes as she luxuriated in its warmth. Her Mum swore by a hot bath. It was the first thing she turned to if upset or unwell. Penny was the same. Old Simian Simpering would have dismissed such thinking as programming but Penny couldn’t care less and anyway, she had never liked the frog-faced man.
She lay in the bath for twenty minutes until her fingers had that weird look to them, then she washed her hair, wrapped a hand towel around her head and a larger towel around her torso and climbed out. She brushed her teeth and then blow dried her hair. When she had been promoted, apart from investing in her flat she had gone out and bought five white blouses and five pairs of black trousers. Throwing yesterday’s laundry into the bin, she pulled on fresh knickers, hooked her bra together at the front then spun it round placing her arms through the loops as she did, then she pulled on her ‘uniform.’
The clock had the time as seven forty-five. She was due in the office by nine. That gave her just enough time to go over the latest evidence she had managed to extricate from Francis Fisher’s garden. There had been nothing found at either Cooper Kloot’s home or Kevin Migham’s: not a single solitary shred of anything whatsoever. The only paperwork they had found were receipts. Francis Fisher had, at first, seemed to be just the same but then she had noticed that freshly laid turf. It was obvious to her, if not to any of her colleagues, that the turf was different; different shape, different colour, totally different. When the others had left, making their way back to police HQ, Penny had gone into the garden armed with a spade. She had carefully eased the turf up until she could see beneath it an old chocolate box.
Inside the box had been the information she and the investigation had been looking for. Paperwork enclosed revealed that Cooper Kloot, Kevin Migham and Francis Fisher were all ex-Royal Air Force. It showed that Kloot and Kelly were ex-paratroopers with Migham a telephonic/communication expert. The men had been recruited by the East India Trading Company’s Special Operations Executive some five years ago along with one other, as yet unknown, individual. They had been deployed to monitor police activity with Winchester which struck Penny as not only odd but surely as contravening internal security. After all, S.O.E worked for an independent industrial concern and had nothing to do with matters of state. Of course, all of this had come prior to recent revelations regarding Wynkyn de Worde III and The East India Trading Company.
Each of the men had been given code names, all of which were taken from those of birds: Hawk, Falcon, Eagle and Kite. Beyond this Penny knew nothing; there was no other information to base anything on.
She then set about contacting those she thought should be aware of her findings, starting with Vesper Highlot, then Adam Lazarus, and finally Hilary Leatherbarrow. She had no response from any of them and so left messages, urging them to contact her as soon as possible as she now had sufficient evidence to warrant a full and proper investigation.
Feeling tired and rather happy with what she had managed to uncover she settled back on her sofa, closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. It was only to be a catch-up for she had to get to work by nine.
She didn’t hear the key in the door turning softly and she didn’t hear the door as it slid open, nor did she hear the sound of stealthy feet as a masked individual crept into her apartment. The first thing Penny knew of another’s presence was when the hand clamped across her mouth. Her head was savagely pulled back and to the right. She could see the masked apparition that stood over her. She just had time to register the hazel coloured eyes before the black eleven-inch knife blade thrust in between her collar bone and trapezius. Death was almost instant. There was very little blood.
The job done, the assassin cleaned the blade on a square of cloth then placed the dagger back into its sheath and left the apartment through the front door.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.