|Image courtesy of Amberstock|
The following morning, having spent an entertaining evening with Debbie and Miles, which had delighted Adam who feared Hilary and Debbie clashing, and an even better night making love with Hilary, Adam had called Vesper asking her to meet him on the corner of her road at ten. It was eight when he made the call but he wanted to accompany Hilary to the hospital to visit Mrs MacCrumpet. He also needed Vesper to be close at hand at all times now.
The elderly housecleaner was still under observation. She was conscious when they arrived but had little to say, drifting in and out of sleep. Adam and Hilary had spoken with the ward sister who had said to give Mrs MacCrumpet time. “She is old,” she explained, "and has been through an awful ordeal but you’d be surprised how tough she is.”
Adam had left Hilary by the bedside, leaving her with money for a cab. Then he had called Debbie.
“If you’re not busy could you do me a favour?”
“Not busy this morning but I am this afternoon. Miles is taking me out shopping.”
“He must have more money than sense,” replied Lazarus, tongue in cheek.
“Blooming sauce,” said Debbie. “And you want me to do you a favour ?”
“Hilary is visiting her housekeeper. The nurse says the old lady is fine but I know Hilary blames herself.”
“You want me to keep an eye on Hilary. Make sure she’s alright.”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
Debbie made a pantomime sigh that seemed far too loud to be real.
“Oh well, seeing as it’s you and neatly forgetting I’d like you to be shagging me downstairs in the basement instead of lucky Hilary I guess I ‘d better help.”
“You saw us then?”
“I didn’t so much see as hear. Hilary makes quite a racket doesn’t she, a bit like a train racing through a tunnel? I do like her even though I thought I’d hate her.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’m also grateful to you for being so understanding.”
With that Lazarus said goodbye leaving Debbie thinking how wrong he was. Yes, she did really like Hilary but she was deeply envious of her. No matter how much Adam loved Hilary, Debbie still loved Adam. The only half-sensible thing to do in such a situation, especially with Hilary sharing the house with them, was to make an effort.
Adam picked Vesper up at nine fifty seven. She was looking exceptionally nice today but Lazarus thought it best to say nothing. Paying her a compliment following her trying to kiss him might be misinterpreted.
“Where are we off to guv?” asked Vesper as Adam drove.
“I want to speak with Martin Tickpant again. I found out yesterday that he is the father of Sam Grimstain.”
“The murdered woman Jean Grimstain’s son?”
“That’s the one.”
“And you think that gives motive to Tickpant as you think she had been blackmailing him?”
“Precisely, but also Agatha Nosebag, I think she also knew who the boy’s father was. I think Tickpant killed them both as he didn’t want his wife finding out.”
Vesper seemed unsure.
“The only fault I can find with that, sir, is this: why would Martin Tickpant care what his wife thought? No disrespect, sir, but the wife has obvious problems. I would have thought Mister Tickpant could have easily made excuses his wife would have accepted.”
Lazarus bit a nail. It was a counter theory he too had been struggling with.
“Yes, I know. I cannot explain that but until I can I need to apply pressure to the Tickpants. I think we should bring him in for questioning.”
“You are going to arrest him now on suspicion? That might be a bit tricky sir.”
“I don’t think so but we’ll see. If I talk to Martin can you keep his wife calm? I don’t want to upset her more than I have to. ”
“No problem, sir.”
They drove the rest of the way in silence with Lazarus taking in the scenery and Vesper doing her best to keep her eyes off him. She knew she was being foolish but she couldn’t help finding him attractive. Right from the moment she had first seen him, having been called in as replacement for the departing Debbie Sundae, she liked being with him. The fact he didn’t reciprocate her attraction not only caused resentment, it also aroused her all the more.
She felt him swell inside her. it felt as though it filled her as his hot breath fell upon her and his tongue raced across her neck.
As the car rolled next to Birchtickle pond Vesper put the thoughts she was having away. Focus, she thought, focus.
Lazarus hammered on the farm house front door. Alice opened it, smiling, then, upon seeing who it was, blushed and appeared uncomfortable.
“Hello Alice, may we speak with Martin please?”
She looked Adam up and down as though considering what to do. Then she looked at Vesper.
“He’s not here,” she said.
“Where is he then?” asked Lazarus, sensing a reluctance to help them.
“He’s not here,” Alice repeated, this time more aggressively.
From the barn came a sound of metal against wood. Someone was using an axe. Lazarus nodded at Vesper to follow him.
“Thanks Alice, I think we know where he is.”
In the barn Martin Tickpant was chopping tree limbs into logs. He saw the two police officers walk in and greeted them icily.
“What do you want?”
The axe blade fell with a dull thud.
“You haven’t been honest with us, Mister Tickpant, have you?” asked Lazarus mildly.
“I’ve answered all the questions you put me honestly.”
“Perhaps but you still didn’t disclose everything did you?”
“If I didn’t then it was not your business to know it.”
“I am investigating a murder, two in fact.”
“My private life is my affair and has no bearing on these murders whatsoever.”
“Let me be the judge of that Mister Tickpant.”
The axe fell again, this time cleanly severing a section of branch. Martin Tickpant looked up at Lazarus but remained silent. He then brushed his hand across his forehead, wiping the sweat from his eyes.
“Sam Grimstain is your son isn’t he, Mister Tickpant?”
The axe fell again but this time missed its target. Martin Tickpant remained silent.
“Isn’t he Mister Tickpant? If you don’t want to answer questions here perhaps you’d rather we conducted the interview down at the station?”
Martin Tickpant rested the axe on a log then leant on the wooden handle.
“I had an affair, a brief, wonderful, affair fifteen years ago with Jean. It was when she first moved to Birchtickle. Yes, the boy is my son. What of it? I look after him don’t I? He doesn’t want for anything.”
“She was blackmailing you wasn’t she?” asked Lazarus, standing his ground but keeping well away from the axe.
“No, she wasn’t. We had cross words about her wanting more, more than I could afford but no, she wasn’t blackmailing me.”
“And Agatha Nosebag, she knew about your affair didn’t she?”
Martin Tickpant laid the axe down on the ground then moved toward the two police officers, wiping his hands on an old cloth.
“Agatha knew everyone’s business so maybe she did. I hadn’t told her, and neither had Jean but she may have found out but, before you go suggesting she was blackmailing, then stop. She wasn’t. We didn’t get on. She didn’t like me and I didn’t like her but she never blackmailed me, no really. I paid her money for helping out a bit.”
“What does your wife think of your relationship with Jean Grimstain, sir?” asked Vesper.
“Do you have any idea of what it is like being married to someone like my wife? Oh, I know I was wrong to have married, wrong to have let myself stoop to such a low degree but I have come to love her. I love Alice even though there are some that would say otherwise. I had an affair, Sergeant, that’s all. It was wrong and I’ve felt guilty ever since; guilty for Alice, guilty for Jean and guilty for Sam, my son. Guilt doesn’t make you kill though. That’s what you are here for isn’t it? You think I killed both Agatha and Jean.”
“You have motive, opportunity and means and the fact you were paying Mrs Nosebag money, even if you say it wasn’t, sounds like blackmail to me,” said Lazarus.
Tickpant smiled then shook his head, his large forehead still beaded with tiny drops of sweat.
“I didn’t kill Agatha nor did I kill Jean.”
“If not you, then who?”
As the words left Adam’s mouth the barn door flew open and Alice charged in wielding a knife. She ran straight at Lazarus, brandishing the blade before her. Vesper Highlot leapt forward and stuck her foot out. Alice tripped over it, dropped the knife on the straw covered barn floor and then clattered onto the ground in a heap. As she got up, Vesper took hold of her right arm, dragging it round her back.
Alice roared then tried to throw Vesper off. The police detective clung on as Martin Tickpant moved in front of his wife.
“Alice, Alice, love, calm down, calm down.”
Alice visibly relaxed. Vesper let go her hold on her arm which Alice started rubbing vigorously.
“It was me,” said Alice, me. I killed them both. I killed Nosebag and Jean Grimstain.”
Vesper took the steaming mug of coffee Lazarus gave her.
“Thanks,” she said stretching her left leg and rubbing it.
It had been a long day. She and Lazarus had interviewed both Martin and Alice Tickpant separately, often as a team but occasionally on their own. Lazarus had felt that his presence with Alice made her unwilling to reveal or say anything of potential worth. She seemed to have trouble with all men apart from her husband.
Martin stuck to his guns. He stoutly denied murdering either Agatha Nosebag or Jean Grimstain.
“Why would I kill Jean for? She looked after our son. Who is going to have him now?”
“You are missing the point,” remarked Lazarus. “We believe you had a motive. We believe you were being blackmailed. When Jean Grimstain’s demands became too much, and you thought she would reveal you as being Sam’s father, a fact you didn’t want your wife to know, you killed her.”
“Rubbish. I didn’t kill her even if we had argued.”
“And do you still deny that Agatha Nosebag was blackmailing you?”
Finally the pressure took its toll and Martin Tickpant gave vent to it, spitting as he shouted.
“Yes, yes, yes, alright, she was blackmailing me but I swear I didn’t kill her. I am not that stupid.”
Of course what the investigation needed was either a confession, which was what Lazarus was hoping for, or for new incriminating evidence, proof factual, that Martin was the guilty party.
Vesper took a different approach with Alice. The woman was naïve but that naivety, if not carefully handled, could, in the hands of a good defence council, be used against the Crown. Very subtly, Vesper began to befriend Martin Tickpant’s wife. She demonstrated how she could be trusted and how she was really on Alice’s side. It took a while but Alice began to trust Vesper.
“You and Martin have lived in Birchtickle longer than anyone else. You must love it there?”
Agatha forced a reluctant smile to her face, nodding vigorously.
“I was born in Birchtickle. I love it there,” replied Alice.
Vesper smiled back, observing Alice’s’ movements which seemed clumsy when compared to her own. It was obvious once you had been in Alice’s presence a short while that something was not quite right. Her speech was fine, if a little slow, but it was her eyes that revealed more. They registered things a lot slower than normal. Alice digested what was being said but then took an uncommonly long time to assess and understand a given question unless it was put in the simplest terms.
“When I was young I used to love playing noughts and crosses with my Dad. Did you have a game you liked?”
Alice stared momentarily at Vesper then her face broke into a broad smile.
“I spy. Daddy played I spy with me. I like I spy.”
“Do you play it with Martin?”
“Sometimes but he’s not very good at it.”
“I guess he’s always hard at work on the farm.”
Alice nodded again with the same repeated bobbing of her head.
“I think a farm must be hard work. I know I couldn’t do it. Do you help?”
“Sometimes; I help with lambing and feeding the geese. I am not allowed to drive farm vehicles.”
“Would you like to?”
Alice’s eyes lit up. She became very animated.
“Not much!” she expressed her desire using slang. “Especially the big tractors. I’d drive them round and round the field just like they were racing cars.”
She started to giggle. Her laughter was child-like but infectious. Vesper felt herself laughing too.
“Would you like to go for a drive in a police car?”
“Oh yeah, with the lights flashing and sirens making that funny noise?”
“Absolutely. Once this is over we shall do it.”
Seeing her now, this middle-aged woman, acting like a teenager, gave Vesper an entirely different perspective of Alice.
“Do you and Martin ever go for a drive, in his car I mean?”
“He takes you to church?”
“No. Martin doesn’t believe in God.”
“I see. What about you, do you believe?”
“Yes. My Daddy said God made everything, even stupidity. Martin’s not stupid though.”
Vesper took a sip of water.
“Where else does Martin drive you?”
“We go to Muckleford sometimes, market days mostly. Sometimes we go to the tea rooms in Fekenham. Once we went to Winchester. I liked it there. I like history.”
“What about walks? Do you and Martin ever walk anywhere?”
“Do you ever walk around the pond? That’s got history hasn’t it?”
“Yes. They used to tie witches to a chair and then drown them in the pond.”
“Not very nice was it?”
“People were like that back then.”
“Do you ever go out walking on your own?”
“Not if Martin’s not with me, no.”
“I see.” Vesper took another sip of water then placed the cup back on the table. ”I bet you are getting bored with all this aren’t you? Shall I see if it’s okay for you to go home?”
“Let me find out. Stay there for a minute, okay?”
Vesper left the interview room, walked the short distance down the corridor to where Adam Lazarus was sitting opposite Martin Tickpant. Judging by the pair’s facial expressions things were not going smoothly.
“Guv, can I have a word?”
Lazarus scraped the chair back then left the room. Outside Vesper leant her back against the wall.
“What’s up?” asked Lazarus, moving over to where a coffee vending machine stood. He pumped a shilling into the slot, pressed a button then watched as coffee poured over the grille and onto the floor. Lazarus pulled a face. Vesper Highlot grinned.
“Don’t you just love those things?”
“What’s up?” repeated Lazarus again. “Why’d you interrupt my interview?”
He looked tense, edgy. She could see he was struggling to get a confession.
“There is no way Alice Tickpant could have killed anyone. Not unless she was accompanied.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Lazarus.
“Whenever she goes out she has someone with her. That someone is usually Martin Tickpant.”
Lazarus pulled a face then leant in near to Vesper.
“It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that he went with her, put the shears in her hand and let her do his dirty work is it?”
“Possible maybe but highly improbable.”
“She needs help doing virtually anything apart from the simplest tasks, sir, she isn’t capable.”
Lazarus sighed deeply, pushed himself away from the wall then strode down the corridor back towards the interview room and Martin Tickpant. He turned, walked part way back toward his junior officer.
“Okay. I accept what you’re saying. In that case it must be him who killed them. Christ knows how we can prove that?”
That had been several hours ago. Now Vesper clutched the coffee Lazarus had given her. Lazarus had wanted to keep Martin Tickpant in a cell overnight but he had no justifiable cause and so had let husband and wife go. He wasn’t happy about that. He sipped at his coffee morosely.
“What do we do now, guv?” asked Vesper.
“Nothing. We need to have something concrete to go on and we have sweet F.A. Besides, if I’m honest, I’m not sure if it is Martin Tickpant who is guilty.”
“Who then? We don’t have anyone else in the frame. There are no other suspects?”
“There’s the other residents.”
“What the sexual deviants?”
“Yes, them, I still think there is something I am missing. You dismissed the Brethren business, those other killings, but you were wrong. I am convinced that somehow that case and this are connected.”
Vesper couldn’t help but show her annoyance. She didn’t like making mistakes, especially ones that may have caused the death of a colleague.
“I said sorry before about getting it wrong, guv, I can’t keep on apologising. Hasn’t Hilary Leatherbarrow got any evidence for you?”
“She’s had issues of her own to contend with. Having her lab burnt down being one, the other her housekeeper being injured in the blaze. I take your point about the Brethren though. Now I need you to look again at all the facts.”
“Where are you going?” asked Vesper.
“I am going to talk with Doctor Leatherbarrow and see if she’s okay. Will you be alright on your own?”
“I spent three years in the military in Special Forces. I was trained to work on my own as much as in teams. I’ll be fine.”
Lazarus stopped to pick up his comwand. Upon hearing Vesper he looked back at her with a frown creasing his forehead.
“Don’t work too late,” chided Lazarus as he left
The kiss had come unexpectedly. Hilary and Debbie had been looking at the records that Adam kept. There were extensive notes of all the cases he had been involved in. There was also a host of cases he had never worked on but ones that remained unsolved.
Over the course of the last week, what with Mrs MacCrumpet still in recovery and the way Debbie had rallied round to help Hilary, the two of them had become close. It now was quite common for Adam, Hilary and Debbie, when Miles was busy, to spend an evening together. It was at first strange but the intimacy that all three shared now seemed perfectly natural.
Hilary had continued using the basement for her painting but also, on the insistence of Miles and only as an interim measure, she had been doing some minor forensic work out of there.
Her intention was, once the insurance money came through, to have a state of the art workplace built specifically for her. The old one had been good but she wanted something better. The basement was at best okay but did not afford easy access and besides having corpses in a house was not only an unpleasant thought, it was illegal.
So Hilary continued to use the lower floor for her paintings. There were many down there now leant against the walls.
Hilary had finished her latest piece and had gone up to Adam’s room. Debbie was in there rifling through some case notes.
It was as Hilary stretched up to take hold of a file that caught her eye that Debbie had done the same. Their hands had touched fleetingly and as they did they both felt a sudden shock like a current of electricity course through them.
Hilary had looked at Debbie and, as she had, the dark haired police woman had leant close and kissed her. It had been as unexpected as it was spontaneous. They had embraced then kissed again. Hilary felt her head filled with a conflict of emotions but she followed Debbie, who had taken hold of her hand, to the bedroom.
She undid the final button on the blouse and let it fall to the floor, then watched as Hilary’s breasts rose and fell as her breathing became heavy. Hilary’s breasts were larger than her own but not overly so. They were still firm and had lost none of their shape. She saw the nipples, pale compared to her own, pink and hard and longing to be caressed, longing for the tug of clenched teeth or the tender twist of thumb and forefinger. Less long than her own but alert and erect. Hilary’s stomach was an undulating curve that led down to her waist, slightly fuller, fleshier than her own and bordered by a skirt. Debbie undid Hilary's skirt and watched it slide onto the floor. She took in the curve of the hips that gently pushed out against the ample skin. She then slid her fingers into Hilary's underwear and peeled it from her skin. Debbie saw the dark triangle of pubic hair that lay above Hilary's vagina. Debbie imagined its perfume and its folds of darker pink skin that kept hidden her inner sex the bud of her clitoris.
After their passion had been fulfilled and they had slept the pleasant sleep of the exhausted, they had awoken with ravenous rumblings in their stomachs. Still naked and holding each other’s hands they had wandered from the Adam’s room into the kitchen. Aware of their nudity, Hilary had pulled drawn the curtains to prevent the world outside the dimpled glass from gazing in.
They had gone through the cupboards, giggling like schoolgirls, dismissing the foodstuffs that they saw. Finally they had come across and settled on the remains of a large fruitcake which Debbie had sliced into two large chunks.
They had sat cross-legged on the cold tile floor and had hissed in protest as the chill pinched their pale behinds, then they had set to laughing again at the sheer burlesque quality of their situation.
They sat in front of each other with two large slices of fruit cake which they both consumed with an almost animal voracity. Crumbs tumbling down between their breasts then falling like autumn leaves into their laps. They laughed all the time, lost in the narcotic-like atmosphere of the moment, high on lust and love and somehow totally liberated by their recent act.
Debbie, through a mouthful of cake, rose to her feet saying, "I need a drink to wash this cake down with. Where will I find some milk?"
Hilary watched her rise and noted again how small she was; how small and yet so perfectly formed. Tight buttocks, almost boy-like, that flowed down into sculptured thighs and calves. Her ankles were exquisite and Hilary felt her sleeping desire crawl its way back into her crutch at the thought of planting kisses on those divinely chiselled bones. Kissing and licking from ankle to knee from thigh to the moist heart of her lover’s being.
"There should be a jug of milk in the cupboard directly above your head."
Hilary too now rose and walked over on silent toes to Debbie's side. Debbie had already found the jug and was pouring milk into two chunky tumblers. She passed one to Hilary and guzzled from her own glass. Hilary watched her, fascinated by this impetuous woman/child who always seemed to act on instinct and intuition. She watched her drink the milk and observed as the residue slid from her mouth and down her chin. She no longer cared much less thought, about this, her first lesbian encounter she just followed her instinct.
Rivulets of milk trailed down her chin and dribbled down her neck falling in drips onto her collarbone. They both giggled again and Hilary passed a tea towel to Debbie for her to wipe her mouth on whilst she, Hilary, took a gentle sip from her own glass.
Debbie had seen something in the cupboard that had taken her interest and she stretched up to collect it. Her breast flattened in the attempt and Hilary noticed again how pert and shapely her sweet bosoms were and how dark those delicious nipples; dark brown and pointed.
"A tin of golden syrup, look there is a tin of golden syrup."
Hilary smiled. "Yes, I have a passion for sponge pudding. A passion that ruins my figure but I find it irresistible. Adam got it for me when I moved in. Why, would you like some?"
"Yes. Yes I would. Do you have a pastry brush?" asked Debbie, puzzling Hilary with the oddness of the query.
"Middle drawer. You will find all manner of kitchen utensils in there, why?"
Debbie ignored her friend and fussed around inside the draw until she found three pastry brushes; one new and two a little used.
She gave one to Hilary and dipped the other into the tin of golden syrup.
"I beg your pardon?"
Debbie repeated her demand.
"Pout, as though you were about to apply lipstick."
Hilary did as requested pushing her lips out into a dry kiss. Debbie brushed syrup onto Hilary’s lips coating them with the golden liquid and then she kissed her, their lips gluing together in a sticky, tacky osculation. The sensation was odd but also sensual, leaving Hilary feeling highly aroused..
Debbie licked the syrup off her own lips and then, by using her mouth gently and seductively she sucked the residue of the sugary substance off her lover’s lips. With slow nibbles her mouth nuzzled Hilary’s lips, drawing them into her mouth and then moving down and over them.
"Now stick your tongue out, as far as it will go, like a dog panting."
Hilary again did as commanded and pushed her tongue hard out from her mouth.
Debbie poured the syrup onto Hilary's tongue coating it with a thick layer and then, placing the tin and the brush by her naked feet she took Hilary's mouth into her own and sucked upon it. She embraced Hilary's body wrapping one leg around and behind Hilary’s legs whilst her hand caressed the back of Hilary's neck.
She sucked on Hilary's tongue until all traces of syrup were gone. She felt herself grow damp with ardour as she placed her hand onto Hilary's vulva then ran her fingers over the velvet bed of pubic hair onto her labia..
"Now it’s your turn."
Hilary picked up the tin and the brush and dipped the one into the other. Then she brush-stroked the amber fluid onto Debbie’s dark and pointed nipple, turning it a sticky, honey colour, The nipple stood long and tall, a monument to lust and longing. She continued to paint a journey of descent across Debbie's belly and over her sable mink and musky mound.
"Lay down my sweet and open your thighs wide for me."
Debbie's breathing came deep and heavy as if her heart and mind had flown to somewhere deeply exotic and faraway. She complied, lying herself down onto the cold tiles of the floor and parting her legs, revealing her warm self.
Hilary's brush strokes fell with slow sensuous grace as tactile horse hair flowed over Debbie's deeply flushed and darkly pink labia coating her in an amber gloss. Firstly she painted one of the lips and then the other and, as Debbie's breathing started to come in ever shallower gasps, she painted her clitoral hood and watched as her vagina opened to her revealing its vibrant glory. The brush, oh so painfully and slowly, moved down and away from the centre of Debbie's arousal and down to her sensitive perineum and then onto her puckered anus. The anus twitched involuntarily and Debbie released an audible "Oh."
Over and around then back to repeat the motion onto Debbie's inflamed clitoris. Debbie bit hard into the back of her hand and her eyes screwed shut in deep pleasure. Slow strokes, long strokes. Delicate and exquisite almost playful strokes ran across her, inflaming her passions and opening her pink cleft.
Debbie felt her climax grow and as she felt herself about to explode into an unrestrained orgasm Hilary’s mouth attached itself to her, devouring her; lips, tongue and teeth eating at her, lapping and gobbling each sweet centimetre of her womanhood. Debbie felt heaven’s doors open in a flood of potent feeling.
Hilary followed the sticky trail up from Debbie's crutch and over her dark skinned belly with her mouth attaching itself to her long nipple. She sucked and tongue stroked her areola. Then she covered Debbie's exposed throat with kisses and bites. Their lips met and their tongues busied themselves within each other’s’ mouths. Then Hilary lifted herself up and over Debbie's body and lowered her wanton longing onto Debbie's tongue.
It was night when much later they had finished with each other, passion spent they left the kitchen to be tidied up in the morning and so retired to bed. This was how Adam found them when he came home from work. Miles was out and the house was in darkness.
At first he felt a tremor of jealousy tickle his heart then, seeing them both naked and wrapped in each other’s arms he felt himself grow aroused. He didn’t let this sensation rule his emotions but quietly turned to walk away. As he did Debbie spoke.
“Don’t go. Please stay. It’s a big bed, big enough for all three of us.”
He turned then saw both Debbie and Hilary looking at him. Debbie’s hair was a mess, matted where the syrup had collected which made her look all the more seductive. Did Hilary look a little guilty? Did she feel concerned that he might not be happy with this state of affairs? He thought perhaps she did but then she extended her hand to him. He took it, squeezed it as much to say it was okay, to assure her as to say I love you. He then undressed and climbed in between them both.
They didn’t make love then. All three of them were tired so they slept until early morning. Hilary dreamed though and her dreams were of that first moment with Debbie when all that had been was suddenly and quite wonderfully turned upon its head..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.