“A shame really” thought Harry “it used to be fun sitting outside on the moonlit nights waiting for the poachers to do their work. Many were the nights when I would catch a poacher and we would split the rewards together. Then I was a young policeman with a family to feed and what good was it to bring the poacher to trial. I saved the courts the bother and the money and we both had a nice piece of pork or a chicken for Sunday dinner. Those poor families in the village did not have a lot and that little bit of poaching gave them a good meal for once.”
He sometimes wished that those days were back again. Here he was a week before retirement and had nothing to show for it: still living in the police house with his wife. They had lived so many years in the village, knew everyone and were at home. After his retirement he had to leave the home they had shared for so many years and go back to the town and live in a retirement home for police officers. Harry Grimes was sad. He felt he deserved something else for himself and his wife and he just did not want to leave the village.
Whilst Harry was reminiscing about the good old days the telephone rang.
“Harry Grimes is that you“ a voice asked at the other end of the phone.
“Well, I can’t see anyone else here. Who is calling?”
“Mavis Potter here Harry. I have got something to report.”
It was the village news magazine on the phone. If Mavis didn’t have anything to tell, then life would really be boring in the village.
“What’s up Mavis, someone stolen your bicycle?”
“Are you trying to be funny Harry, because I don’t feel like laughing. Now listen to me. I went up on the hill this morning to do my cleaning job for the writer who lives there. You know, that man that lives in the old Mill house. The one that calls himself an author, name of Jack Jones, although no-one knows what sort of books he writes. Never seen one myself.”
“Mavis, will you come to the point please. I know that you clean for him so what is so spectacular?”
“Well, like when I got there I turned the key in the door and let myself in as usual, but he wasn’t there.”
“Who wasn’t there Mavis
“That author man.”
“Perhaps he had gone shopping in the village. It doesn’t sound very mysterious to me. Not worth putting out a search for him.”
“Now you listen to me Harry Grimes. This is important. When I went into the place everything was topsy turvey, real upside down. Broken crockery on the kitchen floor and he wasn’t there, the author. So I had a look around, but everything sealed up except for in his bedroom. The window must have been open all night. There was a puddle of water on the floor where it had rained and his bed wasn’t slept in. If you ask me I think you had better come and have a look.”
“Well, it does sound a bit funny Mavis, but I am sure there is an explanation.”
“I’m not finished yet” Mavis continued “there was blood all over the kitchen sink, like someone had washed their hands with blood on them. The best is to come. That writer man is laying in the bathroom with a knife in his back. Dead as a doornail.”
“Are you sure Mavis”
“Well he certainly isn’t breathing. I did that trick with the mirror in front of his nose, but it just stayed like a mirror, no moisture to be seen anywhere.”
Harry knew that Mavis loved a good criminal book or film, and at last it seems she could try out the knowledge she had gained.
“OK Mavis, I will go and have a look. Where are you now?”
“Well you don’t think I would stay more than one minute in such a place. I’m back home again.”
“Well, stay there Mavis and I will see what there is to do.”
One thing Harry Grimes could not do with at the moment was a crime in his village. Right now in any case. All his police life he had been waiting for the big criminal case but now e was alone for the week as his assistant George Cooper had just become father for the first time and was at home with his wife and new baby.
Harry got his bicycle out and tramped up the hill to see what was going on. On his way he pondered a bit over the mysterious happenings at the house. “Never had a murder up to now in the village, might even get in the newspapers.” And he saw the headlines already “Famous author missing, believed murdered, suspicious happenings at mill house. Village inspector solves mystery.” Although he wasn’t even sure that this author “Jack Jones” was famous. Actually he had never set eyes on him since he arrived in the village a week before.
Harry eventually arrived at the house and the door was wide open.
“Typical Mavis” he thought “just left everything and disappeared: didn’t even lock the door before she went. He entered the house and went through the entrance to the kitchen expecting to find traces leading to a murder scene. Strangely everything was in order. No broken glass, no blood stains in the sink, nothing suspicious. He went to the bathroom and there was the body of a man with a knife in his back. After Mavis telling Harry that the man was dead, Harry decided there was no sense in checking the details. He then called Mavis on his mobile. “Mavis can you get up to the house, I see no traces of blood or anything here. Everything seems to be in order, although there is a dead man in the bathroom as you said, with a knife in his back.”
Five minutes later Mavis walked into the house.
“So what’s the problem Harry”
“Well just look around in the kitchen, no blood anywhere.”
“Well, of course not, Harry. Don’t forget I am paid for doing a job here.”
“Well I cleaned the place up first didn’t I. Can’t have that author man complaining that I am not doing my job properly.”
“Mavis, you have probably removed all the evidence and “that author man” as you say is no longer breathing. I think I have a murder on my hands here.”
“Are you sure Harry” asked Mavis. Did you check to see if he was dead?”
“Well you already did Mavis, no point in me checking as well is there?”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that” said a voice from the bathroom and the corpse was standing up, still with the knife in his back.
“Can someone tell me what is going on here. Wait a minute, I know you” said Harry to the corpse which was now breathing. You are Jack Baldock, one of the best poachers we had in the area.”
“Of course Harry, we had some fun on those moonlight nights in days gone by didn’t we?” and the victim then removed the so-called knife from his back which had a telescopic grip to it and had just folded into the blade.
“What are you doing here” asked Harry. I thought you were long gone.
“Well, Harry Grimes, if it wasn’t for you I would probably have spent most of my life behind bars and my family would have starved. I will never forget what you did for us.
“That goes for me as well” spoke up another voice, and then another until there was a gathering of people that Harry Grimes knew from the earlier days.
“So what you all doing here. What a reunion, Albert, Arthur, Jack, Fred I thought you were all gone from the village a long while ago.”
“Well as you heard Harry, we have a lot to thank you for. Our family’s survival relied on that meat we got from our midnight activities and now we decided to have a reunion as Mavis told us that you will be leaving the village next week. We thought we would combine it with the only real criminal case you have ever had.”
“Well boys, it’s true. I will be retired and have to make room for my successor, George Cooper. He is a good man, but young and will have to gather some experience.”
“Don’t worry Harry” and George appeared on the scene. “I have had a good teacher although you never did tell me about the poaching excursions, but perhaps it is better if I don’t know.”
“George, you too, it looks like a conspiracy; where did you come from.”
“That was easy, Mavis left the window open in the bedroom, so I just came in that way, like a robber. We are here for a reason Harry. Take a look in the bedroom.
Harry walked into the bedroom and was absolutely surprised. On the wall was his set of antlers that were usually in his own bedroom, reminding him of the night when he shot his first deer. Of course he never told anyone about where it came from, except for the men in the village that accompanied him on that night and it made a nice Sunday lunch for all, but what were the men now doing here.
“Harry, isn’t it wonderful” and his wife Norah was standing outside the open window.
“Do you know about this” asked Harry
“Of course she does” answered George. “Without Norah’s help our plan would not have worked. This house now belongs to you and Norah. Your poacher friends have all made their way in the world, and one in particular, big Joe, went to America and is now the owner of a large cattle farm where oil was found, so he is a millionaire. He never forgot the days where he was helped by the village constable and got in touch with all his friends to see what they could do for you. They all wanted you to stay in the village where you had always been happy and Big Joe gave the money to buy the house. Norah signed the documents and it is all yours. The removal van will bring the rest of the furniture tomorrow. Thanks to Mavis we managed to get you here without any problem.”
Harry Grimes was overjoyed. Not only did he have a taste of a real crime but he could stay in his beloved village and even be a bit of an advisor to young George when he had a problem at the police station. Harry decided he had really enough of being a full time policeman and after his experience with the false murder victim he decided that being retired was much better. That Summer Norah and Harry Grimes could at last afford to go on a nice long holiday. Of course you know where they went, they stayed at Big Joe’s ranch in America.
Pictures to Words