Authors: Peter Turnbull
Table of Contents
Recent Titles by Peter Turnbull from Severn House
The Hennessey and Yellich Series
AFTER THE FLOOD
ALL ROADS LEADETH
THE ALTERED CASE
THE DANCE MASTER
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
NO STONE UNTURNED
ONCE A BIKER
PERILS AND DANGERS
The Harry Vicary Series
IMPROVING THE SILENCE
THE GARDEN PARTY
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Peter Turnbull.
The right of Peter Turnbull to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Turnbull, Peter, 1950-
1. Hennessey, George (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. Yellich, Somerled (Fictitious character)âFiction.
3. PoliceâEnglandâYorkshireâFiction. 4. Murderâ
InvestigationâEnglandâYorkshireâFiction. 5. Detective
and mystery stories.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8262-2 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-408-9 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-477-6 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
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Tuesday, 30 May, 11.37 hours â Wednesday, 31 May, 22.10 hours
In which postcards in many languages lead the police to a murdered man and Detective Constable Reginald Webster is at home to the dear reader.
he woman, so Reginald Webster rapidly thought, had clear possession of a certain warmth about her; she had, he further thought, a very naturally giving personality. She seemed to Webster to also have a genuine sense of care for others about her, which he felt went a long way to explain why she had gravitated to the unpaid voluntary work she informed him that she did at the âdrop-in' centre, where advice and companionship was offered to the lonely and needy, and to the troubled of the city of York. The woman, Webster saw, had a ready smile, a pleasingly balanced face and eyes with dilated pupils. She was also, Webster felt, the sort of person who, had she been a schoolteacher, would have been loved by her pupils, or if a curate or priest then equally cherished by her parishioners. Her auburn hair was worn in a wild and straggly manner but was, Webster saw, wild and straggly in a controlled, designer sense. Her clothing was of the type which Webster believed to be termed âoffice smart' â a brown jacket, worn open, beneath which was a cream-coloured blouse, both of which gave way to a brown three-quarter-length lightweight summer skirt. Light-coloured nylons encased shapely slender legs and her feet were, in turn, encased in dark brown âsensible' shoes. She carried a large brown handbag which she had laid gently on the carpeted floor beside her chair upon accepting Webster's invitation to sit down. She was married, by her title and her rings, and wore an expensive-looking watch among the bracelets on her wrists. Delicate and expensive perfume wafted gently from her and in terms of age she was, Webster had hazarded, probably in her mid-forties. The woman had, upon her arrival, given her name to the constable at the enquiry desk as Mrs Bartlem, Mrs Julia Bartlem. She gave her home address as being in Selby and had said, matter-of-factly, that she wished to report a murder.
Upon being invited into the interview suite she had, once seated, reached beside her into her handbag and extracted four postcards, then handed them to Webster.
Webster once again carefully pondered the postcards which had been presented by Mrs Bartlem, who sat silently and quite still as he did so. All the postcards, Webster noted, were of the nearby coastal resort of Scarborough and all were identical, showing what Webster thought to be an intelligently composed photograph of the harbour looking out to sea, over which a deep red sunset had formed. All the postcards had been postmarked âYork', although he knew there was nothing significant in that because, from his own experience, Webster had found that all postcards and letters which were posted in Scarborough would be postmarked âYork'. The postcards would in all probability have been purchased in Scarborough, but they could have been posted anywhere in North Yorkshire.
Mrs Bartlem continued to remain silent and quite still, patiently waiting for Webster to pass comment about the postcards, cutting as she did a slender figure â about six feet tall, Webster had estimated â sitting upright in the chair with her long legs pressed together at both knee and ankle and angled gracefully to her right side.
âMurder.' Webster raised an eyebrow in a non-threatening and slightly humorous manner. âYou say murder?'
âYes, sir.' Mrs Bartlem spoke little, but when she did she spoke with a soft speaking voice with just a trace of local accent that Webster could detect, as if she was, Webster guessed, working class in respect of her background but had risen and had entered, or had married into, the professional middle class, and who by now, with sufficient time on her hands, was giving herself to those people who, out of one need or another, walked through the ever-welcoming doorway of the âdrop-in centre' which, she advised, was situated in a church hall near the city centre.
”.' Webster read aloud the words which were written on the rear of the first postcard, then on the reverse of the second postcard he read the word â“
”', on the back of the third card he saw and read the word â“
”' and on the reverse of the fourth card he read the word â“
”'. He looked up questioningly at Mrs Bartlem, who remained expressionless. âI'm sorry, I can't claim to be a linguist but of the four words I can only guess that the last, “
”, is Latin for “murder”?'
âAnd you'd be guessing quite correctly.' Mrs Bartlem smiled warmly. âApparently.' She paused. âNote I say “apparently”. I can also speak only English but I am advised that the words in the order which you have just now read them out are German, Italian, French and, as you say, Latin, for “murder”. So I ... so we ... were advised.'
âVery well,' Webster murmured softly. âWe will certainly verify the meanings, but what about these numbers I also see on the cards under the word for “murder”? The words are different but seem to mean the same thing ... “murder” ... but the numbers are ... yes ... yes, they all are the same in each case â the same numbers have been written on the back of each card. Do you perhaps know what the numbers signify?'
âThey are in fact map reference numbers.' Mrs Bartlem beamed confidently. âIt's a map reference. Apparently so.'
âI would not have guessed.' Webster felt a trifle embarrassed by his ignorance. âThough I dare say that we would very soon have identified them as such. Of that I am in little or no doubt.'
âAgain, as with the languages,' Mrs Bartlem added, âI also would not have recognized them as being map references, but my lovely dear husband teaches geography in a secondary school and he saw them for what they are in an instant. 1-1-1-3-5-4-0-0. Apparently it's a location just north-east of York, quite open country â my husband consulted the Ordnance Survey map, you see â so “murder” in four different languages, but each postcard giving the same very precise location ... of something.' Again, she paused and drew a deep breath. âIt could, of course, we thought, be someone playing silly, stupid games â some person or persons with a questionable, a very questionable, sense of humour and a weak grasp of ethical correctness ... or ... or ... it could equally be someone or some persons pointing to such a precise location because it has some connection, some relevance, to a murder. Whatever it is, we decided that it is not a job for the volunteers of the drop-in centre at Saint Chads on Gilleygate, and so chose to surrender them to the police with myself being the messenger, for my sins.'
âFor your sins?' Reginald Webster echoed as he smiled his response. âYes, I understand. Thank you. You did the correct thing in the circumstances. When did they arrive? I notice they have different postmarked dates.'
âWe received them at the regular rate of one a day. Today is Tuesday, as you know ... one arrived yesterday and one arrived on Saturday last and the first arrived on Friday last. As you see, they arrived in the order of German, French, Latin and Italian, though whether or not that is significant is of course not for me to speculate.'
âNo ...' Webster murmured, âbut it may be of some significance. Time will tell.'
âOne of our volunteers is a linguist and it was she who identified the languages, but none of us had any clue at all about the numbers and so I took the postcards home to show my husband and, as I have just told you, he immediately recognized them as map grid references used by the British Ordnance Survey. He looked up the reference and found it gave the location as being north of York, between the villages of Gate Helmsley and Warthill.'
âDelightful-sounding name,' Webster growled. âWarthill, indeed.'
âIndeed, isn't it?' Mrs Bartlem grinned, showing a set of perfect white teeth as she did so.
âHave you ... did you,' Webster enquired, âvisit the area?'
âOh my heavens, no,' Mrs Bartlem replied defensively. âNo, I ... no we didn't, we thought it wasn't our place to do so. I returned to the drop-in centre this morning and waited until the post arrived to see whether or not it contained a fourth card, which it did ... so ... after four cards had been received we thought it high time to bring them to the attention of the police and I was despatched, as I said, for my sins.' Mrs Bartlem then allowed herself a glance around the room to take in her surroundings â the hard-wearing, dark orange hessian carpet, the walls in two shades of orange, the coffee table which stood on the carpet between her and DC Webster, the comfortable but armless chairs on which they both sat.
âTyped,' Webster commented. âThe words and the numbers are typed.'
âYes.' Mrs Bartlem smiled. âWe also commented upon that. None of us at the centre thought that typewriters existed any more but evidently someone has still got possession of one. Quite useful too, I would imagine.'
âOh?' Webster raised an eyebrow. âWhat do you mean?'