Among the faces of concerned onlookers, one stood out for its complete lack of empathy, the indifference signalled by her questioning, arched eyebrows and her expressionless mouth.
“Bring her over to me,” the Inspector said to the sergeant, pointing her out and walking away from the forensic team who were cutting down the body. In his hands, in clear bags, were the dead man’s few personal possessions.
She came forward. He thought she was either pregnant or had given up dieting for the last time.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he asked.
“Miss Julie Rissington,” she replied.
“You work at the library, don’t you?”
He scanned her face. She had a kind of plain beauty, cold and desolate in the early April morning, which he saw might be brought to life in the evening, made up, like a desert flowering after the rain. He would’ve liked to see that.
“Was this man known to you?” he asked.
“Of course, I know everyone. It comes with the job. I haven’t seen you for a little while, though. We’ve got some new books in that you might like.”
“The same person issued his library card as addressed the postcard he had with him,” he said. “Is this your writing?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Miss, I’m trying to establish whether a crime has been committed.”
“Sure, it’s my handwriting. But he hanged himself didn’t he?”
The Inspector didn’t answer her question. “The child you’re carrying, is it his?”
“Could be any of a few guys.”
He laughed, nervously. “Forgive me, but you don’t quite fit my image of the typical librarian.”
“Well there’s work, and there’s pleasure. C’mon inspector, are you done with me now?” She stroked his lapel playfully and smiled a little. He began to understand the danger of this woman. There was something about her that could drive a lover to madness and, maybe, suicide. The note he’d left certainly suggested it.
“We’re not quite done yet. I believe you met this man a year ago today and you started an affair together.”
“How’re you working that out?”
“The library card, written in your hand, expires today. His diary suggests he planned to go away last week, the week before the anniversary. You sent him a blank postcard last week from Tenerife.”
“You’re clever. Not against the law though, is it? It meant there was nothing left to say.”
“I didn’t say that a crime had been committed. Why did he have two identical keys?”
“I gave mine back. It was over between us.”
“But he just recently removed his wedding ring.”
“He sold it. He was broke. She wouldn’t have him back, and he didn’t want her, not after me. You can see why, can’t you? I’m afraid I need to go to work now.”
The inspector swallowed awkwardly. He recognised the siren’s call, the urge to follow it and to have her, even at the risk of destroying himself.
“You said you had some new books in?”
Loosely derived from About His Person by Simon Armitage
Photo credit: Mastin Studio