The Manton Rempville Mystery – start of Chapter 1

Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes surveyed the remains of Manton Rempville monastery with incredulity. He’d heard that a hundred thousand pounds had been spent on preserving the ruins and he couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. Ruins were ruins for a reason. The natural order of things, in Barnes’ mind at least, was gradual decay – preservation only delayed the inevitable, like applying skin cream to wrinkles or a new coat of paint to a rusting car. Besides, the ruins were open to anyone and there was no entry charge, so they were never going to get their money back.

Barnes stiffened slightly as he saw Detective Inspector Colin Knowles’ Land Rover chug into the car park and lurch to a halt too close to Barnes’ Morgan sports car for his comfort. He glanced down at the body and thought that Knowles, his boss, would find this crime scene interesting indeed. Barnes had heard that Knowles was on a new diet and that his latest culinary delight was vegetable kebabs cooked on his nearly new barbecue even in the depths of autumn.

Taking care not to get his highly polished shoes muddy, Barnes walked across the uneven grass as a low, cold wind whipped across the historical site, slightly disturbing his short, brown hair. He hadn’t seen much of Knowles in the past month as they’d both been away on holiday at separate times since the murders in Goat Parva. As he came towards him, Barnes noticed that even though the Inspector had lost weight, he still wasn’t able to tuck his Marks and Spencer shirt into his trousers.

“Good morning, sir, how are you today?”

“Fair to middling, Barnesy old son, the diet’s working well, nearly fifteen pounds lost.” Knowles gripped his much reduced stomach with some pride.

“How’s the gym going?”

“Gradually doing more on the treadmill, lifting a few weights, and getting some stretching done on those large blue balls they have. That’s not easy – those balls are bouncy as hell – I almost fell off the first few times I tried to lie on the thing. Anyway, not only can I see my toes now, but I can almost touch them too.”

“That’s good to hear, sir. The trick to keeping the weight off is by committing to a lifestyle change rather than thinking you’re on a diet.”

“Good point, Sergeant, lifestyle sounds very magazine-like though, very posh Sunday newspaper, but I know what you mean. Anyway, who do we have over there?” Knowles pointed in the direction of the photographer and Forensics team, who were investigating the crime scene.

The two men started to walk over to the eastern wall of the monastery’s refectory where the body had been found an hour earlier by Bingo the retriever, out on a long walk with his owner Adelaide Hills from Goat Parva. Both dog and owner were well known to the police from a few months before when Bingo had made a habit of finding bodies in the early morning.

“According to his credit cards, his name is Edward Pritchard; we are just running some computer checks to find out where he lives. It’s how he’s been killed that you will find interesting, sir.”

With his hands in his trench coat pockets, Knowles stood on the wall and looked down at the body lying on what would have been the refectory floor. Edward Pritchard had been run through with a sword and the handle was sticking out of his back on the left-hand side. Knowles smiled at Dr. Crabtree, the forensic doctor, who was examining the body.

“Dr. Crabtree, we have a real sword being used as a murder weapon?” Knowles would have rubbed his hands with glee if they hadn’t been warming up in his pockets.

“We do indeed, Colin, a very real sword. This is a heavy cavalry sword with a straight blade with one cutting edge whereas the other side has been thickened for greater strength. The blade is around three feet in length. It directly penetrated his heart and he would have died instantly.”

“Any prints on the handle?” Knowles looked hopeful when he said this.

“We’ll check back at the lab, Colin, can we move him now?”

“Yes, that will be all I think. We’ll be back at the station in an hour or so; could you have something by then in terms of fingerprints, time of death, and any ideas on a profile of who could have done it?”

“We’ll try, Colin – no promises, but we’ll try.”

“I presume the person who murdered Edward wasn’t aware of the type of sword they were using,” said Barnes, “because that’s a sword for slashing people with, not for running them through.”

“So, you would have expected a murderer who knew what he was using to have hit Edward here in the neck with the sharp side,” replied Knowles.

“Yes, sir, that’s correct.”

“So we’re looking for an ignorant murderer then? We show the suspects the sword and ask them how they would kill someone using the sword and those who opt for the neck slash are innocent?”

“They might be bluffing, sir, so we shouldn’t just use that as a method of elimination from our enquiries,” said Barnes, playing along with Knowles’ quite acerbic sense of humour.

“OK, we’ll just confine ourselves to telling the murderer, when we catch him, that he/she murdered Edward here in the wrong way. So where could the sword have come from? It’s not the sort of weapon you can easily conceal.”

“The nearest house is Manton Rempville Hall – you can see it just poking through the trees over there. That might be the best place to start.”

“Agreed – they probably maintain an assortment of weapons to keep the staff subdued and repel invasions by the local peasants in times of crisis. We should go there after visiting our oldest friend in Goat Parva, Mrs. Adelaide Hills, and her bundle of fun, Bingo.”

“It’s just like old times, sir.”

“Indeed it is, Barnesy. I just hope that this is the only body Bingo finds in this murder investigation.”

DVD Golf

This is an extract from the book Sports the Olympics Forgot available here on Amazon

Not everyone can afford to buy golf clubs and balls, especially when times are hard economically. In the early 1990s the golf courses along the Algarve in Portugal weren’t receiving many visitors so the club owners decided to invent a new sport called CD Golf, which in 2004 became DVD Golf.

The idea was to allow the courses to be used between 1pm and 6pm on weekdays by DVD Golfers, who would play the course using their favourite CDs or DVDs. This would create more income for the course at the slowest time of day for ordinary golfers

The idea of the game is for the golfers to throw and/or roll their DVDs from the tee to the green. Each throw/roll that’s taken counts as one shot and the pars for each hole also apply to the DVD Golfers. It’s at the green where the scoring changes as DVDs don’t fit into the holes. For DVD Golf the top of the flags are shaped into a six-inch spike. If a player lands the hole in the centre of the DVD over the top of the flagstick then three shots are removed from his score on that hole. If the DVD hits the flagstick then 1 shot is removed from that hole’s score. The golfer can also opt to roll his DVD towards the hole and if the DVD’s hole is completely over the hole in the green then two shots are taken from his score on that hole. Once the shots are removed then the golfer has his score for that hole, which is then compared against the par for that hole just like in ordinary golf. For example, on a par four hole if the golfer takes 5 shots to hit the flag then the scoring is as follows: the golfer takes five shots to hit the flag, so 1 shot is removed from the score for hitting the flag so he finishes with a score of 4 for the hole, which is the same as the par, so his score for playing the round stays the same.

Unlike proper golf, throwing a DVD out of sand or the rough is not a great penalty but there are still out of bounds for the golfers to watch out for. The only stipulation is that players may not clean their DVDs when playing a hole, even if they are covered in sand or soil. Each player is accompanied by a stance judge who ensures that the golfer does not throw the DVD from a place in advance of where it landed. There are also two new terms to use, Thunderbird and Roc. A thunderbird is when a player plays a hole in four shots under par after deductions and a roc is when a player plays a hole in 5 under par. An example of a Thunderbird was in the 2004 Portuguese Championships at Albufeira when Darren McGinty landed his DVD on top of the flag at the par 4 15th hole with his third shot

Rocs are very rare and the only one recorded in a competitive tournament was in the 1988 Estoril Classic when Julian Davies landed his DVD on the flag at the 673-yard par 5 7th hole with his third shot. Davies admitted luck played a part: “I was just trying to get the thing close to the pin but I misjudged the wind and it went higher than I expected, but the distance turned out perfectly right and you could have knocked me down with a feather when it stayed on the flag. I sprinted to the green to make sure I took the DVD off the flag myself as is indicated in the rules. It was a special moment although I had to pay for a round of drinks at the end of the round.” Davies didn’t win the tournament as he damaged his hamstring when running to the green.

The most successful player in DVD Golf history is Billy “Tweet” Bird, who has won each tournament on the circuit at least twice; his favourite tournament is the Faro Masters, which he has won eight times including a hat-trick between 1998 – 2000. Bird commented: “I can just read the wind at that course so well, especially playing into the wind when you can really fly the DVD straight at the flag and land it close. It’s the only course where you can really roll the DVD on the downwind shots too as the grass is very dry.”

Turtle Rinsing in London

This story is from a book entitled 40 Humourous British traditions available on Amazon:

Turtle Rinsing in London
It’s a little known fact that every turtle that swims up the River Thames past Tower Bridge into the Pool of London
becomes the property and responsibility of the monarch. This rule is part of the Common Law of England and dates back to
the time of Queen Matilda in the 12th Century. The Royal Turtle Surveyor has to be notified if a turtle reaches the Pool of London so the ceremony of Turtle Rinsing can occur. This old procedure involves the Royal Turtle Surveyor, The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor, the Royal Net Bearer, The Royal Water Bagpiper, and the Master of the Hose. From the Tower of London, these five officials proceed towards the turtle in a launch bearing The Royal Standard. Once the turtle is observed by The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor using a spyglass, the Royal Net Bearer apprehends the creature in a special Turtle net that’s over two hundred years old. Once clear of the water, the turtle in the net is raised to shoulder height. Using a 500-year old hose made from Staffordshire Boar hide, the Master of the Hose sprays the creature for “one round of ye reel,” which is danced by the Royal Turtle Surveyor and The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor. The Royal Water Bagpiper accompanies the dance.
Once the reel is complete, the rinsed turtle is returned to the water. In the past, the turtle was observed swimming
vigorously for the open sea; however in recent years they have mainly hung around HMS Belfast waiting for tourists to
drop food to them. Historians believe that the Turtle Rinsing was created because of Matilda’s desire to keep her supporters happy by giving them jobs in the Royal Household that were purely ceremonial in nature. Other such jobs include The Royal Wasp Counter in the Hunting Forests, The Royal Cloud Shape Describer, and the Royal Maker of Cubes from Honey.

Julian Worker – New Book

Another day in the life of Detective Inspector Colin Knowles another murder. Bingo the retriever has been finding bodies again. This time someone has left a sword in the back of Edward Pritchard in the local monastery. Pritchard used to work at nearby Manton Rempville Hall as a gardener although all he seemed to cultivate was reasons for people not to like him.

As luck would have it there’s a house party at the hall so there are plenty of suspects. After interviewing everyone, Knowles can see why each one of them might want the ex-gardener dead and his theories about the murder grow.

Knowles inspects the libraries, studies, and the not-so-secret passage of this old hall in an attempt to find out who the murderer is. Bells, owls, and ironic topiary all play a part in his investigation.

Slowly Knowles weeds out the suspects until there can only be one person who did it.

The Manton Rempville Murders is the second in the Inspector Knowles Mysteries and reacquaints the reader with Knowles and his Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes, who were first introduced in The Goat Parva Murders.

The Manton Rempville Mystery – Chapter 4

Colin Knowles was lying on a beach in the Caribbean. He was drinking a mojito and soaking up the rays of the sun, while secretly admiring some of the local females. Slowly the eloquent cawing of the parrots in the trees turned into the ringing of his phone and intruded into his dream. Knowles tried to find the device without opening his eyes, but only succeeded in knocking his mint tea on to the floor. Eventually he located the phone and drew it slowly to his left ear.

“’Allo, who is this? It had better be good.”

Sergeant Rod Barnes gave Knowles a very good and brief reason why Knowles should come back from his reveries in the Caribbean to the realities of Manton Rempville Hall.

“When was this reported, Barnesy?” asked Knowles, checking the floor to see whether his tea had stained the carpet.

“Around 7:15a.m. by Fairfax,” replied Barnes.

“And everyone else will know because of the ambulance sirens, I suppose,” said Knowles, soaking up the excess tea with his bedside tissues.

“Yes, it was the first thing that Bunny Johnson mentioned to me – I am not convinced she is completely in touch with reality; sirens only after midday, what a ludicrous idea.”

“What was the weapon that was used by the way; it wasn’t the missing dagger, was it?”

“Kitchen knife, sir, straight out of the drawer.”

“Someone is taking the mickey out of us, Sergeant Barnes, unless this is the thief’s work and not the first murderer’s work.”

“That’s getting very complicated, Inspector, having one killer is bad enough, but the thought there’s competing murderers here is mind-boggling.”

“Indeed it is, Sergeant – I will be over in thirty minutes. Keep everyone happy until I arrive.”

“I will do my best, sir, I will do my best.”

=========

Knowles put two rounds of rye bread in his toaster and took the low-fat cream cheese out of his fridge. Freddie the cat was miaowing his head off and circling around Knowles’ feet like a shark scenting blood. Knowles fed both cats from the can in the fridge door compartment. He ate his toasted bread and watched in amusement as Freddie gulped down his own food and then tried to eat Gemma’s too. Gemma hissed and Freddie retreated under Knowles’ chair, watching carefully until she had finished before daring to see whether there was anything left for him.

“You’re out of luck, Freddie old son, she’s finished everything,” said Knowles as Freddie looked glumly in his direction. Knowles finished his toasted rye and put the plate with the crumbs on down on the floor for Freddie to lick off voraciously.

Knowles brushed his teeth and put on his warm coat before exiting his house. The journey over to Manton Rempville Hall took ten minutes on a Sunday morning and he was soon heading down the drive towards the inexplicable topiary boxes. He saw Barnes standing in the turning circle with his hands on his hips. As Knowles brought his Land Rover to a halt, Barnes headed towards him.

“Now then, Barnesy, how bad is it?”

“Very clinical, sir, not brutal, but would have been instantaneous. The knife was pushed into the throat with force when the victim was asleep.”

“Right, let’s go and have a look.” The officers headed towards the coach house and climbed the stairs. All the other guests were in the Hall and the only people present were from the Forensics team. The ambulance had left once the death had been confirmed.

Knowles greeted Dr. Crabtree.

“Well, Kevin, we should really meet under nicer circumstances occasionally.”

Dr. Crabtree smiled and nodded in agreement.

“Indeed we should – oh, by the way, there was some dirt on the bottom of the handle of the sword, only a few faint specks but we found them…”

Knowles beamed, but indicated Dr. Crabtree should continue.

“…Anyway, the victim is Basil Fawcett and he has been neatly stabbed through the throat with a large kitchen knife, used for carving meat. No fingerprints at all, which suggests the killer cleaned the handle at some point. Basil would not have known a thing. He would not have made a noise. I understand Toby was in the next room and Henrietta was down the hallway. Both are distraught and are receiving counselling. Time of death around seven hours ago, approximately 1:30a.m.”

Knowles looked down at Basil and shook his head.

“Oh, Basil, you didn’t tell us something – what did you do when Toby and Henrietta went for their walk? Who did you see – who was outside the lower study window at 11:30p.m. – did you follow them and didn’t tell us?”

“Does this mean he saw the murderer or Edward Pritchard before he was killed?” asked Barnes.

“Unless this is a random attack then yes, I think it does mean that – I think we can safely say that Edward Pritchard was killed after 11:30p.m. and that his watch was smashed to give the murderer an alibi. Perhaps Pritchard was the figure outside the lower study that Basil saw.”

“Why can’t people just be totally open with us, sir?” asked Barnes almost beseechingly.

“Maybe Basil here was trying a little blackmail with the murderer?”

“But he had no guile, did he? Just think about how he hung around outside the interview room door and you saw his reflection in the window. He was genuinely surprised you’d seen him. Very naive.”

“Is there anything in his pockets or on his phone that we could use, such as a text or a phone number?”

“His phone has a passcode, which isn’t immediately obvious and his pockets revealed nothing.”

“Not immediately obvious, what does that mean?”

“Well, it’s not B-A-S-I-L, 12345, or 54321, for example.”

“Does his sister know his passcode?”

“She might, but she’s too upset right now, not surprisingly.”

Knowles nodded thoughtfully. He hoped that the phone would reveal some significant communication between Basil and the person who had murdered him.

“So, Barnesy, why did Fairfax find the body and not Henrietta or Toby?”

“He was rousing people for a planned trip to the golf course, which Basil had expressed an interest in. 8:30a.m. tee off time, apparently.”

“And Henrietta and Toby weren’t going?”

“Apparently not, sir.”

“I wonder if we shouldn’t go and look at Pritchard’s place and then come back here when everyone’s had a chance to eat breakfast and to absorb the news. I doubt that Henrietta would be in any fit state to answer our questions now, anyway.”

“That sounds like a plan, sir, and I would agree with you regarding Henrietta.”

“Thought you might, Barnesy.”

“Shall we go then? I will go and tell Sir Michael that we will be back in a couple of hours.”

“Sounds good, Sergeant, I will see you by the vehicles in a couple of minutes.”

Barnes smiled and left the room.

Knowles turned to Dr. Crabtree.

“Was there any sign of a struggle, at all?”

“None whatsoever, Colin, he was taken completely by surprise by the looks of it.”

“Nothing under the nails?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Right, well would you say the person who did this committed the first murder too?”

“It’s likely; don’t forget this killing was more surgical than the first and the knife was inserted from above into the throat really quickly.”

“And the place it was inserted suggests prior knowledge of how to kill people quickly?”

“No, not really, I couldn’t say that – the throat is the most vulnerable part of the anatomy if you’re in bed and your attacker has a knife. And that might be a clue because a strong man would have smothered Basil with a pillow.”

“There’d be noise though, Kevin, with a pillow and a struggle too, both of which might have woken up the neighbours.”

“I suppose so, Colin. Anyway, can we take the body away now?”

“Please do, Kevin.”

Dr. Crabtree’s assistant, who’d been hovering in the background, came forward and helped the doctor move the body on to the stretcher. The photographer took some pictures of the now empty bedclothes as Basil Fawcett began his last but one journey to the morgue at Scoresby police station.

The Manton Rempville Mystery – Chapter 2

Barnes drove down the carefully manicured driveway of Manton Rempville Hall, while Knowles stared at the yew hedges, which had been sheared into interesting shapes that he couldn’t quite recognise. After they’d parked, Knowles walked over to one of the hedges and pointed.

“What do you think they’re supposed to be, Barnesy, these shapes?”

Barnes looked at Knowles, who was moving his head around to try and get the right angle for a correct identification of the topiary.

“Well, Inspector, isn’t that one a mouse and this one here a hedgehog?”

“It could be a hedgehog, I suppose, but I thought it might be a crouching lion – you see there’s the mane and that’s definitely a tail…”

“Excuse me, this is private property,” said a very posh female voice, “if you don’t leave I will call the police.”

“Well, there’s no need, because we are already here, madam,” said Knowles, brandishing his identification card in the lady’s face. “I am Detective Inspector Colin Knowles and this is Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes. We are here to ask you and your family about the death that occurred in the grounds of the monastery earlier today.”

“Death, you say, is that why there were all those sirens keeping us awake at some ungodly hour this morning?”

“Those sirens were the ambulance and police cars rushing to the scene of a murder. I am sorry, but I don’t know your name.”

“The impertinence – I am Lady Bunny Johnson, if you must know, and why do those people put on their sirens when the murdered person is already dead and there’s no reason to rush?” Lady Johnson smoothed her revealing blue blouse over her figure as she almost spat out these words.

“Thank you, Lady Johnson, I do need to know your name and there is always a reason to rush to a murder scene as vital evidence can easily be lost if the police aren’t on the scene as soon as possible.”

“Really – it doesn’t seem necessary to me; perhaps they could put them on just in the afternoons?” She brushed a couple of blonde hairs behind her left ear, taking care not to get them caught in her silver earring, shaped like a unicorn.

“We’ll see about that; anyway, how many people do you have in the Hall at the moment?  I would like to interview them all, please.”

“I’ll ask the butler, Fairfax, to gather the staff together in the lower library for you.”

“I would like to interview everyone in the house, staff, family, and house guests, if there are any of course.”

“You surely can’t believe that any members of the family, my family, would be involved in anything as sordid as a murder?”

“The murder was committed on a property adjacent to this Hall, last night, so I would like to eliminate every person in this Hall from my enquiries as soon as possible. So, Lady Johnson, if you please can you gather everyone in the library…”

“Which one, we have two? Upper or lower?”

“…please gather everyone in the lower library in fifteen minutes from now, so Sergeant Barnes and I can find out where everyone was last night.”

“I’ll ask Fairfax to gather the family and then he can go and get Wilkinson and Jenkins. I will ask Miss Newton to rouse everyone in the coach house.”

With that Lady Johnson had gone, leaving behind a slight scent of neroli.

“I presume that’s the coach house over there,” said Barnes, pointing to a two-storey brick building behind some topiary bushes.

As if on cue, a youngish maid wearing an apron dashed out of the front door of the Hall and headed in the direction of the building. Her auburn hair was in a bob, which swayed slightly as she hurried on her way.

“That must be Miss Newton doing as she has been bid by her boss,” growled Knowles, “and I wonder who Wilkinson and Jenkins are?”

“They sound like a firm of undertakers to me,” replied Barnes, “but presumably they’re the gardeners or the chauffeurs or one of each.”

Barnes’ phone rang and he listened intently for around a minute, while Knowles tried to work out why anyone would shape a box hedge into the shape of a box. “These people have too much leisure time and too much money,” he thought as Barnes finished his call and looked at him with a smile on his face.

“That was WPC Smythe – she has run some checks on Edward Pritchard and guess where he used to work?”

“He was a knife-grinder,” said Knowles, not expecting to be right. He didn’t like it when Barnes smiled at him; he felt like Barnes enjoyed knowing things that he didn’t.

“He might have done something similar in his role as a sub-gardener here at Manton Rempville Hall.”

“When did he stop working as a knife-grinding sub-gardener here at Manton Rempville Hall?” enquired Knowles.

“Three months ago, yesterday. He was dismissed because some money went missing from the house.”

“Really, well I wonder whether he was ever given the opportunity to deny the allegations? I don’t suppose we shall ever know, now that he’s dead.”

As he spoke, Miss Newton returned with two seventeen-year-old boys and a strikingly beautiful red-headed girl of about nineteen.

“Hello, I am Toby Johnson,” said one of the boys, shaking Barnes by the hand.

Toby was around five feet nine inches tall and was wearing a worn T-shirt and jeans. His straight black hair was cut short. He continued, “This is my friend from Harrow, Basil Fawcett, and his amazing sister Henry. She’s a stunner, isn’t she? You must be the police who want to interview us.”

“We are,” said Knowles. “I am Inspector Knowles and this is Detective Sergeant Barnes.”

“Anything of importance?” enquired Basil Fawcett, tossing his head slightly so that his brown hair fell in front of his eyes. He cleared it away from his glasses with the back of his left hand.

“It’s very important, I can assure you,” said Knowles, “and we will let you know in the fullness of time.”

“Come on, Basil,” said Henrietta Fawcett, “let’s leave the policemen to their own devices and go in to the lower library. By the way, Sergeant Barnes, my real name is Henrietta, not Henry. If you’d like to make a note of that.”

And with that the three walked into the Hall followed at an appropriate distance by Miss Newton. Barnes couldn’t help noticing how Henrietta’s red hair glinted in the faint sunlight.

Barnes had turned slightly red. Knowles looked at him and shook his head.

“Have you made a note, Sergeant?”

“No, sir, I haven’t – I had realized she was a girl.”

“I can tell, Sergeant Barnes, as I think she could too. Think of a nice ice-cold shower and you’ll be fine.”