23 March 2017

8 - Dorothy looks for answers

Wednesday cont.

If Dorothy had started her investigating by walking through the village she might have seen what was going on in Station Street, but she did not know about the fire at Number 5 because she decided to tramp across country to Lower Grumpsfield, so her route took her down Lavender Drive and along a public pathway that ran behind the Kelly farm to the main road.
Dorothy was not sure how and where best to start asking questions. The local pub at the far end of Lower Grumpsfield had a bad reputation for rough and ready service to rough and ready customers and probably did not open until midday. Her only other possibility was the Coffee Bar, which now belonged to a chain and was doing surprisingly good trade. Dorothy decided to try there. It was open for breakfasts that normally consisted of a latté plus a stodgy bun, so she joined the queue and ordered some before sitting at one of the window tables.
***
Nothing had really changed since Mrs Grisham had run the bar. The red and white gingham table-clothes were still on the tables, a pert assistant wore a matching apron and fiddled around with the complicated espresso machinery while flirting nonstop with the customers, most of whom were young males on their way to the polytechnic, which was the only higher education establishment located in Lower Grumpsfield. Dorothy did not think those teenagers could know anything, but a man looking like a rustic was sitting at the next window table. He must be about the age Kelly had been. She would ask him if he was a friend of the dead farmer.
Dorothy did not have to wait long before the man actually changed tables and sat down at hers. Normally she would have been indignant, but that would have been foolish since she wanted to talk to the man anyway.
I’m Tailor,” the man said.
“I’m Price,” Dorothy replied. “Do you have a reason for joining me, Mr Tailor?”
“I thought you had asked me to,” said Tailor. “You nodded and I decided that you wanted to talk to me.”
“Oh,” said Dorothy. “Well I do, actually, but I was not conscious of inviting you to join me.”
“I’ll leave you then. Sorry,” said the man.
“No, stay!” said Dorothy. “You look like a farmer.”
“I am a farmer in a small way,” Tailor replied. “I wanted to buy some grazing land off Kelly. We used to have breakfast here, so I came here for old times’ sake. My farmland backs onto Kelly’s, you see, but my farm is not in Lower Grumpsfield. It’s actually in Upper Grumpsfield. For some reason the planners splitting Grumpsfield put my property in Upper Grumpsfield so that each village had a farm that could be bought up later for building.”
“I did not know that authorities could do that,” said Dorothy.
“You’d be surprised at what they can do.”
“So I came across your land to get here, Mr Tailor, if the public pathway runs through it.”
“That’s right. I can put a stop to that if I buy the adjoining land and put livestock on it. The pathway will have to be moved since you can’t have people strolling through fields with bulls in them.”
“No, you certainly can’t,” said Dorothy, wanting to move on to more relevant chit-chat.
“So did you get to buy the land, Mr Tailor?”
“No. Mr Kelly said he would think about how much he wanted for it, but now he’s dead. I expect you already know that.”
“Yes,” said Dorothy.
“On the other hand, now the whole farm will be up for grabs and I’ll grab it,” said Tailor.
“But Mr Kelly probably has relatives who will inherit,” Mr Tailor.
“As far as I know, he has no family. That’s what he told me.”
“Then the estate will revert to the country,” said Dorothy.
“Surely not if I produce the document stating that I have made a definite offer for some of the land. I don’t think anyone else could do much with that bit of land since it has no infrastructure for building and is not suitable for crops.”
“You are very optimistic, Mr Tailor. When did you make your agreement with Mr Kelly?”
“Why do you need to know?”
“Just interested, Mr Tailor,” said Dorothy. “I know a young lawyer who might take on your case – and win.”
“Now I’m interested, Miss Price. We made an arrangement on Sunday afternoon. Then I had to get back to the milking. Cows are as regular as clockwork. I prefer bullocks. Less work. I never saw him again and I have nothing in writing.”
“So you didn’t arrange to meet him on Monday afternoon, I suppose.”
“I did, but when I got there he was not there,” said Mr Tailor.
“Where is there?” Dorothy asked.
“On the Common. That’s where everyone meets when the pubs are shut,” said Mr Tailor.
“Everyone?”
“Of course, I may have got it wrong,” said Tailor. “I stood on the Upper side of the pond. I thought he would see me and wave. The Lower side is easier to reach from Kelly’s farm, but he did not turn up,” he explained.
“Or he was dead and lying so flat that you could not see him,” said Dorothy.
***
The pond on the Common was almost a little lake, so walking around it would take some time. The water flowed into it from the River Grump when there had been enough rain, and out again through the River Huddle.  It was a splendid venue for dogs, since they could have a paddle, chase the incumbent ducks and get really mucky. There had been a fierce discussion as to who would get the Common when Grumpsfield was cut up into halves.  No one had won, so depending on which side you were on it was Upper or Lower Grumpsfield Common, and half the pond belonged to the respective village. Huddlecourt Minor had had no claim on the Common. It had its own common in the form of a stretch of grass used for football and other sports at the far end of that village, where the ground was fairly flat, but Huddlecourt Minor was a few feet more above sea-level than the Grumpsfields.
“Wasn’t the Common a strange place to meet when you could have met in Lower Grumpsfield – here, for instance?”
“Mr Kelly wanted it that way. We would be on neutral ground, he said.”
“But he did not come, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t see him.”
***
“Did you ever meet any of Mr Kelly’s friends, Mr Tailor?”
“Why all these question,” said Tailor, realizing that his brain was being picked.
Dorothy fell back on her local history excuse. Tailor seemed to believe it.
“Friends, did you say? I didn’t know he had any. He was a ladies man’. I think he preferred carrying on with women to socializing.”
“I thought Mr Kelly was rather scruffy,” said Dorothy.
“Some women find that a challenge, Miss Price.”
“Do you know any of them?” said Dorothy, wondering if Mr Tailor would think she was impertinent to ask.
“I knew Magda ages ago,” he said. “That’s the woman he was married to, but she was carrying on with others and I had my moments with her. Unfortunately she wanted to be paid, but she wanted money, and I don’t pay for my fun and games, Miss Price.”
“Understandable. But Kelly was surely not earning money from the woman last seen there, was he, Mr Tailor?”
Dorothy was surprised at how chatty the man was. Did he have something on his chest, she thought. Everyone had something they would rather forget, she conjectured.
“You mean that vicar’s widow, I suppose,” said Tailor. “She doesn’t look like a sex bomb, but Kelly said she was different once she got her clothes off.”
Dorothy thought that fitted in with what she had heard about Edith in her depraved state of mind, but she did not say that to Tailor..
“I expect he encouraged her, Mr Tailor.”
“She didn’t need any encouragement, Miss Price. I went there once for some eggs and they were, well…”
“At it?” said Dorothy, now familiar with the common verbal description used in that district. She thought that Mr Tailor was trying to shock her.
“She had my clothes off before I realized,” said Tailor. “Then she played games with both of us. I’d never done a threesome before. It was enlightening.”
Dorothy was appalled.
“Why are you telling me all this?” she said.
“Because the woman is a vampire, Miss Price, and I’d like to know if she is the reason Kelly is dead.”
“So would I, Mr Tailor. What do you think?”
“I’m going to ask her. She’s coming to my place tonight.”
“Isn’t that taking rather a risk?” said Dorothy.
“Not if I’m as forceful as she is, if you understand me.”
“Oh. She’s visiting you for sex, is she?” said Dorothy.
Dorothy could not think of a way she could report what she was now hearing without being crude. She would have to report that information in a factual way that might be helpful in the search for Kelly’s killer without passing judgement. Dorothy could not help wondering how many men Edith had offered herself to. How many times would she have to listen to the primitive description Tailor had just given her of Edith’s behaviour?
“If I tell you that I am a private detective working at the Hartley Agency, will you tell me what Edith Parsnip tells you?”
“I thought I recognised you earlier on,” said Tailor. ”Why would I want to inform on her?”
“To save a nice man from being accused of Kelly’s murder, Mr Tailor.”
“You mean Robert Jones, I suppose. He had a motive, didn’t he, although she treated him badly?”
Dorothy was surprised that Tailor knew so much.
“It’s all right, Miss Price. My farm does not keep me, but my crime writing does. It pays me to be up-to-date on what goes on around here.”
“I did not know we had an author in our midst,” said Dorothy.
“I don’t write under my own name.”
“Do you think I have read any of your books, Mr Tailor?”
“If you read thrillers you may have come across R.D. Day, Miss Price.”
“I expect the books are full of action and sex,” said Dorothy. “I don’t read that kind of book.”
“Not really, but Edith’s behaviour will certainly find its way into my next novel. I thought I wrote imaginative gangster stories, Miss Price, but there are countless people who act in a way that is almost beyond even a novelist’s imagination. Edith would make an ideal gangster’s moll with her inimitable talent for getting around men.”
“I’ll leave you with an agency card, Mr Tailor,” said Dorothy, rising from her seat. “I need information about Kelly’s activities. You may be able to help me more than I can help myself.”
“I’ll certainly try,” said Tailor. “Real life murder is definitely more scintillating than fiction.”
“Can we meet here for breakfast on Friday? I’d like you to meet Cleo Hartley.”
“That’s the clever coloured woman, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and she was married to Robert Jones for a while and cannot believe that he killed Mr Kelly.”
“I’ll talk to her,” said Tailor. “Some of what I tell her might change her mind.”
***
Dorothy did not know if she had really achieved anything that morning, apart from getting to know Tailor alias R.D. Day and finding out more about Edith. She was no nearer finding a way of getting Robert off the hook, but Cleo might have a better idea of getting Tailor to tell them anything that could be relevant. It was worth a try.