The Strange Case Of The Buckled Swash – Episode 04

Peter Thorpe was sitting at a table in a small interview room in Bedford police station. DI Barclay observed him from the other side of the one-way glass. His enquiries had established that the man was an upstanding and well-respected member of the community, a successful businessman with his own stables. John Barclay entered and sat down. “As I mentioned, Mr Thorpe, we’re here to try to establish the facts surrounding Major General Tompkins’s unfortunate demise, nothing more.” “There’s no-one more eager than I am to find out what happened. If I thought for a second I had contributed, even accidentally, to Tim’s death, I’d never forgive myself.” “Let’s start at the beginning.” DI Barclay opened his notebook. “Tell me about the weapon you used during the stage-fight.” “It isn’t a weapon as such. It’s a prop cutlass. We had been using cheap plastic ones but Tim had complained that they kept bending. He had a point, they were like kids’ toys. So he insisted that Ted source better ones.” DI Barclay consulted his notes. “That would be Ted Guilford?” Peter Thorpe nodded. “Ted is in charge of props. He managed to get two proper theatrical ones you know, the type where the blade retracts so it looks as if the sword enters the body. Very realistic. We used them at the dress rehearsal and they worked a treat.” “But on opening night your blade didn’t retract.” Peter Thorpe put his head in his hands. “When I thrust it at him it didn’t give like it normally did. It stayed rigid. The tip must have pierced the skin because I saw blood. I’ve no idea why it malfunctioned. It was a complete accident, but I’ll have to live with the memory for the rest of my life.” “I wouldn’t give yourself too hard a time yet, Mr Thorpe. We haven’t even established that it was that which caused Major General Tompkins’s death. How did you get on with him, by the way?” “Not well, to be honest. He was a cantankerous old devil; could turn nasty when he didn’t get his own way. If you’re for people who might have held a grudge against Tim, the list would include most residents of Palmerston.” “Including you?” “I said I disliked him, Detective Inspector. I said nothing about bearing him a grudge.” “OK, let’s leave it there for the moment. You’re free to go, but I’ll want to question you further in due course.” “Certainly. I’ve got nothing to hide.” “In my experience, Mr Thorpe, we’ve all got something to hide. It’s just a question of knowing where to look.” ****The next morning, DI Barclay made Ted Guilford’s cottage his first port of call. He’d had an interesting conversation with one of the forensics lads who informed him that the sword hadn’t malfunctioned the mechanism had been tampered with so that the blade could not retract. He was anxious to find out how that might have happened. The cottage was a ramshackle affair on the edge of the village. Ted Guilford was a bohemian character, sporting a wispy goatee beard, his long, greying hair tied back in a ponytail. “Mr Guilford, I’d like to ask you a few questions.” “Fire away, though I don’t think there’s much I can add to what I told you last night.” “You were in charge of props, I believe, including the swords?” “That’s right.” “Mr Thorpe has stated that his sword worked perfectly well during the dress rehearsal, yet by the time he used it on Saturday night, the mechanism had been jammed. Deliberately.” “I hope you’re not trying to pin the blame for that on me.” “I’m trying to understand who had access to the props, Mr Guilford. Where were they kept when not in use?”“In a box backstage.” “Is the box kept locked?” “Not the box itself, but I do keep it locked away in a cupboard.” “Who, other than yourself, could have gained access to the props box?” Ted Guilford thought for a moment. “I suppose anyone with a key to the village hall. The same key unlocks the cupboard.” “And who has a key, beside you?” “The committee. Tompkins, Peter, Arabella, Jean.” “Anyone else?” “Deirdre Wells used to have one. She was on the committee, but she resigned. Are you implying that foul play was involved?” “The results of the post mortem aren’t even in yet. I’m just following protocol, pursuing various lines of enquiry. You look uncomfortable, Mr Guilford.” “Look, you’ll find out soon enough, so I might as well tell you. It’s a well-known fact that Tompkins and I hated the sight of each other. We’ve got a bit of history, so to speak. I won’t pretend I’ll mourn his passing, but I had nothing to do with his demise.” “Thank you, Mr Guilford. You’ve been most helpful.” DI Barclay turned to go. “You wouldn’t happen to know why Miss Wells resigned from the committee, would you?” Ted Guilford hesitated for a second. “I do, as it happens. She had a blazing row with Tompkins.”


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