Winifred heard a noise in the post office. She was just having a quiet cup of tea in the tearoom at the back of the shop.
‘That’s funny,’ she thought, ‘everyone’s on the walk. It must be someone travelling through the village.’ She eased herself slowly out of the chair and limped awkwardly to the front part of her premises. There was no one there. ‘How very strange!’
And that was Winifred Fletcher’s very last thought.
Annabelle tottered back into the post office, wearing four inch heels. They had proved to be totally unsuitable for the ramble, but how was a girl to look sexy in walking boots? Somehow she needed to get Ivor to propose. She sighed. Here she was again, last out of the tearooms and first back. That stupid woman Fletcher had put ham next to uncooked chicken in the fridge. It had taken her ages to explain the dangers of bacteria contamination to the old bat and she’d only left when Ivor had called out he was leaving.
‘I detest this pesky rambling,’ she thought as her feet ached. ‘What’s the point of it? Bloody waste of time.’ She was so wound up that she didn’t see the body lying on the floor at first. She was heading straight for the tiny tearoom, where Ivor had promised to meet up with her when he’d finished the tiresome walk. As she walked towards the tearoom she saw a foot sticking out from behind the counter.
‘Oh lore,’ she thought, ‘old Ma Fletcher’s finally croaked it. What shall I do?’ She pulled out her mobile, intending to call Ivor, but as her fingers touched the keys she felt herself tap out 999.
‘Can I have an ambulance, to the Post office at Ways Green? Miss Fletcher is lying dead on the floor.’
The police arrived within five minutes and the ambulance pulled up seconds later. Annabelle had wandered into the tearoom and surprised herself by noticing that the ham plate was empty. The short time period seemed an age but she felt proud of herself, that she’d acted in an adult way and called the authorities. Her self assurance was knocked by Inspector Blake’s question as he knelt down and checked for a pulse in Winifred’s neck.
“Have you touched anything Miss?”
“No, I don’t think I have. Well I opened the door. Nothing else. I just wandered around until you got here. The ham’s gone you know. The ham that was in the fridge.”
Inspector Blake raised his eyebrows. “So you didn’t check whether she was alive?”
“No, she looked dead to me. You don’t lie face down the floor for a kip do you? Anyways she’s about a hundred and eighty. It’s not exactly a surprise, is it?”
“She’s running a post office, Miss. I doubt if she’s more than sixty five. What’s your name?”
“Annabelle Fitzhugh. Miss Fletcher limped and everything. She’s got grey hair and couldn’t be bothered to dye it. I bet she’s older than sixty five.”
“Thank you for your help Miss Fitzhugh. Could I ask you to wait outside? My sergeant will come and take your statement.
Annabelle stepped outside the shop and saw the walkers were beginning to arrive back in twos and threes. Ivor was walking at the front with his cousin Charlene. They looked the perfect couple, with their tall lean bodies and matching blond hair. Charlene looked the picture of health and still managed to look good in those dreadful clumpy boots. Annabelle tottered towards them and seemingly burst into tears, although she was careful not to mess up her make-up.
“Old ma Fletcher’s croaked it and I was the one who found the body,” she said. “It was horrible.”
Ivor put his arms round her and she felt the satisfied sensation that she’d taken him away from Charlene.
Inspector Blake chose that moment to come up to them. “Could I ask you all to wait in ‘The Green Man’ opposite? We’ll need to interview everyone. I’m afraid Miss Fletcher was murdered.”
There was a gasp of horror from the walkers and then they made their way over to the pub. Willy Dunt, the village playboy was walking at the back of the group with Alice Roundbottom. Her two children had slowed them down on the walk, but were very excited at going to the pub, where they were never allowed to go.
“I’ll buy you a meal, “Willy said to the children “I haven’t had a proper meal today and we can all sit together.”
Ivor laughed openly, “I see Willy is trying it on with Alice. He’ll be lucky. She’s Miss Ice knickers.”
“And how do you know?” asked Annabelle.
“Believe me, everyone knows,” he said walking into the pub.
Alice, Willy and the children settled into a corner table and were eating plates of food heaped up with chips. Inspector Blake had set up a temporary office in the back of the pub, enabling the SOCO team to get on with their work.
“Excuse me Inspector. I don’t want to push in, but I’d like to get my children out of the pub. Is it possible for someone to interview me first? Not that I’ve got anything of interest to say.”
“This way then,” said Inspector Blake and showed her to a seat in the back room.
“Tell me what you thought of Miss Fletcher,” he said sitting down opposite her.
“Well, she was always very pleasant to your face, but I can’t say that I really liked her. She gossiped dreadfully and sometimes told you things that you just knew should not have been repeated.”
“I see. Could you give me an example?”
“Well she told me that Sidney and Charlene were at it at the Summer Fete. They’re both single but Sidney is engaged to Felicity. She said Sidney was just after Felicity’s money but that he lusted after Charlene. I didn’t believe it at all. Sidney is a dry old stick; local school teacher. I doubt he’s got it in him.”
“I see what you mean. Thank you for being so open. Can you tell me your movements, and those of anyone else’s, on the walk?”
“Well I left with the main party. Keeping an eye on my two keeps me occupied, so I don’t really notice what other people are doing. Only Willy Dunt – he walked with us all the way round.”
“So he started the walk with you.”
Alice paused. “No, he didn’t actually start with us. I think he started at the front, where he usually walks, but he must have joined us within the first ten minutes.”
“So he doesn’t walk with you every time?”
“No. I was a bit surprised that he joined us. I always end up at the back, but he has been perfectly pleasant. To be quite honest he’s a bit of a lothario He was probably going to try it on.”
“And would he have been successful, Mrs Roundbottom?”
“Just because I’m a single mum, doesn’t mean I’m easy. My nickname is Ice Knickers.” She laughed.
Inspector Blake smiled.
“Would you send in Willy Dunt on your way out please?” said Inspector Blake.
And so the interviews continued.
“Miss Fletcher was a charming old lady. She always had time for everyone,” said Willy…Yes I was walking with Alice and the kids.
“Oh Lore. I don’t know what she was like. She was old and always going on about, ‘you young things’ said Annabelle… “I was wearing these heels. I had to give up on the walk. That’s why I was back early.”
“She was a positive old crow,” said Ivor. “Always telling tales about people. Didn’t matter if they were true or not…At the beginning I walked with Annabelle, but not for long. Then I linked up with Charlene. She was wearing proper boots, not like that silly bitch Annabelle.”
“Well darling, actually she was a wicked old witch,” said Charlene. “Very malicious about people, but of course that’s what made her interesting. People do so love a bit of scandal…No she never said anything nasty about me… I started at the front with mother, but she couldn’t keep up. I ended up walking with Ivor, after the ditzy Annabelle had teetered off in her fashion shoes.”
Eventually the interviews were all done. Inspector Blake came out to talk to the walking party.
He rubbed his brow. “I’ve a good idea where you all were on the walk. Now that you’ve all been interviewed I can tell you that Miss Fletcher was struck on the head, probably by a walking pole, so I would like you to hand your poles over to the Sergeant before you leave. We’ll label them and you should have them back in a few days. There was nothing missing from the Post Office, so the crime was not a robbery, gone wrong.”
“Oh it’s all so terrible,” said Annabelle. Ivor smiled at her indulgently and Charlene shot her a look of irritation.
“Strangely the only thing that seems to be missing is some ham. Annabelle Fitzhugh took it out of Miss Fletcher’s fridge before the walk, when she brought in the milk that was still outside the post office. The ham was sitting on the same shelf as an uncooked chicken so she removed it from the fridge and left it on the side and explained to Miss Fletcher that she mustn’t eat it in case it had been contaminated. She left Miss Fletcher having a cup of tea in the tearoom and the plate of ham was on the side. When we looked there was an empty plate but no ham, so it would seem the killer…”
At that moment Willy Dunt grasped his stomach and threw up all over the maroon pattered carpet. His eyes looked huge in his ashen face as everyone turned to look at him.
This writing task was to write a short story that could be adapted for a soap.