It’s an absolute fact … someone dunnit.
Question 1: who-dunnit?
Question 2: do you really want to know?
Question 3: are you prepared to risk your life to find out?
‘First impression ma’am.’
‘I thought policemen followed scientific methods.’
‘Indeed we do, ma’am. First impressions are just that. They give a sense of the tragic and unusual. One absorbs a lot in the first few moments.’
‘Like an instant judgement on whether Her Grace was conscious or unconscious when she fell?’
‘How so, Inspector?’
‘It’s the way bodies fall, ma’am,’ Inspector Wilcox said. ‘Slack joints bend and flex into surprising shapes when free of the controlling grip of consciousness.’
‘Look at her, man, she’s a surprising shape.’
‘Indeed she is ma’am.’ His nod suggested an agreement his tone belied, ‘yet I believe she was conscious when she fell.’
‘I’d like a closer look, Inspector.’
‘Not now ma’am. Stand back.’ She glared. ‘Here.’ He gestured, open-handed to his left side.
She moved as instructed, her stony face paling. ‘What, pray, tells you she was conscious?’
‘Broken nails, self-defence injuries to her arms and what looks like a wrist broken when she stretched out a defensive arm as she fell.’ The corpse’s left hand lay twisted back on itself. A jagged shard of bone pierced the skin. A congealed trickle of blood had oozed to the floor. ‘She tried to catch her fall and her wrist snapped.’
‘We’ll know more when we’ve inspected the area around her.’
‘Can’t we make her decent?’ Lady Jayne said as the Butler entered, tartan woollen blanket in hand, shaking it out as he crossed the room.
The Inspector signalled to a Constable who moved to block the servant’s path. ‘Sorry ma’am, we must preserve our crime scene. It must be pristine until we complete a thorough examination.’ His Fife accent added a jagged edge to his words. ‘Now the photographs have been taken, the investigation begins.’
‘Must she lie in such an undignified pose?’ One brown brogued foot, pointed up at a sharp angle as if the victim had kicked a football skywards. Her right calf lay propped against the chair’s arm, her thigh taking support from an overturned coal-scuttle. Her left knee pressed against the Wilton carpet exposing chubby vein-streaked thighs, suspenders, stockings and her crumpled slip. Her girdle gripped fast like a British bulldog, preserving her modesty while permitting a glimmer of unexpected red silk knickers.
‘I’m afraid she must be allowed to lie as she is, Lady Jayne, we’ll be as quick as we can.’
‘It’s quite outrageous.’
‘Yes, ma’am, murder usually is.’ … To be continued