Thursday 17 – Friday 18 May 2012
With the autopsy concluded, and her preliminary findings documented, Rebecca James sat in her usual seat in the restaurant in the next village. It was customary, after an autopsy, for Rebecca and Simon to meet at the restaurant and discuss their latest case. It was also customary for them to meet in a neutral village, somewhere close to the scene of the crime, but far enough away that they could talk freely. Today, that place happened to be the White Elephant Thai restaurant in Billings Green.
Her findings sat in a large envelope under her left hand. She drummed the fingers of that hand as she impatiently awaited the arrival of her brother. Knowing what he would choose from the menu, the coroner went ahead and ordered for him. She looked at her wristwatch. He was fifteen minutes late. She contemplated, albeit briefly, leaving the restaurant and returning to the office, but those thoughts were set aside when her stomach rumbled, demanding to be filled. She hadn’t eaten since before the call out to Westwind farm yesterday morning. A case of this magnitude meant that work came before anything else in her life until her role in the case concluded.
The little waiter approached the table with two plates precariously balanced on one arm. He smiled as he set the food down in front of her.
‘Your usual, doctor James. And your brother? He will be joining you?’ he asked.
‘Well, Sonny, if he doesn’t you can rest assured that I will make short work of his usual,’ she replied. They shared a laugh before the waiter returned to the kitchen.
From the corner of her eye, Rebecca noticed a familiar figure stealthily approach the table.
‘You’re late, and I was planning on consuming your green curry as well as this bloody lovely Pad Thai,’ she passed comment before shovelling a portion of the food into her mouth in a rather unladylike manner.
‘I might be late, but you eat like a pig. Rebecca, have some consideration for the other diners who have to see you. For God’s sake, decorum, woman.’
She shrugged her shoulders and continued to eat.
Simon sat opposite Rebecca and watched her common manner of eating for a good five minutes before he started his own meal. Her lack of etiquette and manners often made him think that they were the reason for Rebecca still being single at thirty-eight. She caught him staring at her and slid the envelope across the table to him.
‘My preliminary findings, please read them carefully.’
‘Give me the short version,’ he replied. She placed her chopsticks on the rim of the plate, took a sip of water, cleared her throat and began.
‘Your victim,’ she said in hushed tones so other diners couldn’t pick up any details, ‘is male, about fifty-five to sixty years of age. Not much left on him in the way of skin or flesh, but what I managed to garner from the remains of his hands, I’d say he was a labourer. There looked to be some callusing on both hands, what was left of them. I’d hazard a guess and say that if you’re unable to locate John Mitchell, it’s probably him. The dental work that I could identify through records appears to be reflective of his. Your job is to find out who dunnit, Mr. Holmes.’
Simon looked at his sister, displeased by her tacky Conan Doyle reference.
‘I thought you said something about sharp force trauma when we were on site yesterday morning.’
‘Dear brother, had you bothered to listen, I did request that you read my findings carefully. Do I have to explain everything to you?’
Simon’s displeasure was painfully visible to her, and she paused long enough to pick up the chopsticks and fill her mouth, once again, with food. She chewed slowly, knowing that it would irritate him even more. It did, and he began rapping his fingers on the table, just as Rebecca had done earlier. She swallowed then conceded to her brother’s non-verbal demands.
‘There are three, evenly spaced holes in the back of the victim’s head. From what I saw at the scene, and from the basic measurements I took, I’d put my money on a pitchfork, Si.’
‘A pitchfork,’ he repeated, ‘interesting weapon of choice.’
‘Agreed. And from the positions of the holes, I’d also put my money on the victim laying face down on the ground when the tines went in.’
Rebecca waited patiently for the next part of their routine to begin. Any moment now, Simon would start to postulate and theorise how the victim met his fate. The brother and sister were too engrossed in their ritual to notice Lord Carlisle enter the restaurant and take a seat two tables away. While he could not hear what the siblings were saying, his lip reading skills were getting a work out. Lip reading was, he thought, a perk of having a deaf child.
‘So,’ Lord Carlisle said to himself, ‘they’ve discovered it’s John Mitchell. That will make for an interesting investigation.’
. . . To be continued . . .