What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
‘What can you tell me about Arthur Boniface, Sergeant?’
‘Well, he’s lived in Didsbrook for over 20 years now. He’s a retired actor who was at Cambridge with Mrs Robertshaw, back in the day. He was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years, and he’s been in a few films. He was in that soap up until he moved here; what’s it called? Martingale. Um, he’s very involved with DADS, otherwise he only really socialises with Mrs Robertshaw.’
‘DADS? Which is an acronym for?’
‘The Didsbrook Amateur Dramatic Society, Mrs Robertshaw started it with Mr Boniface when he came here.’
‘Of course… DADS.’
‘She was an actress before she got married. I know all this because my missus is a member of DADS.’
‘Yes, I knew Mrs Robertshaw used to be an actress before she became a novelist. So, what sort of relationship did Mrs Robertshaw have with Mr Boniface, exactly? They were immediate neighbours and, as you say, they socialised a lot together. Do you think there was something more going on between them?’
‘Absolutely not!’ Sergeant McCorkingdale was horrified at the suggestion. ‘Their relationship was purely thespian, Sir and, apart from anything else, they are both in their sixties.’
‘Well, surprising as it may seem, Sergeant, just because they are collecting their pensions, doesn’t preclude them from enjoying an active sex life. Anyway, now the pathologist has confirmed that Mrs Robertshaw sustained a blow to the back of her head, so we cannot rule out foul play at this stage. We’ll have to wait for the results of the PM to see whether it killed her or not. There were two glasses on her bedside table and I don’t believe she was drinking pink gin chasers, so I want everybody who saw her during the 24 hours before she died to give a DNA sample.’
‘Yes, Sir, but I can’t imagine anyone would want to kill Mrs Robertshaw. She was a much-loved figure within the community.’
‘So everybody keeps telling me, but it doesn’t mean to say she hasn’t got any skeletons in the cupboard. Even the squeakiest of the clean can have something in their past that they want to hide.’
‘Hello Darling, I’m just coming.’ Arthur Boniface sang the words from behind his front door, blinking into the sunlight as he opened it, tying his kimono around his waist.
‘Mr Boniface?’ Humphrey flashed his badge.
‘Heavens! The strong-arm of the law? I thought it was my wonderful neighbour, Jocelyn Robertshaw, checking up on me after last night’s frivolities. What have I done to warrant a visit from the boys in blue?’
‘I’m DCI Middleton, Sir, and this is Sergeant McCorkingdale, who I assume you will know?’
‘Yes, of course, I do. Corkey’s wife played one of my wives in the DADS production of Run For Your Wife. And very good she was too. How can I help you both?
‘Can we come in, Sir?’
‘Yes, of course, you’ll have to excuse the mess and my attire. I was entertaining last night. I had an old friend down from London for the evening, and things got rather late, so I decided to have a pyjama day today. Come on through. Can I make you a cup of anything?
‘No, thank you, Sir, I need to ask you some questions…’
‘… but first I must give you some bad news.’
‘Bad news? No news is ever bad in dear old Didsbrook, Detective Chief Inspector Middleton. That’s one reason I decided to retire here. I fell in love with the place when I first came, over forty years ago and, more than anything else, I wanted to be close to my oldest friend, Joc. We go back many moons, you know? He flopped on the sofa, kicking his legs out in front of him, crossing them, before tucking them in.
‘Do take a seat, gentlemen. Jocelyn was my first love at Cambridge, and my first Juliet at Stratford.’
‘You say was…’ Humphrey interjected.
‘Yes, well sadly, neither of us are treading the professional boards any more, but Jocelyn is my best friend and my soulmate. In fact, these days, now dear Peter is no longer with us, we are everything to each other. Except for lovers, of course, Jocelyn has always preferred someone a bit more, you know, macho, in the bedroom department.’ Humphrey cleared his throat, Arthur’s flamboyant monologue was beginning to irritate.
‘Mr Boniface! I’m afraid your neighbour, and friend, Mrs Robertshaw, has been found dead in her bed this morning.’ Sergeant MacCorkingdale gasped.
‘That’s a bit brutal, Sir.’
‘Dead!’ Arthur surprised them both by countering Humphrey’s statement with a laugh. ‘Don’t be so silly. She’s been having you on, darling. Jocelyn can’t possibly be dead. People like Jocelyn don’t die! Don’t be so ridiculous. She was drinking Pink Gin like a trooper yesterday evening. I know she’s been out of sorts recently, but she can’t be dead! There must be some mistake.’
‘Mr Boniface.’ Sergeant MacCorkingdale, sensing his senior officer’s increasing frustration, found his voice. ‘There’s no mistake, I am afraid. I’ve known Mrs Robertshaw all my life, and I can promise you, Sir, she’s as dead as a dodo.’
Arthur sat silently for a few seconds before rocking off the sofa and sinking to his knees. Holding both arms above his head, he wailed at the ceiling.
‘Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death!’
‘Mr Boniface, are you alright, Sir?’
“He’s quoting Shakespeare, Sergeant. Romeo and Juliet, I think.’
‘Jocelyn, my first, my only Juliet! Alack the day, she’s dead, she’s dead. She can’t be dead!’
‘I think he’s in denial, Sir.’
‘He’s in shock certainly, Sergeant.’ Humphrey raised his voice in an attempt to be heard above Arthur’s sobs.
‘Is there anybody we can call, Mr Boniface? Someone who can come and sit with you for a bit?’ Still looking at the ceiling, Arthur sobbed.
‘Sit with me? Joc is the only person I would ever want to sit with me! Wherefore art thou, my darling Jocelyn? You must come back to me. I’m nothing without you. You can’t be dead!’
‘You better get the paramedics out here again, Sergeant. They can come and give him something to calm him down, and they can take a sample while they are at it. Stay with him… until they come, and try and find out who he was with last night. We need to talk to him, or her, a.s.a.p.’
‘Surely you don’t think that he can have had anything to do with Mrs Robertshaw’s death, Sir?’ They both looked down at Arthur Boniface lying in the foetal position, pounding his fist against Chinese Art Deco rug.
‘It’s terrible to see him like this Sir, they were joined at the hip, those two.’
‘I thought you said nothing was going on between them?
‘Metaphorically speaking, I meant, Sir.’
‘Innocent, until proven guilty, Sergeant, to quote the British barrister, Sir William Arrow, that’s my MO. Now get the paramedics round here.’