Barnes drove his Morgan down the carefully manicured driveway of Manton Rempville Hall, while Knowles stared at the yew hedges, which had been sheared into interesting shapes that he couldn’t quite recognise. After they’d parked, Knowles walked over to one of the hedges and pointed.
“What do you think they’re supposed to be, Barnesy, these shapes?”
Barnes looked at Knowles, who was moving his head around to try and get the right angle for a correct identification of the topiary.
“Well, Inspector, isn’t that one a mouse and this one here a hedgehog?”
“It could be a hedgehog I suppose, but I thought it might be a crouching lion – you see there’s the mane and that’s definitely a tail…”
“Excuse me, this is private property,” said a very posh female voice, “if you don’t leave I will call the police.”
“Well, there’s no need, because we are already here, madam,” said Knowles brandishing his identification card in the lady’s face, “I am Detective Inspector Chris Knowles and this is Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes. We are here to ask you and your family about the death that occurred in the grounds of the monastery earlier today.”
“Death, you say, is that why there were all those sirens keeping us awake at some ungodly hour?”
“Those sirens were the ambulance and police cars rushing to the scene of a murder. I am sorry, but I don’t know your name.”
“The impertinence – I am Lady Bunny Johnson, if you must know, and why do those people put on their sirens when the murdered person is already dead and there’s no reason to rush?”
“Thank you, Lady Johnson, I do need to know your name and there is always a reason to rush to a murder scene as vital evidence can easily be lost if the police aren’t on the scene as soon as possible.”
“Really – it doesn’t seem necessary to me; perhaps they could put them on just in the afternoons?”
“We’ll see about that; anyway, how many people do you have in the hall at the moment – I would like to interview them all, please.”
“I’ll ask the butler, Fairfax, to gather the staff together in the lower library for you.”
“I would like to interview everyone in the house, staff, family, and house guests, if there are any of course.”
“You surely can’t believe that any members of the family, my family, would be involved in anything as sordid as a murder?”
“The murder was committed on a property adjacent to this hall, last night, so I would like to eliminate every person in this hall from my enquiries as soon as possible. So, Lady Johnson, if you please can you gather everyone in the library…”
“Which one, we have two?”
“…please gather everyone in the lower library in fifteen minutes from now, so Sergeant Barnes and I can find out where everyone was last night.”
“I’ll ask Fairfax to gather the family and then he can go and get Wilkinson and Jenkins. I will ask Miss Newton to rouse everyone in The Coach House.”
Wth that Lady Johnson had gone.
“I presume that’s The Coach House over there,” said Barnes pointing to a two-storey brick building behind some topiary bushes.
As if on cue, a youngish maid wearing an apron dashed out of the front door of the hall and headed in the direction of the building.
Extract from The Manton Rempville Murders – 5-star review here