June 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
books monthly
Continues in this issue: The Four Marys...


Contents: The Front Page | Fiction | Fantasy & Science Fiction | Children's | Nonfiction | Nostalgia | The Silent Three | The Four Marys
Growing Up in the 1950s | Pen and Sword Books | Living with Skipper | Acker Bilk Album Sleeve Notes | The Back Page | Email

The Four Marys Part 1
The Four Marys Part 2
The Four Marys Part 3
The Four Marys Part 4
The Four Marys Part 5
The Four Marys Part 6
The Four Marys Part 7
The Four Marys Part 8

The Four Marys - A Murder Mystery

By Paul Norman

Part Six (You can access the other parts from the main menu).

Chapter Nine


The reference to Noddy was not lost on Mike. His parents had bought him the very first Noddy book by Enid Blyton, published in 1948, and it had become a firm favourite of Mike’s. He had been sorely tempted, on inheriting Jasmine, to paint the front and rear bumpers of the car red, but knew what the consequences would be. Some day he would have her resprayed a less noticeable colour, just one colour, not two-tone, as it was now. Something respectable such as British Racing Green, or maroon, maybe. Or just plain black, which was probably how it had left the Morris factory in Cowley. But then he would have to change her name, of course.

Jasmine chugged her way out to the village of Aston, turned left and headed up the narrow road towards the council houses where he was to meet DCI Maxwell. He followed the line of council houses until he reached the one belonging to Mary Fielding and Jenny Rogerson. He could see Maxwell’s gleaming black Wolseley, big, chunky, and functional, but luxurious on the inside, parked a little way down the street, and pulled in behind him, then made his way to the front door of the house. A kiddie’s Tri-Ang tricycle was in the front garden, which was well-tended, comprising a three-yard square of lawn either side of the concrete path, and a single climbing rose that was thinking of struggling free of the trellis to which it was attached.

A uniformed constable, whom Mike did not recognise, stood at the doorway and asked to see his warrant card, then let him in.

Upstairs,’ he said, without smiling. The stairs were opposite the front door. Mike ran lightly up them, turning left at the top to follow the voices he could hear in the front bedroom. As he reached the top of the stairs, WPC Primrose Matthews was on her way down, carrying a crying infant.

Morning Mike. This is James. His Mum, a Mary Fielding, has been battered to death with a piece of flint,’ she said, smiling wanly, cuddling the little boy to her chest as though he were one of her own. Mike paused to smile at James, and he momentarily stopped crying, reached out a chubby little hand and touched Mike on the nose.

Might need you in a little while,’ she said. ‘He seems to like you…’

There was an appalling smell of urine and the coppery smell of blood as he entered the bedroom. Inside the surprisingly large room was a bed, a chest of drawers in antique pine, a rickety dressing table made from cheap plywood and painted white, and a bedside cabinet on which stood a table lamp with a dirty but serviceable shade. There was also a copy of A Summer Place, a Pan Giant which Mike also had in his own collection because the film had starred a young Sandra Dee. There was also a pair of glasses, a tumbler of water, and a small bottle of aspirin. Mary Fielding lay face down on the lino, a pool of dark blood spreading away from beneath her face. She wore a housecoat with a floral design and nothing else, apparently. Not that he could see, anyway. It was quite clear that as she had died, she had wet herself, and the smell was overpowering. Her shoes, expensive-looking and evidently quite painful from the state of her feet, were alongside her. One of her eyes was visible, as her head was on one side, and it was open. Mike found himself staring into it, mesmerised by the piercing blue colour, wondering when she was going to say something. The side of her head had a distinct depression where the flint, which lay to the right, had impacted. Fragments of bone and brain were matted into her hair. This was a young mother, James’s young mother, and she had died painfully, reaching out for her little boy, desperate to save him from the same fate.

Elizabeth Trigg was on her knees beside the body, taking samples of hair, blood and tissue from Mary Fielding’s wound. She had evidently been called just as Mike was arriving back at the police station, and she must have set out immediately. She had on her beautiful white lab coat, which still somehow managed to accentuate her stunning figure. Maxwell stood in the bay window, his trilby hat on the dressing table, his pipe in his mouth, though from what Mike could tell, it was empty, for there was no smoke emanating from it.

Constable Thompson, open a window, will you?’

Hallo Mike,’ Lizzie said.


Maxwell’s eyebrow raised a fraction at the familiar greetings. ‘Same method, obviously.’

Evidently. There is flint around, for example you could pick some up at a builder’s yard, but my guess is that it’s come from someone’s back garden,’ Lizzie said.

Two Marys,’ Mike said, quietly.


Both of the victims were called Mary. Mary Simkins, Mary Fielding.’


I have no idea, Sir.’

Well then, get your thinking cap on, if you have one. See if there’s a connection, why don’t you? Keep your brain active, that’s the stuff. Miss Trigg, are you going to tell us anything we don’t already know?’

I suspect not, Chief Inspector. It seems very likely to me that the two victims, the two Marys, were killed by the same perpetrator. If you can find a connection, you will in all probability have your man.’

Right. We’ll leave you to it. Thompson, you and I will interview the other girl who lives here. Matthews is arranging for social services to pick up the kiddie, then you and she can do the house to house enquiries. There aren’t that many houses in the Close, shouldn’t take you long…’

Do we have any idea what happened?’ Mike asked. It was Maxwell that answered.

Miss Fielding’s housemate, a Miss Jenny Roberts , was downstairs. There was a party going on, apparently. When everyone had left, she came upstairs to check on Mary and her son, and found her dead, on the floor, as you see her. We believe that whoever killed her climbed up the drainpipe and through the window. Battered her head in, left the same way. The forensic officers are on their way. There are footprints, both here, on the carpet, and outside, on the front garden – I hope you kept to the path, by the way, constable? And there are fingerprints on the drainpipe and the window sill, by the look of it, plus another footprint as he scrambled through the window. She didn’t have time to put up a struggle, just looks as if she raised her arms to defend herself, he took a swing at her and caved her head in. She wouldn’t have known much about it, if anything. I’d say it happened sometime around three this morning.’

He? You know that it’s a man, then?’ Mike addressed his question to Lizzie.

From the size of the footprint on the window frame, which I would say was a ten or even an eleven, I’d say we’re looking at a man, yes. Almost certainly.’

Right, thank you Miss Trigg, we’ll wait to hear from you. Quick as you can, as usual, if you please. Constable Thompson, with me.’

They went downstairs and into the front room, which looked out onto the street. Jenny Rogerson sat on a chair, one of only three in the room. WPC Matthews was standing in the window holding the little boy in her arms.

Waiting for Social Services, guv,’ she said, addressing Maxwell.

Take him away somewhere, if you please, Matthews. He doesn’t need to hear this. He’s probably too young, but you never know.’


Maxwell parked his sizeable frame in the chair next to Jenny’s. Mike hovered by the front room door then removed a teddy bear from the third chair and sat down. Jenny Roberts was in her early thirties, Mike thought. She had shoulder-length blonde hair which was obviously dyed because the roots were just starting to show through. She was attractive, but in an artificial way, her eyes were red from crying and her make-up had run. She wore a loose-fitting blouse beneath which could be seen her underwear, consisting of a bright red brassiere, and she wore a pair of tight-fitting jeans. Her feet were bare. Not like Mary Fielding’s, she evidently wore sensible, well-fitting shoes, unlike her dead housemate. She reminded Mike of Mandy Rice Davies, the pretty call girl who had been involved in the breakup of Harold Macmillan’s government three years earlier.

Feel up to answering a few questions, Miss Roberts?’ Maxwell asked.

Mrs Roberts,’ Jenny said. ‘I’m married. Separated. Well, divorced actually. Papers came through yesterday.’

Mrs Roberts. Constable Thompson, pass Mrs Rogerson that box of tissues off the sideboard, will you?’

We were carrying on the party down here… no one heard anything… the blokes drifted off around four-ish… work, you know. I think Mary sent John packing because he was drunk and he had a terrible headache, he suffers with them - migraines. I can give you his address if you want to talk to him. He’s Mary’s – he was Mary’s boyfriend. He’s not James’s father, though. Terry, my boyfriend, wanted to stay, but I told him no, he had to wait, because of my… you know… period.’

Do you know who James’s father is?’ Mike said, and she nodded.

David Smith. He doesn’t live round here anymore. He moved away. Hitchin, I think. I don’t have an address for him, but Mary might, in her address book. That’ll be upstairs…’

We’ll find him if we need to,’ Maxwell said. ‘We’ll need to talk to him, that’s for sure. Did you know him? What was he like? Jealous type?’

Not really. A bit weedy. Civil servant, worked at Southgate House, I think. There was a Christmas party, people were pairing off, Mary got stuck with him, fell pregnant. Just a one-nighter. There was never anything between them. He moved away before Christmas. The people at there might be able to tell you where he went. I don’t think Mary kept in touch with him, though she might have his address, like I say, I think he lives somewhere near the railway station - in the olf town. She wanted to forget him, if you know what I mean. Anyway, the party… sort of fizzled out because the boys went home…’

You were partying like there was no tomorrow, and the “blokes” had probably come here expecting a bit of how’s your father…

You heard nothing? Absolutely nothing?’

The record player was on… It was quite loud… Some old record from the fifties... I think it might have been the Everley Brothers… By, bye Love, something like that. I was still listening to it, even after they’d gone. I didn’t think about Mary.’ Jenny Rogerson sniffed into a handful of tissues.

The party started when?’

Not here. It wasn’t here. We came home because of Mary’s little boy. Because of the babysitter. Abi. Abigail. Abigail Walker. She lives a few doors down. She’s only sixteen, she had to go home because of getting up for school. We were a little late, she was a bit cross, but we gave her an extra half crown to shut her up. Her Dad was waiting to take her home. He wasn’t too happy, either, he has to get up early for work, he’s a postman. They live at number three. On the corner. One and three, the semis on the corner.’ Mike had his notebook out and was making notes of the names and addresses they needed to visit during the course of this morning’s enquiries.

What time did you all get here? Was it by car? Who came?’ Maxwell asked. ‘I’ll need names and addresses. And do you remember if anyone went missing during the time of the party? And then showed up again?’

There’s a lot of blood,’ Mike said. Maxwell looked at him quizzically. ‘I mean, if someone had left the party, climbed up the drainpipe and killed Mary, then rejoined the party, wouldn’t he have been covered in blood?’

Maxwell shrugged. It had probably occurred to him but didn’t need to be said right now, in his opinion. ‘We’d best check with Miss Trigg on that score,’ he said gruffly. ‘Mrs Roberts? Can you answer the questions, please? Did you come home by car, and how many of you were there? If it was more than the four of you, did anyone leave during the course of the evening? While the party was going on? And can you think of anyone who might want to harm Mary Fielding?’

Jenny shook her head. ‘So many questions… there were just the four of us. Me, Mary, Terry and John, in Terry’s car. It’s an Anglia, a Ford Anglia, it should be out in the street. Terry and John live in Wymondley, their addresses are in my book, over by the phone. Under their first names. Mary came home because of Jack, her little boy, she sent John home and went straight upstairs. It was just the three of us down here. We shouldn’t have been driving, really, given the amount of drink we’d all had, but we had to get back, you see. For Abigail.’ Mike found the relevant entries against the mens’ names and copied them into his notebook. Terry Vincent and John Harrison.

Just the three of you? Partying? Drinking, dancing, that kind of thing?’

Jenny nodded. ‘Yes. We were pissed, really, sorry. Someone passed some tablets around at the party…’

The party you left to come home?’

Again Jenny nodded. ‘I don’t know what they were. The tablets, I mean. Mary didn’t have any. She was just drinking. Just drink. Just a couple of Babychams, as far as I know. She said she needed a clear head to take care of Jack. She doesn’t drink much at all, really. Not normally. She was a bit more drunk than usual tonight, though, as if someone might have spiked her drink with something. We only went out for a night of fun… I think it was someone’s birthday…’

Well, it wasn’t much fun for Mary Fielding, was it?’ Maxwell said. ‘Right, I think we’re done here for now. Let’s let the forensics do their stuff. Mrs Rogerson, you’ll need to come down to the station to make a statement. And…’

No,’ Jenny said through her tears. ‘In answer to your question, I can’t think of anyone who might want to kill Mary.’

Thompson, get started on those house to house enquiries. Start with the babysitter and the house next door. We’re looking for anyone who might have seen or heard something, someone, or a car between midnight and four o’clock. Make that two cars, in case the killer also came by car, and have a look for Mr Vincent’s Ford Anglia while you’re at it. Ask if anyone saw anything suspicious, loitering around this house or anywhere in the street between those hours. WPC Matthews can help with that once the social have collected the little boy. I’ll see you back at the station. Mrs Roberts? Sometime this morning at the station, if you please?’

Jenny nodded. Mike followed Maxwell out of the house. Lizzie Trigg was just putting her gear back into her car, which was a grey Hillman. Further along the street was a black Ford Anglia. Lizzie beckoned him over.

There’s a concert tonight in St Georges. Britten’s War Requiem. Fancy it? I have a spare ticket.’

I’d love to.’ The words were out of Mike’s mouth almost before he knew it. Elizabeth Trigg might be a year or so older than him, but she was incredibly attractive, and he had really enjoyed having that coffee with her yesterday. As far as he was concerned, he had nothing on that evening, and although he was not familiar with the War Requiem, he did know some of Britten’s music, and in any case Lizzie was very good company and he quite liked the idea of spending an evening at a concert with her. He had been thinking of asking Martha Baker if he could see her again tonight, but something as instant, as organised as this concert that Lizzie Trigg was offering him, well, it was a no-brainer. And it was not as if he had made any kind of arrangement with Martha. Not yet. Tonight wouldn’t hurt. She would be quite safe walking home from the Hyde, because Mike had established that Barney Cottingholme-Cole, Barney Cole, was not, could not be, the rapist. It suddenly occurred to him that the rapist might strike again, this time in Brockworth, but he dismissed it immediately. He wanted to go to the church concert with Lizzie Trigg tonight.

Great. I’ll see you there.’

I’ll pick you up if you like.’

In Jasmine?’ In the Noddy car?

No rain forecast for tonight. We can leave the top down.’

If you’re sure? I can easily get the bus and meet you there. I’m not that far away. I live in Bedwell Crescent. Number eighty-five.’ Quite near where DCI Maxwell lives, Mike thought.

What time does it start?’

Seven thirty. We can park in front of the library. I know the librarian, he lets me use the car park. It’s a ten minute walk to St Georges.’

Boyfriend? Mike thought, but said nothing. Surely she would have said if she was going out with the librarian? Besides, the librarian would be an older man, the kind of man who wore a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, who smoked a pipe and had a Labrador retriever that followed him everywhere.

I’ll pick you up at six thirty, then.’

Look forward to it. See you later, Mike. Oh, by the way, post mortem on this one, tomorrow morning, around tennish, if you’re up for it? Jeremy has gone home sick, he won’t be in for the rest of this week. Tonsilitis. Probably been drinking last night, if you ask me!’

Mike thought that there had been nothing wrong with the pathologist this morning, but he said nothing. People did get ill at the drop of a hat, but it did seem a little out of character. He couldn’t imagine Jeremy Burnham-Twist taking more than the occasional sip of sherry, but he said nothing. She was probably making a joke that anyone who already knew the pathologist would recognise as such. ‘I’ll see you tonight, then?’

Of course, sorry. You can remember the address? Number eighty-five?’

I know it. He would familiarise himself with where Elizabeth Trigg lived so that he wouldn’t be late for this evening.

She squeezed his hand and smiled, and his heart melted. Somehow he could foresee trouble brewing. At this particular moment he felt equally attracted to Lizzie Trigg and Martha Baker. Something that would need to be sorted out sooner rather than later. Martha obviously had the edge because of the spooky Ouija board episode that had predicted her as his life partner all those years ago, but although he had at one time filled his head with a lot of superstitious nonsense, his police training had overtaken that and he now thought he was much more sensible. Even so, he was on edge, and the delicious thought of the two beautiful girls fighting over him was difficult to get out of his head right now, and he started to feel distinctly uneasy about cheating on Martha. As those thoughts tumbled through his mind, Martha’s face swam into his consciousness and he was on the point of running back to tell Lizzie that he couldn’t go with her after all. He could imagine a life with Martha, growing up, growing old together, raising a family and so on, whereas he somehow couldn’t imagine the same thing with Lizzie Trigg. But he finally managed to convince himself that a night out with her would be harmless. It wasn’t as though they were going to leap into bed together at the end of it. That simply wasn’t going to happen. Panic over.

He caught up with Primrose Matthews and together they began the laborious task of knocking on the doors in the immediate vicinity to hear what the neighbours had to say about last night’s party and the fact that Mary Fielding had been murdered as they slept in their beds. Or, hopefully, had been disturbed by the partygoers and the murderers arriving in the lane during the night.

But the house to house enquiries were fruitless. Abigail Walker was at school, of course. Her mother confirmed that her husband had walked along to the Roberts-Fielding house to collect her and they had returned some two hours later than planned. She had managed to wake Abigail in time for school, but her husband had called in sick with an upset stomach and she had made the phone call for him using the call box at the end of the road. They had a brief chat with Mr Walker, who was none too pleased to be roused from his sick bed, but he confirmed what his wife had told them, and offered nothing new, nothing that would help with their enquiries, and they had no reason to doubt him.

Abigail, the parents told them, was in the fifth form at Chells Secondary Modern School, and she would be home around four o’clock this afternoon. Mike made an appointment to come back and talk to Abigail when she was home, rather than disturb her lessons by turning up at the school. The rest of the street had apparently slept through what had happened last night, or else someone was lying. Neither Mike nor Alice could point to anyone of whom they were immediately suspicious, and so for the time being, they made their separate ways back to Police HQ and resumed their normal duties.

Mike drove back through the lanes to Hitchin. He parked outside John Harrison’s house in Richmond Gardens and knocked sharply on the door.

It’s open!’ a female voice called, so he pushed open the door and walked in, finding himself in a smartly decorated hall with a dado rail, and a staircase. At the far end of the hall he could see a woman in a pinafore skirt busying away in the little kitchen. He could tell at a glance that this was a house the owners were proud of and someone, probably the lady who was now walking towards him, kept spotlessly clean and tidy.

Mrs Harrison?’

Thelma Harrison was in her mid-fifties, and had a kindly face. She reminded him of his own Mum, and he briefly wondered how the rest of his family were settling into their new life in Australia. Especially Annie.

That’s me. Can I help you?’

Mike produced his warrant card. ‘It’s about Mary Fielding. I believe your son, John Harrison, is her boyfriend.’

That’s correct. What’s he done now? Or her? What’s she done?’ Mike noted that Mrs Harrison had immediately gone onto the offensive, thinking the worst of both her son and her girlfriend.

Well, I need to talk to your son about last night, Mrs Harrison. I need to question him about his movements after he left Mary’s house last night…’

Why? What’s happened?’ A young man in his late twenties came flying down the stairs in his stockinged feet. This must be John Harrison, Mike thought, and looked him up and down for signs of blood. There was none, and the clothes he was wearing looked as though he’d slept in them. Not our man, Mike thought, though he would still need to question him, of course. Rule him out.

John Harrison? Can we go somewhere and talk?’

Front room. What’s happened? Is Mary OK?’

The voice was rough and uneducated, and the accent sounded like someone who possibly came from the Birmingham or Coventry area. Harrison led Mike into a spotless front room and they sat down. His mother hovered in the doorway.

It’s all right, Mrs Harrison, you can sit in on this if you wish,’ Mike said. She parked herself on a fireside chair. ‘I’m investigating the murder of your girlfriend, Mary Fielding,’ he began. The colour drained from Harrison’s face. He buried his face in his hands and began to sob. His mother let out a strangled cry and rushed to her son, throwing her arms around him.

It is my understanding that you were sent home from Mary’s house in Aston last night because you had had too much to drink. A headache brought on by excessive alcohol intake. Is that correct?’ Harrison nodded.

We made a night of it because Jennifer’s divorce papers came through yesterday. Christ! Are you sure she’s dead?’ His eyes filled with tears suddenly. His mother produced a clean, fresh hankie from her pocket and passed it across, then put her arms around his shoulders.

I’m sorry. Mr Harrison, Jennifer identified her before I came away. There will have to be a formal identification later, probably tomorrow, but there is no doubt it was Mary, I’m afraid. You and she were close?’ It was his mother who answered.

They were saving up to get married. They have their names down for a Council House. As soon as that comes through, they’re… sorry.’ Mrs Harrison began to sob, softly, too, and Mike could see that they had both really cared for Mary Fielding and her little boy, James. This had obviously hit them hard, and from their reaction to the news that Mary had been murdered, he was in no doubt that neither of them had known anything about it.

What will happen to James?’ Harrison asked, wiping his eyes.

I really couldn’t say. Mary’s Mum and Dad…’

have to be told, they have to be told their beautiful little girl has been brutally murdered and their grandchild is now both fatherless and motherless. At least, if David Smith could be contacted …

The Four Marys continues in the July issue...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.