Monday, 21 October 2013

The swimming pool

“Where was the body found?” asked Playfair.  He peered behind the desk again as though wondering if they’d laid it out back there.  The nurse glared at him.
“In the swimming pool,” she said.  “Face down.”
“Is it still there?”
He has been pulled out,” said the nurse, her tone as icy as a north wind in Winter.  “He’s on the side of the pool now.”
“Sounds like tampering with evidence to me,” said Playfair with a little smile.  “Did you do this of your own accord, or did someone ask you to help them?”
“I never touched the body!”  The nurse flushed, a puce colour that made her head look a little like a plum.  “They wanted to get him out of the water so that it wouldn’t contamin– so that it wouldn’t speed decomposition… er, and the chlorine in the water.”  She tailed off a little at the end, sounding uncertain for the first time since Playfair and Miss Flava had arrived.
“The chlorine in the water?” prompted Miss Flava before Playfair could agitate the nurse any more.  She was trying to get everything written down in her notebook – Playfair, as usual, was making no notes at all and would later tell her that he remembered everything that was of any importance – and she knew that she still hadn’t found out the nurse’s name.
“Er yes, we were, that is, they were worried that it would affect the body after death… it might make it rot a bit quicker, I think.”
“And who are they exactly?”
“And who, in fact, are you?” asked Playfair, butting in again.  He drummed his fingers on the counter.  “You’re very quick to tell us about everyone else, but you’ve not told us who you are yet, have you?”
The nurse opened her mouth to retort, and then Miss Flava could see her take control of herself.  It was impressive, most people confronted by Playfair like this would be angered to the point of screaming confessions at him just to get him to shut up and go away, she’d seen it happen.  To see someone visibly pushing his attitude away like this and forcing herself to calm down and think about her answers showed a lot of willpower.
“Had you asked, at all,” said the nurse, “I would have told you that I was Wendy Roberts.  I might even have introduced myself to you and offered to shake your hand.  They in this instance are the kitchen porters, since they’ve got strong arms and strong stomachs, and we really had no idea how long Bob had been in the pool for when we found him.  He seems to be mostly wet rather than decomposed, so I guess it wasn’t that long.”
“The pathologist will determine that,” said Miss Flava.  “Thank-you, Wendy.”  She wrote the name down at the top of the page.  “Who instructed the porters?”
The hesitation was slight, and if Miss Flava hadn’t been previously so impressed with the way that the nurse had regained her calm she might never have noticed it.  But now, when Playfair had been put back down in his place, and the question was an easy one, the hesitation was curious.
“The board,” said Wendy.  “I couldn’t get hold of Mike on the phone at first, he was probably asleep, so I called Sequester Options to ask them for advice on what to do.  They said to get the body out of the pool and to call the police.”
“Why didn’t you call the police first?” asked Miss Flava, though she could guess the answer.  People never wanted to be responsible, so when you found a dead body you told someone else and hoped that they would call the police for you.  There was another fractional hesitation before Wendy answered, again.
“Bob and I were… close,” she said.  “I think I was in shock.”
“Then you still are,” said Playfair.  “Shock doesn’t just go away like that.  Have you had a sit down?”
Wendy, who was still sitting down, looked at him with an expression that suggested she thought he was abnormally slow.  “Cup of sweet tea?” he asked.
“I’m fine, thank-you,” she said.  “I did have to go and sit down for a bit, yes.  And I prefer coffee, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Fine, you’re sorted then,” said Playfair.  “Let’s see this swimming pool while we wait for Mike to get here.”
“I’d prefer that you wait for Mike,” said Wendy.
“I’m sure you would,” replied Playfair.

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