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The Burnt Case

Chapter Two

___At 6.30, I left the house. I was tired, but my day wasn't over, yet. I had to go through my notes and see whether I could get anything to add up.
"And did it?" Jeff asked, leaning over Marty to read the latest installment.
___"Eh?" Marty stared up at him.
___"Did anything add up?"
___"Not straight away. In the end, I decided that I'd done enough for one day and that I'd work much better after a good rest..."
___"That's a bit lazy, isn't it?"
___"You're a fine one to talk, Mr. Randall!" Marty snapped at him. "How many times have I caught you sleeping on the job? You're a prime nodder!"
___"We mortals have to sleep, 'Mr. Hopkirk'. You tend to forget that, being a ghost."
___"Alright, alright! It isn't my fault that ghosts don't need as much rest as 'you mortals'. Perhaps you're just lazy!"
___"Shut up, Marty. Just get on with your story."
___"I'm trying to! OH!" he growled and returned his attention to the typewriter. "Anyway..."
___After lying awake half the night, I decided to phone my partner.
___"Randall..." Jeff yawned loudly.
___"Jeff! It's Marty. I can't sleep, and I thought - "
___"You thought," Jeff interrupted irritably, "that you'd wake me up, because you can't stand being alone in anything!" he yawned again.
___"No! It's nothing like that! It's this case - it's bothering me. I can't get it out of my head!"
___"Marty, can't it wait until morning? I'm dead tired..."
___"So am I. I won't be any good in the morning, if I don't sort this out now."
___I heard Jeff sigh at the other end. "Alright, I'm coming round. See you in a minute."
___As he put the phone down, I thought I caught the word 'kill', though I couldn't be sure. I hoped Jeff wasn't too annoyed.

___"What is it that's bothering you, exactly?" my partner asked, when I let him in.
___"Everything, Jeff. It's all just been going round and round in my mind!"
___He glared at me and took a seat on the sofa, putting his feet up on the coffee table and lighting a cigarette. "Marty, there must be something in particular that's bothering you," he offered me a cigarette as I sat beside him. "Why don't you just go over what you have so far, eh?"
___"Well... There's a maid that can't seem to talk to anyone without crying her head off..."
___"Trouble at home?"
___I shrugged. "How would I know? She could hardly speak!"
___"What did you say to her, Marty?!"
___"I said 'hello'. If you want my opinion, it was that head gardener who upset her!"
___Jeff finished his cigarette and extinguished it in the ashtray on the coffee table beside his feet. "What head gardener?"
___"Mr. Sylvester. He's a strange one, as well. He's been trying a new type of fertalizer in the back border only, and refuses to replace an old rosebush that's seen better days..."
___Jeff smirked at me. "You spent the whole day following the head gardener's movements?"
___"I thought you'd laugh. I didn't follow him around all day, Jeff, but I did watch him. There was something... funny about him. About all of them, really. They seemed... preoccupied."
___"In what way?"
___"I don't know, Jeff..." I yawned loudly, setting my partner off. "Sorry. I just... got a funny feeling about them all. It was almost as if they were sharing a secret."
___"Look, Marty, why don't we sleep on it?"
___I glanced at my watch. It was 1.30 AM. "Sounds like a plan," I mumbled. "If I can sleep, that is."
___"Well, tomorrow we'll both call at the house. Perhaps you can keep everyone busy while I do some digging..."
___"Aha! Now YOU want to know what the head gardener is up to!"
___"It's a figure of speach, Marty. But if it'll make you happy, we'll keep an eye on that gardener of yours."

___The following day, I drove back to the house after picking up Jeff at his apartment. His car was at the garage after a particularly hair-raising session of Jeff's driving, and I made it quite clear that while he was in my car, I was going to do all the driving.
___"This is it," I announced, pulling up outside the house. "What should we do first?"
___"I'm going to try talking to the maid that you were telling me about last night, I think," Jeff smirked at me. "Is she very pretty?"
___"Well she..." I stopped myself and glared at him. "Jeff! If I catch you mixing business with pleasure, I'll..."
___"What's wrong with meeting a nice girl? Come off it, Marty, we're both single - perhaps she's got a nice, attractive friend for you, eh?"
___I just glared at him. I don't mind meeting attractive young ladies, but we are detectives, not male escorts.

___While Jeff stalked the maids inside the house, I decided to try eavesdropping again. I sat on the bench in the centre of the main garden, with my notebook open in front of me, pretending to read from it. Somewhere to my left, a thrush burst into song, and I listened appreciatively. Then a different sound caught my attention - voices.
___"But gov, Mr. Burnt's gettin' angry. 'E wants us to 'urry up and get rid o' that ol' rose. It's all dead an' 'orrible!"
___"Tom, I told you not to worry about that. I'll do it when I'm good and ready."
___"Bu' gov, it's a two-man job. Hulkin' great thing's been there for years, it'll take a lot o' shifting! Dave said 'e'll give us a 'and."
___"And I said to forget it," Mr. Sylvester snapped. "Get back to the pruning I told you to do, alright?"
___"Bu' gov, I finished that affore I wen' t'lunch."
___"I don't care! Just go and..." he stopped. "Where IS David, anyway?"
___A piercing yell split the air. I was up in an instant, running in the direction that the sound had come from. David was standing in the middle of the back border, staring down a hole that had once contained the rose's rootball. He stared at me as I came up. His face was deathly pale, and he looked as if he were about to be sick.
___"P'lice," he rasped at me. "Call the p'lice. I found 'er."
___With that, he went down like a sack of potatoes. I stepped over him carefully and stood beside the hole. There at the bottom were the grizzly remains of an old lady. I stepped away from the hole very slowly and carefully. I didn't know what to do. All I could think of doing was going to find Jeff. I felt sick!
___Before you think me soft, bear in mind that this was my first big case and that I hadn't seen a dead body before. Also, she had been dead for quite a time and had started to decompose - the sight and smell were awful!
___As I backed away, I bumped into somebody who had come up behind me. I closed my eyes tightly, half-expecting it to be the murderer, about to silence me and David.
___"Marty? What's wrong? What happened?"
___I blew out a sigh of relief and turned to face my partner. "Jeff! Jeff, there's a body down that hole - Mrs. Burnt was buried under the rose bush!"
___"Funny sort of fertalizer, isn't it?"
___I swallowed hard. "How can you stand there making jokes like that?"
___"Sorry, Marty. Still, looks like you were right about the 'funny' gardener."
___"Not much funny about murderers, if you want my opinion," I replied, shivering. "Jeff, go and call the police, would you? I think I should have a word with Mr. Burnt."
___"I think you should sit down with a glass of water first, Marty. You look terrible!"
___I felt terrible, but I didn't have time to worry about that. Mr. Burnt had to know about my discovery before the police arrived. There wasn't a moment to lose. Somehow, we had to stop everyone from leaving the house - the police would want statements.

___After giving Mr. Burnt the bad news and making sure that he was alright, I fetched myself a glass of water and went to sit in the dining room to think. The murderer could have been any one of the people in that house. I'd suspected the gardener because of his behaviour, but I was just jumping to conclusions. After all, it could have been that he'd stumbled across the body and then been threatened by the murderer to keep quiet. Suddenly, we were no closer to unraveling the mystery then we had been in the beginning.

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