How is Your Mother Simon Brett - chapter 2
It was Monday morning, and Partridge was making his breakfast. He turned on his cooker and prepared to boil an egg. It was an old cooker, but it still worked well.
He looked out of the kitchen window with satisfaction. During the weekend he had dug the garden and planted all the roses.
The door bell rang. It was Reg Carter, the postman, with a big package in his hand.
‘Sorry, I couldn’t get this through the letterbox.’
Partridge could see that it contained more information about Canada. He would enjoy reading that on the train.
‘Oh, and there’s this letter, too. But nothing for the old lady. Is she all right today?’
‘Fine, thank you.’ Partridge managed to shut the door behind the postman. He opened the letter.
When he saw what was in it, he sat down at the bottom of the stairs, feeling weak with shock. He had won a large sum of money in a competition.
‘You wanted to see me, Partridge?’
‘Yes, Mr Brownlow.’
‘Well, be quick, then. I’ve just flown back from Rome.’
‘I’ve come to tell you I’m leaving.’
You mean you want to leave the company? This is sudden.’
‘Yes, I’m going abroad. To Canada, with my mother.’
‘Well, you can go in a month: I need a month’s notice.’
‘Is it possible for me to go sooner?’ Mr Brownlow suddenly lost his temper.
‘Yes! Go today!’
Partridge got home before lunch, feeling pleased. He had telephoned a man who had agreed to sell the house for him; and he had completed the forms necessary for living in Canada. He opened his front door and called out:
‘Hello, Mother. I’m home.’
He stopped suddenly as he saw Reg Carter coming out of his kitchen. ‘Good God, what are you doing here?’
‘I was passing the house, and I saw the smoke.’
‘How did you get in?’
‘I had to break a window. I’ve called the police. I explained it all to Sergeant Wallace.’
Partridge’s face was white. ‘Explained what?’
‘About the fire. There was a fire, in your kitchen. You left the cooker on, and the curtains were on fire. I was thinking of your mother upstairs, not able to move. So I put the fire out.’
‘Oh thank you, that was very good of you.’
‘Then I wanted to see if she was all right. I went upstairs. All the doors were closed. I opened one – your room, I think. Then I opened another. There was a bed there. But there was no one in it.’
‘There was no one anywhere. The house was empty.’
The postman stood there, looking at him. ‘I thought that was rather strange, Mr Partridge. You told us your mother lived here.’
‘She does – I mean she did. She died.’
‘Died? When? You said this morning when I asked-‘
‘She died two days ago.’ His face was red now. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t think straight. It’s the shock, you know.’
‘I see,’ Reg Carter said quietly. ‘Well, I must go now.’
It was about a week after the fire. Of course, Reg Carter had talked to Mr and Mrs Denton, and they had talked to almost everyone who came into the shop.
Sergeant Wallace, the village policeman, had heard a lot of strange stories about Humphrey Partridge. So now he had decided to go and talk to him himself.
Partridge opened the door slowly, and the sergeant went straight into the sitting room. It was full of boxes.
You’re packing your books, I see, Mr Partridge. When are you going to Canada?’
‘In about a month.’
‘And you’re going to buy a house there, I hear?’
‘You’re going alone? Your mother’s not with you now?’
‘No. She… she died.’
‘Yes. That’s what I want to discuss. As you know, this is a small place, and most people take an interest in other people’s business. I’ve been hearing some strange things about you… People are saying you killed your mother, to get her money.’
‘That’s stupid! It’s not true!’
‘Perhaps. Let me ask you a few questions. First, when did your mother die?’
‘Ten days ago. The 11th.’
Are you sure? The 11th was the day you had the fire.’
‘Sorry. Two days before that, It was such a shock…’
‘Of course. And so the funeral was on die 10th?’
‘Some time about then, yes.’
‘Its strange that none of the local funeral directors know anything about it.
‘I… I used someone from town.’
‘I see. And was it a doctor from town who signed the document saying that she was dead?’
‘Do you perhaps have a copy of the document?’
Partridge looked unhappy. ‘You know I don’t.’
‘I’m afraid,’ the sergeant said, ‘that that suggests there may be something unusual about your mother’s death. Now, if a crime has taken place-‘
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