Detective Inspector Staines and his faithful sidekicks, D.S.Stubbs and D.C. Terry ‘Gymshoe’ Traynor, piled into the unmarked CID car. The men allowed Traynor to drive the clapped out vehicle, their laziness overcoming their normal prejudice against women drivers. She, always anxious to please, drove very carefully. She might almost have been participating in a driving test — which, in a way, it was. She was unsure whether to be annoyed that they chose to huddle together in the back seat; or relieved to be spared the critical comments of a passenger beside her.
Staines and Stubbs were discussing the sparse information they had been given at the station. A man had been found dead in suspicious circumstances, murdered, by all accounts; pinned like a butterfly to a cork bulletin board, by, of all things, a butterfly knife. This weapon gets its name from the peculiar nature of its hilt, which is split to fold over the blade when not in use. A quick flick of the wrist, and it opens, like a butterfly’s wings to be grasped like a dagger. The blade, being 15 cm long, made it a very deadly weapon indeed.
When they arrived at the scene, the SOCOs were already at work, and the Police Surgeon, Doctor Ramsey was just leaving.
‘Hello Inspector’ his jolly voice rang out, trilling the final R like a true Scotsman. ‘I have just pronounced him good and dead! Skewered like one of his own bugs, and by an expert hand I should say,. Right through the aorta. Blood everywhere!’ He laughed. ‘I’ll leave you to it.’ And with a cheery wave he made his way to his car. Grumbling, Staines and his party donned the paper suits insisted on by SOCO before entering the old mansion. They followed a taped path towards the sound of activity.
A white suited SOCO gestured, and they entered the murder room. It was huge. All the walls being covered with glass cabinets, containing row upon row of colourful butterflies, each secured to a board by its own pin.
At the end of the room, a group of white suited figures was gathered around an object. On the opposite side of a massive desk was propped a large sloping board. They could only see its back. The men behind it were concentrating their attention on the far side. Staines circled the desk and stopped in surprise.. Although he had been told, the sight was even more bizarre than he had imagined. The doctor had not exaggerated. The body of a little old man was skewered to the board with a brown hiked dagger. His arms were akimbo to give the impression of wings, secured to the board at elbows and wrist by push-pins through the material of his sleeves. More a moth than a butterfly, thought Staines, looking at the drab brown clothing.
A photographer was still taking pictures.
‘Let’s have a look at those when you’ve developed them’, said Staines.
‘Til do better than that,’ said the photographer, and he led the inspector to a side table where he linked his camera to a laptop computer with a slim cable. He flipped open the lid, pressed a couple of keys, ‘Voila! he exclaimed, as a picture filled the screen. ‘I’ll download the lot onto your computer as soon as I get back.’
‘The marvels of modern science!’ grunted Staines.
Surrounded by the quiet efficiency of the SOCOs, Terry Traynor wondered what she was supposed to be doing. She suppressed the guilty thought and turned to her Inspector for guidance. ‘What do you want me to do Guv?!
Staines, to be honest, wondered himself. ‘Stan with the neighbours. See if anyone saw or heard anything suspicious. And you, Stubsie, get some more bods down here to give her a hand. It won’t do uniform any harm to help out. Meanwhile, I will confer with Forensic.’ he said, trying to look knowledgeful.
‘Right Guv!’ They chorused and moved on, glad to get out of the room of Death.
*
Moon Valley is not a busy police station, it hardly qualifies to belong to the MET at all, especially in the opinion of the Commissioners, who would be happy to shunt it off to Thames Valley. They of course, are reluctant to take responsibility for what they regard as an outer suburb of the metropolis. Moon Valley CID bumbles on in a relaxed manner, happy to deal with petty theft and the occasional burglary. All are agreed that murder is a little beyond them. Gymshoe however sees things differently. She saw it as her big chance. Kevin Staines, an unambitious man, was quite happy with the idea of referring the whole thing to The Yard, or even the National Crime Squad, but the bright eyes of Terry Traynor gazed at him in admiration as she said ‘This is our opportunity to show them we are real detectives, Guv.’
Stubbs, the phlegmatic sergeant, gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling, refusing to get involved.
‘Well, let’s see what we’ve got,’ conceded Staines, and he picked up the sparse results of the door-knock. ‘The victim’s name was Brown. Benjamin Brown, Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the university down the road. He was known as Butterfly Brown.’
‘His next door neighbour says he was a widower,’ said Gymshoe ‘He lived alone in that big house. There is a cleaning woman, Mrs Curtis, but she only comes on Wednesdays.’
‘Two days off.’ Said Staines, but you’d better check on her. Do you know where she lives?’
‘I know her family history,’ said Traynor. ‘The old girl next door is a font of local gossip. By the way, Mrs Miller, that’s her name, is a right curtain twitcher, and she swears that no one went in or out of Brown’s house today, unless they sneaked in the back, and she reckons her dog would have barked if anyone had done that.’
‘Who discovered the body?’ asked Stubbs.
‘Anonymous tip-off,’ said Staines. ‘Just as well, or we wouldn’t have found out until Wednesday when Mrs Curtis was due. Spared her a nasty shock I dare say.’
‘Who do you reckon it was Guv?’ asked Traynor.
‘He didn’t say, said the inspector sarcastically. ‘He was Anonymous, remember.’ ‘Yeah, but do you think it was the murderer, or just a reluctant witness? You said he so was it a man? What does the tape sound like?’
The inspector brushed her questions aside, ‘You, Stubbs, get down to the University and get me some background on Professor Brown. Who were his friends, and more important, who were his enemies?’ He turned to Gymshoe, ‘You come with me and we’ll interview Mrs Curtis. It will save her a useless trip tomorrow, if she hasn’t heard the news on the grapevine.’

By
H. St V. Beechey 2004