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Open Features: Death In The Bath

So you find a dead body in your bath. A fully-clothed dead body. You don't know how it got there. Your wife doesn't know how it got there. There's a need to talk things over before calling the police. And what will happen when the police arrive?...

Master story teller Brian Lockett's tale will imprison your attention, through to the very last sentence.

For more of Brian's well-told stories please type his name in the search box on this page.

“Jennifer, what is a dead man doing in our bath?”

“If he’s dead, I shouldn’t think he’s doing anything.”

“All right then. How did he get there?”

“First of all, are you sure he’s dead?”

“We’re not going to go through the whole of the Monty Python sketch, are we?”

“It’s just that I thought he might be asleep.”

“You have seen him then?”

“Of course.”

“And you decided not to disturb him?”

“Well, wouldn’t you?“

“Why should a man be sleeping in our bath?”

“I though he might be a friend of yours.”

“What’s his name?”

“I took a peek inside his jacket. I think he’s called Reed.”

“Austin, no doubt.”

“So he is a friend of yours? Look, Simon, I don’t mind your friends using our bath, but I think you ought to tell me in advance.”

“He is not a friend of mine. In any case, why should he get into an empty bath fully clothed?”

“You seem pretty certain that he’s dead. What did he die of then?“

“I am not a doctor, Jennifer. How should I know? He might have been murdered. You haven’t murdered anyone recently, have you Jennifer? The fully clothed man who is in our bath, for instance?“

“What is it with you, Simon? I leave what I think is a sleeping man in the bath undisturbed because I think he may be a friend of yours and then you start accusing me of murder. How did he die? Was he shot or stabbed or strangled or poisoned? And what motive would I have? I didn’t even know the man.”

“When did you find him?”

“About ten o’clock this morning. I went upstairs to tidy up because you always leave such a mess. And there he was.”

“Jennifer, it is now half past six in the evning. Are you really telling me … ? Never mind. I’m going to call the police.”

“The police?”

“Yes, the police. Have you a better idea?”

“Isn’t it going to look a bit odd?”

“It’ll look even odder if we don’t.”

“Look, let’s talk this through.”

*

“I’d like to go over the story again with you, Mr Hereward. You say you discovered the body at half past six on your return from work. Did you know the deceased?”

“No. My wife thought he was a friend of mine called Reed, but …”

“So your wife was familiar with the deceased?”

“No, he’s a complete stranger. She thought he might be a friend of mine who had just fallen asleep in the bath.”

“Fully clothed?”

“I asked her about that, officer, but she really couldn’t explain it. Her thought processes are not always easy to follow.”

“Why didn’t you telephone us immediately you discovered the body? There was a two-hour gap. It wasn’t because you thought the deceased might be a friend of your wife’s taking a nap fully clothed in the bath, was it?”

“What an extraordinary idea, officer. My wife has no friends likely to call in the hope of spending an hour or two in our bath. In fact, all her friends - and, come to think of it, all mine - have their own baths. Whether they sleep in them or die in them I really wouldn’t know. As to the time gap, I spent that time trying to get some sense out of my wife. From the tone of your questions, could I ask if you suspect foul play?”

*

“Mrs Hereward, my colleague is interviewing your husband in the next room, but I would like to hear your side of the story.”

“It’s quite simple. I discovered the body in the bath this morning. I didn’t know at the time that Mr Reed was dead … “

“Mr Reed?”

“Austin Reed, a friend of my husband’s. I’d never met him before today. I thought he was asleep, so I left him. I thought of taking him up a cup of tea when I had my mid-morning break, but he seemed so peaceful.”

“When did you realise he was dead?”

“My husband told me. I was quite shocked. And then when he accused me of murdering him … “

“Your husband accused you of murdering this man?”

“Oh, yes. He definitely mentioned murder. I think. I felt like telling him that I could never stab anybody, but he said … ”

“So you knew that the man you call Mr Reed had been stabbed to death?”

“Not really. But I didn’t see any gun and his neck looked OK, so I supposed he hadn’t been shot or strangled. I didn’t think of poison.”

“Mrs Hereward, we are taking you and your husband to the police station for further questioning. You may both be there for quite some time.”

*

“Simon William Hereward and Jennifer Mary Hereward, you have been found guilty of the murder of David Shamster, an estate agent, who innocently visited your house to enquire if you were interested in selling the property. Despite the overwhelming circumstantial evidence against you, you persisted in maintaining your innocence of this dreadful crime. You attempted to mislead the police and even your own legal representatives by concocting a surreal tissue of lies and half-truths. You tried to blame each other and to this very day only you know the exact sequence of events which let to this poor man’s death. Your precise motives may never become clear, but what is clear to me is that you have at no time shown the slightest remorse.

The jury have sent me a number of notes hoping to clarify in their own minds certain matters of detail, but, regrettably, largely due to your own obfuscating tactics, I have been unable to help. Your own counsel seem to have fallen foul of your evil obscurantism, but have nevertheless done all they can - an uphill task, believe me - to mitigate your ruthless and perverted crime.

It is when cases like this come before me - and they do so with increasing frequency these days - that I despair of the future of kindness and pity and love, those qualities which are supposed to distinguish us from wild beasts.

I am not going to lecture you. I would be wasting my breath and the court’s time.

I sentence you both to life imprisonment, the mandatory penalty for murder in this country. Take them down.

*

“Mr Hereward? My name is Kenneth Frame. I represent the firm of solicitors which has taken over your case from your earlier representatives. For some reason they have decided to withdraw from these proceedings. The purpose of this interview is to discuss the possibility of an appeal. I may call you Simon?”

“If you want. I’ve been going over everything in my mind time and time again. What I’d like to know is why this man was in our bath in the first place. Look, if you’d stabbed a man to death, would you leave him in your bath and then call the police? What would your wife say, for one thing?”

“Simon, could we just start at the beginning? This David Shamster … ”

“That’s another thing. Why did he use a fictitious name?”

“A fictitious name?”

“My wife is convinced he’s called Austin Reed. I’ve told her more than once that this was a joke. I’ve explained that he might just as well have been called Montague Burton or Cecil Gee … ”

“Who are these people, Simon? They weren’t mentioned at all during the trial. If you are trying to protect someone, you must tell me. I can help you only if I have the truth. You do understand that, don’t you, Simon?”

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