Life is too short for the full version, but the edited version can be achieved while cooking dinner.
The 1950s Peter Wimsey Adventure That You Chose
‘Oh no,’ said Harriet, as the body came into view. It wore a familiar tweed suit. ‘It’s Hope.’
‘That doesn’t look right,’ said Peter, as the boat drew nearer. He shouted something at the diver, his words blown away on the wind, but the man seemed to hear. He bent over the corpse and seized the hair.
‘Peter, what is he – ’ It came away in his hand, a dark wig revealing a man’s closely-cropped head beneath it.
‘Who on earth,’ said Harriet, ‘has managed to get himself drowned while dressed up as Bunter’s wife?’
At first the police thought it must have been an enterprising burglar who had intended a raid on Duke’s Denver, but drowned crossing the river. The waters were treacherous at this time of year. But then the autopsy proved that the dreadful wounds on the body could only have been inflicted before death.
‘Some sort of heavy implement,’ said the doctor. ‘Perhaps a spanner. The blows are tremendous, as if inflicted in a mad frenzy.’
Peter Wimsey lavishly buttered his fourth muffin, and acknowledged his manservant’s raised eyebrow.
‘Bunter, it has been fourteen years since I have been able to eat as many buttered muffins as I wished. I will take any amount of indigestion to celebrate that they are now off ration.’
‘The police have arrested Bunter.’
‘Good God, why?’
‘They seem to think –’ Peter’s face darkened. ‘They seem to think it’s some sort of sexual perversion, that he had the man dress up as Hope in order to, well, and then he murdered him. To keep the secret, I suppose.’
‘I don’t believe it!’
‘Nor do I. But things don’t look good. He’d – I mean the victim – he’d been in bed with somebody before he died. It was on his clothes. Although,’ he frowned, ‘they weren’t very specific.’
‘Helen!’ exclaimed Harriet. ‘Your sister-in-law’s been arrested?’
Peter nodded. ‘This morning at breakfast. Apparently they found a diary under the floorboards and swooped in at once.’
‘But why Helen? I don’t claim to like her, but I never thought of her as a murderess.’
‘Nor I. But apparently she seems to have had a strange obsession with Bunter. I knew she didn’t like him, of course. Don’t you remember her trying to get rid of him when we married?’
‘Yes, but she didn’t make too much of it, and in another person it would have been quite reasonable. After all, it is a bit intimidating, marrying a man whose valet has been around since you went to school.’
‘You were awfully reasonable about that,’ conceded Peter. ‘In my defence, I can only say that I’d have been a great deal worse to live with if Bunter hadn’t been around.’
‘I realised that over the wedding night paté. I mean, I’m sure you’d have tried your best with the bedroom fire and all that, but on balance I was awfully glad Bunter was there for the practicalities. But I’m sorry, this seems to have taken us rather far from Helen. Why did she do it?’
‘It seems – you know, she never had much choice in life. She was supposed to get married, and when Gerald came along he did. And he didn’t treat her too well at times. Perhaps in a way, Bunter represented a type of freedom. He was a servant, but that meant he didn’t have to stay. He might have given his week’s notice any time. He lived in London, did what he liked – off duty. From Helen’s perspective, he probably did what he liked on it, too. He wasn’t married, didn’t have to feel obliged to care, and then when he did get married it wasn’t to a housemaid, but to an independent woman. Not well off, but rich in what money cannot buy – youth. A generation younger, with a younger generation’s possibilities. That poor man – it seems she paid him to try to fulfil a fantasy.’
‘Much too strong for fantasy.’
Peter’s arm tightened around her. ‘Poor Helen. I never realised she had any imagination.’
‘Yes. Thank God it wasn’t hjm. It’s beastly to think it, but if I had to choose between the two of them –’
‘I doubt Helen’s cooking’s up to much.’
‘And she hasn’t made a bed in fifty years. Is Bunter out yet?’
‘Sitting in the station awaiting a car.’
‘Then let’s go and pick him up. We'll take Hope with us and celebrate.’