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Murder at the B&B. An Ophelia Perhaps Mystery.

A Murder, I Think.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. The police station looked more like an ordinary office, with houseplants, a pile of Hello magazines on the side tables, computer monitors, and IN and OUT boxes. It was a quiet Sunday morning. Apparently the chaos of the night before had been sorted, and the paperwork was now consuming the energies of Oxford’s municipal authorities.

I hadn’t wanted to call this in on my phone. I wasn’t sure I could have worked my cell phone, let alone put together some coherent sentences for the curious voice at the other end of the line. I knew exactly where the police station was, though. I walked by it when I went to the grocery. Looking back on it now, however, I don’t remember exactly how I got there that morning. My feet seemed to move independently of the rest of my body. But there I was at the station’s double door and taking the few steps up into the lobby. I needed to talk to someone face to face.

Not looking up from some papers on his desk, a man murmured, “How may I help you this morning, ma’am?”

“I’m here to report something.” He looked up. “A murder, I think.”

Officer Singh had on a dark blue turban. He wiped some ink from his fingers, looked up, and stared at me. “Yes, ma’am?”

“And it’s Perhaps, Officer.”

“And why exactly, ma’am,” he said, “do you think this something was perhaps a murder?”

“No, sir, that’s my name, sir. Perhaps. Ophelia Perhaps.”

“Okay,” he sighs. “You are Miss Perhaps, P-e-r-h-a-p-s, and you think . . .”

Mrs. Perhaps.” He crosses something out with a heavy hand. “And where in America are you . . .” He stops, adjusts his turban, picks up the pen again. Apparently thinking better of this line of questioning, he crosses something else out and goes back to the who-what-where questions.

“And where did this murder take place?”

“My rented room, apparently. The body is still there.”

Two more officers suddenly materialize at Office Singh’s elbow. They’re both carrying paper plates with squares of half-eaten chocolate cake and plastic forks.

“When was this?” Officer Singh pulls a yellow pad from under a stack of files, clicks a pen open, bends to write something, and the sarcastic glint is gone.

I look at the clock behind the officers’ heads. “By now, it would be half an hour ago.” Singh cringes a bit what I say “by now,” like I’ve implied he’s taking too much time with writing and not any time with active investigating.

“And where is this rented room, ma’am?”

“About two blocks from here. 414 Banbury Road. The Queen’s B&B.”
“Yes,” he says. “I know the place. My sister works . . . or used to work . . . never mind. Car, please, Harry.”

Officer Singh snaps his fingers, the two other officers move closer, set their plates of cake on the desk, and one of them calls someone his cell. I turn to find a chair or a bench.

“Oh, don’t you go anywhere, ma’am. We need you to . . .”

“I just need to sit down, Officer. I feel I might faint. And my cat is kind of heavy.” Singh just now notices the animal carrier on the floor at my feet.

“Oh, of course. Go right ahead over there, ma’am. Giles. Get Mrs. Perhaps a cup of tea for god’s sake, and see if there’s any of that cake left.”

Officer Singh shakes his head and sighs as Giles leaves the room. He writes a bit more as I close my eyes and fan my face with the address book from my purse. Singh looks up a bit alarmed when I start fishing through my purse and then fanning myself. He then relaxes and looks back down at his pad, his pen poised in mid-air.

“And, ma’am, you found the body . . .”

I nod.

“. . . and might this dead person have been known to you?”

I knew he was out of line here; these questions were for later on in an investigation, when I’d been arrested or was at least a person of interest or at least had a lawyer with me. But, being in shock and with three police officers in front of me, my mind had shut down about police procedure.

“Yes, he was known to me. It looked to me like it was Robert Perhaps.”

“The body was male, then?” I nod as Officer Singh starts writing. He looks up from his pad. “But you didn’t move or cleaning anything or . . . wait. The same last name as yours, ma’am?”

Officer Singh is clicking his pen in and out, in and out. I’ve learned to wait for people’s nervous tics to stop in a conversation. I usually don’t need to say anything about the tic, just wait for the tic’s owner to become aware of the tic and stop it themselves. Singh abruptly clears his throat and stop the clicking.

I gratefully accept a cup of tea and a plate of cake from Giles and set them on a small side table. Except for the officers and me, the lobby is empty. I hear male laughter in a room down the hall. I take two sips of the tepid tea, compose myself, suddenly aware of how damning my next piece of information will be.

“Yes, I’m sure it was Robert Perhaps, my ex-husband. I took a photo of the body with my iPhone.” I hold up my phone for the officers to see. Giles moves his hand to the hilt of his billy club.

Office Singh clears his throat and slowly sets down his pen.

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