12. Arthur and the silver coin

As he drove up the A road to the hospital at Ashford, Japp found himself pondering what Arthur had meant and what on earth he’d got mixed up in. There’d been nothing to indicate any guilty feelings when he’d met him in the forest; Arthur had seemed relaxed and perfectly happy with the thought that he was about to go poking around the ruins of the house. In which case he was either an exceedingly good liar or had been unconcerned that there was anything to find. Whether that meant he wasn’t aware that the tunnel was there, or that he knew and wasn’t worried about Japp finding it remained to be seen. Japp tried to plan how he was going to conduct the interview, but couldn’t imagine what this was all about. So far there seemed to be a lot of random events that were connected only by happening in a short space of time in a small area. He’d just have to play it by ear, he decided.

The Accident and Emergency department waiting room was surprisingly small for a hospital that had to cover such a wide area, and it was unsurprisingly full as a result. Japp couldn’t see Arthur anywhere, or any uniformed officer, so he enquired at the reception desk. It turned out that Martha was in the X-Ray department, and her brother had been escorted to the waiting area outside, so Japp made his way through the usual hospital maze to what turned out to be a glorified section of corridor with a few chairs and some changing cubicles. Arthur was looking a bit jittery, but perhaps no more than was to be expected from someone whose sister had just been blown up and was waiting to hear how she was. He looked up as Japp approached and was asking, no, demanding answers about what had happened before Japp was within 5 metres of him.

Well, that’s interesting, thought Japp. No sign of guilt, no hint of wanting to escape, just a concerned brother. At least on the face of it. He didn’t even seem fazed by the presence of a uniformed officer, apparently not realising that he was under guard, but putting the police presence down to Martha having been injured in such suspicious circumstances. Well, well, well, he’s either the best liar I’ve ever come across or someone else has been telling porkies, Japp said to himself. Perhaps I’d better tell Sarah Bacon to keep a closer eye on that pub landlord, and see if we can work out which of these two is trying to pull a fast one, and why. I said I’d play it by ear he thought, so let’s play along with this for now and see where that gets us.

So Japp gave Arthur a sympathetic smile as he approached, shook Arthur’s hand and asked how Martha was. Arthur wasn’t sure what was happening next, it depended on what the X-Ray showed up, but Martha had been conscious, mostly, in the ambulance albeit woozy from the pain and the drugs she’d been given for it. Japp remembered that Arthur had been sedated too, and was careful to not ask any questions that might need to be asked under caution – they’d have to wait for that to fully wear off before conducting any formal interview. He used the excuse of sending him off for refreshments to draw the Constable to one side, ask him if Arthur had said anything of interest earlier, to tell him the plan of playing along with Arthur’s assumption that he was there for Martha’s benefit and give him instructions for alerting Sarah Bacon about the need to investigate Stevie Kilner’s involvement more thoroughly.

The Constable had introduced himself as Patrick Spencer, the officer that Sarah Bacon had left in charge of the crime scene in the forest when she’d left with Martha to go and continue her interview of Stu and his family. Japp could tell that he was bursting with questions and curious as to what was going on, but he agreed to the plan, took Japp’s tenner and went off to the hospital cafeteria by the main entrance.

When Japp had drawn Constable Spencer aside he had arranged it so he could look over Patrick’s shoulder back at the waiting area, to see if Arthur reacted in any way to them moving away. There was nothing. Nada. Diddly Squat of a response. He just carried on passing a small object from hand to hand, turning it over and over in his fingers, not really paying attention to anything much, so after Constable Spencer had left Japp ambled over as nonchalantly as he could and sat down beside him. He’d already had an update on Martha’s condition, such as anybody knew, so Japp sat there for a while pondering what on earth they could talk about that might lead to Arthur revealing something of use that would still conform to the rules against entrapment. Then it struck him, he’d been in Kent now since Monday morning and it was now Thursday. He’d been working alongside Martha for days, but didn’t know much about her or her family.

‘Martha hasn’t talked much about any family apart from you – is there anyone else that we should be calling? Arthur?’

Arthur looked across at Japp as if he was waking up from a dream, he really didn’t seem too with it.

‘Uh, no, there’s just Martha and me. Maybe some distant cousins somewhere that we don’t know about, but so far as I know it’s just us. Mum and Dad died a couple of years ago.’

‘Oh dear, I’m very sorry to hear that, was it a car crash?’

‘No, they didn’t die together. Dad had a stroke about six years back which left him in a wheelchair. He was….difficult, and needed a lot of nursing. Martha was due to go to university but she stayed behind to help, even though we all told her to go and study. Anyway, Dad had another massive haemorrhage and died just a couple of years ago. Then Mum died just a few months later. Martha had joined up as a PCSO after Dad died, and it turned out Mum had been diagnosed with cancer at about the same time, but had kept quiet about it because she hadn’t wanted Martha to have to nurse her too.’

‘Oh’ seemed to be all that Japp could think to say about all of that, so he opted for patting Arthur slightly awkwardly on the shoulder. No wonder Arthur and Martha had seemed so close. Almost afraid to ask for fear of hearing about yet more family tragedy he asked of Arthur and Martha were twins.

‘Yes, we are, although we don’t actually have the same birth date. Martha was born just a few minutes before me, but she was before midnight and I was after. She always took those few minutes very seriously, always acted like the responsible older sister. She should have gone to university, she’s more than clever enough, but she turned her place down without telling any of us what she’d done and refused to reapply the next year. She did part time jobs and helped to pay for me to go to agricultural college to train in forestry. She even bought me my first chainsaw.’ Arthur’s voice sounded like it was about to crack, and Japp patted him awkwardly on the shoulder again. He was beginning to think that there was nothing he could say that wouldn’t make the poor bloke even more upset than he already was. Every seemingly innocent question was ending up in an emotional minefield.

Desperately casting around for anything else to talk about Japp noticed that the object Arthur was still fidgeting with was a coin. Or coin shaped, anyway. It didn’t look like any kind of money that Japp was familiar with. It was about a centimetre and a half in diameter, silvery, and very worn looking. The way Arthur was passing it from hand to hand made Japp wonder if Arthur was about to make it disappear like the magicians on the TV.

‘What’s that you’re fiddling with, can you do magic tricks with it?

That really did make Arthur jump. He looked at his hands as if only just realising what he was doing, and for a fraction of a second it looked like he was going to put the coin back in his pocket. Then he shrugged, and passed it over to Japp. On one side there was the head of a man facing to the right, and some almost indistinguishable lettering. His head seemed quite large and his features were aquiline, his nose had quite a pronounced bump on it, but not the sort you got from a broken nose. On the opposite face of the coin was what looked like a naked winged woman dancing and some more letters. Japp looked at Arthur, puzzled.

‘It’s a Roman coin, a Quinarius to be exact, from the reign of Hadrian.’

There was no time for any more questions, as the door of the X-Ray suite opened and Martha was being wheeled out. She looked like she was in immense pain, and there was a general air of concern, the porter wheeling her bed was certainly not taking his time. The radiologist came out and told Arthur that he was concerned her injuries might be more serious than had previously been thought, and that he had informed the surgical team that they should assess her as a priority. Arthur and Japp had both stood up as the doors had opened, but now Arthur sat back down again with a bump. Japp, took him by the elbow as gently as he could, and helped him back up again.

‘Come on’ he said, ‘we’d best follow on and find out what’s going on.’

They hurried after Martha as quickly as they could, but even so they found her being poked and prodded already by the time they caught up with her.  Martha looked like she’d had better days, but gave them both a grin as she recognised faces that she knew. The surgeon looked grave, but not unduly worried, Japp thought. Arthur was still looking shell-shocked so Japp introduced them both and asked what was happening. The surgeon was softly spoken and very kind and reassuring, and directed his answer to Martha rather than Japp, but the upshot was still that Martha would need surgery. It appeared that she was suffering from Compartment Syndrome, which Japp didn’t understand, and that without surgery she might lose her legs, which he definitely did understand.  He fought the urge to demand what on earth they were standing around waiting for when an anaesthetist turned up and started looking over her charts and asking Martha questions in preparation for surgery. Within a few minutes she’d been wheeled off again to theatre and they could do nothing but wait. Constable Spencer arrived with their drinks, which were still surprisingly hot, Patrick having been very efficient at tracking them down to A & E. They sat in silence, sipping at their tea, and waited for Martha to come back out of surgery.

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About kentishlol

Wife, mother of three, dog owner, and rank amateur at everything. You don't really want to know that I bake, knit, garden, make marmalade and sloe gin, do you? Thought not.
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4 Responses to 12. Arthur and the silver coin

  1. betunada says:

    scary! and now for a bit of numismatics …

    Like

  2. You’ve got me in a tizzy as far as wondering who is a reliable, credible witness and who is truly Oscar worthy with their performances. I’m suspicious of nearly everyone. Great job, Laura.
    And I’m looking forward to finding out more about the coin.
    One of my most memorable days in the UK was walking along Hadrian’s wall. It’s one of my favorite wonders of the world (or at least, it should be a wonder).
    Cheers!

    Like

    • kentishlol says:

      Excellent, I see my plan is working! I’ve learnt quite a bit about Hadrian and he seemed like a quite a good emperor, as far as emperors go. I have yet to make it to Hadrian’s wall, but I’d love to walk along it. Maybe when the kids have left home and we can take our time.

      Like

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