Where's Muriel? by P S Gifford

Friday, August 24, 2012
Mr Humphrey Wentworth's wife has gone missing, and he fears the worst, by P S Gifford

The well-rounded police officer methodically scratched his balding head as he studied the frail old man sitting in front of him. He nodded at the scene; after seventeen years as a police officer in Whitby, Sergeant Arthur Breakwell had experienced hundreds of similar conversations, and experience told him that first impressions can often be very misleading.

"So you say she's been missing for five days now?" Arthur enquired as he scribbled something in his pocket sized wire bound police issue notebook.

"That's right... 'Twas Tuesday I realized she was missing when there was no sausage and eggs on the table. She's made me breakfast at eight o' clock sharp every morning for the last thirty seven years she has."

"And she gave you no indication that she was going to leave?"

"None that I can remember - Although I have been forgetting a few things lately..."

Arthur carefully scrutinized the nondescript parlor of Mr. Humphrey Wentworth's modest detached post-war house. He studied the well worn furniture, the fading carpet, the gas fire surrounded by a tiled mantel, with a most ordinary carriage clock perched on it... It was in every detail the most typical of houses. It could, in fact, have been one of a thousand or more houses found in this part of the Yorkshire coast. Furthermore Humphrey appeared in all aspects every bit the typical retiree; grey trousers a good inch too short, paisley socks, a striped shirt, with an old tie meticulously tied around the collar, and a blue cardigan with neatly repaired elbows. Could there be any mystery here? - he thought to himself - surely his wife's disappearance has a simple and logical explanation - clearly they must have had some sort of falling out and soon she will return, apologetic, and they will continue on their unexciting lives side by side. Then his eyes caught sight of something in the corner of the room; a dog bed.

"You have a dog?" he prompted.

"Yes, we have an Airedale terrier mix, it's the wife's dog really, she rescued the bloomin' bugger from the pound... She called him Oliver, although where the Dickens she ever came up with that name I will never know... She always was a soft-hearted lass..."

"Was?" he prompted, suddenly fully attentive of Humphrey's choice of words.

"Heavens I mean is... She is a very soft hearted soul."

"Where is he?"

"Well he's in the back garden; whereas the misses likes him in the house, I certainly do not... Makes the place stink something 'orrible he does. I was never one for dogs me."

"I would like to see Oliver if I might," Arthur said as he pulled himself up from the chair.

Humphrey frowned. "Why would you like to see him for - he won't be able to answer any of your questions surely!" He reluctantly eased himself out of the old armchair and directed the police officer through the tiny kitchen to the back door.

"This way then -"

Arthur peered out the window, and in the tidy back garden, amongst a very neat row of newly planted brightly colored flowers he saw a medium sized black dog with extraordinary long ears energetically digging away, and growling.

Humphrey's face all at once transformed from having virtually no expression to that of definite anger.

"What are you bloody well doing you mangy mutt," he cried as he opened the door and raced with quite remarkable agility out into the garden.

Arthur, slightly bemused by the scene, and part of him thoroughly alarmed, followed him into the afternoon sunshine.

It was then that Oliver seemed to find what he was looking for - the dog began barking furiously and running about in circles.

"Is something buried under that flower bed?" Arthur asked as he scanned the garden. He spied with interest various garden tools, which appeared to have been recently washed, propped up against the back wall of the garden.

Arthur walked over to Humphrey, who was trying to pull something from the dog's mouth - with no success.

It was then that the unexpected happened.

Arthur heard a woman's voice calling out to him.

"What are you doing luv?" she said.

Humphrey suddenly appeared to forget all about the dog, and looked up to the opened kitchen door with a smile.

"Muriel! You've come back! Where the devil have you been lass?"

"You old fool! I told you a dozen times or more I was going away for a week... I've been in Blackpool, you old coot, for the murder mystery convention. You didn't forget did you? It's the last time I ever leave you alone... Is that why the sergeant is here? I wondered why there was a panda car parked outside the house... Whatever will the neighbors think eh? I tell you, some folks around here don't half have an imagination... Now, how about I make us all a nice cup of tea eh?"

Arthur could not help but chuckle as they all walked back in the kitchen.

"And what's going on with Oliver deary..." Muriel said as she filled the kettle, "I hope that you've been taking proper care of him."

Humphrey looked at the dog, now contently panting and slobbering at Muriel's feet after leaving Arthur's best pair of leather shoes right next to the hole where he had buried them a few days earlier in the middle of the freshly planted flowers, and sighed.


  1. As I read this story, I was becoming convinced that Muriel was murdered, and that it was her husband, Humphrey who killed her. But I was wrong. And Sergeant Arthur also suspected wrongly. Gifford, I like the suspense in your story.
    I think, the last sentence in Humphrey’s reply to the Sergeant’s first question in the story should read:

    “…She's made me breakfast at eight o' clock sharp every morning for the last thirty seven years. She has."

    instead of:

    “…She's made me breakfast at eight o' clock sharp every morning for the last thirty seven years she has."

    Chiaka Obasi

  2. it makes a change to read something like this. meant in a positive way this is really a gentle story. correct me if i´m wrong, and i probably am, but the mention of arthur´s shoes at the end does hint of something fishy!

    michael mccarthy

  3. Found this link while searching Google, thanks