The Mystery of the Severed Arm

“It seems to have been posted this morning”, Simon explained to Janet as they looked at the decomposing severed arm that had just been posted through the vicarage letterbox that morning, “by the looks of things, it must have been hacked off its original owner some time ago.”

Janet leaned over the kitchen surface to have a closer look at the arm, covering her nose with a tea towel so to not inhale too much of the scent.

She then turned to Simon after the sight of the Maggots had made her want to throw up.

“Jo found the body of Warwick District Counciler Ethan Stone in the lavender fields this morning. His left arm had been cut off.”

“It’s not the bloody leftists again is it?”, the Vicar exclaimed, “do you know how much time I’ve spent washing graffiti of the church wall?!”

“It might be the ‘bloody’ leftists, but it could also be a far-right activist trying to put the blame on the left”, Janet responded calmly, “although there was a note in his breast pocket that said the murder was for Corbyn and Long-Bailey, so her sacking may have inspired it. Also Ethan was a well known Corbyn sceptic who supported Iraq. But, you know, it might be the right making us think it’s the left.”

“I thought Sir Kier Starmer had put an end to this nonsense”, Simon said.

“Well, he’s not as left wing as Corbyn’s supporters would like him to be, and he did reduce the Black Lives Matter movement to a “moment” and said it was ludicrous to defund the police”, Janet responded.

“Well, obviously he’d say that considering he was a Human Rights Lawyer and has experience in the Criminal Justice system!”, Simon proclaimed.

“But can’t you see why that might trigger someone to murder a district counciler?” Janet asked.

“Only if they’re a bloody lunatic!” Simon replied.

The Vicar then looked back at the severed arm and sighed.

“Why did this happen to me?!”, he yelled to the heavens.

“Well, you did say that any sane person would be on the centre-left on Midlands Today in December”, Janet answered.

“I know, and I stand by it”, Simon said defensivly, “we Centrists don’t go around murdering Councilers purely because we disagree with them politically!”

“For the last time, it may not have been a far-left extremist! It could be a right-winger trying to throw the Met off the scent!”, Janet excalimed, before sighing exasperaredly and placeing the arm into a Tesco bag for life.

“I’m going to contact Stuart, then deliver this arm to the Warwickshire Justice Centre. The Police will take over,” Janet announced, “bye”.

“God bless,” replied the Vicar as the wannabe Detective Inspector left the building.

When all was quiet, Simon sighed before cleaning the blood off the kitchen service. He then went upstairs to write his sermon for the first service inside St Gerald the Damned since before the lockdown began.

For the first time in his life, Warwickshire Police Chief Constable Stuart Kennedy was terrified. So far he’d enjoyed the lockdown, driving round the county checking to see whether the journeys people were taking constituted ‘essential travel’. Everything was fine, mainly because his job was secure.

But the George Floyd happened. Now, here he was sitting in his living room clutching his childhood teddy bear he hadn’t cuddled in thirty years, breaking out a sweat whilst watching footage on BBC news of protesters shouting “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” and “FUCK THE POLICE!” The former statement he understood perfectly, it was the latter that got to him.

Of course he wasn’t a racist, he knew that. What happened in America was abhorrent, that much was obvious. Ok, so maybe Warwickshire Police perhaps mistakenly carried out stop and searches on random passers by because their skin complexion was a little worrying on his watch, but that doesn’t mean he’s instinctively racist, does it? DOES IT?!

He was willing to do all he can to root out systemic racism in Warwickshire Police, Keir Starmer managed to do it easily enough, but he crossed the line at reducing funding or, even worse, abolishing the Police altogether.

The Met was his life, he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else. But now it seemed he might need to consider it.

The COVID-19 lockdown was nothing to him, as he knew he was never going to be put on furlough or made redundant, but now the prospect of loosing his job was all too real. Not because of the Coronavirus, but because his profession did not fit the national identity anymore.

Ironically, he wouldn’t mind getting furloughed. He could get some gardening done. But to stop being a Police Officer permantly and become an Interior Designer? That didn’t sit right with him.

He had to still be Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police. Had to be. He had a family to feed. He had Bobby, his five year old son, to feed, so called because Stuart hoped he’d be a bobby-on-the-beat one day. Now it seems, that may never happen.

Thank God for Irene, he thought. If it wasn’t for his wife he’d have to homeschool Bobby, do the cooking, mow the lawn, and wash the words “fuck the police” from the front of their house before young Bobby saw instead of sitting in the living room watching TV whilst cuddling his teddy bear and worrying about his future.

Just then, the phone rang. Finally, a distraction from reality. He picked it up; it was Janet. Now there’s a woman who respected the force, he thought. He’d offer her a job if Dectective Inspectors didn’t have to train at the CID training school under the mentorship of DCI David Mason OBE first.

“A severed arm, you say?”, Stuart asked inquisitivly over the phone.

“Yes, belonging to Labour Warwick District Counciler Ethan Stone, my girlfriend found his body in our lavender fields,” Janet replied, “he was murdered a few days ago as he’d started decomposing.”

Ah, yes, Ethan Stone. Stuart had voted for him at the last Council Elections. He was good friends with him. Ethan was a man who recognised the importance of the Metropolitan Police and wouldn’t put up with this “defund the police” nonsense. Alas, not now. Now he was decomposing in a lavander field, minus one arm.

“So you think the murderer was a hard left polictial activist angry with the changes Sir Kier Starmer has made to the party?”, the CC enquired.

“Yes, or a far right activist putting the blame on the far left, but I think the former is more likley,” the wannabe Detective Inspector answered.

“OK, deliever the arm to the Warwickshire Justice Centre and I’ll come right away and take it from here,” Stuart suggested.

“OK, sir, driving to Leamington right away,” Janet said before hanging up.

With that, Chief Constable Stuart Kennedy lept out his chair with glee and rushed to his car. Finally, he was back in business.

But the thing Stuart and Janet didn’t realise was; the muderer was not a polictical activist on the left or right at all. It was, in fact, a method actor who does anything to get into a role, even if that means breaking the law.

Christopher Shakespeare took his craft very seriously, and he knew that the key to the best performance was to actually be the person you’re playing. If he had to murder five prostitutes in a back alley in Whitechapel in order to get his head inside the mind of Jack the Ripper, then so be it.

If he had to kill himself because a girl he met at a party a few days before that he’d just recently married and was planning to elope with appears to be dead without thinking first that maybe she’d drunk a sleeping draught as part of a plan that was going to be explained to him via a letter but didn’t get to him for some reason and kissing her without her consent to wake her up in order to give the world the best Romeo it had ever seen, then so be it.

He’d recently got the role as Jeremy McDonnell, a far left activist who believed that if a socialist PM was not going to get into NO. 10 democratically then they’d have to get in by force in George Benham’s comedy Corbyngrad, a satire on far left politics.

He would be playing him at the Royal Spa Centre just about now, but then COVID-19 happened. But he was fine with not having to perform, it meant he had extra time to understand the character he was meant to be playing.

But he knew that in order to play a man who was willing to murder a man he disagreed with politically, he would have to do it for real. So he planned who he was going to murder and how he was going to do it.

Christopher knew Ethan Stone and personally had no problems with him, in fact he quite admired him. But he knew that Jeremy McDonnell would hate his guts, and so he would have to be the unlucky man who was going to be murdered.

So, the victim was decided, now he needed to find a murder weapon. Luckily, he had a very sharp knife in his kitchen, sharp enough to kill a man. So there he had it, everything was in motion, he just needed to do it.

Looking at an article on the Warwick District Council website about what the various councilers were doing during lockdown, Christopher found out that Ethan did his hours excersise walking the fields surrounding the village of Lower Strangling, a particular highlight being the lavender plantation. Ethan’s walk usually happened at around four in the afternoon, about an hour from now. All the information required to carry out this murder was there in front of him. He’s going to regret putting that bit of information out online, Christopher thought to himself as he logged off, picked up his knife, and left the house to drive to Lower Strangling.

And so, at four o’clock precisely, Ethan Stone was brutally murdered by Christopher Shakespeare. The murder was very quick, Chris made sure of that, and Ethan’s lifeless body seemed at peace.

Christopher admired his handy work. He already felt like he was Jeremy McDonnell, but he felt he needed to go further. So he wrote the words “this is for Jeremy Corbyn and Rebecca Long-Bailey. Blairites be warned, you could be next. For the many, not the few xx” on to a peice of paper and placed it into Ethan’s blood stained breast pocket. He hoped the two kisses would make the message less frightning for whoever came across the body, probably the person who runs Lower Strangling lavender, he presumed.

Everything was going as he’d hoped so far, but it still wasn’t enough to inspire an Olivier winning performance. He needed to go further.

Then he remembered, Lower Strangling was a well known hub for weathy middle class centrists, the kind of people Jeremy McDonnell would hate. So Christopher would need to bring the unsuspecting village into this.

But how? Should he murder someone else? No, he thought, he wanted to do something more original. He then looked at his knife, then at Ethan’s left arm. He had it, he would cut off Ethan’s left arm and post it through the letter box of one of the villagers houses. Maybe the Vicarage. Sure, it won’t be nice for the vicar, but hey, he’ll give him a free ticket to Corbyngrad to compensate. And so Christopher severed Ethan’s left arm and waked over to Lower Strangling to give the vicar a present.

After he placed the arm through the Vicarage letter box, Chrisgopher was ready. Now all he needed to do was wait for theatres to reopen and give the performance of his life. If Ethan’s murder resulted in a standing ovation, then his job was done.

That was a week ago. Now it seemed that Ethan would have died for no reason, for Corbyngrad may never be performed at all. Not because of COVID-19, but because the theatre may soon be a distant memory. For Boris Johnson had not given emergency funding to the arts sector, meaning that lots of theatres may go bust for good.

That was when Christopher knew, Jeremy McDonnell would have to wait. There was something far more important to do. He knew that if people could take to the streets to protest the right to go to get hammered during a deadly pandemic or black people’s right to exsit, then Equity members could protest their rights as well. So he decided, that’s what we’ll do, and we’ll do it with style.

OK, so maybe Boris Johnson gave the arts industry a £1.5BN lifeline, but he had the protest all planned out, it was going to happen regardless of whether it was still relevant or not.

But first he needed to tell everyone, so he brought all the Equity members he knew to the Coffee #1 in Leamington Spa, fondly known as the ABC (Actors Budget Café). Once everyone was in, he told them his plan, or rather, sing them his plan.

“The time is near, so near, stirring the blood in their veins, and yet beware,” Christopher belted out to the masses in the café, “don’t let the wine go to your brain. We need a sign, to rally the people, to call them to arms, to bring them in line.”

And so Christopher Shakespeare sung his idea to the Equity members in the ABC, about a movement he hoped would be as big as the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement started in Leamington Spa but involved every single actor in the country. A group of people united with one goal; to save their industry from extinction.

TO BE CONTINUED

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