Ivy slapped the picture, a glossy Polaroid shot of a garden gnome, on the desk in front of the constable, with the confidence of a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat.
“There,” she announced, “I told you that there was more to it than just mindless vandalism. Norrie’s missing!”
PC Barton was not on Ivy’s wavelength. Something that she had been obsessing over seemed obvious to her but made little sense to him.
“Compton Gardens, number twenty two?” Ivy tried to nudge his memory. It seemed that everyone was right about the police. They quickly gave up the man hunt if what was stolen wasn’t worth a great deal of money, or if someone was not lying dead in a pool of blood.
Barton’s mind skipped around trying to make the connections. Gnomes, Norrie, Compton Gardens and..?
“Ivy Harding.” Perhaps the best thing was to start at the beginning. She remembered that PC Barton was an incomer to the village. “I live in Compton Gardens.”
“Number twenty two?”
“No, number fifteen,” replied Ivy, slowly, as if she were speaking to a dim-witted child. “The Graftons live at number twenty-two, that is until they left, just after the incident. The wreckage on the lawn that morning scared them. It is about that I need to talk to you. It’s about Norrie.”
A picture began to assemble in his mind. Barton remembered the incident. The woman had collected garden gnomes. He remembered stopping by the fence with young Christopher bouncing on his shoulders admiring the small community of gnomes nestling next to clumps of crocuses.
It was late spring that he was called to the house. The grass was scattered with the fragments. All the gnomes had been shattered into bits and their remains left on the lawn. “Mindless vandalism” Ivy’s words, seemed to be the only explanation.
“Norrie wasn’t there in all that wreckage.” Ivy pointed to the photo of Norrie leering at the camera lens as he was clutching a fishing rod.
Barton didn’t want to ask the question, but Ivy, tipping up and down on her toes, looking like an enthusiastic Labrador dog, waited for the stick to be tossed. “How do you know Norrie was not there?” He was careful to keep his tone balanced. The answer came to him at the same time that Ivy began her explanation.
She missed Arthur, her dog who had been put down recently. With her arthritis, knitting was becoming increasingly painful. Just to make use of the time she had bought a tube of glue and set to repairing the broken community of gnomes. Mrs Grafton had taken photos of each of them after watching the Antiques Road Show. She hoped that one of her gnomes might be worth something. She wasn’t entirely wrong. Having discovered that Boris, the one that stood on top of the drain cover was worth fifty pounds at least, she struggled with the dilemma whether to leave him at his post or bring him into the safety of the garden shed.
“You see, Norrie wasn’t hers.” Ivy was urgently trying to convince PC Barton that there was a mystery to be solved.
Norrie appeared one day standing beside a patch of snowdrops, just a week after the community had taken up their places in the garden. Mrs Grafton was outraged at the interloper and banished him to the other side of the fence, on the footpath. He had been replaced the following morning. Norrie spent the next few weeks in a curious parody of a chess game, dividing his time between the clump of snowdrops and the path beside the fence. Eventually Mrs Grafton surrendered and allowed his garden room. It distressed her that Norrie held a fishing rod and there was no pond in the garden. It was cruel to expect him to hold a rod, but not be able to put it to use.
“So, you believe that all the damage caused to the other gnomes was to cover up the theft of Norrie?” PC Barton was bemused.
“I don’t think it was Norrie they wanted,” confided Ivy. She placed her handbag on the counter, glanced over her shoulder as she pulled back the zip, and took out a small sealed plastic bag. The white powder has the colour and consistency of talcum powder. She extracted a second bag, and a third, and kept adding to the pile, a dozen or so.
“We found these inside Norrie a week after he was adopted.”
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