Swann & Duckworthy (part one)

DI Swann ruffles her feathers and sniffs. She looks at the corpse and feels a tremor run through her body, bill to tail. She wants to say something, something like, ‘In ten years service with the Berkshire Water Patrol, I’ve never seen anything like this before.’

But she can’t say that.

Because she has seen something like this before.

She turns to her sergeant, who is scratching his back with one gnarled webbed foot. ‘What do you make of it, Duckworthy?’

The sergeant stops scratching, looks at the body and coughs. ‘Well…,’ he begins then pauses to check his thinking before the words leave his bill. ‘Okay, looks like he drowned most likely. No feathers in the water: no sign of a struggle. Could have slipped on the bank, fell in, too pissed to get himself out.’

‘An accident then.’

‘Most likely, I reckon.’

‘Mmmm.’ Swann stretches out her wings. She should be home by now, sitting on the eggs. Malcom’s been good about it, doing more than his share, but it’s not fair. She knows it’s not. ‘I don’t think he drowned, Duckworthy.’

‘Really,’ the sergeant isn’t convinced. ‘Why’s that, chief?’

‘Because he’s a duck, Duckworthy, and in my experience, ducks don’t often drown.’

‘Right, right. Suicide then.’

Swann rolls her eyes. ‘Look at the bank. No footprints.’

‘He could have flown in, missed his landing…’

‘Or maybe he was carried here.’ Swann enters the water and paddles out to the body. ‘He looks like an old lag to me, sergeant. I reckon at his age he’d have got the whole landing lark down to a science by now, wouldn’t you?’

‘Yeah, maybe, but—’

‘And why would he make a landing this close to the bank? He’d stay near the open water to make sure he didn’t embarrass himself and end up on Youtube.’

‘I suppose…’

‘Yes, I suppose too.’ She makes a tight circle around the upturned corpse and waddles back to the bank. She looks to the sergeant. He’s shaking, hiding his face under a nicotine-stained wing. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Yeah, no problem, Ma’am. All good.’

‘Okay then,’ she says, eyeing him. ‘ Seal off the whole bank and get forensics down here. Are you sure you’re all right, sergeant?’

‘Yes, Ma’am.’ The sergeant is convulsing uncontrollably. ‘So, Ma’am, I take it you suspect… fowl play.’ He rolls onto his back, kicking his feet in the air, quacking loudly. ’That’s “fowl” with a “w”, Ma’am!’

‘Thank you, sergeant. I get it.’ DI Swann shakes her head, realising why this job seemed so lonely sometimes…


part two

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