Literary Yard

Search for meaning

Detective Charles Winston: A Philosophical and Biographical Tour

By: Bruce Levine

It’s said that many people, as they get older, tend to look back on their life, almost in review. I’m not one of them. I don’t look back – I look forward. I believe in moving forward. Sometimes that means shifting gears. Sometimes it’s a matter of desire and sometimes it’s a matter of necessity. But whatever the cause the effect should always be to propel one onward and upward, as the saying goes.

I’ve made a number of major changes in my life, mostly geographic rather than, and I’ve been one of the lucky ones, changes of career. That’s not to say that I haven’t made changes to my career but they’ve almost always been within the basic boundaries of law enforcement.

My name is Charles Winston and I was born in London, England on December 11th – I won’t tell you the year because then you might think that this is a nostalgic look backward and, as always, I’m currently looking forward to my next challenge. To give you a hint, it’s in academia, but right now I’m treading water and pursuing.

To get back to the story and, as I said, I was born in London and was educated in British Public School.

Maybe because of my own proclivity or maybe because both my grandfather (Charles) and my father (Clive) were part of the Metropolitan Police force and retired as Chief Inspectors, I’ll never know, I too joined that auspicious group and became a member of the London Constabulary.

At the ripe old age of thirty-four I was promoted to Inspector and spent the remainder of my British career at Scotland Yard.

I say British career because that same year I met and, after two weeks, married Elizabeth Anderson.

Elizabeth was born in New York City and, after obtaining her bachelorette degree from Marymount College, she enrolled in a student exchange program for graduate studies in London.

Two months later (four months after my promotion) I resigned from Scotland Yard and we moved to New York City where I joined the New York Police Department and retired after twenty years as a Detective.

Being the history buffs that we both are trips to Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village were a natural component of our agenda.

I guess I jumped the gun a little by mentioning my retirement from the NYPD because I was still a member of that august body when I got involved in my first murder investigation in Massachusetts – at Old Sturbridge Village. (If you want to know more about that read Restoration Murder.)

To get back to the story, Elizabeth and I liked the Sturbridge/Brimfield area so well that we decided to return two months later to spend Christmas there. Of course, and true to my calling, I once again became embroiled in solving another murder, this time at the same hotel where we were staying. (If you’re still curious, read Time Doesn’t Heal Everything.)

If I were superstitious I’d think that the universe was trying to tell us to stay away, but neither of us is superstitious and we still liked the area so well that, after a lot of consideration, and when my twenty-year mark rolled around, we decided to make a change and make a move.

And so we booked a hotel and planned another trip to really look around Sturbridge and Brimfield (famous for the huge outdoor antiques shows that still happen three times a year and which was how we first discovered the area and made our first friends).

It didn’t take long to find our perfect house but, to complete the murder trilogy, and in true Busman’s Holiday fashion, it came complete with its very own dead body.

Eventually, however, with the case closed and everything else being perfect (what’s a dead body among friends?) we made an offer, purchased and moved to Brimfield, Massachusetts.

Now, two years and three months, and three murder investigations later we were happily decorating our new home.

Theoretically I was retired (although I don’t believe that word should exist) and I thought Elizabeth and I would devote our time to antiquing and visiting all the places on our list from Boston to the Berkshires. And I would devote more time to, in true British fashion, my garden.

It didn’t take long before Elizabeth decided to become a docent at Old Sturbridge Village where she got to wear period clothes and talk about the history of the area and the buildings with the visitors.

I too got involved, becoming first a consultant and then, ten months after taking up residence, I was appointed Chief of Detectives of the Brimfield PD. And then as fate would have it, nine days later I began my first murder investigation in that capacity.

Although it may seem like it, Brimfield is not the murder capital of the world and there averaged only one murder case to solve per year while I remained as the Chief of Detectives so we were still able to devote sufficient time to our other passions. So, while Elizabeth docented, I shifted gears slightly and got involved in local, and then not so local, politics.

While I never wanted it to become a full-time career and, despite the urging of some of my friends, I never ran for political office, I managed to fill up a lot of time doing what I hoped were good things, That, plus the BPD position, kept me busy.

Then we got invited to a wedding of the daughter of one of Elizabeth’s cousins who lived on Long Island. That, in addition to the fact that Elizabeth really liked these cousins (even though she hadn’t seen them in nearly twenty years, and I had never met them) seemed like a good excuse to plan a trip back to New York, albeit Long Island and, who knew, maybe a detour into Manhattan for a visit to our old haunts, so we RSVP’d our acceptance.

Two months later we were driving south on I-95 past Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, into Connecticut to the ferry at Bridgeport to cross the Long Island Sound, docking in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York.

It had been a wonderful trip but we were glad to settle into our room for the night before heading out to South Hampton the next day for the wedding.

A lot of cousins and various other relatives Elizabeth hadn’t seen in years and barely remembered, if at all, but it was a lovely wedding and reception, it was a nice reunion, even though we all knew it would probably be another twenty years before we gathered again.

Back to Port Jefferson, where we’d decided to make a home-base for the duration so we could ride around Long Island and go into Manhattan to play tourist in what had been our home for all of those years.

Even though it meant a double expense we kept the Port Jeff room and stayed overnight so we could see a Broadway show, hit a couple of museums, eat sumptuously and walk around our old neighbourhood on the Upper West Side.

Then nostalgia set in.

For the first time since we’d moved away from New York we wondered if it were time to move back.

Another night in Manhattan so we could spend a day getting a sense of living again in the greatest city in the world. And, if so, where? We even looked at a couple of apartments to see how they’d feel if we moved in.

It was a quiet drive back to Port Jefferson; lots to think about.

Several more days on Long Island and we were sitting in a management office, signing a lease, for an apartment in Middle Island, just outside Port Jefferson and within an easy drive to the shops, eateries and marina where we could look out at the Sound for a while and enjoy the view and the salt air.

Two and a half years flew by. The changes were insidious. We never thought we’d say that it was time to leave New York, again, but there we were, saying exactly that.

The next problem, if we were actually going to leave New York and move, again, was where?

Back to Brimfield? To Massachusetts?

We’d already considered moving back to Manhattan, thinking that maybe it was just Long Island that we wanted to leave but Manhattan was not the right fit either, even after several more visits.

No, it was leave New York or stay where we were.

Juneau, Alaska seemed a possibility (it certainly was far enough away) until we learned about the two hundred twenty-two days a year of rain and the months of mostly darkness.

It was a good thing that neither Elizabeth nor I had an actual job because our job became research; researching locations and apartments. In the end it was Saco, Maine.

And, once again, two and a half years have flown by.

We filled our days and kept busy but being considered retired wasn’t fulfilling enough for either of us. It was time to move forward and shift gears. Elizabeth got a job in the Portland Museum of Art and I wrote murder mysteries while I searched for a teaching position in a college offering a criminal justice program.

It was the beginning of the next phase of our lives and it was only the beginning. Life is a journey and the fun of it is to always reach for the brass ring, go forward and never look back.

As the song says, “We’ve only just begun to live.”

Take a listen to the rest of the song – it’s worth the listen.

The Beginning


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