Friday, 30 October 2009

Lost Worlds 1

Dinosaurs lived at the end of the coppice. They lurked in the shadows down there, waiting to snatch up eight year old sisters and devour them. Despite this, Mary insisted on following Ben and Harry on their expeditions through the garden fence and into the lowering mysteries of the tatty patch of elms and scrub.

Mary would scoff loudly at these monstrous inventions, as they negotiated the narrow path winding through the thicket, under the sticky leaves of the few surviving trees. She’d point out there were no tracks. There were always tracks. And dinosaurs didn’t fly, well some did, but they couldn’t fly through trees, could they? Why didn’t the boys just stop fibbing? She was coming along anyway.

Ben and Harry would scour the little track and dusty brambles for some plausible spoor but, as ever, all they could find were single shoes, shattered bottles of cheap cider and unpleasant clumps of tissue paper containing grown up things they didn’t want to know about.

Then, there’d be some unidentifiable sound from the other end of the coppice. Foliage would rustle, branches would sway and Mary would suddenly accept the presence of ravenous, scaly giants. With a squeak of fear, she’d take off back down the path to safety. She’d be too scared to stop and stick her tongue out at her brother and his horrid friend, until she’d gained the sanctuary of the garden, where she’d turn and pull hideous and vengeful faces in their direction.

Ben and Harry would carry on their expedition unencumbered.

One day it happened just like that, only it wasn’t the noise of an imaginary dinosaur they all heard, but something much worse. And Mary stood in her garden, pulling vengeful faces in the direction of what was rapidly becoming a crime scene.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Perfect Crime 5

The bloodstain was still there on the fireside rug where the major’s body had been found in the library, the assegai protruding from his back.

Inspector Cutler and Sergeant Walsh walked back out into the hall and closed the door. The houseguests were assembled in the drawing room, the staff confined to their quarters; they had time to take stock. Cutler ran through the facts, which Walsh ticked off with a stubby pencil in his notebook.

“Time of death: eleven to eleven thirty. Mrs Prendergast was walking into the village with the vicar. The Batterby’s were seen on the golf links. Dr. Johnson was attending Daphne Hewitt in her room. Cook was with the gardener in the kitchen garden, seen by Boucher from the road. Boot boy on his bike coming back from Admiral Bascombe’s with the handbag Miss Glamis had left there.”

“Miss Glamis?” Walsh squinted at his notebook.

“On the ten forty five to Worcester,” sighed Cutler. “Makes no sense. Everyone’s in the clear.”

“Somebody isn’t, sir,” replied Walsh, tersely.

“Time for a smoke eh, Sergeant?” Cutler never carried smokes of his own.

Walsh walked over to where his raincoat was draped across the post table and rummaged in the pockets.

“My lighter,” he cried, “It’s gone!”

“You must have left it at the station, man,” replied Cutler dismissively.

“It was there when I came in, sir!” insisted Walsh, “It never leaves me. Solid gold. Anniversary present. My wife’ll go potty.”

“At home, then.”

“It was in my pocket when we rang the doorbell, sir,” Walsh persisted, “I remember making sure. I knew you’d be cadging a...” he faltered.

“Well, forget it,” snapped Cutler, “We’ve got more important things to do.”

Up in the attic, the boot boy fingered his gleaming prize. Nobody would be bothered with him.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Perfect Crime 4

When Bernie the Weasel decided to pull off the heist of the century, he knew only the best team would do. His recruitment was slow and meticulous. Finally in a secluded villa set well back from the Cote and the Casino they were to turn over, Bernie assembled his troops.

Cigar in hand, he called the roll. “Mad” Marco and his Balkan Bastards needed no introduction; their capacity for indiscriminate slaughter was legendary. “Boom Boom” Detroux, “Electrical” Wilson and “Wheels” Larsson shook hands. They had either worked before or knew each other by reputation. Until they came to Nobody Jones.

“What’s he do, this Nobody?” growled Mad Marko, measuring the portly, little man for a shallow grave.

“Absolutely nothing,” replied Nobody Jones, cheerfully, “I can assure you of that.”

“While we do the job, he goes on a camping tour of the Camargue,” rasped Bernie, “with his wife.”

There was a deadly quiet. Nobody Jones smiled amiably at everybody.

Bernie spelled it out, “Nobody Jones is the finest innocent bystander in the business.”

The silence continued, more puzzled than deadly now.

“If he’s spotted with us, he’s so clean it confuses every Law Agency in the world. Ain’t a Database built can work a connection. He’s insurance.”

There was a general buzz of approval. Someone opened a bottle of slivovitz; Jones went off to polish his camper. Bernie pulled out the maps and diagrams.

Two days later, while Nobody Jones was cruising through Montpelier, the gang knocked over the Casino for eighty million euros. It worked like a dream.

Jones retired to a small but beautiful cottage in Dorset to contemplate his garden. He had made substantial sums of money and, occasionally as he clipped away at his topiary, he would reflect that his career had been the perfect crime.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Perfect Crime 3

“Do you know who I am?” the old woman glared up at the floorwalker like a pug with toothache.

“Of course, Lady Malmouth,” he tried to pacify her. “We meet so often.”

“Then, why are you molesting me in this appalling fashion?” she bellowed, and the entire jewellery department stopped and stared.

The floorwalker prevailed on her nurse-companion, Bridget, “I must examine Lady Malmouth’s handbag. I fear she might inadvertently…,” he had said this so often, he could hardly bear to string the euphemism together, “...again.”

Bridget nodded, and then whispered in Lady Malmouth’s ear, “Shall we leave this for Christopher to settle, my lady? And go home and put our feet up?”

Lady Malmouth gave a peremptory nod and then emptied the contents of her bag onto the counter. She sniffed at the floorwalker, “If your staff were more attentive, one might not be forced to help oneself.”

Her son, the Honourable Christopher would soon be in, brusque and embarrassed, to sign the cheque; later, he would draw Bridget aside to upbraid her for taking his mother back into London’s finest store, when everyone knew what was bound to happen. Bridget would protest she had no control over her ladyship and offer notice, which Christopher would hastily turn down, having even less control himself.

The floorwalker escorted them to the side entrance, Lady Malmouth brushing his effusions aside.

Back in the Mayfair mews, Lady Malmouth sank back onto a gilded sofa, with a gin. Bridget went to her room. She took the platinum note-clip and the pearls from her coat pocket and examined them. They were of her usual high quality. At this rate she’d be able to buy the beach-house in Goa within two years. Providing Lady Malmouth didn’t do anything stupid, like die on her.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Perfect Crime 2

Half-way through the afternoon, and three lines into his poem, Peter heard the doorbell ring. He tried to ignore it, but it rang insistently. He strode to answer the door, hoping whoever it was would tell by his icy, tight-lipped expression that they were guilty of the most unpardonable interruption. He would not be drawn into any vulgar complaint; he would simply direct a glare of such mordant disdain, they would apologise profusely and retire, abject and ashamed.

He opened the door to discover there was nobody there. His rage became incandescent. Then he noticed that on the outside doormat, in place of any cringing interloper, was a very large paperbag. It was on fire. Huge flames leapt up from it, along with the smell of lighter fluid. They licked at his chest; the fumes tore at his nostrils.

Peter’s rage turned upon the instant to panic and, regardless of the effect on his slippers, he stamped down on the inferno with both feet. His frenetic fandango had an immediate effect. As the oily flames capered and receded beneath his onslaught, he became aware of a pulping texture beneath his thin leather soles, and a disgusting stench rising up amongst the benzene. Someone had filled the bag with dog faeces and he was now treading them, warm and pliant, in all directions.

He looked around for help, for answers, for some sense of purpose. His poem was as ruined as his trousers; his socks and slippers didn’t even bear thinking about. Stranded, nauseated and helpless on his own porch, he realised life had not equipped him for this.

“Did you know him?” asked one of the perpetrators, as they strolled away.
“Not in the slightest,” replied the other, “but he’ll know why we did it.”