a Something item by J Nash (Monday November 9th, 2009)
(SCENE. The drawing room of a country house, tastefully decorated with many props and a trompe-l’oeil flat upstage cunningly suggesting a wide staircase curving upstairs. Inasmuch as the scene of the crime is the garden this is pretty much a waste of effort all round, but as the wind machine kept blowing everyone’s hat off during rehearsal, we make do. Disclose SERGEANT DANGER and CONSTABLE FARNHAM, examining chamfers and rattling truncheons beneath a couple of luxurious rugs for the look of the thing.)
CONSTABLE FARNHAM: I don’t see why we’re still here, Sarge. It’s as clear a case as any I’ve seen in my day of a wealthy squire accidentally describing an arc from a casement to a kiosk while beckoning an egret.
SERGEANT DANGER: That’s as maybe, Constable Farnham, but long experience has taught me never to assume anything, for example a mantle. Shrewdly I put a call into headquarters on that prop telephone and the Fraud Squad is on the way.
CONSTABLE FARNHAM: The Fraud Squad? Which squad is that?
SERGEANT DANGER: Why, that crack unit comprising those military veteran Fraud Brothers, yclept Major Tim and Major Bruce, celebrated across the land by themselves, which they claim to have invented police and mastered same. If anyone can unbottom this mystery, it’s those two wily old Frauds. Well, enough of the exposition. I think I hear their car approach. Nip off and fetch the witness, lad.
(The french windows burst open and TIM FRAUD leaps into the room.)
SERGEANT DANGER: Major Fraud! Thank heavens you’ve come. I thought I heard your car approach.
TIM FRAUD: No, I left it behind, there wasn’t time to waste driving.
CONSTABLE FARNHAM (entering with a greengrocer and carrying the grocer’s basket): I’ve found the witness, sir. Here’s Reg the Veg.
TIM FRAUD: What! Oh, I see. Carry on.
REG THE VEG (nervously): Like I told the bobby bearing me basket…
TIM FRAUD: What! Oh, I see. Carry on.
REG THE VEG: … I saw the whole thing. Squire Thewks was up at the…
TIM FRAUD: Yes, yes. One moment. Here is my chit for petrol expenses; counter-sign it at your leisure.
REG THE VEG: I’m sure it’s not my place to…
TIM FRAUD (leaping to a silent telephone, snatching up the receiver and banging it down again): Hello! Yes! What? Right! That was somebody extremely important who agrees with me. Now, quickly sketch the situation, omitting nothing however inconsequential or gaudy.
REG THE VEG: Well…
TIM FRAUD: Wait, no, don’t bother. My rapid glance as I sprang across the garden revealed the whole story. (Pacing.) The squire’s controversial plan to drain the canal and gentrify the village, displacing tenants, was a red herring. The motive for the crime is the oldest, my friends: love. A popular rhythm and blues singer, playing a nearby concert, chanced to meet and fall in love with Lady Thewks. But the Squire refused to let them go. As we know, he raised herons, so the lovers conspired to rid themselves of the obstacle of the husband by staging a mishap. Cunningly tempting him out to the upstairs window-sill with a plaintive bird cry, they blocked re-entry and merely waited for him to fall from the sabotaged tablet they’d earlier slickened with simple household furniture polish. The pair banked on rain washing away the slippery film and the herons innocently disbursing as uncomfy rubbish the other evidence which they threw in the nests. But their gazetteering was inadequate. The season is too early for inclemency and the birds haven’t yet acquired their remiges so were unable to dispose of the clues. If you examine the sill and the hunkerings you’ll find enough to confront the lovers, whom I believe to be escaping by powerful locomotive.
CONSTABLE FARNHAM: Cor. You mean it wasn’t the dredge, it was Percy Sledge who used Pledge to polish a ledge, then the Squire was trapped with a wedge and the evidence thrown in a hedge, but we’ll find the Pledge and the wedge as the sedge hadn’t fledged.
TIM FRAUD: Hngah! (His head explodes.)
SERGEANT DANGER: Hm. You know lad, sometimes it’s so much labouring to so little satisfaction. Like a tiny footballer struggling up the field and the ball chances to deflect off a minuscule patella past the goalie. Certainly you’ve scored but what’s the point? Wouldn’t it have happened anyway if you weren’t there?
CONSTABLE FARNHAM: You mean — ?
SERGEANT DANGER: Yes, this case. It’s an inch-high knees goal, Farnham.
BRUCE FRAUD (pouncing from an ottoman): What! Who’s in Chinese gold farming?
SERGEANT DANGER (closing his eyes and pinching his nasal bridge): Haarn.
(NEXT EPISODE! The Fraud Squad investigates a locked room mystery in which a prominent embezzler has poisoned himself after systematically looting the bankroll, the facts supported by a signed confession, several witnesses, unambiguous accountancy, an 8mm film of the embezzler committing some embezzling and his ghost admitting culpability. Bruce Fraud arrests Blackbeard.)