Sunday, September 27, 2009

Case the First: Lance Sleuthe, Detective

"At last!" cried Lance Sleuthe, brilliant but currently unemployed private detective. "At last, a case!" He had been searching for the right briefcase for months now, and had at last tracked it down. Later, he relaxed in his parlor after returning home with his new purchase.

Suddenly, his bell was rung. Brrrring, brrrring, brrrring.

"Come in," called Sleuthe, expecting it was Mr. Barnes, the deaf telephone operator who lived in the upstairs rooms. To his surprise, the door opened. A tall, thinly veiled woman dressed in black entered the room. "Am I addressing Mr. Lance Sleuthe?" she queried in a soft, low voice. The detective put down his briefcase, picked up his pipe, lit it, and nodded slowly. His keen eyes and razor-sharp mind, as quick as ball bearings on ice, were constantly evaluating the most minute details before him.

The woman continued. "My name..."

"Your name," suavely interrupted Sleuthe, "is Priscilla Winston."

The woman gasped. "Why yes, but how did you..."

"Never mind that. You are Priscilla Winston, daughter of the late Duke Neville Winston. You are thirty-seven years of age. You have come, no doubt, concerning your parrot."

"Why, Mr. Sleuthe, that's absolutely remark..."

"You have never been married; you own, besides your parrot, two goldfish and a French poodle, you enjoy ginseng tea and your slip is showing."

The woman blushed as she bent down to attend to this last detail. Sleuthe blew a few smoke rings and mentally congratulated himself. 'Sleuthe, old boy,' he thought, 'you are truly a deductive genius.'

"Well, Mr. Sleuthe," announced Miss Winston after fixing her skirts, "I'm impressed that you remember our conversation of last week so well."

"Yes, yes, never mind all that," stated Sleuthe briskly. "Are there any further developments?"

"Indeed there are." Miss Winston seated herself, quite accidently doing so on Sleuthe's heroin needle. He was always leaving it lying around. 'That deaf fellow can't see it anyway,' he would reason to himself.

"My parrot, I'm afraid, has absconded with my funds again," began Miss Winston. Instantly, Sleuthe's mind was churning like a vat of butter. He analyzed the incident from every angle imaginable. 'Parrot,' he thought. 'Funds.'

"He's made off with over 600,000 pounds, all in hard cash." Sleuthe, considering his current financial status, toyed with the idea of a career change. 'Absconding funds is much more profitable than being an impoverished private detective,' he thought.

"I don't know who to turn to this time," sobbed Miss Winston. "The police are no help. They've already told me that there's no mention of parrots anywhere in the criminal code and ...sniff... I'm at my wits' end."

"Very well," announced Sleuthe, "I will take the case." Picking up his briefcase, he dramatically flipped the metal catch. The case sprung open, revealing a somewhat worse-for-wear parrot. "Here is your parrot," said Sleuthe. "I picked him up this morning after anticipating your arrival here today. I regret to tell you, however, that the £600,000 has already been spent on gourmet bird food."

"No matter," said the woman as she stood up. She held the parrot in a throttling grip. "I can at least bring the miserable creature to justice. Now, as to your fee..."

"No fee," Sleuthe shot back. The woman raised an eyebrow. "The puzzling solution to the case is a reward in itself," he explained. The woman in black nodded, and a moment later was gone. Sleuthe, the world's greatest living detective, eased back in his chair and re-counted the large sum of money in his briefcase. 'Six hundred thousand pounds,' he thought, his mind whirling like so much confetti on a windy day. 'That should support my secret drug habit for...' Suddenly, his bell was rung.

"Come in," he called. He was satisfied to hear several seconds of silence, followed by a slow shuffle of footsteps up the outside stair . 'I knew it was that deaf fellow,' he thought, congratulating himself once again on yet another brilliant deduction. He settled back into his chair and closed the briefcase.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Case of the Unauthorized Casebook

It's quite unusual for a Saturday morning to creep past 9:30 o'clock without a cheerful rap on the door from old reliable Watley, a jar of filberts in one hand, a crock of jam in the other, the morning paper in the first, and a second crock of another type of jam also in the first. The rap on the door is usually followed by a series of loud bangs and crashes, after the which at least we still have our morning paper to peruse in silent but jovial fellowship.

This particular morning, however, was neither typical nor usual. Indeed, I could scarcely wake myself from my torpor--induced by excessive quantities of induction the previous evening--until I had stepped into the hallway and given myself a loud rap on the head. Once it had cleared, the possibilities that Watley had been abducted, drafted into the Crimean Irregulars, or forced against his will into an ill-advised marriage with a Boheman arch-duchess occurred to me, not necessarily in that order. A momentary panic gripped me, until it was dispelled by a momentary brilliant solution that had somehow injected itself into my feverish brain. I must locate a private detectator. Only someone of brilliant acumen, fearless character, sound fortitude, repetitive diction, and courageous disposition, not to mention all of the above, could meet the challenge. But where to find such a person? One could hardly look up "private detectant" in the locally distributed volume of the Amber Sheaves. The very idea was so ludicrous that I guffawed loudly.

"I say, Sleuthe," said a voice at my elbow. "What's so funny?"

"Funny!" I cried indignantly. "How dare you make light of Watley's tragic disappearance!" Whirling about unexpectedly, I connected one of my enraged fists with one of the impudent chins of the speaker, who collapsed in a heap upon the floor of the landing.

"Good Lord," I cried, most likely aloud. "What have I done! It's Watley!" Clenching my fist lest Watley make another callous remark about his disappearance, I kneeled at his side. Immediately I saw my error. In my grief and rage, my over-heated brain had hallucinated Watley's appearance. This groaning supine figure was simply the landlady, who so far as I was aware was not missing, nor in harm's way. Lest her presence distract me from my cogitation, I sent her flying down the stairs toward her flat with a swift kick.

Moments later I was inside my flat, flipping through the pages of the Amber Sheaves, chuckling at my own genius. Why, the idea was so ludicrous that nobody--least of all Watley's nefarious enemies--would ever have predicted that I would engage in such behaviour. I was already ahead of the game, for I had the element of surprise in my favor.

Within mere moments after reading the first name listed under the "Private Detectivator" heading, I recognized it as my own. It was all coming back to me now: the Amber Sheaves salesman at the door, our fierce disagreement over the spelling and pronunciating of certain nouns and proper nouns, the signed contract, the additional disputation, the clinking of empty gin bottles as they and we rolled happily about on the carpeted floor.

Very well then. If I was to take the case, I would charge an exorbitant fee. And in exchange, I would seek out clues, assemble them into an incoherent picture, and then present them to Watley, who would no doubt provide the crucial insight that my brilliant mind would ingeniously take credit for. But for that to happen, I would first have to locate Watley.

Every once in a while I am seized by an insight so insightful, so penetrating, that I surprise a man of even my own genius. That was not the case this time. Instead, I decided to search Watley's flat.

Remembering only moments after I had kicked the door down that I had a spare copy of Watley's key in my coat pocket, I congratulated myself on how quickly I had come to that realization. But this was no time for self-congratulation: after all, Watley was missing and my foot hurt considerably. I set about ransacking the flat, pulling open drawers, emptying the contents of cupboards, and so forth, in the search for clues.

"Wait, what's this!" I cried, as I pried open the drawer of Watley's beloved priceless antique secretary, severely damaging it in the process. Inside lay a dark red leather-bound draft-book, upon which was scrawled "The Adventures of Lance Sleuthe". I felt my lower jaw stay up with pride, my head continue in a non-rotating state with equanimity, and my knees remain unbuckled with a lack of distress. Then my eyes fell upon the next line: "Copyright Watley, all rights, royalties, profits, praise, and acknowledgment exclusively reserved". I felt my jaw slacken, my head spin, and my knees buckle. The entire room danced feverishly before my eyes, at least until I stopped dancing feverishly in the middle of the room.

My heart pounding, I cracked open the volume. Watley's childish handwriting splayed across the pages, the dark blue ink tendriling into spider webs across the uneven brownish-white surface of the paper.

"CONTENTS of CASES" I read on the first page.

"Case the First: Lance Sleuthe, Detective"
"Case the Second: The Case of the Flaming Curtains"
"Case the Third: The Case of the Missing Hat"
"Case the Fourth: The Case of the Pseudo-Cleft Chin"
"Case the Fifth: The Case of the Chinese Character"

Carrying the tome to the other side of the room, I settled into the one armchair that had not been rendered unsittable by my relentless search for clues, and began to read ....