[Well, since I haven’t written one of these Sherlock Holmes parody stories in almost a year, I thought that it was about time that I wrote another one.]
The Case Of The Uncertain Constable
A Richs and Coates Mystery By C. A. Brown
“Coates stood in the doorway and grinned at me ‘You’re thinking about that business with the empty lager can on the college roof and the feral cat in the biology lab again, aren’t you?’ “
It was a dark autumn evening in the year of our lord twenty-fourteen when I joined my friend and fellow investigator, Mr.Dalton Coates MP, for a long weekend of pheasant shooting and backgammon at his official residence in the Newleyshire countryside.
Both of us had been exceedingly busy of late – myself with the stock market and Coates with both official matters of state and his unofficial duties as a private investigator. So, a meeting like this was as rare as it was fortuitous.
Still, as I sank down on the easy chair beside the roaring fire and glanced about the opulent wood-panelled lounge, I couldn’t help but think of the old days once again. Those days, but a mere decade ago, when we were both sixth form students and the only people who stood between order and chaos in our college. No doubt that Coates would think me a sentimental fool for reminiscing about our early cases, I couldn’t help but remember them with glee.
Stroking his dark goat-like beard, Coates stood in the doorway and grinned at me ‘You’re thinking about that business with the empty lager can on the college roof and the feral cat in the biology lab again, aren’t you?’
I leapt to my feet, astonished: ‘By Jove, how did you know?’
Walking over to the other chair, Coates perched himself on the edge of the seat and said ‘Easily deduced, Larry. When I entered the room, I noticed that your left hand twitched involuntarily and you crossed your legs slightly. I can think of no other case, but the one in question, which would have elicited such a reaction in you.’
‘Astounding, simply astounding! Your powers of deduction never fail to amaze me.’
‘Tish, pshaw! That was nothing compared to the business in which I have recently found myself. Larry, would you take a look at this? I found it in the hallway less than three minutes ago’
At that, he handed me a small slip of paper. In block capitals, it read: “MR COATES I NEED YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE STOP ALARMING DISCOVERY AT LOWER FRAMPTON BUS STATION STOP COME AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN – DC LESTER.”
I handed the paper back to Coates and said: ‘We should probably get going. If my memory of the local area is correct, Lower Frampton is but three minutes away by cab.’
‘Larry, does anything strike you as strange about this message?’
‘Not particularly. Apart from the fact that it was written by a detective constable called Lester, it is far to vague to give us any details. But, no doubt you have already ascertained both the particulars of the case and the identity of the culprit from both the shape of the note and the variety of paper upon which it is printed.’
Coates gave me a sly smile before getting to his feet and walking over to the telephone in the corner. He dialled for a cab before turning to me with a grave look upon his face: ‘You’d better take your revolver with you, Larry. This matter may require it.’
‘My revolver? You know as well as I do that I do not own a revolver! Nor, with your recent amendments to the Firearms Bill, could I do so without incurring a sentence of up to ten years’ imprisonment.’
‘No, I meant that Beatles cassette you were talking about last week. I think that “Revolver” was it’s name. Although I care little for modern music, I cannot abide conversations with cab drivers and could really use some loud music for our journey.’
Before I could shake my head, Coates glanced at the window before picking up his jacket and saying: ‘No matter Larry, the cab company’s reputation for lateness is most undeserved. If we hurry, we can be there and back in time to catch my speech on BBC Parliament later this evening.’
“At this hour, the station was completely deserted and I could only perceive one stationary bus at the far end of the station.”
After a short and awkwardly silent journey, our cab arrived at Lower Frampton bus station. At this hour, the station was completely deserted and I could only perceive one stationary bus at the far end of the station.
Coates reached into his bulging wallet and handed a note to the driver before whispering something to him and motioning for me to leave the cab. I shivered against the cold and looked around the station once again. The ticket office windows were dark and there was no sign of even a police car, let alone Detective Constable Lester.
For a second, I felt an even deeper chill run down my spine. Perhaps, like in the case of the crooked biscuit, we had arrived but a few seconds too late to prevent the perpetration of a most ghastly crime. It was indeed possible that some calamity had already befallen Lester and we would be powerless to do anything but call for an ambulance.
Before I could say anything to Coates, I heard the loud roaring of an engine behind me. Turning around, I briefly saw Coates through the cab window as the cab began to speed away. Too shocked to move, I merely stared at the cab’s number plate as it grew smaller and smaller. Why would my loyal friend and fellow investigator maroon me at a bus station in such an abrupt manner?
Still, since I was here, I decided that it would be remiss of me not to take a look around. So, I peered through the darkened windows of the ticket office and began a thorough examination of the bus. However, before I could take a good look at the undercarriage, I heard an angry shout behind me and leapt to my feet. There was a tall man in a yellow uniform standing beside the ticket office and glaring at me over his moustache.
He strode towards me and said: ‘What in blazes are you doing snooping around here at this time of night? If you don’t leave immediately, then I’ll be forced to call the police.’
I smiled at him and said: ‘That may be a good idea. I am looking for a Detective Constable Lester in connection with an unusual discovery made here earlier this evening. No doubt, you are already fully aware of the details of this matter.’
The man stared at me as if I’d just materialised out of thin air before saying: ‘I don’t know what the bleedin’ ‘ell you’re talking about, but if you don’t get out of here right now, then I can have a police van here in less than five minutes. I’m sure that they will treat you much less charitably than I have done.’
Sighing loudly and turning away, I said : ‘That will not be necessary, I’m leaving.’
“Reaching down, I picked it up and glanced at it – it was nothing other than a large crowbar. “
As I crested the small hill near Coates’ mansion, I heard an almighty caterwauling behind me. Before I could turn around, a blur of bright blue sirens flashed past me. It didn’t take an experienced investigator to know that the police cars were heading in the same direction as I was.
So, taking a deep breath, I doubled my speed and, within a minute, I found myself outside the open gates of the mansion. Three police cars were parked outside the front door and I could clearly see Coates holding a short man in a midnight blue sweater by the scruff of his neck. He thrust the man in the general direction of the police cars before saying something indistinct.
The man tried to run towards me, but before he could get very far, the car doors opened and seven constables converged on the man. There was a brief scuffle, but within minutes, the man found himself in the back seat of one of the cars. Then, as quickly as they had arrived, they left.
Once the coast was clear, I walked gingerly down the driveway until I had reached the front door. Coates leant against it, staring into the middle distance and stroking his beard in the fashion that he always does when he is deep in thought. I coughed quietly and glared at him. A few seconds later, he turned towards me and a smile crossed his face.
‘My sincere apologies for ditching you Larry, but as you can see, I had more pressing matters to attend to.’
‘What the devil are you talking about Coates? And, more importantly, who was that man?’
Coates opened the door and beckoned me inside before saying ‘A cat-burglar, Larry. I thought that even someone of your ordinary skills would have deduced that fact.’
‘Yes, even someone of my “ordinary skills” could have worked that out. But, why did you abandon me like that?’
Walking into the lounge, Coates found a bottle of brandy and poured me a large measure before pouring one for himself. I took the brandy from him and sipped it quietly as Coates sat beside the fire and rifled around for the strip of paper which had started this whole sorry business.
When he found it, he held it aloft and said: ‘Do you still not notice anything unusual about it Larry?’
‘No, I don’t. Only that it is a telegram which someone obviously sent to you in order to lure you away from your mansion, so that they could burgle it.’
‘Exactly!’ It may have been the fire, but I could almost certainly see a mischievous gleam in Coates’ eyes as he looked at the paper once again. ‘Although I may not be well-acquainted with modern technology, I more than aware of the fact that the Post Office no longer sends out telegrams. Despite my many letters of protest and early day motions in Parliament, they stubbornly refuse to bring them back.’
‘So, you knew that it was a ruse all along! Still, I don’t quite understand why you had to leave me at the bus station.’
‘Larry, the Post Office no longer sends out telegrams. As such, the only person who could have delivered the message was the burglar himself. From that fact, it is logical to deduce that he must have been waiting nearby and watching for both of us to leave for the bus station. Since time was of the essence and I had no wish to see you harmed, I decided to return alone to confront the thief. Who, when I caught him, was in the process of trying to dislodge my antique bust of Pallas from the mantelpiece with a crowbar.’
At that, Coates gestured towards a wonky old statue above the fire which looked all the worse for wear. I glanced around the fireplace until I noticed something unusual lying next to the poker. Reaching down, I picked it up and glanced at it – it was nothing other than a large crowbar.
Slowly, a smile crossed my face and I said: ‘Capital! But surely we should give this to the police. It is, after all, evidence.’
‘No point, Larry. According to the constables, he is wanted in connection with a string of other antique thefts. And, well, I have always wanted a crowbar of my own. I consider it more than fair restitution for the damage caused to my statue.’
Before I could bluster out a few words of reproach, Coates leant back in his chair and reached for the television remote. Without even looking at me, he turned the TV over to BBC Parliament and sipped his brandy: ‘Anyway, Larry, we have already missed the first five minutes of my speech in the Commons about the upcoming agricultural reforms.’