Sunday, 17 February 2008
Spiggot of The Yard
Chief Inspector Spiggot paced the length and breadth of the Salon. "Aye, it's a rum do and no mistake," he said and he twisted the corners of his ginger moustache for dramatic effect, "I've seen many a rum do in my time at the Yard, Miss. But this, I can honestly say, is one is one of the rummest."
"So how exactly was he killed?" Chelsea asked as she sank back into the soft leather of her styliste's chair.
"Oh yes, many's the rum do I've come across in my time. The case of the Grantham surgical support salesman and the belly dancer, f'risntance - now, there was a rum do if ever there was…."
"Cup of Coffee, Chief Inspector?" a mouse-like voice suddenly peeped up.
"Thank you, Trish," Chelsea replied, "Chief Inspector Spiggot will have a mug of tea with two sugars. I'll have my usual…"
Trish, who was sitting in the corner, nursing a vaguely blue-coloured toy poodle, went off into the kitchen at the back of the Salon, tugging the reluctant animal behind her on its jewel-encrusted leash.
"Then there was the Adventure of the Phantom Colonal Irrigator of Clapham West…"
"But to get back to the current case, Chief Inspector," Chelsea interrupted, "What I don't understand is, if someone had poisoned the overhead sprinkler system at the Malabar Emporium, as you say, how did I manage to escape its mortal effects, when Mr Hartleberry-Smythe evidently succumbed so speedily?"
"Now, there you have a conundrum," Spiggot said, "Or so I thought. Until our forensic boffins examined the kipper."
"The kipper?" exclaimed Chelsea, "What on earth do you mean?"
"The tie, Miss. A large, pink garment of a silken fabrication decorated with a design known to the trade as a Paisley Pattern. In most respects, Mr Hartleberry-Smythe favoured a somewhat antiquated style of dress with the exception of an inexplicable fondness for kipper ties. Had a whole wardrobe of the blasted things!"
"I see," said Chelsea, "But then again, I don't see. What on earth has the kipper tie to with his untimely death?"
Chief Inspector Spiggot grasped the lapels of his overcoat and bobbed slowly up and down on his toes, "Have you, by any chance, heard of…" and here Spiggot leaned forward, twiddled his moustache and stared at Chelsea with eyes as round as saucers (a dramatic technique taught to all Scotland Yard Chief Inspectors by one of the most celebrated stars of the London stage who cannot, alas, be identified for reasons of National Security) "…binary agents?" spluttered Spiggot with an explosive release of saliva.
"Hmmm, now let me see," mused Chelsea, "Aren't they those chemical things produced by the combination of two substances such as, for example, Methylphosphoryldifluoride and Isopropanol which are themselves non-toxic but are, in combination, deadly poisonous nerve agents which can enter the body via the skin or respiratory system resulting in nausea, delirium, excessive production of saliva and, in a very short period, death?"
Spiggot glared at her. "How did you know that?" he said.
"You'd be surprised what you pick up in hairdressing, Chief Inspector," Chelsea said as she idly applied a coat of purple varnish to the fingernails of her right hand.
"Well, then," Spiggot bumbled on, "Let me ask you this. Think back and tell me if you ever saw anybody suffering with the very symptoms what you have just this minute described?"
"Shitbags! Of course!" Chelsea exclaimed, "Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe. So that's it! What you are saying is that somebody must have put one of the two binary agents into the overhead sprinkler system in the Malabar Emporium so that when it kicked into action its poisoned waters would combine with the second agent and suddenly, splooosh! Bye-bye Hiram?"
"But if that's the case, where precisely was the second agent hidden and why didn't it affect me?"
"That's what was so devilish. The second agent was impregnated into the fabric of the Pink Paisley-pattern kipper tie. So, when the two chemicals combined, only Mr Hartleberry-Smythe received a nostril-full of the deadly fumes."
"I say!" said Chelsea, "How awfully fiendish! But why on earth would anyone want to kill the poor chap?"
Just at that moment, Trish came back into the Salon with a mug of tea for the Chief Inspector and a Singapore Gin Sling for Chelsea. The poodle was toddling along behind her, looking as miserable as only a blue-rinsed poodle can.
"The story begins in the PooshMurtran Highlands of Northern India," Spiggot said as he settled back into a leather chair beneath a pink hairdryer unit, "Aye, PooshMurtran. As uncivilised and heathen a place as ever there was, high up in the bleak foothills of the Himalayas. Aye, aye, I say, PooshMurtran, a dangerous and a sinister region which, to this day, is the haunt of bandits, Thugees and all kinds of faithless foreign devils. PooshMurtran is tiger country," Spiggot took the tea and slurped it noisily through his moustache, then added, "And never was there any man-eater more dreaded than the tiger they called The Killer of PooshMurtran."
"The rug!" exclaimed Chelsea, "In the Malabar Emporium."
"Imagine if you can that deadly beast stalking its human prey silently through the foetid steaming air of the hot malarial swamps of PooshMurtran…"
"Erm, excuse me…" squeaked Trish, "Hope you don't think I'm interrupting or anything, like…"
Chief Inspector Spiggot glowered at her and his moustache bristled menacingly.
"Only, see, what I mean to say is," blathered Trish, "Is that I think you'll find that there ain't actually any malarial swamps, like, in the foothills of the Himalayas an' that. In fact, I think as how you'll find it's a bit on the chilly side there actually."
Spiggot said nothing but slurped his tea with an air of unfriendliness.
"Aye, PooshMurtran," he continued grimly, "Whose steamy malarial swamps are fed by a hot spring that gushes from very heart of the Himalayas. Aye, aye, 'tis as strange and ungodly a place as any white man," (here Chelsea cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow meaningfully) "…as any white man, woman or hairdresser has ever clapped eyes upon. Aye, aye, PooshMurtran. That is where this diabolical mystery all began. And that is where, one day, it shall surely end.
"For more than five years, the Killer of PooshMurtran had terrorised the countryside, for miles around, spreading a trail of blood, bones, giblets and entrails wherever it went - aye, blood I say! And bones! And giblets! And entrails. Human entrails!
"At the time when the carnage was at its most gruesome and grisly, a certain Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe arrived in PooshMurtran, ostensibly on a holiday to visit an old chum from his days at Cambridge, a certain Reginald Patel, otherwise known as the Rajah of Rajpooristan.
"But this was no ordinary holiday. For Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe had gone to conduct a certain business deal. A business, I say, of a most nefarious and mortal character."
"Mortal?" said Chelsea, "You mean to say…"
"Aye, aye - deadly, Miss. For Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe was a killer every bit as fearsome as the tiger which stalked that dreadful heathen land.
"Opium, that was the reason of it. The Malabar Emporium was more than just a shop full of exotic knick-knacks and curiosities. When the boys from the Yard broke into the cellar of the place, they found the biggest stash of nauseous drugs and narcotics ever to be uncovered since the days of Doctor Fu Manchu himself!”