EPISODE ONE HERE
EPISODE TWO HERE
EPISODE THREE HERE
EPISODE FOUR HERE
EPISODE FIVE HERE
EPISODE FIVE HERE
I looked around the boat house for further clues to the disappearance of Monsieur Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup. The place was very tidy and nothing appeared to have been disturbed. There was not one speck of dust anywhere nor indeed any signs of a struggle or fight. If the two hapless missing people had ever been here someone must have gone into a lot of trouble to ensure that no clues remained.
"They must have been here" said Claudia Armoff, "this is Hair-Cool's walking stick, and this is the same backgammon set we played with last night in the library!"
"This does not mean they have been here," I told her, "someone could have deliberately left the walking-stick here to confuse us. And there are no clues as to Miss Maple's whereabouts. Her knitting needles and paraphernalia are not here. Just his walking stick!"
"Do you mean that anyone of us could have murdered them?" she asked.
"Everyone is a suspect," I replied, "no one is above suspicion. It could be anyone is the murderer; if indeed there has been a murder. Even I, or even you are suspects!"
"What would I want to kill Carro for?" she protested with some trepidation, "I liked the small man. He was round and cuddly and waddled as he walked. He was like a small Teddy bear."
I did not reply.
She continued, "I'll admit I was not overly fond of Miss Maple. She was a snooty busy-body poking her nose into everyone's private business. She's been a friend of the family for a while. Can't see what my brother likes in her but he keeps inviting her here for the odd family gatherings. On one occasion he called her here to investigate the disappearance of a family chamber pot. You know the ones? Victorian pots which they kept under the bed to save them having to go to the toilet at night. Well, one of the pots got missing. And she came here asking us all sorts of personal questions like how often we get up during the night; when we had last seen the missing pot; and where we were at the time of its disappearance. Things always disappear in this household. But never people before now!"
"Did they ever find the pot?" I asked.
"Yes ..." she said with a smile, "someone had hid it amongst her knitting. I can't think who!"
"Look at this backgammon set," I pointed out changing the subject, "there is one disc you play with missing. Did they find the missing disc last night in the library?"
"Yes," she said, "Walter Dumnote had accidentally picked it up and put it on his eye thinking it was his monocle."
"So if it was found last night, and it is missing again now, someone must be leaving us a clue as to who the murderer is; or who the culprit of Caro's and Maple's disappearance is. And the clue is pointing to Walter Dumnote!!!" I declared triumphantly.
(We could have added some dramatic music here for effect. But there was no piano in the boat house nor indeed anyone who could play it. So please imagine the music yourselves).
At this point there was a loud and sustained shrieking noise outside "EEEEEEEEK !!!"
My heart stopped beating for a moment or two and my bladder almost gave way to its natural instinct. I wished I did not have that second cup of coffee at breakfast.
"This must be Aristotle!" said Claudia enthusiastically, "he has come to greet us."
We got out of the boat house; but there was no one there.
"Up there, on that tree. Can you see him?" she said.
I could see nothing in particular, but eventually she pointed out amongst the branches and foliage a small owl no bigger than six inches.
"That's Aristotle," she said, "he lives here and eats mice, and voles, and other tiny things like grass snakes!"
"Hello Aristotle ..." she greeted, lifting her arms to her side.
"Do like me," she told me, "he'll fly and land on your arm."
"Come on," she said, "raise your arms up."
I reluctantly obeyed her and raised my arms to my side. At this, the owl moved his head sideways left and right as they tend to do and then flew right at us.
"Stand still," she said, "he'll land on our arms!"
But the stupid nocturnal bird was either blinded by the bright sun or had backgammon pieces over his eyes, because he landed right on my head.
"Stand still," she said again, "lowering her arms. He will not hurt you."
I could feel the birds talons clutching at my hair. I dared not move in case he flew away and took with him what remained of my thinning top.
"Hello Aristotle," she said, "how have you been. I have not seen you for a while. Are you keeping well?"
Obviously the bird did not reply, but I could feel him moving left and right on my head and grasping my scalp tightly. I lowered my arms gently.
"We are here looking for two missing people," she said, "a man called Hair-Cool Carro and an old woman called Miss Maple Syrup. Have you seen them?"
Obviously, the stupid bird did not respond. I wondered how long this inane conversation with a stupid bird would continue.
But she went on with her interrogation, "Have you seen anyone enter the boathouse, Aristotle?" she asked.
At this, the idiotic ill-trained bird emptied his load all over my head. She burst out laughing. I dared not move in case he attacked me with his sharp beak or something.
"This is so funny," she laughed. "Aristotle has never done that to anyone. He must like you. Here, stand still, let me try and clean you," she said spreading the cold liquid with a handkerchief all over my head. At this, the bird flew away into the tree once more. She brought a towel from the boathouse which she had wet in the lake and cleaned me somehow; although I question the hygienic effects of this exercise.
By the time I was as clean as I could under the circumstances my bladder was crying for help and threatening to take dire action.
"Is there a bathroom in the boat house?" I asked, "I need to go!"
"Just go behind the tree," she said smiling, "I promise not to look. Although Aristotle might!"
I was too desperate to argue. I went behind the tree, but kept one eye up towards the bird in case he got hungry and decided to attack. As I stood there by the tree I wondered why in films and on TV the hero never gets caught short and has to answer the call of nature. Whatever happens, the hero is always ready to fight every enemy in sight and never ever gets excused to go to the bathroom. Or worry he might be attacked by a wild bird whilst doing so!
"Let's go search the mausoleum ..." she said when I returned from behind the tree, "they may well be there!"
"You have a museum here?" I asked.
"No ... a mausoleum," she said, "that's where our ancestors are buried. I'll introduce you to uncle Herodicus. You'll like him!"
TO BE CONTINUED