Thursday, 31 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Night Manoeuvres.











After the meal ended, every one stayed in the dining room talking and generally digesting what Sir Ivor had said. It is official, there was danger about and we were all vulnerable as well as being potential suspects. We should look after one another, both for mutual safety and for mutual suspicion. Anyone amongst us could be the next victim; and equally, any one amongst us could be the one responsible for the disappearance of Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup; and may well strike again.

I thought with some degree of amusement that it would be ironic if we paired up for safety, as Sir Ivor suggested, and one of us is paired with the actual murderer. Well, in those circumstances, either the murderer would not strike his pairee (is that what you call someone you have been paired with?) in case of being found out; or he would strike someone else to cause confusion. So being paired with the murderer might be the safest place to be after all, or is it?

As I sat in the corner of the dining room sipping my coffee slowly I noticed how alliances and allegiances were beginning to form. People were talking to each other in groups of two or four, including the staff, who had all been invited to the dinner room for mutual protection. I sat alone preferring to rely on my own protection. After all, as far as I knew, I was the only one to have received a threatening note; and it could have come from any of them.

I noticed that Claudia Armoff stayed well away from me; although I did notice her glance in my direction more than once.

At about half past midnight, as the big grand-father clock struck 12:33, Sir Ivor Status and his wife bid us goodnight and left for their room in the South Wing of the house.

I waited a few minutes more and slipped out without anyone noticing me and went to my room in the North Wing. I planned to stay wide awake, fire poker in hand, ready to fight all and sundry in defence of my life, honour and whatever else people fight for these days.

Being on guard duty must be very tiring because I soon dosed off.

At about twenty-two minutes past one o'clock, or 01:22 for those of you with digital clocks, there was a knock at the door.

I opened it slowly and carefully.

It was Claudia wearing a sheer see-through light pink negligent. (That's a négligée made in Britain).

She could of course have been wearing heavy cotton pyjamas, a knitted pull-over on top and a thick woollen overcoat. But that would have been inappropriate.

Now before you accuse me of all sorts of bad things, let me explain.

For those of you who are movie aficionados, you will have noticed that in murder mystery and horror films, the heroine is always young, beautiful and vulnerable. When she hears a noise in the middle of the night, she always gets out of bed wearing the flimsiest revealing underwear, regardless of the time of year and how cold it is. This somehow adds to the suspense of the story as well as providing a touch of excitement for the viewer. That's why Claudia, in this story,  just had to visit my room in her pink negligent. If it was Lady Eva Status-Too she would have been wearing a suit of armour to bed!

Another film stereotype scenario is that in bedroom scenes it is important to have a special L-shaped sheet that reaches the armpit level of the woman, but only the waist level of the man lying beside her. Apparently, watching male nipples is very suggestive in such scenes.

In similar manner, in most movies, after the hero has fought his way through hordes of baddies trying to kill him, he always ends up with just a scratch for a wound, and he always winces when the heroine tries to clean his wound. That is why I too winced a few times earlier on when Claudia tendered to my wounds after my fight with the wash basin.

Anyway ... to continue my story after your interruption. Claudia entered my room and said, "I have come to spend the night with you!"

"What?" I thought but did not speak.

"You know ..." she explained, "Sir Ivor suggested we all pair up for safety. So I've come to stay with you!"

"But ... but ..." I stammered, "this is not appropriate. I thought we were going to search Carro's room!"

"We are ..." she said, "but not in a suit and tie as you seem to be wearing. We should go in our PJs, so that if we are seen people would think nothing of it."

"You are not suggesting I change into my pyjamas?" I replied with a degree of incredulity.

"Either that, or we don't go to Carro's room. Now get changed," she commanded.

I got changed into a new set of pyjamas; not the pink ones, these ones were cerise coloured with teddy bears motifs throughout.

"Take off your shoes," she said, "you don't go to bed with your shoes on, do you? We'll go bare feet; it's more authentic."

I had to obey if we were to search for clues on Carro's disappearance in his room.

We tip-toed out of my room and along the long corridor leading to the grand staircase dividing the North Wing from the South Wing. We crossed over to the South Wing of this stately mansion into another long corridor identical to the one in the North Wing.

"This is Lady Eva's room," Claudia said as we passed a door on our left, "she sleeps like a log and will not hear anything. She also wears ear-muffs and blindfolds in bed!"

I nodded and said nothing. I was self-conscious of what the two of us were wearing at the time.

"This is my brother's room," she said pointing at Sir Ivor's door, "he is a light sleeper so we must be careful we make no noise!"

I nodded again as my stomach made a gurgling noise out of nervousness.

"Shhhh ..." she whispered as if to a horse, "keep quiet!"

"And this is where Hair-Cool Carro was staying," she said.

She opened the door slowly as it creaked whilst doing so. My stomach echoed with another gurgling sound.

"What's the matter with you?" she said, "can't you keep quiet?"

"It's that ... I have never done anything like this before," I muttered nervously.

"Exciting, isn't it?" she said enthusiastically, "it's like playing hide and seek when you are grown up!"

I said nothing and wished I had not initiated this venture. When I suggested searching Carro's room, little did I know that we would be doing it in our night clothes and bare feet.

"First, let us search for any clues that may have been left," she said bending down on all fours and looking underneath the bed. "When I was young, and played hide-and seek with Ivor, I used to hide under this bed," she said, "he never used to find me!"

She got up and started opening the drawers one by one to see if there was anything worth investigating. I felt a little guilty searching a man's belongings; but thankfully, Carro had not un-packed one thing; which in itself was rather a clue, I suppose. All the drawers contained things that the household usually placed there for their guests; like towels, extra bed sheets and blankets, toiletries and the like.

"Look in the wardrobe!" she said.

I hesitated and opened the cupboard. There was nothing except coat-hangers left there for the guests to use.

"This is Carro's suitcase," Claudia said, "shall we open it?"

"No ..." I replied firmly, "this is personal. We are hardly going to find a priest's hole in there!"

"Perhaps you're right," she said, "let's look for a priest's hole behind these panelled walls. I suggest I start from here, and you from there, and tap each panel gently to see if there's a difference in sound. A hollow sound means there's an aperture behind the wooden panel!"

I nodded and went to the far end of the room and started tapping each panel quietly and check for differences in sound.

Now let me advise you, in case you ever find yourself in such a situation of tapping panelled walls in the middle of the night with a woman in night clothes. Never ever do it in bare feet. You can do it wearing anything you want, or entirely naked if you wish, but never ever tap wooden panels in bare feet.

As I did so I stepped on a backgammon disc and the pain shot right up my leg and through my body. I think these discs, like Lego bricks, are relics of instruments of torture from the Spanish inquisition.

I picked up my hurt foot and started dancing up and down on one leg, until I collapsed backwards on the bed. Claudia came to my rescue as she sat beside me.

At this point, the door flung open, the lights went on, and Sir Ivor said, "What in Heaven's name is going on here? I thought we had an intruder at best, or at worst we had been invaded by giant mice!"

Before I could say anything, Claudia spoke first, "We thought we'd spend the night here," she said, "the bed here is much larger than the ones in our rooms! You said we should pair up together!"

He looked at me, and then at her, and said, "All right; do it quietly. I need some sleep!" and he left shutting the door behind him.

Claudia looked at me and burst out laughing un-controllably.

"Can you imagine what they'll all make of this in the morning?" she asked.


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Murder most foul.










After Claudia left my room I sat down to think. I do most of my thinking sitting down. It is my favourite pastime; sitting down. A hobby, one would say.

She is not a bad person, I thought. Albeit she is part of this upper-class titled family with ancient history and a family crest, she is a very down-to-earth type of person. Always cheerful, and with a certain joie-de-vivre, she is equally at home with high society and with the common man. I remembered that at last evening's dinner in the grand dining room, whilst everyone was in formal dress, the men in suits and the ladies in beautiful evening dresses, Claudia turned up in a T-shirt, short mini skirt and knee-length boots. Lady Eva's discomfort was a joy to see. Even Sir Ivor, puffed an air of despair as he stubbed out his cigar before sitting down at the top of the table.

Sure enough, Claudia knows all the airs and graces at formal gatherings, and she can be an upper-class lady when needs arises, yet she prefers to be more natural and take life as it comes rather than act a role cast upon her by birth and up-bringing.

Earlier on, whilst we were by the boat house, she showed me a tree she used to climb when she was a child living at Status Manor. And to prove that she can still do it she attempted to climb half-way up that tree despite wearing a skirt and boots at the time. I can't somehow imagine Lady Eva or Varicose Vain doing that.

I smiled as I realised that perhaps I was beginning to like Claudia; but yet ... but yet ... I still harboured some doubts about her. This could all be an act, I thought. She, and all the others, are still on my suspects' list as far as Carro's and Maple's disappearances are concerned.

I pulled out of my pocket the note I had received earlier. 

"STOP PLAYING DETECTIVE - DETECTIVES DISAPPEAR !!!" it read in capital letters. It reminded me that someone had threatened me and that I was in danger. Perhaps I should confront Sir Ivor with it. Tell him that I came here as a guest to write his memoirs not to be killed for someone's pleasure.

I am too young to die. I will be too young tomorrow also. There are many things in life I have yet to accomplish. Like meeting Hamish Whittaker or growing a prize marrow. Hamish lives a few houses away in our village and I have often wished to have a cup of tea and a hamburger sandwich with him. But he is a recluse and speaks to no one. He also always wins first prize every year at the local horticultural show for growing the biggest marrow in the village. He never turns up; but sends his marrow on a wheelbarrow pushed by his wife Wilhelmina.  The only person to have ever seen him for the past ten years. There were even rumours at some time that Hamish and Wilhelmina are the same person. He, or she, is Hamish inside the house, and Wilhelmina when in public.

A loud knock at the door startled me out of my reverie. I put the note in my pocket. I grabbed the fire poker from the fireplace and opened the door. It was Varicose Vain.

"May I come in?" she asked, looking behind her to ensure she was not being followed.

She slid past me and entered the room before I could answer. What is it with these people entering my room without invitation as if they owned the place?

"I have to speak to you on a matter of utmost importance," she said with trepidation in her voice. Just as well, I thought. If trepidation was anywhere else we'd have some trouble on our hands.

I nodded silently.

"I just overheard the butler, Hugo Snob, saying to the cook, Etan Roadkill ... in the kitchen it was. I was going to the kitchen to ask someone for a cup of Darjeeling tea to calm my nerves. I am partial to Darjeeling. Better than Earl Grey don't you think? Not that I don't have Earl Grey at the appropriate time, of course ..."

"Varicose ..." I interrupted, "what is it you overheard the butler say?"

"Oh dear ..." she said with tears in her eyes, "I can hardly believe it ..." and she burst out crying. 

"Here ... sit down," I said trying to calm her down, "let me get you a glass of water!"

After she sipped a drop or two of water and had calmed down a bit she muttered, "I heard the butler say to the cook that the hearse will arrive as soon as the bridge was fixed. The flood cut us off the mainland; and in the meantime we should keep the body in the freezer!" and she burst out crying again.

(Now normally if this was a play on TV there would be a break here for the adverts, and for you to make a hot drink. But since this is the written word, you'd better sit tight and continue reading. I am as keen as you to find out what happens next).

"OK ... calm down Varicose," I said trying to soothe her, "remember, you are an actress of high-renown and you must not let on that you know anything about this. Act calmly as if nothing has happened. Play the role of a cool, calm and collected person that is not ruffled by anything around her. As you enter a room, just own the place in your mind. Be what you perhaps don't feel you are. That's what acting is all about; and you're good at it? Are you not?"

She smiled as she wiped a sniffle off her nose.

"Now," I continued, "you haven't told anyone else about this?"

She shook her head.

"Good," I went on, "tell no one else. Try to block it out of your mind and act as you have never acted before. Give them an Oscar winning performance. Cool, calm and collected. OK? And vigilant ... don't forget to be vigilant."

She nodded with a smile and left my room.

Now that's the second person to mention Etan Roadkill, I thought. Walter Dumnote had warned me of him moments earlier when he was here.

The situation is getting serious. Not only have we a threatening note aimed at me; but also a body in the freezer. Whose body? She said body not bodies. Did she hear it properly or is there only one person dead? Who, I wonder.

There was yet another knock at the door.

I picked up the fire poker again and opened the door. It was Etan Roadkill, the cook, still carrying a knife in his hand. My heart stopped beating for a moment or two. My brain told me to shout, "En garde!" and got ready for a sword fight - knife versus fire poker!

"Cum in ..." he said as he entered the room.

What's going on here? I thought. My bedroom has turned into a railway station with everyone coming and going as if they owned the place. Still gripping the fire poker and ready for action and prepared to fight this intruder.

He placed the knife on the side table, wiped his hands on the apron round his waist and said, "nought fault o'mine e' reddy deed e be!"

"What ... are ... you ... saying?" I said slowly hoping that he will repeat in a language we all understand.

"'E reddy deed e be!" he repeated.

"Yes, of course," I replied nervously, "I had a bee in the shower too. I thought it was a wasp, but Claudia told me it was a bee. I can't tell the difference ... haha ... you know what it's like? You've seen one stinger you've seen them all. Claudia said they get in her room when she showers too! I was really afraid it would sting me where I would rather not ... haha ... if you see what I mean?"

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Stupid!" and stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him, leaving the knife on the side table.

Well, at least I understood his last word.

I wanted to clear my head before our evening meal in the dining room. So I went out in the gardens for a little walk alone. It was a pleasant evening, a little fresh for this time of year but at least it was not raining. I left the house by the front door and walked towards the landscaped gardens which many stately homes take pride in. Apparently, these ones had been designed some centuries ago by some famous garden landscape designer - forgot his name.

As I walked by the high well trimmed hedge, hiding the flower gardens behind it, I heard murmurs a few feet ahead and obviously out of my view. I thought nothing of it and continued walking ahead when I heard Claudia say, "Yes ... I like him, Ivor. And for the last time ... nothing happened in the mausoleum; not that it is any business of yours!"

I stopped dead. Not literally dead of course, otherwise I would not be able to recount this story. Let's say I stopped straight away and did not know what to do.

Make my presence known - that's stupid.

Run away - that's stupid too, in case I tripped or was heard escaping.

Stay still and wait - perhaps.

As I was assessing my options I saw Claudia run away towards the house; followed by Sir Ivor in a more sedate but brisk walk.

"Were they talking about me?" I asked, but got no answer as there was no one else there to answer.

That evening, after our meal together in the dining room, Sir Ivor Status addressed us all:

"Look folks ... the situation is rather serious. We have searched everywhere and there is no sign of either Hair-Cool Carro or poor Miss Maple Syrup. They seem to have vanished into thin air. The bridge over the river, our only link with the mainland has been swept away in the flood and the phone lines are down. We have no way of contacting the police or anyone else.

"I don't want to alarm you, but I think it would be a good idea if from now on no one is ever alone in the house or the grounds around it. I don't know how long we'll be here until we make contact with the rest of the world; but I advise that from now on we pair up and stay close to each other as a pair. This includes sleeping arrangements. I'll be with my wife, of course. The rest of you decide for yourselves. You can sleep in your rooms, the library or wherever you want. You have the run of the house. Just keep an eye on each other. See you in the morning. Good night!"


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The Priest's Hole









As I finished getting dressed there was a knock at my door. I opened it and it was Walter Dumnote. 

"Can I come in?" he said looking behind him left and right to ensure he was not seen, then he pushed his way into my room, "shut the door!" he whispered.

For some unknown reason I obeyed. 

"I did not want anyone to see me visiting you," he said, "I am getting really frightened as to what's going to happen to us. We'll all be killed unless we do something!"

"I'm sure you're worrying unduly," I replied to calm him down.

"Oh my word ..." he cried, "look at your eye. It is all black and blue. Did Claudia do that? I heard there's been an altercation between you two in the mausoleum. What happened?"

"Nothing happened," I said trying to quash any rumours, "I just fell, that's all. Please don't spread any stories about this!"

"Mom's the word ..." he whispered, "I am the soul of discretion. I came to see you to discuss a possible plan of escape. We seem to be trapped in this house and on this island. Two people have already disappeared and who knows who'll be next. I don't trust anyone; they could all be murderers; except you that is! I trust you."

"Calm down, man," I urged him, "you have known Sir Ivor and his family longer than me. Do you think any of them could be murderers?"

"No ... not really," he said after a moment's thought, "but I don't like the cook, Etan Roadkill. His clothes are always covered in blood. Even his name is sinister! Do you think he'll poison us?"

"I don't think anyone is going to poison or kill anyone," I said reassuringly, even though I did not believe it myself, "just be calm, cool and collected and above all vigilant. I'm sure there's a perfect explanation to Carro's and Maple's disappearance!"

"Let me see if I remember ..." he mumbled, " cool ... calm ... collected and vigilant! I got it. You're a good egg old boy. When we're out of here ... if we're out of here ever ... we should meet in London. Play a round of golf perhaps!"

"I stopped playing golf," I interrupted, " every time I play golf I get struck by lightning. So I stopped!"

(Why do I always say stupid things when I am under stress?)

He raised his eyebrows in surprise and dropped his monocle once again.

"Have you ever thought of using some glue to stick this monocle to your eye?" I asked stupidly, "or perhaps use a rope or a chain to attach it round your neck?"

He said nothing as he put the monocle back on his eye and left mumbling, "what was it? cool ... calm and ..."

Moments later a piece of paper was pushed under my door. I got to the door and picked it up, it read, "STOP PLAYING DETECTIVE - DETECTIVES DISAPPEAR !!!"

My blood ran cold. I read the message twice more and then opened the door. Obviously by that time there was no body there.

Had Walter Dumnote wrote this threat? Anyone else? They are all suspects in my mind. I read the note once more hoping for any clues or perhaps hoping it was something else, a shopping list maybe, a telephone number or some amorous note saying 'come up and see me sometime' or something else other than a threat. But it was a clear threat all right. A warning. I put it in my pocket where the missing backgammon disc also was.

There followed another loud knock at the door. I jumped so high that my head hit the ceiling. Do I open the door or not? Another knock ... I opened.

It was Claudia Armoff. She slid past me before I could say a word.

"I came to check you're all right!" she said, "Good Heavens ... what's happened to your eye? Have you been in a fight?"

"No ... I just fell, that's all!" I mumbled still in shock.

"How did it happen?" she asked.

"I slipped in the bathroom ... nothing really," I mumbled again.

"They will all think it happened in the mausoleum," she said, "they'll think we've been fighting. We were seen running back towards the house! They were all still in the library searching for a secret turnstile bookcase when they saw me chase you into the house!!!"

I instinctively touched the bruise underneath my eye and said nothing.

"I know what ..." she said, " come to my room next door. I'll put some mascara on it and it will hide the bruise. Some foundation blusher and general make-up. That should do it!"

"No that's OK, I'd rather not go to your room!" I said.

"Oh ... you're such a wimp ... I'll go and get my make-up kit. Let me in when I knock," she said as she left.

Moments later she was back.

"Now sit on this chair and push your head back so I can see ..." she said, "it looks worse than it is. We'll soon have you fixed. How did it happen really?"

"I was in the shower and a wasp came into the cubicle with me. As I rushed out I slipped and hit the wash basin," I confessed.

She laughed.

"Oddly enough, I too had a bee in the shower with me a few minutes ago," she laughed, "bees always come in when I shower. They're all over the place. The lavender attracts them!

"It was probably a bee that entered through your window. Do you know the difference between a wasp and a bee?" she asked.

I shook my head.

"Don't move your head," she said as she continued working, "a bee can only sting you once because its stinger, its tail, becomes stuck in your skin and it dies. A wasp can sting you more than once during an attack because its tail remains intact. This means a bee is less likely to sting you unless in self defence! That's why I let them come in and don't fuss so much," she laughed again.

"I did not stop to ask it whether it was a bee or a wasp," I said gritting my teeth.

"Most probably a bee. We used to have many beehives years ago. We even collected and sold honey at one stage. My brother was very keen to make a business of it. He planted many flowers that attract them! Especially lavender," she said. "If it was a wasp it would most probably have attacked you more than once, especially if provoked with hot water, as you did!" 
I flinched at the thought of being at the mercy of such vicious attacks from a monster whilst so vulnerable and naked in the shower.
"Keep your head still," she said, "I can't do this properly if you move."
"You mentioned your room is next door," I asked changing the subject.

"Yes it is," she replied, "and Walter Dumnote is also next door to you on the other side. All the guests are in the North Wing. Except Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup. They were in the South Wing, next to Sir Ivor Status and Lady Eva's rooms."

My mind tried hard to focus under the pain of the bruise each time she touched it. 

So she knew that this was my room when she came knocking last night. Why are all the guests here, except for Carro and Miss Maple in the South Wing? What is the difference between a wasp and a bee? Do bees like lavender? How does a bee know that if it stings its tail would fall off? Did its parents tell it so? Is there a secret turnstile bookcase in the library?

"What are you thinking?" she asked, "I can see the cogs in your brain whirling."

"Is there a secret turnstile bookcase in the library?" I repeated my thoughts.

"There's probably a priest's hole, somewhere in the house," she answered casually.      

"A priest's hole? What's that?" I asked.

"Most ancient stately homes have them. This place is centuries old," she explained, "A priest's hole is a hiding place behind the wood panelling in the walls where the Catholics in ancient times in England used to hide a visiting priest to stop him being arrested and killed. In those days Catholics were persecuted in England and soldiers used to enter stately homes like this one and search for any priests who visited to celebrate Mass, or say prayers, or look after the sick and dying!"

"How awful ..." I said, "Is the library the only room with wooden panels on the walls?"

"No ... all the downstairs rooms have wooden panels on the walls; like the dining room you'll remember, and the ballroom and other rooms," she said, "Oh ... and upstairs .... there are wooden panels on the walls of Carro's room and Miss Maple's room, and also Sir and Lady Status rooms."

My mind started thinking again.

"Voila!" she said, "I've finished and you cannot see the bruise at all."

"Thank you," I said, looking at the mirror. Somehow, I began to trust her a little.

"Claudia," I said, "I'd like to search Carro's and Miss Maple's rooms!"

"Sure," she said with a smile, "we'll go tonight when they have all gone to sleep."


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! That famous shower scene.








As I got to my room I was cursing and swearing under my breath. I wished I had never been to this place nor agreed to take the assignment of writing Sir Ivor Status' memoirs.

In the last hour or so I had to endure the company of a light-headed woman, who, albeit pleasant and nice to be with, is still on my list of suspects regarding the disappearance of Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup. She never quite explained why she had come to my room the previous night looking for Carro. Was it a genuine mistake of getting the room wrong? Or was there an ulterior motive to her visit? Am I next to disappear mysteriously?

To cap it all, I also had to walk for miles round these interminable gardens. I had an owl pooping all over me. Endured the humiliation of relieving myself behind a tree; something I have never done before. I was dragged unwillingly to visit that place of death and to put the icing on the cake I got my trousers torn to shreds and my dignity exposed to the laughter of my companion. No doubt the story will now spread and embellished and they will all enjoy their moment of hilarity at my expense.

What else can go wrong?

I decided to cool off by having a long shower. It is amazing how the sound and feeling of running water has a soothing effect on one's body and mind.

I stood there for a while thinking ... this situation is not only serious but potentially dangerous for all of us. Whoever is involved in the murder, or abduction, of Carro and Miss Maple could easily strike again to avoid being discovered.

The only person I know for sure who is not involved in this disappearance is me. If I were to start doubting myself then we might as well give up now. So let's eliminate me from the list of suspects and consider what motives any of the others might have to harm Carro and Maple.

Sir Ivor Status, our host, for instance. A generous and wealthy titled man who invited us all here for the weekend. Why? I asked myself. I know I was invited to discuss writing his memoirs. But why the others? What reason have they to be here? And why invite Carro and Maple in particular? Two busy-bodies who have in the past, by cheer luck or design, solved many a murder case. Did Sir Ivor suspect that foul play might take place this weekend? Or was he indeed involved in the two sleuths' disappearance? Perhaps they discovered something sinister about his past and he had to silence them before they made it public. So I guess he is a suspect after all.

Then there's Lady Eva Status-Too. What I have discovered so far is that she is having a secret affair with the impresario Walter Dumnote. Could it be that Carro and Maple found out and became a threat? A public divorce in high society would not only ruin her reputation but would leave her penniless. Her husband would employ the best of lawyers to make sure of that. And what about the letter she received which left her crying? Admittedly, it was written on an onion; but what was written there, I asked myself. And received no answer as I was alone in the shower ... Unless ... unless ... unless there are hidden cameras everywhere watching me, and listening to what I am saying. I'd better talk to myself more quietly.

Next on my list of suspects is Sir Ivor's sister, or step-sister Claudia Armoff. What does step-sister mean exactly? If she was related to me I'd take large steps away from her. Is she related to Sir Ivor through the same father or mother? Does it matter? Is she in a relationship with anyone in particular? We know she appeared to fancy Hair-Cool; or was she pretending? She allegedly went to his room that night; albeit she actually came to mine. Why? Was she after Hair-Cool or does she really like me? She lied about visiting me when questioned and said she went straight to her room. She has been paired with me in the search for the missing people. Is that by accident or design? Is Sir Ivor behind it? Is she really a lion whisperer? After all, her so-called tutor was killed by a deaf lion who did not like being whispered to. Does she really have a lion rampant tattoo somewhere private on her body? I dwelled on this last question for a while and then shook my head once or twice and moved on.

Then there's the actress Varicose Vain. We know she is having an affair with Sir Ivor; so her motive of getting rid of Carro and Maple is the fear of being found out; assuming of course that the hapless detectives did find out about the affair. It is no secret, however, that she does not like Claudia Armoff and the two consider themselves rivals in the beauty stakes. Could that somehow be a reason to dispose of Carro and Maple?

Let us not forget Walter Dumnote. On first consideration one would think he is the main suspect. Or is it possible he is being framed by someone else? Is he really as dumb as he makes out? We know he is having an affair with Lady Eva Status-Too and that she visited his piano room many a time whilst in London. Did he perhaps strike the wrong note at one of these clandestine meetings? There was a rumour in the papers some while back that he was having money problems. Is this elephant ... sorry ... relevant to the investigation? We also know that the lost backgammon disc was found on his left eye mistakenly used as a monocle. Is this another elephant ... relevant ... matter to consider? And then ... when Claudia and I went to the boat house there was a backgammon set with a disc missing. This disc was later found by me in the mausoleum. Is this elephant or not? There seems to be an elephant in the room that we are all missing here. Luckily, he is not in the shower with me!

Also to be considered as suspects are the staff. Hugo Snob, the butler. He is top suspect in my book because in murder mystery stories in stately homes such as this it is always the butler and there is always a turnstile bookcase in the library leading to a secret passage somewhere. We haven't found the turnstile bookcase but we have found the butler. Is he really a butler? What if he is a distant cousin of someone eager to get his inheritance? This often happens in such stories.

The housekeeper Matilda Curtsy is also a suspect because she is in love with the butler; so she must be involved somehow.

Also the maid Sheila Flirt; she is having an affair with the three-timing Sir Ivor. She is in love with the chauffeur Otter Gas and has not yet twigged that he is gay.

Otter Gas in turn likes the gardener Earnest Deadwood who likes no one and hates everybody. Whilst the cook Etan Roadkill is always covered in blood and no one can understand him.

At this point in my mental investigations I noticed a buzzing sound in the shower with me. Is this a camera lens whirring? Or the camera itself focusing on my private thoughts and panning and tilting to see better?

No ... It was none of these. I turned round and saw the largest and meanest and hugest wasp I ever did see. It was there at the other end of the glass compartment of the shower cubicle; just by the exit, and it was threatening me by buzzing loudly and flying left and right, up and down, getting ready to strike.

My first instinct was to protect my dignity. That's the last place I want to have stung.  Who would give me first aid? I automatically backed off a little and got my bottom burnt on the hot water pipe behind me.

I picked up the shower head from its holster, turned on the water to really hot, and aimed it at the wasp. It did not like it one bit and came straight towards me. I backed off again with similar results. I sprayed the monster once more and it fell to the ground like a stone.

I dropped the shower head still turned on, there was hot scalding water splashing everywhere. I rushed forwards despite the risk of being boiled alive and ran towards the exit and got out of the cubicle.

In doing so, I slipped and fell head forwards, hitting my face on the wash basin nearby.

I must have passed out for a second or two.

When I woke up from my daze the wasp had disappeared and there was hot water and steam every where. I turned the shower off.

Looked in the mirror and saw a large black and blue bruise just below my eye where it caught the wash basin as I fell.

Can anything else go wrong?


Friday, 25 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The Mausoleum Strikes Back.







We arrived at the mausoleum which was about twenty minutes walk through the gardens from the boat house. It was an imposing circular stone building standing proud over a hill. The outside had large statues of angels all around with a naked cherub standing by the entrance.

Personally, I have never understood the need to have what amounts to a burial plot in one's garden; which a lot of stately homes seem to have. It must have cost a fortune to build such a big mausoleum with all the statues outside only to contain the remains of dead relatives inside. But to each his own, I suppose.

Like the boat house, the imposing big wooden door of the mausoleum was open. It creaked ominously as we pushed it and got in. I had a frisson down my back as we entered what was in fact a tomb. But since we were not in France, let's call it a shiver running down my back and up again a few times.

As my eyes adjusted to the relative darkness inside the big hall I saw several stone busts of various people all around me. 

"This is uncle Herodicus," said Claudia Armoff pointing at one of the busts, "he died over three hundred years ago. He wanted to be a brain surgeon, but he was very short, so he specialised in knee surgery instead!"

"And this one is Grand-papa Ebenezer," she said pointing at another marble bust, "he was an undertaker; and very popular too. People were dying to meet him. He always signed his letters 'eventually at your service' ".

"And this one over here is my great-uncle Bartholomew," she continued, "he was a taxidermist. He died accidentally when a snake he was preparing to stuff bit him in the hand."

I said nothing and thought it prudent to let her talk about her family. She was obviously proud of them.

"And over here we have a distant cousin, the Reverend Jehoshaphat. He was a preacher and well respected pastor of the Parish near here. He was very strict and often preached against drinking, and gambling and having sexual relationships outside of marriage," she said with a twinkle in her eyes as she looked at me. "One day news came to him that an old parishioner of his, a man in his eighties, had inherited a large sum of money from a relative who was a professional gambler. The lawyer handling the affairs of the deceased was concerned that if he broke the news to the octogenarian the shock might kill him. So the lawyer asked Reverend Jehoshaphat to break the news gently to the old man; seeing that he knew him well. At first the Reverend did not want to have anything to do with it; since the money originated from gambling and was therefore tainted. But the lawyer convinced him to go and see the old parishioner at his home.

"Jehoshaphat met the old parishioner by his bedside. The man was very old and frail. The Reverend broached the subject carefully and asked the man what would happen if good fortune came his way. Say he suddenly got a lot of money for instance.

"The old man thought for a while and then said, 'I am very old Reverend. And not in good health either. I have lived a happy life and need nothing more. If I were to have a lot of money, as you say, I think I would give it all to you!'

"The shock of hearing this news killed the Reverend there and then!"       

After a moment or two of silence whilst I digested the irony of this tale she said, "It's funny isn't it how we always say nice things about people who have died. No one ever speaks badly of the dead. It seems hypocritical. If a person was bad all his life, and now he is dead, the only difference is that he is now a dead bad person!

"When you are dead and lying there in your coffin and people come to pay their last respects; what would you like them to say about you?" she asked.

"I'd like them to say, 'I have seen him move!' " I replied calmly.

"Let's go down in the vaults," she said, "it will be fun down there!"

"Do we have to?" I said with some trepidation, "Carro and Miss Maple are hardly going to be there!"

"Are you a scaredy cat?" she asked, "too frightened are we?"

"Of course not," I protested, "I just don't see the point. We should concentrate on looking for the two missing people who may well need our help right now!"

"All right, you go looking for them," Claudia replied, "I am going down into the vaults and if anything happens to me you will be responsible for not protecting me."

Why is it that some women have the power to make you do things against your better judgement? They say that a woman always gets what she wants in life because men are too weak to resist them.

Anyway, I stupidly agreed to go down the vaults with her. She opened the heavy wooden door which creaked as it did so; the same way as the mausoleum door did when we came in. Someone must oil these hinges; I thought to myself.

She lit a candle which she gave to me, and then lit another for herself and made her way down the narrow staircase. I followed her gingerly into the dank humid smelling underground chamber. There were cobwebs everywhere which she burnt by moving her candle towards them as she walked down the stairs. When we reached the vault and my eyes accustomed to the darkness all we could see is a lot of slots in the walls crudely bricked over after use.

"Behind each of these there is a coffin," she said, "I have never been here. Isn't it exciting?"

"It's not exactly the word I would have used," I said, noticing that one of the compartments had some bricks missing and you could clearly see some bones there.

"It would be fun having a party here, don't you think?" she said.

I did not reply.

"Oh ... you are scared," she said teasing me, "all right, let's get out of here."

We climbed up the stairs to the upper chamber and closed the door behind us. As we blew out the candles, it was then that I noticed something on the ground. It was the missing disc from the backgammon set.

"This is the disc from the game set," I told her as I bent down to pick it up.

As I got up I heard a massive R I I I I I I P sound. And it had nothing to do with the RIP for Rest In Peace.

There was a protruding piece of metal from the wall which had somehow got caught into my trouser pocket when I bent down. As I got up it ripped the whole of my trouser leg at the side.

To my great annoyance Claudia burst out into hysterics of laughter. She just could not contain herself. She was laughing so much that tears ran down her face. This solemn place of eternal rest and sorrow had never witnessed so much fun; albeit from just one person.

I tried my best to hold on to my shredded trousers whilst she bent down almost double holding her stomach in fits of laughter. Why do some women laugh so much at little things?

When she'd calmed down I suggested we leave quickly to the house where I could get changed. She closed the mausoleum door and we ran as fast as we could to the house. Me running faster first, and she following me in fits of laughter.

I dreaded meeting anyone on the way; but as bad luck would have it, as soon as I entered the house I ran into Sir Ivor Status.

He looked at me, then at his sister in howls of laughter and said, "What have you been doing to him Claudia? Behave yourself woman! You're incorrigible."


Thursday, 24 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Unexpected Attack.






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!"


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The search begins.





As everyone got into their pairs as allocated by Sir Ivor a thought struck my mind. Just as well it didn't strike me anywhere else.

"One moment please," I said, "or ... as Monsieur Carro would say ... un moment s'il vous plaît!"

"What now?" growled Sir Ivor Status.

"A few moments ago you all came to my room thinking it was Hair-Cool Carro's room. Am I correct?"

They all nodded in silence.

"But, beforehand, you all knew that Monsieur Carro was already missing from his room which is in the opposite side of the house. Correct?"

They all nodded again.

"So why did you come looking for him in my room?" I asked with determination and a modicum of aplomb.

"To be honest, old boy ..." hesitated Sir Ivor, "it is because we all felt you had something to do with his disappearance, and the disappearance of Miss Maple Syrup."

"Yes ..." re-affirmed Etan Roadkill, the cook, with his clothes still covered in blood, " 'till tink yo moor dar 'em . Yo feet sure tells eet all!"

"You really should come with subtitles," I said, "I still don't understand what you say but I got the gist of your accusations!"

"No one is accusing any one ... yet," declared Sir Ivor, "both Carro and Maple Syrup were last seen in the library last night before we all retired to bed. You young fellow, (pointing at me), left first. I was rather exhausted and went to our room with my lady wife Eva. So, who was next to leave the library and when?"

"The staff were all in their quarters by 11 pm, Sir," declared Hugo Snob the butler.

"I left just after midnight with Walter Dumnote. We walked together to our rooms, didn't we?" Varicose Vain asked Walter who nodded in agreement.

"That leaves my sister Claudia still in the library with Carro and Miss Maple!" said Sir Ivor.

"Yes ... I left a few minutes later and stayed in my room all night!" confessed Claudia Armoff.

I knew she was lying, because at 12:37 pm (or is it am when it is past midnight - whatever!); at that time Claudia was knocking at my bedroom door hoping to be let in by Carro; having mistaken my room for his. I chose not to challenge her ... for now.

"Let's start our search in the library then," I said, "there may well be a turnstile bookcase there leading to a secret passage somewhere!" 

They all followed me to the library which was next door to the dining room where we were. Some chose to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Others picked books from the shelves and started reading them. Walter Dumnote was picking up each chair in turn and looking underneath them.

"What are you doing?" I asked, "they are hardly going to be hiding under the chairs!"

"I was checking whether they are Victorian or Georgian antiques," he said, "I saw a set just like them at the supermarket last week!"

"And why do you have a suppository in your ear?" I whispered so as not to embarrass him.

"Oh dear ..." he said, "I wonder where I put my hearing aid! I'd better go and check."

I decided to widen the search for the missing detective and Miss Maple. I left the library followed by Claudia Armoff who had been paired with me in the search team.

"Let's go to the boathouse by the lake," she said, "I used to play there when I was a kid living in this house. It will be fun, I assure you!"

I hesitated a bit, and asked her to lead the way. As we walked through the gardens on our way to the boathouse it occured to me that her skirt was really rather too short, as Varicose Vain had pointed out earlier.

I decided to concentrate on the matter in hand and I ventured to ask her, "You did not go to your room and stayed there all night, as you said. You came to my room and knocked at my door. Why did you lie?"

She smiled cheekily, "I wanted to show Monsieur Carro my tattoo. It is a lion rampant. It's somewhere very private and I might show it to you later!"

I waited until my mind took a few minutes to focus and then I asked, "A lion?"

"Yes," she replied, "I am a lion whisperer, remember?"

"How unusual," I said, "what made you become a lion tamer?"

"A lion whisperer," she repeated, "not a lion tamer. There's a great difference. A lion tamer uses a whip and a chair in a circus and makes the lions perform tricks. That's cruel. A lion whisperer is like a horse whisperer. We listen to the animal's feelings and get to know their individuality and needs!"

"I see," I mumbled, "how did you train to do this?"

"When I grew up I stopped living in this house and moved abroad. My brother, Sir Ivor, stayed here to manage the estate. In my travels I met a horse whisperer as it happens. He was older than me, in his sixties, and his ambition was to communicate with other animals. We went together to Africa and tried to use his horse whispering techniques with other animals. We started with goats, then cattle, and slowly progressed to elephants and giraffes. We had to use a ladder for them. The problem is that by the time my tutor got up the ladder the giraffe had moved away and the ladder fell to the ground with him on it. He broke several bones trying to whisper to giraffes. He then tried to whisper to zebras, but he got laryngitis and they could not hear him. You could say he was a little hoarse. This attracted a lot of hyenas who thought he was laughing at them. But he wasn't!"

"That's quite a story." I said to encourage her to continue.

"On one occasion we stayed in the jungle for a while amongst the indigenous people," she said, "one village had six male witches!"

"Warlocks ..."

"No, it's true, I tell you!" she convinced me.

"Did your friend ever manage to whisper to lions?" I asked.

"Oh no, he practiced a lot on dead ones before moving on to a live creature. It was deaf and killed him!" she said tearfully.

We continued walking through the gardens in silence until we reached the boathouse. It was not what I expected. I thought it would be a wooden shed by the lake where people moor their boat. This was a stone built feature secured by a door and with luxurious furniture inside.

She was surprised that the door was un-locked and open. We entered the boathouse which was empty.

There, by the beautiful leather sofa, next to the fireplace, was Monsieur Carro's walking stick. On the table was a backgammon set with a game which had already been started.

I quickly counted the white and black discs used in the game. One disc was missing.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! Vanished.




I got dressed as quickly as I could and went  downstairs to the dining room as instructed by Sir Ivor Status. Everyone was there, including the staff of this great stately home. With two notable exceptions. Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup were missing.

Sir Ivor spoke first.

"It seems that Monsieur Hair-Cool Carro and Miss Maple Syrup have vanished," he said.

"Vanished?" asked Claudia Armoff, "Oh poor Hair-Cool. Where is he do you think?"

"We do not know," replied Sir Ivor, "when our dear housekeeper, Matilda, went to wake him up, as he had asked the night before, she got no response when she knocked on the door. She knocked again and again. Eventually, she used the master key to unlock the door.

"Obviously, as propriety would have it, she closed her eyes as she entered the room in case she observed Monsieur Hair-Cool in a state of undress. Unfortunately she tripped over his suitcase and knocked herself out as she hit the floor. She remained there unconscious until the butler, Hugo Snob, went looking for her and found her on the ground. He tried to lift her and did his back in.

"This accounts for his difficulty in walking this morning, and for the bruise on Matilda's forehead!"

"What about Miss Maple Syrup?" asked Varicose Vain.

"That too is a sticky situation," said Sir Ivor, "Hugo and Matilda, holding on to each other, then knocked next door on Miss Maple's room. There was no answer. They used the master key to open the door. This time they kept their eyes wide open in case they both tripped over her luggage. But there was no luggage and no Miss Maple Syrup. She has vanished too."

"Has anyone phoned the police?" asked the music impresario Walter Dumnote.

"That's another problem," replied Sir Ivor, "none of the phones work. It seems the storm we had last night must have cut off the line."

"How about driving to town?" he asked, "I'll do it ..."

"No point in that," said Sir Ivor, "our chauffeur Otter Gas has already tried. The storm and subsequent flood have destroyed the bridge and the river has burst its banks. There is no way of leaving this island, not for now at least!"

At this point there should be some dramatic ominous music in the background. But there was no one to play the piano. 

"So ... so ... we are marooned in this house?" said Walter Dumnote dropping his monocle once again, "we're doomed. We are all going to die. One by one. I have read all about it in murder mystery books ... I don't want to die. Not today."

"Now there's no need for any talk like that," reprimanded Sir Ivor, "no one is going to die today. Or any other day for that matter!"

"We are all going to die, some day," said the actress Varicose Vain, "but not until I win an Oscar for 'The importance of being stupid'. It's had great reviews you know."

"Yes I'm sure it has. Especially with the great expose your low cut dresses reveal," retorted Claudia Armoff cattily.

"At least I don't wear such short skirts showing off my undies!" hissed the actress.

"I wouldn't either if I were called Varicose Vain," snapped Claudia.

"Ladies ... ladies ... let's calm down, shall we. We need to start a thorough search of the house and the surrounding gardens. Maybe the missing guests are still here," said Sir Ivor, then looking at me he added, "any ideas my friend?"

I stammered and asked, "Is there a turnstile bookcase in the library?"

"Whatever for?" he asked.

"There is always a turnstile bookcase in the library in houses like these," I said, "they build the bookcase first, then build the whole house around it. The bookcase hides a secret passage leading to a tunnel, leading to outside somehow. Sometimes it leads to an underground cave or dungeon where people have been imprisoned and tortured. Usually there is a panel in the library that unlocks the turnstile bookcase which turns round and you enter the passage behind it!"

"Well I've never heard of anything like this in this house," said Sir Ivor, "have you dear?" he asked his wife.

She shook her head silently.

At this point a man with his clothes covered in blood entered the room. He was carrying a long knife in his hand.

"Ah ... this is our cook," said Sir Ivor, "Etan Roadkill. I have asked him to join us to shed a little light on our mystery."

Etan looked at me, and assuming I was from the police, seeing he knew everyone else except me, said in a very un-understandable accent, "Ierd 'im vegerian I herd. Nowt eten tatoes nay ther. Eye no git scargo. Plenty toads in moat if e catchin em!"

"I did not understand a word you said," I replied, " you should come with subtitles!"

"Let me explain," helped Sir Ivor, "Etan said that he was told that Hair-Cool Carro is a vegetarian, and had refused to eat the potatoes roasted in goose fat. Had he known in advance, he would have caught a few snails which are a French delicacy, I understand, or indeed some frogs from the moat!"

"I see," I replied, "so where do we go from here?"

I suggest we split into groups of two and start the search," said Sir Ivor, "I will go with Varicose Vain, you dear wife go with Walter Dumnote, Sheila Flirt with Otter Gas, Hugo Snob with Matilda Curtsy, Earnest Deadwood with Etan Roadkill, and you my dear fellow, (pointing at me) with my sister Claudia."

Little did he know, or did he indeed know more than he was letting on, he divided the pairs of groups into people who had amorous intentions towards each other. Except, of course for me and Claudia, whose attentions were mostly towards the missing Hair-Cool.

Although ... ... ...  why was she knocking so keenly on my bedroom door the night before? Had she turned her attentions towards me? Having perhaps disposed of Hair-Cool who had spurned her amorous advances? Had she also got rid of Miss Maple Syrup who came to a sticky end because she witnessed the disappearance of Hair-Cool Carro?

Insert dramatic ominous music if there is a piano to hand.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Holy Trinity


Friday, 18 May 2018

Wot Oh Old Boy! The mystery deepens.



I got to my room in the North Wing of this stately mansion. The wind was howling outside and I could hear the shutters of a nearby window shaking as if they were to come off their hinges. It was raining heavily outside. Just a swell, I thought. I would hate it if it rained heavily inside. Especially since I did not bring my umbrella with me. Every so often one could hear the distant thunder followed by a flash of lightning brightening up the dark skies. This is because in these parts of the country sound travels faster than light.

(Read the last sentence again and think about this for a while whilst I get to my room).

The ominous atmosphere of the place reminded me of ghost stories one often hears about stately homes just like this one. They always start with a dark and stormy night with thunder and lightning. I must admit that I was more than a little frightened as I got up the stairs. My knees were knocking. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were knocking too. My goose pimples had goose pimples of their own. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and ready to escape at the nearest threat. Can't mention any other hairs right now because I was too eager to get to my room.

With trembling hands I turned the key in the lock and opened the door which creaked noisily as it revealed my room. I switched on the lights and got in quickly shutting the door behind me. Someone had already brought my suitcase and left it by my bed.

I can't explain why I felt that way. Suddenly, as I came up the stairs I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. The loss of the backgammon disc was only a start.

I quickly got changed and hid under the covers in my bed. Like the rest of the house this room was luxuriously appointed. The furniture looked genuinely antique and must have cost a fortune. The bed, the side table, the dressing table with its huge art deco mirror, the bedside light, everything here had been well chosen to match each other and was certainly of great value. 

On the wall there was a large original oil painting of some knight in medieval armour with his visor up and his eyes staring at me menacingly. It reminded me of those paintings you see in spooky films where there is someone hiding behind the wall and watching you through the eyes of the portrait. 

I wondered if there had been someone there watching me undress and putting on my pink pyjamas. The only reason I had pink pyjamas is because they were 10% cheaper than any others in the shop; and no one watching me through that painting should insinuate anything else.

It was now about thirty-seven minutes past midnight. As I tried to frighten myself to sleep there was a knock at my door. My heart stopped beating in my chest and dropped down to hide behind my stomach which was churning like a butter machine.

A voice from behind the door whispered loud enough for me to hear, "Hello Monsieur Carro ... Open up. It is me Claudia Armoff. I have something to show you!"

Obviously the amorous woman had designs on the hapless detective and had mistaken my room for his. I pretended to be asleep and did not respond.

She knocked again, "Please open the door Hair-Cool. You will not regret it."

I got out of bed, stood behind the door and pretended to snore very loudly so she would go away. But to no avail. She continued knocking. For some unknown reason ... I do such odd things when I am in a panic ... I started singing "La Donna e Mobile" from Verdi's Opera Rigoletto. The more she knocked the louder I sang:

"La donna e mobile qual piuma al vento,
muta d'accento e di pensiero.
Sempre un amabile leggiadro viso,
in pianto o in riso, e menzognero.
La donna e mobil qual piuma al vento,
muta d'acc...ento e di pensier, e di pensier,
e... e di pensier."

Which roughly translated means, "woman is fickle, she changes her thoughts, words and voice, like a feather in the wind." 

Maybe it was my subconscious getting me to sing her this song. I don't know. But after a while Claudia Armoff must have got the message because she stopped knocking at my door and went away.

I went back to bed and tried to get some sleep. I must have been very tired because I fell asleep almost straightaway.

The following morning I was wakened suddenly by the loud noise of a commotion outside my room. People were knocking at my door and shouting, "Open up Hair-Cool ... Come out quick. There has been something serious happened and we need you to investigate ..."

I opened the door in my pyjamas.

(I know what you are thinking. Why did I have a door in my pyjamas? This joke has already been tried by Groucho Marx many years ago. It was good then. So let's not repeat it now).

I opened the door still wearing my pink pyjamas. They were all there to witness my night attire. Sir Ivor Status and his wife Eva, Varicose Vain, Claudia Armoff, Walter Dumnote, and even the staff Hugo Snob, Matilda Curtsy, Sheila Flirt, as well as the gardener Ernest Deadwood and the chauffeur Otter Gas.

"What are you doing in Hair-Cool Carro's room?" asked Sir Ivor, "by Jove man, what have you done with him?"

"I am not in his room, I am in my room ..." I stuttered confusingly.

"Has he spent the night here with you?" asked Walter Dumnote living up to his name.

"I am envious ..." said the gay chauffeur Otter Gas.

"Of course not," I protested holding tight to my pyjama trousers, "I spent the night alone. I always do. Ask my wife."

"Is she here?" asked the butler Hugo Snob, "I was not aware she had been invited."

"She hasn't. I was saying that she can vouch for me that ... oh forget it. I have not seen Hair-Cool since last night in the library," I protested again getting a little angry.

"Why are you wearing pink pyjamas?" asked Lady Eva, "they suit you. Keeps you in touch with your feminine side!"

I did not answer. It was then that Sheila Flirt came to my rescue.

"Actually Sir," she told my host, "this is not Monsieur Carro's room. His room is in the South Wing. Next to Miss Maple Syrup's room!"

"My apologies old boy," said Sir Ivor, "we'll leave you to get dressed and we'll meet in the dining room in nineteen minutes. Jolly good. What?"

And with this, they all left.