SlotForum banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
G

·
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The Case of the Skewered Scrutineer

'I know slot car racing is dangerous- well, compared with pressing wild flowers and railway modelling it is, but this is ridiculous.' Inspector Thumb replaced his phone in its cradle and banged on the office wall to summon his faithful deputy Sergeant Argent. Moments later his naïve and quizzical face appeared round the door. 'Yes sir?' 'Another murder at West Hamley, Argent. What is it about that place? I sometimes feel as if I'm a fictional character in one of those ridiculous television detective dramas. Another week, another baffling murder mystery. Oh well. I guess we'd better go and clear things up again. There can't be that many people left in the club by now. Should make the list of suspects short, though.' His words were truer than he knew. The suspect list was very short.
Argent and Thumb got the full story, as far as it went, from Club Secretary Coxie Cooper-Archer. Three days ago, Millie Meetus had thrown Beavis Buthead out of scrutineering. The body fixing pins of his Bowater-Scott were projecting beyond the maximum permitted width and snagging on her measuring gate. Buthead tried to show her that they had merely shaken loose and could be pressed back in place within the width limit, but Millie insisted that at the time of scrutineering, the car was illegal, and therefore not eligible to run in the opening heat of the Absolut Co. Cup. Thirty-seven independent witnesses heard Buthead yell 'I'll get you for this, Meetus. You're a dead woman.' Two days later she was.
Coxie's wife, Lil Cooper-Archer had found the unfortunate woman's body in the Ladies lavatories. Dr. De'Ath, the police pathologist had not yet arrived, but Lil described the scene vividly to Inspector Thumb. 'She's sat down. As it were. But there's blood all over her blouse. Absolutely ruined it is. Nice sheer tulle, lavender colour. Neat button cuffs with embroidered seams. Tailored waist, very clingy, deep neck line. Saw one like it in the sales last week but Coxie said I couldn't afford it. What with the new Moxie-model Alfa-Romeo T33 due out next week and all…' 'Excuse me, Lil. You were saying about Millie?' Thumb tried to keep Lil to the point. 'Oh yes, Millie. Her blouse. Ruined. Big gash across her left… not looking too good herself though. Very pale. Such a lovely girl. Very popular with the lads here at the club. Not the best Scrutineer we ever had, not since that trouble with … but she was the same with everyone. No favouritism. If you transgress the rules as they is writ, you're out. That's why no one had much sympathy with Beavis. We've all had some borderline decisions from Millie, but we put up with it. Him flying off the handle like that, well, it brings the club into disrepute, don't it?' (So does eight violent deaths in four weeks, thought Thumb, but kept his mouth shut and his notebook open) 'But Beavis was keen on his chances in the Absolut Co. Cup. Nice to get sponsorship from a distillery, eh? Twelve cases of vodka up for the winning. Beavis had the fastest car in the club, y'know. Reckoned it was just a formality. Didn't count on spending the meeting as a corner marshall and having to pay for his own drinks at the end.'
'So. The unfortunate lady is in the, er, Ladies. I don't think we'd better venture in there, ought we, Argent? Or perhaps you'd like to pop in and take a look after Mrs Cooper-Archer has made sure there's no one else about. Could be embarrassing. Then we'd better leave it to Dr. De'Ath.' Thumb was hugely relieved that he didn't have to inspect the grisly remains himself. He'd just taken a large lunch, and rather wanted to keep it. Dead bodies were by no means his cup of tea. Let De'Ath deal with it- he'd better start interviewing the suspects. Or suspect.
Beavis Buthead was an intimidating interviewee. 'What's your problem, Thumb? Think ya got me? Yup. I said I'd kill her. Now she's dead. Got what she deserved. The Absolut Co. Cup should have been mine. Power-crazed bint she was. Scrutineers? Barstewards all of them. All they want to do is spoil a good race. But what are you going to do about it, eh Thumb?' He seemed to be challenging Thumb to arrest him right there and then. Odd. Thumb stepped back and thought the situation through. Buthead must have something up his sleeve apart from that hideously tattooed arm. He certainly didn't have much going on inside his grotesquely decorated head. But Thumb didn't have any evidence yet, and Buthead knew it. Thumb hadn't even seen the body, and wasn't in a hurry to, either. Was Buthead planning to do a runner? He couldn't afford to cuff him yet. He'd have to take a risk, at least until he'd got someone to take some evidence from the body for him. 'OK, OK. Buthead. I get the picture. You can go. But don't leave West Hamley. I'll be keeping an eye on you.' Well, P.C.World and P.C. Nandrilone would be doing that, actually. Thumb was heading back to New Scotland Yard to think.
In his usual way, Thumb wound down by taking in a few laps of the Yard track, taking the opportunity to bed in the gears of his new Barehog Coyote-Ford. No serious speed trials yet. Buthead was bothering him. The ugliest geezer in West Hamley. Never trust a man with a no.1 buzzcut and 'Die Now' tattooed on his forehead, he reflected. Or, perhaps, he should be taken at his word. He was probably too stupid to lie. Thumb was ticking off the laps mechanically when he realised he'd passed Argent's irritating little Citroen Saxo several times on red lane. 'Ah. Argent. Anything to report from the crime scene?' 'Yes, actually sir. I've something I think you ought to see. And Dr. De'Ath's report.' 'Well, what are you standing there for? Come to my office!'
Thumb read through the pathologist's findings, and explained them to Argent. 'According to De'Ath, Millicent Meetus was stabbed through the heart with a large pointed object at least 4" long and 1" in diameter, excluding the handle. Very cleanly. Could have been a pike.' 'What, stabbed with a fish, sir?' 'Don't be ridiculous, Argent. You must stop reading those Led Zeppelin books. No- the other sort of pike, or a sharpened hatstand or something like that. Should be easy to find. Once we've got the weapon we should be able to get the man.' 'Or woman,' added Argent brightly. 'You're not really following this are you, Sergeant?' 'Well, the body was found in the ladies loos, wasn't it? You wouldn't get blokes going in there would you?' 'Argent, you amaze me. Let's try and concentrate, shall we? What did you find at the scene of the crime? Anything like a sharpened steel javelin or a small armour-piercing artillery round lying about?' 'Well sir, there was this, sir.' Argent laid a sealed plastic forensic bag on Thumb's desk. 'A lollypop stick.' Thumb clenched his fists in exasperation at Argent's sheer idiocy. 'I think Millie was enjoying an ice lolly when she was attacked. Forensic could probably tell us what flavour if you want to know sir.' 'Don't be ridiculous, Argent. Eating an ice lolly in the ladies cubicle? Besides…' Thumb's tone suddenly darkened and his eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead. 'They have another use for lolly sticks at West Hamley. We should get back there, fast!'
'Lily Cooper-Archer. I need to ask you some more questions,' said Thumb. 'You're a keen racer, aren't you? I see from the club records you currently hold second place in one particular class championship.' 'Yes, and I would be winning it easily if it weren't for….Oo-er. I better hadn't say any more should I?' 'Quite, Mrs. Cooper-Archer. You told me earlier that most people in this club had suffered from bad scrutineering decisions from the late Miss Meetus. You should have said that you, more than most, have reason to hold a grudge against her, and her particularly rigid interpretation of the rule book. Especially when it's a rule book you wrote yourself!' 'Ah well, Inspector. I'd better tell you the whole story. You seem to have things worked out. I am the founder of the Lollypop Stick racing class. We run scratchbuilt cars with chassis made from lolly sticks. That's about the only rule. Wooden pop-stick chassis. Whatever else you can fit in, as long as it's true 1/32nd scale. I'm a bit of a devil for the odd ice-lolly, and me and Coxie were trying to think of a use for all the leftover sticks. It's all proved quite popular- the cars are dead cheap and easy to build. I was keeping a healthy lead in the championship until last week. When Millie threw me out of scrutineering. She was right, really. I went too far. I'd hollowed out the lolly sticks and fitted a laser-cut spring steel flex-frame chassis inside them. You couldn't tell from the outside, but Millie ran it over her magnetometer. It stuck. She threw me out.' 'So, Lil. You too have a manifest motive for murdering Millicent Meetus.' 'Mmm. I can't lie to you inspector.' 'Exactly. And another thing- the New Scotland Yard Teach Yourself Detecting Handbook tells us that in 76.4% of murders, the person who discovers the body is also the perpetrator. Take her down, Argent. I'm going to search Lil's home for more evidence.' 'Oi. Thumb. You can't do that.' 'Oh for heaven's sake Buthead. What is it now?' 'Well. I dunno. But it's not fair. I'm a suspect too, you know. I'm much nastier than Lil. And clevererer.' 'All right, Buthead. If you insist, we'll search your place too.' 'Hur-hur. Your wastin' your time mate. You'll never find the weapon!' Thumb stared at Buthead's bloated face for as long as he could stand it, trying to figure out what was going on behind it, then left to collect his search warrants. He didn't need a reminder from Beavis Buthead. He knew he had to find the murder weapon in order to finish this case.
The two searches proved most interesting. At Lil and Coxie's home, they had found vast quantities of slot cars, tools and equipment. A few sticks of furniture and one or two items of kitchen ware. And several bin liners full of Strawberry Pickle ice lolly wrappers. In Buthead's flat, as well as the usual haul of slot racers, mostly '70s American muscle cars, Thumb found three items which interested him. A Balls 'Banana Thrust' ice lolly wrapper, a Surform rasp, and most surprisingly, a book. The book was 'The Perfect Murder' by Geoffrey Arsler, a popular thriller which Thumb knew well. 'Argent. You said that forensic could tell us what flavour lolly that stick you found at the crime scene came from. Get them on to it will you? And while you're at it, ask De'Ath if he found any interesting chemical traces around the stab wound. I need to think'. Argent didn't need telling twice. He knew how Thumb did his thinking, and he could see him flexing a fresh reed in his hand. Argent was on his way out.
With Argent gone, Thumb drew his well-handled and dog-eared copy of 'the Frank Zappa Songbook' out of his desk, fitted the new reed to his ungainly baritone saxophone, and began to think. The technique never let him down. By the time the last few notes of 'Idiot Bastard Son' rumbled round the enormous bell of his instrument, Thumb knew what they would learn from De'Ath.
'Here's the reports you wanted sir…I don't really know what to make of them, but-' 'Not your job, Argent. Leave the thinking to me. Get Lil out of the cells. We're going back to West Hamley.'
At the club, Lil Cooper-Archer sat sullenly, her left wrist handcuffed to P.C. Nandrilone, but clasping her husband's hand in her right. Beavis Buthead was sat at the other end of the pit-table, a smirk constantly wriggling across his graffitied face. 'This is a fascinating little mystery', began Thumb, in full pompous Sherlock Holmes revelatory mood. 'The key to this case is a book I found at your flat, Buthead. A surprising thing to find there I admit. Which is what drew my attention to it in the first place. The plot of the book describes a perfect murder. A perfect murder committed with an icicle. The victim is stabbed with an icicle, which then melts away, leaving no trace. Nothing that can be linked with the murderer, and no evidence for an arrest. A remarkable similarity with the events here at West Hamley. The only difference is that the fictional murder took place in mid winter. In Greenland. Where icicles are quite easy to find. This was a problem for you, wasn't it… Buthead?' Coxie, Lil, and Argent drew their breath sharply at this, but Buthead merely grinned. 'Maybe. But you can't prove anyfink, can yer? Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. Wivout the weapon, you're useless, aint'cher?'
'Well, there is one important difference in this case. Geoffrey Arsler is no Nobel Prizewinner, but he's got some sort of a brain. You, Buthead, lack that important ingredient. You thought you could adapt the method and still get away with it. How do you get an icicle in mid summer? Well, an ice lolly would do, wouldn't it? You went down to 'The Sugar Solution' sweetie shop on the high street and bought the longest ice lolly you could find. A Balls 'Banana Thrust'. You went home and left your Banana Thrust in your freezer until it was rock hard, the way you wanted it. Then you fished in your toolbox for your surform rasp and sharpened your Banana Thrust to a deadly point. Then you were ready for the club. You didn't have much time before your banana softened, but you caught Millie in the ladies. It was a risk going in there, but at least you were alone for the few brief seconds you needed. You, Beavis Buthead, stabbed Millicent Meetus, with an ice lolly, in the lavatory.' 'Har har, Inspector. But you can't prove it can yer? You ain't got all the cards, 'ave yer? My book says it's the perfect murder, and you can't be done for it! You ain't got the weapon, so you ain't got the evidence!'
'But I have, Buthead, I have. The method works well if you follow Arsler's plot correctly. But an ice-lolly is not the same as a pure rain-water icicle. You idiot! You forgot about the stick! You stabbed Millie with the sharpened lolly and ran, leaving the stick stuck in her heart. As the ice melted, the stick fell out onto the floor, where Argent found it. Two important bits of evidence are going to put you away for a long, long, time, Buthead. One; Dr De'Ath found traces of E13224, tartrazine, E917K, bananzine, and E6345-789 synthetic goat flavouring in the stab wound- the exact recipe for Balls 'Banana Thrust' ice-cream. A match for the wrapper we found in your flat. Two; your fingerprints are all over the lolly-stick. Book him Argent.'
It took P.C.World, P.C.Nandrilone and Sergeant Argent to wrestle the baffled Beavis Buthead into the police van. He still didn't understand where he'd gone wrong. Lil and Coxie Cooper-Archer were enjoying a relieved embrace, which turned Thumb's stomach slightly, as Coxie tenderly rubbed her recently cuff-chafed wrist. 'Ahem. Good job you prefer Strawberry pickle flavour, Mrs Cooper-Archer,' Thumb intervened, a little uncomfortably. He'd never quite come to terms with displays of affection between two people, rather than between man or woman and slot car, as it should naturally be. 'That put you in the clear.' 'Yes, inspector. I developed a taste for it during my first pregnancy. Lucky, aren't I.' 'Not that lucky, Lil. I'm going to have to do you for that illegal spring steel chassis, you know. Come with me.'
 
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
Top