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Inspector Thumb always had trouble getting out of his Elise. And there were crowds waiting outside West Hamley Slot car club. On top of that, he could see Dr. De'ath, the pathologist, was already there and waiting. 'I'm going to drive around the crime scene first, Sergeant Argent. See how the land lies, as it were.' After a couple of goes, he got the Lotus back in first gear and drove slowly on, past the 'Police Incident' tapes, the press photographers, and both the morbidly interested and the genuinely distressed locals milling around. The muddy yard at the back of the club was deserted. 'H'mm. This looks significant, Argent' 'What does, sir?' 'Isn't it obvious, lad?' While Argent worried himself as to what vital evidence he could be missing, Thumb had manoevred his bulky body out of the low-slung car without being observed, cricking his left knee awkwardly round the steering wheel and scraping his backside against the filthy tarmac. 'Well, if you can't see these things for yourself, I'm certainly not going to tell you' said Thumb, walking quickly round to the front of the club, and dusting himself down vigorously.
The smile on Dr.De'ath's face told Thumb he was in for a tough time. 'Ahhh Inspector. Good to see you. I trust you havn't eaten recently. I well know your tender constitution. But I think you will find this an interesting case. A very interesting case.'
'Go on then you old ghoul. Lead me to it.' Thumb reached into his raincoat pocket for his handkerchief, and screwed it tightly into a ball. 'Oh dear me, Inspector. The old dyspepsia playing up already? You should take something for it. But do take a look at this first.' De'ath swept past two uniformed constables; P.C.World glanced at Thumb and drew his hand slowly over his face. Thumb braced himself, and walked through the open doorway of the West Hamley Slot Car Club Tech Room.
He felt the gorge rise in his throat and pulled the handkerchief quickly to his mouth. 'Fascinating, isn't it?' said De'ath. 'Never seen anything quite like it. Two corpses, no sign of injury, no sign of a third party. But certainly, two particularly painful and violent deaths, judging from the expressions on their faces.' ' Vrrrumph' said Thumb, behind his handkerchief. 'Here Inspector. Look closely. Here and here. No, closer. You won't see from there. Look- identical trickles of blood from both ears of each body. Fascinating, fascinating. I simply can't wait to get them back to the lab. Lovely. Ahh, lovely job.'
Thumb had seen enough. 'Argent- get in there. I want a full report on my desk by five. P.C.World- who are the victims? What's happened here?'
'Well, sir. The call came to the Station at West Hamley at 1400 hrs this afternoon sir. Mr Auberon Cooper-Archer; Coxie, sir, you know him don't you sir? Club secretary, sir.' 'Yes yes, World. I know Coxie. That wasn't him in there was it? I couldn't bear to look.' 'No sir. The two bodies are Sidney Endive, known as 'Curly', age 24, and Arthur Chokes, known as 'Artie', age 31, both of 32 Walkden Fisher Drive, West Hamley.' 'Good lord. Not Curly Endive and Artie Chokes that run the Greengrocers on the High Street?' 'The very same, sir.' 'I was racing against them only last week! They seemed fit and healthy- friendly chaps, no obvious enemies. Business seemed O.K.; no obvious reason for suicide?' 'No sir.' 'Mind you, their car was running slow. That could make life pretty unbearable.' 'Indeed sir.' 'Quite a nice Camaro as I remember. Handled well enough, but no steam on the straights at all. Why; there it is!' 'Yes sir. The two victims seem to have been working on their car at their time of death. It's been stripped down, but nothing suspicious, sir.' 'I'll be the judge of that, Constable. Now what exactly was the time of death?' 'Hard to say precisely at the moment, Thumb, but just give me half an hour at the lab and I'll tell you everything you want to know,' interrupted Dr. De'ath. 'Yes, and more unless I can avoid it. Now leave me alone for a few moments. I need to survey the scene.' Thumb supported himself against the door and mopped his brow again. Tough being a police inspector with no stomach for dead bodies. But then again, when he'd started at Slot Car Division, he hardly expected the investigation of violent death to be a regular part of his duties. This, though, was the third incident at West Hamley in as many weeks, and he was beginning to suffer severe stomach cramps. He made his way out of the club, acknowledging a few familiar faces; Coxie, Bruno, Clint Finger; all regular fellow racers. Coxie stepped forward. 'I can't understand it, Inspector. The door was locked. We saw no-one leave or enter all evening. Curly and Artie were up to something, but it was only about getting some more speed into their Camaro before the Farr Cup Finals next week. They didn't want anyone else to see what they were doing. Mind you, no-one really cared. They never were that fast, excuse me speaking ill of the, um, recently departed. For grocers, they ran lemons on the track, too, bless 'em.' 'Did anyone see them as a potential threat, Coxie? Any rivalries at the club this season?' 'Well, only me really. It was me and them dicing for last place most of the time.' 'Thanks Coxie. I think I'll get back to the station and think things over.' Just then a dark presence loomed into his peripheral view, with a pale white hand extended toward him. 'Inspector, inspector. Wonderful to see you again, but what tragic circumstances. Poor Curly. Poor Artie. At least there is no distressed family to comfort. They only had each other, if you know what I mean. Just as well they went together. I shall be holding a memorial service tomorrow. It would be lovely if you could be there, Inspector.' The Reverend Counter swept past without waiting for an answer. Occasions like this were what he lived for. Thumb moved once more to the entrance, but lurking outside was another cleric. Rev.Vell, the curate, was hovering, trying to glean some information for the parish magazine. 'Oh Inspector Thumb! Could you..?' Thumb shouldered briskly past, only to encounter Father Further, the Catholic priest from East Hamley, ready to offer any last rites that might be necessary. 'Too many revs,' Thumb muttered to himself, heading for his Lotus.
Thumb collected Argent, and drove back to Scotland Yard and his office in Slot Car Division. As always, it was a solitary door at the end of a long corridor in the very bowels of the building, but the pairs of silver lines laid into the black carpet led the visitor unerringly to the door. Inside his office Thumb kept his baritone saxophone at the ready; Thumb found the mental discipline of running through a few complex chord changes to be a great aid in solving complex crimes. Argent's office next door had been fairly ineffectively soundproofed with egg-cartons, by the sergeant himself, on his weekends off. Thumb gestured to Argent to sit down on the spare office chair. Argent noticed with relief that Thumb walked past the massive saxophone, and sat down at his desk. He leaned forward on his elbows. 'Now Argent, I want you to describe to me exactly what you saw at West Hamley today. It is time I tested your powers of observation'. 'How would you know you old duffer? You had your hands over your eyes most of the time anyway' thought Argent to himself. When he spoke, it came out more like this; 'well, sir. The crime scene was a small room at the rear of West Hamley Slot Car Club. Access to the room is limited. There is one door out into the main club room, where the track is situated. The driver's rostrum faces the door, and drivers were there throughout the day.' 'Good, good, ' muttered Thumb, noncommittally. 'Messers Endive and Chokes were seen to enter the room with their car, a..' Here Argent consulted his notebook; '…their car, a metallic green Chevrolet Camaro with purple fades, laser cut steel chassis and Puma Mk I motor- 33 gauge wind, standard magnets. 3 to 1 nylon impregnated sidewinder gears.' 'Yes yes. I know all about that. Thrashed it myself at the weekend. No top end speed at all. It was on the dyno, was it not?' 'Yes sir. The body had been removed, and was on the test bench. The spur gear was also unattached. I accounted for all the mounting screws. The chassis itself was indeed on the dynomometer. The two deceased were within two metres either side of the test bench. Endive collapsed on the floor to the right, Chokes seated in the chair at the dynomometer controls. Neither body showed any sign of violent intrusion beyond a slight discharge from each ear. And a very ugly expression on their faces. The cause of death is as yet uncertain, sir. Sudden simultaneous suicide seems unlikely, yet I cannot account for the presence of any third party in that room who might have brought about their precipitate death. The only other access to or exit from the room consists of a small window high in the wall, which appears to have remained locked throughout. I did climb up on P.C.World's shoulders and examine the lock myself, and the covering of dust and grease would indicate that the window had not offered any ventilation for the past several years, sir.' 'Hmm. A most satisfactory mystery, Argent. Most importantly, what was it you noticed outside the club when we parked directly behind?' 'Nothing, sir.' 'Exactly. Nothing. No footprints in the mud. No other tyre tracks. You may go, Argent. I expect De'ath will be calling soon with the post-mortem results. Unfortunately.'
The over-excited voice of Dr. De'ath crackled down the phone almost immediately. 'Thumb. You have to come here immediately. I've never seen anything like it in all my career. I've got Endive and Chokes on the slab, and really, well, you've just got to see for yourself'. Thumb could swear that De'ath was sniggering as he put the phone down. There was no escape. He had to visit the path lab. He swigged mightily from the brandy bottle he kept in his 'pending' file, and called for Argent to drive him round. At the door of the lab, De'ath was jigging from toe to toe, and steadied himself by grabbing Thumb's arm and thrusting him through the aluminium panelled swing doors. 'Did you ever see anything like it, Inspector? Their brains have turned to jelly! Completely melted. I have no idea who- or what- can have done this. But this is no 'natural death'. We have an extremely sadistic and devilish murderer on our hands, Thumb. I'm happy to say.' 'Not to say supernatural, if all those locked doors and windows mean anything,' Argent observed. Thumb was leaning over the nearest basin in silent contemplation. Apart from the odd heaving sound. 'What sort of weapon could have done this, inspector?' De'ath finished, gleefully. 'Well, I was rather hoping you might tell me. Vrrrragh,' replied Thumb. 'Sounds like a case for our American friends, Fox and Cheetah- the "Exiles" they call themselves', interjected Argent enthusiastically. 'They specialise in these weird cases, like when the old West Hamley track was abducted by aliens- remember that? Maybe there's a connection!' 'Shut up Argent. There's something turning over at the back of my mind. Something I noticed on the dyno. Now these -ugh- bodies are out of the way, I think I'd like to have a closer look round the West Hamley Tech Room. Come on, Argent. I've had enough of the morgue. Goodbye De'ath. Hello World' 'Shall I call him, sir?' 'Who?' 'P.C.World, sir.' 'Yes. Tell him to bring the car'.
Thumb, Argent, and World swept into West Hamley to be confronted by the entire club membership. Word had travelled ahead, and all were anxious to know which out of their own club might be responsible for the grisly demise of Curly Endive and Artie Chokes, the amiable slot-racing salad salesmen. All the local clerics were there to provide comfort to both the anxious and the guilty. 'Too many revs again. I knew it!' said Thumb enigmatically. 'Look at this. I assume nothing has been touched since yesterday?' Murmurs of agreement spread round the clubroom, as Thumb strode toward the dynomometer, and the bare Camaro chassis. 'Observe, Argent. Do you notice anything strange?' Sergeant Argent stepped forward, conscious that all eyes and ears were on him. Immediately he saw what Thumb wanted him to see, and everything clicked into place. 'It's turned up to 36 volts, sir!' 'Indeed, Argent. And there we have the fatal weapon. A Puma Mk. 1. Reliable little motor. No puff, but durable. Observe here, that ball bearings have been substituted for a freer-spinning armature. Also signs that the endbell has been removed, and I suspect the commutator timing has been altered. Notice also that the gears have been disconnected, and there is no loading on the motor. What does that tell us, P.C.World?' 'I dunno, Chief. Did someone throw it at them?' 'No, you idiot. What you see here is the cause of death.' 'But who caused it, Inspector?' called an overwrought Coxie Cooper-Archer. 'No-one' replied Thumb.
'Let us recap,' said Thumb in his most officious voice. 'Endive and Chokes were trailing the field in the club championships. The Farr Cup was looming, and their car was seriously and obviously inadequate. What to do? If it were you or me, well, we'd put in some pretty serious work in the tuning department, eh?' Nods and murmurs of approval greeted Thumb's observation. ' That's exactly what Curly and Artie did. They locked themselves in the tech room, an made an agreement that neither would allow themselves out until they'd found the missing extra revs from that little Puma. But there is such a thing as too many revs, as I remarked myself a couple of times only recently. Argent. Do the maths. A well-lubed Puma, standard magnets, 33 gauge wind, no load. At twelve volts, what do you reckon?' 'Oh, about 20,000 r.p.m. sir, I'd say.' 'Not a bad estimate. And at that speed, the motor produces a note of about 16,000 cycles per second. Just within the range of human hearing. But that's where Curly and Artie made their fatal mistake!' The crowd gasped. What on earth was Thumb on about? 'Yes. They decided to push up the voltage, to see what the motor was capable of, and what sort of a wind might give them the torque they so badly needed. At 24 volts the motor would have been spinning happily, with no sign of distress, and the revs creeping up all the time. So was the engine note. It was Artie at the controls. He slid the power up and up. At 30 volts I calculate that the motor would have been turning nearly 50,000 revs, and the pitch would have been just beyond the range of the human ear. To Artie and Curly, it had become silent. But as we see here, they went further. To 36 volts. Nearly 60,000 revs, the absolute limit for a motor of these specifications. And an engine note well beyond the range of the human ear, and well into the ultrasonic. Where soft tissue begins to dissolve. The pain must have been unbearable. Their brains literally turning to jam. Their eardrums burst and ….excuse me. The bathroom….'

'My God,' said a stunned Coxie. 'Death by Mabuchi!'
 
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