It hadn't gone very well at all, but she didn't think she'd
"We had a fairly good clear-up rate, sir."
"I've no doubt you did. But more important, anything
It was a question that was asked more and more in front of
promotion boards and transfer interviews and listed in performance reports. It
wasn't enough to be a conscientious and invaluable assistant to one's allotted
inspectoryou had to be able to write up a readable account for the magazines
that the public loved to read. Preferably Amazing Crime Stories, but,
failing that, Sleuth Illustrated.
"Only one story in print, sir. But I was the youngest officer
at Basingstoke to make detective sergeant and have two commendations for brav"
"The thing is," interrupted Briggs, "is that the Oxford &
Berkshire Police prides itself on producing some of the most readable detectives
in the country." He walked over to the window and looked out at the rain
striking the glass. "Modern policing isn't just about catching criminals, Mary.
It's about good copy and ensuring that cases can be made into top-notch
documentaries on the telly. Public approval is the all-important currency these
days, and police budgets ebb and flow on the back of circulation and viewing
"DS Flotsam's work penning Friedland Chymes's adventures is
the benchmark by which you should try to aspire, Mary. Selling the movie rights
to Friedland Chymesthe Smell of Fear was a glory moment for everyone at
Reading Central, and rightly so. Just one published work, you say? With Flowwe?"
"Yes, sir. A two-parter in Amazing Crime
Jan-Feb 1999 and adapted for TV."
His face fell. Clearly, at Reading they expected better
things. Briggs sat down and looked at her record again.
"Now, it says here one reprimand: You struck Detective
Inspector Flowwe with an onyx ashtray. Why was that?"
"The table lamp was too heavy," she replied, truthfully
enough, "and if I'd used a chair, it might have killed him."
"Which is illegal, of course" added Briggs, glad for an
opportunity to show off his legal knowledge. "What happened? Personal
"Equal blame on both sides, sir," she replied, thinking it would be
better to be impartial over the whole affair. "I was foolish. He was
Briggs closed the file.
"Well, I don't blame you. Hebden was always a bit of a
bounder. He pinged my partner's bra strap at an office party once, you know. She
wasn't wearing it at the time," he added after a moment's reflection, "but the
intention was clear."
"That sounds like DI Flowwe," replied Mary.
Briggs drummed his fingers on the desk for a moment.
"Do you want to hear me play the trombone?"
"Might it be prejudicial to my career if I were to refuse?"
"It's a distinct possibility."
"Then I'd be delighted."
So Briggs walked over to the chaise longue, picked up the
trombone, worked the slide a couple of times and blew a few notes, much to the
annoyance of whoever had the office next door, who started to thump angrily on
"Drug squad," explained Briggs unhappily, putting the
instrument down, "complete heathens. Never appreciate a good tune."
"I was wondering," said Mary before he had a chance to start
playing again. "This detective sergeant's job I'm applying for. Who is it with?"
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