"An excellent question. In ten minutes we're holding a press
conference. I've a detective in urgent need of a new sergeant, and I think
you'll fit the bill perfectly. Shall we?"
The pressroom was five floors below, and an expectant
journalistic hubbub greeted their ears while they were still walking down the
corridor. They stepped inside and stood as unobtrusively as possible at the back
of the large and airy room. Mary could see from the "Oxford & Berkshire
Police"bedecked podium and high turnout that press conferences here were taken
with a great deal more seriousness than she had known, which probably reflected
this city's preeminence over Basingstoke when it came to serious crime. It
wasn't that Reading had any more murders than Basingstokeit just had
better ones. Reading and the Thames Valley area was more of a "fairy cakes laced
with strychnine" or "strangulation with a silk handkerchief" sort of place,
where there were always bags of interesting suspects, convoluted motives and
seemingly insignificant clues hidden in an inquiry of incalculable complexity
yet solved within a week or two. By contrast, murders in Basingstoke were
strictly blunt instruments, drunkenly wielded, solved within the houror not at
all. Mary had worked on six murder investigations and, to her great
disappointment, hadn't once discovered one of those wonderful clues that seem to
have little significance but later, in an epiphanic moment, turn the case on its
head and throw the guilty light on someone previously eliminated from the
She didn't have time how to muse upon the imaginative
shortcoming of Basingstoke's criminal fraternity any longer, as there was a
sudden hushing of the pressmen, a burst of spontaneous applause, and a handsome
man in his mid-fifties strode dramatically from a side door.
"Goodness!" said Mary. "That's"
"Yup," said Briggs, with the pride of a father who has just
seen his son win everything at sports day. "Detective Inspector Friedland
Friedland Chymes! In person. There was a hush as the
famous detective stepped up to the podium. The assembled two dozen newspapermen
readied themselves, pens poised, for his statement.
"Thank you for attending," he began, sweeping back his blond
hair and gazing around the room with his lively blue eyes, causing flutters
when they lingered ever so slightly with the women present in the room, Mary
included. She found herself almost automatically attracted to him. He was
strong, handsome, intelligent, fearlessthe most alpha of alpha males. Working
with him would be an honor.
"It was the small traces of pastry around the gunshot wound
on Colonel Peabody's body that turned the case for me," began the great
detective, his sonorous tones filling the air like music, "minute quantities of
shortcrust whose butter/flour ratio I found to be identical to a medium-size
Bowyer's pork pie. The assailant had fired his weapon through the tasty snack to
muffle the sound of the shot. The report heard later was a firecracker set off
by a time fuse, thus giving an alibi to the assailant, who I can reveal to you
now was ...."
The whole room leaned forward in expectation. Chymes, his
only apparent vanity a certain showmanship, paused for dramatic effect before
announcing the killer.
".... Miss Celia Mangersen, the victim's niece and,
unbeknownst to us all, the sole beneficiary of the missing will, which I found
hiddenas expectedwithin a hollowed-out statuette of Sir Walter Scott. Yes, Mr.
Hatchett, you have a question?"
Josh Hatchett of The Toad newspaper had raised his
hand in the front row.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...