"What was the significance of the traces of custard found on the Colonel's sock suspender?"
Friedland raised a finger in the air.
"An excellent question, Mr. Hatchett, and one that pushed my deducting powers to the limit. Bear with me if you will while we go through the final moments of Colonel Peabody's life. Mortally wounded and with only seconds to live, he had somehow to leave a clue to his assailant's identity. A note? Of course notthe killer would find and destroy it. Guessing correctly that a murder of this magnitude would be placed in my hands, he decided to leave behind a clue that only I could solve. Knowing the Colonel's penchant for anagrams, it was but a swift move to deduct his reasoning. The sock suspender was made in France. "Custard" in French is crème anglaiseand an anagram of this is "Celia Mangerse," which not only correctly identified the killer but also told me the Colonel died before he was able to finish the anagram."
There was more applause, and he quietened everyone down before continuing.
"But since anagram-related clues are now inadmissible as evidence, we sent the pork pie off for DNA analysis and managed to pinpoint the pie shop where it was purchased. Guessing that Miss Mangersen might have an affinity for the pies, we staked out the shop in question, and yesterday evening Miss Mangersen was taken into custody, whereupon she confessed to me in a tearful scene that served as a dramatic closure to the case. My loyal, chirpy, cockney assistant and biographer DS Flotsam will of course be writing a full report for Amazing Crime Stories in due course, after the formality of a trial. Ladies and gentlemen: The case ... is closed
The assembled journalists rose as one and burst into spontaneous applause. Chymes dismissed the adulation with a modest wave of the hand and excused himself, muttering something about needing to open a hospital for orphaned sick children.
"He's amazing!" breathed Mary, somehow convincing herselfas had all the other women presentthat Chymes had winked at her across the crowded room.
"I agree," replied Briggs, standing aside as the newsmen filed out, eager to get the stories into the late editions. "Don't you love that 'the case is closed!' stuff? I wish I had a catchphrase. He's an asset not only to us here at Reading but also to the nationthere aren't many countries that haven't requested his thoughts on some intractable and ludicrously complex inquiry.
"He's remarkable," agreed Mary.
"Indeed," went on Briggs, seemingly swept up in a paroxysm of hagiographic hero worship. "He's also a hilarious raconteur, has a golf handicap of two, was twice world aerobatic champion and plays the clarinet as well as Artie Shaw. Speaks eight languages, too, and is often consulted by the Jellyman himself on important matters of state."
"I'm going to enjoy working with him, I can see," replied Mary happily. "When do I start?"
"Chymes?" echoed Briggs with a faint yet unmistakably patronizing laugh. "Goodness gracious no! You're not working with Chymes!"
"Who then?" asked Mary, attempting to hide her disappointment, and failing.
Mary followed Briggs's outstretched finger to an untidy figure who had taken his turn at the podium. He was in his mid-forties, had graying hair and one eye marginally higher than the other, giving him the lopsided look of someone deep in thought. If he was deep in thought, considered Mary, it was clearly about something more important than his personal appearance. His suit could have done with a good pressing, his hair styled any way but the way he had it. He might have shaved a little less hurriedly and made more of an attempt to exude someanyconfidence . He fumbled with his papers as he stared resignedly after the rapidly vanishing press corps.
From The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Copyright Jasper Fforde 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Viking Publishing.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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