Which is why I would like to recommend a psychiatric evaluation report on the pair of them. If their incompetence can be officially proven (something I very much suspect to be the case), then I will finally be able to replace them with younger, more technologically literate unit supervisors. Mr Bryant's and Mr May's consistent refusal of promotion is a ruse that has allowed them to operate 'hands on' as detectives through most of their cases. An evaluation could perhaps recommend they be transferred to positions of part-time consultancy, where they would not come into direct contact with criminal investigations, and would only have powers in a reduced advisory capacity. Mr Bryant refers to himself as a 'cradle-to-grave' law officer; in short, I think it is time he headed for his grave.
For some unearthly reason, both Mr Bryant and Mr May command an almost fanatical loyalty among the rest of the PCU staff. Therefore, I am sure you appreciate the need for absolute discretion in this matter.
Acting Temporary Head of the Peculiar Crimes Unit
'I hope you're not going to be rude and upset everyone again.'
Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright examined her boss for signs of disarray. She scraped some egg from his creased green tie with a crimson nail, and grudgingly granted her approval.
Arthur Bryant took a deep breath and folded his notes back into his jacket. 'I see nothing wrong with speaking my mind. After all, it is a special occasion.' He fixed his DS with a beady, unforgiving eye. 'I rarely get invited to make speeches. People always think I'm going to be insulting. I've never upset anyone before.'
'Perhaps I could remind you of the mayor's banquet at Mansion House? You told the assembly he had herpes.'
'I said he had a hairpiece. It was a misquote.'
'Well, just remember how overwrought you can get at these events. Did you remember to take your blue pills?' Longbright suspected he had forgotten them because the tablet box was still poking out of his top pocket. 'The doctor warned you it would be easy to muddle them up--'
'I don't need a nurse, thank you. I'll take them afterwards. I haven't quite drifted into senility yet.' Unlike most men, Bryant did not look smarter in a suit. His outfit was several decades out of date and too long in the leg. His shirt collar was far wider than his neck, and the white nimbus of his hair floated up around his prominent ears as though he had been conducting experiments in electricity. Overall, he looked like a soon-to-be-pulped Tussaud's waxwork
Excerpted from Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Fowler. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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