The Bortsworth Mysteries: Episode 2 – The Case of the Purloined Plates

“Excuse me,” she was in her mid 60’s. Dressed in Marks & Spencer and middle-class insecurity. I was busy, too busy to interact with the late-stage capitalist, incipient Brexit yeomanry of Bortsworth County.

“Excuse me,” she said again, clutching a local newspaper in her recently but inexpertly manicured hands, “are you the detective?”

I narrowed my eyes and moved my head to look at her. Not a lot of people know this but a triceratops has to move its head to change its field of view. Like a bird. Like a bird, who has decided to stop fighting gravity and instead team up with it. You decided to tussle with a triceratops then you had better believe I’m bringing my good buddies gravity and momentum to help me along.

“No,” I answered truthfully. I have a code and that code says I don’t lie to women – even mammal women.

“Are you sure? I mean, you match the advert, which, by the way, has a few grammatical errors. Also, there’s no such thing as ‘Bortsworth County’. Where you trying to sound American?” she pointed at the text of the classified adverts. Sandwiched between a lawn mowing franchise and an advert for dry-cleaners oddly rendered in Cyrillic was text that read:

Mysteries Solved! I as is the best detective in Bortsworth County.
I am a big triceratops. Called Susan. Will help with anything.

“You’ve got the wrong triceratops,” I said glancing at the advert.

“Are you sure?” she replied persistently waving at my rump in a manner that displayed both her distaste at waving at a person’s rump and her overwhelming middle-class right to wave at whatever part of a person’s anatomy she felt like.

Not a lot of people know this but a triceratops’s field of vision does not permit us to see our own rumps. We don’t need to. If we are backing up then it’s your job to get out of our way.

“Hey lady,” I adopted a tone I’d learnt on the mean streets of New York in the 1960s when I was working in Tin Pan Alley, “quit waving at my butt. ”

“Well, somebody has painted ‘Susan the Detective – I solve crimes!’ on your, ahem, haunches in white paint.” she gestured in a circular motion.

“Are you sure?” I answered.

“Hmm, it might actually be an off-white gloss. Maybe Dulux Hog Bristle wall paint. I’d need some swatches to work out for certain.” she reached into her handbag and brought out a phone and began searching the net for paint colours.

“Lady, you’ve been scammed. A no good rascal known as Timothy the Talking Cat has led you astray. The ad, the painted dino-butt, that’s all part of his basic MO. You are part of a play, a scheme, a shenanigan and I’m just the patsy he picked on.”

“But you do solve crimes don’t you?” she asked. Her eye filled with sadness.

“Listen lady – this once and only because I can’t currently move because the local parking inspector put a wheel clamp on my leg while I was sleeping after mistaking me for a small truck, I’ll help you. Tell me what the problem is.” I shifted my expression to be as sympathetic as possible, which is no mean feat as triceratops don’t communicate with each other by facial expressions but by bellows, scent and foot stomping.

“Well, I run a small charity shop just off the high street. Somebody keeps stealing small pieces of second-hand crockery. I wouldn’t mind so much but they somehow do it while I’m in the shop. My best friend Betty won’t come into the shop anymore because she thinks it is haunted!”

“The solution is simple. You leave a window open in the staff toilet at the back of the shop. Squirrels enter your shop via that window. They steal crockery when you are not looking and then take it to the nearby park to throw at cats. If you close the toilet window the stealing will stop.” I explained as swiftly as possible.

“That’s amazing! How did you possibly deduce all that!” exclaimed the lady, visibly impressed for the first time.

“Simple. I have a digitized repository of all the local crime articles from the Bortsworth Advertiser stretching at least five years into the future from the current date. Anticipating that Timothy the Talking Cat would continue to pressurise me into being a detective in his ‘cosy mystery’ series, I solved ALL the crimes in the local area for the next five years in advance thus enabling me to reveal the who, where, what and how of any mystery that he might try to throw at me hence robbing any story of any narrative tension at all.” I couldn’t help injecting an air of smug detachment from my explanation.

“That is amazing! I’ll recommend you to all my friends!” exclaimed the lady.

“But…” I said bewilderedly “there’s no narrative tension!”

“You solve crimes, Ms Susan and in next to no time at all!” said the lady with a degree of condescension that if weaponised would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention, “Narrative tension is for stories, from a detective people just want results! TTFN!” With that, she walked away in a cloud of perfume that if it had a name would be ‘Aux de Daily Express’.

I’d been played by an expert huxster. That cat had got what it wanted and made me a detective but didn’t mean I had to play by the rules. This triceratops was nobody’s patsy.

 

 

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