It is my birthday today. In a rather odd reversal of tradition, I bring you the present of part twenty-two of “A Couple of Tenors Short.”
Remember boys and girls, this is a serial. Any new-joiners should attempt the standard loin girding and start with Part One.
Should you be rejoining the story, or do not have the inclination to read the previous parts, allow me to recap. Disclaimer: There has been so much going on that this summary is proving very difficult to keep to reasonable length. It could be that I miss important facts!
Inspector Glynn Jones thought he was going mad, but after finding the man from the State Security Services in his kitchen dressed in a green lycra body suit, he is not so sure. He tried an experiment with the engraving on his wedding ring and discovered that it mysteriously changed when Pippa gave a different wedding day for their marriage than was on the ring.
Although he has found himself married to Pippa Hucknell, he appears content with the arrangement, even though the world around him continues to confuse. He has found that he driving a rather chirpy, lime green Datsun Cherry that behaves like a puppy; suffered numerous random wardrobe malfunctions; keeps re-growing a ginger moustache; bet against his own station in the upcoming police light entertainment championships; had run in with gangs of Buddhist monks; had one of his team hospitalised by the feral Girl Guides and found the camp Sat-Nav unit in the pink Mark III Ford Zephyr is developing a personality and cannot be switched off.
Then there are the strange cases he has to solve, the abduction of Archie McRamie, the theft of industrial generators, forged tickets for the Light Entertainment Championships, feral Girl Guides, the smuggling of illegal Macramé yarn, and a suspected murder of a ‘John Doe’ dragged from the Thames.
Since the case started, Doctor Wilkins, the famous TV Pathologist has confirmed the unknown swimmer drowned in the Thames after taking a large high tea. The Fruit Fancies of his last meal are being linked to Darrius ‘The Baker’ Kipling. Darrius works for Horace Adkins, the beloved Barbers Shop Quartet impresario who is presumed dead after a massive explosion at his Georgian Mansion which the local police have suggested was suicide.
It turns out that the missing author, Archie McRamie did not write ‘The Cat Crowed at a Little After Two-thirty’. The main character in the book appears to be Horace Adkins.
Darrius ‘The Baker’ Kipling and Dunker Phil, another of Adkins employees, were observed with Vera Anne Adkins and Violet Ann Adkins, two of Horace’s daughters, visiting the offices of London’s premier trial lawyers, Witherspoon, Lewes, Grambling, and Witherspoon. Vera Adkins had gone there to instigate a defamation case, but her sister Violet arrived and talked her out of it.
Jones has had a meeting with his Superintendant and a man from the State Security Services who were very interested in finding out why this visit took place, but have told the Inspector that he will be disowned if his investigation results in adverse public opinion. The State Security man has also suggested that he does not believe the book is the cause of the defamation case.
Now read on...
Inspector Jones looked at the doodle of a Stirling Engine on his notepad and then at Joanne Schooner. Running his hand over the back of his neck he leant back in his chair.
“So if Archie McRamie didn’t write the book, just who did?” he shook his head slightly as he spoke.
“Oh dear. Look, Inspector, this is one of the best kept secrets in the industry. I can rely on your total discretion, can’t I?” Jo tried her best impression of an abandoned puppy.
“I’ll do my best, but this is a police investigation and we do need to find Archie. So no promises.” Jones had never been one for puppies.
Joanne Schooner pursed her lips and stared at the far wall for a few moments. “All of Archie’s books are written by his rather talented and downtrodden wife of his, Elspeth Periwinkle.”
“The secretary?” Jones examined Jo through narrowed eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Oh yes, Inspector. Very sure.” Jo smiled and gently preened her chaotic blond hair. “I introduced them. In a professional capacity, you understand. Archie had done one of his ludicrous adventures where he crossed Africa by some convoluted contraption and he needed a ghost writer. I’d seen some of Elspeth’s work, so I suggested she do the writing.”
“You said wife.”
“I did, Inspector.” Jo leaned forward and continued in a whisper. “Archie has an ego that is more than big enough for the two of them. It works really well for them. Elspeth does all the writing and Archie gets all the limelight to fan that ego of his.”
“A marriage of convenience then.” Jones curled his top lip.
“Oh no, Inspector. Certainly not!” Jo Schooner slammed her hands down onto the arm of her wingback chair. “I believe they really are in love. Archie thinks the world of that girl and despite what you may read in the gossip columns, has never even looked at another woman since they met.”
Jones took a deep breath and ran both his forefingers over his moustache. “So how did the book come about?”
“I’m not absolutely sure, Inspector.” Jo gave a shrug. “I think they were approached by one of the Adkins family.”
“It appears very detailed, full of very specific details. How on earth would they be able to get all those details?” Inspector Jones pressed.
“Ahhh! That I do know!” Jo punctuated her statement with a waving finger. “Horace Adkins told them the whole story and insisted that none of the details be changed.”
“None of them? The book has Adkins smuggling, performing industrial espionage and even murdering people.”
The lights in the interview room dimmed. Jo sat in her chair with a furrowed brow, her knuckles white as she gripped the arms of the wingback chair.
“He did it for the government! Yes, that’s it!” Jo gave a broad grin. “Horace Adkins wanted the country to know about his patriotic exploits!”
The lights in the interview room slowly regained their brightness as Jones scribbled on his notepad.
“How on earth did Elspeth manage to overcome that shyness of hers to interview Adkins?” Jones drew a passable wallflower next to a picture of a blacked out lightbulb on his notepad.
“Oh she didn’t. Elspeth gave Archie a list of questions, he did all the interviews and taped them for Elspeth.”
“Did Adkins go to Archie’s house for the interviews?”
“Oh no, Horace couldn’t go there, he...” Jo suddenly stopped.
The lights in the room went out. The hum of the air-conditioning stopped. The only sound in the room was Jo’s rasping breath. Even in the darkened room, she was noticeably paler. She was sweating as her mouth opened and closed. She slapped her hand down on the arms of the chair.
“He insisted that Archie go to his house in Hertfordshire for the interviews” The words suddenly flooded out of Jo before she collapsed back in the chair with a huge sigh.
A few seconds later the lights and the air-conditioning came back on.