Here is Part 64 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.
I’m not really into the news today; I have other things on my mind. Instead I give you the oddest video. It is one of those videos that really needs the sound on and to be watched through to the end.
Never being one to ignore the obvious, this is probably the easiest ever of my quiz questions. Despite that, I will still give you the answer.
OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!
Now read on...
The restaurant was well lit and modern. The decor was all light woods and chrome with contemporary sculpture and lighting. The tables all laid with crisp white linen, silver cutlery and shining glassware. When Jones announced himself at reception, he was informed that Professor Ibsen had not yet arrived and he was shown up a spiral staircase to a small bar. Jones ordered tonic water, paid for it, filed the receipt in his wallet and went and sat down on a cream sofa next to the chrome railings of the balcony.
The dining area was busy. Most of the tables were occupied by city types, resplendent in designer waistcoats and cravats. A string quartet played sea shanties from a small stage in the far corner. Occasionally, diners would break from their meal and join in. At the end of each song, polite applause rippled around the room.
A polite cough caused Jones to turn around. A small man dressed in a crumpled white linen suit over a lurid purple and green Hawaiian shirt stood expectantly, clutching a red duffle bag tight to his chest.
“Professor Ibsen?” Jones asked politely as he stood and offered his hand.
“Yes, and you must be Inspector Jones” Professor Ibsen shook the hand warmly. “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. Our table is ready.”
The professor led the way downstairs where they were met by a pretty young girl wearing a peasant dress and a white apron. She handed them a menu each and led them to a table where they were met by a waiter wearing a pale blue kimono. The waiter pulled out a chair for Jones who sat and watched the process repeated for the professor.
“Would you mind if we order before we have our chat?” The professor asked in his chocolaty baritone. “I hate to be a bore, but I’m afraid I am on a tight schedule.”
“Not at all, professor.” Jones picked up the menu and studied it closely.
“Thank you.” The professor paused. “Over the page there is a section for the less sophisticated palate.”
Jones flicked the page, saw that it consisted of various pies and battered fish and flicked it back quickly before continuing to study the main menu.
The waiter in the pale blue kimono returned and they ordered. The professor chose scallops and king prawn risotto, Jones a Thai fish soup with lemongrass and lime with sea bass to follow.
“You surprise me, Inspector.” The professor gave a broad smile. “You do realise that the Thai soup will contain a lot of spices and exotic herbs?”
“Hardly, exotic. A few onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli, wine and fish stock mainly.” Jones did his best to return the smile. “Why does my choice surprise you?”
“I have been guilty of applying my stereotype of a policeman upon you.” The professor smiled again. “I hadn’t expected that a policeman would be aware of and educated in matters of the epicurean and the elite. All the policemen I have met have been part of the cakes and circuses brigade.”
“I guess I am an enigma. A privileged man who has never cared for Huxley.” Jones raised an eyebrow as under the table his fist clenched and unclenched.
“Touché, Inspector.” Professor Ibsen gave another smile as he leaned back in his chair. “However much I would enjoy arguing over merit of utopian visions...”
“Or dystopian.” Jones interrupted.
“Err, quite.” The professor scratched his chin and observed Jones. “I fear we need to focus on the purpose for our meeting, the unfortunate Sergei Plutov. What happened to the poor man?”
The explanation Jones gave was bald and non-committal. Professor Ibsen nodded the entire time it was being delivered.
“Given that you came to talk to me in person, can I take it you believe he was murdered?” The professor leaned forward and observed Jones closely.
“It is too early to take a view on that.” Jones stroked his moustache and straightened his cutlery. “At the moment, I am working on a theory that the death is connected to another case I am working on.”
“Hmmm...” The professor gave a low baritone rumble. “It is real shame. Sergei had such talent. As well as a physicist he was an international class tri-athlete. If he had been able to set his priorities correctly, he could have really been a name in astro-physics.”
As they waited for their starters, Jones carefully coaxed information about Sergei from Professor Ibsen. Sergei had been born and brought up in Moscow, by his well off parents. His father, who died in a skiing accident, was a prominent bio-chemist. His mother, a philosophy professor had recently retired. Sergei had a sister who had visited on a couple of occasions. The professor thought that she worked for an American bank in the Far East.
Sergei had attended the finest schools and had an exceptional record, attaining a top class degree from one of Russia’s finest University. When he applied to do a PhD at UCL he had been snapped up and granted a generous bursary. He didn’t socialise much outside of the athletics and swimming clubs, but his work was always of the highest calibre.
The starters arrived. Both men examined them closely. Jones wafted a hand over his dish to speed the scent of his soup to his nostrils.
As Jones reached for his spoon, he became aware that a man in a bright pink silk waistcoat had approached the table. The stranger was tall and of average build. His mop of sandy coloured hair flopped over one blue eye.
“Professor Ibsen!” The stranger extended a manicured hand bedecked in heavy gold jewellery towards the Professor. “I’m so glad I have run into you. We need to have a chat. ”
The professor stood and shook the hand warmly. “How nice to see you, again! May I introduce you to my dining companion? This is Inspector Jones. He is a policeman.”
The stranger’s smile evaporated. He glared at Jones, then flicked his head to temporarily remove the hair covering one eye.
“Inspector,” the professor turned to Jones who removed his napkin and stood. “May I introduce you to Sir Terence Cauldron.”
“Delighted to meet you, sir.” Jones smiled and offered his hand which Sir Terence reluctantly shook.
“I can see you are busy, professor.” Sir Terence quickly withdrew his hand. “I shall have one of my people phone you for an appointment.”
With that, Sir Terence turned on his heel and headed for the exit. As he left, Jones thought he caught an expletive escaping under Sir Terence’s breath.