Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Well Sweet Little Sista's High In Hell

Here is Part 65 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.  We are now at a point where two things happen.

Firstly, I need to point out that from here on in, reading the recap then jumping into the middle of the story will rather ruin it. The recap will now start to include some major spoilers on the plot which, up until now have just been hints and clues.

Secondly, I need to get some feedback on the next four parts. There are some explanations of sorts about what might be happening – or they could be major red herrings. I need to know if these parts sound plausible and that I haven’t opened up a major plot hole. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t give much away in my responses to your feedback – there are a few twists and turns in the plot to come!

In my search for the oddest of news, I read that article and found myself frustrated. You would have thought that the journalist could have told us if the gambler behaved like this because he was winning!  

After what was the easiest of quiz questions, today’s question must rank up amongst the hardest. You will probably need 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...

“He’s an odious man.” Professor Ibsen muttered as he speared a scallop with his fork. “I’d rather take a chair in an American backwater than live in a country with Terence Cauldron as Prime Minister.”

The scallop was lifted half-way to the professor’s mouth, where it paused.

“I didn’t mean for that to be said out loud. Sorry” The scallop found its way to the professor’s mouth where it was savoured. “That man is the reason we lost the unfortunate Sergei.”

“You think that Sir Terence was involved in his death?” Jones spluttered.

“Good Lord No! He has other methods to achieve his ends. I meant that we lost Sergei to academia.” The professor paused as he took another mouthful of his starter. “Now, the witch he has as head of research, I wouldn’t put anything past her, but Sir Terence is far more... subtle.”

“Who is his head of research?” Jones smiled and raised a friendly eyebrow.

Professor Ibsen didn’t answer.  His brow furrowed and he carefully replaced his cutlery onto his plate before gently massaging his temples with both forefingers. “I’m normally so good with names, yet hers alludes me. I cannot even bring a picture of her to my mind.”

“That’s OK. I’m sure it will come to you.” Jones said quietly. “Just tell me what happened.”

It hadn’t taken long for Professor Ibsen and Sergei to develop an excellent working relationship. The research was going well and Sergei was tutoring a number of undergraduates. After about 6 months, Sergei had come to see the professor to talk to him about a theory he was developing.

“It was farfetched and fanciful.” Professor Ibsen took a pause to allow himself to fully appreciate his last scallop.

“Totally wrong you mean.” Jones took a piece of the crusty bread and buttered it.

“It was a theory. The problem was that he had based it on scant observations and other theoretical work. He hadn’t considered how he could scientifically test it. The best science often starts with a seemingly farfetched theory. When they are tested and validated by scientific method, everyone tends to say ‘that is so obvious, why didn’t I think of that? ” 

The professor had discussed the theory with Sergei who was very keen to seek funding to pursue the idea further.  The professor had been against the idea, feeling that it was better that Sergei complete his PhD first. They had discussed it long into the night and Professor Ibsen had felt he had dissuaded Sergei.

Jones then questioned the professor on whether the discussion was in fact an argument, but Ibsen was adamant that it had been friendly and constructive.

The discussion between Jones and Ibsen was interrupted by a waiter in a pale yellow kimono clearing the plates. Professor Ibsen ordered ‘his special’ bottle of wine without checking with Jones before continuing with the story.

Somehow, Cauldron and his head of research got involved. About three months later, Sergei announced that he was going to take a sabbatical from his PhD and go and work for Cauldron’s electronics company to develop his theory and see if it had practical applications. The professor had tried desperately to dissuade him, but Sergei was adamant and had left UCL.

“So you did argue.” Jones stated flatly.

“Not at all.” Professor Ibsen replied calmly. “In fact, we stayed in touch. He would often come to speak to me about his research and we would discuss it - often over a long dinner in this very restaurant.”

The wine waiter, resplendent in a shimmering pale green kimono arrived with the wine. Ibsen tasted it and declared it excellent.

“Ah!” Ibsen placed his forefinger to his lips. “I forgot, you are on duty. I suppose you will not be taking wine.”

Jones inspected the label on the bottle of Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Brut de Cuve Number 3. His hand quivered for a moment, but stayed on his lap.

“Well, professor.” Jones smiled broadly than ran the tip of his tongue across his lips. “On this occasion, I am prepared to make an exception to the rule.”


Friday, August 27, 2010

When I Get Older, Losing My Hair.

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.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh, What a Night

Time to lob Part 63 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”out there for the world to see.

Strange news is a little thin on the ground today, this seems to be the oddest I could find.

 Back on track today with the quiz question. A really easy one related to the number 63. For people of my vintage it should be a doddle, but as always, you do get 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...

As Jones was putting away his phone, Smithy arrived back with another of the thugs. A few minutes later, Brown and Johnson arrived with their collars. Smithy interrogated the thugs while Jones chatted with the deaf Michael in sign language. It wasn’t long before an ambulance arrived

The ambulance men tended to the victim before announcing that they wanted to take him to the hospital to ck him over. Jones told Brown to travel with the victim to the hospital and get a full statement.

Ten minutes later, Sergeant Collins arrived in the paddy wagon, drawn by four black llamas. The four thugs were packed inside.

Jones checked his watch and swore under his breath.

“You two better get back to the station and deal with that lot.” Jones waved a hand towards the departing paddy wagon. “Charge them all with assault and throw the book at mine. I have to meet Professor Ibsen. I’ll catch up with you when I get back.”

Jones strode off down the street, dodging fellow pedestrians. He had barely gone a hundred yards when a Bentley pulled alongside. The rear passenger window glided open.

“Inspector!” David Heatherington smiled causing Jones to shudder. “How fortuitous! May I offer you a lift?”

Bending at the waist, Jones peered into the luxurious interior. The smell of sandalwood and leather wafted from within.

“It’s OK. I’ll walk, I’ve plenty of time.” Jones straightened up.

“I insist!” Heatherington opened the door and shuffled across the back seat. “Besides, it will give us time to catch up.”

With a sigh, Jones climbed inside the Bentley.

“Where too, sir?” The driver asked politely.

Jones told him and a glass panel slid up between him and the driver.

“It would seem that police expenses have improved somewhat.” Heatherington said in a dry tone, the hint of a sparkle in his eye.

Jones pursed his lips and stroked his moustache. “I am the guest of Professor Ibsen. It was the only time and place available for our meeting. Sometimes this is a terrible job, but somebody has to do it.”

“Indeed.” Heatherington gave a laugh.

“I assume that you want to see if I have any leads on Victoria Adkins?” Jones looked for a reaction from the State Security man. “Well, if you are, then I’m afraid I have nothing to help. Unless it wasn’t your men who went to search Sergei Plutov’s lodgings?”

There was the merest hint of a twitch from Heatherington’s left eye before he spoke.

“They were not my men, Inspector.” Heatherington inspected the back of his left hand. “Do you know what they took away with them?”

“Nothing as far as I can tell.” Jones stared out of the window. “Why is your driver taking us round and round the block?”

“Let me assure you that you will be on time for your luncheon.” Heatherington pressed a button on his armrest and a drinks cabinet opened. “Brandy?”

Jones declined.

“I assume that your wife has been reading between the lines for you on the latest news?” Heatherington asked as he poured himself a generous measure of brandy into a glass.

“Yes, she believes that Cowell will have to resign and that Sir Terence Cauldron will become the next Prime Minister.”

“Which makes the need for me to talk to Victoria Adkins all the more urgent.” Heatherington swirled the brandy in the glass while his staring at Jones. “Who is Sergei Plutov?”

The question caused Jones to raise an eyebrow in the direction of Heatherington. Jones stroked his moustache again and sat back into the red leather upholstery. The two men observed each other for a while before Jones told Heatherington about Sergei Plutov and the outcome of their visit to his lodgings. Heatherington listened intently while swirling his brandy in the glass.

“Could Mr Plutov’s lady friend be Victoria Adkins?” Heathrington asked when Jones finished.

Jones shrugged and said nothing.

“But you think that the muscled man in the shell suit could be Darrius Kipling.” Heatherington stated flatly.

Again, Jones just shrugged.

“I will get one of my men to contact your man Johnson to help him with the Russian Embassy.” Heatherington pressed another button on his console. “You are probably considering hauling in Darrius Kipling, aren’t you?”

“It had crossed my mind.” Jones nodded. “But I did say I would give you until Monday and what with the overtime situation the way it is...”

“Thank you, Inspector.” Heatherington smiled and then produced a piece of paper. “This outlines all of Darrius Kipling’s movements for the last few days. He has been trying to locate Phillip Duncan, but that apart, we have discovered very little. Can you spot anything?”

The paper was handed to Jones who studied it before shaking his head. “There is nothing obvious there, but I’ll give it a closer look later.”

Heatherington expressed his thanks and the two made small talk for a while before the Bentley drew up outside the restaurant. The two shook hands before Jones climbed out of the car which then pulled away, soon to be lost from view amongst the heavy central London traffic.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From a Feint Into a Slip and Kicking From the Hip

I am eternally grateful to the loyal band of readers who are sticking with my serial, “A Couple of Tenors Short”. I must admit is was concerned that people would lose interest or become so totally baffled they would drift away, but looking at the statistics of my site yesterday, I realise that despite the difficulties posed by the way I have chosen to publish it, people are sticking with it.

Your loyalty has lifted my spirits more than you will ever realise. So, Part 62 is dedicated to you with heartfelt thanks.

For those of you frustrated with your daily commute, take heart from today’s strange news story. If you ever find yourself complaining about the traffic on your way to or from work, consider this.

 Today I was unable to find a quiz question related to the number 62. So, you will just have to make do with finding the song, connected vaguely to today’s episode, from which the title is taken. I have given you a picture clue and of course, here is 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...

Smithy looked over to where Jones was pointing. It was a piece of waste ground. The security fence that surrounded it had been vandalised. If there had ever been a gate, it was now long gone.

At the far end of the waste  ground, four youths, dressed in orange and blue striped blazers and yellow trousers, were tussling with another youth wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans. The youth in the sweatshirt had his arms up around his head as the others pushed him around, occasionally throwing punches.

“On it, guv!” Smithy gleefully announced as he accelerated hard.

Smithy turned the Zephyr sharply to the left and bounced it up the kerb causing all the other occupants to cling on to their doors grimly. The Zephyr came to a halt just inside the gateway. The doors flew open and the four detectives rushed out.

They were half way between the Zephyr and the fracas when one of the youths shouted “Scarper! It’s the filth!” The four youths in blazers looked up then ran. Three took off in the direction of the right hand corner of the waste ground. There the fence had been almost destroyed, providing access to a side street. Smithy, Brown and Johnson took off in pursuit of the three. The fourth broke left and headed for a brick wall.

Before starting the chase, Jones looked over to the lad in the jeans and sweatshirt. He was half sat, half lying on the ground, dabbing at a cut above his eye, smearing blood across his face. Jones accelerated after the youth.

When the lad reached the corner he leapt up and grabbed at the wall to heave himself up. For a moment, it looked like he would be up and over, but then the bricks on top of the wall came away and the youth fell backwards.

“Give it up, son.” Jones slowed to a walk as the youth picked himself up.

The youth swore under his breath before snatching up a long piece of wood.

“Cummon, copper!” The lad jumped to his feet and swung the chunk of wood a few times.

Jones looked at the wood and a large, rusty nail that curled from the end. He shook his head.

As the youth swung the wood from side to side, it made a whooshing sound. Jones ignored the wood and concentrated on the thug wielding it, staying on the balls of his feet, feinting left and right, just out of range of the swinging length of two by four.

“You’re just going to make it worse for yourself, lad.” Jones spoke calmly, never dropping his guard for a fraction of a second.

The youth laughed and lunged forwards. Jones deftly moved to his left and let the club swung harmlessly past his right shoulder.

“You’re not very good at this are you?” Jones waved his hands, wriggling his fingers as he continued to bounce on the balls of his feet.

The thug swung his club violently from left to right. Jones danced backwards as it flew past his throat.

“Bloody coppers!” the youth aimed another swing, which Jones dodged easily. “Why are you so concerned for a freak anyway?”

The youth didn’t give Jones chance to respond, lunging forward swing his club. Jones dodged it easily and stepped inside the arc of the club. He grabbed the arm holding the club, he  pulled it. The momentum of the youth caused him fall forward. Jones twisted his body, while continuing to hold the arm, executing a perfect jujitsu throw. The thug fell to the ground. Jones twisted the arm he still held and expertly turned him over so that he was face down. Jones placed a knee on the thug’s back as he produced a set of handcuffs and fitted them tightly.

“I’m arresting you for suspected assault. “ Jones hauled the thug to his feet. “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

“What?” the thug sneered and spat. “Don’t I even get a ‘you’re nicked, son’?”

Jones said nothing, just gave him a shove to move him back towards the victim of the assault, who was now sat up.

“Are you OK?” Jones shouted over.

The young man remained seated and continued to feel his various bruises and checking his hands for blood.

“Are you OK?” Jones rested his hand on the young man’s shoulder, then pushed the thug over to the wall.  “I’ll get you an ambulance. Get somebody to check you over.”

“I can’t hear you when you look away.” The young man spoke in a monotone, without inflection. “I’m deaf. I have to see your lips.”

After manhandling his suspect so that he was seated facing the wall, Jones came back to victim and crouched besides him.

“What is your name?”Jones signed

“Michael Langreen.” He signed back.

“See, he’s a bloody freak!” the thug shouted. “People aren’t safe if they let freaks like him roam the streets.”

Ignoring the thug, Jones completed his signed conversation with Michael before taking out his phone and calling for an ambulance and then a wagon to take away the thug. 


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh God Said to Abraham 'Kill Me a Son'

Reflection I

Hot on the heels of Part 60 comes Part 61 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. I had considered introducing some kind of random numbering system or perhaps start giving the various parts names like they do with hurricanes, but I resisted – for the moment at least.

You remember that writing stint yesterday? When I rattled off 1500 words in no time at all? I read it again this morning. Sad to report that the joy was short lived, it is now down to less than 500 words. What was I thinking?

It isn’t news as such, but they have announced the shortlist for the statue to fill the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. I thought you might be interested in seeing pictures of the shortlist. My favourite is the Cash Machine that triggers a giant organ on the top of the plinth whenever it is used. Sadly, I do not know what tune it will play. I will leave that open for suggestions!  

I’m able to continue the sequence for the quiz question. This one should be really easy (hence why I put one of my photos at the top there). Yet, 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 interview with Mrs Ford continued and Jones continued to poke around Sergei’s flat. After a little while, Jones resigned himself to not discovering anything else and he signalled to Smithy to wind the interview up.

While Smithy scribbled down the last of the anecdotes from Mrs Ford, Jones stepped out into the hall and ordered a forensics team to perform a better search and see if they could find something to identify the people who removed Sergei’s belongings.

When the four detectives met at the Ford Zephyr, it became clear that Johnson and Brown hadn’t discovered much either. A lot of the neighbours commented that they often saw him out running, but none really knew him.

“Perhaps we will have better luck with local athletics clubs.” Jones said as he climbed into the front passenger seat of the Zephyr.

“What makes you think that, guv?” Smithy asked as he buckled his seat belt.

“There was a pin board with bits of silk hanging from the pins and there were a lot of square shapes in the dust on the bookshelves which could have been trophies.” Jones spoke dryly as he looked at the sheet of notepaper in the evidence bag.

“That’s impressive deduction, guv.” Brown gave a low whistle from the back.

“It’s nothing really.” Jones gave a smile. “The real giveaway was all the different athletics vests and tracksuits in his drawers.”

The revelation was greeted by groans and a weak laugh from Johnson.

“So, Brown! I want you to follow up on that for me. And Johnson...” Jones paused and allowed himself a smile. “I want you to follow up with the Russian embassy to see if we can get in touch with his family.”

“Yes, guv” Johnson responded meekly.

Taking out his mobile phone, Jones dialled the number written on the paper.

“Hello?” a deep baritone voice answered.

“Hello. This is Detective Inspector Glynn Jones. May I speak with Professor Ibsen, please?”

“Oh.” There were a few seconds of silence. “This is Professor Ibsen. So it was Sergei then.”

“Errrm...” Jones gave a start at the response. “Can I ask why you say that?”

“I saw the picture of the dead man found in the Thames in the evening paper and thought it might have been Sergei Plutov, my former research assistant. However, I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t ring. That was remiss of me. ”

“I’m sorry to tell you that we believe it might be Mr Plutov.” Jones voice conveyed sympathy. “I wondered if you could spare some time to help us discover more about him and how he came to be swimming in the Thames?”

“I’ll be willing to help all I can, but...” Professor Ibsen paused for a moment. “I hate to compound my original oversight, but I fly out to a conference tomorrow and am unavailable all afternoon. Unless we could meet over lunch? I’ll happily pick up the tab.”

The two arranged to meet at one o’clock at a small restaurant near the college. It was a restaurant with a reputation for fine seafood, the anticipation caused Jones to look out of the window and salivate.

“Smithy! Pull over! Over there!” Jones shook himself from his daydream about sea bass and pointed to a fight going on a patch of waste ground.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Not Here To Entertain You

Here is the mini-milestone that is Part 60 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

I’m just recovering from a writing stint that has taken my breath away. I’ve just sat down and rattled 1500 words in no time at all. Convinced that it would be full of drivel, typos and waffle, I just reviewed and haven’t had to change as much of an apostrophe! That is a new record for me.

We find ourselves closer to home for today’s strange piece of news. Not up to the usual standard, I know, but I just find myself amazed that he has pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. Having a cat under the floorboards doesn’t make any difference. If you were driving under the influence then you are guilty. However, I guess I should let the courts decide.

I’m able to continue the sequence for the quiz question. This one has sixty in the title. It is another band I have never come across singing a track I have never heard. I think you’ll need 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 description of the ‘other coppers’ by Mrs Ford was vague. The terms “very much like you, dear” and “I don’t take much notice of these things” were used loosely and freely.  Smithy then moved on to the visit of Sergei Plutov’s lady friend while Jones poked around in the wardrobe and chest of drawers.

The lady friend and two other men arrived on Sunday evening. Mrs Jones had recognised the lady as she had visited Sergei before, although, as Mrs Ford was very keen to point out, they were never alone in his room after nine-thirty. The lady had first visited several months before and had been a regular visitor for several weeks. After that she had only visited once or twice and only to pick Sergei up.

The lady had explained that Sergei had found a bargain late availability holiday and had asked her to pick up a few things. She also paid an advance on the rent. As Mrs Jones had a few friends round for her regular bridge evening, she had left her and her two companions to pack Mr Plutov’s essentials.

When asked to describe the lady, Mrs Ford paused, and stared at Smithy as if he had just asked her a complex philosophy question. She started a response several times, before responding that she was young-ish, smartly dressed and wore an exceptional costume jewellery broach.  The description of the two men wasn’t much better. According to Mrs Ford, one was big, muscled and wore a lime green shell suit. The other was tall-ish, thin-ish and wore a frock coat.

  “Was there anything else about them you remember?” Jones was delving under the neatly folded and tightly packed clothes in the chest of drawers and didn’t look up.

“Not really.” Mrs Ford shook her head slowly.

“Well, it looks like they didn’t take any of his clothes.” Jones moved over to examine the desk.

Meanwhile, Smithy moved on to question Mrs Ford about Sergei.

While the words flowed freely from Mrs Ford, information was scarce with facts being sandwiched between long anecdotes involving her. While Smithy wrote everything down, Jones filtered out the nuggets as best he could. Sergei had moved in about three years before. Mrs Ford knew he was a student, but didn’t know where or what he was studying.  After about a year, Sergei got a job, but didn’t move out. Mrs Ford thought he might have changed jobs a few months ago because he had started turning left rather than right at the garden gate when he left in the morning.

The typical day for Sergei involved rising early, going for a long run before showering, breakfasting and leaving for work about 8 am. He always ate out and would return around seven thirty. Normally he would go for another run before going to his room.  Visitors were rare. He didn’t socialise with Mrs Ford. Most weekends he went away somewhere, even when he was home, he didn’t socialise much.

“It looks like they took virtually everything. Didn’t you think it odd they took so much?” Jones looked at Mrs Ford.

Mrs Ford gave a shrug. “I wasn’t really paying much attention; I was playing bridge you see.”

“They even took his computer.” Jones muttered.

“Oh no, dear.” Mrs Jones looked at him. “Mr Plutov took that with him when he went out on Friday evening. That was the last time I saw him.”

The only things that remained on the bookshelf were about a dozen books, all novels in Russian. Jones poked about before leaning in closer. He pulled one book from the shelf and let it fall open. At the back of the book was a folded sheet of paper. Producing an evidence bag from his pocket, Jones carefully unfolded it and slipped it into the bag.

It was a sheet of University College London notepaper with ‘Prof. Ibsen’ written on it with a phone number.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Well, I wonder which song they're gonna play when we go.


Time to share with the world part 59 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. Looking at my outline, it seems that there is still a lot to write, but I have so far completed over 50 000 words (Although I have posted a bit less than that). I spent some time at the weekend reading back what I have written and decided that the beginning is a little flabby and needs a ferocious edit – yet there are a couple of scenes that need adding which will undo any good work achieved by the edit!

So, even when I get to the end, it looks like I will need to keep writing.

I find myself in China again for the little snippet where the world continues to deliver things that I could never dream up for inclusion in “A Couple of Tenors Short”. It is a funny old world.

Amazingly, I have found a track related to the number fifty-nine and it is another track I quite like. I’ve never heard of the band, but I give you the answer anyway. I fear that my lack of musical knowledge is shining through now. Virtually every quiz question is about a band I have never heard of.  

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 lodgings of Sergei Plutov were in a tree lined street of three storey Victorian houses. Most of the houses had been converted into flats. The front gardens were largely untended.

Smithy had to park the Zephyr down the street and the four of them walked up the road. A few of the residents eyed them suspiciously from behind curtains.  At one point in the walk up the road, Smithy paused at one of the tended gardens to admire the Garden Gnome installation. Jones grabbed his arm and hauled him back to the group.

“Look at that, Guv! A Gnome Tennis Player!” Smithy paused at one of the well tended gardens, pointing at a gnome that was lifting its white tennis skirt to attend to a troublesome itch on its left buttock.

“Come on!” An irritated Jones grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the group. “I want you to do all the talking. That’ll allow me to poke around a bit.”

The garden of the lodgings of Sergei Plutov was in the well tended category, but was devoid of any decoration. At the gate, Jones despatched Brown and Johnson to knock on the doors of the neighbourhood to see what they could discover.

The door to the house was opened by Mrs Ford, a woman in her mid forties. Her dark brown hair was in a tight perm and didn’t sit well with a pale complexion, even though that complexion had been aided by the liberal application of makeup.

“Oh. It’s you lot.” The broad smile on her face vanished in a trice.

Jones and Smithy introduced themselves and showed their warrant cards.

“I suppose you’ll want a proper look at poor Mr Plutov’s room.” Mrs Ford turned without checking their id and headed up the stairs.

Jones and Smithy stepped inside and followed. On the pretence of shutting the front door, Jones hung back and observed the hall. It was clean, tidy and very ordinary. Jones ran a finger across the top of the mirror hung in the hall and inspected it. When he found it clean, he pursed his lips and gave a nod before following Smithy and Mrs Ford up the stairs.

“You’ll not find much in his room. As I told the other coppers, Mr Plutov’s a very frugal gentleman.”

“Other coppers?” Smithy cut in as they started up another flight of stairs.

“Yes, they came on Wednesday afternoon.” Mrs Ford continued up to the second floor.

“Did they show you their warrant cards?”  Smithy asked as Mrs Ford stopped in front of a door and withdrew a key from a pocket.

“No need, dear.” Mrs Ford paused and brushed some fluff from the collar of Smithy’s blazer. “You could tell as soon as look at the, The one in charge, sharp as a pin, but dressed like an explosion in a paint factory and swore under his breath a bit too often to pass in polite society. Then there was his sidekick, in the latest designer clobber, but ever so slightly dim. No offence.”

“Do have guests in these other rooms?” Jones asked, ignoring the insult and waving a hand to the other three doors on the second floor landing.

“Well, number one is Mr Wesley. He’s in sales. He rents the room for the week, but is usually only here for two or three days. Nice man. An absolute martyr to lumbago. Keeps his medication in a silver hip flask.” Mrs Ford made the appropriate gesture and gave a wink. “Number three was Mr Yoruba, but I had to let him go. I think he went back to Nigeria. Not that we will exchange Christmas cards.”

“And the other door?” Smithy asked.

“That’s the bathroom dear.” Mrs Ford opened the door to Sergei Plutov’s room.

Sergei Plutov’s room was indeed Spartan. There was a bed, a large dark wooden wardrobe, a pine chest of drawers , a couple of bookcases, a desk and an easy chair. There were few personal touches.

“Have you cleaned in here recently?” Jones asked Mrs Ford, while looking at the nearly empty bookcases.

“Oh no, dear. I don’t clean for my guests. They have to do that themselves.” Mrs Ford pulled a face. “Not that I had any problems with Mr Plutov, he was impeccable in that regard and despite being a foreigner, he never left a ring round the bath.”

Jones grimaced and walked over to the bookshelf, snapping on a latex glove as he went. He looked at the outlines made by missing items in thin layer of dust on the shelf .

“Stuff has been taken from these shelves.” Jones announced. “Did those other police take anything out of the room?”

“No, dear.” Mrs Ford gave a tinkling laugh. “They didn’t stay long at all. As soon as I told them about Mr Plutov’s lady friend coming to get some of his stuff, they used some very un-gentlemanly language and left.”


Friday, August 13, 2010

The Way You Talk, The Things You've Done

Part 58 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. I keep rattling away at this. Amazing really, I suppose at some stage I should consider what I should do with it once it is complete. I have already started to cast the TV mini-series in my head, but I am rather stuck over who should play Smithy.

You will be pleased to know that life in the real world continues to outshine anything I can dream up for “A Couple of Tenors Short”. All I can say is that dominoes in the Rat & Ferret is nothing compared to how they play it in China.

More severe doubts over the quiz question, at least in part due to me not being sure I have a picture of the right band. The answer suggests that it should be easy to people of my generation, but I suspect it’s not.

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...

Inside the Zephyr, Smithy, Johnson and Brown considered Jones’s question over the oddness of the world. The three of them looked at Jones and then each other.

After one of the exchanges of glances, Smithy had to brake hard to avoid knocking over a particularly little old lady who was riding a large dog across the pedestrian crossing. The little old lady pulled up her steed and glared at Smithy from under a bright orange parasol.

“What do you mean odd?” Smithy asked turning around quickly to avoid the irate lady’s withering look.

“OK, look.” Jones clasped his hands together, interlocking his fingers. “We are four policemen, driving through London in a bright pink Ford Zephyr Mark III with no flashing blue light or sirens...”

“Oh yes, flashing Lights, but perhaps we should go for lavender lights?” The Sat-Nav cut in.

“... and with a Sat-Nav that thinks it is some kind of camp style advisor.” Jones voice took on an edge in response to the interruption. “We’ve just nearly knocked over an old lady riding an Irish Wolfhound side-saddle while wearing crinolines, numerous petticoats and carrying a parasol. Don’t you consider that the slightest bit odd?”

“Camp? I’m not camp!” the Sat-Nav squealed. “Just for that you can find your own way to... to wherever it is your going!”

As the detectives considered Jones’s question, the old lady grew bored with glaring at the car and moved across the crossing. Smithy crunched the Zephyr into gear and moved off.

“Well, it is London, guv.” Brown was the first to respond. “This is a city that is a zany melting pot of style and fashion. Where London leads, the world follows.”

“Did you have those funny pains before you gave that answer, Brown?” Jones asked gently.

“No, not at all..” Brown spoke slowly, “it seemed the right answer.”

“When was the last time you saw a little old lady riding side-saddle on a dog in a busy city street?” Jones pressed.

The other three in the car consulted before admitting that this was the first time they could remember. Jones relaxed slightly, sitting back in his seat, a half-smile playing on his lips.

“Mind you, we ARE having memory problems.” Smithy reminded Jones, which caused the half-smile to vanish. “And London is known for its eclectic mix and variety of loveable eccentrics. Doesn’t mean we would have come across them all.”

“OK, let’s try and explain the moustaches.” Jones stroked the ginger monstrosity that flamed on his top lip. “How come we all grew moustaches? Not over a few days, but suddenly, all at once on a drive across London.”

The three detectives fell silent.  Johnson twisted the ends of his handlebar moustache.

“Is it some kind of virus?” Brown offered.

“Hurrumph. Is that the best you can come up with?” Jones asked dismissively. “Besides, why just a moustache and how come they grow ready styled?”

“Guv, this is giving me a headache.” Smithy complained.

Jones looked at his three companions. They all looked pale, their lips tinged with blue.

“I don’t feel so good either, guv” Brown admitted.

Smithy suddenly turned the Zephyr into a side street and parked. Smithy, Brown and Johnson all wound their windows down.

“I’m sorry, guv. I’ll feel better in a minute.” Smithy stuck his head out of the window and gulped in air. “I feel a bit dodgy.”

“In what way?” Jones looked at his companions who all had their eyes closed and their heads out of their windows.

“I dunno really. It’s a bit like I’ve been working a really long shift and now the adrenaline has run out.” Smithy spoke quietly, between deep breaths.

Brown and Johnson said nothing, but nodded their heads weakly. Jones stroked his moustache and stayed silent.

“I hope I’m not coming down with something.” Brown moaned. “I would hate to miss the Light Entertainment Championships.”

“That would be awful, what with the world record and the overtime and all.” Johnson added, never moving his head from the window.

The conversation about the Light Entertainment Championships continued. As it did, the colour returned to the faces of Smithy, Johnson and Brown and they became more animated. In his back seat, Jones said nothing, just observed, while stroking his moustache. After about 10 minutes, the conversation had got quite animated over who were the favourites for the competition.

When the conversation died down, Smithy announced he felt much better, started the engine on the Zephyr and pulled away. While the three of them argued over costume choices with the Sat-Nav, Jones sat quietly in the back, staring out of the window.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Sun Shone In, The Glint In Your Eye.

Part 57 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. Nothing much to add today, I just wanted to post the next episode.

 I’m not sure about today’s quiz question. The  answer seems somehow familiar, but I don’t know if that makes it any easier. Mind you, I think the name is ace.

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...

In a break from normal practice, Jones sat in the back of the Zephyr with Johnson while Brown sat in the front with Smithy who drove.

After fastening his seat belt, Jones positioned himself so he could easily glare at Johnson. Johnson shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Good morning, luvvies!” The Sat-Nav greeted them as Smithy gunned the engine into life. “Where to, my little bundles of angel fluff?”

“Turn that bloody thing off!” Jones shouted from the back seat without ever losing the intensity of the glare at Johnson.

“Temper, temper!” The Sat-Nav responded as Brown poked around it. “Oooo, you have cold hands and that tickles!”

Brown admitted defeat, turned to Jones and gave a shrug. Jones swore under his breath.

Gunning the engine in the Zephyr, Smithy accelerated between a llama carriage and a group of elderly men with a small handcart laden with cauliflowers. A chimney sweep on bicycle, with his brushes slung over his shoulder briefly blocked Smithy’s path. The sweeps eyes opened wide before violently swerving onto the pavement, scattering pedestrians. The bicycle collided with post box, sending the sweep over the handlebars and into the white canvas awning of a butcher’s shop. The sweep bounced from the awing, performed a passable somersault before deftly landing on his feet on the pavement.

Looking in his wing mirror, Smithy gave a chuckle at the comedic sweep-shaped sooty splodge on the butcher’s awning.

During the entire incident, Jones’s gaze never left Johnson.

“Guv, I’m sorry.” Johnson shook his head and looked down into his lap. “I know what I did was wrong, but.... well... at the time it seemed right.”

“Seemed right?” Jones spoke quietly, yet his eyes flashed.

“It’s difficult to explain.” Johnson scratched his head without lifting his gaze. “Everything you said in the briefing, I know that is right and proper. I’ve always known, I wouldn’t have joined the police if I didn’t believe that.”

“It’s like those memory problems, Guv.” Smithy cut in from the front. “You know, like we talked about yesterday.”

“Yeah, I suppose it is kind of.” Johnson looked up at the back of Smithy’s head. “You sort of find yourself puzzled by something, you try to work out why, but it sort of... hurts.”

“I know what he means.” Brown spun round from the front passenger seat.  “You suddenly find yourself confronted with something, you try to remember what to do, then things pop into your head that don’t seem right, but if you try and question it, it kind of hurts until you accept it.”

“Exactly!” Johnson sat up and waved a hand towards Brown. “When I got that report, I wanted to jump up and shout, but something held me back. I got confused and then the foreigner thing cut in.”

Jones stroked his moustache and considered the conversation for a moment.

“Would you look at that? There’s a sale on at Embroidery World!” the Sat-Nav cut in, but was ignored.

“Just like the Garden Gnomes.” Smithy muttered from the front seat, gripping the steering wheel a little tighter.

“Garden Gnomes?” Jones blurted out before realising his mistake, closing his eyes and shaking his head.

“It was my wife’s idea. Let’s turn the front garden into a Gnome Sanctuary she said.” Smithy leaned forward in the driver’s seat, his knuckles starting to turn white as he gripped the wheel. “I hate the bloody things and wanted to say no, but for some reason, I couldn’t. It hurt. So I agreed. Now I seem to spend all my free time installing rockeries and ponds in the front garden. I can’t go near a garden centre anymore because when I do, I end up buying another bloody gnome!”

“I would just love to give you directions to a garden centre.” The Sat-Nav chimed happily.

“SHUT UP!” The four detectives shouted in unison.

“Doesn’t it happen to you, Guv?” Brown asked.

“Well...” Jones took a deep breath and let it out slowly and noisily. “I seem to have gaps in my memory, but not the pains. I find that with a little self control I can handle...”

Jones let the sentence drift off, before running a hand through is hair and swearing under his breath.

“What the hell is going on here, lads?” Jones implored. “Why is everything so... odd?”


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't Treat Me Like A Lab Rat, Dom Joly.

That picture above is of Dominic John Romulus Joly, popularly known as “Dom” Joly. On his Wikipedia page, Dom Joly is described as a comedian, columnist and broadcaster. It must be true; it is on Wikipedia (See Note 1).

My regular voracious yeomen, may have been expecting me to share with you the next thrilling instalment of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. Sadly, thanks to Mr Joly there, I have found that work needed to be set aside today. You see, the erudite and urbane Mr Joly has made me feel cheap, hoodwinked and abused. Such hurt cannot be resolved by a swift half of Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel, nor can it be chemically subdued by simply increasing the dosage on my dried frog pills. Such feelings require an outlet, here in the quiet interweb backwater of my blog.

The vehicle that Mr Joly utilised to inflict pain upon me was Twitter. I have a Twitter account. The medium is fun, informative, allows me to keep in touch with friends, play Fallen London and publicise my blog posts. Like so many other Twitter users, I follow a few celebrities and people of interest. I enjoy their posts and occasionally reply. As a result I have ended up in long debates (all in fewer than 140 characters) on politics, religion and salad dressings.

I’ve always considered that celebrities on Twitter have a right to set the boundaries of their relationship with their followers. Just because I consider that I have given a witty or informative response to a celebrity post, I have no right to expect a reply, let alone a discussion (See Note 2).

Yet in following a celebrity, I believe that I have the right to be treated with respect and above all honesty. I do not expect to be treated like an inconsequential lab rat or an unpaid research assistant. Today, Mr Joly made me feel like both.

I’m not really sure how the situation started, but suspect that it had something to do with Dom Joly discovering that Belgian TV had ‘lifted’ his award winning TV show, Trigger Happy TV, and had remade it virtually shot for shot without giving him credit (See Note 3). Dom Joly complained loudly about the incident on Twitter and in his column for The Independent (See Note 4). At that point, I was quite sympathetic and very much on his side.

Unfortunately for Mr Joly, the Internet and Twitter can become a touch tribal. It is very easy to set off flame wars. Whether it was the mention in the article or something he said in his many tweets on the topic, he managed to upset the followers of Keith Chegwin.

The followers of Keith Chegwin rounded on Dom Joly and started to send tweets of complaint. After all, Keith Chegwin hadn’t ripped off Mr Joly’s fine artistic portfolio. His only ‘crime’ was to have a passing resemblance to the host of the Belgian TV show. Just why Mr Joly chose to make an issue of this passing resemblance is beyond me.

A war of tweets began. Mr Joly responded to the ire of the many for whom Keith Chegwin holds cherished memories of childhood by correcting their grammar and generally insulting their intelligence (See Note 5). The result? The flame war escalated. Mr Joly’s response was to start re-tweeting stranger’s post with the single intention of ridiculing them – something that is both childish and petty.

Yet, I was prepared to forgive that. After all, I can look at posts and replies that I’ve made on the internet and with the benefit of hindsight, regret them. When you post something on Twitter, it easy to forget how that it immediately becomes very public and that posts can get re-tweeted in such a way as to fall in front of millions of pairs of eyes.

The problem for me were the posts that Mr Joly made this morning, after discovering that overnight others had joined into the new game of ‘goading Joly’.

The first post was this-

morning all, been up in London, think my nine year old was on my account last night...anything interesting happen?

The post jarred with me because I wasn’t sure if Mr Joly was trying to distance himself from the flame war he started or it was just another barbed insult against those who sprung to the defence of Keith Chegwin. Still, I was prepared to let it pass.

Then this post appeared-

I have "lost" precisely 100 followers last night.....how will I cope?

That post annoyed me. It made me feel that Dom Joly has little regard for his Twitter followers. To me, it seemed arrogant and dismissive of all of his followers – not just the ones that were responding on behalf of Keith Chegwin (See Note 6).

Dom Joly then compounded all my frustration and growing anger by posting this-

OK- show's over everyone- was just doing an article about trolls and abuse on Twitter- I now have the material- thanks.....

It appears that Dom Joly wants the world to believe that he wasn’t taking out his frustrations on seeing his work reworked on Belgian TV on Keith Chegwin after all. Keith Chegwin was just a convenient dupe to allow him to write another article for which he will probably be well paid. The feelings of Keith Chegwin seem to have been ignored. The feelings of those he upset along the way have been ignored. Dom Joly has got what he needs from Twitter, nothing else matters.

I have news for Dom Joly. It DOES matter. Your followers and those of Keith Chegwin are real people. These are ordinary people with feelings, aspirations and self-esteem. They are the people you rely on to keep your name in the public eye, buy your books, and watch your films and broadcasts. The very people you rely on to make the living that allows you to live a comfortable, middleclass lifestyle (See Note 7).

A public apology is very much in order here. The apology should include all those who follow you on Twitter and all those who follow Keith Chegwin. Plus, if you really do intend to profit from this poorly conceived, lazy research, you should make sure that your article provides the appropriate credit to all those who did the research on your behalf.

It is in the vain hope that I will see this apology that will see me keep following you on Twitter for a little while longer. I doubt that it will be forthcoming. I’m beginning to believe that you seeking to rival your school’s other famous alumni for infamy (See Note 1) and don’t give a second thought to the impact you have on others.

Once I have confirmed to my satisfaction that you are not man enough to say sorry I will unfollow you and switch allegiance to Keith Chegwin. You may feel he is somehow unworthy, but he does still maintain an air of integrity.

Note 1: Which also imparts the little nugget that Dom Joly went to school with Osama bin Laden.

Note 2: In truth, I would think that with my level of wit, the celebrity concerned would have already received hundreds of sharper and funnier responses than my offering. Yet, I like to delude myself that it was read and caused a brief smile to play across their face before they moved on to more pressing matters.

Note 3: Trigger Happy TV was sold to over 70 countries. While it easy to see why Dom Joly was upset over the incident, it is equally easy to see that broadcasters who bought the series may well believe they have the contractual right to remake it.

Note 4: Dom Joly is a very good columnist and broadcaster. His columns are always worth a read and I found his work with the BBC on the Beijing Olympics both entertaining and informative. I just fell into the trap of believing that somebody’s public persona was their actual persona. Perhaps that is why I feel so hurt.

Note 5: And should the eloquent Mr Joly choose to do so, he could have an absolute field day with my writing. Yet there is a subtle difference here. He is paid to write, the vast majority of the people on Twitter are not. The needs for the formal frameworks are much reduced when communicating by text or Twitter. Such is the power of the human brain; it can work out the message without it having to conform to all the rules of language. In these mediums it is the message that is important – not its form.

Note 6: I should point out that I didn’t fire off any tweets to Dom Joly offering an opinion one way or another on his war of words with Chegwin supporters. However, I did respond to this post by replying “Losing 100 followers is nothing to a gentleman with your humility. I consider you the Uriah Heap of 20th Century comedy.” I didn’t get a reply.

Note 7: Although this isn’t a lifestyle he is particularly comfortable with. It appears as well as fans of Keith Chegwin, he is willing to upset everyone around his Cotswold home with the post –“off to Cirencester to wander around aimlessly and wish I lived somewhere else