Monday, 31 December 2007

Detective Inspector Playfair wonders

"So," said Detective Inspector Playfair, "this 'Cesar Sausage' killed all of these people?" He sat behind a thin plywood desk in Interview Room A looking at a thin, snake-like man squirming on a hard wooden chair opposite. "It seems like a lot of effort to go to. We removed 33 bodies from that flat, and, for some reason no-one has yet been able to explain, 41 heads."

"That's Cesar for you," said the snake-like man. His tongue flickered barely out of his mouth, wetting his lips, and DI Playfair noted that it had been split. "When he makes a statement, everyone hears it." His s's were sibilant.

"So it would seem," said DI Playfair. "Only this is the first time I've ever heard of him, and I've been working here now for five years. So has Mr. Sausage been keeping quiet for a while?"

"I can't speak for Cesar," said the snake-like man. DI Playfair noted that the man's eyes were slightly yellow, but whether that was coloured contact lenses or jaundice he couldn't tell in the dim electric lighting. The energy-saving bulbs in the police station seemed to take hours to warm up enough to be useful.

"You're here speaking against him now," said Playfair. "I have three pages that you've dictated, here in front of me." He tapped the pages for emphasis. Minute black handwriting covered them densely, making them seem as though they'd been attacked by mould. "What I don't understand yet is why you're speaking out against him."

"I told you already!" said the snake-like man, sitting up in his chair. He seemed to be almost vibrating, his back was stiff and straight and his shoulders thrust out. Playfair thought that if the little man were actually related to a snake he'd be a cobra, his hood now rising up to make his head seem bigger and more of a threat.

"Yes, but you've also told me that your name is 'Nnnk-thss,' that you're an acolyte of some Mesopotamian snake-god, and, as best as I remember, most of the plot to 'The Usual Suspects.' Including 'Cesar Sausage,' which is a reference so unsubtle even the desk sargeant out there --" Playfair pointed with the fine-nibbed pen he'd used to write the statement, "-- got it. Which means I had to put up with him leaning heavily against my shoulder and whispering to me that he thinks you might be a little bit conservative with the truth, only in words that the Sun uses for its headlines, and in breath smelling strongly of the all-day breakfast the cafe round the corner does. Which, for the record, I did not appreciate."

Nnnk-thss slouched back in his chair again, and his eyes half-closed as his mouth half-opened. Playfair cut him off.

"So, Mr. Nnnk-thss, I'm going to put you in a cell for a while to think about this. And the only cell I have available at the moment is the one containing the 41 heads we removed from that flat. So you'll have plenty of familiar faces to talk to, while you sort your next story out."

Playfair stood up and pushed the next firmly back, pinning the snake-like man against the wall. The breath gasped out of him, and Playfair leaned harder on the desk, making it hard for the man to breathe in.

"The next story had better be a good one. I like originality in my plots."