Sunday, 20 January 2008

A Christmas Menu

Someone shouted wordlessly behind closed doors, and the Rottweiler sat up, his ears pricked, facing the door. Miss Flava sighed, very very softly, and rubbed the dog's head.

"It's ok boy, it's only Playfair," she said. "The committee for the creation of the Christmas Menu have probably brought up the vegetarian option. I did tell them not to, at least until they'd got him to agree to the main menu."

The Rottweiler whined and stretched his front paws out again, lying down, his head resting on his legs, still watching the door. The other two secretaries in the room, Jeanine and Delilah, shivered in unison, and starting typing a little bit louder than was really necessary. Miss Flava often thought of them as canaries, as they seemed to have an uncanny sixth sense about when DI Playfair would hurtle into their shared office. On the day that he'd been rear-ended by a venomous traffic-warden in the police carpark they'd both called in sick within minutes of each other half an hour before the incident occurred. From where Miss Flava sat, she could still see the stains from the window opposite her desk. She started counting under her breath.

As she reached 5, the door opened. Like most office doors it was fitted with a regulator at the top, a hinged triangle of metal that usually slowed the closing of the door down so that it didn't slam. The one on this door was hydraulic, and slowed the opening of the door down so that DI Playfair couldn't charge through it like a bull in a mating pen. The door wheezed open at almost normal opening speed, which meant that DI Playfair must have hit it running and put most of his weight behind it. He stumbled in, having lost most of his momentum.

"Vegetarians?!" he shouted. His face was dark red, and there were traces of spittle around his lips. "Why the hell are we hiring vegetarians to work in the police force? Bloody creatures are only fit to be pond-scum. Or if there's no room there, traffic wardens!"

"We're an equal opportunity employer," said Miss Flava, her hand resting on the Rottweiler's collar. He tended to get overexcited around Playfair. "And even if we weren't, it would be politicall-"

"Don't give me bloody politically correct!" yelled Playfair. "Those limp-wristed panty-hose-wearing liberal femi-communist perverts deserve everything they get, and then buggery besides! We should cook the damned vegetarians and serve them up to the people with a proper diet! Who ever heard of a meal that doesn't involve meat?"

"Breakfast?" suggested Miss Flava, moderately impressed with DI Playfair's description of the politically correct, a group which included most of his superior officers.

"I always chop raw steak onto my cereal," said Playfair, breathing heavily. "None of this tofu-banana crap."

"I think you might mean muesli there?"

"Rabbit droppings. That's the Swedish word for rabbit droppings. Why would you eat something that someone else has already digested for God's sake? What next, boil-in-the-colostomy bag food?"

Delilah pushed back her chair looking pale and fled the room, managing to get past DI Playfair, who hadn't moved from the doorway, without actually touching him. As she disappeared Miss Flava could hear her retching.

"Right. Well. I'll write a new memo on the menu then, and forge your signature on it and send it to the committee so that you don't have to be bothered by it again," said Miss Flava. "I think you've probably done everything you can to the committee members now."

"I could lock them up in the cells with the snake-priest and the severed heads," said DI Playfair, but some of the anger had gone out of his voice now. "Give them some time to think about their stupidity."

"We're overcrowded enough as it is," said Miss Flava. "I'll sort the menu-memo out. You go and get your coat. We should go and look into this antique shop burglary before the owner complains that the police aren't taking him seriously."

"Someone had better have died there, that's all," muttered Playfair, backing out of the office, letting the door fall shut. As the door clicked closed, Jeanine fainted, and Miss Flava had an instant premonition that the chair of the committee must have gone to Playfair's office to confront him. She ducked beneath her desk, pulling her laptop with her, and waited for the noise and dust to subside.

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