Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Playfair continues

Interview Room A was on the ground floor, and Detective Inspector Playfair's office was up two flights of stairs, along an uncarpetted corridor, past the canteen and at the end of the short corridor that broke off to the right. Playfair, a tall, athletic man, stamped his way along the corridors back to his office. People in the rooms and offices nearby flinched at each heavy footfall and were relieved to hear them going past. Everyone, it seemed, had at some point or another been under fire from an enraged DI Playfair.

As Playfair flung the door to his office open wide it bounced off the doorstop and juddered on its hinges, twanging gently. Behind him, another door opened, and Miss Flava came out the office she shared with two secretaries and a Rottweiler. Playfair stamped across the threadbare carpet in his office to his desk and sat down heavily in the huge leather chair behind it. Miss Flava came in behind him, closed the door gently, turned to face him, and put both hands on her hips. She was quite angular, and this made her look like she was constructed out of triangles.

"Well?" she said, tapping her foot.

"It's the Usual Suspects," said Playfair, pulling the brass Newton's cradle across the desk.

"What? Maggie and Thora are behind this? That's ridiculous! I know they successfully hid their heroin smuggling ring behind the WI's jam competition for years, but mass murder? In a small flat near the town centre? Playfair, are you completely off your rocker?" Miss Flava flushed dusky rose, her chin jutted out towards Playfair, and her voice reached a contralto, as high as it ever got.

"No, Miss Flava, it's the Usual Suspects. The film," said Playfair, setting the cradle in motion. The little brass balls clicked rhythmically. "Nnnk-thss gave me a garbled version of the plot of the usual suspects, right down to a mastermind called Cesar Sausage, if you can believe it. I've put him in the cells and told him to have another go at it."

"Oh! Right, well that makes a little more sense," said Miss Flava, standing down slightly and letting her arms drop to her sides. "Wait, I thought we'd put the severed heads in the only spare cell?"

"We have," said Playfair, his eyes watching the cradle. "And now we've put Nnnk-thss in there as well, to have a think about things."

Miss Flava's eyes widened, but she said nothing. She knew what her boss was like, and how many times he'd been hauled in front of the police disciplinary committee. She also had a good idea that he was bribing people near the top of the police hierarchy in order to keep his job, but had decided that was something she didn't need to know any more about. She looked at him, his head bent, watching the cradle demonstrate physics, and knew that he was letting his instincts have their way.

"What else should I be worrying about today, Miss Flava?" said Playfair, not looking up.

"Well, you have an internal meeting in a few minutes to discuss the Christmas menu for the canteen," said Miss Flava. Playfair humphed, sounding dispeptic. "Your last memo to the committee for this," she continued serenely, "suggested that they roast anything they could find in the evidence locker and treat the result as a suppository. I amended that to something a little more constructive; your new suggestion is the menu on your..." she paused, her eyes scanning Playfair's desk, "... under your coffee-cup.
Other than that, you've been asked not to help with the interviews for the break-in on the Highbury estate as the arresting officer is scared of you; the community liaison officer wants a word with you, probably to ask you not to liaise with the community again; there's been a break-in at an antiques shop that no-one can be bothered with and has been pushed to you, and at some point you'll have to re-interview this man with the usual suspects story."

"Nnnk-thss," said Playfair. "That's what he's calling himself at the moment."

"Right," said Miss Flava. "I've got his description circulating already."

"When have I liaised with the community recently?" Playfair looked up, frowning.

"Technically," said Miss Flava, trying not to smile, "you were liaising with the community when you punched the paramedic who was trying to get Mr. Nnnk-thss into the ambulance to go to the hospital and knocked him into the traffic cones."

"Ah," said Playfair.

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