Sunday, 3 February 2008

Lost in thought

Detective Inspector Playfair sat in his chair in his living room, and relaxed. The chair was a dentist's chair, sturdily constructed, adjustable as to height and incline, with the head-rest adjustable further yet, and had a useful little table attached to the sole arm. The chair had been reupholstered in red leather, and the stainless steel base on which it rested and swivelled gleamed as though it had been delivered from the showroom just minutes before. It was the only furniture in the living room.

There were four speakers set into the walls of the living room, arranged so as to focus the sound on whoever was sat in the chair, and a remote control casually discarded on the table of the arm-rest allowed the music to be controlled by pointing it out of the door. The living room was small, barely a metre-and-a-half square, uncarpetted, and had perfectly smooth walls. Getting the walls that smooth had taken two plasterers, both of whom had nervous breakdowns afterwards.

Playing at the moment was Kylie's Locomotion. Earlier it had been Mahler's Resurrection, which had made the windows tremble in their frames. Playfair lay back in his chair, closed his eyes, and let the music soothe him while he reviewed the visit to the antiques shop.

Calamity, the Rottweiler, had gone in first and pinned the owner of the shop against the wall, growling and drooling at him while he quaked in fear. Miss Flava -- Playfair permitted himself a smile -- had gone in next, and sensibly had left Calamity to Playfair, but busied herself looking round the shop. Then Playfair himself had gone in, and called Calamity off.

The owner of the shop, looking slightly relieved but still apprehensive, had introduced himself as Alexander Nirah.

"What was stolen?" Playfair had demanded aggressively, keeping Nirah on the back foot. Nirah had trembled a little, and a nervous tic, a twitch at the corner of his left eye, had started up.

"A couple of fetishes," he'd said hestitantly. "I kept them in the display case over by the counter, and when I came in in the morning the glass of the case had been smashed, and the fetishes were gone."

"You mean leather pants and foot-long dildos?" Playfair had said, thoughtfully. He knew, of course, what Nirah had really meant, but he wanted time to think without Nirah having equal time to think. Sure enough, Nirah had turned puce, which Playfair noticed co-ordinated well with Miss Flava's blouse, and stammered out an explanation about the nature of fetishes.

"So they're really just sacred objects," he'd said at last.

"So's a foot-long dildo to anyone who can handle one," Playfair had said, because he'd been feeling mean. "Why didn't you call us when the break-in occurred?"

"But I did," had spluttered Nirah, his eyes widening, and a little spittle foaming at the corners of his mouth.

"There's no broken glass in this display cabinet," had said Miss Flava, who had moved over to it unnoticed by Nirah, and was examining the joints of the case. "And at least one of these side-struts has been replaced recently."

Nirah had turned to look at Miss Flava, one hand reaching up to his throat, and then he put his hand sharply by his side again. Calamity had barked once, then disappeared in amongst the antiques the shop was selling, and Playfair had walked up behind Nirah, and glared at the back of his neck. Nirah had nearly fallen over trying to get away from Playfair without moving his feet.

"Well, it's a valuable display case and you took forever about getting out here!" he'd said, trying to sound accusing.

"It was evidence," had said Playfair, "and you shouldn't have touched it until the police got here and looked at it." He'd moved away from Nirah again, having seen that there was a thin pale line on his neck, suggestive that the man had worn a chain there for a while. "Well, there's nothing we can do if you won't help us, Mr. Nirah. We're leaving."

Nirah had stared at Playfair, obviously shocked. "But --" he started, and then stopped as Miss Flava marched out of the shop, closely followed by Playfair. Another bark had sounded inside the shop, and then the Rottweiler had raced after the policepeople, leaving behind a shopkeeper with a bad feeling and a pool of dog-urine he had yet to find.

Playfair hadn't explained himself to Miss Flava yet, he would do that tomorrow when he'd had time to think and work out where to go next. As Kylie climaxed with her Locomotion Playfair smiled happily, tapping his fingers on the table along with the bassline.

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