Friday, 18 November 2011

Playfair en route

Inspector Playfair fidgeted in the passenger seat.  He preferred to drive, and would have demanded that Miss Flava surrender the driver's seat to him, except that the car-pool officer had a list of documents from all the levels of the chain of command stating firmly that Playfair was not allowed to drive any car that the car-pool provided.  Playfair had started off thunderous, and rapidly progressed to murderous as he realised that he had no court of appeal.  Miss Flava had remained perfectly calm the entire time, knowing that anything she said would either antagonize her boss further or be used by him as leverage to get into the driver's seat.  She was quietly impressed that he'd only made one attempt to usurp her, at a motorway service station where they'd failed to find potable coffee.
"We'd be there already by now, you know," he said, his voice taut with unspoken criticism and recrimination.
"That's because you have only two speeds," said Miss Flava, "and don't understand what the gear stick or clutch is for."
"I get where I'm supposed to be going before the damn criminals have hobbled off on their stolen crutches and in their stolen wheelchairs!"
"We don't know anything about the criminals where we're going," said Miss Flava patiently.  "We're going out to Little Haversham mostly because no-one wants you around the office for the next six weeks.  I did warn you this would happen, sir."
Playfair stared out of the window, his gaze unblinking.  Miss Flava glanced across; in profile her boss had very Roman features and would look for all the world like a bust if you dipped his head in flour.  She reckoned his gaze was just below the danger point, and decided to just carry on driving.  She changed gear and slowed down a little.
"Who is this woman anyway?" said Playfair.  "And why does she have to be in place for six weeks?"
"She's called Miriam," said Miss Flava who had read the woman's CV after filching it from the HR director's office.  "She's a consultant."
"Consulting on what?"
Miss Flava was silent a moment, thinking.  "She's a spacial awareness and refactorant consultant," she said eventually.  "She applies long-established techniques in a 360-degree and multi-dimensional environment to facilitate process flow and establish meaningful state transitions."
"...she's a bloody Feng Shui consultant, isn't she?" said Playfair about eight seconds later.  Mentally, Miss Flava sighed; she'd thought she'd finally found a way of phrasing it that Playfair couldn't see through.
"Well, yes," she said, slowing down again, anticipating Playfair's explosion.  Even so the car wobbled slightly as she reacted to the volume of his first shout.
"Preposterous!"  Spittle hit the windscreen.  "How dare they waste money on this kind of rubbish!  If we want an idiot to wander around and ask the plants how they're feeling and tell us that the chair is cold in the corner where we've put it... well, we've got traffic wardens already!  Put them to some bloody use for once and get them to do it!  The rubbish they come out with when they're waving those damn ticket machines at you, they should be perfectly capable of spouting Feng Shui gibberish at senior management.  Bunch of panty-wearing kiddle-fiddling liberal communist tax-dodgers!"
Miss Flava navigated two bends in the road onto a straight stretch before daring to reply.
"I think the traffic wardens are all fully deployed at the moment," she said.  "Although I believe Little Haversham currently has no traffic wardens and two open positions.  The Feng Shui consultant does, I believe, come highly recommended."
Her CV had revealed that the Chief Constable's wife had hired her to rearrange the furniture in their summer home, after which they'd held a small party that had got the Chief Constable a small political concession.  Now it seemed that he was testing her to find out if she was any good, or just lucky.
"Recommended by what?" snarled Playfair.  More spittle hit the windscreen and Miss Flava unthinkingly turned the windscreen wipers on.  "By the number of STDs hitching a lift on her?  Why have you put the wipers on, woman?  It's not raining!"
Miss Flava, used to her bosses off-colour language and inability to handle normal communication turned the wipers back off and decided not to volunteer any more information about the Feng Shui consultant.
"Have you read the evidence, yet, boss?" she asked, knowing that Playfair would have, and wouldn't admit to having done so.
"No," said Playfair automatically, looking away from her.  "What evidence?"
"The letter that was sent," said Miss Flava.  "It'll be on the backseat."
"Calamity's on the backseat."
Calamity was their Rottweiler, also police issue but apparently devoted to Playfair, much to the dog-handling divisions consternation.  Her full name was Calamity Jane, which Playfair claimed was the name of his favourite nurse in the Crimean War, a statement which puzzled almost everyone who heard it.
"Then it'll be under Calamity," said Miss Flava patiently.  "Just pull it out."
"Hah!  No, Calamity's asleep," said Playfair.  They both knew that when Calamity woke up she would constantly go from the back of the car to the front, standing on the hand-brake and shifting gears all by herself.  When Playfair was driving, this usually improved the experience, but Miss Flava hated it.
"Well, read it when we arrive," said Miss Flava.  "I think you need to know what we're going into."
"A criminal's mind," said Playfair, sounding suspiciously satisfied.

1 comment:

Gregory Chairs said...

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