Thursday, 5 January 2012


"We all learn something new every day," said Playfair, his words gravid with irony.  He half-smiled, showing more teeth than was perhaps necessary.  "Now, tell me what we know about this magician."
"Not much, so far," admitted Alf looking down at the table.  "I've got Jamie trying to track his parents down, 'cos like you says, everybody has them, but we've not had much luck so far."
"Well, who did he know in Little Haversham?" asked Playfair.  "Did he live in Little Haversham, or did he have more sense?  Wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, goat he was unnaturally attracted to?"
"Here!"  Alf got a little agitated again.  "There's no need to be talking like no-one would want to live here!  He did live in the village, he's got the big house at the end of Beechwood Drive.  Lived there pretty much by himself, didn't have that many visitors.  Didn't keep any goats."  There was a touch of emphasis on the last sentence that Playfair was oblivious to.
"Have you sent anyone out there to look round the place yet?  This Jamie, perhaps?"
"Not yet," said Alf.  "He wasn't killed there and he lived alone, so I didn't see that there was much point breaking into his house before we'd found any relatives."
"Pets?"  Playfair leaned back on two legs of his chair again.  "Visitors?  There's always a reason to investigate, even if it's only thinking that you can smell gas."
"That might be how you do things up in the City," said Alf, "but we're a little more civilised down here."  Miss Flava had to suppress a snigger at the look of blameless innocence that crossed Playfair's face.  "No-one's been round to his house.  When we track down his parents, or his next of kin, we'll take it to the next stage."
"Too slow!"  Playfair's chair slammed back down to the floor and he leapt from it as though he'd been launched.  Alf flinched away from him, and Miss Flava straightened up and looked alert, ready to stop whatever her boss had in mind.  "This is a murder investigation, not a run-of-the-mill death!  The killer isn't going to be hindered by niceties like this.  If he's after something that Stormy owned he's probably already broken into the place, if there's any clues left in there that might tell us who he is then he could be pouring petrol all over the curtains right now and giggling to himself over a box of matches.  You're not thinking like a murderer, you're thinking like a police officer!"
"That would be because I am a police officer," said Alf slowly.  "When did you decide that the killer was a man, Sir?"
"Probabilities favour it being a man," said Playfair.  "And you've not told me that he exclusively associated with women, or was surrounded by nurses and protectors who were all women.  In fact, ignoring the indirect reference to his mother, I don't think you've mentioned any women in his life at all."
"So you think it was probably his father what did him in then?"
"Statistically that would be a good place to start," said Playfair.  "But you can't find his parents, so unless he killed them first and their bodies are rotting in his house, which you won't search until you've found his parents, we're probably looking at someone else.  What did he do?  What did he do when he wasn't being Stormy the Spellcaster?  Where did he drink?  Who did he talk to?  Why can't you answer any of these questions?"
"Why won't you just shut up?" said Alf, and in the silence that followed he looked a little sheepish.  "Well, perhaps just give me a chance to answer," he said.  "We're working on it, Sir, we were going to ask his parents when we found them."
"Right," said Playfair.  "If you find them.  Ok, enough.  Miss Flava, come on.  Let's go look at this house, maybe that'll provide me with some answers to my questions."
"Er Sir, I can't condone you breaking and entering–" started Alf, but was cut off by Playfair walking past him.
"Then don't," he said.  "But it won't be breaking and entering because it's police business, and I'm on the case."
As he opened the door and walked out Miss Flava stood up and laid a little white business card down in front of Alf.
"The list on the front are the people who are expecting you to complain about him," she said.  "The address for all of them is on the back."

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