Friday, 20 January 2012

A very shiny car

"I would have thought that one was his car."  Miss Flava pointed at the shiny, vintage car.  "Given the size of the house, and the fact that he's clearly a very popular magician, I'd expect him to have a noticeable car if only to attract more attention when he's out.  The other car... well, I guess a wife or a daughter, I think."
"Hmph," said Playfair, letting Calamity out of their car.  She bounded joyfully back the way they'd come and disappeared up the drive.  "Squirrels, probably."
"She's probably heard a squirrel," said Playfair.  "Gone to investigate.  They make a vile noise, you don't expect it from something so small."
"What's that got to do with the Great CumuloNimbus and his car?"
"Nothing.  And it's still not his car."
"What?  Playfair, will you stop being so damn annoying and tell me why you don't think it's his car?"
"Too clean."
Miss Flava looked at the car again, and saw that it was spotlessly clean and so shiny that if she walked over to it she was sure that she'd be able to see her face in it.  How on earth could a car be too clean?  She looked at Playfair, who was standing there with a smug smirk on his face – well, that was practically his only other expression apart from the furious one when he had to deal with the general public.  She looked back at the car again, trying to see what Playfair could apparently see.
The wind rustled the leaves in the trees, and a single yellowing leaf detached itself from somewhere and bounced lazily off the car, landing on the ground.  Miss Flava stared at it, knowing that she'd just seen the answer, but it had run off again to hide in the back of her mind.
Calamity barked behind her, but it sounded muffled.  She turned, and to her horror saw that Calamity had a mouth full of still-moving squirrel.
"Told you," said Playfair.  "I hope that's the only one she's going to catch though, we don't want any of them in the car on the way back."
"She's not getting in the car with a dead squirrel in her mouth!"  Miss Flava was horrified, both at the thought of the dead squirrel and of a half-dead one squirming around on the back seat next to Calamity.
"You going to try taking it off her?"  Again he smirked, looking even more smug, and for a moment she knew why he thought the car couldn't be the magician's.  Then Calamity dropped the squirrel and the thought fled again.
"She's let go of it," said Miss Flava, feeling a little weak.  The squirrel looked broken somehow.
"Yes," said Playfair, stepping on its neck.  There was a sad little cracking sound and its eyes seemed to glaze over, though that might have been her imagination.
"Was that real–?"
"Yes," said Playfair firmly.  "She broke its back and I'm not finding a vet that'll fix squirrels.  It'd be cheaper and easier to find a new squirrel."
"Never have children, Playfair," said Miss Flava, rallying a little.  "Not with those cost-benefit analyses."
"No cost-benefit analysis justifies a child," said Playfair.  "Not in the Western world.  Right, I think there's probably a side-door round here somewhere."
"What's wrong with the front door?"
"Can't be bothered walking."
He walked over to the shiny car, and then past it, disappearing into what looked like a solid hedge.  A couple of moments later he reappeared, looking at Miss Flava like she was stupid.
"Are you coming then?"
"How did you know?" said Miss Flava, walking across the car-park.  "That one had to be a guess."
"The car was probably parked near the door," said Playfair.  "If the door were round the front it'd have been on the other side of the car-park.  Everyone's lazy really."
"Oh!"  Finally the idea that she'd been chasing for the last five minutes settled into the front of her mind. "I see!  The car's too clean.  The magician's been dead for days, if it was his car there's be leaves and... and..."
"Pollen, dust, dirt from any rain," said Playfair.  "Certainly wouldn't be a shiny car left out under trees in an open car-park like that.  That car's been cleaned today, probably before it got here."
"Then whose car is it?"  Miss Flava asked the question anyway, more as a way of talking to herself.  "Do you think he hired a very rich cleaner?"
"Hah!" said Playfair.  "That's when I know I'm in the wrong job!"

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