Laughter came from the living room, following a couple of moments later by a different voice, heavy and slower, saying “I don’t get it.” Leslie daFox, who had thirty years earlier scripted the show they were watching now, bowed his head as he used the tin-opener on a can of condensed milk, wondering if he shouldn’t feel more angry than depressed.
“Well, it’s because she’s got a hat on, innit?” said the first voice, still laughing slightly.
“Oh,” said the second voice, sounding uncertain. “Is that funny?”
“No,” whispered Leslie to himself. “They’re laughing because they know she’s the Health Inspector but the guys she’s inspecting are so misogynistic that they think she’s escaped from the community care hostel up the road.”
“Here, where’s the murderer gone then?”
Leslie tipped the milk into a saucer and put it down on the floor. Two burly policemen, one red-faced and slightly out of breath, burst into the kitchen. They looked relieved when they saw him.
“Did you sneak out of the room?” demanded the red-faced policeman.
“No,” said Leslie. “I asked you both if you wanted coffee and then told you I was going to make some. You both watched me leave the room.”
“That sounds sneaky to me,” said the red-faced policeman. “Hiding in plain sight, that’s called.”
“Only in your lexicon,” said Leslie, aware that neither officer would know what lexicon meant, or would lose face by asking him for a definition. They reminded him a lot of his community college class, both in aptitude for study and for the length of time he liked spending with them.
“Here, there’s a saucer of milk on the floor,” said the red-faced policeman. He picked it up and sniffed it. “Were you going to drink this, Sir?”
“No,” said Leslie. He was convinced that one day the red-faced policeman was going to ask for a reminder on how to breathe.
“Oh right then,” said the policeman. He tipped the saucer up and drank the milk. “Hey, this is the sweet stuff!”
“That was the cat’s milk,” said Leslie. “There were cat medicine tablets in there.”
“Aha! You’ve tried murdering a policeman now!” The other policeman seemed to spring to life all of a sudden at the prospect of finally being able to arrest Leslie for the murders they were convinced he’d committed, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
“I have not,” said Leslie. “Your colleague picked a saucer up off the floor and drank from it. That’s rank stupidity and ought to qualify him for a Darwin award. My actions were peripheral and had a completely different end in mind.”
“I don’t think so, Sir,” began the second policeman, a gleam appearing in his eye.
“Cyrus!” Leslie’s voice carried throughout his house, and there was a whimper from the laundry-room. Both policeman turned towards it instantly.
“What was that?”
“The maid,” said Leslie. “She hides in the washing when you’re here. She’s getting very wrinkled and agoraphobic, and I may have to sue you over this.”
“You can’t sue us,” said the red-faced policeman promptly.
“I rather think he can,” said a smooth voice, and Cyrus, Leslie’s twenty-three year old lawyer walked into the room. Both policeman looked angry, but closed their mouths firmly. “Is there a problem?”
“Another baseless accusation of murder and an attempt to frame me,” said Leslie. “This time he picked up the cat’s saucer of milk and drank it and her worming tablets.
“If we incorporate your cat as a business I think I can sue them for theft,” said Cyrus, grinning. “If we can make it a high-tech firm then I might be able to get them on industrial sabotage, if you like?”
“That sounds very tempting,” said Leslie, “but frighteningly expensive. Can’t you just send them to their rooms for the evening?”
“Can’t let you out of our sight, Sir,” said the red-faced officer immediately. He appeared to be sweating profusely all of a sudden. Cyrus eyed him.
“When was the last time they let you out of their sight?” he asked.
“Less than five minutes ago, while I was getting coffee and sorting out the cat’s medicine,” said Leslie.
“Precedent!” yelled Cyrus. “Go to your rooms!”
The policemen grumbled and argued, but Cyrus prevailed and sent them off to watch the rooms of the house on CCTV instead.
“You don’t have a cat,” said Cyrus after they’d gone.
“I know,” said Leslie. “But they don’t, for all they’ve been here five months now.