Mortimer & Mears 7: The Case of the Drivelling Detective

Sarah bowed her head against the pelting rain, and pulled the collar of her coat over her long hair, as she and Dick made a dash for the vaulted doorway of the grey, stone manor house.

“Sure glad to get out of that,” she said, shaking the loose rain from her coat collar. “Well, don’t just stand there, ring the knocker or bang on the bell or something.”

Peering through the shadows, Dick sees a tarnished brass bellpull protruding from the ivy-clad wall. He pulls it. A hollow ringing, as if from the very soul of the house, sounds within. Looking into Sarah’s dewed eyes, a nervous smile passes Dick’s lips and he whispers through the gloom….

What the blummin’ heck’s going on here?!

Sarah: Hey? That’s not in the script.

Dick: What script? One minute I was chatting up a nice, red-haired mermaid, in some sleazy, smokey bar, in some sleazy, smog-ridden backwater, of the sleaziest (not to mention, weirdest) ghetto of the author’s subconscious mind, and the next minute I’m dashing though the rain toward some gloomy, gothic horror, manor house with you. So, I repeat, what the blummin’ heck’s going on here?

Sarah was about to answer him when the door of the manor slowly creaked open, bathing them in an eerie yellow light, and revealing the tall, dark and handsome form of the butler, who, even through the gloom managed to emanate a mysterious, yet unmistakeable, air of intelligence.

Dick & Sarah: What the heck are you doing here?

I am the butler sirs, I buttle.

Dick: Come off it! You’re the editor of  “The Bentilean” magazine. We’d recognise your vast bulk and unmistakable air of stupidity anywhere.

I don’t know what you mean, sirs. I am the butler, and
you are Mr. Richard Mortimer and Miss. Sarah Mears,
if I am not even more mistaken than you are, sirs. Now, if
you would walk this way, the murder will take place during dinner.

Dick: If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the talcum powder!

*************

The diningroom was big affair, with a high baronial ceiling and a table that stretched forever, laid with a white tablecloth, sprays of flowers and glittering silver candlesticks. Dick and Sarah were seated opposite each other, at the only corner of the long table that was occupied.

“They’re a peculiar lot, aren’t they?” hissed Sarah, through a spray of pink carnations.

Dick: And so familiar. See that woman in the red dress, between the so-called major and the portly vicar. Only saw her in the Blue Whippet Nightclub & Winebar, stripping on stage. Sure was an eye-opener. They were playing bingo at the time.

Sarah: And the other two?

Dick: The major was the bingo caller, and the vicar….well, let’s just say it’s no surprise his choirboys can reach them high notes, and leave it at that.

Sarah: I hope it’s him who gets murdered.

Dick: It won’t be. It’ll be some nondescript type. An innocent waitress, perhaps, who knows some deadly secret and can’t be allowed to tell it. Anyways, I thought you had seen the script.

Sarah: Ah, yes, but it’s part of the script that I don’t know what’s going to happen next, you see..

Dick: Pity. Or we could’ve told the murderer to get on with, arrest him (Sarah: Or her!), or her, and I could have gotten back to my mermaid before she goes off — cause they don’t keep so well out of water, you knows.

Could I get you a drink?

Dick: It’s Gladys! Me fan! What are you doing here?

Just got this part as a nondescript waitress.
Now can I get you a drink, it’s part of the script.

Sarah: In that case, I’ll have a screwdriver, please.

Dick: And I’ll have a Black & Decker Martini, with umbrella attachments.

Thank you. I’ll just exit page-right and get myself murdered.

Dick: What a trooper! They don’t make fans like that any more.

Offpage, Gladys had left the diningroom to cross the hall into the bar, to fetch Dick and Sarah’s drinks. But she wasn’t alone. In the shadows an arm was raised, a stray ray of light glinted off polished steel, and quietly, ever so quietly, it moved forward until it was so close it cast a gloom over Gladys, and she turned as if in slow motion. Too late. In one swift movement the steel blade of the knife swept down, burying itself in Gladys’s warm, soft flesh.

Falling backwards, a look of surprise etched into her face as she glimpsed the identity of her killer, who, smiling, bent over her and slipped something into her right hand….

{Dick: Bravo!! A scene worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

Sarah: Hitchcock?!

Dick: I’m sorry to hear that!}

The murder has been commited, sirs. Would you like to
detect before or after dessert, sirs?

Dick: Well, the mag’s already three months late, I think we should start now. What do you say, Sarah?

Sarah: Lead the way, and don’t spare the talcum powder!

The major, vicar, woman in the red dress, and several extras followed them out into the hall where Gladys’s body still lay.

What’s that in her right hand?“, asked the woman in the red dress.

The Vicar: It’s a magazine!

Sarah: The Bentilee Bulletin!!

Dick: Suicide!

The Major: Suicide?!

Dick: Obviously saw it lying on the doormat over there, picked it up, started to read it and lost the will to live.

The Major: But she’s been stabbed through the heart, man!

Dick: A mercy killing then — have you never read the Bulletin?

{By the way, Gladys, great acting! A more realistic corpse never walkedthe page outside of Eldorado. Keep it up, or rather down.

{Sarah: You mean she isn’t really dead?

{Dick: Of course not! Who else could we get to read this rubbish, and at such reasonable rates?

{Sarah: True. She is cheap.

{Dick: There’s no answer to that!

{Sarah: Moving right along now, I think we should retire to the library and get this thing tied up before we run out of space.}

In the library, Dick starts the interrogation:

Woman in Red, what are you doing here?

“I don’t know. One second I was in a song on the radio, the next
I was in this rubbish, I don’t know how I got here.”

Sarah: It’s the author, he’s nothing if not unoriginal.

Dick: He’s nothing. (To Woman in Red): Alright, you’re free to go, but see me later: author’s mind, third brain cell on the right, behind the left ventricle.

Sarah: Now you’re being silly.

Dick: You’re right, he hasn’t got three brain cells, best make it the second.

Now, Major, walk this way, and don’t do the talcum powder joke.

Major: If I walked like that I wouldn’t need the joke!

Sarah: They’re all at it tonight!

Dick & Sarah: Nothing if not unoriginal… (Dick only: Now, Major,did you kill Gladys?).

Major: No.

Dick: Good enough for me.

Alright, I confess, it was me.

Sarah: It’s the butler!

Dick: Not just the butler, but also, as was suspected, the editor of “The Bentilean” magazine….am I right?

Yes, yes.

Sarah: But why?

Isn’t it obvious? Issue 7 we’re upto now, and every issue
I have to edit this rubbish, and whenever the author’s stuck
for an idea he drags me into it. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Sarah: But why kill Gladys?

No reader, no script.

Dick: That’s never stopped the Bentilee Bulletin. But you overlooked one thing, didn’t you?

Nothing that ever happens in these scripts is real, Gladys isn’t really dead…

Sarah: So he couldn’t have murdered her.

Dick: That’s right. And even if he had, he couldn’t have got away with it.

Why?

Sarah: Because the author’s nothing if not unoriginal…

Dick: …and in unoriginal murders the butler’s always the one who did it.

Sarah: He’s right, you know.

Oh, no, no ,no….

Sarah: Sad, isn’t it? Not much of a whodunnit though.

Dick: I dunno, not much of a mystery perhaps, but it sure was murder.

Both: Nothing if not unoriginal.

__________________________________________________________________________

Copyright John Steele, 1992, 2011
This appeared in the last issue of my self-published community magazine, The Bentilean (Issue 7), and is perhaps my favourite one to date (I don’t rule out writing more!).

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