The two men rounded the corner of the shrubbery from the road. "Well, there you are," said Raymond Nardgarbles. "That's it."
Horace Bindler took a deep, appreciative breath.
"How wonderful," he cried. His voice rose in aesthetic delight, then deepened in reverent awe. "It's unbelievable. Out of this world!"
"I thought you'd like it," said Raymond.
"Like it?" Words failed Horace. He trotted up the long drive until he was standing in front of the big mansion. He unbuckled his belt and let his trousers fall to his knees. "This is Sussex sandstone," he moaned softly, his fingers trailing along the stonework. His left arm began moving rhythmically.
Raymond flushed. "Right here? In front of the house?" He saw that Horace wasn't wearing any short pants under his trousers. Commando style, Raymond thought, how just like him. He turned away from his busy friend and glanced around to see if anyone was watching, trying to ignore the sounds. He knew from experience that Horace would... achieve rather quickly.
Horace had a long history of being something of a sex maniac. Raymond mostly tolerated this with forced good humor. In every other respect he was quite an engaging and normal person, albeit in an odd an energetic way. Besides being the best architectural historian in England he had been Raymond's friend since primary school.
Two days ago Horace had called House Fancier magazine, where Raymond was the editor, and professed a longing to get away from the city for day or two. Raymond had explained that he would be week-ending at his cottage in the little village of Baef-on-Wick and Horace could stay as his guest. There was a grand old mansion just outside of the village that Raymond wanted to feature in his magazine. He had guessed the crumbling estate would also interest his friend, although for more intimate reasons.
"What's the place called?" gasped Horace, breathing heavily.
"I haven't the least idea," said Raymond, over his shoulder. "It's always been called Pigwiper's Folly."
"Pigwiper the man who built it?" His voice had taken on a thin and raspy edge.
"Yes. In Nineteen fifteen or thereabouts. The local success story of the time. Local boy who had risen to prosperity".
"Yes, yes, go on," rasped Horace. One hand was braced against the stonework, the other was just a blur of motion at his waist. "Tell me about the history of the place."
"Er, local opinion is divided as to why Captain Pigwiper built this house, Either it was sheer exuberance of wealth or it was done to impress his creditors. If so, it didn't work. Eventually he went bankrupt, or the next thing to it. That's how it got the name, Pigwiper's Folly."
"Oh, you naughty Pigwiper!" groaned Horace. "Naughty, naughty Pigwiperrrrr!"
Raymond took another step away and looked at his shoes in an embarrassed manner. Briefly he wondered, not for the first time, if the old-wives tale concerning self-pleasure made one go insane, might have a grain of truth to it.
The fapping sounds behind him became frantic, then there was quiet.
Horace gave a shuddering sigh. "There," he said in a satisfied voice. He pulled up his trousers and wiped his hands on his coat.
"You will remember to wash later, wont you?" asked Raymond. He turned and looked up at the house. "Big old place, isn't it."
"Say Garbley, have you a cigarette?" asked Horace.
"Certainly," said Raymond, producing a pack. He gave it to Horace, making sure not to touch his hand.
Horace lit up and took a great lungful of smoke. He exhaled in a satisfied way and and looked at the details of the mansion.
"Look there, Capitan Pigwiper had obviously visited the châteaux of the Loire, don't you think? Those turrets. And then he seems to have traveled in the Orient. The influence of the Taj Mahal is unmistakable. I rather like the Moorish wing."
"It's very nice," said Raymond, noting Horace's return to his normal self now that he had...finished.
As Horace rambled on about the different architectural points of the mansion, Raymond thought back, how they had met in Primary school, a gloomy old Victorian pile of bricks. He remembered how even at a young age Horace had been caught more than once doing indecent things to the main banister. Then in college, at Eaton, the architectural books borrowed from the library and returned with the pages all stuck together...
"The overall effect is stimulating," Said Horace. "One wonders how he ever got hold of an architect to carry out these ideas."
Raymond shrugged. "No difficulty about that, I expect. At the time he could have chosen the best. Probably the architect retired with a good income for life while poor old Captain Pigwiper went bankrupt."
"Could we look at it from the other side?" asked Horace. "Or are we trespassing?"
"You're really going for this place, aren't you. I suppose we'll be trespassing," said Raymond, "but I hardly think it will matter."
He turned toward the corner of the house and Horace skipped after him.
"But who lives here? Orphans or holiday visitors? It can't be a school, no playing fields. Is it an institution for the insane?"
"No, a Pigwiper still lives here," said Raymond. "The house itself didn't go in the crash. Pigwiper's son inherited it. He was a bit of a loony, I've heard. Never spent a penny on the place. Probably never had a penny to spend. His daughter lives here now. Old lady, very eccentric."
They turned another corner of the house and came out on a neglected lawn. In one corner of it was a large circular flower bed, and bending over it was a figure at the sight of which Horace clutched Raymond delightedly by the arm. Raymond grimaced at the hand on his suit coat and thought briefly of cleaning bills.
"Do you see what she's got on?" Horace exclaimed. "A sprigged print dress. One of my most cherished memories from school was when I was caught on the back stairs by a sister in a dress exactly like that one. Did I ever tell you? It was my first time. Oh, what an exciting day we're having." He rubbed his crotch slowly.
"Perhaps you should have waited," said Raymond dryly. "You could have had a go at her."
The figure in the print dress had straightened up and turned toward them, trowel in one hand. She was a sufficiently startling figure. Unkempt locks of grey hair fell down her shoulders in thin wisps, a straw hat, rather like the hats that horses wear in Italy, was crammed down on her head. The coloured print dress she wore fell nearly to her ankles. Out of a weather-beaten, not too clean face, bulged shrewd eyes that gave her an insect-like appearance.
"Who'er you gents, then?"
"Er, Miss Pigwiper? I must apologize for trespassing," said Raymond, as he advanced toward her. "I'm Raymond Nardgarbles," He tipped his hat. "The editor of House Fancier magazine, from London. "Mr. Bindler here, who is staying with me, is most interested in, er, fine buildings."
Horace bowed and tipped his hat.
"So I recommended that he have a look at your place," continued Raymond. He had counted on her not reading his magazine and hoped to flatter her into giving him permission to do a feature write up.
Miss Pigwiper dropped the trowel in the gardening basket by her feet and looked up at the sprawling exuberance behind her. She took something out of her dress pocket and popped it in her mouth.
"It's a fine house, innit," she said, munching. "My grandfather built it, before my time, of course. Biggest house in the district. Nothing but the best for the Captain. He spent loads on it."
"So did I," murmured Horace.
Raymond made a noise in his throat. Miss Pigwiper looked around at at them with her bug-eyes for a moment.
"I consider it," she said, turning back to the mansion, "as a monument to my grandfather"s genius. Silly fools come round and ask me why I don"t sell it and go and live in a flat. What would I do in a flat? It's my home and I live in it, I'm the last of the Pigwipers, you know. Beetle?"
She reached in her pocket and offered them some large orange insects. "Japanese, from the garden." She popped another beetle in her mouth and munched thoughtfully.
"Er, no thank you," said Raymond.
"Miss Pigwiper!" called a voice
Miss Pigwiper drew up her bent shoulders with a certain pride and readjusted the rakish angle of the straw hat. Then, turning, she said sharply: "Yes, Cresswell, what is it?"
Approaching them from the house was a maid in the traditional black and white uniform. She was just as dumpy as Miss Pigwiper, hair done up in under a mobcap.
"It's Albert, madam," said Cresswell, "He's at it again. I have asked him not to go about without his clothes but he refuses."
Rather unexpectedly, Miss Pigwiper gave a cackle of laughter.
"Refuses, does he?"
"He's been starkers most of the morning, ma'am," said the maid. "All bending over the flower bed outside the dining room windows. I can see what he's 'ad for breakfast."
Miss Pigwiper raised two earth-stained fingers to her lips, She produced an ear-splitting whistle and then at top of her voice yelled, "Al-fred!"
Round the corner of the house a young man appeared in answer to the summons, wearing nothing but a pair of grubby work boots. He carried a spade over one shoulder. As he drew near he cast an unmistakably malevolent glance toward Cresswell. "Yes, Miss P?" he said.
"Alfred. I hear you've been traipsing about without your clothes again. How about it, eh?
Alfred spoke in a surly voice. "No I haven't ma'am. Not a bit."
She looked him up and down. What' d'ye mean 'no', you're naked now."
"No I'm not, Ma'am. He looked at the maid in a surly tone. "Cresswell has been lying to you, ma'am. She's out to get me, telling all lies about me."
"That's as may be Alfred, but you're still naked," said Miss Pigwiper.
"No ma'am. I've me boots on."
"Alfred go and put some clothes on. Please do it now."
"What? and leave the gardenias?"
"Yes, Miss." He turned away, throwing an insolent glance at Cresswell, who flushed and murmured something indecent below her breath.
"This -is- an institution," whispered Horace.
Raymond nudged him in the ribs.
"Now that I think of it," said Miss Pigwiper, "a couple of strong gentlemen visitors are just what we need, eh?"
Cresswell looked around. "What? I'm sorry, ma'am."
"For the Collection," said Miss Pigwiper. To Raymond she said, "My dear father left me his collection and I was wondering if you two strong gents could move some items into the library for me." She popped another beetle into her mouth. Her eyes flew wide and she gave a mmmp! sound.
"Miss, are you alright?" asked Raymond.
"S'alright. Just bit my tongue." She chuckled around a mouthful of beetle. "Little blighter won't do that again. So would you gents mind?"
"Er," stammered Raymond, looking at his wristwatch.
"Go inside? We'd be delighted," said Horace.
"Capital," she said, "right this way."
She led the way through some French windows into a vast yellow-and-gold drawing-room with dust covers over the furniture, then through a large dim hall where there were several sturdy packing cases stacked against a wall.
"My father's collection," she announced. "He started it when he just a boy. Willed the whole lot back to me when he died. The Royal Museum just returned them the other day. I feel they should be upstairs in his library, But Cresswell and I couldn't possibly carry them."
Horace had been looking at the rooms with an unhealthy interest. "We'd be delighted to help," he said, removing his hat.
She smiled at them. "Thank you so much. The library's just up the stairs and first door on the right. I'll go and make tea." she bustled off.
"Upstairs?" Raymond gulped. He tugged at the top crate experimentally. "Blasted heavy," he said. Why'd you agree to this?"
"Who cares, come on Garbley," said Horace. "We'll haul these up and have a look about the place."
They managed the first crate, barely. With much effort they hauled it to the top of the stairs and into the library. They set it down with a thump that shook the room a little.
"My word, that was beastly," said Horace. "Man must have lead weights in these things."
Raymond sat down on the crate, winded. "What fun we're having, thanks to you. And only six more to go."
Horace ignored him. "Oh, this is nice." He was looking around the room with small sounds of pleasure, hands rubbing the tops of his thighs. It was a large room, full of Victorian monstrosities. The heads of sphinxes appeared on the most unlikely pieces of furniture; there was a colossal bronze representing god knew what, a stuffed aardvark in one corner next to a vast bronze clock with classical motifs.
"I bet that's naughty Captain Pigwiper." Horace said, pointing to a portrait on the far wall.
"Oh, just look at those mullions," moaned Horace moving towards the windows. "The lines. Think there's time for...? he let the sentence die as he fondled himself through his trouser pocket.
"What, again?" asked Raymond in disbelief. "You've just had at it not thirty minutes ago."
"But those mullions," Horace repeated in a silky voice, his hand working.
Raymond stood up and tried reason. "Horace, look, you just can't go about bopping the bishop whenever the urge comes over you."
He knew this was a lost argument, however. Horace could, and would, bop the bishop pretty much whenever he felt like it when the mood was on him.
Horace turned from the mullions and grinned at him. "Ah, but you know the old saying Garbley; 'Carpe Dingus'." He disappeared behind one of the velvet curtains, already fumbling at his belt.
Raymond swore softly and went to the other side of the room and closed the door. If Miss Pigwiper should find Horace... Well, Raymond didn't know what she'd do, but it probably wouldn't be pleasant.
He went over and had a look at the bookcases. From what he could see from a cursory glance there was not one book which appeared to have been read. They were all superbly bound sets of the classics, no doubt supplied ninety years ago for the single purpose of furnishing a gentleman's library. Some novels of a bygone period were included. But they too showed no signs of having been read. There was one book on a top shelf that seemed out of place. Raymond took it down and read the title.
"My Secret Life," He remarked, "It figures." He flipped some pages, adamantly paying no attention to the rhythmic sounds of the curtains.
A few moments later there was a groan, and then unexpectedly, a laugh.
Horace called to him. "Say Garbley, come and have a look at this."
"Not a chance. What'd you do, write your name in it?"
"Not me, it's Miss Pigwiper. She's out in the drive."
Raymond looked up. "I thought she was making tea."
"Well she's doing a piss-poor job of it. Look."
Raymond put down the book and went to the other window. He was astounded to see Miss Pigwiper staggering around the lawn in front of the house. Her hands were clasped to her breast, and between her hands there protruded a feathered shaft that Raymond recognized with stupefaction to be an arrow.
Horace opened his window and called out. "Oy! Miss Pigwiper. Are you alright?"
Miss Pigwiper looked up at them with her mouth open, her battered straw hat fell off.
"She's been shot!" exclaimed Raymond.
"Miss Pigwiper!" called Horace again. "Who shot you?"
Miss Pigwiper gave out a single strangled noise and fell backwards onto the lawn. She landed like a loose sack of grain, the arrow in her chest quivered slightly.
"I think she said 'gurk'," said Horace, turning back inside.
"Yes, it certainly sounded like 'gurk'," mused Horace. He brightened. "By jove!" he said, rubbing his hands together (they made a wet sound). "It's a mystery. Just like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. I've always wanted to be a detective." He looked back out of the window again.
"I thought you've always wanted to be caught and tried for indecent exposure." remarked Raymond.
Horace ignored this. "It's the Puzzle of the Pierced Pigwiper. And I have solved it already!" he said triumphantly.
"Yes, look there, Watson. That's an arrow in our Miss Pigwiper, is it not?"
"Did you just call me Watson? Of course it's a bloody arrow!"
"Well then, ask yourself, who uses arrows? Why, those American natives, the red Indians. And the last thing she said when I asked her who did it was 'gurk'."
"Go on," said Raymond, crossing his arms.
Horace beamed at him "So, all we need do is find a red Indian named Gurk and we'll have our man."
"Bloody brilliant," said Raymond to the ceiling. "Gurk's not a name."
"No doubt it's short for something Indian-ish. Like Gurk-of-the-Forest or Gurk-Bigfish.
"How about Gurking-Off-To-Excess?"
Horace took this hint and pulled up his trousers. "Hmmm, there can't be many red Indians in these parts, he mused as he fastened his belt. "What would Sherlock do? Oh, I know. We should examine the body for clues and then interview the servants."
"Just Brilliant." repeated Raymond.
They went down to the lawn and looked at the body.
she was certainly dead. There was a large bloodstain around the shaft of the arrow and more blood was seeping out from underneath her torso. Raymond was aghast to see a Japanese beetle crawl out of her dress pocket. Horace was on his knees, studying the ground around the body.
"There's footprints all over, but I can't make heads or tails of them. I think someone's been dancing here."
"They're all her footprints, dolt. You saw her, she was staggering around before she fell."
Horace stood up. "Well all I can say is that she must have been a good dancer. Shall we interview the servants now?"
"We should get the police, but we'll inform the servants first."
"Maybe one will have a nervous breakdown and confess. Do you have a handkerchief?"
"What? no. What for?"
"We have to cover her face. She's looking at me like a lobster."
"Well, she is. Besides, that's what they do with bodies. They cover their faces with a handkerchief. It's in all the motion pictures."
"Well, I don't have one."
"Neither do I." He thought for a moment. "I know, I'll use my short pants."
"You aren't wearing any short pants."
"Right, but I have these." Horace dug into his jacket pocket and produced a pair of bright red short pants with even brighter hearts on them.
"Hey, those are mine!" said Raymond, turning as red at the pants. "Those were a present."
"She must be nice, whoever she is. They were in the dresser in your spare room and they looked so..so..." words failed Horace.
"I can't believe you were going to steal my pants".
Horace looked hurt "I was going to bring them back. It's not like you were using them for anything."
He reached over and placed them reverently over Miss Pigwiper’s face. "There," he said gently.
"Horace, no. Take them off her. We'll get a dust shroud from the house and use that," said Raymond. "It's indecent to use underwear. Especially my underwear"
"Oh, I dunno." Horace stood up and studied Miss Pigwiper's body with the red shorts over her face, the sprigged print dress and the arrow sticking out of her. "I think it's got a certain...panache."
"You really are sick, you know that?"
"And she's not looking at me any more, that's the main thing."
Raymond shook his head wordlessly and went into the house. Sometimes it was pointless to argue with Horace. Actually, it was pointless most of the time to argue with him.
Raymond came back a moment later carrying a dust shroud. Together they spread it over the body. The arrow sticking up under the sheet made it look tent-like.
"That's a little better," said Raymond. "Now, let's tell the servants and get the police
They started for the village. Raymond was in a brown study, hands deep in his pockets. Horace looked gleeful and alive.
"It's been a wonderful afternoon." Horace remarked.
"I'd hardly call it wonderful."
"No, really, that house has everything. The only thing it's missing-"
"-is less bodies and possibly a good cleaning with bleach." said Raymond.
"You're certainly being a pill. What's up with you today?"
"Today? You've only gotten us mixed up in a murder case now. On top of everything else."
"Everything else? Oh, are you still on about Windsor Castle again? That was ages ago."
"It was four days ago and you're hiding out from the police because you shot your... your, (he waved vaguely) gentleman-jam all over the Queen's chest."
Earlier in the week Raymond had finally wrangled a private tour of Windsor Castle, after months of writing letters. Based on the credentials of his magazine. Before they arrived, Raymond had sternly warned Horace not to cause any problems.
Of course Horace had slipped off the moment nobody was watching
Horace held up two fingers. "Two points," he said. "First off, I'm not hiding out from the police and second it wasn't all over the Queen's chest, it was a wardrobe. A one-of-a-kind piece, Louis XIV, marvelous lines. Third, if those maddening dogs hadn't been all around me I could have finished faster. I ask you, how can anyone concentrate with a pack of Welsh corgis tugging at their shorts?"
"And then the Queen walked in on you and you had to run for it."
Horace flushed a little. "Well, that part's true. But look here, Garbley, now there's Miss Pigwiper's mystery to be solved. We can come out on top of this." He waved his hands in a grandiose gesture. "'Brave Amateur Sleuths Solve Pigwiper Murder'
. That's tomorrow's headline, I can see it now."
We'll be famous."
"More likely we'll be arrested for unspeakable acts in public. Besides, I don't want to be famous."
"No notoriety for you?"
"I'll settle for not being implicated."
They walked into the village. The constabulary was a small neat looking office near the town square. Inside, a middle aged policeman was sitting at a desk reading a magazine. Raymond was slightly alarmed to see that it was the latest copy of House Fancier. As they approached, the constable quickly dropped the magazine in a desk drawer.
"Er, pardon me, Constable," said Raymond. "We'd like to report a murder."
The policeman looked at the two of them with a flat, grizzled stare. "Names, please," he said as he produced a notebook and pencil.
Raymond gave his.
"And I'm Grover McCleveland," said Horace.
"Grover McCleveland," repeated the officer, writing it down.
Raymond looked at him in disbelief. Horace was unperturbed. "Yes, it's Irish. But I don't practice."
The officer looked up at him, eyebrows arched, and Horace added: "I don't drink whisky and I hate potatoes."
The officer snorted and Raymond rolled his eyes.
"Nardgarbles." said the officer looking back at Raymond. "I've heard that name. He shuffled through some papers. "Yes, it came in over the telephone. Are you a magazine editor from London?"
Raymond swallowed. "Ye-es," he said slowly.
"I was going to call on you later today, actually. We're looking for an acquaintance of yours, a Mister Horace Bindler."
"Would you know his current whereabouts?" asked the constable.
Horace slid his foot over and nudged the side of Raymond's shoe in a meaningful way.
"Er, well, I haven't seen him in a few days..."
"He probably owes you money," added Horace.
"What's he done?" asked Raymond
The constable shrugged. "They didn't say, but the Royal Guard would like to find him. They asked us to contact you."
"Well, I don't know him all that well.."
"Have they tried his Peckender address?" suggested Horace.
"Oh? Where's that?" asked the constable. And to Raymond's mute horror Horace gave the officer the business address for House Fancier magazine.
"Thank you, I'll send it along," said the constable as he wrote it down. He turned to a blank page in his notebook. Now, what's all this about a murder?"
"Miss Pigwiper's been shot with an arrow at her house," said Horace. "I'm positive it was a red Indian named Gurk".
"Pigwiper? The big old place outside of of the village?"
"Yes, that's right," said Raymond. And he explained the facts to the policeman.
"Well, I'd better ring up Inspector Rekthum and we'll have a look." He lifted the phone handset. "You two go outside and wait for me on the bench out front. I'll bring the car around in a few minutes."
As soon as they were on the sidewalk out on front of the police station. Raymond rounded on Horace and hissed at him. "You idiot! Why'd you give him my address?"
"Now steady on, Garbley," Said Horace. "Think, man. They already have your address, it's printed on your business cards. Don't panic. When he reports to London it'll just be a mix up. They aren't looking for you."
Raymond narrowed his eyes. "No, they're looking for you. As if I didn't have enough problems already. You said you weren't hiding from the police."
"I'm not hiding. It's simply a case of mistaken identity."
"But...but," he waved his hands, "Grover McCleveland?"
"Just something off the top of my head. I think it's the name of an old American president. I doubt anyone around here has ever heard of him."
Raymond was about to lay into him about social responsibility and other subjects foreign to Horace, but he stopped, knowing that any further arguments would only give him a headache. Horace could usually spin things around to make himself sound like the injured party instead of the other way round. instead he simply growled something at him and sat on the bench with his head in his hands, refusing to speak any further.
A few minutes later a black squad car turned the corner of the building and pulled up to the curb. The officer was driving. "In the back if you please." We'll be picking up the inspector directly."
They drove to inspector Rekthum's small house and picked him up and then went out to the pigwiper mansion.
The four of them got out and went over to the body under the sheet. Inspector Rekthum lifted a corner of the dust shroud and looked under.
"Is this how you left her?"
"Yes, just like that," said Raymond.
"Why's she got pants on her face?"
Horace cleared his throat. "Sorry about that Inspector, I was a bit upset. it's just that she was staring at me with her bug eyes while Mister Nardgarbles went inside to get the sheet. I didn't have a handkerchief on me and they were the handiest thing."
Inspector Rekthum squatted down and removed the short pants. He studied the big red hearts on them for a moment and looked up at Raymond.
"This laundry tag says Nardgarbles. How did McCleveland here get your underwear?"
Raymond made another noise and waved his arm in a vague manner. "He took them from my dresser," was all he managed. Inspector Rekthum raised his eyebrows but didn't say anything.
The constable meanwhile, had taken his cap off as he looked at the body. "Second murder in the village this week," he sighed.
"Really? Who was the first?" asked Horace in too loud a voice.
"Old Miss Marble. More's the pity, too because she was a dab hand at solving this sort of thing."
"What happened to her?" asked Raymond.
Inspector Rekthum stood up, hands on his hips, Raymond's pants balled up in one fist. "Marble was stabbed with her own knitting needles. A clear case of poisoning."
"Poisoning?" exclaimed Raymond. "But you just said she was stabbed."
"The stabbing didn't kill her. Rekthum said. "The clever dicks at the lab discovered a rare form of Brussels sprout poison had been coated on her knitting needles. That's what did for her."
"How extraordinary," said Horace. So who killed her?"
Rekthum tried to scratch his head with the hand that held the pants. He stopped himself. "We have no idea."
The constable added, "Isn't that just like her to be murdered in such a bizarre way. A shame, really, she would have loved to solve her own murder."
"Too bad she died first," mused Horace. "It probably would have made a wonderful story."
"Probably," said Rekthum, handing Raymond his shorts back. "Now then, where exactly were you two poufs when it happened?"
Raymond quickly stuffed his underwear in his coat pocket. "Upstairs in the library," he said, pointing. "We saw her through those windows."
"What were you doing up there?"
"We were researching an article for my magazine," said Raymond. "Er, Grover here is an expert on architectural styles. We came here to ask Miss Pigwiper if we could do a feature article. While we were here she asked us to move some crates upstairs."
"Yes, that's right," added Horace.
Rekthum studied the house. "Crates, hmm? I've heard things about the Pigwipers. Lived here almost my whole life. Captain Pigwiper built the place years ago. His son inherited it a few years back. Didn't really want it from what I gather. The son was a bricklayer by trade, spent most of his life collecting ordinary bricks. Daft if you ask me. I heard the daughter was just as loony as her father."
"Bricks!" exclaimed Horace. "Is that what's in those crates?"
Raymond grimaced. "She left that part out when she asked for our help."
"Did she say or do anything odd?" asked Rekthum.
Raymond scratched his head. "Well, she was eating Japanese beetles, straight from the garden."
"A clear case of beetlemania," added Horace.
Inspector Rekthum grunted. "Is there anyone else in the house?"
"Just Cresswell, the cook, I think." said Raymond. "The place is pretty much empty."
"And there's a naked gardener named Alfred but he's not actually in the house," Horace added.
Inspector Rekthum scribbled some notes in his notebook. "We'll have a word with them next. Constable Fapmore, take the car back and notify the M.O. I'll ride back with them. Oh, and call my wife and tell her I won't be home for dinner."
"Yes sir," said the constable, replacing his cap.
He went back to the patrol car and drove off.
Raymond, Horace and Inspector Rekthum walked around to the rear of the estate where they spotted the naked Alfred raking a bed of flowers.
"Excuse me." said the inspector, advancing upon him.
Alfred stopped raking. "Yes, sir?"
"I'm Inspector Rekthum from the village constabulary. I'd like a word with you."
"Very good, sir."
"What's your name, for the record?"
"Alfred, sir. Alfred Dingleberry."
"Why are you naked?"
"I'm not naked, sir."
Rekthum snorted. "You right well are!"
"No sir, I've me boots on, don't I?"
"But the rest of you is naked."
"Yes, sir. Very aware, sir."
"Why aren't you wearing any clothes?"
"It's a natural thing to be out of doors without clothes, sir. A neolithic caveman approach to gardening. Back to nature and all that."
"He's got a a green arse, you might say," said Horace.
Rekthum changed tack. "Were were you an hour ago?"
"Having me lunch sir, down at the pub. Got back and finished turning the gardenia bed. See, it's all done neat now."
"Hmm, yes, it appears to be." He made a note in his notebook. "Are you aware, Alfred, that Miss Pigwiper is dead?"
"Aye, sir, these two gents mentioned something about it earlier. How's she making on, then?"
"She's really dead." said Raymond.
Alfred frowned "Oh. That's too bad, and payday's tomorrow, too."
Inspector Rekthum looked at Alfred closely. "You don't seem too upset about her being dead."
Alfred scratched his rear and studied the sky for a moment. "Well, it's not like there's anything I can do for her now, is there. It's just that I've run up a bit of a tab at the pub you see, and I promised old Tom that I'd settle up tomorrow. If Miss is dead then I won't get paid. Might have to go back on my word on Tom. I'd hate to do that, sir."
"On the other hand you won't need to finish the weeding," said Horace.
Alfred look around at the shrubbery. "I suppose not. Just got the side yard into shape too, pity."
Rekthum put away his notebook. "That's all for the time being. I'll want to speak to you again, Alfred. and next time with your clothes on. Don't leave the property."
"Very good, sir. I'll be in my quarters above the stables."
"Now then," Rekthum said to Raymond and Horace. "Let us go and talk to Cresswell the cook."
They found Cresswell in the kitchen doing things with pots and pans. The three sat down at the table with her. Inspector Rekthum glanced under the table for a moment before he spoke.
"Now Cresswell, what were you doing an hour ago?"
"Preparing lunch, sir, for Miss Pigwiper."
"What were you serving?"
"Dover sole, sir, and steamed vegetable marrows."
"Was Miss Pigwiper fond of fish, Cresswell?"
"Well she can't live on beetles alone."
"That's not what I asked you."
Cresswell scratched at her ample rear. "She wouldn't turn one down, sir, but I don't believe she's ever specifically asked for marrows and sole."
"And you yourself went to market for this fish?"
"Yes sir, I goes to Fishmonger Phil's about every other day."
"How long have you been in service here, Cresswell?"
"I started for Master George, Sir. Must be... let me count." Cresswell did some counting on her fingers. "Just sixteen years this past March, sir."
"And you stayed on after he died."
"Yes sir. It was the least I could do. Miss Edna needed someone to do the cooking."
Rekthum scribbled some more in his notebook. "Was Alfred to lunch with you?"
"I should say not! He's a common gardener. He can go find his own meals. And what's more, I wouldn't let him in the house, the way he goes about starkers. That's not a clean way to live, it isn't."
"A double negative," murmured Horace. Raymond gave him a shut-up look.
Rekthum asked, "Did you see Miss Pigwiper get shot with the arrow?"
"No sir, I only heard about it. I was in the scullery when these two told me."
The inspector turned to Raymond. "It appears that you and Mister McCleveland were the only witnesses to Miss Pigwiper's death."
"Yes, it appears that way."
"Thank you, Cresswell," said Rekthum, rising. "That's all for now. I may have more questions for you later. Please don't leave the grounds."
The three of them went out into the yard and stood around the covered corpse again.
"This testimony of yours may be important," said Rekthum. "Miss Pigwiper distinctly asked you to move the crates upstairs?"
Raymond nodded. "Yes."
"Then she went off to make tea?"
"That's what she said."
"But she didn't actually make any?"
"We never saw any, not so much as a spoonful," said Horace.
"Hmmm, no tea," said Rekthum. He looked at Horace. "What were you doing when you saw Miss Pigwiper stagger across the lawn?"
"Closely examining the mullions," said Horace without a trace of embarrassment. "Very fine example of the late Georgian style."
"So you didn't actually see her get shot then?"
"No, I just happened to look out of the window and there she was, arrow dancing on the lawn."
"And you, Mister Nardgarbles, where were you at he time?"
"I was across the room, looking at the bookcases."
"For your magazine article?"
"Which magazine is that, by the way?"
Raymond paused, he knew what was coming. "House Fancier."
"WOT!" exclaimed Inspector Rekthum. "The pervert magazine?"
Raymond sighed deeply. "It's not a pervert magazine. It's a perfectly respectable architectural periodical. The same as Modern House or House Beautiful. I don't know why everyone insists that ours is a pervert magazine."
"Because perverts buy it."
"I can't help who buys our magazine. It's on sale at all the news agents'."
"So why do the perverts only buy yours?" asked the inspector.
"I don't know!" Exclaimed Raymond.
"It's the carpet-and-curtain photos and center fold-outs from what I've heard," chimed in Horace.
"You're not helping," snapped Raymond. "Look, Inspector, I don't know how my magazine got that reputation. I've even had to testify before a parliament committee on social decency because of it. House Fancier is no different than any other periodical of that style."
Inspector Rekthum was looking at Raymond with new suspicion. "And I'm supposed to believe that, with your underwear laying over the murder victim's face?"
Raymond spread his hands and made noises akin to an indignant fish. "Well...yes," he managed.
The inspector pressed him. "So, you came here to expose the Pigwiper mansion, eh?"
"That's a dirty way to put it." said Raymond. "I was hoping actually, to write a flattering article about this place, about it's history and all that."
"Mmmm-hm. said Rekthum dubiously. "Probably going to take some indecent photos of the stairs and sell them in a back alley too."
Horace interposed. "Look Inspector, that's neither here nor there. Him being a pervert has nothing to do with Miss Pigwiper's murder.
Raymond spluttered. "I'm not a pervert!"
"Don't argue with the policeman, Garbley," said Horace.
Raymond made more indignant fish noises.
Rekthum was glaring at Raymond with a 'tell me another one' look. After a minute he looked down at the body under the sheet.
"The question remains, if she was making tea, what was she doing out on the lawn fifteen minutes later?"
"I think it was a waltz," said Horace. "But that was after she was shot. Getting shot with an arrow is definitely not a part of tea."
"I have some inquires to make," said inspector Rekthum. "And some telegrams to send. Will you be returning to London soon?"
"We were planning on the afternoon train tomorrow," said Raymond.
"Don't plan on it. You'll both please remain in the village until after the inquest. I'll be wanting to speak to both of you later, possibly tomorrow. I'll call at your cottage, Mister Nardgarbles.
"Very good," Horace said. "Come on Garbley, Let's let these gentlemen do their work. We'll have to go and get our own tea."
Raymond and Horace woke rather late the next morning. They had finished up the breakfast dishes bachelor-fashion (which is to say, left them sitting in the sink) and were sitting down to paper and pipe in the garden. A small metal table held a coffeepot and the Sunday newspaper. The small garden patio overlooked an acre of back lawn. Horace was reading the latest edition of House Fancier, making small noises in his throat.
There was a knock at the garden gate and Inspector Rekthum entered. Horace quickly slid the magazine under a section of newspaper.
"Good morning, gentlemen."
"Morning sir, replied Raymond. He gestured towards the pot. "Coffee?"
"Yes it is, said Rekthum, sitting down at the table. "I have had a reply to my inquires."
Rekthum took out his notebook. "I first went went to investigate Alfred Dingleberry, it seemed easier to check up on his movements.
"He seemed a likely culprit, said Raymond.
Inspector Rekthum gave him a sour look. "Yes, but he's got an alibi."
"I always think alibis are definitely suspicious."
"It's easy enough to say that alibis are suspicious but the fact is that Alfred has one."
"Do tell," said Horace,"
"At the time Miss Pigwiper was shot, Alfred Dingleberry was at the Dog and Duck. He arrived there at twenty past twelve and was there for an hour, having bread and cheese and beer."
"With or without clothes?" asked Horace.
"With. He's a regular there. The barman knows him well."
"So he says. I bet he was deliberately establishing an alibi," said Raymond.
"Maybe," said Inspector Rekthum, "but if so, he did establish it."
There was a long silence. Then Raymond said, "Well. that's that. It's clear that he had nothing to do with it. It has to be Cresswell."
"But neither of them had any motive," mused Horace.
"Rekthum held up a finger. "Ah! The motive. Now you're getting someplace."
"He is? Well if it wasn't Dingleberry it had to be Cresswell," said Raymond.
"Neither of them killed Miss Pigwiper, said Rekthum. The answer to this mystery goes back a lot farther than yesterday. In fact, it starts back in 1912."
"That far? said Horace.
"The clues added up, said Inspector Rekthum, ticking points off his fingers. "One, A sea going man. Two, an arrow. Three, some crates of bricks."
"How do those add up?" asked Raymond.
"It was the arrow that put me on the right scent."
"The arrow?" Horace grinned at Raymond. "Told you it was a red Indian."
"Nothing of the sort," said Rekthum. The arrow that killed Miss Pigwiper was a peculiar kind of arrow. It was an arrow from a spear gun. An underwater spear gun."
"She was shot with a spear gun?" Raymond exclaimed. "How extraordinary!"
"Indeed," said Rekthum. "So I asked myself, who would use a weapon designed for use underwater?
There was a silence as they thought about it.
"A flounder?" suggested Horace. "A sea cow? Oh, I know, a drowning red Indian."
"A squid?" offered Raymond.
"Ah, you're close." said Rekthum. "An octopus. And what are octopuses known for?"
There was another silence as they thought about it.
"Er, Ice hockey?" ventured Horace. "Or marinated suction cups?"
"Gold." said Rekthum
"Gold?" They both said together.
"Precisely. I had to make inquires all the way to Cornwall. It seems that just after the turn of the century there was a shipwreck along the coast carrying gold bullion for the royal Treasury. The gold was stolen out of the wreck by a gang of octopuses. I had the local police check their back records."
"A gang of octopuses? asked Raymond. "I didn't know there were gangs of them. Are you sure?"
"Oh yes, said the inspector. "The old Bucket of Blood is nothing compared to an octopus gang. We've even found traces of dried octopus slime on the front of the mansion.
"Are you sure?" asked Horace
"Constable Fapmore did a taste test. The salty bastards have been here all right."
Horace sat back and just grinned.
Raymond still looked puzzled. "Octopus gangs? I'm still in the dark here, can you start at the beginning again?"
"And don't use any big words," said Horace. "He's a magazine editor."
Inspector Rekthum leaned back in his chair. "Let me summarize. Back in 1912 the cargo ship HMS Duke Throbbington sank off the coast of Cornwall. It was carrying gold bullion for the Royal treasury. The octopuses got in and stole the gold it was carrying. Some time after that Captain Pigwiper stole the gold away from the slimeys. How how he managed that is beyond me. The man must have had some guts to even try to up against them."
"That explains how he got rich and built his mansion," Horace mused.
"It would indicate that," said Rekthum. Gold bullion, however, is weighty stuff and damned difficult to explain away if you get caught with it. Now, Pigwiper Junior collected bricks. What better place to hide something as heavy as gold bars. The Captain packed the remaining gold in with Junior's brick collection. We've impounded the crates and it's there, or at least what's left."
"Sneaky bastard," muttered Raymond.
The inspector nodded. "He had to be to outwit the octopuses, they have long memories."
Horace scratched his head. "So the Royal Brick Museum hadn't just returned the bricks to Miss Edna?"
"I looked it up," said Rekthum. "There is no Royal Brick Museum. Miss Pigwiper lied to you. She must have discovered the gold in with the bricks and needed to get them up to the second floor where they'd be safe. As you know, octopuses can't climb stairs."
"I didn't know that," said Horace. "And they have all those legs too."
"yes, but they don't wear shoes," said Rekthum. "First thing I looked for when I questioned the servants."
"What I don't understand," asked Raymond is how did the octopuses find out the gold was here?"
Rekthum sat back. "I believe someone must have tipped them off. That's how Cresswell fits in. She's gone, by the way. Slipped away last night."
"Really? Do you have men looking for her."
"No, I meant she's dead, poisoned herself. Probably overwhelming remorse and all that. No note, but we found an empty bottle of Brussels sprout pills on the floor beside the bed. Probably terrified that the octopuses would kill her to keep her quiet. So she did herself first."
"That's terrible. Brussels sprouts are a horrible way to go."
Rekthum nodded. "Now, this is only my theory, but Miss Edna must have mentioned something to Cresswell about finding the gold. And later she must have told someone else. She admitted that she was at Fishmonger Phil's pretty regularly. I'm having a word with him later. I'll bet donuts to fishsticks that Fishmonger Phil is in communication with the octopuses. Cresswell would only have to let slip a word and the Octopuses would do the rest.
"That heartless dead bitch," muttered Horace.
Rekthum smiled grimly. "Quite. After all these years the the octopuses enacted their revenge. Miss Edna was the last of the Pigwiper line and so they settled for her."
"That's rather sad," said Raymond. "Killed by a bloody octopus with a spear gun. All over some silly old gold.
They looked glumly at each other for a long moment.
"You know," said Horace. "I just thought of something, what if the murders were connected? What if the octopuses killed Miss Marble as well?"
Rekthum looked at him. "What?"
"Think about it," Horace continued. "What if the slimys heard about Miss Marble's reputation, that she would be the only one to divine the truth about Edna Pigwiper's murder. So they silenced her in advance."
Inspector Rekthum stared open mouthed at Horace. "That's incredible."
Raymond sipped his coffee and said, "You know, in a twisted way it makes sense. You did say Miss Marble had a reputation for solving odd crimes."
"And murder by octopus is pretty odd," added Horace. "If you hadn't seen the connection between the spear gun arrow and the crates of bricks it would have been a perfect crime."
"My God!" exclaimed Rekthum, standing up. "I need to have another word with that fishmonger right now! "Gentlemen, please excuse me." He went to the gate and put his hand on the latch. He turned and looked at both of them for a moment.
"You know, if you're right, you two may have beaten Miss Marble at her own game. I daresay she'd be proud of you, if she wasn't already dead."
He walked out the gate and softly closed it behind him.
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