Monday, 24 September 2007

The Case of Black Tom - Part One

Yesterday evening we gathered in the fireplace in the Great Hall of Homeward for the first of our literary evenings this week. The fireplace is just like a little house; it has thick walls on three sides, and a little window at the back, looking out onto the moat. We had a great cauldron of hot ginger wine slowly warming on the log fire. A storm raged outside, which seemed appropriate for our first tale of the evening - a story of daring do from the detective A.B.Fox.

As Goodman the cat looked on in rapt attention, the fox began his tale....

On my first day at the Wolferton Detective Agency my boss, the Old Wolf, gave me some sage advice garnered from his many years as a tough no-nonsense investigator.“Son,” he said “Down these mean streets a fox must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete fox and a common fox and yet an unusual fox. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a fox of honour -- by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best fox in his world and a good enough fox for any world. Now, go make me a cup of tea.”

I thought back to that day as I wandered around Walmington-On-Sea. Not really mean streets – more quaint cobbled streets. This sleepy little seaside town on the South coast of England was not my usual port of call for investigation. It looked to me like someone ordering an expresso in the local Olde Tea Shop would be a major incident round here. I had said as much to the Old Fox when I had reported in the previous night. “Don’t be so sure – we have had reports of some queer goings on – people going mad, running off to the Big City and robbing banks.” It seemed unlikely to me but I had a job to do. I decided to hang around on the pier, pretending to fish, keeping my ears pricked up.

Before long I overhear a couple of mugs whispering behind some barrels and crates. “Orders from the boss,” says a swarthy looking guy in a sacksuit “Take these empties over to Moribund Marsh – pronto.” “O.K. At high tide tonight.” replied the midget next to him. A nasty piece. I could see he was armed with a number of sharp implements. I decided to hide until their return and see what these two low-lifes were up to. That night they loaded a motor-boat up with the barrels and crates – with yours truly still hidden in one of them.

I laughed as the big one loaded my barrel on board and moaned “Eavy eh?”. His mate giggled “Wait till it’s filled hup !”
In the cabin, I could make out muffled voices as they discussed their plans. “Right, Hitmouse - at HQ we fill up with Black Tom, and then sell it back at Walmington - then when they are completely under the influence Hootman will hypnotise em’ into doing another robbery.” said the big one. “O.K. Siggi.” Said the little one. Now I could put names to faces.

Suddenly, this bat thing started screeching around my barrel.”Look out – Batty smells a rat.” said Siggy. “Cor that ain’t no rat – it’s a fox. Look his tails sticking up.” said Hitmouse. I was rumbled. It looked like things were going to get a bit hot ! “Come out or I will riddle this barrel with skewers!” squeaked Hitmouse. Siggi grabbed me - “Little Foxes who have their throats cut don’t squeak !” he threatened.

The fox finished and slowly unwrapped his tail from beneath him. Goodman could barely contain his excitement - but the fox insisted that the next part would have to wait for tomorrow night.

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