A lead in a case of murder

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The Independent Online

Time for another complete crime thriller today, featuring Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth. Why the Sixty Second Sleuth? Because that's how long it takes him to crack a crime. Don't believe it? Then read...

Time for another complete crime thriller today, featuring Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth. Why the Sixty Second Sleuth? Because that's how long it takes him to crack a crime. Don't believe it? Then read...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Daytime

"It's an absolutely brutal murder, sir," said Sergeant Comfort. "Man was hit over the head with a blunt weapon and then, as if to make sure, he was strangled to death with his dog lead. What makes it even more tragic is that the dog, called Heseltine, must have witnessed the assault, because the vicar was taking him for a walk at the time. It was the fact that Heseltine returned by himself that alerted the house to the fact his master was missing."

"You haven't actually told me who is dead yet, Comfort," said Braid.

"Sorry, sir," said Comfort, abashed. "It seems that ..."

It seemed that the Rev Hubert Lancaster had gone for a walk along the river's edge, as he did every morning, with Heseltine the dog. It was a secluded walk, and nobody had seen him go out. Nobody saw him come back either, for the simple reason that he never came back. He was found, under a tree, with big lump on the back of his head and the dog lead twisted round his neck, pulled viciously tight till he had been asphyxiated.

Braid and Comfort looked at the scene of the crime, wiped the cow pats off their shoes and went to the house.

"Did he have any enemies?" Braid asked his housekeeper, Mrs Malcolm.

"Not that I knew of," she said. "He was a lovely man. Shy, mark you. Never got married. Never interested in women, really."

"Oh?" said Comfort. "Was he one of ... those?"

"Those?" said Mrs Malcolm, puzzled.

"Freemasons, do you mean?"

"If he had no enemies," said Braid, covering up for Comfort, "did he have any friends? Was he sociable?"

"Not really," she said. "He loved his own company. He watched TV a lot. He used to watch The Vicar of Dibley very closely and write to the letters editor of the Radio Times pointing out little mistakes in the programme. Like letting women into the church in the first place."

"So you can think of no one who might have wanted him out of the way?"

Mrs Malcolm paused for a moment. This was a heaven-sent opportunity to dish the dirt on several members of the village she didn't like. Lady Antler, for instance, who was a terrible snob and had never even said hello to her. Bill Bayliss the butcher, who had said hello to her far too often. Dr Wintle, who had said other things to her which she could never forgive. Such as that she should lose weight immediately ...

But no. Revenge was not a proper Christian motive for helping the police with their inquiries.

"No, sir," she said reluctantly.

"And quite right too," said Braid. "Because I know who killed the Rev Hubert Lancaster."

Consternation.

"It was quite simple. There was a branch very near the body which had just fallen off the tree and knocked him unconscious. It still had a little matted hair on it. His master lay there unmoving, so his faithful hound Heseltine came to investigate. The vicar did not respond, so Heseltine tried to drag him away. Taking in his teeth the dog lead which the vicar had wrapped around his neck like a scarf, the dog pulled it tighter and tighter ..."

"My God!" said Comfort. "You mean - the dog was the murderer ..."

"I'm afraid so. There were tiny tooth marks in the lead just where he would have seized it, before unwittingly killing his master."

Just then Heseltine came gambolling in and wagged his tail, as if looking for a walk.

"Cool customer," said Braid. "Not an ounce of guilt. Almost human."

Another Sixty Second Sleuth mystery soon! Maybe tomorrow! Who knows?

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