How a star TV reporter came unstuck

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The Independent Online

Today, another crime yarn starring the Sixty Second Sleuth, Inspector Keith Braid!

One wheel bad

"Only trouble is," said Sergeant Comfort, "is that there is no sign of Felix Carter's body."

"Who is Felix Carter?"

Comfort stared at Inspector Braid. Everyone knew who Felix Carter was. Then he remembered. Braid didn't have a TV set. So he wouldn't know. He wouldn't know that Felix Carter was the star TV reporter who exposed all the holiday scams, the timeshare rackets, the crooked airlines, and on whose head there was said to be a big price. No wonder he lived in a well-guarded house surrounded by high walls with an attractive topping of broken glass and barbed wire, in the leafy suburbs of a university town.

Except that he didn't any more. He had vanished two days previously. He had not told anyone where he was going, which was so unlike his normal paranoid state that he must have been either kidnapped. Or murdered.

"He had been dreading this for many years," wept his once-attractive wife, Deirdre. "But we thought we had a foolproof security zone here."

"Anyone can make things foolproof, Mrs Carter," said Braid. "To make them proof against clever men is rather more difficult. So tell me, how many people know the workings of the security system here?"

Not many, it seemed. Cleaning lady. Gardener. Both had been on the staff for 10 years. That was it.

"By the way, sir," said Comfort, "we've found something interesting outside the front gate. Come and have a look."

What it was was a wheel track. Not four wheels, not even two. Just one wheel.

"I think that clinches it," said Inspector Braid.

"Clinches what, sir?"

Comfort was used to the speed of Braid's deduction, but this time he had gazumped him.

"When we drove up here through the town, did you notice anything?"

"Not really, sir. Lot of magazines lying about."

"Now, why would anyone throw away lots of magazines?"

"Big Issue, sir?"

"Not quite, Comfort. They were all student magazines. It's Rag Week at the University. You could mingle with a rag week procession in any guise and not be noticed."

Comfort put two and two together.

"The single wheel track! It was a unicyclist! Felix Carter escaping in disguise!"

"Unicycle is not the only one-wheeled vehicle in the world, Comfort. Think wheelbarrows ..."

"Wheelbarrows, sir?" said Comfort, as Braid drove them downtown.

"As used by gardeners, Comfort. Especially if you were Carter's gardener. Especially if you had previously been exposed by Carter, sworn revenge, and managed to be hired inside his household. Ten years this man has been waiting for his moment. Rag Week comes. He deals with Carter, puts him in a wheelbarrow and wheels him unnoticed through Rag Week to his house. Which is here."

When they entered the gardener's house, they found Carter drugged but still alive. The gardener was about to indulge in a little person-to-person torture. All about some bankrupt tour agency which Felix had once put him inside for. So they arrested him for assault and kidnapping.

"Oh, and for obtaining money under false pretences," added Braid.

"Sir?" said Comfort.

"Wheeling that barrow with the body through the main street, someone must have thrown in some cash. Never handed it on to the students, I bet. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a dishonest kidnapper."

Another Sixty Second Sleuth mystery soon!