How the silly old Knave of Hearts got egg on his face

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Every day this week, I have been bringing you a short story for you to cut out and take on holiday to read, and the final one is a crime thriller called "The Death of an Egg":

"You want me to investigate what, sir?" said Inspector Moonbeam.

It had sounded to him as if his Super had just said he wanted him to investigate a fatal accident to an egg.

"I want you to investigate a fatal accident to an egg," said the voice, again.

"Look, sir," said Inspector Moonbeam, heavily. "I'm a very busy man right now. I've got a murder case on my hands at the moment. Death of Cock Robin. I've got a missing-person case. Miss Muffet. I've got people out looking for a Welshman in a stolen-leg-of-beef case. I've got..."

"Do it," said the Super's voice. "All the king's horses and all the king's men have been there. If they've been there, I think you ought to at least put in an appearance."

The voice rang off.

Georgie Porgie, thought the Inspector, miserably. That's all he needed. An accident to an egg.

And all the king's men! He hadn't got mixed up with them since the fiasco of the King of Spain's daughter and the golden nutmeg. He sighed. Better go take a look.

He went to the wall. Sergeant Honeydew was there already. There was egg all over the ground. Nasty.

"We've identified the victim, sir," said the Sergeant. "Tanned, 6ft, probably Buff Orpington origin - name of Humpty Dumpty. Bit of a VIP in the egg world. Had his own TV show. Smutty, late-night thing. 'A Bit of Humpty Pumpty', or some such."

"Revenge killing, was it?" said the Inspector. "Eggland murder?"

"Don't think so, sir. Plain accident, it seems. We have several witnesses who saw him fall. A mome rath, a slithy tove, couple of borogoves... all swear it was an accident. If you ask me, he had been taking something white and powdered, and just fell. Showbiz story..."

"Then why all the stuff with the king's horses and king's men?"

Before there was an answer, a constable came hurrying over.

"Sir, sir, this might be interesting. We've been piecing some of Mr Dumpty's shell together, and there was something written on the outside. As far as we can make out, it says, 'Get the Knave of Hearts'."

"Knave of Hearts?"

Inspector Moonbeam thought rapidly. The Knave of Hearts was a rogue, but he was big at court. King's men. King's horses. Had the Knave sent for the king's horses? Or was Humpty Dumpty intending to get the knave for his TV show? Just scrawled a note on his shell to remind himself? Or...

"Get the Knave of Hearts on the phone, Honeydew."

While they were waiting, they had a visitor. From the press. A reporter from The Nursery Times. Moonbeam knew him of old. Tom Wych-Elm. He was all right.

"How's things?" said Wych-Elm.

"Fine," said the Inspector.

"Not exactly what we hear," said Wych-Elm. "Sorry to have to say this, but we hear there's a bit of a crime epidemic in Nurseryland."

"There's always been a crime epidemic in Nurseryland," said Moonbeam. "There's always been missing sheep, and spiders harassing girls, and dogs running away with spoons. It's the social conditions - what can you expect? Twenty-four living in one shoe? Do me a favour."

"You know that Humpty Dumpty was a pusher, don't you?" said Wych-Elm. "Supplied drugs to the very top people? Maybe somebody thought he knew too much..."

No, the Inspector hadn't known that Dumpty was a pusher. Suddenly, it began to make sense. Somebody owed him money. Couldn't pay. Arranged an "accident"...

"Knave of Hearts on the line, sir," said Honeydew. He handed him the mobile.

"All right, Inspector," said the Knave. "As you seem to know everything, I'll own up. Yes, Humpty Dumpty was blackmailing me. Yes, I had to get rid of him. Yes, I sent over the king's horses and king's men to clear up the scene of the crime. How you got on to me, I shall never know..."

Actually, the Inspector was only going to ask him about some footling jam-tarts theft, but he never told him that.