Miles Kington: A policeman's work is never done

No one, he was glad to see, was breaking the law. The last thing you wanted on holiday was a murder
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The Independent Online

Another complete crime story today, featuring the quickest cop in history, Inspector Keith Braid. Braid is known as the Sixty Second Sleuth for his habit of solving all crimes in one minute flat, which gets Scotland Yard a good reputation but doesn't half pile up the paperwork.

This week Inspector Braid is on holiday. Think that will slow him down ? Think again, as you read... The Sandman

It was only when Inspector Keith Braid went on holiday, and was forced to relax, that he ever gazed at humanity in general. On the first day of their holiday at the seaside, Braid sat in his deck chair on Griblington Sands and watched with fascination the British public at play. None of them, he was glad to notice, were actually breaking the law, unless you called taking up space on a crowded beach causing an obstruction.

Some were putting up windshields. Some were playing French cricket, some playing English cricket, some throwing Frisbees or making sand castles, and one man was busy driving a stake through his wife's heart. No, as you were, he was just hammering a parasol stand into the sand. Thank goodness for that. Last thing you wanted on holiday was a murder.

"Penny for your thoughts," said Mrs Braid, pouring him a cup of tea.

"Not likely," said her husband. "I spend every day of my life as a policeman being paid to have thoughts. I'm here to get away from all that."

But it was at that very moment that he realised that for the past few minutes he had, if only unconsciously, been observing a very curious piece of behaviour. About 20 yards away a young boy and girl were wielding their spades to dig up sand and pile it on the body of, presumably, their sleeping father. Nothing very odd about that. It was an old seaside sport. What was odd was that when they had covered his limbs and torso, they proceeded to cover his head, and he made no objection.

Braid said: "Be back in a moment," levered himself out of the deck chair and walked, wincing on the hot sand, to where the now fully covered person lay. Telling the children not to go away, he shook the sand off the man's head. As he suspected, the reason he had not tried to stop the children covering him up was that he was dead.

"Why did you put sand on him?" said Braid.

"A man paid us to," said the boy.

"He gave us £5," said the girl.

"To cover him all up," said the boy.

"Where's the £5?" said Braid.

"He's coming back with it," said the boy.

"When we've finished the job," said the girl.

"I doubt it," said Braid and examined the body briefly. No sign of violence. "What are your names?"

They were Sam and Rachel.

"Well, Sam and Rachel, I want you to watch over the body while I go and talk to someone. Will you do that?"

They looked at each other.

"We'll do it for £5," said Sam.

"In advance," said Rachel.

"Done," said Braid. He went and borrowed a fiver off Mrs Braid, gave it to the kids and then went to talk to the car park attendant who looked after the only place where you could park for the beach. He then phoned the local police to come as quick as possible and walked back to Mrs Braid, reflecting that this was the first time he had ever taken over a case wearing nothing but swimming trunks.

"Murder, I suppose," said his wife.

"No, no," said Braid. "Natural death. Died on the beach. His family decided not to face the hassle of reporting him, and arranged for him to be left behind and buried independently. It's the only possible theory. Luckily, they've got CCTV at the car park. Shouldn't take long to establish which car which arrived with a certain number of people and departed with one fewer."

"And when you get them, what will you charge them with?" she asked.

"Failing to report a death, bribing and corrupting the young, and wasting police time while on holiday," he said. "Now hand me the paper."

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