Miles Kington: Dial 80 for murder: another case for super sleuth Braid

'There have been a lot of high profile 80th birthdays this year', said Braid. 'They have all overshadowed each other. If one had been 80, it would have been fine'
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The Independent Online

Time to give the image of the police a polish, I think, so let's welcome back Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty-Second Sleuth, who never takes longer than a minute to solve any crime.

Today he is rubbing shoulders with the famous in a little yarn entitled 'Seventy-Nine Not Out'.

"I can't imagine anyone wanting to hurt Casper Turtle," said Sergeant Comfort, as they sped in the police car to Pimlico, where the famous Casper Turtle lived by himself in a bachelor flat.

"Who is Casper Turtle?" said Braid. "And don't say 'the victim of this attempted murder'. I know that. But I don't know why he is famous."

Comfort sighed. If Braid ever watched the TV now and again, it would save a lot of time.

"He is the grand old man of British sitcom, sir. He was in Body Count, and All Sewn Up and Guten Tag, Herr O'Reilly and Moor's the Pity and ..."

"I take it these are all programme titles?" said Braid.

"Yes, sir. The most famous sitcoms of modern times. He was in them all. Everyone loves him."

"Not everyone, if someone tried to kill him last night."

"That's the curious thing," said Comfort. "He was giving a dinner party and was taken very ill. Looked like food poisoning, but nobody else at the dinner was ill, which was suspicious, and then they found poison in his dish, and luckily got the antidote to him in time."

"I'd be very interested to know who else was at the dinner," said Braid.

Turtle was well enough, when they got there, to tell him.

"There were four old friends of mine, beside me," he said. "Dame Mari Boot, the opera singer. Old Roger Cornell, the playwright. Sir Harry Winkler, the film star. And Deirdre Hartley, the Irish Vera Lynn. At least, that's what she used to be called."

"You say 'Old' Roger Cornell," said Braid. "Is he in fact older than you?"

"No," said Turtle, surprised. "We're the same age. Both born in 1927. Actually, I think that everyone who was there last night was pretty much the same age."

"Wasn't Cornell involved in an assault recently?" said Comfort. "I seem to remember him being attacked in the street ..."

"Yes, nasty business," said Turtle. "Set on by a mystery assailant. Luckily Sir Harry Winkler himself happened to be passing and came to his rescue."

"I think we'll pay Sir Harry a little visit," said Braid.

The famous actor lived about 10 minutes away, and opened the door himself. "How can I help Scotland Yard?" he said, ushering them in. "You can tell me the year you were born in," said Braid.

"1927," said Sir Harry. "But you could have found that out without coming to ask me. And why on earth do you want to know?"

"There have been a lot of high profile 80th birthdays this year," said Braid. "The Queen. David Attenborough. Hugh Hefner. Miles Davis would have been 80. Stanley Baxter is 80 this year."

"Ye-e-e-s," said Sir Harry.

"They have all overshadowed each other," said Braid. "If just one of them had been 80, it would have been fine. But there were too many. I only found out about Stanley Baxter by accident."

"Ye-e-e-s..."

"Next year you will be 80. So will Casper Turtle. So will Roger Cornell and several others. It is quite possible that one of you will attempt to eliminate the others to keep all the fame and celebration to yourself. It is quite possible that it is you, Sir Harry. You were present when Casper Turtle was nearly poisoned. You were present when Cornell was attacked ..."

"I rescued him!" said Sir Harry.

"I think not," said Braid. "I think you attacked him and then pretended to rescue him."

"This is preposterous!" said Sir Harry.

"I think not," said Braid. "I am arresting you on a charge of attempted murder. The only thing that surprises me is why a well-known and wealthy actor like yourself should get his hands dirty with murder. You could easily have hired someone to do the dirty work for you."

Sir Harry rose to his full height. "I have always done my own stuntwork," he said proudly.

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