Miles Kington: Down by the riverside, there's something fishy going on

No one ever talks to anglers. We fisher folk have built up a reputation for a boorish lack of communication
Click to follow

Time for another Sixty Second Sleuth story, featuring Inspector Keith Braid, who never takes more than a minute to spot the solution to a crime. Today's lightning detection story is entitled:

A culprit reeled in

"It's a diamond, sir," said Sergeant Comfort.

"What's a diamond?" said Inspector Braid, startled.

"What was stolen from Hugo Mount."

"Who's Hugo Mount?"

Sergeant Comfort sighed. He admired his boss beyond anyone, but sometimes wished he wouldn't let his mind wander so far.

"We are going to meet Mr Hugo Mount, who lives beside the river at Steeple Carlton. He has had a diamond stolen. It's one of a series of robberies in the village."

"What's it called?"

"Steeple Carlton, sir."

"Not the village. The river."

"The River Alder, sir."

"Ah, the Alder. Nice little stream. I've fished there once or twice."

Comfort could easily imagine the Inspector fishing. Just his sort of activity. Non-activity, rather. Letting his mind wander...

"I am a diamond broker, Inspector," said Hugo Mount. "I deal in diamonds. I have them around all the time. Nothing odd about that. I had just put one down on the living room table while I was in the kitchen making some coffee. When I came back it was gone. What is odd is that someone should know the exact hour and minute to whip in through the French windows, nick the stone and be off again."

"Very odd indeed," said Braid. "Most unlikely."

"Are you suggesting that I am making all this up?" said Mount.

"No, sir," said Braid. "I am suggesting that the thief wasn't looking for the diamond. I gather that there have been other burglaries in the village?"

"Yes - whoever it is has struck six times in the last two months, all along the river."

"Not always taking diamonds?"

"No. Just what he could grab."

"Have you access to the river?"

"Yes, through that gate in the garden. So what do you think...?"

But Braid had already gone, into the garden, through the gate and down into the field by the river. On the bank were two green umbrellas, a hundred feet apart, where both anglers were ensconced for a day's fishing.

"Have you seen anyone come through this field?" said Braid to the first one they reached, a thin ginger-haired man called Fred.

"There's been nobody this morning at all," said Fred, "apart from the other fisherman along there. And the jogger."

"What jogger?"

"Came through about two hours ago. Came back a bit afterwards. White vest, blue shorts. Not very fit. Panting hard."

"Thank you," said Braid. He walked to the other angler.

"Did you see the jogger too?" he asked.

"Yes, I did. He came along the bank from the main road. Went back that way again."

"Thank you," said Braid. He and Comfort started strolling back to Mount's house.

"Any idea who did it?" said Comfort.

"Oh, yes," said Braid. "It was the fisherman."

"Fred?" said Comfort, startled.

"No, the other one. Non-Fred."

"How do you reckon...?"

"All the robberies have been linked by the river. So we're looking for someone who knows the river well. A fisherman..."

"But it was a jogger..."

"A fisherman can also be a jogger," said Braid. "Underneath his fishing clothes, our non-Fred was wearing running kit. All he had to do under that umbrella was strip off to his running gear, run up to the village, do an opportunistic theft, run back to the umbrella, then get dressed up again. Nobody would notice his absence, because those big green umbrellas always look occupied."

"But if someone came past and talked to the fisherman..."

"Nobody ever talks to anglers. We fisher folk have built up a reputation for a boorish lack of communication. No, non-Fred had the perfect alibi. Not even Fred suspected. If you see someone running past in vest and pants, you don't think: 'Oh, ho! A fisherman in his underwear!' Did you look at his shoes? They were running shoes... Look - he's beginning to pack up for the day. I think we might go and ask him a few questions. Like: 'Would you mind removing your outer clothing?'..."

The Sixty Second Sleuth will be back soon