Miles Kington: The strange death of a weather forecaster

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The Independent Online

Weekend ahoy, and time for another Sixty Second Sleuth story. The Sixty Second Sleuth is, of course, Inspector Keith Braid, who prides himself on being able to solve any crime in one minute flat, though the subsequent paperwork may take weeks. Still, that is usually done by his sidekick, Sergeant Comfort ... Today's case is entitled:

Red Sky at Night, Copper's Delight

Sergeant Comfort drove Inspector Braid very fast across London, using the siren extravagantly and going the wrong way round buses.

"I take it from the hideous noise and your reckless driving," said Braid wearily, "that we are going to the scene of some very important crime."

"Yes, sir. Hugh Bentall's been killed, sir."

"Indeed? And who is Hugh Bentall?"

Comfort sighed and slowed down. Sometimes he could not believe how ignorant of television his boss was.

"Legendary TV weatherman, sir. Did the TV weather forecast for 20 years."

"Oh?" said Braid. "Did he ever get it right?"

"Not the point, sir," said Comfort. "Point was, he was a national figure. So there was a huge fuss when he was dropped last year. People kept demanding that he be brought back."

That was never going to happen now, thought Comfort, as they entered Bentall's flat. There lay Bentall, dead, on his sitting room floor. In front of him was a TV set, which had once been state of the art but had recently been destroyed in a vicious attack. Bentall was wearing a cricket blazer and a cravat, which was odd, as it was midwinter. He was sprawled on the carpet. There was a glass spilt on the floor. There was no sign of blood.

"Nothing seems to have been taken or disturbed, sir," said the constable who had been the first on the scene, after the death had been reported by a neighbour who had heard sounds of violence in the flat. "Cause of death is not obvious either."

"Oh, I think there can be no doubt about the cause of death," said Braid.

"Still, sir, we ought to wait until the lab people arrive before we examine the body," said Comfort, who knew that the lab people got upset if Braid solved the crime before they got there.

"Suits me," said Comfort. "Still, out of interest, I'll write down what I think. We can compare it when they've done their stuff."

It didn't take them long. Braid, Comfort noticed curiously, filled in the time perusing the Radio Times. Bit of a waste for someone who watched no TV ...

"No doubt about the cause," said the chief expert. "Massive heart attack."

Braid unfolded his paper and showed it to Comfort. It said: "Massive heart attack".

"Approximate time of death?" said Braid.

"Between 6 and 7pm this evening," said the expert.

Braid unfolded another bit of paper. It said: "Death occurred at 6.43pm."

"That's a bit precise, sir, even for you" said Comfort. "How do you reckon that?"

"That's when the local weather forecast came on TV," said Braid. "It's clear what happened. Bentall, brooding on his eclipse, drinking a large whisky, was feeling the pain of injustice and rejection. It got even worse when the weather forecast started, and on the screen comes one of the young sparks who have replaced him, prancing up and down the map of Britain, pointing out squalls and showers. His squalls and showers. Bentall, brooding, sullen, filled with hate and jealousy, is overcome with the unfairness of it all. His life is ruined. By people like this! He attacks the screen, kicking and punching the glass - I think you will find lacerations on his knuckles - and suddenly keels over with a heart attack. And dies."

They thought about it. It seemed fair enough.

"I take it Bentall used to do the TV forecast wearing blazer and cravat?" said Braid.

"Yes, sir," said Comfort. "His trademark."

"How very sad," said Braid. "To end up watching someone else do your job, still wearing your old uniform. A lesson for us all."

Comfort thought about this all the way back to the station, but could see no lesson in it at all.

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