The case of the love-rat editor

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The Independent Online

It's time for another instalment of the Sixty Second Sleuth, Inspector Keith Braid! As fans will know, Braid never takes more than about a minute to figure out any crime, which makes him much in demand, even if it creates a mountain of paperwork ...

It's time for another instalment of the Sixty Second Sleuth, Inspector Keith Braid! As fans will know, Braid never takes more than about a minute to figure out any crime, which makes him much in demand, even if it creates a mountain of paperwork ...

Publish And Be Fired

"I am glad you came, Inspector Braid," said Lincoln Standwick. "And I am glad you didn't come in uniform."

Lincoln Standwick was the editor of the Sunday Deliverer, the best-selling Sunday paper which every week broke the hearts of the few people whose scandals it exposed, and brought delight to those seven million purchasers whose scandals were not yet exposed. It was a very English institution, not least because it was owned by a foreigner, the German media millionaire, Rudolf Zwangler.

"I am not surprised you wanted to keep a visit from the police secret," said Braid. "You're not known for being nice to the police. Wasn't there a story in last week's paper headed 'Bent Copper Behind Heathrow Gem Raid'?"

"I expect so." said Standwick. "We have one like that every week. No, the reason I wanted to see you was this letter, which I got on Monday. I'm being blackmailed."

Braid read it.

"We know very well all about you and Madeleine Calthorpe," it said. "We will keep your secret if you follow our instructions."

"Who's Madeleine Calthorpe?" said Braid.

"She is what the tabloids would call my mistress," said Standwick. "My wife is the woman I live with. Madeleine is the woman I love. I should hate anyone to know about her."

"Yes," said Braid, "it would be a pity if a paper got the story, wouldn't it? 'Shame of Love Rat Editor'."

"Yes," said Standwick. "That's why I want you to catch whoever it is before it all gets out. Tell me who it is. Leave the rest to me."

"Have you received their instructions yet?" said Braid.

Standwick handed over a second letter. It contained one simple word. "Resign."

"Hmm," said Braid. "Interesting. No mention of money. Just your resignation. Well, that rules out my first theory."

"First theory?"

"I thought it might come either from your wife or your mistress. But it would not be in their interest for your money to dry up. Therefore we move on to theory number two, that you are being blackmailed by a reader or a celebrity you've exposed in the past."

"They've often threatened, but they've never had anything on me," said Standwick. "Anyway, I had covered Madeleine's traces well."

"In that case, we move on to theory number three," said Braid. "The person who might benefit from your resignation. Rudolf Zwangler."

"My proprietor?" said Standwick. "Why?"

"To save money," said Braid. "To fire you would be very expensive. He would owe you a huge pay-out. But if you resign, you don't get that sort of bonus and he doesn't have to shell out. Everyone knows you've been in the job too long and he wants to get rid of you. So he decides to blackmail you into resigning. After all, a man like Zwangler has the resources to dig up the truth on your private life."

"That's true, but do you have the slightest evidence ...?"

"Look at the letter again. Where it says: 'We know very well all about you and Madeleine ...'. Very German phrasing, that. 'We know very well.' 'Wir wissen sehr gut.'"

"My God," said Standwick.

"Quite so," said Braid. "You're being blackmailed by your boss. Leave the rest to me, I think you said. So I shall."

Another Sixty Second Sleuth Story coming soon!

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