The salesmen always ring twice

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The Independent Online

Another outing today for Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth, who takes only a minute to solve any crime.

Another outing today for Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth, who takes only a minute to solve any crime.

Mark you, it takes him hours to do the paperwork.

Luckily, he's got Sergeant Comfort to do that for him.

And here they both are in a brand new sixty-second saga, entitled:

Cold Call Blues

"Amurder's been reported, sir," said Comfort.

"Surprise me," said Inspector Keith Braid.

"A Mr Dawlish. Reported dead at 60, Longfellow Avenue."

"I'm surprised," said Braid.

"Why, sir?"

"Didn't know we named streets after American poets," said Braid.

Comfort considered this.

"Whitman Road, London E3, sir?" he ventured.

Braid frowned. Poetry was meant to be his field, not Comfort's.

"Where did the report of Dawlish's death come in from?"

"Indian police, sir. In Bangalore."

"Then let's get going!"

The door of Number 60, Longfellow Avenue was opened by a young man.

"Mr Dawlish?"

"No," said the young man. "No, I do not want a conservatory or a timeshare or whatever the hell it is you're selling."

He was about to close the door when Braid stuck his foot in it.

"Why would you think we were trying to sell you something, sir?"

"Because whenever someone rings up and asks for Mr Dawlish, they're always trying to sell something. You see, my wife's maiden name was Dawlish, and the call centres in India have got hold of a list of phone numbers with the name Dawlish listed on this number, so every two days I get a phone call from an Indian salesman in Bangalore calling himself Nick or Jeremy, asking if I am Mr Dawlish, and I am sick of it."

"And what do you do?"

"Sometimes I just put the phone down. Sometimes, when I am feeling really cross, I give them my father-in-law's number. Mr Dawlish, you see. And sometimes I just play the silly ass."

"Which is why," said Braid thoughtfully, "you were rather unhappy when we asked you just now if you were Mr Dawlish."

"Yes," said the young man. "I thought : 'My God, they're selling door to door now!' Though I have to say, you don't look very Indian to me ..."

"We are not," said Braid. "We are from Scotland Yard. We have come to investigate the death of Mr Dawlish."

"He's dead?" said the man. "Thank the Lord for that! Perhaps he won't get any more calls now!"

"Have you ever tried to get rid of the young salesman in Bangalore," said Braid, "by telling him Mr Dawlish was dead? That you had killed him, even?"

"I have, as a matter of fact," said young Mr Winslow. "The last time he called I was so fed up that I said something like, 'You can't talk to him! He's dead! I've killed him and he can never buy insurance from you now! He's dead and I killed him, and I am glad I did, do you hear, glad, glad, glad!'"

There was an embarrassed pause.

"Quite understandable," said Braid. "Unfortunately, the young Indian salesman must have thought it was his duty to report it, so he told the Bangalore police and the Bangalore police told us, and we came round."

"Ah," said young Winslow. "Sorry. Feel a bit silly."

"Don't do it again," said Braid.

On the way back to the station, Comfort asked Braid if that counted as another murder solved.

"I think so, don't you?" said Braid. "I think the Government would want us to make the clear-up rate look better. Incidentally, do you think Pound Lane, NW10, was named after Ezra Pound?"

"No idea, sir."

Braid smiled. Point to him, he thought.

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