How clever Thog saved Brag. Ug]

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The Independent Online
PRIVATE eyes these days come in increasingly varied forms, but seldom as varied as the oldest fictional detective of all - Thog, the Stone Age investigator]

Thog was coming back from an expedition to the edge of the known world, or what we now call Buckinghamshire, when he found the body. As he was coming back, he felt hungry - his wife, Quogga, had promised that for lunch she would serve up his favourite braised bat with nettles, and he didn't want to miss it.

Then he saw the body.

'Ug,' said Thog, which was his way of saying: 'This looks like a person with a spear stuck through him'. He turned the body over with his foot. It was also someone he knew quite well. This was as he expected, because there were only 37 people in the world that he knew of, and he recognised them all by sight.

'Ug,' he said, or, as we would say: 'Blimey, me on my way to lunch and I have the luck to find a missing person case; I'll be getting cold braised bat at this rate. Oh, well, better get it over with.' And so it was that half an hour later he returned to the tribal settlement carrying Quirg's body.

'Ug,' said everyone, meaning: 'Good heavens, Quirg is a lot deader than when we last saw him.' There were also overtones of 'How come Quirg has died of old age when he was so young?'

'Ug,' said Thog. Of course] They hadn't noticed the spear sticking through Quirg's body.

'Ug,' said Thog patiently. It took a moment or two for the concept to sink into their minds. For many of them, it was the first concept they had ever met. So Thog was saying that someone had actually stuck the spear in Quirg]

'Ug?' asked Zag. It was the question that was slowly occurring to them all. Who would want to spear-stick Quirg? Quirg was the younger brother of Zag the chief, Zag the golden-haired, Zag the god-like. Quirg was not golden-haired or god-like. He was dark and twisted, with a nervous tic all over. But he was clever, and always set the questions for the quizzes that whiled away the long, cold winter nights. They valued and loved Quirg.

'Ug . . . ' said Thog, meaning: 'Do you remember that winter evening when Quirg had asked Brag: 'Who was that female person I saw you with last night?' and Brag had said: 'That was no female person, that was your wife'?' And how they had all laughed fit to bust? And then it turned out it was true, and Brag had been out with Quirg's wife? And Quirg had gone all wet on the face, which turned out to be crying, only nobody had ever seen it before?

At that moment Brag himself came in from a hunting expedition, carrying a dead deer and a bloody spear.

'Ug]' cried Zag, angrily pointing at him. Yes, it all made sense, the tribe agreed. Brag must have waylaid Quirg and killed him, so he could take his wife. There was the blood- smeared spear in his hand to prove it] They advanced on Brag, ready to lynch him.

'Ug]' said Thog sternly. They thought about it for a moment. Yes, he was right. If the murder weapon was still sticking in Quirg, how could it also be the one in Brag's hand? The effort of working this out was too much for some people, and several fainted.

'Ug,' said Brag proudly, and pointed to his son, Lug, who had been hunting with him. This, he was saying, was his alibi. The idea of someone saying he was not in two places at the same time defeated everyone in the tribe except Thog, and even he had trouble with it.

'Ug,' said Thog, playing for time. They all saw his point. If Brag had not killed Quirg to get Quirg's wife, then who . . . ?

'Ug,' said Thog, producing a small silver ornament, which he had found next to the body. They all gasped. It was the little box in which Quirg kept the answers to his quiz questions. The little silver box that only one person ever carried - Quirg's wife. The concept of an incriminating piece of evidence was so hard for most of them that they simply stared at the sky and hummed quietly, but luckily Quirg's wife, who had been hiding behind a tree listening, rushed out and said, yes, she had killed Quirg and she wasn't ashamed to admit it, she had hated him, always asking silly trivial questions . . .

So they took her out and stoned her to death, and Thog chalked up another successful case.

(Coming next: Thog and the Case of the Great Dinosaur Insurance Scandal])