Humor Fiction posted March 16, 2015

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Mr Greenfield challenges DS Castle


by jpduck

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I seem to spend most of my life looking for my glasses. I’ve just spent half an hour doing it. I found them in the end; I always do. They were in the recycling box. Why didn’t I look there straight away? The trouble is, I need a decent pair of glasses to look for them with.
Hey ho! That’s what getting old does. Next week I will be into my seventy-seventh year. God knows why I should feel proud of that, but I do. I suppose it’s something to do with beating my friends at the longevity game. As triumphs go it’s a bummer; I miss them all too much.
So I sit in my bungalow doing endless jigsaw puzzles, occasionally taking a break to gaze out of the window at the bramble tangle that I laughingly call my garden. I wait for excitement to reach me.
At eight o’clock this evening my front door bell rang. I gathered my sticks, tottered to the door and opened it on the chain to find a boy – I suppose I should call him a young man – holding up some sort of badge for me to see.
“Mr Greenfield?” he asked.
“That’s me.”
“I’m DS Castle. May I come in for a moment? I need to ask you a few questions.”
This was a red letter day. The first time I had spoken to anyone for sixteen days – almost a new record. What’s more, it promised to be even more exciting than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“So, am I to assume that ‘DS’ stands for ‘Detective Sergeant’ rather than ‘Dionysus Socrates?’”
“Of course.” Irritation flickered his face.
“How do I know you are who you say you are?”
“I’m showing you my warrant card,” he snapped, poking it through the crack permitted by the door-chain.
“Well now, I can see a card containing a very small photo of someone who could be you, although taken a few years ago, I would say. There is also writing which suggests that it is something to do with the Essex Police Service. But as I am not familiar with police warrant cards, I have no way of knowing whether it is a forgery or not.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, man. Ring the local nick, quote my name and number and they will confirm that I am genuine.”
This all seems to promise the best entertainment I have had in months. “I’m sure you’re right. I’ll trust you.” I slipped the chain and let him in.
“Come in, come in! Let’s find somewhere for you to sit.” I move a pile of newspapers from a chair and drop them on the floor. I sit in my jigsaw chair and look benignly at him. “My name’s Alastair. What’s yours?”
“DS Castle. Mr Greenfield, do you know where your car is?”
“Yes, of course. It’s round the corner in the parking area.”
“Are you certain about that?”
“Well, I guess not. But it was there three days ago when I last used it. I suppose it may have been stolen since then, although I can’t think why anyone would do that; it’s very old. Have you found it, then, Dionysus?”
“Yes, Mr Greenfield, we have. It’s six miles from here on the road from Little Cranfield to Cranfield St Mary. It has crashed into a tree beside the road. A neighbour told us that he heard the crash at ten to six this evening.”
“Oh my goodness, how exciting!  But I’m trying to understand this. So, when you asked me if I knew where my car was, this was a trick question? You were trying to catch me out in some way? What did you hope I would say?”
“No, sir, it wasn’t a trick question.”
“But why did you ask me the question if you already knew where the car was?”
“What were you doing at 17:50 today, sir?”
“I was doing my latest jigsaw puzzle – a rather attractive picture of swans on the river Avon near Stratford.”
“Can anyone else bear this out?”
“You are kidding, aren’t you? You are the first person I have talked to for sixteen days. Whoops! No, I tell a lie. I spoke on the phone to a very interesting lady from Mumbai. She thought my bungalow needed double glazing. I tried to explain —”
“Yes, thank you Mr Greenfield. So you have no alibi for the time of the accident?”
“Certainly not.  Do I need one?”
“It would establish that you were not driving the car at the time of the accident.”  Castle’s mobile phone is ringing. He puts it to his ear and listens for a few seconds. He smiles. “Thank you, Harry. That is interesting.”
“I’m trying to understand this, Dionysus. Even if I had been driving the car when it hit the tree, what crime would I have committed? Apart from anything else, it would have been extraordinarily unlikely. I’ll have you know that I have been driving for fifty years, and in all that time I have not had a single accident.”
“Well, Mr Greenfield, you might have been driving dangerously, or you might have been driving while you were over the blood-alcohol limit. But I have to go, I am afraid.”
“Aha! That call was a ‘development’ was it? How exciting! But you can’t go yet. We’re only just getting started.”
With a look of desperation, Castle leaps to his feet, runs for the front door and lets himself out.
I chuckle. I know he will be back soon for another visit.
DS Castle arrived at the crash scene and parked beside the police barrier tape. Ducking under the tape, he walked across to the wrecked Austin A30. It must have hit the tree at quite a speed, he thought, looking at the collapsed front end. “OK, Harry, let’s have a look at it, then.”
A uniformed policeman stepped up and opened the car boot. Switching on his torch, Castle could clearly see a gelatinous pool of blood on the floor of the otherwise empty boot.
“This puts the whole incident into a different league.” Castle said. “Have the nearby residents been interviewed, Harry?”
“Yes, sir! No witnesses to the accident, but the nearest one heard it. He came out to see what had happened and found this, with the driver’s door open.”
“Was the boot open?”
“No sir!”
Castle shone his torch on the road near the boot, looking for traces of blood. Nothing! A nice blood trail would have made life far too simple – especially with the weekend coming up.
“Have you called in forensics?”
“They’re on their way. Should be here in the next twenty minutes.”
“OK, Harry. Tell them I want a detailed search for all finger prints, and, of course, a blood sample to be sent to the lab. Oh, and keep looking for blood traces anywhere on the road.”
“Certainly, sir.”
“I must get back to that blighter, Alastair Bleeding Greenfield. But it’ll have to be tomorrow morning now.”
“Causing trouble, is he sir?”
“He’s a complete idiot and a cheeky old git. But I think he’s got himself into deep trouble.”
When I open the door at 8:30 the next morning, I am still in my dressing gown. “Dionysus, how lovely to see you again. I knew you would be back. You’re just in time for breakfast.”
“There’s no time for that. I need you to come with me to Little Cranfield.”
“How exciting! Do you mean I will be having a ride in a police car?”
“That is correct, Mr Greenfield.”
“Goody, goody gum drops! I’ll just get a drop of breakfast, then, and I’ll be all yours.”
“No, Mr Greenfield. We need to leave now. Please get dressed.”
“Detective Sergeant Castle. I am hungry.” My friendly, cheerful tone has changed. “I am going to have breakfast, like any other civilised gentleman. If you want to prevent me, you will have to arrest me for something. Is that your intention?”
“No, no! Just get a move on, will you?”
“Certainly, my dear Dionysus. Toast and marmalade for you?”
“I’ve had breakfast, thank you. We leave in ten minutes.”
“Of course, dear boy. We’ll leave as soon as I’m ready.”
Eventually, at ten past nine, Dionysus is able to get me into the waiting police car.
“Ooh, hallo you!” I say to the constable at the wheel. “A real policeman – with a uniform and everything.”
“For God’s sake, shut up, will you?” Castle snaps.
“Ha! Who’s been rattling your cage? Did the old lady withhold her favours last night?”
The constable suppresses a giggle and Castle grinds his teeth.

When we reach the crash site, a policeman is rolling up the barrier tape that had been placed round the crash scene, and a truck is waiting to take the car away.
I gaze gloomily at the remains of my car. “I’m afraid that’s what the insurance company will call a write-off. I might get fifty quid from them, if I’m lucky.”
“Never mind that, Greenfield. I’d like you to open the boot for me please.”

I do so. “Oh, what a horrid mess. Someone’s spilt something in there. What is it detective?”
“It’s blood.”
“Gosh, how thrilling! It’s just like a murder story. You know – Professor Plumb with the spanner in the boot of my car.”
“Mr Greenfield, you are not doing yourself any favours by treating this in such a flippant way. Suppose you tell me how that blood got there.”
“I haven’t the slightest idea, sunshine. It certainly wasn’t there the last time I used the car four days ago. I know because I put my shopping bag in there.”
Castle’s patience is close to snapping. “Right, Mister Greenfield. I’m taking you back to the station for questioning. Get in the car.”
The PC drives us back to town. I am so excited by the drama of it all that I bombard dear Dionysus with questions. He rather rudely ignores me. When we
reach the station, Dionysus gets out and says to the PC, “Lock him up in a cell. We can leave him there for a bit to see if it will make him take his situation a little more seriously.”

"I fear you will be disappointed, Dionysus. How can I possibly take a foolish caper like this seriously?"

Dionysus pouts prettily.
DS Castle switches on the recording equipment. “The time is 11:25 hours on Saturday, 14th March, 2015. This is an interview with Alastair Greenfield. Present are DS Grantley Castle …”
“… and PC Charles Stratton”
“Mr Greenfield, is it your wish that you have a solicitor present during this interview?”
“Good Lord, no! Why would I want to bother with that?”
“Where were you at 17:50 hours on Tuesday, 10th March?”
“I’ve already told you that, ducky.”
“Just answer the question please.”
“At home.”
“You see, Mr Greenfield, we have a problem with that. Your car has been very thoroughly checked for finger prints. The only prints inside or outside your car were your own. I put it to you that on Tuesday evening you were driving your car near Little Cranfield, where you came into collision with a tree.”
“Oh my God, you’ve got me banged to rights, as I believe they say. What a clever dick you are! … But wait! There is a tiny snag with your theory. Do you not think it may be possible that the villain who stole my car was wearing gloves? It was, after all, a cold evening.”
“How did the blood get into the boot of your car?”
“Now, let me see. I don’t think I know the answer to that one. But, maybe the person who stole my car could tell you. Perhaps it might be a good idea if you got out there and looked for him. What do you think?”
“I think you put the body of someone you had killed into the boot. That’s what happened, wasn’t it?”
“How interesting! And what, do you suppose, happened to the body?”
“You carried it away and hid it somewhere. We will find it. My men are searching for it as we speak.”
“Oh, Dionysus, you are clever. You’ve got it all worked out. But, and I’m sorry to be a spoiler, you seem to have overlooked a small matter. It has apparently escaped your notice that I have to walk with the aid of two sticks. How do you suppose I managed to carry the body?”
There is a tap at the door and another man in plain clothes pokes his head round. “May I have a word please, Sergeant?”
“Interview suspended at 11:40 hours.” Castle presses the pause button and leaves the room.
When he returns a minute or so later, he says, “You’re free to go, Mr Greenfield.”
“What! But you were just getting warmed up, Dionysus. Closing in on me, you were. You can’t just leave it that; we were having so much fun.”
“You’re – free – to – go.”
“But you must tell me what you’ve just heard to cause you to close the case. Surely, you owe me that, don’t you?”
Castle gives me a look that would have dropped most people at twenty paces. Between clenched teeth he scrapes, “Forensics say that the blood was from a muntjac deer.”
“How simply fascinating! Do you know what? I’ve learned something today. It is, of course, common knowledge that the British police are institutionally racist and institutionally corrupt. But I am now having my suspicions confirmed that they are institutionally incompetent. Thank you, Dionysus, darling.”


"I think you owe me a ride home, sweetheart."


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Translation for readers outside the UK where some terms used may be unclear:
Mobile phone = cellphone
Car boot = trunk
DS = Detective Sergeant
PC = Police Constable
RTA = Road traffic accident
Austin A30 = A compact economy car produced by the British Motor Corporation between 1951 and 1956
Stick = cane
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