The Asbestos Reindeer: The Final Stage
Blatty of the Yard, 42, stepped from the fussy little train on to the platform of Beaumont-cum-Spon station. His performances as a detective had rightly won him national acclaim-although his performances elsewhere had prompted scoop stories for George "Tiny" Brain, ace reporter of the Daily Dirge. Blatty was determined to catch the "Yorkshire Wrapper" who had been terrorising the Ridings for more than six months.
The methods of the Wrapper were diabolical. Only the other day the Vicar of St. Ovaries climbed up to his pulpit to find that the whole congregation had been wrapped head to foot in brown paper. This was too much for the aged Rev. Spolit, 112, and he immediately dropped down dead. He was allergic to brown paper.
Blatty quickly moved into action after locking himself in the nearest toilet-there had been no corridor on the train-and, to save time, called a simultaneous press conference to explain his strategy. But meanwhile, on the other side of town, the Wrapper had struck again. In only five seconds he had covered Tesco's and forty-eight shoppers in Christmas wrapping paper-and it was only September!
Two days passed and Blatty's enquiries had got nowhere. The Wrapper had taunted him in a series of contemptuous telephone messages: "One day, Blatty, you'll find yourself wrapped in a sliced loaf. You'll never catch me-I'll wrap myself first." Blatty attempted to allay public fears in another hastily called press conference. Crime reporters from all the popular papers were already speculating on 'Blatty's Last Stand.' Gecc Workman of the Daily Bludgeon had been responsible for the most virulent assault or Blatty's fading powers of detection. "For Blatty," he wrote, "the case of the Wrapper will be his last stand. Blatty has ridden into Beaumont-cum-Spon like General Custard at the Battle of the Little Big Hoot and the Wrapper will prove to be an adversary as powerful as Big Chief Laughing Brosker-Last of the Red Hot potatoes." The reporters listened to Blatty with rapt attention-scribbling in their notebooks like frogs up the Limpopo.
Two days passed...
All of a sudden there was a blinding flash. The room went quiet. Then cold and dark. Very cold and very dark. Stillness. Then somewhere a toilet flushed. The lights came on. The Wrapper had struck!
"Ranks, Hovis, Montezuma!" screamed Workman. "This case has wrapped up Blatty!" The famous detective was boxed and attractively gift-wrapped in pastel-coloured paper with pink bows. Days passed. People became too frightened to leave their homes...
Foglas Nunucq was not just any old sleuth-but an investigator and crime-fighter par excellence. Together with his trusty sidekick, Damp, Foglas was the last resort. Wherever the plot became impossibly thick-there was Foglas.
Meanwhile the police on the trail of the Wrapper were baffled, bothered, boggled, bubbled and bampered. Chief Inspector Nerk, 42, could only throw up his hands and exclaim in a throaty throat, "Corks, screws, lumme, Bristol University. Send for Foglas and Damp! They're our only hope!"
No sooner had Foglas received the call from the floundering force than he was on his way to Yorkshire, leaving behind his sumptuously furnished rooms in Pimlico-his little pied-à-bouche he called it. Pausing only to collect a copy of the Reader's Doglist to browse through on the journey, Foglas set off, hotfoot, for the station. Three days later he arrived in Yorkshire after a roundabout trip and was greeted at the station by his faithful assistant Damp-who had hopped there from Clapham. "We'll soon have this little problem sorted out," boasted Foglas as he fell from the train and landed in a dishevelled heap on the platform. Testily he dusted himself off. He looked resplendent in his gold lamé waistcoat with socks to match. His rubber overshoes gleamed in the morning sunlight.
His rubber overshoes gleamed in the morning sunlight
"You've dribbled gravy down your chin again, Foglas," said Damp irritably, "but I suppose we can still solve the case. We're staying at the Beaumont-cum-Spon Sheraton. It's in Losenge Street-near the gasworks. The rooms are covered in a very strange wallpaper-pictures of orang-utans disguised as bricks."
When morning broke the next day an expectant hush hung like an out-of-commission vacuum cleaner over the three Ridings. Could Foglas and Damp snaffle the Wrapper? Could Geoff Boycott score a hundred in the Test Match? (no-one seemed to realise that the cricket season was over. The last Test Match, England versus the Fuzzy Wuzzies, at Headingley (Leeds) had ended in a draw when the home side were discovered neatly wrapped in greaseproof paper on the long leg boundary.)
Foglas had been awake all night listening to music to help him collect his thoughts and plan his stategy. At times like these he found the "Twenty Golden Greats of Nervous Norvus" particularly soothing. Damp meanwhile had found it difficult to sleep and had spent most of the night shuffling aimlessly around the room, leaning on walls or needlessly fiddling with his things. He had also formulated his own ideas on solving the Wrapper affair-applying his considerable logic to the known facts. This always irritated Foglas-not because Damp's theories were of no value, but because he wanted all the glory for himself and did not want this snivelling little Wally stealing the limelight.
The day slipped by. Foglas sat motionless in his chair. Damp twitched unnoticed by the window. Outside the Wrapper lurked somewhere preparing for the confrontation. By the time Foglas eventually revealed his plan to Damp, night was beginning to creep in. Damp sat opposite his mentor and sipped tea like Biffo the Bear. "It's an old trick, but it might just work...!"
Having decided that he, like Blatty, had become the Wrapper's main target, Foglas had come to the conclusion that there was no point in looking for the Wrapper if the Wrapper was going to come to him. "It's all quite simple, Damp. If Mojebrab won't come to the mollusc, then the mollusc must go to Mojebrab". Quizically Damp surveyed Foglas' crumpled face which gleamed expectantly like a treacle pudding.
"Why didn't I think of that, Foglas?"
"Because you are just a snivelling little Wally, Damp".
An out-of-commission vacuum cleaner
"We must choose our ground carefully, Damp", continued Foglas, "this Wrapper's a cunning bounder. This is what we'll do..."
Foglas revealed the full subtleties of his daring plan to his trusty aide. Damp's face showed no emotion. He was as cool as a box of paper clips. He knew his job.
As night fell, Foglas had sprung into inertia. One day the imprint of his bottom might prove a valuable fossil. He sat characteristically motionless and waited. Hardly breathing. Damp secreted himself behind a large bowl of petunias and nibbled a raw onion. The room grew colder. Then it seemed that all the air was sucked out. Foglas did not hear the Wrapper approach. The brown paper and string trapped him like a Beatle jacket. With one bound he was free! The withered shape of the Wrapper lay on the floor trussed up like a Christmas turnip.
"Well that about wraps it up for the Wrapper", said Foglas, smirking like a Boy Scout with two badgers.
"Yes, Foglas", replied Damp, "you've saved the world again."
...a boy scout with two badgers
©1980,2000 The Reader's Doglist Association of Great Britain