Sunday, 4 May 2008

Salon Of Death

"The awful truth of the matter is that Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe had gone to India to kill his old friend, the Rajah” (Spiggot continued), “The Rajah, you see, was the drugs lord of the region. The Opium grown in them there hills is, by repute, of the very finest quality money and human misery can buy. Between them, the Rajah and Hartleberry-Smythe had a very profitable importation business in hand. But now it seemed the Rajah had begun working with a new partner. His supplies to Hartleberry-Smythe had started to dry up. And as the quantity diminished, so the price rose.

"But Hartleberry-Smythe had an alternative supplier in the region - someone who was working in cahoots with a bunch of native warlords and priests of a strange and vicious blood cult - a nasty bunch of fellas, by all accounts, who inspired in the Opium farmers a terror as great, or greater than the terror of the Killer of PooshMurtran itself! With the Rajah out of the picture, Hartleberry-Smythe believed that he and his associates would be able to take over the entire Opium production operation in the area.

"And thus it was that, one day, Hartleberry-Smythe suggested to the Rajah that it might be a bit of a jape to go on a tiger hunt, to track down the legendary Killer and bring it back alive or dead.

"One morning, as the mists of dawn still clung to the scummy waters of the mangrove swamps, a strange party wended its way out between the huge marble gateways of the Rajah's palace. The Rajah himself led the way on his largest and most fearsome pachyderm. Hiram and some half a dozen skilled native hunters followed close behind, perched on top of armoured elephants.

"After almost six hours tracking the Killer, one of the native hunters finally caught sight of the beast. In an uncharacteristic turn of bravery, Hiram immediately suggested to the Rajah that the two of them should at once dismount and hunt the animal alone and on foot. The plan appealed to the Rajah's reckless nature and he assented without a moment's hesitation.

"Unknown to him, two of Hiram's associates - professional assassins - had secretly been following the hunting party and, at that very moment they lay in wait in the undergrowth. Everything was going according to Hiram's devilish plan. All being well, within a few moments the Rajah would be brutally slaughtered. The assassins planned to tear his living flesh so that, as far as anyone would know, he was just the latest victim of The Killer of PooshMurtran. But, as Shakespeare said, the best laid plans of mice and men often gang awry…"

"Burns," muttered Trish.

"What does?" sputtered Spiggot.

"It was Robert Burns who wrote that, not Shakespeare."

"I beg your pardon, young lady," said Spiggot, "But I believe you'll find that it was Shakespeare. Sonnet Number 323 if my memory serves me well."

"It obviously doesn't," said Trish, "Because it was Burns and it's not the best laid 'plans', it's the best laid 'schemes' and, what's more, he didn't write 'gang awry', he wrote…"

"Trish!" Chelsea interrupted.


"I believe Mrs Van de Graaff's poodle is about ready for its shampoo and blow-dry now. If you'd care to…"

"But I was just in the middle of…"

"Trish!" Chelsea pointed imperiously at the dismal dog, "Shampoo Foo-foo! Now!"

Grumbling to herself, Trish snapped on her rubber gloves and unceremoniously dumped the poodle into the nearest sink. Opening a new box of Bunnz Salon Specialities, she took a bottle of shampoo and started to massage it vigorously into the unhappy-looking animal. Under her breath, Trish could be heard grumbling, "The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley…"

Chief Inspector Spiggot twirled the ends of his moustaches briskly and threw himself into his tale with renewed vigour - "As Fate would have it, while the Rajah hunted the Killer, and the two assassins hunted the Rajah, the Killer of PooshMurtran himself was not idle. There in the undergrowth, the beast cowered, its whiskers bristling with the scent of its future meal. Suddenly its muscles tightened and whoosh! Out it leapt, taking down the two assassins in one fierce leap! Then slash! rip! tear! bite! It gorged itself monstrously upon their still pulsating flesh! The Rajah heard the melee and, in a flash, he spotted the beast and brought it down with a single bullet straight between the eyes!

"Two days later, Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe contrived to push the Rajah through an open window of his own palace."

Chelsea sucked the dregs of her Singapore Sling and bit the cherry off the end of the little paper umbrella - "So," she said at last, "That may explain the murder of the Rajah. But what about the murder of Hiram Hartleberry-Smythe? Not to mention his, er, 'delivery boy'?"

"I thought that was obvious," Spiggot said with a hint of a sneer, "The delivery boy as you call him was, in fact, an agent of the Rajah's new partner, to whom, you will recall, I alluded earlier. A fellow by the name of Cedric Crackington-Haven"

"Hartleberry-Smythe's rival, you mean? Are you really asking me to believe that Hartleberry-Smythe's delivery boy was, in reality, the same man who'd secretly been importing drugs from PooshMurtran into London?"

"Precisely!" rapped Spiggot, "Unbeknownst to Hartleberry-Smythe, he was actually employing his rival in iniquities! It was Crackington-Haven who had placed the first toxin into the sprinkler system of the Malabar Emporium and had impregnated the second toxin into the kipper tie!"

"How terribly fiendish," said Chelsea, with an appreciative smile, "But tell me, Inspector, how was it that Cedric Crackington-Haven came to meet with a fatal accident the very night before Hartleberry-Smythe was also bumped off?"

"Pure chance, miss. It is my experience that the quality of driving in the King's Cross area at that time of night often leaves a great deal to be desired."

"And I still don't understand who sent me the wooden boat? And the coffee?"

"Oh, I shouldn't worry about those, Miss," Spiggot said dismissively, "They are probably completely unconnected and quite innocent. Have you, f'rinstance, considered the possibility that you may have an anonymous admirer?"

"One with a very morbid sense of humour, if that be true," mused Chelsea, "Ah, but there's yet one more mystery to be solved, Chief Inspector."


"The man in the Malabar Emporium. Somebody entered just after I myself arrived. He departed moments before the sprinkler system went to action. But before doing so, he had set a flame to a great number of Oriental joss sticks. It was the smoke from those joss sticks which triggered the sprinklers."

"Aye, miss," Chief Inspector Spiggot grumbled, and played nervously with the ends of his moustache, "That is a mystery and no mistaking. Then again, I shouldn't worry about it. In my experience, if Scotland Yard was to try to solve every piddling little detail of a case we'd never solve a damn' one of them."

At the back of the Salon, Trish had just finished towel-drying the wet poodle and was now ripping open a box of conditioners. "I like the new design," she said, as she took out a bottle.

"What new design?" said Chelsea.

"Flowers," Trish said, holding up a bottle, "All the shampoo bottles in the box they delivered this morning have got flowers on them. And the conditioners have got pictures of trees. Quite nice, actually."

"Odd," said Chelsea, "The agency didn't say anything about a redesign."

"Maybe there's something in this letter?" Trish said, and she handed Chelsea a sealed envelope from a plastic pouch that was stuck to the outside of the box.

The envelope was simply addressed to 'Miss C. Bunn'. There was something oddly familiar about the lilac ink in which the name had been written.

"So, Chief Inspector," Chelsea said as she tore open the envelope, "If your theory is correct, then our murderer is already dead and we have nothing more to worry about."

"Precisely so," rumbled Spiggot, "The case of the poison kipper tie is, as we say down the Yard, well and truly closed."

When Chelsea set eyes upon the sheet of paper contained within the envelope, she gasped involuntarily. The letter comprised just one short sentence: "Frangipani and Sandalwood is a killer combination, cha-cha-cha!"

At the far end of the salon, Trish was squirting a blob of green goo from one of the bottles into the palm of her hand. "Hmm," she said, "Smells nice."

Suddenly Chelsea realised the awful significance of the note in her hand.

"Which shampoo did you use on that poodle?" she screamed to Trish.

"The new batch," said Trish, "Frangipani."

"Hold that conditioner!" Chelsea yelled, "Or the poodle's dog-meat!"

"What's the matter?" said Trish, taking an appreciative sniff of the gunk in her hand, "Hmmm, this Sandalwood conditioner smells yummy. Good enough to eeeeeeeeee……"

But Trish never finished the sentence. She slumped into a vacant styliste's chair which spun around once on its axis before depositing Trish's lifeless body onto the black-and-white tiled floor beneath the sink containing the poodle, Foo-foo.

"Shitbags!" murmured Chelsea, "And Trish was my best styliste!"

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