Chapter One – Murder by Death
The police constable pulled the roller off the flattened figure on the pitch, and Detective Inspector McBiscuit reached down and removed a wallet from the breast pocket.
“Hmm,” he mused, and scratched his nose thoughtfully. When this didn’t work, he scratched the constable’s nose thoughtfully. “John Clapper,” he said. “Clapper? Clapper? That name rings a bell…..”
“On trial with Shels,” volunteered the constable. “Or, rather, he was…”
“Thank you, constable,” remarked McBiscuit. “Are you any relation to the famous landscape artist of the nineteenth century, by the way? Never mind. Now, does anything strike you as remarkable about the body?”
“You mean, apart from the fact that he’s twelve feet long, eight feet wide, but only an eighth of an inch thick, sir?”
“Yes, constable. Look – he was found beneath a roller. Does it not strike you as suspicious that there should be a roller here, on the pitch in Tolka Park?”
“They use it to roll the pitch with, sir,” replied the constable, eying his superior with a puzzled expression
“Exactly, constable. I’m starting to smell a rat.”
“Yes, sir, they come up out of the river, sir.”
“No, no, you misunderstand me, you buffoon. I mean that I am starting to suspect that something may be afoot.”
“That big pink thing there,” pointed the constable. “I think that’s a foot. God, what a mess!”
“Foul play!” continued McBiscuit unperturbed. He removed a packet of walrus flavoured pretzels from the pocket of his trench coat and offered one to the constable. As the latter put out a hand, McBiscuit quickly withdrew the packet and sniggered. “I suspect foul play, constable.”
“At Tolka, sir?” replied the constable. “The season hasn’t even started yet and Longford aren’t due to play here until May 8th.”
“I believe this was the perfect crime,” continued McBiscuit. “What a fiendishly clever place to hide the body! Beneath a roller on a football pitch in the close season. It could have lain here until...until...”
“Friday, sir. Season starts on Friday. Playing Wexford Youths.”
“Really, constable? What’s that stuff I see on television?”
“That’s called the Premier League, sir. Soap operas for men. Doesn’t really exist. Only actors, sir.”
“Is that so?” mused McBiscuit. “I never knew that. Tell forensics to get cracking. I see some footprints all around the body. We are looking for a murderer with very small circular feet.”
“They’re football studs, sir.”
“I knew that,” retorted the D.I. sharply. “A footballer, eh?”
“Yes, sir. Almost as implausible as the roller, what?”
McBiscuit removed the pipe from his mouth. Strangely enough, it was three feet long and made of galvanised steel. He idly wondered why he’d had it in his mouth in the first place. Suddenly, he got down on all fours and began examining something in the grass through a magnifying glass. After about five minutes, he beckoned the constable down beside him.
“What do you think this is?” he asked, handing him the magnifying glass.
“It’s a magnifying glass, sir,” replied the other.
“Thank you, constable,” replied McBiscuit, straightening up. “Just as I suspected. Now, tell me, who found the body?”
“The groundsman, sir. Quasimodo O’Reagan.”
“Quasimodo? Quasimodo? That name rings a bell. Bring him to me. I want to question him.”
As the constable disappeared, McBiscuit paced the touchline with a frown. Then he sent the frown away and paced the touchline with a grin. Finally he tried it with a frown and a grin at the same time.
At length, the constable approached with a wizened old man. “Quasimodo O’Reagan, sir,” he announced.
“No, I’m D.I.McBiscuit, constable. Try and remember that. Who’s this?”
“Er, the groundsman, sir. You wanted to see him.”
“I know that.” McBiscuit then turned to the old man in front of him and opened his notebook. “You are Quasimodo O’Reagan?”
“So far so good. Now Mr. O’Reagan, can you tell me where exactly you were on the night in question?”
“I can do better than that, officer,” responded the old man. “I wrote it all down for you.” And from a pocket, he produced a crumpled paper handkerchief, covered in writing. “I hadn’t got any proper paper, see,” he added, offering the object to the D.I.
McBiscuit took it and scanned it quickly. Then he held the offending article up. “I put it to you, Mr. O’Reagan,” he announced dramatically. “that this is a tissue of lies.”