Chapter 4 – Of murder and marmalade
Even a hardened detective like McBiscuit was so upset at the sight that greeted their eyes in Tolka Park that he could barely finish his third packet of Hunky Dory’s.
From the crossbar at the Ballybough end dangled the lifeless body of a man (“between twenty and ninety” noted McBiscuit carefully), a taut Shels scarf from the Deportivo era wound around his neck. Beneath him lay a puddle of water, drops still cascading off the ends of his trousers. A watering can lay in the vicinity like a nearby watering can. On the penalty spot stood an easel.
McBiscuit glanced at the sheet of paper on the easel. It was a charcoal and pen drawing of the scene, composed of bold strokes that hinted at authority yet captured pithily the pathos of the scene with its undercurrents of social exclusion and otherness.
“What are your thoughts, constable?” said McBiscuit with a sharp intake of breath.
“They mainly revolve around a Swedish air hostess and a jar of marmalade, sir,” responded the constable warily, with a sharp out-take of breath, which McBiscuit in-took quickly.
“Do we know who the dead man is?”
“Yes, sir. He’s the victim.”
The D.I. felt the dead man’s wrist. “I’m sure there was no dead body here at the last home match,” he mused wistfully. “The assistant referee would surely have noticed it when the netting was checked. I therefore deduce that the crime was committed since then.”
“But the watering can, sir?” asked the constable. “And the charcoal and pen drawing of the scene, composed of bold strokes that hint at authority yet capture pithily the pathos of the scene with its undercurrents of social exclusion and otherness?”
McBiscuit stroked his chin. Then he stroked the constable’s chin. He moved to the edge of the penalty area and squatted down, holding his arm out in front of him like an amateur golfer pretending to know what he is doing. Then with a triumphant “Aha!” he whipped the unabridged copy of the Encyclopaedia Hibernica out of his inside pocket and leafed excitedly through volume eighteen.
“Got it!” he yelled, his finger pressed to the page. “The easel. The watering can. This explains everything. Constable, it appears our man here is the first recorded case in four hundred years of somebody who has been hung, drawn and watered.”
The dead man was eventually named as Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy. “Bit late in the day to be naming him,” spat McBiscuit caustically. “That should have been done when he was born. Imagine the poor chap going through life without a name.”
“Quasimodo?” mused the constable. “That name seems to ring a bell.”
McBiscuit strode to the filing cabinet and pulled out a file. Carefully he manicured his finger nails with it.
“Seems he was a bit of a Shels groupie,” he said. “Always hanging around Tolka Park. Bit of a hanger-on. Used to phone up the club and then hang up. Used to hang out in a hangar out in Baldonnell, eating hang sandwiches. I can’t help thinking that somewhere there’s a connection between his lifestyle and the way that he died.”
“I’ve taken statements from everyone at the club as you instructed,” said the constable, whipping out his notebook.
“Anything curious?” answered McBiscuit, sitting up, all ears.
“Well, just one thing,” said the constable, glancing nervously at the vast collection of ears in front of him. “It appears that many people think that peanut butter would spread better than marmalade.”
“I see, constable,” pondered the D.I. doubtfully. “And the case?”
The constable glanced down at the suitcase he was standing on.
“I’m on it, sir,” he announced.
“Another Murder at Tolka!” trumpeted the headline in the Independent. “What is McBiscuit doing?” clarinetted the Irish Daily Mail. “Playboy Sex-Swap Pig Farmer was my Gay Lover!” glockenspieled the Sun.
The newspapers lay on the desk of Commissioner Salami. In front of him, McBiscuit stood in an old shirt and work trousers, having been given a good dressing down. Commissioner Salami scrunched up the newspapers and flung them on the fire. The flames soared.
“You may call me Kildare County. I need results!” he hissed at McBiscuit. “I’m beginning to feel the heat.”
“Yes sir. We are following a definite line of enquiry, sir.”
“And what might that be?”
“We are asking everybody if they committed the murders and watching their eyes carefully, sir.” Suddenly McBiscuit let his suitcase slip but managed to catch it before it hit the ground.
The Commissioner appeared mollified. “Very well. You appear to have the case under control. Carry on.”
As McBiscuit turned to go, the Commissioner added, “And tell your constable that I’m partial to a bit of apricot jam myself.”