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PAULS' JONATHAN CREEK FAN FICTION

I've waffled-on elsewhere about just how fab this fine product of the BBC is, and I know that the whole concept of fan fiction marks me down as someone who still lives with my mum.

I don't.

My interest in the programme is in the clever plot lines and cunning crimes. The humour is great, the acting solid and the production values (with the possible exception of continuity) are top class. The scriptwriting is as slick as the format lets it get... I could go on, but reading back I already have done. As Creek might put it, "Sorry about that".

Having stumbled upon Liane Broadley's wonderful Jonathan Creek site back at the end of 1999, I was impressed by the quality of the Fan Fiction posted there. I like a challenge and said to myself 'I could do that'. The rest is both history and below.

A little music to get you in the mood...
(An off-button is provided below.)

"The Mystery at the Old Light" On the Kent coast, Jonathan is troubled by the body of a scientists wife impaled on railings. All, as they say, is not at it first appears. Rather than wade through all this on-line, you can use this link to download the story in Microsoft Word format (.doc) and enjoy it at your leisure! If you can't read .doc files, please E-mail me for a .txt version, or whatever format you'd like.

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New Artwork, including the full sized versions of some of the pictures from this page and general Creek-based artistic doings.

-oOo-

"Max Wall Hell" A dead Ventriloquist, a missing dummy, a Sherlock Holmes story and a sealed room. Who else but the team of Maddy and Jonathan could unravel this knotted cardigan of crime? Rather than wade through all this on-line, you can use this link to download the story in Microsoft Word format (.doc) and enjoy it at your leisure! If you can't read .doc files, please E-mail me for a .txt version, or whatever format you'd like.

-oOo-

Some nice things people have said about my JC stories. I get the occasional very flattering e-mail of praise, and some of the best are here. :-D

Jonathan and the Greatstone-on-Sea Listening Device

MYSTERY AT THE OLD LIGHT

A Jonathan Creek Mystery by Paul Smith.

Based on the characters created by David Renwick. No copyright infringement is intended. Please note this story contains a fairly rude word that's critical to the plot. Sorry.

Maddy Magellan awoke from a lovely dream to the sound of a ringing telephone. On her list of favourite things to be woken by, it was near the bottom, just above the sound of sporadic gunfire. She rolled over, still clutching a Jonathanesque pillow in a warm embrace and made a grab for the 'phone. It clattered to the floor, leaving her holding the handset. She slid back beneath the duvet and growled, "Unless someone's died, I may have to hang up on you."

"It's me, Barry", said the familiar voice of her publisher in his smooth Scots tones.

"Oh hi Barry. What time is it?" she replied with a tinge of disappointment, and yawned.

"It's eleven o'clock. I'm sorry Mad, did I wake you?"

"Only a little," said Maddy, yawning again.

"I know it's Sunday but I had to call you. I've got something here which is right up your particular alley."

Her journalistic interest engaged, Maddy re-emerged from her duvet cocoon. "Someone has died then?" It wasn't that she had a morbid fascination, she just knew bodies sold books.

"I know most murders are committed by the spouse of the victim, but this one's got some dubious circumstances that may be of interest. I just got a 'phone call from the solicitor for the accused. He's not actually been charged with anything yet but it sounds like it's only a matter of time. Of course I immediately thought of you." Barry gave a chuckle.

"Thanks, I think", Maddy said with a half smile. "It's getting that way, isn't it? Call the police, call the pathologist and then call that girl who investigates wrongful arrests and judicial blunders."

Barry became more serious. "It's is more of a 'call that girl who works with that guy who solves impossible murders' case, this time."

Maddy sighed and drew back into the hot hollow of her bed again, like a podgy tortoise. "Oh. It's one of those? Whatever happened to evidence tampering and institutionalised brutality?"

"It's the advent of modern police practices, Maddy. Law enforcement fashions change".

"The art of 'fitting-up' is a dying one", she agreed, whilst extracting a renegade Twix from beneath her pillow. She looked at it curiously for a moment and popped it on the bedside table for safekeeping.

"Could you both be at the offices by two?" Barry asked.

Maddy nodded, then, waking up a little more said, "I'll have to give Jonathan a call, but assume we'll make it unless I call you back, ok?"

"Thanks Maddy. I knew I could depend on you." With that, Barry was gone.

- - - oOo - - -

Jonathan had been up for three hours when Maddy called minutes later. He'd spent a restless night pondering how to produce a live squid from a top hat without the intervention of the RSPCA. The prospects weren't looking good. He'd have to tell Adam to stick with doves or rabbits, and that was going to go down like earwax flavoured ice cream.

The 'phone rang and JC rolled across his bed, away from the squidy sketches he'd been toying with in his workbook, to answer it.

"Jonathan Creek", he said, almost expecting it to be Adam after a cephalopod/millinery interface update. Except, of course, at this hour Klaus would still be dead to the world after another fabulous Saturday night out with a mob of show business chums.

"Hi Jonathan, it's Maddy"

He felt a moment of relief before suspicion overtook him. "Is it another revenge motivated grizzly murder involving severed toes?"

"I don't know all the details", said Maddy, honestly for once. "But two in the same month would be stretching it a bit, wouldn't it? Barry just called me and asked if we could both be at his offices by two. How are you fixed today?"

"I'm a bit busy actually" tried Jonathan, glancing at his notebook and pulling a face.

"I recognise that tone. Creative conjurors block, or something, you call it?" She knew him too well.

Jonathan realised he was caught. He could bluff it out for a bit but Maddy would still turn up at his windmill with her old Volvo in a few hours and lure him away from his proper, paying work. Instead he collapsed like a house of cards to the gust of her will. Again. Seeking to justify his actions to himself he said, "Perhaps I could do with a change of scenery and some fresh air might get my brain working again. My head feels like it's packed with sawdust at the moment. I've been locked up in here for two weeks coming up with stuff for Adams new show and I've started to get cabin fever. I've gone all fishy eyed and pale."

Maddy considered this for a moment but pressed on without comment. "I'll pick you up at half twelve, ok?"

"One thing", said Jonathan quickly, "This case you're working on. Promise me it doesn't involve sea creatures."

It took more than odd questions to phase an old pro like Maddy. "Well, you know my promises, Jonathan. All I'll say is, as far as I know, it doesn't involve any. Good enough?"

"Good enough." He sucked his teeth in thought. "In that case, I'll be waiting for you," said Jonathan, visibly relaxing. He hung up and returned to his workbook to attack it with a rubber.

- - - oOo - - -

That afternoon, Barry Opper greeted them with cups of coffee at the offices of his publishing firm. Before long they were sat discussing the call Barry had received that morning.

"So you're saying", said Maddy, trying to get her head around the story, "That this guy-"

"Malcolm Berrie", interjected Jonathan.

"-Malcolm Berrie", continued Maddy, "woke up this morning, went down stairs, cooked some breakfast, ate it and then opened the front door to discover the body of his estranged wife impaled on the railings outside?"

"Exactly", said Barry. "That's the story he told the police when he called them. He's got no explanation to how she got there, and he says hadn't seen her for over a month."

"He could just be lying?" ventured Maddy. "Perhaps she turned up there last night, they had a fight over the CD collection and he threw her out of the window onto the spikes?"

"That was my first thought as well", agreed the publisher. "It would make sense, except for a few points which Berrie is sticking to like a limpet."

Jonathan blanched.

Barry continued. "He swears that he spoke to his wife last night on the 'phone to try to patch things up between them."

"And so she came round to talk and he shoved her out the window." Maddy had got an idea into her head and wasn't keen to let go.

"She was in Australia Maddy. On an archaeological dig."

Jonathan produced a notepad and pen from a cavernous duffel coat pocket. "What time was that?" he asked.

Barry checked his own notes. "Ten o'clock last night."

"And she was discovered at what time this morning?" Jonathan jotted the times down.

"Six. He phoned for the police and an ambulance immediately. Berrie seems to be one of those people who survives on five hours sleep a night."

Maddy shuddered at the very thought. "It doesn't add up though, does it? What's the flying time from Oz to here, Jonathan?"

"At least twenty hours, usually more. Plus an hour re-fuelling stop somewhere. Anyway, it's totally impossible to get back here in eight hours."

"The International Date Line!" cried Maddy excitedly as an idea popped into her mind.

Barry and Jonathan both looked at her in surprise.

"Eight hours is eight hours", said Jonathan as kindly as he could. "The International Date Line wouldn't make any difference. It's a tricky one isn't it? One thing I'm sure we can discount is time travel."

Someone else may have deflated, but Maddy was hard to puncture.

"You see why I wanted you to drag Jonathan here", said Barry to the writer. "Either Malcolm is telling a ridiculously bad concocted tale, or else it's something very…" He broke off, shaking his head, unsure of what the alternative could be other than 'odd'.

Maddy stood up with a new air of authority. "Could you give us a copy of your notes?" she asked Barry.

"Surely" replied the Scotsman, also standing. "And I've got some directions to his house somewhere here for you too."

Jonathan stayed sitting quietly on his leather armchair as the other two busied themselves photocopying notes and comparing thoughts. He was already peeling the mystery with the sharp knife of his mind. It gave him a slightly constipated look.

- - - oOo - - -

The dog-eared Volvo that Maddy habitually drove complained with the sound of grinding cogs as Maddy tried to find a gear ratio called second-and-a-half.

"You have driven before?" asked, rhetorically, a nervous looking Jonathan from the passengers' seat. Joyfully, for once they were going slowly, caught in traffic.

"Do you want to have a go instead?" snapped Maddy. She hated driving with Jonathan in the car. He made her tense in a way no other passenger did, for reasons she'd never admitted to herself. She was in a bad mood anyway, regardless of the jam, because she'd just remembered the Twix she'd left on her bedside table. It was calling to her.

JC opened his mouth to say he'd be happy to give it a try but Maddy just carried on. "Why don't you just shut up, Jonathan, and read the damned map? We're almost off the motorway and I don't know where to go from here."

Jonathan peered at the motoring atlas. "What's the village we're aiming for called again?"

Maddy looked at the hastily written notes sitting across her knees. "Fairfield-on-sea. It's just up the coast from Dungeness."

JC closed the book with a snap of disgust and glared at its cover. "Why is the only atlas you own the 1958 edition of the AA illustrated road book of England and Wales, with gazetteer and itineraries? There's not a single motorway on it."

Maddy protested in the books defence. "Be careful of that, it's a collector's item. It'll be valuable one day."

"Yes", agreed Jonathan, looking ahead. "By the time we get to Fairfield-on-sea at this rate."

Maddy pulled up behind a caravan, blue lights flashing in the distance ahead of them. Unable to stay faithful to her Twix, she liberated a packet of crisps and a banana from her door pocket and tucked in. Noticing Jonathan's lopsided smile of amusement she felt the need to respond. "What's that look for? These are emergency rations for just such a situation as this". She waved the banana at the windscreen to indicate the traffic jam.

To avoid a food based argument Jonathan wisely switched subjects. "Did you say you've heard of this Malcolm Berrie before?"

"Mmmm yesh", said Maddy around the banana, and swallowed. "He's an author. He wrote that book about the ascent of man. All missing links and, err, Darwinian progression."

Jonathan didn't recognise it. "I guess I haven't kept up with my anthropological reading."

"You must have seen it in the shops though? Picture of a monkey smoking a cigarette on the cover? They said he did for human evolution what Stephen Hawking did for theoretical physics."

Jonathan, although intellectually gifted, was more focused towards books with titles like 'Levitation techniques explored' and 'Hocus-pocus'.

"Anyway", continued Maddy, "Barry said Malcolm been receiving threats from some American ultra conservative religious group about his work. 'Thy blasphemy shall not go unpunished' type of stuff. So a few months ago he had some extra security put in. There's a video camera that records everyone who comes to the door and some stuff inside the place too. That might give us a few clues."

An hour later they passed through the sleepy seaside village of Fairfield-on-sea, with its neat row of eight chalets and single brightly coloured ice-cream vendor. Maddy was looking at the directions on her knees more than she was watching the road, which left Jonathan quietly terrified, in turn infuriating her more, which made her driving worse, which….

"Oh you read them out then", she snapped, handing the page over in a huff to a relieved Creek, who received it with gratitude.

He studied it for a moment. "It's a mile further on away from Dungeness and left down what looks like a farm track."

Correctly guessed, the poorly surfaced road was sign-posted 'To Dancers End Farm', and Maddy swung her car into it with vigour, scattering gravel everywhere. The farmyard came and went with Jonathan reassuring her all the way that they were still on the right route. Tarmac gave way to potholed gravel, well tufted with grass. Maddy was just about to insist on a look at the directions for herself and a row when they rounded a corner cresting a hillock and saw beneath them, standing defiantly close to the cliffs edge, Malcolm Berries foreboding country home. Sometimes the human mind will add-in the missing elements from a given scene. In this situation Jonathan could have sworn he heard the music from The Exorcist.

- - - oOo - - -

The lighthouse was nearly twice as old as Jonathan's own lofty home. It stood on a narrow headland at the lonely end of a wide bay, like a full stop in the landscape. As they drove closer Maddy and Jonathan could make out two police Land Rovers and the owners' Toyota parked at its salt-spray and wind swept foot. They half hid an ominous white tent that covered a section of five-foot tall iron railings. Individual policemen could be made out, purposefully milling around like people-trying-to-look-busy everywhere. They stopped what they were almost doing and watched suspiciously as the Volvo approached. Blue and white striped Police cordon tape fluttered noisily like gay bunting in the wind, in sharp contrast to the menacing scene it surrounded.

Another pair of disapproving eyes watched their approach to the lighthouse through a large pair of binoculars. The owner seemed a little annoyed at their arrival. He tutted to himself as he slid carefully from his hidden position back into the woods behind him.

With a final crunch of gravel under radial, Maddy pulled up and they both got out to meet the officer in charge, who swooped out of the Lighthouses front door towards them like an attacking falcon. In a lilting welsh accent he said, "No Press, thank you. No one has a statement to make or a sum for exclusive rights to negotiate."

Maddy was taken aback for a moment. Not everyone in authority recognised her most innocent of smiles as that of journalist scum so quickly.

The Detective Inspector took one look at Jonathan and said, "And you're at the wrong end of the bay. The RSPB sanctuary is three miles that way. If you go back to Fairfield and carry on through-"

Maddy interrupted him. "We're here at the request of Malcolm Berrie and his legal representative. I'm Madeline Magellan and this", she indicated her shabby companion, "is Jonathan Creek."

"Hi", said Jonathan awkwardly and pulled an apologetic smile.

The Policeman changed tack like a champion yachtsman. "You're not how I imagined you, Miss Magellan." He made it sound like a compliment. "Welcome to the Old Light, as it's known in these parts." He extended a hand towards Jonathan with a disarming smile. "I'm Detective Inspector Titney. No laughing please. I'm sure it's wonderful to have you both here. I'm aware of your past work and", he paused, as if to pick his phrase with care, "considerable talents."

Releasing Jonathan's hand he turned back to Maddy. "I'm sorry I pounced on you just then. We've had a few ghoulish sight seekers sticking their noses where they're not required and it's got me overreacting. You wouldn't think so many people would be walking near a remote spot like this, would you? I suppose you'd like to see the body? We're just about ready to move her."

He led them towards the tent of white plastic sheets that covered the first twenty feet of railings to the right of the gateway itself. The detective stopped and turned to them both. "Are you going to be ok with this? She's not in the prettiest of shapes."

Jonathan nodded and so did Maddy, less convincingly.

Inside the tent the light was harsh and white, the summer sun through the plastic still bright at four in the afternoon. The section of black painted wrought iron fence that intersected the woman ran from the stone pillar of the gateway to an iron supporting upright, cemented into the foot high wall at the fences base. Inside the railings was a well-manicured lawn; outside was the gravel of the parking area that fronted onto the building. The police had used a cutting disk to saw through the circular uprights of the fence so now all that was supporting the body was the flat plate of metal which ran horizontally about eight inches below the spiked tips of the fence. Iron filings from the sawing had stuck to the slick of blood that covered the fence and gave the scene a rather jolly looking glittery effect. The corpse had been an attractive woman of about five and a half feet in height. She was in her early thirties or late twenties, dyed blonde hair now matted with blood where a spike had penetrated her skull. In all she had landed face down on nine spikes, leaving both arms and one leg hanging limply down. Her nylon-covered foot was missing the shoe that had apparently fallen off on impact and was lying on the grass close by. The other leg was pinned by a skewer through her thigh. The speed of her fall had been enough to slide her all the way down the points and hard up against the horizontal plate. She was, as the DI had claimed, not in the prettiest of shapes.

Maddy gave the, "Hwuggphf!" of someone about to vomit and fled the tent. Jonathan, rolling his eyes, lifted the woman's hand and looked closely at the nails.

DI Titney joined him after asking one of the other officers to fetch some water and check that Miss Magellan was ok. "No sign of a struggle. No tell-tail sliver of flesh caught under a nail or the killers' name written in blood, and I've got to say Mr. Berrie doesn't strike me as the murderous type. No, if the rest of the circumstances weren't so strange I'd say she got here all by herself. Either slipped or jumped from the viewing platform." He paused. "The pathologist says she must have died instantly", he added, as if to lessen the impact of what had happened. "But we'll get a full Post Mort done when we get her back to Hastings, for a fuller picture."

"Strange circumstances?" asked Jonathan, catching up. "You mean the telephone call Berrie says he made to his wife in Australia last night?"

"That, and the rest." replied the policeman, ushering Jonathan away. "We tried to pull her off the spikes, but we can't shift her, so we've had to cut through the fence instead. They're just about to finish off so we'd better get out of their way."

Outside he continued. "Mister Berrie claims that before he went to bed at about midnight last night he took a look outside and the fence was bodiless. He says he closed the front door, the only door, and locked and bolted it on the inside. Which would preclude the possibility that Mrs Berrie entered the house after he was asleep and did that to herself, one way or another."

Jonathan disagreed. "Not really. It just means she didn't enter by the front door."

The DI hovered over the thought for a moment and turned to look at the stark tower. "It's an eerie place, isn't it Mr. Creek? It almost feels like we're being watched. But seriously, the windows are all tiny slit affairs and I don't see any hundred foot long ladders lying around, Mr Creek. Perhaps you're thinking helicopter? Or airship?"

The sound of a grinder started behind them as walked away from the building back towards where Maddy sat in her car, watching them. There was a shriek of metal in pain as the police began cutting again.

Maddy had been listening to the conversation through the Volvos open window. "Perhaps she was already inside, hiding, when he closed and locked the door?" she suggested over the noise to them.

"It seems unlikely but it's something we've considered. I'm not sure if you've noticed the video camera by the door? Berrie installed it a few months ago as a part of a security system he had put in after he'd received some threats. I've got a man reviewing the tape inside now."

"We heard", said Maddy, getting out of the car. "Stroppy American creationists putting the 'fun' back into fundamentalism."

"Are you alright?" asked Jonathan with genuine concern. Maddy looked slightly pale and shaken by what she'd seen. You could say 'green around the gills'. But that would be sad.

"I just needed some fresh air and a little sit down". She smiled back at him, warmed by his consideration. Although not a trait she was blessed with herself, she appreciated it in others.

A large man in his forties appeared at the open door of the lighthouse. A playful head of grey hair topped his friendly features, but he looked tired and distressed. "Are you Madeline Magellan?" he shouted to them over the sound of cutting.

The DI glanced at the newcomer with a look of distrust. "Malcolm Berrie. No known previous convictions, questioned under caution but released pending further enquires", he said conspiratorially to Maddy and JC, by way of a police-style introduction.

- - - oOo - - -

The interior of the lighthouse was a rabbit warren of odd shaped rooms and steep flights of steps. It had been extensively re-modelled since being decommissioned in the early seventies. Jonathan scrutinised the heavy wooden door and three-foot thick walls. He appeared satisfied all was as it should be. Then, as the four of them climbed upward, Malcolm went over much of what they already knew. In the kitchen on the second floor, he pointed to the telephone on the heavy, solid oak kitchen table and said, "I was sitting just there when I called her. I think I know my own wife's voice, although convincing the police is proving difficult. They imagine I'm mistaken, or lying, don't you?" He aimed his last observation directly at DI Titney.

The copper remained unmoved and rolled out a well-rehearsed line. "We're continuing with our investigation, Mr Berrie. While it's on going it would be wrong of me to comment on specifics. That's all I have to say at this time."

Maddy walked over to the 'phone and pressed redial. "We've already done that", commented the officer. Seconds later a woman's voice on the other end of the line said, "Good Morning, Muloorina hotel. How may I help you?", in what passed for a posh accent in Australia.

"Good morning", said Maddy, in what passed for a polite way. "Could you tell me if you have a Mrs Berrie from England staying with you at the moment?"

"Oh", said the woman, "You're from the British police too? I told you guys she left with the rest of her team last night. They're working on a dig up at Platypus Spit, the old Aboriginal burial site. It's about six hours by Ute from here so we've sent the local ranger to find her and tell her she's dead. I don't know how she'll take the news."

"Ok, thanks very much for the information", said Maddy.

"No worries", said the woman, unable to resist becoming racially stereotyped, and hung up.

- - - oOo - - -

The lounge was on the third floor. A young policeman was watching the television from the sofa as a video whirred away. A black and white picture, broken by noise bars, jumped on the screen. The view was of the empty ground directly in front of the buildings only door. Suddenly the door swung instantly open, a grey haired man, Malcolm Berrie, stepped out at ten times normal speed, seemed shocked, ran forward out of the frame and ran back into the house almost immediately. The time displayed at the bottom of the screen, 06:09, the date 07-03-00. The officer used a remote control to stop the tape, rewound it and pressed pause as his Inspector appeared at the top of the stairs. Berrie, Creek and Maddy followed him in, one by one.

"Perfect timing sir", said the younger policeman smugly. "I rather think this tape holds some very telling evidence."

"Well then. You'd better press play", the DI responded gravely.

Now running at normal speed, the video showed the door opening, Berrie appeared, stood stock still for a moment in shock, dashed out of shot towards the gate, and within ten seconds sprinted the best he could back inside, leaving the door wide open. The policeman paused the tape with a triumphant flick of the wrist.

"Just as I've described it fifty times", said Malcolm, indignantly. "I came out, saw her, ran out, realised she was in a terrible state and ran back into the house to call an ambulance on the 'phone by the door. And then you chaps, for all the good it's done." he added sourly.

The DI seemed angry. "If that's so, mister Berrie, why did you leave this doctored tape in the machine downstairs for us to find? What was there on the real tape you didn't want us to see? Or perhaps there is no real tape? Perhaps you turned off that camera last night because you knew it'd show something you didn't want witnessed?"

"What on Earth are you talking about? That's the tape I put in the machine to record last night! I, I-" stuttered Berrie, angry and confused. He began to quietly sob.

Titney pointed at the still image on the screen. "That tape is four months old. March, Mister Berrie. March."

Jonathan, who'd been quietly trying to interrupt, finally managed to get a word in edgeways. "July."

Everyone in the room swivelled to look at him. He shrugged off the unhappy glowers of the policemen and continued. "I noticed on the way in that the camera had the name 'Opticorp' stamped on it. They're an American firm that makes all kinds of small video equipment. You might remember that tiny radio-pen-cam thing of Adams, Maddy? That's one of theirs."

"What's your point?" asked the DI, bluntly.

"The point is, that", he pointed at the date, "doesn't say the seventh of March, it says the third of July. Today's date. The Americans just swap the first two numbers around."

"Why?" asked the not-too-bright policeman on the sofa.

Jonathan looked at him. "I don't know. They call pavements 'sidewalks', spell colour without a 'u' and you have to remember to ask for an 'eraser'. I suppose they just like to be different. My parents live in Philadelphia and send me video postcards sometimes. I've noticed the date thing before."

The policemen had a quick hushed conversation before they both headed back downstairs, the hot looking DI treating Jonathan to a special glare as he passed.

Creek wandered the room as Maddy made soothing noises to Berrie on the sofa. Malcolm was either a fine actor somehow missed by the RSC, Jonathan told himself as he poked at the rooms objet d'art, or a genuine grieving widower. Grief didn't mean he hadn't killed his wife, but it did suggest he hadn't wanted her dead. So what does that tell us, JC mused, an accident? He was inspecting an ancient human skull being used as a paperweight when a couple of old photos of Malcolm and his wife, Catherine, particularly caught his eye. For a separated couple they were laughing and smiling a lot. They were waving at the camera, standing outside a large Victorian house, complete with basement. Another picture showed Malcolm outside the same house handing a key to a similar looking shorter man as he stepped out of a big van. The house was across the end of a road, where either side newer homes had been built. Something in the picture, other than Malcolm himself, looked terribly familiar, but Jonathan just couldn't see it. "Where's this?" he asked as he handed the framed pictures to Berrie.

"Err", he started, hesitantly. "That's where Kate and I used to live just up the road in Ashford". He gave a wet sniff. "And that one's me and my younger brother, Clive. He bought the place off of us in about eighty-eight or nine when he split from his own wife and we moved up here".

"He still lives locally then?" asked Maddy, to which Malcolm nodded in affirmation. Maddy continued, "I'm surprised he's not here to offer some comfort himself."

"Oh, we're not very close," said Berrie with a trace of sorrow in his voice. "He's not been up here for six months or more, though we talk on the phone. He owns an international artwork transportation business and travels all over the world. I think he's in Canada at the moment, delivering something huge, expensive and beautiful to the Montreal Museum of Modern Art."

Maddy continued with her subtle interview. "I'm told your wife and you were separated?"

"She moved out a couple of months ago. She has- um, had a thing in her bonnet about these letters I've been receiving from some damn Yank cranks. It'd been eating away at her for months. She was convinced we'd wake up one morning to find two hundred of them waiting outside for us with a huge human sacrificial pyre made from wicker. I told her she was being silly. I even bought that camera and an alarm system for the house to make her feel more secure but it was no good." He began sobbing again at the memory, so Jonathan carefully replaced the pictures and waved Maddy out of the room to follow him.

- - - oOo - - -

"Speaking of the police, you've made a friend there", joked Maddy a few minutes later as they climbed a ladder towards the Lighthouses viewing platform. It ran all the way around the lighthouse just below the lamp room itself.

"Professional pride never likes a swift kick in the goolies. Especially from someone who looks like a twitcher", agreed Jonathan, trying not to look up at Maddy above him. Although she was wearing trousers, viewed from below, her bottom looked like it could kill.

"I've never seen a copper go that shade before", said Maddy conversationally. "As red as a Lobster."

JC gave a tut. "Didn't you promise me a totally sea creature free day?"

"Actually, I don't think I did." Maddy paused a second in thought. "Why are you so crabby? Are you feeling eel? Have you pulled a mussel?"

Jonathan assumed that somewhere at her flat Maddy had a weighty volume called 'The Big Book of Puns". If it existed, he would use all of his remarkable skills to locate and burn it.

Maddy reached the top of the ladder and swung the heavy hatch open. She clambered out into the bright light, blinking against the sun. Jonathan followed her onto the exposed platform. To their right was the octagonal greenhouse of the lamp itself, disused now and shielded behind huge rotatable lenses. To their left, white railings, well streaked with rust, separated them from sixty feet of fresh air. They both lent out to look down on the white tent being dismantled beneath them as one of the Land Rovers was driven away.

"You know", said Jonathan. "It's only just struck me, but don't those railings look a long way away from the foot of the tower from up here?"

Maddy gazed down. "I see what you mean". She looked back to Jonathan's honest face, "But I don't see what you mean, if you know what I mean?"

Jonathan enlightened her. "If she was out here and just slipped or was pushed over the edge wouldn't she'd fall straight down into the garden?" He picked a small stone up off of the platforms edge and tossed it lightly into space. They watched it fall and land about ten feet short of the fence.

"So she jumped?" hazarded Maddy.

Jonathan ripped his eyes away from the railing points below and walked across to stare off across the Strait of Dover. "How far can you jump from a standing start?" he asked. At that moment they both missed a glint of light from the woods on the headland behind them. Sometimes people don't notice such things. It's not a failing.

Maddy appeared at Jonathan's shoulder. "About five or six feet I suppose. It's been a while since I last measured my standing jumps. You know how it is. I've been meaning to get round to it but it's so hard to find the time these days, what with my busy career and jet-set lifestyle."

With a test rattle of the platforms own substantial railings Jonathan gave a non-committal "Hmmm". He continued to circle the tower as Maddy followed him.

"And this fence would stop her running and leaping to her death, wouldn't it?" said Maddy, echoing JC's own unspoken thoughts. "You're not even sure she was ever up here, are you?"

"I assumed she must have been, but the more I look at it, the less likely it sounds. There's more than one way to end up on the top of that fence after all. Plus, of course, we still have the problem of the whole Australia thing. It's just not possible to get back here that fast, so either Malcolm is lying, the Mrs Berrie on the phone was a fake, or…."

He paused a while to think and watch the seabirds. They flocked to this stretch of the south coast for the RSPB sanctuary, with all the free gourmet food and five-star roosting with on-suite bathing facilities it offered.

Maddy was lost in her own thoughts too. The sun was playing on the waves of the English Channel in a very pleasing way, twinkling like a million stars. Seagulls were crying and turning in the updraft from the cliffs. A cooling sea breeze brushed the whole calming scene. Her earlier anger washed away, Maddy turned to Jonathan with eyes full of mischief. She was about to suggest they join the sixty-foot high club when a larger bird appeared amongst the gulls. It was grey-green and black, slightly smaller than the similar looking Cormorant.

Jonathan pointed to it, oblivious to Maddys amorous interlude, and said, "Isn't that a Shag?"

She turned away in disgust and frustration. "Chance would be a fine thing", she muttered to herself and made a beeline for the hatchway down. The man, clearly, was trying to drive her berserk by playing hard-to-get. Well, if that was what he wanted, that was what he was going to get. Two could play that game. At least for short periods.

Malcolm Berrie was waiting for them at the foot of the ladder, holding two cups of tea. "I'm so sorry. With all that's been going on I completely forgot to thank you earlier. I'm so glad you could come to try and help, Miss Magellan. When I asked James, err, Rollingson, my solicitor, to contact your publishers I had no idea you'd be able to get here so soon."

Maddy stepped back onto the concrete floor and turned to Malcolm. "Thank you, Mister Berrie. Or can I call you Malcolm? I always like to get stuck in straight away. Get right to the point of things." She realised what she was saying as Malcolms face began to crease. She mumbled her apologies and made a dash for the stairs, but was stopped when a cup of tea was thrust at her.

Malcolm looked up at Jonathan, now descending the ladder himself, and patronised him a little. "And I owe you, young man, my thanks too. I was impressed how you dealt with my houseguests downstairs. I called the police so they could piece together how this terrible thing happened to my wife", his lower lip began to wobble again. "But instead they just seem to want to ask me the same daft questions over and over again". He was close to tears again.

Maddy tried to comfort him. In her best reassuring and calming tones she said, "I suppose they just don't like the answers you're giving, Malcolm. You know the police. They get one version of events into their heads and they hate to get pushed off track".

All three made their way down some flights of steps back towards the utilised levels of the lighthouse.

As they passed the open door to Malcolm's bedroom they were surprised to see the DI on his hands and knees, rummaging in the bottom of a fitted cupboard. Of course, all the cupboards were fitted in the lighthouse, since the walls were curved.

The DI reappeared holding a running shoe. "We do have a warrant to make a search," he said in explanation. "Did this belong to your wife, Mr. Berrie?"

"Yes, it's one she left behind when she moved out. If you look hard enough you'll find another one just like it". Malcolms' voice was tinged with regret.

"Don't get funny with me now just because you've got your crime fighting duo. For the moment I'm just looking for yes and no answers from you, ok?"

"It's probably best not to argue", whispered Maddy with about 20% more sense and 40% more tact than was usual for her. She manoeuvred Malcolm away down towards his study.

Jonathan remained, hovering on the landing; curious as to what the Inspector was inspecting.

"Oh come in", barked the DI. "I'm in no mood to play silly buggers. You want to know what fascination Mrs. Berries shoes hold for me. Frankly I'd like your view on this as well. You may have embarrassed me in-front of a junior officer over that videotape date thing", he spat the words out, "but that's far preferable to me embarrassing myself in-front my superiors. I'm not too proud a man to admit that." He produced the shoe that was found in the garden. It was sealed inside a clear evidence bag. He tossed it over to Jonathan as he stood up. "Tell me what this shoe says to you."

Jonathan held it up to his ear in an ill-fated effort to lighten the atmosphere, then, catching the less-than-amused expression on the policeman's face, he began to turn it over in his hands, looking at it very carefully through the plastic bag.

"It's a woman's high-heeled evening shoe", he began, stating the obvious. "Size four, in remarkably good condition." He poured closer over the stiletto in surprise. "No, actually in perfect condition. It looks unworn, except there's a dark brown mark from a foot inside."

"And this one?" The DI passed Jonathan the shoe he'd just liberated from the deepest recesses of the closet.

Again JC turned the shoe over in his hands, pausing for a moment to study a detail a little more closely. "It's a woman's training style shoe, in, and I'm sure this is pivotal, size six. Well worn and still in need of an Odour-Eater"

"Put the two together and what do you have?"

Creek held a very different shoe in each hand. "A woman with one leg three inches shorter and a foot two sizes smaller than the other, who jogs on the spot a lot but only with the good leg? I know it's far-fetched but it has the unmistakable ring of truth to it, wouldn't you say?"

- - - oOo - - -

The DI marched Jonathan into Malcolms overflowing study. Jonathan's own workroom often looked to the unaided eye like it had been at ground zero of a meteor strike, but of course there was a very special form of order in the chaos on his desk. Berries room, on the other hand, looked as if it had been arranged by whirlwind and tidied by earthquake. Again almost certainly the study had its own specific brand of order, but it would have taken a team of scientists years of, err, study, to discover it. Ape skulls seemed to be pressed into service as bookends to files, fat and overflowing with paper. Jonathan joined Maddy and Malcolm amongst the silent mayhem.

The DI faced them all. "Two questions, Mister Berrie. Firstly, do you recognise this as one of your wife's shoes?" He held out the black shoe found in the garden for the man to see.

"I don't think so. It's not really her style. A bit too 'tarty'. She never was one for overly impractical footwear."

"Thank you. Secondly, what shoe size does your wife take?"

"She took a size five-and-a-half to six, depending where she was shopping."

"Took, Mister Berrie?"

"Yes, took. What kind of game are you playing?" Berrie was becoming distressed again.

Jonathan put a hand on the older mans shoulder. "I think Detective Inspector Titney has some good news for you."

"Indeed I do. I suspect, Mister Berrie, that the woman you found on your fence this morning was not your wife."

- - - oOo - - -

Jonathan was carrying a thick file as Maddy and he climbed back aboard her Volvo and waved their goodbyes to Malcolm, who seemed like a new man, before crunching away off down the road-cum-farm track. More than just Malcolms eyes followed them out of sight. With a grunt of satisfaction, the watcher in the woods opened a thermos of warm tea and poured himself a cup.

"What the hell did you make of all that?" pondered Maddy, flicking the cars headlights on against the gathering dusk.

"I thought it was all quite obvious", said Jonathan.

"You've got to be kidding!" exploded Maddy.

"Yes", agreed Creek, unable to keep the pretence up for long. "I'm going to need a bit of time on this one. I can see a facet of something here, something very clever. I'm just not quite sure what fits where or why yet. It's like a dropped tea plate. Lots of unlikely shaped pointy bits which when correctly arranged together make a sensible, circular, whole."

"You do talk some nonsense sometimes." observed Maddy. "I noticed a little hotel in Fairfield-on-sea as we drove through it", she ventured in hope. "We can stay down here while we work on this. I need to write up my notes why they're still fresh in my mind. And you," she added, looking at his pale face, "still look like you could use the sea air and a stiff drink."

"Ok", agreed JC, too distracted by the mystery to argue. "What am I missing?" he mused.

- - - oOo - - -

The hotel was a friendly, family-run establishment. The chatty barmaid eventually left the two of them sitting like an old married couple in the quiet bar, sipping their drinks and finishing something from the bar menu.

Maddy was talking. Jonathan wasn't surprised. "Detective Inspector Titney said he'd call me on my mobile with the results of the facsimile-wife's autopsy tomorrow. It's amazing what someone's stomach contents can tell you about what they were doing before they died."

"Thanks Maddy", said Jonathan sourly, suddenly loosing interest in his chips.

"Don't you want those?" Maddy pounced on the plate before he could reply like a vulture onto the carcass of an antelope. She began feeding but didn't let it stop her talking. "So how's this shaping up in that curly topped head of yours? I think we share the feeling Malcolm is as straight as a die, but that doesn't tell us who killed a woman who is the spitting image his wife and stuck her on his railings. Or how. Or why…. Or is Mr. Smarty-pants going to prove Malcolm murdered his wife's evil long-lost twin sister, using a box of tissues and a spanner, to cover up his involvement with illegal, neo-nazi genetic experiments?"

Jonathan sat back and fixed her with his most playful look. "Evil twins? You've got a great imagination Maddy, no wonder you're a journalist. No, not a spanner, but perhaps a hammer?"

Maddy was intrigued. "A hammer? You think she was killed by a bash to the head and just got draped on the spikes to cover up the cause of death? I guess that would explain how she got there. While we're on the subject of covering up, why are you still wearing the damn duffel coat? It's the middle of summer, Jonathan. Aren't you boiling to death in there?"

"She wasn't just draped on the spikes, though, was she? She had more holes than this pepper pot." replied JC, selectively. He picked up the condiment to illustrate. "It wouldn't look convincing unless she was properly impaled. So how's this for an idea? Her body was carefully positioned and then, sorry, this is a bit sick, she was, err, tapped into position with a big hammer. You'd need to use a lump of wood or something to spread the impact, to avoid leaving any tell-tail marks on her back."

"That is sick", agreed Maddy, now pushing the last of the chips away too. "Why'd you have to come up with a nauseating thing like that? You know I get squeamish".

"It's not very good but it's the only explanation I can think of at the moment", said Jonathan. "We know she didn't fall from the lighthouse, so what other alternatives are there? I suppose what the DI said about helicopters or blimps could just about be done with a bit of careful aiming, but how do you practice a thing like that? If the plan is to dispose of a body, why not just drop it out to sea? No." he said, shaking his head, "It's no coincidence that she was found there. That woman was specifically outside that building for a reason. But what could that reason be?"

Maddy was nodding, projecting Jonathan's line of reasoning as she continued. "What's the motive, given the girl was never going to pass as the real Mrs Berrie for very long, you mean? It was a remarkably striking resemblance but it wouldn't hold up under close, calm scrutiny. Her fingerprints won't match any in the lighthouse, we know her shoe-size was wrong, then there are dental records… The list goes on. Plus the real Mrs. Berrie is bound to reappear. Isn't she?... You're not thinking what I'm thinking, are you?"

Jonathan looked up from the dessert menu. "No. I don't think so. I'm only planning on having the cheese and crackers."

Their meal finished Maddy and Jonathan headed for their rooms, plural. Just as Creek was about to disappear behind the old wooden door of his room for the night, Maddy noticed a 5p-sized spot of something on his duffel coat. "What's that?" she asked, pointing to the black mark.

Jonathan lifted the corner of his coat to his face to get a clear look. "It's just paint", he said dismissively. "I must have brushed against something wet. Damn. Oh well, I'll try a dab of thinners when I get home. Night Maddy." He gave a yawn to press the point home.

"Goodnight Jonathan", said Maddy, suddenly cross with herself for vowing to remain aloof and hard-to-get. There were times, numerous ones, when she played hard-to-get with the very clear intention of getting gotten in the end. This clearly was one of those times and Jonathan should have the decency to act accordingly. She needed some hot duffel action.

He gave her a last weak smile and disappeared behind his door.

Maddy turned on her heel and stalked off to her own room in high dudgeon.

As he undressed for bed, Jonathan noticed the lights form the nuclear power station which squatted blocky on the next headland a few miles away. It was lit up like a very ugly, skulking Christmas tree. "Oh well", he said aloud, "when you've got a nuclear reactor, I guess you can afford to waste a few watts on illumination". The blink of a powerful lamp reminded him that there was a lighthouse over there too. A pair, in fact, he saw as the light caught its older sibling as it swept round. With a start Creek remembered the folder he'd been given to scrutinise by Malcolm again. He opened it and began to read the abusive letters it contained. They were all addressed to Malcolm Berrie and propertied to be from The Brotherhood of the Living Saviour. The envelopes were postmarked Utah. From what Creek had been told the American authorities had never tracked down the organisation to ask them, politely, to stop. One particular missive drew Jonathan's attention:

…The evil words in the abhorrent book you have written are the very words of Satan himself. You are no better than the maggots that live on the festering bodies of the souls that dwell beside him in Hades. You are a mindless immoral wanker, just like those who believe the filthy lies you peddle. Your time to join him is at hand...

"That's very odd", said Jonathan to himself, reading the passage for a second time.

- - - oOo - - -

The next morning dawned as bright and summery as the last, and as Malcolm opened his front door to the world he was glad to find it wasn't spoilt this time by a bloody body on his railings. He looked, instead, with dismay at the ugly bite out of them, made when the police cut a section away to remove the corpse. Although he felt a respectable level of pity for the poor unfortunate woman concerned, he was no longer weighed down with grief for his wife. The firm hope that she was still alive, albeit in Australia, put a bounce in his step as he went to look for the roof rack for his car. The sooner his life was back to normal the happier he'd be, and the first step was to fix the damned fence.

The watcher was also awake early that morning. He carefully positioned himself at the foot of a tree, dressed head to toe in camouflage. Brushing his beard free of sandwich crumbs, he pulled his binoculars to his eyes once more and scanned the scene for movement. He soon spotted Malcolm attaching the roof rack to his car, and his gaze hovered on him for a while. He was so engrossed he didn't notice the young policeman moving through the trees behind him.

Maddy awoke to the cry of gulls. When she realised she was hugging her pillow again she tossed it roughly aside. Meanwhile Jonathan was cleaning his teeth and pulling his eyes open as he inspected his face in the mirror. He was definitely looking better. The coastal life agreed with him, he decided. Two weeks cooped up in his windmill devising new tricks had made him pasty. Pastier. He wasn't cut out to be a hermit, he told himself. (Or, indeed, any kind of crab, his droll and treacherous sub-conscious added for him)

At over a hearty breakfast at the hotel, Maddy blagged a large scale Ordnance Survey map from a rambling fellow diner. They craned over it, studying the area around the lighthouse. There was the farm, the winding access road, Fairfield-on-sea and the nuclear power station at Dungeness. After a ten-minute discussion about the likelihood of the involvement of BNFL, which saw them no closer to making sense of the thing, Maddy handed the map back to a small bearded man with a bobble hat. He was thankful.

"So what's the plan for today?" asked Maddy, giving the impression to Jonathan that he was somehow in-charge.

"I thought we might take look at this thing up the coast". He produced a pamphlet from his pocket.

"What's that?" enquired Maddy, pulling the thin guide closer. The picture was of two concrete dishes and a long bow shaped wall.

"It's called the Greatstone-on-Sea Listening Device", explained Creek. "It was built as a kind of fore-runner of radar. The idea was it would let you hear approaching enemy aircraft long before you could see or hear them with the unaided eye or ear."

Maddy was predictably unimpressed by two big concrete dishes and a huge wall facing out to sea. "Did it work?" she asked coolly.

Jonathan stuffed the guide back into a coat pocket. "No. But you have to admire the ingenuity."

"Well, that will take a good ten minutes to look at. What did you want to do after that?"

"Later on I'd like another poke around Malcolms place", said JC, buttering his toast. He made the point of always eating the crusts, which explained much. "I know I'm missing something. Something I saw in that house. You know me. We'll just have to spend the day waiting for my lock to turn and something to click. What I need is a good old fashioned key."

Maddy understood what he meant. "A quick walk along the seafront to wake us up and then we'll go to this device of yours, ok? We can go to the rock-pools and look for starfish if you like. Oops, sorry".

- - - oOo - - -

When Malcolm opened his front door twenty minutes after returning from his shopping trip, his intrepid postman had been. Amongst the Readers Digest unmissable offers and other postal flotsam was a letter in a plain white envelope postmarked Dover, the address typed. Malcolm gave his hands a good wipe before he opened it at his kitchen table and read inside:

Malcolm,
Kate is alive and well. I am sorry you have been caused such pain.
A Friend.

The letter was typed and gave no obvious clue as to who had sent it. He turned it over in his hands, initially unsure what to do. A moment later Malcolm was calling Maddys mobile number. Sadly the Orange answer-phone service couldn't help him so he left a quick summary, hung up and telephoned the number DI Titney had pressed on him.

As they crunched back across the stones Maddy shot Jonathan a withering look. "They are simply the three most thrilling pieces of concrete I've ever seen. I'm so glad we came now. And to think, I'd imagined they were going to be dull!" She combined a tut with a sigh.

Creek was quick to defend. "Perhaps they don't have the immediate charm of Milton Keynes's concrete cows, but they're remarkable in their own way."

With a shake of the head Maddy replied, "The only remarkable thing is that no one has bulldozed them flat yet."

Behind her Jonathan kicked at a stone and sent it skipping into the water. "There is a sort of link here to the err, 'Berrie Affair'? 'The Dark Tale of the Light'? You're much better at thinking names up for our little adventures than I am".

"What's that then?"

"This place was making me think about the war. You know what they did with all the iron railings then, don't you?"

Maddy didn't even look back. "They melted them all down to make battleships and tanks".

"Oh." It was all Jonathan could think to say.

They were back at her Volvo when Maddy realised that she'd left her mobile phone on its driver's seat for the world to see and want to steal.

Half an hour later, both cars arrived at the turning to the Dancers End Farm at the same time but from different directions. In a crash it would have been hard to say which car would have come off worse. What the police Land Rover gained on weight, Maddys Volvo gained on proven indestructibility. As it was, DI Titney saw Maddys look of determination and broke to let her cut in front of him. Both cars drew up together in front of the lighthouse in a shower of gravel. In the race to get to the front door the policeman won track position and led the field home. While they waited for Malcolm to attend to their knocking, Jonathan glanced at the railings and noticed with some surprise that they were whole again. Something went click.

A moment later a call from behind them made JC and Maddy both jump. The DI turned as if he'd been expecting the shout. Scarcely twenty yards from them a short bearded man in a camouflage jacket and trousers was being frog-marched towards the lighthouse by a muddy uniformed Policeman.

"Ah, Henderson", responded the Inspector to his officer. "I see you've found a friend".

"Just as you said, guv. He was hiding behind a tree when I spotted him."

The bearded man twisted to look at his captor. He seemed surpassingly calm as he said, in an American Deep South drawl. "Well son, from where I was sitting in front of the tree, it was you who seemed to be sneakin' about."

The DI turned back to Jonathan and Maddy, both of whom still had hanging jaws. "One of my men caught sight of a flash of light from those trees as he drove off yesterday. I'd had the feeling of being watched all day. I think I may have mentioned it." He turned back to the American. "I suppose my instincts were right, weren't they?"

"Look son", the old man replied, starring into the inspectors eyes, "I'm just here on vacation in your beautiful country. I'm a Bird Spotter. You have those here, don't you? I heard a Cory's Shearwater was spotted in this area and that's why I've been camped yonder a while. I was worried all the fuss down here would drive it away."

"A likely story. Are you saying you weren't up there watching us yesterday?"

Malcolm, who'd been somewhere high in the lighthouse, chose that moment to open the door and made Maddy and Jonathan jump once more. "Oh", he said in surprise as he blinked into daylight. "Is something going on?"

DI Titney smiled at him. "This gentleman has been watching this building since at least midday yesterday. He's just explaining himself."

"Trying to". Beard was becoming grumpier. The police constable tightened his grip on his arm. "If you take a look in my pocket you'll find a bird guide."

"Naturally. Where's your car, Henderson?"

"Behind the farm."

"Ok, take this chap back to the station." Titney directed his next comments to Beard. "If you think a bird guide somehow gets you off the hook, then you must have a strange view of the British legal system."

Maddy was shaking her head in disbelief. "I'm sure you've shown Mister?.."

"Flanders. Ted Flanders" replied Ted, the artist formally known as Beard.

"…quite a glimpse of British justice at work already." finished Maddy.

"You bet, Miss." replied the Yank as he was pulled away up the gravel drive. "My lawyer is gunna hear about this! I didn't come to England to be brutalised. I could get that in LA anytime I wanted…"

Malcolm watched the American being marched away before showing the three others in and handing the DI the note. Titney accepted it with a pair of tweezers, plastic evidence bag at the ready. They carried on up to the kitchen for better light and comfy seats, and to closer inspect their new prize.

"Well, this is a very interesting piece", said Titney, sounding like an escapee from The Antiques Road Show.

Maddy peered over his shoulder, something she could do only because the DI was sitting down, and said, "It's a bit over-familiar, isn't it? Why not write 'your wife', 'Mrs. Berrie' or even 'Catherine?' It's all a bit fishy". She gave JC a look that said 'sorry' but didn't really mean it.

Jonathan disregarded her pseudo-funny comment. "I think you've hit the nail on the head. Perhaps someone made a bit of a mistake with this. Let's piece it together. It's obviously from someone who knew the Berries first names, and that Catherine got called Kate".

"It's someone who's worried about Malcolm? Perhaps thought he might, err, do something to hurt himself?" tried Maddy, sitting.

The DI continued, "Typed by someone who wanted to disguise his or her handwriting."

"Yes", agreed Creek. "But perhaps that's so Malcolm could have written it himself".

Malcolms turned on Jonathan, "How can you sit there and say that? I-" His voice trailed off as he became too angry to speak. He began to positively glow incandescently with rage.

Jonathan was shocked and quickly explained. "Sorry! Sorry. That's not what I meant at all. I just thought a note like that could be looked on as suspiciously vague. Which may be the nucleus of this whole thing…."

You could see it in his eyes. It was like watching someone do one of those hidden 3D pictures that were popular a few years ago for the first time. His eyes glazed as an image loomed at him from out of the scramble of colours and shapes in his mind.

He gave a huge smile at the bemused faces of the three others in the room and jumped to his feet. In surprise everyone else stood up too. Jonathan dashed off upstairs, hair bobbing and coat flapping. "I'll just be a moment," he called back to them. "I've got to check something." The sound of light rummaging drifted down from above…

Maddy, Malcolm and the DI returned quickly to firmer conversational ground.

"So now we know the woman on the fence wasn't Kate, who the hell was she?" asked a bemused Maddy. Jonathan's odd behaviour was best ignored, she told herself.

"That bit is easy," said the DI. "Her fingerprints matched some the Metropolitan boys have on file. She'd been in quite a bit of trouble with the law in the past. Three convictions for-"

"Don't tell me," said Jonathan as he returned, hurrying down the stairs. "Soliciting?"

The Policeman continued unperturbed. "Yes that's right. She was Jenny Annette Amberghast. She worked as a prostitute in and around Rochester. How did you know?"

Maddy gave Jonathan a suspicious look. It had suddenly occurred to her that the reason they'd never really sparkled in bed together was that she didn't have a tariff of charges or a professionals extensive repertoire. The thought had her mind working in peculiar ways.

Jonathan caught her look and deciphered the first half of it. "No, no. Nothing like that. It's just something you said", addressing Malcolm, "about her tarty shoes. I thought tarty was just about the right word. As it happens it's the shoes which were the key to this whole thing."

"Yes, we know", said Maddy. "The girl on the fence, err, Jenny, was a size four but Catherine takes a size six."

"No, it wasn't that", continued Creek, warming to his audience and subject matter. "But there's more, isn't there Inspector?" He faced the copper. "She'd dyed her hair to get it as close to Catherine's shade of blonde as she could. I noticed a hint of dark roots yesterday. It's only a suggestion of something but it got my mind working in the right general direction."

"Where is this leading, Mister Creek?" asked the Inspector.

"When you factor in the repair I spotted on the way in that you've done to your railings, Malcolm, and the infamous missing episode of 'Mork and Mindy', a little thing like that starts to seem like a meaningful point on the graph."

Maddy, Malcolm and DI Titney all looked at him as if he was as mad as the product of an unholy union between Charles Manson and a Red Setter.

"If you add the clue of this spot of paint I got on my Duffel yesterday," he held up the corner of his coat for inspection, "and then consider this picture". He held the framed shot that he'd brought downstairs of Malcolm and his brother across his chest. "Then your most recent letter starts to look more than a little significant. It is, in fact, the key to this sorry affair"

Malcolm gawped at the picture. "What? Two keys? How many keys do you need? What on Earth does any of this mean? What am I looking for in there?"

Jonathan was slightly embarrassed about getting carried away with his keys. Red faced, he pointed at the house, or more particularly the railings that separated the pit in front of the basement windows from the rest of the world.

- - - oOo - - -

"Perhaps you'd like to start at the beginning? It might give us mere mortals a chance to catch up", said the DI without humour. He pulled out a kitchen chair and sat again. The others followed suit. If they were going to be amazed, they wanted to have it happen in comfort.

Creek began slowly to twitch aside the lace-curtains of the mystery. "When Maddy and I first came here, we both assumed we were investigating another locked-room, well, locked-building mystery. Or, because of your call to Catherine, Malcolm, some kind of weird time-shift riddle. We were quite wrong, but for a very good reason. I'll admit I struggled with this one. I overlooked some important features and went off on a few tangents".

"Chased a few Red Herrings?" interjected Maddy, still cross about the previous night. That morning she'd even put on her spare pair of horrendous earrings just to spite him. They were the long dangley ones she knew he hated, because they appeared to be the kind of adornment even Pat Evens (née Butcher) off of Eastenders would reject as tacky.

Jonathan grinned. "Yes, exactly. If I'd just remembered the fascinating thing about railings earlier, I could have been back home by now, devising a way to film a live squid being produced from a top hat".

Malcolm looked beseechingly to the policeman. "Does this make any sense to you?"

DI Titney gave a sorry shake of his head. "I hear Mr. Creek has a special way of rationalising and explaining apparently impossible murders. If it turns out he's just as crazy as he sounds, you cause a distraction and I'll overpower him".

JC struggled on in the face of cynicism. "It all started to come into focus with that shoe. The 'tarty' black stiletto you found in the garden. Not only was it the wrong size to be the real Mrs. Berries, it was also unmarked, which was very much a part of this puzzle. It looked as if it was brand-new, except for the brown foot mark inside it which proved it had been regularly warn."

Maddy made another contribution. "So you're saying it had been planted in the garden for some reason? To make it look like she'd been wearing those shoes when she fell onto the fence when in-fact she'd been what? Bare-footed?"

"Carefully placed, yes. Though I'm quite sure she'd been wearing them when she fell. I'm one hundred percent sure she did fall now. The whole idea about the hammer and her being carefully knocked into place was a dead-end, pardon the pun."

Maddy gave a smile of sudden realisation. "The only kind of shoes that get worn but don't get worn are ones that never see a surface harsher than a carpet! Oh that's clever! That's how you knew she was a working girl, Jonathan. She'd dress-up for her client when she got to his place."

"You're right. That's exactly what I suspect". He turned back to the two men. "This is a bit kinky, but the only shoes not to get scuffed on the heel and sole, no tedious jokes please Maddy, are only warn indoors. Bedroom shoes, if you like."

"Or shoes worn by someone in a wheelchair", suggested Malcolm. Jonathan chose to ignore him.

"Can we talk about the Mork and Mindy thing?" asked the Inspector. "Without your invaluable help, we in the force had already ascertained she'd not been walking in the shoes on a hard surface. Given the gravely nature of the access to this lighthouse, she'd not walked into this building with them on. Which begs the question", he looked at Malcolm pointedly, "what happened to the shoes she had been wearing to come here?"

Before Malcolm could launch into a long defence, Jonathan continued by pulling a folded sheet of paper from his pocket. "This is a letter sent to you six months ago, Malcolm. One from the so-called 'The Brotherhood of the Living Saviour'. I was a bit suspicious of its origins at first, but the US postmarks all tie up and the content seems like the usual work of a religious fanatic. Except for one long four-letter word I spotted. Have you ever seen Mork and Mindy? It's the American TV show that launched Robin Williams's career in the seventies?"

"I think we're all well aware of the series", said the mistaken copper. "Nanu, nanu, Orson and drinking with fingers."

"Yes, that's the one. It's a show for a youngish audience and so gets scheduled around teatime, well before the watershed. It's precisely because it gets shown that early that one of the episodes never gets aired in this county, although I suppose American kids get to see it all the time. Just like that thing with the reversed dates, it just goes to show how our culture and theirs differ-"

Malcolm, equipped with a comic slight hearing impairment, interrupted. "This is all well and good, but what startling insights does Mark and Cindy give you into that letter? And what does some lad from 'Take That' have to do with it?"

Jonathan's eyebrows knotted for a moment. "Oh! No. Robin Williams, not Robbie Williams. I see how you're getting confused there-" He noticed Maddys look of building temper. "I'll come straight to the point. If it were an episode of 'Friends', the missing show would be called 'The one with Mr Wanker in it'. The word hasn't got a meaning in America, but because as I recall he gets quite a few mentions, it's obviously not suitable for 6 o'clock viewing in this country. I understand it has a bit of a cult following though. People rent the video and chant along."

The DI pulled the letter across the table. There near the bottom was the very un-American rude word that Jonathan was talking about. The policeman was as fast as Maddy to realise what it meant, but before he could say anything Maddy launched herself into the fray.

"You're saying is that the writer wasn't an American Religious Zealot at all-"

"Ah! The ancient Jewish sect which attempted to install a world Jewish Theocracy before circa AD 70," said Malcolm, desperately trying to re-enter the conversation. He failed.

"-but someone just pretending to be? Why?" finished Maddy.

"I'll tell you in a moment", said a very annoying Jonathan. "We should discuss this spot of black paint on my coat first."

"Obviously you must have brushed against something wet", assured the Inspector. "Ha! I know what you're thinking, but Malcolms' fence was quite dry. The other officers and I had our hands all over it yesterday when we were trying to lift Miss Amberghast off".

"I'm sure you did", said Jonathan, looking at the policeman. "And it's another meaningful feature of this that you failed to release her. Look how low down the wet paint must have been to touch my coat here. What's that? Just over knee height? Did you feel around down quite that close to the ground?"

The policeman wasn't very happy with Creeks assessment of his investigation. "So far, Mister Creek, all I've heard from you is a selection of best-guesses and maybes. Sadly we in the police force are required to work with provable facts. In reality that blob of paint could have come from a dozen different places, so I'll speak frankly. In what possible way would the perpetrator of this crime gain an advantage by painting the bottom twelve inches of those railings? I'm not saying it is nonsense. All I'm saying is that it sounds like it is."

With her shrewd idea of Jonathan's mental processes, Maddy was well ahead of the detective now, and still accelerating to catch JC. "But I suppose you're not saying it was all of the railings which were wet, are you Jonathan?"

"No. Just a tiny part of them, which you were virtually spot-on about when you joked about the murder being committed with the use of a spanner. It's funny how coincidence can manifest itself."

Some thing clicked for Maddy too. She smiled. "I prefer to think that my subconscious mind had already worked out how it had been done." said Maddy, realising what it was about railings that made them a very special crime scene. She turned to Malcolm. "When you looked out of your front door on Saturday night, just before going to bed, the fence you could see was your own."

"Of course", said Berrie, his forehead knitted, Klingon-like, in confusion.

"But when you woke up on Sunday morning and walked outside to discover what you thought was Kate impaled on your fence, it wasn't your fence any more."

There was an uncomfortable pause. "Are you insane?" exclaimed Malcolm. "I'm not in the habit of selling my fence in the middle of the night! I didn't open my door at two in the morning to a nomadic scrap-metal dealer who persuaded me to part with my-"

"That's not exactly what I meant", butted in Maddy. "It wasn't your fence for the same reason that you didn't call a 'railing-repair-man' out to fix the damage this morning. You don't repair wrought iron railings. You replace them."

"Of course I replace them! We're eighty feet from the sea! The salt spray in the air starts to rust the iron in months. I had to have a local firm replace most of the sections a couple of years ago".

"A local firm?" asked the DI, suddenly catching up.

JC continued on Malcolms' behalf. "Naturally a local firm. You can't buy two tons of cast iron railings by mail order, can you? I'm sure a man with a lorry turned up, switched them and carted the old rusty ones away to a scrap-yard. It's not a massively hard job because they're designed to just unbolt. All you need is a few minutes per section and a spanner."

Maddy looked at Jonathan with a broader smile playing across her lips. "Aha! Once you've unbolted a length and replaced it, you need to repaint the nuts and bolts to seal the elements out. Otherwise they'd quickly rust and you'd never be able to remove that section again without a lot of hard work."

JC smiled happily back. "Yes, or you could paint them to hide the fact they'd been recently undone. It must have been a freshly painted nut-head that my coat touched yesterday morning when I was looking at the body. You see, what we have with railings is a portable scene of crime! Don't you see how all the pieces are falling into place?"

The DI stood up stiffly and went to make himself a glass of water. "Ok, ok… Lets imagine for a moment that you've convinced me Ms. Amberghast was killed elsewhere by falling onto railings and was then what? Trucked in? On the off chance an identical fence was at the end of the mile-and-a-half long track which runs here? I don't think so".

Maddy had blown aside the fog of confusion in her own mind now. She counted Jonathan's clues off on her fingers. "You've covered the mysterious unwarn-warn shoe, The masturbatory Mork and Mindy link, the rapidly repaired railings and the stubborn spot of paint. But you've not explained why Jenny had dyed her hair or told us how we're ever going to find out where or why she died, or who else was involved. It all links back to whoever sent those fake loony sect letters from America, doesn't it? It's not Ted?"

Jonathan became more serious and continued sadly. "I'm sorry, Malcolm, but I'm afraid the things I've seen and heard all point to just one person. Someone close to you. Imagine a situation where someone you love is married to someone else. I know it's the stuff of tragic 'straight-to-video' movies but it happens and when it does it usually ends in tears. A thing like that can take a perfectly normal person and turn them, well, inside out. Maybe you'd seek-out a substitute, to use a very similar sounding word. Perhaps she's a little too short and a little too dark, so you buy her high-heeled shoes and ask her, pay her, to dye her hair. Before long you have the next best thing to the object of your desires…. But it's not enough to stop the pain, just to ease it. The desire to posses the real focus of your love makes you want to destroy her marriage, split her apart from her partner, and manoeuvre yourself into her life. Here some inside knowledge is required. Maybe years before it had come up in conversation that she was afraid of something that could be used against her husband and their relationship? Frequent trips abroad made it easy to send letters in the right tone from the right part of the world. The plan begins to work, and she and her husband part. I've got to guess at some of the details of the next bit but I think it all makes sense. Late one night our Mr. X got into a fight with Jenny. The fact she'd stopped dying her hair suggests she was planing to return to her natural shade, and that could only mean she intended to dissolve the business partnership. Perhaps the disagreement was over that, but it's not really important what the argument was about. It's only important because it lead to Jenny falling, slipping or being pushed out of a window. A window directly above an iron fence identical to your own, Malcolm." Jonathan pushed the picture of Malcolms' brother and the house towards Berrie and pointed its railings. "An iron fence just like that one."

Malcolm hit the table in anger and disbelief. "That's outrageous, Creek! My brother is fond of Kate, but no more than that. You can't just accuse him of murder because he happens to travel abroad a lot and shares the same type of fence as me. It's ridiculous! There must be hundreds of homes around here that have the same style and size of fence from the same local company!" He snarled at the group. "You've made a terrible, hurtful mistake this time! I-" Words failed him.

Maddy continued for Jonathan. "Maybe, but there are a few other factors to consider. Whoever brought Jenny here stuck on top of a section of fence, must have been here before, known yours was the same size and design and had access to a large vehicle. Something like a removals van. I see it like this; imagine his shock and horror at what's happened, looking down from the open window. In a moment like that the mind either goes into shell-shocked neutral or into adrenaline overdrive. Your brother had a few moments to think, because the body was screened from the rest of the houses in the road by his business's lorry parked outside his house. It was the middle of the night, at the end of a cul-de-sac, so who was there to see him struggling to get her body off of those spikes? We know if five policemen couldn't extricate her, what chance did he have? Suddenly, out of the soup of his fear and building panic, a crouton of hope bobbed to the surface."

"Do you have to reduce everything to the level of food?" asked Jonathan.

"Don't interrupt", snapped Maddy. "It occurred to him that there was a way he could turn this tragedy to his advantage. Every cloud has a silver lining, as my old mum used to say. He realised the only way to get rid of the body was to unbolt the whole section of fence, load it into the back of his lorry and… then what? Dump it somewhere? How obvious is that going to be with a gapping hole outside his house? He might as well put up a big neon sign that reads: 'Prostitute Killer Here'. Ask yourself, what alternatives are there to swapping it with someone else's section? And who's better than the very man he wanted to part from his wife in the first place? So he quickly gathered up a few items, like a pot of black paint, some gloves or tissues to avoid fingerprints and her shoe which had fallen off. Then it was quick, if heavy job to unbolt the section of fence and load it into the van. He'd drive straight here and kill the headlights long before he reached the lighthouse so that nothing untoward would appear on the security camera videotape. With this places thick walls and tiny windows you'd never hear anything, even a big vehicle pulling up outside and someone struggling with a fence and the body stuck on top of it. Then he'd head home with your section of fence to fill his own gap. We can't be entirely sure of his motives, but it was never going to look good to Mrs. Berrie when a dead prostitute who looked just like her was found outside her estranged husbands home, was it? Perhaps he hoped Kate would freak-out at the implications and would divorce you in the blink of an eye. You can see it on the forms, can't you? Reason for unreconcilable breakdown of the marriage? Paid woman to look just like me, and killed her".

Malcolm lunged out across the table making everyone lurch back in their seats. He grasped the telephone and dragged across the kitchen table towards himself. "There's an easy way to solve this. If my brother is still in Canada he has to be innocent and I'll get his answer-phone". He stabbed numbers rigorously on the keypad and clasped the handset to his ear. There was the noise of distant ringing. On the third ring Malcolm looked up with an expression of triumph, expecting the calm voice of the answer-phone to cut in at any moment. Instead a man in some distress answered and Malcolms victorious expression crashed down his face to form a pile on his chin. "Clive? Is that you?" prompted Malcolm.

"I'm so, so sorry!" came the remorseful cry of his brother. "Oh God, I'm sorry! It was an accident! I never meant to hurt her…" The man dissolved into tears and bubbling nonsense.

DI Titney was already ringing out on his mobile when Malcolm slowly replaced the handset having been unable to get any sense from his distraught brother. He seemed entirely poleaxed. By shouting at him, the DI got Clives' address from Berrie and rapidly ordered two squad cars and four officers to go there immediately and make an aggravated arrest. He beeped his mobile phone off and turned back to stare at JC and Maddy. "It may, possibly, perhaps appear I could, conceivably, owe you both an apology, Mister Creek, Miss Magellan. I'll be sure to include your contribution to my investigation in my official report. I suppose we'll have to see about Mr. Flanders and his civil rights. Ho hum. Now you must all excuse me. I need to drive unfeasible quickly back to Hastings and prepare myself, physically and mentally, for eight hours of aggressive questioning and plea-bargaining-"

Before he could finish, the telephone on the kitchen table rang, making everyone jump. The four stared at it in dumb surprise for a moment, until Malcolm stretched a tentative hand to it again. "Hello? Fairfield double three double seven."

After a second a woman's high-pitched voice was heard on the line. The great distance she was speaking from did nothing to disguise that she was sorely upset, to the point of fury.

"Oh? You heard about that did you? Well it can't be true because you're fine, aren't you? Aha, to paraphrase Mark Twain; Rumours of-"

A fresh barrage of squeaky abuse rudely cut him off. The only audible words were 'explanation', and 'sorry excuse for a human being'.

"It's a bit of a long story, Cat." Malcolm looked up with an expression that conveyed his embarrassed apologies. It also showed relief and a kind of bullied happiness. "But since you're paying for the call…"

- - - oOo - - -

As they again negotiated the twisty back roads of Kent, heading north towards her idea of civilisation again, Maddy was talking about the case. "You had me thinking the nuclear power plant at Dungeness was somehow involved there for a while. Instead you say it was Clives final letter of apology which with the give-away clue for you? It proved it was someone close to the Berries who had caused the whole thing. That established, you thought once the initial terror driven rush to frame Malcolm had run out of, err, fear propellant, what? Remorse had cut in?"

JC cheered up for a moment. He wasn't looking forward to another enforced incarceration in his own ivory tower. "Something like that. What someone might do in shock and without long term planning could easily pray on his or her mind after the event. However you'll note he didn't feel remorseful enough to sign that letter. Arguably, if it hadn't been for our input, that letter could have looked like Malcolm had typed it himself to put his wife, and us, off the trail. Just for the record, you know Malcolm said Clive was his younger brother? Do you know how much younger? I asked him while you were in the toilet".

"Don't tell me. Twelve minutes?"

"Fifteen. How did you know?" JC was impressed, pleasantly surprised by Maddys insight.

"It just sounded like you were going to congratulate me on last nights 'evil twin' reference. I don't know why. For the sake of, err, completeness?"

Jonathan nodded. "I was. So what do you think it was? Murder or manslaughter?"

"Only time will tell." The conversation stopped there for ten minutes. A mile or two later she popped her favourite Percy Sledge tape into the Volvo's old stereo to help elevate the awkward silence.

Pulling onto the motorway, an idea came to Maddy in a flash of inspiration. She looked over to where Jonathan sat thin lipped and smiled. "I know how you can film Adam producing a live squid from a top hat", she said. She felt the warm glow of one-up-man-ship.

Creek looked up from the ancient road atlas in mild amazement and thought for a moment. "If you're going to say just film it underwater, I've already pondered on that and you'd never get it to look right. You'd see it was trick photography in a moment." He slumped back to starring at the road atlas, glumly. The half-formed trick in question was rapidly becoming an albatross around his neck. He wandered why they couldn't just put it in a cunning wooden box and cut the Squid in half, like the good old days.

Maddy recovered quickly. With a half smile she said, "No that's not what I'd thought of at all". She gave an unconvincing laugh. "And if that's going to be your attitude to my offer of help, you can just bloody well stick it! God you're so flipping right and annoyingly smug-faced all the time! If I was to pull over and beat you to death with a wheel wrench, right now, there's not a court in the land that would convict!"

Jonathan, amused by her roller-coaster ride mood swings, gave her his special wan Sphinx smile. "I'm not right all the time, Maddy. I was wrong last night for example, at the hotel in Fairfield-on-sea. I should have asked for a double room."

"Really?" asked Maddy, suddenly struck by Jonathan's lovely eyes. They twinkled at her.

"Yes", replied Jonathan, "and smothered you in the night with a pillow."

- - - o The End o - - -

A note from the author: Some time after finishing this story I bothered to look at a map of the area where this story is set. I was surprised to find that there is a RSPB bird sanctuary next to Dungeness nuclear power station. Perhaps that shouldn't have surprised me, but I think you'll agree that to find a village called Fairlight on the coast to the east of Hastings was a bigger coincidence. It's within just a few miles of where I'd sited my fictional village of Fairfield-on-Sea and the Fairfield Light.

Paul Smith. February and November 2000
E-mail me:
Pauls0069@aol.com

ARTWORK!
(More stuff to follow soon)

These pictures are a combination of my own photographs and images I've sourced. No copyright infringement is intended. The images below are thumbnails and will link you to much larger pictures which MAY TAKE SOME TIME TO LOAD! So, please, be patent! More will be added soon.

I can confirm the famous picture of Lee Harvey Oswald holding his mail-order rifle is a fake. The shadow of his nose proves it.

Jonathan at the Greatstone-on-Sea Listening Device This picture (899x943 pixels, 149k) is a combined image of Alan Davies as Creek, taken from the Steve Clark book, and a photograph of my own. I couldn't quite get the colouring to work right so I had to turn it into a more artistic black and white shot. For those of you who are interested, I first scanned a picture of Alan in, carefully 'cut' him away from his original background, mirrored him, brightened the picture, and dropped him into my own photo. Then I had to re-scale the picture slightly and carefully 'blended' the two images together, to loose all the sharp edges the cutting and pasting process leaves behind.


Jonathan and Maddy by Jonathans windmill This picture (1198x496 pixels, 218k) is actually three images edited together. Those of you with keen eyes will have seen all three before in the excellent Steve Clark book The World of Jonathan Creek. (ISBN 0-563-55135-6). The Windmill at night was taken from page 72, AD/JC pulling a face from page 36 and the stunning picture of CQ/MM from page 52. Not that you care. I just like to quote my sources. Anyway, again Alan was flipped and Caroline was greatly reduced in scale (no jokes please). This picture took about an hour to complete.


Alan Davies, as seen in The Times. This picture, lightly stolen from top photographer Martin Beddall's web site shows Alan as he appeared in the Times. Martin took some pictures of a friend of mine, which is how I came across his site. Don't get excited though, because this is the only one of Alan he seems to have.

Note for Mr. Beddall's legal representatives: Keep your shirts on. I'll take it off if you want me to, ok? And here was me thinking it was a bit of free advertising....


Jonathan and Maddy infront of the Mill

MAX WALL HELL

A Jonathan Creek Mystery by Paul Smith.

Based on the characters created by David Renwick. No copyright infringement is intended.

It was a beautiful late summer's afternoon. A balloon drifted serenely high above the Thames Valley countryside. Aboard was Jonathan Creek, looking decidedly ill at ease and Maddy Magellan, who was looking down and around excitedly. The Balloonist wisely busied himself out of their way, coiling rope.

"I was just expecting some nice socks again" said Jonathan, mentally calculating how big a splat they'd make if anything went wrong.

Maddy gave him a glare. "I go to all this expense for your birthday and you just stand there with a face like a moody haddock. I don't understand how you can have a fear of heights. You live in a tall bloody Windmill for flips-sake!"

"A Windmill, you'll note, which is firmly and securely attached to solid ground. I might have known you'd be entirely at home with an enormous bag of hot air". He gestured towards the balloon canopy.

"That's ridiculous. This thing's as safe as houses", replied Maddy, ignoring his jibe, and stamped her foot down on the wooden deck a couple of times to illustrate her point.

Perhaps Jonathan paled at this but it's impossible to tell. Certainly his white knuckled grip on the baskets side tightened. "Would it be too much to ask you to stop doing that? I have a morbid fear of plunging to my death from a glorified picnic basket. Call me Mr Crazy, but I want to die at 95 in a comfy bed, not at 95 miles an hour in someone's flowerbed."

"I thought you liked to live dangerously", said Maddy, in a voice tinted with playful suggestion. It was a distraction technique that often worked for her.

"And if you think you're going to take my mind off of being a thousand feet above the ground with a little light sexual banter you've got another thing coming. If you don't mind I'll just stand here quietly and try to enjoy the novelty of the experience."

Maddy didn't seem overly put out by Jonathan's attitude. She sensed that he'd realised the trip was more for her benefit than for his. Instead of goading him more she produced a relaxing chocolate bar from a pocket and also paused to enjoy the spectacular views of the wooded Chiltern Hills.

Perhaps the Balloonist gave a little sigh of relief.

Our point of view drifts down onto the side of the balloon basket. It's a traditional wicker affair, the strands criss-crossing one another...

…Another basket now, one from which the words "Let me out! Let me out!" could vaguely be heard issuing. Next to this case was Vincent Burton, a sixty-something year old ventriloquist and all-round children's entertainer. He smiled to acknowledge the ripple of applause from the two dozen or so children who were watching his act. He continued with the routine while two of the children's mothers whisper to each other at the rear of the hall.

"I don't know what's happened to him. Vincent Burton used to be so good on the telly, didn't he?"

"Is it drink, do you think? I know a lot of show business types turn to it when they're over the hill. No point in asking for our money back I suppose?"

The first woman nodded in agreement. "You missed the Punch and Judy earlier, didn't you? That was painful. And he's going to do Sammy the Smelly Clone next." She took a closer look at the program in her hand. "Smiley Clown I suppose that's meant to be. This photocopying is-"

A small child sitting nearby looked back and gave them a pointed "Husssssh!"

- - - oOo - - -

A little later Vincent wandered unhappily back to his dressing room, half-carrying, half dragging the wickerwork case along with him. His head was bowed and he looked very weary. Unlike Adam Klaus who hurried past him on a landing. He was an advert for tanning clinics and smiling as ever, his sequinned shirt a blaze of refracted colour. He hurried down the stairs muttering to himself in what could pass as an American accent, "Come on Jonathan, we need you here".

Meanwhile Jonathan and Maddy were just arriving at the theatre. They marched as purposefully as they could into the lobby and were greeted by a pretty woman. She was in her early 20's and was attending to one of those signs that allow you to move the letters about. The type you get at conference halls. At the moment it spelled out:

WELCOME TO

MAX WALL HELL

TODAY: VINCENT BURTON'S SAD WORLD (For 4-11 YEAR OLDS)

TONIGHT: EDAM KLAUS (AS MEAN ON TV) 'MASTER OF MAGIC' SHOW

"Kids," the woman sighed in explanation. Jonathan paused a moment to watch her work as Maddy continued into the halls reception area.

"Oh I see", he realised, "Robert or House?"

The young woman looked up with a smile. "James. Nineteenth century philanthropist and career benefactor. Are you interested in history, Mr…?"

"Creek. Jonathan. And no, not especially. I work for Adam Klaus. I help with the show."

The woman raised a pretty eyebrow. "He fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man, doesn't he?"

Jonathan rolled his eyes and gave his trademark pained grin. "I'm not all that shocked you've been on the receiving end of his charm. To be honest he has a thing for attractive young blondes."

The girl gave a bigger smile. "Attractive? You think?"

"I-I've got to catch up with my friend," stuttered Jonathan, suddenly shy. He hurried away after Maddy.

- - - oOo - - -

In the larger foyer JC found Maddy inspecting the show posters attached to the wall.

The first was for Adam Klaus, as tacky as legality would allow, complete with a star shaped sticker that proclaimed for all the world to see: 'Some seats still available'.

The second showed Vincent Burton looking as though he learnt to smile by written description. Maddy prodded a finger at him and said, "I'm glad you could make it. Where do I know him from?"

Jonathan came to a halt a few feet away, in front of a poster that had 'Psychic Fair this weekend. Hosted by Madam Q, clairvoyant to the stars' emblazoned across it in suitably clairvoyant lettering. Somewhat detracting from the overall effect were the words 'Cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances' stencilled across it. "Vincent Burton and Monty? Is he still going? He did a lot of TV about ten years ago. He had a Christmas record out too I seem to remember. Something about it being lovely?"

Maddy looks closer at his picture. "I know where I've seen this face before! Imagine", she waved her hands above his head, "the words 'Tax fraudster walks free' just here."

"Nothing was ever proved. It was thrown out before it ever got to court", commented JC with an exasperated look.

"Oh come on! If ever a face had 'I have a mattress stuffed with £50 notes' written all over it, this is it."

Jonathan took a couple of steps closer and saw for the first time the words 'I have a mattress stuffed with £50 notes' written on Vincent's picture in biro. "Kids?" he asked in his slightly nasal voice.

"Anyway", said Maddy, walking smartly away. "What was so fascinating about that girl in the lobby? You'll chat anything up, you will."

Jonathan hurried to catch up. "Err, no. You're wrong there. I definitely wasn't chatting anyone up."

"Why not? Wasn't she you're type?" Maddy looked at Jonathan with a challenging expression.

"In a sense. You see she was-"

Just at that moment Adam Klaus, Jonathan's kind-of boss, crashed through the double doors at the other end of the corridor and hurried excitedly towards them. "Jonathan! It's so good to see you! And Maddy, looking so well!" He threatened to microwave them with the whiteness and size of his smile.

"Hi Adam, I'm sorry we're late but Maddy wanted to really scare me for my birthday and who am I to argue?"

Adam was faux-horrified. "Birthday Jonathan? Don't say I forgot?"

"It's ok Adam", said Jonathan with a forced smile. "Being back on the ground alive is a rare gift in itself."

Adam nodded. "Well Jonathan", he beamed, "consider 'being back on the ground alive' a present from myself".

Jonathan muttered "Thanks Adam" as Klaus swept them through the double doors and into the hall of the theatre.

- - - oOo - - -

It was while they were walking towards Adams dressing room on the second floor that they heard the gun shot ring out. It came from the room they were passing. The door held a poorly attached star, proclaiming that this was the dressing room of Vincent Burton.

All three of them shouted and banged on the door, to no avail. Adam recovered his senses and quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher.

"What have you got that for?" screamed Maddy, "It's not on fire!"

Moments later, as Adam used it to smash the door open, she felt a little silly. "Sorry," she added, "I'm a little over excited."

The door flew open and Adam half fell into the room, closely followed by Maddy and Jonathan. Inside all was still, all was silent.

- - - oOo - - -

Vincent Burton sat, as if asleep, in an armchair. With rare insight Adam stiffened, quickly said: "I'll find someone to call the police" and hurried out, leaving Maddy and Jonathan alone with the late Mr Burton.

Maddy felt his wrist for a couple of seconds, shaking her head. She said at last, "He's gone."

Jonathan nodded as he inspected the doors lock. The key was on the inside. Distractedly he said, "I thought as much when I saw the bullet hole in his left temple". He continued by feeling the rooms' walls for any clue. There wasn't one.

Maddy lifted Vincent's head to inspect it and dropped it back onto his shoulder with a little cry. "You could have warned me!" she protested to Jonathan as he sniffed the air.

"I thought I did", he replied as he peered out of the window at the ground far below.

Maddy looked about the small room as JC interrogated Vincent's puppet collection. "Poor old bugger killed himself then", she said.

Jonathan stopped at once and looked up from Vincent's stage makeup collection. " What makes you say that?" He asked.

"Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Locked room with us outside, nowhere for anyone to hide in here and no one got out by that window, did they?" She pointed to the rooms' single small window, the type that only has a small opening at the top.

Jonathan looked again at the window. The top pane was only open by a few inches and perhaps two feet across. "I see what you mean. No one could have escaped through there." However, just as he said this he noticed a scrape on the frame, where paint had recently been knocked off.

"So he must of shot himself" said Maddy with a look of satisfaction.

Jonathan wasn't quite so convinced. "Ok. I see your line of reasoning…."

Maddy looked quietly triumphant.

"…But I don't see how he killed himself and then got rid of the gun."

Her smug expression falling, Maddy realised the weapon is nowhere to be seen. She searched the chair carefully and even dropped to her knees to look under it. "It must have fallen underneath," came her muffled voice from beneath the seat. She reappeared. " But it didn't, did it?"

Jonathan was now checking through the dead mans clown equipment. Red noses, bald wigs, buckets of confetti and a box of brightly coloured balloons. "I don't know exactly what's happened here, but a thorough inspection of this room might help piece this thing together."

Lying neatly together on a table against the wall were two wickerwork baskets. JC spotted at once that they were not identical, as one had a small hole next to the catch, which looked as if it may have been used like a carrying handle. This was the only outward difference. He popped the catch open and lifted the lid to reveal a carefully formed piece of foam rubber, cut to hold a ventriloquists dummy. The wooden face of Monty grinned fixedly up at them. It appeared to be a perfectly normal, if somewhat over-sized and sinister looking, dummy. Maddy opened the second case as Jonathan sealed Monty back into his tomb. It contained the same foam rubber cut-out shape but displayed a serious absence of spare dummy. The space stared back at Maddy and Jonathan, accusingly.

"Who would shoot an old ventriloquist dead and steal his spare dummy?" asked Maddy aloud.

"Who indeed?" came a voice from the door. "Could we start with your names?"

Maddy and Jonathan span on the spot to face the substantial policeman who filled the doorway.

We cut to Jonathan, who sat quietly and contemplatively in a tiny police cell. However, Maddy, some rooms away, shouted and screamed blue murder. She tugged at the bars yelling, "Let me out!" repeatedly.

- - - oOo - - -

Back at the theatre, Vincent Burton was carefully zipped into his black body bag and carried out. Two policemen, including the one seen earlier, were inspecting the room minutely, dusting for fingerprints while a WPC examined the ground beneath the rooms window and the wall running up to it. A man we'll come to know as Detective Inspector Fortune called down to her from the tiny open window but she just shook her head and called back, "Nothing at all!"

"What do you make of this, sir?" asked a PC from his position in the corner of the room. Fortune joined him and looked with fascination as the officer lifted by tweezers a piece of paper with pictures of dancing men on it from the wickerwork waste paper basket. It was dropped into a plastic bag just as the PC made another discovery. "I think this may be of some interest too, sir," he said as his tweezers hold aloft a bight, shinny, unused bullet.

"Which one of you is Detective Inspector Fortune?" demanded Adam as he barged his way into the room.

"I am", replied the DI, standing up.

"Why have you arrested my friends? I was with them when we heard the gun shot and smashed down the door. They haven't got anything to do with this." He gestured around at the PC's still examining the contents of the room.

DI Fortune gave a polite little cough. "That would make you Mr Adam Klaus? Star of stage and small screen? Master of illusion? No magic needed here sir, so perhaps you could move on? I want to let the S.O.C.O's do whatever they can to rescue this crime scene."

"But we've not been through the fire-cabinet routine yet!" blurted Adam in exasperation, showing his true colours at last.

"I am naturally very upset about that," sarcasmed DI Fortune back. He dismissed Adam with a withering look and went back to inspecting the far more interesting contents of the waste paper basket.

Adam barged back out, bumping into the young woman from the lobby on the stairs.

"Have they finished up there?" she asked.

Klaus changed his mental gear in a moment, slipping seamlessly from angry to smooth. "No, still having fun doing police things. And speaking of fun, how does an evening out on the town with me after the show sound? I've got a Porsche," he added.

The girl smiled back. "It sounds very nice."

- - - oOo - - -

DI Fortune walked into the police stations holding cells antechamber carrying a book. He held it up to compare the picture of Maddy and Jonathan on its cover with Maddy's own face as she looked up at him from behind bars.

"Ok, come with me", he barked as he unlocked the door.

Jonathan sat looking bored in the station interrogation room, waiting and listening to the wall clock tick. It was half past six. Maddy stepped quietly into the room, followed closely by DI Fortune. They both sat down, the detective facing JC and Maddy.

"I," the policeman began, "am Detective Inspector Fortune. And this", he indicated the book as if it was week old vomit, "belongs to my daughter." He tapped the books cover. "Apparently she thinks you're something special." He gave Jonathan a look that seemed to expect JC to apologise.

"Why she can't be crazy about someone with sensible hair is beyond me," he continued.

Jonathan just looked embarrassed.

The Detective continued. "We found some prints in that room you know"

"Oh?" said Maddy.

The DI pulled a C5 sized brown envelope from his pocket, and slipped a brightly coloured envelope out of it. From that he extracted someone's holiday photographs. He noticed JC and Maddys expression of incredulity. "You were expecting fingerprints perhaps? We found plenty of those in that room as well. Vincent Burton's, and yours, and yours." He stared at Maddy and Jonathan in turn.

"These pictures, however", he continued, "appear to hold no trace of either of you. And that's something I'm quietly happy about." He spread the pictures across the desk. "What do you make of them?"

Jonathan and Maddy both craned forward in their seats to get a good look at the pictures, which showed a young couple having fun on holiday.

After a moment Jonathan spoke. "Well, from where I'm sitting they look like Corfu, but it's what they were found in that's of more interest to me."

"Very good Mr Creek", commented the policeman sourly as he handed over the two envelopes.

The first was the original colourful self-sealing one that they'd been sent to Vincent in. His name and humble sounding address were on a sticker on its reverse. The franked postmark was over a month old. The second envelope had an unused stamp on it and the address of the photographic companies returns department.

JC studied them both for a few seconds. "And these were found in a, um, draw, I suppose?"

"One of the few draws in the room not to have your fingerprints all over it," came the Inspectors reply.

"Would it help if we said we're sorry?" tried Maddy.

"And I don't think you got as far as poking in the bin before our Sergeant Spires stopped you." The DI produced two plastic bags from another pocket. One contained the piece of paper with the pictures of dancing stick men on it, while the other contained five bright unused bullets. "These are the only other things we found without your dabs all over them so if you could leave them in their bags, I'd be grateful."

While JC examined the bullets Maddy looked closely at the scrap of paper. "Do you mind if I copy these down?" she asked and produced a notebook and pen before the detective could respond.

Jonathan handed the bag of bullets back. "Do you know if these are from the same gun as the one which killed him?" he asked.

"There's no way of telling with unfired bullets, but they're certainly of the same calibre. They're revolver bullets, at least 30 years old."

Maddy completed her facsimile of the dancing figures and handed the original to Jonathan. "Kids?" she wondered aloud.

"Only ones who know their Sherlock Holmes, I'm willing to guess." After a very rapid study he handed the bag back to DI Fortune. " I suppose you already know what this says?" he asked.

The Policeman sighed. "Our own well-thumbed reference copy of the Strand Magazine stories has disappeared, so I've sent WPC Izzard to the public library to get us another copy."

"What are you going on about?" Interjected Maddy. "It's just a picture of stick men getting down and boogying, isn't it?"

Jonathan turned to her. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? The worlds finest writer of crime mysteries? It cant be too much to ask if you've heard of him?"

"Of course I have. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Moriarty and all that. I'm not completely daft you know." Before Jonathan could say anything she continued. "And don't think I don't know you call me 'Your little Watson' sometimes. I've heard you and Adam talking about me."

DI Fortune quickly stood up, as if suddenly keen to be somewhere else. "Fun though this is, I've got to throw you both out now. Much as I'd like to prosecute you for perverting the course of justice, the scenes of crime boys tell me you didn't manage to destroy any vital evidence, so I can't. We've dropped all charges and I'd be so happy never to see either of you again."

Maddy and Jonathan both stood to leave, their expressions ones of relief. "If anything else occurs to us I'm sure we'll be in touch, Detective Inspector, not that you'll need us I'm sure". Flattered Maddy as she pushed her chair back under the desk.

"The thought fills my heart with joy, Miss Magellan," replied the Detective, as dryly as desert dust. JC and Maddy headed for the door. As Jonathan reached for the handle the DI barked, "One last thing, Mr Creek."

Jonathan paused and turned, clearly expecting to be strip-searched for the missing gun.

Fortune handed Jonathan the copy of the book he'd been holding and a pen. "If you could make it out to Claire with an 'e', with much love from Jonathan, I'd gain some valuable respect points at home."

- - - oOo - - -

Maddy and Jonathan left the police station as if propelled by a mysterious force. Jonathan was whinging, "What a birthday this is turning out to be. First I'm scared witless in a balloon, then I get arrested and talked at by the worlds most sarcastic policeman! Bloody typical!" He looked at his watch. "If we hurry we'll just have enough time to go through the fire-cabinet illusion with Adam before tonight's show."

Maddy gave a huff of mild disgust. "Don't lie to me. You just want to see that girl again, don't you?" she snapped. She was good at taking her anger out on people in a random direction and somehow Jonathan was just the right consistency to be an emotional punch-bag.

Creek gave a laugh, tickled by her jealousy. "You didn't notice anything strange about her, did you?"

"Only that she seemed attracted to you for some utterly inexplicable, bizarre reason. That was fairly strange. Still, there's no accounting for taste."

Jonathan just kept smiling, his head down, looking at his feet as they walk at a fast stroll back towards the towns' theatre.

- - - oOo - - -

Night had fallen over Jonathan's Windmill home as Maddy and he pulled up in her battered old red Volvo. She parked a little distance away, as Jonathan had asked her to after her last parking 'incident.' The buildings old front door still lay broken against the wall accusingly, like some kind of mill sized campaign medal. After their drive they clambered stiffly out and wandered towards the dark imposing silhouette, talking as they went.

"I'm glad Adams show went so well", said Maddy with a yawn.

Jonathan seemed happy too. "Yes, it was good, wasn't it? I think the fire-cabinet routine might need a few slight revisions though."

"No", said Maddy, genuinely surprised. "That was the best bit! I loved all the guys dressed as firemen dashing on and running around shouting."

"Those weren't men dressed as firemen, Maddy. Those were actual firemen."

Maddy screwed up her nose. "Oh. They were the best bit I thought. No chance of them doing that regularly then?"

"Only if I don't make those slight revisions."

Maddys name could found be in the dictionary under 'jealousy'. That's why she now felt the need to tell Jonathan what she'd seen Adam do just before they left. "Did you see Adam going off with that blonde girl after the show in his Porsche?" she asked as innocently as she could. Her mouth, at that moment, looked as if you could safely keep any dairy produce in it for up to a week.

JC, refusing to be bated, said nothing and just unlocked the front door for them both to enter.

- - - oOo - - -

Later, Maddy was reclining on Jonathan's red leather sofa while he sat at his cluttered work desk deep in thought. He scribbled occasional notes while Maddy studied a book called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

"I see what you mean", she said. "Each figure just represents a letter. It's not strange hieroglyphics or anything." She seemed disappointed by the relative banality of the puzzle.

"Have you solved it yet?" asked Jonathan, not looking up from his own notes.

"Give me a chance! I've only just found the story! Anyway, how are your cerebral press-ups going?"

Jonathan gave the 'hmmm' of a man who has lots of questions but very few answers. "The problem, as I see it", he began, "is not how was Vincent Burton killed, but why?" I think you'd agree he didn't look like the type of man to have made murderous enemies in life."

"Rival Ventriloquists you mean? It can be a very competitive field of light entertainment, I hear."

Jonathan shook his head. "Vincent wasn't good enough to have posed much of a threat to the likes of Harris or Corbett. I think we can rule out professional jealousy. I know he had is moments- Do you remember when he and Monty, his dummy, used to talk over each other? It was the staple diet of his telly work."

Maddy looked up from her book. "Yes, I remember seeing him on Parkinson doing that. It's not possible though, is it? I assumed he used a tape recording for Monty speaking to get the effect."

Jonathan just gave a 'hmmm' again, suddenly distracted by something in his own notes.

Maddy continued undeterred. "I had a bit of an idea about 'why' anyway. Perhaps it wasn't his mattress that was stuffed with £50 notes, it was all in his spare dummy!"

Creek looked up again. "A robbery gone wrong? I see. Ok. So Vincent walks in on someone absconding with number two dummy, there's a confrontation and Vincent gets shot in the head at close range. It doesn't answer the big problem of the robbers escape."

"That's the clever bit!" Maddy sat up excitedly. "He just walked out the door!" She noticed Jonathan's confused and questioning expression so hastily pressed on. "Before Burton come back from doing his children's show, the thief got into his room and stole the dummy. Now, when Vincent comes back, he locks the room behind him, and before he discovers the theft, he's shot from outside, through the open window! Simple!" She sat back with a grin.

Jonathan's expression told the story of a man who didn't believe a word of it. "Mmm… good. Except how do you account for the smell of gunpowder? It was very strong in the room when we broke into it. I assume it could have only come from the fatal shot. And an old revolver isn't any good for sharp shooting from outside the building. Sorry Mads, Vincent Burton was shot by someone in that room. No two ways about it."

Maddy was surprisingly relaxed about having her pet theory shredded by Jonathan. It was because she had a second line of attack on standby. "Ok, smarty-pants. It was a time-shift murder then. Something dastardly dark and cunning."

Jonathan was tiresomely ahead of her again. "Wasn't he still warm when you felt for his pulse? It's not that I don't appreciate your help…" His voice petered out as he saw Maddys expression, her face darkening like an approaching storm.

"Sod you then!" she huffed. "At least I'm trying to come up with ideas! It's very easy for you to sit there looking smug." She went, pointedly, back to reading her book in what scholars call 'a strop'.

JC rested his fingers together and stared off into space, mimicking a famous Basil Rathbone pose.

- - - oOo - - -

Half an hour had passed when Maddy, forgetting that she wasn't talking to Jonathan, gave a cry. "I've got it! The message is: Not Enough Burton!"

Jonathan nodded. "I felt sure it would be a threat of some kind, but why threaten someone in code? And what's not enough? Not enough of what?" He gave a long sigh. "I'm too tired for this. It's all stacking up in my head like Gatwick airport on a bad night. I need to sleep on it, get a fresh angle of attack in the morning."

"Ok", replied Maddy from the sofa, "I'll just stay here and finish this." She jiggled the Sherlock Holmes book at him. Perhaps the air buzzed with unspoken sexual tensions. Maybe a defining moment in their relationship had arrived. Possibly this, finally, was to be the night that things would gel between them. But no, it was not to be. Things between them for the moment, at least, would remain ungelled.

"'Night", yawned Jonathan as he bumbled sleepily down the stairs towards his bedroom.

"'Night", replied Maddy, producing a part eaten bar of chocolate from behind the book and tucking in.

- - - oOo - - -

The next morning they were both back outside the room where Vincent was found dead. The police were just finishing with it. One copper was carefully replacing a 'smiling clown helium balloon filler' in the corner as a second greeted them by the door. He inspected them and said. "You must be Mr Creek and Miss Magellan. DI Fortune described you to me. He has a message for you. He asked me to say 'Please feel free to touch and move things because now we've had a chance to examine the room properly, there's no evidence to destroy'."

"Err, thanks", said Maddy and Jonathan as they squeezed into the room past the officer. Both policemen left looking very pleased with themselves. Down the corridor one said to the other, loudly enough for JC and Maddy to overhear, "He's not too fond of enthusiastic amateurs."

Jonathan looked at Maddy. "This is it. It's all in this room."

"You thought of something last night, didn't you? Do you know how this was done?"

Creek smiled and exaggerated. "I'm so close it hurts, but I'm not quite 100% there yet. It all hinges on that coded message. Someone who knew that Vincent would know what it meant must have left it. There's no point in threatening someone in a language they don't understand."

Maddy took the chance to use her spattering of Portuguese. She told Jonathan that unless he got out of her bathroom immediately, she'd kill him with a length of lead piping.

"Exactly", said Jonathan excitedly, "It's not effective unless I understand what you're talking about. So, Vincent and the killer both knew what was written on that piece of paper, and Vincent, unimpressed, threw it in the bin."

"And the bullets were left to drive the point home." said Maddy. "Except why five bullets? One's enough to make the point, surely. One bullet says 'I will kill you'. Five say, ' I will kill you and your family and any pets you may have.' It's overkill. Pardon the pun."

Now sitting in the seat where Vincent was discovered, Jonathan nodded in agreement. "This whole thing is fishier than a salmon farm. Why did Vincent and person or persons unknown bother to learn a secret code?"

"To communicate with each other without anyone knowing what was being written about….." Maddy's voice drifted off as she stared intently at the tiny portion of the window that could be opened. Something in her head clicked. She turned back to Jonathan with a look of gob-smacked amazement. "I've just had one of your Moments of Clarity, Jonathan."

Creek stood up quickly. "That must have been an unrivalled experience for you", he joked.

"That Sherlock Holmes book I was reading last night," continued Maddy without pausing to slap Jonathan, "had a story called the Sign of Four in it. A man had been killed in a locked room, poisoned, and it looks at first as if a child did it. But it wasn't a child, it was a-"

"Pigmy!" Jonathan finished her sentence for her. "I read it when I was little. Why didn't I think of that? The only person who could have left of this room by that window would have to have been tiny. A pigmy, a child-"

"Or a dwarf!" finished Maddy for him, a look of glee on her face.

They both turned to look at the open wickerwork cases, the empty one now looking like the perfect way to transport a tiny business partner. One who pretends to be a ventriloquists dummy!

"It would explain why that case has a hole next to the catch, so he could let himself out if he needed to."

"And the real dummy would be used to maintain the illusion. You'd need something to show to curious fans and the like… It's all falling together!"

They both stood awhile, lost in the concept of a ventriloquist who never needed to worry about his lips moving or how to throw his voice.

Snapping back to reality Maddy remembered the poster downstairs. "That picture of Vincent Burton in the foyer. I think it had the name and 'phone number of his management and promotion companies on it. I'm going to check it out. I'll see you later!" And with that she scurried out of the room like a terrier after a butcher's van.

Jonathan walked to the window again, running a fingertip over the scratch on the frame. He leant as far forward as he could to see the wall besides the window, where a drainpipe ran. "I suppose it's just possible", he thought aloud.

- - - oOo - - -

Detective Inspector Fortune was a man of similar insight and imagination. After a minute of attack, the locked but not bolted door of someone's expensive home burst open with the weight of five police shoulders behind it. As they thumped into the entrance hall, a muffled voice from inside the house could be heard shouting "let me out! Let me out!"

DI Fortune took the lead, following the pleading voice to the houses' impressive staircase and a small cupboard beneath. The disembodied voice was shouting louder now. "Who's there? Let me out at once!" As Fortune knelt and reached for the cupboards catch he noticed a key sitting on the floor a foot or so away from the door. In one movement he picked it up and tried to open the door. When it proved to be as locked as he expected, he used the newly discovered key to unlock it. He clicked the catch down and pulled the door open to reveal a very unhappy small face with a day's stubble on it.

"Martin Goodman, a.k.a. Monty", began DI Fortune as the dwarf clambered out of the cupboard," I am arresting you-"

The small man drew close to his face. "I've been in there nearly eighteen hours. Toilet first, speeches later."

- - - oOo - - -

Maddy reappeared at the door to Vincent's dressing room, a little out of breath after her run up the theatre's stairs.

Jonathan was role-playing. He was pretending to be Vincent Burton struggling with an attacker half his height. He looked up as Maddy returned. "I'm not sure this really scans", he commented as he released the stranglehold on his imaginary assailant and dropped him the three feet to the floor.

Maddy beamed back. "Martin Goodman, three foot, eight inches. Vincent and he worked together for over twenty years until eight years ago when they had a falling out, which would explain the down turn in Vincent's career at about the same time. 'Monty', apparently, didn't like being the unsung brains behind the partnership."

"I know how that can feel", smiled Jonathan.

Maddy wasn't sure if he was referring to Adam Klaus and himself or the two of them. A rare moment of doubt reached her. Did she exaggerate her input in the amazing cases they'd solved? In her books, did she play down Jonathan's unique gifts? Questions for later, she decided, and she ploughed on. "He's still on their management's books as a 'versatile actor of restricted height'. And", she finished by flourishing her notepad, "I got his address off of them! It sounds like quite a swanky place."

Jonathan nodded, his hair flopping like a cuddly rabbits ears. A sudden twinkle was in his eyes. "I bet it's not far from here either, is it?"

"Only about twenty minutes away by car. Thirty five by my Volvo. One other thing Jonathan. I may have given them the impression I was from the police, by accident."

Creek rolled his eyes in half-mock surprise. "So? Lets go!"

Maddy finished what she was saying. "So, the girl I was talking to said she'd given all this information to a DI Fortune not an hour ago and didn't the police force ever talk to one another. Well, actually she said police farce, but I think I know what she meant."

Less happily Jonathan tried again. "Lets go back to the Police Station. We should hurry."

- - - oOo - - -

On their rush from the theatre they almost collided with Adam in the foyer. He was looking for the blonde girl again, new chat-up lines fresh in his mind.

Maddy couldn't resist an opportunity as good as this. "How did it go last night Adam? I saw you heading off for the hills with the blonde girl who works here." She thought she felt Jonathan's eyes burning into her, but she was wrong.

"Oh fine", said Klaus, cagily. "We went to that Italian place by the Thames. Remember Jonathan, the one by the weir?"

"Yes", said Creek, wearily aware of Maddys amusement. "The romantic one with the candles?"

Adam gave his customary chuckle. "They still have those, yes. It was lovely."

"Good." said Jonathan gruffly.

"Oh don't worry Jonathan", said Adam, remembering Creeks attitude to his womanising. "I was the perfect gentleman all night, I promise."

Jonathan gave a half smile. "And I bet she was too?"

Klaus misunderstood. "Sadly, yes. Still, I'm taking her to my place for a romantic candlelit dinner tonight instead, so wish me luck!"

"Good luck Adam. No, I really mean it. One thing though. Did you happen to notice anything slightly odd about your companion last night?"

"Odd? In what way Jonathan?" asked Klaus, slightly upset and angered by what he thought of as Jonathan's Victorian attitude.

"Did anything strike you about her hands?"

Maddy and Adam both looked at him as if he was on display in a freak show. "What ever do you mean?" demanded Adam

Creek was warming to his subject. "Perhaps there's a better way to explain. Have you ever seen a film called The Crying Game?" he asked Adam.

"No", he replied, still none the wiser. "What has this got to do with Kay?"

"Oh nothing", lied Jonathan, dragging the open mouthed Maddy away with him. "Forget I ever mentioned it. Just a silly idea."

Klaus was far from impressed. "Well Jonathan, next time you have a silly idea, I'd be grateful if you kept it to yourself!" And with that he stomped off, looking for someone to be nasty to.

- - - oOo - - -

Outside the theatre Maddy turned on Jonathan, making him stop. "You can't be serious!" she cried.

Creek shrugged. "I can't believe I was the only person to realise. 'Kay' he said? I wonder what it stands for?"

Maddy was laughing at herself now, at the jealousy she'd felt. "Aren't you going to tell him? Warn him?"

JC shook his head. "What? And spoil the first bit of fun I've had in weeks?"

- - - oOo - - -

In the interview room, where JC and Maddy were questioned the previous afternoon, Martin Goodman was loudly protesting his innocence in a voice that carried a persistent sneer. "I've told you time and time again, Detective Inspector. I answered the door yesterday morning to Vincent Burton, who overpowered me and locked me in that cupboard. I don't know why, he hardly said a word to me. The facts won't change, no matter how many times you make me repeat them." He looked the Policeman in the eye. "And I'm getting very tired, Detective Inspector, of repeating them." Martin seethed through gritted teeth.

Fortune gave the dual tape machine one last glance to make sure it was recording and continued with his interview in contrasting gentle tones. "I know that's the story you're sticking to, Mr Goodman. It's my job to get all the facts behind the brutal murder of Vincent Burton, nothing more, nothing less. If the tale you're telling me is the truth, it should be possible to establish your innocence in this matter." His tone changed abruptly. "However, if, as I suspect, you cold bloodedly shot Vincent Burton in the head at close range and escaped his locked dressing room through the window, I shall make it my ambition to see you go to prison for a very long time!"

Martin sat back in his seat. "You haven't got anything on me. You can't have, because I didn't do it. If I did kill him, where's the gun?"

"So you know about the gun, do you, Mr Goodman?" The DI raised his eyebrows in expectation.

"You said he'd been shot in cold blood at close range! How else was he killed? Murdered by elastic band?"

"You threw the gun away, or hid it in your mansion somewhere. Don't worry Mr Goodman, we'll find the evidence."

Martin looked worried and almost spat back, "If your men damage anything in my house, I'll-"

The Policeman produced the piece of paper from his pocket. "Can you read this?" he asked, showing the drawing to Martin as he cut him off. "For the benefit of the tape I'm showing the prisoner exhibit A, a piece of paper with pictures of dancing men on it."

"Yes I can", Martin replied after a moment looking at it.

"And what does it say?"

"It says 'Not enough Burton'."

"Why did you and Burton have a… I'm going to say it, secret code?"

"When we were on tour we needed a way to leave messages for each other that wouldn't give away the trick. It's not good business ethics to let the public at large know it's being conned. Vincent came up with the idea for the dancing men after reading some book. For the sake of our, well, his fame, my existence had to be kept a secret from everyone except our management."

"Why did your management need to know about you?"

Martin laughed the kind of laugh that would be hard to sympathise with. "They wrote the pay cheques. And they represented me while I was doing other work at the same time. Television and movie roles. You may have seen me on Dr Who. That's why I eventually left the act, when my legitimate career took off."

"Do you deny writing this note?"

"Yes I do."

"Do you deny threatening Vincent Burton?"

"Yes I do."

"Do you deny shooting him yesterday afternoon and locking yourself in a cupboard to give yourself an alibi?"

"Yes I do! How could I lock myself in a cupboard and leave the key outside?"

The DI smiled the kind of smile usually found on amphibious reptiles. It wasn't playful. "Ah yes, that was very resourceful of you Mr Goodman, or may I call you Monty?"

"No you may not."

"It's a kind of reverse locked room mystery, isn't it? It gives your story an extra kilo of plausibility. Except why would Mr Burton leave the key behind at all? Why didn't he take it with him and throw it away somewhere?"

"I don't know. I can't explain the actions of a mad man! All I know is yesterday morning was the first time I've seen him in six years, since he helped me move into the manor."

"What would you say, Mr Goodman, if I told you I knew how you murdered him."

"I'd say you were living in cloud-cuckoo-land, and my legal representatives were going to make mincemeat out of you for wrongful arrest. I'll admit to a bit of resentment about being the invisible half of our partnership, and that our friendship had cooled to the point of solidity, but I didn't kill him!"

Fortune leaned closer to Martin Goodmans upturned face. "The sequence of events, as I imagine them, went something like this:"

Detective Inspector Fortune was a far more intelligent man than his interview technique suggested. 'Always let the prisoner think they're smarter than you', advised his training Sergeant, many years before. 'That way they'll drop their guard, get sloppy, make mistakes.' It was a routine Fortune had mastered. He didn't need a fellow officer to join in with 'Good Cop, Bad Cop'. All he needed was to play 'Slow Cop'.

"Sometime ago you started blackmailing Burton. You threatened to expose him as a fraud. He paid you off but you were greedy, so you left this coded note for him some days ago. I think you slid it under his dressing room door with five bullets, to press home the point. Then yesterday afternoon you confronted Vincent. You became enraged when you discovered he wasn't going to be intimidated. With the sixth bullet, you shot Burton dead. Within seconds a passing conjurer's helper began to bang on the door. Since Vincent had locked it, he'd bought you a few brief seconds to escape. You panicked. Your only possible course of action was to exit by the open window. According to our measurements you were just able to squeeze through and cling onto the drainpipe before Mr Creek and his friends smashed their way into the room. While they tried to help the late Mr Burton you climbed down to the ground and made good your escape. But suddenly you remembered the piece of paper and the bullets. They were in the wastepaper basket where you saw Vincent throw them in disgust! You knew the code was going to point to you so you needed an alibi and quick. From what I know of you, it's hard to believe you're a man with many close friends, so there was no point in asking someone to say you were with them that afternoon. Instead, you hit upon the idea of staging an alibi instead. What better than a story about being attacked by a man who was in no condition to deny it? You, Mr Goodman, locked yourself in that cupboard, knowing full well that the police would soon be in attendance to rescue you from it!"

"But the key was on the outside, you fool!" bellowed the little man back, shaking his head in disbelief at the Policeman's stupidity.

"Yes Mr Goodman, it was. Lying on the floor not far from the cupboards door!"

"That's where that bastard Vincent left it!"

Fortune made his voice a hoarse whisper. "On the contrary. I think it was on the floor because that was the only conceivable place it could be."

Goodman looked confused, almost bewildered by the Inspectors verbal attack. "Wha- What do you mean?"

"When you slide the key under the door from inside a locked cupboard, where else could it possibly be found?"

Martin Goodman stared up at DI Fortunes triumphant face, suddenly chillingly aware of the situation he was in.

The DI concluded. "I think this would be an appropriate time for you to telephone that Solicitor you so fiercely 'didn't need' earlier. I am suspending this interview at", he glanced at the wall clock, "Eleven twenty two A.M."

Fortune stopped the tape machine and popped the two cassettes out. He handed one to the shocked Martin Goodman with a flourish and a smile. "This is your copy which I'm legally obliged to give you. I suggest you keep this in a safe place, sir."

- - - oOo - - -

Maddys Volvo screeched into the Police Stations car park and slid to a halt. Jonathan unhooked his fingers from the dashboard.

Maddy looked at him from her drivers' seat. "You're strangely quiet this morning."

Jonathan looked back at her like a startled elk. "When you drive like Steve McQueen in Bullet, and I all but soil myself, is it any wonder I don't make light conversation?!"

"If you thought I was driving too fast you should have said."

"I tried but I was too terrified to get the words to form!"

"Oh come on you big girls blouse, I wasn't going that fast. You said you wanted to get here in a hurry."

"I know I did. I just wasn't expecting you to go after Thrust SSC's land speed record!"

Maddy opened her car door and climbed out, shaking her head.

Jonathan joined her moments later when he felt sure his legs could take the strain.

- - - oOo - - -

"There's someone here to see you", said WPC Izzard through the tiny barred window in the police cells door.

Martin Goodman looked up from the hard bed where he lay. "I wasn't expecting my Solicitor for another hour." His tone of voice suggested he thought his Solicitor should appear, genie-like, on demand.

"It's Maddy Magellan and Jonathan Creek", called Maddy over the policewoman's shoulder. "We were the ones who discovered Vincent Burton's body."

"Why the hell are you here?" shouted Goodman back at them.

"We're here because we hope to prove you're innocent!" replied Creek from outside the door, as loudly as he could.

There was a moments confused silence from the holding cells antechamber. Eventually Maddy said, in the voice of a woman barely able to believe what she's hearing, "Are we?"

A few minutes later the two of them were back outside in the car listening to Goodmans recording of the police interview. They listened intently to the Volvos crappy old stereo (make unknown) as DI Fortune wound up his mornings meeting. " …slide the key under the door from inside a locked cupboard, where else could it possibly be found? I think this would be an appropriate time for you to telephone that Solicitor you so fiercely 'didn't need' earlier. I am suspending this interview at eleven twenty two A.M."

Maddy put down her now empty packet of crisps. "I don't know, Jonathan. The Inspector sounds fairly convincing. It all fits."

Jonathan ejected the tape and pocketed it. "Don't you see? It all fits just a little bit too well. Detective inspector Fortune has fallen into the same exquisitely clever trap as us."

"A trap? What kind of trap? What are you talking about, Jonathan?"

Jonathan smiled his characteristic, enigmatic smile back.

- - - oOo - - -

Maddy could not be called the most easy-going of people, and Jonathan had spent the previous day, his birthday, having 'fun' against his will. These two facts in some way explained the following outbreak of hostilities.

She felt for a packet of Smarties in the car doors pocket. "Don't smile that smile at me, Jonathan, you annoying git. If you've got some smart-arsed answers to how Vincent Burton was killed, which don't involve our charming little friend in that police cell, I want to hear them, right now!"

"Don't shout at me Maddy", whined JC in a voice growing higher in frustration. "I'm trying my best to explain! If you'd just stop snacking for a moment and listen to me I'll tell you how Vincent killed himself."

"I'll stop snacking when you stop lisping", sniped Maddy back, not registering for a moment what Jonathan had said.

"I'm going to get you a T-shirt printed when it's your birthday. 'Born to Snack' or perhaps 'Frankie says Could I Have Another Slice Please'.

"What did you say?" asked Maddy, her brain catching up with her mouth.

Jonathan made a motion across his chest. "Born to Snack, in big black letters".

"Vincent Burton killed himself? In a locked room, where no gun was found?"

"It's quite a trick, isn't it?" said Jonathan with a hint of admiration.

Maddy almost thought Jonathan was winding her up for a second. But of course he wasn't. He was just being 'Jonathan'. Her anger boiled away as quickly as it had boiled up. She asked, "Did he shoot himself and have a moment to hide the gun or throw it out the window before he died?" A millisecond after finishing she mentally kicked herself. If that was all that had happened they or the police would have found the weapon. Plus the clean shot to the head, which Vincent had suffered, must have been fatal instantly.

Fortunately for once Jonathan didn't comment on her blunder. It was a survival skill he was beginning to develop. Instead he continued. "I went way off track with this one, Maddy. I don't mind admitting I was almost ready to believe the idea of a murderous, blackmailing dwarf. It has such a tangible gothic feel, doesn't it? Of course when you ignore all the obvious clues, the too obvious clues, a very different picture comes into focus."

Maddy began to see the edge, as Jonathan might have put it, of what had happened. "The empty dummies case and the note with the dancing men. All too convenient?"

Nodding, Jonathan continued to unpeel the banana of mystery. "We believed what someone wanted us to believe. Someone who had a very twisted way of seeing things. I only got it when you showed me Monty- Martin Goodman's address. The Manor House, Ashdon, Bucks. I bet it's as grand an address as it sounds. Especially if you compare it to Burton's address which I saw on that envelope. 15 Railwayman's Cottages is far less impressive. Why blackmail someone who has nothing when you yourself are more than comfortable? It doesn't make any sense."

"But the gun, Jonathan. How did Vincent get rid of the gun when he was already dead?"

"That was the simple bit. The rest of the planning took far more work and didn't run nearly as smoothly. Put yourself in the mind of a bitter old man, Maddy. One who's career has slipped, dare I say it, to the level of second rate children's entertainer. One who's reasons for living wouldn't make a long list. One, Maddy, whose erstwhile business partner has seen considerable financial success in the years since dropping him. How do you exact revenge? You can't blackmail him. Telling the world about the real Monty would only make Vincent look like a terrible fraud himself. I suppose he could have just arrived at Martins house one-day and shoot him with what I'm pretty sure was Vincent's National Service issued revolver. There again that would lack a certain elegance as far as Vincent was concerned. Plus of course there'd be a trial, another media circus and life imprisonment. Then, one day, he looked around his most recent pokey dressing room in a long line of pokey dressing rooms and an idea hit him. One feature in that room lead to the cascade of events which brought us here." Jonathan paused for breath.

Maddy was mentally accelerating now, brain cells flaring into overdrive. She couldn't justifiably claim to be as good at thinking around corners as Jonathan was, when two and three equalled seven. However given the right material she was just as fast, if not faster, at making two and two equal four. "The tiny little window! He hatched a plan to frame his old friend for his own murder! Giving himself a showman's exit, stage left, into the bargain! That's brilliant Jonathan!" She gave a grin that she hoped would make her instantly irresistible. It didn't work.

"It was brilliantly conceived. But not brilliantly executed, because complex plans never run as smoothly as simple ones. Yesterday morning he was forced to see Martin Goodman, who by happy coincidence lives fairly close by. You can't frame someone reliably if that person is likely to get himself an accidental alibi, like a walk to the newsagents for instance. So Vincent Burton had devised the other half of his grand scheme. He arrived at Martins house at about lunchtime, and with the element of surprise, easily overpowered him. He shoved him into the cupboard under the stairs, which he must have noticed year's before when he was helping Martin move. He locked him in, and this is the clever bit, left the key quietly on the floor near the door. He'd given Martin an alibi as watertight as a sieve, at the same time as stopping him from accidentally getting a real one. Additionally, when he was rescued, he'd tell the unlikely tale of imprisonment by the very man he'd be under suspicion of murdering! Classic misdirection!"

Maddy was also drawing the lines between dot shaped clues. "He went to the theatre that afternoon to do his show. Before he went downstairs to do his act for those children, he would have arranged the room, setting up the props he needed to frame Goodman. He'd have taken the gun and the old empty dummies case from his home that morning… I'm guessing a bit there but it fits in with what we know. Then he wrote out that note with the dancing men for the police to find, knowing full well a sharp seven year old could break the code. When the police did crack it, it would say 'blackmail' and 'close associate'. A Sherlock Holmes fan!" finished Maddy excitedly. "I wonder if he'd read A Sign of Four as well, and that's where he got ideas from?"

"Perhaps," agreed Jonathan, also flushed with the thrill of undoing the bow on this particularly well wrapped parcel of impossible crime. "On his return from the stage, he locked himself carefully in the room, opened the window and readied himself for the final curtain. Except he'd made a couple of oversights. Silly little things any distracted sixty-something-year-old might overlook. Firstly a set of photographs he'd meant to post, still sitting in the draw of the rooms desk. They'd been sent to him in error and he'd had them nearly a month without getting around to doing anything with them. You or I might have just thrown them away but Vincent thought of them as unfinished business, a loose strand in his life. So he took the time to get the address of the photographic companies returns department and packaged the pictures up to send back. Probably he meant to post them that morning but in all the excitement of his impending death he forgot about them. Then something else occurred to him, one with potentially more serious implications. The revolver still had all six bullets in it. He would have meant to get rid of five of them earlier. He only needed one to do the job and for reasons I'm sure you've worked out, Maddy, he didn't want to leave the others in the gun. So he took them out, and, having nowhere better to put them, he dropped them in the bin with the fake coded letter. He hoped everyone would assume they'd been left for him with the message to add a sinister something."

"Vincent Burton manufactured a cunning set up and shot himself. I can see that clearly now. But, and don't think too badly of me Jonathan, I can't for the life of me conceive how he disposed of the gun without outside help." Maddy looked at JC with the pleading eyes of a puppy dog that's been on a course to improve its emotional manipulation skills.

Jonathan looked serious. "You know I see things sometimes, and I don't realise their significance for hours or days? The image just bounces around in my head until it hits something and makes a connection."

"I know", said Maddy, "It's me who has to watch you staring off into space like a stunned sheep. So what piece of the jigsaw have I been missing, Mister smarty-pants? Come on Jonathan, put me out of my misery? How did he do it?!"

Jonathan kept eye contact with her and said a single word. "Balloons".

Her goldfish bottom lip wobbled for a moment and then fell still.

"The absolute bastard!" she exploded, slapping the steering wheel. "I knew it'd be something like that!"

Creek smiled back at her astonished face. It was always a kick for him to see her so utterly stunned. She looked so pretty that way, he thought for a moment, before quickly dismissing (for a while at least) the crazy idea of the two of them ever being an official item. He'd not last two weeks.

To finish his dissection of the crime, Jonathan continued. "He used balloons and that helium gas cylinder from his clown act. Carefully blew up thirty or so to the right size before he went downstairs to do his show, leaving them bobbing on the ceiling. That's all he needed to carry the gun from his hand and out of the window within a few seconds of shooting himself. He'd run one out of the window on a long piece of string and slide the others up to it using slipknots. Then he'd attach the gun, and maybe a cloth to keep the traces of gunpowder off of his hand, to the end of the string. He pulls the gun to his temple and Bang! The balloons lift and take the evidence of suicide up and away with them. It's so simple I'm shocked more people don't do it. While we were banging on the door we didn't hear the gun hit the window frame and leave that gouge I noticed. It's funny how something like that can make you think someone's struggled out through a window where in reality it's the weapon that's left that way. When I looked out of the window to see if I could see anything, it never occurred to me to look straight up. If I had I might have seen the balloons rising vertically in the still air. That's why five bullets were left behind in the room. It wasn't a matter of someone overplaying a threat, it was because Vincent didn't want to send a loaded gun out into the world to wander the jet-stream. When it eventually comes back to earth anyone could come across it."

Maddy had the glazed look of someone in the presence of Jonathan when he was in full flow. "It's all well and good explaining it to me, Jonathan, but without any real proof, how are we going to convince DI Fortune? That gun could be hundreds of miles away by now. It's not as if we can confront the cunning perpetrator in the smoking room with our laser-like insight. He's dead. Actually, now I come to mention it, how come when you do your 'wrapping-up-the-crime' routine, the guilty party always puts their hands up and says, 'I'll come quietly?' I don't know about you, but I'd make a run for it or ask for my Solicitor. The last thing I'd do is volunteer information that fills in the blanks for my accusers."

Jonathan looked at her in silent horror, his mind standing at the edge of some Truman Burbankian abyss. His voice faltered. "I, err, assumed it, um, was because they knew we had them cornered?"

Maddy broke into a smile, her own subconscious worries dispelled. "Yes", she beamed, "that's exactly what I thought."

They both slid out of Maddys decrepit Volvo and walked back towards the Police building to return Martins tape and for a showdown with DI Fortune.

"I suppose, " said Maddy, thinking aloud, "that the, err, financial irregularities, linked to Vincent Burton and Monty a few years ago involved the half of the partnership that no one would have believed possible of tax evasion?"

"Seems likely, doesn't it? He didn't sound happy at the thought of anyone going through his house with a fine toothed comb. Perhaps his mattress is stuffed with £50 notes?" commented Creek, his hair bouncing as he walked.

Maddy was happy. All the loose ends of a hectic two days appeared to have been tied up. There was just one more question left unanswered.

"One last thing, Jonathan. When we first broke into that dressing room", she said, "didn't I say the poor old bugger had killed himself?"

Jonathan kept walking and didn't turn to look at Maddy. "Yes you did", he replied curtly, seeing a 'Maddy shaped' dark tunnel of smugness open ahead of him, stretching on forever.

Maddys smile became Adam Klaus wide and threatened to make the top of her head fall off.

- - - o The End o - - -

Paul Smith. All rights reserved. January 2000.
Mail me:
Pauls0069@aol.com

EGO TRIP

Some nice things people have said about my JC stories.

Hi, I just finished reading your Jonathan Creek story, "Max Wall Hell" and absolutely loved it. The only thing missing was Danse Macabre playing in the background. The dialogue fit perfectly and the TV-show style of writing worked wonderfully. I even liked the break up of the story into two parts allowing the reader to take a stab at the solution. Personally, I almost had a handle on it when Jonathan stated that Vincent Burton had indeed killed himself. Knowing Burton's interest in Sherlock Holmes, I quickly tried to think about which stories of Doyle's dealt with such a crime. The answer was obviously "The Problem of Thor Bridge". It explained what happened to the gun (i.e. being whisked out the window) and that annoying little gouge in the window frame. But then why didn't someone find it when they were examining the drainpipe to see if a smaller man could climb down it? As Inspector Fortune said, "According to our measurements you were just able to squeeze through and cling onto the drainpipe before Mr. Creek and his friends smashed their way into the room." So we know the police did a through checkout of the area outside the room. (Indeed, having the drainpipe there was a great misdirection on your part.) I was stumped by my own knowledge of where Burton got his idea from. I kept trying to think of how someone could attach a gun to a rock by a string, have that gun fly out the window by the force of gravity, and then not be found. (Luckily, I wasn't desperate enough to conceive of anything too outlandish like an edible gun made out of birdseed or some such nonsense. For that I give myself a pat on the back.) But your solution and its connection with the opening sequence of the story was astonishing. "Of course!" I cried. And there it had been staring me in the face since the first sentence.

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time in writing "Max Wall Hell". It made my day.

--- Steven

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