Monday, 24 August 2009

Inspector Roland and the Case of the Green Plant

Inspector Roland paced back and forth in the narrow space between his desk and the door of his office, muttering to himself furiously and repeatedly clenching and unclenching his fists. It was around 7am, and the air was thick with the smoke of the many cigarettes that he had consumed or left smouldering in his overpopulated ashtray over the course of the night. The office window was painted shut, and opening the door would have restricted pacing space; besides which, Roland maintained that he could think more clearly in a low-oxygen environment, and his recent successes—in the Case of the Dirty Floor, the Case of the Rusty Hull and the Case of the Tasty Sturgeon—seemed, to him, to confirm this suspicion.

This case, the Case of the Green Plant, had been troubling Roland for almost two weeks. It was unusually convoluted. Mme Chloe Delphon, widow to the late Baron of Harcourt, had reported what seemed to be a straightforward burglary at her property; Roland had arrived to investigate, only to find that the single thing missing from the house was the colour green…or so Mme Delphon claimed. He was incredulous at first, but a thorough inspection of the property (Inspector Roland’s specialty) had revealed that there was, indeed, a complete absence of the colour in question, and since it was inconceivable that this had come about by chance, he was forced to accept the widow’s report.

And so had begun a fortnight of frenzied investigation. An expert in deduction, Roland had focused his efforts on thinking very hard about the limited evidence at his disposal; unfortunately, this had proved unfruitful. Exhausted by his efforts, and brought to the point of a nervous break, he had called in help from one of his habitual lovers, a botanist named Marie Vuitton. His hunch was that there was a naturalist angle to the case, since the colour green had such a close connection with plant life. However, the young lady was unable to offer any practical assistance, other than to provide him with the use of her delightful young body for a few hours.

Refreshed by the intense sexual encounter, Roland had redoubled his efforts: he directed his enquiries towards the city’s many arts & crafts shops, hoping to see whether anyone had attempted to fence a lot of green in the days following the break-in. A tip-off had taken him to a brothel in the red light district, an establishment that specialised in a service called “Abstract Sexpressionism,” which allowed paying gentlemen to create artistic works by covering the bodies of whores in paint then rolling around with them on huge sheets of paper. Roland had posed as a customer, but, although he had investigated every one of the sixteen girls working at the brothel, he had come away none the wiser as to the whereabouts of Mrs Delphon’s missing hue.

“Perhaps more smoking is needed,” thought Roland to himself, as he lit his first cigarette of the official working day. He opened the door of his office and called out into the hallway: “Jacques! Where are you, Jacques?!” There was a crashing noise, and a few moments later Roland’s beleaguered assistant appeared. “You called for me, Inspector?” he asked. Roland thrust his cigarette case into Jacques’ hands: “Here,” he said, “you must smoke all of these up at once!” “But Inspector! I don’t smoke!” Roland frowned in displeasure. “You will do as I say. Look, you’ll need a light.” He offered Jacques a match; the young assistant accepted it begrudgingly and drew in a lungful of smoke.


“Inspector, I really must know,” said Mme Delphon, her voice filled with admiration, “how was it that you identified the culprit?” Roland raised his head from between the widow’s plump thighs and dabbed at his mouth with a paper napkin. “It was quite simple. I suspected that it was someone close to me, since a villain will often conceal himself in plain view, as it were.” Mme Delphon acknowledged the inspector’s wisdom with a stately nod. “What’s more, I knew that my assistant was a great lover of colours, since he often remarks on the coordination of my outfits; all that I needed to do was to make him expose himself.” “And so,” finished Mme Delphon, “you gave him the cigarette knowing that he would be unable to conceal his treachery; that he would immediately turn green?” “That’s right. It’s a pity, because he was a good assistant. But one must remain ever vigilant; as soon as he’s returned all the green that he stole, he will be punished to the full extent of the law.” With that, Roland lowered his head again. Moments later, the halls of the widow’s manor were echoing with cries of pleasure.

The lovers fell back against the headboard, utterly depleted by their sexual explorations. Roland took two cigarettes in his mouth and lit them both; he handed one to Mme Delphon, who accepted it reluctantly. “I don’t usually indulge,” she protested, her voice strangely tremulous. “One must always smoke after making love,” replied Roland, “it helps to clear the head, and wards off unwanted pregnancies.” “Oh, but I really mustn’t; I’m not keen on gasses at all.” Roland seized the cigarette from her and playfully jammed it into her mouth; he held her jaw shut with one hand and her nose with the other. “You’ll smoke it and you’ll like it!” he commanded, with a smile.


“How on earth was it that you knew?” asked the Chief Inspector, his aged features assembled in a mask of perplexity. “It was a perfectly straightforward matter,” replied Roland. He began to describe how he had finally exposed the widow herself as the culprit, thereby exonerating the ill-fated Jacques and winning his lifelong loyalty. As he did so, his gaze drifted across his superior’s desk, alighting on a handsome potted plant. “I see that you are admiring my Pereskiopsis?” “Why yes; it’s very healthy looking. Very…” Roland looked back at the Chief Inspector to find that he had a revolver in his hand. “Not quick enough, my young friend!” There was a loud click as the old man pulled the trigger, but no bullet issued from the firearm. “A-ha!” cried Roland, victoriously.

Dedicated to Roland Le Good, on the occasion of his birthday.

No comments: