11 Aug


fish and chips photo: when in london, must have fish and chips! 1set019.jpg


When Detective Sergeant Royston Williams retired at the early age of forty-three because of a heart murmur and a tendency to black out at the least appropriate times, he felt close to ending it all by jumping in front of a heavy road vehicle when he came upon a small boxed advertisement in The Chronicle Advertiser.

Detective Inspector in search of a qualified assistant for dangerous work at home and abroad. Reply ASAP to Inspector Blinky Curmudgeon at 221C Butcher Close, Badgerbrook. All serious applicants interviewed… and there was a box number.

Royston had never heard of a Blinky Curmudgeon and he was pretty sure he had come into some sort of contact with just about every Police Inspector in the county. So maybe he hailed from another county, maybe even the other end of the country, and needed a bit of local knowledge to establish a successful business in the lucrative field of private investigation.

This inauspicious little advertisement offered Royston a way out of the doldrums. Enforced premature retirement, even with a pension attached, had left him in the very pit of despair. He had always needed his work. It had occupied all of his life (except for the six months or so when he had been married to Eva, who had left him as a consequence of realising she wasn’t even second in their marriage – after his work (which was first) came the England Cricket Team (second) and fish and chips (a close third) – and she didn’t like being fourth. It was demeaning. It was offensive. So she packed her things, left him a tear-stained note in which she reminded him of some of her better physical attributes and suggested what he might be missing in the future, and went to live with a geriatric aunt in Lincolnshire.

So Royston Williams was more than keen to apply for the post of Assistant to this Inspector Blinky Curmudgeon.

After he had delivered the application to 221C Butcher Close (the only building on a cud-de-sac that, according to the address, ought to have contained a minimum of 220 more) he settled back to await for a reply, postponing his own promised suicide until he received some kind of response.

He didn’t have to wait long.

The very next morning he received a letter in a pale green envelope, and a sniff of its textured surface made him think of carnations on a summer’s day combined with a soupçon of pickled onions. But neither the colour nor aroma attracted him as much as the contents, which was typed:

frst dot, (it read) ,smu yjsmld gpt your applicsyopn. {;rsr csll at the above sfftrrdd sy upit leisure.

)signed) N Vit,ifhrpn. (Inspector)

“What in the name of all that’s shit-faced,” he thought to himself. “What kind of communiqué is this? Frst dot? What imbecilic test is this – for test it must be! That’s it! I applied for a vital job in international politics with the good Inspector Curmudgeon, and he has sent me this code as a test! I must break the damned code! I must show my mettle! Then I will get the post, and spend the rest of my time chasing international scallywags across the face of the planet!”

Royston Williams (sergeant, retired) spent the rest of the day puzzling over the strange message that had arrived that morning, and in the end he switched on his ancient computer (Amstrad CPC 464, cassette-tape loaded, creaking at every joint but just about functioning)

“I have a decoding program somewhere,” he mumbled to himself, “I will set this box of geriatric tricks to work pronto, and the message will be decoded, once I find the right tape…”

He poked around in this drawer and that drawer and, much to his own surprise, found the take entitled Code Breaking made easy, and inserted it into the tape compartment, and tapped control/enter to set it working. Then he waited as the electronic music of basic code graunched irritatingly from the speaker of the machine.

Now for the clever bit.

While he was waiting for his elderly computer to make some sort of sense of the tape, he stared just about unseeing at the keyboard, and it was in that unseeing state that his eyes located the groups of letters from the brief note he had strained his brain to make sense of.

“Of course…” he sighed. “The code is brilliant in its simplicity! The author has used the keys immediately to the right of the ones he wanted, and then occasionally, in order to throw me, typed a few of the correct ones! That is the test! A man of genius, like myself, might discover the code, or might not. I have! See: f-r-s-t is d-e-a-r! And then, when I make sense of the whole, the note says, quite clearly, that I am invited to an interview at the time of my own choosing, so in utter joy and jubilation I’ll satisfy my hunger and then think about when to go and triumph!”

He placed the original note on the table next to his computer, and underneath the letters wrote:

frst dot, (it read) ,smu yjsmld gpt your applicsyopn. {;rsr csll at the above sfftrrdd

dear sir, (he wrote) many thanks for your application. Please call at the above address

sy upit leisure.

at your leisure

)signed) N Vit,ifhrpn. (Inspector)

(signed) B Curmudgeon (Inspector)

“He’s a clever old sod,” he muttered to himself, “mixing a row of adjacent letters and then putting in a few of the right ones, just to confuse me! But the message is decoded! I know what I must do!”

Royston decided to leave it until the next day. After all, he’d spent the majority of that day trying to decode the message and he felt the need of a healthy dish of fish and chips to recharge his inner battery. To his mind, there was nothing like a lovely fillet of battered cod and a plate of slightly greasy chips with, as a luxury, the addition of a portion of mushy peas. Then salt and vinegar, and he considered it a meal fit for any branch of royalty you might care to mention.

The next day he awoke early. He was anxious to get to what he hoped would be a fruitful interview leading to an entry into the workforce of the nation, and a job in the world of detection was just the thing for him.

As he had noted when he delivered his application to the address in the advertisement by hand, there was only one building on Butcher Close despite the one he was going to being numbered 221C.

“This might almost be called strange,” he told himself as he made his way to the front door, paused thoughtfully for a moment, and then pressed the doorbell.

A voice from a small loud-speaker coughed and spluttered before settling into words:
“Who’s there?” it asked.

“I’ve come in response… about the job,” he blurted. He preferred not to blurt, but sometimes it just happened. He would open his mouth and instead of tidy, considered speech out would tumble a disorganised blurt.

“Push the door and enter,” ordered the loud-speaker, and he heard the door click as a remote switch was activated.

Inside, the place was dusty. It showed signs of considerable neglect, and a pile of unopened mail on a side-table made him wonder how on Earth his own application had been found and so rapidly replied to.

“In here!” a severe voice from within a room ahead of him called through a partly-open door, and he was so keen to get the interview over and his new position confirmed that he scurried straight into the oddest room he had ever seen.

There were sheets of paper everywhere, books in untidy piles where books should never be – supporting a table that only had two functioning legs of its own, two telephones with their handsets missing and a Newton’s cradle clicking in front of its only occupant.

The man sitting behind the desk was facing quite the wrong way when he addressed Royston.

“Mr Williams, I presume,” he boomed, as if he was expecting the wall behind him to respond.

“Er … yes,” stammered Royston.

The chair spun round in response to the sound of his voice, and he saw his potential employer for the first time.

Inspector Blinky Curmudgeon was smiling broadly and nodding his head and quite obviously as blind as a bat with a pair of blacked-out spectacles covering the part of his face normally reserved for eyes.

“Oh God,” sighed Royston, and he lowered himself, suddenly weary and with his heart murmuring, into the broken chair in front of the cluttered desk, and stared helplessly at the good Inspector.

© Peter Rogerson 11.08.14



  1. pambrittain August 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Oooohhhh, I’m going to love this new adventure.

    • Peter Rogerson August 12, 2014 at 8:27 am #

      I rather hope so, Pam. The only way I could think of making my detective different from all other fictional detectives was to make him blind.

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