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The dramatic request made, all I had to do was raise the necessary cash. A raid on my flat yielded two pounds sixty-eight pence and five francs. I rummaged through a pile of envelopes on the lounge floor, my alfresco filing cabinet, pulled the latest bank statement. I was ten pounds in the black with a five hundred overdraft. I spread the cash and statement across the coffee table – a couple of footstools pushed together, sat in the flat’s only armchair and considered the situation.
“Oh bugger,” I muttered, “I’m in trouble unless mum can lend me nearly five hundred quid.” As it happened, she could, but would want to know the reason why and had a knack of knowing when I was lying.
See what I mean?
“You want to make a donation to the Society For The Protection Of Dead Camels?”
“Deaf camels, I found out about them when I spent some time in North Africa.”
“A ten-day package holiday in Tunisia.”
“Yeah, I know, but saying ‘time in North Africa’ sounds more impressive.”
Well it did, I wasn’t being self-important, just pointing out that I had traveled in foreign parts.
“Tell me the truth, Endurance.”
Alright now you know, my full name is Endurance Conan Doyle. Wincing at the sound of my first name, I told her the truth. Mum sat without speaking for about five minutes. When the sixth minute had died, I realized Mum had fallen asleep and nudged her. She had this weird habit of sleeping with her eyes open.
“I was telling you the truth.”
“Oh, that. Hmm, very well, I’ll lend you the balance, but I want fifty per cent of your cut.”
“Including the loan amount, of course.”
“Oh, I suppose so.”
“Good boy, now turn around.”
I never dared ask where she kept her funds, it seemed to involve a good deal of rustling and twanging and bad language.
“Here you are son.”
I turned back to find her holding a fistful of twenty-pound notes.
I kissed her cheek, stuffed the money into an inside pocket and left humming, ‘I’m In The Money’.
The next day, I repurchased the prints, returned to my office and sat with all seven notes in front of me. I heard a noise in the outer office and scrambled the prints into a desk drawer. Food-on-legs strolled in, I grinned at her, and produced the notes again,
“Top o’ the morning to you, Miss Leese, or should I say Miss Sleaze?” It had taken me half the night conjure up this laconic pun.
She shrugged her shoulders, they reminded me of roast chicken,
“Call me what you like. You worked it out then?”
“Piece o’ cake, shweetheart.” I drawled, “The real treasure you dropped under my nose, and showed me a fake sculpture. You figured I’d suspect the notes and get them checked. Having found out they were forgeries, you knew I couldn’t bank them, so I’d keep ‘em here until you showed up again.”
“Excellent, Mr Doyle.” The lady clapped her hands, “Only one point missing.”
“Yeah,” she pointed to the prints, “they are forgeries.”
I rolled my eyes to the heavens,
“Yes, I know they are.”
“No, Mr Doyle, they really are forgeries.”
“I wish you’d get a grip, Miss Leese, what?” Something horrible had occurred to me.
“Jack Stevens is my cousin and I was visiting him when that robbery of the ‘350 set’ happened.” She waved a hand vaguely, “I travel about a lot and I’m a bit short of funds at the moment.”
I was making goldfish impressions by now.
“Jack could knock out passable imitations of those notes. All we needed was somebody gullible enough to hand over a couple of them for a few pounds and he immediately thought of you. Jack takes three hundred, I take seven.”
“I oh, I…” My part in this conversation was restricted to machine code.
“So, quite frankly Mr Doyle, you can stop looking at me like I’m food and start working out how to pay back your momma and the bank.”
She left the office with an airy, “Oh, and you can keep the prints.”
I sat, stunned. Done, stitched up, screwed, blued and tattooed. Me, Conan Doyle, the ‘not-famous-yet-but-it’s-only-a-matter-of-time’ private detective.
I put my feet up on the desk to write my notes. ‘I guess the dame thought I wouldn’t realize I was being taken for a sucker and she was right. But the fact is that there is no ‘Virginity’ sculpture – as I had surmised earlier. So, in spite of everything, I have solved the case of the stolen ‘Virginity’ to my satisfaction. Furthermore, they’ll be sorry when I’m dead, I can envision them weeping at my graveside’ A treacherous thought kicked in, ‘Yeah, but only because they forgot the dance music.’
In five hundred years time, most of us will be forgotten dust. But Hitler will still be remembered, God loves irony.