Written by Erskin Quint
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Monday, 28 May 2012

image for The Exploding Butler of Hump Hall, Part II Inspector Corner knew that badgers don't wail, they roar like lions, only quieter. The bearded children, too, were suspicious

Inspector Corner, Detective Pong, Sergeant Hump and Constable Hall had all journeyed from Scotland Yard in the special Ford Anglia overhead camshaft pursuit vehicle, in response to a call from Sussex Constabulary about an exploding butler.

The Ford Anglia had a synchromesh gearbox and vacuum-powered windscreen wipers and it was a remarkable vehicle. It inspired many remarks, especially when people saw the roof-mounted vacuum cleaner that powered the windscreen wipers (this was the deluxe GT model, where the wipers operated even when it wasn't raining; it had replaced the unreliable previous model, where the wipers didn't operate, even when it was raining). There were other remarks, too, as they went about their business.

When they stopped for petrol at Plymouth, the man in the Petrol Station said: 'What are you doing here? You must be lost. Get that off my forecourt, this isn't a scrap yard.'

At Preston, they were overtaken by a milk float. Sergeant Hump tried to do the milkman for speeding, but they couldn't catch him up.

At Uttoxeter, a man mowing his lawn who looked like Captain Ahab cried out: 'What brings the likes of ye unto my very lawn? If ye be none of ye harpooneers, nor can bring me news of the White Whale, then begone, ye landlubbers, whence ye came.'

Yes, they had journeyed far and wide, from Scotland Yard.

But that was not all. Far from it. Not only had they journeyed. They had also arrived. Eventually. This was truly astounding. And, to add insult to injury, they had arrived at Hump Hall, near Rottingdean, in Sussex.

Hump Hall was the residence of Lord Hump. Lord Hump was the very lord whose very butler was the one who had apparently exploded, and started all this nonsense. The Scotland Yard men now stood upon the gravelled drive of Hump Hall. Lord Hump stood in the doorway of Hump Hall, along with all the little Humps.

So it really was finally all coming together.

'It really is all coming together' exclaimed Sergeant Hump, who was listening to the radio of the Ford Anglia pursuit vehicle.

'What?' asked Detective Pong.

'Did someone say my name?' asked Constable Watt of Sussex Constabulary.

Nobody laughed. Which was just as well, since he wasn't joking. Joe King was the barman of the Eel Throttler's Arms, at Little Nibbling, 5 miles away. It would have been ridiculous if the barman of the Eel Throttler's Arms had been standing there dressed as Constable Watt. That would have meant that Constable Watt would have been behind the bar of the Eel Throttler's Arms, drinking all the profits, instead of being here, drinking all the sarsaparilla.

Sergeant Hump interjected. 'I said, "it's all coming together"', he said.

'Shut up, Hump', cried Inspector Corner, 'you're not here to offer an opinion on the case, you're only here to do the legwork. When the severed legs start turning up, as they always do in these cases, then we'll ask for your opinion.'

'But we didn't bring any cases', said Hump.

Then, seeing his mistake, he said: 'No Sir, it's the radio. Reception is poor, but I think The Yard's sending a message. It must be the case of the Westminster orgy. They're all coming together.'

Corner sighed. It was going to be a long night. 'You fool', he said. 'That can't be the Yard, we're out of range. You're listening to "Thirty Minute Theatre". Turn it off before you flatten the car battery like an idiot.'

'I've never flattened an idiot in my life', thought Hump, bitterly, but he did as he was told.

'It really is all coming together, though, isn't it, Sir?', asked Constable Hall, with a smug glance.

'I told you to leave your knitting at the Yard you twit', cried Detective Pong. 'This is no time to be making a balaclava.'

This technical discussion was interrupted by the tremulous voice of Lord Hump. 'I say, you chaps', he said, tremulously. 'Are you the police?'

Inspector Corner went over. He had tripped over a wandering peacock. Once he had got back up, he said, 'bloody peacocks!' Then he said, 'bloody gargoyles!' for he had immediately tripped over a gargoyle that had fallen off the house.

But finally he got to where Lord Hump and all the little Humps stood. He blinked in astonishment. There was nobody there any more. They had all gone over to listen to Thirty Minute Theatre with Sergeant Hump.

But it was all right. Finding that Sergeant Hump had switched off the radio and that there was nothing to listen to, they were soon back in the doorway. This was fortunate. If they had stayed with the Sergeant, there would have been a lot of confusion over which Hump was which.

Detective Pong came across. He looked at the little Humps. 'What a nice lot of children', he said.

'Yes', said Lord Hump. 'When we were thinking of having children, all our friends kept making jokes about "one Hump or two". So we had a child to stop all that business. We started with just the one. My friends then called me "dromedary", because of the one Hump. So we decided to have another. Then they called me "bactrian" because I had the two Humps. That is why we went on to have the full seven. Having stanched all the "one Hump or two" nonsense, we then had to stop all the camel horseplay.'

Pong frowned. He was no fool. This was suspicious. 'But you could have done that by just having the three. You didn't need to have seven for that.'

Lord Hump smiled. 'Ah, but I couldn't keep my hands off the wife, and we haven't got a television.'

Inspector Corner looked on in silence. It was better than looking off. The last time he had looked off, he had been sent home on sick leave. He took out his notebook. It was cheaper than taking his wife out, the gluttonous besom, not to mention Lord Hump and all the little Humps. He would never get that expenses claim past the Chief.

The Chief was a real tartar, he recalled. Then he thought how odd it was to have a Senior Scotland Yard officer who was part Sioux and part Siberian.

As he made notes in his notebook, he asked himself, 'Why am I using musical notation when I would be better employed utilising shorthand?'

But it was important to document everything, even if he did always feel a bit of a chump when he had to sing out his notes in court afterwards. It was important to get everything recorded. This Lord Hump was cleverer than he looked. He might be taking them for a ride with all this talk of "camel horseplay".

Lord Hump spoke again. 'But surely we don't want to be standing out here all night exchanging pleasantries. After all, the housemaid has just reported that the agency butler has now exploded. I am sure you will allow that to have two butler explosions is worthy of investigation without any further ado.'

The crow and the widgeon encircled the ruined West Wing once again. From somewhere within the crumbling edifice, there came a terrible, demented wailing.

Detective Pong frowned. 'What was that?' he asked.

Lord Hump shook his head. 'We have owls and badgers in there. We can't get rid of them. They're protected, you know. Even though the blighters are in our property, we have no jurisdiction. But let us go in, gentlemen.'

Lord Hump turned, and went in, followed by all the little Humps. Corner looked at Pong. Pong looked at Corner. Something was afoot. It was a ruler, one of the little Humps must have dropped it.

Corner whispered to Pong: 'Keep your eye on His Lordship. That was no badger just then. They don't wail. They roar like lions, only quieter.'

Pong looked at Inspector Corner. 'But it might have been an owl. I heard one of them once, in a churchyard in Whitby.'

'What were you doing in a churchyard in Whitby?' asked Inspector Corner.

'I wasn't', replied Pong. 'It was a tape recording.'

'A tape recording?' asked Corner. 'What of?'

'An owl', replied Pong.

'Why were you listening to a tape recording of an owl?' asked Corner.

'It was evidence', said Pong.

'What of?' asked Corner.

'Murder', said Pong. 'A grave digger was being murdered while the owl was singing. The murderer forgot he had left his tape recorder running.

'Funny thing is', continued Pong, 'he tried to argue that the recording was just a nature study. He said the noises were owls and badgers, when actually it was owls and someone being garrotted and dismembered in a graveyard.'

The two exchanged glances. Finding that they were a poor fit, they swapped them back again, and the nonsense continued.

'Well remembered, Pong', whispered Inspector Corner. 'We're in deep waters here, I reckon. We...'

He was interrupted by the return of one of the little Humps.

'Papa says will you please follow him to the scene of the crime', said the child, before turning and walking back inside.

'I don't like the look of those kids either', said Corner.

'Why not?' asked Pong.

'Well', explained Corner. 'They've all got beards. And did you clock the tattoos on the youngest girl?'

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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