"Inspector Livingstone-Stanley I presume!" I ejaculated (where was Mrs Dudson with her cloth when you needed it).
The Inspector winced, as he always did when I made this joke (the David Livingstone joke, not the ejaculation joke - the latter is just between me and you).
Inspector Stanley Livingstone-Stanley was all for bursting into the parlour to see Shylock Humes, but I was able to forestall him. Those four stalls we had had installed four years ago had come in handy at last.
"Don't disturb him just now, Inspector, he's thinking", I forestalled.
"Well, there isn't really time for forestalling, doctor", said Livingstone-Stanley. "But seeing as how we are now here installed in one of these here four stalls you and Mr Humes had installed here four years ago, we may as well make use of the situation in which we finds ourselves, and proceed forthwith with due caution."
"I don't know what you are talking about", I replied.
"I know, doctor", said the policeman. "It is the manner in which we were trained to speak at the Training College at Lyme Regis. It does have the advantage of delineating my somewhat pedestrian and hidebound character, by way of contrast to the quicksilver nature of Mr Humes, in the story though, doctor."
I was forced to agree. It's written here.
Half an hour later, Livingstone-Stanley had told me why he had come, and we were trying to force our way out of the stall. The door was stiff, through lack of use. I promised to oil the hinges, and Livingstone-Stanley summed up the case that had brought him to 221B Candlestick Maker Street.
"One thing doctor", he said.
"What?" I asked.
"Candlestick Maker Street is a proper mouthful. Couldn't they have come up with a snappier name?"
"Ah", I said. "Baker Street has already been done, and Butcher Street sounds like an alley in a cheap Jack The Ripper story."
"Jack The Who?", the Inspector asked.
"It hasn't happened yet", I said. "Crime of the century when it does."
He smiled. "You've been working with Humes so long you are beginning to sound like him, doctor Flotsam!"
"Talking of Humes", I said, "can you sum up the case you want him to work on?"
"Well, it sounds trivial, at first glance, but there's something in the smell of the way it feels", he replied. "I can't get a clear sense of it, you see. I'm hoping Mr Humes..."
"But what is the case?" I urged.
"It's a leather attache from Blackstocks of Purgatory Street, since you ask, I'm very pleased with..."
"No, no. The investigation!" (I managed to forestall an ejaculation, the stalls proving a boon yet again).
"Sorry, doctor, but it's a great little leather case: roomy yet with superb portability; strong yet versatile; perfect for business or personal use, the "Napoleon Attache Case" is the ...."
"Oops, silly me! Anyway, it's all to do with Lord Clinker, of Clanker Hall."
"Not Babysham Castle?"
"No. That's his brother, near Hassocks, in Sussex, who is Lord Clinker of Clunker. This Lord Clinker, of Clanker, in Lancashire, is a different Clinker."
"No branches in Wales?" I enquired. Things were beginning to make sense.
"Ah, the ancestral pile of the Clinkers is in Llandrinndrbdrioddnagg in Central Wales", he said. "The matter hinges upon the claim by Lord Clinker of Clanker that Lord Clinker of Clunker has purloined his budgerigar. They have quite fallen out over it. We suspect that it is all a plot by the butler of the Welsh patriarch. For you see, doctor, the elder Lord Clinker of Llandrinndrbdrioddnagg, father of the contending brothers, has drawn up a will in which the son who has possession of the Clinker budgerigar at the time of the death of the patriarch Lord Clinker of Llandrinndrbdrioddnagg will inherit the Llandrinndrbdrioddnagg estate."
He paused for breath, and continued. "Now, it may appear to be a simple case of the brothers squabbling over possession of Hereward."
"The Clinker budgerigar, doctor. He is passed around the family estates on a rota basis. With respect to the will, it is almost a matter of a kind of Russian Roulette involving a budgerigar instead of a loaded pistol, if you see what I mean."
"Or musical budgerigars", I suggested, in an attempt to help. "Or pass the budgerigar. Or..."
"With respect, doctor", he interrupted, "this is getting a bit silly now."
"Well, I think I see it", I murmured. "Though as St Paul said: 'For now we see through a glass, darkly'".
"Well, yes, these upper windows could do with a clean", Livingstone-Stanley said.
"I'll have a word with Mrs Dudson", I said. "But back to probing the Clinkers. Do you suspect deeper depths?"
"Well, yes. You see, we have discovered that the old father's butler, Herring, stands to inherit the lot if the brothers are not 'on good and peaceable terms' when the old boy passes away.
"We think he may be behind the purloining. He may have salted away Hereward to cause friction."
Livingstone-Stanley sighed. "These are murky waters, doctor, and we need your friend to chart our way through them. This butler was a revolutionary communist in his youth, and people like that will stop at nothing less than the destruction of the very fabric of our aristocratic establishment.
"Do you think he'll help?"
"He already is."
"What do you mean?"
"Shylock Humes is already working on the Case Of The Purloined Budgerigar."
Livingstone-Stanley grimaced all over his ratlike face, and shook his ratlike head. He squeaked like a rat (do you think that's one too many rat references? Perhaps you're right).
"Good Lord, doctor Flotsam! He's always one step ahead of us. But we're not jealous of him at Scotland Yard, we're proud of him, and if he wants to come round tomorrow, there's not one officer who wouldn't gladly shake his..."
"Inspector, isn't this sort of thing better left until the end of the story?" I interrupted.
"Yes, of course, doctor. Perhaps we should speak to Mr Humes now."
"Quite so", I urged. "It is high time we had some action in this story. It's been all talk and back story up to now."
But when we entered the parlour, Shylock Humes was nowhere to be seen.