Lord Peter Flimsy sighed. "Oh dash it, Shunter, I've forgotten me posset pot catalogue. We shall have to go back, don't you know!"
"Very good, your Lordship." Percy Shunter, former batman and now butler, butler and former batman, once batman, now butler, now butler, once batman, gritted his teeth (he kept a supply of grit in his pocket; the old toothy-pegs could get dashed slippery at this time of year, even if it was July). Teeth freshly gritted, Shunter - who had been Lord Peter's loyal batman in the War and was now his loyal butler - stood on the brakes.
Three miles further down the road to Drakes Bottom, the Daimler double-six finally ground to a halt. Fifteen minutes later, having executed a seventeen-point turn in the narrow lane, Shunter, sweating like a pig, said hoarsely: "Shall we head back now, your Lordship?"
"Well, who'd have thought it, Shunter?" said Lord Peter. "It's all been a jolly old cock-up, don't you know. I've got me catalogue after all, old horse! It was in me back pocket all this time. Thought there was somethin' odd goin' on in me trousers, what! That's a relief, eh?"
Shunter gritted his teeth again. "Very good, sir", he said, through the gritted teeth. "You dim-witted arsehole", he thought. "You chinless tosser." But his loyalty would never allow him to utter such thoughts.
Half an hour later, after a nineteen-point turn back round again, Shunter got the Daimler going once more, in the direction of Drakes Bottom again. There were only two ways you could travel on that road - towards Drakes Bottom, or away from it - and, now that they had turned around, they were set on the course that led towards the village.
Well, strictly speaking, when I say "they had turned around", it was Shunter who had done that: Lord Peter hadn't exactly done much to help in the matter of the nineteen-point turn.
They had travelled about a hundred yards when Lord Peter spoke again. "Damn it all, Shunter! I've left me shootin' stick in the umbrella stand and me cigarette case on the what-not. Can't investigate a double murder without me shootin' stick and cigarette case, what, eh, Shunter, old fruit?"
While all this was going on in the back, there was a fearsome amount of tooth-gritting taking place in the cockpit of the gigantic Daimler. Finally, Shunter spoke through his unfeasibly-gritted teeth. "Inspector Alcarrs insisted your Lordship be at Fritheringfordford Hall by ten o' clock, your Lordship. They can't keep the crime scene undisturbed much longer. Lady Phyllis Frith-Fritheringfordford is hysterical and Lord Finlay Frith-Fritheringfordford has locked himself in the wine-cellar."
Lord Peter's ears pricked up. The surgery had not been a success. "Oh bother and blast and damn and dash it, Shunter, I shall have to smoke Lord Finlay Frith-Fritheringfordford's turkish cigs and borrow one of his bally awful Japanese shootin' sticks don't you know old chap, what! Good job I didn't forget me hat, what? I shudder to contemplate havin' to borrow one of his dashed horrendous Hamburgs!"
"Hombergs, your Lordship."
"What? I thought they were cigars? Oh, well, they're simply not the thing, wherever he buys the damned articles. Make one look like a racin' tout. But anyway, what's all the fuss about? Surely, old Frith-Fritheringfordford is always lockin' himself in the wine cellar? What's different this time, eh what?"
The supply of grit was already running low as Shunter swung the Daimler round the hairpins and into Drakes Bottom. "He's got Sergeant Bladder and Constable Plumbago in there with him, your Lordship."
Lord Peter quailed. It was the only bird he could impersonate. Then he spoke to his butler. "I say, Shunter, why are your drivin' the Daimler? You're the butler, not the bally chauffeur, eh?"
Shunter frowned into the rear-view mirror. Yes, there really was a prize upper-class twit in there asking all these stupid questions. "Begging your Lordship's pardon, your Lordship, but your Lordship doesn't have a chauffeur, or a gardener, or a footman, or a single brain cell in his gormless aristocratic bonce. I have to do all of these things for your Lordship, including all your thinking. I'm surprised that you can manage to wipe your own arse."
Well, he thought all those things, but he only said them up to the word "footman", and after that he said, "and so that is why I do all of these things, your Lordship."
"That's the spirit, Shunter, old bean", beamed Lord Peter. "Where would I be without me trusty sidekick, eh?"
"God knows. You don't know your arse from your elbow, your Lordship", thought Percy Shunter. What he said was: "Here's the gates of the estate, your Lordship. Now, are you sure you're fully informed about the crime before we go in?"
Lord Peter frowned. It was like a blancmange collapsing from the inside. "Eh, Shunter, how do you mean, old toasting-fork?"
Shunter sighed. He couldn't grit his teeth any more. The grit had run out. "Well, begging your pardon, your Lordship, but I am thinking of the Humpington Affair, when we went to the wrong murder and nearly had the dead man arrested."
Lord Peter quailed again. He was getting rather good at it. He would have to use it as a party piece when he went up to McDrivvel's for the grouse-shooting. The ladies would love it. "All right, Shunter, old mammoth, point taken. Time for a briefin', what? Synchronise watches, check ammo, that kind of form, eh?"
Shunter piloted the gargantuan automobile along the oak-fringed drive that led to Fritheringfordford Hall. Deer peered. Owls howled. Widgeons and pigeons widgeoned and pigeoned. Shunter breathed deeply, and spoke.
"This is a most bewildering case, your Lordship, which has the local police baffled, the family and their guests in paroxysms of horror, and the locality shocked into silence. Fotheringay and Farquar Frith-Fritheringfordford, the twin sons of Lord Finlay Frith-Fritheringfordford and Lady Phyllis Frith-Fritheringfordford of Fritheringfordford Hall, were late for breakfast this morning. When they failed to appear, they were found in the attic by Rogers the butler. Both had been beheaded. Fotheringay was on the floor by the working model of a guillotine that has been in the family since the French Revolution. Farquar was in the guillotine. Both heads were in the basket by the machine."
Lord Peter quailed a third time. "Dash it all, Shunter. I might have known the pesky Frogs would have a hand in all this. People losin' their heads right, left and centre - typical of the Galls, eh? But who else is here, apart from the family, eh?"
Shunter looked at the notes he had taken from his phone call from the Inspector. Then he looked back at the drive. It was dangerous, reading notes while driving a Daimler double-six. He passed the notes back to Lord Peter.
"Ah, so there's Inspector Colin Alcarrs, Sergeant Bladder, Constable Plumbago, and, let's see:
Rogers the butler
Sir William Deadletter
Miss Lily Quivering
The Reverend Gideon Fishkettle-Watt
Cecil and Ethel Bethel
"Well, Shunter", mused Lord Peter, this is a fine carry-on, eh? A bit odd, what? Such a bally big house and they can only afford sundry servants? You'd have thought they could have servants for every day of the week, eh?"
"Maybe the butler does it all, like I have to with you, you cretinous inbred lunatic", thought Shunter, but, being admirably loyal, he didn't voice his thoughts.
They drove along the now-gravelled drive that swung round and in front of Fritheringfordford Hall. The Hall was a neo-Elizabethan Gothic Georgian Victorian pile. A terrible atmosphere of dread and foreboding lay over the house. The gardeners had just been speading dung on the vegetable garden.
Lord Peter emerged from the Daimler and walked up to the portico. Shunter did not accompany him, being too busy getting all the luggage out of the Daimler.
Lord Peter stared at the ancient monument by the enormous oaken door. It was the butler, Rogers.
"I'm Lord Peter Flimsy", said Lord Peter Flimsy. Sometimes he amazed himself with his rapier intelligence.
"Good morning, Sir, I am Rogers, the butler", said Rogers, the butler.
"Hello, Rogers, old deerstalker", said Lord Peter. "I'm Lord Peter Flimsy."
Shunter, dragging the suitcases towards the dramatic scene, thought it was time he intervened. They would be here all morning otherwise.
"We've come about the twins. Inspector Colin Alcarrs is expecting us."