Gentle reader, it has been a long time since the previous parts of this tale were published. Perhaps they should not have been. But that nagging uncertainty notwithstanding, here are the 2 previous parts, for those foolish enough to venture where few have ever trod:
Inspector Corner, Detective Pong, Sergeant Hump and Constable Hall were all at Hump Hall, in Sussex. They had journeyed thence from Scotland Yard in the special Ford Anglia overhead camshaft pursuit vehicle, in pursuit of a solution to a most remarkable case.
This was the Case of the Exploding Butler of Hump Hall. Not only was Hump Hall the mansion whose butler had tragically exploded. It was also the stately home to which the crack Scotland Yard men had hurtled so keenly, and at which they had arrived.
All this was promising. Things were coming together. It was developing nicely.
They had received a call from Sussex Constabulary, and had journeyed far and wide in hot pursuit, what with being in full uniform and unable to open the windows. But they had arrived at length, which was very good. Had they arrived at breadth, it would have been less good, for nobody likes to arrive sideways at an aristocratic pile such as Hump Hall.
Lest there be any complacency, however, they had all heard a most dreadful explosion, which was the further explosion of none other than Fiste, the agency butler who had been taken on to replace the original exploding butler.
So here they were at last, following Lord Hump and the seven little Humps to the scene of the crime.
Inspector Corner and Detective Pong were troubled by the explosion of a second butler, so soon after the explosion of the first. As they approached the butler's quarters, they whispered their concerns.
'Pong', said Inspector Corner. 'This is bad. To have a second butler explode, hard on the heels of the explosion of the first, is a very bad business.'
'It would have been even worse', replied Pong, 'if the second butler had exploded before the first. Now that would have been a real snorter. But what really worries me is the children.'
'What? The seven little Humps?' asked Corner. 'True, the fact that they all have beards is very suspicious. And as for those tattoos on the youngest girl...'
'It's not the beards or the tattoos', corrected Detective Pong. 'It's the nicotine stained fingers and the boozy breath that makes me wonder.'
They were interrupted by Constable Watt, of Sussex Constabulary, who was coming out of the butler's parlour. 'It's not pretty in there, Gov'nor', he said to Inspector Corner. 'There's claret everywhere.'
'Ah', said Corner, shaking his head, so that his ejaculation gained a haunting, tremulous quality, akin to the wail of a goat lost in mist. 'He's been helping himself to His Lordship's wine cellar has he? I knew drink would be at the bottom of it.'
'Yes, it's usually at the bottom of the cellar, is the wine', added Pong, nodding sagely.
'No', said Watt. 'Blood. There's blood everywhere. Look!'
They tried to peer through the doorway. There was a door in the way. Having opened it, they saw that the butler's parlour was a most terrible confusion of smashed furniture, crockery, and smouldering human remains, most of which seemed to be smeared over the walls and floor. Lord Hump and the seven little Humps were standing in the parlour, going through the wreckage, as if in search of something.
'So these are the butler's quarters?' asked Inspector Corner.
'Quarters, man?' said Lord Hump. 'Quarters? He's been blown to smithereens, never mind quarters!'
'What are you looking for?' asked Corner.
'The apostle spoons, if you must know', answered Lord Hump. 'They have been handed down through the generations. They are our most treasured heirlooms, first brought back from the silversmiths of the Low Countries in the early 18th century by my ancestor, Sir Brandreth Hump.'
Inspector Corner looked at Detective Pong. Pong looked at Sergeant Hump. Sergeant Hump looked at Constable Hall. Constable Hall was not there, he had been left on guard at the front door, so the looking at each other business broke down there. They would have to try something else.
'What makes you think the spoons will be here?' asked Corner, his voice like a rapier.
'He was cleaning them when he exploded,' responded Lord Hump, directing the little Humps to scour the destroyed contents of the parlour.
Corner was not to be deflected so easily. 'Why should you entrust such valuable articles to the doubtful ministrations of a mere agency butler? Surely you would only allow them to be cleaned by a long-standing maid, or valet?' His stare was that of a basilisk.
Lord Hump frowned and shrugged. Shrugging, he frowned. Shrugging off the frowns, he shrugged a fourth time. 'Really, Inspector, one would think you were driving at something. Do you think I am trying to steal my own apostle spoons or something? We were going to enter them at the Hassocks Antique Cutlery Show and they needed to be cleaned in a hurry. Poor old Bindweed was to have done the honours, had he not exploded himself yesterday. This agency man was reckoned to be quite the thing in cutlery. He looked after Lord Hangnail's toasting fork collection last year, you know. I really don't think I need any lessons in recruitment or cutlery entrustment from a mere Inspector of Police. Now, if you don't mind, I'd be grateful if you could get on with investigating this awful crime and leave us to our search.'
Detective Pong sighed. 'Come on, Sir', he said, gently, 'perhaps we'd better...'
'Yes, of course, Pong', said Corner. 'Let's go outside. I need to speak to you.'
'Do come back soon', called Lord Hump, as they left the butler's parlour. 'We really would value your august judgement on the affair, when you have a minute.'
Just then a cacophony of high-pitched wailing echoed from somewhere deep within the bowels of Hump Hall. 'What was that?' hissed Sergeant Hump.
'The owls and badgers in the West Wing', shouted Lord Hump. 'I've already told you about them, gentlemen. Perhaps you think that was a lie too, eh, Inspector?'
They stood outside once more, as dusk descended like a velvet curtain. Already, bats flitted about the gargoyles. The crow and the widgeon encircled the ruined West Wing yet again.
Inspector Corner paced up and down the gravelled drive.
Detective Pong cleared his throat. 'Look, Sir, there's something I need to tell you."
"Not now, Pong", snapped Inspector Corner. "Can't you see I am pacing up and down?"
"Yes, Sir", said Pong, hesitantly. "But..."
"Spit it out then, man!" growled Corner.
"Well, Sir", began Pong. "This gravelled drive that you are pacing up and down on."
"What about it", cried Corner, his voice pitched like the lone wolf in the Canadian pines.
"Have you noticed that it is not what we would call proper gravel?"
"By Gad, you're right!" yelled Corner, like a dismayed bear. "Well done, Pong! How do you come to be an expert on gravel?"
"My Uncle worked for an importer of fine gravels", explained Pong. "You can tell these are not real gravels by the way they are lying."
"Yes, I see that now", said Corner. "That is very suspicious. But wait - where is the local man, whatsisname?"
"Yes, Watt is his name", agreed Pong.
"I don't know, I was asking you", observed Corner.
"What?" said Pong
"That's it, Watt!" cried Corner.
"Ah, yes, I realise now - you mean whatsisname's name is Watt!" realised Pong after a short interlude.
Corner blenched. He felt better after that. "And where are Hump and Hall? It will be dark soon, and we don't want them staying up beyond their bed times."
"I don't know, Sir", admitted Pong. "We left Hall guarding the front door, I seem to recall, but there has been no mention of Hump since the opening paragraph. Perhaps they have both been the victim of an oversight. Shall we investigate?"
"Who said that?" asked Corner. The dusk fell quickly in that part of Sussex.