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Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

March 2, 2012

An Inspector Blancmange Mystery

Part 1

"Ennui is the worst enemy of the active mind", Blancmange said as he stared out the window at the foggy London streets. His febrile mind craved stimulation and it had been weeks since our last case. Even his marijuana held no solace as he inhaled deeply from a large joint.

"Don't worry, Blancmange", I said encouragingly, "I'm sure some fiend will commit a heinous act any time now. Remember the case of the Dartmoor Ripper?"

"I remember very well, my dear Broadbeam! It's not every day that one matches wits with the Archbishop of Grottyham!"

"True. Just because he was a man of the cloth no one suspected him of over 900 mutilation murders committed in his own Bishopric. Looks can be deceiving!"

There was a knock at the door. Mrs. DeSoto, our housekeeper, entered with a tray.

"I brought some bubble and squeak, gentlemen! Just the thing for a gray, foggy day such as this!"

Thank you, Mrs. DeSoto!" I said. Just then there was another knock at the door and a most singular man stepped in. The stranger was tall and dark, wearing a befrogged topcoat and harlequin mask.

"Come in, Your Highness!" said Blancmange.

"Amazing! How did you know it was me, Inspector Blancmange?"

"Fundamental, Your Highness! Having recently published a monograph on befrogged topcoats I knew immediately that yours was made by Vexley and Chalmers, favorite topcoat makers of the crowned heads of Europe. Your distinctive monogrammed shoes suggested Central Europe. And, of course, your tobacco is a blend made exclusively for none other than Otto, Crown Prince of Saltalamacchia!"

"What about the mask?" I asked.

"He wears that all the time."

"Let me get right to the point, gentlemen", said the prince. "I'm being blackmailed. My solicitors, Bottomfeed, Pustule and Waxlips received this letter."

He handed the missive to Blancmange. "My dear Crown Prince. Some time ago you had an affair with a Dalmatian seamstress who turned out to be a real Dalmatian. That's nothing unusual among royalty these days, pretty tame compared to some I could name. But the fact that you were having an affair with a commoner could affect your image among your subjects. We think that a large land grant, say Bermuda, would go far in helping us forget where we put the tintypes."

"Curious! How was the letter delivered?"

"I'm told it was wrapped in a fish!"

"You mean used to wrap a fish?" I suggested.

"No, Colonel Broadbeam, wrapped in a fish. That's what makes it so singular! It would suggest I was being blackmailed by a fishmonger, would it not?"

"Or the fish is a red herring! Come, gentlemen, we must visit your solicitors!"

"What about your bubble and squeak?" said Mrs. DeSoto, who we had forgotten was still in the room.

"No time, Mrs. DeSoto, but some bangers and mash to go would be most welcome!"

We hailed a hansom cab and rode to Cheapside, where the prince's solicitors had rooms. The offices were lushly furnished with thick carpeting, flocked wallpaper, velvet drapes and urchin hide chairs. The head of the firm, Wedgewood Bottomfeed sat behind a large desk hand carved of the finest maple trimmed with narwhal ivory.

Bottomfeed leaned back and folded his flipper-like hands over his ample stomach. "Yes, gentlemen, this is indeed a mystery! The package was delivered to us with no return address."

Blancmange inspected the wrapping. "Hmm common butcher's paper,  cheap envelope and ha'penny foolscap paper, available at any stationer nothing distinctive, no postage or other markings. And the fish is one obtainable from any fishmonger in London."

"So we can throw out the fish? Cats are beginning to gather."

"That would be advisable."

"So, Inspector, how can we find this blackmailer before the tintypes are sensationalized in the tabloids?"

"We must set a trap, Your Highness!"

"But I have no such funds or holdings to use as a lure! To be honest, the treasury of Saltalamacchia is all but bankrupt! The market for our biggest export, fenugreek, has suffered since the RÇjaputanithÇn Poisoning of 1879. I fear a personal scandal would do irreparable harm to my nation!"

"Well, your fenugreek DID kill the entire province!" I said. Having spent time in India with the Royal Horse Marines I knew how overly sensitive the natives could be about such things.

Before the prince could reply Blancmange said "This runs much deeper than mere blackmail, Your Highness! Someone wants to bring down the entire monarchy of Saltalamacchia!"

"My family has ruled peacefully for seven generations, since Vsevolod the Dyslexic wrested rule from the Turks! Why would anyone want to do such a beastly thing?"

"We'll find out when we capture the miscreant. Come, gentlemen, we have no time to lose!"






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©2012 Brian Codagnone
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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Embrace the Pun.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics .. ..Books for Sale . Online Store..
The Cartoonists ..In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . .Number 9