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My name is Typhoid Mary. At least, that's what Inspector Greenfields calls me. To hear him talk, you'd think I leave a trail of bodies behind me. He's a big slug of a man, whose cleverness is exeeeded only by the size of his feet. I think Inspector is his first name. Bit like Duke Ellington, who wasn't a pommy peer.
The way he tells it, if I start a new job, somebody dies. Manager. Receptionist. Client. When I move into a new house, a neighbour, a visitor or a tradesperson dies. If I go on a trip, one of the tour party, the guide or driver, or a hotel guest carks it. And for most of the investigation, I'm the one to blame. No alibi, or one that's so rocky it's ignorable. Let's face it, there are a lot of slimy, manipulative, snobbish or just plain boring people in the world (not just Greenfields), so even for someone as easy-going as me, there is always someone I don't have much time for. The only way I can get off the hook is to snoop around until I find someone that Greenfields' boss agrees has better motive, opportunity and skills in execution than me.
It doesn't help that most of my cases have been written up in a big way. Best-sellers. Documentaries on pay TV.
The Arnold case is pretty famous. Lestrade Arnold. Meek, mild bespectacled accountant. Everybody in the office swore by him. To an outsider, no way he wasn't running a scam. Simon Clitheroe. Managing Director. Hail fellow well met. Handshake like jelly. Panic merchant. Penelope Prescott, ruthlessly clawing her way through the glass ceiling. Cameron Akmal, overcommitted to three mortgages and ten sets of child support. Somebody started a few rumours, and there was a high dive from a fourth floor balcony into the atrium. Turned out that Arnold and his mate the IT manager were retiring all the office computers early and flogging them off at computer fairs. They'd sold someone their own work computer, and he got shitty.
Cindy Morton, the bride in the bath. She was loaded. The new husband had damn all, at least in comparison, though he had a good job. Her family disapproved totally. She slipped or was dragged under water, and drowned. The giveaway was that she didn't take baths. Nobody in the house did. They used the shower stall next to the bath. But it wasn't hubby that got nailed. It was mother-in-law. Attributed to a jealous fit.
Then there was Sedley. Ran a superannuation fund. Ran into trouble because his clients were living longer than the actuaries had said they would, so he started to "normalise" a few life expectancies. Death on the dot. All accidents of course. Great for the bottom line.
That's not all of them, by any means, but you get the idea.
It wasn't just me, of course. We're a team. Gertrude, biggest gossip known to human kind. Sponge for inadvertently supplied information. One case, Greenfields targetted her, but she's bigger than him, and told him exactly where he could go. Randal. Dominating, protective type, forever trying to stop me "for my own good". Thought Greenfields was "very good". He died in our last case. Collateral damage, courtesy of a police raid. I don't miss him. And Bastet. Cat with class. No time for visiting murderers. Spits at Greenfields on sight.
Greenfields latest stunt was hiring a statistics whizz. Deep and meaningful analysis which shows that that the probability of me being at all these incidents by chance is vanishingly small. So they set up a Typhoid Mary Task Force to see if they could uncover the links. Not just cops. Everything from sociologists and ethnographers to parapsychologists and water diviners.
For a while they got hung up on words. The idea that once you write something down, it becomes reality. So the books created the murders, in a form of precognition. Then they decided that I'd found the murderers because I'd framed them. It's a popular plot, though not usually for unrelated killings, particularly the ones that needed a frame within the frame. Then they got the idea that I'm a sort of catalyst. Me being there is enough to start things going. Or if it was me doing it, then maybe it was like an avalanche. Find the right snow drift, then stand the other side of the valley and, as the victim is going past, shout.
That's as far as they got. They're all dead now (except for Greenfields, who didn't go to meetings). Legionnaires' disease from the air-conditioning in their committee room.
When you've investigated as many murders as I have, you've got to share your knowledge. So I've written a book. Murder for Dummies. You've got to be a dummy to want to commit murder. Too many people like me sniffing around. They all dream of the perfect murder, where murder isn't even suspected (what we call a Type 1 murder), but that's really no fun. Nobody knows about it. Much better is Type 2, where somebody else is convicted, or Type 3, when they can't convict anybody because too many people could have done it. I got a contract, and an advance, but it hasn't come out yet. The editor fell under a bus, which, considering the level of service in the town where she lived, was a totally freaky happening.
I was there of course. So was Greenfields. Trying to arrest me for "occasioning a statistical anomaly".
But it got him off my back, because it was a trap. The statistical whizz had put two and two together and realised that the probability of Greenfields being on the scene by chance for all those incidents was also vanishingly small. But then he's been trying for years to get promoted so he can change his first name from Inspector to Superintendant. We just made sure he was in the wrong town at the wrong time. Sad about the editor, but that's detection for you.
Copyright © D.W. Walker, 2007
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