THE PICCADILLY CIRCUS MURDERER
by Daro Gmez Escudero
She lay propped up by pillows as her husband burst into the room to soothe his sore throat with a sherry. The window was half-opened and he could easily hear the paperboy reading aloud the newspaper headline: "Dead banker in Piccadilly Circus. Puzzled police call detective Clemont Turpin".
After gulping down his sherry, he stared at his wife and said:
"Mon amour, how is it possible they know faster than me?"
And Colette replied:
"That is because since Hercule Poirot got retired, the British chief inspector depends on you to solve his most complicated cases."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the hotel door. The knock was so light that Clemont did not hear it, and after a little while, a noise like a bang was heard. Clemont was approaching the door when he noticed that a man in his thirties was actually entering their hotel room. In panic, Clemont fetched the blue vase from the small brownish table near the door and broke it in the head of the man. The man was so well- built that he barely felt the vase in his head and shouted:
"Please, do not hurt me. I need to talk to you."
Clemont grasped him from the right arm in an attempt to retain him but by the time he realised, Clemont was already on the floor, completely immobilized. The man, speaking nervously and not willing to hurt him, repeated:
"Please, please, I do not want to hurt you. I just want to talk to you. The police is looking for me. They think I am the Piccadilly Circus murderer but I am not."
The man helped Clemont to stand up. Walking briskly, Clemont got into the room and gulped another sherry. The man followed him inside; he looked pale, scared, confused, and even terrorized. He looked as though all those accusations were too much for him, impossible to bear.
Colette, who had been observing all from a distance, invited him to sit down. Her voice was very fine, rounded and soft at the same time. She did not look scared. Actually, she seemed to have all under control.
"Take a sit, young man, requested Colette. Why did you break into our hotel room and what is all that story that the police think you are the Piccadilly Circus murderer, she interrogated him."
The young man gave a deep breath and with certain nervousness in his voice, he uttered:
"Monsieur Turpin, you are the only one who can help me. They blame me for killing the banker but I only broke into his home. When I got inside, he was already dead. And if I just broke into your room is because I thought you were not in.
"Yes, I can see you are very good at your job," Turpin interrupted him ironically.
"Monsieur, the young man continued, "I simply wanted to leave you a note that explains everything."
Colette, holding the note very carefully with two fingers, began to read:
Dear Monsieur Turpin,
My name is Frank but everybody call me "the Knife"
because it is what I use to break into peoples houses.
I am a thief but not a murderer. I have never killed
anybody in my life. I did not kill the banker who
died yesterday night. The police want to blame me.
I need your help.
Colette observed her husband gulping down another sherry. She gave a soft laugh.
Suddenly, somebody rang at the door. Clemont stared at his wife in despair and, without losing her temper, she ordered Frank to get into the wardrobe near the sofa where Clemont was holding his empty glass. As he was opening the wardrobe door, a small piece of paper slipped down off his pocket to a black rug. Clemont approached the door and opened it.
"Monsieur Brown! What a nice surprise. "Colette", said Clemont aloud, "the chief inspector is here. Please, come in. Would you like a sherry?"
"Oh yes", he replied with a soft and typical British accent, "I always loved that French sherry of yours."
Colette kissed the chief inspector in both cheeks and he sat down in the same chair Frank the Knife had sat down a few minutes earlier.
"Monsieur Turpin," said the inspector, "the reason why I am here is because I need you to help me find the Piccadilly Circus murderer. All traces point at a man called Frank the Knife, who was seen near the crime scene last night. We believe he is the one who committed such an abominable crime and I am sure that when we find him, we will be able to discover the truth."
While Turpin was serving the inspector a sherry, Colette stood up and closed the window. She noticed there was a small piece of paper in the black rug and bent down to pick it up. It was the paper that had dropped from Frank's pocket.
Frank was still inside the wardrobe without making a noise. His heart was beating up so fast that he could even hear the pumping of it. He tried to calm down by breathing slow and deep but it did not help much. He knew that the slightest noise would give him away and the chief inspector would put him behind bars. He closed his eyes and cleaned the sweat of his forehead with one of Colette's polo necks that were hanging down inside the wardrobe.
Colette unrolled the paper and read it. Her exhilaration turned into despair after reading its content. This time, it was Colette who needed a sherry.
"Mon amour, would you serve me a sherry, please?", asked Colette while she was pushing the piece of paper carefully into her pinkish dressing gown pocket.
"But you barely drink alcohol," said Turpin while frowning his forehead.
"Well, here you are mon amour," said Turpin. Colette sat down in the sofa, sipped the sherry and rolled her glass between her hands.
While the chief inspector was talking about the details of the murder, Turpin noticed that Colette looked puzzled, as if she was not in the room with them. He knew very well Colette only drank alcohol in very specific circumstances but he did not ask her anything. After a few seconds, she asked the inspector:
"Monsieur Brown, why are you so sure that Frank the Knife committed those crimes?"
"Yes, Why are you so sure?", repeated Turpin.
"Well Monsieur Turpin, the banker was stubbed to death with the same kind of knife Frank uses to break into peoples flats," replied the inspector.
"I see," said Turpin.
"And how do you know what they look like?", queried Colette.
"Yes, Monsieur Brown. How do you know?", repeated Turpin in a parrot-like way.
"Err, well, because we found one of his knives near the window of the crime scene", answered the inspector.
Suddenly, a noise coming from inside the wardrobe was heard. Turpin looked at his wife but Colette behaved as if nothing had happened and offered the inspector another sherry. Turpin promptly asked for another sherry too and said:
"There is nothing like a good sherry when problems arise, right Monsieur Brown?"
"Certainly Monsieur Turpin. By the way, what time is it? I must go to the crime scene again because I left a document there", said the inspector.
Colette, rather flabbergasted by his question, kept pensive.
"It is ten o'clock", replied Turpin.
"Do not leave us yet, Monsieur Brown", Colette grimaced while she was looking at her husband with a slight smile in her face. "Perhaps it may not be necessary to go to the crime scene". She stood up, put the empty glass on the table and sentenced with her peculiar soft but muscular voice:
"The murderer is in this room. Am I right, mon amour?", asked Colette to her husband.
Confused but knowing that she had found out who committed the crime, replied:
"Oui, err, yes. There is not need to go and look into this matter anymore."
A creaky noise came out of the wardrobe. Frank's heart took a sudden leap and almost stopped beating. Losing consciousness, he leaned over the wardrobe door and his body fell to the ground nearly hitting the inspector's new black shoes. The chief inspector froze to death. He could not believe his eyes. Frank the Knife was just there, unconscious.
The inspector blinked his eyes, feeling a sudden impulse to attack him before he was attacked by Frank. However, the inspector stood up, opened the window and waved at two of the policemen who were waiting for him outside. They came into the hotel room with their weapons in their hands ready to use them but Turpin said:
"Please, there is no need to shoot anybody."
In that moment, Frank regained consciousness feeling groggy and weak but managed to make his way to the window in an attempt to jump and escape from the chief inspector. When he realized that if he jumped out of the window he would certainly die, he looked back. Turpin, putting on an expression of reflexion, took a thin and long French cigarette out of a silver cigarette box case and lit it. Then he said:
"Please, sit down all of you. I mean, all of you except you two", he added while pointing at the two policemen who had just arrived.
Frank sat, then the chief inspector. Colette looked proud of her husband. She liked how he was taking control of the situation and then Turpin demanded:
"Mon amour, please enlighten us with the truth. Tell these gentlemen who killed the banker at Piccadilly Circus", said Turpin quite enthusiastically.
Then Colette, with a smile in her face, stood up and made her way to the tiny Italian chest of drawers that she had bought in Venice last summer while her husband helped the Italian police solve a case. She opened it and took out another bottle of sherry.
"Mon amour, please, would you like to treat our guests with this superb French sherry?"
"Oui Colette. You do have style", replied an obliging Turpin.
Frank took a gulp of the best sherry he had ever tried in his life. So did the inspector. Turpin offered the two policemen the sherry too but, rather saddened by the presence of their boss, they declined the offer. Everybody seemed baffled except Turpin, who looked terribly pleased with himself.
Very well, said Colette. This morning this man, pointing at Frank the Knife, broke into our hotel room because he wanted to leave a note to my husband. By the immaculate way Frank managed to break into our room he proved to be very good at his profession. He is an excellent thief, a consummate crook, a man who can break into people's homes with a small knife. But this man is unable to kill anybody.
Frank nodded happily. Turpin hesitated trying to choose his words and eventually he said:
"That is very much correct, mon amour. He had the possibility to kill me if he had wished to do so but he did not because he is not that kind of person. He wants easy cash and anything valuable he can steal from others. Carry on, mom amour", said to Colette.
"Thank you dear. Then, when the door rang, I guessed it would be the police and I asked Frank to hide in the wardrobe in order to avoid confrontations with you, monsieur Brown."
"Monsieur Turpin", interrupted the inspector. "Frank the Knife is a very dangerous crook and we should take him to the police station right away."
"Monsieur Brown, Frank is too scared to make a move. Please, allow my wife to carry on."
Colette, directing her words to the inspector said:
"When Frank was getting into the wardrobe, a piece of paper dropped out of his pocket. Then I read it and all became as clear as crystal."
"What was it?" asked the inspector.
"Do you really want to know?", asked Turpin
"Err, yes", the chief detective replied hesitatingly.
"Mon amour, tell him", requested Turpin.
Colette produced the piece of paper out of her pocket and unfolded it. It was the same document the chief inspector had left in the banker's house. The very same document that Frank the Knife had found at the crime scene and dropped when he got in the wardrobe.
35 Regent Street
19th November 1930
Please pay to :
Mr. Mortimer Brown the amount of 15.000 pounds---------------------
Jean Pierre Berguez
The chief inspector turned pale. The sense of frustration and inarticulateness was agony to him. He himself filled up his glass with more than a dash of sherry and downed it at once.
Turpins eyes glistened in his rounded face, and directing his voice to the two policemen who were still holding their weapons in their hands, he said:
"Gentlemen, arrest the chief inspector for the murder of the banker. Monsieur Brown, you murdered the banker."
A cold long silence filled up the entire room. The two policemen looked at each other not knowing what to do. Colette looked at her husband with pride. Then Frank the Knife had a fit of the giggles and broke the deadly silence by saying:
"I never expected you to find out who the murderer was so fast, monsieur Turpin."
Colette's face was either smiling or frowning but she kept quiet.
In despair, the chief inspector made his way to the window, opened it and jumped to the ground. In unison, the two policemen, Colette, Turpin and even Frank the Knife leaned out of the window just to see the dead body of the chief inspector lying down in the ground. A thin line of blood was coming out of his left ear.
Frank the Knife, relieved by all that had happened, asked Turpin:
"How did you know he committed the crime?"
And before he could open his mouth, Colette replied:
"When the inspector asked what time it was, I realized he was not wearing the gold watch with diamonds he had bought in Paris last summer. He never took it off. Not even in the bath. Actually he mentioned once something that I still remember by heart: I will wear this watch till the end of my days'. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps, due to his current financial situation, he went to the banker's house, forced him to fill out the cheque and then when he heard noises coming from the entrance door because you were breaking into the house, the inspector killed the banker and ran away."
Looking at Frank and without letting Colette carry on, Turpin added:
"You were in the wrong place at the wrong time and the chief inspector found in you the perfect culprit."
Turpin smiled. Colette approached him and, while kissing him in the cheek, she whispered:
"I am very proud of you."
Then she looked back over her shoulders and saw the two policemen and Frank leaving the hotel room.