It’s not that easy to lose a secretary, but Dr Doug managed it.
Now, he expected me to find her.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but I reluctantly took the case and with the help of a little old lady I gained entry to the missing secretaries’ apartment and had a look around.
The little old lady noticed it first; an advertisement in the local newspaper. ‘Antique board-game for sale. Intact. Very rare.’
Someone had circled the advertisement with red ink.
Red ink; always dramatic.
The game is said to have predated ‘Cluedo’ by about thirty years, but the little printing company that made it could not compete.
The game worked best if there were, at least, eight participants, and even better if there were more.
Basically, you were supposed to slip various clues into the pockets of the other players. The clues would ultimately reveal the murderer.
I’m not sure how people got on when they played this game at a cocktail party. Where did the women hide their clues? My imagination dwelled on this point for a few moments.
“She seemed very eager to have a complete game. She told us that her game had a lot of clues missing. We told her who had purchased the game and gave her his address. We never heard from her again. We are sorry to hear that something has happened to her.”
“I don’t know that it has. She’s just missing at this stage, but thank you for all your help.” The couple selling the game seemed harmless enough.
They’d inherited it from an uncle who, as family legend had it,spent time in prison. His incarceration had something to do with the game. Someone died. They couldn’t pin the murder on him, but they got him for perjury, which in my experience is very unusual. The cops often threaten people with perjury, but they rarely ever follow through.
Someone really hated this bloke.
While he was in gaol his house was broken into. There was damage, but nothing appeared to have been taken.
The uncle died in a hit-and-run accident not long after getting out of prison and the nephew got the job of winding up his estate.
Most of the uncle’s stuff went to charity.
“They were not very grateful either. They acted like it was a nuisance. They left a lot of stuff behind. ‘Too much trouble for us’. Even charities are lazy these days.”
The nephew kept the ‘Who Dunnit’ game and a few bits and pieces.
“I almost missed the game when I was cleaning out the house. There were a few loose floorboards in my uncle’s bedroom, and I didn’t notice them until we moved the bed. The game was wrapped in waterproof paper and stored under the floorboards. We thought it must be valuable, so we decided to sell it. I put a ridiculous price on it and I had a series of phone calls not long after the paper came out. I should have asked for more I guess.”
“Never mind dear, you weren’t to know.” This blokes wife was quiet, still attractive, and probably cooked excellent scones, but I didn’t have time to find out.
I was tired, so I headed for home. The hunt for the missing secretary could wait until tomorrow.
Scarlett had dinner in the oven when I got home and I told her about my adventure. She’s difficult to impress, but even she was intrigued by the mystery of the missing secretary.
I had a couple of calls to make the next morning but once they were taken care of I drove over to the address I had been given.
The place was deserted.
Little cream brick houses are bad enough when people are living in them, but they are positively depressing when they are deserted.
This one hadn’t been deserted for long.
“A bloody great truck turned up yesterday afternoon, and a couple of bozos filled it up and they were gone by dinner time. Made it bloody near impossible for me to get in and out of my driveway. I asked them to move and they told me to get stuffed. I considered getting in a little golf practice with my nine iron, but I’m getting on a bit and there were three of them.”
“Probably a wise decision.”
This whole thing was getting weirder by the minute.
“Did you know the bloke who lived there?” I asked.
“I knew the people who owned it before he moved in. They retired somewhere up north and had the house rented out. The bloke you’re interested in was quiet, always wore a brown suit and never had any visitors, at least not that I noticed. He also had a lot of stuff delivered to his house. He asked me to sign for stuff from time to time. Mowed my lawn occasionally by way of thanks. He had a cat too if I remember rightly.”
“You didn’t miss much.”
“When you get old there isn’t much to do except spy on your neighbours.”
I drank the old blokes cup of tea and I ate his biscuits but eventually I had to go.
“Don’t you want to know where the truck was going?” He was stalling, but he had a point.
“How do you know where it was going?” This old bloke was full of surprises.
“I’m a nosey old bastard, but you’ve probably figured that out by now.”
“The thought had crossed my mind.” I smiled and he smiled back.
“I looked in the truck’s cabin and the clipboard had the load’s destination typed on it.”
“And you remember it?”
“Like I said, not much else to do when you get old.”
The address the old bloke had gotten from the truck took me to the outer suburbs. Which was a break in itself because I had a horrible feeling that this bloke had gone interstate, and that would have made things very difficult.
The address was easy enough to find, but all it turned up was a house full of furniture, none of which had been unpacked. His stuff was here, but he was somewhere else, probably selling the game to a well-heeled collector. But, he had to come home at some stage, so I made plans to sit on this address until he showed up.
Experience told me that this bloke knew where Dr Doug’s missing secretary was, and now there was nothing to do but wait.