Room 101 by Malcolm Pryce

My pet hates are:

  1. The Big Red Button

If you were building a garden shed, would you install as part of the design a Big Red Button which, if pressed, would blow the whole place up? No? How about if you were building a house? No. So why, if you were planning to take over the world and designed a huge hi-tech subterranean complex hidden somewhere tropical to facilitate your mad scheme, would you incorporate a Big Red ‘Blow Everything Up’ Button? Every master criminal’s lair has this feature and it always makes the job of the hero ridiculously easy. Press the button, kaboom! Go to bed with beautiful girl. See also helpful digital readout on time bomb planted in big city.

  1. Perp needlessly giving up the goods

I once saw a YouTube video made by a cop in which he explained in meticulous detail why you should never, ever, under any circumstances say anything, no matter how innocuous, to a cop. Don’t even tell him the time. There’s nothing in it for you. So how come perps in TV crime dramas don’t know this?

The interview always goes like this:

COP 1: We got you bang to rights Peaky

VILLAIN: No, I wasn’t there, I swear

COP 1: Yeh? We found her glass eye in your fridge, how do you explain that?

VILLAIN: Who said it was hers?

COP 1: The lab boys gave us a perfect match.

COP 2: You’re looking at 25 Peaky, you’ll be an old man by time you get out.

VILLAIN: I never done nuffin’! You got nothing on me.

He’s right, they haven’t, so if he shuts up he’ll walk. So what does he do? He throws up his hands and says, OK, OK, I was there. And then gives up the goods.

  1. Childhood memory causes Perp to ‘fess up in strange misty-eyed voice.

This is a variation of the above one. The interview goes like this:

COP 1: You did her in didn’t you Peaky!

PERP: Me? Kill Milly? Are you mad?

COP 1: Smashed her head to pulp, you don’t know your own strength do you?

PERP: No, no, I would never hurt her, I loved her, don’t you see?

COP 2: Yes we see, just like you loved little Bobbie out at the ranch that summer.

PERP: Bobbie?

COP 1: Thought we didn’t know about that didn’t you?

COP 2: It was six years before she could talk about what happened that night.

The name Bobbie, dragged up from the past, triggers a dramatic change. Perp’s face goes soft, his eyes focus on something far away. His voice goes watery and thin. He starts talking in broken sentences with lots of dots between the words.

PERP: Bobbie? No, no… you don’t under—

COP 1: They told you she had gone to Jesus’ birthday party didn’t they?

PERP: She…she was…so…so beautiful…lying…like an angel…I just wanted…I never meant to….so beautiful…so soft…her face was…I…never…

He stops. Looks wet-eyed at the cops. They nod. Say nothing. The signature tune starts up in a slow tempo version that underlines the deep well of emotional pain that has just been plumbed. Cops close their notebooks gently. It’s been a long hard painful journey for them all, but it’s over now.

By Malcolm Pryce

The Case of the ‘Hail Mary’ Celeste by Malcolm Pryce published by Bloomsbury reelaed on the 12th March 2015, £12.99 hardback and £10.99 eBook