The Great Detective is not cheap

"Can you pay, or are you hoping for a handout?" asked Wilson standing up from the prostrate Mrs. Bloodhound.  He'd noticed that she looked like she was gaining a little weight, which though a relief after all the gunshot wounds she'd suffered seemed a little odd to him.

"Oh, I can pay right enough," said Jason, but his voice was a little less chirpy than before.  "Though I was hoping that the Great Detective might work on one of them no-win no-fee thingies that you hear about on the radio all the time."

"I don't," said Squareknock, seemingly oblivious to the ambiguity his statement caused.  Jason looked at Wilson, who looked at Mrs. Bloodhound, who did nothing.  Wilson sighed, and looked instead at Holes.

"Do you mean that you don't hear these things on the radio, Squareknock, or that you don't operate on a no-win, no-fee basis?  I fear our young guest is confused."

"Hah!  Quite clearly I meant both, and was simply responding in the most efficient fashion to a question that I found both mildly irritating for its use of metasyntactic variables to replace actual human thought and mildly offensive for its suggestion that I might, in some small way, be considered 'cheap'.

Look around you, Jason, and pay careful attention to the room.  What do you notice by its absence?"

Jason looked carefully around the room, his head turning and his eyes widening, blinking, and on one occasion closing for a full second before re-opening again.  Nothing he saw was quite what he'd expected from a Great Detective, and some of it was actually worrying.  The holes in the walls looked like they'd been made by bullets, but who shot up their own room?  The carpet appeared to have seen better centuries, and to have been only cleaned once a century; in places it might not be carpet at all any more, just a kind of furry olive fungus.  There was a pile of vinyl records stacked against a wall with an iPod sat incongruously atop, there was a smaller stack of pornography leaning against a collection of medical journals, all of which were disturbingly dusty.  There was, and here he closed his eyes for a moment hoping to be imagining things, a collection of china baby-doll heads on the window-sill with the stems of pipes pushed through their eyes like some macabre art-installation.  There was a hat with an orange wig attached to it hanging on a picture hook, and there was a well-thumbed collection of Cosmospolitan magazines.

"A radio," said Squareknock, tiring of Jason's silence.  "Without a radio, how can I hear things talked about on the airwaves?"

"Uh," said Jason, wanting to ask about the doll-heads but unable to bring himself to look at them again.  Some of then had been smiling!  "The magazines...?"

"Squareknock takes a deep interest in the female mind," said Wilson.  "He believes that it is important to know not only how a woman thinks, but also how society is telling her to think.  He steals Mrs. Bloodhound's Cosmopolitans."  There was a touch of reproach in his voice.

"She doesn't notice, and I don't think it's stealing," said Squareknock.  "She can come and get them any time she likes, they're only in here!"

"You've hypnotised her and told her that all magazines evaporate after forty-eight hours!"  Wilson's voice had risen, but he didn't really sound upset, more excited.  "She shouldn't be able to believe something so stupid, but you've got her convinced!"

"Right," said Jason, spotting the start of a domestic row.  "So how much is it going to cost for you to get me my job back then?"

"Squareknock charges seventy-five pounds an hour plus expenses," said Wilson, who knew that Squareknock would have simply responded 'lots' given the chance.  "We can start straight away, can't we Squareknock?"

"We can, but I can't see why we should.  The case is dull and uninteresting."

"We could read the email that Jason's employer sent him," said Wilson.  "We could visit these houses where Jason was working, there are plenty of ways to start."

"There's exactly one sensible way to start," said Squareknock sharply.  "But I'm bored and I don't want to."

"I've got the email on my Facebook," said Jason, pulling a smart-phone from his pocket.  "I put it there because I was disgusted by Mr. Zippi's behaviour and I wanted to know what I could do about it."

"Did it help?" said Wilson.  Squareknock refused to use Facebook because he lumped it in with Wikipedia who kept deleting his edits on Afghan tobacco and Methods of Detection, but Wilson was experimenting with it, mostly to stalk Mrs. Bloodhound.

"Not really," said Jason.  "It went viral for a few days though, I got eight-hundred and thirty new friends out of it."

"Not interested," said Squareknock, his fingers fidgeting with themselves.

The End

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