Photobucket “MURDER!” exclaimed a surprised Cyril Marple. “Good heavens, man! That’s a hell of a twist first thing in the morning. And look at the state of my kitchen. Have you been having an orgy in here?”
An amused twinkle creased the corners of Cuthbert Stephensby’s blood shot eyes. “ Steady on, Cyril, steady on. “, the portly gentleman chuckled. “ Only if you count my affair with that pound of bacon you had so kindly left in the Fridgedaire. I assumed you had intended it for my consumption?”, he queried as his tongue flicked out in search for a grease spot barely concealed in the forest of his regimental moustache. “ Here, drink your coffee. I say, this Sumatran roast is devilishly good. Must set you back a pretty penny, wat?”
Indeed, that particular addiction was one of the few luxuries that Cyril allowed himself these days, that and the occasional purchase of an old Al Bowlly disc at the St. Waldo’s jumble sale if one turned up in playable condition. Unlike his better known sister Jane, the “talented amateur”, Cyril Marple had been a professional copper for some 28 years at The Yard, rising from a foot beat in Southgate, to the rank of Chief Inspector before being made redundant at the age of 52 and unceremoniously put out to pasture here in Runnycheese on Cornbread in favor of younger, and cheaper officers. He had continued to keep his hand in the game, helping the local constabulary in solving particularly difficult, gruesome and peculiar crimes, always to little or no acclaim or recognition, or renumeration for that matter, and it often rankled his delicate ego and sense of self that he was now viewed as a has-been with little to contribute beyond assisting in finding the occasional Jack Russell gone walkabout. His powers of observation and deduction were, if anything, at their zenith, but Marple’s creative mind often felt the fetid tug of stagnation when faced with forced idleness. A zeal for puttering about the garden had never appealed to him, and he had been jumping at shadows for far too long.
Marple raised the cup of coffee to his lips. The fine Indonesian beans were earthy, not too darkly roasted, and the intense chocolate and caramel biscuit tones were nicely muted with the addition of the fresh, clotted cream from the Hocking’s dairy down the way. While outwardly easy-going and usually of a jovial and chipper disposition, the last few months of inactivity had set Marple on edge, and the added financial strain of prolonged unemployment tended to make him a trifle testy. He desperately needed to get out of the cottage and find a worthy activity for his under-worked brain.
“Murder, you say? “, Cyril cleared his throat and took a bite of sausage. He thought he heard his girthy companion mutter something about “scrapple” beneath his breath. Scrapple? He’d have to look that up later. A new poison? A dance? He seemed to recall that it was somehow associated with the Yanks. Mr. Marple surveyed the devastation that had once been his kitchen. The high profile consulting positions that he had been promised had never materialized after his redundancy, and now his former friends and colleagues would not even return his phone calls and telegrams, and he was at a loss to understand the reason. Shunned, ignored. How embarassed his old friends must feel! He missed their company. The old comradery. Marple took another sip of coffee, then pulled the red dressing gown closer around himself and tightend the knot on the sash. His hand dipped into the oversized pocket and his fingers instinctively found themselves fondling a short length of cord connecting a series of rough bead-like objects, forming a kind of necklace. He gently pulled the trinket from his pocket and massaged the discs between his digits. “Aha,” he thought.” The little grey shells!”
Cyril Marple narrowed his gaze and turned to focus his full attention on the man sitting across from him at the cluttered and flour dust covered table.
“Now, my friend! You must tell me all you know about this murder. And, please, my dear Stephensby, leave nothing out.”


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