(or): A contest to see who can spot the most problems with my writing so I can figure out which of you is going to get the honor of editing my murder mystery for free…
Hey, if we have fun, we can edit the whole thing together as a group… except the last few chapters… I can’t give the milk away for free, can I?
So come on, let’s play ‘spot the stupid mistakes made by the supposedly professional author’.
Inspector Charles ‘Charlie’ Baker was not in a good mood. Upon returning to his dreary little office from the basement following yet another air raid, he found that his desk and the papers scattered across it’s battered top were covered in a layer of fine grit dislodged from the ceiling. One string of bombs had fallen just a little too close for comfort. His head had developed a deep, pounding ache that the all clear sirens seemed intent on making worse.
The papers on the desk were themselves yet another source of worry. A death in London these days was nothing out of the ordinary, but this one seemed likely to lead to all sorts of trouble. When the son of one of Britain’s top Generals was found murdered, there was bound to be enormous pressure brought down from on high.
And to top it all off, some clever detective had come to the realization that they had all been missing out on a rather marvelous joke when it came to Charlie’s name. Because the Americans, who were now flocking to London to set up their daylight bombing campaign, had a peculiar way of making sure that mistakes were not made during radio transmissions. They had invented a phonetic alphabet language so that single letters in a message would not be misunderstood. And it just so happened that the first three words used for this code were Able, Baker and Charlie. So of course the lads had now taken to calling him Able Charlie Baker.
Charlie turned his attention back to the papers on his desk, a task made more difficult by the fact that his window was covered over as per blackout regulations, and there were not nearly enough lamps in the room. He squinted at the pages, and removed his glasses, wiping them off with his handkerchief. His aching mind once again cursed the poor eyesight that had kept him from any military service, and he forced it to return to the job at hand.
Two young boys had discovered the body, partially buried under the rubble of a burnt out building. Two police constables had been summoned, and had uncovered the remains of Flight Lieutenant Thomas Crowley, clad in his RAF dress uniform. It had not taken the constables long to determine that the young officer had not been killed either by German bombs or the building falling on him, but rather by the bullet lodged in his back. Nor had it taken them long to identify the deceased. His wallet and identification was still in his pocket, along with quite a tidy sum of money.
The two policemen had known, upon seeing the identity of the victim, that trouble would not be long in coming. Because everyone in England knew at least something about the Crowley family. Theirs was a proud military family that had been serving the Empire in peace and war all the way back to when their ancestors fought with lance, sword and longbow. Major General Sir Edward Crowley was a force to be reckoned with on staff of the Imperial High Command. His title had been handed down to him from an enterprising relation who fought with Wellington against Napoleon, and there had never been a war fought by the British Empire that didn’t include at least one member of the family.
The body had been found only that morning, and Charlie was busy trying to clear the stacks of paperwork from other cases off his desk before jumping in to what promised to be a very high profile investigation. Even as he began to read again his assistant, Acting Inspector Bill Dawes came in with yet another piece of paper to add to collection. Charlie couldn’t keep himself from smiling. Billy was just so young, and his bright red hair didn’t make him look any older. If the Metropolitan Police hadn’t been losing men to military service and young Dawes hadn’t been born with eyesight even worse than his, he would never have been put on the investigations squad.
Billy spoke with his usual boyish enthusiasm. “They pulled a bullet out of that bomber pilot, Sir. They think it’s from a British Webley revolver, so I suppose we aren’t chasing some Nazi spy after all.” He paused as if thinking and then continued, “The Chief Inspector says the family has been notified. If you need to ask them any questions, you’ll have to clear it through him.”
This is going to be like treading through a minefield Charlie thought to himself. He continued his train of thought aloud. “Let’s hope we can get by without having to speak to his Lordship. I can’t begin to imagine what he must be going through. His son flies a bomber and never gets a scratch only to be shot in the back on the streets of London. And the General has something of a temper. My father and uncle served under him in the last war, back when he was a mere Colonel. Not someone you want to get on the bad side of.”
Billy was wise enough to let him continue without interruption.
“I did a little digging into the family. Their history reads like a chronicle of the Empire. They have been soldiers of the crown going back to the second crusade. There is another son, the youngest, serving as a new Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, the General’s old regiment, and the oldest regiment in the regular army. They were the first troops to arrive in France the last time we fought the Germans, and the General was there, commanding my father and my uncle. My father was killed in the trenches.”
“I didn’t know that Sir,” Billy murmured.
Charlie ignored him. “Another son was wounded with the regiment in North Africa early in the fighting. Lost his leg. They even have a daughter driving an ambulance. And then to have this happen. I think we shall steer well clear of the General unless there is no way around it. Did the lads turn up anything at the murder scene?”
The rapid change of direction threw Billy off for a moment. “Uh, no Sir, no useful foot prints or evidence of any sort left laying around. They did say that it appears the wall didn’t fall on him. Someone just stacked the rubble on top of the body to try to hide it, but didn’t do a very thorough job of it.”
Charlie skimmed the new documents Billy had delivered. Nothing useful in the fact that the bullet was a .445 as was used in the Webley revolver, a pistol used by the British army since 1887. Quite the opposite in fact, since there were untold numbers of those guns floating around out there. The medical examiner was putting the time of death sometime late the previous evening, which also didn’t seem to be particularly helpful.
Charlie took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. The headache was getting worse. No obvious place to start with this case. He smelled the dust rising from the papers as he put them back in order, trying to gather his thoughts. He brushed some small bits of ceiling off onto the floor, noticing that the all clear sirens had stopped at some point. He cleared his throat.
“Usual drill, Billy,” he said with unintended gruffness. “Send some constables around the neighborhood, have them ask the usual questions, anybody see or hear anything last night, that is if there are still any houses standing nearby.” He suddenly realized that he didn’t even know if the area in which the crime had occurred was a business district or a residential area. He hadn’t so much as bothered to look at a map. He had been spending entirely too much time behind his desk. “Cancel that order, Acting Inspector, It is high time I got myself out of this dark dungeon and put my nose to some actual investigating. You hold down the fort while I’m away. I will pass the word on to the troops.” He glanced at the watch on his wrist, the old watch that had belonged to his father and been brought back from France by his uncle. It dawned on him that his uncle was going to be saddened by this act of violence. He held the General in very high regard.
Well, he would have a chance to pass on the news in just a couple of hours. It was Monday, and he and his uncle had a standing luncheon appointment on that same day of each week.