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Sergeant Spinge And The Locked Room Mystery
About the Author: Rob Nisbet has had over forty short stories published, mostly in women's magazines and anthologies, and sometimes using his wife's name. He has won several national short story competitions and last year was shortlisted for the Brighton Prize. Under his own name he has had several audio scripts produced by Big Finish for their Doctor Who range.

Sergeant Spinge ignored the warning on the cereal packet and shook out a second bowl of Precog Flakes. It was five o’clock in the afternoon, not generally a time for breakfast cereal, but it was already twenty-four hours since the latest crime had taken place and he felt the need of some inspiration.

Precog Flakes, he was assured by the blurb on the side of the packet, could increase gnomic intuition by up to twenty-per-cent, contained eighteen essential vitamins and no added salt. There was a recommended daily intake equivalent to one bowl, but this was the third robbery in as many days so Sergeant Spinge scooped up another heaped spoonful; he needed all the help he could get.

As Spinge crunched, he let his eyes wander over the clutter on his desk hoping that some unnoticed vital clue might suddenly surface in his mind and the three mysterious robberies would be solved in a flurry of logic. He smiled to himself, imagining the reaction from the good folk of Witchmarsh if he could solve these mysterious crimes before the trend continued and another work of art was stolen. He would be hailed Gnome of the year, he might be asked to open the summer fete, and perhaps Gladys from the Seven Witches Tavern might actually notice that he existed.

Spinge reached across his desk for the phone—just before it started to ring. This was promising; it proved his intuition was working. And as he reached for the receiver another idea leapt into his mind. Perhaps this would be the case he had dreamed of. Ever since joining the police force, Spinge had longed for some great mystery to come his way. A totally impossible, unsolvable locked-room case that would have baffled and defeated the best minds in the land. It was his dream to solve such a case in a blaze of glory and promotion—and a pay rise would be nice. Gladys would have to take notice of him then.

Eagerly, Spinge snatched-up the phone. “Witchmarsh constabulary, Spinge speaking.” His name was an unnecessary embellishment since he alone was the entire Witchmarch police force. He listened for a moment and his hopes began to crumble. No locked-room mystery this time. It was Lady Terrace up at the hall. The burglar had struck again; that was four days in a row; and once more just before five o’clock.

After half an hour on the Witchmarsh constabulary bicycle, Spinge arrived at the hall, panting heavily. Four consecutive days now he had made this journey, and it didn’t get any easier. Lady Veranda Terrace was not sympathetic. She led him briskly up two wide flights of stairs, gushing details of this latest robbery as they went, and out onto a low-walled balcony.

“… and he ran, with the Elfin Marbles, one in each hand, to the edge of the balcony, right here.” Lady Terrace indicated the offending spot with a plump jewel encrusted finger. “Then he turned round and sneered at me. Imagine! An insolent cheeky sneer, Sergeant. Then he jumped.”

“Off the balcony?”

Lady Terrace nodded, her cascade of chins bouncing off her layers of pearls.

“And are you able to describe him this time?”

“He has an insolent and cheeky sneer,” said Lady Terrace. “He is a scruffy little gnome, barely four-foot tall, bulbous nose, unkempt beard, a tatty dresser, but with a sound appreciation of fine art.”

Spinge looked up. “What makes you say that?”

“Isn’t it obvious? The Imp Impressionists on Monday, the Goblin Goblets Tuesday, the Dryad Diamonds yesterday and now the Elfin Marbles. He may be short and scruffy with a bulbous nose, but he’s got taste.”

Spinge pondered. Perhaps it was the unusual description of the gnome, perhaps it was the mention of the marble sculptures, or perhaps it was his second bowl of Precog Flakes, but suddenly he had a vision of his next-door neighbour. Spinge’s neighbour was a sculptor by trade and he matched the description almost perfectly—apart from one thing. “Did he,” Spinge enquired, “have anything stuck to his right cheek?”

Lady Terrace nodded with a rattle of pearls. “Yes, he did!” She was clearly impressed; perhaps Spinge wasn’t as useless as he first appeared. “There was what looked like a smear of wet clay.”

Spinge felt a warm glow of success seep over him. The villain’s identity thus confirmed he was about to set off for the half-hour cycle homeward when Lady Terrace beckoned him over to the edge of the balcony. “There is something else,” she said. Below them, two floors down, smashed across the patio flags below, were the remains of a life-sized statue.

This story appears in our MAY 2019 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Very creative! Needed to read carefully to figure out what really happened there.
By Susan Rickard

The Elfin Marbles! Still chuckling. Thank you for a fun mystery.
By Linda Doll

Mysterious, clever and fun... Cheers!
By Marie Benham

Very nicely done!!
By George Garnet

A fun, clever, creative story! Kudos!!!
By Tina Jude

Great story, fun read.
By A.E. Pittman

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