The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Fourth

But first, a Vincent Price limerick, co-athored by your friend and humble narrator, here.

In episode four, the various “narrative strands”, if I can so dignify them, start to draw together at last, into a dank tangle. I attempt my first ever “meet cute”, leading to what one appreciative reader called “the crap, faux-Bill Forsyth stuff.” But I think the story needed some calm, less psychotic stuff, especially since my impatience with writing straight-man characters leads me to try and do for Lothian and Borders Police what David Lynch did for/to the FBI.

Now read on…

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – NIGHT

A BED. The plump, middle-aged INSPECTOR DUFFLE shifts uncomfortably in his sleep…

EXT. ZOO – NIGHT

Howie finds a notice pasted on his cage, covering the “human” sign. He peels it off and looks.

DRIVE THE CAPYBARAS FROM OUR SHORES!

CAPYBARAS UNFAIR TO PENGUINS!

KILL! KILL! KILL THEM ALL!

He frowns.

INT. INTERVIEW ROOM, POLICE STATION – DAY

Sheena is shown in by the idiot PC Thrower. She has Edward Woodward contained in a plastic case (or “pet taxi”).

Inspector Turner looks through the barred front of the pet taxi and scribbles in his NOTEBOOK.

TURNER

I see what you mean.

SHEENA

(angry)

And what are you going to DO about it?

TURNER

Well, he – it is a he? – he doesn’t seem to be in any distress…

Edward Woodward meows. A banjo is plucked.

Sheena and Turner argue.

SHEENA

He’s been blacked up! He looks ridiculous!

TURNER

(uncomfortable)

I’m more concerned about how someone could get into your flat without breaking any locks.

SHEENA

I think he’s a contortionist.

TURNER

Hmm. Look, this is an unusual case for us, but since you work for the Blue Museum I want to make sure we do everything we can. Plus… for reasons I can’t go into, we’re paying particular attention to any unusual incidents at the moment.

SHEENA

And so…

TURNER

I think we should go and see Detective Inspector Duffle. He has his own methods. Unconventional, but sometimes effective.

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle still snoozes.

TURNER (OS)

Gerry Duffle suffered a nasty brain wound in 1997 while trying to apprehend, er, a cat burglar. No offence.

SHEENA

Go on.

TURNER

The accident left him with – that thing where you fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. Narcolepsy. Well, it looked like his career in the force was finished. But then a funny thing happened. He would fall asleep studying the files, and then dream up the most extraordinary solutions. Since his conscious mind couldn’t exercise its crime-solving prowess, his unconscious mind took over.

SHEENA

That’s amazing.

TURNER

It gets amazinger. Duffle’s conscious hours have been getting more scarce. He’s almost in a full-time coma. But we play him tape recordings, over and over, of the details of our problem cases, WHILE HE’S ASLEEP. If he wakes up for five minutes, he often has an answer.

SHEENA

So what are you suggesting?

TURNER

Tell him about your cat. Just whisper in his ear. When he next wakes up, he may have the culprit’s name and address for us.

Sheena approaches the bed. Then she stops and turns.

SHEENA

Look, are you taking the piss?

INT. MUSIC HALL – NIGHT (DREAM)

In the eerie glow of the limelight, a huge old bakelite radio accompanies Sheena, dressed as a blackface minstrel, singing operatically:

SHEENA

Meeoowww! Meeoooooow! Meeeeeeow!

A shot rings out. Sheena spasms and staggers over to a stand, upon which sheets of paper announce each act in ornate Victorian lettering.

Written on the first sheet is the name EDWARD WOODWARD.

The Minstrel Sheena clutches the sheet and drops dead. The paper tears, revealing the bill underneath – “The Mysterious Mr. If.”

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle stirs in his sleep as Sheena whispers in his ear.

KNOCK KNOCK.

Constable Thrower pops his head round the door.

PC THROWER

Inspector Turner – there’s a great disturbance at the zoo!

Sheena straightens up and looks a question at Turner.

TURNER

Yes. It could be related. Care to come along?

EXT. ZOO – DAY

The Zookeeper hurries about wielding a large butterfly net, and an expression of panic. Penguins rampage generally.

Hate literature blows around – DEATH TO CAPYBARAS, DOWN WITH PENGUINS, LOCK THEM UP, SEND THEM BACK…

Forensic Nerds take pictures and dust the cages. Zookeepers and Constables try to round up the marauding arctic birds.

TURNER

What the hell happened here?

ZOOKEEPER

Jings, it’s a good job they’re flightless. They just ran amuck, when I was giving them their walk. Laid siege to the capybara pen, so they did.

TURNER

This is unusual behaviour for penguins?

ZOOKEEPER

Unheard of! We never had any hassle from them before. Someone must have STIRRED THEM UP!

He glowers at Howie, who’s watching from his cage in fascination.

Turner looks over, sees the human exhibit, and then dismisses it from his mind. It couldn’t be…

He leans for support against the cage. Sheena approaches, concerned.

SHEENA

Are you alright?

TURNER

Fine. It’s just…I’ve always had a horror of flightless birds. They’ve got no hands! And those pointy faces… you can’t tell what they’re thinking…

He composes himself and goes off to supervise the last of the penguins being loaded into a Black Maria van.

Sheena notices Howie and approaches him.

Edward Woodward looks through the bars of his pet taxi.

Howie looks through the bars of his cage. An understanding seems to pass between them.

SHEENA

Umm. I’m Sheena McQueen.

HOWIE

Howie.

SHEENA

Hello. What you doing in there?

HOWIE

Oh. I live here.

Pause.

SHEENA

Well…WHY?

HOWIE

Umm. I didn’t have anywhere to stay. But wild animals have a place to stay, don’t they? So I moved in here. It’s like Noah’sArk, they had everything except people, so I though they could use one. I’m the human exhibit.

The Zookeeper staggers past, wrestling several penguins.

SHEENA

Do they know about you?

HOWIE

Most of them don’t seem to mind. They keep threatening to tell the boss, but nobody’s ever seen him. You go into his office and there’s just a curtain with a shadow on it.

SHEENA

Is that true?

HOWIE

No, I made that bit up. Look, have you got any chocolate on you? I’m getting a bit tired of monkey nuts to be honest.

SHEENA

How long have you been here?

HOWIE

Three days.

SHEENA

And is this what you wanted to do?

HOWIE

What about you? When you were a kid, did you want to be a -

(looks her up and down)

- tartan clad minstrel cat carrier?

SHEENA

If you must know, I wanted to be a detective. But there’s a height restriction. So I’m a police tour guide, which is very…

She struggles to finish the sentence in an empowering but convincing manner.

HOWIE

Crap?

SHEENA

Yes.

ZOOKEEPER

Hoy! Feeding time!

He chucks Howie a fish supper wrapped in newspaper.

ZOOKEEPER

I shouldn’t be doing this. Encouraging a nutter.

He waddles off.

HOWIE

I think he’s just happy I didn’t climb in the lion’s den. Chip?

SHEENA

Mmm!

HOWIE

Come on in, it’s not locked.

EXT. ZOO – DAY (LATER)

Howie and Sheena sit on the floor of the cage, devouring the fish supper.

HOWIE

It’s the work of an outside agitator. Penguins and capybaras are not natural enemies in the wild. They live side by side in peaceful coexistence.

SHEENA

On different continents.

HOWIE

Well, that always helps, doesn’t it? I get on much better with my mum since she fucked off toAustralia.

They eat on, watched by a SCHOOL OUTING.

HOWIE

So what’s with the cat?

SHEENA

His name’s Edward Woodward. Someone sneaked into my flat and blacked him up. I went to the police and they gave me a lift here.

HOWIE

Oh. Why?

SHEENA

“Why?” to which part?

HOWIE

“Why?” to the lot of it. It’s bollocks, it’s completely crazy.

SHEENA

You live in a zoo.

HOWIE

I may live in a zoo, but I don’t walk the streets with a feline minstrel act under my arm.

Sheena feeds Edward Woodward bits of fish between the bars of his taxi.

SHEENA

I like you. You’re strange.

HOWIE

Here’s the secret: every day, do something you’ve never done before. What have you done lately for the first time?

SHEENA

Hmmm… Yesterday I took my work home with me. That is, I stole a file and brought it back to my flat.

HOWIE

Not bad. I taught a parrot to say “I’m innocent! Get me the Brazilian ambassador.”

The zoo clock chimes: BONG!

SHEENA

Shit. I have to go to work. Can I trust you to look after Edward Woodward?

Howie “mmm”s through his last mouthful of chips and scrunches up the wrapping. We glimpse a headline: LIGHTHOUSE POISONED, with a photo of a queasy beacon.

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle wakes up sharply and pulls a bell cord by his bed.

Turner rushes in with Constable Thrower and a POLICE NERD.

DUFFLE

(drowsy)

If! If! He’s back! Oh knickers…

How’s that for a cliffhanger? TO BE CONTINUED…

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4 Responses to “The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Fourth”

  1. Off-Topic: I have just been informed that one of my all-time favorite cinematic deities Elaine Stewart (The Bad and the Beautiful, The Adventures of Haji Baba) has departed this mortal coil.

    I am in DEEP mourning.

  2. Sorry to hear it. She was fabulous in TBATB.

  3. A great lady!

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