Dirtection Inc: episode 6
The keyboard cleaning profession seldom takes one into ecclesiastical circles, so I’m not sure if it is considered normal for vicars to sit stark naked upon gargoyles while delivering sermons through a megaphone. When, as I cycled past the village church this morning, I noticed the vicar doing precisely that, I thought it only polite to pause for a few moments and take notes. I was glad I did for otherwise I should never have known of all the things the Bible has to say on the subject of flies. If you have a few moments to spare you will find some of the juicier passages in Psalms 78:45, Ecclesiastes 10:1, Isaiah 7:18 and Exodus 8:21, 22, 24, 29 and 31.
I have been musing much upon flies since chancing upon the hideous fly-festooned corpse of Professor Augustus Goodbody. This morning I discovered that Professor Goodbody’s laboratory (which has been so thoroughly cleaned that the blood stains are barely noticeable) is now occupied by a chap called Swithins. In almost every respect but one this young, effervescent, bright-faced fellow is the very antithesis of his sallow, dour, crab-faced predecessor. The one thing which unites them is an obsession with flies.
Swithins was perusing a mail-order fly catalogue when I entered. I sat on the edge of a bench and unwrapped the sandwich which I had brought for lunch.
“Stocking up on bluebottles?” I asked.
“Bluebottles?” he sneered, “Not at all! Horseflies are the things. Haematopota pluvialis. Beautiful little creature. Just look at this photo.”
“Don’t need a photo,” I said, “I’ve met its relatives at very close quarters. They seem peculiarly fond of my buttocks.”
Swithins chortled, “Ah yes, they’ll go anywhere for fresh blood.”
I was about to ask him why, in an establishment supposedly dedicated to the development of juicier tomatoes and straighter cucumbers, he was more interested in insects that bite buttocks than those which disport themselves in allotments and vegetable gardens when, quite suddenly, he turned pale and pointed at the sandwich which was, at that moment, on its way from my hand to my mouth.
“Tomatoes!” he hissed.
“Not to mention bacon and lettuce,” I added, “This being what is commonly known as a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich.”
“Where did you get it?” he spluttered.
“Sainsbury’s, I think. Or maybe Tesco’s. Would you like a bite?”
Swithins shuddered in horror – “They aren’t Doctor Graticule’s tomatoes, are they?”
I considered it unlikely that Dr Darius Graticule, the Base’s specialist in genetically engineered tomatoes capable of resisting Mongolian Weevil Blight, growing in sandpits in the Kalahari Desert and staying firm and succulent at an altitude of 37 thousand feet, was moonlighting the products of his research to Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s and I told him so.
But I had a feeling that my sparkling repartee was not appreciated, so I bid Swithins a cheery good day and wandered off towards the foyer of Building C where I was unsurprised to find Ethel from Admin gulping down a beaker of a scummy beige fluid which, based on the evidence of its dripping nozzle, I deduced to have been recently obtained from the nearby vending machine.
“Did you see him?” Ethel asked.
“Swithins, you mean?”
“No. The rogue keyboard cleaning operative. The one I told you about.”
The truth is, I’d forgotten all about him. Naked vicars and young chaps with fly fixations had put him right out of my head. Ethel had warned me the day before that someone was passing himself off as the Base’s official keyboard cleaner – a role which hitherto I had assumed to be exclusively mine. Ethel is the fount of all knowledge on the Base and it took me only a few well chosen questions to ascertain that this fraudulent cleaning operative was generally to be found ensconced in an office immediately abutting that of the late Professor Goodbody.
I wasted no time in legging it down to the office and, having received no reply upon knocking, I surreptitiously entered and did a quick reconnoitre. There was a white lab coat hanging on the back of the door – a regrettable sartorial affectation popular among some of the lesser practitioners of our profession – and a closer inspection revealed some very interesting specimens of detritus nestling in its pockets.
I was in the process of extracting a choice chunk of Number 46 pocket fluff when the door opened and into the office strode a seedy looking individual wearing an off-white lab coat and a small, greasy moustache.
“Aha!” said he, “It’s you! The rogue keyboard cleaning operative!”
“I beg to differ,” I riposted, “That claim to fame is yours, not mine!”
“Cheeky devil!” he said, “Then show me your record on the Personnel Database!”
He pointed to the computer on his desk. I swiftly keyed in my details. The screen flashed and big red letters appeared, stating: “Unauthorised Access: Security Clearance Denied!”
That was when claxons sounded all over the Base and the rumble of British Army standard-issue boots (worn, presumably, by British Army standard-issue soldiers) came thundering down the corridor towards us. Worse still, the sandwich had given me indigestion. Do you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right? !
Next time: The missing database record leads to an interview with the Top Secret Security Service’s Top Secret Top Man - known only as ‘F’.