Fluff

Dirtection Inc: episode 7

In which the Secret Service gets to grips with bonkers boffins and hallucinogenic horseflies.

The ten bongs of Big Ben were the only sounds that penetrated the wood-panelled silence of F’s office. F, as you probably don’t know (and if you do, I’d advise you to keep quiet about it), is the head of a branch of the British Intelligence Services which is so hush-hush that I am not even permitted to acknowledge its existence, let alone say what it’s called.

At that moment F was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk holding my report in one hand and swirling a large snifter of Cognac in the other.

“So,” he said, “You would have us believe that the Pen Wiggessy Research Base is being run by fellas with more screws loose than a Bangkok Brothel?”

“That is,” I conceded, “More or less the gist of my findings.”

“Based on your analysis of a few pieces of pocket fluff...”

“And keyboard fluff,” I interjected.

“Harrumph, and, as you say, keyboard fluff. And on that evidence alone, you would have us conclude that one of Her Majesty’s Government’s most secretive Top Secret military research facilities has become overrun with drug-crazed murderers and hallucinogenic horsefly fanciers?”

I fixed onto my face a grin which I hoped looked on the right side of sanity and nodded. “Damn good work!” F bellowed, “We knew something pretty rum was going on there but without your fluff we’d never have got to the bottom of it. Help yourself to the brandy, old man. Or I could break open a bottle of Champagne, if you prefer. And then you can give me the lowdown, as it were, on how you, a humble keyboard-cleaning operative, single-handedly uncovered the biggest security scandal since the case of The Prime Minster, the Contortionist and the Swedish Surgical Support Salesman, (a story for which the world is not yet prepared)...”

I accepted the brandy and began my tale.

The entire mystery (I explained) is contained in two bits of fluff. The first was the Number 37 sample (on the ISO Fluff scale) which I had tweaked from the keyboard of Fenella Marbury-Heighton (MBE), Director of the Pen Wiggessy Base. Analysis of this fluff showed that it contained high levels of a hitherto unknown psychotropic substance. This was, in itself, unsurprising. For, while the Pen Wiggessy Base may try to fool the locals into believing it is an agricultural research institute, I knew better. It is, in fact, a military base dedicated to the development of chemical and biological agents capable of transforming enemy forces into harmless, gibbering simpletons.

The trouble was that many of the inhabitants of the local village had started behaving like gibbering simpletons. The vicar, for instance, had taken to delivering sermons in the nude while the post mistress had adopted a pet horsefly named Harold.

That is why I had been called in. To most people, I may seem to be no more than a lowly keyboard-cleaning operative. To those in the know, however, I am a world authority on detritus in all its manifestations. The gleaming concrete and glass of the Pen Wiggessy Base looks clean to the untrained eye but to my penetrating gaze it is stuffed to the brim with filth. And filth does not lie!

I soon became suspicious of the activities of a certain Professor Augustus Goodbody, an insect expert with a particular interest in that blood-sucking fiend, the common horsefly. There had been a plague of horseflies around the Base this year and so it was easy for me to find a suitable subject for close examination. Exposing my arm (at not inconsiderable personal risk, I may add) while cycling to work one morning, I was besieged by half a dozen of the little blighters. My fingernail was too fast for them, however, and a few satisfying crunches between fingernail and forearm supplied me with a fine supply of their little squashed corpses.

Imagine my horror when, upon analysis, I found that the horseflies were choc full of the same powerful drug which I had extracted from the Number 37 fluff!

I formed the hypothesis that Professor Goodbody was a lone evil genius responsible for genetically modifying horseflies to synthesize organic hallucinogens which he then let loose upon the local populace. But my hypothesis suffered a minor setback when the Professor himself was murdered!

“Quite, quite,” said F, “And this, I gather, was the clue that led you to the solution to the whole dreadful affair.

F, I noticed, was holding a small test tube containing a piece of white pocket fluff. “Doesn’t look much, does it? And yet, you say, this tiny bit of fluff...”

Before I realised what he was doing, F had flipped off the test tube stopper and shaken the fluff onto the palm of his hand. In a matter of moments, his eyes opened wide, the brandy glass fell from his trembling fingers, his chair toppled over and, in a hideously rasping breath, he cried out “Butterflies, nanny, look at the lovely shimmering butterflies...”

I realised that there would be little point continuing my story that day. So I prized the hallucinogenic fluff from F’s grip using a pair of tweezers, popped it safely back into its test tube and left. On the way out I was surprised to see none other than Doctor Darius Graticule, the Base’s tomato boffin, striding towards F’s office.

“You can’t go in there!” I protested.

“Oh yes, I damn’ well can!” he growled, biffing me absent-mindedly with his umbrella, “This is a matter of national importance. You see, I know who killed Professor Goodbody!”

Next time: The fluff reveals its mysteries and the murderer is uncovered!


 
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