Murder in Pine Valley

June 15, 2010
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It was a fine Saturday morning. The weather was just about as sunny as it got in the secluded little hamlet of Pine Valley, and the glowing ball of flaming hydrogen was suspended at its zenith in the sapphire sky overhead. The cloudy gloom that had had the valley in its depressing grip had disappeared overnight leaving the place looking like it had just come back fresh from the laundry. The mountains were so clearly visible that I could see every little car whizzing by on the highly winding roads far away.

On such an exceptionally radiant day, it was absurd that anyone would stay indoors and as a result, the only park in Pine Valley, imaginatively named Pine Valley Park, was brimming with men, women and children. It was an enchanting place indeed. The towering pines reached out to greet the heavens, and the little lake sparkled like an incredible expanse of glittering diamonds. It was so dazzling that my eyes hurt when I looked in its direction. The ground was a carpet of emerald, with little paths dissecting it. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, laughing and catching up with family and friends. Not one for conversation, I had reclined under one of the graceful pines and was reading a book, glass of iced lemonade in hand.

It was then that I saw Inspector Nicholas Banks walking jauntily towards the lake. Banks was the head of the police force in Pine Valley and had dedicated his life to fighting crime. He was known to be suspicious of every single thing he saw: from the ducks in the lake, to his own fountain pen. It was rumored that he was once found interrogating a horse for not having a number plate. The poor horse had then been sentenced to a month of community service. Banks was stout and short and was never seen without his impeccable navy blue uniform. A pompous old fellow, he looked like he had stepped straight out of an Enid Blyton book.

Banks had almost reached the lake when he stopped dead in his tracks. Something seemed to have caught his eye but I couldn’t see what it was due to the presence of an enormous tree right in front of me. But what I did notice was the all-too-familiar expression on his face. Affectionately called the ‘light bulb expression’, for you could almost see the light bulb spark to life in his head, it was famous for the uncanny way hilarity always ensued after Banks made it

But, as I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of whatever Banks had seen, I gasped in shock! For, in a clearing near the lake, a youth was lying on the grass with his limbs sticking out at awkward angles and a deep crimson seeping out of his half- hidden mouth. The sight was unnerving and I felt a little sick. I silently uttered a prayer for the young man’s soul.

Banks was peering intently at the body. “Murder,” he said hoarsely, rubbing his chin. The people sitting next to the lake heard him and jumped at the word. Murder was sensational and before you could say ‘Rumplestiltskin’, a crowd had gathered around the corpse and the illustrious member of the police force.

A woman from the crowd said, “We should check his pulse.” With that, she advanced forward towards the body. “Stop!” bellowed Banks, “No one must disturb the scene of crime.” He cautiously walked towards the ‘body’, putting each foot in front of the other slowly and deliberately “lest I set off any of the booby traps the killer has surely put,” he explained. After an eternity, he reached the young man’s side and started inspecting his head.

“Hmm...A sharp blow to the medulla oblongata, it seems. A blunt object, perhaps?” he muttered after a while. Then, he proceeded to look around until he caught sight of a broken tree limb about fifty yards away from the corpse. “Aha! The weapon!” he exclaimed triumphantly. The crowd gasped. Banks pulled out a two-way radio from his back pocket and barked sharply into it, “Murder at Pine Valley Park. Over.” The radio squawked and someone replied in a voice that was unintelligible to me. Banks, evidently, had no problem understanding. He gripped the radio and spoke in a clipped tone, “Weapon found. Send four men. Over and Out”

With a tired face, he turned to the crowd and said, “The killer is still on the loose.” Those seven words had a profound effect on the people. From excitement, fear became etched on their faces and the atmosphere grew tense.

Banks started pacing up and down , rubbing his chin as if his life depended on it. His eyes narrowed into frowns of concentration and the audience was left spellbound, watching his every move with wonder. He got down on his hands and knees and performed a thorough search of the grass near the body.

“The man’s face doesn’t betray terror or fright which shows that he wasn’t aware of the killer’s presence and was taken by surprise. This means that the killer had come from the direction of the lake, else the victim would have seen his shadow. So,” He looked at each of their face, “ The killer is among us. He is one of you people who have been sunbathing by the lake.”

A hushed silence fell over the crowd. Someone tittered nervously and a man looked at his neighbour with a distrustful eye. Banks continued in a measured tone, “I perceived a little scrap of denim next to the body. As the body is not clothed in that fabric, it is sure to have come from the killer’s attire.” Unfortunately for Banks, almost everyone was in jeans. Undeterred, he went on, “I also found a peculiar strand of hair. It was brown, with a grey end. Obviously, the killer has grey hair, which he dyes.” He cast a suspicious glance at each person’s head. “My deductions further prove that the killer was most definitely Italian, due to the?”

The loud sirens of the police cars interrupted Banks. Through the pine trees, two black sedans with red and blue flashing lights manifested themselves. They skidded to a stop and four uniformed policemen hopped out. Banks beckoned them over with a bossy wave. When they reached the crowd, he strutted around self-importantly and was just about to give his trademark speech when someone yawned loudly.

Piqued, he looked down in the direction of the sound. It was the ‘dead’ young man! He twitched and yawned again. Then he turned over, lazily got up and stretched. Under his face was a squished hot dog and an open sachet of red ketchup. Casually, he wiped his mouth before he noticed the dumbfounded crowd around him. A voice cried out, “Miracle! Miracle! Praise The Lord!” A little perplexed, bewildered and utterly confused, the young man got to his feet. He doffed his cap to Inspector Nicholas Banks and self-consciously walked away from the flabbergasted stares of the venerable member of the police force and the crowd.

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