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When inspector Reeve heard the phone in the middle of the night, he thought for the twentieth time this month that perhaps he should change his job. Taking off his warm pyjamas he looked with self-pity at the pink foot of his wife breathing peacefully. It was two o’clock. Why do murders always happen in the middle of the night? He knew. The criminals must expect the detectives to be so unconscious that they won’t notice half of the clues and take their own fingerprints from the third mug of coffee instead of looking for the fingerprints of the person who did it. He was asked to come as quickly as possible and was told that the case was really strange.

The house was in the suburbs. ‘Well, they are not geography teachers’, he thought seeing pink fountain in the garden full of roses, blue swimming pool with umbrellas made from banana leaves giving nice shadow and nicely cut high hedge protecting the inhabitants from the street. Suddenly he noticed a peacock on the grass. There were no people outside the house, which stopped to be strange as soon as the inspector entered the door. Everybody was in the living room: eight people. Sixteen eyes stared at him. The seargant quickly gave him a piece of paper. ‘All the records here.’, he said. ‘The victim?’, inspector asked. ‘In the bathroom. With O’Connel.’ ‘Who called the police?’ ‘The blonde one. Sara McKenzie.’ Now he wanted to have a look at the records before he starts investigating the witnesses.

The scene was as if it had been taken from one of Agatha Christie’s novels. Reeve looked at the piece of paper and couldn’t believe. There was one huge difference between the novel and the reality. In Christie’s books we usually have a circle of people who all seem to be ‘normal’ citizens. At the end it appears we were wrong: usually somebody hides a secret, some dark past and motives we had not known about. Here we had to do with people with whom he would not really like to make friends. Sara McKenzie was a drug dealer who had never been caught red-handed. Her nick-name was Marihuana-Baby. The muscular gangster in the corner was Sam Rose – the Frying Pan. He was reported to have cut his hostage’s ear and fry it on a frying pan after he had robbed a bank. He raped the hostage and spent two years in prison. Now the fat middle-aged man in the corner appeared to be John Lee, who was accused of arson, but they couldn’t prove him anything. The fire was in his former wife’s house. She was burnt with two kids. The handsom guy in the leather jacket appeared to be a blackmailer, Mark Socks. He spent some time in prison for mugging and then he changed his specialization. He blackmailed his boss when he had a love affair. He had a suspended sentence. The last man in the group was very short and old. They called him Grandpa. He appeared to be a well-known pickpocket. Now, the girls also had interesting past. The tall brunette, Lisa Shark, had a sentence for a forgery of some paintings. The unattractive plump woman of the sofa was Jenny Ham who was arrested a few times for shoplifting. The red beauty with red lips had been in jail for bribery.

‘A nice spectrum’ – thought the inspector. ‘Now what about the victim?’ ‘Joan Aisle. 23. A student of English and Philosophy. It’s her house, or rather her parents’. They are probably abroad, on some trip, as we found lots of travel offices’ catalogues everywhere.’ ‘Her criminal past?’ ‘Clear.’ ‘How did she die?’ ‘Stabbed. The murderer probably took the knife from the kitchen holding it through a paper towel. After killing her, he or she threw the knife with the towel to the toilet.’ ‘Innovative.’, the inspector was really impressed. He folded the papers, put them into his pocket, then reluctantly went to the bathroom. It was full of blood. The victim was lying in a very strange pose, half of her body pressed into the space between the toilet and the wall. Blood contrasted sharply with her fair complexion and blond hair spread on the floor in waves.

The case was strange, indeed. Everybody could be suspected. After a few hours of investigation, the inspector didn’t know what to think. Now, usually in such a situation – he knew it very well as he read lots of detective stories – the police has to ask people the same questions and check every point where there is some discrepancy. Here people would say completely different things. He heard so many versions of what happened that he couldn’t even remember. They were here because it was Joan’s birthday party or she invited them to show them her film, or they were here to help her redecorate the flat. Everybody knew her or nobody knew her, or only one person knew her, always a different one. Nobody killed her of course, as people would say they were doing something completely different at that time, also they could say exactly what other people were doing, and although they were doing different things according to different people, everybody would swear that he or she really saw everybody else engaged in activities far different from murder.

Of course the inspector knew there must have been some conspiracy between these eight people. He read lots of novels in which this happened: the secret plot which meant a perfect murder. When he heard the autopsy report, he started to think with certainty of what must have happened. The victim was stabbed eight times! Always in her back, but at different angle and with different strength. Some of the hits must have been very strong. But why did they do it? For money? It didn’t make sense. It would be easy to rob her without all this mess. But the strangest thing was: why did they call the police? They could have taken all the money, jewellery, paintings – and escape. They called the police knowing it won’t be able to prove anybody anything.

The inspector would forget about this case, but a year after he heard that one of the people involved in the ‘Party Case’ as they called it, was killed. It was John Lee, the arsonist. He was killed in the park and the murderer didn’t leave anything which would help to identify him. In his flat a diary was found. In the diary he wrote at the time when the Party Case was not solved. ‘The Police didn’t find anything. We were all stoned and it seems everybody remembered something different. Now I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I didn’t want to say I don’t remember because then everybody thinks you are guilty, you did something being unconscious, so I think we all must have been talking nonsense. But the one who did it was clever. No fingerprints, anything. I think I know who did it. If he is guilty, he will pay the money. We will see.’ The inspector was angry with himself. Why do I believe detective novels and not just work properly?’ He decided to start the investigation one more time, even if only for his own content.

He eliminated the women because the murderer hit with great power. He eliminated the arsonist because of his secret diary. He was then left with three suspects: Frying Pan, Grandpa and the blackmailer. He visited Joan’s house and it appeared her parents haven’t changed anything in her room. They let him look at her things. In one of the photographs filling the drawer he found a picture of Joan and Mark Socks – kissing each other. After further investigation Mark Socks was arrested and he pleaded guilty. He met Joan when she worked as a volunteer in prison, teaching criminals literature and theatre. He fell in love with her. It was her birthday party and she invited him – and some friends of his. Then he was jealous because she danced with Frying Pan. So he went to the kitchen, took the knife and killed her. He was stoned and doesn’t remember exactly how it happened. Socks also killed John Lee because he had been blackmailing him. It was all so simple. The inspector thought he must start writing some detective stories as it seemed the reality gave him a lot of inspiration. For the time being he was satisfied with the new novel in his bag. And a thought about dinner with his wife.

Improve your vocabulary!

arson – podpalenie
arsonist – podpalacz
autopsy – sekcja zwłok
blackmail – szantażować
blackmailer – szantażysta
bribery – łapówkarstwo
clues – ślady
discrepancy – rozbieżność
drug dealer – handlarz narkotykami
fingerprints – odciski palców
forgery – fałszerstwo
hostage – zakładnik
investigation – śledztwo
mugging – napad
pickpocket – kieszonkowiec
plead guilty – przyznać się do winy
rape – gwałcić
red-handed – na gorącym uczynku
shoplifting – kradzież w sklepie
suspected – podejrzany
suspended sentence – wyrok w zawieszeniu
victim – ofiara
witness – świadek