Today I have something exclusive to show you – the first of a two part short story featuring Lawrence Pinkley, the eighteen year old detective from the forthcoming book The Curious Disappearance of Professor Brown. I have a challenge for you – solve the case before Pinkley and win a set of five limited edition signed prints from the book. I will reveal the solution to the case on Wednesday 13th November. Just add your solution to the comments section below and the first person to correctly work out the answer will win. You will find out if you are right when part 2 is released. Have fun!
Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Lawrence Pinkley, I’m a private detective. There aren’t many 18 year old detectives in Whitby, in fact, I was the only one, but not by choice. I found myself pulled to the cold north east of England following my father’s death, unwillingly inheriting the Pinkley Investigation Group, or PIG for short.
It had been a peculiar week in Whitby.
It began when a vicious storm blew in from the North Sea and crippled the migration of tourists to the town, who decided instead to stay inside their guest houses and play board games until it was safe to venture out. There had been some minor damage to property: the chimney stack at 82 Malady Place had toppled over, falling through the roof and into Mrs Chubb’s bathroom, exposing her bunions to a row of wet seagulls. All 57 inmates from Mrs Meakin’s Cat Sanctuary escaped after fencing collapsed. The winds were so strong that even the famous Whitby Abbey, perched high above the town, was blessed with a shroud made from seaweed. When the storm finally ended, the sea retreated to reveal a stranded Minke whale lying on the beach. The media attention it grabbed soon encouraged the tourists to put down their dice; quickly guess that Colonel Mustard did it with the candlestick in the library, and rush back into town to see the spectacular sight and the complicated rescue operation that followed.
Storms also meant that the services of a private detective were not needed. After all, if everyone was staying indoors, nothing was happening. But, now that Whitby was getting back to normal, I found myself down by the harbour talking to Victor Stickleback, an eccentric local fisherman with a permanent sun rash across the middle of his face. He wore large yellow waterproof overalls and there was an overpowering smell of fish coming from him.
‘One minute they were there, the next they had disappeared,’ said Mr Stickleback. We were standing on a wooden slatted wharf with the North Sea blowing on our backs. In front of us was a row of eight identical warehouses painted duck-egg-blue. Each one only distinguishable from its neighbour by the square white number plaque that was screwed beside each door.
‘And, what time was this?’ I asked with my pen poised over the notepad, trying not to breathe whenever the wind blew Mr Stickleback’s fishy aroma in my direction.
‘Just gone five this morning. Hadn’t been out for four days because of that storm, and this being market day, I needed to earn some money. I remember hearing the town hall clock chiming as I steered Old Betty into the harbour. Pulled up just over here.’ Mr Stickleback pointed to a tired looking fishing boat, its paint blistered and peeling from the hull. ‘I tied her up as usual, took off my jacket and prepared the catch ready to unload into my warehouse. Young Dave Barton is usually waiting to help me unload, but there was no sign of him.’
‘Is he usually late?’ I asked.
‘Not normally. I walked along the jetty to Dave’s mum’s house. She runs the guest house at the end of the pier. I was just about to knock on the kitchen door when Dave came rushing through it, pushing a bacon butty down his throat. Nearly knocked me over!’
‘Was your catch of fish still there when you got back?’
‘Yes, everything was exactly the same as I left it.’
‘And, was there anyone else around at that time?’
‘Randy Lyons and a few of his boys were preparing his boat ready to go out. Left it a bit late if you ask me. He’s probably got something to do with this, you mark my words, Mr Winkley!’
‘It’s Pinkley,’ I corrected.
‘Wouldn’t trust him anymore than I would eat a bloated haddock with three eyes and a dose of diarrhea.’ Mr Stickleback spat on the wharf in disgust. We both instinctively looked towards warehouse number three where the Irish tones of Randy Lyons called out to potential customers strolling up and down the wharf buying their fish. From where I was I could see the well stocked trays of fish that lined the floor of his warehouse.
‘So what happened when you got back to the boat?’ I asked, stepping away from the slimy globule of phlegm.
‘I took my keys out of my coat and unlocked the warehouse. We took the crates of fish off the boat and set them out ready to sell as soon as the wharf market opened.’
‘I replaced the padlock, locked up and went for some breakfast at Piffany’s. We were gone less than an hour. When I came back and opened up, all the fish had disappeared!’
‘But the door was still locked?’
‘Yes,’ he confirmed.
I examined the wide wooden door to warehouse number four. Apart from a few dark rust stains dribbling down from the catch and hinges, there was no sign of a break in. Out of habit, I straightened the number plaque which appeared slightly loose, then pulled at the iron latch. The doors were securely locked. Mr Stickleback reached inside his coat pocket for the key, unlocked the padlock and opened the door. As it pulled out towards us it snagged on a loose screw that was wedged between two planks of wood in the floor of the wharf. As I kicked it out of the way with the toe of my shoe, I also disturbed a pile of tiny pieces of wood. I looked back at the number plaque and saw the reason why it was loose; one of the screws was missing.
‘Does anyone else have a key?’ I asked Mr Stickleback.
‘No. This is the only one. The spare got eaten by a large Halibut I wrestled with last year. I keep meaning to get a duplicate made, but never get round to it.’
Once the door was open, the light streamed into the empty warehouse. We walked inside. The sides and ceiling were all made of slattered wood that was riveted around a steel frame. The space smelt damp, but there was no sign of water, just rows of plastic crates that should have been filled with fish ready to sell at the market. Hidden in the shadows at the far end of the warehouse were some thick coils of rope as well as a large black greasy machine, no doubt used for repairing the boat, but otherwise, the warehouse appeared empty.
‘So, where do you think they went, Mr Winkley?’ asked Mr Stickleback.
Can you work it out?
Write down your answer below – if you are right you win limited edition signed artwork.
Solution revealed Wednesday 13th November.
Pinkley Puzzle and Desktop Theme