Sinister Dexter : The Chief Inspector Gains The Upper Hand

For you, my dear readers, a little snippet from the upcoming installment of PorterGirl – Sinister Dexter, where we welcome back a favourite from The Vanishing Lord, Detective Chief Inspector Thompson…

It never does to keep The Dean waiting, but I do take a moment to wash the cream and jam from my hands and face before leaving the Lodge. If he thinks we’ve been having cake without him, there could be trouble. The condition of my waistcoat is perturbing, but there is little I can do about that right now. I imagine I shall have to order a new one. Still. I doubt The Dean will notice such a thing.

Stepping out from the Porters’ Lodge, a chill wind nips at my ears. The only downside of the bowler hat is that it does little to protect the ears from the elements. I am given to thinking that perhaps a deerstalker might be better this time of year and would certainly be appropriate for investigating all the mysterious things that happen around here. Mind you, I doubt that the miserly purse strings of The Bursar would stretch to additional hats, considering his cost-cutting measures where essentials such as tea are concerned. And that’s another thing. Although I am grateful for the embezzled brew purloined by Hershel, the police really do drink substantially second-rate tea compared to that of the fine selection provided by Head of Catering. It’s given me wind. I can’t imagine it can be the cake. Cake can’t be blamed for anything.

The smallest of shudders tickles my spine, but it isn’t the cold. A familiar creeping oiliness puts my teeth on edge and I look around me. There he is, swaggering towards me with his rakish pearly grin and the icy blue eyes that never quite look you in the face.

“Professor Palmer, what an unexpected pleasure,” I say through gritted teeth. The Dean seems sure he has the means for revenge upon the vile creature so I had best maintain a pretence for now.

“Yes, Deputy Head Porter, I’m sure it must be! What are you doing out here all alone?”

“I’m on my way to see The Dean,” I reply, forcing a smile.

“Oh, The Dean, really?” Professor Palmer positions himself so close to me that I have to tip my head in order to avoid talking to his chest. “While you’re up there I don’t suppose you could measure up for curtains, could you? I’m thinking of going for a Regency theme, actually. You won’t recognise the place, Deputy Head Porter, it will be beautiful – very inviting and comfortable for discerning ladies such as yourself.”

“I like The Dean’s rooms quite as they are,” I reply, quickly tiring of diplomacy. “They serve very well for the business of being The Dean. They are not generally used for entertaining ladies, discerning or otherwise.”

“They will be when I get in there,” snorts Professor Palmer. “Besides, you seem to spend quite a bit of your time up there. I do hope this is something that will continue during my tenure? Keeping on the good side of The Dean of College can be very beneficial, as I’m sure you already know.”

“The Dean doesn’t really have a good side,” I point out. “I find it best to ignore his sides and simply maintain a safe distance.”

“You’re not wrong there, the man is stark staring bonkers! All this nonsense about Russian spies. You would think he had more important things to worry about.”
“What do you know about Russian spies?” I ask, narrowing an eye meaningfully.

“Enough to surmise that they are unlikely to be paying Old College much attention,” Professor Palmer smirks. “It’s no wonder The Master wants to find a replacement. The man’s a liability.”

“A liability maybe, but at least he has a proper degree.”

I wish I had been brave enough to say this but I cannot lay claim to such a riposte. It seems we have been joined by the stealth-like Detective Chief Inspector Thompson and he appears in no mood for Professor Palmer.

“Do you mind!” shrieks Professor Palmer. “I am a member of The Fellowship and you are merely a policeman. How rude!”

“I don’t mind at all,” replies the Chief Inspector, dry as a bone. “Being a policeman has all sorts of interesting benefits – being rude to people is one of them. I’ll thank you to run along, now, I want to speak to Deputy Head Porter.”

“You can quite clearly see that I am already speaking to Deputy Head Porter,” huffs the Professor. “Not that such social norms usually stop you, as I recall.”

“The young lady in The Albatross? Police business, Palmer. As is this, because, as you so cleverly pointed out, I am a policeman.”

“A likely story!” Professor Palmer squares up to the detective, who looks rather pleased about the matter. “Tell me, Chief Inspector, is it because you can’t find any female company of your own that you insist upon stealing mine?”

“It certainly says something about your company that I find them so very easy to steal,” DCI Thompson gives the Professor possibly the smuggest look I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some pretty smug looks, let me tell you. “Come on Deputy Head Porter, walk with me.”

DCI Thompson strides past, his sturdy shoulder clipping the Professor’s as he does so. I trot along obediently behind, doing my best to keep up and giggling girlishly at the prospect of being ‘stolen’. But the Chief Inspector has little time for giggling. We head over the Bridge and into the cloisters of Old Court and find ourselves alone. I wait politely as DCI Thompson silently looks around the empty courtyard, taking in the stoic grandeur. The light of the day is beginning to fade but the frosted flagstones still find themselves able to twinkle in the dusk. Although the air is cold, there is a warmth of sorts in the courtyard that is difficult to explain. Old College doesn’t hold with the laws of nature, so perhaps it just isn’t in the mood for winter this evening.

“I can see why you stay here, Deputy Head Porter,” says the detective. “The place certainly has its charms.”

“It does rather get to you after a while,” I reply. “Also I really like the hat.”

“Is that why you left the police? Because they did away with proper hats?”

DCI Thompson is referring to a recent amendment to the uniform adopted by several forces, where the traditional hats of officers have been replaced by baseball caps. An absolute travesty, in my opinion, but something that occurred after my departure.

“Something like that, Sir.”

“I looked into your background, Deputy Head Porter. By all accounts your career seemed to be going rather well. What made you up sticks to The City and join Old College?”

Well. This is uncomfortable. 

“It’s a long story, Sir.”

“Just what is your story, Deputy Head Porter?” the Chief Inspector asks. “There’s something about you that doesn’t quite… fit.”

My story? Now there’s a question. Really, I could write a book. But here and now are neither the time nor the place. I’m expected by The Dean and discussing my personal life with a senior detective isn’t high on my list of priorities. I decide to distract the Chief Inspector with information regarding the investigation.

“I’ve been speaking to some of the students, Sir,” I say. “It seems that The Dean was right – there is an occult connection between the deceased. How relevant that is, I couldn’t say – although I’m sure you know more about it than I do.”

“I would hope that I do, Deputy Head Porter, I am the lead officer in the case after all!” the DCI laughs as he removes his pocket notebook from his jacket. “Nonetheless, thank you, this is certainly useful.”

“How are things going, in the investigation?” I ask, watching as DCI Thompson makes notes in his little book.

“Oh, I think I’ve gained the upper hand,” he replies. “I always do. Sooner or later.”

I can believe it.

The detective snaps shut the notebook and returns it to the jacket, turning to me with a concentrated frown. I’m sure he intends to ask me something awkward, but is thrown off course by the sudden eruption of the chorus of Sweet Home Alabama from his trouser pocket. I suspect that this is his personal – rather than work – phone and he scrabbles to answer it. I take the opportunity to escape to the relative safety of The Dean’s rooms while I can, making vague pointing gestures to indicate my departure. The Chief Inspector displays utter disinterest, throwing a cursory wave over his shoulder as I scuttle off along the cloister.

A Warm Welcome To The Otter Chronicles!

I am very excited to introduce you to a superb and highly entertaining new blog, The Otter Chronicles, the beautifully written and occasional surreal tale of brave otters battling to save the future of otterkind (and, as an after-thought, humankind too) from the mysterious Otters of the Apocalypse. Only by deciphering the strange and poetic Otter Chronicles – compiled by the wisest otters from days gone by – can our furry heroes hope to understand the secrets of time travel and the true fate of all otters (and hamsters).

Our suave and intrepid protagonist is Lutra Longwhiskers and he has kindly agreed to allow his recent press interview to be published here, in the hope that you will join the otters in their fight to save the future…

An interview with Lutra Longwhiskers

Hello everyone, I am Lucy Littlepaws lead reporter with the Otterbank Times, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be writing today for the lovely readers of PorterGirl. I am extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to interview Lutra Longwhiskers, High Commander of the UK Otter Raft. Lutra is a well-spoken, aristocratic otter with a distinguished look, he habitually sports a top hat and monocle and today was no exception. He arrived promptly for his interview and was keen to get on with the interview without delay as he said he had some pressing hamster doubling concerns…so without further ado I posed the first question.


Lucy Littlepaws

Cmmdr Longwhiskers, as you are aware we have a readership today that doesn’t only consist of otters. For the non-otter contingent can you explain what the UK Otter Raft is?

Ahh yes, very good question, let me see, the UK Otter Raft is the governing community for the otters in the UK. It is made up from governmental ministers but also research and development departments, security and policing sections and otter education colleges. It has a paw in all swims of otter life. It is housed in The Holt, an underground stronghold of considerable size.

What is it like to be the High Commander of such a prestigious and far reaching Raft? 

First I must say that it was a great honour to be chosen to lead the fine otters of the UK. Otters are democratic and fair minded creatures and to get a position of power you must be nominated by your peers and voted for by the general otter community!

As for what it is like…well it involves lots of reading. All the research otters and ministerial otters are producing reports left right and centre all of which need my attention. Aside from that it is mainly listening to my team of advisors and deciding what to do. Looking good in a top hat helps. It is the official hat of office you know!

A hat of office you say? This is a fine thing, do any of the other posts have on official hat of office?

Well Lucy you yourself are sporting a very fetching bowler, which although unofficial, is excellent. But as for posts with official hats, I believe the otter Police service have lovely hats, and the kittens of the school for gifted otters have little caps. The other otters of the raft are free to choose their own hats, they seem very fond of headwear of all sorts. Bows and hats and such all over the place.


Lutra Longwhiskers

Can you tell me about any of the research projects going on in the Holt?

My word yes, I certainly can! There are some splendid things going on at the moment. We have a very fine temporal research and experimentation team, young Debbie Swifttail and Brian Russetcoat. They are very close to a break through and some live otter time travel trials I am told. Fantastic stuff going on down there, big wheels and water tanks and suchlike! Very exciting I can tell you! Then of course there are the Otterman Prophecies, the translation team has every known verse translated now and are working furiously on trying to make sense of it all. It is very intriguing, I had a go at making sense of it myself you know. All about the demise of Tuesday it seems and some sort of apocalypse.

Is the UK raft working on these things alone or are other otters of the world involved?

Alone? Yes definitely, and also no. We do have some international projects here at the raft, we are in communication with the Pacific Otter Raft at the moment with the possibility of an exchange programme with some Canadian Sea Otters. Each Raft has its own speciality you know. It makes sense to share skills for the good of Otterkind.

So what does the UK raft specialise in?

We have some of the world’s foremost linguists here in Simon Swifttail and Seska Fleetfoot. Our Temporal team is second to none of course and of course our hats are unrivalled

Now Cmmdr Longwhiskers I’d like to ask you a couple of questions to let our readers get to know the otter under the hat:
What is your favourite fish for a late night supper?

My goodness, that’s a poser! I’d have to say perch, very tasty the perch. I am also quite partial to a minnow sandwich.

What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?

I am afraid I don’t get as much spare time as I would like, however, I have quite a reputation for rambling. The fresh air is good for your health you know. It is marvellous to get out and about!.

Lastly, does the High Commander of the UK Otter Raft have to participate in decoy otter duty?

Absolutely I do! It is a strict rota system and every otter takes a turn. Great fun it is too, a nice change of pace!

Thank you Cmmdr Longwhiskers this has been extremely enlightening!

Lucy Littlepaws (Journalist)





Hide & Seek – Finale

A thin-lipped smile crept across the tense features of Lord Bottomclutch. A collective breath had been drawn in the drawing room of Somersby Hall and for a moment it seemed it would never again be exhaled.

“Roger, you cad! I knew there was something between you and that blasted maid!”

Lady Bottomclutch flung herself at her husband, but was intercepted by the nimble Captain Hastings, who had been expecting trouble of some sort. He instantly regretted his decision as the hysterical Lady Bottomclutch was only too pleased to be finally in the arms of the handsome Captain and wasn’t about to relinquish her position. As Hastings tried to wrestle her into the more demure setting of the settee, she clung to his broad shoulders, her spindly neck straining so that her withered lips might find his.

“I say, Japp, a chap could do with a hand, here!” exclaimed Hastings, handling the woman as if she were a rampant eel.

“Calm yourself, my dear,” said Lord Bottomclutch, rising to his feet. “I was not the father of Maggie’s baby.”

Non, monsieur,” said Poirot, never at ease with female histrionics. “You were not the father. And neither, as you know, was Barton.”

“Well, who was the father, then?” asked Major Walker. “Aha! It must have been the Philpott boy after all! A double bluff!”

James Philpott gasped in horror, flourishing a delicate handkerchief from his crushed velvet waistcoat and fanning himself furiously.

“I can assure you, Major, it certainly was not!”

“Ah, but you didn’t want to marry her, did you?” Walker continued. “Bumping her off would get you out of the wedding rather nicely!”

“Major Walker, Monsieur Philpott did not kill Maggie. Nor did he bludgeon to death poor Clara,” replied Poirot, his voice calm if not a little irritated. “C’est impossible. Mais, he may not be entirely innocent in all matters, c’est vrai, Monsieur Philpott?”

“I do hope you have suitably firm evidence with which to back up your claim, Mister Poirot!” blustered the vicar. “My son is of very good stock! From a long ecclesiastical line!”

Oui, he is a very fine and particular young man,” replied Poirot, nodding. “A young man who does not like to, as they say, dirty his hands. I noticed on several occasions how he would clean his fingernails with his beautiful little pocket knife. The type of knife, exactly like that described by the mechanic who replaced the tyres on the car.”

James spluttered and a crimson flush burst across his cheeks.

“I… I panicked!” he stuttered. “When I saw Clara dead on the floor… I didn’t know what to do! You see, Clara and I were both outsiders in Tunkle-on-Wyme. Both different from the norm… freaks, if you will. I feared that whoever killed Clara would be after me next. You see how the people are here, Mister Poirot – any one of these narrow-minded toffs could have done it! Your good self and Captain Hastings were the only people I could trust to catch the killer. I wanted to make sure you didn’t leave.”

“I say, this is an outrage!” boomed Hastings. “Japp, arrest that man at once! For crimes against motor vehicles!”

Poirot simply smiled and, ignoring Captain Hastings, continued to address James Philpott.

Mais, we know now that Mademoiselle Clara was not the intended victim of the muderer, non? In fact, was it not your father who said to Poirot, ‘Uniforms make everyone look so alike’ when Mademoiselle Clara was playing maid at the party? I knew already, from the letter Mademoiselle Maggie sent to her friend at Cambridge, that she had recently been given a new uniform. Was it not true that the staff shared with Mademoiselle Clara their old uniforms, for the purpose of her games of make believe? And, Monsieur Barton, did you not say that they ‘were both gangly things’? The uniform, if would fit her perfectly, non?

“But Maggie was heavily pregnant,” Enid cut in. “How could anyone mistake Clara for her?”
“In the dark of the poorly-lit pantry, and from behind, it would be an easy mistake to make, Mademoiselle Enid.”

“So the murderer used the game of hide and seek to facilitate their crime!” exclaimed Major Walker. “But it was Clara that suggested the game. How can that be?”

“It was simple coincidence, Monsieur,” replied Poirot. “The killer, he did not know of this game. He simply knew that there would be a party. He expected only to find Mademoiselle Maggie in the pantry, with everyone else distracted by the business of making merry. When he discovered that he had murdered the wrong girl, the murderer, he devised a new plan. The next morning, he took a rope from the gamekeeper’s hut in the copse, returned to the house, where he strangled Mademoiselle Maggie with his bare hands, before tying the rope around her neck and hoisting her up on the beam to make it look like suicide.”

“I saw Barton on the edge of the copse with a rope, when I was in your room before breakfast,” said Hastings. “You thought he was carrying a gun.”

“That is almost correct, my dear Hastings,” Poirot continued. “Indeed, I did see Monsieur Barton with a gun. The man you saw was the killer – dressed as Barton and carrying the rope. Monsieur Barton kept in his hut his old jacket and cap for Mademoiselle Clara, non?

“But who was it, Poirot?” asked Japp, a creeping hunger making him impatient. “Who was the father of Maggie’s baby?”

“Pah! From what I hear, Maggie had been with half the village,” snorted Walker. “Could have been anyone!”

“Whatever you may have heard, Major Walker, it is very wrong,” snapped Poirot. “This tale of her freedom of affection is a convenient invention of Lord Bottomclutch – a tale that delighted the village gossips, to distract from the truth. Oui, Lord Bottomclutch? C’est vrai, non? Because to discover the truth, we must travel back to Cambridge, the very college where your good friend John Archibald Venn is President and where your own son Harold was a student. Madame Toppocket, Venn’s maid, spoke of unruly students causing problems. And Harold, he was sent down, non? Even your friendship with President Venn could not prevent this. And soon after, Mademoiselle Maggie, she came to work for you here at Somersby Hall. You yourself said to me, Lord Bottomclutch, that you felt responsible for her. Pourquoi? Because Harold was the father of Maggie’s baby and Harold is the killer most foul of Maggie and his own sister Clara!”

Shocked faces turned towards Harold Bottomclutch, who blustered with outraged indignation.

“Bloody cheek of it!” he thundered. “Why, I wasn’t even here at the time of my sister’s murder! What poppycock!”

“That’s right, Poirot,” sniffed Lady Bottomclutch. “Harold didn’t arrive until the next morning.”

“Ah, oui, Harold he said to Poirot that he arrived on the first train from London, non? Mais, I knew that this was a lie. Chief Inspector Japp, he also arrived on the first train from London and, if you recall Lady Bottomclutch, he arrived several hours after Harold. Non. Harold, he arrived the night before, the night of the party. It was Harold who the mechanic saw in the telephone box that night, making the call to say he had been delayed. He stole into the pantry through the courtyard steps and, seeing the figure of a tall, gangly girl in a maid’s uniform who he believed to be carrying his illegitimate child, the girl who ruined his academic career by having the temerity to become pregnant, he carried out his plan to rid himself of this embarrassing problem, before retreating to the copse where he abandoned the murder weapon. He hid there overnight, returning to the house the next morning. His muddy boots which Lady Bottomclutch insisted he remove proved that he could not have come from the station – the cobbled streets and dry weather would have left his military footwear with their customary shine, non? Mais, when he realised the mistake he had made, he had to think quickly. Pretending to be overcome with grief, he returned to the gamekeeper’s hut in the copse, disguised himself with the old jacket and cap used by Clara and took a length of rope before returning to strangle Maggie and set the scene of a suicide.”

“But Harold, why?!” cried Lord Bottomclutch, turning to his son who was now making no moves of rebuttal. “It was all arranged! No one would ever have found out!”

“You know how people are, father,” replied Harold, his face ashen and voice grim. “People would always have asked why I left my studies so abruptly. And no one would ever believe that James Philpott could have fathered a child. I just wanted to protect the family line and the great Bottomclutch name!”

“And instead you have ruined us all!” sobbed Lady Bottomclutch, flinging herself to the floor and weeping bitterly.

Japp thought this to be an overreaction. With arch-gossip Ethel now dead, news of the murder could be kept to a run-of-the-mill scandal, soon forgotten in the chattering classes of Tunkle-on-Wyme, no doubt. Even as he led the stone-faced Harold away, Japp couldn’t help thinking that such a bright young mind had been wasted – all because of misbehaviour and, ultimately murder.

There was little thanks for Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. Lord and Lady Bottomclutch would perhaps have preferred that, all things considered, the murders had remained unsolved. Enid had invented them to join her, the Major and James for drinks, but Poirot had thought it better to make a swift and dignified exit. After all, they still had the damaged car to explain to Venn and London suddenly seemed so very far away.

Hastings drove back along the winding North Norfolk roads towards Cambridge with much greater care than he had taken on the previous journey. The masterful resolution of the murder was hampered somewhat by the dented bumper of the magnificent Delage D6-11, although the vehicle was now the proud owner of four brand new tyres.

“I say, Poirot, these last few days have been a rum sort of fun and games, wouldn’t you say?”

“I most certainly would, my dear Hastings,” replied Poirot. “Mais, we learn once again that when people play the game of murder, there can be only one winner – none other than Hercule Poirot!”

If you would like the complete versions of either Hide & Seek or Never A Cross Word, please email me at and I will be happy to send you a PDF for your enjoyment,