Case without a Corpse
It was my last night in Braxham. In the noisy heat of a crowded town hall I sat beside Sergeant Beef, waiting to see the final of the ——shire Police Heavyweight Boxing Championships, in which P.C. “Chick" Galsworthy of Braxham was to meet P.C. Theodore Smith, of Chopley.
“I ’ope ’e’ll win,” said Beef for the fiftieth time. “He deserves to, the way ’e’s been training. Why, do you know, ’e ’asn’t touched a glass of beer for three weeks?”
“Yes. I hope he wins too,” I said. “I never cared for Smith. He was too anxious to please.”
“You’re right there,” said Beef. “Well, we shall see.”
There were deafening shouts when Galsworthy, looking very fit and fine, entered the ring, followed soon after by Smith. The latter looked the more powerful man, his shoulders sloped downwards as though under a great weight of muscle, but Galsworthy, I thought, had the more perfect physique.
I shall not describe that long and arduous fight. This is not the place, and I am not the man, to do so. I have never admired your great detective’s biographer who becomes sidetracked by his ambition to display the width of his interests. It is my job to chronicle the triumphs of Sergeant Beef, not of his assistant.
Between the rounds Beef made elaborate attempts at conversation. For a time the fight went evenly enough and I think the Sergeant’s anxiety made him ape indifference.
“You know, Mr. Townsend,” he said, as he watched Galsworthy’s seconds plying the towel after the second round, “I’ve been talking things over with Mrs. Beef. I’ve decided, if they don’t give me a job at the Yard after this, I shall rest on my laurels.”
“On your laurels?”
“I mean, I shall retire from the Force,” said Beef with great dignity.
Our conversation was interrupted by the bell, and in this round it seemed that Smith had a distinct advantage. He attacked most of the time, and though Galsworthy’s defence was adequate for the most part, he took some punishment before the round finished.
Beef seemed even more anxious to talk of other things.
“But what makes you think there’s any chance of your being transferred to the Yard?” I asked, rather amused at the idea.
“I think I’ve every right to it,” exclaimed Beef. “After all, I do find the answer, don’t I?”
“You did this time,” I said a little guardedly.
“Well. There you are. And if I don’t get my reward I shall retire altogether.”
Once more the boxers were up, this time Galsworthy started well, leading with his favourite straight left. But at the end of the round the position was uncertain.
“Then you’ll give up detection?” I said with some anxiety, fearing that a source of income to me would dry up.
“Not at all,” said Beef. “I shall start on my own.
The idea of the Sergeant as a private investigator was even more startling than that of him as an Inspector at Scotland Yard.
“Good heavens,” I said.
“Yes. That’s wot I shall do. And Mrs. Beef agrees with me.”
The fifth round was a nerve-racking one as Galsworthy went down for six, and it really seemed that it would be hard for him to establish a win unless he could achieve a knock-out. There was a red swelling beside his eye. After it Beef turned to me.
“I wonder,” he said, “that you never ’ad a try to get yourself engaged to that nice young lady wot was gone on young Rogers.”
I smiled. “You should be the last to complain,” I said. “The day I become engaged I lose half my value as your companion in investigation. I should never be able to provide the love interest in the story again.”
Beef nodded solemnly. “Perhaps you’re right,” he said.
In this round happened what was wholly unexpected to the spectators, though it has long been anticipated, I daresay, by readers of this tale. Galsworthy, with a heroic straight left, knocked out Smith, and was announced as winner of the championship.
But all the Beef allowed himself to say as we left the hall was—“Well, I’m glad ’e won.”
“By the way, Sergeant, there’s one way in which you deceived me. You told me, when you wanted me to charge old Rogers with theft, that life or death depended on it.”
“Well? Didn’t it? Didn’t it make the difference of life or death to ole Rogers?”
He was quite right, I suppose. For the man was hanged soon afterwards.
— THE END —