Bryant & May's Mystery Tour

Bryant & May's Mystery Tour by Christopher Fowler Read Free Book Online

Book: Bryant & May's Mystery Tour by Christopher Fowler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Fowler
Bryant & May’s Mystery Tour
    EARLY ON CHRISTMAS Eve the Home Office called Arthur Bryant of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit with an urgent request to attend the scene of a crime in King’s Cross. Bryant did so, then called his partner John May with instructions to meet him at 10:15am beside a bus stop in Marble Arch, but with no explanation as to why. It was muggy, grey and wet, not at all appropriate to the festive season, and May resented being dragged away from the PCU’s offices.
    â€˜Ah, you got my message, good.’ The elderly detective hailed his partner with a wild whip of his walking stick, and nearly pruned a passing tourist. Bryant resembled a beady-eyed tramp more than an officer of the law. He had misbuttoned his shapeless brown cardigan and dragged a moth-eaten Harris tweed coat over the top of it. A sprig of holly protruded from his battered trilby, looking less like seasonal decoration than a sign that he had lately been trapped in a bush. ‘I got here ahead of time and had a potter through the German Christmas market in Hyde Park. Four pounds fifty for a knockwurst. They’re getting their own back for the war.’
    â€˜You had your mobile with you?’ asked May, surprised. Arthur was three years his senior but several decades behind the rest of the world when it came to technology.
    â€˜I did have, yes,’ Bryant admitted, tugging his trilby further onto his head. ‘Here’s our bus.’ He indicated the old open-topped Routemaster that was pulling up beside them.
    May was suspicious. ‘Then where is it now?’
    â€˜I think I dropped it in the Princess Diana Memorial Drain. Don’t worry, it’ll just keep going around. I’ll get it when I come back. Well – ‘He threw out a hand so that May could haul him on board, ‘you’re probably wondering what this is all about.’
    â€˜And why we need to meet on a sightseeing bus, yes,’ said May, leading his partner inside the idling vehicle. The portly driver looked back over his shoulder, watching them through the glass. ‘I’ve seen the Regent Street lights already.’
    â€˜It won’t do you any harm to see them again. I think Christmas gets better as you get older,’ Bryant remarked somewhat unexpectedly.
    â€˜Do you?’
    â€˜Oh yes. You have to buy fewer presents because most of your friends are dead. Let’s go inside, I can’t face the stairs. Let me fill you in. There was a rather sad little murder in King’s Cross during the night. A 54 year-old cleaning lady named Joan McKay was strangled to death in her third floor flat in Hastings Street. The HO felt the case warranted our involvement.’
    â€˜But this bus doesn’t go anywhere near King’s Cross.’ May checked the route on the wall and saw that it tacked through central London on a loop.
    â€˜Oh, we’re not going to the murder site. I’ve already been there.’ Bryant seated himself on the arrow-patterned seat at the front of the bus, next to a gingery young man who was standing in the aisle with a microphone. His badge read:
Hi! I’m Martin!
‘I wanted you here so that you could help me apprehend the murderer.’
    The Routemaster pulled away from the stop at Speaker’s Corner, heading into Oxford Street. Shoppers were out early, but many had already left the city to spend Christmas with their families. ‘My Uncle Jack used to get up on his soapbox over there, just after the war,’ said Bryant, tapping the rain-spattered window. ‘He was used telling people what they shouldn’t do, like that man who used to wander the length of Oxford Street with the board that said ‘Less Passion Through Less Protein’. He’d pick a different subject every week, ‘Ban licentious theatre, hang Sir Anthony Eden, shoot the Welsh, he’d rant about anything so long as it involved getting rid of something or someone.

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