Caught in the act

Helensburgh may not be the most obvious location for murder most foul. But Philip Parr had been given a tip-off. Donning his old raincoat and trilby. he went to investigate a homicide on the west side.

I’d been called to a hotel. The voice on the end of the phone claimed some dame was about to be murdered. ‘£25 a day plus expenses.‘ 1 said. ‘How about a room for the weekend. and as much food as you can eat'."


The rain was slanting down like the lead from a .45 when I stepped offthe train at Helensburgh Central. It never let up all weekend. I hailed a cab. was ripped off. and arrived at the hotel. Rosslea Hall. It sounded more like the setting for a Bronte novel than the backdrop for a murder. It looked that way too all Victorian elegance with just a hint of modern chic. Ok. so a broad was about to be murdered. but ifyou must meet your maker then this was a pretty good place to do it.

The evening meal started conventionally enough. except that I‘d been given the wrong time by the dame at the front desk. My partner and I sat waiting for something to happen.

A guy called Dr Cairns entered the restaurant accompanied by his wife. He seemed uneasy; like

an actor on his first night on Broadway. They were joined by Stephen. the wife's brother. All very usual. then the swearing started. Tempers were

raised. 'l’harmaceuticals' were mentioned more

« often than in an [(‘1 boardroom. This was no conventional meal.

I was on coffee when the trio were on dessert.

' They went for the gateau which. after the size of main course. had to be an unwise move. The wife

seemed to be having a problem. She clutched at

her throat and started to choke. The entire restaurant avoided eye-contact and looked around

uneasily; this was Britain after all and it's so

embarrassing to have someone die in the middle of

your chocolate mousse. Entering into the spirit of the evening. I twirled my teaspoon and looked at the light-fittings with the rest of the clientele. There was an almighty thud as Mrs Cairns's head hit the table. Everyone returned to their meal. glad that the distraction was over.

The inspector and his assistant arrived resplendent in brown suit and sports jacket respectively. Why do plain-clothes cops have such bad dress sense? We left the restaurant and gathered in the lounge with as much sobriety as we could muster in our post-flambe'ed pork cutlet stupor. After all. murder was serious. as the


inspector continually told us when we started giggling. The good doctor. the brother and the waiter and waitress who had been on duty were ushered into the room.

Some interesting facts emerged over the next

Kate, the waitress, had been having an

affair with the doctor; she’d also had a fling

with the waiter; she was also pregnant.

hour. Kate. the waitress. had been having an affair

with the doctor: she'd also had a fling with the waiter; she was also pregnant. (‘airns had asked

for a divorce which his wife had refused to grant. A

mumble spread across the crowd and the word ‘motive' was bandied about in slanderous fashion. But we didn't even know if the Cairns woman had been murdered. Forensic tests would reveal all. but the results wouldn't be available until the morning. We were instructed to reassemble in the lounge at 10.30am. After protests from the more laconic among us. we came to an 1 lam compromise.

The morning was as grey as a down-town street


- J: a . ian elegance with


int of modern chic

in Brooklyn. The doctor looked as if he‘d had a rough night. The brother lit up his hundredth fag ofthe weekend and the inspector gave us the results from the lab. ‘She was murdered with cyanide.‘ he said. ‘probably in the gateau.‘ We breathed a collective sigh. relieved that we hadn‘t been wasting our time over a fish-bone caught in the throat. The doctor seemed offended by our reaction.

More grilling of the four chief suspects began. We learned about their previous jobs. about their relations to each other and found out that sleepy little llelensburgh had some dark secrets behind the net-curtains. Just as we seemed to be getting somewhere. the inspector was called back to the station. We would have to meet for one. final time after dinner that night. During dinner. everybody avoided the gateau.

Perhaps realising that there were one or two talented sleuths among the witnesses. the inspector let us ask some questions at the final session. I wondered where one of the suspects had worked during a college summer vacation: the murderer realised that the game was up and tried to flee the room. Neatly apprehended by the inspector. the criminal was brought to justice. I was congratulated by the police. who then revealed themselves to be actors. Not only that. the murderer and all of the other suspects were also playing parts. What a fraud.

But I had a trick up my sleeve. ‘What are you anyway.‘ asked the inspector. ‘some kind of private dick'."

‘No.‘ I said. ‘l'm just a cynical hack trying to earn an honest buck. Everything you‘ve said and done has been noted down and will be used in evidence.‘

But one thing puzzles me still. We never did see Mrs Cairns again. And the murderer? Well. I'm sure you‘ve guessed for yourself by now. Haven‘t you?

Future Eye-Spy murder weekends will he held a! various hotels in the New Year. ( 'onlact (iraeme on ()4! 4.37 48.33 ( Daytime only ).

Thanks to Ross/ea Hall. Ferry Road. Rim.

I )imbarlonshire. Information and reservaliims (0430) 820684.

The List l7—3(lJanuary 199243