Picture credit: Lois Elsden.

Tales from the Strangled Ferret.

12 – How, Why?

CAUTION. Please read this sceptically. It is fiction and so the medical sections are written from a position of ignorance and have no relevance to your health. Enjoy this part of the story but please do realise that it is fiction.

DEFINITION OF FICTION – Making up lies and writing them down.

When Jack walked into the FPO he saw that George was there before him. He had rung around his friends, neighbours and most of the regulars who knew Ben well They had all expressed their shock and surprise at Ben’s demise and wanted more information; ‘was it an accident, what had happened?’ and so on. Jack had no answers, all he could tell them that because it was an unexpected death, there would be an autopsy and then a full inquest in the Coroner’s court to find the cause of death and if any lessons should be learned from the events leading up to the death.

All Jack could do was immerse himself in his work and try not to think too much about the loss of his friend and the fact that his other friend, Lame, was still missing and had been in a depressed state the last time Jack had seen him. There was still no news from the police.

George was busily getting on with organising the project. It turned out that he was a natural project manager. He knew when the different trades were available, what they needed to do any particular job and how long it would take. He had overhauled the site safety system, introduced the full CDM regs ( Construction, Design and Management regulations  1994 ), registered the work with the local H & SE ( Health and Safety Executive ) office, ensured that every person working on the site had  the full PPE ( Personal Protective Equipment ) and had been inducted into the procedures on the site and signed the check list to say that they understood all they had been told and they would be immediately banned from site for any infringement of the rules – George did not intend to have any injuries on site on his watch. He checked the scafftag ( Mandatory daily checks on the scaffolding ) system each morning before the early shift started and then briefed the shift manager on arrival on any changes from the previous day. The shift changeover system was working well – helped by the free mugs of builder’s tea and the Halal bacon sandwiches.

George calculated that the project was now some four days ahead of schedule. He kept this information to himself as he didn’t want any slackening off – he knew that there were always little problems that need sorting out during the snagging stage so he kept those fours days to himself as a little bonus that could be used only if necessary.

‘I’m just off into the village, I’ll be back in an hour or so, George.’

‘OK Jack – see you in a while.’ George understood how Jack was feeling. They were all going to miss Ben when the news sank in over the next few days. Ben had been a fixture in the ‘Ferret. He was always there in the background, chatting to the regulars and fastidiously slicing his lemons.

The ‘phone rang. ‘Hello, FPO, George speaking, can I help you.’ George was even getting more efficient on the telephone.

‘I’d like to speak to Jack Robinson please.’

‘He’s out for about an hour, can I take a message and say who is calling.’

‘It’s Detective Inspector Hallamshire at Badgerset. I’ve been appointed SIO ( Senior Investigating Officer ) for the investigation into Mr Martin’s death. Please ask Jack to call me as soon he gets in.’

‘OK, will do,’ said George.

As soon as he had put the phone down, he called Jack on his mobile. ‘Jack,’ he said, ‘I’ve had a new cop on the phone. He’s the one now in charge of looking into Ben’s death and he wants to talk to you soonest.’

Jack sighed, was this going to be more bad news? ‘OK, I’m in Badgerset anyway so I’ll drop in the nick and see what he wants. All OK with you George?’

‘Yes, all is in hand Jack, no worries here.’


Jack walked up to the desk. He was recognised when he asked to see the Inspector and was shown through into a large office, no interrogation room this time.

The inspector walked in and introduced himself. Roger was tagging along behind him with the doleful air of someone who knows he has been upstaged. They shook hands and Jack was offered a cup of tea, which he refused.

‘I have been pulled in to this case because the possibility of murder and the potential security implications as an MP is also missing. This office is now the MIR ( Major Incident Room ). We will be following the HOLMES ( Home Office Large Major Enquiry System ) procedures as we go about gathering information and we expect to have a result very soon.’

‘What would you regard as a “result” inspector?’ asked Jack

‘We will need to find out the train of events leading to Mr Martin’s death, find out if anyone else is involved and then find the missing MP alive and well and the reason why he went missing in the first place.’

‘What progress have you made so far?’

‘We are now in a position to share with you the cause of Mr Martin’s death but we would ask you to keep this to yourself until we find Mr Faulks.’

‘OK,’ said Jack,’ how did poor Ben die?’

‘We have carried out a full post mortem and there were no physical injuries that could have led to his death.’

‘Did he drown in the Trent then?’

‘No he was dead by the time he fell in the river, there was no water in his lungs.’

‘Well how did he die then,’ demanded Jack.

‘A full toxin screen showed that he had been Zestinated.’

‘What on earth is that?’ demanded Jack

‘Before I answer that question, I must ask you a couple of simple questions and then I should be able to tell you the full story.’

‘OK, I’ll tell you anything you want to know, let’s get on with it.’

‘Was Ben ever in contact with lemons?’

‘Well, of course he was, every day. He always insisted on slicing all the lemons for the pub himself. He was very particular about that.’

‘So he was in contact with lemon juice and the fumes given off when slicing lemons daily?’

‘Yes, but what has this got to do with his death?’

‘It is a little know fact that the juice of Citrus x Limon – which is the scientific name for lemons, contains two type of fructose or fruit sugar. One type, which is most of it, is fine but the other type, which is chemically the same but is a left handed molecule has different properties. It is know as a chiral or left handed version of the molecule. Unfortunately it has an effect similar to LSD ( Lysergic acid diethylamide  ) on the human brain when inhaled in large enough quantities. It seems that your friend was killed by his daily exposure to chiral lemon fumes. Had he been acting strangely recently?’

‘I did have a weird phone call from him just after he went missing, as I told Roger here.’

‘Yes, so it seems that Mr Martin had a bad trip and fell in the river unconscious from an overdose of LSD.’

‘With all this talk of lemons, if I wasn’t in a police station I would think you were taking the pith inspector. Are you really serious? If Ben was alive, he’d never live this down – if you see what I mean?’

‘Yes, we are quite serious about this. There will shortly be an inquest and I am sure the Coroner will have certain recommendations about exposure to this dangerous substance, particularly for people working in catering establishments.’


© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca


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