Category Archives: Influenza

The Influenza Adventure – Part 4

[This is Part 4 of 4 in The Citron Investigations: The Influenza Adventure. If you are interested then please read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 first.]

“What could my neighbour’s cats have to do with anything?” Sarah asked.
“I am trying to decide that very question.”
“Well, although I hate colloquialism, ‘if I knew the answer to that…'”
“Oh. The saying is, ‘If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be asking the question'”
“So what have my neighbour’s cats got to do with anything?”
“As I say, I’m not sure. Would you mind describing them for me.”
“Well I don’t know where to start.”
“How about with their colourings.”
“That’s what I meant but she’s got more than 10 cats. So I’m not really sure what they all look like. There’s several tabbies, several pure black, at least one black one with a white underbelly. And so on, she has a lot of cats.”

I looked around the room. It was an ordinary room. An ordinary living room. There were no clues in this room and yet I had seen the clue from the moment I had entered it. It wasn’t in this room it was beyond it. It was in the garden. The most important two pieces of information were there to be watched on the real life television of her back window.

“When,” I asked, “was the last time that your neighbour mentioned your bird feeder?”
“Oh not for years now. It’s verboten. We used to row about it all the time.”
“Who originated the rows?”
“Well I did. Her cats keep trying to eat the poor birds. And I… I just don’t think it’s fair.”
“So why have you stopped arguing about it? Have you suddenly become happy for her to have her cats eat the birds?”
“No. No way! She just wouldn’t budge and neither would I. I knew that she’d never change and that we had to live next to each other so we both, about four years ago, decided that it was best to give it up. Give it up, ignore it, and just try to get along. It’s worked much better.”
“Until now.”
“No, including now. We still haven’t spoken about it since we made our pact.”
“Just because you haven’t spoken about it doesn’t mean she hasn’t been acting.”
“You know that cats are supposed to be being kept indoors during this bird ‘flu crisis? Her cats aren’t indoors even though she cares so much about them.”

I called out, “GEOFFREY!”

Geoffrey walked back into the room.

“Yes Citron.”
“Arrest the next door neighbour. Get forensics to check the bird feeder for poison for gods sake. I can’t believe you haven’t done it already. The neighbour isn’t a hardened criminal for Gods sake she’ll probably confess immediately.”
They both said, “confess to what”, at the same time.
“Confess to poisoning the bird feeder. She did it to protect her cats. She didn’t want them to catch bird ‘flu.”
“Do you want to interview the neighbour?” Geoffrey asked.
“No. Why should I? I want to go and get a less dangerous drink.”

And with that I got up, swished my coat tails behind me, and walked out of the room.

The Influenza Adventure – Part 3

[This is Part 3 of 4 in The Citron Investigations: The Influenza Adventure. If you are interested then please read Part 1 and Part 2 first.]

I walked into the house. Her house smelt fresh and clean but not very warm. It smelt faintly of bleach. I wondered vaguely if she was an obsessive cleaner or if it was Special Branch who had been cleaning up during their evidence gathering. Or the often missed third option – both. It had been my impression over the years that the most common misdiagnosis by inspectors was due to missing the blend option. Oftentimes things weren’t as clear and organised as to have only an option a and an option b. Sometimes, often even, it was both. Or in the direst of investigations it was option c.

I was supposed to be interviewing this woman but why? I knew now that it was no longer a case of bird ‘flu, but what was it instead? I could ask her but presumably if she actually knew she’d have mentioned it already. I decided to go ahead. Cadeau hadn’t seemed particularly keen for me to be here in the first place it would be best perhaps to at least aim at the impression of a normal investigation.

Her house was arranged unorthodoxly with her front room at the back, which led to my first question as I walked into the room.

“Unusual to find the front room at the back, wouldn’t you say Ms…” I felt leaving things dangling was possibly the best way to get information.
“What is the purpose of this she said,” She said this in a voice that was not on directional volume. A voice that boomed in all directions. The purpose seemed to be to attract the attention of anyone other than myself to respond.
“Mr Citron is aiding us with our investigations,” Geoffrey chipped in.

“Well what’s the point of him? What about the other five men who have been in here. At least they seemed to have bothered to learn my name”.
“W-W-Well,” Geoffrey stammered, “your case has been being upgraded and moved around as we’ve got more information about it. We started by believing that your house was the epicentre of a case of bird ‘flu. But now we think this isn’t true. But unfortunately we don’t know what it is now. Now that it has become an obscure non-contagious case we have brought in Mr Citron.”

“Oh,” she said, as though the matter had been settled some hours ago and that Geoffrey had been reiterating rather than revealing.

“So,” I ventured, “Ms…”
“This lady is,” Geoffrey started.
“This lady can speak for herself,” she said on her own behalf, “I am Sarah Lockwinter. Miss Sarah Lockwinter. And you I notice are a Mr rather than a detective. Why is that.”
“Ah,” Geoffrey started.
“I too can speak for myself,” I said stopping Geoffrey short, “I am a kind of contract worker. I only get brought in if the case is really strange and the police can’t solve it. They don’t always characterise it this way but it’s true isn’t it Geoffrey.”
“Yes, yes it’s true.”
“I’m a gun for hire, but I do – just like those old fashioned criminals have certain principles.”
“What are they?” she asked.
“Well, I never like to interview sober. What do you say to a drink?”

Sarah nodded at this, stood up from her couch and walked over to the drinks cabinet.

“Officer,” she said to Geoffrey, “do you mind leaving us alone for a moment. I wouldn’t like to put temptation in your path.”
“Oh don’t mind me,” Geoffrey said.
“I do mind you, thanks.” Said Sarah, and with that she gave him a look so filthy that you would really have thought it would be a requirement to join a nunnery afterwards just to purge the spirit. It was a micro gesture but it was enough to convey to Geoffrey that he should back out of the room and wait until we were finished. And so that is exactly what Geoffrey did. He nodded at me just before he left. It was a nod asking for reassurance, I gave him none. It would have compromised me with the witness.

“So, Mr Citron, what’s your poison?”
“Hmm, a slightly less original joke than you’d probably hoped.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Well, never mind. You weren’t to know. I still get it less often than I get the offer of a squeeze of lemon. People like to say, ‘Mr Citron, a squeeze of lemon?’ which is particularly stupid because the drink I drink most often would curdle with such an addition and yet they say it to me anyway.”
“So what’s that?”
“What’s what?”
“What’s the drink.”
“Ah a White Russian.”
“That requires milk doesn’t it.”
“Yes. Sadly the police have my milk?”
“As evidence? But we know it’s not ‘flu now.”
“No, for their tea.”

There was suddenly a silence in the room. In fact this would have been the kind of situation where a breeze would have picked up to make a slight whistling sound if there had been one – but all of the windows were fastened shut.

“So what will it be.”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“Okay then a gin and cranberry.”
“You can have something else.”
“No, no. A promise is a promise.”

What had I let myself in for? I had been willing to accept any kind of regular alcohol and maybe tonic or water but to have fruit introduced was asking for trouble in my book.

She brought the drink over. It even had ice in it which she’d fished out of a plastic pineapple. I took a sip. It was immediately refreshing and then the after-taste made you feel more thirsty than you had at the start. It seemed like a dangerous kind of a drink. One that made you want more the more that you drank. Ye Gods!

I looked her in the eyes and said, “tell me about your neighbour’s cats.”
“What?” she asked as she looked surprised.

Tune in next week for the fourth and final part of The Citron Investigation: The Influenza Adventure.

The Influenza Adventure – Part 2

[This is part two of the Citron Investigation: The Influenza Adventure. Be sure to check out
Part One

I followed Geoffrey as he lead me back inside the restricted area. There were a couple of looks, as if people were saying that they half recognised me, that they half despised me, that they half wished that they too were able to not wear the ridiculous clothing and finally that they half realised that there had been too many halves by half.

A young man in spectacles walked up to Geoffrey and looked him up and down as though he was more important than him. I was later, and by later I meant literally two minutes later, to learn that this young pipsqueak was Geoffrey’s boss and in a way had every right to look down upon poor Geoffrey. I mean I looked down on Geoffrey, but then I looked down upon him as a friend, because I thought he would learn something from it. I looked down upon him because I thought it would make him a better detective. Whereas this looking down was done purely because it was a chance to be demeaning. I mean I demeaned Geoffrey but at least when I did it there was a point to it. This man had none of the same manors. It is possible that my being there did not help matters.

“What is he doing here?” said the pipsqueak to Geoffrey.
“Ah, Mr Cadeau, he is aiding us with our case.”
“Why is he aiding us? That is quite a complicated question.”
I decided to step in, “Ever since I was a child I was fascinated by the criminal mind.”
“No”, Cadeau said, “Why have you brought him in.”
“You’re on your own,” I said, “I don’t know yet.”
Geoffrey stammered through a few apologies, and then I decided to put him out of his misery by offering to leave.
“No!” Said Geoffrey and Cadeau at once. Cadeau continued, “I don’t wish to inconvenience you Citron that is all. But, please, I trust Geoffrey. I do. I know that if he has brought you here it must be for good reason. I apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
“Okay,” I meekly added, and then for reasons of sheer boredom I added, “sounds good”.

Cadeau literally clicked his heels together and pranced off. I turned to Geoffrey but before I could say anything he was saying, “Right, before you get a chance to say anything about my boss I need you to interview the key witness. She’s had five people interview her already so she’s not fresh, and she is tired.”

I looked back at him, I was trying to radiate signs that said, “if only your people would call me before the first interview, let alone the second” when I realised that I was thankful that they only called me when their plan wasn’t working. The problem would be much worse if they called me for every parking ticket. Instead they only called me when they couldn’t figure things out. Was it my fault that things seemed obvious to me? I needed to control the urge to criticise. The fact that I was in work was because I was one of the few people that could see the way that the criminal’s mind worked plainly. Was it safe to criticise the people who couldn’t? Almost especially not. And almost especially if you considered that it was their incompetence that paid the bills.

Interviewing the witness was going to be interesting, she was hostile from the moment I walked in there. She did not want to be interviewed. But if their was information to be gained then I would be the man to gain it.

Tune in next week for Part 3.

The Influenza Adventure

I turned the corner and stopped. A bird on the floor. Why hadn’t they found this one? Those fools they’d been bodging this one from the start. Tapped the pigeon with the side of my boot. I could lift it of the ground easily enough. I stopped short of tipping it over, I could smell maggots. That had been all I wanted to know. It had been lying there for a while.

I walked closer and suddenly I saw what I had been expecting since I turned the corner. They looked like they had just been on a space ship with all of the suits that they were wearing or that some kind of nuclear spill. It all seemed slightly incongruous for Croydon.

One of them started bounding toward me. Actually he was moving quite quickly. But he looked like he should have been moving in slow motion. That was one of the weird things about these suits not only was it silly looking and separated you from your colleagues in a time when a close and frank exchange of ideas might be the most crucial thing you could have on your team. But amongst all of that was the disconcerting realisation that people were moving around in these suits much too quickly. Because the thing with the suits was that they put you so in mind of space that you expected people to plod forward like they had a kilo of marshmallows attached to each foot.

As he arrived near me I realised two things almost simultaneously. First that it was my good friend Geoffrey inside the suit and second that he had a second suit over his right arm.

“Hullo Citron, how’s things?”

“Things have so far been fine. Although if you do try to make me wear that suit I will kill you.”

I could see Geoffrey was looking me up and down and wondering which was the better thing in his life to be afraid of; me or his bosses. He already knew what his decision was but on some kind of whimsical off chance he thought he should ask me just in case he could avoid trouble.

“Wouldn’t it be safer to wear it?”

“Perhaps it would, but that would have required me to have not stumbled over a dead bird at the end of the street and outside of the exclusion zone. This would has already gone wrong.”

Geoffrey looked at me mournfully. He knew he would probably get in trouble for this. I saw there, loitering on his face, the understanding that he’d made the right decision. Knowing that he’d done it I couldn’t help but give him the excuse he needed.

“If it is bird ‘flu I wouldn’t need to be here. It wouldn’t be a police matter until the contamination had been dealt with.”

And with his reaction I had got my first information confirmed. I could have been called because the bird ‘flu had been purposely infected by someone and they didn’t know by who and that would in fact have happened before the contamination was completed.

But in fact something else was happening. The disease control people were starting to believe that it wasn’t actually a disease. And that’s why the bird had been left on the street. They were getting careless.

“How did you know that Citron?”
“You know I don’t play parlour games Geoffrey. Come now tell me what you know.”

Tune back next Friday for part two of the Influenza Adventure.