Lisa Cummings and the Five Minute Murder
By Jack Harvey
“I'm serious,” said Lisa, twirling the straw in her drink. “Boba Fett is the worst character in Star Wars.”
Andy nearly spat out his pint. “Fuck off,” he shot.
“No, consider, what does he actually do in the films? Gets hired by Vader, follows Han, and when he catches them in Cloud City he lets the Stormtroopers do the rest. Given that, and his frankly embarrassing death...”
Andy held out a hand. “I've got to stop you there. The expanded universe clearly showed that he escaped the Sarlacc pit.”
Lisa shook her head with a smile. “I said, 'In the Movies' Andy. Judging by his appearance on screen alone, no comics, games or books, he doesn't deserve anywhere near the reputation he has, and I'm not even factoring in Attack of the Clones.”
Andy took another gulp of beer and folded his arms. “Worse than Greedo?”
“Heck, at least Greedo died staring down the barrel of a gun. Fett didn't even get that. I always liked Lobot”
Andy pulled a face trying to figure a counter argument, but the damage was done. Lisa put the straw to her mouth and began to finish the rum and lemonade. “Your round,” she said, putting the empty glass in front of him.
Andy reached for his wallet. “Suddenly I'm starting to regret using this as an excuse to skip out on Officer Kent's birthday bash.”
“Kent the cunt?” Lisa said, laughing. “No you aren't. I don't understand why we couldn't have gone to the The Purple Nighthawk.”
Andy stood. “I'm going to have to be in dire straits before I let you drag me into a gay bar Cummings.”
“C'mon, it's the modern age. Nobody cares about the heteros anymore,” she joked. “It would be better than this place.”
“What's wrong with The Crown?” Andy said, looking offended.
Lisa shrugged. “Nothing, if you're like... fifty eight. We're not going to score much pussy here are we?”
Andy shook his head and made for the bar.
It was a week-night, which wasn't a problem for Lisa, who worked her own hours, but most of her other friends had work in the morning. She had owed Inspector Andy Browning a favour and when he needed an excuse to duck out of a colleague's party she had agreed to join him for a couple of drinks.
Unfortunately there wasn't much going on at The Crown.
Lisa glanced over at Andy fumbling with his change at the bar, a loyalty card in his hand. He was probably hoping to get that tenth free pint they owe him.
Lisa's phone vibrated, and she checked her recent messages. A bunch from her gaming group, The Bitch Brigade.
Ur all going down this weekend suckas. Eat my entire ass. She messaged.
A man in a green mac jacket pushed past Andy as he returned with the next round of drinks. A pepperoni and a packet of scampi fries were in his hands.
“Where's the cheesy moments?” Lisa asked, disappointed.
“They've ran out,” Andy replied.
“The fuckers!” she said.
Lisa began to suck her drink out of a fresh straw, looking bored.
“You sure you don't want to hit the jukebox?” Andy said, trying to console her.
“Last time I did that I got side-eyed when Two Become One, came on.”
“Hey if you've put the money in nobody's got the right to complain about your shit taste in music.”
“Fuck off Andy, I remember your face when that guy put the complete Garth Brooks on during the quiz last month.”
Andy threw his hands either side. “You've got a fucking answer for everything don't you?”
Lisa shrugged. “I'm a private eye Andy.”
“You're a pint sized private eye,” Andy said vindictively. “Besides, you're out of practice.”
“Fuck you Rene Mathis I'm at the top of my game. If there was a murder right here, right now, I bet you I'd be able to solve it in like... five minutes.”
“Oh you'd bet would you?” Andy said laughing.
Suddenly, the man in the green mac had returned from the toilets and made a startled noise at the bar. “What 'appened to me pint?” the man said.
“What's up Tony?” asked the tired looking Beryl at the bar.
“The head's all gone,” the man called Tony said. “Me pint's dead.”
Andy turned and looked at Lisa, mania in his eyes.
“I think someone's took a sip out if it!” Tony said.
Andy suddenly pointed at Lisa's face. “I bet you a twenty you can't solve this mystery in five minutes!”
Lisa frowned, then grinned. “Oh it's on motherfucker. It's on.”
Lisa paced the floor surrounding the bar, rubbing her chin. The locals studied her curiously.
“Alright,” she said, finally. “Hands up, who's eaten either a pickled egg or pickled onion tonight?”
Three hands went up tentatively.
Lisa glanced over to Beryl at the bar, her tired eyes betrayed a reluctance to play along.
“Well?” Lisa asked.
“Well what?” said Beryl sheepishly, rubbing her shoulder with tobacco stained hands.
“Is that right? Only these three have been served picked delicacies?”
“Oh, yeah, that's right.” Beryl replied.
“Okay,” nodded Lisa. “That narrows things down. The only way Tony's beer could have been killed that fast was by the touch of vinegar. Our culprit must have eaten a pickled something before taking a cheeky swig of the beer. Therefore, only one of these three could have been the culprit.”
First of the three suspects was Barry, a regular for years who could be a little clingy and irritating after too many pints. Next, there was Joshua, a young friend of Beryl's son who was home from working on the rigs. Finally, there was Linda, the local quiz team leader who had a bit of an abrasive personality at times.
“Well it weren’t me becus'...” Barry started.
“Not yet.” Lisa held out a hand.
Andy folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. He had a grin on his face as he watched with some amusement.
“Okay,” Lisa carried on. “We also know that nobody tried to conceal the fact that they had eaten a pickled delicacy, which suggests that our culprit is confident enough that we won't discover their little altercation. That suggests a careful hand.”
“At taking a swig of someone’s pint?” scoffed Linda.
“That's precisely the attitude they're hoping we'll take,” Lisa said, walking over to Linda and leaning over by her table. “Precisely the attitude they'd like to foster. Care to confess anything to us Linda? We know how you have a taste for beer, with your Ale Society membership or whatever it is.”
“Don't be absurd,” Linda spat.
“We'll see,” Lisa said, backing away. “We'll see.”
Andy shoved a few scampi fries in his mouth.
“Tony,” Lisa said, walking over to the bar. “Is there any one of these three whom you feel may hold a certain disdain for you these days? Anyone that might want to wage a silent protest?”
Tony pulled a face. “Well, I wouldn't put it past Barry playing silly beggars.”
“Ayy, that's not fair, I wouldn’t...” Barry objected.
“Not. Yet!” Lisa commanded. She turned back to Tony. “Carry on.”
“Well it's just that Linda has too much self respect to do something like that, and I can't see young lad doing it, he's got plenty of money in his line of work.” Tony shrugged.
“Oh indeed,” Lisa walked over, eye-balling Joshua. “No reason you'd take a swig at all. Right J?”
“No,” Joshua said pleasantly. “It wasn't me.”
Lisa quickly turned to Beryl. “Beryl! Is it true or not that both your son and our friend here got in trouble five years ago for swiping peoples drinks?”
Beryl looked shocked. “How did you know?”
“You come across a lot of interesting stuff in my line of work,” Lisa said, grinning. “You started off fishing for unfinished pints, isn't that right Joshua? Until you started looking for more excitement?”
Joshua suddenly looked worried. “Yeah but that was a long time ago. I was at uni, I was short on cash. I can pay for my own drinks now.”
“Yes you can,” Lisa nodded. “But maybe from time to time you miss the old excitement? Maybe you wanted one final score?”
Barry stood up. “Aye, I can understand that, back when...”
“Not yet Barry!” Lisa shot. “We'll be getting to you in a moment.”
Barry sat down, deflated.
Linda piped up again. “Hang on a moment. Tony's always going for his tea at the chippy across the road. How do we know it wasn't the vinegar from that that killed his pint?”
Lisa held up her hand, index finger extended. “A valid question. It is however impossible. Listen.”
Everyone around the bar went silent. They were unsure what they were supposed to be listening to. The only sound was the music on the jukebox.
“That's Purple Rain by Price,” said Lisa. “Tony always puts three songs on the jukebox, and Purple Rain is always last. If we factor in that he went to the jukebox before ordering his drink and going to the toilet afterwards then the window between Born to Run and Lawyers, Guns and Money is too small for him to take a sip from the pint.”
The group nodded, impressed.
“Also, I went to the toilet while Beryl was pulling me the pint,” Tony added.
“That too,” Lisa noted.
Andy took a few big gulps out of his pint to cool his mouth after the first few bites of the pepperoni.
His eyes were still fixed on Lisa.
“Well personally I don't think we'll ever solve this mystery,” said Joshua nervously.
“On the contrary,” Lisa barked. “I think I'm starting to see things come together now.”
Lisa walked over to Linda, a cocky grin on her face. “I think we can count out Linda as a suspect. If she wanted to do something to piss Tony off she wouldn't do it in secret. She'd either say it to his face or bitch about him on the forums.”
Linda folded her arms. “How very dare you,” she said, not showing the slightest bit of relief about being exonerated.
Lisa walked over to Joshua, putting her hands around his shoulders condescendingly. “Likewise, I wouldn't put it past young J here, but he's not nearly had enough to drink to get him to start that kind of carry on.”
“Young?” he said, insulted. “You were only a few years above me in school.”
Lisa walked over to the far side of the bar. “That leaves only one possible culprit.”
Barry stood, sweating. “Now that's not fair, I haven't even had a chance to...”
But before Barry could continue Lisa began talking over him. “Isn't that right, Beryl?”
Suddenly everyone looked to the bar. Beryl stood there, looking surprised. “Me?”
Lisa marched over to her. “It's no secret that you've been sick of Tony for a long time, complaining about him having the same conversation every night and never changing up the music on the jukebox.”
Andy raised his eyebrows.
Beryl stood there blushing.
Lisa continued. “Who else would have been able to take a sip of that beer without anyone noticing? It was your own little silent protest. If it wasn't for your taste in pickled eggs, the head would have still been there and Tony probably wouldn't even have noticed.”
“What's wrong with my taste in music?” said Tony, dejected.
“Okay, fine, I'll pull you a new one,” Beryl said to him, reaching over for a new glass.
Lisa pumped her fist. “Haha, Yes!” She strutted over to Andy with a shit-eating grin.
Andy shook his head.
“Come on, pay up sucker.” she said, holding out her hand.
Suddenly Barry sat back down. “But I never got to do my bit!”
“Shut the fuck up Barry,” said Beryl in frustration.
Andy opened his wallet and handed over a twenty pound note. “There's just one thing I don't understand?”
“If I'm Rene Mathis, is that supposed to make you James Bond?”
Lisa shrugged. “Clearly Andy.”
He got to his feet. “You have such a high opinion of yourself, you know that?”
“Hey you know what they say, fake it till you make it.”
Andy shook his head one more time. “It's your round then, I suppose, I'm going for a piss.”
“Sure thing,” Lisa said strutting over to the bar. Quickly, she turned to Beryl and lowered her voice. “Thanks for that Beryl.”
Beryl shrugged. “Your advice got my daughter a reduced sentence, It's the least I could do.”
“Well I'm as sucker for a pretty face,” Lisa said, smiling. “No pun intended.”
Beryl raised an eyebrow. “I'm going to forget you just said that. What can I get you?”
“Uh, A rum and lemonade and a pint for us. Three more pints for J, Tony and Linda. A babysham and whiskey for Barry.”
“I'll have to be quick before Felix Leiter gets back.” Beryl said.
Lisa looked confused.
“Sorry I thought you were both doing the nickname thing.” Beryl answered.
“Yeah but Felix Leiter was white.” Barry said.
“Shut the fuck up Barry,” Lisa and Beryl said in unison.
Tony started sniggering.
“Besides,” said Lisa, “Andy clearly looks more like Anthony Mackie.”
“Who's that?” asked Beryl.
“He's the guy that played Falcon in the new Avengers films,” said Andy suddenly from behind Lisa.
“But I always remember him from We Are Marshall.”
“Jesus,” Lisa said, startled. “Don't sneak up on me like that you fuck.”
Andy started laughing. “Who are all these drinks for?”
“Nobody,” she said dismissively. “Look, here's yours. Let's go sit back down.”
Andy nodded, shaking off his suspicions. The two of them clinked glasses. “Cheers I suppose. At least that was more interesting than doing fifteen Jaeger bombs with Kent and the lads.”
The two of them sat back down at their table. “I aim to please,” Lisa said, smiling.
Andy couldn't help smiling too. “Okay, so where were we?”
Lisa took a sip through her straw. “I was about to say how Jar Jar was a Sith lord all along.”
“Okay, now you really can fuck off,” Andy said, spitting out his pint again. “And you can give me that fucking twenty back an' all.”
Jack Harvey 2015