The Calhoon Case-Files #1 - The Burning Question

By Seamus Kennedy

As soon as people saw him, they could tell that he was different. He was incredibly tall, at well over six-foot-four-inches and was extremely thin and lanky, and this, combined with his strange, striding walk, made him look like a stork. He was wearing blue jeans, a white shirt and hiking boots. Over this he wore a long black coat which trailed down to his ankles. His bright red hair was matted and twisted like a clump of briars, but was kept in some degree of control by a big, black, wide brimmed hat. His grey eyes were masked by a pair of small, round spectacles, which were continually slipping down his nose. His face was covered with two day old stubble, and he wore a vacant like a newly lobotomised man. He was the kind of man who had a past that was murkier than a month old pot of coffee. who would look danger straight in the eye, and then knee it in the groin. He was Kurt Calhoon, private eye.

*No one knew exactly what had happened to the German tourist. All they could tell me was that he had walked out of the Bungee Burger restaurant into the shopping centre and exploded, leaving nothing behind but a pair of smoking shoes, a burnt smell and a strange stain on the ceiling. Everyone seemed to have a different theory as to the cause of the explosion. The police were left baffled, and the shopping centre management were left with no choice but to come to me, Kurt Calhoon.*

"And that's all we know." The shopping centre manager finished telling his story and leaned back into his chair which creaked in protest of his weight. Across the desk, which was covered with a mound of documents and newspapers with half filled in crosswords, Calhoon sat studying his new client. He was a typical executive; dark suit, pale blue shirt and a lump and lifeless tie. He looked like the kind of guy who drank mineral water and played squish on the weekends. The kind of guy who was named Carl, and had a girlfriend called Deborah, or Alicia. The kind of guy who worried so much about getting an ulcer, that he gave himself a ulcer. Calhoon decided to test his theory that one could tell a person's personality from the colour of wine gum that they chose. He held out a bag to the manager. "Can I offer you a wine gum?" Calhoon's accent was a strange blend of Scottish and Australian. "Thank you." The manager, who Calhoon had began to think of as being called Carl, confirmed!
Calhoon's assessment of him, by reaching for an orange wine gum. "My fees are two hundred pounds a day plus expenses." "That's acceptable." "Then you've just hired yourself Kurt Calhoon."

*The first thing I decided to do was to interview all the eye witnesses. I managed to get their addresses from contact in the police force. Unfortunately, none of them were much help...*

Calhoon knocked loudly on the door of the apartment and waited. He had spoken to seventeen of the thirty-three witnesses, and none of them had been of any help to him. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door in front of him being unlocked. The door opened just enough to allow an eye to peer out at him. "Yes, yes, what do you want?" "I'm sorry to bother you sir, but I'm looking for a mister Dirk kenvatay." "That's me, but I prefer to be called Dirk, The Almighty." "Well, mister Almighty, I'd like to talk to you about that man who exploded in the Thirty Pines shopping centre." "The eye narrowed in suspicion. "Are you with the police?" "No sir, I'm a private investigator." "That's okay then. Come in." The door opened to reveal the owner of the eye. The man stood about five-foot-five-inches tall. His black curly hair looked unkempt and he looked as though he hadn't shaven in a week. He was wearing a pair of garish fluorescent coloured Bermuda shorts, and a tee-shirt with a picture of a cartoon duck on the front. "So, what do you want to ask me?" "I was wondering if you had seen anything that might be helpful in my investigation. For example, did you happen to see anyone suspicious in the shopping centre that day?" "No, I didn't see anyone, but I know who killed the tourist." Calhoon felt a surge of surprise, "Who?" Dirk smiled. "Pigeons!!!" "What?" "It's true. pigeons are planning to take over the world." Calhoon looked sceptical. "What is it that makes you think that sir?" "I was told it by a banana." "Well, thanks for your help sir, but I must be going." Calhoon walked out of the apartment making a mental note to report Dirk to the Granville Asylum for the insane.

Calhoon stood on top of a ladder in the middle of the shopping centre and scraped a sample of the soot from the black stain on the ceiling into a small plastic bag, using a chisel. Then he put both the bag, and the chisel into his coat pocket and climbed down the ladder. "You said he had just left the Bungee Burger restaurant?" "Yes" replied the manager. "Then we'd better check it out. Lead the way."

Calhoon walked into the Bungee Burger manger's office and looked around. The room was quite large, but the only furniture was a small desk, and a chair. The rest of the room was filled with expensive looking exercise equipment and crates of Slim-quick weight loss milk shakes. There was also a vat of a strange blue powder, behind the door. Calhoon thought that this was strange, until he saw the occupant of the room. Robert Dawson, owner of the Bungee Burger fast food chain, brought a new meaning to the word obese. Looking more like a small hill than a man, he sat on a small wooden chair, whose legs were buckling under his immense weight. His suit looked close to bursting, and a layer of fat hung over the edge of his shirt collar. The man looked as though he would have trouble getting out of his chair, let alone using the exercise equipment in the room. "Ah, Mr. Calhoon, you wish to see me, I believe?" Dawson spoke with an upper class British accent. "Yes, I wanted to ask you about the man who exploded." "Yes, what a tragedy. But what do you want to ask me?' Calhoon studied the other man's face carefully. "I wondered if any of your staff had noticed any thing strange about either him, or the burger he ate before he died." Dawson's red and bloated face froze for an instant. "No, they saw nothing. And one if you will excuse me, I have business to do. Good day, Mister Calhoon." As Calhoon was leaving the office, he grabbed a handful of the powder from the vat, making sure not to be seen by Dawson. Once he was out in the corridor he put it into a small plastic bag, and put it in the pocket that contained the bag of soot. Carl the shopping centre manager walked up to him.. "Tell me," asked Calhoon, 'is he trying to lose weight?" "Yes. He is so desperate, he even bought the Slim-quick company. That's where he got all the milkshakes." "Really? Well, thanks Carl. I'll be in touch."

*I decided to send the samples of soot and the strange blue powder to my old pal Doug Marley at Cipher Labs for analysis. It took three weeks for the results to come back, but as soon as I got them, I knew they had been worth the wait...*

Calhoon was doing his daily crossword when the phone rang. He did not usually answer the phone himself, but his secretary Mindy had taken the day off to welcome home her boyfriend Larry, a truck driver who had just got home after delivering two tonnes of frozen pizzas to Buenos Aries. Calhoon had to almost wade through the avalanche of paper on his desk to find the phone. "Hello, Calhoon Investigative Agency, Kurt Calhoon speaking." "Kurt, it's me Doug. I've got those results you wanted." "That's great Doug. So, what did the tests say?" "Well, that mysterious blue powder you discovered is actually sodium dionitrate. It's a chemical that's just been developed by the Slim-Quick company. The idea is to take some of it with your food, and it just burns away the fat in the body, but it hasn't been tested yet." "What about the soot?" asked Calhoon. "It's actually the remains of that poor tourist. but there also seems to be some traces of sodium dionitrate mixed in with it." Calhoon's brain spun into overdrive as all the pieces of the puzzle slotted together. "Thanks for all the help Doug, but I've got to go. I've got a killer to catch."

Calhoon burst into Carl's office and skidded to a halt in the middle of the room. "Carl, good news. I've found your killer." Carl looked surprised. "What? Who is it?" "There's no time for explanations now, come on." Calhoon raced through the shopping centre towards the Bungee Burger restaurant, faster than a grey hound on steroids, followed by Carl. They ran through the dining area and into the office behind the .kitchens. Calhoon kicked open the door to Robert Dawson's office and strode in. Carl stood in the doorway with a confused puppy dog look on his face. "It's over Dawson. I know the whole story. how, desperate to lose weight, you bought the Slim-quick company in the hope of using their new chemical to help you. But you didn't know if it was safe, so you put some on that man's burger. You killed him Dawson, and now I'm taking you in." Dawson smiled. "You're right when you say I killed him, but you're wrong when you say you're taking me in." From his desk drawer Dawson pulled out a vial of blue powder which Calhoon recognised as sodium dionitrate. Then, he threw back his head and gulped down the powder. At first, nothing happened, but then, Dawson seemed to expand and suddenly exploded with a large bang, seeming burning internal organs flying through the air. Calhoon threw himself backwards, knocking Carl out into the corridor, as Dawson's flaming spleen flew straight towards him. Calhoon felt the tongues of orange flame lick at his face, and then he hit the floor, and the world went black.

When Calhoon woke up in a hospital room, he felt a strange numbness just above his eyes. a quick glance in a mirror beside his bed told him that his eyebrows had been burned clean off by the explosion. But he didn't care. he had never liked them anyway. The door creaked open and Carl walked in. "Mister Calhoon, I'd like to thank you. You caught a murderer and saved my life. If you hadn't thrown me out that door, I'd have been toast." Calhoon smiled. "No need to thank me Carl. That was just an ordinary day in the life of Kurt Calhoon, private eye."

"The Calhoon Case-Files #1 - The Burning Question" belongs purely to Seamus Kennedy © 1997.

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