LORD ROLAND BUTTERFIELD-JONES OF HRMSFORTH
I suppose you’re wondering why I have gathered you here tonight. A great mystery has occurred here this evening and I'm determined to get to the bottom of it. I’m speaking, of course, of how it happened that the keys to my automobile went missing.
As best as I can surmise, my keys disappeared between 4 o’clock this afternoon and sometime during dinner. You see, after dinner I was feeling quite agitated and supposed that a refreshing evening drive might alleviate some of my gastrointestinal distress. I went to the foyer to retrieve the keys to my roadster, only to see an empty key hook and my own dour reflection in the hall mirror. Who could’ve taken my keys? My car?! I dashed out to the garage at once to find my sporty coupe safely ensconced. A curious matter—Who would want my keys but not my vehicle?
As you are aware, preparations for Lady Agatha’s bi-monthly formal gala—the one that clutters our main hall with the who's who of Whozzatshire—have caused quite a ruckus, with visitors swarming and flitting about and tradesmen traipsing through the house readying for tomorrow evening. Every caller entered through the main foyer and any one of them could have absconded with my key fob at any moment. But who had the motive? Which, if any, of these interlopers had incentive to commit Grand Theft Automobile Keys?
Let us review the goings-on of the day to suss out our key suspect.
The party planner met with Lady Agatha early this morning to finalize details for tomorrow’s do. Then the decorator arrived to consult with Lady Agatha on wallpaper samples for the secret passages. Neither displayed any interest in motorcars.
I observed little Henry here, after breakfast, occupying himself with a set of jingling keys whilst plopped in the middle of the floor of the solarium. When I inquired after them, our butler, Thinman claimed ownership and responsibility as he’d lent his pantry keys to the tot in an effort to quiet him during one of Lady Agatha’s headaches. Now, it’s possible Henry toddled his way into the foyer, found himself mesmerized by my keys up on their hook, climbed the antique coat rack, and snatched them down. Hmm. Come to think of it, I saw Thinman nervously polishing my keys and then return them to the hook just after lunch. Odd little man.
Dear Lady Agatha retired upstairs some hours ago with another headache and hasn't been seen since. Even the arrival of her latest acquisition—a cricket diamond? the snooker sapphire? badminton brooch? baseball tiara? Apparently something that warrants throwing a party on Wednesday night—could not rouse her from her bedchamber. Her maid has been skittering up and down the stairs, fetching all manners of ointments and concoctions for her. I suppose she could have borrowed my keys at the behest of Lady Agatha, though for reasons I cannot fathom.
Sir Waggleston, the renowned kleptomaniac, has often been discovered transporting treasures to his underground lair in the garden. At the time in question, however, he was relentlessly hounding the nanny.
(bends to address dog in baby talk)
Weren’t you, Sir Waggleston? Yes, you were. Yes, you were, my wittle snausage! Erf!
(clears throat, straightens posture)
Where was I? Ah! right.
Now, the obvious suspect is my daughter Margaret, who came to me earlier in the day with a breathless desire to go driving, claiming it was a matter of life and death. Hmph, the death of my automobile most likely! I put the kibosh on that. She seemed anxious to get away—no doubt to see that lawyer chap who’s been courting her with his vulgar Latin poetry, that Don Juan, Esquire. She was not at dinner, presumably still sulking as young girls will.
After that burst of drama, the locksmith came round to upgrade the locks on all the doors. Our last overnight guests complained about the large gaping keyholes into which wandering peepers could mosey. It seems unlikely that he would also replace the lock to my automobile, doesn't it?
Before I could escort him upstairs, the carpet man arrived to steam the Persians and air out the Orientals. He was followed closely by the party planner, who returned to inquire about the RSVPs from esteemed invitees. As I was about to direct him upstairs to Lady Agatha's room, he had the audacity to ask whether I would be fetching the prime minister from the aeroport before the event. Hmph. The PM can get his own ruddy ride from the aeroport for what we’re paying him. He’ll likely be boasting again about how he got his hands on the Duchess of Cambridge's newly augmented bust. He’s storing the emerald-encrusted effigy at his flat next door until it can be presented at her birthday gala next week—thankfully not being hosted here!
Speaking of my dearest neighbour, Thinman announced the arrival of plumbers who were summoned to the cellar for emergency repair on the crumbling clay sewer pipes that lay betwixt our manors. The PM is forever moaning about the crumbling pipes of democracy backing up the flow of progress. The irony would be delightful if it weren't so inconvenient.
I was on my way to investigate the situation, when the carpet man and locksmith descended the stairs with a lumpy, rolled up rug that I recognized from Margaret’s room. The rug man claimed Lady Agatha was sending it away for mending and so I sent them away.
As Thinman and I tried to steady ourselves from the whirling hubbub, an estate agent—bearing a remarkable resemblance to Margaret—wandered in unannounced. She just happens to be selling a comparable property down the lane and asked for a tour of ours. I led the charming agent through the rooms as we chatted about tomorrow’s event and all of today’s commotion, housing prices—it’s amazing what properties sell for these days! Maybe I can convince Lady Agatha to downsize if she ever tires of throwing these lavish parties. Nora, the agent was absolutely enamored of my old coupe out in the garage and insisted that I take her for a ride one day. Imagine that!
Well, with all this activity, it’s no wonder dinner turned my stomach into a dance hall!
After discovering that my keys had vanished, suddenly, the electricity went out! I heard three screams, including my own, followed by an eerie silence. I groped around for a torch and, upon finding one, made my way into the library. While turning to sit in my favourite armchair, I felt a sharp pain in my lower rib cage and fell to the floor. It was then I discovered that the key to my automobile had been in the left pocket of my waistcoat this entire time! Ha! Can you believe it? Oh, of all the things. Wait 'til I tell Aggie about this.
(He puffs on pipe and wanders away.)