The mystery of Fred Talbot's disappearance deepens.
Judy was hanging out her newly-washed triple-trussed safety brassieres this morning when she saw something grinning at her from the bushes that run alongside the rear patio. Naturally, she gave a scream and fainted there on the spot. When I ran out to see what was wrong, I found our beaver lurking in close proximity to her left leg, a morbid grin fixed across its wet, salacious lips. I saw immediately what had happened. From somewhere, the poor creature had unearthed an object that looked remarkably like a human jawbone. The object had become stuck on the beaver’s oversized teeth and were preventing the beaver from going about its normal business of making a documentary for the BBC down at the lake.
Still feeling a little cautious about how I handle an animal owned by TV license payers, I immediately rang Bill Oddie who jumped on his bicycle and peddled around. Together we managed to lure the beaver back down to the lake where we penned him against the bank for a closer inspection.
‘This isn’t a jawbone,’ squealed a delighted Oddie once he’d prised the grin from the beaver’s mouth. ‘It’s the upper half of a set of dentures.’
‘Dentures?’ I said, reaching for them. ‘And what would a beaver be doing with dentures?’
Oddie looked to the still, dark waters of the lake. ‘And you’re yet to be convinced that Fred Talbot’s not down there?’
‘Impossible,’ I replied and looked at the smile in my hand. Could this really be the same grin that had welcomed in many a warm front and warned of overnight ground frost from a floating map moored to the Albert Dock? There was only one way to find out.
‘We need to get these dentures checked out by an expert orthodontist,’ I said as Bill began to frolic in the mud with the beaver. ‘We need somebody to confirm that these teeth match Fred the Weatherman’s smile.’
There is, of course, only one person we know who has the medical training to make such a identification.
‘I got here as fast a human legs and diesel engine could carry me,’ said Stephen Fry, jogging down to the lake. He was wearing his Oscar Wilde had and favourite green cape, while in his hand he carried a shooting stick with the large handle in the shape of H.G. Well’s naked buttocks. ‘Might I enquire, Dick, why your lady wife is currently lying on the patio?’
‘Ah,’ I said, no doubt blushing a touch. ‘That’s because I completely forgot about her in all the excitement. She fainted when the beaver reared its grinning head.’
‘The same beaver with the teeth you want me to inspect?’
‘The very same,’ I said, handing him the dentures.
‘You are indeed fortunate,’ he said, inspecting the teeth. ‘I spent my last Whit holiday taking all the qualifications required to work as an orthodontist. Do you know I fixed Jade Goody’s underbite last year?’
I gave an involuntary shiver. ‘Working for the enemy, Stephen? That’s not like you.’
‘It’s hard to say no when one has the chance to wire that woman’s mouth shut.’ He turned the teeth over in his hands. ‘These dentures are well worn and have the distinctive bite characteristics of a man who speaks with his mouth full and gets overexcited at moments of even mild stress.’
‘That could easily be Fred,’ I said, remembering many a meal when his enthusiasm for a cloud would get the better of him.
‘I need to compare it with pictures of the man.’
‘I’m sure we have a few of those tucked away,’ I said and gestured up to the house.
On the way back, I got Stephen to help me lift Judy from the cold patio and into the conservatory where she’d be warm as she slept off her shock. I then took Fry and Oddie into my study where I keep the chest containing all my old souvenirs of my days on This Morning.
‘Inconclusive,’ said Fry half an hour later. He sat back and let the magnifying glass fall to his knees. ‘These teeth could easily have belonged to Fred but they could have also belonged to one of a number of men with strong jaws and slightly erratic natures.’ He looked toward Bill who was curled up asleep on the rug. ‘For instance, these teeth could easily have belonged to Bill.’
Bill gave a quite mutter, no doubt dreaming about chasing owls through a semi-deciduous forest.
‘Well that means that mystery only deepens,’ I said as I lay the teeth on my desk next to my unfinished Airfix model of Crown Prince Willem Hendrik.
‘Indeed it does,’ said Stephen. ‘If only you could find the bottom set, we might be able to make a positive match. Until then, there’s little more I can do.’
‘Thanks,’ I replied, patting the Great Man on the knee. ‘Fancy a game of Scrabble while the babes are asleep?’
‘I thought you’d never ask,’ said Stephen as I stepped lightly over my little bearded friend.
‘I’m afraid the excitement of the morning had come too early in the year for him,’ I explained to Stephen as we softly closed the study door on the sleeping Oddie. ‘If he doesn’t get a good four mouths of winter hibernation, he can be so irritable come the spring.’