to be read as a voice-over from a classic detective movie

Hot and Cold 2[Sounds of a city at night echo in the background. Gentle saxophone music drifts atmospherically. Cue voice over in phony American accent.]

My name is Nuke. Nuke Lear.

it was late in the evening and I was already in bed. It was pouring down outside. There was a tap on the door. I turned it off and it stopped pouring. As I went to the door my dog made a bolt for it.

“Clever pooch,” I said as I slid back the bolt.

I opened the door in my pyjamas. Funny place to have a door, I thought. Standing in front of me was a dame with legs that were just the right length to reach the ground. As I looked at them I noticed a ladder in her stockings.

“That must make walking difficult,” I said to myself.

She threw me a furtive glance. I caught it single-handed.

“Nice catch,” she said. “Nuke, I’d like you to look at my case.”

Looking at her I thought that it would not be an ordinary case. I was right. It was large, covered with fur, with purple spots.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes at me. They were beautiful eyes. I picked them up and rolled them back. I asked her name.

“It’s not important.” She said. “I’ve come here to spill the beans.”

Before I could stop her she did. All over the carpet. What a mess. She had a funny look on her face. Maybe it was the red nose and clown make-up. She threw me another furtive glance. I hadn’t seen that one coming and it hit the side of my head.

“You have to help me, Nuke,” said Miss Not Important, “I’m being framed.”

It was a nice polished wooden frame with gold trim.

“Can you give me a name?” I asked, trying not to stare at the frame.

“What’s wrong with the one you’ve got?” she asked, looking puzzled. “The problem is my church!”

“What is it?” I asked anxiously.

“It’s a large Victorian building in the middle of Colchester, but that’s not important now,” she replied. “Surely you can help me.”

I smiled a reassuring smile. [Grimace]

“I think I can help you,” I said, “but please don’t call me Shirley.”

Miss Not Important told me that it was a problem of long-standing in her church.

“Are the pews that uncomfortable?” I asked.

“No, you don’t understand,” she said. “The church doesn’t take the ministers seriously.”

“Well, what can I do to help?” I asked, smiling another reassuring smile. [Worse grimace]

Then she said the words that have haunted me ever since.

“Nick, stop telling such awful jokes.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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