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Karl's casebook

Civils uncovered

I've had some weird cases in my time but the four days I spent in Birmingham during May were as strange as the contents of a vegan's larder.

Clues were harder to find than straight talk at a social workers' soiree and suspects as rare as chihuahua eggs.

I was holed up in the Hotel Collapso, the sort of joint even a fugitive might think twice about staying in. At breakfast the eggs were so hard they'd be confiscated if you tried to take one into a football match and the house steak came with a 10 year guarantee. Room numbers were stitched on to pyjamas on arrival and room service was of a kind Norman Bates would have been proud of.

I spent the evenings in the Whisky Breath-a-go-go, a place where restraint is left at the door and although there was no music, there was abandon every night. Here, bar staff looked as miserable as undertakers on a slow day and there were ambulances waiting in the taxi rank.

Each morning I rallied my senses and tried to recall the events of the afternoon before the evening of the night before.

But to no avail. Again and again I sallied through the halls and stands of Civils and Pipelines 2000 looking for answers. I felt as helpless as a Brylcreem salesman washed up on alopecia island and my chances of getting anywhere with the case were disappearing quicker than Mr Kipling cakes at a WI meeting.

The burden of my excesses was hampering the case. I took what evidence I had back to my room at the Hotel Collapso.

Various pens, a mousemat, peanut husks and some garibaldi biscuits with a company logo on. I even had a signed photo of Judith Chalmers with her home phone number on the back.

What did it all mean? The hell if I knew.

My employer decided he no longer required my services and made up his mind to check out the Interbuild show himself in search of something a little more concrete. I took my cheque and left town for my next case: the theft of full stops and apostrophes from an Anne Widdecombe sex novel in Hoddeston library.

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