The Scorpions’ secret spreadsheet

2008-01-05 00:00

I don’t suppose it’s widely known, but the spreadsheet my mole in the Scorpions has dropped into my deadletter box, is a real stinger, believe me. It’s all about a case the Scorpions are busy with. So busy in fact, that it’s taken one hell of a long time to get anything coherent out of the investigations. God alone knows why this should be, given the work ethic that keeps the lights on at Scorpion House all day, all night, Marianne. But given the tendency in hot weather for all sorts of arachnids to creep back under cool rocks for a bit of R&R, the slow pace of detective work is quite understandable.

Well. To get back to the mystery spreadsheet. Given the probity, not to mention the good taste, of my secret informant, every single identifying mark on the document has been obliterated by the thick end of a black Pentel Maxiflo Xylene and Toluene-Free Permanent Marker. The big word here, fellow dicks (a friendly word for amateur detectives), is permanent. I’ve tried everything to remove it, even boiling the spreadsheet in a secret mixture of Xylene and Toluene. Apart from a pillar of fire second only to that great event back in Sinai some time ago, nothing but nothing was revealed.

So. There’s nothing to be done but to stick with generalities, which in the case of the spreadsheet, detail expenses incurred by nobody identifiable to someone else equally mysterious.

Item 1 starts the show. We find R350 paid to Durban Traditional Tailors for an extra large beshu made of synthetic vervet monkey tails. This is highly revelatory. For a start, no serious, high-ranking, beshu-wearing gent would even consider vervet tails, given that samango monkey tails are not only better looking, but longer and thicker. But our dude in the beshu is clearly eco-sensitive, as his primate tails are synthetic. Are Crimplene samango tails any less of a moral issue than nylon vervet tails? You be the judge.

Moving on, we hit Item 2. R2 750 for pretty gingham curtains with a matching valence, fitted over cell window #235b at a place named with unconscious irony by the unknown accountant as Durban-Westville Prison.

Items 3 to 6 are mostly food consisting of two kilograms of fatty biltong at R300, one case of Blue Label whiskey at R24 000 (clearly a misprint), a packet of strawberries at R40 and a container of Mama’s Xmas Special Nigerian Minced (sic) Pies costing no less than R500 grand.

It’s this last item that alerted my forensic mind. In real life, when not entertaining the Pietermaritzburg haute bourgeoisie with this column, I produce a cooking page for a well known agricultural journal. So when I say that I know something about food in general and mince pies specifically, you know that there’s an expert talking.

Mince pies are very cheap to make. So clearly the itemised cost of this entry on the secret spreadsheet refers to something a little bigger than a punnet. The word “container” is the giveaway.

Even as you read this, customs officials at Durban Docks are prising the top off a shipping container of Mama’s Xmas Special Nigerian Minced (sic) Pies and wondering what on earth all the white powder inside can be. Caster sugar? Flour? Dessicated coconut? Lordy, lordy. Christmas in Lagos must be one hell of a party.

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