Part 1 - The Beginning

The inspector looked around the brightly furnished living room.

"He must have liked Swedish design.." he said to himself, taking in the bright red sofa and strangely shaped tables.

"The body's upstairs sir" the uniformed officer told him.

"Found by the cleaner at 8:00 am this morning." he continued. "It looks like he was strangled with one of those paper tape measures that you get at furniture stores".

"What have we got on the victim?" asked the inspector.

"Nothing much sir, it seems that he kept himself to himself. Very interested in décor. Neighbours report lots of flat pack furniture arriving and sounds of hammering and swearing at all hours of the day and night."

The inspector wandered upstairs to investigate the corpse. The uniformed office took out his notebook and pencil. "Darn it", he muttered as the lead broke off the instant it touched the paper. He looked around the room and saw on the mantelpiece above the pine fireplace a little brown pencil. "Nobody will notice", he thought, as he picked it up and started writing....

Part 2 - After the Beginning

When Jane Wilkins got home from her teaching job at MadeupTown School she was surprised to see her husband's car parked in the drive. "Jim usually goes out with the lads from the station on a Thursday night" she thought to herself as she pushed open the front door. Half way open it stuck. She squeezed around the door and gasped in surprise at the scene in front of her. Blocking the door was a large cardboard package marked "Klodd: 1 of 3" and all around were packages and bags bearing a familiar yellow and blue logo.

"Jim?" she called.

"In here love" came a voice from the living room. She crossed the hall and saw her husband in the middle of the room, surrounded by sections of a large pine bookcase.

"What are you doing?" she asked. Her husband looked up at her, still dressed in his police uniform, screwdriver in hand.

"Well love, when I saw the list that you had left me I thought I'd go out and surprise you. It took a bit longer than I thought, and some of the bits are on order, but, well, here we are". She followed his gaze around the room, taking in the new clock, pelmet, curtains and toothpaste dispenser.

"It's very nice." she said, "But I don't remember leaving you a list."

"Course you did love." he replied. "I found it on the car seat when I came out of the station at the end of the shift. The store is only on the way home and so I thought I'd pick it all up. You must admit it looks good." And yes, it did look good. And she had been remarking lately that a few new bits and pieces would spruce the place up a bit. But she didn't remember writing anything down about an inflatable chair. Certainly not in that shade of green.

"I'll go and put the kettle on." she said, stepping over the discarded packaging on her way to the kitchen. As she walked past her husband she noticed something on the side of his head.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing.

"Oh that." he smiled, reaching behind his ear. "I'd quite forgotten that was there". He put the little brown pencil down on the mantelpiece.

Part 3 - The Third Part

The inspector looked down at the case files on the desk. Case 1, a man who built himself into a wardrobe. Case 2, a chap who seems to have consumed fifteen sachets of furniture glue. Case 3, the bloke who did that horrible thing with the Allen key. The inspector shuddered at the memory. Case 4, the new guy, the one with the paper tape measure round his neck. There had to be something that linked these deaths. He racked his brains. Perhaps they were linked by being totally unconnected. He imagined the headlines "Police solve the case of the completely unrelated murders". He shook his head. Probably not. Someone was standing at his desk. He looked up. Constable Wilkins did not seem himself. His uniform was dishevelled and he had what appeared to be sawdust on his jacket.

"Bad night constable?" asked the inspector.

"Not too bad sir" came the reply "Although those doors with the fitted hinges are a devil to fit, and the handles were the wrong ones..".

"What do you want?" The inspector did not fancy another drawn out description of DIY.

"There's a chap at the front desk who wants to see you. Swedish bloke. Says he knows something about the recent deaths."

"Oh well, send him in."

Lars Swedishname was a small, nervous man with a package under his arm. As he spoke he looked constantly around, as if he expected something to jump out from the shadows at any moment.

"I know what is causing the killings" he said breathlessly as he sat down, clutching the package to his chest. "Something terrible, something evil. And I have in my possession the only thing that can stop it".

"And what would that be sir?" asked the inspector smoothly. He knew from experience that the best thing to do with these types was to humour them.

The little man indicated the package he held and leaned forward towards the inspector.

"The Blessed Electric Pencil Sharpener of Salvation" he whispered.

Part 4 - The End Begins

Lars Swedishname was obviously a man with a mission. The inspector half listened to his tale of gypsy curse, abandoned pet cemetery, lost Indian tribe and Stockholm office supplies company. This was all very well, but how did it explain the four mysterious deaths in MadeupTown? Constable Wilkins on the other hand seemed to find the story fascinating. Standing behind Lars he had his notebook out and was making copious notes. His little brown pencil (was that regulation issue? the inspector wondered) was flying over the paper as he seemed to be writing everything down.

"Well sir" said the inspector, rising to his feet. "Thank-you for your information, you can be sure that we will act appropriately"

"No." the little man seemed even more agitated. "You don't understand. You've got to do something now, before there are any more deaths".

"That's OK sir, we'll do our best" the inspector continued. "Where can we find you if we need any further help?"

"The Regal Hotel" Lars replied. "It is the only one in town with no Swedish furniture".

"Well, thank you for your help sir". The inspector walked round the desk to shake hands with the visitor. As he passed Constable Wilkins the inspector caught a glimpse of what the officer had been writing in his notebook. 'Kill Lars, kill Lars, kill Lars. Kill Lars. And then go and buy a Babord shoe rack (15.95)'

Part 5 - Towards an Ending

Lars Swedishname paced his hotel room nervously. For the thousandth time he cursed the twists of fate that had brought him to this nondescript town in a foreign country, searching out the ultimate in home furnishing evil. Then he cursed again. “A thousand and one” he thought as he sat down on the bed. He looked at the desk in the corner. On it was a silver bullet, a flask of holy water, a wooden stake, a crucifix and an electric pencil sharpener. There was a knock at the door. He stood up and walked over to see who it was.

“Who are you?” he asked, peering through the peep hole into the corridor outside his room. A uniformed policeman stood with his head down. He appeared to be writing something in his notebook. Lars shuddered.

“Police Constable Wilkins, MadeupTown police” said the officer. “I’ve got some more questions about this theory of yours”.

Lars’s hands trembled as he removed the chain from the door and slowly turned the handle. Then the door flew open and the policeman burst into the room.

“Lars Swedishname” said the Constable Wilkins, reading from his notebook. “I must kill you and then go and buy a Babord shoe rack”

Lars backed away from him, towards the desk. “Why the Babord?” he asked nervously “The Skoomp is much larger and better finished. And it only costs an extra five pounds”.

The policeman looked down at his notes.

“No” he said, “It must be the Babord, it is pine finish and will better match the Bango telephone table. And now you must die.”

Lars looked up at the policeman, staring at the little brown pencil behind the constable’s left ear. He would only have one chance to make his move and it must be…. now!

He lunged forward towards the policeman, grabbing with outstretched hand for the pencil. His fingers plucked it from behind the constable’s ear, and with a deft movement he swung round and plunged the pencil into the electric pencil sharpener. The sharpener sprang to life, and then, as abruptly, stopped. “Curse these foreign mains adapters”, thought Lars, as the policeman moved closer towards him....

Part 6 - It Ends

Lars Swedishname knew he was going to die. He also knew who was going to kill him. The man moving towards him, a once proud member of the MadeupTown police force now driven mad by a demon of home furnishing was closing in for the kill. Lars thought back over his past, the happy days spent at the Swedish Furniture academy. The adulation given to his now seminal research paper "101 More things to do with sawdust". Such happy times.

And then he remembered how it all went wrong. The gypsy curse, the meeting at the abandoned cemetery near that old house with the strange Indian from Area 51. The marketing men with their ideas about customer motivation. And the first test subject.

Behind him, the architect of his downfall glowed slightly as it rested in the one device that could have saved humanity. The Blessed Electric Pencil Sharpener of Salvation, denied of power because of a faulty cable, was useless to him now.

"That's enough background plot reminiscing" snarled constable Wilkins raising his baton. "Now you die and then I buy a new shoe rack"

Suddenly the window burst open. The inspector flew across the room and crashed into policeman. Things happened in a mad blur. Within seconds constable Wilkins lay handcuffed on the ground. Then the inspector reached into his raincoat pocket and produced a Swedish-UK mains adapter. "I think you'll find a use for this" he said coolly.

In a trice the cable was reconnected. The three men watched transfixed as the sharpener whirred into action. Within seconds the pencil was reduced to dust, producing an unearthly shriek as it was ground into oblivion. In the silence, Lars found his voice.

"Now, I must eat the sawdust" he husked.

"Why, does that finally end the curse?" asked the inspector.

"No", said Lars, "I just like the taste."

The inspector shook his head. But it seemed that things were now resolved satisfactorily. Quite simple really. Thank heavens that he had followed his instincts, contacted Lars again and learned more of the threat. Buying the adapter and getting to the hotel had been easy enough. Although it would have been better if he had not burst into those other three rooms before finding the right one. With a bit of luck nobody will sue, he thought to himself.

On the floor constable Wilkins seemed to be returning to his old self. The evil glow had gone out of his eyes and he was looking nervously up at the inspector.

"Sir", he said, "I don’t know what happened. One moment I was at a crime scene and the next I'm doing all kinds of weird stuff. I don't even like pine that much. I'm more of a chintz person."

The inspector smiled, "Don’t worry son" he said. "None of this needs to be on the record. And who would believe us anyway".