Prologue: Inspector Purcell flicked the sweat from his brow. The 6km time trial was pressing, but his observations have proved crucial. He now knew the murderer was among the riders. “Now zee challenge is to be identifying one, from one-hundred-and-ninety-eight,” and he eats a wedge of cheese.
Un: As manager/lead rider/sour chef for team UCP (Undercover Police), Inspector Purcell has a lot on his plate. While braising a steak, coxing Corporal Pierre into wearing lycra, and riding from Belgium to Luxemberg – and then to Belgium again, he interviewed a third of the peloton for little result. “I asked zee riders if they knew zee victim. They said non, or no, or niet, or nein, or other such words. I believe them. For now.”
Duex: Riding the last Belgium stage Constable Pierre outlines why he hates the UCP (Undercover Police) lycra uniform. “It binds up the buttocks. That is a limited access area.” Of the murder, Pierre is graded, “I know nothings of de knife, or de killer’s route, or de skill set required.” Then, in-saddle and powering uphill, he quarters an apple with a hunting blade.
Trois: Inspector Purcell is upset. His soufflé has not risen and the UCP team is last in the ranking, partly hampered by the day’s crashes.
“We are investigating a murder, yes, sure, but we ride zee bicycle better than this. I feel, how do you say, a lack of dignity.” The Inspector spits at the ground and drops his cigar into the muddied earth. “At least Pierre is thirtieth overall.” With this he has relinquished his team’s lead rider status.
Quatre: Pierre looks over his shoulder and raises a pair of binoculars, “I need de breakaway groups. Bar myself, we are de Inspector, Manual, Roberto, Jorge, Christophe, Guillermo, Gabriel and Martin. They are too slow to even get in crashes. It is like being partnered with eight Lance Armstrongs – without de drugs and who AIDS instead of cancer. I will win to spite them… despite them… both words are good.”
Cinq: A day for the sprinters and Inspector Purcell lauds Roberto. The young Constable shone for the Undercover Police team, picking-up unlikely points across the stage.
“He ate eight of my éclairs, identified zee murderer’s probable gear change preference, and still pushed to zee line. Watch him breathe heavily and keel over and grab his arm and shake. Anyone would think he is having zee heart attack!”
Later in the day Roberto withdrew from le Tour citing the need to concentrate on murder analyses and recover from an open heart-bypass.
Sex: Another flat stage and yet another big crash. We ask Constable Pierre if he believes the murderer is causing the turmoil. “I did not see de crash or have anything to do with it. I do not care for your aspersions.”
We remind Pierre of the actual question. “I still had nothing to do with de crash. And yes.”
Sept: Today was the first mountain stage of le Tour. Jorge, known for his social climbing skills, was highly fancied to challenge the top riders. Yet it is Bradley Wiggins who ends the day wearing the Yellow Jersey.
“We’re very proud of Jorge,” said Inspector Purcell. “He joined zee team not two weeks ago as a Plod. Now, he is a highly skilled Criminal Anthropologist with eight-years’ experience and my suit jacket.
“Such a lovely man, former grocer, good with pears, and much bushier sideburns than zee Bradley Wigginses’. I could hide in those sideburns and hunt for pheasants.”
Huit: Lots of hills but no change to the top of le Tour’s rider standings. Pierre remains tenth.
“It is difficult to get ahead in de race,” says Pierre. “Guillermo, he must ride ahead and I follow. Allow me to pace. He says no, he sits there and looks at mug shots and at rider’s faces. It is not undercover holding a book, and it is not racing holding back.
“I say the Portuguese like him should do as I say. Mon dieu, where are his priorities?”
Neuf: After the time trial Bradley Wiggins has extended his overall lead by almost two minutes. Inspector Purcell is one who has suffered, his ride taking much longer than expected.
“Zoot alors!” the Inspector proclaims. “Zee head chef of zee team, Constable Manual, was furious at me last night. We cooked coq au vin and I could not stop laughing. Even as a little boy on zee poultry farm mother would say, ‘Third child, fetch zee eggs. Make zee coq stand for you by rubbing its neck.’
“It is true, I am zee Inspector, but I should not laugh at his coq, and in the kitchen Manual has rank. So today I ride in my apron and my apron alone. It was quite drafty and slowed me down. An old man on zee road said he saw a competitor do the same fifty-year’s agos. Those must have been silly times – uniforms have progressed a lot since then.”
Rest Day Un: It is a rest day, but there is no rest for the Undercover Police team. They are door knocking to ask locals if anyone has seen riders acting suspiciously, other than themselves.
“It is a stupid plan made by a stupid man,” says Pierre, currently ninth on le Tour. “Has he showed you his bicycle rotisserie? He believes he can slow cook a pig while peddling across de stage, turning de spit with de tyre rotation.
“Imbecile! De coals go out. Christophe relights them with his cigarettes but it is ill-efficient. He should dig a pit and drop de pig in with some kerosene. It is how I would kill – ah, cook de pig.”
Dix: Despite today’s climbs there has been no change at the top of the rider standings. There was however a big change for Inspector Purcell. He jettisoned his on-bike cooking equipment, replaced his stove mitts for gloves and wore a helmet instead of a pleated toque. The result? The Inspector rose sharply, and is now 87th overall.
With his success Inspector Purcell praises his team, “I say, to catch zee killer, you must first think as zee killer, and today we have zee killer instinct.
“Overall, we make no impact on zee Bradley Wiggins, we are behind, but we will catch and close in.
“Now, excuse me, my legs are burning and I am finding it difficult to smoke and breathe. I must go eat some of Manual’s salted sausage to replenish my strength. Merci.”
Onze: Teamwork shone today as Team Sky worked to chase down breakaways and ultimately extend Bradley Wiggins’ lead.
Team Undercover Police is still scattered through the pack, inconveniently splitting its attention between riding le Tour and investigating a murder. Ever irritable Constable Pierre, now back to ninth overall, concedes Team Sky is dominant, but highlights the advantage the UCP Team could still yield. “I’m a police officer. I have a gun.”
Douze: The longest stage of le Tour has ended with no change to the leaders. Inspector Purcell, tired and hungry, corrals his trooped for a speech. “Zee tour, she will end soon. And we have not a murderer, or even a stage winner.
“Jorge, you are a climber who has failed to mount anything but zee cow in Mâcon. And Christophe, there may be eighteen different types of tobacco on le Tour but you need not try every one.
“As a team, we are not as a team. I say, in zee evening, we will work. We will work zee paperwork, zee fingerprints, zee residues – Gabriel and Martin pay attention!
“And then, zee day? We will ride. Pierre is near zee top. So we will ride as one. We will ride for victory. We will ride as team. For in murder, dead is for a long time, but for win of le Tour? This may only happen once.
“Now, who wants a crepe?”
Treize: No change at the top but a change for the Undercover Police Team rankings. Guillermo forced the pace early, pumping his little Portuguese legs like pistons in a Peugeot. This broke the peloton and brought Manual to the fore.
Before the stage Manual had said he was cooking something up, but the team Head Chef and forensic pathologist was not talking literally. He pushed the breakaway group with Pierre on his wheel, and split the pack a second time.
This smaller lead bunch was able to sprint clear to the line and take minutes off the leaders. Among them Pierre, who rose four places to fifth overall.
“That was mad,” said Pierre. “I have not had a fight like this since I murdered my mother in cold blood with this hunting knife… that’s a local turn of phrase of course.”
Quatorze: Sabotage ruins one of the most visually stunning stages of le Tour. Thumbtacks were dropped across the road puncturing tires and delaying individuals, teams and the peloton. Jorge, with eighteen punctures, becomes fed-up with the damage and begins to ride with a metal detector strapped to his handlebars. Despite ensuring a safe finish, his inventiveness delays his day and he is timed-out.
Pierre on the other hand, contrary to race etiquette, takes advantage of the situation. He rides a secure path, mysteriously before and around where the tacks appear to have been placed, and closes his race gap on Bradley Wiggins to under a minute.
“An amazing achievement by Pierre,” says Inspector Purcell. “He’s eyesight must be keen as a hawk to be unimpeded today. Now you must excuse me, our stationary cupboard has been ransacked and Christophe is smoking for fingerprints. He claims it works better than zee dust but I have never seen zee results.”
Quinze: Despite attempted breakaways there is no change to the leaders. However, there is a big break in the case, as Gabriel and Martin have identified the murder’s route from the crime scene to le Tour’s start line.
To celebrate Pierre offers to cook, relieving Head Chef Manual and Sous Chef Inspector Purcell from the duty.
As Pierre searches for ingredients among the rat pellets, Manual sneaks into the kitchen to sample the broth. Minutes later Manual is found lying on the kitchen floor, soaked in a pool of his own vomit, unconscious and defecating through his trousers. Once revived Manual is transported via ambulance to hospital.
Pierre is shocked, “I’m surprised he’s alive – not in a bad way. Obviously de poisoned stroganoff was for de vermin. Not de police. I’m a better cook than that. I slaughtered this cow myself.”
Rest Day Duex: The Undercover Police Team recover from the week and continue their murder investigations. Meanwhile Constables Gabriel and Martin, room partners (and that’s all they say), have been involved in an accident.
Inspector Purcell reads a statement: “Constable Martin had been trying on a replica of the Gold Jacket worn by zee presentation girls in Limoux. As he did, Constable Gabriel fell over him – repeatedly head-butting zee crotch of zee Constable Martin – resulting in osteitis pubis of the neck and pelvis respectively. They will no longer take part in le Tour.”
Seize: Jorge has withdrawn from the race due to a stomach virus, the same that has infected other riders since the pervious stroganoff incident.
Pierre however remains unaffected by the apparently unconnected series of rider misfortunes. With the help of the Inspector and Guillermo Pierre manages to wipe extra seconds off Bradley Wiggins’ lead. A feat he is quite proud of.
“Do you see me today! I rode de shit. Had to undo my top and everything. De chest hair was all leaning out, it was like saying ‘Hello ladies,’ to all the ladies. Especially de one in de Australian bikini.
“I hear some of de rides, they shave de chest. Men do not shave chests, or ball sacks. I have hair on my ball sack. Did you see mine today?”
Dix-Sept: A stage of climbs, and Guillermo (Portuguese) has set the pace for Pierre. It is a courageous ride and one that has helped Pierre to narrow his gap on the overall leader, Bradley Wiggins.
At day’s end, and as gruelling as the day has been, Christophe and Inspector Purcell discuss recent findings in the squad’s murder investigation. Christophe smokes two cigarettes glued together, a device he calls the ‘triple banger’, as the Inspector explains, “Zee evidence is not unexpected. It is more, how do you say, proof in zee pudding. Hmm… pudding anyone?”
Christophe coughs an agreement, spits out a chunk of dark phlegm, hallucinates, drops his glued cigarettes and runs for the hills.
The Inspector watches the maddened Constable before turning his gaze to the earth. He bends down to carefully retrieve the ‘triple banger’ in his fingertips, as though withdrawing a shotgun pellet from a fresh wound. He sniffs the papers, stuffing and glue.
“Zee evidence is not unexpected.”
Dix-Huit: A flat stage before the final time trial. Here Guillermo (Portuguese) once again rides before Pierre, allowing his team-mate to streamline behind and take easy seconds off Bradley Wiggins, the race leader.
Unknown to the little man, Guillermo has also blitzed the competition in the last few stages and risen into contention for the overall lead. Unfortunately no-one has told him – he is Portuguese, and he does not know how to find out – he is Portuguese. Consequently, and blissfully unaware of his near dominance of le Tour, Guillermo accepts the celebratory beers and wines and spirits and steaks and Port and eggs and ham and gain-alcohol provided to him by Pierre – though Guillermo rejects the cheese, he is Portuguese.
Entering the Undercover Police Team’s campervan Pierre defends the stuffing of Guillermo compared to his own restraint. “De non-Spaniard does not win de Tour. I win de Tour. I am de greatest rider. Tomorrow, he will sleep and fart and piss while I race, and beat de English Wiggins.”
Holding onto the cabin door Guillermo smiles, vomits, and smiles again – he is Portuguese.
Dix-Neuf: The final time trial is the last chance to claim le Tour victory. Pierre is feeling fresh and spins though the stage, taking minutes off the clock. He is dominant and appears assured of the Yellow Jersey until Inspector Purcell walks onto the course.
With his badge aloft, and metres from the finish, the Inspector blocks Pierre’s path, halting the rider by grasping onto the handlebars.
Pierre is furious though Inspector Purcell is unfazed.
“I am here to arrest you, Max Doushman, for zee crime of murder.” The Inspector stares at the man claimed to be Pierre. “I call to note three clues of evidence.
“One; you are not Pierre, as zee real Corporal Pierre did not have such a large a moustache.
“Two; you do not speak as a Frenchman. You say, ‘Where did you park de car’, not ‘Where did you park zee car’.
“And three; you keep poisoning, sabotaging and outlining your intentions to murder everyone. It was this, I must say, that was zee real giveaway.
“Now, present your hands for zee cuffing. I wish to complete this formalities before zee soufflé, she finally rises.”
Vingt: The Champs-Elysees is a busy street. The riders wish to get down with everyone that they meet. Bradley Wiggins is victorious and wears the yellow.
Despite failure Max Doushman, formally Pierre, remains upbeat as he’s hauled off to gaol.
“Did you see me ride?” He shouts. “That bastard Purcell stole my victory. I should be on de podium. It is me who is de ruler of de ride, de champ of de cycle, de principle peddler, de king of de road. My mother, if I had not killed her, would be so proud.”
With the case closed and le Tour ended for another year the final word should go to Inspector Purcell. “He is a crazy loon,” the Inspector says of Douchman. “I’m going home to give zee wife some of my spitchcock.” The sous-chef giggles to himself and leaves.
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