The Curious Case of ‘The Black Crab’


Extracts from the daily journal of Oberstleutnant Shmidt, St Anton Polizei.

By Peter Brooks

Sat Jan 18, 2020.

It has come to my attention that there may be a fraudster in town. From what I know so far, this sounds like an insurance racket, except that the offer is that if you pay the premium you will never be injured on the mountain. You can even get home safely from the Krazy Kangeroo. If any officer can find any information about this gang, please contact my office.

Sun Jan 19, 2020.

Further enquiries have discovered some astonishing rumours, including the obviously absurd idea that if the victim allows himself to be swallowed by a black crab-like creature, it will be his best friend and look after him on the piste. I don’t like being taken for a fool and I am annoyed that the guests our resort depends on are being treated with such contempt. Our fraudster may think that he is a joker, but there is a real risk that he (or she) could seriously damage the reputation of our lovely town.

Mon Jan 20, 2020.

I have spoken to Herr Doktor to see if he knows anything about this scam. He assures me that he has never seen one of these creatures, (Does this mean that it works?) but he too would like to know if there is any substance to these reports.

He told me that potential scam victims are most likely to believe the pusher if he offers something that the victim really wants (He could have been a policeman with insight like that). Every time the ski patrol take someone down the mountain in the bloodwagon, sales would go up, he believes. So do I.

As I was about to leave, the Doktor had a sudden recollection. A patient with a broken collar bone had said that he wished that he had some device that his friend had. At the time the Doktor had put it down to pain and anaesthetic, and dismissed it.

Herr Doktor has promised to make enquiries of his patients, to see if any of them have been offered this quack cure, which he compares to Snake Oil from the Wild West. Since the Doktor has an interest in bringing this scam to an end, I am confident that we can rely on him to make diligent enquiries.

Tue Jan 21, 2020.

This enquiry is becoming complicated.

On my way home I called in at St Peters. Father John was sympathetic but insisted on hearing my confession before he would hear about this alleged crab creature. That delayed matters for quite a while. When I was finally able to explain why I had come, he was thunderstruck. I was about 2 minutes into my story when he took a white knuckle grip on the cross around his neck, fell to his knees, and started chuntering about the Number of the Beast, and the Beasts without Number (How many are there? This could be a whole new problem for the Polizei. Imagine the public disorder if some of them appeared in the High Street.) and the last days (Whenever they happen. My calendar still has a long way to run.) The next thing I knew, his assistant was in the room and there was so much incense that I could hardly breathe. Prayers were said with real urgency, and they gave me that ‘disappointed teacher’ look when I didn’t know the responses.

When I showed no response, they administered Holy Water, saying that I would need all the strength I could get for the coming trial. Trial? I don’t even know if there has been a real crime yet, never mind having a suspect. I lost patience, made my excuses as politely as I could, and turned to leave. They lost patience and threw the bucket of Holy Water at me. Fortunately I can get the suit cleaned on expenses. Future communications with them will be electronic. Assuming that he hasn’t drowned his tablet in the Holy Water.

Wed Jan 22, 2020.

After yesterday's fruitless enquiry, at least I now have a lead of sorts, which could indicate that a real crime is in progress. Extortion. A very old fashioned protection racket, right here on the ski slopes of my home town.

A skier came into the station this morning, complaining that he had been severely jostled by a pack of snowboarders. According to his statement, first they buzzed him, then they barged him, then they bowled him over. As he lay in the snow they hurled abuse, including the line, “Get some protection, Mate”. When I questioned the plaintiff further, he said that, on contact, his assailants had some sort of hard shell under their jackets, almost as if they were robots dressed in ski clothing.

After he left I compared this report with the information in the original rumours, and I had a lightbulb moment. Could it be that this Black Crab creature influences a persons character as well as offering protection?

Father John had left a message on my answerphone, assuring me that he and his flock would continue to pray for me until I have freed our town from this great evil. I left him a voicemail asking that if he had any information, could he please put it in an e-mail. He might have noticed that I crossed the street to avoid him.

Thu Jan 23, 2020.

Whilst doing my rounds this morning I noticed an unusual amount of litter around the town. Out of curiosity I picked a few up, and discovered that they were all the same; small pieces of paper with a single verse from the Bible, as though that were enough to make a difference. Who had left them there? Why? What are they trying to change? Why sprinkle bits of paper around the town, especially if they screw then up first?

Having no other clue, I decided to risk a phone call to the Father.

“Hello Lieutenant. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen you.”

“There is always something to do, and not enough officers.”

“The lord of the harvest has sent workers into the field. 2 Coachloads of Skiers for Jesus. They arrived last night, singing their battle hymn ‘Onward Christian Skiers’. They’re a fine body of men, protected by Helmets of Salvation, Swords of the Spirit, and best of all, Weapons Grade Holy Water. Those boys don’t mess around. If this Beast is in town, they’ll see him off.”

“I don’t understand most of that, but are they anything to do with these bits of paper that I found on the streets this morning?”

“Paper? On the streets?”

“Yes Father. About the size of my hand, with a bible verse on them.”

“Ahhh… You say you found them on the streets?”

“Yes Father”

“Could you bring me one?”

“I could post it to you.”

“I have things to do today. They’ll take me away from the station for most of the day. I could put it in an envelope and leave it on the front desk.”

“Is your receptionist Blessed? I’m sure your whole force needs all the help it can get at this difficult time.”

“He’s not a religious man, and I have to reprimand him sometimes for having an itchy trigger finger.”

“Would he shoot a man of the cloth?”

“Probably.”

“Ah well, I’ll have to wait for the postman then. I shall pray for the gift of patience.”

Fri Jan 24, 2020.

After lunch the desk sergeant asked me to come and meet an angry young man with a complaint. I took him to an interview room, and noted that he made a curious noise as he sat down.

His statement was that he had been riding down the piste on his board when he was surrounded by several skiers who closed in around him and forced him to stop whilst they sang a hymn. (That wouldn’t have been so bad if they had had been singing in the same key.) After a ‘Hallelujah’ and several ‘Amens’ their leader preached a sermon, urging him to reject the temptations of the Beast, to put his faith in God, and become pure as the driven snow (presumably ignoring the yellow stuff). They then thrust a piece of paper into his hand, which he had been too intimidated to refuse. The leader of the group had then laid a hand on his head and pronounced a blessing. Just as the skiers were getting ready to leave, one of them had produced a water pistol and squirted him with it. ‘Careful, that’s strong stuff’, another of them had said, then the whole group had skied away with more Hallelujas.

When asked to describe these assailants, he said that they wore black ski jackets with prominent white collars, and a white Christian cross embroidered on the right breast. They also had an assortment of religious stickers on their helmets, and rose tinted goggles. When I asked if there were any distinguishing facial features, he said “Crocodile smiles.” He was obviously not impressed. I asked if he still had the paper. He unzipped his jacket and there it was. His body was completely encased in panels of hard black plastic, so fixed to him that they followed his every movement. As he handed me the paper, I asked him to remove his jacket. He did so, revealing that the hard panels went down his arms and back as well. I was reluctant to ask what was inside his trousers.

“What’s that?!” I pointed at the hard panels.

“This?” he said, tapping the panels. “It’s my body armour. It means I don’t have to worry about injuries on the mountain.”

“Does it work?” I asked.

“So far, so good” he smiled. “I have taken some serious falls and picked myself up without even a bruise. It saves me from collisions as well”.

“Can you take it off?”

“Oh yes. It can be a relief at the end of the day.”

“Is it uncomfortable?”

“Not at all. But it gets a bit sweaty over the day.”

“How long have you been using it?”

“About 4 or 5 years.”

“Does it talk to you?”

“What! It’s a piece of plastic! It doesn’t talk!”

“How were you persuaded to try it in the first place?”

“A friend recommended it.”

“So it doesn’t swallow you when you put it on?”

He looked at me strangely. “No.”

“And it doesn’t promise to keep you safe on the mountain?”

“The salesman in the shop promised it would, but it doesn’t say anything.”

Things were falling into place. I looked at the piece of paper. It was the same as the one I had posted to Father John. It was time to phone the priest and ask him to send his skiers out on litter patrol.

Thanks for sending in this amusing tale Peter; I’m sure it’ll keep us all amused!