We kept seeing Columbo’s car around. First of all we saw it outside Burger King on Byres Road, badly parked- about five feet away from the kerb and at the craziest angle, as if he’d stopped there in a hurry. Then my brother saw it outside the place where the swimming pool and the badminton courts are. And later again I saw it parked outside the off-licence, closer to the pavement this time, and parallel too. We only ever saw the car parked, but it always seemed to be outside somewhere I liked to go. And then, when we went out for dinner on wee Karn’s birthday and we were hanging our coats up on the coat-rack, we saw Columbo’s old mac already hanging there, in amongst all the expensive fur and leather and things. I had a quick look around while we were being taken to our table, to see if he was there, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.
But then one night while I was sitting outside on the steps playing my Gameboy, I heard a car stopping on the gravel in front of me. And while I tried to decide which way round to put the L-shaped Tetris piece that was falling, I felt someone sit down on the steps beside me. And I heard them scratching their head. And then, on the reflection on the screen, I saw that it was him.
“Those really are the most fascinating little machines.” he said. But I’d built up a whole high pile, which needed a single line for down the side, and I couldn’t look up in case it came. “It certainly is nice around here.” Columbo said, and I heard his mac moving as he looked around. The single line I’d been waiting for didn’t come though, and soon my screen was filled all the way to the top. So I put it down and asked Columbo if someone from around here had been murdered.
“Not murdered, sir. No.” he said, “I don’t think you could call it murder.”
“Well what are you investigating?” I asked him.
“Well, sir, it’s a case of counterfeit notes. Perhaps you’d call it theft, but I’m not rightly sure. It’s new for me, I’ll tell you that.” Then he picked up the Gameboy and stared at it, all fascinated. “Could I? Would you mind?” he said, and I showed him how to start up a game. But pretty soon the screen was full and he shook his head. “Well, well…” he said, “You know, Mrs Columbo- she’s great at these sorts of things. But me, I just can’t seem to get the hang of them.” And he stood up and handed it back to me. “I’m sorry to have troubled you, sir.” he said, “I’ll let you get back to your game. You know, this really is a lovely area.” And as he walked off down the steps I watched until he opened the door of his car, and I went to start up another game. But then he stopped. “Oh, I’m sorry.” he said, holding one hand up in the air, with a cigar between his fingers, and looking down at the ground. “Just a little thing…” he said. And he scratched the back of his head with the hand that had been up in the air. “With something like that, sir- that little machine you have there- would someone be able to make samples with that, from records and stuff?” I laughed and shook my head. “That’s fine, sir.” he said, “I was just curious.” Then he got into the car and drove away.
I didn’t think I’d see him again after that, but I was very wrong. I began to see his car around a lot more, quite often outside the houses of people I knew. And not only that, but just lately he’s started turning up wherever I might be, asking me all kinds of crazy questions about technology and sampling and stuff. Pretending he’s trying to learn all about it. It got me quite worried for a while, but I think I’ll be alright. I think I’ve got him foxed. I think I’ve been way too clever for him…