The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part seven)

Find enclosed part seven of the Mervyn Stone Mystery ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, the first (as far as I know) novel ever written on twitter in real time.

As you’ve probably guessed, I do enjoy inventing tacky names for comic shops and conventions.  In Mervyn’s very first book, the name for the ‘Vixens from the Void’ convention was ‘ConVix’, and at the moment I’m working on one centred on a ‘Vixens from the Void’ exhibition that the owner has enterprisingly called ‘The Vixperience!’

I’m not really a fan of puns, but they’re not just puns to me;  like the convoluted names given to hairdressing salons, they are also a window into the soul of the owners, more telling than what they wear and how they speak.  This is a marker saying ‘I have this much taste and this much imagination.  I have thought long into the night and this is the best retail/space/haircut hybrid name I can think of.  Will this do?’.

I loved imagining the incipient hostility between ‘The Starshop Enterprise’ and ‘BattleStore Galactica’, one can almost see them deliberately locking horns, coming up with their rival puns.  Not just a tacky pair of shop names, more a declaration of war…

My favourite self-created sci-fi pun is the name of the Birmingham Sci-Fi Convention in ‘The Axeman Cometh’, but you’ll have to buy the CD to discover what that is (ha ha).


Of all the things I expected from Mary, I didn’t expect her to say that to me. Scrub her from the suspects list…

That chat with her was one of the most surreal conversations of my life.


Okay, I’m awake. I’m sorry, I flaked out again, but it was a mad evening.

I opened the door, and sure enough, it was Mary. She was much more striking in real life. My eyes were struggling to take her all in.

The hair, the fingernails, the…everything.

‘Mervyn Stone?’ she said.

I just nodded. She walked in and supplied one of my many, many questions, as she threw my wallet on the table.

‘I came back a few hours ago. I was just tidying up after my bloody daughter when I found this behind my sofa.’

‘Funnily enough, I also had a Mervyn Stone as my Facebook friend. I don’t think we’ve ever met, have we?’

I shake my head. I’m trying to work up to words, but I’m not having much luck yet.

‘The police told me you were the one found in the flat with the body of my husband.’

‘Okay,’ she sighs. ‘Enough’s enough. Where is he?’

‘Where’s who?’ It’s the first thing I manage to say.

‘Where’s Alistair? Come on, this is getting really annoying.’

‘I…Don’t know where they take the deceased,’ I mumble. ‘I’m sure the police…’

‘Oh yeah!’ She scoffs. ”D.I.Wells’ will help me.’ She makes big exaggerated finger quotes around the man’s name. ‘Christ, you boys… Can’t you work out when a joke’s run its course?’

She comes in and throws herself on my sofa, putting her huge boots on my coffee table.

‘Whatever Alistair is paying you, I will give you extra if you just tell me where he is. It’s been five days now, and I had a big laugh, but the joke’s over.’

‘Give me where he’s hiding. I promise I won’t kill him for real.’

I wonder if the shock has sent her into denial. ‘I’m sorry to tell you, but your husband’s dead,’ I say gently.

‘I woke up beside his body on Friday morning.’

She looked at me with pitying eyes. ‘Yeah right. You woke up beside my husband’s dead body on April the first. Ha ha ha.’

‘His bloody jokes get more elaborate every year.’

‘Last year he moved the whole shop without telling me. Just moved it overnight, the whole stock.

So when I came in to work, all I found was a cuddly gorilla, a fisher price till, and a packet of cotton buds.’

Her eyes bore into my head. ‘But you know all this. You must have been laughing like skunks when you planned this – when? When you did that signing? I know who you are, Mervyn…’ She started shouting, so that if Alistair was hiding in the house, he’d hear.

‘If you don’t produce my husband in twenty four hours, I’m going to tell the world via Facebook and Twitter what a wanker you are. And that’s not a threat. That’s a promise.’

And she left, almost taking my front door with her.


So I’m guessing that Stacey and her pet boyfriend think the same way as Mary.

I’m in the incredible situation where there’s been a murder, and none of the suspects think the murderee has died.

I have to find a suspect who actually thinks he’s dead. Hmm.

I’m thinking back to the news article of Alistair’s death. Craig Jones gave a rather moving comment. I wonder if he was just playing along with an assumed joke – or he actually knows that Alistair is dead? I think I’ll pay a visit to the ‘Star Shop Enterprise’.

There’s not much call for the red ones, sir…

@mikegbell: @mervynstone wondered when you’d get round to him. You off there today?

@mikegbell I’m thinking about it – if I have time. I’ve got biscuits to finish.


I’m off to Craig Jones’ shop, which if anything, is smaller than ‘Buy the Gods!!’

It’s in another tatty mall, no more than thirty yards from it’s bitter rival, ‘Battlestore Galactica’.

Craig is an affable Welshman, giving off bonhomie and body odour in equal measure.

I have to be careful he doesn’t touch me.


I expect you’re wondering why I didn’t give you updates on my visit to Craig Jones’ little shop.

Well there’s a reason for that.

I got there late yesterday afternoon, but the shop was closed. I thought that was very unlike Craig. He lives for his shop.

In fact, he doesn’t just live for his shop; he lives in his shop. He’s got a room in the back. Not a lot of people know this.

I look inside, and it’s dark. No movement. There’s post piling up on the door mat. I’m a nosey parker so I press my face against the door to see if I can read the envelopes through the glass panel.

And it opens!

Pushing it open, I’m instantly aware of the smell.

It’s not your ordinary Craig Jones kind of smell. This is something a lot riper. A lot stronger.

He was there in the back room. Dead.


His face is a deep blotchy purple, his eyes are wide open, and there’s what looks like a telephone cord biting deep into his neck.

I phone the police.

It doesn’t take long before they show up. With my luck, of course it’s D.I. Wells. He’s brought lots of policemen in baby romper suits.

Tinky Winky…Dipsy…

Clive the evidence man is there too; he’s brought his little bags, and his big bags to put his little bags in.

I’m steered away from the shop to a cafe, where I’m asked a lot of questions by a bored policewoman. D.I.Wells glares at me from the shop

I’ve got a feeling he’d like to arrest me a second time…

But I’m guessing – only guessing, mind – that Craig’s murder co-incided with my very long stay down the cop shop. I’m in the clear.

Over the policewoman’s shoulder, I see Clive taking his boxes out of the shop, one by one, filled with all manner of evidence.

I see the telephone cord thing being held gingerly in a little plastic bag. He’s treating it like it’s the most precious thing ever…

Then Clive glances over, smiles, and walks over to me.

‘I’ve got your boots, if you want ’em,’ he grins.

I’m stumped by this. In the madness of the past few days, I haven’t the faintest idea of what he’s talking about.

Clive adds. ‘Your Chelsea boots, that you said were stolen? The ones you were after getting back when you went to Alistair Guffin’s place?

‘Well we found them. You can have them back, if you want to claim them.’

I look at him dumbly. ‘But won’t the family want to contest ownership of my boots? Alistair said he bought them fair and square…’

Clive shrugged. ‘I got someone to ring up for you, and his widow didn’t seem to care. She seemed to think it was all one big joke.’

‘She said, and I quote, ‘yeah, whatever. Whatever you want. Tell Alistair I’m giving everything away, unless he gets his fat arse back home pronto. I didn’t quite understand what she meant.’

I think about explaining the whole Apri Fool’s thing to Clive, but I really can’t be bothered. He seemed a nice bloke, and I didn’t really want to burden him with my woes.

I noticed that Dermot Bryce, owner of ‘Battlestore Galactica’ was watching the comings and goings from the doorway of his shop, arms folded.

Almost triumphant.

Well, he and Craig had been bitter rivals for years, so I suppose that’s one more suspect, at least. God knows what any of this has to do with Alistair’s murder.

I consider going over to talk to Dermot, but quite frankly, I was exhausted.

I watch the police pack up, I watch them close up Craig’s shop, and then I find a pub and go and get pissed.

That was yesterday.

Today, I’m going back to the Police station to get my boots. Hey, why not? It’s something to do.


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