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by Michael Bloor

When the actor Brandon Lancaster disappeared back in 1978, it was a three-day wonder — headlines in all the newspapers and the lead story in the TV news bulletins. The oddness of it appealed to journalists and the public. Successful (professionally and financially), middle-aged, a family man, he left home with nothing but his raincoat and his wallet; he failed to turn up for lunch with his agent, an hour later. His face was familiar to millions, thanks to his role as Inspector Jim Scott, the television detective “Scott of the Yard,” but there were no confirmed sightings after he’d popped into his local newsagents for twenty Silk Cut. No taxi driver came forward and, although there were plenty of supposed sightings on the London Tube, the police eventually discounted them all. In any case, the family and friends reported that he no longer took the Tube as he was too well-known for the journey to be a comfortable one.

With the lack of any new developments, the story disappeared from the front pages. Occasional feature articles would appear canvassing new theories. Comparisons were drawn with the disappearance, some four years earlier, of Lord Lucan — wanted for questioning concerning the death of his children’s nanny. The new theories were predictable. Some of them, beginning with “a psychiatrist writes … ,” posited amnesia or mental breakdown. Magazines which gave column space to reports of Elvis sightings offered articles on Scott of the Yard’s clandestine romantic attachment and flight to a secret beach love nest in Goa. Or Thailand.

Uniquely, mine was the only piece to claim that alien abduction is the solution to the mystery. The aliens, from the Alpha Centauri system, had recently been monitoring Earth telecommunications and had been much impressed by the detective powers and prowess of Inspector Jim Scott. The Governing Council of Elders took the secret decision to abduct Scott/Lancaster in order to require him to solve a particularly delicate case involving the murder of their most senior general (run over by the Centaurian equivalent of a combine harvester).

They found out quickly that Scott/Lancaster was only pretending to be a detective for the purpose of public entertainment (a novel concept in their star system) and furthermore was incapable of coherent thought without access to Earth cigarettes. A cover-up was required and Scott/Lancaster was banished to a desert planet with a supply of eight records and one luxury.

Michael Bloor is a retired sociologist living in Dunblane, Scotland, who has discovered the exhilarations of short fiction. Recent publications include Spelk, Scribble, The Cabinet of Heed, Ink Sweat & Tears, Litro Online, The Copperfield Review, Dodging the Rain, Everyday Fiction, Firewords, The Drabble and Idle Ink.