|The DaVinci Code of the Woosters by Pelham Gebert Wodehouse
There are many things one might say upon finding oneself at the declamatory end of a pistol brandished by a hulking six-foot-four albino with a habit of self-flagellation, in the halls of the Louvre. One might for instance, effect the note of surprise frequently adopted by the householder in the act of being burgled: "What ho!" Or one might adopt the interrogatory methods of the American police detective: "Who the devil are you?" But it is relatively certain that few of us, confronted by a menacing brute the color of a particularly ill-tempered blancmange, would respond in the manner that came naturally to the Hon. Galahad Threepwood.
Gally (as his friends, among whom numbered every agreeable person in London, called him) took one look at the figure before him and, keenly sizing him up as some sort of criminal, asked him a question which would prove to be the absolute crusher to a day which had been very bad indeed, even by the reduced standards of your average albino religious maniac. With whom, on the subject of good days, the Hon. Galahad Threepwood would have found very few points in common.
"Have you," Gally asked, "seen a kangaroo named Bill wearing a bowler hat and a silk cummerbund?"
* * *
"You see, monsieur Wooster," the police inspector began, "Your uncle, in his dying moments, left you a message in his own blood before collapsing-- like so."
"Yes, Gally was always keen for the dramatic gesture," Bertie said, surveying the scene. "I remember once at the Drones, a pugilistic chap named Tuffy Bingenheim tried to put the Dutch pickle on old Gally over a wager he said Gally had welshed on. Gally escaped just in time by dressing himself as an Apache warrior and setting fire to--"
"Monsieur Wooster, I don't believe you recognize the urgency of the situation," said the inspector, a man for whom the Dordogne-like reservoir of patience recognized as the French policeman's birthright was rapidly filling with the silt of Bertie's remembrances. "It is most unusual for a man, a man of position such as your uncle, to be found in this way--"
"What, dead?" asked Bertie. "Oh, we English are always turning up dead. A positive rage in London at the moment. We'd as soon find ourselves poisoned or garroted as come for tea."
"In the altogether," said the inspector.
And indeed it was one of the hard facts that must be admitted, that in choosing to die at this moment, the Hon. Galahad Threepwood seemed to have done so with a complete disregard for proper dress most uncharacteristic of his life previous. "I see exactly what you mean, inspector," said Bertie. "A most shocking lapse on the old boy's part. Can't think what Aunt Agatha would say if she heard about it. And that message he's scribbled in his own blood. Jeeves, can that great brain of yours possibly make anything of it?"
"I have just been giving the matter some thought," said Jeeves, who had been lurking quietly in the background, satisfying himself as to some minor points of Caravaggio's brush technique. "It seems to me that by arranging himself, sans culottes so to speak, in the form of DaVinci's Vitruvian Man, your uncle was signaling us that DaVinci's Last Supper holds the clues to the long-hidden fact that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and sired a line which continues to this day, and that this fact has been hidden from all mankind by a secret society whose nefarious agent is undoubtedly the very killer whom our friend the inspector seeks. In fact, I rather suspect it's that exceedingly tall and pale fellow lurking in the bushes below right now."
"What, that ghastly kipper-faced yegg who looks like the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come?"
"The very one, sir."
* * *
"I wonder if you could help me with a matter of some delicacy, Bertie," Freddy Threepwood said once the initial pleasantries of the evening had subsided.
"Don't go looking to put the touch on me, old cork," Bertie said. "I'm as skint as an antelope in the Royal Geographic Society."
"It's not about money," Freddy said, and Bertie saw from his agitation that it was indeed a matter of the heart. "There's this girl-- I'm most madly in love with her-- she's undoubtedly the one for me, I mean it--"
"I would never have doubted it," Bertie said. "Let neither auto-flagellating albinos nor secret societies stand twixt you and Venus' transit on its merry course."
"--But there's the problem of her family," Freddy said.
"There always is," Bertie said. "It's a wonder the race perpetuates itself at all, what with families always popping up in the vicinity of any girl who seems worth looking at. How much more efficient it would all be if girls could find a way to be born without 'em, like bacteria."
"Well, this is rather a special case," Freddy interjected. "Her family thinks they're descended from Jesus--"
"Oh, an American girl, is she?" Bertie said. "Some sturdy papa who made his boodle in the smelting racket or the ironmongering game, and comes over here to acquire a title for his little girl with very firm ideas about not being pushed around by old Blighty. Well, you tell him from me--"
"No, Bertie," said Freddy. "They're literally descended from Jesus. Mary Magdalene, little Jesus the second, and so on right to the present day."
"Well, that is a bit of a pincher," Bertie said, thoughtfully. "Still, I haven't seen the son of God that old Bertie Wooster couldn't tie up in a silk satchel and send off for extra starch before breakfast. Never say die, my boy, we'll outwit this deity and his offspring yet."
* * *
"And so you see," said Sir Roderick Spode menacingly, as he pointed the pistol at Bertie, "it is a secret which mankind must never know, for its own good. And I am afraid the only way to ensure that is by killing you all."
"See, that's where you come a cropper, Spode," said Bertie. "You imagine that you are the bearer of some enormous secret so terrible that, if the average punter were to find it out, it would cause said punter to throw up his wife and position, take up with some girl named Beryl with unshaved legs and advanced ideas, and go marching for the Fabians or the Alexander Technique on weekends. But the average punter wouldn't react to your big secret by tossing away his perfectly happy life and taking up that sort of rot. The average punter would look at his paper, say 'What ho, look at this, apparently that Da Vinci chap helped hide a conspiracy about the Church in Rome for two thousand years,' and then turn the page to see how Tiddly Winkie is going to escape from Foxy Locksy on the funnies page. That one, Jeeves, just above the left earlobe."
Sir Roderick turned just in time for Jeeves to flatten him with a well-placed swing of the fireplace poker. "I trust Sir Roderick will be returning to London alone," he said....