It is with a heavy heart that I take to my laptop to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr Murphy Richards was distinguished.
It was my intention to say nothing of the following events which have created a void in my life which the past three days have done little to fill.
My hand has been forced, however, due to the great outpouring of grief that has inundated this blog and Murphy’s email account following the news of his death, and I have no choice but to lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred. I alone know the absolute truth of the matter, and I am satisfied that the time has come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression.
Also, as Murphy fell to his death I heard him shout out “mention my book!” I can only deduce that he fully intended me to tell of his heroic death. Knowing the man, I suspect that, despite his modesty, it is what he would have wanted.
It seems to me now that more time has passed since Murphy walked into my consulting room Friday last and laid himself down upon my couch staring up at the ceiling in silence.
I somewhat reluctantly asked Mrs Cummings to leave, assuring her that I would continue the examination as soon as “the pervert” had departed. She dressed herself and left for the waiting room.
Murphy was gaunt and pale, agitated beyond even his usual self. He did not speak, leaving it to me to begin our discourse.
“Do you think you are being followed again? Who is it this time?”
“Enough of your sophistry Watson, for I have indeed been followed. Have you any objection to my closing your shutters.”
It wasn’t really a question for he had already leapt up from the couch and closed the shutters. He threw himself back upon the couch.
“I must apologise for calling so late,” said he “and I must further beg you to be so unconventional as to allow me to leave your surgery presently by scrambling over your back garden wall.”
“Of course, Murphy,” said I, sighing. Was it ever otherwise?
“I have risked much today by coming here to give you this.” He handed me an envelope. “Here are your tickets for tomorrow’s flight. It is an early start from the City Airport so I suggest you get to bed soon.”
“Murphy, it is my anniversary tomorrow…” I began but he waved my protest away with his hand.
“Don’t insult me, I know this. Was I not best man at your wedding?”
“Erm, yes?” whenever he asked a question with a negative he would berate me for getting my response wrong. “You didn’t show up.”
“Quite, Watson. But your answer was sophistry, I believe you meant to respond in the negative.”
With this he exploded into action and swept from the room. I heard the inevitable commotion in the back yard as he attempted to scale the wall. I wondered whether he would eventually use the ladder I have become accustomed to leaving propped against the wall.
Murphy Richards left me with somewhat of a dilemma with regards to whether to attend the airport in the morning. However, my sister would be most distraught if I let her husband disappear off on one of his “research trips” without the necessary supervision.
So it was with no great surprise that I found myself boarding an aeroplane to Belp early next morning. Of course, Murphy was nowhere to be seen. However, little did I notice at the time, there was a man of his exact build, posture and hair colour sat in the seat next to mine.
I did not realise this was in fact Murphy in disguise because he wore a moustache, his nose was noticeably a different shape and when I asked him to let me into my seat he replied in an authentic Irish accent “to be sure, you go on and clamber over, that’ll be grand”. Unsurprisingly, I was unaware of Murphy’s presence on that plane.
It was not until we had arrived at Belp that Murphy unveiled himself, in his customary dramatic style. My attention was drawn to a disturbance as Swiss customs officials forcibly divested Murphy of his false moustache and fake nose. With their firearms levelled at him I interposed myself and vouched for his behaviour, responding to their questions that I was indeed his doctor.
Murphy informed me impassively that it had always been his intention to attract my attention in this manner.
We collected the car that Murphy had booked and we were soon on the road headed south. In his dispassionate tones Murphy told me to follow the signs for Interlaken and get on the A6 whilst he stared ahead unflinching. He stayed silent until we reached the toll booth.
“Bloody neoliberal tolls,” he muttered.
“Look Murphy, what’s this all about?” I tried to hide my irritation at him, but I overlooked his unerring ability to interpret the underlying meaning of words. He is… was, after all, a tax expert.
“Watson, do you mean to say that your anniversary is more important than bringing about Justice for Taxes? Is that what a Citizen of Courage would think? I should suggest not.”
“Damn it Murphy, I just want you to tell me what the hell we’re doing in Switzerland and how you got hold of my credit card again! Can you just steal somebody else’s for a change and drag them along instead of me?”
“No, Watson,” said he, momentarily fixing his gaze on me “it must be you. Have you heard the name, Professor Harry Redknapp?”
“The football manager?” I said.
“Is there another?” Murphy said to me.
“Is there?” I asked.
“In order to avoid the author getting sued, yes,” he replied. “I speak of Professor Harry Redknapp, the legal but immoral tax avoidance mastermind who has perpetrated numerous acts of legal tax avoidance.
“He was almost prosecuted for a minor act of tax evasion. In fact, he was innocent in this respect but the revelation regarding his dog’s bank account led me onto one of his tax avoidance schemes that I must stop.”
“That wasn’t his dog’s bank account,” I said.
“Lie!” Murphy bellowed at me. “That’s what he wanted you to think. He risked prison to conceal the fact that this was actually the dog’s bank account.”
“That’s madness Murphy, why would he do such a thing?”
“To conceal his methods. He uses animals as beneficiaries of trusts to move money between super wealthy clients of his. The trustees are given absolute discretion to dispose of the funds as they see fit in order to look after the animal.”
I took my eyes off the road to look at Murphy who had turned himself in his seat to face me.
“Don’t you see? They buy the animal a nice house, a car, a swimming pool, exotic holidays and so on. But they accompany the beneficiary at all times. Why do you think that so many celebrities have those stupid little dogs they carry around in their handbags? It’s tax avoidance.”
“Does that even work?”
“Of course it does! It cannot not work. Professor Redknapp uses offshore trusts where you could make a coconut a beneficiary. However, he has a problem due to the upcoming change in disclosure rules for the British Crown Dependencies. He is worried that the revelations that he acts as trustee for so many animals will make his scheme obvious to even Dave Hartnett.”
“That is indeed obvious,” said I.
“Of course it is,” Murphy continued, “that is why he has not hesitated to make plans to move the beneficiaries of the trusts to Switzerland where he has acquired land to keep them. The more rare the animal, the more a trustee can justify expenses for its upkeep.
“Watson, if a common mongrel requires $145,000 for its upkeep, how much do you suppose an endangered species might require?”
“I’m not going to answer that, this really doesn’t sound very plausible Murphy.”
“Desist your ad hominem attack Watson, I have eliminated all else that is possible.”
“Of course you have,” I said.
“Professor Redknapp has acquired a rare animal indeed, a Vietnamese Pygmy Gorilla, one of only three held in captivity with perhaps only fifty remaining in the wild. This animal is the beneficiary of a £500m trust of which Professor Redknapp is sole trustee. He is moving this trust and the gorilla to Switzerland. Redknapp is not one to let the grass grow under his feet.”
At this point Murphy directed me off the A8 onto a road headed upwards towards the lake. As we pulled into a car park Murphy was out of the door and gesticulating at a silver Mercedes van.
“That’s their van. We’re late, Watson, all because of your incessant nonsense!”
Murphy shook me so violently that my glasses fell from my face and then he tugged me forwards.
“Stop dawdling! The game is afoot.” He raced on ahead of me up a twisting path amidst the trees. For fear of losing him altogether I dared not delay any further and ran after him.
The path rose up the hillside and Murphy seemed to instinctively follow a route known only to him. I tried as best as I could to keep sight of him but Murphy Richards has always maintained his fitness better than I, and it was no surprise that after twenty minutes of physical exertion, I lost him altogether.
I examined the ground as Murphy had taught me. It was then that I saw a print that was not made by a boot. Whilst Murphy’s prints headed off unbroken up the right fork, these singular prints headed to the left, up the shallower incline. The prints were unmistakeably those of a Vietnamese Pygymy Gorilla.
Had Murphy actually made an elementary mistake, or had he chosen a shorter, but sharper ascent?
It was then that I heard shouting. Recognising one voice as Murphy’s, I sprinted out through the tree cover. I heard Murphy shout a second time.
“You shall not pass!”
No more than four hundred metres in front of me, I was met by the sight of Murphy Richards wrestling with a Vietnamese Pygmy Gorilla on a narrow path before the Reichenbach Falls. For an instant, the pair teetered on the edge of the precipice, then they were tumbling into the torrent of water.
It was then I heard Murphy shout his dying words.
Not only are these words the final utterance of the greatest tax expert of our time, they are also his epitaph. I shall have them carved on his gravestone.
A few words may suffice to tell the little that remains. Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless, and there, deep down in that dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time the wealthiest monkey and the foremost champion of Justice for Taxes whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.