Two Frankfurters and a Detective, by Karel Poláček

(My translation of the short story Dva párky a detektiv, which was published in Lidové noviny on 12 September 1937 and, in book form, in Soudničky [Little Stories from the Courts] in 1999)

Prague Regional Court

11 September 1937

T

hey say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Without friends in the right places you won’t get anywhere. And, in these grim days, you can’t even get two frankfurters with mustard without friends in the right places, as is shown in the following incident.

It was almost half past eight in the evening when a young man, arm in arm with a very blond blonde, walked into a butcher’s shop in the district of Vinohrady in Prague. His sideburns and checked trousers declared him to be quite the dashing man-about-town. The very blond blonde had found her soulmate in him and they had commenced a harmonious life of cohabitation. She was hungry and wanted to have two frankfurters with mustard.

The butcher’s wife scooped two frankfurters out of the pot and was just about to give them to the blonde lady – who was simply dying for her two frankfurters with mustard – when an old man entered the shop and muttered something. “Oh! I’m sorry,” said the butcher’s wife and she promptly gave the two frankfurters to the old man.

When the blonde lady asked what about her frankfurters, the butcher’s wife said they’d just run out of them, that the old gentleman had had the last ones, and that she was just about to close the shop.

The blonde lady wasn’t going to stand for it and asked angrily how that could possibly be. After all, she’d entered the shop before the old man.

The butcher’s wife merely shrugged and said that the old man was a regular customer and had to be given preference for that reason.

It was at that moment that the dashing man-about-town stepped into the fray. Sensing that his sweetheart was lost for words he determined to show her what an intelligent and forthright chap he was – a chap who knew a thing or two and wouldn’t take No for an answer.

“Leave this to me, Maruška,” he said. “It’s not worth arguing about. Let me tell them who I am!”

A few stray customers were present as this scene unfolded. The dashing man-about-town walked up to the old man, who was just about to dip one of his frankfurters into the mustard when he noticed that the hand that was about to accomplish that manoeuvre was suddenly and forceably detained in mid-air.

The dashing man-about-town was standing right in front of him and demanding to see his papers.

“Why should I show you my papers?” said the old man. “As far as I know, I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Your papers!” the young man-about-town repeated. “Or else I’ll show you what’s for! Do you want me to hand you over to the police?”

The old man looked in amazement, firstly at his frankfurters, which were beginning to go cold on the plate, and then at the dashing man-about-town.

“Well I never…,” he spluttered. “What on earth…? Can’t a fellow have his supper in peace? This is outrageous!”

“I’m a detective constable,” declared the young man-about-town, “and I’m going to put an end to your little racket! Do you want me to reveal the sordid depths of this unfair trading arrangement you have here?… And that will mean jail!”

The twenty-seven-year-old salesman Jaroslav Štolcinger was accused by the state prosecutor, Dr Gemrich, of wrongly presenting himself as a detective constable to Mr Gustav Mudr in respect of the latter’s intention of eating his supper, and of threatening him with severe punishment, i.e. imprisonment.

The accused pleaded not guilty, on the grounds that he’d had rather too much to drink that evening. That was confirmed by the butcher’s wife, and the result was that Mr Justice Petřík found Mr Štolcinger guilty merely of drunkenness, for which he sentenced him to two weeks’ hard labour, suspended for one year.

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