Another H/W piece for the Short Story course I am on at the mo.
Across the table, nearest the door of the matchbox sized interview room, Detectives Knight and Shannon sat, staring in bewilderment ahead of them. Knight’s hand hovered over the interview tape reluctantly before taking the plunge, pressing the rewind button to take the tape back to its beginning. Shannon watched from behind the curtain of his fingers, rubbing his eyes at the click of the recorder reaching its start. They had been in the room for two hours already and this would be their third attempt.
“Right” Knight began, her coarse voice matching her strictly neat attire “Let’s try this again”
Across from them a man sat, crossed legged, slouched in the interview chair with a dangerous casualness for such a formal setting. A cigarette complimented one hand while the other lay outstretched from his body, ever ready should Bacchus himself materialize a Cabernet Sauvignon from thin air. The Man’s dapper attire was in contrast to the detectives across from him and in all their lack of similarities the table provided an ocean of distance. Despite his fondness for donning a Panama and a polka dot Cravat a bigger penchant had made itself obvious, and it had not gone unnoticed that the smell of alcohol had waltzed around the room for some time. Stopping once in a while to pinch the Man’s cheeks to keep them chapped and rosy.
“Can we start with your name?” Shannon asked and the man nodded slowly
“Cyril St Jude” he said.
“Thank you Cyr-“
“Junior” came the interruption from Cyril and Shannon paused to compose himself “or the second, depending how regal you want to be” he added with a chuckle.
“Right, well thank you, Cyril, for being so precise” Shannon breached the conversation a tentative second time “perhaps we could get to matter at hand?”
Cyril bowed and Shannon smiled at his small victory, looking to his superior to begin her monologue.
“Mr St Jude; it was reported that on October twelfth, you witnessed the robbery of ‘Tudor’s’ Jewellery Store on Albemarle Street, W1S at around three am. Is this accurate?”
Cyril brought the cigarette to his mouth and inhaled
“Clumsily orated, but yes that’s correct”
A grimace spread across Knight’s face.
“You mind explaining firstly why you were outside the Jewellers at this time?”
“Not at all” Cyril began and Shannon cringed knowing what was to come “You see I am what you could call a Midnight Dandy and it’s not unusual for me to float across the city when the feeling suits. To seek out the muse that I so often find lying in the gutter”
The room fell silent as Knight stared at Cyril, her face pale. Fearing the tension, Shannon shuffled the report before reading from it at speed.
“Says here two constables found you asleep with an empty wine bottle at your side. Correct?”
Cyril shrugged his shoulders “In a manner of speaking”
“Well perhaps if we keep to this manner of speaking, we can get this over with quickly” Knight interjected and the room fell silent once more.
“Erm” Shannon began “Let’s move on to the suspects. Did you see anyone, Cyril?”
Cyril nodded, straightening his cravat “Indeed, a Skein of them returned to their vehicle post haste”
“A Skein?” Shannon repeated.
“A Skein” Cyril confirmed.
A rasp of air escaped from Knight’s mouth that became a remonstration “a number, Cyril. Nothing else, no deviations, no creativity just the amount of people you saw- understand?”
Cyril fidgeted before raising four digits.
The interview began again “Did you see what any of them looked like?”
Cyril shook his head “they wore ghastly headwear though I did notice the driver was un-masked”
Knight and Shannon turned to one another with childish excitement.
“Brilliant, Cyril, this could be very helpful. Tell me what did he look like?”
“A Troll!” The words tumbled from Cyril seemingly knocking Knight back in her chair.
“Chiselled out of oak by some cruel god with dull instruments”
“Cyril” Shannon called but it was futile
“To look upon him” Cyril continued “was to loath all humanity”
“Cyril” Shannon tried again, sensing the static emanating from Knight as Cyril stood from his seat.
“And to pity his Mother who should waste her love upon such a bestial, rudimentary thing”
“Enough!” spat Knight, slamming her hands on the table and bringing Cyril back from his cogitations.
“All night we’ve been here. All night and you’ve been unable to answer one question without prancing around like Peter O’-fucking-Toole. You’re on thin ice, Cyril- understand? Thin. Ice. Now either tells us what you know in plain English or find someone else to piss about with”
Cyril let Knight’s diatribe sink in, its weight slowly guiding him back to his seat. Shannon observed battle field and, when he felt the time was right, began the tape once more.
“Err. You mentioned a vehicle” he asked but Cyril did not respond “Could you describe it for me?”
Time stood still as Cyril thought about his answer. Lowering his head he took the last drag of his cigarette before gently crushing into the tray before him. The words came slow and methodical so that nothing could be misconstrued.
“A Robotic Horse” he said.
An hour after the interview Knight and Shannon submitted to the knowledge that with no credible witnesses the case would surely fail. It was while lamenting in the rec room that PC Horridge inquired as to Cyril’s location. “Room four” Shannon said, head hidden in his arms “Why?”
“Shoplifting charge” Horridge responded “He can handle his booze but he can’t pay for it. Need to ask him some questions, shouldn’t take long”
Shannon shot up from his position to protest though paused when catching eyes with Knight who handed Horridge her packet of opened cigarettes.
“Room four” she repeated with a smile, Watching as Horridge took the cigarettes and walked determinedly and obliviously to his fate.
We started as a pack of four; one lookout, one ‘round the back and two “charmers” to get the unsuspecting sod to open up. It was a good setup for a while and the payoffs weren’t too shabby neither, but when the fuzz started catching on the others got twitchy and started doing less jobs. I tried to convince them that the chances of being caught were the same as winning the lottery but they were having none of it. By the end it was just two of us and to be honest I’d conjured an image of myself going solo. An image of fancy sports cars and trips down to Malaguf. Bugger it, a villa in Malaguf, with some cheeky blonde on my arm. Going solo that’s where the success is when you’re on the rob. Pull off one good gig and you’re laughing. So anyway, we parted ways, no bad blood. A few days later he got pinched robbing some newlyweds’ gaff. Apparently an anonymous call to the cops led them straight to him. Shame that.
One thing the boys and me never agreed on was opportunity. They liked to plan everything down to the letter. We’d spend weeks scoping joints and even then we could end up bottling it. Waste of time I thought. We could have been in and out on day bloody one. Oh yeah, when it came knocking the lads would grab opportunity by the jaw and peer right inside his mouth. This house in front of me for example, they’d have walked straight past without even considering the hoard within. I mean, it don’t look much on the outside. Just another red brick terrace, tiles sprinkled with ice this time of year. But the dullest of houses can hide the greatest of treasures. I’ve always thought houses had expressions, with their doors and windows making a face and it was clear that this house looked out at the world in fear. As well it should. But it weren’t just the house that caught my eye but the Jalopy out front as just in view, underneath the frost encrusted windshield, lay the sky blue wallet of a disabled badge holder, left wide open for all and sundry to read the name off of.
Wasting no time I scoped the street and smiled when no life stirred from the houses around me. A sprint to the opposite end of the street found me a crop of trees by the side of a quiet main road. The place was littered with empty cans and someone had been creative with some used needles, stabbing them into a defenceless sapling. But I didn’t much mind the décor, it told me that the outside world didn’t pry. Just the right environment to change from my casual attire into a shirt and tie. A name badge and clipboard to boot.
Back at the house I check my barnet in the car’s side mirror, and smile seeing I’m still Brylcreemed to perfection. All that’s left now is to straighten up, slap on my toothy grin and give the door the old rat-a-tat-tat. Nothing happens at first and I wonder if anyone’s in until I see a small reflection through the warped glass of the door doddering toward me. “Who is it?” she croaks and in my most reassuring voice I shout “I’m from the gas, Mrs Rowan. There’s been a leak and I need to check everyone’s boilers”. I stifle a chuckle when I hear the worry in her voice as she mumbles to herself. She also corrects me that it is Miss not Mrs and I apologies profusely, knowing all too well she’s a Miss but a Mrs implies she’s not alone, and if she thinks that I think there’s some hubby in there with her then how threatening can I be?
Slowly the door opens, the latch still on of course, and she peers up at me with thick NHS specs. More clothing than person, an oversized moth eaten jumper covered by a thick quilt draped around her shoulders. A plastic tube pokes out of her nose and ends behind her attached to an oxygen machine that follows her constantly like a puppy dog. This is all too easy.
“Bitter cold isn’t?” I say putting on a bit of a show, lowering my ID card to her. She peers hard before saying “but I hardly use the emersion” Thinking on my feet I frown and shake my head “oh that’s not good love, you see, err, the gas can build up over time inside the machine. I’ve seen them explode through lack of use” a hand covers her mouth at the information and I know that soon I’ll be in. A few more minutes of chin wagging and finally at long last she says “well you’d better come and have a look at it then” the door creaks open and I step through the threshold closing the door behind me.
She leads me to the kitchen and I follow, careful not to kick the oxygen tank over while she witters on about her granddaughter or some such. I nod and smile as I’m supposed to all the while digging my fingers into my palm. In a grubby kitchen she pin points out the boiler cupboard and I open it to find a piece of machinery as old as she is, cobwebbed and water damaged. I almost feel like phoning a real gas man but I use the scene to my advantage and tut before lecturing the old girl about the necessity of renewing boilers. She continues to look on in worry, hanging on my every word of expert advice. “I might have to check your radiators too, see how far the damage has gone. I’ll start upstairs if that’s OK”. She nods and says its fine.
“Would you mind going up on your own though, it’s hard on my legs see”
“Not a problem” I reply with a grin.
My hold all lies on the bed open and ready. It’s as I guessed it would be. Necklaces, rings, broaches, it’s like Ali Baba’s cave and I’m flushed with excitement at the amount I’m throwing into the bag. A cough from down stairs makes me stop suddenly and I leap over the bed to tinker and bang on the radiator. Just a cough, nothing else, so I get back on with the pilfering. The drawers ransacked, I check the wardrobes for any furs but find nothing that hasn’t got mould or insect damage so decide not to bother. Giving the room one last check I notice a picture mounted in a small gold frame. It’s of a young woman dressed in a red cheque shirt and wood chip covered dungarees. She stands in a dense forest, light cascading down from the canopy to highlight her rust coloured hair. Emerald eyes pierce though the picture toward me and I shudder like someone’s walked over my grave. Her expression doesn’t help; she seems stern, judgemental, like she’s been watching me not just this time but all the others times before it. I shake the feeling away and move onto to the next room. The hoard is nowhere near as good and I feel like I should make an appearance downstairs in case suspicions begin to raise. Whistling as I saunter down the steps to the front room, I see the old dear sat in her arm chair, head lolled forward in sleep, the wireless playing some golden oldies.
“That’s me done, love” I shout but there’s nothing stirring so I try louder “I’ll bring someone round next week to replace this boiler” I smile at the tagged on reassurance but still nothing. “Miss Rowan?” I shout again. “Oi!” I try finally, losing my cool and character momentarily. It’s then I notice my breath turning to steam in the cold air around me and the lack thereof coming from Miss R.
Impeccable, bloody, timing is all I can say but still you got to shuffle off some time and looking her over once more I laugh wondering how she even made it this far. Throwing the hold all over my shoulder I head to the front door before stopping dead in my tracks. A figure stands the other side of it. Bold red hair apparent through the glass of the door. I step back a little but she calls out.
“Granny? It’s Maisie. You there?” I turn to leg it to the back and to freedom but stop in my tracks and wonder. Wonder what trinkets the dearly departed might have given her granddaughter. What possessions she’d handed down for safe keeping. And I wonder if this is opportunity at the door once again? Maisie knocks louder and I can tell she means business. I straighten up, combing my hair back with my fingers before striding over, a sense of dread supressed by my ever charming toothy grin…
ST Pauls by night