Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Day 17

Feeling good about this now, it actually seems to be coming together, and on the way home in the car I had a few thoughts about the ending, all I need to do now is make sure I've got enough plot to get me there. I seem to be throwing all the ideas I've had for other books and still it's not enough. And I'm throwing anecdotes in left right and centre, God help me if I have to do this again.

And on that bombshell, I swallowed most of my pint. My mind raced as I went through the implications not only for Shuggsy, but also myself. It didn’t look good, for all intents and purposes, I was just some Joe Schmo who had come in off the street making a casual enquiry about someone who is now an ex-someone, on behalf of a ‘friend’ who had a reason to see the someone kept out of the picture, even if I had been extremely sketchy about the details of Shuggsy’s involvement with Tony, and certainly hadn’t mentioned any names. To be fair to Churchill though, he wasn’t being judgmental.
“Look, it’s not of my business what you wanted to find this bloke for, and as far as I can see you’re probably not responsible for what happened, but it doesn’t look good does it? I’ve made all my enquiries covertly and I found about the body being found through a mate who’s still on the murder squad, just in general conversation.” I mustn’t have looked convinced, so he continued, “between you, me and the gatepost, they’re not going to be wasting too many man-hours on this scrote, as far as they’re concerned it were drug related, probably revenge for him ripping someone off, and he had no known relatives or fixed abode. It were his ex-parole officer that id’d him, well what was left of him anyhow. Looked like a pro job apparently, one shot in t’back of his head.” Churchill seemed to be relishing revealing these details, I felt a bit queasy. Thankfully, he seemed to be winding up anyway as he was reaching for his jacket. He folded up the papers relating to his research and slid them back into the envelope.
“Under t’circumstances, I reckon it’s best that I hold onto these for safe keeping.” He passed me another single sheet of paper, folded over, which looked like it was typewritten. “That’s the invoice for the work, all in. Get it to us within fourteen days will you, cheque or cash.” With that, he drained the dregs of his pint and made for the exit. Somehow, he’d made that last sentence sound like a polite request and a veiled threat, all in one. I guess there wasn’t anything to tie him to me if anyone asked why he was interested in the late Anthony O’Neill, as long as he destroyed the paperwork. I turned over the invoice which came to just over eight hundred pounds, the breakdown simply showed ‘miscellaneous investigations undertaken’ and he’d only claimed sixty quid expenses, so it seemed churlish to quibble about the time it took, if as Churchill had said, it only took a few phone calls. I was going to make damn sure I paid in full by the end of that week, or else he might have been tempted to have another word with his ex-colleagues. As it stood, I was going to have to have a serious chat with Shuggsy and I wasn’t sure of the outcome. Whatever, we needed to come up with a contingency plan before his court appearance. I realised then that he was due to have met Pardew that evening to discuss his case. I dug out my mobile, intending on ringing Shuggs straight away to see what had transpired, but then Grant walked in the pub and immediately homed in on me.

“So what you should be looking at with every move is to be trading up. So, you start off in your two up two down terrace in Shit Street, then you move up to a cottage-style effort in a terrace or a semi in Bloggs Road, then you want to be looking at a close or better still Wotsit Avenue. Then when you’ve got your two point two kids out of the house, wallop, you graduate to your gated estate or somewhere that’s called ‘The’ something or other, and you’re rubbing shoulders with footballers and actors, your monied class anyway.” Yes, that was Grant holding forth on another of his inexhaustible topics of how to make a fortune, it hadn’t taken him long, halfway down his first pint of Hoegaarden in fact, “you can really taste the hops!” Twat. Thankfully, but not for him, Sean had turned up not long after Grant had landed, so I didn’t have to face the barrage of banality by myself, but it hardly deflected the flow of bullshit spewing from Grant’s mouth. It wouldn’t have been so bad but Grant lived in a modest house in one of the best areas of town and had hinted to me on more than once occasion that he was struggling to make the mortgage payments, after he’d tried to probe me for details of my financial arrangements. Usually, and I say usually like we make a habit of this kind of Book Exchange employer and employee get-togethers (this was only the third), we put up with this sort of chat for about an hour until Sean and I rendezvous at the bar or in the bogs and hatch a plan to get out of the way. Obligingly, Grant had already hinted that he was using this evening’s drinking session as an alibi for meeting his mistress. Hopefully, after a few pints and enough blank looks from us two, his libido would get the better of him and he would, er, shoot off. Yes, Grant was, amazingly, married, and perhaps more remarkably, was stringing another woman along as well. And if the polaroid (yes, I know) that he’d once flashed us was a good likeness, she was a bit of a stunner as well. His lover, not his wife. His poor spouse always looked as though she was on the verge of tears on the few occasions that she had come in the shop, and to be honest, she was a bit plain, says George Clooney here. His mistress was apparently an air stewardess who he had met when he was coming back from a buying trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair. All I can say is, she must have a high setting on her bullshit meter to have been impressed by Grant’s patter. Either that or he had an enormously distended penis, but even Grant wouldn’t have lopped that out on an aeroplane.
Whatever his plans for the evening though, they did seem to include plenty of alcohol, which in Grant’s case probably wasn’t a good idea, as he couldn’t hold his ale and if he planned on going for a horizontal jog, he was hardly going to get out of his starting blocks before collapsing. Sean made some comment about the optics which led Grant into telling us a story which I reckon is apocryphal, but he swears is true, about the time he’d been with Candida (the mistress) all night when he’d told his wife he was playing snooker with the lads. She should have seen through that one straight away, Grant hasn’t got any mates. Anyway, he’d come back to the house about two in the morning, spent and sober, then realised he was supposed to have been boozing with the boys. So, he raided the drinks cabinet, grabbed a bottle of the first thing that came to hand, which was brandy, then proceeded to take a slug. He hadn’t heard his wife coming down the stairs and when she opened the living room door, Grant was still mid-slug. She’d apparently taken one disgusted look at him guzzling the Remy Martin and said “you’ve got a problem,” and stomped off back to bed. Grant finished the tale with a leer and said “I had to kip in the spare room, but it were worth it,” then lurched off towards the bar. I exchanged a rolling eyes glance with Sean and looked at my watch, only half eight, another couple of Hoegaardens and we’d be rolling Grant out of there.

As it was, it took another three and then we poured an overwrought Grant into a taxi and left him to his own devices. I walked with Sean as far as the railway station where he went to catch his train to the suburbs and I headed for a bus. I could have asked Shuggsy to come and pick me up I guess so I could break the news to him about Tony on the way home, but I wanted to do it over a pint at the Beehive, and also I didn’t want to leave Marlene out again. Something told me she knew that Astrid and me were becoming more than casual acquaintances and I’m sure I’d heard her listening when I was on the phone to her the other night. I was already wondering how I was going to say that I was meeting Astrid on Saturday night when that was usually film night with mum but I’d have to cross that bridge a bit nearer the time.

When I got home, Shuggsy wasn’t in but Marlene was and she was behaving a bit strangely. It didn’t take long before I realised she was high. I didn’t say anything, I was already aware of acting like a mother hen. So I just left her munching her way through a tube of Pringles (paprika flavour) and a family pack of kit-kats and went in my room to listen to Peel, the English version. I was nodding my head to an old Super Furry’s track when Marlene knocked on the door and came in. She flopped down on the bed next to me and started stroking my hair, something I found mildly disconcerting for some reason.
“You alright?” I asked.
“Mm,” she said absent-mindedly.
“Good night?”
“Yeah, good actually mm.” Jesus, and?
“Where did you get to?”
“Oh, just went to a friend’s house for something to eat and had a few drinks.” And a few tokes by the look of it.
“Anyone I know?”
“Don’t know if you do, they work with me.” Wuh wuh wuh!! She’s playing the pronoun game. I hardly dared ask. I sat up and looked at her.
“Who’s ‘they’?”
“Er, Maarten.”
“Oh my God, not Dutch Martin with two A’s!”
“Yeah, why?”
“Maarten ‘I went for a few beersh wit my colleaguesh and got sho drunk, it was crayshy’,” I said, in an approximate imitation of his accent.
“Stop it,” she said, hitting me with a pillow but in a playful manner.
“Maarten, ‘you can shtay at my house, ish no problem? Maarten ‘you like to shmoke da good shit?’”
“No, really stop it now.” She was suddenly up to intense Defcon one level.
“But you always said he was a prat. In fact you told me he would be in your bottom five of blokes at your work.”
“Yeah but I didn’t really know him properly, he works in IT.”
“Jesus, it gets better, a techie nerd.”
“Takes one to know one.”
“You took the words out of my mouth,” I said, then regretted it.
“You know what George, you can be a real self-centred git sometimes, you’re not my dad.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I just don’t want you to get hurt that’s all. I’m pleased for you.”
“Oh, well that’s great, I’ve got the George Kelly seal of approval.” She was getting into a strop now, I could tell. Like I said, I’ve got an intuition for that kind of thing. “Maybe I could give you and Astrid the seal as well, then we can just get on.” Oh, shit.
“How did you know?”
“Shuggsy told me, at least someone still confides in me in this house.” She slid off the bed and was making to leave. I grabbed her arm and spun her round.
“Look, Marlene, I’m not saying who you should and shouldn’t see, I just want you to be careful that’s all.”
“Stop patronising me, I’m not some little girl anymore, I’m so bored with your big brother routine! Just do whatever you want and I won’t ask you anything, but do me a favour and don’t tell me what to do!” And with that she wriggled free and ran out of my room. I slumped back on the bed and wondered if this was the beginning of the end of our friendship as we knew it.

Word Count: 2,051
Total Word Count: 28,840
% over target: 1.77%
Words to go: 21,160
Word of the day: overwrought


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September 13, 2006 at 5:26 AM  

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