Caught by the Warlocks
Posted on July 7, 2008
The battered clock on the office wall said 9.20am. In 1956 this was unusual as electronic clocks had not yet been invented.
Dan lifted two bloodshot eyes from the huge mound of freshly delivered Royal Mail on his desk, threw them into the rubbish bin and made a mental note to have a word with the head of the Sorting Office. Yesterday, it had been green chewing gum clinging tenaciously to life on the outside of an envelope from Readers’ Digest, offering him “Fly Fishing by Candlelight for Beginners “.
His gaze travelled the room and settled on the office door. He spent several minutes attempting to read the backward facing letters, and then gave up. From the front, the ornate gold-leafed script said: “Dan Gelibitz – Private Eye. No job too small “. Some wag, with a brain the size of a gnat’s testicle, had tried in vain to scratch out the words “too small “.
As usual, the morning’s post consisted almost entirely of junk mail. It also contained three invitations – from the gas, electricity and telephone companies – to attend the local Court if he continued to ignore their written requests for payment of substantial arrears. For the umpteenth time, he pondered on why he had left his comfortable, secure job with the Metropolitan Police to start his own detective agency.
Swinging round the 1940s wooden swivel chair in which he was seated, he reached up to the coat-rack on the wall and took down his threadbare jacket. He searched the pockets, in the vain hope that, since the last time he’d done so, the Money Fair had taken pity on him and made a substantial deposit in his wallet. Unfortunately, she was away on more important business somewhere because, yet again, no evidence of any coins of the realm was to be found. What he did find, through a hole in the lining of a pocket, was the remains of a half-smoked cigarette. At least the condemned man could have a last fag.
Placing the butt gratefully between his lips, he opened the desk drawer and took out an old disposal lighter. Positioning the business end at the tip of the cigarette stub, he flicked the roller. The flint threw sparks in every direction and the wick immediately burst into flames, as did his moustache, nostril hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. “Bloody thing! ” he shouted to nobody in particular, as he jumped to his feet, brushing the burning embers of hair off his nylon shirt, before angrily throwing the lighter into the bin.
He drew deeply on the butt, and then crossed to the cracked wash basin, which clung to the wall by its fingertips. Looking at his soot-covered face in the small mirror, he took one last drag on the cigarette, and reflected that it was going to be another one of those days. He could feel it in his water. Either that, or his old trouble was flaring up again.
Returning to the swivel chair, he plonked himself down, put his feet on the desk and sat deep in thought. After a moment, he leaned forward and removed his right shoe, taking out the copy of yesterday’s evening paper, which had been pressed into service covering the gap in the sole. Deftly turning to what remained of the inside of the front page, he rubbed his right eye to remove the singed ends of eyelash obscuring his vision, and exhaled a cloud of smoke into the already overcast atmosphere of the office.
The clock on the office wall now said 9.37am. “Bollocks “, said Wayne in reply, before settling down to scan the items listed in the “Personal ” column, in the hope of finding a way of earning some money.
Alan Stanley, of Abattoir Lane, Bermondsey, southeast London, was also hoping to get some money that morning. Hoping, in fact, to get some out of a fruit machine in the now deserted bar of the Dockhead Residents’ Association Club.
On his way to the Job Centre to pick up his dole cheque, he’d spotted a window of opportunity – an open skylight on the roof of the Residents’ Club. Lowering himself through the skylight, he had unwittingly snagged a rear pocket of his jeans on a protruding nail and, as he attempted to jump the last three feet onto a pile of old boxes, ripped the arse out of his jeans, at the same time almost castrating himself. This had left him with the unpleasant feeling that he was now wearing his testicles around his earlobes. After this near catastrophe, he had silently (well almost silently) made his way to the ground floor, where he was now attempting to get the back off a fruit machine
Stanley had not been blessed with the greatest of criminal brains. Indeed, there were some – including the teaching staff of his Comprehensive school, where he’d spent five years learning how to inscribe his name into the top of a desk with a blunt pencil – who wondered whether he had been blessed with a brain at all!
He stood for a moment in the deserted club, gently massaging the ache in his loins. Having had no luck with the fruit machine, he made a cursory examination of the premises, but found nothing worth nicking. His latest escapade with the skylight had now put him off climbing for life, so he left the club by the front door, throwing caution, and a box of stale crackers he’d found in the refectory, to the wind.
Walking awkwardly, he headed down to the Job Centre and, after a slight altercation with the snotty git on reception, limped towards the last available chair in the row of forty, all occupied by other people waiting to see the clerk.
As he approached, he was watched anxiously by his friend Winston Brown, a huge Jamaican ex-boxer, who was sitting in the penultimate seat. “Eh, Alan – ya breakin’ in new shoes? ” Winston asked with a concerned look at his obviously-in-some-pain mate. Stanley gingerly lowered himself onto the seat and, as the cushion took the weight off his mangled wedding tackle, slowly exhaled a sight of relief.
“No, Winst. I wish it was as simple as that, and it’s a long story. Anyway, how you doing? “
“Oh, me arlright, man, ” said Winston settling back on his chair. “Just waiting to see da man over dere “, he added, indicating with his head in the direction of the clerk sitting behind the screen at the counter. He suddenly began to laugh quietly to himself.
“What’s up, Winst? What’s funny? “
Winston turned to Stanley and, stifling a laugh, said: “Me just realise. Apart from ‘im down dere, you are the only udder white man in da room. Like Rorke’s Drift arl over again! ” He burst into laughter at his own joke, and slapped his knee, almost collapsing with mirth.
Stanley looked round the room, wondering what the hell a “Rorke’s Drift ” was, then noticed that, indeed, he was the only other white face in the room. He thought there was probably a moral to all this but, for the life of him, couldn’t work it out.
After a tortuous 45 minutes, his turn finally came and he limped painfully towards the counter and sat in the vacant chair opposite the glass screen.
The clerk, who was busily examining the contents of a folder, was not the usual person that Stanley dealt with. Maybe this one would be a bit easier to fob off, he thought.
Without lifting his head or looking up, the clerk barked: “Name? “
“Stanley “, replied Alan in the most cooperative tone he could muster.
The clerk abruptly stopped his examination of the paperwork, slowly lifted his head and, with the beginnings of a smile, fixed his eyes on the man opposite. Stanley found this most disconcerting: Job Centre clerks never smiled. God, this wasn’t going to be so easy after all.
“Did you say Stanley? ” inquired the clerk, whose smile was now visibly widening. “Yes, ” replied Stanley just a little anxiously, adding: “Is there a problem? “
“Oh, no, certainly not, ” said the clerk, now eyeing Stanley with renewed interest. He reached out and turned over a triangular piece of wood, which bore his name.
Stanley examined the black, polished plate attached to the wood. The name it bore meant absolutely nothing to him, but he figured that if chummy across the counter was smiling because of it, there must be a reason. His brain began to hurt as he tried to work out the connection, but all he could do was look blankly at the name plate.
He had never paid any attention whatever during the long hours that his teachers had tried in vain to impart at least a smidgeon of knowledge about Britain’s long and glorious history, and the humour of the situation completely escaped him.
Had he paid attention, the name D.R. Livingstone would have meant something to him – presumably!
Gelibitz, having found nothing of note in the Personal Column, was now leafing through the rest of the crumpled and torn newspaper, when the telephone rang. He stared at the phone for a moment, as if trying to work out who could be on the other end, then lifted the receiver.
“Dan Gelibitz, ” he barked into the mouthpiece, because he wanted to sound tough and businesslike.
“Dangly bits? I’ll give you dangly bits, you cretin! ” said a female voice on the line.
TO BE CON’T…
Last edited by Ronmac on July 7, 2008, 5:19 pm