Whittlestreet meet again

Tom looked at Harry and back at me, “You’re a dick” and looked back at Harry.  Harry nodded as if in agreement but in reality it was an encouragement to continue, ” and us being two lowly uniformed knobheads, we thought we would ask your opinion.” He paused as if in anticipation of an agreement or denial. I really could not be bothered to ruin their running order of old jokes and waited with a hopefully impassive expression.

Unruffled at the exaggerated pause Harry continued, ” If someone reported the loss of an outboard motor from their boat should we report it to the river police or to the station?”

“Have they?”  I wondered if I was walking into a trap of some kind. Maybe a philosophical discussion on the merits and demerits of river versus land-based police forces.  We had previously spent days considering the communication difficulties between us and the Transport Police if a crime of some sort did, or didn’t, cross over into both our territories. Mainly because of the image of Transport Police always buggering around on trains or hanging around suspiciously at stations.

And before that it was Military Police.  None of us wanted to get involved  with M.Ps as we imagined them uptight and, well, military.  We had never met one so only had the usual preconceived  prejudices against them.  Nothing special, then.

“Yes”

“Where?”

“At the river.”

“Bald statement but short in information,”  I thought.  As a detective I liked to deal in facts, just the facts, ma’am.  As a writer I appreciated the succinct speech of characters which left a sense of mystery or foreboding.  A short sentence eventually leading to a difficult case, an almost miraculous solving with the hidden clues, unspotted by other detectives and of course leading to a long stretch for the culprits.  Preferably with only limited violence. It looks good on screen but I am not good at writing it, I go into such minute detail that even I get bored, or lost.

“Off a boat?” Not such a silly question after all.

“Yes but the boat was in the boat yard.  See my problem?”

“Not really. It will have to go to the station.” I paused for dramatic effect. “We don’t have river police this far inland. There is no port or sailing marina for miles. No tidal flow. For that matter the boar-yard is so small I am impressed it had a boat with an outboard, let alone an engine.”

Tom was a bit sheepish when he said, “It was a dinghy, not a boat. It was removed and the yard owner reported it missing. Plus a can of fuel.”  We had spoken all this on the corner of the street, almost outside the pub. In fact under the old lamp-post that was a remnant of 1930s’ street architecture but with its green paint weathered off leaving the grey undercoat on the ridges and thin strips of remnant green in the hollows.  And we stood, a group of raincoated, trilby hatted men with the heavy rain and the yellow glare from the light falling all around us.

From across the road, the mannequins in the shop windows would have seen us like a Hopper painting. I felt like it was a scene from Sin City but wetter.

“Keep walking!” I said under my breath.  Tom and Harry looked round suspiciously.

“Why?”

“I’m gettin’ bloody wet!”  They nodded understandingly and we all moved on.

As the author I have to say I didn’t know where this was going at the time but the mood was okay. Problem was that the theft of a small outboard motor, one of those tiny stick-insect types seemed a bit minimal for a full-blown crime saga-story.  I sat around in the office for a few days, went up the allotment, had a few beers, back home and some aspirin but couldn’t really be bothered to change tack (note: nautical term came naturally!) as I don’t re-write easily.  By that I mean that once I start I am liable to ramble and lose what basic plot and substance I had and find I have something totally different on my hands, as it were.  But back to the story:

After a few days of nothing happening, except a few beers up the allotment, away from the wife and a blinding headache after staring into that blasted lamp in the shed.  It might have been the paraffin smell from it rather than the light that did my head in. I did no writing, nor made any progress on the case.

After the weekend I went back to work and got the usual ribbing for having the good luck to have both a Saturday and Sunday off without any call-ins or punch-ups to go to.

“Had to live with a headache all weekend.”  I grouched over a coffee in the canteen.

“The wife was there then?”  Okay it was sexist but that happens in a semi-secret society.

“Actually, it was paraffin, the smell of.”  I parried the allusion.

“Cannabis, more like.”  That was Harry as he stood up to go back out on the beat.

I didn’t think it smelt anything like cannabis, in fact it would probably cover any smell for miles around, or at least quite a way.  Anyway I put my mug at the ‘collection point’  and went back to the office and my paper-strewn desk.  The afternoon was spent shuffling paper, shuffling reports and cross-checking statements. There must be a better way of passing the time, doing the work and re-typing reports. Even the telephone was mostly silent.  Just the one ring, I was desperate for an excuse to leave the paperwork. It was Tom, from his beat.  He was phoning from the garage. They had a cage for old parts waiting for the scrap-man to collect.  “That outboard motor is in it. Dumped. At least thats what Ron says. Ron’s the owner.”

“I’ll come round. Ten minutes.”

Ten minutes to the dot, I didn’t even need to hurry.   They had opened the cage and lifted it out and it was on the ground covered in sacking. It looked a morbid shape, the sacking, hiding what knows who, with a small stain soaking into the hessian where the head might be. The liquid seeped onto the concrete of the yard and soaked in darkly.

Tom stood over it, the garage owner, Ron, a few feet away.  Both heads looked to me as I came through the gate.

“We lifted it out on the sack. In case of finger prints, y’know.”  Said the garage owner. “And I didn’t  want me suit stained.”

“Have you identified it?” I had to ask. “Have you phoned the boatyard?”

“Yes, he’s going to ring the owner.”

I looked into the cage of lost and broken parts. It had bent and broken bumpers, their chrome shooting off elements of the sun where they weren’t rusted. “Small accidents that stopped waiting to happen.” I murmured to myself hoping to remember that line to use again sometime.  I also recognised the assorted pipes and bits of broken mufflers and a couple of crumpled wheels, un-tyred.

I looked around. Was it a crime scene or just the aftermath?   By my feet lay the sack-clothed ‘thing’, I didn’t need to look again, I knew what it was.  My eyes scanned the yard, at the piles of old tyres, the mobile ramp for emergencies and the dilapidated truck with its rusty hook dangling dangerously from the crane jib.  I hope they didn’t still use it on the road, it looked incapable of being driven let alone towing.

“Do you use that?”  I asked, nodding towards the truck that had the words ‘We Rescue You” fading on the side of the half-cabin like a side-show from the 1940s.  “Is it roadworthy?”

“We’re a garage ain’t we?”  The language didn’t fit with Ron’s suit. ” Matey took it out one night last week.”

“Can you get the driver here, please.”     The phone started to ring, the bell tones rattling round the yard from the loudspeakers placed strategically to annoy.  “Jees that’s loud.”

“So we can hear it.  I’ll send him out and get the phone while I’m there.”  He went into the service bay and sent an overalled man by pointing and waving at me and Tom, Tom and me. His mouth was shouting against the reverberations of the ringtone and his words were lost.

The man walked over, looking from one face to another. We two policemen, one in uniform and one in civvies.  I studied his features. Grey at the temples, a forehead nearly hidden by black hair that collapsed into eyebrows that were heroically sprouting in curls up into his fringe.  Ruddy complexion, nose a little redder than just spending time bending into engines, or outside in the weather. I thought.  He seemed a little hesitant in walking over but stopped within talking distance and looked down at the sad hessian monument at our feet.  I noticed he sidled away from us as he spoke. Getting nearer to the open gate, I suspected.

“What do you know about this?” I asked, kicking away the top layer of sacking. I didn’t want to get my hands sticky and stepped back. Tom took a step back and so did the man, all automatic responses to my shifting position.

“What about it?”

“I think you put this in there,” Pointing from the object and sweeping my hand in the direction of that cage.  “Trying to get rid of it, eh?” I kicked the hessian making sure I missed the liquid still seeping out.

“Yes” He admitted, almost non committaly, certainly with no sense of relief or injustice at being accused.

Tom moved a step nearer to the man anticipating a scuffle or at least having to put a hand on a shoulder to make an official arrest.

“How did you know it was me?” He asked with what I took to be a sense of defeat though it sounded more like surprised amusement.  People react in different ways.  Thank god that blasted phone had stopped ringing.

“Yes,” said Tom, what set you onto him?” Spoken as the Ron the garage owner came strolling across from the bay.

“It’s over there, by the front wheel of the tow-truck.” We all turned slowly.  I love this sort of quiet, efficient denouement, much better than inviting everyone to the equivalent of a tea-party in the vicar’s drawing room or wherever.  This was real-life, detective work in action.  The garage owner in his white chalk-striped charcoal suit reached our little group, stopped and turned with us to look at the small petrol can sitting on the ground by the truck.

“It’s too small to belong to the truck, or even the garage here.” I continued, ” They would use the big three gallon size at least. That one is very small, it could hold no more than one gallon. It is big enough to be stored on a small boat or dinghy. And it is red, like the one that went missing.”

I did that pause we all do at the critical point. “And it’s got the word ‘outboard’ painted on the side.”

I turned and stepped closer to the increasingly stained wet cloth and ground.  Accidentally put my toe-cap into the now blue/green/yellow and silver mosaic of evaporating liquid on the concrete and removed it again quickly.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Gotcha!” Said Tom and moved closer to the man and put an arresting hand on his shoulder.

“It’s his.” Shouted the garage owner as he got within six feet of us. ” That was the boatyard,  asked me to tell Clive that the police had found his outboard motor.  He’s Clive.”  We looked at Clive expectantly.

“I put it there!” Said Clive, brushing Toms hand off his shoulder. “It was busted so I picked it up from the boatyard last week when I was passing, late at night.   Knew it was rubbish so binned it in the cage when I got back here.   I kept the can because it still had some petrol in it. Emptied it into the truck and left it ’cause it was so late.” He kicked the outboard. “Then me and the wife went to our canal boat for the weekend. I use the dinghy for fishing but it needs caulking.”

Tom and I looked at each other. “Good, glad it’s all settled then. We’ll go back to the Yard and put it in the ‘Closed’ file.”    I offered a hand to the man in the suit and to the man we now knew as Clive. We shook hands all round and walked confidently away, without looking back.

“Shit” I stopped suddenly when we got to the other side of the road.

“What?” Said Tom, waiting for some sudden enlightenment.

“It’s Clive!  I’ve got grease all over my hand. Have you got a hanky?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom looked at Harry and back at me, “You’re a dick” and looked back at Harry.  Harry nodded as if in agreement but in reality it was an encouragement to continue, ” and us being two lowly uniformed knobheads, we thought we would ask your opinion.” He paused as if in anticipation of an agreement or denial. I really could not be bothered to ruin their running order of old jokes and waited with a hopefully impassive expression.

 

Unruffled at the exaggerated pause Harry continued, ” If someone reported the loss of an outboard motor from their boat should we report it to the river police or to the station?”

 

“Have they?”  I wondered if I was walking into a trap of some kind. Maybe a philosophical discussion on the merits and demerits of river versus land-based police forces.  We had previously spent days considering the communication difficulties between us and the Transport Police if a crime of some sort did, or didn’t, cross over into both our territories. Mainly because of the image of Transport Police always buggering around on trains or hanging around suspiciously at stations.

And before that it was Military Police.  None of us wanted to get involved  with M.Ps as we imagined them uptight and, well, military.  We had never met one so only had the usual preconceived  prejudices against them.  Nothing special, then.

 

“Yes”

 

“Where?”

 

“At the river.”

 

“Bald statement but short in information,”  I thought.  As a detective I liked to deal in facts, just the facts, ma’am.  As a writer I appreciated the succinct speech of characters which left a sense of mystery or foreboding.  A short sentence eventually leading to a difficult case, an almost miraculous solving with the hidden clues, unspotted by other detectives and of course leading to a long stretch for the culprits.  Preferably with only limited violence. It looks good on screen but I am not good at writing it, I go into such minute detail that even I get bored, or lost.

 

“Off a boat?” Not such a silly question after all.

“Yes but the boat was in the boat yard.  See my problem?”

“Not really. It will have to go to the station.” I paused for dramatic effect. “We don’t have river police this far inland. There is no port or sailing marina for miles. No tidal flow. For that matter the boar-yard is so small I am impressed it had a boat with an outboard, let alone an engine.”

 

Tom was a bit sheepish when he said, “It was a dinghy, not a boat. It was removed and the yard owner reported it missing. Plus a can of fuel.”  We had spoken all this on the corner of the street, almost outside the pub. In fact under the old lamp-post that was a remnant of 1930s’ street architecture but with its green paint weathered off leaving the grey undercoat on the ridges and thin strips of remnant green in the hollows.  And we stood, a group of raincoated, trilby hatted men with the heavy rain and the yellow glare from the light falling all around us.

From across the road, the mannequins in the shop windows would have seen us like a Hopper painting. I felt like it was a scene from Sin City but wetter.

 

“Keep walking!” I said under my breath.  Tom and Harry looked round suspiciously.

“Why?”

“I’m gettin’ bloody wet!”  They nodded understandingly and we all moved on.

 

As the author I have to say I didn’t know where this was going at the time but the mood was okay. Problem was that the theft of a small outboard motor, one of those tiny stick-insect types seemed a bit minimal for a full-blown crime saga-story.  I sat around in the office for a few days, went up the allotment, had a few beers, back home and some aspirin but couldn’t really be bothered to change tack (note: nautical term came naturally!) as I don’t re-write easily.  By that I mean that once I start I am liable to ramble and lose what basic plot and substance I had and find I have something totally different on my hands, as it were.  But back to the story:

 

 

After a few days of nothing happening, except a few beers up the allotment, away from the wife and a blinding headache after staring into that blasted lamp in the shed.  It might have been the paraffin smell from it rather than the light that did my head in. I did no writing, nor made any progress on the case.

After the weekend I went back to work and got the usual ribbing for having the good luck to have both a Saturday and Sunday off without any call-ins or punch-ups to go to.

“Had to live with a headache all weekend.”  I grouched over a coffee in the canteen.

“The wife was there then?”  Okay it was sexist but that happens in a semi-secret society.

“Actually, it was paraffin, the smell of.”  I parried the allusion.

“Cannabis, more like.”  That was Harry as he stood up to go back out on the beat.

 

I didn’t think it smelt anything like cannabis, in fact it would probably cover any smell for miles around, or at least quite a way.  Anyway I put my mug at the ‘collection point’  and went back to the office and my paper-strewn desk.  The afternoon was spent shuffling paper, shuffling reports and cross-checking statements. There must be a better way of passing the time, doing the work and re-typing reports. Even the telephone was mostly silent.  Just the one ring, I was desperate for an excuse to leave the paperwork. It was Tom, from his beat.  He was phoning from the garage. They had a cage for old parts waiting for the scrap-man to collect.  “That outboard motor is in it. Dumped. At least thats what Ron says. Ron’s the owner.”

 

“I’ll come round. Ten minutes.”

 

Ten minutes to the dot, I didn’t even need to hurry.   They had opened the cage and lifted it out and it was on the ground covered in sacking. It looked a morbid shape, the sacking, hiding what knows who, with a small stain soaking into the hessian where the head might be. The liquid seeped onto the concrete of the yard and soaked in darkly.

 

Tom stood over it, the garage owner, Ron, a few feet away.  Both heads looked to me as I came through the gate.

“We lifted it out on the sack. In case of finger prints, y’know.”  Said the garage owner. “And I didn’t  want me suit stained.”

 

“Have you identified it?” I had to ask. “Have you phoned the boatyard?”

“Yes, he’s going to ring the owner.”

 

I looked into the cage of lost and broken parts. It had bent and broken bumpers, their chrome shooting off elements of the sun where they weren’t rusted. “Small accidents that stopped waiting to happen.” I murmured to myself hoping to remember that line to use again sometime.  I also recognised the assorted pipes and bits of broken mufflers and a couple of rusted wheels, un-tyred.

 

I looked around. Was it a crime scene or just the aftermath?   By my feet lay the sack-clothed ‘thing’, I didn’t need to look again, I knew what it was.  My eyes scanned the yard, at the piles of old tyres, the mobile ramp for emergencies and the dilapidated truck with its rusty hook dangling dangerously from the crane jib.  I hope they didn’t still use it on the road, it looked incapable of being driven let alone towing.

 

“Do you use that?”  I asked, nodding towards the truck that had the words ‘We Rescue You” fading on the side of the half-cabin like a side-show from the 1940s.  “Is it roadworthy?”

 

“We’re a garage ain’t we?”  The language didn’t fit with Ron’s suit. ” Matey took it out one night last week.”

 

“Can you get the driver here, please.”     The phone started to ring, the bell tones rattling round the yard from its loudspeakers.  “Jees that’s loud.”

“So we can hear it.  I’ll send him out and get the phone while I’m there.”  He went into the service bay and sent an overalled man by pointing and waving at me and Tom, Tom and me. His mouth was shouting against the reverberations of the ringtone so his words were lost.

 

The man walked over, looking from one face to another. We two policemen, one in uniform and one in civvies.  I studied his features. Grey at the temples, a forehead nearly hidden by black hair that collapsed into eyebrows that were heroically sprouting in curls up into his fringe.  Ruddy complexion, nose a little redder than just spending time bending into engines, or outside in the weather. I thought.  He seemed a little hesitant in walking over but stopped within talking distance and looked down at the sad hessian monument at our feet.  I noticed he sidled away from us as he spoke. Getting nearer to the open gate, I suspected.

 

“What do you know about this?” I asked, kicking away the top layer of sacking. I didn’t want to get my hands sticky and stepped back. Tom took a step back and so did the man, all automatic responses to my shifting position.

 

“What about it?”

 

“I think you put this in there,” Pointing from the object and sweeping my hand in the direction of that cage.  “Trying to get rid of it, eh?” I kicked the hessian making sure I missed the liquid still seeping out.

 

“Yes” He admitted, almost non committaly, certainly with no sense of relief or injustice at being accused.

Tom moved a step nearer to the man anticipating a scuffle or at least having to put a hand on a shoulder to make an official arrest.

“How did you know it was me?” He asked with what I took to be a sense of defeat though it sounded more like surprised amusement.  People react in different ways.  Thank god that blasted phone had stopped ringing.

“Yes,” said Tom, what set you onto him?” Spoken as the Ron the garage owner came strolling across from the bay.

 

“It’s over there, by the front wheel of the tow-truck.” We all turned slowly.  I love this sort of quiet, efficient denouement, much better than inviting everyone to the equivalent of a tea-party in the vicar’s drawing room or wherever.  This was real-life, detective work in action.  The garage owner in his white chalk-striped charcoal suit reached our little group, stopped and turned with us to look at the small petrol can sitting on the ground by the truck.

 

“It’s too small to belong to the truck, or even the garage here.” I continued, ” They would use the big three gallon size at least. That one is very small, it could hold no more than one gallon. It is big enough to be stored on a small boat or dinghy. And it is red, like the one that went missing.”

 

I did that pause we all do at the critical point. “And it’s got the word ‘outboard’ painted on the side.”

 

I turned and stepped closer to the increasingly stained wet cloth and ground.  Accidentally put my toe-cap into the now blue/green/yellow and silver mosaic of evaporating liquid on the concrete and removed it again quickly.

 

“Yes” said the man.

“Gotcha!” Said Tom and moved close to the man and put an arresting hand on his shoulder.

 

“It’s his.” Said the garage owner. ” That was the boatyard,  asked me to tell Clive that the police had found his outboard motor.  He’s Clive.”  We looked at Clive expectantly.

 

” I put it there!” Said Clive, brushing Toms hand off his shoulder. “It was busted so I picked it up from the boatyard last week when I was passing, late at night.   Knew it was rubbish so binned it in the cage when I got back here.   I kept the can because it still had some petrol in it. Emptied it into the truck and left it ’cause it was so late.” He kicked the outboard. “Then me and the wife went to our canal boat for the weekend. I use the dinghy for fishing but it needs caulking.”

 

Tom and I looked at each other. “Good, glad it’s all settled then. We’ll go back to the Yard and put it in the ‘Closed’ file.”    I offered a hand to the man in the suit and to the man we now knew as Clive. We shook hands all round and walked confidently away, without looking back.

 

“Shit” I stopped suddenly when we got to the other side of the road.

“What?” Said Tom, waiting for some sudden enlightenment.

“It’s Clive! I’ve got grease all over my hand. Have you got a hanky?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom looked at Harry and back at me, “You’re a dick” and looked back at Harry.  Harry nodded as if in agreement but in reality it was an encouragement to continue, ” and us being two lowly uniformed knobheads, we thought we would ask your opinion.” He paused as if in anticipation of an agreement or denial. I really could not be bothered to ruin their running order of old jokes and waited with a hopefully impassive expression.

 

Unruffled at the exaggerated pause Harry continued, ” If someone reported the loss of an outboard motor from their boat should we report it to the river police or to the station?”

 

“Have they?”  I wondered if I was walking into a trap of some kind. Maybe a philosophical discussion on the merits and demerits of river versus land-based police forces.  We had previously spent days considering the communication difficulties between us and the Transport Police if a crime of some sort did, or didn’t, cross over into both our territories. Mainly because of the image of Transport Police always buggering around on trains or hanging around suspiciously at stations.

And before that it was Military Police.  None of us wanted to get involved  with M.Ps as we imagined them uptight and, well, military.  We had never met one so only had the usual preconceived  prejudices against them.  Nothing special, then.

 

“Yes”

 

“Where?”

 

“At the river.”

 

“Bald statement but short in information,”  I thought.  As a detective I liked to deal in facts, just the facts, ma’am.  As a writer I appreciated the succinct speech of characters which left a sense of mystery or foreboding.  A short sentence eventually leading to a difficult case, an almost miraculous solving with the hidden clues, unspotted by other detectives and of course leading to a long stretch for the culprits.  Preferably with only limited violence. It looks good on screen but I am not good at writing it, I go into such minute detail that even I get bored, or lost.

 

“Off a boat?” Not such a silly question after all.

“Yes but the boat was in the boat yard.  See my problem?”

“Not really. It will have to go to the station.” I paused for dramatic effect. “We don’t have river police this far inland. There is no port or sailing marina for miles. No tidal flow. For that matter the boar-yard is so small I am impressed it had a boat with an outboard, let alone an engine.”

 

Tom was a bit sheepish when he said, “It was a dinghy, not a boat. It was removed and the yard owner reported it missing. Plus a can of fuel.”  We had spoken all this on the corner of the street, almost outside the pub. In fact under the old lamp-post that was a remnant of 1930s’ street architecture but with its green paint weathered off leaving the grey undercoat on the ridges and thin strips of remnant green in the hollows.  And we stood, a group of raincoated, trilby hatted men with the heavy rain and the yellow glare from the light falling all around us.

From across the road, the mannequins in the shop windows would have seen us like a Hopper painting. I felt like it was a scene from Sin City but wetter.

 

“Keep walking!” I said under my breath.  Tom and Harry looked round suspiciously.

“Why?”

“I’m gettin’ bloody wet!”  They nodded understandingly and we all moved on.

 

As the author I have to say I didn’t know where this was going at the time but the mood was okay. Problem was that the theft of a small outboard motor, one of those tiny stick-insect types seemed a bit minimal for a full-blown crime saga-story.  I sat around in the office for a few days, went up the allotment, had a few beers, back home and some aspirin but couldn’t really be bothered to change tack (note: nautical term came naturally!) as I don’t re-write easily.  By that I mean that once I start I am liable to ramble and lose what basic plot and substance I had and find I have something totally different on my hands, as it were.  But back to the story:

 

 

After a few days of nothing happening, except a few beers up the allotment, away from the wife and a blinding headache after staring into that blasted lamp in the shed.  It might have been the paraffin smell from it rather than the light that did my head in. I did no writing, nor made any progress on the case.

After the weekend I went back to work and got the usual ribbing for having the good luck to have both a Saturday and Sunday off without any call-ins or punch-ups to go to.

“Had to live with a headache all weekend.”  I grouched over a coffee in the canteen.

“The wife was there then?”  Okay it was sexist but that happens in a semi-secret society.

“Actually, it was paraffin, the smell of.”  I parried the allusion.

“Cannabis, more like.”  That was Harry as he stood up to go back out on the beat.

 

I didn’t think it smelt anything like cannabis, in fact it would probably cover any smell for miles around, or at least quite a way.  Anyway I put my mug at the ‘collection point’  and went back to the office and my paper-strewn desk.  The afternoon was spent shuffling paper, shuffling reports and cross-checking statements. There must be a better way of passing the time, doing the work and re-typing reports. Even the telephone was mostly silent.  Just the one ring, I was desperate for an excuse to leave the paperwork. It was Tom, from his beat.  He was phoning from the garage. They had a cage for old parts waiting for the scrap-man to collect.  “That outboard motor is in it. Dumped. At least thats what Ron says. Ron’s the owner.”

 

“I’ll come round. Ten minutes.”

 

Ten minutes to the dot, I didn’t even need to hurry.   They had opened the cage and lifted it out and it was on the ground covered in sacking. It looked a morbid shape, the sacking, hiding what knows who, with a small stain soaking into the hessian where the head might be. The liquid seeped onto the concrete of the yard and soaked in darkly.

 

Tom stood over it, the garage owner, Ron, a few feet away.  Both heads looked to me as I came through the gate.

“We lifted it out on the sack. In case of finger prints, y’know.”  Said the garage owner. “And I didn’t  want me suit stained.”

 

“Have you identified it?” I had to ask. “Have you phoned the boatyard?”

“Yes, he’s going to ring the owner.”

 

I looked into the cage of lost and broken parts. It had bent and broken bumpers, their chrome shooting off elements of the sun where they weren’t rusted. “Small accidents that stopped waiting to happen.” I murmured to myself hoping to remember that line to use again sometime.  I also recognised the assorted pipes and bits of broken mufflers and a couple of rusted wheels, un-tyred.

 

I looked around. Was it a crime scene or just the aftermath?   By my feet lay the sack-clothed ‘thing’, I didn’t need to look again, I knew what it was.  My eyes scanned the yard, at the piles of old tyres, the mobile ramp for emergencies and the dilapidated truck with its rusty hook dangling dangerously from the crane jib.  I hope they didn’t still use it on the road, it looked incapable of being driven let alone towing.

 

“Do you use that?”  I asked, nodding towards the truck that had the words ‘We Rescue You” fading on the side of the half-cabin like a side-show from the 1940s.  “Is it roadworthy?”

 

“We’re a garage ain’t we?”  The language didn’t fit with Ron’s suit. ” Matey took it out one night last week.”

 

“Can you get the driver here, please.”     The phone started to ring, the bell tones rattling round the yard from its loudspeakers.  “Jees that’s loud.”

“So we can hear it.  I’ll send him out and get the phone while I’m there.”  He went into the service bay and sent an overalled man by pointing and waving at me and Tom, Tom and me. His mouth was shouting against the reverberations of the ringtone so his words were lost.

 

The man walked over, looking from one face to another. We two policemen, one in uniform and one in civvies.  I studied his features. Grey at the temples, a forehead nearly hidden by black hair that collapsed into eyebrows that were heroically sprouting in curls up into his fringe.  Ruddy complexion, nose a little redder than just spending time bending into engines, or outside in the weather. I thought.  He seemed a little hesitant in walking over but stopped within talking distance and looked down at the sad hessian monument at our feet.  I noticed he sidled away from us as he spoke. Getting nearer to the open gate, I suspected.

 

“What do you know about this?” I asked, kicking away the top layer of sacking. I didn’t want to get my hands sticky and stepped back. Tom took a step back and so did the man, all automatic responses to my shifting position.

 

“What about it?”

 

“I think you put this in there,” Pointing from the object and sweeping my hand in the direction of that cage.  “Trying to get rid of it, eh?” I kicked the hessian making sure I missed the liquid still seeping out.

 

“Yes” He admitted, almost non committaly, certainly with no sense of relief or injustice at being accused.

Tom moved a step nearer to the man anticipating a scuffle or at least having to put a hand on a shoulder to make an official arrest.

“How did you know it was me?” He asked with what I took to be a sense of defeat though it sounded more like surprised amusement.  People react in different ways.  Thank god that blasted phone had stopped ringing.

“Yes,” said Tom, what set you onto him?” Spoken as the Ron the garage owner came strolling across from the bay.

 

“It’s over there, by the front wheel of the tow-truck.” We all turned slowly.  I love this sort of quiet, efficient denouement, much better than inviting everyone to the equivalent of a tea-party in the vicar’s drawing room or wherever.  This was real-life, detective work in action.  The garage owner in his white chalk-striped charcoal suit reached our little group, stopped and turned with us to look at the small petrol can sitting on the ground by the truck.

 

“It’s too small to belong to the truck, or even the garage here.” I continued, ” They would use the big three gallon size at least. That one is very small, it could hold no more than one gallon. It is big enough to be stored on a small boat or dinghy. And it is red, like the one that went missing.”

 

I did that pause we all do at the critical point. “And it’s got the word ‘outboard’ painted on the side.”

 

I turned and stepped closer to the increasingly stained wet cloth and ground.  Accidentally put my toe-cap into the now blue/green/yellow and silver mosaic of evaporating liquid on the concrete and removed it again quickly.

 

“Yes” said the man.

“Gotcha!” Said Tom and moved close to the man and put an arresting hand on his shoulder.

 

“It’s his.” Said the garage owner. ” That was the boatyard,  asked me to tell Clive that the police had found his outboard motor.  He’s Clive.”  We looked at Clive expectantly.

 

” I put it there!” Said Clive, brushing Toms hand off his shoulder. “It was busted so I picked it up from the boatyard last week when I was passing, late at night.   Knew it was rubbish so binned it in the cage when I got back here.   I kept the can because it still had some petrol in it. Emptied it into the truck and left it ’cause it was so late.” He kicked the outboard. “Then me and the wife went to our canal boat for the weekend. I use the dinghy for fishing but it needs caulking.”

 

Tom and I looked at each other. “Good, glad it’s all settled then. We’ll go back to the Yard and put it in the ‘Closed’ file.”    I offered a hand to the man in the suit and to the man we now knew as Clive. We shook hands all round and walked confidently away, without looking back.

 

“Shit” I stopped suddenly when we got to the other side of the road.

“What?” Said Tom, waiting for some sudden enlightenment.

“It’s Clive! I’ve got grease all over my hand. Have you got a hanky?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom looked at Harry and back at me, “You’re a dick” and looked back at Harry.  Harry nodded as if in agreement but in reality it was an encouragement to continue, ” and us being two lowly uniformed knobheads, we thought we would ask your opinion.” He paused as if in anticipation of an agreement or denial. I really could not be bothered to ruin their running order of old jokes and waited with a hopefully impassive expression.

 

Unruffled at the exaggerated pause Harry continued, ” If someone reported the loss of an outboard motor from their boat should we report it to the river police or to the station?”

 

“Have they?”  I wondered if I was walking into a trap of some kind. Maybe a philosophical discussion on the merits and demerits of river versus land-based police forces.  We had previously spent days considering the communication difficulties between us and the Transport Police if a crime of some sort did, or didn’t, cross over into both our territories. Mainly because of the image of Transport Police always buggering around on trains or hanging around suspiciously at stations.

And before that it was Military Police.  None of us wanted to get involved  with M.Ps as we imagined them uptight and, well, military.  We had never met one so only had the usual preconceived  prejudices against them.  Nothing special, then.

 

“Yes”

 

“Where?”

 

“At the river.”

 

“Bald statement but short in information,”  I thought.  As a detective I liked to deal in facts, just the facts, ma’am.  As a writer I appreciated the succinct speech of characters which left a sense of mystery or foreboding.  A short sentence eventually leading to a difficult case, an almost miraculous solving with the hidden clues, unspotted by other detectives and of course leading to a long stretch for the culprits.  Preferably with only limited violence. It looks good on screen but I am not good at writing it, I go into such minute detail that even I get bored, or lost.

 

“Off a boat?” Not such a silly question after all.

“Yes but the boat was in the boat yard.  See my problem?”

“Not really. It will have to go to the station.” I paused for dramatic effect. “We don’t have river police this far inland. There is no port or sailing marina for miles. No tidal flow. For that matter the boar-yard is so small I am impressed it had a boat with an outboard, let alone an engine.”

 

Tom was a bit sheepish when he said, “It was a dinghy, not a boat. It was removed and the yard owner reported it missing. Plus a can of fuel.”  We had spoken all this on the corner of the street, almost outside the pub. In fact under the old lamp-post that was a remnant of 1930s’ street architecture but with its green paint weathered off leaving the grey undercoat on the ridges and thin strips of remnant green in the hollows.  And we stood, a group of raincoated, trilby hatted men with the heavy rain and the yellow glare from the light falling all around us.

From across the road, the mannequins in the shop windows would have seen us like a Hopper painting. I felt like it was a scene from Sin City but wetter.

 

“Keep walking!” I said under my breath.  Tom and Harry looked round suspiciously.

“Why?”

“I’m gettin’ bloody wet!”  They nodded understandingly and we all moved on.

 

As the author I have to say I didn’t know where this was going at the time but the mood was okay. Problem was that the theft of a small outboard motor, one of those tiny stick-insect types seemed a bit minimal for a full-blown crime saga-story.  I sat around in the office for a few days, went up the allotment, had a few beers, back home and some aspirin but couldn’t really be bothered to change tack (note: nautical term came naturally!) as I don’t re-write easily.  By that I mean that once I start I am liable to ramble and lose what basic plot and substance I had and find I have something totally different on my hands, as it were.  But back to the story:

 

 

After a few days of nothing happening, except a few beers up the allotment, away from the wife and a blinding headache after staring into that blasted lamp in the shed.  It might have been the paraffin smell from it rather than the light that did my head in. I did no writing, nor made any progress on the case.

After the weekend I went back to work and got the usual ribbing for having the good luck to have both a Saturday and Sunday off without any call-ins or punch-ups to go to.

“Had to live with a headache all weekend.”  I grouched over a coffee in the canteen.

“The wife was there then?”  Okay it was sexist but that happens in a semi-secret society.

“Actually, it was paraffin, the smell of.”  I parried the allusion.

“Cannabis, more like.”  That was Harry as he stood up to go back out on the beat.

 

I didn’t think it smelt anything like cannabis, in fact it would probably cover any smell for miles around, or at least quite a way.  Anyway I put my mug at the ‘collection point’  and went back to the office and my paper-strewn desk.  The afternoon was spent shuffling paper, shuffling reports and cross-checking statements. There must be a better way of passing the time, doing the work and re-typing reports. Even the telephone was mostly silent.  Just the one ring, I was desperate for an excuse to leave the paperwork. It was Tom, from his beat.  He was phoning from the garage. They had a cage for old parts waiting for the scrap-man to collect.  “That outboard motor is in it. Dumped. At least thats what Ron says. Ron’s the owner.”

 

“I’ll come round. Ten minutes.”

 

Ten minutes to the dot, I didn’t even need to hurry.   They had opened the cage and lifted it out and it was on the ground covered in sacking. It looked a morbid shape, the sacking, hiding what knows who, with a small stain soaking into the hessian where the head might be. The liquid seeped onto the concrete of the yard and soaked in darkly.

 

Tom stood over it, the garage owner, Ron, a few feet away.  Both heads looked to me as I came through the gate.

“We lifted it out on the sack. In case of finger prints, y’know.”  Said the garage owner. “And I didn’t  want me suit stained.”

 

“Have you identified it?” I had to ask. “Have you phoned the boatyard?”

“Yes, he’s going to ring the owner.”

 

I looked into the cage of lost and broken parts. It had bent and broken bumpers, their chrome shooting off elements of the sun where they weren’t rusted. “Small accidents that stopped waiting to happen.” I murmured to myself hoping to remember that line to use again sometime.  I also recognised the assorted pipes and bits of broken mufflers and a couple of rusted wheels, un-tyred.

 

I looked around. Was it a crime scene or just the aftermath?   By my feet lay the sack-clothed ‘thing’, I didn’t need to look again, I knew what it was.  My eyes scanned the yard, at the piles of old tyres, the mobile ramp for emergencies and the dilapidated truck with its rusty hook dangling dangerously from the crane jib.  I hope they didn’t still use it on the road, it looked incapable of being driven let alone towing.

 

“Do you use that?”  I asked, nodding towards the truck that had the words ‘We Rescue You” fading on the side of the half-cabin like a side-show from the 1940s.  “Is it roadworthy?”

 

“We’re a garage ain’t we?”  The language didn’t fit with Ron’s suit. ” Matey took it out one night last week.”

 

“Can you get the driver here, please.”     The phone started to ring, the bell tones rattling round the yard from its loudspeakers.  “Jees that’s loud.”

“So we can hear it.  I’ll send him out and get the phone while I’m there.”  He went into the service bay and sent an overalled man by pointing and waving at me and Tom, Tom and me. His mouth was shouting against the reverberations of the ringtone so his words were lost.

 

The man walked over, looking from one face to another. We two policemen, one in uniform and one in civvies.  I studied his features. Grey at the temples, a forehead nearly hidden by black hair that collapsed into eyebrows that were heroically sprouting in curls up into his fringe.  Ruddy complexion, nose a little redder than just spending time bending into engines, or outside in the weather. I thought.  He seemed a little hesitant in walking over but stopped within talking distance and looked down at the sad hessian monument at our feet.  I noticed he sidled away from us as he spoke. Getting nearer to the open gate, I suspected.

 

“What do you know about this?” I asked, kicking away the top layer of sacking. I didn’t want to get my hands sticky and stepped back. Tom took a step back and so did the man, all automatic responses to my shifting position.

 

“What about it?”

 

“I think you put this in there,” Pointing from the object and sweeping my hand in the direction of that cage.  “Trying to get rid of it, eh?” I kicked the hessian making sure I missed the liquid still seeping out.

 

“Yes” He admitted, almost non committaly, certainly with no sense of relief or injustice at being accused.

Tom moved a step nearer to the man anticipating a scuffle or at least having to put a hand on a shoulder to make an official arrest.

“How did you know it was me?” He asked with what I took to be a sense of defeat though it sounded more like surprised amusement.  People react in different ways.  Thank god that blasted phone had stopped ringing.

“Yes,” said Tom, what set you onto him?” Spoken as the Ron the garage owner came strolling across from the bay.

 

“It’s over there, by the front wheel of the tow-truck.” We all turned slowly.  I love this sort of quiet, efficient denouement, much better than inviting everyone to the equivalent of a tea-party in the vicar’s drawing room or wherever.  This was real-life, detective work in action.  The garage owner in his white chalk-striped charcoal suit reached our little group, stopped and turned with us to look at the small petrol can sitting on the ground by the truck.

 

“It’s too small to belong to the truck, or even the garage here.” I continued, ” They would use the big three gallon size at least. That one is very small, it could hold no more than one gallon. It is big enough to be stored on a small boat or dinghy. And it is red, like the one that went missing.”

 

I did that pause we all do at the critical point. “And it’s got the word ‘outboard’ painted on the side.”

 

I turned and stepped closer to the increasingly stained wet cloth and ground.  Accidentally put my toe-cap into the now blue/green/yellow and silver mosaic of evaporating liquid on the concrete and removed it again quickly.

 

“Yes” said the man.

“Gotcha!” Said Tom and moved close to the man and put an arresting hand on his shoulder.

 

“It’s his.” Said the garage owner. ” That was the boatyard,  asked me to tell Clive that the police had found his outboard motor.  He’s Clive.”  We looked at Clive expectantly.

 

” I put it there!” Said Clive, brushing Toms hand off his shoulder. “It was busted so I picked it up from the boatyard last week when I was passing, late at night.   Knew it was rubbish so binned it in the cage when I got back here.   I kept the can because it still had some petrol in it. Emptied it into the truck and left it ’cause it was so late.” He kicked the outboard. “Then me and the wife went to our canal boat for the weekend. I use the dinghy for fishing but it needs caulking.”

 

Tom and I looked at each other. “Good, glad it’s all settled then. We’ll go back to the Yard and put it in the ‘Closed’ file.”    I offered a hand to the man in the suit and to the man we now knew as Clive. We shook hands all round and walked confidently away, without looking back.

 

“Shit” I stopped suddenly when we got to the other side of the road.

“What?” Said Tom, waiting for some sudden enlightenment.

“It’s Clive! I’ve got grease all over my hand. Have you got a hanky?”

 

 

 

 

 

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