dinsdag 6 maart 2018

Murder on the Obelisque

This was not the way Allan Saunders wanted to be woken up. His phone rang way before his normal time to get up.
"What is it?", he shouted, not really interested who was calling. The evening before he got three calls from a provider and he expected that this was going to be the same rubbish.
But it was his Sergeant, Patty Anderson on the other side.
"Sorry to wake you up, Guv. We have a murder." She said it gently enough to calm him down, but the message was not at all what he wanted to hear.
"What?", he shouted again.
"We have a murder, Guv", she answered patiently. "I've sent a car to pick you up, sir.", she added.
She was about to end the call, but he managed to ask her in time where the murdered person was.
At the obelisque.

He had been there before; once, as a tourist. Allan Saunders had considered himself to be a tourist on the island. Up till now.
They had sent him over here to get him out of the way. He could do no harm on the island, nothing ever happened over here. A bit of violence in the weekends; a bit of drug abuse maybe; some shop lifting. More excitement he was not going to get, they told him. It was this until retirement or getting the sack. He had figured out that he could get this job done on the automatic pilot. No sweat at all.

Thoughts like these kept playing in his head while the uniformed policeman drove him to the obelisque. The man at the wheel was not very talkative and that pleased Allan Saunders. He was lucky to have been able to get some sandwiches from his landlady in the Bed & Breakfast he was staying in. After two months he really should have been able to find a suitable place for himself to stay, but somehow he didn't have any luck with finding something. Somehow the B&B was not bad at all for him at this moment. It was very easy to have his breakfast made for him and his laundry being taken care of.

It didn't take that long to get to the place. His driver stopped the car at the parking of the Culver Haven Inn next to a few police cars and he walked to the Yarborough Monument. A few policemen greeted him, one was still busy with securing the site off with blue and white police ribbon. He had to walk around the monument to see the victim. A young man was tied to the stone monument and it was obvious that he was dead. His sergeant Patty Anderson came to meet him.
"Morning, Guv. We don't know much yet, but SOCO is expected soon from the main land. We blocked everything off as much as we could. My suggestion is not to get too close to the obelisque, to avoid disturbing any traces."

He nodded, but pointed at some rubbish near the monument. "Looks like they will have some work with that."
Patty Anderson nodded, "Rubbish is everywhere. Looks like the locals like to smoke and eat around here."
"And look...", Allan Saunders looked while she was bending over. She was doing it again! Even now, while it was quite chilly, she had unbuttoned her jacket and he could see her breasts dangerously getting near from falling out of her blouse. She picked up a little empty package. "They also fuck over here."
"Right", he managed to say.
He never wanted to be one of these men who looked women on their tits instead of in their eyes, but it was very hard to keep to his principles with his sergeant. She was in her thirties, very good looking and he thought that she knew all about that. He had no idea if she was married or had a partner; it was none of his business. He hardly knew anything about colleagues, as the highest in rank in the police station he was not supposed to socialise with them.

"Who discovered the body?", he wanted to know.
"The landlady of the Culver Haven Inn", was the answer.
"Anybody had a good talk with her?"
"Yes, there was almost nothing she could tell us."
He sighed, "Let's get over there, have a coffee and wait for our friends of SOCO to get over things properly. I hope they can find out who he is. That would be a start. And get the poor guy down and to the pathologist as soon as possible."

"Are you coming, Anderson? The pathologist seems to have some answers for us." Patty Anderson nodded, grabbed her coat and followed Saunders. In the car things were a bit quiet, both of them not in for small talk on this time of day. Patty only had one cup of coffee and regretted now not to have had the second one. Once in a while the police radio made some sounds, not a lot going on on the island.

She was almost feeling happy when they arrived and she could get out of the car, seeing other people than this grumpy man.
The pathologist was waiting for them, eating a sandwich in his little office while reading some files. He asked them to follow him, stuffed the remains of his breakfast in his mouth and walked in front of them to - what he called - the cutting room.

The body was under a sheet on the slab, the pathologist only uncovered the face. "No need to see my butchery this time", he said. "Thanks, Doc", they reacted like a little choir.
"Of course I wrote it all in my report, that I will give you in a moment, but I would like you to see the most remarkable thing on this poor fellow.
He pointed at the mouth and they both bent over to look at it.
"Now you can notice that the sides of the mouth have been cut with something sharp. I would say a Stanley knife." It was not hard to see it: somebody had tried to give the victim a mouth double the normal size.

"Who and why would somebody do this?", Patty Anderson asked. The pathologist shrugged: "You are the detectives. I only cut people open. But I am able to tell you what his last meal was. It was a curry and he flushed it away with a pint of bitter. I'm not a detective, but I would say that this was a pub meal. And by the way, he was killed with a stab in the heart with another knife. Regarding the wound I would say it was a big kitchen knife, like something to carve up the Sunday roast. The mouth job was done later otherwise it would have been more bloody."
They thanked him twice, for his words and for his report and got back in the car.

Allan suggested that his sergeant and him could have some breakfast somewhere. Patty suggested a "greasy spoon" only a few streets further. She was a bit surprised that he came up with his suggestion, but it was very welcome. She was starving and in desperate need for coffee. She drove him there and the way he looked around made her think this was the first time he saw this neighbourhood.
"First time here?" she asked. He nodded, there was still a lot on the island he needed to discover.

They both ordered a full English breakfast and while they were waiting sipping their coffee, it was hard to keep silent. Patty asked Allan what he thought about the big mouth of the victim. He answered that he was almost certain to have read something somewhere about big mouths. Couldn't remember what it was, but it would come back to him. His sergeant offered to search on the net with her smart phone. "Not while we're eating, please!" was his reaction.

Back in the office Saunders knew again what it could be. "Search for the Smileys Gang, I remember there was an urban legend. I'll start with the autopsy report."
Soon she came to his desk: "Seems like the killer did hear about it, but didn't know the real story. There were rumours in the days after 9/11 that there was a rape gang. They offered their victims a choice: being raped by the whole gang or getting a permanent smile. The smile would be the carving of the mouth and in some variations on the story they would put salt on the wounds. It was a big story in these days, but there were never any victims found or any proof that this gang really existed."

"Right!", Allan nodded. "In the report there was something the good doctor didn't tell us yet. The victim had a few grams of marijuana in his pockets. Just for pleasure? Or is there a drugs connection to this murder. Maybe that would be the reason to have the victim so exposed."
Patty Anderson was looking over his shoulder, "Do I see a name?"
"Yes, Virgil Cooke. He lived in Ryde. Maybe we best visit his house first, after that tell his family."

The house of the family Cooke was in a part of the town that had been of quite some standing in the Victorian time, but now the neighbourhood showed of having been in decline for decades. Broken bins and black garbage bags were in some front gardens. One had a settee, that had seen better days, placed in it. All the houses were split into flats and bedsits.

The garden of the Cooke family or the neighbour downstairs didn't look too bad. They had dumped a load of grit in it to keep plants and weeds out. Against the hedge that bordered the garden to nextdoor's was bicycle with a flat tyre.

When they rang the doorbell it took quite some time before there was any sign of life. The neighbour next door had a look who rang the bell. They explained who they were and he told them they should wait a bit longer, the woman who lived there, was ill. Finally she appeared and Allan and Patty didn't need to be told about an illness, she looked like a living corpse. Her name was Garrison, but she was indeed the mother of Virgil Cooke. They asked her to let them in and followed her upstairs.

When they broke her the news, they first thought they should call an ambulance. But she managed to get around a bit and they could talk on. She asked what had happened and Allan told her some things, but not how they had found him. When asked about the marijuana the mother explained it was meant for her. Virgil would buy it for her because the GP didn't want to prescribe it. It helped her to cope with the pain she had because of her illness. She knew Virgil would smoke some of it, but there was nothing wrong about that. She knew that even the police was smoking pot from time to time. No harm done.

She had seen Virgil the last time around 6 PM yesterday. He went out after eating a sandwich, she knew he was going to buy some medicine for her and he had told her not to stay awake for him. That was the last thing he had said to her.
Patty asked if there was anybody from her family or friends who could stay with her and wanted to know if somebody could identify him, so they would be certain it was Virgil they were talking about.

They ended the visit by knocking at the door of the neighbours. The man opened the door again quite soon and was okay with staying with Ms.Garrison while waiting for her cousin from Portsmouth.

Allan and Patty drove back to headquarters in Newport, being very disappointed. They still didn't know anything about why and where the victim was being killed. The only things they had was his name, the fact that he was stabbed to death and that his mouth had been carved bigger. They had a lot of questions and hardly any answers.

Back in Newport they sat together for some time, looking at the board with the facts that they had. Not a lot to go on with. Allan Saunders came with something: "Let's reconstruct the last days of his life. Make that a week. What do you think, Patty?" She nodded. "Then we need to get back to the people who knew him best: his mother to start with. We need to go to his workplace. Find out who his friends were, where he went for a drink. Where he went for a fuck." Allan wasn't really prepared for her last suggestion, got some extra colour on his cheeks. She was not exactly beating around the bush.

They started with phoning the mother, not wanting to drive to her house again, asked her where he worked. That was in the supermarket of Tesco in Ryde; he had been placing goods on the shelves and doing odd jobs. Asked her too who his friends were. She came up with three names. Phil Oakly, Dennis Partridge and Joe Cleverly. All men were living in Ryde.
Allan and Patty decided to go and interview the friends and colleagues apart. Allan would see or hear the friends in Ryde and Patty would visit the supermarket and see with which colleagues he had a stronger relation than just being work mates.

First they tried to get hold of the three friend by phone. They were only able to track down Phil Oakly, made him promise to come to the station in the early morning. Allan would try to visit the other two at their home adresses.
They left the station at the same time. While he was inserting the address of Dennis Partridge in his SATNAV, she already drove off giving him a sort of greeting by wiggling her fingers in front of her. He just nodded.

Dennis Partridge lived in a flat near the former theater of Ryde. Allan never got used to the idea of such a beautiful building just being left, for the population of the town to see it being derelict and becoming more and more a ruin. The state of the building in which Partridge lived, was not much better. In front of it were a few bins, two without a lid. There was further the remains of a bicycle to be seen. Allan rang the doorbell and after a few minutes rang it again and banged with his fist on the door. "I'm coming, I'm coming!", somebody shouted. Through the door the police officer could hear that person coming down the stairs, it sounded like he was a sort of elephant.

That elephant was just a young guy in a track suit. "Now where's the fire?", he asked after he opened the door. His voice sounded very nasal and he wiped his nose with a rag looking like a kitchen towel. Allan Saunders showed his id-card: "Are you Dennis Partridge? I have some questions for you about your friend Virgil Cooke."

Partridge was home because he was ill, something like the flu according to himself.
He could not give a lot of information, had seen Virgil two evenings before he was murdered. The four friends had been drinking in a few pubs; the pub crawl had ended in the Inn. Joe Cleverly had driven Dennis and Phil home. It had been Joe's turn to spend an evening on mostly cola. Virgil wanted to stay a bit longer in the pub. He didn't explain why, but said he would get a taxi home. The days before they only had spoken on the phone once: to discuss their drinking evening.

Allan left the house of Partridge after he had got the promise that Joe Cleverly would be sent a message or phoned by Partridge. He would ask his friend to contact the police, would give him Allan's phone number.
He certainly had done this, because the policeman already got a call while he was still on the road back to Newport. Joe Cleverly could affirm everything Dennis Partridge had been saying, could not add anything useful at all.

Patty Anderson had a bit of luck visiting Tesco's Supermarket. It seemed to be a very quiet day. At the service counter were no customers, a worker was placing packages of cigarettes in the cabinet at the back. Patty asked for the manager, after identifying herself. He came quite soon and asked her to come along to an office space behind the coffee corner.

Here she told the man what happened to Virgil Cooke and asked who he worked with, who were his friends among his colleagues. According to the manager he had been a bit of a loner, but there were rumours at a certain time that he had a bit of a fling with one of the girls, Maureen Walker. They were later caught in one of the toilets together; the manager was not sure what exactly happened. The fact that she was married and had a young child, made it necessary for the management to take action. They were both warned and after that nothing was noticed between them. This happened half a year ago, maybe even longer ago than that.

Patty asked if she could speak to this Maureen, but her bit of luck stopped here. The girl was not in.
But she got her address, thanked the manager and walked back to her car. From there she phoned to Allan. They agreed seeing this Maureen together, they would wait for each other in the street she lived in, in Binstead.

When they ring the doorbell the door was opened very soon by Maureen Walker. Patty and Allan showed their id-cards and were invited to come in by her. She asked them to be a bit quiet, the baby finally went to sleep, she would be devastated if he would wake up. They followed her almost on tiptoes to the living room. Maureen asked them to take a seat and they asked her about Virgil. She already knew that he was found dead.

She made it clear they were having a little fling almost two years ago and that it only lasted a few weeks. It was caused by a drunken moment at a christmas party of the workers of Tesco's. He seemed to be a nice guy, but not for a second Maureen had been wanting to leave her husband for him. After they were caught in the toilet room they had stopped it and she hardly ever had seen him again. Never even spoke to him again. She was happy with her husband, having three children. She pleaded the police duo not to mention anything about this to her husband. Allan told her that he could not see a reason for doing this. Patty nodded.

When they left Allan said that he could not see the possibillity of a jealous husband murdering Virgil. It was obvious he didn't know a thing about it and why wait two years before acting? Patty agreed. This all ended up with nothing to proceed on. They decided to call it a day, sleep over it and have some new fresh opinions about it the next day. While they were walking towards their cars, Patty tried to lure Allan into having a drink somewhere, but he told her that he was not in the mood. So they got in their cars and drove home.

The next day Allan did have an idea. Would be a shot in the dark. He wanted to go to the office of the County Press, the local newspaper. Show a picture of Virgil, give them his name and see if they had something in their archives.
They decided to go together in Allan's car. When she slipped in the passenger's seat, Allan regretted this. She was wearing a tight wrap skirt, it had the slit on his side and so he had to look at a bare leg all the way. He felt irritated and heated at the same time. He was glad they were there very soon: the office of the newspaper was in Newport.

The police officers were received by the editor, who listened patiently to Allan and Patty. He introduced them to a junior journalist who had to help them through the archives. It proved to be very disappointing: Virgil Cooke was born and he graduated. That was all the newspaper had about him. The journalist helped them thinking about other possibillities for searching in the archives. Suggested to search on the names of his friends, Joe Cleverly, Phil Oakley and Dennis Partridge. That search delivered nothing useful either.

They were about to leave when the journalist thought about something outside of the archives: tried face recognition on Google. Through this they found something on YouTube, it was something that got uploaded just a few months before.
The little video showed a couple playing with their dog. They threw a ball and the dog would catch it. A man they recognised as Virgil Cooke picked the ball up and threw it in another direction. The dog tried to catch it and disappeared in a sort of ravine. You could hear Virgil say "Oops!" and walking away.

It was not clear who filmed this or where it was. The journalist asked a colleague to have a look. He had a good laugh about it, he had it seen before. The people in it he didn't know, but he did know where it was: the Landslip near Bonchurch.
Allan and Patty made a note where to find the video on the net, thanked both men and left. In the car he had problems again to concentrate on driving. His eyes went to her thigh all the time. But they made it to the police station in one piece.

At the station they discussed what they had now: a video of a dog dying on YouTube and the fact Virgil Cooke had stayed longer in the Inn.
They split the tasks: Patty would phone Pet Funeral, Pet Cremation Services and Pet Cemeteries. The way the dog died was not exactly normal. The people providing these services would certainly remember who had been the owners. Maybe that would give a lead.
Allan would be going back to the Inn and ask the landlady if she knew something about the taxi Virgil was supposed to have taken. Maybe there was CCTV, Allan could ask for the tapes.

The last bit of the road to the Inn made Allan laugh again. He felt shaken and stirred, James Bond would not be happy on this bumpy dirt track with potholes.
The Culver Haven Inn was almost empty. The landlady was not looking very happy. The police handling the killing was not good promotion for business. "They always say people will come over because they are curious. But not on the Isle of Wight, as you can see!"

She could remember a very angry taxi driver. He was supposed to pick up a Mister Booth, but the man was not in. Allan nodded: Mister Booth obviously was Virgil Cooke. The man had manhandled the name a bit. The landlady remembered the company he was driving for: Diamond Taxis.
This gave Allan another line for his enquiries.
He was even more happy with getting the tapes of the CCTV of that day. The Inn only had them from inside the pub, the camera on the front was not working for some reason. Maybe was broken.

In the car he phoned Diamond Taxis and asked who had been driving to the Culver Haven Inn that day. The promised to find out for him and that he would be phoned back by the driver.
More he could not do at that moment, so he drove back to the police station.

Things really seemed to go their way now. Patty had found out where the dog was cremated: All Pets At Rest knew about the case of the dog that dived from the stairs of the Landslip near Bonchurch and had promised to go through their list of customers to find the name of the owner of the unfortunate dog.
Patty offered to start to watch the CCTV tapes while Allan got them coffee. There was nothing else to do except for that.

When Allan returned to their room with the coffee, Patty was leaning backwards already bored with the pub scenes. He decided to make the board with facts and pictures a bit more tidy and read through what they had.
He was not even finished when his phone rang: the taxi driver. Ray Attrill remembered very well how angry he had been in the Inn when his client was not there. He had even walked up to the parking lot and the Yarborough Monument, but all he had seen was an elderly couple seemingly enjoying the view.

When Allan asked Ray told him he would doubt that he would recognise them from a picture. But he did remember the make of their car. It was a vintage Aston Mini Cooper, a woody one. There would not be a lot of these on the island, he thought. Allan thanked him and stwitched his phone off.
Patty shouted: "I think I got something!", so he walked over to her desk and went behind her to look along at the screen.

He could not help it, his eyes didn't go to the screen. She was sitting a bit bending over to the screen and showed him more than he could believe. He wondered why she had unbottened a bit of her blouse. It was not that warm in their room, it was totally not needed. But he had full view on the top of her breasts and noticed she was wearing a purple bra with something like half or three quarters cups.

It took him a few seconds to take his eyes from this view and to concentrate on the screen of her laptop. It showed Virgil talking to an elderly couple. He seemed to be laughing, the woman seemed to be crying and the old man shouting. The old man jumped up and came towards Virgil in a threatening way. He crossed his arms for chest, hands outwards. A pleading gesture. The woman grabbed the old man's arm and pulled him back. He took his seat again and Virgil walked away.

"Can we zoom in to see that couple a bit better? You can't make an identification from this", Allan asked. "Maybe there is more and a better view a bit further on."
Patty's phone rang, so he left her to answer it. Soon she picked up her pen, made happy sounds, wrote something down, thanked and put her thumb up to Allan. "I got their names!"

The old couple's names were Maureen and Jack Brigham and they lived in Sandown. Patty searched for pictures of them on the net, found some and made prints. With these next to the screen she could see the resemblance. They had found the owners of the dog, of the people who had been quarreling a few hours before Virgil Cooke had died. "Do you want another look, Allan?", she asked.
"I've seen enough now", he answered. I'll go and visit the taxi driver and the Inn with the pictures.

He phoned to Diamond Taxis again, asked to speak to Ray Attrill. Allan asked to see him, had to show him some pictures. The taxi driver offered to come to the police station in a few hours, after his shift. That only left him his journey to the Inn. He should have stayed there instead of driving to and from all the time, he thought irritated. Patty asked him to come over again, found something else.

So he had another look at the purple bra and focused his eyes again on the screen. It showed Maureen and Jack in conversation; she seemed to be crying and he got up and walked towards a door behind the counter. The landlady was serving a beer to a customer on the other side of the bar, her back to the kitchen. No way she could have seen this. After a few minutes Jack gets back and takes his seat again. Patty speeded the video until you can see Jack and Maureen getting up together and walking out of the inn.

"You again!" said the landlady of the Culver Haven Inn. She did recognise the Brighams and she could also tell that she was missing a meat knife from the kitchen. "Anything else you want to ask? It's getting on my nerves to see you popping up all the time. I almost expect you will find another body." Allan apologised, he could tell her that the only thing that would be required was a statement. He would send a policeman the next day to let her make that statement.

When he got back Patty had made a selection of all the sightings of the Brighams on a memory stick. She offered to get coffee, but Allan gestured that she should wait a second. He answered his phone, said "We'll come down" and told Patty to get an extra cup. The taxi driver had arrived.

Ray Attrill turned the offer for a cup of coffee down, had seen enough coffee today. They showed him the pictures of the Brighams and a picture of their Aston Mini Cooper. About the couple he was not 100% certain, but the car was certainly the one he had seen near the Inn. They agreed Patty would take his statement and Allan left them to get back to their room.

At his desk he thought about what kind of proof they had. Not a lot...

After some pleading Allan got what he wanted from the prosecutor: a warrant to search the house, other dwellings of the Brighams and their car.
Allan and Patty went over to Sandown to the house of the Brighams in a big way. They had three policecars with lights and all and their own car.

The two of them rang te doorbell. Maureen opened the door, her face ashen white. Her husband was in, she said. So they let her bring him to the door.
"I'm DS Patty Anderson and that is DI Saunders. We have a warrant to search your house and your car. So please hand over the keys of your car. And I ask you to get your coats. You're going along with us to answer some questions."

Maureen gave the car keys without any muttering. Allan handed them to one of the uniformed cops.
Jack spluttered something about  why they were harassing an elderly couple like this. Allan kept it short: "We'll discuss matters at the station. Let these men through so they can do their jobs."
Four uniformed policemen went into the house while putting on white synthetic gloves.

Jack Brigham was not very happy: "I'm still wearing my slippers. Let me put on my shoes."
Allan replied: "No need for shoes. You'll be only in the car and in the station. Let's go!"
The couple was put in one of the policecars, flashing lights on. Some neighbours were looking through their windows, others even stood in front of their houses to see what was going on.
The Brighams obviously tried not to notice, looked straight forward.

Patty and Allan followed the policecar, Patty phoned to the station. "Put them separately in two interview rooms and leave them on their own. No need for somebody of us in the rooms for a while. Let them steam a bit."

Allan and Patty decided to question the couple together, one after the other. They started with Jack.
He tried to be assertive, demended to know what he was accused of. They explained he was merely helping the police with their enquiries. But he shook his head, did not answer any of the questions. Only sometimes he would mutter "No comment."
After a while Allan looked at Patty, she nodded. He said to Jack: "Maybe you need some time to think. We'll give you that time."
He started about seeing a lawyer, they nodded, phoned to ask to send one in and walked out of the room.

When they went in the other room, they could see Maureen trembling behind the table.
Allan just said: "Better tell it all..."
She seemed on the brink of vomiting and started to cry.
Patty and Allan didn't react on this, kept staring at her.
There was a knock on the door; a uniformed police woman walked in and gave a little piece of paper to Patty. She read it and nodded. They were left alone with Maureen again.

"We found the knife in the car, Maureen. Better tell it all..."
And now she did:
Tipsy had been such a wonderful dog. She and Jack never had any children, Tipsy had been their child. It had been such an ordeal when Tipsy fell down the stairs at the Landslip.
And then that horrible only said "Oops" and had a big laugh about it. For days they, especially Maureen had been in tears.

Finally they had been feeling a bit better, went for a walk at the Culver Down Battery. There is a magnificent view from there. They had a cup of coffee in the Inn and suddenly that awful man was there again. He was drunk or stoned, recognised them, said "Oops" again and had another big laugh.
Jack had been so angry, she had never seen him like that before. He went to the kitchen of the Inn and got a knife. Maureen had pleaded not to do anything foolish. But he had been so angry!
She had been relieved when Jack could not find that man anymore.

He had calmed down, wanted to bring the knife back, but the landlady was blocking his way all the time. So he had put the knife in a pocket of his coat.
When they wanted to go home, the man was standing close to their car, smoking a joint.
"Oops" he had said again.
It had been enough for Jack to jump onto him, took out the knife and cut him.

The man had collapsed, was dead. Jack had panicked; he never wanted to kill him. Was just angry and didn't know what he was doing. After some quick thinking they had pushed the body under their car and had waited for the visitors and landlady of the Inn to go home.
Nobody had spoken to them, except an angry taxi driver who was shouting the name of a Mr.Booth, or Boots.

It had been Maureen's idea to bind the man to the Obelisque with rope they had in the car. They had bought that for the garden, but it had been a bit forgotten and left in the boot.
"Why and what about the mouth?", asked Patty.
Maureen had read about a Smileys Gang, maybe they could distract the police.
They had hoped it never would have been discovered they had killed this man.

Allan and Patty went back to Jack Brigham, who now had a lawyer with him, told him that the knife had been found and that his wife had told them everything they wanted to know.
He broke down, pleaded them that his wife didn't have part in any of what had happened.
He himself had been crazy, really crazy with all the madness in him.

They asked him about the stanley knife; Jack told them it was to be found in the shed in the tool box.
Allan phoned to the search team to forward this information.
They waited without saying anything for five minutes, then it was confirmed that the stanley knife was found.

The Brighams were both locked up, Maureen was not completely innocent.
"I think they will get sentenced for manslaughter and being an accomplice slash perverting the course of justice", Allan thought. Patty nodded.
"Any loose ends?" , she said.
He shook his head: "I think we wrapped this case really well."
"Do you feel like celebrating the result with a pint, Guv?" Patty suggested.
"Okay with that, as long as we're not going to the Culver Haven Inn. I'm sure the landlady has seen enough of me for some time", Allan laughed.

maandag 22 januari 2018

Getting to know each other

It was hard not to notice the fear in her eyes. Mary and I started at the same time in this department. It was quite a small team, just six people (5 men and Mary) and our meeting looked a bit out of place in the huge meeting room. The work was very specialised, quite difficult and just as important for the company.

Our manager Andy made a suggestion. "In my teams it is customary that we go to the sauna together on a regular basis. That way we get to know each other perfectly."

I reacted: "I have been in quite a lot of teams, never had problems getting to know my colleagues and never had complaints about it. Furthermore I did not read anything about this in the job description. I would pass on this one. If I want to go to the sauna I rather go with my wife. Sorry if I hurt anybody with this, but this is where I stand on this matter."

Mary sighed with relief and said that she agreed with me. I thought I had made a friend and also made an enemy.

Time passed and we had our regular meetings, nothing special happened. Until that meeting:
Mary pointed out that she really regretted this, but she had noticed I had made a terrible mistake that had cost the company dearly. She showed the others copies of the case and gave me a copy too.
I told the group that in my opinion we were just human, we all make mistakes. It was more important to learn from these than point a finger to the culprit. And I could tell them that it was not my mistake, but that the signature of Fred was under the thing. The discussion went on a bit, Fred admitted his mistake and was just as quick forgiven.

A few months later Mary had found another mistake, it was not very significant, but it was very obvious that it was mine. This time nothing was forgiven, the mood in the meeting was very negative. Randy Andy told me he was going to ask for me to get the sack. The next day I was invited to a meeting with the top management and got fired. Thanks to my union representative and his threatening with a court case I got the payment of two years salary to make it easier for me to find a new job. I was fired under the pretence of incompatible characters with other members of the team.

About two years later I unexpectantly bumped into Mary in a supermarket. She tried to be invisible, but I greeted her in a very loud manner, so she could not get away that easy. She asked me how I was and I told her my new salary was now twice as much as in the days when I worked with her. And I was working in a very good team with some great people. I could not help myself but ask: "Did you have a nice visit to the sauna lately?" Her face got red and she mumbled something I could not understand. Then she turned around and left the supermarket without any shopping.

zaterdag 20 januari 2018

Contact Lost

His idea was proven not to be a success. He was feeling for weeks that the relation with his girl friend was coming to an end. They hardly had any good times lately, were spending hours being angry with each other. So he had been thinking to do something nice with her and had come up with this trip to the seaside. 

But after spending hours on the beach, which she normally liked, she was very grumpy. According to her it had been boring, he realised he was a bit to be blamed. He had fallen asleep, no wonder when you spend hours in silence on a beach towel. So now she went on and on about him snoring next to her. And after deciding to go home, they missed the train and now had to wait for almost an hour.

He didn't react, knew it would not help a lot. Any word from him would be like throwing oil on an open fire. After a while she was out of words and told him she was going to get a coffee. It was too much trouble to ask if he wanted one too. She left him standing on his own on the platform. 

He stared into the distance without really seeing something. There was a train at the next platform, had been there for some time. He sort of woke up to notice that two girls were hanging half out of one of the windows. One was wearing a white top, the other something with a lot of colours. Even from this distance he could notice that the one with white top probably was quite attractive and was waving and shouting at him. He could not understand what she was saying. The other girl seemed to be quite amused and laughed a lot.

First he thought it was about somebody else, but except for him the platform was completely deserted. He could not help it, felt a bit embarrassed. His girl friend might come back any moment. The girl blew him kisses in the air and he stood there a bit helplessly. The other girl kept giggling.

His girl friend came back with a paper cup of coffee and stood next to him again, her back to the rails, reading some commercial announcements on the boards. He decided to react and waved back at the girl. She reacted with even more air kisses. He was a bit worried: if his girl friend noticed this, his relation certainly would be lost.

His partner went to a bin to throw her empty cup away and the girl shouted something again. The sound got lost because of the noise of a train coming in and getting to their platform. It parked right in front of them, so he could not see the other train anymore. His girl friend announced she had to go the toilet and walked away. He had become a bit curious now, wondered what the girl would do next.

The train in front of him drove off, he would soon know. But when the train was gone, he only could see the other train leave too. In the other direction. It was almost not noticeable but she was still waving until the train went out of his sight.

He wondered on their way home about the girl, was silent. 
A few days later his girl friend phoned him, told him she didn't want to see him anymore.

He wondered, should he put an ad in a newspaper? You often see these. Like "You with yellow jacket and your lovely smile. I saw you on the train to ... on ..." He didn't think anything ever came off these. For some time he read these ads in his newspaper anyway, maybe she would place one. But he never saw anything like it.

maandag 11 december 2017

Swedish Girls

There were only two pubs in the village. When I didn't see my mates in our regular one, I figured out that they would be in the other one. We normally didn't like it there, they had Skol on draught.
But I tried anyway.

It was surprisingly busy and I even had problems finding a free stool. There was a big crowd of young men surrounding two blond girls. I asked one of the guys what was going on.
"Swedish girls! These are Swedish girls!"
Now I noticed that the conversation sounded a bit weird. I could hear some different languages being exercised. English, German and something undescribable. Was that Swedish?

The slimmest, blonder one of the girls was really under siege. She indeed was very pretty. The other one seemed to take a bit of distance of it all. In my eyes she was more attractive, I'm not really in for skin and bones. At a certain moment she turned around and gave a bit of way so one of the male crowd could get closer to the skinny girl.

My favourite got even further from the crowd and ended up next to me. She looked apologetic to me, it was obvious she didn't feel very comfortable. The gentleman in me wanted to help, so I offered her a drink and we got into a conversation.

I praised the Swedes for all their good things: Volvo, Saab, Bjorn Borg, ABBA. She nodded, good things indeed. I mentioned the Swedish royal family; they are quite special.
After Napoleon got defeated Europe was totally reshaped and some new kingdoms were installed and some were exchanged for new people. But the Swedish kept their royalty, the Bernadottes.
They are descendants of the French general who was appointed as Swedish king.
He was doing so well that the European rulers, like Metternich thought it was not needed to replace them.

She listened a bit in amazament, it was obvious this was all new to her. Now she talked in a normal way to me: "I can tell I can't fool you. We're not Swedish at all. It's a trick we did before. It works, you get free drinks all the time."
I assured her I would not give their secret away and led her away from the rest to a table. She waved at the other girl who just winked at her.

The girls were staying with family in the village for the weekend, would be going back a few days later, she told me. I got disturbed by a phonecall; one of my friend said they were waiting for me in the other pub. I told him about the girl that was sitting next to me. They all shouted that nobody wanted to drink that awful beer they served in the pub where I was. They demanded that I took the girl with me. She shook her head, pointed at her sister. No way she would leave her with that bunch.

I gave her my phone number and made her promise to go out with me the next evening. I was happy with that, gave her a peck on the cheek and went.

The date never worked: she phoned the next day that there was a quarrel in the family.
They all decided to leave immediately. I could hear shouting and banging of doors in the background. I started asking "Can I have your phone nu..." But it was too late, she was gone already.
And gone forever, the "Swedish" girls never returned.
Sometimes one of the guys could be heard bragging about snogging with the Swedish girls.
I never took their dream away.

donderdag 26 oktober 2017

A lost friend found and a friendship dropped

Lots of people will have the same as I had when I got closer to my 40th birthday. You look back on your life until then and ask yourself why and where on earth you lost certain friends. I certainly had this with Peter.
Peter had been very dear to me. There was a strong reason for this.
I can still recal the moment when I awoke from being unconscious and he was sitting next to me, trying to keep the blood running from my temple getting in my eyes with his shirt. Somebody had knocked me down with a motor helmet for some silly reason.

I was taken to the hospital by an ambulance, got some stitches. When I left the hospital it felt like I was walking on clouds. I realised I had to find a taxi, maybe I would have to walk to the station for this. But there was no need: Peter had followed the ambulance to the hospital on his bicycle and waited for me get out. He got me home in his bloody shirt and I felt I would be grateful eternally. Days later I found out I had a concussion, so the bike ride probably was not a brilliant idea. But all the same: my gratefulness had no boundaries.

The weird thing is: within a year we lost all contact. This was caused by an intense but quite short romance with his sister. They didn't get along and that showed. The friendship was lost and was not restored after the love between his sister and me was gone.
Life goes on: people come into your life and people disappear out of your life. There were not many days that I wondered where my friend had gone.

But getting near my 40th triggered a search. I abused the computer programs in my office to find Peter. I found a few people who could be him and it took a few phonecalls, but I succeeded.
It was surprising that he even lived quite near where I had visited him for the last time.
He sounded enthusiastic, like I was and we planned a date for me to visit him.

Of course I went together with my wife. I wanted him to meet her, make him a bit part of my world again.
The address was easy enough to find and I rang his doorbell. The welcoming by him was surprisingly formal; it could have been a total stranger I was giving a handshake. He explained that he lived upstairs, but that we were invited to the living room of his downstairs neighbour.

Her greeting of us was as cold as that living room, it was very spartan and contained only the essentials. On the wooden floor was a child playing with wooden blocks and a plastic police car. The child must have been 3, maybe 4 years old, but was referred to as "the baby".
The woman put coffee cups on the table and we were sitting around it, having a laboured and polite conversation about the weather, the state of the roads around the city and more like this. It never became clear whether Peter and the woman had a relation of some kind.

The child crawled under the coffee table, that was quite low. We had to bend down to get to our coffee. The child tried to get up and banged his head quite loud. I was a bit worried about this, asked if it was okay. Peter and the woman just laughed. And the continued doing that, every time there was a loud bang from under our coffee cups. I was truly horrified and I could see that my wife equally shocked. The fact that we at that moment had been trying to get a child for months must have doubled this for us. I felt so low, really wanted to get that table out of the way.

I finished my coffee and asked my wife if we were still expected by her parents today. I never thought of cancelling. Very surprisingly she had forgotten this too.
So we were very sorry, there was no time for another coffee, we really had to go.
But...if Peter was ever in the neighbourhood he should pay us a visit. Of course he promised this; there was no mentioning of taking the woman along, but I was not really expecting this.
When we left, they didn't even make the effort to get us to the door, stayed at that table.

It is not surprising that Peter never came to our place and that I never felt like visiting him again.

zaterdag 14 oktober 2017

Morris Dancers

We knew this weekend was the Beer and Buses weekend. Vintage buses take you all around the Isle of Wight to all the pubs who are into the celebration. It's a great way to taste some local ale without having to drive your car while doing some sightseeing in lovely antiques vehicles.
A lot better than a pub crawl!

While walking on the Esplanade in Ryde we were pleasantly surprised by an unexpected spectacle: Morris Dancers. I had seen this a few times on tv, in programs about local things of interest.

Why they did it over here, near the base of the hovercraft, I don't know. They had drawn some spectators. The scene made me think a bit of National Lampoon Holiday in which Chevy Chase gets involved in a dance, a bit like this. They keep hitting him, like it is a part of the dance until he gets enough of it and it all results in a big fight. Luckily the Morris Dancers are not like that at all. It appeared to be very professional.

Of course I could not resist to search for the history behind this. The first mentioning of this is in 1448, so it is a very old tradition.
They used to be named Moorish Dancers, what eventually evolved in Morris Dancers.
The tradition almost disappeared in the 19th century, but was picked up again in 1899. Most mining communities were forming their own groups and there were competitions among them.

Another form of Morris Dancers were groups with blackened faces, or wearing scarfs to disguise themselves. The origin of this is the start of unions for miners and other workers. Unions were forbidden and when people attended meetings or rallies they risked being arrested.
The dances of these black groups are quite loud and (almost) threatening. You can imagine the sound of these must have been ominous for the owners of mines and factories.

Nowadays Morris Dancers can be found not only in England, but even in countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Nice to encounter some history on the street!

donderdag 12 oktober 2017

Halloween in Holland

I was asked to write something about Halloween. I'm afraid I'm not into scary Halloween stories, but I can write about personal experiences.

In parts of the Netherlands the 11th of November has been celebrated for centuries. It's named St.Maarten after the Saint Bishop Martinus van Tours who lived from AD 316 till AD 397. Since the 1920's the festivities have spread around the whole of the Netherlands.

Suddenly it was celebrated in my city too; very surprising because people in the region are mainly protestants so they would not have anything with saints. The attraction for children is the candy that they can collect with just walking around with lampions, ringing doorbells and singing a silly song about "cows that have tails". They don't need to tell me this, but when you open the door and the group of little brats start singing, with their parents behind them in silent admiration, there is not a lot else you can do but to put some candy in the sticky hands. The parents nod approvingly, they all go to the next door and you can only hope your doorbell will not ring again. Mostly this is in vain, within 10 minutes the next group will pop up.

My children were pleasantly surprised with this show of generosity and they decided to do this too the next year. So we bought them each a lampion and we were ready to go along, but the two of them pleaded us to let them do this by themselves. We agreed that they would try to go along with another group. So off they went.

We already had listened to the stupid song three times when my daughters came home again in a very angry state. They had been chased away by the other children and their parents. "We don't go to the same church and school, so they don't want us to walk along. And people opened their doors for us and accused us that we had been there before, so wanting a double treat. We hate it, won't do it ever again!" So we gave them some of the candy we had in store for the little singers and thought that was it.

The next year, on the 31st of October the groups of children popped up in front of our door, just dressed a little silly. No song this time, just sticking their greedy hands out. The parents watched it silently again from a distance. People seemed to have decided to celebrate Halloween. This American thing was new to us and we were not very prepared for an invasion of children. We did have some tangerines and gave them to these kids. A good thing too, better for their teeth and a bit of help to prevent them to become obese. Lucky for us we had less children ringing at the doorbell that night.

The next day we saw how they had appreciated our fruit. Some was smashed against walls, the rest was thrown on the street. We had enough of it all!
I could already foresee the same children coming to our door on the 11th of November; of course St.Maarten would not be skipped.

I was right, they did go around again. This time without silly costumes, but with their lampions. I had unscrewed the doorbell and drawn all the curtains. There were fruitless attempts to ring the doorbell, they would knock and bang at the door too. But I was determined: no more of this.

The next day we could see that they had spit all over our door. We cleaned it and that was all.
The next two years we had to get the saliva from the door on both celebrations. After that they just left us in peace and my children never again tried to mingle with these children.