The Next Narrative – the Police Chief who signed his own death note – (continued)
So, the trial continues, every morning, there he is [ and yes, ive started thinking of him as a him, not an it, you can’t work all day with an it], white coated boffins trailing behind him, all printouts and charts and beeping lap tops and every day we head out, onto the streets and he knows everything, knows everything before I can tell him.
We walk past a house and I’m just about to give him the heads up, talk about the family who live there, but before I can even open my mouth there’s a faint whirring noise, or maybe I imagine it, and his flat voice starts listing the occupants and their records and their unpaid fines and what court cases they have pending and we walk on, just a silence between us.
Of course, he gets it wrong sometimes, we’re walking past a non descript terraced house one morning and suddenly he stiffens, turns and says in his flat voice
“Ongoing tag malfunction” and before I can say, do anything, he;s up the little garden path and the doors been lifted off its hinges and he’s in the house and up the stairs., pushing past a couple of terrified children.
The man who appears is stark bollock naked and there’s a lot of shouting, well shouting from tag man and his missus, both trying to explain that the tag beeps if it gets wet, the only one not shouting is Robo Cop, who just keep repeating that removing the tag is a court infringement.
After that they take him away for a few days, fiddle with his circuits, prod and poke him or whatever and by now of course, the tag story has gone all round the nick and most of us, the lads, are secretly hoping that this is the last of him and I just get back into my old routines, start relaxing into my job again when he’s back and off we go again.
I’ve stopped talking about work at home, our dinners have become more silent, Patsy’s gone back to bringing her lap top to the table and I’ve gone back to drinking cheap , strong lager and staring into space.
One morning, it’s raining, I mean really raining, pouring down, so I do what I always do on this kind of day, I head over to the Community centre, you could call it intelligence gathering, well that’s what always put on my time sheets, but actually what it is , is the best bacon buttie in the city and a mug of tea so strong that you could stand your spoon in it and Mavis, lovely Mavis, a generous hand with the bacon and the sugar.
So, I’m just easing myself into a seat, mouth-watering at the very thought of the crusty bread and the butter melting into the bacon and I look around and see that nice Mrs Patel, the one who got robbed last year and that reminds me that I need to speak to her about the company her youngest son is keeping and then I spot Bella, hands wrapped around a mug and I smile, knowing that I need to ask her if the local yobs are still playing knock door run at her house and I should check, but carefully, if she’s still taking her medication.
Robo Cop is still standing, scanning the room, and I know that he can see every criminal record, every unpaid fine, every parking ticket shoved in a glove compartment, but he can’t see any of the things that I can see.
And then I understand, really understand that I’m signing my own death note here, I’m signing the death note of very beat bobby in the city, in the world.
This one, this Robo Cop, he’s not it, but the next one of the one after that, they’ll be the ones.
Think about it , a bobby that never gets tired, never sneaks off for a crafty fag, never forgets anything, never makes a mistake with his paperwork, well, that’s the future isn’t it?
And despite the 3 slices of bacon in my belly and the warmth of the mug against my hands , I suddenly feel very cold and very afraid.
She stops writing, stretches, wiggles her fingers, she is not used to so much writing by hand, has forgotten the wrist ache, the stiff fingers and the wonderful release when you shake out the tension, stop writing.
This has been productive, proper writing, beginning, middle, end, even a stab at a genre story, the kind of work she could take to her writing group, read out loud, get feedback, make improvements.
No more strangeness, no more stories written in her sleep. She has gone a little strange she thinks, too much time on her own, too little structure, but today, today, she feels much better.
Today, she can get on, work toward the countdown when all the other players in this last act of her parents lives will arrive and the house will no longer be theirs and she will go home.
Today, she will, finally, attack the room she has been avoiding since she arrived, today she will clear her parents bed room.
And she will start as she means to go on, so she folds up the duvet on the sofa, tidies her drapped and dropped clothes away into a neat pile, scoops up dirty dishes and plates and washes them as the kettle boils and as she makes a cup of sugar less, black coffee.
She ponders for a moment, perhaps a brisk walk before she starts, but she recognises this for what it is, displacement and instead tells herself that if the work goes well, she will reward herself with a walk later, some sensible food shopping, a stocking up of fresh fruit, brown bread, bottled water.
Coffee drunk, she heads up the stairs.
She remembers clearly the last time she was in their room, the morning after her father died, sent here by the undertaker to collect his good suit, tie, smart socks, the outfit he had chosen to be buried in.
Then, she hardly noticed the room, was grateful that the carers had stripped the bed, taken away the flotsam and jetsam of old age and illness and had been heartily glad to shut the door and walk away.
The bedroom door was always shut to her, even as a small child, no Sunday morning bouncing on the bed to wake her parents, no creeping in between their sleep warmed sheets when nightmares sent her cold and disoriented onto the landing. This room, their room was firmly demarcated as an adult space, a private space, so much so that as a teenager she took any opportunity presented to her to snoop, to touch things, to sit at her mothers’ dressing table and stare at her own reflection in the mirror.
The room is cold, with that slightly damp, unused feeling, she wonders when the door was last opened, wonders if she was the very last person to be here and
then , recognising that she is about to slip into a place of complete sadness and blackness, she moves instead, deliberately over to the wardrobe and begins to pull clothes out, throwing then over her shoulder onto the stripped bed.
She realises immediately that some sorting has already taken place, her father had , before he too became too lost, too confused, taken some, maybe nearly all of her mothers’ clothes somewhere and when she thinks about it, she does have some memory of him discussing taking them to Age Concern, but the conversation moving on quickly, before it became too bogged down.
What are left are clothes he, or maybe she, had some emotional link to, but she is surprised by what he has kept hold of, not, she knows the items that her mother kept for best, her good clothes, but instead a collection of summer frocks, a pink beaded cardigan and a rather severe black dress she has no memory of ever seeing her mother wear. It is another small mystery and she knows that she could let her self fall into this one, but today is about purpose and clear thinking and so instead, she just stuffs the dresses into a bin bag.
She knows there will be nothing valuable, no secret treasures. Her mother’s will was clear and simple, a few pieces of jewellery, her own small savings, some items from the house shared out between her daughter and the daughters of cousins. She has , but doesn’t wear, a rather nice ruby and emerald ring, she was pleased to get it, it was the best of the rings as befitted her blood status, but knows that she will never wear it.
Her father’s side of the wardrobe is more chaotic, looks as if someone might step into the room at any time and hang the shirts more accurately, pull out a cardigan, change shoes.
Again, she grabs, bundles, but pauses at a fawn cardigan, wool bobbling with age, those leather buttons that alway reminded her of half chewed toffees. For years it was her fathers’ favourite garment, even when he discovered fleece and micro fabrics, he would still return fondly and with a sense of relief to this cardigan.
She drapes it around her shoulders, enjoys its weight on her, she will keep it she decides, because she cannot bear the idea of some stranger wearing it.
And then she finds his box of cuff links, tie pins, two watches and a surprisingly gaudy ring, these she puts aside, these will come home with her , to be looked at more carefully, later on.
Moving the leather box raises a small cloud of that fluffy cupboard dust and exposes another newspaper clipping, this time, not a headline or a new story or even an advert, this one show a full length photo of a young woman, soulful, long haired, staring artfully into middle distance, it’s some sort of profile piece, but the story has been clipped away, leaving just a fragment of the first sentence.
” The girl who paints sad pictures and feels the sadness when they are painted”
The Next Narrative -” I paint your pain and feel it for you”