Paulie there’s an elderly lady here, a Mrs Derwent, she wants to talk to one of the Sauls, Mr Saul senior? Shall I tell her?
“No, I’ll tell her Jane, thanks.”
“Who’s that?” Mouthed John P to me from his large office opposite, across the neutral zone.
I stood up and walked to the doorway of my slightly smaller office.
“Someone for Saul investigators again, she’s probably seen the brass name plate, or the name in the glass. Who would put that kind of quality detail into a glass door pain these days? Can't we have our name in the glass?”
“Or she’s another repeat customer.” Said John laughing.
“How many is that in six months? Saul & Saul investigations get more business than you do, and they’ve been closed ten years...”
I gestured a message of disagreement using a minimal amount of digits at my oldest friend.
The door from reception opened and a kindly looking old lady walked into the ‘no mans land’ between our two offices. I walked forward to meet her but she automatically turned straight into John P’s office and sat down.
“Hello, I was looking for Mr Saul senior, but It was so very long ago when we last met.“
“Hello my name is John P,” said a slightly invaded looking John P.
“Paulie, maybe you could help me to explain to this dear lady?”
“Never mind,” she said, “I’m afraid you’re my last hope, you see the book is gone. I’ve had it for so many years, since I was a little girl in fact and now its gone. The special book is gone, my special book is gone!”
“I’m afraid there’s been a mist..” I started, as I entered John’s office.
“What book is gone Mrs Derwent?” Interrupted John P in his ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this voice’ accompanied by his flat hand of stop! His let's get to the bottom of this voice wasn't too bad, because it's more often than not been saving me from something . His flat hand of stop however was, well I didn't like it much.
“The book was given to me by the author, Mr Barrie. He signed & dedicated it to me on my birthday, it was one of the first books he got back from the printers, he said it was a very special book. I remember feeling very special when he gave it to me, the book somehow was able to soak up those feelings. From then whenever I picked up the book, or even just the thought of it made me happy.
“Did you say Mr Barrie, Mrs Derwent, not JM Barrie?” I asked .. Without response.
“What was the book called Mrs Derwent,” asked John?
Mrs Derwent was now rummaging in her bag, “I’ve got a photograph I can show you John P,” she said, “Peter And Wendy, oh and the drawings inside were delightful. The truth is I feel so disloyal.I had such a time of terrible sadness a few months ago that I forgot about the book. I didn't feel it leave. I can't bare that it's lost!”
She passed the photograph of the special book to her new best friend John P, who studied it for a second before looking me in the eyes all the way through his next “Mrs Derwent.”
“Mrs Derwent,” he said. “Paulie is going to make us all a nice cup of tea, and I’m going to ask you a few questions about your ‘Peter And Wendy’ book, would that be ok?
“Oh yes John P.” She said, I knew you would help me. You see I wanted to give it to my Granddaughter, she’s such a lovely girl. She helps me every day, her mother died you see, she didn’t know her Father, it’s just us two now.”
“Before you do that John P,” I interjected including a jabbing gesture for emphasis. “Could I have a quick word…please, now.”
“Excuse me Mrs Derwent,” bowed John, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
John P walked up to me, took me by the arm and ushered me firmly straight into my own office.
“John P we are not Saul & Saul Investigations!”
“Before you say another word Paulie, I don’t care! I am not having anyone stealing that old ladies book!”
“If indeed it has been stolen, ‘John P’?”
“So why don’t we find out if it has been stolen Paulie…?”
“Ok then we will, but why won’t she talk to me? And get off my arm.”
By the time I had returned with the tea, judging by his notes, John P had written down quite a comprehensive list of answers from Mrs Derwent. What had he been asking her?
He lifted his phone and buzzed our long suffering receptionist Jane.
“Jane are you driving today? Great could you do me a big favour and just turn into The Park estate off Maid Marion Way to drop Mrs Derwent home? Yes it's near the tennis courts I think, It’s not far out of your way. Thanks, she’s coming out now, you get an early as well, thanks.
Jane is going to drop you home Mrs Derwent, and I’ll call you in two days whether I’ve got any news or not. Is that ok?
“Yes, thank you so much John P ” Said Mrs Derwent. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.”
She took John’s arm and he walked her into the reception area where Jane was waiting to drive her home.
“Have you flipped John?” I said as calmly as I could when they had gone.
“No, listen, the first thing we need to do is make a national enquiry to buy a first edition ‘Peter And Wendy’,
I can do that, tomorrow. The dedication inside makes it completely unique.
You, have to find out everyone who has had access to Mrs Derwent’s flat. Meals on, cleaners, everyone. Then find out how squeaky clean the Granddaughter really is?”
“What about friends, boyfriends?” (Did I just say that?)
“Yes, exactly, and we’re looking for someone who realises the value in first edition books of course.”
“John what if the book was just stolen by a random burglar who studied literature at Uni before his life of crime?
“Then my dear Paulie, we’ll just track the special book down, return it at all cost to Mrs Derwent knowing that the law of Karma is on our side!”
“Right, ok then well it’s probably time for a large Whiskey in The Bell, agreed”
It was literally just the one whiskey in the Bell, I stood with John P at the bar and we didn’t say a word to each other. Friends can do that.
“Are you ready?” We walked outside.
“Goose Fair weather John, something you’ll never understand. You’re serious about this book business aren’t you?”
But he was already walking towards the taxi rank. He turned:
“Speak tomorrow and don’t forget you’re picking the heap up.”
I wasn’t quite ready for Bingham Road and was soon ordering a pint in Jacey’s. Roxy Rob was stripped to the waist on the pin ball machine, not so much nudging as harassing. Birdcage Chris was playing pool with Tony Guise and Maggie was on next. I chalked my name up.
“Maggie can you remember Saul & Saul investigators, they had the offices, well you know where mine and John P’s office is, that was their’s.
"No but I vaguely remember Chris having something to do with them."
Maggie worked upstairs at ‘The Birdcage’ on Bridlesmith Gate, the women’s clothing section. She had me fascinated once with a story about Vivian MacKerrell the actor behind the 'Withnail' character who apparently frequented Jacey's whilst studying at the private 'Trent Colledge'.
Chris was the either the owner or the manager of the exclusive clothing shop', I wasn’t sure how far back he went, but he often talked about the time when Paul Smith worked there. Before he set up shop on Byard Lane and the rest was history.
“Chris you had a thing with ‘Saul & Saul” the investigators?”
“Oh god years ago, it was a fraud, we’d been duped by a suppler and..”
He paused as if an emotion had been triggered.
“We felt so embarrassed that we had trusted this person, we had to react. Saul, the oldest brother wouldn’t let go, he found the guy after about six months, it was settled out of court. We got around a third of what we’d lost back. I think ‘Saul & Saul’ got a third as well. They were very good, but you paid for it.
Why did you ask that?”
“We just get the odd person wandering in, ‘Saul And Saul investigators’ the name is still in the glass door pane, there’s still a brass plaque outside with the Company name on!”
“Different time, different age!” Said Chris. “Now put your 40p in..”
The next morning I was waiting in the ‘Car Phone Warehouse’ reception to pick up the heap. The heap was John P’s Dad’s old car, which was now John P’s. The heap was having a car phone down grade, an unusual technological regression considering car phones were still rare enough to leave gawping faces.
“Put the old ‘Mobira’ handset back in.”
The receptionist looked like Goldie Horn, she smiled at me. Maybe she’s the one?
“Reg number 'TH3 H3AP' your car’s ready, nothing to sign.”
She held up the keys - rather tantalising I thought.
“Thank you so very much, bye.” Was all I could flirt.
The old Mobira hand set looked so small now, not small, narrow compared with the rejected Motorola fat wide boy.
“Glad you’re back!” I said to the familiar phone. I was glad though!
I pressed number one but just got number one. Have to go old school mmm - 0115 292012
“Hello Teq Spec Solutions, can I help you?”
“Jane it’s Paulie put John P on for me.”
“He’s in Italy Paulie, big meeting with a manufacturer, had you forgotten?”
“That’s today, yes I had forgotten, no worries Jane, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Petrol station, petrol station, need petrol, why didn’t he tell me he was going to Italy?
The familiar ring tone of ‘car phones reunited’ had thankfully not been messed with. I pressed green with the feeling of importance I always felt when pressing green to answer on a car phone and said hello. Then as if by magic.”
“Because I had to concentrate, this is a massive deal for me, and us, you have too much to do. Jane will give you a company credit card I’ve left for you. It’s for expenses, petrol, lunch. Not for watches, rent or trips to London. You know what to do. Find Mrs Derwent’s Book! Back in five days enjoy your coffee!”
He rang off.
YOU’VE CHANGED! I shouted into the old Carphone’s Reunited handset. The line was dead of course, he’d hung up on me, but I knew that my oldest bestest friend had heard me, and the shit was Laughing as he pictured me smiling which I now was.
"What Coffee?" I said to the phone.
Jane was trying to understand the workings of a new coffee machine when I got back to the office, after finally finding a parking space for the heap near the playhouse.
“Oh Paulie thank god, help me with this it makes coffee.”
Ok, so this is the coffee I’m meant to enjoy. After evaluating the coffee situation for a minute or two, I addressed my conclusions at Jane.
“Jane it’s a filter coffee maker, don’t you have filter coffee in Sneinton? Look put the paper, this shape, in there, put .. say one spoon of coffee per cup, out of these packs.. 1 per cup per so… 2-3 -4 there in. Then you put water in the back, use the jug, that’s in then switch on. Done.
“Then what will happen?”
“Did John P leave me a credit card, or just shoot me now Jane!”
“Your credit card’s here Paulie, and their’s no need to be facetious. He left you a message as well, he said it’s an itinerary but it looks just like a list. I read it by accident it’s on your desk. I’ll put the kettle on.”
I went straight into John p’s office and wheeled his chair into my office & then shot reverse shot. Long story. Jane brought me a nice cup of tea and I opened the envelope with my credit card in. It had my name on. I had to sign it though, pen, there was one on John p’s desk. I signed my credit card, I had credit. Not to be used for things I like to do though, but them’s the breaks.
After another sip of Jane’s excellent tea, I picked up the white envelope in the room. My Itinerary, or as Jane had remarked, my list of things to do.
I took out the itinerary, screwed it up into a little ball then threw it where I threw the rest of my itineraries, and then thought twice. This missing book had really got under John's skin, I really wanted to find it, for him as well as Mrs Derwent! Could I find it in five days while he was away and would I need his itinerary?
"What are you doing?" Said Jane, she was stood in my office doorway with her coat on and a thermos flask sticking out of a pocket.
"Straightening out my itinerary Jane, what about you, you going home now? What's the flask for?"
"I'm taking some coffee home, can I help with your straightening?"
"Your taking a flask of coffee home 'from' work?"
"I don't like to see it go to waste. I've got those enquiries for the rare book John asked me to send out, I'll post them on the way home. They have the office number and the car phone number on, did you get the car phone changed? See you tomorrow."
"Oh Jane have you got Mrs Derwent's Granddaughter's phone number?"
I wasn't far behind Jane in leaving, and got back to the heap to find an admirer looking around it.
"Not for sale I'm afraid it goes back three generations in my friends family."
"The Chief Constable' had one when I started on the Force, I think he inherited his, you don't see many around now."
"Can I give you a lift? I'm going up Derby Road then along the Forest to Sherwood, thought I'd have a look at the fair."
"Thanks very much, you can drop me at 'the goose' I live in Basford."
"How long were you on the Force mate?... I'm going to go up Forest Road now I think.. Drop down Mansfield road to the goose."
"Twenty Five years, went like that!" He clicked his fingers.
"My Uncle Keith was a Policeman, in fact this road was on his beat, my Mum and Dad had a flat, we've just passed it when they first got married. Dad said he used to pop in for a cup a tea"
"What's you Uncles name?"
"Keith, Keith Hallam, he died recently."
"I knew Keith! Ah that's sad, good sportsman, he had a few brothers they were all sporty, one of them was in Germany on his National Service, boxer."
"Yes, Terry, that's my Dad!"
I pulled the heap into the petrol station at the bottom of Basford Road.
"I can't believe that, what's your name?" I held out my hand.
"Frank Thominson, it's a small world." He said, shaking my hand and putting the other on my shoulder.
I got Frank's number and semi arranged to meet up for a pint sometime soon.
"Frank Thominson.. ex policeman." I said to 'car phones reunited' as I pulled up outside my flat on Bingham Road.
Mrs Derwent's niece was the second prettiest lady I had ever seen in my whole wide life. That included real life, books, television, and even at the pictures.
This evaluation had taken me 1/8 of a second from the moment that Jane had walked into the office saying:
"Paulie this is Sophie Derwent"
She looked like she could launch, mmm lets try two thousand ships to Troy this time, at the same time as singing 'Moon River' on a New York fire escape and avenging her hunch back Father in Provence.
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing!? My Grandma came home the other night full of joy! Apparently safe in the knowledge that 'Saul and Saul' investigators were going to find her book. Do you even know how much this book means to her?!
Who are you anyway?"
Meeting Sophie Derwent was definitely on my slightly still creased itinerary. I had naturally hoped it would start in a far friendlier fashion. Avoiding confrontation until it was absolutely necessary was something I mainly strived to do.
Strangely enough, even in the face of such annoyed prettiness I felt quite composed. Honesty is a powerful thing.
"Hello Sophie, my name is Paulie and Yes actually."
"Yes actually what?"
"Yes I do know how much the book means to your Grandmother, she came into our office desperate for help. We knew she thought we were 'Saul and Saul' yes, and I was going to tell her until she told us about her lost book.
Listen Sophie we've had lot's of people thinking this place was still 'Saul and Saul', but your Grandma was different. She walked straight into John P's office and sat down. I think it was the office of Saul senior, the person she trusted, who had helped her before, and who she was asking for help from now.
Before I could explain though, she had already said those words:
The book has gone, the Special book has gone, you're my last hope now.
Then John P was asking about the book, Its title, author, where? When? He was genuinely interested, concerned, we both were; although something seemed to click with John and your Grandma, they seemed to get on a level, an understanding. She didn't seem to hear me.
I even took him into my office to ask what the hell he was doing! Do you know what he said?
I'm not having anyone steal that old ladies book, end of.
If you know him like I do, you'll know that he, we, won't rest until the book's returned to your Grandma. It's for you Sophie, she wants you to have the book. You do know that?"
"I know she does, and I'm partly to blame."
"Do you know what's happened to the book?"
"No not that blame, I went through a terrible divorce towards the end of last year, I had a terrible time dealing with what was happening emotionally, Grandma came to stay with me. She felt every emotion I went through, I know she did, we are so very close."
"And you think that the book went missing while your Grandma was staying with you?"
"Possibly, but more importantly the emotional breakdown I went through, that Grandma went through with me must have severed her emotional/spiritual connection to the book. I know it sounds mad but the book is somehow linked to her, it's as much a part of her life as I am. So now she feels guilty because she lost that connection. I feel guilty because I feel my situation was responsible, it's so painful for her and this time I feel her pain. I've moved back Into her house to be with her."
"Thought you might want a nice cuppa tea."
Jane placed the tray down and cast me a 'be understanding' glance.
The second prettiest lady I'd ever seen in my whole wide life. that included real life, books, Television, and even at the pictures sipped her tea with an equally pretty tear appearing and setting off on its journey down an equally pretty cheek.
"Sophie are you going to let us help you?"
"But how? What can you do?"
"Find your Grandma's book." I said.
Sophie stayed for another half an hour, and by the time she'd left I was able to cross three items off my creased itinerary.
1/ Sophie was all that her Grandma had described and more.
2/ Friends and boyfriends, Sophie's ex husband had moved to France and the book was definitely accounted for after this fact.
Sophie couldn't remember any of her friends ever visiting her Grandma's house.
3/ Ok, I was able to cross two items off my itinerary but they were good ones!
"I'm off home, she was so lovely wasn't she."
"Oh I nearly forgot Paulie, I had a reply about the book."
She turned urgently towards her domain and I followed her with matched urgency from my domain.
"Here we are, Peter Harrington rare books London."
"What about them?"
"They have a copy of the book, the special book, you know, the one your looking for, and it came in within your itinerary timescale ..."
Joy! So at least we can return the book, my head was light at the thought of telling Mrs Derwent, Sophie, John P!
"It's not your special book though, it hasn't got the inscription on the inside page, the wonderful birthday message. See you tomorrow Paulie. Take some coffee home would you, we've all been up till all hours."
My head went from light to lead.
"Night Jane, and thanks."
Three pints later in the Borlaise Warren where I'd met Frank, an old friend of my uncle Keith from the Police Force you remember Frank; by a slip of the tongue some good advice comes?
"Whose to say that they didn't rip the page with the dedication on out, before they sold the book. How stupid would you be to leave such an identifying inscription in?
And you still haven't established any opportunity! You've eliminated the impossible, her Granddaughter, her Granddaughter's husband, friends, but you haven't got anyone left that might have done it! However improbable!
"Same again Frank" I said, finally understanding the meaning behind Emperor Hirohito's famous exclamation -
"We have awakened a sleeping policeman (tiger)"
Please Leave A Message after the tone:
"John it's Paulie, I know who definitely didn't do it, but I haven't found anyone that might have done it, however improbable. But me and Frank are going to London tomorrow to look at a book, might not be the same one, but we have to eliminate it from our enquiries, I know you'll understand."
When I got home I found the energy to make a cuppa tea and light a fire in my room. It crackled it's life against 'Chelsea Girls' on my Duel turntable, then through the gap in the open sash window came cat for cuddles. Not just any cat, this cat lived upstairs and belonged to the prettiest lady I had ever seen in my whole wide life. That included real life, books, television, and even at the pictures.
Cat woke me up exiting the same way he had arrived at around half past four in the too early morning. No doubt heading for warmer cuddles I could only dream of, because the fire was now embers of its former flames and Goose Fair weather was working its way through the fore mentioned 'cat gap' in the sash window. Oh the irony.
I lay awake for a while thinking about all the goldfish in all the bags less than a quarter of a mile from me on the forest. The forest field now covered in fair. How lonely is that, being in a bag of water on your own? I wondered, pondered, hoped, wished, that all the gold fish that weren't won or bought during the night, might be reunited in a nice big clear pond to meet up with family, friends for one last touch of affection.
Probably not that practical or cost affective, I realised it might not happen. Was being in a bag of water on your own the most lonely thing ever in the whole wide world? Although if they were hanging in bags next to other goldfish, well, did that qualify as company? I hung on to this last ditch of hope, and still do.
My sister Vanetta and me begged Mum & Dad to take us to Goose fair every year. My soul objective was to get a bow and arrow, hold on tight to my Dad's hand and get a bow & arrow.
Whenever I saw something I wanted to go on, Dad would say : "Their's a better one up here."
My ultimate ambition was to get a bow & arrow set. This had an 'Arrow Carrier', you wore this over your shoulder.
Robin Hood had started this off, but here I didn't really need one my Mum said. I soon learnt that striving to be more like Robin Hood apparently came at a price.
"They're a lot more money, get one of these."
Needless to say I always ended up walking back to the car with one hand in Dad's, and the other holding my arrows.
Sometimes Vanetta would be walking back to the car with a goldfish in a bag. In the morning it would be dead, Mum would flush it down the toilet while Vanetta cried and I carried on licking the sucker part of my arrows trying to stick them with Robin Hood accuracy onto my Plywood council bedroom door.
Soon after the goldfish send off I would be ordered into the garden to shoot with deadly accuracy, outside things , but not windows! When after ten minutes I'd lost all three arrows and my trusty bow had broken, I would go back into my bedroom to play Lego.
To stop thinking about goldfish in bags, actually, who the fuck thought that was a good idea anyway? Some simple man no doubt, eager to profit from suffering and as stupid as the day is long. I'm sorry, to continue to not think about poor goldfish in bags, broken bows and lost arrows I'll tell you what I did.
I got up and sprinkled the last of my coal onto the just salvageable fire. The dust at the bottom of the bag always did the trick so when I returned from the kitchen with a nice cuppa tea, there was flames in the old fire yet.
I knew there was a 50% chance of getting a knock at the door at this point, because Ronnie one room had seen me.
There it was, a light early morning knock. I opened the door and Ronnie was agitated putting first all his weight on his left leg, then his right. Another manuscript refused I thought judging by the tightness of his grip on the Writers and Artists Yearbook he was swinging. This was when he was at his most dangerous, I had to think fast.
"For God sake be careful!" He said, in reply to my question followed quickly/cleverly by a statement of my intent :
"What do you think about all the goldfish in all the bags less than a quarter of a mile from here? Something has to be done! Anyway, I really need to sleep Ronnie. Night."
It was 10.30am when I awoke on real Sunday. Not half past Saturday which I called the lonely thinking about goldfish time, or the getting up to no good time. Or finishing off a party and then getting up to no good time.
I parked the heap at the Trent Bridge Inn end of the embankment and selected a CD to listen to on my run. ’The Queen Is Dead’ that will do. I pressed play and set off towards Lady Bay Bridge cutting over the grass so I could run right alongside the Trent.
It was high, up to the last two extra large stone steps that ran the length of the embankment.
I smiled to myself as I got into my stride passing the narrowboats on the far side. It wasn't just an outside smile, this continued all the way through to the crown in my hair on the back of my head, I was happy in this moment. That’s what enjoyable moments were invented for, not just to remember but also to look forward to, most importantly to enjoy at the time!
The amount of times I had longed for my own flat when I was younger, to be able to go jogging by the Trent on a Sunday morning. That was looking forward to this, now I was enjoying it, every moment of every step, so I could remember it clearly in the future.
I was soon over the footbridge getting slightly annoyed with my so called - ‘non skip discman’, “ggggirlfffrnend innn a commmma.”
I didn’t remember my tape player ever doing this, I remembered It wasn’t a Sony. I had really wanted a Sony.
What I got, well what I got was a Boot’s home branded dogs dinner.
“But it has a radio on as well.”
The Boot's dog's dinner was a horrible looking thing, it did play tapes but the radio was useless.
"Did you hear me! The radio Is useless and I really wanted a Sony".
"Oh your just paying for the name..."
I had put the not getting a Sony Walkman memory on the disappointment shelf in my mind. It was a large shelf on the left at the back and was quite full for a while. Soon there would be a waiting list but the dog's dinner fitted neatly beside the not getting a Parker ink pen memory. I had really wanted a Parker ink pen at school, a lot.
Almost all of my half a dozen school friends had Parker ink pens, including Michael Hatton who I sat next to in class for the first two years of comprehensive. I liked it when he ceremoniously filled it with ink, the lid on the bottle was reassuringly big, it was Micheal Hatton hand size and made one of the best sounds as it turned open and touched the glass. With the lid off and placed purposefully on the desk, it was time to prepare the pen. The lid of the Parker clicked open with a well made sound and Micheal placed it with care next to the ink bottle. Now the real business started, this was trickier, sometimes Micheal had previously screwed the pen together too tight, or if it was summer his fingers might be sweaty. I could judge by his face if any of these problems was happening, I had been watching this a long time. In fact from the moment he had returned to school after the Xmas holidays two years ago, you could say I had taken a keen, well let’s say very keen interest.
The sound the pen made when it touched the inside of the ink bottle’s neck was definitely on a par with the lid sound.
Normally Micheal did one squeeze on the ink container/sucker/filler, then lifting the disassembled Parker out of the bottle he would hold it up at face level, his now expert eye judging the success of the refill. If it was a successful fill he would turn towards me, nodding slightly with satisfaction.
For me this was Micheal acknowledging my small involvement in the refill, after a while that led to me replacing the lid on the ink bottle while he reassembled the Parker. I never got to put the lid on the pen though, I had really wanted to put the lid on the pen.
I do remember the occasional time when he had to repeat the filling process, but two squeezes was rare normally due to a very low ink level in the bottle.
Off course in the eventuality of the ink bottle being empty, Micheal could quickly adapt the Parker to receive Ink cartridges.
These were just pushed firmly home in near silence, although I'm sure it gave some degree of satisfaction and once I'm sure I heard a tiny dull thud. Micheal Hatton always had ink cartridges, Parker ink cartridges. He had not joined the many in getting cheaper even very stumpy looking cartridges that Shelborns news agent sold on the cheap. I always respected him for that and on the rare occasion when he was low on ink and cartridges he would look at me as he unscrewed his pen, turned it up side down and tapped on the Parker cartridge releasing a reserve of ink from the reserve bit. He would never nod to me after though, possibly annoyed with himself for getting into this ink shortage situation.
After two circuits of my running route I returned to the Heap reassuringly tired. I remembered an item from a previous itinerary before conscientiously covering the leather Bristol drivers seat with my sweatshirt.
“You have one new message” said car phones reunited.
“Paulie it’s JohnP can you pick me up later, Flight BA702 from Milan to East Midlands, gets in around six PM tonight. See you then!”
So much for his week away and me solving the mystery of Mrs Derwent’s book. Still it was good news I did miss him. I looked at my new Tag Heure F1 purchased from Walker and Hall with my new credit card. It said 12.45 which gave me plenty of time for a late breakfast on the way home.
I held up the cardboard with 'Professor John P' written on and he smiled as he saw it.
Arms out embrace, “Back early? All good?”
“All brilliant.” Said John. “Come on I’ll tell you on the way home.”
“That’s much better.” John said picking up car phones reunited as we got into the Heap.
“Who is Frank Thominson? and where did you get that watch!”
By the time I had parked the Heap on John P’s drive in Clifton Village he had already sided with Frank.
“He’s right!” were his exact words. “See if he’ll call in tomorrow will you, in fact tell him you’ll pick him up.
Thanks for getting me today at short notice buddy, here.”
John passed me a small wrapped box that might have been a tiny coffin.
“Duty free, see you in the morning, you better be on time as well.” He reached in the open window and tapped the none scratch mineral glass on my new watch with his finger nail. I liked the sound of that.
I called Frank straight away and arranged to pick him up at 9.30 in the morning. He still thought we were going to London but he was so deaf on the phone it would have taken me half an hour of shouting to explain.
“IS YOUR PHONE BROKE?”
He wasn’t deaf in real life, I wondered to false conclusions if there might be something wrong with car phones reunited?
“JOHN can you hear me? I’M PICKING….”
“…frank up at 9.30, he still thinks we’re going to London to examine the book though.”
“We might be yet, did you like your present? Remember you left your old pair in that English bar in Monte Carlo..what was it called, singing brazil nuts are nice…”
I knew straight away what was inside the tiny coffin package now, but black or tortoise shell?
“Flashman’s, we couldn’t find a campsite, slept in the car, cooked in a layby. Beans on toast turned out be peas on Madeira Cake. Then you drove around the coast while I was asleep. I woke up in the car, you weren't there."
“Flashman's that’s it, Flashman's. I was trying to remember all the way home on the flight. I couldn't sleep and set off back but I was knackered."
"All I could see was a wall in front of the car. I got out looked over the wall, it was the most beautiful bay I'd ever seen with you lying in the middle on the sand asleep. Remember the toilet, turd in the hole, with that flush!"
"You made me drive back to Cassis to get your red 'Wild Clothing' shorts. 100 km and they'd gone when we got there! See you in the morning mate.”
"Love you John, see you tomorrow x”
I opened the tiny coffin package remembering a special precious adventure to and through the South of France & Italy with John P. They were black Wayfarers, he’d remembered.
“I’d get black ones if I had another pair…”
The next morning I dropped Frank off outside the office then luckily found a parking space at the side of the pictures.
John and Frank were both bent over the coffee machine when I got into the office.
“What has she done to this? What’s this thermos flask wedged in here for? Where is she?"
“She takes coffee home in it John. I think she broke the glass coffee jug, I’ve not been getting involved and I recommend you do the same. She’s was filtering Coop instant on Friday. Her day off on Monday, remember you cut cards for it at xmas. Ace high low takes, she got a two..”
“Yes alright, did you show her how to use it?”
“You should have shown her how to use it.” Added Frank
“I did! she's not au fait with coffee, she's from Sneinton!”
“I’ll have a nice cuppa tea John.” Said Frank pouring soothing water on whatever it was you poured soothing water on.
Half an hour later John’s office resembled an incident room at New Scotland Yard. Using his note book and John’s big white flip pages Frank had collated all the information we had gathered so far. He then created a timeline starting at the approximate date the book went missing based on the information I got from the second prettiest girl I had ever seen. You know what that included by now.
“We’re missing information vital to this case, with no sign of a break in, I checked with my contacts at Radford Road someone must have gained authorised access to Mrs Derwent’s house. That person stole the book!”
“Shall I talk to Sophie again Frank?”
“I suggest you both visit the house, John it sounds like you're the one to talk with Mrs Derwent. Take this time line, write down the name of everyone they remember visiting the house as close to a date as possible. In my experience it will be someone you least expect, it can’t be a long list because we’re starting at zero according to Sophie and Mrs Derwent.”
“What about the book Frank?"
Frank turned and flipped a new blank page over on the flip pad.
“John that’s a separate line of enquiry. If the book in London is Mrs Derwent’s we can work backwards from that. If It isn't we have eliminated it from the investigation.”
“Will you be able to tell Frank, if it is the book for sure. You would think the book dealer would be able to tell?”
“Almost certainly, and you're right Paul, the book dealer does already know I bet ya. What did he say, exactly?”
"I've got it hang on."
I walked to my office desk, picked up the still slightly creased itinerary where written on the back was word for word what the book dealer had said to Jane.
“Here we go, - he said: there were no obvious signs that a page was missing from the front of the book, but he wasn’t prepared to examine it any further because he was frightened of damaging the spine one spoon per, 'no just' because he was frightened of damaging the spine.”
John got to his feet, “Ok, this is bollocks, Frank are you onboard with this? You probably haven’t discussed it with Paulie but I can give you a fair consultant fee, to bring you up to date. If you are onboard you’re the person to view the book. What do you think?”
Frank took a step forward and held out his hand.
“I’m onboard John, let's call up to now my trial period. I’ll go and look at the book tomorrow.”
END OF PART 4