Sometimes it's Urgent
Sometimes It's not
“Might have to stop somewhere John It's urgent! Have a look at the map, well It's not that urgent but we are lost. We've lost a big Swiss Pass somewhere?
You can’t just keep belting round these roads, where did the Simplon Pass Go!?”
John P had picked me up by surprise in his new Carrera 4.
“Pack a bag get your passport Paulie, but first come here.”
He Beckham'd me with his fore finger...
“What! Where we going?”
“Just come here.”
John double David beckoned me with his fore finger. The last time he double Beckham'd me with his fore finger like this I'd just 'mended' the key on his Golf 4 Motion. I walked towards his double David beckon but It was only after he held aloft his new Porsche Key I understood.
“You don’t ever want me to fix that key do you John?”
“Italy via Switzerland yes and no, I never want you to fix this key.”
“Seriously John, trip to Italy? ’Me Capisco’ that was funny.”
“It’s work, I’ve got a meeting in Verona with a supplier next week, this arrived early come have a look. Have you still got the red canvas tent?”
"You just picked this up from Merlin? Gorgeous colour!”
“It's the blue they did the RS in, It’s special order I've waited months. I don’t think It should have been available, It’s just: ‘The’ colour'.”
“You serious about the old tent? Where we gonna put that your bag takes up half of the back space?”
“Easy, your bag and the tent will squeeze in there, tents tiny. We'll put sleeping bags in the front with the cooker.”
"Cooker! We're not cooking forget that! How long are we going for?”
“My meeting in Verona is on Monday that’s 5 days, then 3 or 4 days to get back?”
"Where did the Simplon Pass go John!??"
"Are you in the right country with that map...
...Simplon Pass! That said Simplon Pass, the sign! We’re on It!”
"Shut your mouth!"
"We are, we're on It, I found It!"
It was beautiful, just beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. We climbed and climbed until John spotted a Cafe? Restaurant?
“I wonder if this is the top?”
“Pull in John, I hope it's the top you're doing my head in with them bends!”
“I am pulling in!”
Drinking coffee and smoking a red Marlboro with John P at the top of the Simplon Pass, well it's a very special memory. In the top ten good or bad memories I'll carry with me until I die alone, one cold winter evening on a some Cornish coast.. (according to some fortune tellerisationer?)
After turning around and waiting in The Savoy Hotel car park for ten minutes just to be Private Eye sure, I drove straight along Gregory Boulevard to the traffic lights at the junction with Alfreton Road.
The Amber gambler that shot past in front of me was a blue Porsche, John P's Carrera 4 straight off the M1.
Those light's didn't stop him but I caught up with him at the : "Get Your Jeans Down at Machin's" traffic lights at the top of the hill.
I remembered it was opposite the flat on the 20th floor of the block advertising a Raleigh Grifter in The Nottingham Evening Post for £10 without a phone number. A bad memory that get's worse, definitely in the top ten of good or bad memories I'll carry with me until I find out what happens on some Cornish coast as mentioned by a very unreliable Gypsy miss fortune teller!
"Mum a Grifter! It's only £10 can we go and have a look! Please!"
"Terry will you take him, they haven't put a phone number..."
I wound my window down and mouthed to John P:
"I'm trying to call you, I've been trying to call you!"
He wound down his window down and mouthed back:
"I'm trying to call you, I've been trying to call you!"
I mouthed: "Pratt!"
He mouthed: "Pillock!"
We both suddenly realised this was 'The Persuaders'. John's 911 would murder the old Bristol V8 off the mark but he had a handicap. He was in the left hand lane ahead of him were several parked cars, which meant he had to get over safely or risk chopping me up.
I revved the Bristol's 6 litre V8 occasionally looking across at Roger Moore, even though I had no intention of racing John's Porsche, I knew how fast it was.
The last time John P visited Verona to talk roofing membranes with Italians he'd just collected It from Merlin on Haydn Road.
John was fast asleep as I pulled onto the campsite in Brig, he must have been exhausted. Without waking him I managed to pull out both bags and tent which we’d rammed into the space behind the Porsche’s front seats.
I’d just pitched the faded red canvas ridge tent when John P Stirred from his sweaty leather seat.
“I love that tent Paulie, memories - you've done well, I was shattered. It's red hot are we in Italy, we can't be in Italy?"
“Look over there John, water park next door…”
“Are we in Italy?”
“Brig, still in Switzerland.”
John P shot off from the traffic lights on Alfreton Road and was probably at canning Circus before I’d selected D. He was ringing Mrs Derwent's doorbell as I pulled up behind his Porsche.
We knew Mrs Derwent was alright by now, but still didn’t understand what had happened, why the bogus plumbers had left straight away?
“Start from the beginning Francis, the phone call.”
“It was around 10.0clock this morning John P, the man phoned from Arkwright & Son. He said there was an outstanding bill to pay but that they were mostly to blame. He knew the final work, safety check hadn’t been done.”
“Did he say anything about why it had taken so long Mrs Derwent?”
“Yes Paul, he said Mark had left the company suddenly, they’d been so busy It was a clerical oversight. The caller was very apologetic, he wanted to put It right immediately, he insisted they came today to finish the work."
“Hello Mrs Derwent we haven’t been introduced.”
“Sorry Frank, Francis this Is Ex Detective Inspector Frank Thominson. He’s been working with Paulie on your case. Did you want to ask a few questions Frank?”
“Hello Frank,” said Mrs Derwent. Thank you so much for your hard work.”
“Don’t say ‘Evening All’ Frank please I whispered just within earshot..”
“Pleasure to meet you Mrs Derwent.
Firstly did you recognise the person who came as the man on the telephone you’d talked to?”
“Yes he mentioned we’d spoken earlier, but he had a very distinctive Scottish accent I would have recognised anyway.”
“Mrs Derwent Is there a reason why you can't get access to the top studio at the moment?”
“Yes Frank, I had to tell this to the Scottish Plumber who came this morning. I remember giving the upstairs staircase key to Mark the first plumber, when he began working here. It wasn’t until after you’d left Paul, after looking at Lucie's portrait that I I noticed it wasn’t in it’s place. Sophie was going to show you where it was painted wasn't she.”
“Do you mind Mrs Derwent?” said Frank moving towards then starting up the stairs near the kitchen.
“Did Sophie see that the key was missing with you?”
Frank was 3 or 4 steps up the stairs when he paused for an answer from Mrs Derwent.
“No it was later when I looked, It was niggling that I hadn't seen the key. Sophie had gone home by then.”
Frank carried on up the stairs to the first floor. After a minute or two he appeared leaning over the balcony right above us.
“Is the staircase to the studio hidden Mrs Derwent?”
“I’ll have to show you Frank, I’ll come up. Could you help me please John P, these stairs have gotten steeper over the years.”
At the top of the stairs was a large landing with three rooms off. Two to the left, one to the right.
“This way Frank, I haven’t been up here for years.”
We followed Mrs Derwent through the second door on the left which led into a large bedroom. Three walls were painted a dark plumb colour with Gold Fleur de lyes stencils decorating it tastefully; the fourth wall on our right as we entered was covered in dark wooden panelling.
A large king size four poster bed dominated the center of the room which Mrs Derwent continued past to the far right corner of the panelled wall.
The door we’d stopped in front of was about 3 foot high and started six inches from the floor. Half way up the ‘door’ on the right was a small hole big enough for most fingers.
“You’ll have to crouch down I’m afraid.”
Mrs Derwent put a finger through the hole in the ‘door’, lifted some latch of sort and we followed through into a room half the size of the bedroom. In the middle of the far wall was a hefty looking door with no apparent hinges. It looked made of steel, either that or it had a steel cover on it of some kind. Predictably on the right of the door was a keyhole.
I think we were all speechless for a minute or two until Frank finally carried on with his enquiries…
“Mrs Derwent how many keys have you got for this door?”
“Well I’ve got one which is kept here the one missing. Sophie has one, she secretly paints sometimes she’s very good. Oh and a third key was given to our Solicitors years ago by Herbert.”
Frank walked over to the wall on our right which had an old style School type radiator hanging on it.
“This floor and above wasn’t part of the heating upgrade Mrs Derwent?”
“No not at first, Mark was investigating the idea of adapting the original steam pipes and radiators. He showed me pictures of a similar thing his Father had done at Wolloton Hall. He was very passionate about it, almost talking to the ‘rads’ he called them. ”
After a small tour of other rooms on the first landing, one of which contained a very similar looking steal secure door to the one we'd just seen leading to the Top studio staircase. It was very dark but Frank noticed it straight away.
“It was the door to an annex Frank," answered Mrs Derwent."
"Herbert was going to build in the 60’s but it never materialised. He lost patients with the architects, council planners so much red tape. He had planned to panel over it, but.. well he didn’t have time before the end.…”
The warmth of the kitchen was welcome as Frank finally asked the question.
“Mrs Derwent before I ask you when you agreed with the plumbers to return, can I assume the reason they couldn’t complete today was because they couldn’t access the stairs to the second landing?”
“Yes he was almost rude, even after I said it was Mark the plumber who had left with key.”
“Is Sophie back soon Mrs Derwent, or sometime this weekend?”
“Yes Sophie telephoned earlier actually. She's had to cut her trip short poor love, so she’s back on Sunday evening. I’ve missed her so much, she asked me if my key had turned up It was so annoying. She called by to get her paints & brushes before traveling to Scotland but had to leave without them. There was no time to go back and get her key.”
“Three more doubles please love thanks.”
We’d adjourned to the Borlaise Warren after Mrs Derwent’s house. I was looking at John, he was looking at me.
John P put the whiskey down on the table slightly exasperated:
“Frank enough! What was that all about, keys plumbers, fuckin Scottish trips - this and that!”
"Ok!, OK!" Said Frank Knocking back his Scotch.
End Of Part Eight