PART SIX - The Morning After The Weekend of The Fair Before
In the morning I was sitting on the top deck of a double decker stop starting It’s way into town. The green Nottingham City bus was climbing Mansfield road past the Forest, all eyes right including mine witnessing a slow exodus of every ride, game, and unique sideshow. The many wonderful parts that made a whole of the great Goose Fair.
“Biggest fair in the country.”
Biggest killer of goldfish as well.
I wondered why the green was called ‘The Forest’? I knew that ‘Forest Road’ ran along the top of course, but the area was called ‘Hyson Green’?
‘Waterfall’ began to play on my 'Sony' Discman.
Song association - 'Glasgow Green’ - It was called Glasgow Green in Glasgow because I’d been!
“John ’Stone Roses' - Glasgow Green tonight, free!”
John P was working near Sheffield at the time, he had a carphone in his company car even then.
“I’ve just read in the Guardian listings, the 'Stone Roses' are playing tonight Glasgow Green, tonight! I’m assuming that’s Glasgow?”
“I know where Glasgow Green is, did you say free?”
John P travelled all over the country with work, he seemed to know where every town in every City was, then be able demonstrate the accent.
“I’m reading it now John, ‘The Guardian' listings, it says free!”
“Pick you up in an hour.”
This was a regular thing for us, most weekends. Liverpool, Manchester, London, even Glasgow. Usually sleeping in the car or on friend's of friend's sofas.
If it was humanly possible to pass it off as work, John P would put a hotel room on his company credit card.
All went well up to Glasgow, John’s car swallowed motorway miles, we were soon parked and walking on to the Green.
1/ “Any one need tickets! Stone Roses ticket!”...
2/ "Tickets for The Stone Roses, anyone need tickets for tonight.."...
John stopped. I stopped.
“It said free John you saw! We’re still going to see The Stone Roses!”
The gig was amazing, just songs, no talking, no encore just songs, brilliant songs.
After two pints in a back street Glasgow pub we were on the way home.
After the weekend I wrote a letter of complaint to the Guardian. A few days later I received a £20 HMV gift voucher with an apology saying:
“Our listings are provided by an agency blah blah blah, we are very sorry for your inconvenience blah blah blah.”
I meant to tell John, I did. Instead I used half the voucher to buy a ’Casablanca’ video, the rest to buy a couple of albums..
The heap was still in one piece outside of ‘The Trip’, which was always a relief after leaving it in town overnight.
Twenty minutes later I was home, ten minutes after that I was covered in scratches on both arms.
Try as I might I couldn’t remember any advice on the dangers of putting a large ‘Tom’ into a cat carrier. My Dad hadn’t sat down by my bed one Sunday evening to have a Man to Man chat about it. I don’t remember any lessons or teachers at school even going anywhere near the subject.
No public information films on television sprang to mind, just as it hadn't been mentioned to me by any representative from any of our fine emergency services, even just in passing.
Yet this one one of the most dangerous activities known to man in the whole wide world! That included the jungle, rainforests, and even on Amity Island!
“Hello Hyson Green Veterinary.”
“Oh hello, I wondered if you did home visits, for sick, very sick cats?
This evening’s perfect, yes that's fine. Well not eating, very grumpy, when you try and put him in a bag you might want to tell the vet he’s not very sociable at the moment, they might want to bring a tranquilliser dart in a rifle glove just in case.“
I managed to make friends with Tom Tom cat, after an hour's standoff. Eventually he jumped onto my bed retracting his claws as a sign of truce, only after the cat carrier had left the building. He said :
He regretted his savage attack on both my arms, it was an uncontrollable instinctive response to being put into the cat carrier which he hated with all his feline heart.
When Tom was comfortably snuggled up on my bed, I silently closed the sash window cat gap, gave him a final stroke before gently closing my bedroom door behind me leaving him in peace for a while.
"Call me if there’s any prob I’ll be at my Mums after the agency - Sarah x 966554."
Parking space, wicked..
“Hello, hello is Sarah there?”
“Yes just a minute.”
“Sarah it’s Paulie, you said call if there was a prob.?”
“Oh no is it bad, will he be ok? Oh God!”
“No, no I just wanted to ask if you’d ever used the cat carrier before?” How did that go?”
“I haven’t had to use it yet no, It came with Tom when I adopted him, they brought him back in the carrier when they…”
“When they..., well when they said :
"He's still a postman but he doesn't have any more letters in his sack'?”
“Ok thanks for that, don’t worry it’s all under control. No bad news yet…”
I was sitting in The Heap near The Playhouse, I crossed my legs, poor bastard Tom. No wonder!
“That’s explained a few things Sarah, see you later, we still on for Wednesday? I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts for 12 hours…”
Sarah laughed, I heard Sarah laugh. Even on the phone when Sarah laughed she became the loveliest prettiest special girl in the whole wide world. That included real life, books, television, and even at the pictures. Not just in this solar system, but real life and those mentioned media outlets beyond the The Milky Way to the next universe where no prettiest lovely girl had ever laughed before!
“Of course we are, see you later.”
“Ok Bye Sarah..."
no you hang up..
no you hang up..
She'd hung up.
John and Frank were in the New Scotland Yard incident room when I got to the office.
“Right where are we chaps?”
“What happened to your hands?”
Frank really didn’t miss much.
“Is that from her cat? That’s what you get when you try and help. Let me look.”
I showed John my arms as well, he looked genuinely concerned.
“Is that a scratch on your face, that’s near your eye.”
“Jane will you bring in the first aid kit we bought.”
“The cat went crazy, I just picked him up and tried to lower him into the cat carrier, he was a like a wild cat.”
Jane came in and began putting some antiseptic cream on my ‘wounds’.
“Didn’t she tell you the cat might react like that?”
“She didn’t know John, the carrier came with the cat when she adopted him. Get this, it was the carrier they brought him back in when he had the job done round the back..”
“Poor thing, no wonder, the scratches aren’t that deep I think he pulled his punches, well scratches for you Paulie.”
“It was horrible Jane. Upsetting actually.”
“That should do you, I’ll make you a nice cuppa tea. Let’s have a look at your eye…that was close.”
“Franks just called a friend at his old station Paulie, to find out about the missing plumber. Tell us what else you’ve got Frank. Where can we go from here?”
“Well, we’re still on the 2 lines of enquiry.”
He flipped the flip chart backwards.
“I’ve written Plumbers name in, the first line, the who has led us to him. Hopefully we can act on the information we get back from Police computer.
The book, second line, well I suggest we now branch that into two. Put another national, maybe international enquiry out with all the rare book dealers, we’ll need to get help with that. An agent perhaps.
The other branch is something I can do, that’s by approaching old contacts who buy sell stolen goods.”
“Have you got that connection Frank?”
“Through a third party Paulie, a mate a mine who got a bit greedy. He was kicked off the force for one thing and another. He wasn’t bad just got himself into a jam, took the wrong turn. We stayed friends, I still see him he’s got a furniture shop on Alfreton Road. If anyone knows about that bleddy book he does.
“Hello, Ok Jane put it through. Your mate Frank.”
“Hello George, did you find anything? Right, Ok well that explains a lot. Thanks George, do you think I could find out where he went? That’s right I remember him, ok thanks ever so much George cheers.”
“Our plumber is inside doing 3 years gents. Burglary, but he’d already done 2 years before that. I can find out where he’s serving his sentence. The book could be anywhere really, might be easier to just bleddy ask him what he did with it.”
“Doesn’t make sense though Frank, why would he steal an old book off a shelf?”
“That’s the question John, was he put up to it? Was it stolen to order?”
“Can we safely say the book won’t be for sale legally now Frank?”
“I think that’s safe to assume Paulie, which leaves me to ask some questions on Alfreton Road tomorrow.”
“When will you find out where this Stephen Wright is Frank? You up for visiting him with me Paulie?"
“Yes but how do you visit a stranger in prison?”
“Another one for me.” said Frank. “I can’t do anymore today though John, I’ve got to get back any chance of a lift Paulie?”
“That’s fine Frank, Paulie can you drop him off? Are you ok for funds Frank? Could you invoice me at that rate we said. Put expenses on but if your with Paulie he’s got a credit card which would make things easier to manage.
I’ve got a client coming so it’s good timing today.
Paulie you might as well stick with Frank tomorrow, you ok with that?”
“That’s fine John, detective apprentice or like Reegan’s driver? Put your trousers on, you're nicked!”
“Look at the bleddy mess!" Said Frank as we drove passed the Forest.
“All the kids will be looking for money that’s fell out trouser pockets when you're upside down spinning round. We used to do that.”
“We’d moved to Eastwood by then, when I was old enough to do that. Bit too far out.”
“Eastwood, DH Laurence was born there wasn’t he?”
“Used to walk past the house where he was born every morning Frank. On my way to school at Devonshire Drive Juniors. They made the house into a museum but I never went in. You could go on a tour as well. Never went on that either.”
“Thanks Paulie, door to door eh, what time in the morning 10? We’ll go to Alfreton Road first.”
“After some breakfast though eh, see you tomorrow Frank.”
“Good luck with the cat!” He said, tapping the roof of The Heap.
I couldn’t face Tom Tom cat alone when I got in. I’d closed the sash window cat gap to stop him getting out, but later realised I was upsetting his whole routine!
Sarah was already coming down the stairs.
“Heard your car burble.” She said. “Oh no your hands! What happened?”
We walked into my room where a grumpy Tom was meowing at the window.
“The vets coming here in about half an hour Sarah, shall I let him out? I didn’t know what to do. He went wild when I tried to put him in the carrier.”
“Oh my God look at your arm! Let’s keep him in, I’ll get an old litter tray do you mind? I’m so sorry I didn’t even think about the carrier being a problem!”
“It’s fine Sarah, get his water and a tray, let’s try and make him relax before he has to deal with the vet. I’m stressing about it now, I glad your here!”
Sarah put her hand on the back of my neck with her fingers spread into my hair, she leant forward and kissed me full on the mouth, totally in control of the perfect first kiss.
“I’m glad you're here as well Paulie.”
The visit from the vet was remarkably drama free. Tom behaved perfectly only hissing at an oral examination that diagnosed the problem.
“Ah, here we are, very sore. He’s got an abscess on his lower gum which must make eating very painful indeed. Not too serious thankfully. Other than that he’s very healthy.
It’s slightly infected which is a worry. I’ll give him 2 injections now, one to start of the Anti Biotic's, and one to make sure he’s hydrated. He’s slightly under at the moment.”
“Will he be ok still not eating? Said Sarah, the same Lovely Sarah who had kissed me!
“What I can do is spray some light anesthetic on the abscess, this will be temporary but he should have a good feed. So long as he’s hydrated that’s the most important thing. If you have his favourite food that would help?”
“I’ll pop out and get him a kebab from Pancho’s later.”
Nothing. I got nothing apart from a smile from the loveliest girl in the whole wide world, now into space, beyond the Milky way into the next galaxy. And she had kissed me, if it all came crashing down around me now I would still be happy.
“I’ve got some chicken, oh thanks so much for coming out.”
“You’ll have to call into the surgery tomorrow to collect the antibiotics. He’ll have to finish them all. Make sure you push them right to the back of the mouth and he swallows them.”
“Shall I take care of the bill when I call in tomorrow? Or I’ve got cash now, or credit card?”
“Tomorrows fine, It’s Paulie isn’t it. Ok, that’s it I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye Tom.”
“I’ll go as well, thanks again Paulie, I’ll see you tomorrow evening what time?”
“I thought we’d get some food is that ok? 8 o clock? I’ll pick you up..”
“Perfect,” She smiled. “see you then..”
The next morning I called round to pick Frank up still tired out. I'd been dreaming all night Sarah had kissed me.
Oh I know - She had kissed me! In Real Life and everything!
“Morning Frank, cold this morning.”
"You looked pleased with yourself, how did you go on with the cat last night, I was thinking about you.”
“Oh bless you Frank, you’ve reminded me! I’ve got pop in the vets on Lenton Boulevard. Cat was alright, drama free really. Poor bastard has an abscess on his gum, very painful when he eats. I’ve got to pick up some tablets, settle up with them.”
“That’ll cost an arm and a leg.”
“Legitimate expenses Frank. Flexible friend."
I checked that my wallet was in my jeans pocket. Check!
"It’s down here on the right somewhere Frank..
You know I never asked you if you had any family, Brothers or Sisters?
There's a space, can I park here Frank think I can. Back in a bit you all right waiting here?”
“I'll manage, is this car insured any driver Paulie?”
“Not sure think so, Yes it is, Jane had to drive me and john back from london once. He did it then, why do you want a drive?”
“I want to take ya somewhere, show you something.”
I got back from the vets and sat in the passenger seat of the Bristol.
“Feel alright Frank?”
“It’ drives lovely, I was reading up on em in an old What Car. They cost a fortune new, all hand made.
How much did the vet cost Paulie?”
“An arm and a leg Frank. Anyway where we going?”
“Broadway off Stoney Street in The Lace Market, some one I want you to meet.”
Frank took exactly the same route I would have taken to the Lace market. He drove past Ranby’s Cafe round onto Stoney Street then left onto Broadway. Just after the phone box on the left he pulled into the dead end which was basically a cobbled road under an archway.
I followed frank into a door on my side of the car which led into a wide stone staircase. One flight down Frank pressed the buzzer on an anonymous looking door.
Frank pushed the door open.
“I recognise that smell.”
“Ya will do, your Dad trained down here for a while.”
At the end of a short passage was something straight out of a Rocky film. A full old style gym, right in the middle was a full size boxing ring.
“Fuckin amazing Frank!”
“Paulie let me introduce you to Ernest, my brother.”
I turned around to a sight that trumped the spectacle I’d just walked into twice over. Two Franks!
They both laughed when they saw my expression, they were identical. I mean identical!
The Frank with the sweats on put out his hand which I shook. I still hadn’t said anything.
“Franks told me a lot about you Paulie, I know your Dad, haven’t seen him for years. He trained in here years ago.
Here put them on.”
He threw me a grey sweatshirt and bottoms.
“Changing rooms over there.”
“No I’m alright..”
“Get me some clobber as well Earn, come on Paulie, bit a fun.”
In the changing room things got a bit more serious.
“Try this head guard Paulie, perfect, these should fit. Sit there I’ll lace em up.”
“Frank I haven’t trained in a long time.”
“Your not training now Paulie, you're having a knock about with me brother in the ring.”
“I’m fuckin not!”
Five minutes later I was in the boxing ring looking at Frank’s brother in the opposite corner.
Frank pushed a gum shield into my mouth.
“Just relax Paulie, go and enjoy yourself.”
“Oh I will Frank cheers!”
He rang the bell.
Right foot forward I met Frank’s brother in the center of the ring.
I wasn’t moving too badly threw a couple of right jabs, ducked a right hook but not the left jab.
Down I went.
“You alright son?”
I was on my feet, I nodded ok.
We touched gloves in the centre of the ring, left right step forward I straightened my body behind a big left, It missed I ducked following with a right to the body. It hit home, I felt it hit home but I was on the canvass again.
I was too exhausted to stand this time.
“Satisfied are you Earn! You alright Paulie? Sit there for a bit, drink some water.”
You were going to have a tap around not belt the lad round the ring!”
Franks brother was still winded from the body shot I landed.
“Caught you In your belly though dint he. That’ll teach you.”
Earnest took off his glove offered his hand and pulled me to my feet.
“It was a cracking right, follow your punch through though. If your body had followed the direction of that right you would have moved to catch it with you left hand in the same direction. There would have been nothing there to punch. But you stopped.
Your left is useless, your right pack's a knockout, fast as well.”
After about 5 minutes I was able to talk.
“That’s what me Dad said. Oh mate I thought I was pretty fit!"
"Different level, even just a couple of minutes in here eh Earn."
"I did a bit with me Dad when I was younger. He had me leading with my left at first. I didn't know.. It wasn’t till a parents evening when the teacher told Mum & Dad about me writing back to front, right to left. Then Dad realised I was a Southie.
You two are exactly identical, I can’t get my head around it!"
"Not exactly eh Frank." Said Earnest.
"Hang on." The penny dropped, "Frank and Earnest! Seriously?"
“Dad’s joke.” they both said at the same time?
“Go and have ya shower Paulie, get a clean towel out of my locker.”
That was definitely Frank speaking, maybe there was a slight difference in the voice?
“I’d be proud of that if I were you." Said Earnest.
"When you're ready come upstairs, same way you came in three flights up. Two up from the car, just say Paulie.”
Three flights up I was buzzed into a very well appointed snooker club, albeit through the back way in. It was clearly not open yet but Frank and Earnest were sitting at the bar with Cafe Cognac watching someone practicing on one of the tables.
“Encore sil vous plais.” Said Earnest to the barman.
“Cyclone Singh Paulie he’s mustard, hoping to turn professional soon.” Said frank.
We had another Cognac, then another..
“Are you going ta come back and see me then Paulie? I’m glad you’ve got Frank back to using his mind. He’s a genious detective. All that stupid bollocks that happened.”
“My brother knew everything all along Paulie.”
“I knew when we was kids, didn’t matter. Even after I went into the army, did what I did.”
“You weren’t a boxer Earnest?”
“He was Army Paulie, my younger brother best of the best. 'Who Dares Wins' all that.”
“It wasn’t who you was Frank, I know that.”
“Well I was bleddy good at it!”
The brothers seemed to smile a same smile at some shared secret.
“Long time ago... " Said Earnest.
"He's older by 5 minutes Paulie never lets me forget it. Come on let’s piss off, I’ve got work to do if you haven’t. Come and see me next week Paulie, no boxing I promise.”
When we got outside next to The Heap the three double Cognacs hit me has hard as Frank’s brother.
“Can we leave the car here Frank?”
“No it’s fine Paulie trust me.”
I did trust him.
“I do trust you Frank, thanks for this as well. I always enjoy being knocked down twice then drinking three double Cognacs before dinner time.”
We set off to Alfreton Road and Frank’s contact, if the ‘Special Book’ had been put on the black market apparently he would know!
“What was the ‘Who Dare’s Wins’ stuff Frank?”
“What it says Paulie I told you. I was growing up finding things, remembering details solving problems. I suppose learning my craft.
Earnest was opposite, he was fascinated with every kind of martial arts, pressure points, anatomy of pain to the point where he had five black belts each in different disciplines by the age of 15.
Nobody in the country could teach him anything.
One of his teachers had links with a Shaolin Monks Disciple. Earnest was invited to the temple in ‘Henan Provence’ China. We thought it was for a week or two, he stayed for 4 years. I didn’t see my brother again until we were 19 years old.”
“Your not pulling my leg are you? -
Frank I’m starving carry on down to Bobbers Mill mate, let's get some dinner.”
Frank parked The Heap outside of The Mill Cafe then sat down by the window as I ordered us two pie chips and beens with two slices of bread & butter.
“So what happened when he came home?”
“When he came home he set up a school for martial arts, he wouldn’t use the Shaolin name though. It would have been the first Shaolin School in the country, could have made him a fortune.”
“Why wouldn’t he use the name if he was there for all that time?”
“You’ll have to ask him, I can’t remember exactly. Something to do with not being a descendent of the original disciples or some at like that.”
Two teas as well duck thanks, can’t remember if I ordered them? I didn’t get knifes and forks either.”
“I’ll gerrum forya duck, air yar. I’ll bring ya teas ova, da ya want oat else while am at it?”
“No that’s lovely, thanks a lot.
I’m Ready for this Frank!”
“Same here Paulie.”
“I still don’t get ‘The Who Dares Wins’ thing though?”
“Martial arts want that big then Paulie, not to spend money learning. After a year when he still want making any money he packed it in.
He signed up as a PT instructor in the army.
It want long before they realised what they’d got, who he was. Soon after he was instructing the best of the best. The SAS, he went to Europe, NATO, then the USA's special forces you name it.
It hurt him inside though, I felt it every time I saw him which was once in a blue moon. The thought that he’d betrayed the Temple by sharing teachings with what was basically a war machine was killing him!”
“Is that when he set his gym up?”
“No, it want as simple as that Paulie, it got complicated. They made it really complicated. It took him ages to get out the army, in the end he had to refuse every duty apart from the one he signed up for, Teaching PT.
When he finally did leave, they said because of his access to Special forces training & tactics, he was a possible threat to NATO & National security. Then the USA got involved, prohibiting Earnest from any activity relating to the use of any combat skills he’d 'Cooperated On' - during his time as: 'Guest of The United States Military'.
He couldn’t move, teach, work, train or even travel. Even writing about his skills was a violation of the ‘Official Secrets Act’.”
“You’ve lost me a bit Frank, no you’ve lost me a lot? How did he set up the gym then? If they were watching his every move?”
“He made a fortune as a private security consultant Paulie. Amongst the top five best personal protection agents ‘Body Guards’ to you, in the Western world.”
“But if they had him locked down how did he do it?”
“We swapped pyjama’s one night Paulie. We’d been Frank & Earnest, now we were Earnest & Frank.”
I was still trying to work this out as Frank or Earnest parked outside of ‘The Running Horse’ on Alfreton Road.
“I don’t mind you coming in but might be best to keep quiet, let me deal with it. You ok with that? Trust me?"
I put my finger to my lips and zipped them shut. Frank smiled.
You couldn’t miss the shop, second hand furniture spilled onto the pavement along with box’s of old records and magazines, well you know the type of shop.
The door was open with a couple of students looking at a leather sofa while a tall thin man in a sheepskin coat hovered around behind them.
He saw Frank walk in and his face visibly changed to one expressing worry.
“Oh God which one are you?” he said.
I felt like telling sheepskin that I wasn’t that sure myself anymore!”
“Does it matter?” Said Frank or Earnest.
“Well I’m hoping you're the one I used to play pool with, have a laugh with. That you Frank?”
Frank or Earnest walked to within an inch of sheepskin's face.
“I’m going to ask you once. What do you know about a very valuable book, a first edition by JM Barrie?”
“Only a whisper, just a whisper! Books like that have an underwriter, a guaranteed buyer for a special book. The person with that book has contact with him. Or possibly contact with ‘the contact’ second hand, but that’s it and they’ll trust each other big style.”
Frank put his finger to his lips, turned and walked past me out of the shop towards The Heap.
“Fuckin hell Frank, I was frightened and we’re on the same side!”
“Frightened to death of Earnest Paulie. He would have gone around the houses for Frank.”
“What did you get from what he said?”
“Well what did you get?”
“Quite a lot Frank really, well I think so. Our plumber is either in direct contact with the ‘Underwriter’ or much more likely in my opinion he has a close connection with ‘Underwriters’ contact.”
“Spot on Paulie, but If our plumber isn’t in direct contact with ‘Underwriter’ and I agree with you, who could be the close connection?”
“Family, lifelong friend?”
“Yes but those connections are from the same pond Paulie. Don't you see? This connection is from another pond.”
“I’m lost Frank I’ll be honest.”
“Ok listen, our plumber is a criminal working in the pond where he was born. In that pond with him are his friends, family and all the criminal contacts he’s made. He’s a low end burglar, the chances of him making contact with our ‘Underwriter’ is zero, let’s eliminate that. The chances of him making contact with the ‘Underwriters’ connection are not much higher because the underwriters connection is from a different pond. A bigger more glamorous pond where First Editions are regularly stolen to full fill the need of our ‘Underwriter!”
“So if they didn’t meet in their own ponds they must have met somewhere - outside of their ponds?”
“Hit on the head Paulie, two naughty fish taken from their ponds then put together in HM’s Pond for Naughty Fish..”
“Prison. My guess the trusted connection is someone our Plumber met in prison when he did his 2 years. To get that trust it could even have been a cell mate. At least for a while.”
“Frank you're not being watched by the CIA or anything are you?”
“Not any more Paulie, the threat to National Security was dormant for so many years it was signed off. I wouldn’t have told you about Earnest and Frank otherwise. It would have put you in danger.”
“Shall I drop you home Frank, this is on another level for me. I feel every time I see you the less I know about you?”
“But you trust me? Please say you trust me Paulie. You’ve woken me out of a sleep, do you know that?”
“I love that I trust you Frank. It’s like we’ve played catch up on a lifetime of not knowing each other.”
I pulled up outside of Frank’s house.
“I’m taking Sarah out for a meal tonight Frank. I think I’m in love, If I knew what love Is?”
“The Old Greek language has four words for love Paulie. What you're feeling is Eros, passionate to start with but capable of growing into an incredibly deep love of who the person really is inside. Plato called it ‘Platonic’ he said physical attraction wasn’t a necessary part of love.
A lesson I learnt years ago Paulie"
“See you in the morning Frank.”
At exactly 8pm according to my new Tag Heure F1 watch, I walked towards the hall stairs just as the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world was walking down them. My stomach tightened so much I began to wonder If I would be able to eat anything.
"Hello Paulie, you're very punctual."
Sarah looked perfect in a lovely green vintage Chanel style trouser suit. Around her shoulders she'd wrapped a silk shawl.
She was wearing her hair up which completely threw me, I had never seen this before.
I couldn't help noticing her neck, and her ears were the loveliest in the whole wide world. That included...
"Hello Sarah, you're very beautiful!"
"That's a lovely thing to say, how long have you known?"
"From all time really, Je t'ai jamais vu avec les cheveux tenu comme ça..
"You speak french?"
"Just practicing , hope you like French food shall we go?"
Ten minutes later I pulled into a parking space on Lenton Boulevard and switched off.
"Are we here?"
"Very nearly, come on."
The walk from the car with Sarah took a matter of seconds, memorable special seconds which I remember in detail. I opened the door of 'The Grenuille', held Sarah's hand as we walked through the familiar curtain into a gorgeous memory piece of France.
"Bon soir Paulie. Je rencontre la plus jolie fille du monde, en fin!
Comment vous allez? Bien venu.."
"Hello Yves, yes thank's this is Sarah nice to see you..."
"Oh it's so lovely Paulie, hello Yves nice to meet you."
"For you Paulie this way.."
Inside the door & through the curtain of 'The Grenuille' was a dining room, literally a small dining room of around 6 or 7 tables.
"My Favourite place to eat Sarah. That was Yves Bouanchaud, he had a crazy idea to open a restaurant serving authentic French cuisine on Lenton Boulevard in Nottingham?"
Yves brought us some bread & took away our menu's?
"Was it 1976 Yves, when you opened?"
"Top secret Paulie, tonight you eat: soupe aux oignons et à suivre poulet à la moutarde Oui?"
"The Soup followed by the Chicken is highly recommended by the Owner/ Chef Sarah Is that ok with you?"
"Sounds delicous, perfect I think?"
"Sorry Sarah he's very insistent sometimes, but delicous is the word. The vegetables taste amazing on their own, you're in for a treat, are you happy?"
"I'm not used to being asked if i'm happy, but yes. I am happy."
"Et du vin, 'Chateau Climens Sauternes' A Bordeaux maybe sweet for you Paulie?"
"Taste Sarah.. good? It's perfect Yves, thank you."
Rumour has it that Yves was a photographer for Paris Match in the 60's Sarah. Taste good?"
"Oh my God Paulie, you were right the vegetables are divine, how does he get that taste? The chicken is just perfect - "
"Sarah did you know I liked you?"
"No I thought you were trying to get Tom Tom cat off me."
"Well no I wasn't 100% until this evening when Yves said you described me as the 'Prettiest Girl in the Whole World'.
And I loved what you said about my hair at the flat as well."
"Your a sneaky cheater!"
"Just A level French and I played Roxanne in Cyrano once. When we walked in and Yves said that to you, I felt so special I wanted to kiss you there and then Paulie."
"What about now?"
"Now It depends on desert?"
"What about If I wanted to kiss you, it's my turn anyway?"
"It would still depend on desert."
"I saw you twice at The Playhouse."
"I know you did I saw you."
"No I didn't."
"You're a sneaky cheater! I am going to kiss you!"
........ I kissed Sarah...
"Not technically as good as your kiss, but I was standing you were sitting, possibly still thinking about desert.."
"Your setting was perfect though it was a very lovely kiss. I would have chosen it for my desert."
Sarah reached across the table and held both of my hands. Something warmed, me, the world, was my face red?
"Paulie do you want me to tell you why I kissed you the other night?"
"I don't know do I?"
"I liked you, I didn't know if I was ready for another relationship journey. Then Ronnie told me about Gold Fish in bags. Made me cry."
“I only mentioned it briefly, I do get very sentimental/emotional about animals, even goldfish, what if they have good memories!”
“No you don’t understand I was kept in a bag of water after I was born for 3 months.”
I paused, she smiled.
“You should be an actress you know that!”
“That’s something I need to talk to you about. I had a meeting with the Theatre Company that produced ‘Billy Liar’ today. Reviews were brilliant it’s going on a National tour. They wanted to know if I was available.”
“That’s great news!”
“It is but it's been pushed forward, I have to leave in a few days, I was going to ask if you’d look after Tom Tom cat? It’s not great timing for us, I was worried you might do something stupid tomorrow..?”
“Will you write me every day? Has Billy been cast? Or Shadrack?”
“Merci Yves, see you very soon my friend.”
“Thanks so much It was all perfect!” added Sarah.
On the way home the silence felt slightly awkward. Sarah waited at the bottom of the stairs as I locked the front door.
“Do you mind if we say goodnight here Paulie. Soo lovely tonight thank you so much.”
“That’s fine Sarah, It was a lovely evening I was very charming.”
“You were very charming.”
We both paused for a second before kissing, just lightly, slowly followed by touching of foreheads.
“Of course I’ll look after Tom, that’s what I was after all along.”
The next day we told John P about Frank & Earnest swapping pyjama’s. Then Frank described the brief sparring session I'd had in the ring with Earnest which soon became a ‘double knockout’ much to John’s amusement.
Then they both started saying :
“Ya gotta chase the chicken Paulie!”
“What’s wrong with him frank?”
“Don’t know he’s had a face as long as a fiddle since he picked me up this mornin.”
I slammed my office door shut forgetting it’s never closed properly so I put the old iron there.
I could still hear them.
“Has he put the old iron there Frank?”
“Yes is that bad?”
“Girls or money Frank. It’s not money I know that, you're a detective what's left Frank?”
“Shame,” said John, I was going to treat us to lunch in Brownes but it looks like he’s all Greta Garbo…”
“Hello Fritz can I get 3 chicken lunch specials."
“Paulie are you drinking?”
“And a bottle of, what’s a nice white at the moment fritz?”
“Sauvignon Blanc John, 3 glasses?”
… … …
“How did I miss read that?”
“You didn’t Paulie! You both had a lovely time, your goldfish thing really touched her, you laughed, joked, then she said she was moving away can you look after the cat…You tell him Frank. I’ll get another bottle Paulie you drink like a Fish…a Gold Fish..”
“Fuck off John!”
“He’s winding you up Paulie, don’t rush things let her set the pace. Keep cool just be you that’s all you have to do. You’ve waited this long.”
Something in Frank's words hit home and the knot in my stomach loosened in time with the rhythm of the Sauvignon Blanc.
Back at John P’s New Scotland Yard incident room Frank illustrated his theory about the Underwriter, first contact, then the plumber.
“Our plumber is in Leicester Knick for a start. Through an old friend who had a similar experience to me, who’s now head of the East Midland’s Prison Service by the way I’ve got a pass to visit our plumber.”
“What about the Underwriters contact Frank?”
“Shot in the dark Paulie, I’ve asked for the prison record from the first 2 years he did. What’s happening with that Xerox machine John?”
“Tomorrow Frank. Engineers booked for the morning.”
“I think the book is still local, I think plumber hid it while he contacted Underwriters contact but was arrested before any exchange could be made.”
“Paulie said the Police searched his house, car. surely they would have found a valuable out of place book?”
“What if the book never left Mrs Derwent's house. John pass your Scotch.”
“Do you want one Frank?”
“Small one John, so plumber told the contact he met in prison about the book, maybe even took a photo. He got confirmation that the Underwriter was interested?”
“With his record though, he would have been the first person they pointed the finger at?”
“But what if he hid the book inside the house to see how much it was missed John?”
“Paulie you might have it.” Said Frank pouring another Scotch. “Because plumber knew he would be back at Mrs Derwent's to finish the job and collect the last cheque. He could either put the book back if there was a big stink, or take it if it hadn’t been missed?”
“Ok Frank, Paulie. We’ve all had a drink of my 18 year old Glenfiddich. Correct me if I’m wrong, all this theory is depending on something your second hand furniture man said!”
“You get good whiskey John but you're not a field agent is he Frank. What’s a ‘Xerox’?”
One of my recurring dreams involves a house with an entrance I never see. I walk down a long passage to a seperate area which seems to have been forgotten. I can choose from 3 or 4 rooms to sleep in, some upstairs some down but all apparently unused. The feeling I get from this seemingly secure situation is so comforting. A secret hidden choice of rooms.
Later in the dream, although the rooms are still anonymous they acquire a Terrace House frontage on a completely different Street. I assume this to be parallel to the unseen original entrance. But I’m always already there?
“Let’s get your shoes off Paulie, It’s code in here let me shut that window.”
“No Frank leave the window sfor Tom cat tcom in.”
“Get under your quilt then, I’ll pick you up in the morning ya pissed sod. Some water here, I’ve got the car don’t worry. See you tomorrow.”
“It’s a different house…”
End Of Part Six