Alex Trepan: Detection Comes Late

Part 2 (read part one here)

Alex gazed around the room, in hopes of locating the chair that was definitely here yesterday. He wandered off, leaving the interesting orange lady to her own gazing. Of course, the chair was in the kitchenette, where he’d used it to check whether there were any further bottles of rum hiding on top of the cupboards. Joyously he had apparently prepared for such an occasion and reaped the rewards of his planning. One reaps what one sows and so far he only had a sore head to show for it.

 Belatedly he realised that he was now a good deal closer to the tea making paraphernalia and might have to adopt a societal norm.

“Would you care for a cup of tea?” he asked.

“Oh, only if it’s no trouble,” she began.

“Well…” Alex sighed deeply and grimaced at the ache in his forehead. His visitor immediately offered to help. With his visitor engaged Alex was able to re-arrange furniture to conceal the worst of his nature, and button his trousers more completely. He sank onto the bed, and let her be soothed by the tea making ritual.

She was much calmer when she sat down on the chair behind the tiny stained table and placed both mugs of tea it.

“You found everything?” Alex couldn’t help but ask.

“Almost, you don’t seem to have any milk or sugar. There was only one tea bag so I’ve given it a good squeeze in both mugs. Well, my mug. That’s a jar,” she motioned towards my drink, “Sorry.”

“That’s fine, I prefer glass anyway,” it was time to shut up again, “so, you were saying…”

“Oh yes, yes I must have been. Hmm. Well Mr Trepan, as we discussed before I need your help.” This was accompanied by a wash of emotion which crashed against Alex’s head. He swayed in the rush of panic and fear, and clutched at the glass jar of tea before him. It was of course far too hot to hold comfortably.

“Oh dear, are you sure you don’t have a concussion, you really don’t seem very well.” She actually did have really pretty eyes.

“Perhaps a little… this can be a dangerous business you know.” Alex hazarded, “maybe we should just recap where we’re up to so far, to be sure we’re on the same page.” Or book, even genre would be a good start he thought. Damn it, what is her name?

“Of course,” she opened her handbag, a leather thing unnecessarily fringed with coloured cut-out Scottish terriers. Thankfully the first thing out was a plastic folder with a neat sticker in the top right corner with ‘Alison Seales – Assistant Deputy Administrative Co-ordinator of Clerical Relations’. An excellent start.

“Four days ago one of our employees didn’t come to work, a day later her house burned to the ground. I’ve been trying to contact her family but all of the contact numbers are dead lines.”

“Mmm. That’s certainly unusual.”

“That’s what you said yesterday.”

“Well yeah, I still think it’s unusual.”

“Have you managed to find anything out yet?”

“Ah, no. Not as such, it’s rather early in the day to have any news I’m afraid. I was wondering, Miss Seales, what exactly was her role in your company?”

“Alison,” Alex mentally punched himself, but did pick up on his once-again anonymous visitor’s pulse of concern at the name, “Alison was- is a vital networking component of our administrative team. She took responsibility for coordinating all of the clerical aspects of the meetings as well as the more important task of identifying those who could best contribute to any given agenda item. She has a real gift for that.”

“Mmm, it is an awfully long job title,” Alex mused, “she liaised with a lot of clients I suppose.”

“Oh certainly not. No, that would have been most inappropriate. If she needed information about a client she would most certainly have come to me.”

Alex was growing desperate, without even a name he was pretty much screwed for continuing the conversation.

“I think it’s important that I get a good grasp of er, Alison’s duties. Perhaps we could role-play that scenario.” This was just doomed to fail, Alex could feel it in his hopefully raised eyebrows.

“Um. If you think it will help.” She looked exceptionally doubtful.

“Great! I’ll start,” the fog of rum was lifting and Alex was starting to get his act together. In truth he wasn’t much of a detective, but he could improvise his way in and out of most things. As a bonus, the girl, woman (damn it he needed a name, he couldn’t even decide on what to call her in his head) was still agitated and he was getting a trace of her feelings.

“(I’m going to pretend to call you because I need to talk about a client. You just correct me where needed and it’ll work out fine).”Alex proceeded to affect a gentle feminine Scottish accent, “Och, hallo Beth, I was just wondering if I could have a wee chat with you about Mr Ogilvy,” blissfully the woman/girl/lady visitor interrupted almost immediately.

“What? I’m Jessica, but she’d only ever call me Miss Dreamond at work. Alison isn’t Scottish, she’s from Derby.”

“Sorry Jessica,” YES, “I just get a bit carried away with roleplay. I just can’t do the Derby accent. It’s so.. East Midlandy. Tricky you know. It’s good to hang a character on the voice you see.”

Alex felt he’d covered that pretty well, and gained at least two lovely nuggets of information, although she did look unimpressed.

“Alright, well. All that’s in the folder I gave you yesterday. Look, the point is, I’m very concerned. No one in the company is doing anything about it. She’s gone missing, her house has burned down and no one cares. That’s why I’m here. I hoped you’d found something out last night.” She (Jessica Dreamond) seemed about to give Alex a vital clue, he almost literally hovered on the edhe of the bed, but…

“I’ve got to get to work. Look, I’ll call you later alright? I can’t be late, not now.” She got up, placing her still-full mug on the table. Alex rose too, a bit too quickly but managed not to knock the table over again. At the door Alex thanked her for coming. She looked like she was about to cry, but recovered herself with a brief stroke along her eyebrows. Interesting technique. Alex felt he ought to say something, in hopes of clawing back whatever professional appeal he might possibly have impressed on her the day before.

“Okay – be careful. And thanks for the tea.” Yeah, that ought to do it. He closed the door and returned to bed.

 Alex was still a bit concerned that he didn’t remember Jessica. Anyone that orange outside of the cosmetics counter usually gave him palpitations. Idly he fingered one of the three circular holes in his scalp, it gave him that vertiginous sensation – a tingle of pain mixed with tickling; a bit like using cotton buds slightly too far inside your ears.

Captain Pigheart’s Reparative Adventure

The air was filled with the scents o’ smoke, sweat and unnatural couplings. It was me first day of rehabilitative labour.

They shipped us all out together from the Bastard’s Fate in an experimental programme of reparation, whereby we’d do some tinkerin’ or other and with luck escape ye gibbet. Twas all a touch vague and yet if it kept the rope from me throat I was sure I could endure it. There’s no need to go into the exact nature of me crimes, suffice to say that they featured the daughter of a duke and a terrible misunderstanding of what “polishin’ me stump” means.

We’d been given a number o’ options from which we could choose to best reparate our harms upon ye community. Gaargh, me numerous disabilities counted out ye pleasant soundin’ jewellery untanglin’ for me hook’d only aggravate the twists and the prospect o’ gold’d likely lead to further trouble. I’d no desire to gather the bodies o’ plague victims or suffer the urine stench o’ a pity shop full of knick-knacks and used nether-wear.

I was left with ye bracin’ outdoor work; I’d not minded the prospect of some fresh air and a chance to toughen meself after a few months in Admiral Kneehorn’s Bastard’s Fate stronghold. However, I’d failed to anticipate the sheer thuggery of me fellows. I likes to see meself as a gentleman pirate, though tis mainly me garb and money that belonged to gentlemen. But me companions were a bestial mob intent only on beatin’ each other senseless and carvin’ their names in their arms. Scarce capable of speech, their signatures were mere variations on an “x” and a stab.

Gaargh, anyhow they bundled us out of the cart onto the worksite, from where we picked ourselves up and seized the most likely tools for shankin’ one another. I’d some sympathy for poor Johnny with his trowel and Alan who found only the gardening gloves, but tis a brutish environment for the timid and dull. After the first few inevitable deaths ye guards finally instructed us in our tasks. We’d be humping mud from one end of the valley to t’other, which sounded poor enough, but with the added ignominy of running a gauntlet of socially conscious parents who’d turned out to ensure some more apt punishment were meted out for whatever misdeeds we’d done deeded.

Gaargh, I’d thought the other prisoners vile enough, but the shrieking outrage of what turned out to be the local parent teacher association was too much to bear. With their pointy shoes and upset at havin’ a workgroup of such scum as we near their village, they harried us up and down the valley with a shower of rocks and spittle.

We slept on the ground that night beneath the disease infested blankets donated by that same gang of local do-gooders. How I longed for me freedom. I was kept awake for most of the night by the sounds of rough and unwelcome fornication in the bushes. Me fellows were victims of their own urges and had never learned the restraints of decent society. I vowed to never let an illiterate man aboard me ship again. I staved off unwanted attention with sharp jabs of me mud-spear, an unusual and unhelpful tool intended for the pricking of mud prior to its removal. This was a bafflin’ place.

By the second afternoon of futile mud prodding I felt I’d partaken sufficiently of ye punitive time-wasting to be sure o’ privacy in me future lady-delving affairs. Twas time to engineer an exit. I took advantage of the considerable girth and hirth (tis a similar measure o’ height) of a pair o’ moron thieves who’d managed to carve their names in each other’s faces in a gesture of criminal fraternity. Thus concealed in their misshapen shadows I tailed ‘em adroitly until they were set upon by a gang of these vigilante parents. Seizing me chance I adopted the manner and pitch of a young child – forcing the perspective against them giant lugs to seem shorter than I be. Ye art classes are often of such use.

So guised I threw meself on the mercy of those mothers and fathers so keen to assault the lags. They seemed positively thrilled to be involved in the legal process, especially the punchy part of punishment. Their thrashin’ desires grew when I whispered of how the convicts kidnapped me and proceeded with unnatural fiddlin’ while I doled ‘em out their charity juice.

I was kindly escorted to a nearby orphanage where I received tea, too much porridge and admiration for me youthful beardy blush. Me missing parts only confirmed for the gulls the truth of me account with those beastly criminals, the horrors o’ whom I recounted nightly to en-fear ye other children.

There I preyed on their charity for some weeks till I could maintain me falsetto lisp no more. With an orphan under each arm and a knapsack of goodies I fled by midnight for me ship and crew. I’d learned me lesson well, and would surely not get caught again.