A Galaxy Team and Alex Trepan adventure. Read chapter 1’Bad Coffee’ first.
Chapter 2 Bungalow Country
The bus deposited him in a one of the nicer suburbs, leafy and full of post-war detached and semi-detached houses with either pretty bay windows or ghastly hobbit style front door arches. Alex stalked off the bus stench into a dead man’s cul-de-sac along a path which forked off to the local supermarket. A place for old people. Mostly bungalows with absurdly neat gardens. A weak-wristed riposte to nature and the march of death.
Neil, and the bus ride had turned Alex’ loathing of Starbucks into a foul temper. That was one good reason for catching buses. The residual bitterness and anger of its occupants provided a shell which would help to buffer him emotionally from the murder scene. Of course it was also extremely distracting, being forced to feel the inane gibberish spewed out by the teenagers who infest public transport. It’s a tough call whether their emotional immaturity or their tinny phone speakers are more irritating.
Dark bungalow windows, no car. No one home. Well that was a given. The guy was a fucking clown. Who could live with that? Any relatives were either too embarrassed or busy mourning to be picking over his fun supplies. All that was left of the clown was his face splashed over on a goose egg in Wookey Holes. Not much for a life of laughter. Or tears. There was no crime scene tape around the house. No one seems to bother leaving that up in England, but then there’s plenty of red tape to compensate. He’d never quite figured out how paperwork saves lives, although he did prioritise his expenses claims. According to the newspaper the crime scene was just the garage. Easily closed and easily cleaned.
With a sigh, Alex opened the garage door with his knife and raised it up and over so it slid into the roof space. He loved this kind of garage door. As a child he’d had enormous fun hiding just above that area so when people came in he could scare the crap out of them. Brilliant fun. That was before the voices of course – it’s substantially less enjoyable to startle someone when you get their fear roaring through your head too.
The police hadn’t cleaned up well. Alex had seen a few of these scenes and they’d made even less effort to tidy up this blizzard of paper, sticky stuff and other detritus the police left behind. It was like a disappointing snow shower. Beneath the cop flakes were Thomas “Wacky” Spoons’ prize possessions. A lifetime of irritating magic tricks, wigs, stilts, boxes full of jokes. Drawers and cupboards labelled enticingly rubber, gags, puppets, greasepaint, kiddy. An empty rack of gas cylinders presumably for balloons and whatever other creepy stuff a clown gets up to.
The blood started in the middle of the room. It crept up the side of a workbench and lumpily terminated in a box of hysterically long shoes next to the cylinder rack. Alex’ was still heavy with the fragile but intense feelings of the sub-literate future criminals on the bus, but the violence of this place was displacing them as it seeped into his skull. He rubbed the holes in his scalp absently, blurring the trapped sensations of fear and pain. They mixed like a cloud filled with screaming.
A sudden noise behind him almost left Alex gripping his own head like a bowling ball. He whirled round, fisted phone ready to battering a clownicide.
“Jesus’ shit” he exclaimed, startled. The fierce curiosity of the aged preceded the blades of secateurs which snapped towards his throat. The elderly garden warrior jabbed at him as she spoke,
“And who the buggering arse are you, young man? This is a crime scene.” Great, a fucking Marple. Alex smeared on his most bureaucratic smirk. “Indeed madam, perhaps you could explain why you’re seen fit to encroach on the area”.
“Don’t get smart with me you little twat. I live next door and I heard everything.”
“Really? Would you mind talking about it?”
“I’ve been trying to talk to the police, but they don’t listen, couldn’t give a frigid bollock for what I know”. Alex glanced up and down the street.
“Look, would you like to come inside?” The lady mimbled for moment and then stepped into the garage. Alex swung the door down behind her.
The old lady was Edna. Mrs Edna Millwax (widow). She talked interminably. Alex had been right to close the door – should she fail to shut up he’d be able to kill her in privacy. Still, she’d had a marvellous marriage (until Ted died – cancer, sad) but she had two beautiful sons, one of whom (David) lived nearby, unlike James (the selfish little bastard) who lived in London as an architect or a rent boy; it wasn’t clear which. Mr Spoons had been her neighbour for fifteen, no sixteen years come April. He was a lovely man, not a paedophile at all. He made lovely balloons for Cherie, Adelaide and Charlie (but not Dennis because he’s allergic to latex) her equally beautiful grandchildren (though even at the age of six Edna knew that Adelaide would be a slut – she had the mouth for it). There was a still a half-full baboon balloon in the eaves of her conservatory.
Two nights ago she’d been gardening (of course) late at night. Edna had heard a subdued roar, followed by a rush of air like God farting which had ruffled her conifers. Then a sound like two drunk men staggering up the path (it reminded her of Ted and his brother Bill – the best of friends until Bill died in that lawn mower incident. Their lawn was the envy of the street that summer). The garage door screeched up, then slammed shut again. At first Edna assumed it was just one of Thomas’ long-footed circus friends. And then the screaming started. It didn’t last long. The garage door opened and the two men came out again. It sounded like they were dragging something. It made a hollow rasping on the concrete drive. Before she could peer between her beloved conifers (which she’d planted only six, no seven years ago that Spring, oh how they grow), the wind came again and a flying car nearly took her weathercock off the roof (she gestured at the wall, behind which presumably was her prized ‘badger rampant’ weather vane – artisan crafted).
A fascinating account… Flying cars weren’t exactly common place so Alex had no doubt that he was finally, deliberately, on Galaxy Team’s trail. He might even get a snap of Strangemind’s runabout, The Petulance. No idea who the two man team might be. Dragging things. A simple question emerged:
“When did Mr Spoons make the baboon?”
“Last week. He had ever such a devil of a time twisting the buttocks just right”
“So he had lots of gas then?”
“Oh yes he always had gas, but then don’t we all. It’s a sin to deny it but that doesn’t mean we should embrace it, like Adelaide.”
Alex got himself and the mad Marple lady out of the dead man’s garage as quickly as her rambling would allow. He promised to come back and tell her anything he found out. He would not be returning. There were indeed drag marks (which he’d failed to notice before) down the path. They looked pretty much like the marks a gas cylinder might leave. Gas. Helium gas. Good for making your voice squeaky. Time to review some crime scene photos. He didn’t have any of those. He did have access to the web though and the local newspapers loved a crime scene.