…in an Exciting Adventure with the Police – Part 02
In phoning 999 I’d teamed up with the Police to battle against the forces of darkness, those which emerge beyond the witching hour, but from our hero’s arrival at the scene of the crime time was already running out to solve the mystery of the woman in the sunken garden before the sun came up.
Considering I gave the Police Operator the wrong house number, and that the mysterious woman had gone rogue and ended up in a completely different garden down the street, the solo Bobby found her quickly enough when upon seeing the prospect of help arrive she flapped her arms about to the flashing blue light like the best of the ravers.
Leaving his car in the middle of the quiet road – it didn’t matter, not another soul passed by the whole night – first things first he had to undergo the ordeal of pulling her out of her hole. I’m pretty sure what I’ve been calling a sunken garden is only about twelve inches lower than the pavement, and that she could have escaped any time she liked by just walking around, but when this mysterious crazy-haired woman was firmly back on the road she began to spin her tale.
It turned out that she was the lady who used to live across the road, despite her appearance, although you’d have thought that her local knowledge would have been a little bit better than it turned out to be because she led the Policeman back to the wrong house, before admitting that they all looked alike to her.
Even if I’d known it was her all along I’d still have been reluctant to get myself involved because her and her antics did have form. A few years previously she’d got herself busted for hanging out of her window, whilst in a drunken stupor, and screaming traditional 1970s racial epithets at her neighbours next-door; such a spiralling out-of-control lifestyle obviously continued after her husband died to some extent because other neighbours who’d looked out for her had found that she’d come around to their homes stinking of urine and smelling the place up.1
Still, we all have factors that redeem us, and at least her ancient one-eyed cat was nice.
He was the street cat, as far as I was concerned, because he was the only local moggy who was always friendly to strangers and we used to entertain him, give him treats, and always keep an eye out for him. I was therefore alarmed to see that he spent his hot summer days sleeping in the middle of the road.
I once spotted him doing exactly that in the middle of the night too and, being coloured completely black, he wasn’t exactly going out of his way to help motorists to avoid him. I had to go out, in my flapping dressing gown, to shine a torch in his one remaining eye and have words. I think he got the message because he got up, followed me home, and insisted on some cat biscuits.
How he’s lived so long I do not know.
How he lost his other eye…I’ve got a fairly good idea.2
The woman explained to the Policeman that her son was in the house and that he’d been living with her there for the past few months. This was news to me. There was no quiet tapping on the glass for our Columbo though, who banged loud enough on that door to raise the dead, but he could not summon the cruel and errant son within who’d seemingly locked his poor mother out in the cold.
The woman kept repeating how it was odd because his bedroom light had been on, and that she’d spied him momentarily at the window, but flashing about a standard-issue high-powered torch at the upper windows produced no sign. The front door was definitely locked tight though – never overlook the obvious – and entry to the house could not be achieved.
And then she mentioned that there was a key.
In an effort to find this missing key, as if he were now on some sort of magical quest, the Policeman then set off with his big torch to retrace her footsteps and scour the street.
The woman said she’d been around to Marion’s on the corner, so off he went to Marion’s on the corner, banging loudly on her door and getting her out of bed. He then made his way to the house of the garden where she’d done the pas de deux with a rosebush, but couldn’t find any key trampled in the mud there either, and unbelievably completely failed to wake the residents up there despite his persistent loud banging on their door.
I have always been fascinated with tiny glimpses into other people’s lives, say going past an illuminated window on a train or a bus, and late one Christmas night as a child a commotion alerted me to the couple opposite – who used to have regular blazing rows that everyone in the street could hear – seeing off another couple at the door after an evening of it.
So far, so normal.
However, a few minutes later this couple retuned, obviously having forgotten something, but their knocking and ringing went unanswered. They eventually descended into throwing stones at the upper windows, seemingly trying to wake people who were partying only moments earlier, and eventually they just had to give up and admit defeat. This incident left me eternally wondering what possible scenario could possibly explain these observations.
What happened next, shortly after this couple had given up, was that the Police showed up and had a nosey about to make sure that the house was secure. That one had nothing to do with me.
The angry couple who lived there later fled to Israel, defaulted on their mortgage, and got the house repossessed which saw the nice young Asian family who were renting it off them evicted. Neighbours, eh?
After having completed a torchlight fingertip search of the street our hero returned to the house at the centre of all the problems, banged on the door again, then banged on the dark living room window where a TV was still visibly flashing away. There was still no sign of the son but, much to my delight, the ancient one-eyed street cat leapt up onto the windowsill to see what was going on. I was thrilled to see him again, still going, because he must have been pushing twenty.
It was at 4.22am that there finally came a breakthrough in the mystery after the Policeman had popped down the side of the house, still looking for a dropped key, and discovered a vital clue which blew the whole case wide open.
Luckily for posterity he returned to the front before delivering a Colombo-like “that’s how you did it” denouement and he announced to all concerned: “your backdoor’s open Pat…that’s how you got out!”
He spent twenty minutes with her in there, and found no trace of the son, because there never was one. Nobody had locked her out in the first place.
It transpired the next day that her, her son, and his family had come up for the weekend to sort the house out – them choosing to stay locally which only lets you imagine what the state of the inside of the house must be like – and all this palaver was the result of her being back and unsupervised for just a few hours.
Still, all this had allowed me to witness a Police masterclass with the clues to the mystery, as well as the red herrings thrown in by an unreliable narrator, all served up before my eyes. I’d phoned the Police at 3.09am and the solo Policeman cracked the case and left about 4.40am. Running time: 90 minutes. A full-length Inspector Morse adventure, without the adverts. And I was there for all of it. Admittedly if you asked the Policeman he’d know nothing about this because I never left the box room.
If it wasn’t for me, though, and my beady eye she’d probably still be out there now.
Apparently you cannot nominate yourself for a bravery award.
Did you know that?
I’m just going to put that out there.
1 – Apparently, according to a scientific study, or something I read on the internet, it’s been established that the “at risk” categories for suffering from the mythical Spontaneous Human Combustion are elderly females, who are chronic alcoholics, and smokers.
I don’t know if this neighbour smokes, but I did entertain the notion for a while that this would be how she would ultimately depart the street, in an exit more exciting than any featured in EastEnders, although one entertained by Charles Dicken in his Bleak House.
2 – What with his missing eye, and how my boy is missing a leg, some ears, and both his testicles, I have wondered if one of the neighbours is gathering parts to build their own Frankenstein-cat.