A Job (God help us)
“Who are you then?” She asked, a women in early sixties, who would have looked motherly if she hadn’t bee squinting at me, distrust written all over her face.
“There’s a sign on the gate saying ‘No Salesmen’ if you’d looked.” Subject closed, she started to shut the door.
“I’m not a salesman; “I said hurriedly wondering if I should use my foot to stop the door closing and deciding I was far to embarrassed to try it. “I’m from P…I…S…S…I said drawing it out and making a mental note to discuss our company name with my partners. “You are Mrs Davies, and this is No.3, Sunnyside Villas.
“Well I’m the minder you ordered. Six o’clock sharp you told the secretary.” It gave me a small rush of pleasure to describe our ‘never stop reminding me’ ex policewoman Sally as a secretary.
The sad thing she wasn’t there to hear it.
The one and only phone call had been from a Mrs Davies of No.3, Sunnyside Villas, Cymchesty. She had need of a minder for the evening.
Jason had blanched immediately saying, as the firm’s front man he couldn’t become involved in anything remotely likely to be physical. Sally said she couldn’t do it because she was waiting for an important phone call from a possible prospect, so she had to man the phone for the evening.
Jason looked vaguely surprised at the thought that anybody would phone us about anything important, shrugged and went back to his comic.
I, as the suddenly elected new security and minding expert, got the job.
“Well now, why didn’t you say so in the first place”. Mrs Davies opened the door, her face still a mask of suspicion, “strange occupation for grown man though, if you asks me.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Best humour her, as my partners had not ceased to remind me, she was our first real customer.
“Only we was expecting a young girl see. Good job is it, do a lot of it then do you?”
“Yes”, (whatever ‘it’ was)
“Well you knows you business I dare say”.
“Yes indeed”. (What in hells teeth was the old bat raving about?)
She finally stepped away from the door. “You better come in then, the children are in the lounge watching Tele.
“What children.?” Confused.
“The Hall’s children of course, you’re supposed to look after them for the evening. They’ll be down in a minute, their just getting changed.”
She gave me a pitying look. “The Halls of course.”
Something nagged but I didn’t have time to worry about it. Frozen in the doorway, I blurted. “I’m sorry, “I think there’s been some sort of mistake, I’m a University lect….a private detective. Investigator. I, er, we, PISS, that is, thought you wanted someone, er…some VIP, er…,or something protected for the evening.”
“Well we do in a way I suppose, and there’s no need to use bad language.” The creases in her face solidified with distaste. “I told the girl who answered the phone clearly enough that what was needed, was a child minder.”
That bitch Sally had made a fool of me again. “But, but… but, we’re a, a, a, detective agency, why, why… on earth did you call us?”
“Well I don’t see why not.” She replied sounding miffed. “You’re listed in the yellow pages in the section on baby sitting and minding.”
Bastard Jason. He’d said he would take care of our advertising, i.e. listing us in yellow pages.
“Do you want to meet the children now then?” She asked.
“Jethro, how lovely to see you but…”
I knew the name Hall meant something to me, something not good. I just hadn’t realised just not good that something was going to turn out to be.
Turning I watched the lovely Stephanie Hall, young wife of my much detested ex head of Department, Professor Felix Albert Hall, descending her staircase, her eyes puzzled.
“…to what do we owe the pleasure?”
“He says he’s the baby sitter.”
(Thank you Mrs Davies I don’t actually remember saying that.) ”Actually.” I began…
“Well, what’s our city’s newest super sleuth doing here I wonder my darling?” Professor Felix Albert Hall drawled in his best Winchester and Oxbridge accent, as he appeared on the stairs behind his wife, resplendent in his ermine trimmed gown and tasselled mortar board.
“He says he’s the baby sitter.”
(‘Thank you again Mrs Davies. Did anyone speak to you?)
“I’m not sure darling.” Stephanie Hall said with a tinkling laugh as she gazed backwards and upwards at the hairs in her husbands nose.
“Hello Felix.” I said with a snotty nonchalance I didn’t feel. “Actually I’m not the baby min, sitter, nor am I, for the record a super sleuth. In fact I’m a private detective and there has obviously been some mistake. So…”
“My Trevor’s a detective with the Endbridge CID. Inspector see”. Mrs Davies sound proudly, adding, “doesn’t do baby sitting though, too busy catching criminals see.”
(Very interesting Mrs Davies, now sod off, preferably for ever)
The Halls had reached the bottom of the stairs and were standing side by side staring at me in amusement, although when I raised my gaze from Stephanie’s magnificent cleavage, I though I saw a hint of sympathy in her eyes.
“I’m not a baby sitter.” I repeated, aware of a faint note of desperation settling into my voice.
“That’s what he said he was.” (No I didn’t Mrs Davies. Will you please shut up.) “My Trevor always says its important to listen carefully so that you can clearly remember what everyone says. That’s my Trevor.” (Take your Trevor and stuff him up…)
Improvise; “Well, actually, I’m standing in for Sally, she had a double booking you see, so I said I’d help out. Actually”.
“So who’s Sally?” Stephanie
“My em, niece.” (What possessed me to say that?)
“And she’s our baby sitter?”
“Well, yes… we work for the same company and she, I mean the secretary took a double booking and…
“But you said you were a detective, old son, so is this Sally, your niece, also a private detective?” Professor Felix Albert bloody smartarse fucking Hall.
“She does babysitter on the side.” I felt an influx of panic, this was getting worse and worse.
“Well I hope you haven’t taught her to swear like you do. Never heard the like.” (Mrs Hall, please, please, go away.)
“Jethro swore at you?” Stephanie, incredulous.
“No I didn’t. It’s the name of our company. P.I.S.S.
No, no not piss,” help me, “ P.I.S.S. It stands for PONTYCMYCHESTY INVESTIGATION and SECURITY SERVICE.”
“God!” Stephanie. She looked sideways at her husband and gave a short bark of laughter.
I shrugged. “Silly name really.” I said, allowing myself a little bark too. “You know what these people are like.”
“Not really?” she stared at me her eyebrows dancing a jig as she tried to keep a straight face.
Glancing impatiently at his watch, the master of the house slid past his wife and stopped in front of me. “Well, whether you are supposed to be our baby sitter, sorry child minder, or not old man.” Professor Felix Albert, who doesn’t deserve a wife that looks like Stephanie, Hall, said sarcastically, “as you’re here Jethro, dear boy…”
“You might as well meet the children.” Stephanie Hall completed.
In the Jollywood version, that is Jason’s version, Mrs Davies was David the Butler, Felix Albert Hall was a Senator and his wife Stephanie, (sorry Sandy) was Hall’s third wife, an Eurasian stick insect starlet with flat chest and no bum. God knows what she’ll look like in the French film, apart from being stark naked that is).
“Where’s my car?” I asked Jason the next morning.
“Yes Jason, car, mine, Jaguar, I’m sure if you try, you will remember it.” I was trying hard to keep my temper. It wasn’t his fault he was a congenital idiot, but if he kept on staring at me with that stupid blank expression much longer I was going to stop trying so hard.
The Halls had come back, slightly the worse for wear, from the University’s, start of a new academic year, ball around eleven thirty. They brought an empty milk bottle in with them. It had been left on their doorstep. In it was a note. For me.
Job on. Took Com. car.
Love S xx
Felix Albert asked if the ‘S’ stood for my niece Sally, then bellowed with laughter when I said ‘Not really’.
( It made me feel much better about having let both of their young children eat a compete tub of chocolate ice-cream each, and that they’d both thrown up copiously all over themselves, their pyjamas, beds and Winnie the Pooh carpets and wallpaper.)
Back to the car, or rather lack of it.
“Sally’s got it bro.”
“I know that Jason.” I fished a piece of paper out of my pocket and waved it at him. “This is the receipt for my taxi fare home.”
“Right.” He went back to staring morosely at the silent telephone.
“What I want to know”, I continued, with admirable patience, “is where is the sodding thing now?”
“Sally’s got it.” (God give me strength) “She left for Fishguard, first thing this morning. That’s why she….”
“Why Fishguard ?” I interrupted not able to bear the thought of him launching into the ‘Sally’s got it’ routine again. The recurring urge to kill him that I’d experienced since the day he spoke his first baby words, was once again in ascendancy.
“That’s it bro. She gone to Ireland to discuss an assignment. Needed wheels so she took the company Jag. Right.
No, not right. Breathe deeply, stay calm. Think Zen. “What assignment Jason?”
My brother, who was also my business partner, shrugged. “Beats me.”
Kill him now a little voice screamed. “You mean you don’t know why she’s in Ireland?”
“No, not exactly.”
I stood up, then sat down again, on my hands. It was that or strangle the pot bellied bastard. “Why not?” I asked.
“Need to know.”
“Need to know bro, you know.”
“No. I do not… know.” I started to rise slowly, sliding my now numb fingers out from under my bum. Screw think Zen. Think thuggee, think assassin. Think murder.
The phone rang, saving his life, I think. He passed it too me saying smugly. “It’s for you.”
For some reason I assumed it was Sally so I immediately asked her what she was doing in Ireland, using as they say, some strong language.
When I’d finished, Stephanie Hall asked me to what address should she send the cheque for the child minding, less of course, the dry cleaning and decorator’s bills.
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