You Must Be Thorough: Chapter Four

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The A44

After the crash the police had traced the driver and begun collecting witness statements. A quiet hush had fallen over my life. Hattie died from her internal injuries sustained in the accident. I kept remembering. I remembered the tranquil sound of tinkling glass, the hot smell of engine intruding into the cabin. Hattie screaming…I wish I could forget it. I remember the sensation of having control, my hands on the steering wheel, road in my grip. I was an Inspector with West Midlands Police. I was the all-knowing, all-reaching, Dad. This fact puffed me up beyond comprehension. She needed me, gave me a reason to get up every morning. And I remember the sudden realisation that grew terror from the pit of my stomach; the illusion of control, I so cherished, shattered with the passenger side window. I tried to remember the man’s face, the man who forced us off the road and apart. He was less than extraordinary. In fact, the banality of the man who killed my daughter deeply unsettled me. We could have been friends, acquaintances down the pub. I used the sympathy of the Ceredigion Police Liaison Officer to grant me unofficial access to the witness statements. I read with a focus I had never felt before. He had been drinking. He sustained superficial lesions on his face from impact with the driver’s side window and a seat belt burn on the right hand side of his neck from collar to behind his ear.  This was followed by the interviewing Officer’s summary of the suspect, ‘…regrets his actions with the utmost remorse’, and the rest of what will form his solicitor’s opening statement in court. I do not doubt his sincerity and his remorse evoked the beginnings of forgiveness. At this realisation the intensity of my self-loathing was unbearable and I swore off any feelings of absolution. I needed to be focussed. It was two months after the collision when I decided I would not let the system have him. It would not be enough. I called the man’s solicitor tipping her off to the breach of security with regards to the witness statements, the backbone of the prosecution. Among the witness statements were personal details and contact information. I committed everything to memory. After my meeting with Ishmael at the Forensic Pathology department I drove to the address I had taken. I waited for it to get dark, aiding it by bricking the nearside lamp post. All the while I was repeating in my head what had become my mantra for the past year. Birmingham. Smethwick. Cape Hill. 34 Carithorn End. Haines, V. My purpose. My revenge.


You Must Be Thorough: Chapter Three

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It Begins

It has been a long day. After what seems like years of not sleeping I can feel the unfamiliar, gentle pressure on my chest as I sink back into my seat. The lamp post yellows the interior of my car making all of the emotionless technology seem warmer and inviting. I close my eyes for a little while just to see if it will work. The sound of the sea lapping against the shore is a faint memory. I can hear her giggle way off in the distance. The memory of the breaking waves has shifted this memory to the surface and into focus. That laugh. Her laugh. The musical rise and fall in contrary motion to the breaking waves. The two memories are antagonistic at first. Now they are slowly synchronising in harmony.
I look up at the stars and wonder at man’s obsession with them. Culture and science concerns itself with the stars, drawing patterns out of them, concluding from them secrets about ourselves. I am fascinated not so much by the stars but by the space in between. Glass half full people look at the sky and see the stars and most people are the half full kind. Nothing is rarely apparent to them. I look at the night sky confirming the nothing I feel inside.
I pick up my phone and call Mr. Watts.
“Mr. Watts. It’s Lohman. Inspector Lohman…Arthur. I don’t know what I’m doing but…I’ve been busy all day. I want to show you what I’ve found…I…I think you can help” My tone is erratic, screaming with a self-consciousness that says, ‘Get yourself together, man!’
“What? What have you found?” He must know this is unusual. Good.
“Can you meet me?”
“Yes. Where?”
“the Seventh Star car park on the Cape Hill junction.”
“I’ll be fifteen minutes.”
Mr. Watts is on time. He gets out of his car and starts to patrol for a familiar face until he locks onto mine. I get out of my car meeting him under a decrepit smoking shelter.
“What can I do?” his voice is calm but his eyes betray his understanding of the gravity of the situation.
“Mr. Watts…”
“For God’s sake, call me Ishmael!”
“Ishmael. I’ve followed leads all day. You remember the description of the taxi driver that Martha gave me?”
“I called them up and bullied some details out of their employment records.”
“Wait. What if they call him up and, you know, warn him or something?” He was sharp. In my experience victim’s families are not this coordinated under stress.
“The taxi company employs almost exclusively fresh migrant workers. All I had to do was start bawling about Home Office employment background checks and they dropped the usual data protection act bollocks. Fear is our ally.”
“Anyway, they tell me one ‘Victor Haines’ called in last night claiming he needed hospital attention to treat some kind of whiplash injury and he hasn’t been in today.” We start walking out of the car park. I keep the pace up. Timing will be essential. We make it around the block onto a removed residential road, Carsithorn End. The houses here are all terraced and fronted right onto the street. ‘To Let’ signs jut out from the second floors of odd buildings. Few family homes, lots of community disinterest. Apart from the two of us, the road is deserted.
“Last night Victor Haines was dispatched at midnight to the Amber Tavern in Quinton. Victor Haines, who didn’t need to complete his run because the customers changed their minds and were dropped off early. I called the hospital. Spoke to the admin about last night’s A&E. You remember…”
“…She hurt him.” He was following.
“The amount of skin present under her nails suggested it was significant enough for the attacker to need stitches. I cross referenced hospital records narrowing the search with the time of death and the nature of the injury. It matches. Victor Haines was treated last night for minor lesions about his face and neck. It’s him Ishmael. Victor Haines took your daughter!”
Ishmael looks as though he has not heard me so I start to repeat myself. Slowly, I notice his hands tremble. His face only reveals emotion by the flare in his nostrils. We are standing in a poorly lit section of the road. There is broken glass on the floor surrounding the nearest lamp post, adding to the darkness.
“I should’ve called it in, Ishmael. I have to report all my findings at the end of each shift but I didn’t. I couldn’t.”
“Why?” He is back, focused again.
“Because when I saw you today losing what we’ve lost is irreconcilable. I lost my daughter, my Hattie, a year ago.”
“I was driving her home from a holiday in Aberystwyth, Wales. A driver, had a few drinks, came to overtake us on one of the valley roads when a lorry appeared on the corner of the oncoming lane. The driver reacts. Cut into us, sending us over the side. I remember the way the rubber screamed on the tarmac. It took two hours to get her out and another hour to get her to the hospital. She died.  The driver was brought to trial but acquitted due to someone grassing me up on my involvement with the investigation. And that was it. End of. It’s an eternally open wound. I can’t let you live like that. Like this.  If you’re thorough…take this man for your daughter, for mine. It is right” I’m looking for a sign. Come on Ishmael, are you with me?
“For Sarah.” His voice was detached and his eyes were fixed on the door. He knows where we are.
“Right. For her. You know where we are, don’t you”
“Yes, Ishmael. You ready?”
“I’ll delay the investigation but you must be thorough, understand?” I knock the door. We can hear footsteps. The handle twitches, drops and the door unlatches. A man stands in the doorway, perplexed. On the right of his neck is a thick dark purple line that curves from his collar to the nape of his neck. We three stand for a second in silence that is broken by Ishmael charging past me and into Victor. His hands claw at Victor’s face pushing him back into the hallway entrance, smothering his cries of terror. They disappear into a room. There is the sound of moving furniture. I lean into the doorway, pull the door closed and leave.

The Final Chapter: The A44 will be made available @ 18:00, Friday 25/01/2013

You Must Be Thorough: Chapter Two

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If you were the curious sort and typed, ‘Smethwick crime rate’, into a search engine you would be given endless tables, charts and lists of data describing how West Midlands police are coping with crime in the ward. There is even a helpful overall crime stat that currently indicates Smethwick would be an ideal secure area for you, your partner and your 1.8 kids. Yet, look a little further at the immediate wards and you would find Smethwick is surrounded by four of the highest crime areas in Birmingham. One digit difference in postcode on an Officer’s notepad reporting an incident and it would totally change a politician’s tact in presenting police efficiency. Today was just Smethwick keeping up appearances.
I do not have a coat. Why would I not have my coat this time of year? The rain has been focussed for the last ten minutes. Looks like I am going to get an impromptu shower. Inside it is mercifully warm and I think I could dry off before my meeting with the girl’s father. All forensic operations in the Birmingham region are coordinated through the Forensic Pathology department which is positioned, somewhat poetically, behind the main retail district of Birmingham City centre. On the phone I managed to keep a professional monotone with the man. Something I had picked up from my own experiences with Police Liaison Officers. The lack of emotion in the voice inspires faith from the victim’s family, so they are subconsciously reassuring themselves. I remembered it from training but at the time I had thought it was some psychiatrist bollocks that had been proved a useful technique 4 out of however-many times and so became incorporated into the Police operating procedures. I doubt I could pull off emotionless Robocop in person. Not for this poor sod.
He was waiting in the reception when I arrived. I was walking to the receptionist’s desk straight past him when he stood up.
“Inspector?” He completely interrupted my flow but not out of aggression, he looks too defeated for that. His sheer size and proximity just demands attention.
“I’ve just finished with the…examiner.  I’m sorry. I’m Mr. Watts…Sarah’s father.”
Names are important. I need to remember to use names. Depersonalisation of cases can be both an effective coping mechanism and a cardinal sin. Detaching yourself from the case can help you be objective but, what a lot of my colleagues don’t realise is, it can subconsciously undermine motivation. You might not know it but an officer acting ‘on the victim’s behalf’ rather than for ‘x’ puts you at the same level of psychological involvement as your perp. had during the crime. Remember names. Remember.

“Thank you for coming. My name is Lohman. Mr. Watts do you mind if I ask you a few questions about Sarah’s whereabouts last night?”
“You can but all I know is that she was out. At the Amber Tavern, I think.”
“That’s the one at Quinton junction?”
“Yeah…tell me what happened”
“I’m afraid, Mr. Watts, I’m not at liberty to say.” I am being cold. I know it will stoke his fire.
“Just tell me, did she…fight?” Comfort comes in many different shapes and sizes and rationalities. It is necessary. It wouldn’t be decent not to offer him something.
“The examiner’s preliminary report suggests that there was a significant amount of skin found underneath her nails. She fought hard.”
And just like that he was disarmed, clinging onto the satisfaction and capability of his little girl. Behind Mr. Watts there is a woman sitting next to where he sprang up from. She is following our conversation and looking directly at me. She wants to add something.
“You’re not alone here today, Mr. Watts?”
“What? Oh. This is Martha.” The woman stands up composing herself.
“She was out with…”
“We were out together…Last night. She was with me the whole time…” She is talking in defiance of her tears.
“We didn’t stay very late….Shared the taxi home…”
“It’s alright. Take your time. You were dropped off first?” I ask on a hunch which she meets firstly with surprise and then understanding.
“Yes…The taxi driver… He…” She squeezes these final words out and I need to be seen to be the objective one. After all, speculation is the privilege of the uninvolved.
“He was probably one of the last people to see Sarah alive. Do you think you could give me a description?”
“I don’t know. I only saw the back of his head.”
“Anything will help, Martha. Was he Asian, White, Black?”
“He was white, I think, dark thinning, kind of, hair that was, like, buzzed short.” Witness statements can make or break a case. Missing out details, however insignificant, can leave stones unturned or conclusions open ended.
“Was he thin, fat?”
“He was kind of skinny, I guess, like medium. I don’t really know much more. Last night, it’s all a blur. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. You’ve been very helpful.” Mr. Watts was listening intently. I recognise his expression. Pure concentration, the kind applied to life or death scenarios. Good. It won’t be easy for Mr. Watts to take a passive role in this investigation. I have seen everything in him before… in me.

Chapter Three: It Begins will be made available @ 18:00, 23/01/2013

You Must Be Thorough: Chapter One

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Last year, I posted a short nightmare scene that was supposed to be the opening of  a short crime story. It came to me in a flash of frustration and inevitably came to nothing. However, what followed from it became the story I submitted for my uni assignment. Hope you enjoy chapter one of “You Must Be Thorough”.

The Body

I remember the way rubber screamed at tarmac, the way Hattie screamed for her Daddy, and the eerie tranquillity of tinkling shattered glass. I remember car alarms or, were they sirens?
“It’s early. It’s fuckin’ early. What time is it?” I was up for a performance this morning.
“It’s four-twenty three, sir” Officer Dunwell could not know I had been staring at the ceiling in a practised state of rigor in yet another failed attempt to sleep.
“F-uck. It’s fuckin’ early. What is it then?” I do not doubt that failing being a copper, and, given the right kind of childhood trauma, I could have made a pretty good actor.
“A dead girl. Twenty-seven years old. Black. Found by the canals near Rolfe Street Station. We’ve closed the area but need to get the prelim assessment out the way. How soon? Sir”
“Ah. Twenty minutes.”
I can make it in ten but that would raise his suspicion with regards to the previously addressed charade. He hung up. Saturday shifts are inevitably grim; dealing with the aftermath of the madness of Friday night. The week ends and all punters want to do is drink, drugs, prowl for sex, love, blood, anything to sober them up from their forty hour binge of dehumanising grind. My reflection in the bathroom mirror does not flatter me. I have a carousel of bags under my eyes and my weight loss is beginning to show in my cheeks. I splash some water on them, grab some food and leave my flat behind. I am looking to make record time with no traffic on the roads. I have got the blue light flashing on the dashboard of my piece-of-shit-but-I-love-you-really motor to excuse any of the numerous traffic violations I know I am going to make. I remember the way rubber screamed at tarmac. I am a lunatic this morning but it is for good reason. I could arrive just before the body gets moved. After that I will be relying on the statements of a plod 18-hours overworked, like Dunwell, and overexposed photos the forensic examiner takes prior to the removal. At any rate, I am pretty sure it is more about respect than anything else.
This morning is fresh. The cold December snap is about my ears and the still-damp parts of my face. Damn. Did I really make it here before the water on my face dried? I had better drop the 70’s Harlem talk and get down to the canal side. Up ahead I can see the forensic examiner in his standard police issue body-condom, and, Dunwell holding an evidence bag open for him. I may be fast but they had made a start anyway.
I asked anyone. “What’ve you found?”
“Sir. Her dress was pulled apart. Her personal belongings were strewn on the left hand side of the body. So far we can ascertain that she shows no signs of a struggle.  Probably means she was unconscious or compliant during the attack which suggests some element of force or the presence of a weapon.” Dunwell has to be revising for his OSPRE Sergeant’s exam.
“Ascertain? You let me do the ascertaining, alright? Right…poor girl.” Her face is bruised, badly.
“Have you searched through her bag?”
“No. Not yet, sir.” He was looking over at the handbag on the far side of the body. I reached over and picked it up, careful not to disturb the forensic examiner’s cataloguing.
“Her phone. If she was dressed up, she was out last night. I’ll start there.”
The calls list was full of names. The three most recent were ‘Martha’, an unknown landline and ‘Dad’, respectively. I highlight the unknown number and call it. It put me through to a ‘New Lion Cars’ taxi company. Before the operator could speak I hung up realising what I was avoiding. I looked back to the phone and began the real call I had meant to make, Dad.

Chapter Two: “Dad” will be made available @ 18:00, 20/01/2013

This is my little girl.

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The size of a pomegranate.

I’ve started a new “page” for my paternity diary. There will be pics and neurotic ventings on here too.


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Why do I enjoy my commute? I asked myself this after my return journey from Uni where I’d gotten talking to the guy I was sitting next to on the train. (Who by the way ended up being the voice for Johnny Bravo and other childhood favourites (PARENTHESES-CEPTION wikipedia him, its just too awesome), Marc Silk)

It is the only time where, I can honestly say, I relax. On the commute, I am already on my way to do work. I can’t feel guilty about not doing work because there wouldn’t be time or space enough to work (write) on the train. I can’t be constantly thinking “you should be reading” or “you should check your sources again” while I’m on that train because there are only three things I can do. Read (i.e. kind of work), Sleep, Chat.
This must be why any moderately good chat that I’ve had on a train journey becomes a memorable chat on a train journey. There are social upsides to these journey conversations too. Firstly, I’ll probably never see this person again so I can be as self-absorbed or as real as I want to be. I’ve never had a trainversation (yes, this is happening. Deal with it) where I shuffled uneasily because I was worried I was boring the person I was with or wondered if I should jazz up stories with little exaggerations because for some strange reason I was brought up with the burning desire for all people everywhere to like me and think I am the absolute Dudemeister. Oh! And I’ve never weirdly changed my speech pattern to make a subconscious bond between new acquaintances (“Oh my duh, yeah. Totes…”.Don’t look at me like that because I’ve already hated myself worse than you possibly could put into words). Where was I? Oh yeah. Secondly, it turns out people aren’t always angry and belligerent; they actually want to have human interaction on some basic albeit shallow level (and that’s OK). I take particular solace in this upside. I’m bombarded with the interesting and scary bits of the world through; news and social media, gossip, art. Which is useful, important and fine, it wasn’t a poignant social criticism just a dull peek into my pedestrian life. But I don’t like how my tiny little fucked up mind takes all those bad things and assumes that all of the world can only be those scary things. The good side of human nature doesn’t get broadcast because in truth, hey, who’d watch it. You’re supposed to get the good side of humanity in you’re own life and seek the darker side of it vicariously through this broadcast shit storm. Somewhere along the way I decided to live too vicariously and now my brains all – Bduah? about life and I have to make the conscious effort not to assume the worst of every single person I see. Thirdly, no topic is off limits in a trainversation. Not for starters anyways. I do not recommend starting the conversation (trainversation is silly, I apologise) with “hey, what’s your stance on abortion?” but if it did come up you can full on rip into that shit…(or some other better less connotation laden choice of words). Have you thought about when you last had a no topic too taboo conversation? I mean fuck! The last one I can remember was around a table in Uni halls where we started every predictably sexually themed sentence with “I’ve never”.
And hey, I’m sure there are plenty more perfectly good upsides to trainversations (I lied, fuck you) but three is a magic number and we both know this is a glorified facebook status or grown up tweet that only a few people will read. So if you, like me,  became a passenger in your own life, get talking to the other passengers – you’ve got common ground.

Thanks for your time.


Best Trainversations…so far

3. Sports physio student from Keele. Talked about Uni life and junk. Oh and this one time…

2. Marc Silk. Pretty interesting hearing about the voice acting biz and discussing our creative projects. (I may have had less to talk about but that wasn’t going to stop me).

1. The guy who interrupted me reading the Scarlet Letter (a book I will probably never get through because life demands I sacrifice it) and you turned out to be (I think) the Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Birmingham who knows a friend of mine there. And all we did was talk about what to do with all this time we have and his travel exploits. If I could have written it down it would have made a great travel book. Also because you knew I wanted to read that book but you bugged me anyway because you were eager for a chat after a long day physics-ing, and you’ve converted me to do the same. The art of conversation is not lost, it’s just buried under decades of weariness and wariness.

The Nightmare

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This bit is only to understand the character’s background as I have not yet written it in full.

The detective character has lost a partner (Love) and/or a child through an event he/she has in retrospect given meaning to in some spiritual way which he adopted rather than believes in. During a dream the detective meets a clerk who archives Life and helps to run the administrative side of the afterlife, specialising in ‘Necessaries’ or reasons for death. The clerk talks with the detective who eventually realises where he/she is and concludes that he/she is dead. He asks to see the records of his/her death and his/her family’s deaths. The clerk happily obliges. The clerk reads the reason out loud as “because”. The detective suffers a mental break as his/her entire justification of her death was flimsily hung on notions of Karma and destiny. ‘God’ or the force of fate turns out to be nothing more complicated than a child burning ants under a magnifying glass because he cannot comprehend a link of empathy between himself and his victims (God is a psychopath) but can comprehend his authority or rather superiority over them.



I lay down. The events of the past week battering me around lost in a sea of insecurity.  I bobbed on the surface of sleep praying to be swallowed up.

I was standing in the foyer of a harshly lit office with no windows. A man in a lightly starched short-sleeved white shirt with a neat black tie and neatly styled hair sat at a desk. Above him was a banner that read:’ Welcome, Recently Departed Arty!’ Behind him the building seemed to continue ad infinitum. It reminded me of a Hospital corridor.
“Alright, Sir, I am the Clerk.  How may I help you?”  Air conditioning was humming from somewhere,
“Er… Hi. Where? What is?” I clear my throat. “Where are we?”
“You and I, sir, we’re in the archives”
“The archives?”
“Yes, sir” He spoke with only objectivity in his voice. “The Archives of Necessities, Birmingham division and before you ask it is all Birminghams, U.K., U.S., subterranean, extra-terrestrial, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth dimensions”, I tilted my head to glance once again down the endless path into an oblivion of shelves filled with manila envelopes.
“What about the sixth dimension?”
“Well that’s the jellyfish dimension and they wouldn’t have much use for a place like this now, would they? You must be…Arthur? Or do you prefer Arty?”
“Either’s fine” bewilderment was an uncomfortable shadow.
“Well I’m going to call you, Arty, if you don’t mind” He indicated the sign above him and smiled oh-so-sincerely. A smattering of humanity creeping in as he rose and began walking along the path.

“Follow me, Arty”
“Where?” He spun around with a look of light hearted exasperation,
“To your answer, of course”.

We were walking for some time. Each shelf filled from floor to ceiling with manila envelopes. The Clerk makes a sharp turn left and side-steps to attention.

“Here we are”. He reaches up on his tiptoes. Plucks out an envelope and hands it to me.
“It isn’t marked”
“Never mind that. It is yours”
“So, what? Do I like open it or something?”
“Good God, no!” his voice was raised. He calmed himself. “Not yet, anyway. You see. When people die they are, naturally, somewhat miffed. So the bosses – upstairs – decide to let them in on things”, I looked at him vacantly, my default expression in recent days.
“ Things like ‘why did I die?’, and ‘what does it all mean?’ So what happens nowadays is we get chaps like yourself and whatever burning question is most prominent in your soul, we answer”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. You may find it takes a minute but it will come. And I will warn you now. These answers may not always live up to what you were hoping for”.

My fingers worked quickly unravelling the string tie. I pulled out an A4 sheet of paper with a single typewritten word in its centre. A: because.

“Because? What the fuck is ‘because’? Because what?”
The Clerk sighed and sank his shoulders and cleared his throat.
“Sometimes. You have to think about what was important to you. In life, I mean. Tell me. What, in life, was most important to you?”
All of a sudden I was trembling as though I were a passenger on a train. In all my life I had never amounted to much. Average student. Average son. Average love. And yet she was a piece of me that promised I wouldn’t always fail. Cold spread throughout my body turning the tremble into full blown shakes. My stomach churned and my feet no longer felt like they could support my body. My words were no longer being spoken by me but were forcing their way out of my mouth like insects crawling up from my gut. Flying through the air a swarm of letters made their way to the underside of the sheet. The Clerk began dissolving before me while reality struggled to remember how it worked. His dripping hand turned over the sheet to show me what I had done. His sincere smile warped by his dissolution into a freakish grimace. Q: Why did my daughter die? A: because.

I found myself in bed sitting bolt upright. The sheet was sodden with what I hoped was, but knew wasn’t, only sweat.



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