This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 829 words.
The new year around Spencer House was too dull for words. Nothing much happened for the rest of the winter, except we had a lot of snow in London that year. Well a lot for London that is. I remembered seeing a wedding ring on Bulgy Eyes’ hand, but no wife appeared. Maybe she had had enough of his eyes and breath, and had chucked him out. I didn’t really want to know.
I did find out what he did for a living though, when a British Telecom van occasionally appeared outside and he went to and from it. He was a phone engineer, and I guessed he was fitting out his flat with all sorts of swish broadband and phone stuff, presumably nicked off his employer.
Then one day I met the Afghan lady outside Vijay’s shop. On her own, she was friendly and chatty, and spoke excellent English. I was interested to hear that the man was not her husband, but her brother. They were not asylum seekers, as they had already been here for some time, and approved to remain. She used to be a dentist in Kabul, but wasn’t allowed to practice here at first. So she had studied to be a pharmacist instead, and was working in Boots at Piccadilly Circus. Her brother had lived with an uncle out in the countryside, and didn’t speak such good English, so she was supporting him. I was tempted to ask her out on a date, but had no idea if that was acceptable in her culture.
I didn’t change their name though. They were still the Asylum Seekers.
My boredom was shattered by some upheaval at work. I still hadn’t sat my Sergeant’s Exam, so when a sergeant vacancy came up in my department, we got a new guy who transferred in from Communications at The Yard. I was shocked to see it was Dev Patel, someone I had trained with at Hendon. He had come to us with glowing reports, and was expected to rise to Inspector soon. If I thought that our previous contact would be useful, I was sadly wrong. He was on my case from minute one, and it seemed to me he had decided that hassling me was his one job in life.
I resolved to get out of Fraud, and find another hidey-hole.
That summer was nice, with decent weather. I spent most evenings out on my balcony watching the world go by, though the noise from the constant parties around the estate started to affect my sleep. As I was struggling to get off to sleep one night, there was an almighty screaming match outside on the landing. I went to the spy-hole and saw Theatrical Conehead smacking Gloria about. Gloria was crying like a girl, and cowered in the corner trying to protect himself from the slaps and punches Theatrical was delivering. I knew I had to do something, so slipped on a T-shirt and went out there.
My arrival stopped Theatrical hitting his boyfriend, and he launched into a high-pitched rant about how Gloria was a slut and whore, and how he paid for everything and wasn’t about to tolerate Gloria’s flirting. I told him to go inside and calm down, before one of the other tenants called the police. Then I took Gloria into my flat and cleaned him up, watching as he snotted through half a box of my Kleenex Man Size. His version was that they had been on the terrace of a pub down by the canal, and some old friend had come over to talk to him. Theatrical had got unreasonably jealous, and when they got home he had necked half a bottle of vodka, before kicking off.
I gave it twenty minutes, hoping that would be enough. But when I went out to knock on Theatrical’s door, he opened it and threw armfuls of stuff out onto the landing, which appeared to be Gloria’s clothes. There was no reasoning with him, so I gathered up the stuff and took it into my flat. I told Gloria to get dressed properly, and put the rest of his clothes into an old Adidas sports bag I had. I asked if he had anywhere to go, and he nodded. So I gave him thirty quid for a taxi, and he thanked me and left.
My guess was that he was on his way to that old friend from the pub.
There was no point even trying to get to sleep, so I had a shower and made some coffee. I thought about showing up super-early at work, almost as a joke. That would surprise eveyone, and make me look keen. But then I decided that I wouldn’t give Dev the satisfaction of thinking he had rattled me, so put the TV on and watched the news.
I jumped when the phone rang. It hardly ever rang. It was my brother Graham.
My mum was dead.