A while a go me and mate started a zine but only did one issue cause we're fucking lazy, I intended to write an episodic brummie pulp thing here's what i got done.
I rented an office on the middle floor of the rotunda in Town and stuck a card in the slot on the door saying ‘Private Investigator’. I chose an office with a big window and the city almost looked grand if you leant back at the right angle and closed your eyes slightly. I printed off a certificate and framed it and hung it above the desk. I installed a phone and put an advert on the internet. “Birmingham Private Investigator”. I made up some experience that sounded romantic enough and left it hanging in cyberspace while I shopped for scotch and stocked up on cheap cigarettes.
No one really replied to the email and I mostly used the office as an escape from the outside world. A rest-bite from the hims and hers the grouping them’s and the ever encircling isms. I mostly browsed the net and masturbated. I ordered furniture using the dead man’s card and a hat and a suit. I got those shuttered blinds but the light didn’t cast over me like it did in the movies it was just too dark, so I mostly had them drawn. After three or four days I began to grow bored and wondered if I should report the dead man in the bushes at the end of parent’s road and fess up to the eccentric shopping spree I’d gone on with his card while he stiffened up with rigamortis just out of sight of the footpath.
Thats when she emailed me. Exactly the standard detective fair I had expected a woman wondering if her man was loyal, giving me the details of his work address and the basis of her suspicions, cliched female paranoia, a work colleague, late nights at the ‘office’ lip stick marks and unexplained perfume no doutbt. She made no mention of the price so in my first act of improvisation I replied suggesting 150 quid a day plus ‘expenses’. She left my offer hanging for three hours in which time I fantasised about her features and imagined her bending over the desk and offering me a quickie as my reward for a swift and clean solving of her case.
She told me the price was right and she arranged to come by in the morning. I slept under the desk with my clothes folded neatly on-top and I awoke to find her standing over me perplexed and smoking.
‘Late night mate?’
I stood up and offered apologies pulling on my trousers and my shirt, she poked a cigarette in my face and I accepted, she lit it and smiled all nicotine stains and neglected dentistry. She wasn’t not pretty with her hair scraped back and died a boring blond. She was young and didn’t look to have given birth, although she had the appearance of one kept thin by smoking and bitching her dusty pale lips clamped around a new superking. She had one of those accents as well, that only reminded me of dinner ladies and my mums work friends, an old fashioned brummie from somewhere white. Her fella worked in construction or something I made notes but I lost them so I’m not really sure and she never bent over the table and offered to fuck me so I spent most of my meeting inside my own head kind of embarrassed that I’d let my ploy go on this long, that she’d come all the way to patiently tell her completely uninteresting and overlong story. At the end of the meeting she scribbled the address of her husband’s office on the back of a tissue and left it me. I did nothing for a long while after she left and her smell hung around the fags and the perfume and the hairspray and the sweat.
I drank scotch and looked out the window. I contemplated the dead man and the cold surprise on his face that had stuck with me as I tucked his wallet in my pocket and tried to forget about him. Why had I done this? Why had I placed the advert on the internet, why had I rented this office? Why was I now typing the address into google maps and vaguely plotting my route there, checking the time. It was only 4, the husband finished in an hour. I ordered a pizza with topping I never really have, maybe I shouldn’t have tried them all at once, it was a bit too much.
At ten to five I found myself sitting on a wall opposite the office the internet map led me to and smoking one of those cigarettes I was starting to regret buying so many of. I was drunk from the scotch, I didn’t normally drink in the day or drink spirits, definitely not straight but the drunk was giving me some purpose and mugging off the self doubt and questioning. I wondered how I knew which one he was, how I would follow him if he had a car? She hadn’t mentioned whether he drove and she probably assumed I did, what type of detective doesn’t?
Only three people came out the office and I pussied out on following the first two so the third one I followed he had red hair, which she may have said and he walked back towards town with his hands deep in his pocket. It was cold for a summer evening and I tried to remember which day it was, it was friday he was probably going for a drink. He led me to a bar in town where I bought a drink (the dead man had written his pin down and left it in the wallet, innocent soul) and watched down the bar as the husband held court around a pound machine spending maybe a quarter of his wages in the the 5ft from the machine to the bar over the course of a couple of hours. I held onto my pint till it was warm and flat and I got strange looks from the bar staff who wiped around my hands and didn’t catch my eye.
He must of slipped out the back while I was smoking out the front, although I was sure I’d seen him buy a new pint before I’d gone outside. I walked back to the rotunda and realised I hadn’t got my key. I found a number on the door for a 24 hour caretaker and called him. He looked like I’d dragged him away from his own funeral and barely responded to my apologies and over energetic lies. The internet wouldn’t work when I got in and I had to jack off to my now well glossed image of my only client. I couldn’t help laughing as I lay down under the desk and I wondered how common it was to laugh one’s self to sleep? Seemed normal enough.
To be continued in the next chapter….
She sent me an email in the morning asking what I’d found out. The she called and I ignored it, I didn’t what to say. What had I found out ? That a man, maybe her husband had spent a few hours drinking in a bar I hadn’t bothered to note the name of. I was still on the email when she started typing to me on the instant messenger
‘Why didn’t you answer the phone’
‘I was out the rom’
‘It ok wat did you find out?’
I wanted to tell her something but I had nothing to say so I signed out and hoped she would write it off to a bad internet reception. I went out of the office and walked around town for a bit window shopping and leafing through magazines. I wasted most of the day and at 5 I found myself outside the husbands office not so drunk as the previous day and seriously questioning my motives. What the fuck was I doing? Avoiding my responsibilities? But then I hadn’t really ever gathered any. Wasting time? Who isn’t? I thought of my best mate telling us all at 15 he loved to smoke cause it “killed time”. The husband came out and waited around for a bit and then a taxi came and he got in. I stayed put. I started to walk back and my phone started ringing - it was her, I picked up.
“Hello this is Detective Constable Matthews can I please confirm who I’m speaking to?”
That voice, it wasn’t in my head. He was saying those words and beads of sweat starting dancing on my brow pre-empting some horrible turning in my stomach. I put down the phone. I didn’t know what else to do. My thoughts raced back and forwards failing to find any reason why I shouldn’t panic, after all what I was doing was illegal even If I wasn’t quite sure what It was I was doing. After a minute the phone started ringing again, this time from a withheld number. I turned the phone off. I couldn’t go back to the office and I quickly counted up what I’d left there, not much nothing that would tell they who I am and everything was in the dead man’s name.
The dead man.
The dead man.
I couldn’t go back to the office. I walked around town for a bit not even thinking trying not to think of the deadman. I walked back from town arguing it from all sides it my head defending myself to all parties, to her, to the police, to my parents. I walked the back way to my parents house not wanting to walk past the point where I hoped he was still laying alone, selfishly.