Friday 6th January 2017.
I could smell the sugar puffs on her breath. Show me the honey mummy, I quipped to myself. I meant the bunce, the spondoolicks, the finders fee, capiche?
“My poor Gingernob,” she sobs.
“Listen Lady,” I say, “you got to keep it together. Nobfink needs you strong. He needs a warm kipper in your apron pocket not a wet bag of rainy yesterdays.”
She brazens it. “Hey mister, I’m hurting – you can roll your sweet hard-boiled tush down The Big Gun if all you’ve got’s empty poetry.”
The Big Gun. She knew her dime-a-shot broken-down dives okay. Then reggae night at the Hen & Chickens and lets call it a night, sister?
“Find my Gingernob, tough guy,” she blurted. “Then maybe you start earning your firewater.”
“I’m by the hour plus expenses.” Classy see – the sewer rats go dreamy-eyed at the sound of my brogues tippity tapping. “But today’s your lucky day, Lady. I’m after a hot tin roof salesman out this way – let’s see what dangles. And I aint talking your palentine uvula.”
“Sure you aint – just hornswoggling me with your gammon and spinach – blathering like a bubbly-jock!”
The Governor of The Bank of England says I’m all washed up. Matter of time. They got robots now, he says. Beats monkeys I guess. Evolution. Hey, maybe there’s a spot for me down Chester Zoo waving my bahookie, tossing excrement? A fella needs an occupation. Yeah right – you think the monkeys would stand for that? It’s a closed shop the monkey enclosure, they only take monkeys. Now the office zoo, that’s different. If they ever finish ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare’ on those Infinite typewriters, I tell you what, the office zoo would take them damn, stinking monkeys.
So I’m putting in the hours moonlighting, establishing my private detective agency on the q.t. Before the monkey robots take the office desk I hot-share with Gottlieb from Accounts. It’s a card in a Hillsborough corner shop window right now. One or two calls a week. Mostly requesting acts of targeted horseplay or violence. I pass those onto a children’s entertainer up Gleadless (10% commission). Maybe one day, when I’m bitter and angrier, I’ll accept. Or become a children’s entertainer… Right now, it’s missing pets; a lost necklace with a frog pendant, in the park by the ducks.
No sign of Tiddles. Part of the old dame’s monkey-racket: springing goose chasers on phantom mogs. Hornswoggled me good. It’s a lowdown trade, down there with chicken sexing, this gumshoe game. And it pays worse. Neck a few slugs of the razor wire tincture, throat-burn like backdraft. Get Ari Carpenter on the blower. That’s all you got left on another bullshit night in suck city: chilli-spiked burgoo in a tin foil tray. Latter-day cowboy chow; camp fire bean stew with a bread mop to pat your horse down with. Only I’m fresh out of broncos.
Ari’s Spices has been there for me these past five years, Parson’s Cross neighbourhood. I gas-bag while Ari takes down the same old instructions. Sometimes you hear Frank Bruno’s barrel laugh like a Ferrari F12 ticking over, double base in the boot. “Know what I mean, Ari!” he still gives it, gob full of pakora. Ari knows what you mean, Big Frank.