Work in Progress
Work in Progress
Stephen approached Dave with an outstretched hand, little realising that it would be a further seven and a half minutes before Dave was to realise it was there and shake it. “So glad you could make it,” Stephen announced, a little louder than necessary. Dave gave a fleeting nod and a smile. “Have you had anything to eat yet?” asked Stephen. “Only I’ve brought a couple of pasties. We could always have them later if you’d like. Do the tour first. Or afterward. Whatever you’d like. ” Dave pushed himself away from the wall that he was leaning against, coughed up a lung, two kidneys and a gall bladder and said “I’m easy.”
Alphonse paused to admire the view before placing the briefcase in the corner of the turret. The landscape had never before looked so rugged. It was like a lumberjack. A lumberjack who had not shaven for a few days. And also who was wrestling a mountain lion. He looked around for a place where he might adequately conceal himself, but the sea stole his attention. The sea was virginal. Like a virgin. Touched for the very first time. A virgin whose knickers had fallen down and was saying to the landscape “no, please don’t bugger me senseless,” but kind of subtly winking at the same time. Know what I mean? The only spot that really served Alphonse was directly behind the opening in the floor, from which he had ascended. It wasn’t ideal, there being nothing to physically block his intended victim’s view, but there was always the chance that they wouldn’t turn around.
The journalists assembled in the courtyard.
Brushing the crumbs from his moustache, Dave plodded up the hill. Stephen was a little ahead of him and telling him something about the history of the place: “Originally built as a casino in the early fifteen forties… besieged for five months in sixteen forty six for a joke… later became a laundrette, etc.” It was at this moment that Dave was distracted by two young girls, both carrying backpacks and laughing stridently, who passed him rapidly by. Stephen turned and noticed Dave’s eyes bobbing from left to right to the same hypnotic rhythm as the girls’ bottoms. “Uh, ever visited Pendennis before, Dave?”
“Well, you’re in for a treat.” Stephen turned back just for a moment, before remembering. “Oh by the way, I jotted some ideas down. I don’t know if you want to take a look at them now, or…” his voice trailed away.
“Sure man, I’ll take a look.” Stephen fumbled hurriedly through his pocket and removed a shimmering hardback notebook. Dave took it in his hand and peered at the first page. Stephen had now sidled up to him and was simultaneously leaning over him. A tricky thing to do while walking up a steep incline, but he managed to pull it off by dislocating a leg, two arms and a nipple. “That’s the story outline. Oh, and this is some background information on the main character. He’s basically a humble tanner who is transformed into a pig-dragon hybrid with nine legs and an axe instead of genitalia.” Dave considered this for a moment, paying particular attention to the pencil-sketch. “It’s been done,” he said.
“What time’s the minister supposed to show?” asked Mike, fiddling with the camera lens. Kate didn’t look at him, just replied “I’ll tell you when he gets here.”
Alphonse stiffened as he heard the clop of footsteps echo through the hole. Standing to his feet, he brushed down his black suit and removed his sawn-off from its specially made leather holster.
Dave’s left eyebrow rose involuntarily as he saw the throng of camera-clad, microphone-wielding people. “I don’t know what this is about. Do you?” asked Stephen. Dave shook his head once and then returned to the notebook. “What’s this?” Stephen addressed the line to which Dave was pointing and chuckled. Not so loud that anybody would here him. “Just a line I thought of last night. I don’t know. I thought it was good at the time.”
“It’s pretty good,” said Dave. “You might want to rewrite it, it’s a bit clunky. Course, you don’t need to worry about that just yet.”
“Oh, well thanks.” Stephen became silent as they passed the journalists.
“Looks like the media circus has come to town,” said Dave. “What’s it to you, Bozo,” came a reply. Dave could not observe the face of the woman who had uttered it, pointed as it was towards the coffee in her hand. So he decided instead to investigate her legs. This opportunity was made possible to him by the shortness of her skirt. Overall, she in no way reminded him of the sea. “Just making conversation,” he said. “You’ll have to excuse me,” she exclaimed. “I’m no good at making conversation. I can make a fist though. Want to see?”
“Now don’t get your knickers in a twist. Whoever’s wearing them will be very upset.”
“I’ll bet after you were born your parents gave drinking up.”
“I’ll bet yours gave you up.”
“Don’t you think you’d better catch up with your friend. You know there’s a reason Mummy said to hold hands outside.”
“Mummy also said not to talk to strange people, but I’m having a blast.”
“I’m sure she was thinking on behalf of the strange people. Do you have a light?”
“Sure.” There was a moment of silence as Kate drew on the cigarette. “You know, with that moustache you kind of look like Burt Reynolds, only after a car crash.”
“Funny, I was just thinking the same thing. Don’t frown. I’d say ‘if the wind changes you’ll be stuck like that’ but I see it already happened.”
“Mind if I suggest something to you, regarding your attire?”
“Go right ahead.”
“I think you’d look better in a tie. Or hanging from one.”
“Mind if I suggest something to you?”
“What’s it regarding?”
“Sorry Bozo, It’ll have to wait. Mike, he’s here.”
In one single movement, Mike lifted his camera to somewhere in the vicinity of his face and began snapping like a madman. The first six or seven were of the sky, the castle walls and the mole on the back of Dave’s neck. Eventually, he managed to locate the minister and zoom in on him. The minister’s hand shook a great deal as he removed a folded piece of paper from his inside jacket pocket, but another gentleman gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Um, hel… hello everyone. Good to see you could all make it,” the minister announced as he approached them. “Uh, nice day, isn’t it.” No response, save for the clicking and whirring of cameras. “Well, let’s, um… Let’s begin, shall we,” he said, unfolding the paper. Dave watched the minister’s face as it contorted and sweated in equal measures. He watched the way his chins rippled and how his saffron tie was so tight it made the tips of his collars point upwards in rebellion of the rest of his shirt. Dave drifted in and out of the statement, distracted a little by how much longer Kate’s legs looked now that she was standing up. He didn’t even notice Stephen standing by his side once more.
“Sorry about that,” he whispered, so as not to disturb proceedings. “I thought you were still with me, otherwise I would have waited. What’s this all about anyway?”
“I don’t know,” said Dave. “Think they’re knocking it down.”
“Or building an extension, I don’t know. I kind of faded out there for a while, man.” The minister concluded his speech and then introduced the gentleman standing by his side as “the new proprietor.”
“Ah, well there you go. It’s just under new management is all,” Dave said. The gentleman in the long black coat didn’t move, merely waited for the minister to step aside. “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “I’ll be brief. First, I would like to assure the public that there will be no vast alterations to the way that the castle has operated in the past. Visitors will still be welcome, food will still be served in the tea room and seagulls will still shit on you at every opportunity they get.” The journalists smirked. “There is, however, one adjustment that will have to be made.
“The whole castle was recently appraised and several safety checks were carried out. Unfortunately, the Little Dennis Blockhouse overlooking Falmouth Bay has been deemed too boring for visitors. A great shame considering that I went through so much trouble to provide a new roof for it. Secondly, I wou…” Dave subtly signalled to Stephen that he was ready to move on by collapsing on the ground and snoring loudly. Stephen dutifully woke him with his world famous Carmen Miranda impression and then dragged him towards the entrance of the castle itself. Dave turned back for another look at Kate’s legs. He found them in the usual place. “You know that line,” queried Stephen, “the one in my notebook.” Dave made a noise. “Well I was thinking of starting the comic with it.”
“Because I think it’s important to establish the fact that the two principle characters are very different people. Different classes. So, you know, they get on, but there’s always an awkwardness present.”
“Hm. Yeah. As I say, it’s a good line, man.” Dave noticed that Stephen had gone quiet again. He saw a girl standing by the entrance, taking a flask out of her backpack. “Lost your friend?” said Dave. The girl looked up at him with a blank expression, then toward the turret. She pointed at it, paused, smiled a little and then exclaimed in a soft accent “I’m afraid of heights.”
Alphonse had used his tie to bind her arms and legs together behind her back. He had seen it in a film a couple of nights previous. A film that his girlfriend did not approve of. A film that was in no way inspired by the sea. Unfortunately, he could not find anything with which to gag the young girl. What they were using in the film would not do at all. So instead he simply used the promise that he would remove a large portion of her head with one squeeze of the trigger if she were to even think about making a noise. “You just had to turn around, didn’t you,” he said.
Stephen had taken his camera, a small digital thing, from his pocket. As he framed the point where the walls met the ceiling, Dave scanned the contents of a display case. “What did you think of the German girl?” asked Stephen. Dave looked up at the back of his head. “Very nice,” he said. “Yeah, I thought so too,” replied Stephen. “Maybe we should get a photo of her. Could make for an interesting character.”
Dave thought about this for a moment and agreed. “Right. Well, uh… Maybe you should ask her,” continued Stephen. “You had more of a rapport with her than I did. Might seem a bit weird if I suggested it.” Dave thought about this for a moment and agreed. Hmm, de ja vu. Stephen handed Dave the camera.
“Ow! What the Hell did you do that for!?” enquired the German girl. “I’m sorry,” shouted Alphonse, who was engaged in collecting shards of stone and placing them in the new hole in the floor. He smoothed them down with his black shoe. He then spat on the flattened pile, either out of spite or in the remote hope that this would form some cement “You stood on my hair, scheissekopf!”
“I didn’t mean to,” Alphonse explained. “I was just trying to club the back of your head.” The German girl frowned for a moment, before screaming at the top of her voice.
The journalists were all lying on the ground, covering their heads with their arms and looking in a multitude of directions, but mainly straight down. The minister had seen fit to join them. Only Mr. Lynch remained standing and looking straight at the turret. For a long moment, nothing could be heard except the screaming. Maybe even two moments. I think it was two. Let’s see, at the current exchange there are three and a half minutes to a moment. Yeah, about two moments. And all the while Mr. Lynch never took his eyes off the turret. Fleetingly, Alphonse’s head appeared between two of the stone blocks. Another moment and a half elapsed before it made itself visible again. Mr. Lynch raised his arms and shrugged his shoulders at it. Alphonse could do nothing but imitate him. “Shouldn’t someone help that woman?” Mike blurted.
“An excellent idea,” said Mr. Lynch. “Minister, your constituents appeal to you.”
“What?!” whimpered the minister. “Capital opportunity for a spot of good publicity, don’t you think?” returned Mr Lynch, his lips twisting upwards in one corner. Without warning, Mr. Lynch warned him of the dangers involved. He also commended him on his bravery while unpeeling his fingers from the doorway of the turret staircase. The minister glanced up at the sharp steps, closed his eyes and ascended them, traversing each step at a rate of roughly half a mile an hour. In other words, his minute to step ratio was around five to one. Steadily, all the journalists rose to their feet, to find that Kate had already done so and was scribbling in her notepad. They all simultaneously took her lead. Kate was composing several indescribably delicious, seductive and downright juicy adjectives to describe the minister, when he interrupted her.
“Um… Excuse me,” he called down. “I’ve… Uh… I’ve b… beaten him.” The journalists stood, necks craned back, mouths agape. A couple of them moved towards the staircase. “Uh, that’s not a good idea actually. I… Uh… Well, it’s a bit of a mess up here. Um… Not to mention, a crime scene. Yes, uh, I’m afraid I cannot permit anyone up here until the police have examined it and… at least put a vacuum over the place. I think perhaps it would be best for all concerned if we continue with the interview. Are there… Um, any more questions?” There were a few, to say the least.
“How did you beat him?”
“Is he dead?”
“Who was he?”
“Is the girl okay?”
“Who is she?”
“Where did I leave my sandwiches?”
“Would you like to buy a puppy?”
“If a right-angled triangle has a vertical side of four centimetres and a horizontal side of seven centimetres then what is the length of the hypotenuse?” And more besides. The minister’s answer to all of these was “Blimey… Uh… Not entirely certain, although I have it on very good authority that something of that nature is very possibly the case or contrary to it. Just over eight centimetres.” Stephen poked his head around the doorway.
Dave had his arms around the German girl and was rubbing her back. He acknowledged Stephen’s presence with a nod. “All going on today, isn’t it,” he said. Stephen let out a little laugh. “Oh, and Olga says she’ll be glad to model for you.” Stephen’s eyebrows rose, as did his testicles. Olga’s face remained pressed against Dave’s chest, but she proffered a pale hand in Stephen’s general direction. Stephen looked at it before taking it in his and saying “Thanks” in a high voice. “Is she okay?” he added. Dave nodded again as he lifted her head up and wiped underneath her eyes with his sleeve. “You’ll be okay, won’t you. Just a little shaken. She was worried about her friend.” She smiled at him and used his t-shirt as a handkerchief. “How long have you known her?” asked Kate.
They all three turned to look at Kate, her notepad in hand. “About two years,” Olga sniffled. “What’s her name? How old is she? Is she German too? What’s she doing here? Is she legal?”
“Excuse me,” said Dave, “but my client is emotionally exhausted. I’m afraid she won’t be answering any more questions at this time.”
“Who did you hire this guy from, Mary chipperfield?”
“Why aren’t you bothering the minister?”
“He just keeps saying the same thing over and over. And even that doesn’t make any sense. Whoever that guy was, he must’ve done a number on the minister’s noggin before it was over. No, I need a more reliable interview.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” said Dave, “but Olga is in no fit state to answer questions just yet. And to get to her you’re going to have to go through Stephen.” Kate gave Stephen a Paddington stare, but Stephen countered by darting back into the castle so she couldn’t see him any more. “Ha,” said Dave, “them’s tactics, them is.” Kate sighed and hurriedly stepped past Dave and Olga and into the castle.
It took Kate a little while to locate Stephen, but when she did she walked up to the display case and peered in at him. “You know,” she said, “this is becoming vaguely reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode”. Stephen looked down at his newly acquired chain-mail armour and shrugged. “I need to get up to that turret without being seen. Do you know a way?” His voice was silenced by the glass. Racking his mind of any information that may prove invaluable, his face contorted into a replica of a sketch by Picasso, until he finally alighted mentally on the day that he watched several episodes of Pob in one sitting. Smiling broadly, he began to breathe on the glass and then wrote with his finger the following: “try round the back”, which he punctuated with an arrow. Kate followed the line of the arrow and saw the narrow window. Leaving a lipstick stain on the glass, she rushed towards it. Once outside, Kate was at a lack to see any way of getting up the smooth pale grey and brown walls without a grappling hook. Although she observed that the German girl who had recently been held hostage was making her way down with remarkable ease.
She landed with a thud, followed by a bounce, followed by another thud. Kate watched in silence as she briefly regained her breath and then charged over the unkempt grass towards Little Dennis, a circular defensive blockhouse that overlooks the Fal estuary. “Wait!” cried Kate, abandoning her high heels and springing after the German girl. “Wait! Do you wish to make a statement?” Kate caught up with her outside Little Dennis’ door and pinned her against it. “What’s your name?” she huffed. “Get off of me,” yelled the girl. “He’s in there.” Kate’s eyes grew wide. “Is he armed?” she asked. “No.”
“Is he hurt?”
“I think so. He tried to climb down the drainpipe of the castle. He got halfway down before he realised there was no drainpipe. It looked like he was limping.”
“Okay,” said Kate. “Now we need to play this cool. I’ll be good cop, you be homicidal bitch cop.” The girl nodded and then reached for the handle of the door. “Oh my Goodness,” said Kate as she stepped inside.
She initially lost sight of Alphonse, distracted as she was by the huge pile of bags of golden-brown powder against the left side of the room. They may not have seen Alphonse if it weren’t for the fact that he was peering over the top of the pile as they walked in. The German wasted no time and rushed, head down, towards him at a speed of ninety six miles per hour. He gasped as her shoulder made contact with his gut and his back with the wall. “Oof!” Kate detained the girl by her arms, struggling to do so. The girl had apparently become quite lost in the role that she was playing. “What is all this?” asked Kate. “Keep her away,” croaked Alphonse, the air still having not returned to his lungs. “I’m going to split your head open!” bellowed the girl. Kate employed all her strength in holding her back and said “You’d better start answering some questions or she’ll do it. She’s crazy.” Alphonse, who was at this point lying in the recovery position, recovered slightly and glanced at the girl. He closed his eyes and sighed. “What do you want to know?”
“What the Hell was that all about, in the turret?” screamed the girl. “I’m truly sorry about that,” he replied. “But you got in the way. You saw the gun in my hand. What was I going to do?”
“He tried to bludgeon me, you know.”
“Why?” asked Kate
“Are you joking? There couldn’t be any witnesses when the minister got it.”
“The gun was meant for the minister?”
“Yeah. It’s complicated, but basically the boss wanted Pendennis so that he could have easy access to the sea here for shipments. So he promised the minister a lot of money, which he could invest in any organisation he saw fit, so long as the minister persuaded the national trust to exchange its ownership of the place for a casino or two in the King’s Cross area of London. Apparently they didn’t need much persuading. The minister was supposed to collect a suitcase from the turret as soon as the press conference was over.”
“So why bump him off?”
“Because it’s cheaper than paying him.” Kate inadvertently loosened her grip on the German girl, who flew across the room again, fists swinging.
Dave and Stephen descended the hill, back towards the car park. “So, what did you think of the end of the story?” asked Stephen. “Too abrupt.”