Authors: Rob Johnson
Tags: #Mystery: Comedy Thriller - England
|Rob Johnson - Lifting the Lid|
|Xerika Publishing (2013)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Comedy Thriller - England|
LIFTING THE LID
by Rob Johnson
who never stopped believing.
Trevor stood with his back to the fireplace like some Victorian patriarch but without a scrap of the authority. Although the gas fire wasn’t on, he rubbed his hands behind him as if to warm them. His mother sat in her usual chair by the window, staring blankly at the absence of activity in the street outside.
He knew exactly what her response would be. It was always the same when he told her anything about his life. Not that there was often much to tell, but this was different. This was a biggie. Almost as big as when he’d told her about Imelda’s
‘It’s of no concern to me.’
There we go. And now for the follow-on. Wait for it. Wait for it.
‘I’m seventy-eight years old. Why should I care? I could be dead tomorrow.’
Trevor screwed up his face and mouthed the words of his mother’s familiar mantra, but it became rapidly unscrewed again when she added, ‘…Like Imelda.’
‘Don’t,’ he said. ‘Just don’t, okay?’
‘No concern to me,’ said the old woman with a barely perceptible shrug.
In the silence that followed, Trevor became aware of the ticking of the pendulum clock on the mantelpiece behind him. It had never been right since his father had died, so he checked his watch instead. ‘You won’t be… ‘ and he hesitated to say the word, ‘ … lonely?’
If his mother had had the energy or inclination to have laughed – derisively or otherwise – she would have done, but she settled for the next best option and grunted, ‘Hmph.’
Trevor knew from experience that the intention was to pick away at his already tender guilt spot, and he looked around the room as if he were searching for the nearest escape route. His mother still referred to it as “the parlour”, perhaps in a vain attempt to attach some kind of outmoded elegance to a room which, to Trevor’s eye at least, was mildly shabby and darkly depressing even on the brightest of days. It was festooned with fading photographs of people who were long since dead, interspersed here and there with pictures of his more recently deceased brother and his very-much-alive sister. Of Trevor, there was only the one – an unframed snapshot of him and Imelda on their wedding day.
He became aware of the clock once again and cleared his throat. ‘So… er… I’ll be away then.’
This time, the shrug was accompanied by the slightest tilt of the head. ‘No concern to me,’ she said.
Again, he glanced at his watch. ‘It’s just that I have to—’
‘Oh get on if you’re going.’
Trevor stepped forward and, picking up his crash helmet from the table next to his mother, kissed her perfunctorily on the back of the head. For the first time, she turned – not quite to face him, but turned nevertheless.
‘Still got that silly little moped then,’ she said, repeating the comment she’d made when he had first arrived less than an hour before.
‘Scooter, mother. It’s a scooter. – Anyway, how could I afford anything else?’ He was thankful she couldn’t see the sudden redness in his cheeks or she would have instantly realised that he was lying.
He kissed her again in the same spot, and this time she seemed to squirm uncomfortably. For a moment, he followed her line of vision to the outside world. – Nothing. He tapped his helmet a couple of times, then turned and walked towards the door. As he closed it behind him, he could just make out the words: ‘Your brother wouldn’t have gone.’
Out in the street, he strapped on his helmet and straddled the ageing Vespa, eventually coaxing the engine into something that resembled life. He took a last look at the window where his mother sat and thought he saw the twitch of a lace curtain falling back into place.
‘Oh sod it,’ he said aloud and let out the clutch.
At the end of the road, he turned right and stopped almost immediately behind a parked camper van. Dismounting the Vespa and still holding the handlebars, he kicked out the side stand and was about to lean it to rest when he decided that some kind of symbolic gesture was called for. Instead of inclining the scooter to a semi-upright position, he looked down at the rust-ridden old machine, tilted it marginally in the opposite direction and let go. With the gratingly inharmonious sound of metal on tarmac, the Vespa crashed to the ground and twitched a few times before rattling itself into submission. Trevor took in the paltry death throes and allowed himself a smirk of satisfaction.
Pulling a set of keys from his pocket, he kissed it lightly and walked round to the driver’s door of the van. The moment he turned the key in the lock, a lean-looking black and tan mongrel leapt from its sleeping position on the back seat and hurled itself towards the sound. By the time Trevor had opened the door, the dog was standing on the driver’s seat, frantically wagging its tail and barking hysterically.
‘Hey, Milly. Wasn’t long, was I?’ said Trevor, taking the dog’s head between both hands and rocking it gently from side to side. ‘Over you get then.’
Milly simply stared back at him, no longer barking but still wagging her tail excitedly.
‘Go on. Get over.’ Trevor repeated the command and, with a gentle push, encouraged her to jump across to the passenger seat. Then he climbed in and settled himself behind the steering wheel. ‘Right then,’ he said, rubbing his palms around its full circumference. ‘Let’s get this show on the road.’
The lift was dead. The grey-haired guy in the expensive suit wasn’t, but he looked like he was. Lenny had him pinned against the wall by leaning his back into him as hard as he could to keep him upright – no mean achievement since, although built like a whippet on steroids, Lenny was little more than five feet in height and well into his fifties.
‘Come on, Carrot,’ he said. ‘What you messin’ about at?’
Carrot – so called because of his ill-fitting and very obvious ginger toupee – jabbed at the lift button for the umpteenth time. ‘Lift’s not working. We’ll have to use the stairs.’
‘You kidding me? With this lard-arse?’
‘So we just leave him here, do we?’
Lenny’s heavily lined features contorted into a grimace. ‘How many flights?’
‘Dunno. Couple maybe?’
‘Jesus,’ said Lenny, taking a step forward.
The laws of gravity instantly came into play, and the Suit slid inexorably down the wall and ended up in a sitting position, his head lolled to one side and his jacket bunched up around his ears. Not for the first time, Carrot wondered why he’d been paired up with a dipshit like Lenny and even why the whining little git had been put on this job at all.
‘Well you’ll have to take the top half then,’ Lenny said. ‘Back’s playing me up.’
Carrot snorted. Here we go again, he thought. The old racing injury ploy.
Lenny pulled himself up to his full inconsiderable height and shot him a glare. ‘And what’s that supposed to mean? You know bloody well about my old racing injury.’
‘Doesn’t everyone?’ said Carrot.
Although Lenny’s stature – or lack of it – gave a certain amount of credibility to his countless stories about when he used to be a top-flight steeplechase jockey, nobody in the racing business ever seemed to have heard of him. It was certainly true that he knew pretty much everything there was to know about the Sport of Kings, and most of his tales of the turf had a ring of authenticity about them, so he must have been involved in some way or other but more likely as a stable lad than a jockey. Hardly anyone bothered to doubt him to his face though, probably because his vicious temper was legendary and so was his ability with both his fists and his feet. For a little guy, he could be more than handy when it came to a scrap.
He looked like he was spoiling for one right now, so Carrot diverted his attention back to the Suit.
‘Grab his ankles then,’ he said and manoeuvred the man’s upper body forward so he could get a firm grip under his armpits from behind.
Halfway up the first flight of concrete stairs, Lenny announced that he’d have to have a rest. Even though Carrot was doing most of the work, he decided not to antagonise him and eased his end of the body down onto the steps. Truth be told, he could do with a short break himself. He was already sweating like a pig and, besides, he needed at least one hand free to push his toupee back from in front of his eyes.
Lenny leaned back against the iron handrail and started to roll a cigarette.
Carrot’s jaw dropped. ‘Lenny?’
‘What you doing?’
‘Er…’ Lenny looked down at his half completed cigarette and then back at Carrot. ‘Rollin’ a fag?’
His expression and tone of voice rendered the addition of a “duh” utterly redundant.
‘We’re not in the removal business, you know.’ Carrot nodded towards the Suit. ‘This isn’t some bloody wardrobe we’re delivering.’