NaNoWriMo has finished and now it’s time to see what we came out of it with.
Today, for your reading pleasure, I humbly offer an excerpt from one of the stories I came out of November with. This one is about a reporter investigating a crime. Well, at least she thinks a crime has been committed… As before, it’s a first draft, so ignore errors.
“When did you take the case on?” I asked.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Cade, I believe we called it at the time.” Abel Stapleford coughed and brought his handkerchief to his mouth. “Sorry about that,” he said, wiping his mouth and looking into the handkerchief to see what was there. Whatever it was, he seemed satisfied with and replaced the handkerchief in his top pocket.
The room we were sat in was quiet. It was warm with the faintest smell of urine that always seemed to pervade places like this. I think if someone created a disinfectant or cleaner that could remove that smell, they would make a million. The one big problem would be the occupants; if there was something that could stop these people pissing themselves or remove the need for them to wear adult nappies, I imaging that would make someone a mint too.
The staff here was civil. That was the best compliment I could give them over my many visits getting to know Mr Stapleford. They said ‘hello’ when I came in. They offered me a cup of tea when I sat down (watered-down cat piss, if you ask me), and they said ‘goodbye’ when I left. I have very little experience of their dealings with the other residents, so I cannot say much beyond ‘civil.’
The room was painted a drab blub. It might have been sky-blue at some point, but now it was just drab-blue. It needed some attention, a bit like the residents here. But right now, I’m focusing all my attention on one man: Officer Abel Stapleford.
Abe, as he liked to be called was a big man – had been a big man – in his early years. Not big like overweight, but big like tall, with huge slabs of muscle hanging from his skeleton. Now, however, when Abel stood, he walked hunched over, dropping maybe fifteen centimetres from the height that he had registered when he joined the police force over five decades ago. His shock of blonde curly hair he had worn as a young man had receded to almost nothing. What hair he had left ringed his bald scalp and was almost completely silver. It made him look distinguished, but I knew he wouldn’t like me to say that to his face.
He sat in front of me in a low recliner chair. Every time I had visited him in my preparation for this article, Abel had sat in this recliner. How he managed to stand up from what looked like an uncomfortable position had me baffled. But stand up he did. Every time. Whether that was how he always rolled, I couldn’t say. Was it in response to me being here and him not wanting to show any weakness before a blonde woman, almost forty years his junior? I suspect that had something to do with it, but as before, I’m not going to embarrass him by asking.
He was a well dressed gentleman; I’d never seen him without a shirt and tie and today was no different. His Windsor-knotted red time lay in contrast to a yellow shirt, buttoned cuffs. His blue suit-trousers had been ironed to give them a crease sharp enough to slice bread.
“Abel,” I leaned closer to him.
“Ms Wilkie,” he said, leaning back towards me.
I grimaced at the name. “How many times do I need to tell you? I’m Briony. Call me Briony.”
“Thank you. Now Abel,” This time I looked around as well. “are you happy for us to talk here? Would you like to go somewhere more private?”
Abel laughed. It was a friendly laugh, softening his face. I imagine that over his years on the force, many a criminal had seen the hard-faced officer Stapleton, but the years had not been kind to him and it made me smile to see the softer version. He coughed again and reached for his handkerchief.
He turned to the rest of the room. About five metres away, a group of men sat huddled around a television set that was playing a black and white western. The sound was turned down. Some of the men had blankets over their knees. The were all watching the television. They probably made up the dialogue.
“Fellas,” Abel shouted. There was no movement from the group. “Hey, fellas,” he shouted again. There was no response from the group. “Watch this.” He nudged me. “Help, I need help!” Through the door that led to the kitchen, I could see one of the staff preparing food. She had her back to us. She gave no indication that she had heard, or perhaps she had heard, but was ignoring. Either way there was no response.
Abel turned to me and shrugged. See what I mean?
“Okay, now how did you come up with the name, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Cade?’”
“That wasn’t me. That wasn’t even us.” Us, meaning the police department. “When we picked the case up, it was just case number 76592, Cade. It was the media that came up with the ‘Curious’ part. It was curious, though. After we’d had that fed to us on the evening news and in the newspapers for long enough, we began referring to the Cade case the same way.” He paused and seemed to be collecting his thoughts. “It was curious, though,” he concluded.
“It didn’t start out as curious though, did it?”
“Not really. What didn’t make it into the newspapers was that I had already had dealings with Mr Cade when he first came to our attention.”
“Really?” I hadn’t known that fact. It hadn’t come up in my research. I scribbled it on my notepad. “When was that, Abel?”
“It was maybe,” He paused again, looking up at the ceiling, trying to recall a fact that had been buried for centuries. “maybe ten years earlier?”
“And how did you come to meet Mr Cade?”
“I was still walking a beat back then. It was just along Woodthorpe Drive that I encountered Mr Cade.”
“You remember that? That must have been over forty years ago now.”
“I remember it like yesterday. Of course, at the time I didn’t realise how his story would play out. When he crossed my path all those years later, my brain just seemed to make a connection, and it brought me back to that first meeting.
“He looked the same as he did when we first met, perhaps a bit more grey in his hair. But it was him.”
That’s it! Let me know what you think in the comments.