Bronte's Inferno VIII (Girt!)
Well, of course, I spent the next six-or-so hours wondering who the hell Enoch was. A salesman to deliver the persuader? The convincer? The real deal clincher? Or someone else? The cricket ground was only a brisk ten minute walk away, five minutes past the Fleece, along Hullen Edge. So by the time my fake antique mantelclock struck the quarter after six, I’d drunk enough coffee to raise a dead man. I was singing to myself, I often did, when abroad in the early hours. An anti-social habit perhaps, but I truly did not care. In fact, I even hoped that anyone woken up by my off-key – even more than Mick’s – version of ‘Time is on My Side’ would be humming it all day.
I limbo-ed under the barrier blocking the entrance to the cricket ground. It was long pole that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Checkpoint Bravo, at Dreilinden, where I used to drive out of West Berlin, to cross the badlands of East Germany. Maybe Enoch worked for the KGB? Maybe Charnel House thought Bronte’s Inferno was a spy novel. I had an unpublished collection of stories on a hard disk in the bottom of a drawer about being a kind of spy in Berlin. Life-writing, one might call it. Or mental masturbation. I would read them every so often, just to see how bad they were. I’d put them on line about fifteen years before. Even MI5 weren’t interested, although I’d broken the Official Secrets Act at least three times.
It was 6.25 by my knock-off fitbit. Time was on my side, I could see no-one. It was dark, the sun would not be up for another hour. I wondered where the “meeting” would take place. Perhaps no-one would come. Who was called Enoch, nowadays, anyway? Unless your dad was a BNP supporter. I found a stray cricket ball at the foot of the scoreboard building. If no-one came, I would leave the unsigned contract – dead drop-fashion – on the bench by the nets and pitch covers – with its red leather paperweight on top. I set off on a circuit of the whole ground, for want of anything better to do.
In the opposite corner of the ground from me, there was a pedestrian access gate in the high stone wall. Someone came through it, I registered there were two distinct shapes. One humanoid and the other what looked like the outline of a very large canine. Quite how large, I found out within a few seconds. The hound dashed towards me and then it was front legs down barking up at me, loud enough to wake the dead, or at least the residents of the hospice over the road from the cricket ground. A rotund figure approached somewhat less rapidly, crying out something like ‘Girt! Girt!’ between gasps and coughs. I stood very still, not sure of the dog’s “Bonio" fides. The barking continued. I would have covered my ears with my hands, but I was still carrying the contract and the book. The dog had a brindle coat with markings so pronounced they gave him the look of a tiger. Finally the gasping owner arrived, and shouted as best he could,
‘Down, Girt, down.’
The dog complied.
‘Girt? What sort of name is that for a dog?’ I asked.
The man puffed his chest up somewhat, although it didn’t diminish the corporation he carried before him by much,
‘His name is Girt Dog of Ennerdale.’
I somehow doubted the beast was Kennel Club registered.