Bring Out Your Dead - Part 29 (revised)
Continued from Part 28
"It's been ages since I last saw them" D.I. Wood snarled.
"We're bound to come across them pretty soon" D.S. Stone responded, hopefully.
"If you hadn't insisted on stopping for a gypsy's…"
"I couldn't hold on any longer and I didn't know when the next services would be"
"Should have brought an empty bottle, how do you think you'd go on in a proper stake-out?"
"Have you brought an empty bottle?" D.S. Stone asked, incredulously.
"Don't need it," D.I. Wood answered, proudly, "got a bladder like a camel's hump, me. Doc said he'd never come across anyone with my capacity"
"Must be a great comfort to you" D.S. Stone muttered.
"Still can't see them, Stoney! I reckon they've either turned off or…"
"Gone to that Service Station we passed a couple of miles back?"
"I'll bet! We've been going for nearly four hours now, they're bound to be ready for a break."
"Particularly if they don't have your capacity, eh sir?"
"Are you taking the…? Never mind. Off at the next exit, Stoney, and let's just hope they're where we think they are. I don't fancy explaining this lot to the boss."
In the darkness of his somewhat confined compartment, Frankie Knight realised that he, too, could do with using 'the usual offices' as Josiah had so delicately put it. Arousing from his drug-induced slumber, he wasn't altogether sure where he was or even, for that matter, who he was. The wood all around him was a bit of a poser, too.
'Must have got up in the night for a slash and gone into the wardrobe by mistake' He thought. A not unreasonable supposition given that it was something he had done, much to Chantelle's disgust, on more than one occasion. He had the uneasy feeling he was going to get his ears chewed for this and so aimed to extricate himself from the 'wardrobe' as quietly as possible. The door gave a bit of resistance before coming off altogether, which surprised him. He gripped it and carefully put it to one side. It was at this point that he realised that he was looking up at the roof of a van and he became aware that he was not, as he thought, standing in a wardrobe but was, in fact, lying down. He threw himself up in panic.
'I'm in a coffin!' He realised with a sinking feeling, 'I can't be dead, can I? ' He had the distinct feeling that the afterlife should really consist of something more than the back of a van. If it was the afterlife then, presumably, the good stuff must be beyond the van doors, so he clambered from hisi resting place and warily opened them. If the inside of a van had been a bit of a disappointment, when it came to his vision of paradise, a pitch dark car park was even more of a let-down. However, there was a bush just over to his left and the impulse to urinate overcame all other considerations.
"It's alright that Jam On and Queasy" Archibald said, licking his fingers.
"Glad you liked it, Archie. Certainly filled a small hole, eh Mr. O.?" Chantelle beamed at Josiah who was hunched over his coffee.
"I must confess to feeling a degree more refreshed, Miss Lace, thank you, despite the less than appetising vision of Archibald consuming a ham and cheese toastie with considerable, shall we say, gusto?"
"He certainly does have a healthy appetite, doesn't he?" Chantelle grinned at Archibald, who looked puzzled.
"Are we having pudding?" He asked, hopefully.
"Pudding? I think not, Archibald. We are on a tight schedule and will need to make considerable haste if we are to make Bilbao in good time for our sailing. Pudding indeed!"
"Come on, Archie. I'll get you a chocolate bar to be going on with while we drive. Don’t worry, Mr. O., I'll have us in Bilbao in no time"
In the deep relief of his post-urination experience, Frankie was trying to make some sense of his surroundings. Bits of memory were gradually surfacing but not enough for him to piece together the story of where he was and why he was there. The delusion that he was dead and in the afterlife had, thankfully, dissolved, but that wasn’t saying much. Pulling up his zip, he stumbled back toward the van. For reasons that he couldn’t explain, he felt the urge to tidy up after himself. Perhaps, somewhere in the deep recesses of his subconscious mind, he was still expecting to be nagged by Chantelle for leaving the ‘bedroom’ in such a state. Methodically he replaced the lid of the coffin, much as he might have made the bed at home, and then closed the van doors.
There were some bright lights in the distance, which he unconsciously associated with warmth, comfort and food and he lurched, still stiff-legged from his recent confinement, toward them.
“I’ll just make one last call of nature, sweeties, and then we’ll be on our way” Chantelle beamed at Josiah and Archibald before sashaying back across the room. Josiah and Archibald watched her progress, thoughtfully. At one moment, they both realised that they were doing the same thing and abruptly turned their attention, with some embarrassment, to the window and the car park outside.
“Hey up, Mr. O., there’s some bloke pretending to be a zombie out there!” Archibald announced, cheerfully.
“Little things, Archibald, little things” Josiah commented, mournfully shaking his head at the foolishness of the world, “all the more reason for us to take our leave, I rather think”
“What about Miss Lace?” Archibald glanced in the direction of the washrooms, anxiously.
“I am sure she will be more than equal to the task of finding us in the van, Archibald” Josiah said, firmly, putting his chair back neatly under the table and heading for the door.
“You’re all right, anyway, Mr. O., he’s not coming in after all” Archibald called after him, hastily scrunching his napkin up on the table and setting off in pursuit of his employer.
Frankie Knight realised that he must have momentarily lost consciousness when he found himself face down in one of the open rubbish skips at the side of the building to which he had been trying to propel himself. He took a few moments to pull himself together, moments in which he heard footsteps march across the car park and an engine start. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt it better to avoid other people but something at the back of his mind was telling him to lie low. He just wished, lying low didn’t involve scrabbling about in the remains of someone’s last meal.
"There's the Service Station!" D.I. Wood yelled.
"I know that sir, but there's no way of getting there from this carriageway! I'm going to have to go down to the next exit and come back on myself"
"Oh, stone the flaming crows! This is bloody ridiculous, Sergeant. We can't keep charging up and down the motorway in the hope we'll come across them"
"I don't see what else I can do. There's nowhere else to go."
"Oh gawd help us! That's them! I've just seen their van pulling out of the Service Station. Get your toe down Stoney, at least we know where they are now"
"I was hoping for a cup of tea" D.S. Stone grumbled.
"You ain't having no tea. You ain't having no liquid at all until you've got an empty bottle at hand. Suck it up, Sergeant, and let's be having them"
Further South on the Autopista, a small rental car was busily ignoring all speed limits as it sped into the darkness.
"I wish you wouldn't drive so fast, dear" Lawrence pleaded, miserably.
"You do know that you're not really supposed to be driving at all? Our rental insurance is just in my name, we're not covered for you to drive. We could get into a lot of trouble."
"We could get fined at the very least. As it is, I dread to think how much all this is costing us. I've had to shell out a king's ransom just to get them to agree to us leaving the car at the port. Then there's the cost of the ferry tickets." Lawrence swallowed hard and took a chance, "I do think we may have overreacted a teensy bit, dear"
"OVERREACTED?? I had a corpse in my bed, Lawrence, how did you expect me to react, huh?"
"As the Police said, dear, he posed no threat to you. I agree it must have been a bit of a shock, but…"
"A BIT OF A SHOCK? I was groped by a corpse and you think it was 'a bit of a shock'? How would you feel if some stone-dead slapper had grabbed your backside?"
Lawrence turned to look out of the window at the dark Spanish countryside flashing past and said, quietly, "Might be an improvement"
"Movement dear, I was commenting on our movement. I really think we should slow down a little"
"I'm not slowing down until I can see that ferry. The sooner I leave this damn country, the better."
"I just think you're being a bit unfair" Lawrence said in a small voice.
“There’s a service station coming up, dear” Lawrence announced, hopefully.
“And?” Amber snapped.
“I could really do with visiting the little boy’s room”
As luck would have it, Amber realised that she, too, would welcome a ‘comfort break’.
“You and your minute bladder will be the death of me!” She hissed, but headed for the exit anyway.
From the depths of his rubbish pile, Frankie heard a car pull up and stop. Two sets of footsteps made their way across the car park, one slightly faster than the other. Then silence.
Frankie unearthed himself with some difficulty and lurched back toward the car park. He stood, nonplussed, for a while as it slowly dawned on him that the bright yellow van was no longer there. Fortunately, where it had been, there now resided a small car, apparently bursting with luggage and bags inside. It looked inviting, well certainly more inviting than his recent rubbish skip. He tried the back door speculatively and was pleased to find it opened. He crawled between the various bags and gratefully slipped back into unconsciousness.
Now read Part 30