Last Rights - Part 1
Josiah Oakshott entered the building with some trepidation. What did one expect to find in a Police Headquarters? He wasn't really sure, but he had lingering suspicions about forbidding dungeons, possibly manacles and leg chains, even thumbscrews (whatever they were). It was, therefore, something of a disappointment to find it was like any other, reasonably modern, office building anywhere. Functional, a bit down-at-heel, albeit with slightly better security.
"My name is Josiah Oakshott, of Oakshott and Underwood, Funeral Directors" he said, somewhat apologetically, to the Desk Sergeant.
"Oh yes, sir" the Sergeant replied, cheerily, "you're here about young Archie, aren't you? He's a case and no mistake"
"I am the employer of Archibald Thurble that is correct "Josiah confided," The arresting officer telephoned me and suggested that it might be helpful if I could attend here and speak with Archibald"
"You're not wrong there, sir" the Desk Sergeant confirmed, "We can't get a word of sense out of him. He's in Interview 2, I'll take you to him"
"I have never been able to achieve a rational conversation with Archibald" Josiah murmured, glumly, as he followed the Desk Sergeant down a drab corridor, "Can you confirm why you are detaining him?"
"Attempted murder, sir" the Desk Sergeant replied, as cheerily as ever.
Interview Room 2 certainly did not conform to Josiah's 'dungeons and manacles' expectations, just a plain windowless room, decorated in slightly grubby pastel colours, with a table and four plastic chairs. Some recording equipment was set out on the table and a rather bored-looking police officer was propping up the wall behind the door.
On one of the chairs, Archibald Thurble was trying, without success, to make himself as inconspicuous as possible by wrapping his elongated limbs around his body , rather in the manner of a hedgehog sensing danger. On seeing his employer, he sort of unfolded with relief, in an explosion of elbows and feet.
"Oh, thank goodness you're here, Mr. Oakshott. I've been sick with worry!"
"Now, now, Archibald, I’m sure there's no cause for concern" Josiah lied, unconvincingly.
"I don't know what the matter is" Archibald whimpered, wringing his hands, "I really don't"
"Perhaps if you told me what happened, we can see if we can make some sense of things?" Josiah suggested, reassuringly, "As I recall, I sent you on a simple errand to Mrs. Anderby?"
"That's right," Archibald nodded vigorously, "she wanted to change her funeral instructions, again"
"Regrettably, Mrs. Anderby does perceive her funeral as something of an ongoing hobby or pastime" Josiah sighed, "however; we are here to serve…"
"And shift stiffs!" Archibald added, enthusiastically.
"I thought we had drawn a veil over that particular phrase, Archibald?" Josiah said, tersely, "You may recall that we discussed how inappropriate such a phrase would be for use in a calling such as ours?"
"Yes, Mr. Oakshott. Sorry, Mr. Oakshott"
"Now, to Mrs. Anderby"
"Mrs. Anderby!" Archibald repeated solemnly, jumping up and raising his tea mug.
"I'm not proposing a toast, Archibald. I was asking you to recount your visit to Mrs. Anderby"
"Oh, right, sorry…again" Archibald muttered, bashfully, "well, it was like this. I went round Mrs. Anderby's place and there was no-one home, 'cept Mrs. Anderby, of course, 'cos she's bed-ridden these days you know?"
"I was aware of her incapacitation, Archibald, yes. So, there were no care workers or relatives present at that time?"
"No, Mr. Oakshott, just Mrs. Anderby. Any road, I called out and let myself in. I introduced myself, like you told me to, and we had a bit of chat about the weather and stuff. She's a nice old lady, I really took to her"
"Fine, fine, go on"
"Well, then we got on to what changes she wanted for her funeral"
"Oh, well, you know how she wanted 'Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye' played as her coffin went for burning?"
"Interment, is the preferred term in our profession, Archibald" Josiah remarked, "and, yes, I was aware of Mrs. Anderby's unfortunate musical selection, which I must say was made against my very strong and clearly stated advice"
"Well, she must have taken your advice on board" Archibald said enthusiastically "because she's changed it!"
"To what?" Josiah asked, suspiciously
"Hang on, I've got it here" Archibald rummaged inside his capacious jacket and finally produced a dog-eared scrap of paper "She now wants, 'Boom, Why Does My Heart Go Boom?'"
"A marginal improvement, I suppose" Josiah sniffed, "but a somewhat odd choice. Have you any idea why she might have chosen that song?"
"Oh yes, Mr. Oakshott. Apparently, she doesn't want the blokes at the Crem. to be told she's got a pacemaker fitted, so she thinks this would be appropriate"
Now try Last Rights - Part 2
You can find this story, and all of the others containing Josiah and Archibald, in the new e-book 'A Dubious Undertaking and other stories'