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The story so far: Fetlock Graves, gentleman detective from a bygone era, is hearing how a young lady in distress came to be embroiled in a murder hunt.

 

‘Pray continue,’ Fetlock Graves invited his unexpected guest.

‘Well, this Jamie’s been coming a few weeks, sometimes twice a day, and I’ve been doing the flirty thing – like you’re allowed, to encourage punters to come back. But not so’s they get their hands on you. So anyway he hangs round for me one night and asks me out, and I say no, cos I don’t want no nutters stalking me nor nothing like that. And so he writes his number on a twenty note and gives it me. And I flounce off cos that’s a little bit insulting, don’t you think, Mr Graves?’

Fetlock Graves surveyed his guest wryly through the blue fug of tobacco smoke.

‘I feel ill equipped to comment,’ he admitted, eventually. ‘The important point is that you took it as an insult.’

‘You bet I did. But then after a couple of days of me being at work, and strutting myself at all these punters – old they are, most of them, no offence like –’ Graves bowed his head as if to indicate that none was taken – ‘and like I say after a couple of days of him not showing I s’pose I get to missing him and wondering where he is, so I phoned his number after all.’

‘Ah.’

‘Ah, yes, Mr Graves. Ah indeed. Treat em mean and keep em keen, eh? Thought it was s’posed to be us girls who did that, but never mind.’

‘And did you speak to your, um, client?’

‘Don’t make him sound so sleazy! Yeah I spoke to him, and he asks me out, mentions a posh place in Mayfair he wants to take me. So I says all right I’ll go.’ She paused to inhale more nicotine.

‘And was that evening a success?’ Graves prompted, when the young woman seemed to become wrapt in contemplation of her Moldovan Dark.

‘Nah, it was a mess. I got pissed on Champagne, and he was embarrassed cos there was all these posh birds in posh frocks and I’m there in me leather mini…’

‘One moment!’ Graves interrupted imperiously, his hand held aloft. ‘Please elucidate “pissed” and “mini” for me.’

‘Pissed is drunk and mini is mini skirt.’ Catching her host’s non-plussed look she added, indicating the upper portion of her thigh, ‘A skirt that comes to here.’ Her smile broadened as Graves’ jaw dropped. ‘That’s a bit like what Jamie looked like when I turned up. ‘Jesus, Flossie,’ he says – Flossie’s my name, in case you’re wondering, though I don’t think you are cos you never asked me yet what my name is––’

‘My silence on the matter was in no way a judgment,’ Graves submitted quickly.

‘Yeah, whatever. Anyway, Jamie goes, ‘Jesus what are you wearing?’ ‘Clothes,’ I says. ‘Hardly,’ he says. I says if it’s good enough for Posh Spice it’s good enough for me. He says I look like some slapper in a porn film, so I chuck my drink in his face. ‘Actually,’ I says before leaving, ‘I think I look quite nice.’ Then I walk out, past all those posh birds looking like they want to stick pins in me.’

The story so far: Awake from his hundred year sleep, Fetlock Graves is attempting to come to the assistance of a young lady in distress.

Fetlock Graves knocked his pipe out in the coal scuttle before filling it once more with his once favourite tobacco which for over a hundred years had hung in a silk sock at the fireside.

‘Would you care to join me in some ancient shag?’ enquired Graves at length. To his great surprise the young woman doubled up in hysterical laughter.

‘I don’t think anyone’s asked me like that before!’ she eventually mustered, wiping her eyes.

‘Most singular,’ murmured Graves, sucking bitter fumes into his lungs. ‘Your hilarity suggests I have committed a faux pas, as the French might say. A double entendre? I submit that it is the phrase ‘ancient shag’ which forms the bedrock of your amusement?’

The young woman exploded with giggles again. Graves sucked his pipe ruminatively.

‘Quite so,’ he said, almost to himself. ‘How the language changes when one sleeps.’ For several minutes neither spoke. Then Graves suddenly leapt from his seat and started pacing once more on the hearthrug.

‘Enough of this quiet contemplation!’ he exclaimed. ‘To business! Madam, tell me all you know about the demise of your acquaintance.’

‘The what?’

‘The demise, the expiration, the fall – do I have to work my way through the whole alphabet?’

‘Nah – “death” would do it.’

Graves smiled. ‘Touché,’ he acknowledged. ‘His death, then, if you please.’

‘I dunno much, do I?’

‘That is what I need to establish,’ Graves responded keenly. ‘Tell me all you do know, and I shall tell you how much you know.’ His guest gave him an odd look, then helped herself to another of his Moldovan darks, as if intimating that no story would be forthcoming without further ingestions of nicotine. Graves bent down and lit her cigarette without question.

‘Well, I been dancing at this joint in Shoreditch for a few months now. Up beyond the Broadgate, near the new station. It’s a bit of a sleazy dive, innit, – calls itself a ‘gentleman’s venue’, but it’s not much more than a strip joint. Not that I do stripping!’ she added quickly, to Graves’ raised eyebrow. ‘I just dance around the pole, and sometimes at the tables. A bit scanty in me panties, but nothing more than that. Anyhow, that’s where I met him, this city geezer. James he was called. I didn’t know nothing about him when I first started dancing for him – but you get to know regulars, ’specially good tippers. And he was good. Always giving it large with his mates, and sticking fifties in me knickers. This was a few months ago mind you, before all this credit crunch stuff, innit?’ She paused for a long drag of her cigarette.

‘I shall take your word for it,’ Graves demurred. ‘Though I fear I shall need to consult my Index to establish precisely what a credit crunch is.’

‘There you go again, not knowing stuff. Like you been hibernating or something.’

‘Hibernating. Yes indeed,’ assented Graves, smiling.

fet3web2

‘Pole dancing?’ Graves spluttered, eyes agog.

The story so far: Fetlock Graves, gentleman detective, has awoken after a hundred years, and having rescued a young woman from pursuit, he is attempting to assist in resolving her quandary.

Exasperated, Fetlock Graves began to pace the threadbare Persian hearth rug, whilst his hands occupied themselves in filling his favourite pipe with shag tobacco.

‘I note from your bitten finger-ends’, he announced, finally, ‘that you have a pressing problem; from your scuffed, strange foot­wear’ – here he indicated her tatty trainers – ‘that you have run some distance to escape it; from the graze below your left knee, that you fell in the churchyard behind St Pancras; from the marks upon your right sleeve, that you crossed the river by boat recently; from the lines under your eyes that you have suffered insomnia for three days; and from the dilation of your pupils at the inhalation of my shag that you are in dire need of a cigarette. May I offer you one?’ And Graves held out his box of best Moldovan Darks, upon which his un­invited guest fell greedily.

‘All right, smart arse’, the young lady offered moments later, her eyes watering from the strong Moldovan tobacco, ‘if you know so much, tell me what I was doing running from the pigs’.

‘Pigs?’ asked Graves, curiously.

‘Yeah, pigs, thassright’. Then noting Graves’ blank look, she added: ‘Rozzers, po­lice, cops innit?’

‘The police?’ Graves stopped in his tracks. ‘Those ruffians chasing you were police?’

His guest smiled, enjoying her own moment of superiority. Fetlock Graves settled into the fireside chair in which he heard his clients’ tales, and as his face became wreathed in blue smoke begged his guest to continue.

‘Gotcha, haven’t I? All right, I’ll tell you. Dunno what good it’ll do me, but I can’t be no worse off I reckon. Them pigs – police – was chasing me cos they think I had something to do with this city boy who got stabbed last week.’

‘City boy? Do you mean errand boy?’

‘No – city boy, high flyer, big shot. Jeez, where are you from?’

Graves smiled. ‘First you tell me your tale, then I may di­vulge something of my own’.

‘Whatever. So they thinks I done in this city boy – sorry, this “young businessman”, so they come call­ing at my flat – sheesh, he don’t know what flat is: my “apartment”, my abode, my home – yeah well, they come to surprise me this morning, but I’m just getting back from work – no, don’t look at me like that, it’s not what you think it is – not quite, anyway. And I been dodging them all day’.

‘Quite so. And you maintain your inno­cence of this young man’s murder?’ She nodded vehemently whilst inhaling. ‘Yet there is some, how shall I put it, some at­tachment that links you?’

‘I danced for him, di’n’t I? Pole dancing’.

Pole dancing?’ Graves spluttered, eyes agog.

‘Pole dancing, lap dancing, you know the score’. Graves shook his head, wearily.

‘I am afraid, madam, that as you may have realised by now, I know little of “the score” these days. But I am happy to be enlightened’. So saying, Graves sucked on his pipe with relish, his eyes twinkling, and his guest’s eyes twinkled in return.

The story so far: After a century’s sleep, Fetlock Graves has been acquainted with his centenarian housekeeper, Spittle, and taken his first glimpse of the modern world.

Singular! Most singular!’ Graves muttered to himself. Then a sudden disturbance in the street below caught his attention: a young man running pell-mell between buses, taxis and vans.

‘Aha – a chase afoot!’ Graves chuckled. ‘There’ll be Peelers soon, I’ll be bound’.  At that moment two burly men hurtled into view, desperately pursuing their young prey.

    With surprising agility, Graves leapt from his position at the bedroom window onto the landing, and leant over the balustrade.

‘Spittle!’ he called into stairwell. ‘Spittle, open the tradesman’s entrance and admit the young man cowering outside. Pray guide him urgently to the drawing room, but beware the two hoodlums in pursuit!’

‘Yes sir!’ came Spittle’s faint reply from the bowels of the house. Min­utes later Graves had discarded his Chinese silk dressing gown in favour of Norfolk tweeds and Eton collar and was standing by the drawing room mantelpiece observing Spittle direct the young pursuant into his presence.

‘He was, like you says he would be, Mr Graves, sir, down by the steps.’

‘Thank you, Spittle. Perhaps some tea for us both.’ As soon as Spittle had closed the door, Graves elon­gated an accusatory finger at his interviewee.

‘First, you may discard that ridiculous personation’.

‘What you on about?’

‘Why should a pretty thing like you traverse the streets of London disguised as a young ruffian?’ The detective’s keen eye perceived a fine Edwardian lady beneath her disguise of close-cropped dark hair, denim jeans and jacket, and eye liner.

‘I dunno what you mean, Mister, this is how I am. Look, I appreciate being helped out and everything, but I think I’d better be off now’. The young woman made to move.

‘Remain seated, if you please!’ Graves com­manded, imperiously. ‘Young lady, you were in need of rescue from those ruffians, and I provided said rescue. Now I am offering further assistance with your travails’.

Assistance with my travails?’ she derided. ‘What, with a fancy dress tea party?’ She indicated Graves’ attire and laughed.

‘Do you not know who I am?’ Fetlock Graves demanded impatiently.

‘I’m guessing you’re one of them Soho loonies with more money than sense’.

‘I am none other than Fetlock Graves, gentleman detective!’ The young wom­an gasped.

‘What, not the Fetlock Graves?’

The detective smiled in superiority. ‘Quite so’.

To Graves’ dismay, however, his young guest then burst out laughing.

‘No, I was having you on! I’ve never heard of you!’

 

fet2web1The detective’s keen eye perceived a fine
Edwardian lady beneath her disguise

When Fetlock Graves, gentleman detective, awoke that morning, nothing seemed amiss. Bright sunlight streamed through the gap in his bedroom’s heavy, velvet curtains, and from the street outside came the usual din.

    Graves’ head felt thick, as if he had over-indulged on opiates the night before, but he could recollect nothing of such excesses. As he racked his brains the bedroom door swung open to admit an ancient man staggering beneath an enormous trayload of kedgeree, kippers, omelette, oysters, Gentleman’s Relish and three poached eggs.

‘Ah, Mr Graves!’ wheezed the ancient, ‘you’re awake!’

‘Of course I’m awake!’ Graves snapped. ‘Who the…?’

‘George Spittle, sir – Mrs Spittle’s youngest.’

‘Mrs Spittle, my housekeeper?’ Spittle rested his load on Graves’ quilt and smiled sadly.

‘That’s right, sir. Don’t you remember me?’

‘I’ve never met you before in my life!’ snorted Graves.

‘Not strictly true, sir, though I was only two years old at the time.’ Graves looked intently at the man, unable – or unwilling – to untangle his riddle. ‘And now I’m 102.’

‘Are you saying I’ve been asleep for 100 years?’ Graves asked, incredulous.

The old man smiled and nodded. ‘You looked so peaceful, like, we didn’t want to disturb you.’

‘Didn’t want to disturb me! What, so you let me sleep for a hundred years? You mad old fool! And your mother before you!’

Old Spittle looked hurt by the lash of his master’s tongue. ‘Well, Ma did try to wake you with a cup o’ tea in ’14, and again in ’39, as she thought you’d like to know about the wars and such, but both times you let the tea get cold. Never mind, sir, I’ve brought a simple breakfast to get you going again! Now, if you’ll excuse me there’s a deal o’ chores to do, not least a mountain o’ post to sort, as you might expect!’ And with that he was gone.

‘A hundred years…’ Graves muttered. And then, noting the vigorous growling of his stomach, he proceeded to devour all items on his breakfast tray bar a single oyster, which he deemed ‘too creamy’. Thus fortified, he donned his em­broidered silk dressing gown (a gift from the Chinese ambassador after the Case of the Venomous Carpet), filled a pipe with coarse shag tobacco, and moved to the window.

    Drawing his heavy curtains, Graves started almost out of his skin at the maelstrom of modern life below. The neon signs of Piccadilly Circus, the grid-locked traffic, and the whole mass of gau­dy and sleazy imagery combined with an intensity akin to a particularly fine hallu­cinatory experience such as he was wont to experience at Seaman Jack’s opium den on the Isle of Dogs. Then the bitter, century-old tobacco hit Graves’ throat, and he hoped fer­vently that this brave new world would still afford him some decent shag.

Fetlock Graves started almost out of his skin

at the maelstrom of modern life below

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