Nobody looked twice at him. Everybody seemed locked inside their own little world, focused as they were on nothing else but their own agendas. Malcolm was stood inside a large department store. ‘Benna’s’ was situated near Widnes eastern bypass. They sold 75% clothes, but had recently begun to include items which it seemed were sold nowhere else. Discounted cookery and wine books, low-budget, made for TV films, and paraphernalia that was obviously cheaply made and cheaply sold. It reminded Malcolm of a supermarket. Not content with providing food, as they were originally built for, they began to sell other items, which eventually came so prominent that they were no longer places to go simply for food. They sold most of what the average person needed and wanted. However, they were not the first places to think of for certain items. Baked beans, check. Bread rolls, check. Semi-skimmed milk, check. 24inch widescreen television, check. Low-fat yoghurt, check. He wondered if they would start selling their own brand vehicles. It wouldn’t have surprised him at all, and it didn’t matter to Malcolm, he didn’t care. All that mattered to him was finding out why his mother was murdered, and to do that, he had to get inside the mind of his father, but as he had joined her, his motives had gone with him. He was here to see Andy Forbes, his best friend. Malcolm had never known where he lived, but knew he worked with his father who used to be a warehouse supervisor in this store. Andy was the customer services manager, and he hoped it wasn’t his day off, or he had left. He also hoped he would take time to talk to him. If not, then as soon as he was available. Malcolm wanted his answers as fast as possible, to alleviate the weight on his mind that was becoming heavier, because he was sure that the motives were available. His father must have left something behind to point the way. If he knew that there was absolutely no way of getting an answer, then he knew he would easily have accepted it. There was no point in trying to run a marathon in five minutes. It wasn’t going to happen, and that is accepted. Yet Malcolm was convinced there was something which would ease the weight from his mind. He wondered if Andy could help him.
At the ‘please pay here’ counter near the entrance, there was only one till occupied of three available. A queue had formed, and a red faced young girl serving did not look happy, even behind her customary smile at the customers. Her professional façade failed to mask the fact that she obviously hated every second of being there, and that there was absolutely no other motivation whatsoever than that she was being paid. Probably a pittance. Probably minimum wage, but it seemed obvious that should she receive a better offer, she would be out of the door like a bullet. Malcolm thought it best not to queue up simply to ask for Andy’s whereabouts, and instead decided to ask one of the general assistants. It didn’t take long to find one, an acne faced teenager sorting through a rack of men’s fleece tops who watched Malcolm’s approach with trepidation. He was probably here on a government backed work experience project, or scheme, and could only perform the barest minimum of basic skills required for the job.
“Hi, I wonder if you could tell me if Andy Forbes is in? the customer services manager” Malcolm asked. The boy thought for a few seconds, then pointed upwards.
“Customer service desk, upstairs, he should be there”.
“Thanks,” said Malcolm, and walked to an elevator. He was walking past ladies lingerie when he saw at the back, the customer service counter. In front of it, another young female assistant was being spoken to by a man who Malcolm assumed was her superior. She also had a red face, but this looked to be because of embarrassment. She was looking at the man with wide, concerned eyes, and nodding appropriately. Malcolm stopped and looked with feigned interest at cushions and bedsheets.
“….and I hope you’ll remember that next time,” the man said.
“K” said the girl, turning and walking away. Malcolm approached the man.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I wonder if you could tell me where I could find Andy Forbes?”
“Yes, I do” he said. Malcolm then noticed his name badge.
“How can I help?”.
“I’ve come to ask you about my father”. Andy looked curious for a moment.
“Yes, I recognise you, you’re his son”, he said as a statement. A melancholy expression dawned on his face as he remembered his friend.
“Sad business that. He was a good mate”.
“I hoped you might be able to tell me why he might have killed my mother, or offer me some explanation that might help me understand more”. Andy looked around the store, then at the customer service counter. It was not occupied.
“Come through,” he said, and Malcolm was taken behind the counter into an office where a woman was hunched over a computer, her face inches from the screen. There was another office at the back, the window in the door bearing his name. They both entered, Andy closing the door behind him. The office was small and cramped, with far too many items in it, most of which Malcolm guessed was useless, hardly ever used, or read. Papers, folders, files, all strewn around haphazardly, but Andy knew where everything was. He gestured for him to sit down. Before he did, Malcolm he had to remove a cardboard box, but they were soon sat opposite each other, Andy reclining in his creaking swivel chair.
“I don’t know why Peter did what he did. I don’t suppose I ever will know, unless you find out and let me know. However, there is one reason which may point towards his actions. Whether it’s the reason or not, I do not know,” said Andy.
“I’m open to all suggestions. Anything that will make me even the slightest bit more satisfied will be a great help”. Andy was silent for a few moments, looking as though he was contemplating whether or not to carry on talking.
“Earlier this year, I had gone away for a few days in Austria, taking the wife and kids. Whilst there, I came upon an antiques shop. It sold all sorts, and one thing I couldn’t leave there without, was an old flint lock pistol. You’re probably aware that customs in this country is probably amongst the tightest in the world. So I rang and asked your father for his advice. Should I basically try and bring it into this country? I suppose I could use the word ‘smuggle’. Your father didn’t advise me not to. He never said to not take the risk. He left it up to me. Not that the choice was his anyway. All I wanted was his advice, and he kind of told me to give it a try. Well, I bought the gun, and decided not to declare it at customs. I got through, nobody stopped me, and I still have it at home. The thing is, Peter was concerned enough to tell your mother, who, I believe tried to get him to ring me back to tell me not to do it. They argued about it, but in the end, he obviously won. I believe he declined to give her the number, so she could try and persuade me not to do it. Maybe she did find the number, but never got the chance to ring”. Malcolm waited for him to continue, but he didn’t.
“So…you mean, that my mother was going to ring you? and Dad stopped her by strangling her, taking her out into a field and burying her. All because you wanted to smuggle a gun through customs?”.
“It could be a possibility”. Malcolm shook his head.
“No, sorry, I’m not satisfied. That’s very unlikely”. With both palms upwards, Andy shrugged.
“You never know”. He then stood up, and it was obvious to Malcolm that he wished for him to leave. They both walked out to where they had met, and shook hands.
“It’s been good to see you,” said Andy, “Come and see me again sometime”. Malcolm guessed that that was not meant. It was simply a formality, something polite to say upon departure.
“Right, OK, bye,” said Malcolm, then turned and headed for the elevator.