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Tuesday 4th November

I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept hearing the cardboard on the kitchen window slapping in the wind. The sound was horrible. It wasn’t loud, it was just annoying. Mei slept through it like she was hibernating for the coming winter. I don’t know how her mum slept. Badly I suspect, what with her bedroom being almost above the kitchen.

I also imagined someone coming into the house. It wouldn’t be difficult to put a hand through the hole and turn the key in the back door. That made me get out of bed and go down into the kitchen barefooted and take the key out of the back door. I have to give PC Smith credit here; any glass on the floor has been properly removed. Thankfully.

The Mrs Mellor thing had stayed on my mind and everything was circling like a whirlpool of bad thoughts. I think I saw every hour on the clock last night.

I took my morning shower and brushed my teeth under the hot stream of steaming water. I didn’t want to leave. When I finished I went downstairs and had some cereal, which I ate quickly. I just wanted to get out of that house. I wanted to get to work and speak to whoever it was the witch had put on the Leyland run. I had to see how Mrs Mellor was yesterday.

I’m now sitting in my car outside the depot waiting for the drivers to arrive. I have a feeling it was Naz who was put on it, so when he arrives I head over.

‘Naz,’ I say.

‘All right, Lee,’ he replies and we get into a conversation that has nothing to do with Mrs Mellor. I don’t even know what he’s talking about. I’m just waiting for a break in which to bring her up. Then it happens, at the end of a conversation when nobody quite knows how to finish and it gets a little awkward: ‘How was Mrs Mellor yesterday?’

He tells me she was quiet. She had a cut on her forehead, which I already know about, and the house smelled like cigarettes.

That’s odd. I’ve never known that before.

I leave him alone now and try to put it all together. The dishes in the sink and the tobacco smell. All I can think is that someone has been going to her house. I hope that whoever it is is helping her deal with those kids. Perhaps it was a carer? No. They won’t smoke on duty. Not in the house anyway. Could have been a friend? Whoever it was I hope they’re leading her in the right direction.

Agatha’s glare doesn’t leave me as I collect my box. I ignore her and head out on the Longton round.

The round was easy enough, though I can’t help playing detective and thinking of the link between Mrs Mellor and her smoking visitor. I know I should just leave it alone. It’s just hard. You’re probably fed up of me mentioning it. The smashed window is also running through my mind. I hope Mei has called the insurance company and sorted it out before I get home. Then I remember that she’s at work. I took her this morning. Idiot. I’ll have to do it myself. Like everything else.

I think I might invest in some CCTV for the house. I don’t think it costs much and is relatively easy to install, even for me.

When I get home her mother is upstairs in bed. The kitchen looks dark and cold. And it is. It doesn’t feel right.

I call the insurance company and explain everything to them. I tell them I took pictures and so did the police. They give me a case number and tell an agent will call me tomorrow to arrange a time to come visit. I’m not happy about it but what can I do?

I can’t stay here this afternoon. I’m not in the mood for games or TV. I picture myself going to Jason’s house and dragging him down his stairs and throwing him through his living room window. Or at his mum, like a bowling ball hitting a blimp.

I go and see Harold.

When I enter his house the silence is still deafening. It’s sad.

He’s already in his kitchen brewing up. ‘Hi Lee. How is ya?’

‘I’m all right, thanks. Just pissed off about the window.’

We take the drinks into the living room.

I tell him about Mrs Mellor requesting a different driver. He tells me that maybe I should drop it then. If she’s unhappy, I can make things a lot worse.

I agree with him, of course.

On his coffee table is a plastic bottle. It’s a strange shape, black, and has the image of a dog on it.

Harold sees me looking. ‘It’s Poppy,’ he says.

‘Oh right.’ I take a sip of tea. ‘What are you going to do with her?’

‘I don’t know. I might put her beside Irene.’

Irene was his wife. He keeps her ashes locked up safely in his cabinet. It might sound odd but I think I’d do the same thing. Ashes to ashes but never lost or forgotten.

‘Makes sense,’ I say.

His TV is on the BBC news channel. I know he’ll start in a minute when I see what news is coming up. It’s about feminism, or feminazis as he refers to them.

Then it comes on and I sit back to let him vent.

‘Bloody feminazis again. I’m all for feminism, I think everyone should be equal no matter their sex or race, but these women? They just use feminism as an excuse to complain about men. Like that Loose Women crap.’

‘Can’t say I disagree with you,’ I say.

The news moves on to some floods in China.

‘That anywhere near where Mei’s from?’ he asks me.

I shake my head. ‘No. She’s from south China. The floods are in the north.’

He nods and we continue watching until our cups of teas are empty. He tells me he’s been to the RSPCA looking at cats and thinks he will definitely get one. I think that’s a great idea.

He changes the subject. ‘Think I’ll put my Christmas lights out earlier this year. I’m always too late with them. Need to test the ones on the house too.’

I offer my help, as I always do, and he accepts. He tells me he will let me know when he needs me. I enjoy doing that with him. It’s a living piece of art when they’re on.

I feel better when I leave his house and go home where I play some games out of sheer boredom.

After I’ve picked Mei up we get a takeaway from the same Chinese we went to the other day. Nobody is in the mood to cook. Mei ordered some food that’s not on the menu. Some garlic fried vegetables that are delicious along with some beef cooked with cabbage in some sort of sauce and, of course, a chicken curry. No guessing who that’s for.

It’s for me by the way.

As I reverse into the space between Harold’s car and the Starkies’, Jason’s mum comes marching towards us. If I didn’t see her I’d probably feel the vibrations. It reminds me of Jurassic Park, the scene with the water and the t-rex.

The sky is dark and she stands beneath the street light like a goblin under a bridge.

She speaks first, almost spitting: ‘What are you doing grassing to the police about my Jason again?’

I look at her with a stern face. ‘They’re just eliminating any suspects I guess.’

‘You’ve had it in for my son from the beginning.’

I’m starting to lose my patience. ‘If you son wasn’t such a little shit there would be no reason to suspect him.’

As if on cue, the devil appears from the hell of number one twenty.

He joins his mother under the light.

The Starkies are watching us from their front door.

‘Can you just leave me alone now please?’ I say.

Mei’s mother comes out and walks to the gate with her arms folded in the chill of the evening.

Jason laughs at her. I want to smack the bastard.

I say to his mum, ‘You’re defending that behaviour? Look at him. He belongs in a pound.’

She frowns like she’s ready to explode.

I lock the car door and Mei walks around the front to join her mother at the gate. Jason sticks out a foot and she stumbles but remains on her feet. It’s times like this I wish I never stopped with the freestyle kickboxing.

Her mother shouts something in Chinese.

I lose my temper but somehow keep it from completely exploding. I want to grab his head and pound it into the pavement. Instead, I push him back, hard, and he falls onto the floor like a pillow. The kid weighs nothing.

His mum screams and lifts him up. He’s crying.

‘He’s a little boy,’ she yells as she leads him back to their house.

‘He’ll be dead soon if he carries on like that!’ I yell. For once I don’t care who’s watching or listening. I’m angry. I feel enlightened, like I can take on the world.

The whale stops and turns to me. Jason’s still crying while holding her hand. ‘Is that a threat?’ she yells.

‘It is what it is.’

Not another word was spoken from either of us.

I head inside with Mei and her mum.

There’s an odd atmosphere inside the house while we tuck into the takeaway. It’s a nice kind of atmosphere, like we’ve just experienced a win. We’ve succeeded somehow. I know making a little boy cry isn’t something to be proud of, but it’s Jason from one twenty. In the morning I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a fanfare and Preston’s mayor is ready to shake my hand and give me a medal with the Lancashire Evening Post ready to take my photograph. I should be remembered as a hero.

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