Murder/Suicide (my arse)
1) The Canal
A man walked down a path. Nothing out of the ordinary in that except the path was along side a deserted rubbish infested canal. What was really extraordinary was the fact that the man was pushing a supermarket trolley which contained bricks.
As with all such conveyances one wheel refused to follow the others and the man had trouble pushing it. This wheel colluded with the bricks to make the man’s task a hard one making him labour in his breathing, issuing clouds of steamy breathe to the cold late winter air. The bricks themselves were new, in mint condition and strapped to the trolley with an intricate web of string and plastic bags.
The man was clearly a creature of the road, his clothes dirty and torn, a large overcoat with a torn pocket on the left . His shoes were dirty and held testament to every mile travelled. Long greying locks covered his head while two day stubble festooned a worn angled face. Blue eyes surveyed the canal for any sign of life. Nothing moved. A fact that pleased the man. There was only the nearby sound of heavy diesel engines and working men’s voices issuing from a multi story car park which was suffering a slow agonising death by demolition.
At a certain point he stopped and looked hard at the dark, almost black water then appeared to make a decision. Here the water opened into a wide semi circle where once barges would turn or moor for the night. Long ago it had been a thriving commercial centre, barges alive with lights and people moored for the night. Perhaps many a merry night had been traversed by the barge people who made a living on these waters. Now all that remained of this was the semi circle in the water and a large red brick wall running along the canal path.
This wall was all that stood of a once mighty cotton mill. In fact it was not really a boundary wall but a lone surviving external wall of the said mill. Alcoves pock- marked its outline where windows and huge doors once gave it life but now were merely bricked up recesses, some covered in graffiti.
Satisfied with his chosen spot the man proceeded to push the shopping cart to the very edge of the water where he halted and patted the metal trolley gently as if it were his favourite pony. From somewhere he produced a long length of strong rope and after lashing it to his body he carefully attached it to the trolley. He look around him, noting the litany of plastic bottles, a rusting bicycle frame, abandoned toys and a small pile of worn out car tyres, all close by.
He was about to push the trolley into the water and himself along with it when a voice rang out.
“Shitty place to die don’t you think?”
It was a young voice with a strong northern accent, female obviously but he had no idea from whence it came. Frantically he looked around but the path was deserted. A bright low winter sun, half blinded him . It was staring at him over the remains of the mill wall, black shadows cast along its outline. He sense more than saw someone in one of the alcoves of the wall.
“Who are you. Where are you???” he shouted.
“Reet here, you fuckin moron.”
“I am not a moron and don’t swear .” he snapped back instantly.
His voice was cultured, refined to southern counties standard generating a strange dichotomy between his appearance and this civilised sound that was hard to reconcile as to both being in the same universe.
A naked light flashed into existence then died. The unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke drifted to his nostrils then the voice spoke more softly now,
“Well, get ya, a posh prick” she billowed a blast of smoke in his direction as if showing contempt.
He could see the outline of the girl now, for he was sure she was very young.”
“Come out where I can see you,” he more asked than commanded, adding, “And don’t swear I hate bad language.”
A neat small figure followed the red glow of the cigarette , emerging finally into his view.
“I am tempted to push you in that fuckin canal.” She said smiling as she approached. “in ya occupation ya must hear lots of fuckin swearing.”
“if you... insist on ..swearing ,”he said hesitating, “Then I will take my suicide somewhere else.”
“Nay “ she said drawing out the word as if in thought, “ I geet a ring side seat here , I wanna to see this show. Anyway what about em bricks?”
“What about the bricks?” he asked surprised at this line of questioning.
“Well, they look new . I bet ya didn’t pay for em.”
“I got them off a building site some way down the toll path.”
“And are ya going to tek em back when ya have finished wi em? “ she asked in a serious tone.
He stood there in silence looking at her before bursting into a deep throated laughter.
“No, I am not.” He barked.
“Well, that maks ya a thief then.” She said accusingly and still with a serious tone.
“Well, a posh prick who dies in a shit hole of a place having stolen from ard workin men. Is that how ya wanna be remembered?”
The words must have struck a cord for he untied the rope around his middle and approached the girl leaving the trolley with its bricks perched on the waters edge.
“I do not wish to be remembered and prey, what are you doing in this quote ‘shit hole’ unquote?
She shifted uneasy stepping back slightly as if the question was a threat. He could see now she was perhaps late teen in years at most, small of stature wearing a short dress covered by a cheap leather jacket. On her feet were thin slipper like shoes totally unsuitable for outside in winter.
‘She must be freezing in this weather.’ he thought.
She had clearly thought about the question and evaded it by attacking him verbally.
“’ Prey’, quote, unquote, who the fuck uses words like that.”
“Do not swear.” was his only but firm retort, staring down on her from his greater height.
“Sorry,” she said lamely then added in almost a whisper., “same as ya.”
“But you have no trolley” he protested as a joke.
Giving a short grunt of a laugh she jerked her head backwards,
“That’s me choice, the multi storey car park.”
“But it is being demolished.” he protested, pointing out the obvious.
“I ain’t F...” she checked herself, “I am not blind or deaf, I am waiting for em to leave.
They finish for day soon.”
“Then what?” he asked incredulously.
The girl retreated into her alcove of choice and he followed reluctantly.
“Mi’sell does climb to 3rd floor, I doubt the lifts are workin, throw mi’sell off. Simple”
“But your body will be all broken and smashed.” he protested.
“Yep, those bastards or men like em have been screwin me for years. Now they will find a horrible sight in the morning. I hope it puts them of their f….,” she paused then finished “ their bacon butties.”
“They are hard men, I doubt anything would put them off their breakfast.”
The girl shrugged, “Well it beats lying in a watery polluted grave for perhaps years clutchin a fucking trolley. ..er sorry.” She seemed annoyed as if he had no right to question her choice of venue.
“Why would a young girl such as you, with a whole life time ahead of her want such a grisly end?”
His voice contained both puzzlement and concern.
In response she pulled hard on her smoke and blew the resultant fumes in his direction. She guessed from his accent and the way he carried himself that he had once been a man of means.
“Why would thee, a well spoken gent, with I guess education, want to hug a supermarket trolley in a canal.?” then when he hesitated to answer she offered her own explanation,
“Tax man after you, wife ran off with ye accountant, the jag needs replacing, the nanny has gone off sick.” all these alternatives were coated in a thick cream of sarcasm.
His voice was almost lost in the winter air as he offered lamely, “I have no idea who I am.”
It was he expression on his face that told her this was probable true.