We spent the day at Belle’s London office counselling a friend desperate to escape a loveless marriage. When X refused to reveal to me the identity of his mistress, yet hinted that Belle was in the know, I feared the worst: was Belle herself the mystery woman?
To my relief, Belle had no part to play a part in this wicked plot. The clues to the identity of X’s secret love leaked out as he openly expressed his willingness to give up a huge chunk of his pension and risk losing access to his children, all within earshot of the office junior. I slowly realised with some horror that the object of his affection was this plump peroxide blonde girl barely out of her teens. I argued that it wouldn’t work, but X’s mind was made up and the pair of them would be eloping to Liverpool, just as soon as their bags were packed.
Later, when Belle and I stepped out into the street at the end of the working day, we bumped into another mutual acquaintance who worked nearby. This was an encounter that Belle had feared ever since she’d taken on her lease. She scarpered back to her own building and hid in the doorway while I made small talk with Y about a recent conference that he had organised. Reunited once more, Belle contradicted everything Y had related about the fabulous success of his event. Apparently the truth was that it had been a complete and utter disaster.
Walking along the Thames on the way back to Belle’s house, she suggested that we call in at the Choppy Chop hairdresser on the South Bank. To reach the salon we had to navigate our way through a crowded fun fair and numerous street performers, including an orangutan tourist guide who told tales of old London from his makeshift podium on the river wall.
As I was trying to make sense of how an ape had managed to memorise the entire history of the city of London I felt a blaze of heat against my back. My jacket was on fire! Behind me men were laughing loudly. I turned round to find two swarthy brothers who happily admitted that it was they who had set light to my clothing “for a laugh”. I launched an attack and pinned the pair of them to the ground. In compensation for my injuries, and before I set them free, I forced each man to hand over his Russian watch face.
When Belle learnt the details of the fight she declared that she was duty-bound to hunt down the foreign arsonists with my camera. She suspected that these men were illegal immigrants, and the pictures that she would hand over to the police would prove this.
While Belle was away on her mission, I continued to wander through the fairground. It was not long before I spotted a body underneath one of the stalls. When I looked more closely I discovered that it was a corpse punctured with stab wounds. Then I recognised it as one of the supposed illegal immigrants. I asked the stall owner for a cloth to cover the corpse’s face, but he showed no interest. Then I tugged on a young man’s white turban, but he refused to give it up for the deceased. Nobody seemed to care that there was a fresh murder victim at their feet. Even though he had harmed me, I still felt that this poor man deserved some respect in death.
When Belle caught up with me again she was just as dismissive. Then she panicked. Of everyone at the fair there was just one person who had a strong motive to attack the deceased: me as revenge for the earlier incident. She fired question after question at me. What had I done with watch faces? Was it good that I had thrown them away, or was it a complete disaster that vital clues covered with my fingerprints could be found by the police? What would the CCTV show of my wrangling the two brothers to the ground half an hour earlier? We decided to go into hiding immediately.
As we ran away we considered if there might be any advantages of being found jointly guilty of murder. We came up with three: (1) we could write letters to one another from our respective prison cells; (2) we would boost the prison library book issue figures to a new record high; and (3) without the time pressures of the ordinary working day, we would no longer need to rush our morning Dreamaticus entries.