Chapter Forty-One

A Walk on the Wild Side

Liverpool

February 9

Alice Hardman has worked for Meccano for three years in the sales department. She joined not long after the company was taken over by Lines Brothers who were serious competitor to Hornby Dublo with their Tri-ang Trains. Her friend, June Kirby, has worked there much longer and often recalls that it used to be such a friendly company. She is fond of saying that people would visit Binns Road from all over the world to see where their favourite products were made. It was almost a pilgrimage; such is the fame of Meccano and Hornby.

   Alice is 26 and is an assistant to the sales manager who was parachuted in when Lines Brothers took over, He is aggressive and bucolic and inclined to have wandering hands so female staff have worked out a strategy never to be alone with him. She has a regular boyfriend who is a copper with the police in the city centre.

   Her friend June is 34 and works in accounts which she says is boring, but it pays well. She compensates by leading an alcoholic and rather frivolous private life with a variety of boyfriends.

   They have just left the offices and are about to stroll up Binns Road to Rathbone Road in the opposite direction to Edge Lane. As usual they will catch a bus to Mossley Hill where they both live.

   Almost opposite the offices are a row of terrace houses which were, originally, probably railway cottages. Most days one invariably has a parrot in a large cage outside and many people stop to talk to it. Over the years the parrot, whose name is Jimmy, has learned a number of words but his favourite appears to be ‘Hello Scousers’ whichhe is prone to screech out to any passing strangers.

   The two girls quite often stop at his cage and stroke his head on their way up the road. ‘Parrots are very intelligent you know,’ says June, stroking Jimmy who gives out a raucous ‘hah, hah, hah my beauty’.

   ‘At least somebody appreciates you,’ murmurs Alice, grinning. ‘Who’s your favourite at the moment and don’t say a salesman. I would have thought you would have had enough of them.’

   ‘Well as a matter of fact he is, but he says he will soon be sales manager.’

   Alice looks sceptical. ‘I suppose he’s married too.’

   June just shrugs nonchalantly.

   ‘They never leave their wives, you know. You of all people should know that,’ says Alice remembering the time, not that long ago, when June was head over heels with a man who swore blind he was leaving his wife but never did. In the end it was her who dumped him.

   ‘I’ve given up caring,’ mutters June looking up the road a few doors away to where a blue Ford Cortina is parked. She points to it. ‘Look at that,’ she says.

   Alice turns away from Jimmy and looks to where she is pointing. ‘The Cortina. Look at the boot,’ she says.

   They both stare at the large red tick on the boot lid. ‘The bloke who owns that is going to be well pissed off, especially if it’s paint,’ says June.

   They both walk up to get closer and June touches is and in so doing, slightly smudges it. She smells the tip of her finger and looks at Alice smirking, ‘It’s lipstick,’ she announces. ‘He must have totally pissed some girl off for her to do that.’

   Then Alice points to the house door where there is another large tick. ‘Perhaps it means something else,’ she says, like signs the gypsies put out to tell other travellers things. What do you think?’

   ‘Why hasn’t he removed it?’ says June. Alice shrugs. ‘God knows, although lipstick isn’t that easy to remove. You should know. You have left it on enough collars in your time.’

   They both giggle and walk up the road.

*

   Later that day Alice and her husband Jeff are about to settle down for the night after their evening meal. Jeff has been on an early shift at the station and has changed from his uniform to a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. They have lit the fire and Alice is looking at the today’s TV programmes.

   ‘Benny Hill is on tonight,’ she says. ‘Do you want to see that?’

   ‘I’m not that bothered,’ says Jeff. ‘It’s all girls with big boobs. It’s crap really.’

   ‘Since when have you gone off girls with big boobs,’ grins Alice.

   ‘It’s dirty old man stuff,’ says Jeff. ‘I can image creepy old fellers in long macs watching it.’

   ‘The Americans love him apparently,’

   ‘They would,’ sneers Jeff

   ‘So, what do you want to watch?’ says Alice studying the programme list

   ‘Callan is on,’ he says. ‘That will do me. You watch whatever else you like.’ In fact, Jeff had fancied going to the pub with some of the lads from the station, but he had hardly been home of an evening of late due to a succession of late shifts and had decided that a night in with Alice would be diplomatic.

   It is then that she remembers the ticks she and June had seen on the way home. Perhaps it was the mention of dirty old men that triggered it but was odd, so she tells Jeff that she and June saw something really strange. She tells him about the ticks on the car and door.

   Jeff sniggers. ‘Sounds like somebody has seriously pissed a girlfriend off. He’s lucky she didn’t use a screwdriver on the paintwork. He shrugs. ‘Just sounds like a domestic,’ he says dismissively.

   And then he forgot all about it until he was in the pub a few nights later with some colleagues from CID. Policemen are like journalists. They are notorious gossips and the chatter is either about their colleagues, office politics or work.

   It was when one of his colleagues was talking about a particularly nasty domestic when a wife had wreaked her revenge on a cheating husband by taking a razor to his shirts when she had found lipstick on one of them, that Alice’s story came to mind.

  He repeats it with a few embellishments to make it even more outrageous than it really is and everybody has a good snigger about it, all apart from one colleague who looks at Jeff thoughtfully.

   ‘Did Alice say where this was?’ he says.

   Jeff asks why he wants to know. ‘It just rings bells with an ongoing enquiry we have over a missing girl,’ he says. ‘I seem to recall the gaffer saying something about a lipstick.’

   ‘Well Alice works at Meccano on Binns Road so it will be somewhere around there I would have thought,’ he says.

  And then the chatter moved on to female colleagues and their charms or otherwise and errant lipstick ticks were forgotten as the chatter and laughter became louder and more raucous.

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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