25 March 2017

9 - Cops Corner

Wednesday cont.

Joe had slept late, so he was in a rush when he did get up. He had an appointment at eleven to discuss editing the Police Gazette. The prospect was inviting. His concept was promising thanks to an almost sleepless night. He dashed round the block with Dog, who had been given a welcome by all, and told the animal that he would take him to the Common later that day.
The previous evening Grit had not reappeared after her outing with Roger. He heard her creeping in at about seven thirty, but drifted back to sleep. He wondered if Roger Stone would comment on his affair with his mother.
At about ten fifteen Joe called in at Cleo’s cottage and found that everyone had flown the nest, including his mother, who had taken the twins out for a bit of fresh air and to order groceries for both households from Verdi’s supermarket. Joe ate one of Cleo’s homemade bagels and drank cool coffee before dashing to Grit’s car and driving to Middlethumpton. As usual until Joe had a car of his own, his mother had thoughtfully left the car keys to her Mini alongside her note wishing him luck and sending her love to Roger, which Joe thought was slightly superfluous considering she had probably spent the night in his bed.
Joe was genuinely overcome by the affection he felt for all the Hurleys, but he had no time to dawdle over his feelings. He had to get that Gazette going immediately. He was mentally fit in a way he had never thought possible for journalism, which up to now he had avoided like the plague. To add to his joie de vivre, on Saturday his own family would be complete with the arrival of his daughter Charlotte.
 ***
Roger was as amicable as usual. Joe wondered how much that had to do with him dating Grit.
“I went to Oxford with your mother last night,” he started.
“Did you have a good time?”
“Excellent. I’m going to marry your mother, Joe, if she’ll have me.”
“She sends her love, by the way,” said Joe. “We suspected the romance, Roger,” said Joe.
“Should I ask her sons for her hand first?”
“You have our blessing, Roger,” said Joe. “Have you popped the question?”
“Not in so many words, but I think she’s waiting.”
“I’m quite surprised that she hasn’t asked you yet!” said Joe.
“Women are sometimes shy about taking the initiative.”
“Gary, Cleo and I think you and Grit are exactly right for one another.”
“In case you are wondering, my marriage to Grit won’t make problems, Joe. I plan to retire soon and I rather hope that Gary will take over my job. But if he doesn’t want it – I asked him once and he turned the offer down – I had a good colleague in Oxford in the old days. He actually likes being an administrator and I think he will step in unless the committee here has a better idea. Apart from that, you will be answerable to everyone and no one here. We’ll soon see if your concept works.”
“That sounds promising.”
“I’m glad you are going to take on the project, Joe.”
“I’ve brought a folder of ideas. I only compiled during the night so there is no real continuity, but you’ll get the idea.”
Roger studied the layout suggestions and laughed several times before he remarked that whoever had done the drawings would be a sensation among the colleagues.
“It was me, actually. I studied graphic design alongside sport. There’s plenty of material to work on and I’d like it to be a step up from Bertie Browne’s Gazette and make our rag readable. I want everyone queuing for it!”
“Well, go ahead. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone. I know you got your office set up yesterday so you are raring to go. Do you need a secretary?”
“No, but I will need to work with the printer so it would be a help if I knew who that will be.”
“A lot of book printing goes on in the Far East these days, but a local printer would be more convenient, I’m sure,” said Roger.
“Where do internal memos get printed?”
“In the cellar. Colin Peck – that’s the lawyer sorting out the archives – offered to take over that job. It saves money, too.”
“We could probably print our paper that way, Roger. It would definitely save money apart from us having to get a decent layout program and a heavy-duty A3 printer.”
“The original Gazette folded when the editor moved on, Joe. He had an arrangement with a printer and we charged for the Gazette so I’ve no idea what there is in the way of equipment.”
“Where did the guy move to? I could talk to him.”
“Past the pearly gates, Joe. Brain tumour. We were all very upset and no one felt able to take over what was really his baby. That’s why it’s really good that a newcomer will take it on.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Joe.
“Our Gazette will be a hit, especially if you can run to a word game or two. That would be a novelty appreciated by all. Your splendid cartoons will encourage everyone to read the content, as well. We might also find a new name to get further away from Bertie’s ad rag. ”
“I’ve been thinking about that.”
“Any ideas?”
“How about ‘Cops Corner’?”
“That sounds good.”
“We could also add ‘the new police gazette’ to the title, at least at the beginning.”
“I think you have a nose for this enterprise, Joe.”
“Thanks for inviting me to try, Roger. I can’t wait to see how people react to Gary and me both working here.”
“They will all have read your story by then, I’m sure. Bertie’s rag will be out again tomorrow, won’t it?”
“I hope so. I’m going there now to check that they have actually written what I mailed them last night.”
“That’s a good idea. Bertie’s a sly customer, Joe.”
“I’ll cartoon him shamelessly, but extol him to the skies in Cops Corner for bringing me and my brother together. That will keep him at bay for a while. “
“Did he do that?”
“No. The little creep recognized our likeness immediately, but ran the enquiry anyway since he needed padding for his adverts. He did not charge me because I had threatened him with the Chronicle.”
“But the publicity worked, didn’t it?”
“Fortunately! I had to get my photo published to get in touch with the unknown person who thought I was him thanks to Bertie Browne, who could have told me straight off if he hadn’t had an eye on the story for his ad-rag.”
“Too true,” said Roger.
***
Joe thought about calling on Gary, but thought better of it. He was on the way out of HQ after the interview with Roger when he was stopped on the steps of HQ by a middle-aged woman.
“Wait a moment, Mr Hurley, Don’t you remember me?” said the woman.
“Sorry, I don’t. I think you need to talk to my brother, Mrs…”
“Colby.”
“Mrs Colby. He and I get confused all the time.”
“Of course. Hence that appeal in the Gazette! I’m a registrar at the Town Hall down the road. I conducted the wedding ceremony between Mr Hurley and Miss Hartley just over four months ago. I didn’t see you there.”
“I was still in South Africa, Mrs Colby.”
“I thought it must be one of Bertie Browne’s pranks. He uses all sorts of fake news to get people to look at the adverts in his paper, Mr …”
“Butler. Joe Butler at your service.”
“I’m glad Mr Browne was being truthful for a change.”
“Truthful with an axe to grind, Mrs Colby. He hoped that my story would sell a few old cars. My brother is probably still in his office. Shall I phone through for you?”
“That’s a good idea, Mr Butler. Are you working here now?”
“I’m a journalist, Mrs Colby. I’m planning to re-introduce the Police Gazette, but under a new name.”
“I always used to read it. It kept me up to date with the criminal element round here.”
“We’ve decided to call it Cops Corner. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. It won’t be much like the old paper. I’m also a cartoonist, so I’ll decorate the paper with a few well-chosen faces.”
“That sounds fun. A little humour does a power of good,” said Mrs Colby.
***
In the meantime they were standing at the reception desk. Gary was in his office so Joe offered to take Mrs Colby there and say hello to his brother, whom he had not seen that day. When Fay Colby saw the twins together, she gasped with astonishment.
“You are full of surprises, Mr Hurley,” she said.
“We are, Mrs Colby. I’ve only known about my brother for two days. Nice to see you again.”
“Did your wife have a good delivery, Mr Hurley?”
“Post-haste. It only took about two hours from start to finish, Mrs Colby. I now have two sons and to my collection of kids.”
“Is Mrs Hurley back at work, Mr Hurley? I tried to phone her, but I could not reach her this morning.”
“We had a fire to deal with.”
“A fire?”
“At the local hairdressing salon, Mrs Colby. Then we went back home briefly and now I’m catching up on my morning. Would you like me to phone my wife for you to talk to her now?”
“That would be nice, thank you.”
“I’ll leave you to it,” said Joe. “I’m going to Romano’s for a bite of lunch. After that I’ll be in my office, Gary. I have the all-clear for my concept. Look out for Cops Corner very soon!”
“Cops Corner?”
“Our new Gazette, Gary. I don’t want it confused with Bertie’s rag.”
“Good idea! I don’t think I can spare the time to go to Romano’s now, but you’ll find Gloria there. She has taken up with Romano – that’s the guy who runs the place. Give her my love! She’s quite a mother-in-law.”
“Is that a warning?”
“I’ll leave you to decide.”
***
 “It’s a small world, Mr Hurley. You must be delighted to have a brother.”
“That’s an understatement, Mrs Colby, and our mother is over the moon.”
“You must tell me the whole story, Mr Hurley. I’m intrigued.”
Gary phoned Cleo, who was now at home, and passed the handset to Mrs Colby.
***
“Mrs Hurley, I’m sorry I haven’t called before now, but I did not want you bother you with my problem.”
“That’s very considerate of you, Mrs Colby. I’ll be happy to assist you. Could you come to my office tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, that will be fine. I expect your husband will tell me where it is.”
“Sure. Ten a.m. OK?”
“That’s fine. See you tomorrow then,” said Mrs Colby, handing the handset back.
“Thanks again, Mr Hurley. If you could just tell me how to get to Mrs Hurley’s office…”
***
When Mrs Colby had left, Gary called Cleo again.
“I’ll be home soon, my love,” he reported. “I’ll look in at the school. Maybe Charlie will consent to drive home with me.”
“It’s August, Gary. Charlie is at Helen’s. School vacation, remember?”
“So it is.”
“Anything on Kelly yet?”
“No, but Chris will not have had time.”
“Dorothy went to Lower Grumpsfield. I’m waiting for her phone-call.”
“That should be enlightening. I hope she didn’t shoot anyone.”
“You’d have heard about it by now. I’ll expect you for afternoon tea, shall I?”
***
To Gary’s intense annoyance, Mrs Colby had clearly not gone away.
“I know I should not eavesdrop, but your wife is not using guns at her agency, is she?”
“I thought you had left, Mrs Colby,” said Gary. “My wife has a colleague who always carries a gun for her own safety. She goes to shooting practice at the HQ shooting range, so she really does know how to aim and fire.”
“I didn’t know that UK police were armed.”
“For a start, the friend is not with the police.”
“Oh, but the gun…”
“We all learn how to use firearms in the police force and they are becoming increasingly necessary these days. We have to deal with nasty and often unpredictable characters, Mrs Colby. They have no respect for human life, often including their own as a form of perverse sacrifice to a cause that seems to revolve around the destruction of civilization and nothing else.”
“My problem is not quite that dramatic, Mr Hurley.”
“I hope my wife can help you, Mrs Colby.”
“So do I.”
This time Gary checked that no one was eavesdropping before closing his office door firmly.
***
Gary was too busy to take a midday break.
 Left to his own devices for lunch, Joe was given a hero’s welcome at Romano’s.
“Why, Gary, you don’t usually have time for lunch these days,” said Gloria.
“I’m not Gary,” said Joe, smiling at this repeat performance of getting mixed up with his twin.
“Are you Gloria?” said Joe.
“Stop fooling around, Gary.”
Romano came round the counter to give Joe a hug.
“Scusi,” said Romano. “I don’t think she read the Gazette on Monday.”
“I did too,” said Gloria. “I’m choosing a new car.”
“Mamma mia! Not out of the Gazette. We’ll go to a showroom, Gloria.”
“What’s going on here?” said Gloria. “What are you two guys on about?”
“I’m Joe Butler, Gloria. Gary’s long lost twin brother.”
“You could have fooled me,” sniffed Gloria, mainly because Romano seemed to know something she didn’t. “I didn’t know he had a brother.”
“Neither did Gary, Mrs Hartley.”
“You can call me Gloria since we seemed to be related.”
Gloria put her arms out to embrace this new family member with a warmth that almost knocked him over. The rest of the meeting went well. Joe was literally bowled over by this vivacious coloured woman and charmed by Romano, wondering how he coped with so much self-assertion and rather blatant sex-appeal. He was glad that Grit was less rapacious and certainly more ladylike.
Romano was his usual placid self. He and Joe understood one another without words. He quite obviously adored Gloria. Romano’s smitten looks at Gloria said it all. She had awakened him to a new life, thought Joe.
“Show Joe the menu, Gloria!” said Romano, stroking her behind in an extremely possessive way. Joe wondered what Cleo thought of her mother and suspected that Gloria was not quite as showy with her feminine charms as she was in the presence of Romano.
“Don’t bother, Gloria. I’ll eat whatever you surprise me with,” said Joe.

“I could get to like you, Joe,” said Gloria. “but maybe you should stop wearing that checked shirt.”