As ever, to read all previous chapters please go to my St Marmaduke’s page.
Monday 4th November 1985: 18.29 – 18.30
As Amita Chowdhary entered the hallway of Number 12, she couldn’t help being transported four years back in time to an evening at the Curry Favour restaurant in Paxworth.
Her parents had taken her there to celebrate her graduation. Money was no object, her father had told her – and then proceeded to book the darkest, dankest, dismalest dining-place in England. According to local lore, even cockroaches avoided it; they didn’t want to pick up any bugs that were going around, including each other.
The lighting had been very much like that inside this hallway. You’d needed a torch to see where your plate was, and then you wished you hadn’t switched it on when you saw the food.
In the gloom she could see a door which, she guessed, must lead into the front sitting room. Speculatively, she tried turning the knob, somehow knowing full well the door wouldn’t open.
And when a scream rang out from behind it, she wasn’t in the least surprised. That was the same as at the Curry Favour as well. A family party of out-of-towners had had the same reaction to the Biryani.
Unlike that family, Amita didn’t turn tail and bolt. Somehow again, she knew the door would unstick itself, so she stood waiting patiently until it did.
End of Chapter 16
MONDAY 4TH NOVEMBER 1985: 18.28 – 18.29
Darren Chafford had watched the Asian copper bird disappear into one of the houses, then hung around a few doors down, undecided whether to follow her in or not.
He supposed he should ask his dad’s advice; but actually, he wanted to make his mind up on his own. One of the O-levels he’d taken had been Deciding Whether To Grass Your Family Up For The Reward Money Or Simply Wait Till They Were Sparko Then Nick The Swag And Vanish, and he’d been trying to apply its principles to other areas of his life as well.
As he stood there weighing up the odds, and making them five for reasons he couldn’t work out, his two-way crackled. ‘You there, Dazza?’
‘Whereabouts are yer?’
Darren hesitated. Oh crap, another decision to make – whether to answer or not.
‘Er – sorry, Dad.’ His mind was a turmoil of undecidedness he hadn’t felt once in the Grass Your Family Up exam (that being his preferred – and, from the ‘A’ grade he’d got, apparently the correct – option). ‘Erm – I’m in one o’ them ol’ biddy roads. Diamond Cresinck, I think it is. Full o’ them ’ouses with nothin’ upstairs.’
‘Oh, right,’ the radio said. ‘Bungalows.’ There was a pause. ‘Bit like me and yer mum used to call you when you were a nipper.’
‘Nothin’, Son. What’s the copper doin’?’
‘She’s gone in one.’
‘Uh-huh. You gone in yerself?’
Darren hesitated again, not wanting to say that he didn’t know what to do, in case Dad decided to come down and do it for him, as was usually the case. Suddenly, a lemon of inspiration fluttered past his brain, and he grabbed hold and squeezed the juice out of it. ‘Not yet, Dad,’ he gabbled. ‘I were waitin’ till she’d got clear of the hallway. Oh, look. Looks like she might’ve done that, now. I’ll go in.’
A faint splutter came out of the radio, as though his dad had sneezed or something. ‘All right, Dazza,’ the parental voice followed, rather wheezily. ‘Just go careful, okay?’
‘’Course, Dad,’ Darren said, aggrieved to think his parent thought he didn’t know how to break and enter. He’d got a ‘B’ in Breaking And Entering. It would have been an ‘A’, but in the exam, he’d entered first then broken, instead of the other way round.
Turning the volume on the radio to minimum, he crept along the pavement to where he’d seen the copper go, and opened the garden gate.
Blimey! It looked as though somebody else had done the Breaking for him.
He hesitated once more. Did it count if you just Entered, or should he throw a flowerpot through the front-room window so he could say he’d Broken as well?
Bugger it. Nobody would know any better; and he could always pretend it was him who’d turned the front door to matchsticks if Dad did find out.
Stalking up the path, he went into the hallway.