Characters & excerpts
'You mentioned dinner, Mr Frobisher?’ he enquires. (Hotel receptionist)
‘Frobishire, like Derbyshire,’ Harry corrects him.
‘I’m from Chesterfield and we say Derbysher,’ the young man counters.
‘Are we really having a discussion about how I pronounce my own name?’ Harry demands.
‘No, sire,’ the kid jokes, unwisely in Harry’s opinion.
‘Look… it’s sodding well shire, like where the fucking Hobbits come from,’ says Harry, tightly.
The young man looks moderately offended but then allows himself to smile. ‘I’m Mark. Why don’t you get your bags while I heat up the oven?’ he grins, knowingly.
‘You’re also the cook,’ says Harry, quietly.
‘I am, indeed,’ Mark beams.
‘I’ll give you an extra fiver if you don’t spit in my dinner,’ Harry offers.
‘Make it ten, and I’ll even wash my hands.’
The Don (Harry's wife):
‘Well, I think your shrink has hit the nail right on the head. Harry, you are very disdainful. People notice, and they don’t like you for it.’
‘I’m not disdainful… I’m droll. I like observational comedy,’ he says in his defence.
She regards him, doubt flexing the muscles of her facial skin like a bodybuilder doing press ups in the gym.
‘You doubt me? Hang on a moment.’ Harry takes a few steps over to one of the kitchen units where he knows that The Don keeps a supply of medicinal stuff. He finds an overly squeezed tube of antiseptic cream and returns to stand by his wife where he proceeds to rub some of the ointment on her permanently furrowed brow.
‘What the fuck are you doing, Harry?’ she complains, pushing his hand away.
‘I’m applying some anti-sceptic cream,’ he states, in a rather droll and witty manner, in his opinion.
Julius Defrise (Phycologist):
Defrise gives him that look again. The one that is undoubtedly intended to make its recipient feel like the doctor is capable of looking directly into their soul, and when he eventually replies, he does so in a solemn, deliberate tone, ‘Because I, unlike you, know more about myself. And I’m entirely comfortable with that knowledge. On the other hand, your disdain has a very distinct odour, Harry. It offends me even here, sitting across this humble table from you. You are full of it. It brims from your lips like puke from over indulgence. It seeps from each and every one of your pores as if your sweat is concocted of the vile stuff. There is only one thing I don’t get…’
‘Don’t hold back on my account,’ Harry grins despite the harshness of what he’s hearing.
‘What I don’t get, is from where this disdain arises, and at what exactly, is it aimed.’ Julius admits.
Carol England (Chief Inspector):
Harry stands sulking, his hands thrust deeply into the pockets of his borrowed dressing gown, regarding the debris of his recently desecrated bedroom.
‘You could have at least tidied up after you,’ he grumps.
‘We’re not paid for that,’ says C.I. English.
‘What exactly does C.I. stand for?’ he asks her.
‘Completely Indifferent,’ she replies.
‘Did you kiss her, Harry? Are we going to find your saliva in her mouth?’
Harry hesitates, his mouth drops open, and obviously, he looks as guilty as hell.
‘Maybe you should consider calling a lawyer?’ She regards him, suspiciously.
‘I tried to give her the kiss of life,’ he confesses.
‘Yeah, Harry, that’s what they all say.’
‘Why on earth would you do that? She’d fallen a hundred sodding feet. Her body was broken. Her neck was smashed.’
‘I… I didn’t want to give up on her.’ Harry slumps to a sitting position on the edge of his bed and clasps his hands together.
Helen (Retreat owner):
Helen gets up quickly from her seat and starts towards the door, and Harry jumps up after her.
‘Er, Helen?’ he asks.
‘Yes, Harry?’ she replies but doesn’t falter.
‘You really don’t have a bar? Or even a menu?’
‘No, Harry. Don’t worry, Belinda informed us of your dietary needs.’
‘Well, you didn’t bother returning the questionnaire, did you?’
‘Oh. What did she tell you about my dietary needs?’
‘She said that you were a vegan and completely teetotal.’ Despite the fact that he’s directly behind her, Harry strongly suspects that Helen is smiling like a nun who has just been told a sinful joke.
Ronnie (Harry's retreat guide):
Ronnie strides across the lawn towards him in a manner that is so energetic that it immediately makes him feel on edge.
The damned woman has more beans in her than his blasted expresso!
Harry regards her as she approaches him. Ronnie is fit and boyish-looking. Probably, that’s why she’s called Ronnie. Her hair is long and black, and Harry suspects it is not easily tamed. Her eyes are profoundly hazel, slightly misaligned, and constantly humour-filled. Her lips are thin and always unpainted, and her nose is slightly sharp and decidedly crooked.
She looks like a Welsh witch.
Harry makes the journey once more to the door and opens it to reveal Ronnie, standing somewhat foolishly in the hallway.
‘Having sex with me won't help you.’ He leaves the door open for her and makes the journey back to his bottle of cognac. Hopefully, it’s the last such trip of the evening.
‘No offence, Harry, but I’d sooner shag the gardener. Can I come in?’ she asks.
‘I’m not that bad, am I?’ he demands, feeling irrationally jealous of the gardener.
‘No… it’s just that Frank is about thirty and as hot as a Premier League football player.’
‘They’re all gay, you know. With absurdly small private parts,’ he advises her. ‘All that jogging around, I expect,’ he adds, sagely.
‘Wouldn’t bother me,’ she sighs, wistfully.
The Delinquent Ones -
Mick the Murderer:
‘Before you get to ask… yes, I killed my wife, and I did it on purpose.’
Harry keeps his mouth firmly shut. Now he’s tested the water, he sees that this is far too dangerous a territory for his special brand of wit.
‘How did that feel, Mick?’ Helen enquires, brave lady that she is.
‘It felt good. Exquisite, I’d say.’ Mick is belligerent, but Harry suspects that’s a bit of an act.
‘Why’d you do it?’ Tanya asks on everyone else’s behalf.
Mick sniffs as if something is stuck in his nostril. ‘Coz she fucked the next-door neighbour,’ he confesses.
‘That’ll do it.’ Harry ignores his own advice.
Alex The Alcoholic:
And then he’s stepped over to where his father still hung from the smashed window. His arms were caught up upon the jagged shards of glass and he crouched there, his body twisted, and his eyes wide open in an expression of amazed disbelief as his blood stained the window frame and the raised flock, floral designed wallpaper.
‘Dad?’ Alex had asked him.
It had taken nearly twenty minutes for the police to arrive, during which time, Alex had sat in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea.
He remembers being slightly cross because the telly was normally quite good on Christmas eve.
His father had been pronounced dead at the scene, and his mother had died in hospital almost three months later from acute liver failure.
Tanya The Terrorist:
‘So, wot are you doin ere?’ (Tanya).
‘I think I might have caught the wrong ferry. I’d intended to go to France,’ he smiles.
‘Liar,’ she says. But her face softens and her dark eyes radiate a warmth that Harry suspects she tries hard to keep secret.
It’s a rather shocking, but quite intoxicating feeling, watching her expression change in such a dramatic and unexpected manner due to something he has said. Normally, people react differently.
Mindful not to ruin the moment or the tenuous connection that has passed between them, he asks, ‘Why are you here?’
The warmth departs her eyes like the Amazon has just frozen over.
Eventually, she says, ‘I’m a trained nurse, you know.’
‘I did not.’
‘The authorities say I’m in danger of being radicalised. Now I can’t even get a fuckin job on the checkout at the fuckin chemist’s,’ she says quietly as if she’s fearful of being overheard. ‘May as well fuckin top meself,’ she adds.