The telephone interrupts our hero’s rather late breakfast, a past its use-by date pot noodle made with cold water and a glass of flat economy-brand cola. Must get the shopping done and replace the fuse in the kettle-plug he thinks, pulling a sour face.
‘Hello, Procrastination Man speaking, how may I help you?’
‘Yes, hello, I got your details from your website, although I first got through to the Somerset donkey sanctuary who gave me the correct number. They sounded quite annoyed actually’
‘Ah yes, been meaning to get that sorted…’
‘My name is Alanis Brandt, my grandfather is professor Elvis Brandt, the noted microbiologist and inventor.’
‘How wonderful, I’ve always been a fan.’
‘You know his work?’
‘No, I mean of Elvis – *sings* Love me tender… marvellous..’
‘Erm, yes well, the thing is I suspect my grandfather has been kidnapped and I can’t go to the police because I can’t really prove anything. I have a note in his handwriting, saying he’s gone to help with a secret research project in North Korea. But I know there’s something terribly wrong.’
‘What about your parents?’
‘Both killed in a boating accident several years ago. My Grandfather is my legal guardian now’
‘I see, I’m sorry for your loss. How can you be sure he’s been kidnapped?’
‘Well his note reads: Hello love, off to North Korea on a top-secret research project. Can’t say too much right now, make sure you help your kid brother with his homework and see he has regular naps. Lots of love, Grandpops xx
PS Help! the Beatles movie is on tonight, don’t forget to record it for me’
‘Ok, what’s suspicious about that?’
‘Well, for one thing I don’t have a kid brother who’d need any naps. Plus he hated the Beatles’
‘Ah, it seems your grandfather was using an ingenious code to alert us. But why wouldn’t the police assist you?’
‘I think they regard him as an eccentric and rather paranoid old fool, who is always claiming people are bugging his home, sending him secret messages and spying on him. He has filed several complaints. He may be slightly eccentric, but I can assure you my grandfather is not mad’
‘Ok, well let’s meet and discuss this further, how about….’
The phone suddenly goes dead.
‘Hello? Hello? Alanis, are you still there?’
PM scratches his stubbly chin, his mind a whirl with competing thoughts:
Have they got to the professor’s granddaughter too? Are they both in danger? What could North Korea possibly want with an eminent microbiologist? Have I got time for a shower? What fuse type do I need for the kettle, 5 or 13 amp?
It is some hours later before PM has finally had a chance to get cracking. After doing some much-needed laundry, picking up some items from Tesco and finishing off yesterday’s crossword puzzle, he has at last found an address for Alanis Brandt and some details of her grandfather’s research.
I must get over to her flat and see if there are any clues to be found.
Finishing his toast and his first cup of hot tea all day, PM heads out to catch the 221b bus into town, having not gotten round to paying the road tax and insurance on the procrastination mobile. Must sort that asap.
On the bus children point and stare, some laugh and a few take phone snaps of the weirdo in the tight green outfit and yellow mask. He ignores them, just as he’s always done. The life of a crime-fighter is no picnic he thinks mournfully.
He locates Alanis’s flat in a very average row of Victorian terraced houses, tucked away in a small close just off the high street. Finding the door ajar, he cautiously creeps inside. There is a faint odour of cheap aftershave and tobacco smoke. It is barely perceptible over the pungent smell of stale sweat, which he realises with some embarrassment is emanating from himself. Should have had that shower he thinks, wincing slightly.
‘Hello, anyone home?’
There is no sound or signs of life. The lounge is a mess, showing some indications of a struggle. After a good look around he spies a small piece of paper amid crumbs on the floor in the hallway – a crumpled fortune cookie message. It reads – A wise crow always drinks facing the east. How odd he thinks What the fuck does that even mean?
After speaking with some of the neighbours, PM catches the bus back to base. He needs to think and also feels rather peckish. Picking up some more teabags and a tin of no-frills baked beans on the way, he is soon home and deep in thought at the kitchen table.
Taking another forkful of beans from the tin, he remembers how his Mother would serve him beans on toast for lunch as a child, often topped with dried prunes and glass of warm cabbage juice. Eat, eat, it’ll keep you regular! She’d say. Man it was awful and the after-effects were eerily similar to the ghastly pong now drifting in from the nearby sewage treatment works. I’ve got to find a new place he thinks, swallowing the last mouthful of sugary tea.
Could there really be some dastardly plot by the North Koreans to gain the secrets of a brilliant microbiologist? Have they also kidnapped his bright teenage granddaughter Alanis to use as leverage? What if anything have the Chinese got to do with all this? Should I have that shower now or wait till the morning?
He activates the crime console, perhaps a rather grand name for a few ropy CCTV feeds, a radio scanner and a decrepit old Windows PC, nevertheless our hero is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. But first he makes another cup of tea and checks his horoscope for the week:
A good time for reassessing plans and getting on top of financial affairs. A phone call may lead to new challenges, with possible opportunities for foreign travel and adventure. Avoid fig trees and ginger cats during the coming eclipse.
After dealing with some routine emails, reorganising his desk drawer and alphabetising his vinyl LP collection, PM examines some of the recent media stories on North Korea and reviews the professor’s complex research as best he can.
It all seems to point to a particular project he was working on some years previously, before the funding ran dry. A paper entitled Wheatastrophe – impacts of dna modified wheat gluten on the brain function and sexual reproduction of crickets seemed to stand out. Was the prof on the verge of a potentially ground-breaking way to weaponise the humble loaf? Destabilise whole populations via a pot noodle? Poison the population’s pasta? It seemed a worrying possibility.
Suddenly the intercom derails his train of thought.
That’s odd, I didn’t order any food. ‘Hang on, I’ll buzz you in.. top floor, on the left.’ Retrieving his stun-gun from the secret cache inside the giant toy panda, he tries the trigger button. Bollocks! battery’s flat again. Must get a bloody spare.
Looking around PM picks up the very worn bread knife. Whoever you are, you better be ready to start talking, he thinks, wishing he’d got around to ordering that rather nice chef’s knife set he’d seen on Amazon recently.
There is a knock on the flat door and keeping the bread knife behind his back, he grits his teeth and opens it warily.
Read part two here!
Copyright Jason Lennick 2015 All rights reserved.