CUSTARD CREAMS AND A NICE CUP OF TEA

 

“Damn! What did you have to go and do that for?”

     “Ooops-a-daisy.” Bert grinned sheepishly. “Who’d have thought the frying pan was that heavy?”

     “You didn’t have to hit him so hard.” Bessie fisted her hands on her hips and glared down at the body on the hall rug. “What are we going to do with him now?”

     “I dunno. I suppose we’d better move him.”

     “Well we can’t leave him here, can we? Look at the mess.”

     “Oh dear - I’m sorry.” Bert prodded the body tentatively with one foot. “Are you sure he’s dead?”

     “Well, I’m just guessing, but seeing as how you’ve caved in half his skull... We’ll have to do something with him. What if someone comes to the door?”

     “We could bury him in the garden?”

     “I’m not going to dig up my roses again,” Bessie insisted. “It was all very well with that old bag from number twenty three, she was a scrawny old thing. But this one would need a much bigger hole. And besides, the bushes are just getting settled back in – if I dig them out again they won’t like it.”

     “Well… What about the canal, like last time?”

     “Don’t be soft. He’ll just float back up in a couple of days. It was good enough for that young yobbo that swore at me outside the post office - no-one was going to be too surprised he got his head bashed in and ended up in the water. I don’t suppose they even seriously bothered to find out what had happened to him – it was only in the paper for the one day, and then only a little bit of a paragraph on page four. But a copper – that’s different.”

     Bert looked worried. “You think they’ll come looking for him?”

     “Of course they will. You don’t just have a copper disappearing into thin air and nobody takes any notice. ‘Oh, we haven’t seen Constable Plod around for a couple of days. Wonder where he’s got to?’ Stands to reason.”

     “So what are we going to do with him then?”

     “Just be quiet for a minute and let me think.” Bessie frowned in concentration. “We’re going to have to get him right away from the house.”

     “How are we going to do that? You know I won’t be able to carry him far, not with my back.”

     “Oh, don’t keep going on about your back.”

     “And me knees,” Bert reminded her.

     “Well, what do you expect at your age? We’re neither of us as young as we used to be.”

     “See, that’s what I mean.” Bert leaned one elbow on the banister at the foot of the stairs. “We can’t just go humping dead bodies around any more. You’ve got to take account.”

     “OK - so we’ll have to think of somewhere far enough away, but not too far.”

     He chuckled with laughter. “Well, that gives us plenty of scope.”

     “Huh! Maybe instead of trying to be funny you could make the effort come up with something useful for a change,” she scolded.

     His mouth turned down sulkily. “I’m not the clever one.”

     “No, you’re just the one who goes around whacking people over the head with frying pans and then expecting me to sort it out.”

     “That’s not fair,” he protested. “Anyone would think I was the only one. What about that social worker?”

     “That wasn’t a frying pan, it was a casserole dish.”

     “There’s no difference.”

     “Of course there is. A frying pan is for… frying things. You don’t fry things in a casserole dish.”

     “There’s no difference when you whack someone over the head with it,” Bert argued. “It comes out the just the same. And what about you and the garden spade? That was a pretty fair wallop. I thought his head was going to come clean off.”

     “And it would have served him right too, letting his cat come over the back fence and do its business on my geraniums.”

     “Ah…!” Bert’s pale eyes lit up at the memory. “We dumped him in the bins round behind the betting shop, didn’t we? Worked a treat, that did. They carted him off to the dump, and no-one was any the wiser. Why don’t we do that again?”

     “Because that was bin day – they’re not due for collection now until Friday. He’ll start to smell, and if anyone takes a look and finds him they might start asking questions.”

     Bert’s face fell. “I was just trying to help.”

     “OK, OK - I’m sorry if I was a bit short with you.” She spared him a smile. “But this one’s a bit of a worry.”

     “I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to cause a problem. We’ve got to stick together, like we always have, don’t we?”

     “Of course we have. Don’t worry, we’ll think of something. The thing is, we’ll have to be careful of those CV… whatsit cameras – they’re everywhere these days. You can’t move without some sneaky little nosy parker watching you.”

     “Shame they’ve got nothing better to do than sit there spying on people just going about minding their own business.” Bert laughed again. “‘Ere, remember that bank job we did in Croydon? And they caught us on their cameras, but they thought we must be in disguise because they didn’t believe a couple of old codgers like us could do a bank? Ageism, that’s what that is.”

     “Disgusting. They’re not supposed to do that these days. It’s not politically correct. But that wasn’t the Croydon job, that was Harrow.”

     “Was it?” Bert frowned. “Are you sure?”

     “Yes, because if you remember we went on the tube, and there’s no tube to Croydon.”

     “You’re right! I’d forgotten that.”

     “Anyway, we can’t stand here nattering. We’ve got to get this one sorted out. And the sooner the better. Look, he’s bleeding all over the rug. I’ll never get that out.”

     “Couldn’t you try scrubbing it with a bit of bleach?” Bert suggested.

     “That wouldn’t do it. I reckon it’ll have to go. Shame - I liked that rug. Still, it can’t be helped. At least it’ll do to wrap him up in.”

     “What if someone recognises it when they find him?”

     “Who’s going to recognise it? A rug is just a rug.”

     “Yes, but what if?” Bert twisted his fingers, agitated. “You can’t be too careful.”

     “Oh, all right. Yes, you’re probably right. It would be silly to let one little mistake catch us out. That’s even more reason to think of somewhere nice and safe.”

     “Not the bins, then.”

     Bessie rolled her eyes. “I already said not the bins. We need somewhere he’ll be well covered over.”

     “I can’t go digging…”

     “With your back – I know, I know. I don’t much fancy a lot of digging myself. We need somewhere where’s there’s already a big hole that’s going to be filled in.”

     “Like on a building site?”

     “Ah yes - a building site would be good.”

     “Like down where they’re building the new bypass?”

     “The bypass! Of course! You’re a genius, Bert.”

     “Don’t sound so surprised.” He grinned. “I’m not as green as cabbage you know.”

     “OK. But even if there’s a good hole there, how do we make sure no-one sees him before they fill it in?”

     “Because the bottom will be all filled with water, after all this rain.” There was a lilt of triumph in his voice. “We just drop him in, plop! And drop a couple of nice big stones on top of him to hold him down – plop plop! Then they’ll come along and dump a load more stones and concrete on the top – plop plop plop! They won’t even look.”

     “Are you sure?”

     “I’ve watched them working. They use these great big yellow diggers. They don’t even look where they’re going half the time.”

     “Well, that’s it then.” Bessie regarded the body with a critical eye. “The only problem now is how to get him down there. We can’t carry him…”

     “With my back.”

     “With your back. And your knees. And all the rest of your creaky bits.”

     “Oh, go on with you.” Bert chuckled as he hugged her plump shoulders. “You don’t half make me laugh!”

     “Well, what’s the point of living if you can’t have a bit of a laugh?” She was silent for a moment, thinking. “Anyway, the best thing would be to use that old wheelbarrow.”

     “Won’t it look a bit funny, two old codgers trundling down the street with a dead copper in a wheelbarrow?” Bert queried.

     “Who’s going to take any notice? We’ll pile some old weeds and stuff on the top, and it’ll look like we’re just going to dump a bit of rubbish from the garden.”

     “Ah – that’s really clever, that is.”

     “Oh, stop your gabbing.” She nudged him in the ribs. “Come and help me roll him up. Mind now he doesn’t get blood all over the place when we move him.”

     “Should we wrap his head up in something, just to make sure?”

     “Good idea. Here, use my pinny.” She untied it and handed it to him. “Careful… Now you’ve gone and got blood all over your hands.”

     “Oh dear.” He stared down at his hands in dismay.

     “Never mind, it’ll wash off. A little bit of blood never hurt no-one. I’ll tell you what, we’ll just drag him to the back door, then you go and fetch the wheelbarrow from the shed and bring it round. That way it’ll be easier – it won’t be so far to lift him.”

     “What if his boots stick out of the end?”

     She thought about that for a moment. “We’ll have to chop his feet off. Bring the axe, too.”

     “Won’t there be lots of blood?”

     “Oh, they don’t bleed too much after a bit. If we leave it till it’s nearly dark that’ll be better for when we wheel him down the road, too.”

     “I thought you said no-one would take any notice?”

     “Nor would they. But you said yourself we can’t be too careful. We don’t want any more of these knocking on the door, asking a lot of silly questions.”

     “No we don’t – where would we put them all? There’s only so many places.”

     “That’s the problem. Come on, hurry up. We need to get him out of the hall before the postman comes.”

     “It’s OK - he doesn’t usually get here till one o’clock.”

     “Sometimes he’s a bit early. We don’t want to have to deal with him too – wheeling two bodies down the road would be a bit much.” They had managed to drag the policeman through the kitchen to the back door. Bessie straightened and brushed off her hands. “There, that’ll do. Now, what do you say to a nice cup of tea? I’ve got your favourite biscuits – custard creams.”