In 1994, Shamus O’Flaherty McBond published a crime novel entitled The Long Gouda-Bye that turned out to be a thinly veiled account of his involvement with the New Zealand crime busting unit known as The Unteachables. The novel has been out of print for many years due to a lack of interest in New Zealand’s prohibition period. New scholars of social history and politicians have now agreed, however, that the banning of Trivial Pursuit and the Bitey Cheese smuggling rings that it created provided a turning point in the development of New Zealand as a world power. As a result of this, books like Eric Ness’s The Unteachables, George Bailey’s It Was A Wonderful Strife, Sheila Molehusband’s The Pigeon That Loved Him, Buster Duran’s Ultra-Violence for Dummies and Martin Garré’s biography The Man With The More Intelligent Wife are all about to be republished.
Now you can read, one month ahead of its publication, the first chapter of Shamus O’Flaherty McBond’s electrifying hard-boiled detective thriller The Long Gouda-Bye.
AN UNTEACHABLE TAUGHT
Walking out into the cold morning was like being hit in the face with a wet flatfish, something like a Flounder or a Halibut, or indeed any of the ray-finned demersal fishes. The pavement shone in the rain like the mirror of a princess that had been thrown onto the floor and shattered into a thousand tiny pieces and then each piece polished with the spit of a six year old Victorian chimney sweep and the shirt tail of an elderly house-bound former submarine captain. The streets were deserted like the weed grown yard of an abandoned farmhouse that had once been owned by a family of Donny Osmond impersonators, but who had since won the National Lottery and were now drinking cocktails and eating caviar off the naked body of a Bolivian stripper somewhere on a beach in Antigua.
I must stop using similes; maybe I could create a metaphorical image using idiomatic or rhetorical expressions instead.
It was 4am and no time for me to get out of my warm bed. I never knew there was such a time until I received the mysterious call from someone who for some mysterious reason called himself Mr Mysterious. He wanted to meet at my office at 5am and so I thought I’d get there before him in case he wanted to have the jump on me. I pulled up the collar of my overcoat and strode purposefully through the empty streets of Orangatanga towards my office above the pet shop.
When I got there I peered into the window to see if the penguin was still there. It was.
The door leading up to my office was to the left of the shop and I noticed that it was unlocked. Could someone have got here before me? Was Mr Mysterious or one of his henchmen waiting upstairs for me?
I un-holstered my pistol and made my way up the creaky wooden stairs, trying unsuccessfully not to make them creak. Through the half-pane window I could see that the light was on in my office. Whoever was in there was not hiding in the shadows.
There was no other thing for it. I had to get into the office and find out who or what was inside. I took a deep breath and then rushed at the door.
As the full force of my body hit the door it flew off its hinges and crashed to the floor. I immediately rolled across the room and ducked behind the red sofa by the window. I waited for a few seconds before I peered over the top of the sofa.
There was no one there, but as I looked around the room I surveyed the carnage that lay before me.
The window was open and the filing cabinets were broken and the files they once contained lay scattered about the floor. The contents of the waste paper basket were strewn across the room. There were indents in the wall that looked like bullet holes. The ash and old cigarette butts that had once been contained in the overflowing ashtray had been emptied all over my fake mahogany desk. The sofa cushions were ripped and the stuffing bulging from them made the sofa look like it vomiting and the rug in front of it looked like it had been burned and the fire extinguished with a mixture of water, acid, yellow paint and the remaining milk from a half-eaten bowl of Sugar Puffs.
I stood up, re-holstered my pistol and breathed a sigh of relief. Nobody had been here before me – it was just the way I’d left it.
I sat down on my black leather swivel chair, reached into my desk drawer and took out a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. I cleaned out the glass on my desk with my fingers, poured myself a large Scotch, propped my feet up on the window sill and leaned back in my chair. I took a large gulp of the whisky and felt its warmth making its way down my throat. It was a little early for me to start drinking; normally I don’t start until after 6am, but I thought, what the hell, what harm could it do?
I was roughly woken at 7am. My throat was dry and my vision blurred. “Wasssup,” I said.
“Mr O’Flaherty McBond?” a voice asked.
I looked up, wiping a quantity of drool off my chin as I did, and saw the shape of a human man standing before me.
“Huh?” I said. “Who’r’yoo?”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Nyshoo meechoo, Mr Hafubindrinkin. Are you an Ezhipshun zheentleman?”
“That is not my name, Mr Flaherty McBond. My name is Eric Ness and I seem to have caught you at an inopportune time.”
“Wha . . . ?” I said.
“I’ll come back this afternoon.”
“Who’r’yoo?” I said.
I watched through bleary, watery eyes as he left the room and then I sank back into unconsciousness.
When I awoke six hours later I saw that Mr Ness was sat on my sofa. He had his legs crossed and there was a briefcase by his feet.
“Good afternoon, Mt O’Flaherty McBond. I trust you are in better spirits than you were on our first meeting this morning?”
“Ermmm. Yeah. Sorry about that, Mr . . . ?”
“Ness. Eric Ness, but all my friends call me Loch.”
“Am I your friend?” I asked apprehensively.
“On whether or not you accept the proposal I’m about to offer you.”
“Right. And what proposal is that?”
“I’m putting together a team to bring down Martin Garré and his more intelligent wife and I’ve heard that you’re the only honest private investigator in Orangatanga.”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“Here and there.”
“Jack Here and John There? I’d trust them with my life.”
“No, no. I mean Round and about.”
“George Round and Phil About? Are they still in Orangatanga?”
“Oh . . . never mind. Are you interested in my proposal or not?”
“The thing is, Eric . . .”
“Call me Loch.”
“The thing is, Loch, I don’t go anywhere without my partner.”
“You mean Duran?”
“He’s too much of a loose cannon . . . he’d be more of a hindrance than a help.”
“He does like a bit of ultra-violence, that’s for sure; but if he’s not in then neither am I.”
Buster Merryfield Duran had been my partner for the past ten years and he did have a tendency towards ultra-violence. His favourite holiday destination was Canada where he would happily spend a fortnight each year clubbing seals. For relaxation he would spend hours sitting on a bench on the coast road, watching the world go by whilst feeding bicarbonate-soaked bread to the seagulls.
As if on cue, Buster Duran entered the office. He was a strange looking man. He was short and squat with a round face and a bulbous drinker’s nose. He almost always wore a black and white stripy T-shirt with cheap blue jeans and black sneakers. This day was no exception.
“Not in what?” he asked.
“This fellah here,” I said, pointing to Ness, “is setting up a team to fight crime. He wants me to join them but he thinks that you’re too much of a loose cannon.”
“Really? Is that what he said?”
“They were his exact words.”
“I see. Anything else?”
“Yes, he also thought that your tendency towards ultra-violent behaviour would perhaps be a hindrance to his operation.”
“A hindrance, eh?”
“He said that – hindrance?”
“He did indeed.”
Duran turned to Ness and said, “Well, Mr Ness, if indeed that is your real name, I’ll have you know that I normally keep my ultra-violent tendencies in check until there is no other alternative but to use them. Now, what do you say to that?”
“Well, I . . .” began Ness.
Duran held his hand out and covered Ness’s mouth. “Now, Mr Ness, don’t say another word until you have answered my next question, which is: Am I or am I not going to be part of your team?”
“Mr Duran,” said Ness, “your threatening behaviour does not frighten me. I am a trained policeman with twenty years experience under my belt. The profile of you suggests that you have an unstable nature that manifests itself through bouts of meaningless ultra-violence and therefore I cannot . . .”
Ness didn’t finish his last sentence on account of the fact that he was unconscious. Duran had laid him out with a swift and solid punch between the eyes. He didn’t see it coming.
When Ness regained consciousness, Duran had him in a headlock and was about to give him a noogie.
Noogie (noog-ie) v. (origin unknown: first known use 1972) Sometimes called a Monkey Scrub, Hippo Handing or Russian Haircut, a noogie is performed when the middle knuckles of the fore and middle fingers are rubbed vigorously against the surface of the scalp, stretching the skin and pulling the hair. A headlock can be applied for more exact or prolonged execution. This will trap the victim. An open-hand variant known as the Dutch Rub is performed with the heel of the hand. Example: Buster Duran gave Eric Ness a noogie.
“All right! All right!” Ness yelled in pain. “You can be part of the team. Honestly!”
“Yes, yes, honestly!”
“Cross your heart?
“And hope to die in a cellar full of rats?”
“I cross my heart and hope to die in a cellar full of rats!”
Duran released Ness from his vice-like grip. “Now, what was so difficult about that?”
“Right,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Now that’s sorted let’s go and meet the rest of the team.”
I grabbed Ness by the arm and dragged him through the open door. Duran smiled at me as we started to walk down the stairs.
“It looks like there could some ultra-violence in store for us in the day ahead,” he observed.
“It does indeed, my fine friend,” I replied, “it does indeed.”
CHAPTER 24: THE FLIGHT OF THE PIGEONS!