For those of you out there who haven\\\'t read the originals (Quote from reviewer - "it's improbable, but I'm overlooking it because it's *supposed* to be that way") they are Bentley's Bad Day - Part one, and Bentley's Bad Day - Part two somewhere on this site just WAITING for a good thorough reading....We join our unlucky half-wit hero half way through chapter 6...no, er, actually, why not just start AT chapter 6....
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Divisional was the sort of municipal building designed by accountants, built by monkeys and paid for by the terminally stingy. A red-brick monstrosity that acted as a hub for the numerous surrounding police stations. If this building had been an actor, it would have only been picked for roles portraying the dead. Crabbins arrived having left a full quarter of his obligatory black trenchcoat in a taxi door. He looked up at the building and sighed.
Here was where his Daddy had worked. A legend in the force, was Harold Crabbins – talked of with reverence and the focal point of a million stories. Everyone remembers where they were the day Harry Crabbins arrested the Donetti family and sent down the biggest mafia outfit in the city. On his own. With just one set of handcuffs and a truncheon made in 1937 he arrested the forty three members of the Donetti family and their extended family of seventy muscle-toned henchmen. To this day no-one knows how he did it.
Crabbins’s father had died in mysterious circumstances with his head firmly wedged up the anus of Titan the elephant at London Zoo. There are some ways to die that hurt more afterwards.
He walked through the doorway and into a foyer that smelled of mild disinfectant and was eventually taken to see MacMaster.
MacMaster was beefy, grizzled and in his late thirties. His hair was short and stood to attention and his eyebrows attempted to do the same, giving him a curious surprised look. It was having a face like a question mark - and placing it above a body like a greased wrestler from 1979 made MacMaster the king of the interview. He just looked at people and they usually got so flustered they filled in the gaps in the conversation with confessions. Some called him taciturn, some called him ignorant. It didn’t matter to him. As an interesting post-it on the notice-board of this description MacMaster had more body hair than a Greek politician.
“MacMaster,” he said as Crabbins walked through the door. He wasn’t one for words. More precisely he wasn’t one for sentences - words he could do.
“Sorry, no,” said Crabbins, “Crabbins, actually. Funnily enough it was MacMaster I was supposed to meet.” He chuckled, the irony deep and comfortable.
“No. I’m MacMaster,”
“Oh, er, in that case I’m Crabbins. Nice to meet you.” Crabbins stuck out a hand which was resolutely ignored.
There was a pause in this thoroughly engrossing meeting. Crabbins looked at MacMaster and was suddenly driven by the urge to confess something. He was just about to when MacMaster pointed to a chair. Crabbins sat down, MacMaster sitting opposite him.
At one time McMaster had been a cheerful, talented, vigorous man. A man with the quick wit of an Australian pig farmer after eight cans of super-strength lager and the sense of fun only the Americans and the Belgians seem to have. What turned him into the sullen, docile character we have before us is not a mystery. One day, they said, MacMaster had been at a pool party and had fallen, banging his head. The doctors found nothing wrong but he started demonstrating peculiar habits. He found himself purchasing garden gnomes. He began buying tartan blankets. He even found himself filling out an application form for the Salvation Army and developing a sense of civic responsibility. Out went the crazy hula shirts and into the bin went the training shoes. He went out and bought some cheap brogues. He threw out the jeans and bought some badly-fitting casual slacks. He booked onto a course teaching Canasta.
Through all this upheaval he suddenly stopped thinking about Friday nights and began thinking, longingly, of slow Sunday mornings reading The Sunday Mail.
In short, he grew up overnight.
“Right,” said MacMaster. There was another interminable pause as he opened a file up with careful deliberation. Crabbins half expected it to contain grisly photos of a corpse on the slab. It did. MacMaster continued as he handed the photos across to Crabbins shaking hand.
Crabbins considered himself to be a good, old fashioned MAN in the hetero sense of the word. He thought that if he saw proper corpses he would look at them closely and, without waves of nausea, happily tuck into a steak and kidney pie, maybe let out a chuckle, fart and tell an inappropriate joke.
In reality Crabbins took one look at Cujo’s interestingly bizarre neck wound and was promptly sick over MacMaster’s austere desk. Crabbins managed an unhelpful burp and apologised. Things were going swimmingly, he thought.
The year is, in itself, unimportant. All we need to know is that Bentley and Cujo met one summer holiday. They were both nine years old.
The place is the park. It has a more precise name than that, but to Bentley it was just The Park. After all, at that age there wasn’t more than one was there?
Cujo and his mother had moved into the area a week before and Cujo had been ordered to go and find himself some friends. He had found some straight away, but the only game they seemed to want to play was the “Run away from the new kid” game (invented by a low-brow thug called Clarky who died in a bizarre incident with an anaconda some five years later). It was later that the game changed to being “Chase and kick the shit out of the new kid” (also invented by Clarky but based upon ideas taken from his older brother) and it was then that Cujo managed to escape. He found himself deep in the woods that lined the park. Cujo had just got his breath back and sat himself at the foot of a large tree
“Er, hello.” It was a child’s voice. It came from up above. Bentley sat in the tree and waved cheerily at Cujo who stared upwards in concern.
And that was the moment Cujo met Bentley. It was a friendship made from necessity that grew into familiarity, stopped briefly at a shop to buy a diet coke and then sprinted all the way to being ingrained. They could break wind in unison and not feel that it was unusual or even perverse. When one forgot a word, the other knew what it was.
Cujo turned out to complement Bentley perfectly. Cujo was big, but one of those quiet-spoken, confident ones. He would never take the lead, but he would do his absolute best for his team and he could take any form of abuse and just grin at it happily. Bentley was a naturally overbearing character given to hissy fits and periods of excessive whining. They suited each other.
All was pretty as a small woodland glade viewed through lenses that had been in accidental contact with spermicidal lubricant. That was until the 3rd year at the local comprehensive when Bentley decided to become a drug dealer. When he finally got caught forcing the first year kids to buy chalkdust it was Cujo who had taken the rap and had been suspended for two weeks. Being the significantly bigger kid the teachers fell for it. Bentley was free and Cujo had his fortnight off playing darts in his garage and setting fire to plastic airplanes – his mother didn’t believe in holidays.
Unfortunately while Cujo had been going through lighter fluid at a prodigious rate Bentley had got himself a girlfriend. It was over the day Cujo returned – she didn’t like to fart – but Cujo had fallen out with Bentley for the first thirty-five minutes of the day.
Both of them would later recall that thirty-five minutes as being the most lonely of their life.
When a man wakes up after thirteen hours sleep he usually smiles, yawns, casts back the sheets and opens the curtains breathing in deeply, stretching. The smugness of torpidity should be tingling in his finger-tips as he massages his genitals.
This time Bentley was attempting to rub off the effects of being doped twice in quick succession. This made waking like trying to swim upwards in dark water wrapped in wool and weighed down by a huge pill-shaped anchor.
It was the splash of warm tea and then the slap to the face that finally broke the anchor rope and drew Bentley, spluttering and swearing, to consciousness. His eyes shot open and he found himself staring at a young face with a patchwork beard. The face smiled and Bentley found himself being slapped again.
Crabbins had been looking forward to doing that since they’d confirmed who he was. Strictly speaking, of course, he didn’t do it and Bentley had run into a wall or something, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.
“What the hell are you doing?” said Bentley. Crabbins started pacing back and forward, the knuckle of his right hand tapping his front teeth in thought. He was grinning. He stopped and put his hands on his hips.
“You are in SO much trouble!” he said, as if it were the best thing in the world. Bentley’s head was still getting to the part where he was reaching for the curtains.
“Eh?” Bentley looked around him. He was in a police cell. This didn’t necessarily bode terribly well, he thought wretchedly. The door opened and MacMaster walked in, casually scratching his armpit. He looked down at Bentley.
“McMaster.” he said. Bentley didn’t answer for fear of allowing panic to knock at his conscious mind’s little red door.
“I am here to caution you. You are under arrest for the crime of murder. Anything….” Crabbins interrupted him.
“Oh can I do this part. I love this part.” He pressed his hands together and made puppy-eyes at McMaster. McMaster shrugged and resumed his scratching. Crabbins readied himself and thought deeply of Cary Grant.
Bentley was sinking into his own little puddle of misery. What was so wrong with his life that such bad things happen to him? As Crabbins did his best to secure best supporting actor Bentley tried to remember what had happened that night. Something happened that changed everything. Something somewhere. Somehow.
Bentley’s reverie was suspended as Crabbins thrust something under his nose – something in a plastic bag.
“What’s this?” asked McMaster, quietly. Bentley looked, squinted.
“It’s a flyer advertising a cabaret,” interjected Crabbins. McMaster barely managed to cover his annoyance.
“I could have got that,” said Bentley.
“Yes, well - ” said Crabbins,
“You never gave me a chance.” Crabbins snatched the packet away.
Then out of the blue he remembered something from his last night with Star. Just a scratching of the surface of a memory, really, but he suddenly saw himself in a large smoky room looking at a stage. “I went to it, didn’t I?” Bentley looked at McMaster. McMaster could face-off a glacier, given time and a suitable place to sit. Eventually, though, he huffed and said, “Yes. You were spotted there by the coat attendant.”
“But I don’t remember anything except that I was there. Honest,” he pleaded.
“And do you know this man?” said McMaster, as Crabbins stalked incessantly behind his back. He pushed a photo of Cujo onto the table. It was the photo of Cujo that his mum used to keep tucked into the corner of her prized Phil Collins photo (signed, of course). Oh God, thought Bentley.
“Yeah, of course. It’s my best mate Cujo,” he said quietly.
McMaster sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. They were so hairy it looked like he was carrying a family of ferrets. Bentley began to squirm. The silence went on for so long Bentley nearly confessed to the gunpowder plot, killing Lord Lucan and having unlawful sex with a blindfolded ram.
Crabbins, however, could stand it no longer, though. He blurted, “We found that flyer covered in your fingerprints at the scene of the crime, son!” He banged his hand on the table for emphasis. McMaster sighed, Bentley jumped.
“It wasn’t me!” he said, with as much sincerity as he could muster.
“That’s what they all say,” said Crabbins. He was going for cliché of the week. He won, and the victorious smirk of victory briefly alit on his moustache.
Quietly, and with as much gravity as you could pack into a sentence Bentley said, “But I was there when it happened.” McMaster allowed an eyebrow to briefly flutter while Crabbins gaped. It was Crabbins, naturally, who decided to break the silence.
“Are you telling me that you were there when it happened?” Crabbins voice had risen a couple of semi-tones. Bentley lowered his head and allowed himself a brief moment to grieve as the memory re-established itself. Crabbins was gleefully rubbing his hands, but McMaster noticed Bentley’s pain and made an internal decision. He briefly gestured that he and Crabbins should leave the room for a chat. Crabbins left after gifting Bentley the sort of stare that doesn’t so much scare as make you wonder if there is something wrong with his face.
Bentley was left wondering and quite seriously concerned for his future. He tried to sort out the last couple of days in his head, just to get some clarity.