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  • Many years before, bacon sandwiches always reminded her of him; the crisp, never ceasing sizzle stuck between restraining pillows of bread, their boisterous insistence that she’ll never shut them up and the sudden likeability of their comforting, warm embrace when settled amongst the blankets of tomato sauce and caramelised onion. But bacon sandwiches didn’t lecture with the rumbling vibration of infinitive chins and a greying moustache as they did now. They didn’t take up the entire lumpy bed with their furry, sagging gut spilling mercilessly from highly waisted pyjama bottoms, confronting you in the early hours of the morning with a deep reluctant growl. They never dressed at five in the morning, swinging their hips to enter the en suite in a safe silence. But, from his lectures about the inaccuracies of the weather man to his struggle of cruising to work in the rush hour of Piccadilly, Kathleen loved Barry nonetheless.

    She watched Barry leave their thatched-roofed bungalow one morning, his remaining hair combed over to disguise his residing hair line refracted the yellow-white glare of the corridor. He raised his forty year old bowler hat in farewell like he had done every morning since 1974, Kathleen awake or not. His familiar hobble, paired with an unmistakable limp, disappeared beyond the casted shadows of the bedroom door.

    The usual, rowdy shuffle to the far side of Piccadilly erupted as it always had. With bursts of traffic, constant flicks of loosened gravel from the poorly maintained cobblestone streets pelted at cars whilst the soft monotonous echoes of the steam train whispered on the outskirts of town. Brittle trees stood embedded in manicured front gardens and dotted along footpaths of pristine concrete, like thumb tacks on a flamboyant cork board belonging to a highly strung perfectionist. Several roads from 12 Evermane Cresent where Kathleen lay sleeping, Barry sat pinned. He was unable to move in the heavy traffic or peer over cars in front in his wife’s Toyota Corolla. Once he began to crawl with the other vehicles, his light drumming on the steering wheel now a repeating assault of the horn, he made the dreaded left turn into Marshfields. Though laying a mere two minutes from the main square, it was avoided where possible in shame and forced ignorance that such a place existed. Collapsed fencing and graffiti littered the once grand entrance. Animal droppings and tumbleweeds of rubbish lingered within gutters where sewerage and blurred water trickled onto the road. Windows and doors had been boarded up where chaos and lawlessness had interfered with its occupants.

    Barry climbed out from the vehicle and hesitantly gazed towards a darkened cranny at the end of a cold-e-sac. On closer inspection, rows of forsaken shops seemed to suddenly appear silhouetted against the vastness. Barry staggered, following the cracked footpath, grunting at the rodents that leapt out from behind garbage bins. He approached the final shop on his right. It was narrow, ragged and the storeys seemed to continue into the darkness of the apartments soaring above it. In peeling green letters, above the splintered door, read ‘B. Tomkins: Private Investigator.’ A tinkling bell sounded in the depths of the room as the door lurched open with a light push, freezing ajar. The bitter air followed Barry inside, whipping piles of paperwork soaring through the room, looping mockingly around Barry’s legs but, not long after, snatched by a pair of long white fingers.
    “Good morning, Mr Tomkins,” croaked the man before him. His eyes shined like moons through the thickness of the office’s darkness.
    “’Morning Walter,” said Barry dryly, his attention on the papers stamped ‘OVERDUE’ by the reception desk, “Didn’t you pay these last week?”
    “Oh, well, err…they sent them back.”
    “Then why didn’t you pursue them?”
    Mr. Tomkins gave him a sharp stern.
    “Mr. Tomkins, sorry, they were from April last year.”
    Barry seemed oblivious to where Walter was headed and limped to the transparent door. Walter followed him, trotting behind him so closely that he nearly stepped on the heels of his boss’ tattered leather shoes.
    “It is now November. They are at least a year and a half overdue.”
    Barry turned on his heel at the dusty window.
    “So?” he replied in the tone of a patronising child.
    “Mr. Tomkins, they won’t accept them. I’ve tried for weeks.”
    “Oh well, oh well, it’s the government trying to take advantage of us, Walt. Better off without them.”
    Walter began collecting the papers that had spiralled to the floor and stacked them alphabetically on a perfect angle on Barry’s desk. He flattened their creases and upturned corners and continued, “They sent another threat letter this morning. Rather obnoxious to be quite frank,” he idled, attempting to change the direction of the conversation before Barry’s vein burst from his forehead.
    “Really,” gruffed Barry. He directed his attention to an open window, “I thought I made it clear that I don’t want windows open in my office, Mr. Greene!” The vein bulged from his face as he slammed it shut.
    “Right, sorry sir, but, sir, these letters; it’s the tenth one over the past five—“
    “I’m well aware of the statistical evidence, Greene.” He chuckled with an eerie chortled and placed a playful slap on Walter’s shoulder. Surprisingly, Walter’s frame withstood the impact.
    “Why should I bother anyhow?” Walter stiffened. “It’s only words, Greene!” he jeered, “If they were as desperate to kill me as they seem,” he tugged a yellowed paper from the pile and examined it with a pitying grin, “they would have used their ‘one of kind, terrifyingly massive rifle’ by now.”
    “Possibly, but criminals these days are much more –“
    “Much more what?” snapped Barry, the vein duplicating, “Stupid? Technologically advanced? I’ve been a private investigator for twelve years, Mr. Greene. I’ve seen case after case of murders and threats. I think you know all too well that I am fully aware of what I am doing.”
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