I felt better at least for the bath, and my room-mate, bless his little PVC hotpants, had found me a shirt and suit from somewhere. The shirt was comfortable; the suit fit in all the important areas (the sleeves were too long and tended to fall over my hands, but I could see where that might come in useful) and most importantly, he’d told me he didn’t want the clothes back. I slipped my hands into the pockets to see if there was anything left behind and found a monogrammed handkerchief, a delicate blue silk number with a calligraphic M in one corner. Whistling, I walked away from our little home and out into the night.
I was wandering aimlessly at first, letting my mind mull over the events of the last few days, and the weirdness that was transpiring. Natasha Monkeybutt was up to something, but that wasn’t news, or even worth investigating. She had the blessing of City Hall for the moment, and when she fell out of favour with them they’d deal with her in their own way. Nothing I was going to do would hasten that fall, unless Mad Frankie got so upset with me that he decided to do something about her himself. And that was as likely as a freebie from a girl with thirty years on the street.
I still wanted to locate Boy Blue. Whether he knew what he was mixed up in or not, I wanted to find him now and find out what the hell he thought was going on. And why he had that picture of Natasha Monkeybutt… well, for all I knew better, I couldn’t resist giving her tree a little shake and seeing if the Death-watch beetles were ticking yet or not. And he was clearly annoying her, and that was reason enough to see if he needed any help in my book. It’s not a big book, and there’s more pictures than words, but it’s my book nonetheless.
I turned down another street without really looking where I was going and nearly tripped over some woman’s child-buggy; a double-stacked double-wide thing that looked like it should be used for delivering outsize packages, not supporting the over-population of the city. There were two children who looked to be of toddling age in the lower stack in little chairs that were like the classic push-chair from when I was a child. I never had a push-chair, my mother didn’t believe in pandering to anyone’s desires. I crawled everywhere once I could crawl, sometimes with her chivvying me along like a recalcitrant sled-dog according to people who knew her back then. Above them, acting almost as a canopy, were two smaller bassinet-style things supported on a cantilevered plastic frame. In one of those was a pudding of a child that had presumably hurt its mother to give birth to, and in the other were two babies placed top to tail and wearing little shark-themed onesies.
“Look where you’re going!” bellowed the woman pushing this contraption, who was so stick-thin that I could both the bones in her forearms. I wondered that she control this buggy with all the weight that was clearly in it.
“If you’d left any room on the pavement…” I retorted, and attempted to step around her. She wrenched the buggy as hard as she could, and to my complete lack of surprise failed to get it to turn even an inch. I sidled past, listening to her scream in frustration and thinking to myself that she couldn’t know this neighbourhood very well. When she the corner that I’d just come round, probably after a titanic struggle with the buggy, it went downhill. Very gradually at first, but it got steeper as the river came into sight, and I couldn’t see her being able to slow the buggy down, let alone stop it.
I looked around me, and realised that I knew where I was, and wondered again for a moment what my feet had been up to. I paused, and then decided to pay a visit for old time’s sake. And to ask if Lucy knew about Boy Blue by any chance.
Lucy Locket’s was a non-descript house of three storeys in a three-storey neighbourhood with a large front garden who edges were lines with leylandii to keep peeping eyes out. The front path was narrow and gravelled, and I knew that stepping off it was the cue for the dobermen to come leaping out of hiding and inspect you. At the end of it was a couple of concrete steps up to a front-door with an imposing knocker that was never answered; but walk around to the tradesmen’s entrance and there was a buzzer and a peephole. Lucy opened the door almost immediately to me, and I could smell the disinfectant and hear the strains of a badly-tuned piano.
“Mac!” she said, looking as though she’d embrace me if I weren’t me. “You look… clean!”