The Continuing Story Of Wet Blanket Ron – Part Three by Chris Green
In his nineteen years on the force Sergeant Crooner has happened upon many strange scenarios. If he has learnt one thing from police work though, it is when something seems amiss there is usually a rational explanation. Cause and effect, action and reaction and all that. The supernatural does not feature heavily in the life of the plod. He can however see no rational explanation this time. He is flummoxed.
‘That is a dead pig in the back seat, isn’t it, Vaz?’ he says. He feels he needs to make sure. With all the back to back shifts he has been doing lately, he doesn’t know if he is coming or going. Only yesterday, he drove through a red light on the pedestrian crossing outside BronzeTan and narrowly missed a lady walking her Bichon Frise. It certainly looks to him like a dead pig, the kind you used to see hung in butchers’ shops before namby pamby political correctionists took over the western world.
‘Yes Sarge,’ says Vaz. He is not sure how to react. He is a newcomer to police work. He drifted into it when he found no commercial opportunities for street art. ‘I think that describes it perfectly. It is a dead pig.’
‘And it wasn’t there just now, was it Vaz? When we went up to Mrs DeAngelo’s house.’
‘No Sarge,’ says Vaz distractedly. ‘It definitely wasn’t there then.’ Vaz recalls the scene with the horse’s head in the bed in The Godfather. And Marlon Brando saying I’m going to make him an offer he cannot refuse. This worries him a little. He doesn’t mention it. It seems reasonable to assume that Sergeant Crooner will also have referenced this. After all, the iconic film was from his boss’s generation.
‘And you did lock the car, didn’t you?’
‘Yes. I never forget to lock the car, Sarge. You keep telling me that thieves will stop at nothing.’ There again this is 2016 English suburban Home Counties, not Mafioso run 1950s New York. There is no real reason to suppose that whoever deposited the dead pig is delivering the same kind of message as Vito Corleone. Is there?
‘And we definitely didn’t go into Mrs DeAngelo’s house, because no-one answered the door, right?’
‘That’s right, Sarge.’
Sergeant Crooner mops his brow. He feels dizzy. For a moment he thinks that he might be going to faint.
‘Are you all right, Sir?’ says Vaz. ‘You’ve gone a funny colour. Uh, cerise, I think.’ Vaz is good at colours. Art college education.
‘So,’ says Sergeant Crooner, bypassing the enquiry after his welfare. ‘The dead pig must have been put there while we were trying to get someone to answer the door. ….. How long do you think that was, Vaz?’
‘About a minute and a half, I would say, Sarge. Three minutes tops.’
‘The car was in full view as well wasn’t it?’
‘Yes Sarge. When you went round the back I stayed at the front as you recall.’ He does not mention that he used the time to change the ringtone on his iphone to Catfish and the Bottlemen’s new tune.
‘Do you want me to call Division to get someone to come and dispose of the dead animal?’
‘Forensics, Vaz. We need to bring in Forensics.’
‘Remind me why we were calling on Mrs DeAngelo, Sarge. I’m not sure you let me in on this.’
‘Later, Vaz. Later.’
Ron Smoot met Daniel DeAngelo in prison. Anxious to rid himself of the moniker, Wet Blanket Ron, which had plagued him for years, Ron took the CBT course on offer at Strangeways, four times. Daniel DeAngelo was on CBT course number four, under the misapprehension that CBT was some king of boxing training. He discovered quickly that it wasn’t, but he found Ron to be amenable and latched on to him for the rest of his stay. He was mysteriously released after two years of his sentence. When taunted with the line everyone in here is innocent DeAngelo had consistently said the difference is I AM innocent. I was fitted up by a bent cop. Ron never discovered if this really was the case or in fact why DeAngelo was released. By and large he kept his head down. When he was himself was released after serving three years of his six year stretch, Daniel DeAngelo offered him a position in his trading firm, this in return for the many favours that Ron had done for him inside. Although it was not a high powered position, and his job description was vague, Ron was grateful. He felt his efforts had paid off.
Ron had been jailed for his part in bringing down the rock star, Johnny Angel’s helicopter. As it happened Ron had had nothing to do with it. He was a victim of circumstance. But then, this was the story of his life. Bad luck had dogged him since kinder-garden. For instance, years ago he suffered multiple injuries when he was was knocked down by a hit and run driver. In hospital he went down with Norovirus. While he was in the isolation ward, his wife, Heather ran off with his best friend, Frank. When he came out of hospital, his landlord, Kostas Moros, who was also seeing Heather when she was not seeing Frank, threw him out of his flat to let it for more money and charged Ron two grand for damages incurred during his tenancy.
Ron acted like a magnet to calamity. Disaster and disappointment were constant companions. His every endeavour went tits up. Time and time again, outrageous misfortune tracked him down. No-one would have bet against him going to prison for a crime he did not commit; there was a strange inevitability about this happening.
On being released from prison, Ron was determined to turn his life around. Feeling positive, he put his Hank Williams CD collection on ebay, ditched his Life is Meaningless and Everything Dies sweatshirt, and joined the InstaDate dating agency. He started seeing someone called Simone. It was unfortunate that Simone turned out to be a transvestite. Simone’s dark brown voice should have given him a clue, as should the fact that her feet were bigger than his, but Ron in his enthusiasm, missed these pointers. It was unfortunate too that it took him nearly a month to discover Simone’s proclivities, but he did not dwell on it. The Wet Blanket Ron of old would have seen the episode as an insurmountable knock-back to his confidence. He would have dined out on the story for weeks, but the post-CBT Ron resolved to quickly put the matter behind him. He told himself there were plenty more fish in the sea. He just had to be more careful, next time.
Although working for Daniel DeAngelo offered no company car, and pay days were a little irregular, Ron was eventually able to buy a Rover 75 from Ted Drinker Quality Second Hand Cars. This way he was able to do pick ups and deliveries for DeAngelo. Although Rovers were notoriously unreliable, for a week or two Ron had no trouble with his purchase. He made no less than seventeen journeys up and down the motorway with important packages. He did not know what the packages contained. He was curious as the packages seemed unnaturally light but he thought that it was not his place to ask. It was enough that Daniel DeAngelo had described them as important and had entrusted him with them.
Ron knew he shouldn’t have ignored the oil light, but when you have to get somewhere quickly, you sometimes overlook these things. Daniel DeAngelo did stress that time was of the essence on this particular mission. Il tempo è importante. Le borse contengono tempo, he had said lapsing into his native Italian. Strictly speaking Ron’s judgement was right, as the car did make it the hundred or so miles to his pick up and back. It wasn’t until he was nearly home that the engine started labouring. Pulling off from the traffic lights at the Scott Mackenzie roundabout it started to make unwelcome noises. At first the smoke that emerged from under the bonnet was light in colour, but over half a mile or so of chugging and lurching, the poor Rover began belching out thick grey clouds of the stuff. Ron was never mechanically minded but it was apparent even to him that the engine was now on its way out. By the time he pulled it over on to the kerb, to let the traffic pass, the Rover had all but disappeared in a cloud of acrid black smoke.
Ron of old would have been mortified but his post-CBT voice tells him that the main thing is that he has the package safe and sound. He can still deliver it to DeAngelo.
‘I don’t want to bother you, Sarge,’ says PC Vaz. ‘But, look over there! Someone’s just ……. uh, torched a car.’
‘Oh, so they have, Vaz. Lot of it about, I’m afraid,’ says Sergeant Crooner, dismissively. Vaz is beginning to get on his nerves. Why did they keep giving him these hopeless rookies. If he had been promoted to Inspector, he wouldn’t have to break in these fresh-faced kids with no aptitude for police work. He had missed out on promotion five years in a row now. Wasn’t his nineteen years of service enough? Debbie might not have left him for Kirsty Tickler if he’d been promoted. But arguably he might have been promoted if Debbie hadn’t left him for Kirsty Tickler. This sort of thing was still looked down upon in the Constabulary. Or was it all down to that business with DeAngelo that they had not considered him suitable for higher office?
‘Shouldn’t we go and have a look, Sarge?’ says PC Vaz, bringing him out of his reverie.
‘You’re like an excited child, Vaz. Wait until you’ve been on the beat a few years, son. ……… Oh go on then. I suppose we should have a look. I’m guessing it will be a while before forensics get here to go over the pig. We may as well be doing something useful.’
‘There’s someone standing by it, Sarge. He’s on his phone. Seems to be gesticulating a lot.’
‘Oh my God, Vaz! That’s ….. That’s Ron Smoot. Wet Blanket Ron. He can’t be out of the nick already, can he?’
‘Who is Wet. …. Blanket. ….. Ron. Sarge?’
‘He’s notorious, Vaz. He’s the one that brought down Johnny Angel’s helicopter. Before your time I expect, Johnny Angel.’
‘Oh no, Sarge. I remember Johnny Angel. Rocket Man. Crocodile Rock.’
‘No. That was the other fellow, Vaz.’ Why had then given him this plank?
‘This Wet. Blanket. Ron, Sarge. Why is he called that?’
‘You don’t want to know, Vaz.’
Ron is relieved to see the two police officers approaching. He was getting nowhere on the phone with Stan Feckwith Salvage. They did not seem to be treating his request seriously. Tomorrow afternoon, indeed. As if you can leave a burned out Rover by the side of a main road until then. And £50 to take it away. They should be paying him. When his Metro had gone to the breakers years ago Andy Carr Breakers had written him a check for £50. Never mind, the officers are sure to be able to help. They probably come across problems like this all the time. They will know what he should do next.
‘Am I pleased that you have come along?’ he calls out. ‘You can’t believe how difficult it is to get a car towed away around here.’
‘Well, well, well! If it isn’t Ron Smoot,’ says Sergeant Crooner. ‘What is it this time, Ron? Oh dear, torching cars. That’s slumming it a bit isn’t it after bringing down helicopters?’
‘Might he have had something to do with the dead pig, Sarge?’ says Vaz.
‘Not now, Vaz.’
‘I haven’t done anything,’ says Ron. ‘I’m trying to be helpful. I’m just trying to get the car taken away.’
‘I think we should take him in, Vaz. We’re bound to find something we can charge him with. Search him will you.’
‘OK Smoot!’ says PC Vaz. ‘Hands up against the wall and no funny business!’
‘I need to call my lawyer.’
‘We’ve caught you red handed setting alight to a car, Smoot.’
‘The engine blew up on me, officer. I want to call my lawyer.’
‘That would be the celebrated, Brent Diaz, would it?’ says Sergeant Crooner ‘In case you don’t know, Vaz, Brent Diaz is the most famous crooked lawyer in these parts. He is popularly known down town as Bent Diaz.’
‘I resent that allegation.’
‘Shut up, Smoot. Cuff him, Vaz! We’ll take him in.’
‘What about Mrs DeAngelo’s house and the dead pig, Sarge?’
Ron may not be the brightest button in the box, but the mention of the name DeAngelo puts him on a higher state of alert. Last time he was in the office he overheard a phone conversation about settling a score with a mention of sending a dead animal as a message. There was an allusion to a scene in The Godfather and although he could not remember the film that well, there was one particular scene that had stayed with him. What was the offer that the victim couldn’t refuse, though? Was it something to do with getting the character that wasn’t meant to be Frank Sinatra a part in a film? More to the point what had DeAngelo been referring to?
Brent Diaz is surprised to get the call, and a little horrified. When he said goodbye to Wet Blanket Ron at the trial, he thought he had seen the last of him. ……. Wrongful arrest? Daniel DeAngelo? What is the fellow talking about? He can’t have been out five minutes. Surely he is not in trouble already. You would have thought he would have learned his lesson by now. I mean, he doesn’t come across as a career criminal, just a recurrent loser. Still, there is something about Wet Blanket Ron that against your better judgement elicits sympathy.
‘Slow down, Ron,’ he says. ‘I can’t make out what you are saying. ……. Sergeant Crooner? Yes a regular pain in the ass, that one. …….. I agree there’s nothing worse that a bent cop.’
‘They’ve already taken the packages that I was supposed to deliver to Daniel DeAngelo and opened them.’
‘H’mmm. Out of interest, Ron. What was in the packages?’
‘That’s just it, Mr Diaz. Nothing. The packages seemed to be ……. empty.’
‘Then they have no reason to detain you.’
‘There’s still the business with the car, Mr Diaz. They are still saying that I torched the car. But I didn’t. It just blew up on me.’
‘OK Ron. Hang on in there. I’m on my way. Give me twenty minutes and I’ll be there at the station.’
‘I feel really bad about what happened to young Vaz, Inspector,’ says Sergeant Crooner. My heart goes out to his family. I know he was a bit naive, and could be a pain in the ass with his arty farty stuff, but he didn’t deserve that. I can’t stop from thinking that the explosion was meant for me. DeAngelo seems to have felt that there was an old score to settle. To be honest I would have thought that stuff about framing him would have blown over. But maybe it hadn’t. It seems he was driven by revenge. That must have been what the dead pig was about. He was sending a warning. Do you know, Vaz said something about a scene in The Godfather. But never having seen the film I did not understand what he was talking about. I’m probably the only person in the county that hasn’t watched the film. Never was one for watching films. But now I wish I had watched it. It might not have come to this.’
‘Perhaps give it a miss now, eh, Crooner? …… The film, I mean.’
‘Right there in broad daylight too.’
‘Vaz walked right into it, didn’t he,’ says Inspector Otis. ‘Poor sod. Probably never be able to walk again though, they are saying.’
‘Don’t make me feel even worse, sir.’
‘Well. I guess as officers of the law we have to learn to expect these things.’
‘Any word on DeAneglo yet?’
‘No. The bastard seems to have disappeared without trace.’
‘How long do you think we can hold Smoot?’
‘Indefinitely, I should think, now that Brent Diaz has backed off. Even if we can’t pin the bomb on him, arson is a pretty serious offence in these days of terrorism.’
‘Bit of a mystery why Diaz didn’t want to stay on the case. He seemed to give up too easily.’
‘Probably two hours of listening to Wet Blanket Ron was as much as he could take.’
‘I wonder what happened to the stuff that he was carrying when we brought him in. ‘
‘I expect it’s downstairs with Evidence.’
‘Anyway, what’s done is done I suppose. What have you got?’
‘This is a weird one, that’s just come in, Crooner. Someone has been smuggling what they describe as small packages of time out of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. This it says has happened now on seventeen occasions in all.’
‘What would these packages look like, Inspector? These packages of ….. time?’
‘That’s just it, Crooner. Nobody seems to be able to describe what a package of time would look like. Time doesn’t have mass, as such. Whatever shape or size it was when you opened the package up it would just look like it was empty.’
‘There must be a market for it, wouldn’t you say, sir? A market for time. I mean everybody needs time.’
‘You mean as in buy some time or buy more time.’
© Chris Green 2016: All rights reserved