The Shipping Forecast by Chris Green
I am listening to the Shipping Forecast when the phone rings. Not that I am a seafarer. I don’t have a boat or even live by the sea. It does not matter that much of the detail goes over my head. I find the poetry of the teatime forecast captivating. All those lyrical names like Lundy, Dogger and Fastnet. Rockall, Viking and Cromarty. German Bight. I do not want to be interrupted. I am not expecting a call. I leave the phone but it keeps on ringing. On the basis that it must be important, I finally answer it. No one is there. Another of those automated calls. When I put the receiver down, all the lights in the house go out.
The laptop goes over to battery so the Shipping Forecast continues uninterrupted. In fact, it is more atmospheric listening to it in the dark. It is easier to concentrate. Perhaps this is something to bear in mind for the future. It could be my imagination but the reports from coastal stations seem to be clearer. Even Stornoway and Lerwick have good prognoses for later.
At first, I put the outage down to a more widespread power-cut. We have had one or two of these since the November storms. But I can see the lights from neighbours’ houses are still on. Dan isn’t a very good electrician so I figure it is probably down to something he has done, or not done, when he fitted the new sockets under the stairs. We only used Dan for the work because he was Ellie’s cousin. He was a fairground worker before he became an electrician. He is in what is referred to as the gig economy. I do not have a number for Dan so I will have to wait until Ellie gets home from her class. Meanwhile, I can practice some tunes on my duduk. Light My Fire needs a little work. Then I can have a go at Mary Jane. And perhaps, Marrakesh Express. Omar feels this would sound good on the duduk.
Without warning, two tall dark figures dressed in black let themselves in through the back door. I can’t see who they are. Paranoia takes over. I don’t imagine they have come to listen to me playing the duduk. Over the years I have seen one or two noir films about unsuspecting victims being taken off for interrogation so I feel I know more or less what to expect. They will threaten me a little, perhaps point a gun at me, tie my hands behind my back, blindfold me and bundle me into the back of an unmarked vehicle. They will take me to a dark basement somewhere a twenty minutes drive away, tie me to a chair and leave me to stew for a while. Later on, the principal interrogators will arrive. For simplicity let’s say they will be Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta lookalikes. They will tell me they know I know why I am here so I might as well come clean. They will ignore my protestations of innocence, threaten me some more and perhaps club me round the head.
‘Why are you sitting in the dark, playing that flute thing, Dad?’ Matt says. ‘By the way, this is Andy.’
‘Hello Mr Lorenzo,’ Andy says. ‘That flute thing is a duduk, isn’t it?’
‘Oh, I see,’ Matt says, having tried a few light switches. ‘The electrics have gone. What happened?’
With a sense of relief, I explain the chain of events.
‘That’ll be a trip switch,’ Andy says. ‘Unusual for all the rings to go at once though. ‘Where’s the consumer unit?’
I show him. He puts the switch back on. I thank him and think no more about it.
The following day, I am listening to the Shipping Forecast again when the same thing happens. The phone rings, I answer it and the lights go out. Once again two dark figures appear out of nowhere.
‘Hi, Matt. Hi, Andy,’ I say.
This time it is not Matt and Andy. It is a pair of gangsters and they appear to have read the script. They threaten me a little, point a gun at me, tie my hands behind my back, blindfold me and bundle me into the back of an unmarked vehicle. They take me to a dark basement somewhere a twenty minutes drive away, tie me to a chair and leave me to stew for a while. Later on, the principal interrogators arrive. Pulp Fiction’s Jules and Vincent lookalikes. They tell me they know I know why I am here so I might as well come clean. They ignore my protestations, threaten me some more and club me round the head.
‘If I knew why you’d brought me here, I’d be completely co-operative. I’d tell you everything you want to know’ I say, taking the initiative. ‘But as it is, I have no idea.’
‘OK. We’ll try it another way, shall we?’ Vincent says. ‘Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve been listening to the Shipping Forecast.’
‘Regularly, Mr Lorenzo,’ Jules says. ‘We know because we’ve been keeping tabs on you.’
‘But you don’t have a boat,’ Vincent says. ‘So tell me, Mr Lorenzo. Why have you been listening to the Shipping Forecast when you don’t have a boat?’
‘I find it relaxing,’ I say.
‘You find it relaxing, do you?’ Jules says, coming at me with the butt end of his pistol. ‘Let’s see if you find this relaxing.’
‘Now, why do you like listening to the Shipping Forecast when you don’t live by the sea?’ Vincent says.
‘It’s like a mindfulness meditation,’ I say. ‘I just like listening to those mystical names. Shannon, Lundy, Sole, Fastnet.’
‘And why exactly is that, Mr Lorenzo?’ Jules says. ‘Why do you like those mystical names? It’s to find out where our shipments are coming in, isn’t it?’
‘So you can intercept them,’ Vincent says. ‘Like your people did with the last shipment three weeks ago. That didn’t go down to well with the boss.’
‘What shipment?’ I say. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘Our shipment from Morocco, Mr Lorenzo, as if you didn’t know,’ Jules says. ‘You somehow found out that we have been sneaking coded instructions about our drugs drops into coastal stations’ reports on the teatime shipping forecast for the benefit of our runners. And you have been listening in to crack the code.’
‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ I say. ‘I know nothing about any drugs.’
‘And obviously, clever though you might be to crack the code, as you don’t have a boat, you too must be part of a larger operation,’ Vincent says. ‘So you’re going to give us names.’
‘What about those two young bucks that arrived the first time we called round for instance?’ Jules says. ‘The ones dressed in black.’
‘We would have taken them out then,’ Vincent says. ‘But the boss said, deal with you first. But we can always call back.’
‘Perhaps Mr Lorenzo needs a little more time to think about it,’ Jules says. ‘Let’s leave him to sweat for a couple more days. I think he might decide to be more talkative then.’
With this, they are gone. It takes me a while to spot it but I notice Jules appears to have left his phone. Can I somehow reach it? Is it perhaps a trick? Are they trying to find out who I might contact? I need to be cautious and if I ever get out of this hell hole, I need to be more careful about how I operate. Perhaps there is another way to find out about future shipments from Morocco to make sure my people are in position to intercept them.
© Chris Green 2019: All rights reserved