Strike While the Iron is Hot

Strike While The Iron Is Hot by Chris Green

She has fought against it for too long. If she doesn’t do it now, she never will. What is so difficult about telling Dirk he has to leave? Each time that her friend Marie has said; you’ve got to do it, Donna, she has said; it’s not that simple, Marie. But, it is that simple. She just has to say; I’ve had enough, Dirk, and tell him to pack his things. After all, it is her flat.

Dirk coming home from the dog track drunk with his mate, Dean, last night was the final straw. He knew she had arranged for Sam and Samantha to come round for a meal. She had been talking about it for days. He had even watched her preparing the marinade. Then her guests had had to put up with Dirk and Dean making lewd remarks and swapping dirty jokes. She was so embarrassed. She didn’t know where to put herself.

As soon as Dirk steps through the front door, she will let him know. She won’t even give him a chance to put his work bag down. It’s the only way. Strike while the iron is hot.

The only problem is, Dirk Bellamy doesn’t come through the door. Donna waits and waits. She seethes and smoulders to keep the iron hot, reminding herself of all the occasions he has let her down or abused her. About all of the times she has had to bail him out. The drinking. The drugs. The thieving. The lies. The deceit. What did she ever see in him? He wasn’t even good in bed. All he was concerned about was his own gratification. And now the spineless wuss doesn’t even have the decency to come and face the music.

Finally, at midnight, she puts the metaphorical blacksmith’s hammer back and goes off to bed. She has to work in the morning and it’s a busy day at the salon. The end of the month is always fully booked. And she has to talk to Tina about Mrs Nesbitt’s green hair, and explain that it wasn’t her fault. The product labelling was wrong.

She hears no more of Dirk until the police come calling two days later. They want her to come down to the station. They tell her Dirk’s battered body has been found by the canal path. That morning, apparently, by a man walking his schnauzer. She is reminded of her rights.

Am I a suspect?’ Donna asks.

We’d like you to answer some questions,’ Sergeant Wangler says. If you’d just like to get your coat, Ms Jackson, and get into the car.’

What? Just like that?’ she says. ‘Are you arresting me?’

We’d just like you to answer some questions,’ he repeats, this time a little more forcefully. ‘Down at the station.’ His hands are now playing with the handcuffs.

Donna gets her coat and locks up. As they drive downtown, she bursts into tears. She can’t hold back any longer. Her nerves are in tatters. The contestants on The Voice and Strictly Come Dancing are always banging on about being on an emotional roller coaster. That is not an emotional rollercoaster, that is ego massaging or ego bashing. The turbulent feelings that punch into your head after being suddenly told that you might have murdered your partner when you didn’t know he was dead. This is an emotional roller coaster. The history. The abuse. The fights. The retaliation. The times, out of sheer frustration, she has threatened to kill him. The making up. The threats of leaving. The decision to throw him out. The battered body. Where is Dirk’s battered body now?

I don’t have to identify the body or anything like that, do I?’

No. Mrs Bellamy is coming in to identify the body later.’

Dirk’s mother! I thought she was dead.’

No, Mrs Bellamy, his wife.’

He’s married?’ says Donna.

I take it  you are telling me you didn’t know,’ says Sergeant Wangler.

Dirk Bellamy has been living in my flat for three years, Sergeant. Well, when I say living, I mean he has been treating my flat like a hotel for three years. And in all that time, he didn’t once think to mention he had a wife. He deserves everything he fucking …….. ‘

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, Donna, but I don’t think you should be saying too much until you’ve spoken to your solicitor,’ says W.P.C. Mabombo, who has come along as the female support officer. Sergeant Wangler glares at her. Why does Division keep sending him these basket-weaving rookies, he is thinking. There was nothing wrong with Noriega and Suggs’ more direct approach to policing. It certainly helped with confessions. They helped clear up a lot of difficult cases. It’s a shame they are under investigation.

Donna manages to find one positive thing you could say about Dirk. He had a very good solicitor. Max Tempo could get him off anything. Who else would have been able to get the police to drop charges as diverse as Aggravated Burglary and Indecent Assault? Donna finds Max’s number from the deep recesses of her handbag and, within twenty minutes there, he is telling the police what they can and can’t do. Sergeant Wangler has his head in his hands. Donna gets the impression that he has come across Max Tempo before. A little later, after a no comment interview, she is free to go.

Whatever her view of Dirk might have been, his having apparently been murdered puts a slightly different spin on things. How many obituaries or eulogies, for instance, do you find in the papers or on TV that dwell on what a cad the deceased was. When anyone she has ever known, friend or relative, has died, she cannot recall anyone ever having a bad word to say about them. Even great Uncle Malkie, who was by all accounts an arsonist and an armed robber, was praised for his courage and generosity. Certainly Dirk had his faults, and they were plentiful. But she is a compassionate woman. Three years is a fair chunk of her life, a tenth to be exact. She can’t completely ignore these years. Twice, for instance, Dirk brought home flowers, although she suspects that one bouquet came from a neighbour’s garden. And he did sometimes point out bargains for her on eBay.

The feeling of sympathy is not shared by her friends. They always felt that Dirk was an asshole and they are not slow to refresh Donna’s memory.

Don’t you remember the time he left you stranded in Turkey,’ says Marie. ‘And the time he sold your jewellery to buy himself a new smartphone.’

You can’t have forgotten the time he threw up on your new dress at Tasha’s daughter’s Christening at St Margaret’s,’ says Gemma.

Or that bull terrier he bought you for your birthday,’ says Marie. ‘The one that bit the child and had to be put down,’

What about the time he crashed your car and pretended it had been stolen,’ says Gemma.

Good riddance, I say,’ says Marie.

Now you can get on with your life,’ says Gemma.

I suppose you’re right,’ says Donna.

Come out with us on Friday,’ says Marie. ‘We can have a proper girlie night out. We can go to that new Albanian restaurant that Rick Stein recommends and then go on to a club.’

Vibe is cool, or what about R3Hab,’ says Gemma?

Chaos is re-opening,’ says Marie. ‘Or there’s always Heaven.

Donna buys a new skirt and little black top from Next to go out with the girls. She is looking forward to her big night out, although with a certain amount of trepidation. She has not been to a club for so long. She showers and dresses and puts on her makeup. Self-consciously, she dances around the kitchen to a Ministry of Sound CD she has bought to get her in the mood for the night ahead.

Hi babes,’ says a familiar voice. ‘Sorry, I haven’t been …….. home, like. I bet I’m in the doghouse. Thing is, I got caught up in a spot of bother with Nolan Rocco and his boys. I may have to get my man, Max on to it. ……… Hey, honeybun! Did you see that in the paper about the body they found down by the canal? For a while, they thought it was my brother Kirk. I don’t know how they got that idea. Tracey even had to go down to the morgue. It wasn’t him, of course, just some old crusty. Incompetent the police, these days, innit. Just think. It could have been me, eh? You gotta be real careful these days. Never know what’s around the corner.’

It is unfortunate for Dirk that he has chosen this moment to come in because Donna has the iron on to smooth out the wrinkles in the red jacket she is going to wear. Just one thought occurs to her, strike while the iron is hot.

Copyright © Chris Green, 2021: All rights reserved


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