Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bits and bobs.

As Quentin slowly felt the life ebb out of him, he ruminated that these people probably didn’t wish him well. The larger of the two men picked Quentin up as though heaving bodies from one place to another was routine (which it was) and carefully, almost tenderly placed him in the open dumpster.
The smaller man surveyed the now lifeless body of Quentin Delphonse, and paused for a moment before retracting the blade of his flick-knife, though not before wiping the bloodied blade clean on Delphonses shirt.
 “A great shame Mr Fostbury is it not?” said the small man, now standing beside his lumbering partner. “Indeed it is Mr Finbar, a most calamitous occasion. He even had the indecency to bleed all over my gloves. My very best pair too.” Mr Finbar adjusted his pince-nez slightly before posing his next question- “Have you the envelope Mr Fostbury? Everything must be in order as I am sure you are aware. You know how Mother is a stickler for protocol.”
Fostbury smiled, and silently closed the lid of the dumpster- “Oh you know me too well Mr Finbar, it is well concealed upon my person.”
If Quentin could have talked at this point, which would have been quite an achievement for a corpse he might have asked these two bizarre gentlemen why did they have to kill him. And in such a hackneyed way too. But perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. Firstly, he had only agreed to deliver the message as a way of getting into the good books of Professor Belgravia.  The stubborn old goat taught his university course and over the past few months he had seen his grades plummet ‘A social history of inane chatter: From cave paintings to the One Show’ seemed to be much harder than first reckoned. So at the end of another interminably dull lecture when the Professor had softly ‘hemmed-hemmed’ everyone’s attention to the fact that he needed a message delivered as quickly as possible, Quentin seized the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of Belgravia. ‘This might be the way to worm myself into his affections’ Quentin thought cannily.  Quentin strode up to the Professors desk at the front of the lecture hall and tried not to cringe at him; he truly was a disgusting creature.  A round portly figure that greatly resembled a beetroot, Professor Belgravia was in possession of far too much flesh and not enough neck. He wore a black turtleneck sweater, encrusted with several days’ worth of crumbs and egg yolk and uncomfortably squeezed onto his rotund figure. He finished his look off with a pair of poorly repaired wire framed glasses that were always mounted slightly askew on his face.
“Professor Belgravia?” Quentin tapped him on the shoulder.
“Oh what my dear boy?” he turned around from his notes momentarily, “Oh it’s you. Quirrell isn’t it?”
Quentin seethed inwardly. “Quentin, Professor. I’m just wondering if I can deliver that message?”
“But of course my dear boy, it’s the envelope on my desk, just deliver it to the address in Cheapside, the details are all there.” Professor Belgravia delivered this sentence in his usual portentous manner, waving his hands about as though swatting errant flies, before trailing off and turning back to his notes. Quentin realised there wasn’t much point in asking Belgravia for further details, he seemed barely aware of his presence, and as he had made clear, it seemed quite self-explanatory.
As the last stragglers left the lecture hall, Quentin picked up the small, parchment coloured envelope and soundlessly walked out of the building. Belgravia made sure he was gone before remarking to himself- “Poor bugger. Hasn’t got a chance” in a voice quite unlike his ordinary dirge.
It was Friday, late afternoon on a cold September day, and Quentin shivered as he walked through the sparsely populated streets to the address in Cheapside. It had been foolish to just wear a shirt on a day like this. He had never been this far into the city either; he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to make it back before nightfall. He had only got this far by guesswork alone. This neighbourhood was somewhat sinister as well. It comprised of abandoned warehouses full of smashed windows, like gaps in a toothy smile and burnt out hulks of buildings. Here and there dark alleyways darted off to places unknown. What was weird too was that he hadn’t seen a single human soul here. No-one. In a city like Shorebridge that was weird. The city bustled and hummed and gurgled with all manner of human detritus. But here, nothing. Not even a cat. Quentin felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle, and he thought about abandoning this ridiculous chore. He was alone in a strange part of town in order to do a favour for a man who put up publicity shots of Adrian Chiles in the lecture hall, without any apparent sense of irony.
Suddenly though, everything changed. “Are you alright young sir?” started a thin reedy voice from the shadows. Quentin looked around wildly. “Who said that?” he yelped, startled.
“Oh I didn’t mean to frighten the poor young sir, I was only just remarking to my accomplice Mr Fostbury here, that this looks like a gentleman in need of our assistance.” And with that, two figures stepped -no materialised almost- out of the shadows. The first figure, the one with the reedy voice was short, squat, old and almost completely bald. He wore a pair of thick-lensed pince-nez, which oddly magnified his mole like eyes.  The other figure was tall, gangly and had hair in the form of rough bristles which covered most of his knobbly, oddly shaped head. His sloping forehead led to a face scrunched up in a permanent grimace. Both wore black woollen suits, brightly polished wingtips and white carnations in their buttonholes. Quentin noticed too that the larger man wore a pair of white silk gloves.
“As I was just saying to my partner here,” the small man gestured to the large man, presumably called Fostbury, “That this gentleman needs our assistance. You seem lost. It is somewhat risky to be lost at this hour, especially in this part of town.”
“Indubitably.” intoned Fostbury in a deep booming voice.
Quentin was quite taken aback by all this. This bizarre couple with their bizarre clothes and bizarre ways had no way to be logically reacted to. “Who are you? You’re the first people I’ve seen here.”
“But how churlish of us! We have not even introduced ourselves properly. I do beg of your forgiveness. I am Mr Finbar, and my associate here is Mr Fostbury.”
“A serendipitous pleasure, despite the inopportune circumstances.” said Fostbury, as he held out his massive, club-like hand for Quentin to shake. Partly out of politeness, but also out of a strange fear, Quentin momentarily gripped Mr Fostbury’s palm. It was like ice to the touch.
“Now we may get down to brass tacks as it were. May I ask whether it is true you have been instructed by one Ignatius Belgravia to deliver a message on his behalf?” questioned Mr Finbar.
“Well…um…yes. But how do you know that?” said Quentin. Storm-clouds of suspicion were beginning to accumulate fast in his mind.
Perhaps sensing Quentin’s growing fear, Mr Finbar continued- “Well this is a fine pickle! We are acquaintances of Professor Belgravia! He told us to find you around here, in order to assist you in your querulous chore in delivering that message.”
Mr Fostbury chimed in with his sonorous tones- “There is a shortcut to the address to Cheapside that will halve your perambulations, if you will be kind enough to follow us, we will escort you to your destination.”
Quentin knew better than to trust strangers claiming such truths, especially strangers as bizarre as these ones, but both of them exuded a strange, magnetic charm about them. They certainly seemed the sort of people the Professor would befriend. Pompous, old-fashioned, probably gay.  Before Quentin’s mind had even properly mulled over what this stranger was saying, he found himself saying the words- “Well thanks very much, whereabouts is this shortcut?”
Mr Finbar’s prune-like face crinkled into a slight smile. “Why just this way young sir.” He pointed his arm down a dark shadowy alleyway. “Just this way.” Quentin, still unsure why he was doing this, found himself walking down the long, dark alley, flanked by the ridiculous couple of Finbar and Fostbury. The alleyway kept getting darker and darker and suddenly he felt Finbar and Fostbury get closer and closer. Suddenly, somewhere in some, small sensible recess of his mind Quentin thought this had been a terrible mistake. And then the sound of a flick-knife blade being released punctured the evening air. “Just a moment young sir, this won’t take a moment.” chirped the reedy voice of Mr. Finbar. Quentin turned around in terror. Mr Finbar held a knife towards him, his smile now a sinister smirk. “I’m afraid my eyesight isn’t as brilliant as it once was, so please endeavour to remain still while I try and accomplish your death as efficiently as possible.”
Mr Finbar was right; his eyesight wasn’t as brilliant as it was. Quentin struggled rather a lot. Quentin got stabbed twenty-seven times in various locations by a maddened geriatric, before Mr Fostbury tired of Mr Finbar’s efforts and finished the job more effectively with a wrench he kept in his breast pocket for such occasions.
A few short minutes later the body was gone, and there was no evidence for Quentin Delphonse’s existence in that area, at least until the garbage-men made a nasty discovery when collecting that Monday’s trash. “May I say Mr Fostbury, I must thank you for finishing that job off for me, that wretched boy was hemorrhaging all over the place. That’s the thing with young people today, gutless.” said Mr Finbar casually, as though discussing the day’s papers.
“If I may attempt a jest Mr Finbar, that youth was only gutless due to your removal of them.” commented Mr Fostbury.
“Hmmm? Oh yes! That is a rather good quip. Do remind me to use it soon.” wearily commented Mr Finbar.
Mr Fostbury, saddened somewhat that his joke had not gone down as well as could be expected (a disappointment, he had been working on that one for a while) began walking off with Mr Finbar from the formerly grisly scene. And so they walked off into the night, out of existence. At least for now.
Somewhere in the neighbourhood, a cat mewed.

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