“Let’s go through this one more time, just to make sure we’re clear”.
With closed eyes, a downcast expression, and a palm pressed against her forehead, Officer Winterburn was a picture of muted exasperation. The man to whom she made the request, on the other hand, was a jovial eccentric.
“Well, once I smelled the smoke I knew that it was no time to stand on ceremony, so a departure was in order… Assuming that my intimate comrade had already fled the conflagration-”
Dr. Chesterton R.D. Laingford Esq. was brought to a halt by Winterburn’s colleague, Officer McLintock, who raised a hand with a quizzical look.
“The what? You mean ‘fire’, right Mr…uh…Doctor…um…Esquire?”
Their esteemed interviewee gave a chuckle and refilled his glass from the jug of water at the table’s centre.
“It’s Laingford, dear boy, just Laingford – the Doctorate was only in Epistemology for goodness’ sake, wouldn’t want to give people the mistaken impression that I can help them with anything practical after all, best leave it out altogether, hmmm?”
At this he gave another high-pitched titter. Winterburn opened her eyes and let her hand fall to the desk with undisguised irritation. McLintock flinched, but Laingford carried on, oblivious.
“At any rate, you chaps can call me Chez. That’s what all my comrades call me after all. Possibly because I’m always lounging about? Chaise lounge? My, my name is Chesterton, you see, and-”
Winterburn made a sound uncannily similar to a growl, while McLintock simply looked baffled; the young Scot had never come across anyone like this in his entire life thus far.
“Anyhow. Where was I? Oh yes… I had assumed that my divine darling had wisely abandoned the property, and therefore required no assistance from yours truly. Thus, I was left with the twin alternatives of following her example with immediate effect, or opting to seize one item of optimum sentimental import before doing so. With incredible quick-wittedness, even if I do say so myself, I swiftly decided to grab a duberry prior to departure.”
Tired and frustrated by the events of the day, Officer Winterburn was having trouble keeping her eyes open. Her fellow copper had no such problems; he was wide-eyed at the loquaciousness of their guest, who had begun gesticulating enthusiastically at apparently random points.
“So it would have to be irreplaceable. That rules out all the electronic goods, the consumer durables, the clothing and numerous works of literature, doesn’t it? As much as yours truly is a hoarder, he can nevertheless be forced to leave the vast paraphernalia that is accrued over half a century’s existence! And when I say ‘vast’, I mean ‘VAST!'”
At this he jerked his arms wide, sending the glass of water crashing into the wall. Laingford was so engrossed in his verbose retelling that he scarcely noticed, while Winterburn proceeded to put both palms to her face. McLintock merely stared, mouth agape.
“Detritus accumulated over the decades, an immense treasure trove of unmatched value to me…however, I left it all behind. What else is there, I hear you ask?”
Tempted to deny that she had said any such thing, Winterburn instead sighed grouchily.
“I supposed that I would have to grab a photograph of my dad. My dear, departed father. The one of my mother, he and I at my PhD graduation. Didn’t have time to find any that was of just the two of us, so that one featuring the pater familias would have to do. It did make me somewhat sad, the only image I had left of him also having that bitch on it, but what else could I do?”
In unison, Winterburn and McLintock perked up. It was as if they were two hungry hounds who had just had a hunk of meat waved in front of their noses.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…✪