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Excerpt from 'A Promise to Doreen'

Chapter One



I should probably be taking it easy after my heart attack, but what the hell, my curiosity just won’t let me. Penny keeps creeping out in the morning, trying to apply forced rest by not waking me, and Harry just doesn’t do his normal kamikaze leap on me anymore. What’s worse though, is that my damn dog Sally, who is a Shi-Tzu / Yorkshire Terrier cross, treats me with kid gloves as well. But I am a stubborn old goat, and where I used to love the lie in, I am now invariable consumed with the desire to be up at the crack of dawn. I very rarely make it, as Penny, knowing me as well as she does, makes sure she’s up first.

Penny is my wife, and is so much younger than me that I try not to think about it, but she has still told me that if I die she’ll kill me. She’s normally pretty logical, but when she gets upset with me, that part of her goes out of the window. Now Harry, who is our adopted son, and has just turned nine, says he totally agrees with her, and would hold her coat while she did it. He acts far older than his years, and if you couldn’t see how young he was, you could be forgiven for assuming him to be, at the very least, in his teens.

Faced with such impeccable logic, I am forced to make breakfast last much longer than normal, so that I don’t wander into the office before at least ten o’clock in the morning. In addition to the logic of my dear wife, there is always Grace who is our live in housekeeper. She has taken it upon herself to protect me from myself, whether I want her to or not, and monitors my diet like a hawk. But not even that makes me feel any better, as my friends and colleagues, who are actually employees I might add, are all traitorous S.O.B’s and won’t tell me anything, in case I try to become involved.

I have even been deserted by M.I.6… bastards… who say that my health precludes me from being an agent anymore. They even sent a young lady called Alicia to seize my trusty old Browning Automatic on the pretence that I might collapse and accidently shoot an innocent passer-by. I did argue that they had seemed happy enough when I was just old rather than heart attack old, but they said it would be irresponsible, if not immoral, to keep me on.

Penny however, remains an agent, even if only as a sop to the service that my detective agency had provided them in their hour of need. As we had uncovered an attempt to infiltrate the service, and at the same time brought the murderer of the Home Secretary’s son to Justice, they had effectively made us honorary agents as a reward. They had never officially asked us to do anything, but being able to call on their services from time to time had certainly been useful, and as long as Penny is still on their books, it would hopefully continue.

By the way, my name is Sir Lawrence Dexxman, Larry to you, and I am a going on seventy-six year old private detective. I took it up when I left the Royal Air Force years ago, but didn’t have much work to speak of until recently when I uncovered the conspiracy behind the murder of the Home Secretary’s son. It adorned most of the newspapers for weeks, and as a result serious work started to come my way. It did call for some expansion, staff wise, but as most of them became friends rather than employees, I didn’t mind at all.

I like to think that I am the driving force behind Dexxman Investigations, but on reflection, that’s probably not true anymore. Penny runs the whole shooting match now, with the help of Neil Carson, who was a freelance investigator before joining us when our workload became too much. He was pretty much my second in command, but now he has switched that loyalty completely to Penny.

The other two in the office are Denise Allen, who is usefully married to Detective Inspector Charles (Chuck) Allen, and my adopted daughter Margaret. At sixteen she had been taken into care, because of the philandering of her mother, but had come to me and asked if I would adopt her. She had been the girlfriend of the Home Secretary’s deceased son, and had helped us out on several occasions when a teenager was needed during an investigation. Surprisingly she has an aptitude for investigative work, is bright and learns very quickly. Harry loves her to bits, so it seemed like an easy thing to do.

Adopting Harry had turned out to be quite difficult given the difference in age between me and Penny, and the fact of course, that Social Services considered me to be a geriatric old fart. He had come to us to find his mother, who had unaccountably disappeared, and stayed with us after his father had ended up as the prime suspect. At first they had flatly refused our request to adopt, but then Harry had threatened to become a juvenile delinquent unless they agreed. At that point they had graciously caved in. I had the feeling that they had actually wanted to place him with me, but couldn’t find an acceptable excuse for the powers that be. To everyone’s relief, Harry had provided that excuse.

I walked into the office, and got grunts of disapproval from everyone there, so I told them I was just going out for a walk. Sally made a move to follow me, but I ruffled her ears and told her to stay. Picking my stoutest stick from the stand by the door, I made my way downstairs making full use of the handrail, and pushed open the door of Gregory’s café which is situated on the ground floor of my building. As soon as he saw me he rushed forward, scolded me for daring to venture out on my own, and helped me to my usual seat at the rear of the café near the kitchen. Perhaps MI6 were right, if this mollycoddling continued and I still had the Browning, I would eventually shoot someone, and I might add, not by accident either.

Gregory was my vision of the perfect chef, not too tall, but very round. His cooking was second to none, and his cafe was always bustling. I had managed to buy the whole building with money I had made over twenty five years or so, but after furnishing the flat and the office I wanted, I just had no money to live on. I was beginning to despair, and was airing this to several friends in the local pub, when Gregory had overheard. He made me a rental offer for the ground floor that I could not refuse, and the rest is history.

He brought me my fourth cup of tea of the morning, which wouldn’t cost me anything, because as things had picked up more recently, we had come to an agreement that I wouldn’t charge him rent anymore, and he wouldn’t charge me or my crew for refreshments. It was an arrangement that suited us both. Wrapping my hands around the cup to savour the warmth, I settled back to people watch.

At the table next to me, three men in suits and a smartly dressed woman were talking, and even though their voices were muted conspiratorially, I still managed to catch the odd word here and there. They took no notice of me, but then who would of an old codger who had to be helped to his table. Probably from their point of view I was about to peg it any minute anyway.

The woman, who under normal circumstances would have been considered extremely attractive, had a look on her face which made any attractiveness just an illusion. From where I was sitting, she certainly looked like someone not to be messed with. She was definitely in charge, and was hissing her words at the others through clenched teeth, trying to make any possible onlookers think she was not talking,

“…in the room…” she said.

“…I don’t care, he has to go…” I heard the first guy hiss, and my interest was piqued.

“diffi… justify…” I heard from another.

“…tribunal…” came from a third.

“…no one…come…” from the second again

“…bother… kill… bastard…” from the woman again and I was hooked.

She looked around and saw me staring at them, did a double take, and whispered something to the others whose heads immediately snapped around to look at me. I heard one of them, not quite sure which, say, “Nah. It’s uncanny, but it isn’t him.”

I was still staring, and she glared at me.

“Something interest you old man?”

Thinking quickly, I put my cup down and cupping my hand to my ear I leaned forward, “I’m sorry miss, did you say something? I’m afraid I don’t hear so well these days.”

“Ignore him,” one of the men said, dismissively, “he’s just an old fart daydreaming.”

“Pardon,” I said, turning my head as if trying to hear.

The woman got up and came to my table. I cringed away from her in apparent alarm, but she rested her hand on my head surprisingly gently, and raising her voice said, “It’s nothing Pops, enjoy your tea. We’re just leaving.”

She walked back to her table and was joined by the other three who got up as she approached. One detached himself from the group, and walking over to Gregory, handed him a couple of bank notes, and then all four left together.

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