Nigel Osprey sits in front of his television set with a can of beer in his hand, slowly raising it and taking a luxurious sip. A sound escapes his wet lips ‘ah…..this is life!’
He is enjoying the sport program on television, holding his favourite brew in his hand as symbol of freedom, whilst stabilising a family size pizza that had just been delivered and now balances precariously on his knees. He notices its steam rising gently and wafting through the air, filling the room with his favourite aroma: ‘food!’
He listens with rapture to his favourite football manager’s ranting.Yes, he reminds himself with glowing eyes: that manager’s a real man, strong, with a thick-set body and a mouth that continually seems to burst forth outrageous statements! And expletives – admittedly beeped out by a sissy programme editor – seem to stream effortlessly from thick and egotistic lips.
Nigel giggles to himself. He is enjoying these outbursts; they are amusingly insulting and words are being aired that cannot be received over the airwaves because of their earth content – they are too earthy! But one can always lip-read and not missing out, thereby increasing the fun!
Wonderful thoughts are coming to his mind as he takes another strong suck from his beer can: The wife’s gone away, this time for good! The divorce was very disturbing and a real upheaval. She seems to live now with her aunt Gerti in Muckalot in another state - wherever the hell that is.
Her dim-witted cousin Winston had come and picked-up all her belongings. He’s taken a lot, piling it high on a truck, but it was great to see the last of her junk!
From now on, he keeps reminding himself, there is no more screaming at him, no more berating, the home is now quiet and peaceful as there is only he and his cat Benny, who is in complete agreement with him.
He glances around and notices that the room now looks sparsely furnished. His wife, ex-wife to be exact, has left him with the bare necessities! But there is a tranquil light filtering through the sheer curtains, making all the dust visible and yet giving the room a tranquil ambience.
‘This is a man’s paradise’, he thinks, nodding to himself. There are his scattered newspapers, with the sports pages open and soon there will be a few magazines lying around the room he would normally not have dared to buy.
‘It‘s great to be free’, he thinks – it is a wonderful feeling, and he becomes aware of an intoxicating rush rippling through his body, making him sigh in bliss.
Suddenly, there are knocks on the door, rather firm and banging with determination.
‘What on earth…..’ He doesn’t like unforeseen visitors, especially when they are interrupting his favourite television program! Before he is able to shout ‘Go away!’ it bangs again, this time with an added touch of impatience and very annoying! He feels his fury rising.
Opening the door somewhat to avoid further noise, he becomes aware of two men who were obviously detectives, identifiable by their tight fitting suits and felt hats – ‘who wears hats, nowadays?’ he observes. Behind them jostled a fat policeman with a television news team, complete with camera man and sound technician.
The detectives worry him - right from his first glance at them he has this gut feeling that they spelt troubles. These two men had faces so leathery and weather beaten and with darting eyes that, when making eye contact, seem to yank out any secrets a person might want to withhold.
They are with a third man, a kind of professor type, with thick glasses, holding a clipboard in his hands.
The news team is getting visibly exited, starting to push their way closer to Nigel. They are of the delicate type, colourfully dressed, ‘very pansy-like’, Nigel observes.
They are holding their various apparatuses as if they were doing the public, and humanity in general, a great favour! ‘But what is this all about?’ his thoughts keep racing through his mind.
Before he could think straight and absorb all this gathering, one of the detectives, with a face like a constipated bulldog, with eyes that were big and bloodshot and darting everywhere, held out a shiny metal plaque.
‘Homicide!’ he rasps, ‘Are you Nigel Osprey?’
And he did not wait for a reply – so sure was he of his case! ‘You are under arrest for the murder of a Mrs.Emilia Prattlelot…, your ex wife!’
‘W..w..w.whaaaat?’ Nigel could only gasp incredulously.
‘That’s right!’ You heard!’ This bellow comes out of non-existent lips.
‘Come with me now. Come on, come on…..’ A huge fat hand reaches out to grab him.
‘What are you talking about?’
Nigel instinctively tries to close the door in an attempt to shut out this hostile crowd. Unfortunately, this Robert-Mitchum-look-alike has big feet – very big, they reach the door gap, thereby preventing its closing.
The third man, the one looking like a boffin, but with the same non-descript clothes, had white hair and probably a large bald spot that, too, is covered by the old-fashioned hat. His pronounced features were thick spectacles – very thick. They were so pronounced that they seem to convex out in an attempt to reach him, with two tiny black spots showing that are trying to hypnotise him – they were either his pupils or the dots flies had left on his glasses.
‘We know’ escaped his stern lips. His Adam’s apple moved up and down his scrawny throat with a collar that was far too big, giving the impression of shrinking whilst on duty!
The policeman, was in a uniform that tries to control his excessive weight by compressing it severely. But it only shifted his blubber downwards, manifesting itself in legs like concrete crushers, with rather gigantic, broad feet.
Now, he too, tried to get into the act: Come out, quick!’ it escapes his thick lips.
Nigel feels that it is time to say something:
‘Look, I haven’t done anything to anybody – I just wish to be left alone’. He forcefully through his weight against the door, as hard as he could, jamming that giant’s foot as hard as he could – with no effect.
‘He must have a prosthesis’, he observes as the man’s features betray nothing.
The man with the thick goggles explained:
‘We are from PCU, Predictive Crime-fighting Unit, based at police headquarters……’
‘I don’t give a fig what you are – I haven’t done anything and my meal is getting cold’
(He didn’t shout exactly ‘fig’, but this writer is of good upbringing and would not know how to spell the exact expletive!)
Nigel keeps banging the door against the detective’s shoe - a useless exercise.
‘Hey’, shouts the man with the microphone, ‘can you come out a bit and give us a smile – you will be on the news tonight!’
Amazed, Nigel opened the door and steppes outside. ‘What news? What are you talking about?’
The reporter was quite friendly; ‘Our government has installed a new supercomputer that not only records all the crimes in this state, keeps statistics as to their frequency and type……..’
The scientist took over:’ With all the demographic details, and the time-span, motive and all other relevant personality traits of the perpetrators, we are now able to forecast where a crime will happen, by whom, the reason, et cetera, et cetera’, letting the Latin words dissolve on his tongue.
He looked really exited about this new era of crime fighting. His hand, holding the pen, seem to write something unseen in the air.
‘What rubbish! I ‘aven’t done anything and that’s it. Leave me alone – the lot of you!’
His eyes encompassed everybody and his chin pointed especially at the reporter and his team. Blood is draining from his face and suddenly he feels so alone and helpless.
‘This is a nightmare! How do I get out of this?’ his thoughts keep racing. And there are now signs of perspiration on his forehead.
‘Come with us – come on, come on!’ The hefty detective uttered these words like a busy landlord reminding his patrons of closing time.
‘Just to show you how accurate we are,’ the scientist tries to demonstrate eagerly, ‘You’ve ordered a pizza for dinner, with extra anchovies and mushrooms.’ Staring at his clipboard folder in his hand, he rattled off the words.
Stunned silence prevailed.
‘Well, yes, but…..’
‘Come on, come with us. Don’t give us any troubles.’ The mountain-man began tucking at his arm again - a symbol of his impatience.
‘Leggo of me - I ‘aven’t done anything!’
Nigel’s cry now sounds a bit more desperate.
Staring at his clip board folder, the scientist eagerly continues:
‘You’ve ordered this from an outlet called Pizza Paradise – did you not? Then you fed your cat – didn’t you? Also, you rang your friend Alfredo, inviting him for the evening?’
The last sentence was shouted with disgust.
In the background, the television anchorman started to talk into a microphone, explaining to his unseen viewers this great new technology, with the eager face of an expert and an uneasy stomach because he was not sure what exactly he was talking about.
Standing on a nature strip, he notices that this was not the only thing he was standing on. Don’t people believe in picking up after their dogs?
Now the policeman gets into the act: ‘You have a brother called Arthur who lives in England. And a cousin in Townsville, called Edward, - right? And your car number is ……’ Raising his voice in triumph he finishes:
‘Your ex-wife will arrive any moment now, attempt to take custody of the dog, leaving you with the cat. And then it will happen!’
He nodded at the increasing number of spectators. Justice is being done – everybody can see this!
A new person, female, approaches the crowd. She is somewhat dowdily dressed, with a headscarf and showing an expertly way of pushing and shoving her way into the crowd and through it.
Nearly reaching Nigel, she nods at him.
‘Stop! Where do you thing you are going? And who are you anyway?’ The policeman held up a meaty hand with sausage fingers.
‘Let me through, I must see Nigel!’
The detective tried to state a fact:
‘So, you are Emilia Prattlelot, the ex-wife?’
The gathered crowd outside the door stiffens; they look at each other, nodding ‘I told you so!’ Then they step back somewhat, aware that they are facing a cataclysmic moment.
‘No, I am Sally the cleaner! I am here to pick up my pay for the house cleaning. She looked at Nigel, holding out a hand: ‘You promised you’ll have the eighty-five dollars for me…..’
Nigel gasped: ’Of course, Sally, eighty five-dollars did you say? No problem! Reaching into his back pocket he produced his wallet and carefully counts out the money into her upheld palm.
Staring at the money piling-up in her hand, she readily gives information to the questions. Yes, she comes regularly and this afternoon is her pay-day.
Great consternation is spreading and the police suddenly look deeply wounded: It is supposed to be the time of murder!
There are frantic phone calls to the police head offices and phones are ringing in reply, back and forth.
‘Thanks, Nigel, see you soon!’ Sally disappears with the same amount of determination she came with, but this time with an added touch of triumph.
For some reason the group of police are looking pale and stunned. The scientist staring into his clipboard folder was suddenly red-faced, the police crowded around him, all attempting to look knowingly.
‘There is no mention of a Sally!’ The geek with the thick glasses seems to have his eyes protruding like on stalks.
‘The wife is not here, but a cleaning woman turns up…..’
First, a murmur goes through the crowd, then a kind of rebellion starts spreading. Mumbling first disappointment, then loud sounds of dissatisfaction about the police in general and the law begins to be aired.
The television team hurriedly pack-up their various equipment with downcast expressions whilst their bus driver starts the engine. Now, they have no story to report!
People are walking away, disgusted and in all directions, having been cheated out of a real drama.
The people of the law are still making frantic phone calls to their head offices, especially to their computer department.
‘Goggle-eyes’ stares at his mobile as if he cannot believe what he’s just heard, Fatso tries to crush his phone in his meaty hand and the bulldog’s blood-shot eyes keep staring in disbelief at the scientist’s computer readout.
But after a while they, too, withdraw, making their exit with a final glare at Nigel: ‘We will be back,’ their looks seem to say.
Everybody withdraws – the new, crime-predicting, computer has made a mistake!
Leaving Nigel standing outside his door, alone and scratching his head. Shrugging his shoulders he murmurs:
‘Who the hell is Sally?’