Spiggot, Too



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Back Cover Copy:

Spiggot is having dreams. Premonitions, even. But he doesn't believe in weird stuff. He believes in beer, curry, and his ex-partner, Francesca Trout.

When Spiggot's nemesis the arch-criminal Elana Magret escapes custody, she and Spiggot both are dragged into an alternate dimension almost entirely populated by Trouts. Which makes finding them somewhat tricky.

To catch Magret, Trout must rely on the good will of a rather unusual criminal overlord, and a new ally with some wicked fists. Because this isn't about Spiggot anymore. This is about the fate of the worlds!*

*Plural intentional. Exclamation optional.

Spiggot, Too. Spiggot, but with more Spiggot. And an awful lot more Trout.

Sample (Chapters 1-3)

'There ain't no coming back...this is the really real world...there ain't no coming back.'

T-Bird/The Crow

Prologue

There are plenty of sexy women in the world. Sexy, wonderful women on the tube, or subway, or autobahn. They smell of nice things like soap and confidence. There are far, far too many to shake a stick at. That would be a very strange thing to do. The smelling women part, too. That would be odd.
            This, as you might have guessed, is the difficult second novel.
            I'm a nurse. I never set out to be a writer, but when a master criminal possessed by the soul of a mad axe murderer tells you to write...you write. He was known as Harold Munkopf.
            She is Elana Magret.
            We'll get to Elana Magret shortly, but I was talking about beautiful women. But not really. I was leading to a point about hot women, rather than beautiful women. Perhaps not very well, and certainly not in a succinct manner at all.
            Let's start again.
            Truly hot women are so rare that when a man sees one he will glance, sidelong, like a person might glance at the sun. If he's stuck in the God-awful situation where he's forced to talk to a woman like that, he'll gibber, stutter, and then maybe even wet himself, but that's probably just me.
            She's used to it, so she'll smile, which will make it even worse. A woman like that, she's more angel than mortal. The burning kind of angel, with fiery wings...the hot kind. Not the crap ones made of glass you get in hippy shops, either.
            Detective Francesca Trout was like that. Like a hot angel. When she walked, she left a trail of flames in her wake. Not because she was fat and had thighs that chaffed when she walked, friction and nylon leggings throwing sparks onto the tarmac. Nothing like that. It was more that she was just stunningly attractive, and her thighs didn't chaff whatsoever.
            Imagine this...
            You wake up one morning from a dream. Might be you wake with a little wood from a nice dream about this woman who really, really, floats your boat. She's so good at floating your boat she's practically saline and your boat's buoyant, and the load line marker is sitting pretty above the water, high enough to let you know that yes, you're floating, and...and that lets you know...
            Shit. Okay, try this...
            You're not a boat. She's just a woman, but she's so untouchable you can barely stand to look at her. She's shiny, glinting, and it hurts your eyes whenever you're near. So you look away, look down, anywhere but at her, although perhaps you can't tell if she's looking at you or not, because she's got a lazy eye and it's a little disconcerting. But she's the kind of beauty your eyes have to sneak up on. One day she's right there, in front of you, like Mount Doom at the end of a long quest, and you're looking down at your feet, terrified of making eye contact because she's so damn hot you might burn out your eyes. You've dreamed about this every night for months, maybe years. And suddenly, she's in front of you. She puts a fingernail under your chin, tilts your head up and makes you look. You're not sure which eye to look at, but that's not important right now. She smiles and she's talking to you and it's a dream come true.
            But, all the while this beauty stands before you, your mind is wandering back to the vicious curry you ate the night before. You just got off the toilet in a rush because the doorbell rang or whatever. That part's not important, either. The important part is, you were in a hurry to answer the door, because you were expecting a delivery. Something like that. If you don't get the deliver, you'll have to go to the Post Office and that's a real chore, so even though a torrent of shit just poured out of your arse you forgo a really good wipe (it's such a mess back there you probably even need shower, because it was the Hercules of shits). Either way, your arse is burning and itching like mad.
            All the while, she's there saying words and things that you dreamed of for the best part of forever, yet all you can think about is when she's going to turn away so you can get your scratch on.
            Francesca Trout was the kind of woman who had that effect of a man. Mostly, a man named Spiggot.

*

I.
Dream a Little Dream of Me

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me
*
Dream a Little Dream of Me
Irving Milton Adolphus/1930

The Largely Introductory
Chapter One

Incident occurring approx. 4.37a.m.
Inside Spiggot's Head

There was a body on the bed. A body that looked more like some waxen voodoo doll, replete with pins. But these pins are needles; the hollow kind a hospital uses. The kind that put concoctions in, and those that take things out. Maybe the body can't function without these tubes and needles and pumping and dripping potions that scientists call science and alchemists dreamed of, long ago.
            But this wasn't long ago. Spiggot knew this. The feel of the room he'd observed often enough for the dream to feel like a bad friend, and the look of the equipment surrounding the body...it wasn't now.
            The dream was of the future. He felt it, even though he knew it for a dream.
            Prophetic, perhaps, though Spiggot thought prophetic was a French word for a condom, and it has been an age since he used one as anything but a balloon.
            But, the dream.
            It was a dream, of course, and one he'd had before. He tried to look around, night after night, to discover, to understand, to detect.
            He had a good eye, but the dream wouldn't let him see further than the body on the bed.
            A few simple truths popped to mind each night, but nothing like detecting. It was a man on the simple, steel-framed bed. The tubes, the wires...he saw these clearly. And yet, the dream seemed reluctant to yield more details to the dreamer. The man's eyes were closed. His breath was steady and regular with the rhythm and cadence of sleep. A sheet covered the body, sheet and body both corpulent and pale.
            Tubes ran underneath the sheet set upon private tasks. They led to the body, from up high on steel mounts with suspicious bags that hung down like the amniotic sacks of plastic Kaiju. Other bags, low down, led the muck of a body away. Fluid pooled in those, bilious and black, or luminescent yellow. Beside the bed beeped a complicated monitor.
            Spiggot always stood at the foot of the bed and looked down at the sleeping figure. How many times now, had he been here, in this spot? How often had he seen this vision from within this dream?
            For a time, the dreamer watched the man on the bed. Whether he tried to glance around, to garner some further detail, or tried to leave the dream before it ended, made little difference. He could see nothing but the bed and the man and the tubes and the bags and the machine.
            So, as always, he stood, motionless before the body on the bed with the gun held loosely in his hand. Loose, at first, then tight. His finger curled on the trigger as though he was beckoning the bullet out.
            Come hither, pretty bullet.  
            The response was always the same, and the gun's language simple, monosyllabic.
            Bang, said the gun.
            There was a body on the bed.

*

Spiggot leapt, thrashing, from the bed. He sat back a second later, because he was tired and reasonably middle-aged and leaping about was a young man's game.
            'Fucking hell,' he said as he rubbed the sleep-snot from the inner corners of his eyes.
            Some dreams you can push right out with a cup of tea and a cigarette. But not this. This was an every night dream of late, full of portentous portents. The kind that heralded nothing but doom.
            Spiggot was a straightforward man. Simple, perhaps, but with a dash of complicated somewhere in there. The sort of man that has keepsakes and memories, but puts them in a box, or a crumpled pocket and never looks at them again.
            Spiggot wasn't an idiot. Close. But not quite. Mentally immature, perhaps, but a man who could leap without looking. People think deep thoughts are somehow the best, but they're not deep. Not really. They're upper tier thoughts, like the penthouse. Spiggot didn't have those. He had the really deep thoughts, the ones that go on where the real work's done, the kind of thoughts that live in gutters and sewers and maintenance shafts of the high-rise of the mind.
            A man like that doesn't believe in prophecies or the supernatural. He doesn't believe in crystals, foretelling, heralds of doom.
            He believed in bacon and coffee, that broccoli was full of carcinogens, and that maybe German measles were sneaky little foreign buggers trying to take New Anglia's women for their own sordid purposes. Mostly he believed the later because German's were frightening creatures from old history books and German measles didn't exist anymore. Probably something to do with gerbils, and weasels, and somewhere in between real history and the revisionist's version of the past the whole thing had become hideously muddled.
            But when the harbinger raps his knuckles hard on your door...maybe it's time to listen. Not open it, no...but listen, sure. Like you might in the dead of night, hearing that knock knock knock on the door, and really hope whomever...whatever it is...will just go away.
            I'm rambling in my own head, thought Spiggot, correctly.
            The last five nights he'd been visited by the same dream. No variation, no details. Just a sense of dread, and some kind of disgust that lingered inside on waking. The man on the bed, or the situation, or something...Spiggot had no idea where that revulsion sprung from. Just a sense of shining trails that hung around in his mind after the dream, as though slugs had slimed his mind.
            In the dark, Spiggot took his cigarettes from the bedside cabinet and lit one, taking a long, hard drag. The flickering cheap lighter and then the glowing tip of his cigarette were plenty to see by, and there wasn't much worth looking at either way. Spiggot's place was little more than a typical single man's flat. He had few possessions. There was a kitchen with bacon, ketchup, butter and bread. A coffee machine, loaded. A vid-screen. He didn't do much in his flat other than sleep. Maybe play with Mr. Pickle if he was bored.
            It wasn't his home. It was just where he slept when he got kicked out of the station.
            Eventually, Spiggot turned on the touch lamp with a thick forefinger and got up from his single man's bed. The bed and Spiggot both were fairly rumpled. His suit wasn't much better. He'd hung it up in the shower so the steam would drop out some creases, but then forgot to have a shower. And a shave.
            'Make do with just a shit, then,' he told himself and headed to the bathroom to do just that.
            Whenever he got comfortable for a good session on the bog, though, something always seemed to go wrong. This night was no different. Just as his cheeks hit the seat, the phone rang.
            He figured he might as well answer before he got stuck into it. Shuffling, trousers left optimistically round his ankles, he took his mobile phone from the nightstand and took the call.
            'Spiggot?' said a familiar voice.
            'Trout?' What the hell? It's...Jesus, it's the middle of the night...'
            'Chief,' she said. 'Not Trout. Not on the job.'
            Spiggot sighed. Sometimes you just had to play the game. He'd never had a lady boss before, just as he'd never had a crepes or baguettes. He ate pancakes and French stick, like a normal person. Not that lady bosses were in anyway French. Nothing untoward like that. Just wasn't...normal. Unless, he supposed, the lady in question was actually French.
            Spiggot coughed himself back on track while he lit another cigarette from his perch on the bed. Trout waited (impatiently, no doubt, probably counting to ten in her head. Spitefully. In French).
            'Right you are...Chief.'
            'She got out.'
            Spiggot didn't need embellishment. He knew exactly who she meant.
            'Ah,' he said, although it was largely an involuntary sound. His mouth hung open gormlessly and the cigarette stuck to his lip smoked itself for a while.
            'How?' he said. But that alone seemed too...bland. So he added a short, sharp expletive. Something like 'fuck,' though spoken around the cigarette hanging from his lip Trout misheard.
            'Muck?'
            'No,' said Spiggot, tugging the cigarette from his lip. 'Fuck. I said 'fuck'. Why would I say muck? I didn't say muck. I said fuck.'
            'Alright, Spiggot. Take a deep breath, calm down. We don't know that she's coming after you...'
            'What? I wasn't even thinking that. Why would she come after me?'
            'You were largely responsible for putting her away and...thwarting...her schemes.'
            'Thwarting?'
            'Spiggot...' said Trout. He heard her sigh. 'Pull your trousers up and get to her complex. You know where it is. She's gone, but I reckon her nurse might have some answers, though he's not talking.'
            'Why? Like, dead?' Spiggot didn't need to correct her about the trousers.
            'Not yet. Call me when you're there. And...just watch your back, okay? Probably nothing to worry about...but...'
            She hung up.
            But what?
            Nothing to worry about? Why would he worry? Because a psychotic criminal who wanted to take over the world and remodel it in her image, merrily destroying anything and anyone in her path, might be gunning for him?
            Oh, nothing to worry about, he thought snidely just as the forgotten cigarette dropped hot ash right on Spiggot's bell-end.
           
*

Chapter Two
Hobbled

5a.m.
Penthouse Suite/The Ooh Fancy Tower
Norwich City (Capital of New Anglia)

The man on the floor screamed. It was a good scream, the kind that's nice and hearty because it's got plenty of pain in there, but also with a little despair and frustration and anger involved somewhere behind it. The kind of scream you might only manage once in a lifetime, if, say, your leg is pinned to oak floorboards by a fire axe, but also say, oh, just for example, that while you're in terrible pain and fear of your life, you're dealing with brain-numbing bureaucracy at the same time. Maybe some big, faceless organisation. The police force, perhaps.
            The man in question was, in fact, pinned to the floorboards, which were oak...and also dealing with the terrifying brainless behemoth that was the New Anglian Police Force.
            (Obviously. No one, not even the worst hack of an author, ever belabours a point to the above degree then digresses utterly, because to do such a thing would rob the reader of a perfectly valid deduction, thus risking alienation at a later point in the story when perhaps the author might need said reader to take a leap of faith built on the sound and trusting relationship established earlier in the novel. Probably sometime around Chapter Twenty-Two.)
            The screamer had never been pinned to any kind of floorboard by an axe, but it was always on the cards when you were the sole carer, nurse and warden to a mega-rich super-villain once possessed by the spirit of an insane axe murderer named Harold.
            'Argh,' said the nurse in a long, drawn out manner that's better imagined than written. Whenever he screamed, the blood seemed to leak faster from the wound. In the bright glow of the ceiling lights and standing lamp, his blood shone like something that should have been cheerful as well as tacky. A ceramic mug with, 'My other mug is also a mug,' written on it, maybe, from Clacton Beach.
            'Now, now. You're making it worse,' said the attending physician. The man who stood above the nurse wasn't qualified in any medical sense, but actual medical care was reserved for those who could afford it. Healthcare professionals were notoriously underpaid, which in turn led to a dire shortage of healthcare professionals. Morbidity among the caring professions was higher than that of the Norwegian lumber trade.
            'Are you a doctor?!' shouted the nurse. 'An actual doctor?' Blood ran happily along the floorboard and between the cracks with each question.
            'Paramedic, actually. Cheaper than a doctor. Day off today, but I get double for overtime. Wife's not happy, of course. Early start and all that. She likes to have a shower before...'
            'I'm sure that's all very fascinating...but...get. thE. aXE. OUT! It's killing me. Please...'          'I don't think you're dying.'
            'Oh? Oh really? Well, thank Christ and his seven dwarves...I'm saved! Hallelujah and Hi-Bloody-Ho! Is that your professional opinion?'
            'You want that, it'll cost you extra.'
            'Do you have any medical qualifications at all?'
            'Well,' hedged the paramedic, sucking his teeth. 'Not as such. No.'
            'Are you, in fact, a paramedic?'
            'Plumber by trade. But, same principals, right?'
            'No,' said the nurse, who had resorted to crying after this exchange rather than screaming.
            He considered taking the axe from his leg (and possibly resting it in the paramedic) but then the first policeman arrived. The copper had wavy black hair and a straight, weird moustache, like an Argentinean in a movie where the women have moustaches, too.
            God help me, he prayed, and put both hands around the haft of the axe, steeling himself for more pain.
            'Can't do that, son,' said the policeman, breezing in while shaking his head sadly.
            'Not you, too? Please...please...someone take the bloody thing out!'
            'I'm afraid I can't do that, Sir. It's a crime scene, isn't it, see? Got to wait for the photographer, the CSU. And the coroner.'
            'Coroner?'
            'Yeah. Just in case. Needs to be official.'
            'What does?' The sense that this was all some nasty dream suddenly solidified.
            'You know, in case you die. Pronounce you dead. All proper like.'
            'What...the...fuck?!'
            The nurse decided he'd had quite enough. He wrapped his hands around the haft of the axe one more time, steeling himself to pull it free and damn the consequences, when the policeman slapped a pair of plastic cuffs on him.    
            'Mr...er...sorry, what's your name?'
            'What are you doing?'
            'Arresting you.'
            'What? What?!'
            'Interfering with a crime scene. Contaminating a crime scene. Obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. Tampering with evidence...that sort of thing.'
            This can't be happening, thought the nurse. He cried for a moment, but then resorted to screaming once more. In certain situations (this being entirely one of them) a good scream is the only appropriate response.
            That was when Spiggot walked in.
            'Alright, son. This is going to hurt,' said Spiggot as he leaned in and took a spit-sealed grip on the axe with both hands.
            'Like fuck,' he added, and pulled.

*

'Roll up, roll up, Ladies and Gentlemen! Marvel at the wondrous, the rare, the mysterious...COPPER! Watch him dance and caper in his shiny suit! He's lost his cap, look! Haha! And there he goes, chewing out the funny man with the stupid-looking moustache...gaze on, fair ladies, in awe at this burly (nay, fat) misanthrope. Look at him jiggle, this laughable policeman, this anachronism, this bygone man...
            But, Ladies and Gentlemen...remember, don't laugh too hard...lest you jiggle yourself right into JAIL!'
            (Crowd says OOO)
            Skit end.
            Sure I have a point, and the point is Spiggot.
            He was kind of an idiot, yes. All of the things you know about him are true. He never was perfect, but then he never tried to be...it wasn't his destiny.
            Spiggot was born a savant. The idiot kind, maybe, but his brain wasn't blunt or obtuse when it came to detecting.
            Then, he was a God among coppers.
            His was a brain like a tack; pointed one end and flat and brassy on the other. He was never entirely dull. That's the point.
            A man driven to catch bad people, not by childhood trauma (he had his share), not by fear of failure or a simple need for shiny things like the common office magpie, earning money for jewellery and cars and the latest fashions. But because it was what he did, and being a copper was what he was.
            The seminal policeman, the law in a human being. A misanthropomorphism of the will of the Police Force, if want to make up really long words. Catching miscreants was his sole purpose. The thrill of the hunt alone was his reward.
            You might imagine most policemen and policewomen have homes to go to, families to love and feed. Not Spiggot. The police force was Spiggot's family, extended and nuclear, and even included the dodgy uncle no one spoke of. The station house was his home.
            A man with a one-track mind, like half a tank, solid, dependable and very difficult to turn aside, might be exactly the right man to catch an insane master criminal.  
            Spiggot, the foil to Elana Magret.
           
*

'Er, Detective...I'm going to have to arrest you for tampering with...'
            'I outrank you, numpty,' said Spiggot. 'And what's that on your lip?'
            'Moustache, Sir.'
            'Moustache me what?'
            'Er...what?' said the moustachioed PC. Spiggot winked. The policeman frowned and decided the man in front of him, fat, bearded, wearing a rumpled suit, might be clinically insane.
            'Still,' he persevered. 'The law says...'
            'Law?' Spiggot scoffed. Really. 'I am the law. Far as your concerned, anyway. If I say you go arrest yourself, you do it, got it? And you...what are you doing?'
            The erstwhile paramedic, mostly a plumber, scuttled back from the growing pool of blood around the nurse's leg. Nurse and plumber both were pale from blood loss and shock, though not in quite the same way.
            'I'm a plumber, officer...'
            'Well, plumb him, then. He's leaking, right?'
            'Right,' said the plumber, not sounding quite sure.
            'So, how'd you fix a leaky pipe?'
            'Er...turn on the water, bit of solder, blow lamp, maybe a little PTFE tape.'
            The nurse groaned.
            'Maybe just go with the tape, for now.'
            'Only got gaffa tape.'
            'Perfect,' said Spiggot. 'Wrap him up, then. Then get him to the Norwich University Hospital.'
            'I can't afford that,' said the nurse, fading now the blood was pouring faster.
            'Don't fret, lad. Our ticket. You're evidence.'
            'Sarge?'
            'It's not the fucking army, PC...are you a PC?'
            The jobsworth officer touch his rubbish moustache defensively, then looked at his feet. 'On secondment, Sir. Actually, I'm an accountant for Dinklage and Spinsters. Tax law...'
            Spiggot pulled at his beard.
            'Well, you can write, then, can't you?'
            'I've a very tidy hand, Sir.'
            'Then go with the...ah...plumber, and the nurse. You can do the paperwork.'
            The plumber was making busy work wrapping the nurse's leak with tape. Good enough, thought Spiggot.
            If you're going to boss people around properly, though, got to get in a 'Sunshine' somewhere.
            'Get to it, Sunshine,' said Spiggot and patted the Argentinean tax lawyer on the shoulder for good measure.
            Satisfied with a good five minutes work, Spiggot pulled his mobile from his pocket, still grinning. After the sponsors' messages, he got the Chief.
            'Trout...Chief, I mean...might be a bit of a problem,' he said.
            She said something back. It was probably pithy, scathing, even.
            But Spiggot didn't hear her. One moment he was in a plush living room with freshly stained oak flooring. The next, he wasn't. His phone didn't seem to be in his thick, copper-shaped mitt anymore. He knew it wasn't there, because he looked several times a second, like a lunatic might check for the Slender Man in his shower before washing his nuptials.
            Nope. Hand's still empty, he thought.
            Yep, still tumbling through the sky, he thought shortly after that.

*

Chapter Three
The Early Bird gets the Worm
...no...wait...I got this...
Pride comes before a Fall...?
...yep. That's the ticket.

5:20a.m.
Ooh Fancy Tower

Elana Magret wasn't always nuts. For a short time, between the ages of zero and around six months of age, she was almost cherubic...perhaps seraphic...something angelic, certainly. But children are born with purpose, too, whether furious or mundane. Sometimes life comes along and moulds them into that purpose. Might be life turns out to be kind of nice about it, like squeezing you into a Disney costume that's just a little tight. Other times, that mould's an iron maiden...a bit tight, but not in that wonderful nostalgic way that kids try to grasp their youth even as it slips away.
            That's a fancy way of saying Elana Magret got screwed by life. Her life was the kind that creates monsters or saints, and she went with monster.
            Once known by the alias 'The Egyptian Lady from Stoke', she attempted to supplant the government of the independent state of New Anglia and place herself as overlord. Like so many despots (or few...who understands the mind of the lunatic?), her intentions stemmed from a need to do good, to right wrongs, to create equality from an unfair system, and to maintain that equality by ruling everyone else. To do this, of course, someone else has to become slightly less equal, and then the scales would have been wonky, so she would have needed to trim a little here, a little there. Creating a new society's kind of like making a cake, really. Got to get the measurements just right, which people never do, and bake it just so. Then, after a while, even the good cakes get a little bit musty and dry and...
            Too far with the cake analogy?
            Anyway, people sometimes disagree with your particular version of just and right. Those people need a lesson. Violence is a good teacher. Maybe the best. Without violence, would mankind  have such wonderful surgical implements, after all?
            Firstly, Magret intended to make New Anglia her kind of paradise (don't they all?), but later on down the line, it would have been Europe, Asia, the world. As a result of her arrest and by dint of her immeasurable wealth, she'd found herself not before the Hague, but imprisoned in the comfort of her own home.
            Said home overlooked the entire city of Norwich and was higher than the spire of the cathedral. Now, the cathedral stood brightly in view of Ooh Fancy Tower. Soon, the cathedral lights would go off, and so would the lights in Elana Magret's home, because this was where the rich and famous lived. The famous people that stayed rich had their lights turn off with Ooh Fancy things, like sensors, because everyone knows famous people are too damn lazy to turn off their own lights.*
            *Disclaimer: This is entirely true.
            Magret's entire penthouse apartment was plush from wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor. Yes, it was excessively comfortable for a criminal...but then when you're a rich criminal, a different kind of equality applies.

*

Way up there, as high as the clouds, if the clouds were a bit lower down (which they weren't) a man could happily suffer intense vertigo just looking from the tall windows out at the city twinkling in the early morning lights. Spiggot wasn't experiencing vertigo. He wasn't, either, falling out of the window. Nor was it that out-of-body kind of falling, which was more upwardly than this.
            Spiggot had done all that, and quite recently.
            No, this was more the traditional kind of falling. As though he fell down and back. Like he might had someone clocked him really hard in the jaw. But he should've hit floorboards by now.
            Oak floorboards, too, he remembered. Nice hardwood, the kind that cracks your head open as you hit it. Expecting just that, Spiggot was momentarily relieved when he didn't.
            A split second after that his mind kicked in.
            Shit...
            It didn't speak out loud, because minds don't. They're sneaky like that. It whispered.
            That's not normal, right? To fall through the floorboards and carry right on falling as if they're not even there...
            I don't want to talk about it, he told his mind. This subject is making me uncomfortable.
            Uncomfortable? We're, what, forty floors up? And the entire building is no longer underneath us?
            You're a figment of my imagination, Spiggot told his mind. Shut it.
            I'm you, you tit, said his imagination.
            On the way down and down and down, Spiggot experienced the usual sort of things, for someone falling from a great height: Terror, curiosity, mild hope that he'd find a parachute attached to his back (he didn't) and an oddly pleasing sense of warmth and wetness around his trouser region.
            Where's the rest of the city, then, smartarse? whispered his imagination.
            His imagination had a point.
            Spiggot opened his eyes. One, then the other. He found he wasn't falling though some ethereal building, girders and shitty ceiling tiles turning transparent on his descent, like he half-expected. No...it seemed, instead, that he was falling down a really deep well. The kind you might if you slipped a little while helping an old lady cross the road, accidently found yourself picking her pocket and then leaving her in front of a fast and heavy lorry carrying aggregate and then, in a strange bout of comeuppance, tripped before you could spent the woman's pension money on sausage rolls, right over into the pit of hell.
            It was quite a specific well.
            The walls, for example, weren't brick-lined, damp and dripping and covered in moss. They were red, bright, pulsing, arterial.
            While he fell through the worryingly red well, he realised it wasn't a well, or a pit, and it didn't end in brimstone and fire but some kind of delicious insanity.
            I'm dreaming, right?
            Possible, his imagination told him.
            Weird shit.
            Definitely, said that subtle voice, for once in total agreement.
            Because within this vein, or artery, or strange fragment of a waking dream, he seemed to be tumbling, endlessly, through some kind of storage space. That doesn't really happen. Spiggot knew this. But because it didn't really happen and didn't make sense didn't mean that it wasn't real.
            Moss didn't line the walls of this well, vein, whatever it was. Nor globules of fat, sclerotic lumps waiting to turn to emboli. Storage, yes, but not for the things a man might expect, falling down some odd well. They were no endless rows knickknacks, like some old cat widow's occasional room, nor WMD's like a Prime Minister might keep in her larder. Not even, as one might expect, millions of angry white blood cells converging on this rumpled interloper. Nope.
            Odder.
            Rows around, columns down, Spiggot saw Francesca Trouts. Trout, his old partner, repeated endless in every place he looked as he fell. Somehow, even as he fell, that stern face seemed to gaze at him, and into him, too. Falling through a field of disapproval, without even gravity to protect him.
            Gravity comes to all our rescue, though, in the end. Or, that might be death. Either way, gravity caught Spiggot in its diaphanous bosom, upon which he made the two requisite sounds people do when they hit the ground, which were 'Donk,' and, 'Oof.'

*

(Same time, different place, a.m.)
Bethel Street Police Station
Norwich

'Spiggot?' said Trout, still holding her phone, her eyebrows raised in that hopeful way people have when awaiting a response from someone a little slow on the uptake. 'Spiggot? Are you even listening?'
            Nothing.
            Sometimes, to get Spiggot's attention when she really needed it, she played his game...she didn't like doing it, but she supposed it was no worse than tricking a dog by saying 'walkies'. It was the sort of thing dogs and men get over. Eventually.
            'Spiggot...are you...having a stroke on the job? That'd be extremely unprofessional.'
            Nothing. No childish snigger. No sound at all. Which meant something was seriously wrong. He didn't laugh at having a stroke, or on the job, and together the entendres should have been like atoms colliding for a man like Spiggot.
            But...not even the sound of a fat man breathing?
            She noted all of this because she while might be Chief of Police now, in her heart she was a copper, and always would be.
            Listen.
            Not a single sound. But the connection was open, definitely. She checked, to make sure.
            Like he just put the phone down and buggered off?
            Not impossible, she knew. But it didn't feel right, deep down, in her guts.
            Spiggot had copper's guts. Trout's coppers guts were nowhere near as...developed...as Spiggot's, but...
            'Something's wrong...' she said quietly, not even speaking into the phone this time, but slowing lowering it from her ear to rest her hand on her desk. She broke the connection, and with a small buzzer on the side of that same desk, she called in her secretary.
            'Marm?' said Dave Banger (everyone called him Sausage. Obviously). Dave was a Godsend, though Trout hated him slightly, because he wore heels in a casual, easy way that she could never master. He had damn good legs, too. It was a new force, new days in New Anglia. If Dave wanted to wear heels and short skirt to work, people didn't, wouldn't dare, say a thing about it. Re-education lay that way. The kind you get when you're eyes are held open by cold steel implements in a bright room with Government sponsored cartoons or FOX news on an endless loop rewiring your brain while Malcolm McDowell shaved your privates ready for electroconvulsive 'therapy' so your new best friends could get right to the root of the problem and you could say a hearty thank you when was all done.
            Trout shuddered.
            Suck it up. So what, he's got better legs? Get over it.
            'Dave, do me a favour, eh? Get a PC over to the crime scene. Specifically, tell them to look for clues as to where D.I. Spiggot's buggered off to. Got it?'
            'By 'crime scene', I assume you mean Magret, Marm?'
            'Yes.'
            'And Spiggot's gone walkies, too?'
            'Yes. Get on it, Dave. Get a man or woman or other gender-oriented Detective over to the hospital to question the witness, too. Not a numpty, okay?'
            'Understood. Marm...any news on your cat?'
            Trout sighed. 'No...no. Thanks, Dave, for remembering the cat. Not sure people care about missing cats anymore.'
            'They should.'
            'True,' said Trout. 'Thanks.'
            'That all, Marm?'
            'Yes...but...Dave?'
            'Marm?'
            'Where did you get those shoes? They're...fabulous.'
            Damn, she thought. Whoever said words can't hurt me was so, so, wrong.
           
*