Inspector Kirby, Jonah to his friends and ‘old school’ to his junior colleagues, wandered out of the cottage. He crossed the road and headed down the lane, with thorny hedge rows either side, that led to the sea. He’d put this off for days, wondering how it would make him feel. Still there was nothing quite like a walk along the coast with its prevailing North East breeze and the smell of salt and rotting seaweed in the air to clear the mind. And let’s face it there was a lot to clear.
It wasn’t his fault, there was nothing he could have done, or anyone else for that matter, to stop what happened. After all, who could have anticipated that? However, despite knowing that, as the inspector in charge, he still felt some responsibility. He paused, leaning against a rickety fence post, as he turned it over in his head. The sheep in the field next him continued to bleat and crop away at the grass, just getting on with life. Perhaps there was a lesson there. He took a deep breath and gazed out to sea, past where it wasn’t. He tutted, it wasn’t there and no amount of self-indulgent moping was going to help. What’s more it wasn’t coming back, or at least not anytime soon. Also, he wasn’t sure how anyone would cope if it did.
With a last glance at where it wasn’t, he turned along the headland and put it behind him, literally and metaphorically. The case itself had travelled rapidly along his weirdness scale from weird to very weird and then beyond extremely weird. The problem was his agreed scale with the Chief stopped at extremely, so it had upset the Chief no end. He being the one that had to try and explain everything to the Super, without any sensationalism of course. They never did decide what came after extremely, partly because he felt it might need several new setting to do it justice and at the time he wasn’t sure he could cope with where that might lead.
But that was just it. Being a copper you had to expect the unexpected, no matter how unexpected that might be. That was the job, you had to deal with it so the rest of the population didn’t have to. So they could go about their lives oblivious to it. However, he now had to get his head around everything he’d seen, everything he knew that a week or two ago would have seemed like the workings of a fevered imagination. And his wasn’t, at least he hoped not. As the well-trodden path led his towards the little fishing village of Craster he did what he’d done a number of times in the last few days and pinched himself, just in case it was all a very long, convoluted and off the scale, weird dream. It wasn’t.
As he entered the village there were a good number of tourists around despite the early-ish hour. In the past many would have been heading in the direction he’d come from. But now what they would have been going to see wasn’t there, which wasn’t such an attraction. So instead they hung around taking the air, leaning on the harbour wall watching the few colourful little fishing boats that were left, bobbing around. Then he guessed they might visit one of the tea houses, or later in the day the pub. Maybe in a perverse way what had happened was helping those local businesses. Perhaps, more cakes were being consumed, more National Trust souvenirs bought, and more kippers sold in the smoke house.
Kirby headed down to the centre of the village and peered in the window of the gallery at the paintings. He even wondered if one of them might look good on the sitting room wall back home. ‘Perhaps not,’ he muttered before turning and wandering into the Shoreline cafe. He inspected some of the gifts, as he felt he should, being a police inspector. He smiled at his own little joke. He studied the postcards, wondering if he might send one to Anna, until he realised that most of them included what he’d momentarily forgotten wasn’t there anymore.
Instead he bought an ice-cream, a ninety nine, which made him think of the many times he’d made the trek here with his parents. As he sat on a bench watching the waves break in the sheltered harbour and the little grey birds that ran between them like over-wound clockwork toys he wondered what his Dad would have made if it all. No doubt he would have greeted it with his stock phrase of, ‘Well that’s a rum do and no mistake’. Kirby had often wondered if he should have had that inscribed on his Dad’s headstone, not that he’d mentioned it to his Mum.
He sat back, crossed his ankles, took a bite of flake, then a lick of ice-cream while watching a seagull glide and swoop across the waves, riding the breeze. There were worse places to spend an hour, even if, in the distance, it wasn’t there anymore.
If you’d like to find out exactly what Inspector Jonah Kirby has been through in his last couple of weeks “Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat, a Northumbrian Mystery” is on sale from Monday 23rd October. You can also read the first three chapters by following this link:
As always comments are welcome.