Reads: 50

Anticipating Mr. Trenchbog’s anger and frustration at my lateness, I called him to try and explain what had happened.

“This number is currently unavailable,” a robotic woman's voice said, and I felt my chest tighten. Whenever Trenchbog needed to yell at me, I was there. Whenever I needed Trenchbog, he wasn’t around.

The two officers led me into the police station, past the front desk and into a dimly lit room with a table, two chairs on one side and a single rotten, plastic chair on the other.

“Would you like some orange squash? Cola? Diluted peach water?” said the younger officer.

“Sit down!” ordered the older officer. I did as he instructed me and I sat on the nearly dead plastic chair. The younger officer leaned towards me with his hands clasped together, making a smile that made his cheeks crease up. The older one sat back with his hands on his knees, looking me up and down like I was yet another pesky kid.

“I’m Constable Smasher,” the older one said. “This is my partner, Constable Jittery.”

“Hello there,” said Jittery, offering his hand, and I shook it.

“You’re partners?” I said. "So you’re married?”

Jittery laughed awkwardly and said, “No, no…not partners in the sense of…”

“Enough!” barked Smasher and cutting Jittery off. “Now, lad, you were the first to arrive at the scene. A witness named Mr. Lewis said you dropped your bicycle and ran straight towards the scene of the accident. He said he saw an old man driving, I quote, ‘a child’s tank’, quickly down Pennington Lane hill. This man then crashed into a house about thirty metres off the road.”

“We don’t want to scare you,” said Jittery. Smasher was staring at me. He had these big eyes and his eyelids were low, as if he suspected something. Jittery continued: “You were the only one at the crash scene. If you would kindly tell us what you saw, we would be eternally grateful of your assistance."

“Tell us everything you saw or I'll throw you in a cell,” said Smasher between coughs.

“I saw a child’s tank crash into a house,” I said.

“Tell us about the assailant!” yelled Smasher.

“I didn’t see anything…much.”

“Much? What do you mean by ‘much’? So you did see something!”

“Something, yes,” I said. “Much…clouds. Clouds of smoke.”

“And could you kindly tell us about the tank driver?” said Jittery.

I thought about the old man and his weird beard and goggles. I remembered the way he picked up his pipe and helmet and ran into the house, as if he didn’t care that a family could be inside, or somebody could be getting dressed. For some reason I liked this old man. He didn't care about the rules, and he had bad manners.

“I can’t tell you a thing,” I finally said.

“You can’t, or you won’t?” hissed Smasher. “What exactly did you see?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing, you say,” said Jittery. “But you said that you saw something, much of something, and now you’re saying that you saw nothing.”

“That’s right," I said. "I saw something, then I saw nothing. The tank crashed into the house, and then there was a big explosion with lots of smoke, and then the smoke went away. Something happened, and then there was nothing.”

“Well, at least he saw something,” Jittery said to Smasher.

“Nonsense, he’s lying!” shouted Smasher. “We have nothing right now! You’d better tell us something, young lad, or I’ll have you locked up!”

“I’ve already told you something,” I said. “Can I go now?”

“You stay right where you are,” said Smasher, pointing his index finger in my face. He then tossed a file on to the table.

“Wow, that's as thick as my school report,” I said.

“Open it, and look at the photos!” insisted Smasher.

 

The file was crammed full of different pictures and notes. In the pictures, I saw a man standing next to some machines. I saw the same man at a museum showing off things he had built. I saw him flying through the air on a strange looking kite, hanging on to it with one hand. I saw him running away from a cafe that was on fire, running away from a burning car that he had crashed. Then there was a close up of his face. It was the crazy man I had seen with his trousers on fire. I recognised the beard, the pipe and the few hairs left on the top of his head neatly combed to one side, as if there was any point in doing that. One of his eyes was pointing towards his nose. Another picture showed him wearing a tartan waistcoat over a shirt, with matching tartan trousers. He looked like a school teacher. He had a wonky walking stick. He wore big brown leather shoes that were far too big for his feet. To me, he was a foolish, wacky old man trying out experiments that constantly crashed, burned and failed. Then I remembered his scruffy, panicky voice.

Brakes! Brakes! The police! The police are here!

“Sorry, I don’t recognise him,” I said, sliding the file back to Smasher, who pressed down on it with his palm, leaning forwards and addressing my forehead.

“This is Professor Wernie Walker,” said Smasher. “He's the clown of Hamley town. An inventor. A walking time bomb. An idiot. A nincompoop. A derpwit. A polar bear on a bicycle. He is suspected of blowing up two cafes in Whitley village, and a tea shop in Gerangade. The fool of Matson. The kite flying pilot of Foxdale. The buffoon of Brimmington. A suspect keeper of illegal materials. Suspected of making the town Christmas lights switch off. Suspected of accidentally releasing fifty monkeys which led to the great fruit market raid of last year. Suspected of crashing thirty two cars, seven buses, five taxis, two small aircraft, one train, and stealing half a warehouse of explosives.”

“The suspected trouser thief of Tamm Valley,” continued Jittery.

“The cause of the cookie rain,” said Smasher.

“The day when ice cream fell instead of snow,” said Jittery.

“A fighter pilot once reported an old man sitting on a bed raised by balloons, flying at two thousand feet,” said Smasher.

“And one night, the sun came back up slightly and went down again,” said Jittery.

I remembered reading about these events online, except for the one about the sun rising again, and the thought of this crazy old man pulling all of these stunts made me laugh inside.

“Well, since you know who he is already, then why don’t you go out and arrest him?” I said.

My words made Jittery laugh. He looked at Smasher and immediately straightened his face.

“Because he has a funny act of appearing and disappearing again,” said Smasher.

“And the law doesn’t say you can’t carry out experiments,” said Jittery. “Come to think of it, Smasher, the old man is quite innocent. These are all accidents. I'm sure he has a licence to own those dangerous materials. His only crime is being as mad as an omelette that thinks it’s a pancake.”

“An omelette is one cup of flour and milk away from being a pancake,” said Smasher. “And this man is one crime away from being captured, convicted and locked up. I want Hamley town to be safe from this maniac.”

“If you remember seeing anything, anything at all,” said Jittery to me, smiling and showing me his teeth, “then do kindly absolutely wonderfully delightfully please, if you will, let us know.”

“We’ll find out if you’re lying or hiding something from us,” said Smasher. “And when we do, we’ll lock away the key and throw you up. I mean, we’ll lock you up and throw away the key!”

“We’ll be in touch,” said Jittery, shaking my hand again. “We have your number. It’s written on your back. In the mean time, you can complete your deliveries. Now be a good boy and stay out of trouble. Stay away from Professor Wernie Walker."

“Run along, polar bear, before the ice melts,” said Smasher.

They released me, and it took me another two hours to finish my deliveries. When I got back to the delivery warehouse, I found Mr. Trenchbog in his office. He had been waiting for me all that time. He complained that his wife had been constantly phoning him and asking him where the hell he was.

"I'm supposed to be at home cleaning the bathroom, wiping the bins and weeding the garden!" he yelled. "My wife is going to be extremely angry at me!"

He went baboon-style crazy and threw staplers, duck tape, hole punchers and boxes of plastic foam. Fortunately, my polar bear costume was well padded and I didn't feel a thing as the missiles bombarded me. Unfortunately, Mr. Trenchbog didn’t pay me for that whole week.


Submitted: December 23, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Richard C. Parr. All rights reserved.

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