He was waiting for me when I got home. He’s not a great talker and neither am I. That’s another gift from our creator.
“New job,” I announced. “Cheating spouse.”
The Leatherman nodded.
We’ve been together for over twenty years now and I have never got round to giving him a name. He had one once. That was the name he had when he was somebody else; somebody living. Mostly I don’t use names with there being just me and him. Until we got the cat, that is.
Lucy, our cat, wandered into our lives one autumn evening. It was one of those so beloved by our author. You know the type, hissing rain, chilling wind, pool-filled roads waiting to catch unsuspecting pedestrians out with a thorough drenching. Lucy, we called her that as I thought that there was a nice little connection to Dracula, was not in the slightest afraid. Cats are not supposed to like Leathermen and vice-versa. So, when this brave little black cat snuck across our threshold, taking the opportunity as I was putting out the bins, and walked straight up to my partner, and did that cat thing of brushing herself against his leg, I was waiting for the inevitable squeal of fear and snapping of bones. It didn’t happen.
The Leather doesn’t have eyes, which stopped functioning a long time ago, so I put in a couple of false ones. The false ones don’t work but they are aesthetically pleasing and don’t scare the postman in the way that the others did. Imagine then, there’s this feline creature, a so-called guardian of the underworld, and she brazenly comes into the house of a dead man and goes to give him attention. What did I witness? I’ll tell you what I saw, I saw fear in the eyes of my big leather, fear. That lasted for a few seconds before I saw something else. I saw surprise and then…well, I saw affection. Our creator would have liked that, the Jesus-walker.
The leather was sitting there on the sofa that was facing the TV. The TV was not switched on but he was watching it as if it was. I have a feeling that a TV played a part in his life before his demise. The cat, the little minx, was sitting on his lap and the leather was stroking her back. The cat was purring noisily, announcing her contentment. Domestic bliss and harmony.
For those of you who are not familiar with Leathermen, I’ll explain:
There are lots of people who die without anybody noticing or reporting it. The benefits of a modern society allow us a form or privacy that many VIPs can only dream of. Most of those who die, unnoticed, are the world’s outcasts, loners, loonies and the unlucky. As long as they have a bank account that is up and running, and the bills are paid, the door remains shut and nobody asks any questions. My leather would have been one of those.
The thing with most people is that they tend to decay, get eaten by maggots, mice, rats, or just time. My leather was different. I think his central heating must have been left on because his skin was so perfectly turned to a sort of bronzed leather, desiccation is what they call it, and he was well desiccated. He would have still stayed dead, however, if it hadn’t been for me. But that is all the Piper stuff and I won’t bother you with all that, yet.
“Cheating spouse,” I repeated. *Another loving husband who wants to have his buns and eat them.”
There are times, and they’re coming more frequently, that I imagine myself to be some famous old-noir detective. You know the ones, shady raincoat, worn Fedora, chain-smoking? Anyway, I thought that I’d set my agency up along those lines. I thought that it would be a good thing that I write myself a number of killer-lines, but none have come to mind yet. Anyway, I think that a few cryptic couplets may go unnoticed, or simply confuse, in Conwy. A lot of the locals here speak that language called Welsh. It is a language even though it just sounds like made-up words with a few English ones thrown in for authenticity. I couldn’t imagine a sharp-tongued sleuth making any waves here, unless they become the local loon. Nevertheless, time waits for no seagull.
People who belong to Conwy (Conway if you’re English) like to think of themselves as true inheritors of the true Welsh. That is to say the Welsh who refused to bow to Edward 1 when he was rampaging through the principality. The castle is a tourist pull and statement of English intent. The walls, though, are far more serious. They go all the way back to Llewellyn The Great. If you’re Welsh, Llewellyn is a big name. Anyway, the people who are born inside the walls of Conwy like to call themselves Jackdaws. They call me a seagull.
This errant spouse that I have been asked to investigate is one of the most important Jackdaws in the town. He has a string of small shops, newsagents and ice-cream parlours, and a few other places that do not bare too much scrutiny. Let’s say that in Conwy terms, he’s one hell of a big Jackdaw. Now birds like that do not go unnoticed. They have followers, lackeys, lovers and rivals. Alwyn Llewellyn was a blessed man; whatever he touched turned to brass. People stood off him and let him have his way. The woman who worked for him put in extra shifts to keep the pennies coming in; he wasn’t a tight man. In that little seaside market town, the dye had been caste centuries ago and nobody had ever thought to change it. Llewellyn was King around Conwy but the times they were a changing.
We tended to do most of our shared work after the sun had fallen. Old Leather seems to like it that way. It’s amazing what can evade notice in such a place as this. Imagine, if you will, a corpse strolling along any major high-street in any town or city in the UK, and then imagine the likely responses. Probably not a good example as I have a feeling that there are already lots of them out there, going about their business without anyone bothering to notice. That’s the thing folks, there are many more of these corpses walking our streets than we would care to realise. Many of them have been around for decades whilst a select few have been around for much, much longer. I personally believe that it was the Leather-vote that swung BREXIT.
Another reason why I preferred the evening to the day is because there’s a bloke who has taken particular exception to both me and Leather. He’s not an ordinary fellow, he’s a preacher. You know the type, Hell’s Fire, Jesus loves you…unless you’re gay or a non-believer. They guy doesn’t seem to harm anybody. Okay, his views are a little extreme (nothing compared to the ones I had in my previous incarnation), but the only people who are likely to get hurt by what he says are those that listen to him. Other people just take a wide-birth around him whilst some kids mock his Old-Testament delivery. What bothers me is the way that he watches us as we pass. His eyes narrow as if to focus them on evil. His voice becomes stronger and his finger begins to point.
“In our world, there is evil walking amongst us. Even now, on this very street, walks an aberration. It is a witch and its imp. God will not suffer a witch. He says that we must burn them when they are found.”