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Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

Part 26

Billy Nutmeg opened the door to the backstage entrance, entered the building and let the door slam behind him. The noise awoke Albert from his slumbers. Albert Parsons was the geriatric stage door keeper. Among his various duties, it was his job to issue keys, receive deliveries and distribute fan mail, which often included poison pen and begging letters. He had become a master at deducing the contents of each envelope, sometimes by simply holding the envelope up to the light or by steaming them open over a boiling kettle. The fan mail would usually be heavily scented, the hate mail was usually written in the same handwriting and the begging letters were more often quite bulky, several pages of tragic family histories, crippled husbands, destitution, and urgent medical costs. There were no fan letters today for Billy but there was a small pile of hate mail.  Billy snatched up the letters and asked for his dressing room key. “Your dressing room is already open, Mr Nutmeg”, advised the doorman. “Two fellows asked to speak with you personally, quite forceful they were, I told them you might be late, tried to put them off but they were insistent, said they’d make themselves comfortable till you arrived”. Billy paled and stammered a little. “What did they look like?”. Albert answered in a manner which exuded an air of mystery, “Big lads, they were, tough looking, hard faced, you know the type, the sort that you wouldn’t want to meet late at night in a dark alley”. Billy, who was still throbbing in the nethers, came over a little queasy. He would have to go to his dressing room as there was a matinee performance to get through, plus, he’d arrived early in order to be there before Shadwell Crump turned up.

Billy stood outside his dressing room for a moment listening for any voices. The door was slightly ajar, so he pushed on it ever so gently which made the normal short squeak of the hinges sound like the doors of a medieval dungeon being opened. Billy cautiously put his head around the door and spied the two burly incumbents.  The normally ebullient Billy looked at the two stony-faced men and whispered a childlike, “Hello”. The men rose from their seats. Billy was ready to flee. “Sod the matinee”, he thought to himself. “Mr Nutmeg, I am Detective Sergeant Smith, and this is my colleague, Detective Constable Jones”. By now, Billy was a bag of nerves. The Sergeant beckoned him into the room. “Is there a problem, officer?”, Billy asked, tentatively. The Sergeant came straight to the point. “We have received a number of serious complaints regarding the business onstage last Friday evening and we thought that it would be less embarrassing for you if we were to question you here, rather than at your hotel or at the station”. Billy stammered, “What business was that, officer?”. “Now, now, Billy… I think that you know exactly what I’m referring to. Err… you don’t mind if I call you Billy do you, sir?”. Not waiting for a response, the Sergeant continued, “Indecent exposure, sir, very serious business. This is, after all, a public space, sir, not a sleazy French Bordello. We can’t have any Tom, Dick or Harry wafting his genitalia in the faces of a paying audience, now can we, sir?”.

Billy recognised the sound of the footsteps outside in the corridor as he heard them every day, accompanied by the infernal, tuneless whistling of his now, arch enemy, Shadwell flaming Crump. Billy suddenly found his usual composure, “You want to ask that bastard out there, it was all his flaming fault, him and his scraggy cats”. Billy made for the door and shouted after Shadwell. “Oy… You, Crump, come here, I’ll bloody well knock your teeth out.”  Billy chased down the hall after Shadwell, although it might be better described as more of a hurried limp. He caught up with Shadwell and grabbed at his shoulders, intent on doing him an injury. The two police detectives quickly restrained Billy and dragged him back to his own dressing room. The detective constable went back to speak with Mr Crump and then returned a few minutes later. “Mr Crump”, said the constable, “wishes to press assault charges against you, sir”. Billy slumped into his chair and placed his head in his hands. He was in trouble and he knew it.  Billy sensed that there was someone at the door of his dressing room and looked up slowly, it was Shadwell. Billy glared at him, but unseen by the two officers who were behind the door, Shadwell smiled at Billy, and as he started to move away, he raised two fingers in Billy’s direction and then disappeared back to his own dressing room, whistling tunelessly as he went.


Published by crispinunderfelt

All round good egg. Humanist and red wine drinker.

6 thoughts on “Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

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