|Two Weeks, And You're An All-Time Legend
I should have known something awful was going to happen, because when it got to quitting time that night, Danny said, "What'll we do tonight then, Nick?"
"Pub?" I said, because it was a Friday evening and I'd watered my peace lily that morning.
And then Danny said, "Naaaah, I'm not in the mind for the pub tonight, really. Time for a change, I think."
Except there's nothing else to do in Sandford but menace the teenagers and go to the pub, so we went down to the pub anyway.
Danny's convinced me that if I've got to drink cranberry juice at the pub, I at least should put some vodka in it -- not that he convinced me of this in the pub, because the pub was closed for almost nine months after everything that happened, like everywhere else in Sandford including the station house, excepting the hotel. We ran the station house from the hotel while the old station house was rebuilt, and Danny found a great cache of liquor under the front desk, which should have been illegal owing to the hotel not having a license for hard liquors.
But it was hardly a time to deny the rest of the town -- emerging from their shells and taking up the rebuilding efforts like troopers -- hard spirits, and so Danny and I filled out the appropriate paperwork and served hard liquors in the dining room while we were off-duty. Running the hotel wasn't too difficult, in the end, as Sandford doesn't get much in the way of visitors, and I could certainly see why Joyce turned to crosswords and Bernard turned to napping, though not why either of them turned to crime.
It was an enjoyable diversion while we were rebuilding, and a cranberry and vodka is a tasty drink at the end of a good day's work, but I was relieved when a young man returned from university, purchased the property, and re-opened the pub himself. I'm not the best with a corkscrew when confronted with a dining party of ten, to be perfectly honest.
Danny and I were in the pub, he on his fifth pint of lager and me on my second cranberry and vodka, because we had the weekend off, when three strangers burst through the front door of the pub, firing their guns toward the ceiling.
Near everyone in the village was in the pub that evening -- even a few blokes who weren't quite the age yet, but I've learned to turn a blind eye to the harmless things and keep a more watchful eye for the seemingly harmless -- because Sheila was celebrating her 50th birthday with what seemed to be all the lager and all the chips in the surrounding region, and, on cue, when the strangers burst through the front door and began firing, everyone in the pub dove for cover under their tables.
The miracle of Sandford is that they all managed to take their pints with them, nary a drop spilled on the table tops. Gerald, who owns the pub now, would have been proud, except that he was backing toward the shelves full of liquor with his hands up as Stranger Number One, who was missing most of his hair and wearing an eyepatch, strode toward Gerald with the gun trained on Gerald's chest.
Everyone cowered under the tables, and there wasn't a sound in the place except for, well, gunfire.
Danny and I stayed seated, watching the strangers. Eye Patch was menacing Gerald, who normally had a great fortitude for dealing with bizarre goings-on in the pub but who was currently trying to merge his spine with a bottle of gin, and the one who looked like a shrimp in human form was closing the shutters and dimming the lights. The third stranger, surveying the room from the doorway and obviously the leader, had a tiny, pointy beard, as though he were attempting to look as evil as possible.
In Sandford, the criminals had looked like every sort of the most normal person, and frankly, these three strangers were a refreshing change toward normality through strange appearances, as I understood it, in the criminal world.
Goatee surveyed the place, and of course he focused on Danny and myself. We were the only patrons not cowering under the tables, because Danny does not always act in his best self-interest when his safety is at stake, and because I have come to consider Sandford my home, and I resent the disturbance of the peace in my own home.
"You two drunk, or are you just stupid?" Goatee said.
"He's drunk," Danny said, jerking a thumb in my direction. "Real lightweight, he is. I'm just stupid, myself."
Goatee snorted, and Eye Patch let off a shot in Gerald's direction that ricocheted off a keg of lager with a very familiar ping. "Oi," Danny said, standing up and pointing a finger at Eye Patch. "You can shoot at the ceiling and we, as police officers, will wait patiently for an opportunity to disarm you in a non-violent fashion, but the first man who shoots my pint loses those rights."
"You think you're such a smart cop," Eye Patch sneered.
"That was an excellent speech," I said to Danny.
"It were, weren't it?" Danny said, and winked at me. "I'm learning from the best."
Unlike American police officers -- and, if I am being perfectly frank, most of the residents of Sandford -- we do not carry concealed weapons when we are off-duty. Perhaps, given the events of last year, this is a mistake, but since Danny, the remainder of the Sandford officers, and I went on what Danny calls our "rampage of justice", there's been little trouble in the town.
Danny thinks people have learned their lessons. I think that it's not as simple as that, though it would certainly be an option I would be willing to consider.
Regardless, sitting in the pub that evening, with Sandford residents crawling for the back door on their knees and one hand (without exception, the other hand was still clutching the drink they'd salvaged), I wished for a concealed weapon fervently.
Of course, I hadn't counted on Danny picking up his pint glass, finishing the rest of his lager, and chucking the empty glass straight at Eye Patch.
Luckily for Danny, he hit Eye Patch straight in the forehead, and Eye Patch went down like a sack of potatoes. Luckily also for Danny and for myself, we both retain enough of our training and our reflexes in a crisis to duck, immediately, below the table, when Goatee and Shrimp started firing.
"What do we do now?" Danny said.
"I haven't a clue," I said. "Except perpetuate justice and re-enforce order if at all possible."
"Can't lose the pub again, Doris says she won't make martinis again for love or for money," Danny said.
The station house still isn't finished, though it's been a year and three months since the explosion. It will be state of the art, top of the line, when it's finished, but we've had some setbacks in the construction, specifically with the wiring of the walls for high-speed access to the World Wide Web. It seems that no one in all of the surrounding area was really much for that sort of technological know-how, and it took nearly four months to get someone up from London to do the job.
It worked out in the end, of course -- the technician that Metropolitan headquarters sent liked Sandford so well that he's stayed, opening his own technical support business.
I said, "Oh, that's a shame, she really had a light touch with the gin and vodka drinks."
"Yah, well, she says that she didn't become a P.C. to get her arse grabbed by every drunk who stops by the hotel dining room, she can get that in the station house," Danny said. "Got anything to chuck at them?"
I've become a good, upstanding resident of Sandford: my cranberry and vodka, half-finished, was still in my hand. I drained it down. "Only this."
Danny took it from my hand, shrugged, and whispered, "It won't pack quite the punch of a pint glass, but it can't hurt to try." He popped up from behind the table, chucked the glass at Goatee, and missed wildly. The glass shattered against the door and Goatee, when I peered carefully over the table's edge, was looking murderous, to say the least. "Right," Danny said. "Any more bright ideas, Inspector Angel?"
"That wasn't my bright idea, Sergeant Butterman," I said.
"Oh, yeah," Danny said. "Any bright ideas of your own, then? We could go to the shop, I wouldn't say no to crawling out the back, I could do for some crisps right now."
Before I could have a great idea, the Andys came sliding over to us, commado crawling on their bellies through the overturned tables and chairs. "What's going on, ladies?" Andy said.
"Any bright ideas, you two beauties?" Andy said.
"Right," I said. Most days, the other officers exhibit a great deal more initiative than they did before the unfortunate scene with the village's crime syndicate, but in a pinch, they still turn to me for inspiration. I can't say that I mind; I enjoy stretching my mind in that fashion. "Andy, you make for the games machines in the corner and try to slip behind the bar, see if there's still a rifle underneath. Andy, you go the other way, watch out for that patch by the window, Mr. Overbloom spilt a pint of ale there earlier. Danny, you keep talking, try to distract Goatee. I'll make a break for Shrimp and hope that he's the weak link."
"Just like you, Angle," Andy said, wriggling toward the windows and Mr. Overbloom's spilt lager. Andy snickers and moves, as quietly as he can amongst the chairs lying on their sides, toward the back entrance to the bar.
Danny stood up and I watched Goatee's shotgun swing from pointing at the door to pointing directly at Danny's chest. I would have worried, but Danny has become both more fearless and more careful since he spent six weeks recovering from a gunshot wound to the stomach, and his sense of humor's improved, as well. If Gerald wanted to begin holding evenings where village comedians performed in the pub, Danny would not be the worst amongst them.
Actually, that's not a bad idea, the comedy -- I will have to suggest it to Gerald the next time that Danny and I are in for a pint.
Regardless, Danny stood up and said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
I made my way toward Shrimp on my hands and knees; while I admired Andy and Andy's fortitude at crawling on their bellies, staying low to the ground, that sort of commando movement is not a skill I've acquired. I have many talents, but crawling flat on my stomach is not one of them, alas -- I simply wriggle like a beached fish and go nowhere when I attempt it.
Goatee said, "No, no, you don't know me from anywhere, fat boy, you have never seen me before in your life!"
Which was true; Danny knows everyone in the village and I know 9 of 10 residents myself, and these men were strangers. We get a handful of strangers in Sandford, mostly tourists with out-of-date guidebooks looking to visit the Village of the Year. The tourists we had most recently -- nearly six months back -- were thrilled to discover that the station house was in the hotel. They thumbed through their guidebooks animatedly at dinner, pleased to be served white wine by a police sergeant, and they noted that this certainly wasn't in the book when they left.
They tipped well. I suspect that had we told them the station house was currently located in the hotel because of a village-wide conspiracy of murder and mayhem, they would have tipped less well, but the extra funds were lovely. We bought a delicious homemade apple pie with the tourists' tip money.
"Sure I know you from somewhere," Danny said, and I heard him duck, banging against the table, as Goatee fired off a shot. Through the tables in front of me, I could see Shrimp's knees. Briefly, crouched on my hands and knees, watching Shrimp stand still, Eye Patch moan feebly from his prostrate position on the floor, and Goatee begin to move toward Danny, I wondered why these men were here.
Certainly, though the pub does a booming trade on a Friday evening when there's a birthday in the village, they didn't seem interested in the funds in the till. Danny's voice came from under the table this time. "Aren't you my fourth cousin, coupla times removed? Auntie Janice's brother's wife's daughter's second cousin?"
"I don't know no one named Janice," Goatee said, and the rattle of table legs behind me let me know that Danny was on the move.
"Course you do," Danny said cheerfully. A table thudded over somewhere behind me; it was difficult to tell whether it was Danny, running interference, or Andy, reaching the bar. Andy was pressed against the heater under the window, one hand groping upward for the pole Gerald keeps on the sill to open the windows. "Auntie Janice, who crochets the covers for the paper for the loo and sells them at craft markets? Makes a delicious steak and kidney pie, she does, sure you've had it."
"I hate steak and kidney pie," Goatee growled. Andy opened the door to the bar and it creaked noisily. Goatee whirled around and discharged his shotgun, blasting a hole in the video games terminal by the bar. It suffered blinking, beeping death throes, and Andy flopped back to the floor, defeated. Goatee gestured with his shotgun. "Get up and sit there."
One man was down; three remained, and Goatee was perhaps a more detail-oriented and observant -- therefore formidable -- opponent than I had first thought. The trouble was, I still didn't know what these men wanted.
"Shame," Danny said, and he must have popped up like a rabbit in a carrot field because Goatee reloaded his shotgun with a click and a ratcheting noise, and fired off another shot. "What'd'ya like to eat, then? Crisps? Fish and chips?" Another shot.
Andy rolled the window-opener to me, silent on the sticky floor, and I was a few short feet from Shrimp, ready to take him out at the knees (he hadn't said a word or fired a shot since he entered the pub), when Gerald appeared behind the bar, shotgun in his hands, and took Shrimp out with a single, well-placed shot.
It appeared that Andy's statement was true: everyone in the country was packing, pub owners included, and Gerald grew up in Sandford, which means not only was he packing, he was also fully capable of operating his own weapon.
And he was a crack shot, to boot. If the village didn't need the pub so desperately, I would have considered recruiting him for the Service.
Goatee noticed, of course, the commotion, and his compatriots lying on the floor, both bleeding and one unconscious. (I hadn't realized before this what an excellent bowling arm Danny has. His precision and force behind the pint glass had laid Eye Patch out completely, for nearly 20 minutes. If there would have been anyone for us to compete against, I would have suggested that the Sandford Police Service form a cricket side.)
It turned into a stand-off: Gerald with his shotgun, Goatee with his shotgun, Andy sticky and practically underneath the heater, Danny watching like a fascinated child from behind a table, and myself, one hand in a puddle of something that I fervently hoped was ale or lager and not bodily refuse.
"You," Goatee said to Gerald. "I forget about you."
"Aren't I the reason you're here?" Gerald said mildly. He was very cool in the face of terror, I must admit. I had another brief moment of regret that he was also such an excellent pub keeper, as he would have made a tremendous police officer.
Also, it was a surprise to us that Gerald was the reason the strangers were there. Danny wriggled over to me, flopping down beside me and dragging his shirtfront through the unidentified puddle beside me. We all would end up needing a wash before retiring that evening, Gerald included, although so far he appeared to be keeping his head the best of us.
"Well, yarp," Goatee said. I wondered if he was a relation of Lurch -- of Michael -- or it was simply a linguistic curiosity of this region. "Y'are."
"So you should let these nice men go," Gerald said.
"We're not nice men," Danny said, "we're pol --" Then I clapped a hand over his mouth and silenced him, as Gerald seemed to be working this out on his own, without our interference, and I hoped it would end without much more bloodshed. I must admit, I feel more comfortable these days if Danny is within arm's length of me during conflict. I trust him to make better decisions than he had made previously, but at the end of the day, he's the best partner I've ever had and I'm just more secure with him nearby during dangerous situations.
During any situations, really. Perhaps admitting this affection makes me less of a man, but I like to believe that it does not.
"Let's see how Gerald does," I whispered. Goatee's entire attention -- physical direction and shotgun both -- was focused on Gerald, who was looking pale and shaken, but certainly in control. An admirable young man; it's a credit to the village that he's returned, absolutely.
It seemed like a bright idea at the time, I must say. Unfortunately, moments after I said that, several bottles of spirits exploded on the bar behind Gerald, related directly, I believe, to Goatee discharging his shotgun toward Gerald, and the pub turned into a melee.
Andy apprehended Shrimp and Eye Patch immediately, and Gerald, regaining his wits quickly, flung a bottle of inexpensive whiskey at Goatee's head, simultaneous with Danny's flying tackle toward Goatee's knees.
Andy helped Gerald up where he'd collapsed behind the bar after his heroics with the shotgun and the gin.
I did the paperwork.
In the end, the situation was quite simple: Goatee and Gerald shared lectures at university, and while not mates, certainly acquaintances who had shared a few pints in the pub. Gerald voiced -- perhaps drunkenly, the world may never know -- his plans to return to Sandford and re-open the pub following the completion of his education. Nothing sinister at all; there were no plots, no secrets, simply a business desire spoken out loud by an upstanding citizen of Sandford who has since gained the respect of all the villagers.
Goatee, whose real name was Thomas, had drunkenly believed that Gerald was offering him a job, or a partnership in the pub, or something of that sort. Thomas was not particularly mentally stable, it turned out, and rather delusional on top of that. He was taken away to a nice, quiet hospital where he could recover and regain his lost senses in rather short order. Gerald felt quite bad about the whole thing, really, for bringing trouble to the town, but aside from a few spilt pints and the concussion that Danny suffered from making a non-regulation tackle to bring Goatee down right on the top of Danny's own head, it wasn't that much of an inconvenience.
Shrimp and Eye Patch spent several days in Holding Cells 4 and 5, also known as the Hedge Suite and the Castle Suite, and were properly contrite when they were released into the custody of the judicial system. There is no charge for "monumental stupidity in the face of peer pressure", but I believe that there should be, and if there was, it would have been applied to these two. Instead, they were charged with reckless endangerment of local population and sentenced to a great deal of community service. To the best of my knowledge, they are still serving it out to this day -- but not in Sandford.
Danny played his concussion as far as he could take it; I spent several days bringing him cups of tea and biscuits and serving at his beck and call, though I must admit that part of the incident in the pub wasn't much of a hardship, either.
Danny makes a terrible cup of tea, frankly, so I'm only too happy to make cups for both of us.
He's recovered from the concussion by now, of course, but I'm still making the tea. I suppose just the way it's going to be, from now on. Danny brings me the first slice of cake, when he's being reprimanded for public drunkenness, and I make the tea.
Frankly, I'll miss the hotel's kitchen when we move into the new station house next month. But it's nice to have the pub back, in the end.