"I Don't Think You're A Crook"



from "Darkest Kiss" a novel hopefully to be finished & published later on in the year

The narrator has decided to leave his job as porter or janitor at Fierce Rakers Flats and has a last conversation with the area manager, Mr. Hatts, a very successful business-man flamboyant, manipulative and ruthless, who has managed to put the local boss, Mrs. Pikehassle, in a poky flat as compensation for sacking her and repossessing her larger apartment. (Ben is main porter.)

     Ben continued to appear and disappear while I continued to stencil, and finally finished numbering all those garages! The day was warm, the sky laced with summery frills of white clouds. The cliché expert thought them cottonwool clouds. No one expected Mr. Hatts in person, I believe, although it was certainly the weather for summer hats but not for Mr. Hatts. Nevertheless, he appeared in person, lifting himself from a purple car that shocked the surroundings as Salvador Dali shocked art-lovers. Surreal Hatts jumped forth, smoothing his front with tapered nails. The firm had either provided him with a matching pair of sunspecs or he had gone and bought them himself because the Hatts’ glasses and the Hatts’ car matched perfectly and plum-purple was the theme. There seemed to have developed round his person a hush of expectation because we on-lookers were silent, the chirpy birds had fallen mute, and even the voluminous Pikehassle looked taken aback as Hatts pioneered the path and made it on to the stairs. He was of course dropping market statistics as he ploughed the good concrete and path, stairs and railings, not to mention the forecourt, and those Fierce Rakers’ environs saw much valuable paper falling around. We came to the rescue with our brooms and swept the things up. “Oh, thank you,” he was saying, “I am such a busy man, no time for anyone. Yes, put those research papers on the back seat of my car, will you?”

      We did.

      He was chatting to Mrs. Pikehassle. Yes, the ground-floor flat was ready for her. The firm appreciated her wise decision. What a glorious day!

      “Where did you get those sunglasses?” she asked.

      “Oh, and another thing…”

      As he was leaving, he saw me. He was pretty friendly with me for unknown reason. “Ah, John,” as I was leaving the tea-room, “you’re forsaking us, I believe.”

      I smiled weakly then rising to the occasion said, “You believe right, Mr. Hatts. Is this the golden handshake?”

      “You’ll be lucky,” said Mr. Hatts smiling and shaking my hand.

      “That’s just what I was thinking,” I said.

      “Our John, our John,” Mrs. Pikehassle was saying, standing up close to the pair of us, very close up to me and smiling in on down on me, chuckling. “That’s our John all over!”

      “Yes, all over,” smirked Mr. Hatts, giving The Dragon a significant look. “Well, good luck and I’m glad everything has turned out so well and been sewn up so smoothly,” now even going so far as to wink at Mrs. Pikehassle.

      “Yes,” I replied. “It’s just like a successful operation, isn’t it, Mr. Hatts?” Hatts nodded uneasily. “The patient dies two days later.”

      Mrs. Pikehassle chuckled at this, and there were a few, generous guffaws from the tea-room. Mr. Hatts, an eminently successful business-man, gave me an odd, quizzical smile, almost embarrassed. “Well, that’s as it may be,” he continued, removing the two plums from in front of his eyes and staggering backwards upon seeing me. “I’m just seriously glad it’s all gone so well. The firm will try to refund you your tax or some of it.”

      As he was quickly reclamping the sunglasses on his face, I said,

      “I’m waiting for the last day to steal all the money from the office, a tit-for-tat crime-affair-situation,” I mocked.

      “Don’t you dare!” shouted The Dragon, roaring merrily.

      Hatts smiled. Going towards the stairs, he said with intent, “I don’t think you’re a crook, John.”

      “How do you account for my success at Fierce Rakers then?” I called out after him.

      And those were the last words we exchanged.


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