"This was my first stuffed fly diorama," he said as he placed the six-inch square of cardboard, with its strange decoration upon it, onto the cluttered coffee table in front of her. "It's of our Lord's Last Supper."
Against her better judgement Ruthie lent forward to look at it. What greeted her eyes was less than appealing.
"I took a great deal of time and care in arranging the stuffed flies into an exact reproduction of our Lord and his disciples at that holiest of meals," he told her, the pride strong in his voice.
Ruthie just stared at the thing; it bore no resemblance to any Last Supper she had ever seen before. The table was made from an old lollipop stick, bent into a table shape. Around it, arranged in an attempt at the classic image of the disciples arranged behind the long table, were thirteen fat, black, and very dead flies. They were each held in place with a large gold pin driven through their bodies. That seemed to be all the care that had been put into arranging them, ensuring they were placed either side of the central figure, which was obviously supposed to be Jesus. The central one had its wings stretched open and held in place by two extra gold pins. It looked like a tiny black-winged angel, but without a halo.
"They are my pride and joy," he told her.
When he'd opened the front door to her knock, Ruthie had felt disappointment pull down at her hopeful mood. He was the wrong side of fifty, the extremely wrong side. His round face was topped off with a hairstyle that was best called a comb-over, though all there was to be combed over were a handful of shiny strands of black hair. His equally round body was covered in very grey clothes. He wore a grey cardigan over a grey flannel shirt, with a tie so old that it had turned grey with age; these were worn above a pair of dark grey nylon trousers, the elasticated waist of which was stopped from falling by a shiny new brown belt. The only colour to his clothes were the numerous food stains that graced his front of his shirt and cardigan.
When he spoke, she was presented with a flat and monotone voice, erased of all inflection.
This was Mr Kingsley Reese-Holiday, whom Ruthie had come to interview, and her first impressions had not been wrong.
She'd barely sat down in his cramped sitting room when he'd shown her one of his "stuffed fly dioramas" before she had even asked the questions she had prepared.
Now he grabbed hold of her arm, pulling her to her feet again, exclaiming:
"If you enjoyed this one, I know you'll simply love my display room. I must show you my display room, it has all my other dioramas in there."
As he dragged her from the room, Ruthie wondered how you exactly stuffed a fly, but just as quickly rejected the question. If she'd asked it, Mr Reese-Holiday would have told her, and some things were best left unknown.
His "display room" was what had once been the house's equally tiny dining room, but you couldn't eat a meal there anymore. The walls were lined with shelves and cabinets, all of which seemed to be groaning under the weight of those "stuffed fly dioramas". In the centre of the room was a tatty old table, what she guessed was his work table. It was scattered with different pieces of wood, all of which looked like scraps and many of which seemed to be salvaged from bins. There was a large pile of lollypop sticks at one end of the table. Around the table were scattered different half-open bottles of glue. But at the far end of the table, in a large Tupperware container, big enough to easily house one of her mother's elaborate cakes, seemed to be a large amount of thick black liquid. It was only when she looked closer that she saw that the liquid was actually a large amount of dead flies. She had wanted to pull back in distaste, but a voice inside told her not to; she had to keep this man on her side.
Mr Reese-Holiday opened the largest of the display cabinets, pulling Ruthie towards it.
"This one contains some of my best Stuffed Fly Dioramas," he said. "This diorama is the one I created for the marriage of Prince William, third in line to our throne, to the lovely Princess Kate Middleton."
Ruthie felt her heart sink as she looked at the diorama; it was as bad as she thought.
It was supposed to be William and Kate at the altar, in Westminster Abbey, but no attempt at detail had been made. The alter had been made from lollypop sticks, which seemed to be his building material of choice, and in front was, she guessed, supposed to be Prince William, Kate Middleton and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but again they were dead flies, held in place with those gold pins. The fly that was meant to the Archbishop was wearing a mitre hat on its head, made from yellow paper. The Prince William fly was wearing a golden crown that looked like it was made from an old sweet wrapper, and the Kate Middleton fly had a white veil attached to its head which was obviously made from a tiny piece of ripped paper tissue. Ruthie felt her face grimacing with distaste.
"This Stuffed Fly Diorama is to commemorate the very sad moment when Mrs Margaret Thatcher, truly our greatest ever Prime Minister, was forced to leave 10 Downing Street for the very last time," Mr Reese-Holiday said. "It was truly the saddest moment in our country's history."
Ruthie didn't agree with his political analysis, but she knew to keep her views to herself. Instead she looked at the diorama he indicated.
At the back of the tiny diorama was the front door to 10 Downing Street. It was another lollipop stick, this one painted black with a large white "10" written over the top of it. In front of the door were two dead flies, again held in place with gold pins, one placed in front of the other. The fly in the foreground had a paper handbag glued to its side, while the one behind had a paper suitcase glued to either side of it. If Mr Reese-Holiday hadn't told her what it was supposed to represent she wouldn't have had a clue.
"And this is my Stuffed Fly Diorama of the historical event of Agincourt," he said, turning to yet another one of his dioramas.
"Mr Reese-Holiday, I need to talk to you about something else," Ruthie said, trying to keep her voice light and gentle.
"But I'd much rather talk about my Stuffed Fly Dioramas; they are the real passion of my life," Mr Reese-Holiday replied, not taking his eyes off his display cabinet. "I have worked so long and hard on them."
"I need to talk to you about Jamie Lipsyte," Ruthie said.
"I have made a Stuffed Fly Diorama of him shooting his father. It isn't my best, but I feel it captures what really happened."
"You said you saw Jamie Lipsyte at Liverpool Street Station at the time his father was shot," Ruthie said.
"I know I did, and I did, but you must see my Stuffed Fly Diorama. Let me get it for you," Mr Reese-Holiday turned and started to move towards another display cabinet.
"Mr Reese-Holiday, I am part of the legal team representing Jamie Lipsyte, and you are his only alibi witness. I need to talk to you about what you saw," Ruthie said. She could feel the frustration pouring into her words.
"And I am not bothered about that. My Stuffed Fly Dioramas are the only things that are of interest to me. I'll tell that to that very courtroom too," Mr Reese-Holiday said, as he opened another display cabinet and took out another one of his awful dioramas. "This is one of my latest Stuffed Fly Dioramas. This is the one showing Jamie Lipsyte shooting his father," Mr Reese-Holiday proudly said.
Ruthie just looked back at him. This man was supposed to give the evidence, at trial, that would prove Jamie Lipsyte was innocent. She had been sent here by Mrs Claudia West QC, Lipsyte's barrister and her Leader, to make sure he could give his evidence in a clear and concise manner, to explain to the court what he saw so everyone could understand. But all she had found was... Some days it was just too impossible to try and do the right thing, she quietly told herself.
YOU ARE READING
The People of the CityShort Story
A collection of twenty different stories that all share one thing, the central characters all live in a city, but that is all they share. These are twenty different stories with twenty very different themes, about twenty different people.