Chapter Two

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The drive home was its usual abysmal self. Traffic queued to get into queues and those who got tired of waiting forced their way into non-existent gaps, further snarling it up for the rest of us.

My flat was tucked away in the urban runoff between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. During rush-hour in this part of the world, it takes so long to drive anywhere that I sometimes think I might die of old age before I get there. Archaeologists of the future will dig up my skeleton, still strapped into my seat belt, my forehead leaning in silent desperation on the horn in the centre of the wheel. 

If the local public transport wasn't so derelict then, along with thousands of others, I wouldn't be forced to sit in my coffin with wheels. But it is, so I am.

As usual I got stuck in the crawling, snarling mess that ensnares the majority of the West Midlands after five in the afternoon. The rain was lashing so hard against my windscreen that my wipers couldn't clear enough to see as far as the car in front's bumper, even though that was at most centimetres away.

Whilst sitting and going nowhere, I decided that I might as well go to the office to get my next job. I always said job rather than case. The term case seemed so pretentious for the almost entirely menial nonsense that we typically had to do. That didn't stop both Yeoman twins, my invertebrate partners, from referring to everything as a case as if they were Sam fucking Spade.

Trying to get home a little later would be easier on my mental health, as well as my lungs, and by popping into the office I'd get a head start on the toil of tomorrow morning. I took the turning for the ring road and dodged my way in-between careening cars, wondering if their drivers were suicidal, homicidal or an intermingling of the two. 

I parked on the tiny company car park next to the sky blue Fiesta that belonged to Joan, our receptionist, who had been with the company since my father had jointly established it. Rumour had it that she had provided more than administrative support to my dad, but rumour was all it was.  

By all accounts, Alfred Yeoman had been a good policeman, he served with my dad until they both left the force for reasons that were never spoken about. Faced with a future as night watchmen earning little enough to feed themselves, let alone their families, they went into business together and formed Turner Yeoman Investigations. 

They never made it big, but they provided. They used a simple mixture of their experience and some friends still in uniform to bring successful conclusions, one way or another, to the vast majority of work they took. Now they were both six feet under and the business had passed to their children. My sister and I and the Yeoman twins had all been equal partners, and had been for about three years. 

That was until my sister's death, when they had bought up a controlling share, and now they spent their days freezing me out and conniving to give me the shittiest of missing cat investigations in the hope I would leave. 

They would have a long wait.

The office is on the first floor of a converted townhouse, a comfortable bus ride from the city centre. We have a brass plate on the door and a cobweb-filled intercom that works only intermittently, and even then makes your voice sound like a Dalek from a Russian remake of Dr. Who. 

I blundered up the stairs and into the foyer, brushing the raindrops from my shoulders before they had chance to settle into my coat. Joan looked up from her Woman's Weekly and regarded me with her implacable gaze, like a carpenter sizing up a sheet of ply that needed crafting. 

"You're here late Joan," I said, avoiding eye contact and instead regarding the distinctly-dead fern in the corner.

"So are you Satchmo..."

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