By Don Stoll
Sean McNally had come back to Harrogate after doing time for Assault with Injury on a Constable. He sauntered into The Plough hoping Kate still worked there. He found her sat round a table with two mates.
“Jaysus,” Kate said in her worst Belfast accent.
“Look what the cat dragged in,” said a brunette whose name Sean couldn’t remember.
Manky rat’s nest of hair, he thought. And not as pretty as Kate underneath it.
“Cat’s done you a favor,” he said. “Need a cock in the henhouse.”
“Cocks are ha’penny a dozen,” said the brunette. “Or ha’penny for two dozen where you were. You sell or buy in there?”
He remembered her name: Rowena.
“Now you’re out you going to commit a proper crime, Sean?” she said. “Pub bombing? What you lot do.”
“Moo,” Sean said. “English cow.”
He looked at his wife’s other mate. Decent-looking blond. Flashed his smile.
“Haven’t had the pleasure.”
“Sure it’s a pleasure? Ellen.”
Pretty boy once but going hard now, Ellen thought. Way you live. But an out-of-my-way walk. Strong build. Wavy hair. Hands to get a girl’s motor going if it stalls driving to work. Or get her other motor going if she wakes up in the mood and doesn’t have work.
“I’ll leave you to your mates,” he said. “But still your husband, Kate. After closing, I’ll be at your door.”
“Stopping at my mum’s tonight,” Kate said. “And live across town now.”
“Shall I tell him the rest, Kate?” said Rowena. “Kate’s got a new bloke. Solicitor. Rugby prop till he hurt his knee. Twice your size, so watch yourself.”
Ellen had too much whiskey in her. It made her quiet but didn’t keep her from counting Kate and Rowena’s falsehoods. Two outright lies: Kate had no plans to stop at her mum’s that night, and she hadn’t moved. The third was Rowena’s foolishness. Ran a florist’s shop, didn’t understand blokes like Sean. Ellen Flay, Detective Inspector with the York and North East Yorkshire Police, knew that Simon Ball, Solicitor, never mind he was twice Sean’s size, had best watch himself. Sean would bring a knife to fight.
Ellen kept mum about her work to Sean. Best to hold on to the advantage of surprise.
“Another time,” Sean grinned. “Got mates who’ll know your address.”
He left to get royally pissed in a place called The Swan.
Ellen kept drinking. Kate and Rowena had started slowly but got in the swing. At closing, Rowena took a taxi. Ellen’s flat was in Wetherby. Kate said kip at my place.
Ellen fell asleep straightaway on Kate’s queen.
Kate thought about Simon Ball. In London on business, back soon. He’d take care of Sean.
Last thought before she drifted off wasn’t about Simon. Was about the hangover to come.
Pissed like he was, Sean forgot most of what Kate’s manky-haired mate had said. He forgot her name again, so in his head called her Manky. He forgot Kate planned to stop at her mum’s that night and that she’d moved.
But he remembered Manky saying Kate had a new bloke: big chap. So, leaving The Swan at closing, he lifted a Newcastle Brown Ale from some pisshead asleep at a table. Time to claim his rights as Kate’s husband. He finished the Newcastle Brown and broke the bottle against a building. Didn’t have a knife, but this would do if Kate’s new bloke was with her.
Ellen needed to pee, so she was awake when the banging on the door started. She was out of bed ahead of Kate. Going to meet Sean, she passed through the kitchen.
She told him through the door to piss off.
Then she unlocked the door and Kate at her shoulder said: “He’ll have a weapon!”
But the proof is in the pudding.
Ellen swung the frying pan against Sean’s left temple. He spun around and fell forward. His skull struck the edge of the top step outside.
The widow never shed a tear for Sean’s passing. Ellen didn’t, either. But Ellen had one idea Kate wouldn’t have thought of: stick flowers on Sean’s lonely grave. Why not, since Rowena wouldn’t charge?