Killers are a blessing.- part one

Up here the houses look like butter wouldn’t melt on their doorsteps. They may be built upon wealth accrued from broken bones but they don’t like to offend the neighbours.

It was a routine call, a fifteen backs an hour, missing persons job in Cyncoed. I parked my coupe outside 117 Briarwood Drive and approached across a lawn you could roll sushi on. A peacock carved out of a bush eyed me suspiciously, I threw it a placatory nut.

My client AB Vanderstadht was as well-groomed as the grass. His beard had a distressing symmetry and tapered into one of those moustaches where the ends point up like a dead man’s boots. His shiny brogues and worsted tweeds suggested that he’d had spent too much time in lindy-hop class.

He offered me a drink, I asked for scotch, he bought Martini.

“Now Mr Marlowe” he said jerking a pointy moustache tip at a fawn leather chaise longue as an indication that I should sit, “My wife is a highly strung creature, from a highly placed family, I can’t afford to let her out of my sight.”

His concern for her welfare was admirable but I wished he was less gushing.

He handed me her photograph. She wasn’t so good looking. Her face wouldn’t stop any more traffic than an overturned oil tanker in the Brynglas tunnel.

Her hair was an ash blonde that came from the kind of bottles you couldn’t buy in Boots and her languid expression was the kind I had only seen on a certain kind of woman before. The kind whose middle name was trouble.

“Dominique De Chatelet- Vanderstadht” said the moustache twitchily noting my excitement.

“You’ll understand my concern, I’m no ogre, she has no reason to hate me, we have an arrangement. She has her predilections, the gambling, the reefers, the unsalubrious friends and I have…. mine. So you see it’s unlikely that she is trying to escape my clutches.”

I wasn’t so sure. In my experience a frail of this type may have any number of reasons for skipping town, especially if married life was proving as disappointing as an eighties band’s reunion concert.

“Mr Vanderstadht can you tell me where your wife was last seen please?” I asked.

An hour later I was down by the river, where the houses are packed together like mackerel in a tin and instead of taming nature they just let the rats take over.

Welcome to Grangetown, my kind of town.

I was standing between two overfilled bin bags whose contents were spread across the pavement amidst pools of vomit and rainwater. I regarded the brown glass doors of Yang’s Chinese Restaurant, established 1972, last repainted 1973. It’s red-tiled Pagoda style roof had seen better days and several of its once-cream tiles had fallen off the wall.

I tentatively stepped into the lobby to the music made by police sirens. Inside was a Chinese Matriarch of no more than 130 years old who regarded me with a cold suspicious eye.

“I’m looking for a broad” I said.

But then again wasn’t I always?