WAKEFIELD MYSTERY(detective love story, circa 1991)
What happened really?
Was there a crime? If so, who was the criminal? And who the victim in all this? The one whom I seek or I the seeker or both?
Brutal reader, you may well ask, as I have asked myself repeatedly over the past months of my current assignment. I have hired myself (free of charge on compassionate grounds) to get to the Heart of the Matter, the Root of the Mystery, the very Source of it all.
It all started way back, nearly a year ago, last Spring. How long ago that seems now...
Let me take you back to that time of innocence & promise, the dawn, as it were, of the whole adventure.
Yes, it was Spring & I was feeling the beginnings of an erection, the sap rising as they say. The object of my lustiness was non-specific. There was more a general sense of the erotic potential of the new season, the first stirrings of life after the frigid winter.
So, I was sauntering along with a slightly cocky air I suppose, as I crossed the cathedral precinct & gazed up with a barely-suppressed smirk at the phallic spire thrusting into the sky.
As I did so, the rational part of my mind was musing on the opening lines of the Canterbury Tales...
But I digress. Where was I? Get to the point.
Ah yes, starting to explain how I got to the point I am today, trying to solve a curious enigma.
Whats the Big Mystery then? Where am I?
I am in Wakefield & for a start its no small mystery to me why I should be in this town of all places. Those born & brought up here might say why not? But Im an outsider, an incomer, a stranger in the midst.
What am I doing here? I mean, why did I come here? How did I get here? For what reason? Thats a long story, & one not entirely relevant to the current plot.
I could say Im trying to answer the question of what I should be doing with my life, to pinpoint a crucial piece of the jigsaw, as there is a sense of something or someone missing.
So, Im in Wakefield to investigate. The name & nature of the place invite wordplay. Wakefield, sleepy old town. Whats-is-name, that Yorkshire artist, Grimshaw, grim up north, sure captured the mood when he painted Wakefield in the rain. Tho it is often wet, (more often than not), Venice this isnt. See Wakefield & commit suicide more like. For masochists of a melancholy disposition, it is a delicious place to be. Perhaps Im being unfair. Maybe its just my present mood. Gumshoe Blues. Nothing serious. Dont worry. Strain of the job I suppose. Heavy responsibility. Need a sense of humour in this line of work. Gallows Humour. Should be a Singing-in-the-rain Detective.
So, here I am. In Dick Tracy mac & trilby. I stalk these streets for a clue. There is plenty of dogshit, plenty of litter, but no clue to be found. It would be accurate to say that Ive never had a clue. The answer to the Overwhelming Question has always eluded me.
Perhaps I should enquire at Tourist Information. I suspect such metaphysical advice is not within the strict remit of their brief. Maybe I ought to ask a man of God - the Vicar of Wakefield would seem to the ideal candidate, somehow apt for a literary whodunnit.
The cathedrals spire points at the sky. Somewhere up there, hidden in the clouds, could be the solution. The Omniscient must surely know. As if on cue, rain starts falling, slightly acidic. I take sanctuary inside, respectfully removing hat as I enter. Hallowed stone, stained glass, time-worn pews, that special holy hush. But no-one in ecclesiastical vestments in view.
I sit in silence waiting for a still small voice to prompt me.
Give me a hint. Am I hot or cold?
Its a little chilly in the sanctified shadows. Milder outside in the early Spring sunshine now the April shower has passed.
After spiritual refreshment, my previous jauntiness returns, tho still underlayed with the slight nervous anxiety of the vague quest that is driving me on.
The phallic spire & the memory of my former incipient erection remind me. What I could well be looking for is a girl, a sidekick to accompany me on further investigations.
Well, have Day Rover, will travel. West Yorkshire is my oyster. But where is the pearl? Might take a bus out to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the grounds of Bretton College. Country House sort of setting.
Equally, if I just stayed still, where I am, she might stumble across me. But then again, so might a flying pig.
This case presents special problems. Ive never seen the person Im looking for. Cannot issue a description. All I have to go on is that shes female, more or less of my generation. Other than that, she could be anyone. No photo, not even a name. No leads.
To say shes disappeared under mysterious circumstances implies that she was present in the first place, whereas all I know for certain is her absence if you like. She could have been kidnapped or be in hiding.
So, the search must continue. But undercover, for theres another sweet April shower & rather than get drenched, Ill go quench my drought in a café I think.
Into the Ridings Shopping Mall. The only thing Yorkshire about it is the name. It could be anywhere. Indeed clones of it, its equivalents exist everywhere.
I take the down escalator, change my mind & ride in the rocket-ship lift to the roof. Im a bit indecisive like the weather. I need to clear my head, blow the cobwebs away. Do some serious thinking.
The sun is out again by now. Up here in the bracing breeze of this heady height, I am Lord of nothing I survey. I imagine myself an angel perched up here, a celestial sentinel or messenger, with Wings of Desire.
There on the horizon, Emley Moor Mast transmitting its invisible messages. And here in the centre, the cathedrals more ancient antenna, an aerial into the ethereal, operating on a different frequency.
I look down. Feel giddy. Vertigo. Mustnt fall.
And then everything just seemed to go black. Blank. Had I fainted?
I dont know what happened. Things got a little confused beyond that point. Only wisps & whispers of memory emerge from the fog of amnesia.
I had lost some time somewhere, the whole of the summer & it is now only beginning to come back to me.
And it comes back only very slowly in fragments like disjointed phrases in a broken story. And Im trying to reconstruct what occurred, as one would piece together the broken bits of a china vase that once contained flowers. The water is all spilled & it is my tears.
The story, in it there are roses & heartbreak, love & long lonely nights. Love & loss. The difference two letters make. It is a tale of two characters: he & she. Me, I mean.
And, like the Ancient Mariner, it seems to be a tale I have to tell myself over & over. If I can only find the words, the words to describe, the right expressions, if they would come back to me, about what happened & why.
In memory's mythology there must be have been a time of grace before that fall into unconsciousness & before these hazy recollections rising from repression of the event, the events leading to .... this now, after.
When I begin to see, in retrospect, it was doomed, hopelessly romantic right from the start. The impossible, perfect love that couldnt be but so nearly was. Usual stuff. I wouldnt worry about it.
All wrong from the start she later pretended, or maybe thats what she actually came to believe, as she claimed, blaming me, blaming herself for the whole sorry affair.
And Im sorry. Its all a little confused. I feel a little confused. A little hazy. Like the mists of the Autumn, the melancholy walks, having to say goodbye to something, to someone, a dying in nature, the leaves falling...
Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, like the cold river Caulder on which ice floes now float. The water of Newmillardam now frozen over, which we first visited, her & me, one hot summer day.
Its all like one of the movies we saw together, except then we were holding hands in the dark.
And now I am alone again.
But Im beginning to feel a little bit better, more like my old self before ... before all that. The medication helps. The doctors said it would help. They were kind when they found me wandering around like a ghost, in the mist with my feet shuffling thru autumn leaves. I couldnt tell them. I could tell nobody at first.
But, as I said, Im feeling better, quite better, the spring has come back into my step already and I can walk around the town like I used to. Theyve let me out. You probably think Ive escaped from Stanleyroyd Psychiatric Hospital & am on the run, a lunatic on the loose, a nutter suffering from selective amnesia. I think not, therefore I cant be.
Yes, there are questions, questions remaining, a question mark hanging over the whole affair. Who am I, you may well wonder. I ask myself that question often. And who is she, & more to the point where is she?
Where was I? See I get lost, a little confused sometimes, comes & goes. Yes, I was saying I walk a lot now. I find it helps.
OK so I fantasize a little. I find it helps. I am a Private-Eye. A pair of eyes. Private. Blue eyes. Have to track down the guilty party, or parties, have to be precise in this line of work, mustnt make assumptions, jump to conclusions as you would off a bridge into the icy water of the River Caulder. Only joking. Ghoulish sense of humour. No, as I say, wheres the evidence. No witnesses have come forward. No body.
O, you can see Im a Joker alright, you can tell that straightaway, cant you? You have to agree because you dont know any better. You just havent done the research. Its a serious business, comedy. Youve got to keep it all under control, your emotions, your mood. Even if youre not feeling 100%. No use pulling a long face. Hide your feelings. Then nobody suspects.
Have just got to put all that behind you. Get on with the job in hand. You see, duty calls, business calls & all that. Im back on the case. Tough nut to crack.
Gone missing, O, months now, seems like years ago, lost in the mists of time, the myths surrounding her mysterious disappearance, the alleged crime, we blamed ourselves, no witnesses, you see. Just like none of that ever really happened. Could be imagining it. I told nobody till now.
The trails gone cold. It does that. Comes & goes. Only to be expected in this line of work. I have my setbacks. No clues. Thats what concerns me. The others have given up the search. But I havent, not me, dedication, see. An ace sleuth thats me. Wont take no for an answer, despite the lack of evidence, the lack of a lead.
Will get to the bottom of this, the root, the source, the heart of the matter. Hidden somewhere, sank to the bottom, under the water, or in the leaves. Nobody knows. Nobody can tell. No body.
Well, you cant just give up, can you? Got to continue. Mustnt crack. Must crack the case.
Put on Dick Tracy hat. Its called a fedora, to be more accurate. Film we saw that summer, sitting in the dark, holding hands. Its still a bit chilly. Buy a pair of second-hand gloves. Mustnt leave fingerprints. Find a pair somewhere. Charity shops aplenty. Faith & Hope not so much in evidence. I like my little jokes. Must carry on regardless.
Where was I? The hands, can never forget her hands. Imprinted on me. That was the summer I forgot, Im remembering now. I already told you. Cant be too careful who you speak to, who you talk to, about it all. Who you tell. Might try to trip you up in your words, catch you out. We sleuths go in for some tough interrogation techniques.
I told you, havent I, the medication helps? Im not the Ancient Mariner, you know. I prefer the opening of the Canterbury Tales, especially as it will soon be Spring. And theres the cathedral spire.
I have started to revisit some of my old haunts, the streets we used to walk, her & me, in search of something. Check the lie of the land. I shall soon be back to my old self, my old tricks. You cant keep a good dog down for long. He springs right back, back into the fray. Back on the case. Things have taken a turn for the better & it will soon be Spring. Cant be long now. Im getting warmer. Yesterday I was beginning to feel the first signs of an erection, you know, the sap rising.
At the open-air Market, I move among the stalls. Its not the merchandise Im looking at but the people. None I recognize. Does anyone see thru my disguise? This has to be a covert operation, secret surveillance. And what I covet most is beyond my ken.
Now I sit in the Othello Grill Bar & my mind turns predictably to Desdemona. Now, there was murder. Tragic really. O what a joker I am, dont you think? Well, I cant help the name of the place. I need fast food & I need it quick.
The Yorkshire Pudding looks like one of those inflatable ponds full of murky brown water, but my hunger gets the better of my hesitation & I eat heartily. The Spring air has improved my appetite. Wash it down with some murky brown water. This time, tea. And then I must go the toilet, which also contains murky brown water. Sometimes the absurdity of the human condition strikes me with startling clarity. Anyway no time to waste in philosophical contemplation & speculation. Life must continue & the situation demands decisive action.
Thats my lunch-break over. You have to eat, keep body & soul together. The food helps. It raises my spirits a bit, now Im back on the case. It suddenly strikes me the council should have commissioned, what are those artists names, in the Sculpture Park where we went in the summer, her & me? Theyre dead now. Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth, commissioned them to create a gigantic Yorkshire Pudding in stone or bronze. Situated in the centre of the Bull Ring, it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the place than Victoria we-are-not-amused Regina. What a circus. Where are the bulls, the matadors? Where, O, where is my senorita? Gone AWOL. Lifes a joke, isnt it? Mustnt take it too seriously. Cant anymore.
Looking in the window of the Fishmongers, I see an actual red herring. Placed there deliberately to confuse no doubt. Theres something fishy about all this. With a big hot battered fishcake in your hands, you can walk these streets after me & look for a clue but you will not find me there. You see, there are no witnesses to what took place there then.
From Westgate to Northgate, the streets are my compass, but I still feel lost. Unfolding my crumpled, torn map, I can see no X marking buried treasure. With red biro, I draw an arrow & write YOU ARE HERE, just my little joke. Location established, I am free to roam again, this time haphazardly, on the principle of stop-seeking & find.
I walk along Love Lane, overlooked by the prison, musing on the moral. She is still nowhere in sight, tho there are plenty of other women who are not her. Is my quest hopeless? She could be anywhere?
The diligent detective must leave no stone unturned. I kick a pebble to vent my frustration. Had I a mind sharp as Sherlock Holmes, Poirrot or any of those other fictional sleuths, this mystery could be cleared up in no time.
Time is of the essence. Time is also part of the problem. Time & Space. You see, she could be anywhere or when. I mean, anywhere but where I am, or where I am but at a different time, or now in a different place, as well as in a different guise. You appreciate the difficulty of the problem.
Just imagine the number of possibilities. She could be, or have been or about to be: a naiad in Lightwaves swimming pool; a dutiful housewife doing the shopping in Marks & Spencers Food Hall or anywhere in the Ridings Mall; a commuter waiting for the 145 to Pontefract. She could be any one, even all, of these & more. How do I even begin to track down such a protean chameleon like her, especially as she could be in disguise now. There is no way of knowing, & so many potential directions to go in. Its quite a conundrum & all so confusing.
Did she have ECT at the hospital? They keep quiet about it. Records must exist but confidential. Very hush hush. Strap marks on her wrist. Marks on her temples. Temples. Something happened. Got a bit concussed. Made her forget. Confused her a little. Couldnt remember. Is that what went wrong?
Dont ask me. I cant say. Its a part of the Mystery. It was a miracle she appeared, a mystery she disappeared.
Was she an angel? Was she married? Was this an affair? So many questions. What is this, an interrogation? Did her husband almost murder her? Pushed her from the top of the stairs. Youd keep that quiet. Wouldnt go around shouting that from the rooftops. Youd have to explain the injuries.
Once, in the Autumn, was it, did I catch her with a knife in her hand? Was it pressed to her heart? Did I save her in time? And did we make love afterwards?
You see, I am confused by it all. I expect you are too.
Did I see her in the street, at a distance, or was it only someone who looked like her? So many questions. I have to ask myself sometimes. Often. All the time.
Did all these things really happen? Thats what I want to know. And in what order. Its all confused you see. Lost in the mists. Did love die, come back to life again? Did I feel dead afterwards? Like a ghost?
Was that a movie we saw together, holding hands in the dark?
Who knows? Who knows the answer?
Did I stand in the snow, in an icy wind, a private hell? Must have been Winter. Was that me? Really. I dont remember very clearly. And did I gaze at a house where she used to live, for all I knew was living still, its windows ablaze with light? I dont really remember. There is a vague recollection. A solitary vigil of some sort. I have to keep things under surveillance. You know how it is, in this line of work?
Its like there are blackouts, blanks, no recollection of what really happened, how & why? I knew I had been searching. I thought I had found her. And then it was all lost. She had gone missing. And the mystery remained. The missing person. The missing piece.
Not at all elementary. Real Life is stranger, more complex. It doesnt follow a neat plot. Cut & dried is no longer Life. But something dead among yellowing leaves. Im not even telling this right.
And in a movie, a car-chase would speed things up. But I dont drive. Im driven. Any chasing I do will be on foot. Preferably at a sedate pace. The gait of a ghost shuffling thru leaves.
But where was I?
Searching for something or someone. Talking about Life. Searching for the meaning of Life, the life thats gone missing, the meaning of life, when youve lost it & its lost all meaning. Of a life, only two letters different. Two characters, her & me. Love & life gone missing. Loss , I told you already, didnt I? Lots Lost. Two letters, two characters, different order. Perhaps a clue there like in a crossword puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle, isnt it, a broken piece of china. I dont know. I get confused sometimes. A little lost, you know. But Im searching. To find myself, to find her again. Sure to find her soon. Soon be Spring, the sap rising.
I really lost the plot somewhere. You would I guess if you were with your lover one moment & the next thing you knew she was sectioned in a psychiatric ward. Had I driven her mad, was I mad, were they mad? I couldnt follow. It made no sense.
The Catholic background, the guilt of adultery (even though the husband was a murderous brute who had done worse), parental disapproval, factors contributing to her breakdown. Her punishment for falling, falling in love, was torture by electrodes on her temples. The marks were visible, & those of the restraining bands on her wrists. She said her psychiatrist made sexual innuendos to her. He was only human, if inhumane. It might be a version of hell, if you believe in that sort of thing.
I see pedestrians, I see cyclists & car drivers on these mean streets & look for the meaning of it all. I myself walk round & round as seasons go round as well. Some people are moving fast, straight forward & ahead. I perambulate quite slowly, leaving no stone unturned, not wishing to miss a clue between the blades of grass or amid yellowing leaves.
Im really looking for another Miracle, somewhere. A miracle cycle or something to take me back again or forwards, to what happened & will happen, with the turning of the year, in Spring & then Summer.
And of course still searching. Might do so till the end of the bitter-sweet mystery. Searching for her, who might shed some light on the matter. Just then I thought I caught sight of her, her double, doppelganger or ghost, I dont know which, walking by the wall of the old Elizabethan Gallery, where we walked once. I may be mistaken. Like Edwin Drood, the mystery remains unfinished, unsolved. So many questions remain unanswered. May as well ask how long is a piece of string. What a joker. All this is a very Gordian knot to unravel &, to cut a long story short, I need a pair of scissors or Occams razor...
RAVING REPORTER FILES