A couple of terms which I have been told would not normally be used much or at all in Britain.
Briefs – Is a term that is not used in Britain as a synonym for underpants, while in North America it's a very common term.
Bikini underpants – are a type of underpants that are quite fashionable in Europe. I have been informed that they would never be referred to as bikini, which is a female swimsuit in Britain as it is in North America but we stretch it to include the very brief type of underpants that some boys and men wear.
Therefore, I am referring to them as sports briefs, which I have been told would be an acceptable term on both sides of the Pond.
Jonathan was standing close to the wall of his former bedroom watching his two little brothers and their new big brother scuffling on the floor. It was almost bedtime and the three were wearing their underpants and nothing else. In this, Denny was the odd man out, wearing a pair of skimpy sky blue sports briefs while the other two were in more normal, more modest, colored underpants.
A little smile appeared on Jonathan's face as he felt a gentle envy of the three boys. Suddenly he felt someone standing behind him and an arm circled his chest, “Hello Dawn,” he said and he leaned back hands coming up to hold onto her arm feeling comfortable, as her chin came to rest on the top of his head.
“Hello, kiddo, what are you feeling right now?” she inquired.
“I'm a little envious.” he said simply. “I don't want to replace any of them, I'd just like to be able to join them.”
In the middle of the floor, Ricky and Roger had ganged up on Denny and had him stretched out between them tickling him. Denny was almost hysterical from laughter and giggling. Rachel Heron passed by the open door and said, “You don't have much longer to torture Denny, it's almost bath time.”
“Okay mum,” yelled out the two older boys, Roger not even realizing that he had done so. Jonathan sighed with contentment, as he watched his mother back up and, peek into the room, a smile on her face. “That's the first time, he's called her mum.” Jonathan said easily.
She asked, “Why is Denny the only one wearing such skimpy underpants? Usually little kids follow their elders example. I would have thought the older boys would be more likely to wear them than the youngest.”
Jonathan smiled, saying with amusement, “He is following his elder's example. Me. He's not the only one wearing them, he's just the only one who happens to still be alive. Gary sent us all a package a year ago when he was working in Paris. Me and Denny liked them right away and started wearing them all the time. Ricky for some reason refuses to wear them. Roger liked them but his parents wouldn't buy him any. He'll probably get some for Christmas. Whoops!” he giggled as a now naked Denny fled from the room, shrieking with laughter, Ricky triumphantly holding up his underpants. “I don't think that's exactly what the military or the police mean when they talk about being debriefed.”
His laughter was infectious and Dawn joined in and by the time their bout of laughter was over, Ricky and Roger had also stripped off their underpants, but both being more modest than Denny had put dressing gowns on and also headed for the bathroom.
Jonathan observed, “As you can see, Denny doesn't have much physical modesty.” He paused, “Well, to be completely honest he has absolutely no physical modesty at all. He hates wearing anything in bed, so he sleeps naked. In the hols and on weekends he gets up and goes down for breakfast without putting anything on. Mum said we had to get up early every school day, so on holidays and weekends we were allowed to sleep as late as we wanted.”
He snickered, saying with bubbling humor, “Just after the hols started this summer the Vicar of the local church and his wife came for a visit early in the morning. The Vicar is inclined to leave us alone, but she keeps after Mum and Dad to get them to bring us all to church. While my parents believe in God they don't believe in organized religion. They say that God is everywhere so why should they have to go to a Church to have someone mediate between them and God, when they can talk to Him person to person anytime they want. They say that the only time they need to go to Church is at baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Jonathan explained, “They talk about right and wrong with us and every Sunday they talk about a different religion. One week it might be the Quakers and the next week Buddhism and they say that it's up to us to decide for ourselves what we believe when we get to be adults.”
He told her, “Well, I was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for them to leave. I was just wearing my underpants.” He grinned. “I didn't like to get dressed before breakfast either. Denny got up late for him, it was almost 9:10 by the hall clock. He came out of the room he shares with Ricky yawning and stretching and of course completely naked. He went into the bathroom and I could hear him peeing and then he flushed the toilet.”
Jonathan said, “He came out of the bathroom and headed for the stairs. 'Hey,' I told him, 'the Vicar and his wife are in the living room talking to Mum.' He thought about it for a minute, staring at me with his midnight blue eyes. Then he shrugged, 'Don't care. I'm hungry.' And he started down the stairs.”
He said with amusement, “I was giggling to myself, I could see both the Vicar and his wife from where I was by craning my neck, though they couldn't see me. The Vicar's a right old gent, but his wife's an old battleax. I saw the Vicar hide a smile when Denny walked naked into the living room, but I saw her turn beet red. Mum had that look on her face that showed she was amused. Denny went up to Mum and gave her a peck on the cheek, saying 'Morning, Mum,' She replied, 'Good morning, darling. Go have your breakfast and be careful not to spill the milk.' She gave him a pat on the bum, sending him into the kitchen.”
“Well, really, I've never...!!” the Vicar's wife started to say.
“No, Millicent, you never,” Mum said calmly, “Count your blessings that he was just naked. Last Saturday he got up early and decided to use some of the body paints he and Ricky got last Christmas from Arlene. In her honor he painted a Canadian and a British flag on his chest and had Jonathan paint a US flag on his back and a French flag on his bum. He told me he wasn't being disrespectful to the French, that it was the only place big enough left.”
“The Vicar was shaking with laughter and I was trying to stifle my giggles. She got up and stalked for the door saying, 'Come on Harold, we're leaving!!'“
Jonathan said, his face beaming with delight,“The Vicar got up and gave my mother, who had also risen, a kiss on the cheek, 'Rachel, my dear, I haven't had such a good laugh in years and I think I can guarantee that Millicent won't bother you for quite a while. Anytime she brings up the subject I'll only have to remind of what happened this morning. That'll scare her away.'“
“'Mom said with a grin of her own. Thanks, Harry, now anytime you're in the neighborhood alone and want a good gossip, just drop in and we'll discuss the juicy bits over a cup of tea.' Mum told him.”
Jonathan told her, “As soon as the door closed behind the Vicar, I rushed down the stairs into the kitchen and Mum was giving Denny a kiss on the top of his head. With his mouth full of cereal, he asked, 'What was that for?', She told him, 'Oh, I just wanted to thank you for scaring away the Vicar's wife.', Denny asked with a uncertain lool on his face, 'Huh, how did I do that?', Mum said, with obvious amusement, 'She's never had any children and she was an only child, so she's not used to seeing naked boys. She also happens to be a prude. and the shock will do her good. Anybody for the pictures this afternoon?' Denny and I both cheered that idea. She asked, 'Where's Ricky, do you think he'll want to go?' I answered, 'He's skinny dipping over at the Millers again. I'll go ask him after breakfast. I'm sure he'll want to go.'“
Jonathan could feel Dawn shaking in silent laughter and he grinned. “That's Denny for you.”
He was sitting in front of the television a couple of hours later, in Ivor McWilliams flat with the volume turned down low when the police officer unlocked the door and entered, carrying a skateboard in his hand. Jonathan jumped to his feet and spreading his arms wide. He exclaimed, dramatically, “For me, oh you shouldn't have.”
Ivor said, with a little bite in his voice,“Don't be daft, boyo. I wouldn't spend the type of money this thing cost even if you could use it.”
Jonathan said with a grin, “Oh I could use use it all right, but I might scare someone to death, in the process.” Ivor went into the kitchen and put the skateboard on the table. Jonathan followed him and knelt with one knee on a chair leaning on the table looking over the board.
“I suppose they gave you another dum.. ah, case,” Jonathan said, examining the skateboard closely. While he wasn't particularly enthused with skateboards, preferring in-line skates, he could tell it was top of the line.
“Yeah,” Ivor said, running his hand through his unruly hair, saying, “This is the fourth skateboard to be stolen in the last three days. All bought on the same day, from the same shop and the exact same model. And it's not kids doing it either. All the incidents are the same. A couple of masked men jump a kid and steal his skateboard. A large man and a small one. In all four cases the skateboard was found not far away from where it was stolen.”
“Looking for a particular skateboard. Picky aren't they?” Jonathan said, now sitting on the chair, elbows on the table and chin on hands.
Ivor explained, “The first two times, they just took the board, but with the last two they've roughed up the kids a bit. The new sergeant thinks they're getting a little angry and might start to get really nasty. She told me to take the board to the shop and see if there was anything unusual about it. The salespeople at the shop said as far as they could tell there was absolutely nothing different or unusual about it.”
“Well if you drop me off on the way to work, I'll see if I can find out anything you'd like to know.” said Jonathan. He started to disappear to give Ivor a chance to go to bed, then he realized what he had said. “Your new sergeant's a she?” he asked.
Ivor blushed, saying, “Yes, Kate Elliott. She was a sergeant at the CID in Scotland Yard, but when the sergeant retired, she applied for the post and got it. Apparently she wanted to work a little closer to home.” Then he said forlornly, “She's almost five years older than I am, though.”
Jonathan said, with a grin, “Don't worry. My brother Paul is married to a woman six years older than he is. He's twenty-nine and she's thirty-five, they've got six kids and one or more on the way.”
Jonathan had spent most of the morning at Benton's Sporting Goods and he was bored out of his mind. Plus all that sporting gear lying around, was giving him an itch to touch that he knew he couldn't scratch. The buzzer, which announced the opening of the door, went off and he looked toward the front of the store.
The two men who entered stirred his interest. A large man and a small one. While that description could fit millions of people, these two didn't seem to have any interest in any of the sporting goods on display, but headed directly toward the back of the shop and the Manager's office, Daniel Adams.
Jonathan drifted along behind them and walked through the door, after they closed it behind them. The larger man was leaning on the manager's desk, almost pleading with him, “Are you sure that nobody else bought the model of skateboard that we're looking for?”
The man shook his head sadly, telling him, “Sorry, Lon, I've looked over the receipts a dozen times. We only got four skateboards of that make and model, in the shipment that we received that day. We'll just have to have our man make up another batch and try it again.”
Lon just shook his head, growlwd out, “Damn it,” and stormed out of the room, his friend following him. Jonathan was thinking and he was a little slow on the uptake. When he realized that his leads were getting away, he raced through the store and through the front door, only to find them gone.
Jonathan stayed for the rest of the day, hoping that they would come back and they did, just after closing. However he missed them, having left before they got there, heading for Ivor's flat at a walk. But the fire trucks coming toward him along the street caught his attention and when he followed them, they led him right back to the shop, which by now was a raging inferno.
Never having been in a burning building before, he thought that now was the perfect opportunity. He walked into the building and into the blaze. Between the flames, the smoke and the water flowing into the building, it was hard to see. He went over to the wall where the skateboard models were displayed and he was sort of mourning for the destroyed skateboards, that would never be used. Now they were reduced to metal trucks and melted wheels.
He looked down at the very bottom model, which had been very similar to the models that had been stolen only the last number being different. His eyes widened and he stiffened. All the other display models had melted wheels, this one's wheels were completely intact, not even the slightest scorch mark to indicate that there was been a fire. Yet, the deck was destroyed, just like all the other models, so it had obviously been exposed to as much fire and heat as the others had.
Jonathan hesitated for a moment, then picked up one of the trucks. He didn't like moving evidence but the other truck should still be here and he wanted to get this to Ivor right away. Once outside, he let himself drift and began moving along the landscape towards Ivor's building. It was dark enough that nobody noticed a skateboard truck whizzing by.
He tried the door, expecting it to be locked, but it opened without any trouble at all. He would have to talk to Ivor about that, the door was supposed to be locked and you were required to buzz the flat you wanted to get into, but for the moment, he was just glad that it was open.
Dashing up the stairs, he pushed open Ivor's door and yelled, “Ivor, I've got something important for you.” Moving toward the kitchen which had a light on, he said, “I've got... Whoops!”
Ivor wasn't alone, there was an attractive woman with him. She appeared to be in her early twenties. As he found out later, she was almost ten years older than that and she was staring at Jonathan who was trying to hide the truck behind his back, before he realized how silly that was, he was invisible, the truck wasn't.
She grasped Ivor's arm and said calmly, but with a trace of alarm in her voice. “Ivor, am I going mad, or is there really a little boy wearing shorts and a T shirt who I can see right though, standing in the doorway, trying to hide something behind his back?”
Jonathan was astonished, 'Why can she see me?' He got an unexpected answer from Dawn in his mind. 'Apparently, Upstairs says that they will be getting married and she and their kids will be able to see you, so they're just jumping the gun a little.'
Imperturbable, Ivor said “Kate, this is Jonathan Heron. Jonathan this is Detective Sergeant Kate Elliott. Jonathan was murdered a couple of months ago and he came back to help me solve his case and he's stuck around ever since. I never did ask him how long he would be staying.” he looked at Jonathan with a raised eyebrow, “How long will you be staying, Jonathan?”
Jonathan answered absently, no longer trying to hide the skateboard truck, “Approximately sixty-two years. I can't go to heaven until I've seen St. Peter and there was a mix-up and that's the soonest I can see him.”
Regaining his equilibrium, he walked over to the table and placed the truck on it. He said, “There was a fire at the sporting goods store that you were interested in. It started after I left so I don't know if it was set on not, but the two men who've been stealing them from those kids, were in this morning. One of them was really upset when the manager told them that those were the only ones of that model sold. I got distracted and by the time I got outside they were gone.”
He expained, “When I saw the fire trucks heading in that direction, I followed them. I was sorta surprised where the fire was, but since I'd never been in a burning building before,” he grinned winningly at Kate, who had been staring at him with fascination. He earned at tentative smile back, “and since I didn't figure I'd be in any danger, I decided that I'd go in for a look. It was real smoky and hard to see so I wandered over to the display models that I had been looking at earlier and all of them were burnt and their wheels melted. Except for one.”
He held up the truck, telling them, “The wheels of this one weren't touched, didn't even have scorch marks on them. I was just thinking, if those guys knew that the wheels wouldn't be affected by fire or heat, maybe they set the fire so if the skateboard they wanted was still there somewhere, the manager could find it and take them.”
Kate said with resolve, “I think we'd better go to the sporting goods shop and watch the fire die down.” She gathered her purse and headed for the door, hearing Jonathan say behind her, “Oh, Ivor, the front door was unlocked when I came in. It might be a good idea to talk to the super in the morning.”
Kate was driving and Ivor sitting in the passenger seat. She jumped when Jonathan's voice came from the back seat, “You've got a much nicer car than they assigned to Ivor.”
Kate said with amusement, “If you've been around Ivor for a couple of months, you've seen him drive?”
Jonathan said dryly, “Yes, I must say that if I wasn't already dead, I would have had a heart attack the first time I rode with him.”
Ivor protested, “I say, now. I haven't had a car accident in years.”
Kate and Jonathan said at the same time, “Don't be surprised when you do!”
They pulled up to the sporting goods shop just then and they could see that only one fire truck remained. It was no longer spraying water, so the fire evidently was out or at least under control enough, so that one could handle it.
Jonathan pointed, saying, “Hey, there's the manager over there and he seems to be arguing with one of the firemen. I'll go see what they're saying.”
He disappeared and popped up beside the two men just in time to hear the fireman say, “I'm sorry, sir, the fire is out but it is being treated as suspicious. Until an investigation is carried out, you will not be able to enter the store, unescorted and certainly not tonight at all.”
The manager looked glum and muttering under his breath, headed for a car and got into the passenger seat. He looked at the driver and it was Lon, who Jonathan had seen earlier, in the store. Scathingly, he said, “You nitwit, who gave you the idea to burn down the store!?”
Looking somewhat shamefaced, Lon admitted, “Me and Harry, just thought...”
Derisively the manager said, “You and Harry didn't do any thinking at all. There's almost no way to set a fire these days without it being detected. The only good thing about it is, they don't know what to look for, so it should still be there when their investigation ends. It would be a good idea if you and Harry disappeared for a while. If we get the stuff, you'll get paid, if not you'll have to live by your wits, which means you'll probably starve.”
back out of the car, watched Lon drive off and this time Jonathan was
more alert and got the license plate number.
The investigation of the fire was over, the method of starting the fire had been determined, but no one had been apprehended for the crime. Lon and Harry were long gone and no one had reported seeing anyone around the shop at the time the fire started.
The cleanup was well under way and the manager of the shop was looking down with satisfaction, at the two trucks with unmelted wheels. He picked them up and put them in a shoebox with several other things. The manager was impatient to get out of there, now that he had what he wanted, but not wanting to raise any suspicions he stayed the rest of the morning, occasionally adding things to the box.
He left at noon, carrying the box with him. Getting into his car, he drove to a pub close to the outskirts of the city. He didn't notice the van following him at a distance. He went into the pub, taking the shoebox with him. Those in the van were listening to the transmitter that had been added to the skateboard truck and heard someone ask eagerly, “You've got them?!”
The manager said, “Right here in the box. Unmelted. The chemist was right about that part of it anyway.”
The other man said, “Well it doesn't really matter about the rest of it, that's none of our business, we're getting a quarter of a million US dollars to deliver them, not to figure out if they're worth the price being paid for them. As long as they get the wheels, they don't care if they don’t get the whole skateboard.”
Jonathan looked at Kate with disgust, saying with exasperation, “So everybody gets away with it?”
Kate looked at him with sympathy, feeling the same way. She told him, “Well the company that bought the wheels got shafted. They paid a quarter of a million US to have the wheels delivered and another quarter million to the chemist and it turns out that the company who developed the plastic had already thrown the idea out. Not even the chemist can be charged, since the item was worthless to start with and the company is not willing to prosecute. I think the company director even felt a bit of secret admiration that at least someone was able to make money out of the product.”
She explained, “And since the company is not willing to prosecute the chemist or the couriers for industrial espionage, not wanting to tell their stockholders, that they wasted a million pounds on something useless, even the couriers get away with it. In fact the only crime we have that could actually be prosecuted are the assaults on those kids and the burning down of the sporting goods shop and we don't have any real evidence that Lon and Harry are involved in either. Just to forget our woes, I'll take you and Ivor out to see Star Wars.” Kate ended.
“As long as I don't have to sit with you two,” Jonathan answered, with a grin
Kate let herself into Ivor's flat with her key. She could hear Jonathan and Ivor arguing in the kitchen. Jonathan was saying, “No, you nitwit, if you add that you'll ruin the whole dish.”
She leant on the door jamb to the kitchen and siaid with amusement, “I'd listen to Jonathan if I were you, Ivor. Despite the fact that he can't eat, he's a much better cook than you are.”
“Ganging up on me are you?” muttered Ivor.
“Yes,” Jonathan and Kate said at the same time and Jonathan grinned at her.
very well, if you're so insistent, I'll do it your way, but don't blame
me if it turns out to be a disaster.” Ivor said, a twinkle in his
eye, belying his words.
Jonathan sitting at the table watching the two adults eat and evidently enjoying the dish that Jonathan and Ivor had been arguing about, commented,. “I think that's the hardest part of being a ghost, not being able to eat. I occasionally get cravings for sweets or ice cream and it drives me crazy.”
Kate said, “Maybe this will cheer you up, Lon and Harry are back. The police in the town where they live gave us a call. They're so small that they only have two detectives on staff, so we do most of their CID work.”
got a wicked gleam in his eyes. He said with excitement, “You two
wouldn't want to take me for a ride before you go to bed? I'll see if
I can't find out what can be done about our two scoundrels.”
A week later, Jonathan was back to what he was beginning to regard as his home, again watching Ivor and Kate eat. He abruptly said, “What do you two think about setting up someone?”
Kate choked on a bite of food and Ivor filled up her wine glass and she took a several sips. Ivor looked at Jonathan, calmly, “As long as the police aren't involved in the set-up, I have no objection at all.” He looked at Kate, who had recovered by now.
She considered it, before saying, “As long as I can truthfully state under a lie detector test that I had no part of any set-up, I guess I agree with Ivor.”
Jonathan said, with satisfaction, “Well, I've thought of a way to get Lon and Harry into a lot of trouble and I admit I need a couple of police officers to start it off, but everything else I can manage by myself. I hereby give you a tip. I think Lon and Harry were involved in the fire at Benton's Sporting Goods. Now if you call the town where they live and advise their two lonely detectives that you received a tip and ask them to check out Lon and Harry, by questioning their neighbors. That's all you have to do.”
It was after suppertime and quite dark, when the police officers drove into the parking lot of the building where Lon and Harry had their flat. There was only one parking space marked Visitors and the driver pulled into it. They got out of their car and taking a look around, noticed an old Ford Escort in the opposite parking space. They headed for the building, to ask the questions they had been requested to ask.
Upstairs, Jonathan raised the window in Harry's room about an inch and then took a package from a hiding place in Harry's room and put it on the windowsill just outside the window. Going into the kitchen, he gathered Lon's keys from an ashtray on the kitchen counter, where Lon always put them. Lon and Harry were in the living room watching television when the keys floated into Harry's bedroom and out the window, Jonathan picking up the package, on the way by.
Jonathan unlocked Lon's Ford Escort and opened the door only wide enough so that he could get the keys and the package in. He pushed the package under the seat, making sure it was well back. Looking around he could see that there was nobody in sight, so he started the Escort and releasing the handbrake, he put the car in reverse, he slumping down in the seat, so he could reach the pedals, he floored the accelerator.
The rear of the Escort hitting the police car made a very satisfactory bang to Jonathan and was heard by many in the building. Jonathan put the car in drive, drove it back into its parking space and turned the car off and retrieved the keys. He opened the door and got out, closing the door firmly, he locked it using the key. And then he returned the keys to Lon and Harry's flat, to the ashtray and then went and closed Harry's window.
By the time he got back out to the parking area, Lon was arguing vehemently with the police officer. There was a dozen witnesses who saw Lon rush at the police officer, arms outstretched and swore that the police officer acted in self-defense when he took Lon to the ground very hard and then arrested him for assaulting a police officer. Lon ended up in a cell half an hour later.
Then two hours later, a bewildered Harry joined him. He had admitted that the package found in the Escort, containing four marijuana cigarettes, was his, especially since his fingerprints were all over the package, but he didn't know how it had gotten into his car, since it had been hidden in his room.
He showed them the hiding place and then went white when they found a package containing one hundred and fifty grams of cocaine. Harry said that he had gotten the cigarettes from Phillip St. John who was also a resident in the building.
St. John was a loan shark and Lon and Harry worked for him on occasion as collectors. St. John was also a major drug dealer, as the police found out when they stormed his apartment and found almost a kilo of cocaine. Harry and Lon denied any knowledge of his drug dealings, but the jury didn't believe them and they went to prison for possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
Harry also denied that the entry in his diary was his. The one that said, 'L and I paid by DA to set fire for insurance'. The police agreed that the entry wasn't in his handwriting, but had they in fact started the fire. Having no alibi for the fire, since they had in fact done it, the police were able to come up with enough circumstantial evidence to take into court. Seeing that there was no way out, they made a deal and turned on Daniel Adams, saying that he had paid them to set the fire.
Daniel Adams, who had been a one-third owner of Benton's Sporting Goods, also vigorously denied that he had paid Lon and Harry to burn down the store. The jury didn't believe him either and not only did he have to pay back the insurance money that he had collected, much of which he had already spent, he had to pay a good portion of the money he had made from industrial espionage to make up the difference.
Jonathan was pleased that St. John, who he had discovered quite by accident, got the longest term.
Kate and Ivor were sitting on the sofa, arms around each other and Jonathan was sitting a couple of feet above the floor, a somewhat disconcerting sight unless you were used to it, which both adults were.
Jonathan was explaining some of the points that he hadn't told them before. “Lon and Harry were drug pushers, you know, though none of the more powerful drugs. The marijuana cigarettes that I put in their car was only their personal stash, they had sold all they had and were expecting more from their distributor. Ironically they worked for St. John, through the distributor, but they didn't know it and he didn't know it.”
Jonathan said with a guilty look on his small face, “I'm sorry about the damage to the police car, but I knew that Lon would deny it vigorously and get angry in the process, he has a terrible temper. I gave him a hard push between the shoulders, which of course he didn't feel. His apparent rush at the police officer and reaching out, was an attempt to regain his balance, but it didn't look like it to the cop or the witnesses.”
Kate said, reflectively “It's too bad that the boss got away with it. He was the one who sent Lon and Harry after the children who had the skateboards.”
Jonathan said cheerfully, , “Well, actually he's being rehabilitated in another jurisdiction.” and he jerked his thumb downward. “Natural causes and with what he's been up to in his lifetime, he'll be down there a long, long time.”
Ivor asked dryly, “And what does Upstairs, think of your little adventure.”
Jonathan said wryly, “Well, they're not happy about it, but then again Dawn said, they're not terribly unhappy about it either. But Dawn, she told me to expect to hear about it, when I finally meet St. Peter.”
I don't know what the British policy on two police officers living together would be and I don't intend to ask, just in case someone tells me. Seriously, if there is any regulation against it, take it as artistic license, after all the entire story is a fantasy.