by Don Stoll
Inspector Ellen Flay reckoned that
she enjoyed the taste of roast goose, Yorkshire pudding, and pigs in blankets as
much as anyone. But the words “Christmas
dinner” awakened her own Ghost of Christmas Past.
That Christmas when she
was only seventeen, she’d told Ralph she loved
him even though she didn’t. Realizing that even though she didn’t love this boy
the choice of what and whom to love was hers and not Mum and Dad’s imparted a
certain strength, which in turn imparted a certain determination. Course,
strength and determination can be misused by a young girl who hasn’t yet got
her head screwed on straight.
She’d run off with Ralph, but on the bus they
counted their money and saw that from Leeds they’d have to thumb it.
“Could of thumbed
it from York,” he said.
“Left us more for a bite to eat.”
“And if we didn’t
catch a lift straight
off? If one of me dad’s mates saw us? Make everything right in London,
sure we belong down South, Ralph thought. But you couldn’t argue with Ellen
once she’d decided that it couldn’t get any worse than Mass every Sunday and school
with the nuns and Mum yapping at her about nothing and Dad having nothing to
say except to tell her to listen to her Mum.
“Could of waited
till after Christmas to run
off,” Ralph said. “Make for a hard Christmas
for me Mum and Dad. And yours.”
“This our Christmas
gift to ourselves, Ralphie.
Grab some kip and remember that when
you wake up.”
argue with her, he thought. Best do
what she says, grab some kip.
“Not a sodding brolly
between us,” Ellen
said as they got off at the Leeds station.
their faces onto their chests against the drizzle, they made their way to a
spot that looked right for getting a lift.
“Be easy, it not
dark yet,” she said. “Our
young beautiful faces illuminated by the legendary Yorkshire sunshine.”
Ralph wished she would shut it.
be able to resist,” she
laughed. “First priest drives by. . .”
A car stopped. The window
came down. A man
in a tie studied them. To Ellen and Ralph he looked like a businessman, despite the sleeves too long for his
“Need a lift?”
he said with a heavy working-class
Ellen and Ralph admired the car: black Vauxhall 14-6 saloon
car, pre-war. Ellen smiled and said “Look like Frank Sinatra”
because the pomade in the man’s dark hair hadn’t prevented a lock from tumbling
onto his forehead. He pushed the stray lock aside to show the small ugly
scar beneath his hairline.
“Still look like
Sinatra?” he said. “But
didn’t have to fight the Jerries, did he?”
“Perforated eardrum, I heard. Yanks’ army wouldn’t
“You believe that,
lass?” he said. “Sings like
that, got bad hearing?”
Ellen and Ralph climbed in back. Tobacco stink, cheap-rum
of pomade. Cold.
“Heat not working?”
The man drove in silence.
“Meat pie here you’re
welcome too,” he
finally said. “Took one bite.”
The man handed Ralph something wrapped
in a paper napkin.
Ralph unwrapped it.
Ellen said quietly.
“No thank you,”
Day two months off,” the man said.
“Can’t let him eat onions till then?”
Day for us,” she said
you about what that means,”
he said, his voice changing slightly. “But young enough anyroad, reckon you got
“Mum and Dad
your Valentine?” the man said. “That why you run off?”
They felt his eyes in the rearview study
their dark silhouettes.
“Fancies Frank Sinatra she does, lad,” the
man said to Ralph. “So maybe sing to her for Valentine’s Day. ‘All or Nothing at All.’”
“Out of date you are,” Ellen laughed. “Not
heard him do ‘How Deep Is the Ocean?’”
The man drove some more.
“You Catholic, luv?”
Ellen tucked the tiny
outside her jumper inside its V-neck.
but lost your faith? Pity.
Cruel world. Need faith to get you through.”
she said in a tone
suggesting the conversation had ended.
Ralph examined the dashboard.
From a spot where
there might have been a cigarette lighter dangled a wide-mouthed flexible hose,
the length of Ralph’s hand. It reminded him of the gas masks used during the
First World War. He tried to suss out what it could be. He tapped Ellen’s knee
to get her attention. She’d dozed off. He’d stopped trying to make sense of it by
the time she woke up.
“Got a name?”
The man answered impassively.
“Spencer is it?”
she said. “First or
Ellen and Ralph stared out the windows.
Spencer said after he’d
driven many more miles. “Skint, are you?”
Ralph answered vaguely.
“Buy you a meal,
next town?” Spencer said.
“Sort of a Christmas dinner, don’t know you’ll get a real one.”
She noticed the hose hanging
dashboard. She tapped Ralph’s knee in the same way he’d tapped hers earlier. He
Spencer turned into a
country lane. Darkness
had settled upon the land while Ellen slept.
“You lost, Spencer?”
He took a hand off the
wheel and held it
up, as if to reassure them. He pulled off the road. Ellen and
Ralph looked at the trees in the
“Going for a slash?”
Spencer swiveled around
to look at them.
He rested his left hand on top of his seat.
you,” he said. “Fiver then,
since I’m feeling generous.”
Spencer had left the engine
light came from the dashboard. Ralph noticed the hose again. Then he saw Spencer’s
right hand. It held a gun.
“Get on before I
reduce my offer,” Spencer
said. “So who’s first?”
Ellen looked at Ralph
thinking Twat doesn’t get it. She removed her
said. “Can keep me jumper on?”
up soon enough, lass. Want to
see nowt on you. And you, lad.”
While Ellen and Ralph undressed, Spencer opened the glove box.
found the torch. He switched it on. Ellen and Ralph covered their eyes.
Spencer laughed. “But won’t
do the trick in that state,
He pointed the gun at Ellen.
the innocent schoolgirl. You can
see what needs to be done.”
She fingered the silver
“You Catholic too,
Spencer? What about that?”
“Cruel world, lass.
Why faith’s needed.”
She complied with Spencer’s
a Christmas dinner of it, lass.
Was taking the piss when I offered one.”
She pulled away.
“Now want to see
you licking her right up to
her liver, lad.”
Ellen lay on her back.
Ralph bent over
Spencer said. “In a proper
state now, so shouldn’t waste it. On top.”
Ellen said. “If I get
pregnant. . .”
“Ways to deal with
that,” he answered. “Clever
lass like you. . .”
“Bloody make up
your mind,” Ellen said. “He’s
happy to act your monkey.”
Spencer said. “Like you’re an
egg wanting frying.”
she said. “You’re thinking. . .”
get through it, lass,” he grinned. “Lad’s excited enough
it be over quick.”
“Never done it that way,” Ralph said as he
looked down at Ellen’s backside.
“On your knees, lass,” Spencer said. “Like
you’re scrubbing the floor.”
Ralph moved up against Ellen. He reached
for her breasts.
“No,” Spencer said. “Let them hang. Want
to see a good shake when you drive in.”
Ralph looked at Spencer.
“I’m trying,” Ralph said. “Wish I could.
“You wish you could?!” Ellen said.
Ralph began to weep.
“Fucking hell,” Spencer said. “Then manage
dog-style, you think?”
Full-on sobbing, Ralph nodded.
“Hands off her tits, though, and drive in
hard. Can see they’re firm, so you’ll need to get really stuck in to get a good
Ralph made several thrusts.
“That all right?” he said, using his right
hand to wipe away his tears.
His left hand gripped her buttock.
blocking me view, lad,” Spencer said. “Put it on the roof, you want leverage.”
Ralph had stopped crying. He’d settled
into a comfortable rhythm. Ellen closed her eyes. She tried to pretend that
Spencer wasn’t there. But he kept talking.
“Before it’s over just like that—was a young
lad meself—I need one more thing from you: need you pulling well out every
time. Want to see shaft.”
Ralph slowed his pace.
“A natural you are, lad,” Spencer laughed.
“And lovely glisten on your shaft.”
“Fucking hell,” Ellen said.
Ralph found a rhythm again. Nature took
its course. But the intensity of his orgasm was undercut halfway through by his
awareness of Ellen’s silence.
“I do something wrong?” he said.
“Twat you are, Ralph.”
“Proud of you, lad,” Spencer said. “Break for
Ralph pulled up his trousers as he climbed
out of the car dying to pee.
“Need your clothes,” Spencer grinned, “now
the body heat’s dissipated.”
Ralph shot off to the side. Ellen went
round back of the car. She read by the taillights: 410 NQ. She headed the opposite
way from Ralph.
returned to the car first. Spencer had
locked the doors. Ralph could see him in the light from the dashboard. The flexible
hose now stretched from the dashboard to his crotch. Ellen was now on the
other side of the car.
“Got me coat and bag in there,” she said.
“You promised a fiver,”
He banged on the window.
face looked up.
“Give us our money,
Turning toward Ellen,
Spencer switched on
the overhead light and withdrew from the hose. The semen pooled at the end of
his penis. The expression on his face was that of a man who’d just taken his
first mouthful of cold coffee. He grabbed the gun from the top of the dashboard
and pointed it at Ralph.
With his free hand Spencer
penis back into his trousers and rolled the window down a couple of inches. He
fired. Because of the shooting angle through the high narrow opening, the
bullet went over Ralph’s head. He turned and ran, shouting to Ellen to do the
same. Spencer pulled his car back onto the country lane.
Ellen shivered violently.
“You that cold?”
Ralph took off his coat
and draped it over
“Looking to redeem
He wouldn’t meet
“You want to play
the hero,” she said, “then
do what I say. Knob I was to leave me coat and bag. But I’ll get
Ellen. He’s got a motor and
we’re hoofing it.”
“Notice his petrol
gauge?” she said
walking away. “Nothing open now, he’ll be stuck in the next town.”
“He low on petrol?”
to stop. And you see he
didn’t head back to the main road? Knows there’s a town not far. So I’ve got
a gun,” Ralph said as he blew on
For perhaps an hour as
they walked they
heard only the occasional screech of a barn owl or the occasional barking dog far
off. Ralph didn’t know what to say. He thought under the conditions best to say
nothing. Ellen said twice “Best if we get where we’re going with the pubs still
open, that’s my hope.” Ralph didn’t ask her to explain her plan.
When they finally heard
than a barn owl or a barking dog, Ellen knew she was in luck. They heard pub
Ralph didn’t know
she was in luck because
he didn’t know her plan. In fact, he knew as they approached the pub that they
were both dead out luck because there was Spencer’s black pre-war Vauxhall 14-6
saloon car and he was a nasty bloke with a gun.
Ellen knew what Ralph
“No need to piss
yourself, Ralphie. Wrong
She took off his coat.
“Wear it so they
don’t think you’re daft,
attract attention,” she said. “Ask there’s another pub here and how far’s the
a mile,” he said when he came out. “Next town’s maybe five mile.”
“Just gone nine
He thought that increased
their odds of
seeing Spencer come out of the pub. He thought that couldn’t be good.
“Want the coat back?”
“Bugger the coat,”
she said as she walked
away. “Got business.”
Ralph followed. He’d
started to feel like
Ellen’s pet Spaniel, but he was warm enough.
“Keep your eyes
peeled for a big rock,”
she said. “But not too big for swinging.”
He obeyed. She was pleased
when he handed
her what he’d found.
She thought the walk to
the next pub seemed
less than half a mile. She also thought the steps might have flown by because
she was excited.
“Our lad: 410 NQ,” she said when
they came upon the black Vauxhall 14-6
saloon car parked outside the next pub.
Town proper began far
side of the pub, handful
of darkened shops with the first houses a good way off. Mild ruckus from the
pub, otherwise quiet as the dead. Perfect,
“Even way it’s
parked,” she said.
The driver’s side
faced the pub.
“Lord truly is my
fucking shepherd,” she said.
“I shall not want.”
She hefted the rock.
“Anybody comes we
run back way we came,”
She hurled the rock through
the back left
window. They waited. No one came. She reached through the broken window. She found
the door handle. She got inside and climbed into the front.
she told Ralph.
She opened the glove box.
“Gun would be better,”
she shrugged. “But
torch will do. Or rock.”
“Got the gun on
him,” Ralph said.
“If you do need to piss yourself Ralphie, not in here. Manky already.”
She returned to the back.
I got besides not pissing
yourself in here,” she said. “Stay awake.”
They waited in silence.
maybe another hour. The minutes didn’t fly past like the steps had coming from
the first pub.
Spencer came out. He’d
had a few. He got
in and started the engine.
As he turned around she
struck him in the
left temple with the torch, producing the desired result.
“Need help scooting
him over, Ralphie?”
Ralph jumped out. Opening
door, he dragged Spencer toward himself.
Ellen studied the fuel
“Five mile to next
town, Ralphie? Go
He looked at Ellen.
She watched the odometer.
said after three miles.
She got out. She opened
door. Ralph had pulled Spencer up against it. She tipped him out.
“You the weather
bloke, predict the
overnight temperature?” she said.
She felt in Spencer’s
trouser pockets. She
found his wallet. She looked inside.
well,” she said.
She climbed in. She climbed
opened Spencer’s coat. She found the gun in a shoulder holster. She took the
gun. She climbed in.
“Freezes to death,
Ralphie, that’s the
weather done him in, not me.”
“Want the police,
want a doctor?” she
said. “Answer questions, have the whole story come out? What you done to me?”
Ralph started driving.
if there’s lodging in the next
town,” she said. “Sleep in the car at worst.”
Ralph realized that Ellen
“Maybe torch the
car in the morning,” she
frightened Ralph even more.
“Share the joke?”
he said timidly.
She became serious.
“Wanker on about
faith,” she said. “Faith
this, faith that. Silly bugger.”
She’d rested the
gun in her lap. She looked
down at it.
“Ellen Flay’s got faith in
herself,” she said.