DENISE DU CHAMPS
A ‘Pobol Y Bangor’ Story
The issue wasn’t the Mediterranean heat wave that caused the water in the water cooler to boil in its plastic bottle and which made the fresh coat of white paint on the walls bubble up and begin to flake away. Nor was the issue the lack of an electric fan, the chief inspector having earlier absconded with the main reception’s own to replace his broken one. The issue was that there was no way on earth to ventilate this drab room. The one narrow window across the reception didn’t open and the main door, being automatic, couldn’t be jammed open either. The electric fan had helped to bring the heat down a little but it had still been next to useless. It just blew the air around a bit. All in all the staff working reception were required to boil like the water in the cooler, to roast like that Sunday‘s joint.
Watching the clock across from the desk tick by, minute after minute, crawling towards midnight and the end of her shift, Denise couldn’t wait to be out of there. She rested, one hand against her cheek, trying to think of ice and snow and all things cold. There was a Batman film her son liked, one with a villain called Mr Freeze, though the lord himself only knew why. She thought of that film now and wished for a moment that Bangor was filled with the same calibre of lunatic psychopaths that inhabited Gotham. The heat was making the parade of petty crooks that always came through the front door seem duller than usual and someone like Mr Freeze would be a most welcome addition to their lineup. Even if he didn’t add a welcome bit of chill to the police reception he would bring some excitement into the place.
The smell wasn’t good either. The faint odour of flowery disinfectant mixed in with old vomit that is ubiquitous to all police stations everywhere had, by virtue of the heat, become a strong one and when it mingled with the fresh, bubbling up paint it was almost positively nauseous. It was almost toxic and there were innumerate other nasty smells that would be preferable to it. The smell of a stink bomb, for example, would be most welcome when compared with the cocktail that drifted about the place.
The smell, the heat, the boredom… The displeasures caused by the former could be alleviated by adequate ventilation, something as simple as a window that could be opened or a door that didn’t insist on staying closed all the time. Failing that a psychopath with a freeze ray was wanted, if there ever was such a thing in the real world. He would make Denise’s Friday night shift less dull, more bearable. The remaining twenty minutes to midnight would pass by in the blink of an eye with him around.
The automatic doors opened. She looked up and rubbed her eyes in disbelief at the person frog marched through them by two very angry constables. She thought she might be suffering from heat stroke for no little old lady, no little old lady somewhere beyond the pale of ninety as this one was, would dress the way this one was dressed. The words that immediately sprang to Denise’s mind were ‘binge drinking slapper.’ All the necessary ingredients were there; the skirt that was more like a piece of underwear with the frilly bottoms of some pink bloomers passing beyond the hem, the high heels that just weren’t practical, earrings that could be used as hula hoops and a face trowelled the colour of the finest shredded marmalade. Denise almost thought shredless marmalade but not in this case. The wrinkles of the old lady definitely made it the colour of shredded marmalade. The effect was one to immediately cause notice, alarm and severe disgust at the idea that someone so old would do that to themselves, would make themselves look so hideous.
Getting over the initial shock of seeing such a specimen Denise pulled the prisoner log-book from under the desk.
‘Name?’ she asked in a weary voice as she opened to where it was bookmarked.
‘Knickers Ding-Dong,’ the old lady smiled with the scouse tang of north east Wales to her voice. Denise almost wrote down what she said, blinked and then looked up at the lady, pen poised on the page.
‘Your real name if you don’t mind.’
‘Knickers Ding-Dong,’ the old lady said again. Denise clenched her free hand underneath the desk, irritated and annoyed.
‘That’s the only thing we can get out of her,’ one of the constables said. ‘We can’t get her to give us a proper name. She was caught forcing money from clubbers in Joop.’ The thought of this old lady in a nightclub like Joop boggled the mind. Old ladies didn’t go into nightclubs full stop, let alone pissing dens like Joop.
‘It’s what I do,’ the old lady answered without Denise even having to ask why she was in there. ‘I go into nightclubs and I take money from people.’
‘And why do you do that?’
‘Because I’m a leprechaun.’
Denise did not find the answer amusing and neither did the two constables.
‘I’m sorry… What did you just say?’
‘Because I’m a leprechaun.’ Denise laid the pen down on the book, trying her best to be as calm as possible. Clearly the heat had gotten to this old lady and sent her a bit potty. Not only did she think she was a leprechaun but she had all the details wrong.
‘Mrs Ding-Dong if you don’t mind…’ Denise closed her eyes and tried not to scream.
‘Madam… I don’t wish to sound rude but you are not a leprechaun.’
‘Yes I am.’
‘Leprechauns don’t take gold from night clubbers. They have their own gold and they hide it at the end of a rainbow.’
‘Where do you think we get the gold from?’ The old lady smiled and behind her eyes Denise thought she saw a glimmer of laughter; a knowledge that she knew exactly what she was doing?
‘Leprechaun’s are also mythological, all male, AND IRISH!’
‘Ah well. Yes. But I’m a Welsh leprechaun.’ Denise glowered at the lady. ‘Irish leprechauns hide the gold at the end of the rainbows and are all male. Welsh leprechauns take the gold and are all female. We send the gold over to Ireland on the Caergybi ferry.’
Denise dug her nails into the hand beneath the desk as a means of keeping herself calm. If Irish leprechauns didn’t exist then Welsh leprechauns were a complete absurdity. Only someone who was not in their right frame of mind would come up with such a thing, let alone actually claim to be one. This old lady must have been driven mad by the heat. Why else was she dressed like a binge drinking slapper and proclaiming herself to be a mythical creature?
‘Technically it should be spelled with two L’s,’ the lady announced.
‘Leprechaun… Or at least it should be when you’re talking about us Welshies.’
‘That would make you a Lleprechaun!’ Denise snatched, stressing the dipthong of the double L. She was becoming very angry now and there was little she could do to prevent herself from breaking out into a loud scream. If it was the heat that was causing this lunacy then it was not this lady’s fault but dealing with it was still maddening. It looked to be the same for the two constables who still held her by the arms.
‘That’s right… I’m a Lleprechaun!’ the lady said in a pleased voice.
Denise, fighting the desire to reach out to throttle the lady, turned to the constables.
‘I suggest you take this lady to the hospital at once. This is either heatstroke or something more serious.’ She turned away and waved them all out of her sight, at which the old lady was frog marched back outside.
Thinking about it five minutes later Denise reckoned that Lleprechauns weren’t the most ludicrous idea she’d heard whilst manning the reception desk. She’d had all kinds of wild tales given to her here, everything from people seeing Yeti on Bangor Mountain and dead dragons on Hirael beach to kidnappings by a mysterious and in reality non-existent tribe of sewer people. All of these, she considered, were more ludicrous claims than the existence of Lleprechauns. She went back to Batman. Bangor may not have had the same calibre of lunatic psychopaths as Gotham but it had the lunatic part down at least. Now if only they were a little more violent then these late night shifts in boiling conditions would be something to look forwards too rather than sit through in boredom.
The doors opened again. Denise looked up and her eyes bulged out of her sockets. They were two more old ladies and both were dressed in the same way as the first, the style Denise referred to as ‘binge drinking slapper.’ They waddled up to the counter, barely tall enough to see over, and they smiled.
‘Hello,’ one of them said politely. ‘Our friend was arrested… Mrs Ding-Dong?’