The Pen is Mightier Than the Nerd (part four)

Find enclosed part four of ‘The Pen is Mightier Than the Nerd’, my twitter novel.

As you can see at this stage I’m experimenting with how I present speech on twitter, I’m vacillating between using ‘script speech’, speech marks and reported speech depending on the length of the conversation.

And here I introduce another character from the original TV show, Jennifer McLaird.

I wanted all the female cast members to contrast one another, and even years ago, when I wrote Vanity Mycroft in ‘Geek Tragedy’ as the ageing diva, swimming in designer labels and – literally – botoxed up to the eyeballs, I could see Jenny in my mind’s eye as the complete opposite to Vanity.

Tara Miles, another Vixen, was also in ‘Geek Tragedy’ for a time (I edited her out) and I can see in my mind that she is also completely different from both Vanity and Jenny.

Another character for another day…


Well that was an odd conversation!

The phone was picked up and I heard a lot of voices, the bleep of a till.

If I didn’t know better the shop was open today!

A woman’s voice answered. A young woman, she didn’t sound upset. She sounded almost bored.

There was a squitch-squitch-squitch noise as she chewed gum as she talked.

The conversation went something like this:

Voice: Yeah?

Me: Hello is that Mary Guffin?

Voice: Nah, Mary’s away. She’s doing ‘CultCon Eleven’ in Coventry. Or is it Stoke? She won’t be back ’til Tuesday.

Me: Oh.

Voice: Can I take a message?

Me: Well…I was just calling to offer my condolences.

Voice: About what?

Me: Erm…well…About her husband’s death?

Voice: Oh that!

Me: Yes. That.

Voice: Nice one!

Me: Hasn’t she heard?

Voice: Oh yes, she got rung up yesterday. It took her three hours to stop laughing.

Me: She got hysterical.

Voice: Hysterical like a newt. She got so pissed that night she almost forgot she was in Coventry. Or was it Stoke?

…She rang up today and she was still laughing. Alistair getting murdered was the best thing he’s EVER done, if you ask me.

Me: Right…

Voice: As I say, Mary will be back Tuesday. Whether she’ll be sober enough to talk to you is another matter.

Me: Okay, thanks very much erm…

Voice: Stacey. Stacey Guffin. I’m their daughter.

Me: Well, thank you very much Stacey. Um. Condolences to you too.

Voice: Yeah, and happy Xmas to you and all, mate.

I don’t know what to make of it. Do you?

I went for a walk after that, to clear my head.

I was thinking about what happened a week ago, and the reason why I went to Alistair’s flat in the first place.

I said I’d tell you about that, didn’t I?

So this time last week I was in Alistair’s shop, ‘Buy The Gods!!!’ somewhere in the nether parts of East London.

Every time I go there the shop seems to have moved somewhere nastier and seedier, as it’s looking for a fight.

At the moment, it’s cowering in the corner of a shopping mall, the smallest shop there.

The customers have to edge perilously close to each other to look at the products.

Given the body odour of some of them, you take your life in your hands whenever you go there, I can tell you.

Given Alistair was so large, and his shop so small, it was a constant battle for survival between man and building.

The front door was the worst.

Whenever he went through it, it was always touch and go as to whether he or his shop ended up on the inside.

I, of course, had been asked there because I was co-creator and script editor of that appalling old piece of 80s kitsch ‘Vixens from the Void’.

I also used to wear pixie boots, staypress trousers, and I drove and Austin Maestro…

All those things I did in the 80s and I’m also deeply ashamed about, but ‘Vixens from the Void’ is the only thing I’m not allowed to forget.

In the shop, I was partnered up with Jennifer McLaird.

As you probably remember, she was one of the stars of ‘Vixens from the Void’, the big Scottish red-haired one that towered over the others.

Like all actresses from ‘Vixens’, she used to be a leggy, attractive big-bosomed woman,

and like many tall women she’d been able to hold back the drip-drip of time better than most,

prompting the usual ‘you look much better now than when you were in the series’ and ‘you must have a portrait in the attic’ comments from the fans.

But then, sooner or later, something gives way, gravity makes a fist, and I was sitting beside a cheery little old lady, fat, grey and curled over like a startled woodlouse.

She wasn’t unaware of the fact, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was one of the few cast members who seemed to have unreserved affection for her time spent on the show.

She talked to each fan endlessly, when all I can usually manage is a grunted ‘who’s it to?’ when asked for an autograph.

She was clucking over her photos, admiring her younger self, and signing ‘LOT’S OF LOVE, JENNY! XXX’ in big friendly capitals.

As the day trudged towards four o’clock, Jennifer leaned over to me and hissed; ‘Do you think he’ll let us go soon? I’ve got cats tae feed!’

I said he would…Eventually. But like Columbo, there was always ‘just one more thing’ with Alistair. One extra thing he’d ask you to do.

For a man that large, I said, you wouldn’t think he’d need another pound of flesh, but that’s what he’s always after…

Sure enough, Alistair huffs up, tells us we can go, but…

Would we mind if we posed with him for a photo? It’s for his big wall…

He pointed to a wall, where there was a sea of faces; celebrities from ‘Star Trek’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Blakes 7’ and many other shows,

pulling anguished faces to the camera as they stood next to a smiling Alistair.

It looked like a wall in a public square after a disaster, where people congregated to put up photos of lost friends and family.

Alistair ushered a girl forward, who I now realised was his daughter, and she took a photo, while half a dozen customers gawped on.

Much relieved to be set free, Jennifer left, still chatting and flattering the customers in the shop.

She was gone, with only the faint smell of ‘Lux’ soap to mark her passing.

I was about to leave too, but Alistair wanted ‘just one more thing’.

Can I sign my boots too?

I looked at my boots. Well I think I’ve signed everything else in the shop, so I might as well…

He laughs. I’ve misunderstood him. He says he’s bought my old Chelsea boots on e-bay.

The ones I wore while on location for the classic episode ‘Expiration Point’.

Now I get a bit annoyed. You mean the ones I had STOLEN while I was on location for the classic episode ‘Expiration Point’?

Now he gets shifty. He knows nothing about that. He bought them in good faith. Certificate of authenticity, blah blah blah…

I’m cross now. I tell him I’m not signing the bloody boots. Furthermore, I want the bloody boots back, thank you very much.

They’re probably unwearable now, but it’s the principle of the thing.

He starts making funny scared noises in his throat, and says he’ll call me in the week and we’ll talk about it.

I’m glad I’ve given him a scare, and I enjoyed watching him squirm, and I was going to let it go…

But hell’s bells! He only rings me in the middle of the week and offers to give them back to me, no strings!

I’m glad there’s no strings. They were slip-ons. Har har.

So that’s what brought me to Alistair’s flat yesterday. The promise of old Chelsea boots.

I don’t know why he was killed, I don’t know why I was framed, and I don’t know why his wife is so cool about it.

But there is one thing I DO know.

I know his Wife isn’t due back until Tuesday.

So tomorrow night, I’m going back to the scene of the crime, and I’m bloody well going to find out what happened there.

Even if I have to break in to do it.

‘Night all.

@thenicolabryant: @mervynstone Merv, I know you’re good at this detective stuff. But just so I know, you were only joking when you said you might break in- right?

@thenicolabryant It’s just going to be a little recce. Nothing’s going to happen.

After all, the place was sealed up tighter than a drum on Friday…

@thenicolabryant I don’t think I’ll be able to force a window.

@thenicolabryant: @mervynstone now where have I heard that before? Take care Merv.


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