Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter ten, part four.
“Got something,” Charlie shouted as his shovel rang out. We downed our tools and resumed digging by hand. Whatever it was, its top was about three feet by two feet, and it had the feel of concrete about it.
“If this is an inspection pit for drainage, I’ll be bloody annoyed,” I said. We carried on scooping out the sandy soil around the sides and, lower down, felt the clear outline of a pipe. It was the same on the opposite side and on one other face although the pipe was attached at an angle of about forty-five degrees. “It’s a three-way junction,” I said.
“Why?” Charlie asked.
“Exactly. A Y-junction.”
“No. Why would the code point us to this spot.”
“Look for a lid or an access panel.” Charlie cleared some more of the top and found a large metal plate with a screw at each corner.
“Got a large flat-head screwdriver?” he asked.
I tapped my pockets for comic effect and said, “There’s a surprise. It seems that for the first time in my life I’ve come out without a large flat-head screwdriver. How remiss of me. How on earth did I let that happen?”
“Sorry, Rory, but sarcasm isn’t helping. Maybe a coin?”
I fumbled around in my pockets for a while but found nothing. I thought Penny might have a coin but decided to follow another route. “What’s the time now?” I asked Charlie.
“Quarter to four, driver’ll be here soon. Can we get this done first?”
“Why don’t we wait for him? He’s bound to have a screwdriver in the car. If not, then we’ll have to think of something else.”
Joseph drove into the field moments later. “Speak of the devil,” I said. I waited for Joseph to stop the car, then I walked up to it.
“Hi, Joseph. Tell me, do you happen to have a large, flat-headed screwdriver in the car?”
“Good afternoon, Sir. The car has a set of tools. I’ll take a look.”
He opened the boot and rooted around for a moment, pulling out a large canvas bag. It contained just about every tool he’d be likely to need for any roadside maintenance that became necessary. Amongst the other stuff was a large, long-handled, flat-headed screwdriver. He handed it to me, I thanked him and took it to Charlie. Charlie opened the lid and looked down into the body of the junction. We were hardly surprised to find that it was, to say the least, rather unsavoury. We were, however, surprised to see a cylinder attached by a u-clamp at each end to the inside of the box about half-way down on the side that had no pipe connected.
“Cross-head screwdriver?” Charlie shouted excitedly.
Joseph ran back to the car and returned with a selection of four screwdrivers. “I didn’t know which one Sir would want so I brought them all,” he said.
“Good thinking,” I said as he handed them to Charlie one at a time. Charlie selected the one that best fit the screw heads.
“String,” Charlie said.
“What for?” I asked.
“To tie one end around the cylinder and for you to hold the other end so the thing doesn’t fall into the lumpy stuff when I release the rest of the clamp.”
Joseph nodded to me, returned to the car and came back with a roll of twine. I passed the loose end down to Charlie. He wrapped it around the cylinder a few times and secured it with a couple of half-hitches. I pulled the excess back to be ready to take up the strain once the clamp was released. Charlie undid the screws, one at a time, first the top clamp then, checking that I had a good grip on the twine, the bottom one. Once all four screws were out, Charlie had to use the flat-headed screwdriver as a lever to prise the brackets away from the concrete where they had become attached by years, possibly decades of materials all of us would rather not think about. Finally, I felt the weight of the cylinder on the string. Charlie let the clamps drop away and eased the cylinder up to me.
About fifteen inches long and with a diameter in the region of six inches, the metal cylinder felt as if it weighed about twenty pounds although I was rather tired so it may have been less. There was what looked like a join around the circumference, about an inch and a half from one end. I tried turning it, imagining it to be a screw-top. No joy. It wouldn’t budge. Charlie had a go. Nothing. Same when Joseph tried. Finally, Penny said that although she’s nothing like as strong as us two hunks – her words, not mine and I’m not sure but maybe she was being sarcastic – she hadn’t been sweating and her hands were dry so maybe she could give it a try. Although we feigned disappointment, Charlie and I were secretly relieved when she failed to open it. Imagine if she’d done it. Beaten by a woman – how would we ever have lived it down?
So we took the cylinder back to the hotel, cleaned it thoroughly to get rid of the nasty smell and left it overnight. For myself, I was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Didn’t know a thing until morning.