23 April 2015

The Stranger with the False Beard

On the Trail of the Yellow Fingernail - Part 5

Recap: Our hero; John is now on the trail of the mysterious Yellow Fingernail. Having found a note that's asked him to go to a chip shop in the nearby town of Hemel, he decides to take a shortcut but finds an unaccommodating farmer who threatens to put an end to his momentary toilet stop. We join him as he's frantically trying to get to the shop on time.   
Manga art from Sketches in Travel
Needing a pee certainly makes you run faster, and that's exactly what I was doing, running and fast. I knew I didn't have long to get there, which was not helped by having to find somewhere to stop and relieve myself. Also the letter was completely worthless because it hadn't told me which chip shop to go too anyway. How many chip shops were there in Hemel? None the wiser I picked up my pace.  

I eventually arrived at the edge of the town, having stopped behind a tree to "pay a visit". An old lady had walked past with her dog. The dog also took the opportunity to take a break. It somehow missed the tree and got my leg!

Shaking off the excess I took in my surroundings, all concrete and grey buildings, and noticed that there was a chip shop next to the railway station just up the road. The smell of fresh chips drew me in and so I headed towards it, hoping I had found the right place.

At the counter stood a very large man, all tattoos, muscle and flab (few too many chips perhaps?) His name tag read Mr P Anfry. As I had time to spare I ordered some chips. With a grunt he threw in a fresh batch of potatoes and went out the back. I looked around for some clues, but found none. Was this the wrong one? He returned a few minutes later, checked the chips and went out again. He repeated this four or five times. Curious to find out what he was doing I tried to peer over the counter. It was hard to see but I was sure he was sitting in an armchair knitting a jumper! Not such a macho thing to the doing for a man of his size and demeanour Suddenly he got up and walked into the shop. I was still clinging onto the counter

"What the heck are you doing, you nosey sod?" I couldn't hold on for any longer and crashed to the floor.

"Was just curious about what you were doing, that's all."
"Keep your stinking little nose out mate" came his curt reply.
"Looked like a nice jumper." I mumbled in return.
"Shut it, that's 80 pence." Mr P Anfry stated, slapping the bag of chips on the counter.
"What I have to pay for them? I have no money. Never needed it in Leyhill."
"Well you do here. No money, no chips".
"I'll owe you, promise" I pleaded. 
"Are you trying to be funny?" came his reply.
"No, I have no money, look I'm waiting for someone called The Yellow Fingernail, I've had a long, harrowing day. I'm hungry and I promise not to tell anyone about your knitting." Just as I said that a tall gentleman walked in and started laughing. "You knitting a jumper George?" he mocked between laughs.
"Get out of here" he replied to me, voice now with a tinge of menace.

And with that I was manhandled and booted out of the shop by a rather large steel toe capped boot. The last I saw of Mr P Anfry was him chomping into my chips and trying to reassure the tall gentleman that he wasn't knitting but actually playing poker. Looking at the tall gentleman, who was laughing even more, it didn't seem to be working. 

Things were not going well and dusting myself down I looked around for some inspiration. It was then I noticed a badly typed note pinned to a nearby lamp post. 

So nO ChiPs....weLl Why NoT TRy a WalK iN tHe wooDs? ThEre mAy Be a SurpriSE WaiTINg for You...

The YELlow finGernAil 

Woods, which woods? And how did they know I didn't get any chips? I felt I was being taken on a wild goose chase and being watched. I looked around to see if anyone was watching but saw none. Hemel was all concrete so that must mean I had to head back towards the village. As I deliberated this, someone bumped into me. I was knocked sideways but managed to catch a glimpse of them. They seemed to be wearing a false beard and had a slight limp! They were also wearing slippers. Odd. They had dropped a piece of paper but before I could hand it back to them they had disappeared. 

On the paper was a hand pointing down the road and the words, go this way. I noticed the finger had a bit of yellow on it. Was the person who had just bumped into me the Yellow Fingernail? I looked at the paper again and on closer inspection realised it wasn't a bit of yellow but a bogey, but still I reckoned I had just bumped into this elusive criminal. So with that I set off down the road for the woods.

To be continued....

Authors note: My thanks goes to Tomowaka for the illustration. You can find her work on twitter @aPH



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