The coco pinchard boxset.., p.11
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.11

           Robert Bryndza

  Thank you for your postcard. I was amazed you put pen to paper, how retro! Your nan didn’t have a fun Easter. Tony slipped a disc helping her up the stairs on Good Friday, and was laid out on a plank for the rest of the week. This meant she was stranded upstairs.

  They had a funeral on Easter Monday and with all the staff on holiday, Meryl had to take over embalming the body, as well as basting the turkey for lunch, which apparently tasted horrible.

  Meryl only stayed for ten minutes, she and Ethel were sick of each other, and she’d left Tony on his plank with only a bowl of soup with a long straw to keep him going. She has offered to pay for the hire of a stair lift for Ethel whilst she stays here.

  Tuesday 21st April 12.43

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Stair Lifts 2 Heaven,

  I am furious! Furious! FURIOUS! Firstly, why do you have no helpline? Aren’t the majority of your customers elderly? How many old biddies are online? I had an engineer appraise my staircase on Monday, who promised to try to get me a cancellation appointment, which he duly did for 10am today.

  I had to take my mother-in-law (for whom the stair lift is intended) to her rehabilitation so I let your engineer in, trusting him to complete the work. I said, “We’re off now, the kitchen is through there. Help yourself.” Meaning he could make himself a cup of tea, if he wanted.

  I came home to find, not a stair lift up to the second floor, but a stair lift installed from a door in the kitchen, which leads six steps down to the cellar. Your engineer had left, no card, no note.

  Did he leave his brain at home? Does he regularly install stair lifts for elderly serial killers who need an easy access option to their victims in the basement?

  I would like your assurances this will be dealt with urgently, and corrected TODAY!!!

  Wednesday 22nd April 15.46

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear PC Scudders,

  Just to inform you that further to your visit this morning, I can confirm the new stair lift has been installed and the incorrectly installed stair lift has been removed.

  If you need further proof that a vulnerable old lady is not being kept in the cellar, you can come over today at your convenience and see my mother-in-law quite merrily riding up and down on said stair lift, whilst listening to her grandson’s iPod.

  I also have a written apology from the engineer at Stairlifts2heaven, who initially contacted you.

  Yours truly,

  Coco Pinchard

  Thursday 23rd April 16.19

  TO: [email protected]

  I have writer’s block. I am trying not to worry about it. Well, it’s not so much writer’s block, but I have been doing everything I can to avoid getting down to business and writing this book proposal. The house is spotless, the washing basket is empty. I even had a bash at baking. As Ethel was chucking away her piece of flapjack, she asked if I was okay. I told her I was blocked and couldn’t do anything. She disappeared and came back with a laxative sachet.

  “’Ere love,” she said. “Mix that with a cup of water and you’ll be doing something every fifteen minutes.”

  I told her I was blocked creatively.

  “What a load of rubbish!” she said, plonking me down with paper, pen and a coffee. “The only blockage that ever stopped me from working was when I cleaned the bogs up the police station. All you need do is put one word in front of the other!”

  That was just after lunch. I am still staring at the empty paper.

  Friday 24th April 12.19

  TO: [email protected]

  I got my contract through this morning from the BMX Literary Agency, which has ramped up the pressure. Angie included a packet of Marlboro Lights in the envelope and I went out in to the garden and smoked a couple in a row. I can feel spring in the air. Everything is starting to burst into bud. Rosencrantz is back tomorrow. He has asked if Christian can move in! It looks as if things are getting serious. Should I say yes? I do love his company and he has transformed Rosencrantz from a morose teenager into a pleasant young man.

  Rosencrantz has bought you and Marika each a souvenir Cher fridge magnet, from Las Vegas. Did you know Cher is only nine years older than Ethel? I told her this at breakfast,

  “Yeah but she’s twenty-two years older than you,” said Ethel. “That makes us both old trouts who’ve aged badly.”

  Saturday 25th April 18.04

  TO: [email protected]

  Is your phone on? I have just tried to ring you. I am at the Pick Up Point by Terminal 2. Marika and Chris came over for a beauty evening and I have left them with Ethel. They are perming her hair. With her hair plastered to her head and all the hairgrips sticking up out of the curlers she looks a bit like Pinhead from Hellraiser.

  P.S. Christian can move in! We will discuss the house rules, looking forward to seeing you both. x

  Saturday 25th April 19.17

  TO: [email protected]

  Love, when you get this, can you call me? Chris just phoned, he says it’s showing on Teletext that your flight landed nearly an hour ago, is the baggage slow?

  Saturday 25th April 19.55

  TO: [email protected]

  I keep ringing you. It’s over two hours since your flight landed. Where are you? I am worried.

  Saturday 25th April 20.57

  TO: [email protected]

  Are you still in LA? I am at Heathrow. Rosencrantz didn’t get on the flight to London. I came into the arrivals hall to see Christian leaving with a very smart, severe-looking couple, whom I assume were his parents. They whisked him past and he just mouthed “Sorry.” I rushed after them, but they got into a waiting car and sped off.

  Virgin Atlantic is saying that Homeland Security at LAX Airport detained Rosencrantz. He was arrested for drug possession.

  Saturday 25th April 22.47

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Meryl,

  There is a problem with Rosencrantz getting home from America and I have to fly out to him tonight. Daniel has only just boarded a plane to his next city for Whistle Up The Wind, and won’t land for several hours. Could you take Ethel to yours tomorrow morning? Chris and Marika will be with her tonight. I am at Heathrow trying to buy shoes. I drove here in slippers.

  Saturday 25th April 23.11

  TO: [email protected]

  Thank you so much, and thank you for the offer of 45,000 Nectar points. I am not sure they are quite the same as air miles and I’ve already booked my flight. Give my best to Tony.

  Saturday 25th April 23.45

  TO: [email protected]

  I am on a plane. It’s a miracle I still had my passport in my handbag from our weekend away last year. It was a choice between a flight now, or wait three days. Ironically, I have been upgraded to First Class, as Economy was overbooked. I’m standing out in my old pink tracksuit and no makeup. I bought shoes from the only place still open. Well, I say place, it was a dodgy guy with a holdall full of jelly shoes.

  I’m trying to keep it together. Questions are whirring round my brain. Why did he have drugs? Did Christian know? Why Rosencrantz and not him? Where were the drugs? Did some dog sniff them out? It hardly bears thinking. I thought I knew my son. I have to go, we are taking off. I will keep in touch, and thank you again.

  Sunday 26th April 01.15

  TO: [email protected]

  I have no idea about the weather or what LA looks like. I am still in LAX Airport. Getting through customs took two hours. It seems everyone has difficulty getting in, even the Americans. I got talking to a woman from LA. She told me not to joke with Homeland Security.

  “They’ve got the power to do anything,” she whispered. “My late husband, a joker, was cute with one of them and they did a full cavity search. And I mean full, they had him in there for half an hour.”

  “Oh dear,” I said.

  She asked if I was on vacation. I said I was m
eeting my son.

  “Me too, honey,” she said. “Maybe we can share a ride downtown?”

  Luckily, I was called to the desk before I could answer. I was electronically fingerprinted by an intimidating woman and asked why I wanted to enter the United States. I leaned forward, mindful of the queue behind, and whispered, “My son is in custody here. Rosencrantz Pinchard?”

  She leaned into a microphone and shouted, “Primary caregiver of drug suspect 4463 is here.”

  The woman behind took a step back. A tall, thin man in a grey uniform appeared and took me off into a dingy side room. When he closed the door, the background noise stopped, like a radio being switched off.

  I sat at a table. He clicked on a single lamp, and lit from below, his features seemed to elongate. Slowly he shuffled through some paperwork.

  He asked what I did for a living and, being nervous, I launched into the plot of my book. After a few minutes, he held up his hand.

  “Your son is being held until we charge him,” he intoned.

  He sounded a lot like one of those Speak and Spell computers Rosencrantz had as a child.

  “Can I see him?” I asked, feeling the tears begin to prick my eyes.

  “Ma’am,” he said. “We have a ninety-two hour turnaround. Please be patient.”

  He stamped my passport and opened a door opposite to the one I had come through. The noise from the arrivals hall broke the silence.

  “What do I do now?” I said as he spirited me out.

  “You wait,” he said, closing the door behind me.

  So, that is what I am doing. Waiting… It’s weird having no luggage, no hotel to go to, and no excitement about being away.

  Sunday 26th April 03.50

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  It’s been nearly three hours and no one has been to see me. The crowds have thinned out to just the weirdos. In my pink tracksuit and jelly shoes, I am blending in.

  I tried to get back through to the border people but the shutters were down. I have wandered through to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It’s colossal. The lights are dimmed and a sea of travellers is sleeping under blankets. I have curled up by the British Airways check in desk, which feels strangely comforting.

  The cash machine won’t take my card. A nice couple of British backpackers came to my rescue and swapped me $10 for the fiver I had in my purse. America really is the land of plenty; there were four different kinds of Snickers to choose from in the vending machine.

  I hope Rosencrantz isn’t scared. Knowing he is somewhere here and I cannot help him is killing me.

  Sunday 26th April 13.48

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  I felt drool down the side of my face and a hand shaking my shoulder. I opened my eyes and it was light. A young all-American girl in a business suit and trainers was stood over me carrying a briefcase and a pair of high heels.

  “Mrs Pine-chard?” she said.

  The busy Terminal came into focus. The travellers sleeping under blankets had gone and I was the only person left lying in full view of a queue by the BA desk. She held her hand out and introduced herself as Tammy Oppenheimer from a company called Bond-a-Bail.

  “Where’s my son?” I said, pulling a crumpled newspaper off me and shaking her hand.

  She said we should go somewhere private, and took me to a nearby coffee shop.

  “Now Mrs Pine-chard,” she said, unloading papers from her briefcase. “I’m here from a Bail Bond company. I can tell you that Rosencrantz was charged at four-thirty this morning.”

  “Charged?” I said. “With what?”

  Tammy shuffled her papers, “Charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

  “Oh! Thank God for that,” I said. “I thought it might be heroin.”

  Tammy looked at me with disapproval, and explained that the State of California is very strict with all drug offences.

  “How strict?” I gulped, holding onto my coffee cup.

  She said that jail time is mandatory, but the good news was that Rosencrantz had been granted full bail. Until he goes to trial. I put my head in my hands.

  “How much is bail? “I said.

  She said it was sixty thousand dollars.

  “Sixty thousand dollars!” I shrilled. “That’s good news? That’s nearly forty thousand pounds!”

  “Have you heard of bail bonds?” said Tammy.

  I said I hadn’t. She explained that her company would post bail for us, in return for a ten percent deposit.

  “So in your case, six thousand dollars,” she said.

  I sipped my coffee and wiped away fresh tears. Then my phone went. It was Daniel saying he was in the Delta Airlines Terminal.

  “Good timing,” said Tammy. “We have to scoot. LA Men’s Jail is an hour away, and the freeway is hell at this time of day.”

  I found Daniel and we went down to the car park. He looked as bad as I did. His face got paler as I explained what had happened.

  “Can I say something?” he said. “Now don’t freak out, but wouldn’t it be… character building for him to spend some time, you know thinking about what he’s done?”

  “What?” I said. “Leave our son in with rapists and murderers! Who knows what will happen to him with his good skin and good looks. He’s our son!”

  “Where’s the money going to come from then?” he said. “I’ve got your solicitor breathing down my neck for thirty thousand pounds.”

  I said I would put it on my credit card, the one for emergencies. And if not, I would happily forfeit the money so that Rosencrantz’s life isn’t destroyed.

  We got into the back of Tammy’s huge four-wheel-drive Porsche, and screeched through the underground car park, emerging from the dank fluorescent lighting into blazing sunshine. My stomach lurched as she accelerated down a ramp and joined the freeway. Tammy seemed immune to the speed, zipping across four lanes and putting her foot down when we reached the outside lane next to a central reservation. We jolted forward and sped past the slower cars.

  “Car pool lane,” she said, as Daniel and I grabbed the armrest.

  Los Angeles stretched out into a haze of yellow smog. It rippled where it met the blue horizon, making me think of piss stains. In the distance, I could just make out the Hollywood Sign, but we were moving in the opposite direction toward a cluster of skyscrapers and even danker smog. I caught Tammy’s eye in her rear-view mirror.

  “You do know Rosencrantz is not a drug addict,” I said.

  “I don’t mean this to sound rude,” she said, “but in the eyes of the State of California he is a drug addict and the sooner he admits it, the better it is for his liberties.”

  My stomach leapt as Tammy took an exit. Within seconds, we were amongst the dusty slum boulevards. Endless dirty squat houses slid past, punctuated by the occasional 7-11 and fast food joints. A tram crossed our path.

  “He’s an idiot,” said Daniel. “Did you ever imagine we would be doing this?”

  We passed what could only be described as a mega church, a huge warehouse with a giant mural of Jesus holding his arms out, then hit the area known as Downtown. High rises slid up out of the road and we squeezed through them until we approached a wide silver building called Men’s Central Jail. Men’s jail, I thought. Rosencrantz is still a boy. I felt cold and sick with fear.

  We were waved through a checkpoint and pulled in to the car park. I went to get out but Tammy said it would be quicker if she went alone. She took a Visa card reader machine from her glove compartment and plugged it into the cigarette lighter.

  “This is the document for bail,” she said. I signed at the bottom. “And your credit card charge for six thousand dollars.”

  I handed it over, she swiped it, and handed it back.

  “Okay,” she said, applying red lipstick. “Let’s get Guildenstern.”

  “It’s Rosencrantz,” I said.

  “Sorry honey,” she
said. “One character from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is as good as the next,” and she skipped off with her high heels clacking on the shimmering tarmac.

  “Why did she have to say William Shakespeare’s Hamlet?” said Daniel. “As if we didn’t know who wrote it?”

  “Cos that’s the problem right now.”

  “I don’t like her,” he said.

  “You’re a cock,” I said, and got out of the car for a cigarette. Daniel stayed inside, sweating defiantly.

  After an hour, Tammy came out with Rosencrantz in tow. He looked pale, with greasy hair, wearing skinny jeans and a Cher T-shirt. He ran to me and I hugged him, checking he was intact. I wasn’t sure if it was him or me who stank. Daniel just glared through the window.

  We got in the car, and pulled away. We sat in silence for several miles. We took a different route, which led to the freeway along the beach. I opened the window and the sea air whipped away a little of my fear and I closed my eyes against the sun. I asked Rosencrantz if he had had a decent breakfast. He looked at me disdainfully. Then I asked him if he was a drug addict.

  “No!” he said.

  “But you are an idiot, are you not?” said Daniel.

  “Takes one to know one,” said Rosencrantz.

  “Okay. Time-out people,” said Tammy.

  She passed back a document, which told us Rosencrantz couldn’t leave the State of California until he gets a court date.

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