The Incidental and (Apparently) Entirely Accidental Inciting Incident (Chapter 1)
A club sandwich of shoe bread, if you will
Notes: Sam and I have a little generous rivalry going on right now. Neither of us have written a novella, and we both wanted to, so we coralled each other into doing it. Sam’s first chapter is published already. This is my first chapter.
My novella is of a different style to Sam’s, but they’re both inherently detective stories. Mine is (intended to be) funny, Sam’s is more serious. Honestly, mine is just too many bad jokes wrapped up in some vague and poorly executed exposition.
It’s set in Barnsley, in an alternate universe where British light entertainment celebrities are dying. But how are they dying? Is it several potted accidents? Is it the plot to the new Final Destination? Or, rather more likely, is it a meandering setup for a long and tedious pulp detective novella about, well, celebrities dying? Yes. It’s probbaly that one.
Barnsley Town Centre.
They don’t make shoes like they used to. They used to clack on the pavement, slap on the concrete. You know, everybody knew you were arriving two minutes before you arrived, as your clacking shoes echoed around the walls. They shook the bloody windows. A powerful and percussive echoing CLACK. And that’s partly why you wore them; to announce your presence and to annoy everyone else around you, like some kind of shoe trumpet, but the trumpet in this case is obviously the shoe, and not a trumpet at all. Alas, that was a long time ago. Shoes are all made of rubber now, made in factories in the far east, no idea of craftsmanship, and you couldn’t get your cobbler to fix them if you wanted him to. Instead of being shoe trumpets, they’re now closer to—if we’re pushed for a metaphor here—shoe bread. Lumpy, mouldy, three-day old, slightly soggy shoe bread. And these modern shoes lasted about as long as bread too. Bruce knew all this, of course. He wore good shoes, of course. Good old shoes that still clacked.
Bruce, despite all the odds, had found himself in Barnsley. Yes, thatBarnsley. That small northern town in England. Yes, that Bruce. Bruce Forsyth. It was late at night and Bruce was walking through admiring the delights of Barnsley: the town that Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel For A Knave about, then made the movie Kes about, and the town that Parkinson pretended he wasn’t born in. Bruce had been doing ‘A Night With Bruce...’ at the local small arena. He’d needed the money. Cobblers weren’t cheap these days.
Bruce could hear something else beyond the reverberations of his own sartorial choices. He could hear some modern shoes, and if he wasn’t very much mistaken, they were those godawful Timberland things with the rubber anti-slip soles. They thumped. They sounded as if you’d tied wet bread to the bottoms of your feet. They were definitely shoe bread. Not a sophisticated shoe bread either, like a brioche or a ciabatta. No, Timberlands were more of a bargain bin shoe bread. Like, for example, a simple slice of white bread. Yes, that’s right. Timberlands were a simple slice of white shoe bread. Occasionally, the more expensive Timberlands were several slices of white shoe bread stacked on top of each other. A club sandwich of shoe bread, if you will.
Somebody was matching Bruce step for step, but Bruce didn’t turn around. He’d been in show business for 50 years, he didn’t need to turn around. People turned around for him. ‘Oh Bruce, do the thing,’ they’d say, expecting him to perform like a octogenarian monkey. Besides, he was used to being followed. Presenting light entertainment shows on mainstream British television has its problems.
Bruce sped up, ever so slightly. He didn’t want the follower to notice the newfound agitation in his step. He chose instead to focus on his evening. The elegance to which he’d answered the stupid questions from the simple townsfolk:
’Bruce, why are you such a legend?’ A bucktoothed backward bloated Barnsley man asked.
'Bruce, what’s it like working with Tess Daly?’ A toothless and rather forward skinny man asked, with a knowing smile on his face. Well, sort of a smile. Is it still a smile if there’s no teeth present in the mouth? Isn’t that just a...shaped hole? Bruce shook away that particularly traumatic part of the evening.
Bruce thought back to the small game show he hosted in the middle of the night, that was just to the left side of copyright infringement and absolutely not The Price Is Right. In fact, it was called The Price Is Left. And to top off the entire evening: The small waltz he’d performed at the end of the night to show he ‘still had it’, whatever ‘it’ may be.
The follower was speeding up and trying to match the step of Bruce. Bruce could sense the follower getting closer. Whoever it was, they weren’t just walking behind. They wanted to either speak to Bruce, mug him, or murder him. He tried to shake that thought out of his head by pulling his phone out of his pocket. He needed to find this damn hotel. He’d been told it was a five minute walk from the arena, but the panic had set in, and Bruce had lost track of where he was and how far he’d walked. He started to look over his shoulder every minute. He could see a silhouette in the distance now. A long dark coat. Dark trousers. Hood pulled up over the head. If you were to ask somebody to describe your average 3am murderer, they’d describe the follower that Bruce was currently looking at.
Bruce looked down at his phone at Google Maps. A two minute walk to the hotel. He was going in the right direction. He’d started hopping every few steps now, in an attempt to walk faster, but not make it so obvious. He was sweating now too, small beads forming at Bruce’s temples. He glanced over his shoulder again. The dark, long jacket had come into focus now, Bruce could make out the material. Leather. The collar was turned up. Bruce was surprised to see the follower wearing a Balenciaga hoodie. If you’d planned to murder somebody, you probably didn’t want to be wearing your 500 quid hoodie. It’d be like going to the butchers in a tuxedo and asking to put a shift in. The light humour didn’t lighten Bruce’s mood. The follower was closer. Much closer.
Google Maps said one minute to the hotel. ETA: 3:14am. Bruce was all but running now, a strange shuffle run that only men far over 70 with knackered creaking knees and fused ankles and hips can sympathise with. He knew he couldn’t outrun the hooded probably-murderer. Bruce was sure now this chap didn’t have good intentions. If he could just keep shuffle running for another 30 seconds, he’d be there. The hotel appeared in front of Bruce, just as he looked over his shoulder. The follower was gone, and Bruce stopped. Turned around a full circle, to make sure the would-be murderer wasn’t hiding anywhere.
’Thank Christ for that,’ Bruce sighed.
Bruce spotted the hotel.
'Nice to see you, to see you-‘ Bruce started, but never finished, and that was for a very simple biological reason: Bruce had just died.
In other words: he’s a stiff. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. His metabolic processes are now history. He’s fallen off the perch. He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisible.