This is a work in progress, but I would like a little feed back.
Written by Michael Storm
The First Chapter
It was late morning and Dr. Webster was lying back on the bed which had a hard uncomfortable mattress laid upon on it. He understood now why he was able to get such cheap accommodation at the last minute; Miss Moore’s Blessed Blackpool Boarding house had not changed very much since Al Bowlly decided to ignore the Air Raid warning and sleep at home, aside from the HDTV and the “wi-fi”, the building was still very much a relic from the 1930s. He let out a loud sigh, he should have twigged the state of the place it’s name; who uses the term boarding house these days? The yellowed floral wallpaper was peeling from the walls and the frames of the windows were rotting beyond compare. Still never mind, you are here for the festival he told himself, if anything the poor accommodation will add to the experience. Forcing himself off the bed, Dr. Webster picked up the shirt laid on the adjacent chair, slipped it on and took a view out the window. View, he decided was a generous term, it was the spread of terraced houses and their backyards. One or two of the residents had attempt to turn their backyards into gardens, with varying degrees of success. One of these ‘gardens’ was occupied by a chubby, but not unattractive young lady clad in a green bikini making the most of the sun and lying idly back on a sun lounger reading a book. Another had a middle aged man going through a series of ridiculous looking isometric exercises and several of the yards had people mulling around on cheap plastic patio furniture. He smiled at the mundanity of it all, got a tie out of the dresser draw and tried to make himself look presentable. Once he had straightened his tie and fixed his hair he felt a little more human. He took another quick look out the window, the bikini clad girl was in the process of removing her bikini top and Dr. Webster quickly changed his viewing to the guy doing his isometric exercises. At least he was attempting to keep his health unlike some of the patients of his age he dealt with. A lone seagull caught Dr. Webster’s eye as it flew across the houses with what looked like a key fob in its beak and was making its way to wherever.
“That’ll give you wind,” he said out loud and smiled for no particular reason. His attention was caught again by the sunbathing girl whose Mother (?) had emerged from the house and was gesticulating wildly and yelling something about “not raised a whore” as the poor lass looked on sheepishly sitting up and trying her best to cover her enormous breasts with her arms. Stop perving, he told himself and made his exit from the room, he had music gigs to attend.
Deborah Rosencraft, Debbie to her friends, was a polite modest girl, but her patience was being trying by her Mother’s increasingly short temper and narrow mindedness.
“Mum I am only trying to get a tan,” she pleaded despairingly.
“You can tan in a T-shirt you know,” her Mother countered. “What if a man sees you?”
“You’d be hard pressed to find a man who hasn’t seen a couple of boobs before,” Debbie sneered.
“Don’t take that tone of voice with me,” her Mother snapped. “I was good enough to let you keep that bikini, but you are pushing it now.”
“Good enough?” Debbie spat, trying not to lose her temper. “Do you expect me to dress up in a bin bag?”
“I expect you to dress like a woman and not strut around like a strippergram,” her Mother answered.
“Fine,” Debbie tutted as she clipped her bikini top back on and slipped into a T-shirt and shorts.
“Now that’s better,” her Mother declared sternly. Her demeanour then lightened, “what are you doing today?”
“I thought I might got to the Bang – Bang Bar, they have some music on all day today and possibly got to the Pleasure Beach.”
“We’ve lived here for eighteen months and you say that you are going to go to the Pleasure Beach every week but you never do,” smiled her Mother.
“Well I have to pop that cherry eventually,” laughed Debbie in reply. OK, mood is lightened now she told herself, I’ll try the biggy.
“Mum, a few weeks ago I meant someone at the pub…” she began.
“Were you careful?” Her Mother interrupted.
“No!” Debbie snapped and quickly clarified. “I mean we haven’t…. Not even kissed but I asked him out on a date.”
“So that is why you are finally going to the Pleasure Beach then,” Her mum answered cheekily.
“Yes,” Debbie answered. “We are meeting at the Bang – Bang then going to the beach.” Debbie checked her phone for messages, there were none. She then paused and a quizzical expression formed upon her face. Her mother recognised her body language and cautiously asked her next question, unsure what Debbie would say. She motion Debbie to go forward.
“Mum… the band is declared a tribute to Muddy Waters, who or what is Muddy Waters?”
“I have no idea,” her Mother laughed, relieved it wasn’t an awkward question. “Go have fun.”
The sun beat down on the seafront where various people were riding Donkeys, climbing on the rocks or tucking into cones of chips. A slim short dark haired girl in a Kiss Me Quick hat was trying to persuade one of the Donkey owners to let her take the Donkey onto the path so she could have the ultimate cheesy tourist photo for work, be the guy was having none of it. Dr. Webster lent on the railings and inhaled the sea breeze and its seemingly regenerative qualities, he felt more relaxed now that the creaky boarding house was temporarily out of mind. Many moons ago he would have ran to the sea and paddled around but his childlike joy at the Sea had disappeared after he failed to revive a drowned teenage girl and found in the autopsy she was four months pregnant. Stop thinking like that, he told himself, you can’t blame yourself for things that were out of your control. Uncomfortably, Dr. Webster left the railings and headed towards the Bang – Bang Bar turning his thoughts to Blues music and relaxation, this was the reason he was in Blackpool in the first place.
The Bang – Bang Bar was an interesting place, slightly off the Seafront, it had the visual air of an old fashioned wild west Saloon, which indeed had been its original MO. The smell of Barbecued Chicken, Cajun spices and sawdust were heavily in abundance as Dr. Webster approached the venue. The mock saloon frontage was somewhat let down by the hideous pink neon sign bearing the bar’s name and a sequence animation of a Cowboy shooting an Indian, but it at least made it fit in with the Blackpool frontages. The Saloon conceit was continued inside with mock lanterns providing the light, the whiskey bottles on the bar, the lack of jukebox and an old Joanna in the corner. Part of the bar had been cleared to form a makeshift stage, this certainly was going to be an intimate affair it seemed.
“Can I get you a drink partner?” the barman asked in a rather unconvincing attempt at a southern drawl.
“What would you recommend?” asked Dr. Webster.
“Well you try our latest sipping whiskey, it’s a fine bourbon which goes by the name of the Red Dwarf-”
“Can I just have a beer?”
“Of course hombre,” the Barman replied and crossed to a hitherto unspotted series of beer fonts, “would prefer Lager, Bitter or Stout?”
“I’ll just have a Lager for now,” answered Dr. Webster.
“Coming right up,” said the Barman. He poured the pint, boned it and deposited in front of the good Doctor. “I see you are one of the wanted.”
“I beg your pardon?” Dr Webster asked rather bemused at the statement.
“The wanted,” repeated the Barman. He then indicated the blue wrist band on Dr. Webster’s arm. “This first one is on the house if you have a stroller ticket.” He added in his normal voice, “they insist we call you the Wanted to tie in with the cowboy theme.”
“Oh I see,” smiled Dr Webster, “it makes-” He was cut off by a screech of feedback and the familiar rhythm of Hoochie Coochie Man.
“Damn it they have started,” cursed Debbie under her breath as she attempted to run to the bar, not a mean feat considering the heels she was wearing. Since her sunbathing escapade Debbie had changed into a black sleeveless dress which hugged her ample figure, as she ran she stumbled a little but was supported by a young black gentleman .
“Easy lady,” he said softly. “Those aren’t shoes to run in.”
“I just learnt that,” she snapped back.
“Whoa,” the gentleman replied raising his hands in a surrender pose.
“Why the stereotyping Jazz hands?”
“Force of habit,” he answered. “Started out as a joke but kind of became more serious.
“Sorry I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” Debbie smiled apologetically.
“It’s cool miss,” the Gentleman answered. “Are you okay?”
“Just my pride is grazed,” answered Debbie.
“Well take care,” the man replied and doffed an imaginary hat before walking off.
Nice guy, bit odd though Debbie thought to herself. It was then she noticed he had slipped a card into her hand. She examined it:
“UNCLE HARRY’S GHOST TRAIN, BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH. FREE ADMISSION”
Debbie smiled, that would save her a bit of money she thought and slipped into her pocket and entered the bar.
The lead guitarist had finished his opening number, placed down his guitar and was addressing the modest sized audience. Debbie felt a little overexposed making her way to the bar as the bulk of the audience appeared to be middle aged or older.
“-of course that was one of Muddy Waters’ most famous numbers in terms of song. These next two we are going to perform are influential in a very different way,” the frontman clearly knew his stuff and had picked up his guitar. “Ok guys let’s do them in reverse order today.” As the band started Debbie turned to the Barman who was dressed in a ridiculous cowboy outfit.
“What would you like to drink ma’am?” he asked, his mock wild west accent had not improved.
“I’ll have a orange juice please,” she answered trying not to roll her eyes. The barman nodded and set about his business and Debbie scanned the bar for any sign of her date, as of yet there was none. Once again she was feeling exposed, most of the patrons were dressed very casually except one who was dressed very eccentrically and sporting an extreme handlebar moustache and a youngish man at the bar who had at least put an effort into looking respectable. His tie wasn’t quite straight and his shirt was untucked at the back, he had least made an effort and was merrily tapping away to the rhythm. A lyric registered in her mind, had she heard that right?
“Excuse me sir,” she asked tapping the man on the shoulder. “Can I ask you a question?”
“You didn’t give much of a choice there miss,” answered the man with a smile.
Debbie frowned in puzzlement and shrugged it off, “Do he just sing ‘he’s going to be a rolling stone?”
“Yes he did,” answered the man. “It is where the band and the magazine got their names from.” Ok, he answered my next question, she thought. What was he looking at?
“Sorry,” said Dr. Webster a little flustered. “I was just checking you didn’t have concealed weapons.”
“Come again?” the girl asked.
“I thought you looked familiar for a second,” answered Dr. Webster. “So what’s his name?”
“Your date. What is he called?”
“How did you-”
“It is half past twelve and you are in a very glamorous outfit, you keep glancing at the door and I noticed a slight fluctuation in your breath just.” Dr. Webster smiled.
“You could tell all that just from a few cues?” Debbie asked in a mix of surprise and fascination.
“Well I made the last bit up, but yes.” Dr. Webster answered, “I am guessing it is your first date with him.”
“Yes, did the dress give it away?”
“Slightly, but mostly your demeanour spoke it. You are both nervous and excited at the same time.”
The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young man with blonde hair, dressed in white jeans and a blue blazer.
“Hi Debbie, got delayed at work.” the young man said apologetically giving Debbie a quick hug and friendly peck on the cheek. He then noticed Dr. Webster and smiled warmly at him. “Do you know Debbie?”
“Only just met her, she was curious about the band,” replied Dr. Webster. “Talking of which, if you will excuse me.” With that, Dr. Webster turned his focus back to the guys on stage who were now almost at the end of ‘Howling Wolf’.
“Enjoy the show,” smiled Debbie as she her gentleman friend departed to a newly vacant table.
Bill Cotton was no conspiracy theorist, but there was definitely something odd going on. He may simply be a barman, but barmen pick up on things, there was an elephant in the town that was for sure. A few regulars had disappeared from the bar and also their other haunts, yet no one had commented on this and his inquiries had led him nowhere. Not so much a conspiracy of silence, but a comedy of ignorance as there just seem to be no knowledge of what had happened. Bill decided that on his split he would go to the source and check up on one of his bar flies at their home. The chap at the bar could be an ally here, Bill had heard him go all Sherlock Holmes on the girl at the bar but how to approach him? He had a wristband so he would be around for a few days and there were several more gigs here at the Bang – Bang Bar, so there would be a good chance he’d be back. Should he inquire now? Best not, let the man enjoy his music.
The band was on a break and Dr. Webster vacated the bar to allow access for the hordes of listeners who were up for a refill, he stood idly by a pillar and produced the festival program from his pocket. There wasn’t another band here until the evening which, judging by the description, would be the sort of band you might expect from a Ray Charles/Louis Jordan collaboration. He looked for the next gig, there was a band on the front and another in a sea front bar which was a ticket holder exclusive, he’d make that his next destination and come back here for the evening as they served food. Better make a reservation for dinner once the bar is clear he told himself. The young girl, Debbie was it?, was talking a little nervously to her friend, she really did have first date nerves. Kudos to the young man for expertly not staring at her chest, the number of times he’d unwittingly done that… Where had he seen her before, had she visited the hospital at some point? Or had he seen her milling around the Police station when he was the active police surgeon? He put down to similarity of appearance and returned to the bar, this time I’ll have the Stout he told himself. He was greeted warmly by the barman, who had thankfully abandoned his Cowboy voice, and his beer was delivered promptly.
“Who thought to put the bands on here?” asked Dr. Webster.
“It was my idea to get involved, but the rest is up to ‘them – upstairs,” he replied. “Where are you staying?”
“Miss Moore’s,” answered Dr. Webster.
“Well good luck there,” countered the barman. “Is it as crummy as people say?”
“God no,” Dr Webster laughed. “Much worse, I think it is stuck in the 1930s.”
“So I have heard, she does a good breakfast I am told though.”
“It wasn’t too bad. I think everything was cooked in dripping though. Oh that reminds me, can I book a table to eat tonight?”
“Sure,” answered the barman and quickly grabbed a folder from behind the counter.
“Can I have two beers please?” asked a familiar female voice.
“Just a second ma’am,” the barman answered, in his cowboy voice.
“That sounds so phoney,” tutted Debbie, waiting for Dr. Webster to reply. “Don’t you think?” She prompted.
“Sorry, I thought it was rhetorical,” replied Dr. Webster. “How is the date going?”
“I keep fudging things I say,” Debbie lamented.
“Nerves miss, you’ll be ok.”
“7pm okay?” interrupted the barman.
“What? Oh yes sorry. 7pm is perfect.” Dr Webster blustered.
“For 1. Name?”
“Er doctor actually.”
“Awesome, I’ll put the boarding house down for contact.” replied the Barman, filling in the booking sheet. “You’ll be seated near the stage.”
“Excellent.” Dr. Webster beamed.
“You’re a doctor?” asked Debbie.
“Yes, originally I specialised in Pathology but tend to do a mix now.” Answered Dr. Webster. “Date advice, don’t linger chatting to a guy at the bar when your date is waiting.” He indicated her date idly looking at his phone.
“Good point,” Debbie answered and picked up her beers and returned to the table.
The gig drew to an end after two encores and most of the patrons had left, including Debbie and her date. Dr. Webster had purchased a copy of the bands CD and was finishing the last of his Stout. Now or never, Bill thought to himself. He approached Dr. Webster cautiously, “Excuse me doctor,” he began.
“Call me Ben,” replied Dr. Webster.
“Ben, I think something very odd is going on here in Blackpool,” He began.
“How do you mean?” asked Dr. Webster.
“People disappearing, but it seems to have disappeared off the radar.”
“How do you mean?” queried Dr. Webster.
“I can’t quite put my finger on it,” began Bill. “I’d better start from the beginning…”