I've mentioned a few times on here that my mate Paul and I spent a part of our misspent youth as private investigators. I reckon I should explain how that works. First of all there's a big difference betweeen a private detective and a private investigator. Detectives detect things while investigators investigate.
We found ourselves investigating how far a flagstone sticks up from the pavement so that somebody who'd tripped over it with their big clown feet could sue the council. And, if somebody's playing around in their marriage then it's difficult to fingerprint the participants for divorce proceedings, photographs are much better. Occasionally we'd not find missing people too. There were exciting jobs also though as I've mentioned on here. A lot of those came from head office because our business was a franchise (a bit like McDonalds but with more mayhem). There were four or five people we could call on if things got busy but mostly it was just Paul and myself.
We'd both been big fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (a television program from the mid sixties) so we felt we really needed a secret headquarters. Ideally it would have been hidden behind a small tailers shop but we had to make do with being behind a taxi office. They had the room at the front and surly taxi drivers would sit around waiting for a call to a fare. We had all the rooms behind plus the floor above and access to the loft. More room than we really needed. Best of all it was next door to a pub...........:)
Paul and I were the only ones who had access using our special 'investigators keys'. The sullen taxi drivers would look on with interest as we passed to and fro. But they never said a word. All fell silent as we crossed the room.
It took us a few weeks to decorate as this was just a part-time job for us. We repainted all the business rooms. Took in desks and fitted a darkroom. Lots of big maps on the wall for decoration and a radio which was usually tuned to a jazz station. We got more funny looks from the low browed taxi drivers when we turned up with a huge safe (you're required to keep firearms secure in this Country so a desk drawer wasn't really good enough).
You'd think having a secret headquarters might be a bit of a drawback. There wasn't much passing trade that's for sure. We advertised in the newspapers though with a telephone number and then we'd meet people in the pub next door. If the job looked good we'd take them back to SHQ. We'd half thought about blindfolding them first but since they'd only have to walk about thirty feet they'd probably guess where we were situated so that seemed a bit pointless.
My mate Kevin wanted to join but his wife wouldn't let him. Sheila (his wife) was a great girl and we got on very well. The problem was when Kevin went out with Paul and I he'd sometimes go back either splashed with blood or with his eyebrows singed off. Once he ended up in Yorkshire and it took him two days to get home. So he wasn't allowed to join.
I'll give you an example. Paul and I were driving up to see Kev and his wife in Pauls' car. After an ill-advised right turn on a busy road we were hit by a rather large vehicle travelling at right angles to us and some speed. Huge impact. We spun around a bit, flew over an embankment and, after crashing through Kevs' garden wall ended up in his front garden.
My side of the car had the impact and when I tried to climb out the door fell off. The nearside wing and the bonnet had gone too. I was standing there watching petrol from the torn fuel line trickle onto the hot engine when Kev appeared at his front door.
"Why can't you just ring the doorbell like a normal person?" he asked. The fuel line erupted with a pleasing blue flame and the puddle of petrol underneath the car caught fire. "Run." I shouted. Kev ducked inside while Paul and I dived over what remained of the wall and kept our heads down. The car went up but at least we all kept our eyebrows. Kevs' rosebushes were never the same again however.
The office was fun though even when there was no work. A great place to avoid wives and girlfriends under the pretence of being busy. We could read the newspapers, chat, listen to jazz music and wear our shoulder holsters without our jackets. We could go to the pub too.
One drawback was that the darkroom had no running water. That was in the next room and it was a pain taking your prints through to wash them. Paul and I reckoned we should knock the wall down. More odd looks from the eternally glum taxi drivers as they watched us troop through with a sledgehammer, building tools, sacks of cement and plaster in a wheelbarrow and some more tins of paint.
A few hours work and wandering through the taxi shop with wheelbarrows full of old bricks and rubble and we were finished. We probably had the only darkroom in England with an en suite toilet. In celebration we put up some shelves for cans of beer. That'd be handy when it was late at night and the pub was shut.
It seemed idyllic but all good things must end. I'd joined an experimental art workshop at my local college and I still went fencing one night a week. Paul had been directed by his wife to redecorate his own house instead of somebody elses'. Plus we also had full time jobs which actually paid the bills. Just a few weeks after our renovations we moved out.
A couple of months later we were in town (we're not silly enough to set up our secret headquarters in our own town) and we thought we'd take a look at the place for old times sake. The office was gone. Just the pub on one side and a hairdressers on the other. An empty space where the scene of our adventures used to stand.
We went to the pub for a drink and to ask what had happened. We assumed that since we weren't wearing our investigators hats then we wouldn't be recognised. The bloke behind the bar told us that somebody had knocked down a supporting wall. Nobody'd noticed until the floor upstairs fell downstairs. The roof was buggered and the place had to be demolished. Paul and I beat a hasty retreat.
The taxi firm had found a new place just around the corner. The owner was able to collect on his insurance. The shareholders in the insurance company would have a fractionally lower profit that year but, that'd be a small price to pay for all the excitement we'd brought into their lives.