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A Very Important Teapot | Book 1 in the Lucy and Dawson Series

In which Dawson meets a tall man, and makes reacquaintance with someone unlikely


After about ten minutes, the noise of the car engine stopped beating quite so forcefully into Dawson’s brain. He wasn’t sure if the driver, a shadowy, equally silent presence up front, had ever heard of fourth or fifth gear, so it was a blessed relief when they slowed down. Relief was replaced by fear as they turned sharp right, bumped briefly along what could have been a dried up river bed but was more probably just a badly maintained drive, and pulled up outside a large, dark house.


The driver pressed twice on the horn and the door of the house swung inwards to reveal a tall, thin, bald man of indeterminate age, lit from behind. The man nodded towards the car, turned on his heel and walked back inside. The red man opened the door and heaved himself out of the vehicle.


Dawson received an ungentle shove in the back and stumbled out after him. On straightening up, he found that he was still being squeezed by his two hefty, untalkative companions and was forced to hobble through the front door into an entrance hall illuminated by a single overhead lamp. Hearing a sound from behind, Dawson turned his head and glimpsed another man, whom he took to be the driver, shut the front door from the outside. Something about him seemed oddly familiar, but it was too dark to be sure, and in any case Dawson had more important things to worry about, namely red man and black man who were busy pressing him towards a door in the corner.


The room they all entered was surprisingly spacious and even more surprisingly well-appointed, with soft-focus lighting, tasteful wallpaper, some very expensive-looking Australian-themed pictures on the walls, two deep sofas on either side and in front of him a large, black leather swivel chair inadequately filled by the cadaverous-looking man who had appeared at the front door on their arrival.


On the inside, Dawson was scared, of course he was, but on the outside, he was as incapable as he had ever been of taking things seriously. It was just the way he was. It wasn’t bravado; if anything it was nervousness. He’d always had the need to try to make people like him, and that need somehow seemed quite important now.


‘Thanks for bringing me to the hotel, guys,’ he started with a faint smile. ‘But I’d decided not to stay around here, so if you could just take me back to my car...’ His voice trailed off.


Red man and black man, now standing a merciful step or two behind him, continued to say nothing. The thin man sitting in front of him was wearing heavily ironed beige trousers and a crisp, white, long-sleeved shirt, although Dawson was unsure why the man’s sartorial splendour seemed so noteworthy when there were clearly other things he should be more concerned about.


The thin man spoke in a low, pleasant voice, or at least in as pleasant a voice as an Australian voice can be, particularly when it is directed at a rather frightened Englishman a long way from home. ‘I don’t think you quite appreciate the gravity of your situation, sir.’


‘Yeah, gravity,’ grunted red man from behind him.


‘Don’t mind Rambo,’ said the thin man. ‘He’s a bit of a bogan. Thinking’s not his strong point.’


‘Rambo?’ asked Dawson. ‘Seriously? And what is his strong point?’


‘He’s strong, that’s his strong point. We call him Rambo because it suits him better than Sebastian. Also, he can’t pronounce Sebastian.’


Red man grunted again. ‘Rambo.’


‘Okay,’ said Dawson. ‘So now we’re introducing ourselves, I don’t think I’m who you think I am.’


‘Oh, I rather think that you are who I think you are, Mr Dawson.’


Dawson worked that sentence backwards to its start and found himself coming to the inescapable conclusion that no mistake had been made. At least not by thin man, red man and black man. Definitely by Dawson and almost certainly by Alan Flannery though. Still, he kept trying – he didn’t really have many other options. ‘I was rather hoping you wouldn’t say that,’ he said. ‘Perhaps you could at least let me know who I have the honour of being kidnapped by?’


‘Kidnapped?’ smiled the thin man. ‘Oh, no, not kidnapped. That would somehow imply we wanted something in exchange for your safe return.’


Dawson didn’t like the sound of that. He now felt very scared, very tired and, oddly, quite hungry again. ‘So you don’t want anything?’


‘Oh, I’m sorry. You may have misunderstood me. Of course I want something, and you are definitely going to give it to me. It’s the safe return bit that isn’t finalised yet.’


Dawson felt his knees starting to sag. ‘Can I sit down?’ he asked, more in hope than expectation.


‘Of course you can, where are my manners?’ The thin man waved an immaculate hand towards the sofa to Dawson’s left.


Dawson sat down gratefully, but the gratitude fell a long way short of the scaredness. ‘You were about to tell me who you are.’


‘I wasn’t, as it happens but, once again, rudeness isn’t really my thing.’ He smiled. ‘You can call me Mr Big.’


Dawson looked at him for a few seconds. This man was a joker. You couldn’t be a joker and a cold-blooded killer too, could you? Could you? ‘Oh, come off it. You’re kidding me. What is this, some sort of trashy spy novel?’


‘You tell me.’


‘I am telling you. No, it’s not. What’s your first name? I’m not calling you Mr Big.’ 


‘Really.’


‘You’re telling me that your name’s Really Big? Did your mum have a sense of humour? All right then,’ pointing at black man, ‘what’s his name? Go on, surprise me.’


‘You can call him Chuckles,’ said Mr Big, leaning back in his black leather chair. The smile suddenly disappeared. ‘And I don’t care what you call me as long as you stop fucking me about and tell me where it is.’


‘This is ridiculous,’ said Dawson, who was beginning to find his anger overtaking his fright, which quite surprised him. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’


At that moment, Dawson’s phone started ringing again from inside Rambo’s side pocket. Everyone in the room jumped slightly at the ringtone, even Mr Big, and Rambo himself looked confused, apparently unable to work out where the noise was coming from. However, before anyone could say anything, all the lights went out and the room was plunged into darkness. Then there was a small creak and Dawson found himself being pulled up the back of the sofa.


Dawson hadn’t the faintest idea what was happening, but he didn’t like it, although he also realised that leaving the company of Mr Big, Rambo and Chuckles could have long-term beneficial consequences. He imagined that this was what an out-of-body experience would feel like as he was transported apparently without any effort through a door behind the sofa that he hadn’t noticed before. In fact, the darkness was so complete that he was only aware that it was a door he was being carried through when he heard it shut softly behind him and the sounds of confusion from Rambo and Chuckles became suddenly muffled. Just as the door closed, a shot rang out. 


Dawson had never heard a gun fired outside a television or cinema screen but it was fairly unmistakeable. However, it didn’t seem to come anywhere near the door he’d been lifted through, and it wasn’t followed by a second shot as the thin man yelled, ‘Don’t fire, you galahs, you’ll hit each other! Or, worse, me! Get outside and block the exits. Get that bloody driver to help you. Now! Go!’


‘Yeah, well, good luck with finding the driver,’ murmured a soft voice in Dawson’s ear. Dawson was abruptly certain that he knew that voice and it forced him to turn his attention to where he’d arrived rather than where he’d come from. His eyes were starting to get used to the darkness by now and he could just make out the faint outline of the person he was with and who had at least put Dawson back on his feet. It was quite a large outline, and now Dawson was catching a faint whiff of something that also seemed oddly familiar.


It couldn’t be, could it? Both the voice and the smell of nasty hair gel were saying the same thing to him: Prat-the-Solicitor they were saying, but that was impossible.


‘Pat?’ Dawson remembered to keep his voice to a whisper and, crucially, bearing in mind he was addressing his saviour, not to call him “Prat”.


‘Yes, shut up. Let me think. We need to get out of here sharpish before Chuckles and Co manage to work out where we are.’ Dawson heard a window open and then Pat whispered, ‘Okay, follow me, mind the sill, I’m not carrying you again, you’re heavier than you look.’


Outside, it was marginally lighter than inside, and after managing to extricate himself from a small bush into which he’d fallen, Dawson made out the sizeable shape of Pat. There was a line of thin trees a dozen metres away and Pat scuttled towards them, motioning Dawson to follow. They reached them just as the lights in the house went back on again, together with what was clearly a security light over the front door to their right. Pat bent even lower and edged further back into the tree line, and Dawson followed suit, although it was clear they were not very well shielded from sight should anyone be looking their way. However, nobody was, although Rambo and Chuckles had by now started communicating in what sounded like a series of grunts from their stations outside the front and rear doors. They could see Chuckles at the front, but he was fidgety and kept wandering around, in and out of eyeshot. 


Dawson realised that asking Pat for an explanation as to his sudden, totally unexpected appearance in this dangerous backwater of New South Wales could probably wait until they had reached some sort of safety. How that safety was going to be achieved was a whole other ball game. The big Mercedes that he had been brought in was still sitting in the drive but Dawson couldn’t see how they were going to reach it without being seen, and even if they did, how they were going to drive off without a key. That did seem to be Pat’s plan though, and suddenly Dawson had a revelation. Pat must have been the driver. There was no one else to be seen, and hadn’t the man who’d shut the front door earlier seemed familiar?


Apparently reading his thoughts, Pat turned to him, held up an unmistakeable set of car keys, pointed at the Merc and, rather melodramatically, put his finger to his lips. Pat seemed to be waiting for something and then, completely unexpectedly, if not to Pat, then definitely to Dawson and even more so to Chuckles and Rambo, there was a loud crash from the far side of the building. Chuckles started at the noise and broke into a run out of sight round the side of the house, obviously keen to investigate, not least because of Mr Big’s immediate shout of ‘What the fuck was that?’ Chuckles had clearly decided it was his job to find out what the fuck it was.


Dawson suddenly realised he was alone and a momentary panic set in before he saw Pat, crouching low and sprinting as quickly as his not inconsiderable bulk allowed towards the car. Dawson hurtled after him, somewhat more quickly, so that they reached the vehicle at the same time. Pat wrenched open the driver’s door and had already got the car moving as Dawson piled in on the other side. Pat gunned the car in reverse down the rutted drive, undertook a niftily impressive handbrake turn, and they were on the road before the first shots rang out.


Pat had turned the Mercedes to the right on the road, away from Gundagai and civilisation, but at least they were clear and out of immediate danger. Dawson imagined there would be a second car somewhere around and it would only be a matter of time before they were followed, but Pat was keeping up a steady 120 kph and no headlights appeared on the road behind, so after a few minutes Dawson began to relax.


Before he could open his mouth Pat said, without turning his head, ‘Not just now,’ and as he was concentrating on breaking the speed limit and his tone of voice brooked no argument, Dawson remained silent. Twenty minutes later, the car turned right on to another main road. Dawson glimpsed a sign, which indicated they were now headed towards Wagga Wagga. He‘d heard of Wagga Wagga, and somehow that comforted him a bit. Not much else did. He stayed quiet, immersed in his own muddled thoughts, as the big car roared on into the night.

A Very Important Teapot is available in paperback and ebook

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