Garrat Drane was, in my opinion at least, a man who took dullness to the point of eccentricity. He was so dull that those who got to know him were fascinated by him. For his entire working life he was a clerk for Thallawell Thallawell, and Thallawell. In the course of the nearly fifty years he worked for them he doubtless progressed from being a very junior clerk to becoming a somewhat more senior clerk, but this was never recognised in any change in job title.
Every morning for fifty years (baring occasional public holidays or similar untoward occasions,) he would rise, dress in his plain breeches and shirt, and pull over them the formal robe of a lawyer’s clerk. He would breakfast simply, and for all I know he may even have kissed his wife on the cheek as he left the house.
His wife was one sign that he wasn’t utterly dull. If you tally on your fingers, you can see that he married not all that long after he became a junior clerk. One can only assume there was romance, impropriety, perhaps even passion. Given the number of children they had over the years I’d be willing to put money on at least the latter.
The other hint that he wasn’t unutterably dull was the case of the petty cash. The office of Thallawell, Thallawell, and Thallawell had a locked drawer in which the petty cash was stored. A clerk who did minor work, such as drawing up a simple will, a basic deed of sale, or an indenture; would collect the fee in cash then and there, place the money in the drawer and enter the sum in the petty cash book.
At the same time a clerk who had need to pay out cash, perhaps to a lawyer’s nark, a peeper or an ‘arm and a leg’ man would take the money to pay them out of the petty cash drawer. This clerk would also enter the sum in the petty cash book
In fact so many clerks had legitimate access to the drawer that eventually the lock wore out and was never replaced. This wouldn’t have mattered to Garrat, but for the fact that he was moved to the desk in which the drawer was situated. Thus by office convention he was considered responsible for the petty cask. I confess I do not know whether this was a promotion based on merit, a demotion for some slight oversight Garrat had committed, or perhaps the powers that be merely moved him because they wanted the other room for some other purpose.
Still, whatever the cause, Garrat took responsibility seriously. He counted up the money in the drawer and he tallied the entries in the book. He even checked the invoice slips and the copies of receipts that were supposed to be kept in the book. Everything balanced. When he was going through the accounts one thing struck him, there were regular entries concerning a business that traded under the name of ‘Peepers and Narks.’ Two things struck him about these entries, they were for quite large sums, and they were always signed off by Bullen Quail.
Bullen Quail was somebody who in the past had irritated Garrat. He was always the last to arrive in the office, appearing breathless in the doorway as the hour of nine struck. He was always the first to leave, having cleared his desk with at least ten minutes to spare. Garrat hated taking over work started by Quail because inevitably it would be easier to start again that try to work out what shortcuts Quail had taken. Even more damning in his eyes was the fact that Quail toyed with fashion. His robe was worn short in the modern style and thus displayed the black silk stockings he wore with his black velveteen breeches.
Garrat searched carefully through the book. Bullen Quail was the only person who ever dealt with ‘Peepers and Narks.’ This was in itself unusual. Various investigators would normally just hand their report and their invoice to the clerk at the desk, take their money and leave as inconspicuously as possible.
Garrat thought for some time about this. He found no other traces of ‘Peepers and Narks’. No other colleague had had any dealings with them. No clerk in any other office had heard of them. Even the other informants and private investigators who came in for their money pleaded ignorance of this apparently established business. The signature used to receipt the invoices was no help, it was an unintelligible squiggle.
Quietly Garrat sounded out a couple of investigators he’d had dealings with over the years, Dagly Ween and Mirabelle Sobent. He put his plan to them. Together they formed a partnership called Peepers and Narks. Garrat didn’t join it but instead signed his six year old daughter Meirdre up as a partner instead. Then he sat with them and they wrote all the reports that they’d been allegedly paid for.
A week later, Ween and Sobent, representing Peepers and Narks, came to the office. They were shown to where Garrat sat behind the desk with the petty cash. In terms of great formality they asked for their money. They showed the reports as evidence of the work done. He checked, and each report coincided with the date it was supposed to have been delivered. He showed the two gentlemen the receipted invoices. They denounced the signature as a forgery. Garrat was forced to take their problem to the chief clerk. The upshot of it was that Peepers and Narks were paid in full with a handsome apology and Bullen Quail was sacked.
The three shared the profits of the venture equally, and Garrat, in his usual boring manner, gave the money to his lady wife.
But his two partners, or rather his daughter’s two partners, felt that they stood on the threshold of a golden future. They encouraged him to keep the partnership going. After all, with his influence they could become Thallawell Thallawell, and Thallawell’s investigators of choice. After some thought Garrat agreed to this proposition. Thus Peepers and Narks continued to provide reliable service for many years; whilst Garrat himself lapsed into dullness once more.
Now it just so happens I’ve got something to announce. This is the start of a Blog tour where Tallis will explore the Drane family, father, mother, and a number of offspring. I’d not go so far as to say the family was dysfunctional, but it might warrant the term ‘eccentric’.
As always I have an ulterior motive. You see, I’ve just published a new book.
. ‘Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.’
Rather than a collection of his anecdotes, this is indeed an ‘adventure’ as Tallis ventures forth from the city of Port Naain. Questions are asked that may even be answered, why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.
Treat yourself; you know you’re worth it!