Alan Hunter: Gently Go Man

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Alan Hunter Gently Go Man
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    Gently Go Man
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    Классический детектив / на английском языке
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Alan Hunter

Gently Go Man



The road leading to Latchford is one of the big A roads and it has a stretch of five miles as straight as the crease in a sheet of paper. It crosses a shallow depression so you can see one end of it from the other and at the westerly end there’s a dead tree which is called the Gallows Tree. When you see the Gallows Tree you’ve got it good for forty furlongs. At around the ton it’s going to last you three minutes, more or less. You come out of the fir plantations which are the end of Latchford Chase and then you twist her hard up and she blasts off like a shell. And it’s real, man, real. You’re pushing the ton before you know it. The tree comes opening up like a flower. It sends you, the way that tree gets bigger.

Returning from a weekly jazz session at Castlebridge last night eighteen-year-old John Lister, a plumber’s mate from Latchford, crashed his motorcycle at high speed in the notorious Five Mile Drove stretch. Lister was killed outright with multiple injuries. His fiancee, Miss Betty Turner, who was riding pillion, is still unconscious. The wreckage of the machine was found a hundred yards from the body. Latchford Police have appealed for any witness to contact them.

But Latchford itself isn’t any big deal. Not to jeebies like us who were mostly born in the Smoke. It was just a one-street pull-up in the middle of nowhere, with a market square off one side and a station and a bridge. That was before they started in to make it an overspill area, before the factories moved in and all this neighbourhood-planning stuff. Now there’s more people live here and more going on here, but I’m telling you, it’s still a one-street pull-up at the bottom. After the slog you’ve nothing to do, there isn’t no place to go. There’s a flea pit the size of a cupboard and a weekly hop and ten pubs. Sure, they’re building it all now, it’ll be a topspot one of these days. But just now there’s nothing to it. You arse around and want to scream. You like to cut up every so often, go for a smash or a pitch in. Or you burn up a bit of road. It’s like that. It’s the way it gets you.

Latchford Police are appealing for any witness to contact them. The accident occurred at approximately midnight.

Well, we just weren’t born to it, that’s the way it is, man. They never ought to have moved us up here in the first place. It’s bad enough in the New Towns, they haven’t got it, they’re stupid dull. But they don’t give you the creeps like this deal does. What I hear of Siberia it’s like that around Latchford. You ride a mile out of town and there’s nothing there at all. You dig? Just nothing. Roads, houses, we don’t have them. Not even grass we don’t grow, it’s all stones and bracken and fir trees. There’s a road coming and a road going and that’s about it, I guess. And for miles it goes on. You’re shut up. You’re in a prison.

A detective is waiting at Miss Turner’s bedside. Latchford Police are appealing for any witness to contact them.

There’s a square, one of these club leaders, hands me the patter about Latchford. How it used to be the Brum of the Stone Age, he says. Used to come here from all parts to get their axes and arrow-heads and there’s a place called Shuck’s Graves which is one of their old mines. And man, it doesn’t change any. Maybe that’s why it’s so creepy, huh? You get out there on your lonesome and not nothing would surprise you. You see a little guy shamble past you, he’s wearing a skin and carries an axe, and that fits, he’s part of the scene, it’s you who don’t belong round there. All the time you’ve got that feeling. All the time you don’t belong. It’s like you can’t wake up or something or you’ve got yourself lost, you know how it is?


Latchford Police today revealed that they have reason to believe that a second motorcycle was involved in the fatal accident at Five Mile Drove on Tuesday night. A spokesman says that the tyre-marks at the scene of the accident suggest that the dead youth, John Lister, was forced off the road by an overtaking vehicle. Today they have been questioning some Latchford teenagers who own motorcycles and also attended the jazz session at Castlebridge. Detectives continue to wait at the bedside of Lister’s passenger, Miss Betty Turner, who has still not regained consciousness. The police are appealing strongly for any witness to come forward.

Then you dig this one-street graveyard. It used to be an important outfit. A sort of capital or something if the square was giving it straight. Had their kings here and the lot around a thousand years back, then some geezers came and pitched them and burned the whole deal flat. So it’s spooky, you get it, first and last it’s spooky. And the people here are like the place. We don’t get on with the people. They don’t want us, we’re just muck. They’ve had us dumped on them, that’s it. We might as well be a lot of nigs the way they give us the breeze. And then these squares who go the other way and try to be the big brother — Jesus Christ, we could murder them. We’ve had a pitch at one or two.


Laurence Elton, 17, a Latchford builder’s labourer, spent several hours at Latchford Police Station today assisting the police in their inquiries into the fatal accident at Five Mile Drove on Tuesday night. Elton, who owns a motorcycle, attended the jazz session at Castlebridge. The police took possession of a black leather riding suit and a pair of riding boots. The vigil continues at the bedside of Betty Turner.

There’s only one thing, man, there’s the road out of here. You had to go miles from the Smoke for a road to burn. When you’ve got the creeps on you you can kick it out to the road, then you can twist her round and go for the real. You know about that? You know the real when you touch it? Some of them smoke sticks or get the touch from a jazz scene. But not me. I’m a cool jeebie. I get the touch on the road. I want that tree growing up for me till it blacks out the sky. And then I could go, man. I could take it and keep going. I could go into the black because the black is the real. But not yet, I want to think about it, I want to go on touching. But one day I’ll do it. I’ll drive that tree into the sky.


Latchford Police today reported progress in their investigation into the fatal accident at Five Mile Drove on Tuesday night. Laboratory tests have been conducted on certain clothing in the hands of the Police. Laurence Elton, the teenager who has been assisting inquiries, was driven to the Police Station from his home in Paine Road this afternoon. The condition of the injured girl, Betty Turner, is said to be improving.

They fetched him into Inspector Setters’ office at about nine p.m. that night. He was trembling and screwing up his eyes because the lights in the cells were very dim ones. He was five foot ten and slim built. His crew cut made his hair look paleish. He’d got brown eyes and a snubbed nose and a girlish mouth and a big round chin. He was wearing a black windcheater with white-striped sleeves and tight black jeans with varnished brass studs in them. His shoes were fancy sneakers. He sported a ban-the-bomb badge.

‘Sit down, Elton,’ Setters said.

Elton sat on the chair in front of the desk. To the right of the desk sat Detective Sergeant Ralphs. The desk had some report sheets and other documents on it.

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