Story by Big M

The Pigs Arms had been in great, good OKish hands during Merv’s hospitalisation.

Granny had, of course, gone into overdrive, cooking breakfasts, cleaning, brewing beer, swapping out kegs, and so on. Janet (Mrs Merv) managed to visit Merv every day with the twins in tow, and either read to him, or told him about the goings on at the pub. Rosie went once a week to wax his ears.  Even our intrepid Foodge had put his Very Important Business on the back burner, and worked as bartender, cleaner and counsellor to the bereft and weak minded. Everyone was grateful that Merv had recovered from his coma, and had been moved to the rehabilitation wing of the hospital.

It was mid morning, and Foodge was doing his best impression of Merv polishing a glass whilst staring into space. O’Hoo plonked his no longer bulbous arse on a creaky bar stool and waited for Foodge to finish his ritual before ordering his double ‘expresso’. Foodge carefully placed the glass on the shelf behind the bar then busied himself with the various knobs and valves on the coffee machine. ‘O’Hoo, you’ve become rather industrious since Mr Merv’s admission to hospital.’ Then placed the mug on a coaster in front of O’Hoo.

“Why, are you implying I’m normally bloody lazy?’ O’Hoo took a sip of the steaming, thick, black liquid. ‘Bloody good coffee, though!’

‘No, no, no, as if I would infer that a gentleman of your standing was lazy, No!’ Foodge gave the timber bar another wipe. ‘No, it’s just that, since Mr Merv has been ill you have taken time off work, moved into the pub and single-handedly renovated all of the plumbing, painted rooms, regrouted tiles, replaced window glass, and so on.’

O’Hoo took another gulp from the old cracked mug. ‘Quite frankly, I owe Merv.  You might remember that DCI Rouge and I had some trouble with the pleece. There was an APB on us and the local uniformed lads were closing in on the pub, when Merv smuggled us out the back door and Fern, who had been sacked in a previous episode, drove us at high speed away from the world of The Window Dressers Arms, Pig and Whistle.’

They were interrupted by Granny who was holding two plates of eggs, sausages, bacon, wedges, tomatoes and mushrooms. ‘For my hardworking boys.’ Granny still had that twinkle in her eye since that morning she’d woken up with this pair.

Anyhoo, Merv had shoved an envelope in my hand which contained a note and ten thousand bucks. The note had the address of Lenny De Loupe, document forger to the mob, and the words, ‘GET THE FUCK OUTTA NSW!’  So, what did we do? We went straight round to Lenny’s, who refused to see us, until he read the note from Merv. That was the Golden Ticket. His first recommendation was to send us to Vinnie’s, where we picked up a musty old three-piece suit  ‘n’ hat for me, a ladies’ suit for Rouge, and a wheel chair.’

‘A wheel chair?’ Interjected Foodge, who had made a second ‘expresso’ for O’Hoo.

‘Yep, he reckoned the best disguise was some sort of disability or injury, so he got me in the suit, with an old black Homburg and old fashioned sun glasses, sat me in the wheel chair, and told me that I was now Professor Lambert, retired neurologist, who, ironically, suffered from some rare nervous disorder, so couldn’t speak or walk. Rouge became Mrs Lambert, R.N and carer. He booked us tickets on the Sydney-Melbourne train, and berths on the Spirit of Tasmania. Lenny claimed that security was so lax on trains and boats, that just about anyone could go anywhere in Australia, as long as they didn’t fly. We had a pretty unremarkable trip from Central Station to Devonport. Once we were back on land I ditched to chair and the hat, then we hitched to Hobart. The rest is history. ‘ O’Hoo stood up, as if to go.

‘Hold on O’Hoo, none of US know this history, you just re-appeared half way though a chapter.’ Foodge blustered.

‘Does it matter? There’s bugger all continuity in this story!’ O’Hoo sat back down. ‘Besides, I might not want to talk about it, or haven’t you noticed that I came back by myself?’

‘Well, err…um.ah’ Foodge tried to cover his embarrassment by sliding a glass canoe across the bar.

“Now you’re talking, son.’ OHoo took a long pull on his pint. ‘Ah, that’s bloody good, well, we stumbled into a little pub in West Hobart, not unlike this one, in that the plumbing was shit, most rooms needed repainting, but, best of all, they were short a bar maid. We received a roof over our heads, food and drink for our labour, no questions asked, while we waited for things to cool off.’

‘Go on, go on.’ Foodge pushed another frothy chop across the bar.

‘Things went on swimmingly until I was caught with my finger in the till. Rouge was horrified, and took off without a word.’

‘Well, stealing from your boss is a low act.’ Foodge reached forward to retrieve the pint, but half of it was already down O’Hoo’s neck.

‘I tried to explain; I literally had my finger stuck in the till. I had sold a couple of packets of chips to a bloke. They had to call the fire brigade and the paramedics. While I was waiting, in great pain, something came up on the news about the NSW Pleece having concerns for our welfare, because they were searching for us to give us an award!’

Foodge’s face visibly relaxed. ‘So where is Rouge?’

‘Dunno, that’s the great mystery. I searched for her for a cuppla months. Very few leads. One took me to Bruny, another to Strachan, then St Helens. I zig zagged the island a cuppla times, but always just missed her.’ O’Hoo skulled the last of his pint, then exchanged it for a fresh canoe. ‘I ended up going to the Pleece. Of course, I was the prime suspect, so was held for questioning, which is what I woulda done, so just wore it. They searched everywhere, checked plane and ferry departures, put out an APB, the whole bit. In the end I just came home.’

‘So where is this award?’ Foodge wanted the entire story.

‘I had to go and see the Commishnar of Pleece, partly to explain my absence, and to accept the award. I asked if I could defer it until Rouge was able to stand next to me, and receive hers.’ O’Hoo shook his head, then finished his pint.

Foodge wiped a little tear from his eye, then stared off into the distance, absent-mindedly polishing a glass.