Reeth again 2005

dDyce was up and about, then sitting and reading. Music choice. Let’s have Big D. Nice concert. A semi-professional choir from Edinburgh. High-brow and worthy but listenable to. Pleasing background for Dyce, a tad funereal for others. Can’t hear the words, but sets a mood. Jagg surfaced an hour later, sockless and biligerent, ‘What the bloody hell was all that?’ ‘It’s Big D.’ ‘It’s bloody rubbish.’ Jagg took a turn round the lounge, ’Next door would’ve been woken up, never name me. Gerit switched off.’ A subtle line between genuine strop and the part that Jagg took on as Dyce’s main antagonist. Dyce never quite knew where the line was. He returned to his novel – an American police procedural. The opening chords of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ began. The edge still had plenty of snow. Drifted and impassable behind the walls. Difficult heather otherwise and an easy walk had turned into a bit of a slog. Dyce was up ahead, trying to ignore the black mood that was brewing behind him. ‘Can’t do much more of this,’ Jagg was muttering and clearly audible. Appeasing Pick, destined to be in the middle for ever, ‘Well no, not with my knee.’ Dyce heard a shout, ‘We can go down here, I know where we are.’ Such certainty. Pick knew where he was on the map. Keeping Jagg happy. As long as everybody is happy. Not much of a grid reference. Dyce wanted to go the full distance, ‘I’ll meet you at the pub.’ Jagg scowled at a snowdrift, ‘Go on then.’ Jagg’s car was parked outside ‘The Red Lion’. Dyce wasn’t surprised. Jagg had on a big smile behind a pint of best. The landlady had a hairstyle that Dyce remembered from primary school. Tall for a woman, flat chested, plainly dressed in trousers and a sensible top. Her idea of a sandwich came in four small pieces of sliced ham between thin bread-like quarters. The fire had a light on, but no heat came from it. Jagg was unpurturbed. Pick’d a pork pie on a plate of mustard. Happy for a short while. ‘Another missing link. You have it to do, to see it,’ he said, ‘you wouldn’t believe it otherwise. Her mother lives here too. She wrote the sign.’ The sign – a request for men to remove their hats prior to entry. ‘Ehup missing link’s here again. She’s stalking us.’ They’d seen her at the supermarket, and then at the weekly market on the green. Well a mobile veg shop from down the dale and a butcher selling from out the back of a white van. Jagged lurched his way through two dinners. Always spot on – large portions. On automatic. Dripping fat and bits. Dyce washed the floor three times, and was forever bfinding little green and orange bits, even in the bathroom – Jagg said they were lentils. To do with those pints of best. The Punch Bowl shut a year last Christmas. ‘Life as we know it has just ended,’ said Pick. It is up for sale, but no takers. The Kings Head at Gunnerside is also up for sale. Needs a new roof. Certainly needs a new landlord or new customers or something. Turned into right miserable place. All this news from the landlady at The Farmers at Muker, a lively little spot for a wet Thursday lunchtime. The fire in The Kings Head, Reeth was still in, the logs no smaller. Dyce had not seen Pick pick up strangers before, more like Big D. Talking bollocks about where and how many times they’ve been to the dales area. Everyone has a story, a sort of ownership. Dyce had no idea why they did it. Talking to perfect strangers in a bar? Twice.