Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway - Chapter 8

Mr Horse and an extremely irate Jessie Johnson dragged giant body of Jocky Johnson through the door and they laid him onto a mattress on the bedroom floor.

Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Edward Kane and the Innocent Railway. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane

The wife started to loosen the laces of the boots of her sleeping husband and looked back towards Horse: “Whit have you done with Jocky’s hat?”

Horse said nothing, shrugged, then shook his head. The wife sighed and looked down.

“Roll him onto the floor. We cannae have these breeks on that new mattress. They’re reekin’ of pish. I’ll get them washed, mangled and ironed later. I’ll put them in front of the fire and they’ll be good for his work the morn’s morn.”

They rolled the sleeping giant onto the floor and left him there, now snoring lustily. Jessie Johnson closed over the door.

“Well sir I thank you for your trouble...”

Horse came in quickly: “No trouble at all ma’am. No trouble at all.”

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“Where did you find him?”

Horse thought quickly. Where was it that the old lady next door had said was Johnson’s usual drinking haunt?

“It was the Doric Tavern, madam...”

At this, the wife’s face grew thunderous, but Horse continued: “Me and your husband, we had a few in there. I knows Jock...”

“‘Jocky’, ye mean...”

“Of course, I knows ‘Jocky’ quite well...”

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Jessie Johnson looked Horse up and down: “He’s never mentioned you as a crony. And what do they cry you, sir?”

“My name is Smith. John Smith.” This was a lie, of course, but the name was common enough for it to sound true.

“And he was telling me all about the money, ma’am.”

The wife looked nervous: “The money?”

Horse was flying a kite now: “The money. The money that came after the little boy fell off that wagon and all. You know – the lad that was with your lad, Wally. At least that’s what Jock, er, ‘Jocky’ said...”

Jessie Johnson interrupted him: “Aye, well my husband says more than his prayers sometimes.” And then, defensively: “Any money he has is from his job, sir.”

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There was silence between them for a moment. Jessie Johnson eyed Horse up and down, then: “Well thank you, John Smith for bringing him home. But you must have other things you’d like to be doing now...”

Horse sighed: “Well, I’m telling you. After lugging that giant of a husband of yours up them stairs, I’m parched. I could well do with a nice cuppa tea. You wouldn’t have to worry about no milk or sugar ma’am...”

*****

It was a matter of some frustration to Edward Kane that Dr Stanton’s notes, while providing a comprehensive analysis of the injury sustained to the chid, had no record of the parties who had brought the child to the good doctor in the first place.

All that Dr Stanton could recall was that the body was delivered by two police officers and a rail employee. He had thought that one of the police officers was called “Wilson”. Thus it was that Kane made his way to the Police Office beside St Giles Church. To have a chat with this ‘PC Wilson’...

*****

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“And yes, Jocky was telling me all about your little lad – ‘Wallace’ is it?”

As Horse was about to finish a cup of (indifferent) tea, he was now homing in on his prey.

“Aye, that’s right, ‘Wallace’.” Jessie Johnson nodded.

“And Jock says that...‘Wally”, does he call him...?”

The wife frowned now: “No sir – he’d never call him ‘Wally”. That would be common...”

Be careful, Horse, mustn’t burst the bubble here...

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“Yes, yes – little ‘Wallace’ it was. I remember now. Little lad – a bit of a little rascal, so I hear...”

Jessie Johnson began to stare hard at Horse. Something had shifted between them now. Some maternal instinct had taken over and she sensed – somewhere in Horse’s various faux pas – a threat to her family. She nodded towards Horse’s cup: “That’ll be you finished, then Mr Smith. I’ll let you out and you can be on your way.”

“And where is your boy, ma’am? It would be a real pleasure to meet him. Heard so much about him from your husband.”

Jessie Johnson stood up abruptly: “”You’ll no’ mind me saying that the boy’s whereaboots are nane of your business, sir. Now, if you don’t mind, you can get out of my house. You’ve had your tea. I’ll take your cup and I’ll see you to the door...”

Horse began to apologise, but Mrs Johnson was having none of it. She snatched the cup from his hand and took his elbow, to raise him (willingly or not) from his chair.

Horse raised the palm of his hands in defence: “Madam, I apologise, truly, for anything that I might have...”

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But his words were interrupted by another voice. An angry one: “Jessie!”

The angry voice belonged to a giant of a man standing at the door of the sitting room. Jocky Johnson was awake now and everything about him offered the promise of a violent outcome. He barked at his wife: “Jessie! What’s happened to ma breeks? They're a' wet.”

And then his eye alighted on a sheepish-looking Horse, still sitting on the chair: “And who the blazes are you?”