The tale continues. Why are things not more straightforward? Do I deserve such upsets? We pick up the story at the point where the police car carrying 2 police officers, myself and Ravel's brother Miron arrive at a layby some ten miles from the current location of the Institute.
Ravel..is that you?
The car pulled over suddenly when Miron yelled 'Here!' We had arrived at a spot previously unknown to myself, this being a layby used mainly by travellers. There were no other vehicles there, but I did see what looked like the form of a man huddled against the wall being illuminated by the lights of the police car. 'There he is....' said Miron pointing at the shadowy figure.
It was a cloudy night and very hard to see anything in the dark. The policeman told us to stay in the car whilst he investigated. We saw him walk over to the person huddled against the wall and a minute later both of them were walking back to the car.
It was indeed Ravel, clearly recognisable despite several days of growth and a miserable appearance. He looked very bedraggled, and one lip was swollen. 'Hello boss' he said, eyes downcast when he spotted me in the back of the car.
'Ravel.... is that you?.....where.....what the.....' I said, still feeling the effects of the whisky and wishing that I hadn't taken a single drop of the stuff. 'Where....Hadrian's....walking...lost?'
Ravel shook his head, apparently understanding my question despite its lack of structure. 'Boss, I must say something. Please do not get angry this time.'
He spoke slowly and with difficulty, still unused to articulating himself in English beyond the necessesties of working in a scientific laboratory.
'No anger. What happened?' I asked in what I assumed was a gentle voice.
'I phone my family one night and speak with Miron. He say he need to talk. He comes here and we meet.'
'Er......' I said, not quite understanding the simplicity of his story.
'Ok, so I don't walk the wall. I phone them because I get lost.'
'Its a wall.' How lose wall? Keep hand on top!' I exclaimed.
'Yes boss, but wall not there always. Got lost. Fall into... what is it called.....yes, bog. Lose money. No food three days. Not want to make you angry. Phoned family reverse charge. Miron tells me to wait, he is coming to help. Four days later he comes. '
By now we were all in the car and on the way back to the institute. Radio 2 was playing on the radio, which I found odd because I didn't know that police people like Radio 2. I felt that by noticing this anomaly I must be slowly sobering up, but at the same time I was disappointed that I was still unable to work out what had happened. Ravel had fallen silent and was looking at his feet.
So anyways, the journey continued uneventfully until about 5 miles from the Institute when Miron suddenly leant forward and barked at the policeman to stop. 'You let me go now yes? I do nothing wrong see?'
We were in the middle of nowhere at this point, a clear and easily discernable fact not missed by the lady policeman, who asked Miron where he was going.
'I get picked up here by friend in 30 mins. We arrange before using mobile phone. Here is phone see'.
'So why did your friend not give Mr Ravel a lift?'
'He drop me and leave on business. I not know how Ravel is then. He too weak to move. I go for food. That is all. I leave now.'
The police lady turned to look in turn at all three of us in the back of the car. Ravel was still looking at his feet. I could only shrug my shoulders with bemusement and Miron was beginning to look just a wee bit gangsterish, his eyes narrowing, his demenour slightly threatening.
'Do we have any reason to detain this man' she asked of her colleague. He shook his head.' OK then, you can go,' she then said to Miron.
We dropped Ravel's brother at a cross roads. He spoke briefly in Romanian (or was it Bulgarian? I can never remember) with Ravel before alighting from the car, and we left him standing there, smoking a cigarette in that slightly hunched way preferred by gangsters. As we moved away I was sure for a moment I saw him move his hand across his throat, but the combination of a dim light and my semi-drunken state made me immediately uncertain.
It was only when we approached the institute that I remembered the tupperware box of hedgehog stew that I had brought with me. I thought it might be on the floor but in fact I had left it on the seat. The tub had unfortunately been moved by the action of 3 grown men moving around at various junctures, and had become lodged between seat and seat back. I tugged on one corner, which did manage to release the box from the grip of the seats, but at the same time managed to dislodge the lid. In my inebriated state I thought that another tug would do the job and pulled as hard as I could.
Now what you might not know about Hedgehog stew is that, under certain circumstances,' it can be used to simulate the effects of a severe trauma that, say, involves the translocation of tissue from within the body to outside the body. A typical example under which this might work is when reconstructing the effects of a double-barrelled gunshot wound to the head. Traumas such as this have the habit of rendering stress amongst witnesses, and stress can have unpredicatable effects. So, when hedgehog stew is splattered all over the windscreen of a police-car travelling at speed in the dead of night down a narrow Scottish country lane, well...it is not unrealistic for the occupants of that car to react. Here's a breakdown of the reactions of the occupants 0.5-2 seconds after impact....
Police lady. 'Aaaaaaaagh!!!!'
Police man 'What the fuck.....shit, hold on.....'
Ravel 'Hedgehog stew?'
Dr McCrumble 'Fucking tupperware'
Fact number 2 about hedgehog stew is that it is almost opaque, like many other stews in fact, especially if they have been thickened or are otherwise congealed.
(Ancillary fact about opaque stews: if they hit the inside of windscreen it is IMPOSSIBLE to clear them by operating the windscreen wipers)
Approximately three seconds after the hedgehog stew hit the windscreen the policeman lost control of the car when he missed a corner due to visual obstruction and ploughed (careered, skidded, barrelled - choose your favourite) into a dry stone wall. We were all propelled forward, but luckily the policewoman had insisted we wear our seatbelts and our exit from the car was therefore assured. There then followed the usual inconveniences associated with a car crash, including the policeman threatening to string me up by my balls and set fire to my toursers. I wasn't sure whether this was a form of police bullying or simply the unpredicatble effects of stress. Either way, it meant that the night was becoming even longer. Now we had to wait to be rescued. And I was still feeling drunk, though the feeling of crashing a police car had injected yet another shot of adrenalin into my system and I became aware of whiplash pain in my neck as we waited for the rescue vehicle.
At least my number one research assistant is safe, I mused as were being driven away from the institute and towards the nearest town with a police station. And maybe what Miron had said was true - after all brothers can often be very close. But would someone really come all the way from Eastern Europe to resuce his brother from Hadrians wall....this was just one of several questions that still needed asking And what else lay in store? At that moment I had no idea, but unbeknownst to me there was going to be an even bigger upset within about 90 minutes of us waving goodbye to Miron.
For something was about to happen that would leave one person in jail and another in tears......