When I wrote the other day, I was preparing myself for a court appearance to defend an accusation of assault on Mr Toby Hancock-Jones, a man whom had tormented me as a child and whom I had met some months ago in the Norfolk town of Kings-Lynn. Our encounter at that time has been previously described, and I don't think I need to recount the tale again. The upshot was that I was due to appear in front of a magistrate in Kings Lynn yesterday morning at 11am.
I can tell you now, I did not keep that appointment. The following is an accurate account of what happened. Even outside the court I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...
Those of you familiar with this blog will know that occasionally I have taken the option to flee my persecutors rather than stand up to them (ref: Mccrumble Incognito). Such occasions have been the result of my desire to protect my family rather than myself, and I must confess that I was tempted in the hours before my scheduled appearance in court to run into the Norfolk countryside. But my constitution held firm, and in fact I slept soundly on Monday evening, after travelling down south to a small motel just outside Kings Lynn itself.
I was awoken by Ravel bringing myself and Dolores a cup of tea at the usual time of 6:15am. He'd insisted on joining us for the trip, aware that I was about to be tried for assault and wishing to show his support. On the one hand I was very grateful for his loyalty, but at the same time I was slightly perturbed by his choice of travelling garments. I don't know about you, but I would never consider travelling long distances in army surplus clothing. When I had asked Ravel about his choice of apparel, all he had said was, 'Boss, the unknown is waiting. It is best always to prepare for eventual exit in hurry with good defence.'
'You aren't planning anything are you Ravel?' I enquired as he delivered the tea to myself and Dolores.
'Good morning Boss', said Ravel, smiling. 'Good morning Mrs McCrumble. Yes, I am planning breakfast. I think it is safer if you eat in your room. I have ordered eggs and toast and coffee for the both of you.'
'I'm not too worried about my safety yet Ravel. You can intervene if they drag me off to the cells if you like...'
Dolores swatted me with her Marie Clare magazine. 'Don't give him ideas you berk.'
Ravel left us alone to drink our tea. Dolores was showing signs of nervousness already, so I tried to comfort her. She has been feeling a bit unwell lately, and has been worried that the stress of the forthcoming trial will affect the development of our unborn child. To counter the effects of her increased levels of cortisol, I have adopted a method of talking in a soft and gentle manner to the foetus whilst massaging the bump, in the hope that Dolores's endorphin/serotonin levels will rise and the foetus itself will a) learn to recognise my voice and 2) realise that the world outside is welcoming and relatively peaceful. 'Foetus, oh foetus, wakey-wakey', I said, as gently as possible, my face pressed slightly onto Dolores's belly. 'This is your soon-to-be father speaking. Are you there, oh unborn one?'
There was a sharp kick from within, a sign that the foetus was responding to my greeting. 'Good morning foetus', I continued, 'now today is a very special day and I want you to know that you might hear some things that sound unusual. That's because we've traveled a long way to a new place where the people talk a bit different. If you hear a sound you don't recognise then don't worry. It's just someone saying something nice about you...'
'Will you stop that?', cut in Dolores. 'You're going to make it think the world outside is one big happy love-fest or something. The sooner it learns that its father is a criminal, the sooner we can steer it off the path to self destruction. Why not tell it the truth? I thought that was your thing?
Her acidic comments usettled me, and I was unable to respond to the allegation. My obsession with telling the truth and nothing but the truth has enabled me, in the past, to live through a number of misadventures with a clear conscience, yet here I was, telling a bare-faced lie to my unborn child merely to massage its impression of the world, which would, in truth, be nothing like the picture I was trying to paint.
My conundrum, fortuitously perhaps, was not allowed to persist. Ravel appeared moments later carrying a tray with our breakfasts. He had, he told us, persuaded the kitchen to move our breakfast preparation to the head of the queue by telling the cook that we were 'Important VIPs with very short tempers'
We ate in silence. I could sense Dolores becoming more tense as we prepared ourselves for the day's ordeal. I tried to be cheerful, but my efforts were unrewarded. By the time we left the motel, I felt like I had already been condemned, and was on my way to the cells rather than the court.
It was only a short drive into Kings Lynn. The morning rush hour (such as it is in this part of Norfolk) had receded, and we arrived earlier than I had estimated. We parked up close to the magistrate's court and waited in the car until I saw my solicitor arrive. We exchanged solemn greeting before moving indoors.
Once inside we were told that we were briefed on the procedure and then told that we would have to wait a while until our case was called. There was nothing to do but hang around fidgeting and trying to make small talk. Dolores needed to sit down, but I felt that I could not relax and instead started to pace up and down. Eventually I found myself opposite a vending machine, and it struck me that my predicament had come to resemble that of a bag of cheese-and-onion crisps trapped at the back of the machine. Unable to free itself, kept in place by physical restraints, inching painfully towards freedom but always scarred with the stigma of having been a vending machine item.
I spoke to the crisps, as if only they could understand my torment. I went over the events of previous months, trying to come to terms with the things I have done, the consequences of my actions, the mistakes I have made. Was everything finally about to come crashing down?, I asked. Was I, Dr Joseph McCrumble, scientist-artist in residence at the Cumbernauld Institute of Parasitology, proud father of twin boys, faithful husband to my beautiful wife, some-time lecturer at various universities, explorer of distant lands, part-time celebrity, and all round good-egg, about to face the prospect of being tarred and feathered by a mob of vigilantes? And all because I dared to take a stand against a man who had ruined several years of my childhood with his mental and physical bullying. Had it all come to nothing?
I was welling up with pathos and self pity. I'm not proud of my emotional outburst, but under the circumstances I think it was justified. The small crowd were wide eyed with bemusement as they watched me thumping at the vending machine, my cries becoming ever more pathetic. Eventually someone came over and told me in a deep but feminine voice that I needed to put in 50p if wanted the crisps. The same person patted me firmly on the shoulder as they spoke. It was a large hand, and as it pressed onto my shoulderbone I was reminded of a time some weeks ago when a similarly large hand had been pressed on my shoulder in a very similar fashion. That time it had been my former receptionist, Denise, just as she told me she was resigning her post at the Institute for the 3rd new-year in a row with the words 'don't worry about me Dr McCrumble, I'll do what's right.'
This time it was -
'DENISE!' I cried as I put the voice and firm grip together. I spun round to see my receptionist standing there, resplendent in a dark purple knee length dress, a big smile on her broad face, her trademark sunglasses resting atop her golden hair. 'What the..how, where?', I spluttered.
Denise removed her hand from my shoulder and told me to follow her. We moved through the small crowd, collecting Dolores and Ravel en route to somewhere beyond the waiting area. Everyone was surprised to see my recently departed receptionist and kept trying to ask her what was going on. To each answer, though, she would only say that everything was about to be made clear.
Upon reaching the men's toilets, Denise ushered us all inside. Dolores initially refused, but Denise insisted and essentially pushed us all over the threshold. One of the cubicles was occupied, but only until Denise knocked on the door. We all heard the toilet flush and watched with baited breath as slowly the door opened.
What greeted us was a sight I did not expect, but which was about to change the course of events in dramatic fashion.....