Cornelius Turvaville.


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Terry R Barca

Angry, bored and desperate is no way to be when you are a fifteen-year-old boy.
‘Nelly’ Turvaville, [no one called him Cornelius, not even his mother] had a soft spot for the boy and the boy almost didn’t know that ‘Nelly’ existed.
That is often the way with young men, and Sam was not quite old enough to be called a man, not just yet.
In the very near future circumstances would accelerate his maturity but for now his future dangled by a thin thread.
If Nelly decided that he was not worth the effort then Sam’s story would probably include the description of the inside of a goal cell.
“This kid is either going to be very good or very bad.”
It seemed that Sam was destined not to be mediocre.
Nelly was wise enough to know that peaking Sam’s curiosity and challenging his pride were the keys to his attention.
“I’ll bet you don’t have the stomach for a dead body?”
There were many dead people in Sam’s family and pretty much all of his relatives, who weren’t still alive were dead, but he had to admit that he had never seen any of the dead ones.
He’d never seen a dead person related or not, but he was not going to let this geezer know that. Besides, this sounded interesting; it might lead somewhere that was slightly less boring than here.
“I’ve seen heaps of dead people. Some of them had their guts hanging out.”
“Then you won’t mind coming down to the Coroner’s court with me to identify a client?”
There was only a slight hesitation. “Yeah I’ll come with you, but why do you have to identify the body?”
“He is, or was, alone in the world and, for a fee, he asked me to help him. A fee I’ll probably never collect, but I owe him this much. Everyone should have a name when they put you in the ground.”
“Was it your fault that he kicked off?”
“Kinda. I was a bit too slow in finding out who was after him. The creep got to the client before I got to the creep. So I guess you could say that it was partly my fault.”
“What about the creep. Are you going to croak him?”
“That’s not what I was hired to do. I was hired to find the person who was after my client, and that’s exactly what I did. I gave the info to the cops and now it’s their job. They want me to identify the creep as well.
It’s my week for identifying people.
You can come along for that one as well, if you like. One dead, one alive. A matching set.”
“Yeah, I’ll come.”
Nelly had an ‘in’ with the Morgue attendant so he was able to smuggle the boy into a world that was usually forbidden to minors. Sam was smart enough to know that he was in on something that other kids could only dream about.
The morgue attendant went away and came back with a waste paper basket.
It came in handy as the sights and smells took their toll.
Sam’s head was buried in the basket a few times but he always came back to Nelly’s side.
Nelly noted Sam’s courage.
The second identification was less ‘chunderous’ and this time he had to pretend to be Nelly’s nephew to get past the desk Sergeant. Nelly was impressed by the boy’s cheek. He was a natural liar, but then again most boys are at that age.
Nelly pointed out the murderer without hesitation and he was led away to be formally charged.
“I didn’t really need the hint Sarge. I was the one who tracked him down. By the way, he was the third bloke from the left, not the fourth, but it’s the thought that counts.”
The Sergeant didn’t think that Nelly was even a little bit amusing but Nelly was beyond caring.
He saw a glimmer of hope for the young man and he was looking forward to teaching him his trade.
Sam was an eager learner and as the next few years went by he absorbed the finer points of lock picking and following a suspect. Amazingly it seemed that the closer you followed someone the less likely they were to know that you were following them.
Adults rarely took much notice of young people so Sam was the perfect person to follow a target who would normally be looking for a tail.
Sam learned how to fire and service a revolver. “Automatics might be sexy but if they jam you might as well have your dick in your hand for all the good it will do you. Always carry spare shells. If nothing else, you can always leave a bullet in a bloke’s letterbox, it has an excellent laxative effect.”
Sam also learned the fine art of sitting on your arse for hours while a suspect slept soundly in their bed. “It’s boring as hell but it gets results just often enough to make it worthwhile. Don’t fall asleep and don’t drink coffee unless you have an old milk bottle to pee in!”
Sam learned that, “Paperwork sucks but when things go wrong it will get you out of the shit.”
“Always get paid, leave the booze alone, women are poison except for the ones who aren’t, always carry cash, spare ammunition and a handkerchief. No tissues, always a handkerchief, they come in handy for all sorts of things and they wipe off fingerprints without leaving fibers. Tissues go in the bin and can be used against you, handkerchiefs go in the wash, and one looks very much the same as another. You can use them as a filter with a vacuum when gathering fine particles and you can use them to plug up holes on a cold windy night, and nothing will get you laid quite like the gesture of handing a weeping woman a freshly washed and ironed handkerchief.”
Of course, all this activity was worked around Sam’s school work.
Nelly would not have it any other way.
“You pass your exams and I’ll teach you the business. No school, no gumshoe.”
Sam was bright, but like any intelligent child he disliked school. Now he had a reason to stick it out. Nelly would not tolerate low grades so Sam worked hard.
By the time Sam had received entrance to university he had learned all that Nelly could teach him.
Sam was half way through his second year when he got the news that Nelly had been killed in a fight with a bloke who liked to beat his wife.
Nelly wasn’t very big and the husband was.
Women beaters were the top of Nelly’s hate list and he had metered out a bit of instant justice over the years but on this occasion something went wrong and Nelly’s skull hit the ground way too hard.
The wife beater got 10 to 15 for manslaughter and Nelly got a hole in the ground and a headstone.
Sam was Nelly’s only ‘family’ and it was Sam who organised the headstone.
As a finally ‘dig in the ribs’ the stone bore the name Cornelius Turvaville.
Sam fully expected ‘Nelly’ to haunt him for that, but that was OK by him.
The world would not be the same without Nelly.

12 thoughts on “Cornelius Turvaville.

  1. nicely done sir. I was reading it quite critically (I’m in editing mode for my own work at the moment), and when you got to the morgue I thought “he’s not described it. Shame, as morgues are so atmospheric.” Then I read ‘It came in handy as the sights and smells took their toll.’ Bang. Ninja’d.

    Loved this piece too: ‘Automatics might be sexy but if they jam you might as well have your dick in your hand for all the good it will do you. Always carry spare shells. If nothing else, you can always leave a bullet in a bloke’s letterbox, it has an excellent laxative effect.”’

    Love the black humour at the end. So in keeping with the tone.


    • Thank you. I love you in editing mode.
      On the subject of description……. I think that I don’t do it enough and I’m wondering why. The authors I read don’t do a lot of it but they do more than I do.
      Part of it comes from writing short , short stories. I don’t want to clutter up the piece.
      Part of it comes from my assumptions [which is not good] my head says ‘everyone knows what a police station looks like’, well maybe they do and maybe they don’t.
      I too have been deep in editing mode. I just finished my first Novella and I’m entering it into a couple of competitions, hoping to be short listed at least.
      The editing process is less painful than I remember. The most interesting parts have been my determination to cull 10% [made it to 7%]. Also fun; deciding which bits should stay and which should go.
      Amazingly, I like the end result. It pretty much became what I envisioned.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I value your opinion.


  2. I have already left you a comment on CSB (which you’ve replied to). Just wanted to make it known on your own site how much I enjoyed this story in particular and your writing overall 🙂


    • Thank you Peter you know how much I admire your work, and to be mentioned in the same sentence with Raymond Chandler………. wow. Don’t worry, I promise not to get a big head!
      I was hoping for a Chandler type feel and it is pleasing that it came through.


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