This is a one-shot featuring the character of DS Terry Reid as created in A Touch of Frost by Robert Glenister. It's set just after the end of the events in the story "Heat" which I co-authored with aliis, and shortly before the TV story "Hidden Truth"
I don't own Reid but by gum I wish I did!
For the girls at RGAS - enjoy! (but anyone else who wants to read and comment is very welcome!)
He was growing heartily sick of boxes and packaging. Stacks of the former and bundles of the latter were strewn across the ground floor of the modest sandstone terraced house which was slowly metamorphosing into Reid's new home. Upstairs was less chaotic; he'd made a conscious decision to unpack as much as he could downstairs so that when he finally gave up for the day he'd be able to fall over onto the bed without having to move a stack of junk first.
It was amazing, thought Reid, how even a relatively clutter-free lifestyle such as his could generate a plethora of packing materials. He genuinely didn't have much, and had been trained to stow kit efficiently since he was sixteen. Even so, by the time clothing, music system, CDs, associated books and magazines, kitchen paraphernalia and his furniture had all been accounted for he had enough to fill a good-sized van. The contents of said van had been disgorged into the front room and kitchen of 18 Bracken Hill, Denton by the removal lads around midday; they'd put the bed and wardrobe upstairs for him and then hurried off for their lunch.
It was now nearing half four and Reid, still lunchless himself, was beginning to flag. He'd noticed a chip shop at the top of the street as they turned down the hill, and had promised himself that once he'd cleared away the empty boxes he would have a walk up there and see what time they opened.
Flicking out his pocket-knife Reid slashed deftly though the tape holding the boxes together and folded them flat, making a pile which he tied together with string. Then he swung open the door to the cellar and set off down the dimly-lit stairs, holding his awkward burden out in front of him so that he could peer at his feet.
He was almost at the bottom when something made a hideous noise and there came an explosion of movement around his ankles. Startled, Reid lost his balance and his grip, dropped the boxes and half-fell down the last three or four steps before he grabbed the wall to steady himself. "What the hell…?" he exclaimed aloud, and then stared around in horror as he caught the first whiff of the smell.
Somehow, a cat had got shut in the cellar, and there was ample evidence, both visual and aromatic, of the creature's presence. He must have put his foot on it as he descended the steps, though what the hell the stupid animal had been doing lying there was beyond him. Swearing richly under his breath Reid dumped the boxes on a clean section of floor and went hunting.
A quick clatter round the kitchen, banging on cartons and cupboard-sides, brought no result and the living-room was deserted. Heading upstairs with a growing feeling of foreboding Reid stooped to peer under the bed and was met by a low, angry growling and a glare from two large yellow eyes. He put a hand under the bed to hook the interloper out and was rewarded by the whip of a sharp claw which caught the ball of his thumb and opened an impressive gash.
Sucking the injured digit and cursing ever more fruitily Reid picked up his mobile and rang the Siamese-cat-owning Sheila Boydeau.
When she'd finished laughing at him, Sheila was as practical as ever. "Don't try to force it out, whatever you do," she counselled. "You'll make it even more scared, and then it'll go all over your bedroom carpet. Have you got any sardines? Or a tin of tuna? You need to tempt it out so you can grab it from behind – get hold of its scruff at the back of its neck, then wrap it in a good big towel."
Ten minutes later saw a trail of saucers leading from bedroom to landing, each with a bite-sized portion of fish in the centre. Reid settled himself out of sight in the doorway of the landing cupboard and reflected that all the long hours of surveillance he'd put in over the years at least meant he was good at waiting. After perhaps twenty minutes he heard small sounds coming from the bedroom, and shortly afterwards the cat appeared on the landing and headed toward the next saucer, so intent on the food that it totally ignored him.
Instead of pouncing Reid watched for a few moments. The cat was a big, handsome ginger with white paws and chest, thin and dirty but clearly not feral. He shifted his weight a little and the cat turned its head to the sound, flattening its ears slightly. When Reid stayed still the animal warily went back to eating, and when it had finished it glanced at him again and then headed down the stairs.
Intrigued and diverted by the animal's air of self-possession Reid waited a few moments and then slowly followed. The cat had settled itself where the hearthrug would have been if Reid had possessed one and was having a fair attempt at a wash, although the dirt in its coat was so ground in that all it was achieving was a series of damp patches. As the cat turned its head to lick its flank Reid realised that it was injured, and that at least some of the smell came from the festering wound on its shoulder.
He was never sure afterwards what prompted his next actions, unless it was a vague feeling of admiration for the cat's courage in the face of adversity. Instead of kicking the cat out of the door and going to buy his long-awaited dinner, Reid picked up a nearby blanket which had been used to pad the contents of one of the boxes, scooped up the cat, dropped it into a handy container, taped up the lid, found the phone-book and called the local vet.
Early evening found Reid sitting in his chair watching with amusement as the slowly-recovering cat tried to work out why his back legs wouldn't do as they were told.
"He's only young," the pleasant lady vet had said, "about two or three years old, and he's been someone's pet, I'd guess. It's a shame, really." Reid shot her an enquiring look and she elaborated. "He's a bit old to find a home quickly, and he needs treatment, and castrating, too. All that costs money, and unless I can find a Cats' Protection group who've got a space…" she tailed off.
"How much are we talking about?" Reid asked, almost before he knew he was going to say anything.
A hundred quid and a fish supper later, here they both were. The cat managed to gain his feet, took an experimental step and looked at his hindquarters in disgust as they promptly collapsed in a heap.
Reid snorted with suppressed laughter. "Here you go, Charlie," he said, dragging the cat gently across to a blanket beside which he'd placed a bowl of posh cat-food recommended by the vet and a bowl of water. The name had drifted into Reid's head whilst he'd waited at the vet's, partly from Arsenal's Charlie George and partly because his new companion looked not unlike the cartoon moggy from the cult Public Information Films of Reid's youth. Charlie sniffed, ate a little, drank a lot and then gingerly settled himself into a tea-cosy position, yellow eyes half-closed.
Satisfied that his patient was comfortable Reid continued with his interrupted unpacking. He found himself chatting to the cat as he pottered around, and was pleased to see him gradually relaxing as he recovered. By the time Reid had decided to turn in for the night the food had all been eaten and Charlie had fallen into a sound, apparently blissful slumber. Reid headed upstairs with every intention of doing likewise.
It wasn't unusual for Reid to suffer night terrors, but he'd hoped that being completely knackered might grant him a brief reprieve. He was therefore heartily pissed off to find himself wide awake at four in the morning and faced with the choice of getting up or lying and waiting for daylight.
As he tossed and cursed in the tangle of the duvet he heard the soft creak of the door swinging open. A few seconds later a lithe weight landed on the bed as Charlie arrived to inform Reid that he felt a lot better, thanks, and that the bed looked like a good place for a lie-down. A spell of enthusiastic paw-paddling followed, succeeded by a thorough exploration of the bed to find the prime spot. Eventually, satisfied that he had covered every detail, Charlie settled himself in the crook of Reid's knees, curled into a contented ball and gave vent to a rich, booming purr.
Reid, touched by the cat's acceptance and unwilling to disturb its slumber, lay listening to the purring in the darkness. Lulled by the sound, and soothed by the solid warmth of the cat's presence, he drifted quietly to sleep.