Detective Manners, short and fat, sat at a cup of coffee. Progressing slowly through the Metropolitan police he carried the air of disappointment that a lot of forty year old men who use internet dating algorithms do. He had been given a case by a particularly irritating boss that was going nowhere. A series of missing vagrants across London, had dissapeared in similar circumstances. His response to this was ‘obviously’. Spread out in front of him were a series of photographs from half way houses and veteran’s organisations. Resigned and bored, he pushed them away and looked up out the window. A smartly dressed but unusually wizened man walked past. Buzzing with an energy he hadn’t seen since his first day when a pranking senior officer told him he’d been given a murder case which turned out to be a call from a nice lady who had had a tramp use her doorstop as a toilet, he looked down at the photo on the top of the pile and knew immediately it was the homeless man. Cleaned up and besuited; but the man.
Throwing five pounds at the counter and grabbing his photographs he ran out the door and began to follow the man. He went to a rather nice looking off license and bought two bottles of wine and a cigar. He then crossed the street to buy some pornography and continued casually down a well to do street of terraced houses. He noted the address the man entered and returned to his car, a shabby minute little thing that made him look slightly bigger by virtue of the strain required to enter it but no less ridiculous. He returned to the street and resigned himself to a night on ‘stake out’. He had never done this before and therefore his only point of reference was a few American movies. He thought perhaps he should invite a ‘buddy’ but he had no ‘partner’ so merely mirrored the food consumption. Sitting alone in the sodium half light, in an oven of smells from Subway sandwiches and Peperami, he began to make his discovery. One by one, the pictures in his folder were beginning to be associated with well dressed faces. Manners became wildly enthusiastic and put on some Status Quo to celebrate.
Further investigations the following morning told him that the house had had a significant basement room built a year ago and that they had applied for permission to grant marriages. On returning to the premises in the afternoon, quite to his astonishment there was a funeral in progress. Feeling confidence like he had never felt before, Manners in an act of almost mad recklessness started walking towards the front door and rang the bell. A cartoonish butler appeared seemingly straight out of Wodehouse.
‘I’m here to pay my respects.’
Manners entered a champagne wake. A clashing combination of people from either end of the social strata were interacting quite freely. He noticed how the homeless chose to wear lavish, almost outlandishly aristocratic dress. While the hosts were much more casually dressed in golf shirts and slacks like international business elites do. No one successful enough to wear a T-shirt and jeans was present, but there was the odd pair of trainers. Choking on his champagne Manners then noticed the coffin contained the very man he had seen yesterday. At this point a priest entered the room and, surprises now compounding like water drowning a rat, said something which was not predicted by Manners.
‘We are gathered here today to witness the matrimony of…’
After completing the wedding of an elderly woman to an elderly woman, a great volume of bureaucracy took place. Then the priest continued:
‘Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.’
And the coffin was lowered into a furnace.
Six months later, Manners was a little fatter and still unpromoted. He had taken to reading romantic literature, watching Renee Zellwegger based romantic comedies and drink. He had been convinced the work from the start of the year was to be his finest moment but of course it was not. He had found no wrong doing. No law had been broken.