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A Partial Sanitation

September 2, 2012

It was at our caravan in North Wales that I began my novel The Petrie Consignment.  And I realise now, two years on from our painful goodbye to the van, how integral the novel was to the whole Talacre experience.  Yvette, Martin, Kate, Joe, Scorp…I dreamt them up wandering the dunes with binoculars around my neck for birdwatching.  Or nursing a half of lager outside the Red Lion (Y Llew Coch), Llanasa, enjoying the tranquil beauty of that sleepy old village in the hills.  It was at the Point of Ayr, on the lighthouse steps, I had the idea for the story, and much of the action takes place in the locality.

I suspect it’ll take a return to Talacre, but maybe someday I’ll feel the pulse of the novel again and take cruel delight in driving my characters into the maelstrom I have planned for them… We’ll see.

In the following extract, Yvette (codename Balestra) arrives in Rhyl, hot on the scent of Scorp, the international terrorist who killed her fiancé Bernard Labau, along with another SPHP gendarme, in a Paris rooftop shootout five years before… 




Rain freckled the windows of her Holborn apartment but the weather girl on TV promised sunshine later.  Having slept in until nine-thirty, Yvette was naked beneath her white towelling dressing gown as she fixed herself a simple breakfast of grapefruit segments, muesli and coffee.  It was Bank Holiday Monday.

The phone shrilled and it was no surprise when she heard his calm, assured tones.  She was still aquiver from their night together.  Joe had left at six.  He was on bank holiday cover at Thames House.  “Sorry, love, but I’ve just taken a call from Rhyl.  There’s been a sighting…”

An hour later, smartly attired in a black trouser-suite and silver scarf, her pre-packed bags stowed in the boot of her old red Peugeot, Yvette joined the bank holiday exodus on the northbound M1.  A stubby handgun nestled in her glove compartment and she sang along to the radio with vengeance in her heart.




Rhyl at last, scouse accents everywhere in the bank holiday melee, chubby youths with burgers, chubby kids with candyfloss, gaudy amusement arcades with music thumping and the screech of gulls carried aloft on a warm breeze off the Irish Sea.

Fifty yards up a side street, The Griffin Hotel was a faded 2-star establishment with bay trees in pots on either side of the portico. 


As she came through the revolving door into the foyer, a young woman rose from her seat and came forward with outstretched hand.  She had a cool, svelte look, dark streaky hair in loose coils, white jacket, expensive blue jeans.

“Ms Grindle?  Hi, I’m DS Pearl Reid from Colwyn Bay.  Sorry we missed him this morning.  He escaped through the goods entrance ten minutes before we arrived with Armed Response. ”

“Yvette, please.  Yes, he’s a slippery bastard, our Scorp.  Do we have paper suits?  I’d like to take a look at the room.”

The lift whisked them to the second floor and three minutes later – suited up white with masks and overshoes – they passed through the yellow police tape and were admitted to Room 22, where Pearl introduced her to the Crime Scene Investigators as “Yvette, our colleague from Five.”

Dust motes danced in the sunlight slanting in between the heavy drapes of the big bay window.  The fire surround was one of those Victorian cast-iron jobs but a spray of dried reeds now nestled in the opening.  The flowery wallpaper was tired-looking, the brown carpet becoming worn.  It was a comfortably furnished, old-fashioned room but scattered now with numbered yellow evidence markers for the crime scene photographs.

“Anything to positively identify Scorp?”

Yvette’s question was addressed to Gully Thomas, the Senior SOCO, but Pearl got in first.  “Looks like him on CCTV – you can see the tattoo on his right forearm when he signs the register.  Show you later at the station.  I’ll show you footage of his visitors too.”

Gully glanced at Pearl as if to say, “Finished?”

Speaking from behind his mask, the Welshman had a pleasant lilting voice.  “There’s been a partial sanitation.  No prints, nail trimming or hair.  No bodily fluids.  But Number Seven in the en suite might be interesting – a tiny pink fragment of some sort.  Bet it turns out to be dried denture fixative.  We know Scorp wears an upper denture.  Question is whether we’ll get a DNA match.”

“A partial sanitation…curious.”  This from Pearl.

“Ummm…very.” Gully turned back to Yvette.  “Surfaces wiped and so on, but scraps left behind.  Carelessness perhaps…or planted?  The scraps seem to indicate the nature of the meeting.  Number Six, in the bin, a scrunched up page torn from a spiral-bound notepad.  Incomprehensible doodles over the imprint of various words and figures that had obviously been scribbled on the page above.  Here’s a transcription.”

Yvette took the note proffered.



RB – demo.

BB – £24m diamonds (verified) in adv.


“Number Eight is particularly worrying, a small sealed phial wrapped in toilet tissue in the bottom of the pedestal as if flushed down unsuccessfully.  The phial contains some thick grey substance.  I won’t speculate.  Suffice to say I’ll slap a bio-chemical warning label on it.”

Pearl had to state the obvious.  “You’re thinking of the Petrie Consignment.”

Yvette said, “I need you to work miracles here, Gully.  Any chance of your preliminary report in the morning?”

“Phah!  No bloody chance unless I work all night…I’ll work all night.”

“Thanks, Gully.”




Copyright © Paul Beech 2012



From → Novel

  1. stella permalink

    Paul, hope youll finish the novel someday. I want to know what happens to Yvette and whether Scorp gets his comeuppance. Stella x

  2. Thanks, Stel. As you know, I didn’t so much abandon my novel as become sidetracked from it. The loss of our caravan was a factor too as the story is set mainly on our beloved stretch of North Wales coast.

    I often have a hankering to get back to ‘The Petrie Consignment’ as the characters are still very real to me, and so is the tug of Talacre. But there are other writing projects I wish to pursue as well, so it’s a matter of priorities really – this plus an honest assessment of the novel’s appeal. I’ve posted extracts here to test the water and your positive comment means a lot to me.

    With love from Paul (“Hubby”) xxx

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