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The Darlington Substitution (Chapter 2)

20th February 2018
(Short Story)

< Chapter 1

The next day I crawled out of my hangover and telephoned BBC Tees to enquire into the prospect of a radio interview with Charles Darlington. Our near altercation in O’Connell’s now forgotten, I was keen to profit from the exposure a radio interview would give my book. If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting them to agree, however they seemed positive and very open to the idea. The lady who took my call said she would talk to the show’s producer who would call me back once a slot on the show was agreed. A few hours later I received a call and was booked in for a recording on the Friday of the next week, with the show scheduled to be broadcast at two thirty the following Wednesday.

I was ebullient. An appearance on local radio could be just the thing to kickstart my book sales. Given that the stories of my adventures with Holmes had already been published in the Evening Gazette, I needed to find a new audience. I wasn’t sure how many people tuned into the Charles Darlington Show, but it seemed safe to assume that not all of them read the Gazette.


That evening I bounded into the Twisted Lip to find Holmes at our usual table. “Sherlock,” I announced, “I’m going to be on the radio. BBC Tees have said I can promote my book.”

Holmes: The Darlington Substitution by Melvyn Small“Nice one, Doc. What time are you on? I might tune in.”

“I was wondering if you’d like to come along with me?”

“I’d rather step on a three-pin plug.”

“I’ll take that as a no then, shall I?”

“I would.”

I sighed. “But you will listen to it though? We can make a thing of it. I can bring my radio into the pub. I might need a few pints anyway. It’s never great listening to a recording of your own voice.”

I was damned if I was going to let his indifference knock my enthusiasm.

“When is it again?” queried Holmes.

“Wednesday, the week after next at two thirty.”

“Mm. I might be watching golf.”


“Yeah, golf.”

“Do you like golf?”

“Not really. There’s not a lot of fun in trying to spot a white dot in the sky.”

My shoulders dropped as I sank into my chair like a disappointed teenager.

A broad grin fixed across his face. “Of course I’ll be listening to it. You’re right. We should have a bit of a party. Maybe Mary could knock up some sandwiches…  crisps, nuts, crab sticks, that sort of thing. Oh,” he exhaled, “we could have parmo in a bun.”

“Why don’t you join me?” I asked, hoping I could transform his change of mood into a change of mind.

“No,” came his response, reinforced by a single shake of the head. “I want nothing to do with it.”

“It’s a shame really,” I conceded as I slid further into my chair. “You could have helped me pick the songs.”

“What songs?” queried Holmes.

“It’s just that during my interview they’re going to play five songs and I get to choose them.”

“Oh, right,” he exclaimed. “We’ve got to have some George in there.”

“ ‘We’ Sherlock? These are my choices.”

“We do everything together.”

“Except radio interviews,” I reminded him.

Holmes dismissed me with a scowl and a shake of the head.

“George who?” I asked. “George Clinton? George Harrison? George Melly?”

“George Harrison? Now there’s a thought. Here Comes the Sun is a track and a half, but I’m saving that for my funeral.”

“Really?” I remarked, staggered by the way he seemed to be wresting the choices away from me. “Are you planning on having that anytime soon?”

“Who knows, Doc? It could happen any time. That’s why I live life to the full.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Investigations aside, he spent most of his time in three or four bars drinking three or four types of drink. His version of seizing the day appeared to go no further than having an extra slice of toast with the two boiled eggs he had for breakfast every single morning.

Holmes sat back in his chair and put the tips of his fingers together in the manner he did when he was pondering a case. “Bowie,” he said. “He’s got to be in there. He’s the best. Let’s pick a classic. Ashes to Ashes.”

I responded with a withered shake of the head that went unnoticed.

“We’ve got to have a Prince track in there.”

“Do I?” I replied in a vain attempt to remind him these were my choices to make.

“Yup, he’s the best.”

“I thought Bowie was the best.”

“Well, yeah. Prince is like the black Bowie.”

“Alphabet Street.”

“I thought you’d have gone for a bigger hit, Purple Rain perhaps?”

“Nah, Alphabet Street is his best song,” replied Holmes before screwing up his face and singing in an exaggerated midwestern American accent, “I’m gonna drive my daddy’s Thunderbird… to Thornaby.”

“ ‘Thornaby’?” I queried. “I think the lyric is ‘Tennessee’.”

“Is it? Ah right. I thought he was driving a mobile library over there to try and teach the peckerheads how to read.”

“My mother was from Thornaby,” I protested.

“Does she still live there?”

“Well, no. She moved to Marton when she married my dad.”

“There you go,” he replied, angling his head in self-exoneration.

I could do nothing but flash a look of disdain in his direction, before taking a gulp of my drink.

Holmes shone a wild smile. “I know where your mam’s from. She has got that Old Thornaby thing going on in her accent. Cobden Street?”

“Westbury Street,” I replied.

“That’s just around the corner.”

“You’ve never met my mother,” I queried.

“I have. You remember. We were doing those counselling sessions? While I was waiting in the waiting room, before the third one, she brought your sandwiches in. You’d left them on the kitchen top.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“They were tuna and cucumber.”

“Tuna and cucumber. Ah yes. I remember now,” I remarked, sarcastically.

“You were a bit ungrateful. You grabbed them off her and bundled the old dear out of the door. It’s two buses from her house. You never even offered her a cup of tea…”

“How do you know she didn’t drive?” I interrupted, exasperated by his knowledge of details I’d long since forgotten.

Holmes shook his head in disappointment. It was clear he wasn’t going to avail me of his deductive reasoning. “You nearly sprained the owld dear’s wrist,” he added.

“Hang on,” I exclaimed. “Is that how you knew I’d separated from my wife? Was all that gubbins about my shoes and me losing weight a load of tosh?”

Holmes gave me the look of confused disappointment I’d seen following similar accusations. How could I forget? Data is data. Its value isn’t measured by how hard it is to obtain.

“No Distance Left to Run.”

“Sorry?” I replied, confused by the tangent our discussion had careered off at.

“Blur. For the playlist. It’s a classic.”

“I know it,” I said, my annoyance at him abating slightly. “It’s a bit morose for a Wednesday afternoon though.”

“Nah,” he dismissed. “It’s got some great lyrics and Coxon’s guitar riff puts Johnny Marr behind the settee.” As he spoke he seemed to be caught by a thought. “Northern Sky,” he said, not quite having returned to the moment.

“The Nick Drake song?”

“Yeah, but the Maxïmo Park cover version. The lead singer, Paul Smith, is a Billingham lad. He went to our school. You know Michael Pearce, the landlord of Sherlock’s? He’s his cousin.”

“I’ve not heard that version, but if it’s like the original, it’s a bit down tempo. I think we may need a few more beats per minute.”

“That’s it,” he said, jubilantly. “We start off with Alphabet Street to get the listeners’ spirits up, build it with a nice slice of GM soul to bring the mood down a tad, pick it back up with a Bowie classic and finish them off with a couple of blasts of some music to die to. They’ll be so depressed they’ll have to go out and buy your book to cheer themselves up.”

“I think it will have the opposite effect, Sherlock, and you’re forgetting something.”

“What’s that?”

“You want nothing to do with it… and ‘it’ includes the songs. The songs I’ll be asking to be played when I do my interview.”

Holmes threw me a scowl akin to that you might see from a child who has seen his favourite toy drop to the floor and smash.

Holmes’ love of music was peculiar. Other than that, he tended not to seek the distraction that entertainment and art provide. Of course, there was the interest in sport that is ubiquitous throughout the region, although following Middlesbrough FC was something that rarely surrendered much joy.

“You know, Sherlock,” I remarked, “your love of music is something that has always puzzled me.”

“In what way?”

“Well, music aside, your interests seem to lie in more practical subjects.”

“Music is what keeps me alive. Song lyrics are the only things I’ve ever found worth listening to. The words sung by those gadgies and a few others have gotten me through the dark times.”

“Would you be referring to the woman?”

Holmes didn’t reply. He brought his lips together and fell into silent thought.

“Do you still miss her?” I asked.

“Every day,” he said.

I stood up and collected together our empty glasses. “You know, Sherlock, without music, life would be a mistake.”

“Wise words, Doc.”

“Indeed,” I replied. “Unfortunately, they’re not mine.”

Read Chapter 3 Now >


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Mel Small
Mel Small
(United Kingdom)

The founder of Indipenned and the writer of some books including the Boro’s Greatest Detective series. Goes by the name of Melv!s when writing and performing music. Dislikes turnip and beetroot (the Devil's fruit). /indipenned /indipenned