I turned the corner and stopped. A bird on the floor. Why hadn’t they found this one? Those fools they’d been bodging this one from the start. Tapped the pigeon with the side of my boot. I could lift it of the ground easily enough. I stopped short of tipping it over, I could smell maggots. That had been all I wanted to know. It had been lying there for a while.
I walked closer and suddenly I saw what I had been expecting since I turned the corner. They looked like they had just been on a space ship with all of the suits that they were wearing or that some kind of nuclear spill. It all seemed slightly incongruous for Croydon.
One of them started bounding toward me. Actually he was moving quite quickly. But he looked like he should have been moving in slow motion. That was one of the weird things about these suits not only was it silly looking and separated you from your colleagues in a time when a close and frank exchange of ideas might be the most crucial thing you could have on your team. But amongst all of that was the disconcerting realisation that people were moving around in these suits much too quickly. Because the thing with the suits was that they put you so in mind of space that you expected people to plod forward like they had a kilo of marshmallows attached to each foot.
As he arrived near me I realised two things almost simultaneously. First that it was my good friend Geoffrey inside the suit and second that he had a second suit over his right arm.
“Hullo Citron, how’s things?”
“Things have so far been fine. Although if you do try to make me wear that suit I will kill you.”
I could see Geoffrey was looking me up and down and wondering which was the better thing in his life to be afraid of; me or his bosses. He already knew what his decision was but on some kind of whimsical off chance he thought he should ask me just in case he could avoid trouble.
“Wouldn’t it be safer to wear it?”
“Perhaps it would, but that would have required me to have not stumbled over a dead bird at the end of the street and outside of the exclusion zone. This would has already gone wrong.”
Geoffrey looked at me mournfully. He knew he would probably get in trouble for this. I saw there, loitering on his face, the understanding that he’d made the right decision. Knowing that he’d done it I couldn’t help but give him the excuse he needed.
“If it is bird ‘flu I wouldn’t need to be here. It wouldn’t be a police matter until the contamination had been dealt with.”
And with his reaction I had got my first information confirmed. I could have been called because the bird ‘flu had been purposely infected by someone and they didn’t know by who and that would in fact have happened before the contamination was completed.
But in fact something else was happening. The disease control people were starting to believe that it wasn’t actually a disease. And that’s why the bird had been left on the street. They were getting careless.
“How did you know that Citron?”
“You know I don’t play parlour games Geoffrey. Come now tell me what you know.”
Tune back next Friday for part two of the Influenza Adventure.