White Plate Red Lobster
Mark Harding

Roberts car might be environmentally sound, but the boot wasnt big enough to take a corpse. He couldnt hang around, so hed had no choice but to strap the blighter into the front passenger seat. The man had been old and blond anyway, so Robert hoped the pallor mortis wouldnt be too obvious to the casual passer-by.

Robert didn't have much of a plan, but getting out of Edinburgh seemed sensible.

He had a bad start, when he got stuck first in line at the lights onto Princes Street. Pedestrians, black-swathed from the cold, swarmed everywhere, all seeming intent on peering into Roberts little car. He glanced at his passenger. No blood had seeped from the rapier wound to stain the corpses light grey jacket. The shoelaces Robert had used to tie handfuls of hair to the back of the headrest were still holding him upright. Robert wasnt sure if it had been a good idea to keep the corpses eyelids open, but he darent lean over in public and see how the eyes looked. Despite the bitter wind, a fashionable girl crossing the zebra flashed him a smile. What a time to pick!

Unless it was the corpse she was smiling at?

*

Bugger! Robert shouted. Unusually, even the road up to The Mound was jammed. Bored faces waiting at the bus stops outside the galleries stared at the corpse quizzically.

Nosey bastards! Robert muttered, but tried to set his face into what he imagined to be a normal expression.

To his relief, traffic speeded up. He felt better once he was speeding past the crowds.

Anyway, theyre all too busy to look at me, he reassured himself.

But after ten minutes or so the traffic had halted again and Robert pulled to a stop.

There was a tap on the passenger window. For a crazy moment he thought it was the corpse trying to attract attention. But a womans face appeared beside his passenger, waving her hand to indicate he should lower the window.

Bugger off you stupid bitch! Robert said to himself, and then smiled at her through the glass while he tried to figure out what to do.

She tapped the window again and pointed behind her. Some idiot was trying to reverse onto the main drag.

Ahhh. Robert nodded and smiled, and signalled he would wait for the car to come out before him.

Sitting in the warmth, waiting for the cars in front to arrange themselves into a sensible order, Robert yawned luxuriously. He turned to the corpse:

You know, this isnt turning out as bad as I thought.

He even felt a little tinge of regret when the traffic started moving again. He was beginning to feel tired at the very thought of the journey ahead.

As he passed the petrol station by Bruntsfield links he automatically checked the fuel gauge. Half full. It would be a disaster if he had to fill up. What would happen when he had to leave the car to pay? What if someone tapped the window to talk to his passenger?

Why, Id tell them of course, said the corpse.

Thats because youre a bastard, Robert said.

Youd hardly expect me to be on your side would you?

Well, Ill be getting rid of you soon enough.

The feelings mutual.

Robert pulled up at the Holy Corner traffic lights.

Anyway, how are you going to get rid of me? the corpse enquired.

Humm Dump you in a wood somewhere.

If it were me, Id drive up to the Highlands.

Make a day trip of it? Robert said facetiously.

The corpse laughed. Why not?

Maybe I should get out and buy a map.

No need for that! - After all, where are you going to park? Or do you expect me to drive around waiting for you?

Not that that would have been possible. By now the traffic had stopped again. The shoppers were so careless as they streamed across the road one of them even knocked his plastic bag against the front of the car. He looked through the window and mouthed a sorry to the corpse. Robert felt too sleepy to care.

I wonder if I should stop and stretch my legs.

The sooner were on the motorway the better, pointed out the corpse.

True, Robert said. Ill open the window.

Oh no no no. Have you seen how cold it is? Unless you keep me warm Ill go stiff as a board.

So what?

So what? If Ive gone fully rigor mortis in this position there is no way you will get me out of this seat and through your tiny car door. I don't suppose you have a hacksaw or anything like that with you?

Is it really as hard as that to move you?

Oh yeah. It would be hours before I went flexible again.

Well... Thanks for your advice.

By the time he had passed Morningside clock tower, all Robert could think about was sleeping.

You know I can hardly keep my eyes open.

Opposite problem to me, the corpse joked. Perhaps you should pull in for a while. Now we are out of the centre, these side streets are quiet. After all theres no rush. Youre probably better off arriving at the woods in the dark.

You think so?

Yeah. Stop just for ten minutes. Keep the engine running to keep the warmth.

Robert felt he couldnt keep his eyes open much longer. Everything else would have to wait. He pulled off the main road and found a space immediately on the corner. By now, his arms felt too heavy to hold the wheel. Deliciously he let them fall onto his lap.

I might snore, he muttered.

Not for long, said the corpse.

Roberts reply was a murmur.

I forgot to tell you, the corpse said. Before our final contretemps I managed to find some time to adjust your exhaust system. I have bypassed your catalytic converter with a little pipe running into the bottom of your car.

Robert certainly wasnt going to open his eyes, but he would have liked to open the window. Trouble was, he couldnt for the life of him remember where the handle was.

We are going to look a pair! the corpse said. Me white as a plate, and you flushed red from the carbon monoxide. He laughed. Red as a lobster one thats boiled and dead!

END


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