I once met a man at a party. He occasionally worked as a freelance journalist at the Daily Telegraph. He disliked working there for the same reason I enjoyed reading the Daily Telegraph.
Occasionally, people would shout across the room at him: “Give me three inches!” And he would have to give them a story that would fill up three column inches. The result was sometimes stark, not fully-explained stories.
My favourite page was the late and much lamented Page Three of the Daily Telegraph. This was, in theory, the page where they reported court cases. And, indeed, so they did. But it had developed a very quirky tendency and ran some very strange barely- or never-explained stories.
My favourite was a man in court accused of leaping out from hedges in country lanes dressed in a full rubber frogman’s outfit and scaring passing ladies riding horses.
That was the entire story as reported. No context. No details. No background.
I may have blogged about all that before. Or not. I have no idea. I have a shit memory.
But I was reminded of it by an email this morning from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent who lives on a boat on a river in or near Vancouver. I have never asked for an exact geographical location. I enjoy the thrill of an ongoing mystery. This morning Anna wrote, with unnecessary exactitude:
There is a street in Richmond, British Columbia, called Wireless Way.
Up on the road this morning, a very large plainclothes policeman asked if he could talk to me.
“Sure,” I said. “What for?”
He said: “I’m with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I am looking for someone.”
I saw his S.U.V. with the hazard lights on further along.
So I asked him: “Who?”
“Craig Ainsley,” he replied.
I told him: “I have never heard of Craig Ainsley. He doesn’t live here.”
I motioned towards the marina.
“Why are you looking for him?” I asked.
When there are wanted men out there, on this desolate road where I live, I prefer to know why.
“He’s dead,” said the plainclothes policeman.
“Oh,” I said.
“I am looking for his boat,” said the plainclothes policeman. “He crashed his car into the railway bridge on River Road last week.“
“I heard about that,” I said.
“He just moved onto a boat,” said the plainclothes policeman, “but we don’t know where it is. He was fixing it up. It was good enough to live on, but he was working on it at the same time.”
So there we have it.
A plainclothes policeman in Canada is looking for a man he knows is dead.
So it goes.