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‘He was known as Mr. Sudsy — the washing powder tsar of Yorkshire. People in the North East were in awe of him; they regarded him as the Donald Trump of detergent. The nexus of his empire was Hull, Grimsby and Scunthorpe. Mr. Sudsy called it his soapy Bermuda Triangle. It’s rumoured that his personal fortune was in excess of £25 million.’

Harold turned the page and continued to devour the fat police dossier.

‘Mr. Sudsy likes to dress up as Vera Lynn and eat bridies while prostitutes watch him masturbate. He claims to have slept with over 300 women. He is a sex addict, or as our generation like to call it, ‘a mad shagger.’ Phil Minker, Soap Suds Regional Manager’.

The intercom on Harold’s desk began to blink.

“Harold, Mrs. Marigold is on the phone, she’s asking if she can make an emergency appointment with you this morning.”

Harold sighed. “I had three sessions with her last week, what’s wrong with her now?”

“She says the voices have come back and the begonia on her windowsill looks like Frank Bruno.”

Harold groaned. “Book her in.”

* * * * *

Harold assumed his favourite seat on the 5.15pm express train to Hull. He opened his leather attaché case — the same one he had carted around for the last 25 years — and placed the Sudsy case file on his lap. Where was he?

Ah, yes, page five. Mr. Sudsy had just abandoned his third wife and registered yet another business—“Fishy Fries. Yorkshire’s premier cod-flavoured snack.” ‘The fiasco was short-lived: Smiths, who owned Scampi Fries, initiated legal action and forced Fishy Fries into a bumbling retreat. Mr. Sudsy retaliated by launching a range of Yorkshire-inspired sodas. The line included Red Bollocks and Miner’s Yank, an energy drink containing burdock, mustard and Guarana.’

Harold’s chuckle attracted a glance from the seat opposite. He was normally tangled in The Times crossword by this point, somewhere between five across and an aneurysm, with a look of glazed resignation. The passenger tried to glimpse the case file, but Harold sensed the man’s incursion and shifted his knee, shielding the file with his grey flannel suit.

He scurried to the appendix, eager to find out what Mr. Sudsy looked like. He was somewhat disappointed to find that Mr. Sudsy was actually quite handsome, but not in the conventional sense: he had dense, curly brown hair, ruddy cheeks and a ten-bob smile. The clothes were Yorkshire Hollywood: chequered sports jacket, Paisley-pattern tie and a pair of tan bellbottoms. Harold’s career had taught him that most Lotharios were not overly attractive; they relied on psychological and vocal artillery. At the age of 14 Harold had discovered, to his eternal disappointment that girls went for silverback gorillas not pseudo-intellectuals.

The man opposite peeked over his spread-eagled newspaper. Harold elevated his leg, bringing into view an old school photo of Mr. Sudsy. He immediately recognised the sallow paint on the gymnasium wall. It couldn’t be… Sat on the front bench, with his hands clasped on top of his scuffed knees, was a timid Harold; wedged between the future mayor of Grimsby and a local dermatologist. Grinning on the back row was a young Mr. Sudsy, surrounded by the class wags and his girlfriend Jenny (the only girl in primary seven to have nurtured two hummocks under her school jumper).

Copyright: Stephen Pollock 2014