'Stay exactly where you are," said Angela to a pair of buttocks.
The buttocks, clad in fawn trousers, stayed where they were. The head and torso attached to them stayed buried in the wheelie bin.
Angela released the safety catch on the Uzi. The buttocks visibly clenched.
Angela flicked the catch back. The buttocks relaxed. Angela chuckled, then did it again. When you're a cross- dressing Bulgarian hitman you take your pleasures where you can.
A muffled voice came from inside the bin.
"Okay," said Angela. "Out you come. And no funny stuff. The Uzi doesn't get jokes."
Slowly and with much grunting a zippered jacket emerged from the bin, followed by a balding head which spat out a cigarette end and a ball of dog hair.
The captive turned to face his captor, taking in the crimson toenails, the hairy shins, the gaily floral frock (blue zinnias), the mascara and the levelled Uzi.
"Would you mind not pointing that thing at me?" the captive said, as calmly as he could, which wasn't very calmly.
"Yes," said Angela. "I would. And I'll continue to mind until I find out exactly what you were doing in the boss's wheelie bin."
"Looking for my glasses," said the man.
"Pull the other one," said Angela, "it's got more bells on it than the belfry of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia."
"No, really," stammered the man, "I was just passing and I slipped and my glasses fell off and . . . "
"That click you just heard," said Angela, releasing the safety catch, "was the Uzi not getting the joke. I'm going to count to pet."
"Bulgarian for five, darling. Edno, dva, tri, chetiri . . ."
"All right, all right. I'm a private dick."
"Sweetie," said Angela, "I wasn't asking for a character reference. The Uzi and I just want to know . . ."
"You don't understand," said the man. "I'm a sleuth, a gumshoe, a private detective."
"Now," said Angela, "if you'll forgive the corniness, we're getting somewhere. Tell me, what was so fascinating about the boss's detritus?"
"I'm trying to find evidence that he's living here."
"Why didn't you just look at that washing line?" said Angela, pointing up the hill down which an abundance of lethal rocks wasn't rolling and had never rolled despite 7000 recent earthquakes. "I hung those out for him this morning."
"Yes," said the dick, "I've got that on film. Natty little number this tie-pin camera, eh."
"To be frank," continued Angela ignoring him. "The boss has a lot to learn about refreshing his underwear drawer. Some of those things are from the last century. But all that is by the by. Who sent you?"
"The city council. Your boss is inhabiting a dwelling that a team of geotechnical experts have adjudged extremely dangerous without having visited it, so the council issued a red sticker forbidding anyone to live here under section 124 of the Building Act which they had had to amend by Order in Council in order to acquire the power to do so. But before they can conduct further enforcement activities they need to ascertain that your boss continues to reside here so they employed me, the private investigator, though they initially denied that they had done so, to do that ascertaining."
"And they're paying you?" said Angela.
"I'm no amateur," said the man with some pride, pointing to the number plate of his plain saloon car. "PRODICK1" it said.
"Tell me if I've got this right," said Angela. "Ratepayers pay the council to perform certain tasks, such as maintaining the roads and providing a water supply. So the ratepayers are the employers and the council the employees."
"Bang on," said the private dick.
"But now the employees have decided to perform an extra task, which is to look after the employer in his own own home. And though this employer never asked them to perform that task, and though indeed he actively resents it as an intrusion on his adult autonomy, the employees are now spending his money in order to perform it against his will."
"Actually," said the dick, "the poor frightened buggers are just trying to cover their backsides."
"I'm glad you've mentioned backsides," said Angela, and without warning, using a manoeuvre learned on national service in Bulgaria, he neatly flipped the detective back into the wheelie bin, his buttocks to the sky and his little legs kicking.
"Your employers will be along to collect you shortly," said Angela and gave the buttocks a playful parting pat.
- The Press