Twelve months ago, I set out on a writing adventure to attempt twelve short stories of around 5,000 words for each month of the year. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with them once they were written, so to help you through the dark, depressing month of January, here is the story I wrote last January. No revisions, no re-drafting. Exactly as I left it on the 31st January 2013!
It was barely two hours since he’d come back from his honeymoon, and already his hopes of easing in with a bit of paperwork were down the toilet. As Detective Inspector Charlie Blakehurst drove through the mid-morning traffic, he cursed the as-yet-unknown person whose death he was about to begin investigating.
As he approached the scene, a group of four children ran alongside his car, waving. Charlie pressed a button, and the window slowly opened. The cold January air seeped in, mixing with the heated recycled air inside the car and Charlie shuddered a little.
“Has someone been murdered?” One of the kids shouted through the open window.
“I don’t know yet, mate,” Charlie replied. “I haven’t got there yet, have I?”
“Well we’ve seen all the other coppers and ambulance come, so something’s happened ain’t it?” Another more confident of the children said. Charlie smiled at the cockiness on show in this youngster of no more than twelve or thirteen.
“Look, I couldn’t tell you anything,” he said. “Even if I knew anything, which I never will if I sit here talking to you lot. Shouldn’t you be at school?” At this, the group exchanged fearful looks and slowly walked off in the other direction.
Charlie flashed his badge at the constable who was stood in front of the police cordon. He ducked under the tape and looked for his Detective Sergeant. He wasn’t looking for long. Coming out through the main door into the block of flats was DS Maynard, or Chloe as she was known to her colleagues in CID. Even as a newly married man, Charlie couldn’t help but admire her as she strode towards him, her dirty blonde hair poking out from under her woolly beret, and her grey herringbone coat fastened up against the wintry weather.
“Welcome back, Charlie boy!” she called as they met halfway up the path. Charlie smiled at her and patted her arm.
“Glad to be back,” he said through gritted teeth. Their eyes met and they both laughed. “What have we got then?” Charlie asked as they walked back towards the door.
“Male, about thirty years old, looks like he took a big hit on the back of the head,” Chloe paused as they stepped through a battered doorway. The door that had once stood there was hanging off the hinges, shards of wood jutting out.
“Who found him?” Charlie asked as he stepped round a white-suited Forensics officer who was dusting the doorframe into the kitchen.
“The landlord.” Chloe was about to say more when the sound of Barry White singing interrupted her. Charlie smiled, slightly embarrassed, and pulled his mobile out of his jacket pocket. It was his new wife, Pippa. He accepted the call and stepped into the corner of the living room to talk.
“Hi, love. Sorry to be a bastard, but I’m right in the middle of something here. Can I ring you in a bit?” At the other end, Pippa agreed and blew him kisses down the phone. Charlie was feeling self-conscious in a room full of coppers, so he blew just the one kiss, quietly back, and hung up.
“Sorry. Right, where were we?” Charlie motioned Chloe over to him.
“Yeah, the landlord heard a to-do around half eight this morning, stuff being chucked about and what have you.” She looked down at her notepad for a second, and then continued. “He actually lives in the flat above, and when he looked out of his window, he claims to have seen someone running away towards the park.”
Charlie took all this in. He looked around the cluttered lounge in which they stood. “Where is the body?”
“Coroners have already taken it away. He was found in the bedroom,” Chloe pointed to a doorway to their left, and they both walked towards it. Charlie stopped short of going in. He turned to Chloe.
“I could murder a coffee. Can you call out for one? Milk and two sugars please.” Chloe’s face became creased with anger.
“I’m not your fucking tea lady, Charlie. I’m a Detective Sergeant. Call out for your own fucking coffee! Seriously!” She stepped forward into the bedroom leaving Charlie lost for words.
As the forensics continued about their work, meticulously dusting for fingerprints, picking up the minutest of objects from the various surfaces, Charlie went back out into the cold to survey the area. He looked up the road in the direction of the park, and he looked down the road, the direction from which he had arrived on the scene. He looked up to the sky and then he looked down at his feet. As he stared at his slightly wearing black brogues, another pair of shiny black shoes came to a stop in front of his. His reverie was broken by a polite but nervy cough originating from the shoes’ owner. Charlie looked up and was greeted by a fresh-faced constable standing before him.
“Yes?” Charlie asked.
“Um, the lady DS, sir, she asked me to speak to anyone I could find in the neighbouring buildings. To see if anyone saw something,” the constable stammered.
“And? Did they?” Charlie tried not to come across as a snotty CID bastard, knowing he’d been a fresh-faced police constable in uniform once.
“Not really, sir. Sorry, no,” he almost choked on his words, the poor guy.
“Well, er, PC…” Charlie paused purposely.
“Well, PC Collins, thank you for your endeavour. If you can let me have a copy of your notes by the end of today, you can consider yourself most helpful,” Charlie patted the nervous PC on the shoulder. “And if you could do me one more favour?” He looked Collins in the eye.
“Uh, of course, sir,” young Collins offered.
“You can tell the lady DS to finish up here and meet me back at the station. My feet are like ice cubes and I’m dying to get a hot drink down me. Cheers, son.” Charlie smiled at PC Collins and walked off back down the path towards his car.
Back at the station, Charlie settled at his desk, a steaming hot coffee sat beside him. As it was the birthday of one of the Detective Constables, there was a plate of doughnuts by the window, and Charlie helped himself to one. As he did, he motioned over to the birthday boy to thank him. The middle-aged copper with a slight paunch nodded back at Charlie and resumed whatever he was doing on the computer. As he looked around the office at the people he called his colleagues, Charlie wondered what direction his life might have taken if his sister hadn’t been killed by the hit-and-run driver. Because that was the moment that set him on the course that brought him to this point. The helplessness at not being able to bring a killer to justice. The inability to help a family, his family, get closure and see the person that took the life of their loved one handed the justice they deserved.
He had considered asking for the case to be re-opened, but his dad had begged him not to.
‘Just leave it be, son,’ he’d said. ‘Sally’s gone, and no amount of digging up old pain and grief will change that.’ Charlie had agreed to let it drop and it went no further. Charlie’s dad had always been a hero to him, and still was. Charlie smiled to himself, pulled his telephone towards him, picked up the handset and dialled. After a few rings, it was picked up, and a man’s voice said “Hello?”
“Hiya dad, have you missed me?”
“Missed you? Have you been away?” Charlie’s dad thought he was a comedian, sometimes. “How was America? Has Pippa got fed up with you yet?”
“No, dad. Pippa is still putting up with me. I’ve no idea how America was. We went to Fiji.”
“Well, a holiday’s a holiday. When are you back at work?”
“I’m there now.”
“No rest for the wicked, eh?”
“It seems not, dad,” Charlie smiled. His dad was ever so proud of his son, his only child, now. “How’s mum?”
“Oh, she’s alright. Giving me plenty to do, and making sure I do it right.”
“No change there, then,” Charlie joked. “Do you fancy coming round for tea on Saturday night?”
“Oh, aye, can do. I’ll just ask your mother. Hang on.” Charlie’s dad went to put the phone down to shout out to his wife, when Charlie piped up.
“No worry now. Just ring Pip when you’ve decided. She wants to try out some Fijian stuff we discovered.”
“Sounds like a plan, Charlie my boy. Leave it with me,” and with that, Charlie’s dad said his goodbyes and hung up.
In through the door came Chloe, pulling her beret off her head, and unbuttoning her coat with cold-numbed fingers. Charlie looked up and smiled at her. It must not have come across properly, because Chloe just scowled at him and flung her coat over the back of her chair. Charlie took a deep breath and stood up to walk over to her. He was intercepted by his superior, DCI Colin Cheetham who strode through the office, put his arm round Charlie and guided him into his little office. Colin shut the door behind him, offered Charlie a seat and then flopped down in his own chair.
“Charlie, how was Rhodes? Ride any donkeys?”
“No, Colin, I didn’t ride any donkeys. I was on my honeymoon, remember?!” Charlie smiled.
“Oi, you cheeky little bugger!” Colin laughed, the way men do after an innuendo joke gone well. “Glad to have you back, anyhow. Look, I’ll cut straight to it. My time here is drawing to a close. The paper pushers have deemed it time I hung up my holster and spend time on the allotment, know what I mean?”
Charlie looked at his superior in amazement. As far as he knew, Colin was still in his forties, just. He must have looked surprised, because Colin leaned forward and pushed Charlie’s jaw back up.
“How? Why? What?” Charlie stammered.
“The ticker. Was feeling a bit rough after your lovely wedding. Barb told me to go to the docs, which I did. Anyway, when push comes to shove, minor heart attack.”
“Stone the fucking crows, Guv.” Charlie said, still finding it hard to believe the man in front of him, who had been his mentor since his switch to CID, was that unwell.
“Turns out a life of smoking, drinking and eating fried food is actually bad for you.” Colin forced a chuckle. “Upshot is, there’s a promotion for you if you want it.”
Charlie left Colin to it, and returned to his desk, his head spinning. He looked across the room for Chloe, but on seeing her desk vacant, he sat down. He had only been back at work a matter of hours, and already so much had happened. He twiddled his thumbs like a lost soul, then Chloe was back in the room, and at her desk. Charlie wheeled himself over to her desk, and pulled up next to her.
“Yes?” she said without turning.
“Any chance of a catch-up?” Charlie asked politely. Chloe swung round, and looked Charlie in the eye.
“You’re married now, Charlie. I don’t think Pippa would approve, do you?”
“I meant on the case,” Charlie whispered. He could feel the eyes of everyone else in the room burning through the back of his head. Chloe had gone noticeably red in the face too. There was nothing worse than being the main headline in the office rumour mill.
“Oh.” Chloe tried to hide her embarrassment. “I’ll see you in the meeting room in five, then.”
“Shall I bring a chaperone? You, know, just so you feel comfortable.” Charlie couldn’t help but smile.
“Oh, shush. Does DCI Cheetham want to know what we’re up to? Chloe asked him. Charlie thought about what Colin had said to him.
“Do you know about Colin?” Charlie hissed. Chloe looked at him and didn’t say a word. But her face gave it away.
“Everyone knows. And we know who he would like to replace him. You’re the golden boy, Charlie Blakehurst.” With that, Chloe picked up a pile of folders and left the room.
Needing to take a breather from this downright hectic first morning back, Charlie went to the toilet, and then stood in the glazed stairwell at the far end of the building. He looked out across the sprawling metropolis laid before him, and tried to imagine himself being introduced as ‘DCI Blakehurst’. He had to admit that it sounded good. He looked at his watch; saw fifteen minutes had passed, and made his was slowly back to the meeting room. He paused at the door and peeked through the glass panel at Chloe carefully making notes on the whiteboard in her studied, but feminine handwriting. Looking at her from behind, he marvelled at her slim figure. Her dirty blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders, half-way down her white blouse-clad back. Then, just as Charlie was appreciating her black pin-stripe skirt, he heard a shuffle of feet and a cough behind him. He turned to see one of his CID colleagues stood looking at him curiously. Charlie blushed involuntarily. The chap, a Detective Constable, Charlie seemed to recall, craned his neck to see what was so enthralling. Seeing it was Chloe, he smiled at Charlie.
“She ain’t half bad, is she?” He nodded.
“Who? DS Maynard?” Charlie asked. He took another quick look. “I suppose not,” he conceded. “Shall we?” Charlie opened the door and ushered the DC in, and followed.
Chloe turned as they entered, and motioned with a smile to some empty chairs set out. Charlie took the one nearest to the door, leaving the DC to take the one nearest the wall.
“Thank you, gentlemen, for coming,” Chloe said, an official tone in her voice. “Some introductions first. I am Detective Sergeant Maynard. This,” she pointed to Charlie, “is Detective Inspector Blakehurst.” Charlie looked at the other guy and waved jovially. The guy smiled back, and winked.
“And, this,” Chloe then motioned towards the unknown copper, “is Detective Constable Schofield.” It was his turn to wave at Charlie. Chloe continued.
“DC Schofield has been assigned to the case by DCI Cheetham due to certain requirements of the case.” Charlie looked at her blankly, not something a superior should be seen to be doing. He composed himself and waited for Chloe to continue, hoping for some enlightenment.
“The victim has been unofficially identified by the landlord as a Johann Heidberg. Age, about thirty to thirty five. No known family, and no known occupation,” she paused to look at the two men before her. “However, the landlord has stated that Heidberg was a keen-“ she stopped, rifled through an open file on the desk and picked out a piece of paper. “-photographer. This has been substantiated by his bathroom clearly doubling as a darkroom, and the landlord also stated that he’s paid Heidberg to take a portrait of his mother.” Chloe’s face creased into a wry smile before she composed herself and continued.
“Among the items in the bathroom slash darkroom, were some quite, um, revealing pictures he’d taken. Here.” Chloe picked up some photographs and handed them to Charlie. He looked at the picture on the top of the pile and was faced with a full-frontal nude picture of a red-haired girl with ample breasts, and a well-trimmed pubic area lay spread-eagled on a black silk sheet. Charlie turned and passed it to DC Schofield, and then looked at the next one, the same girl, only this time she was sat up, her legs crossed in front of her, covering up her modesty. He leafed through the rest, all of the red-haired girl in various poses, some with props ranging from teddy bears to handcuffs. He passed them over to Schofield and looked at Chloe.
“So, who’s the red-head?” Charlie asked.
“If I’m not mistaken, this is Cheryl Tracey,” Schofield piped up. Charlie turned to him, recreating the blank look.
“She’s a glamour model turned actress,” Schofield explained. “You know, lads mags, Page Three and the like.” Charlie nodded.
“So what is this Johann fella doing with naked pictures of her?” Charlie wondered out loud.
“I’ve no idea,” shrugged DC Schofield. “But I know that my brother wouldn’t be too happy about it. Seeing as she’s his girlfriend these days!”
“Right. Who’s your brother then?” Charlie asked, hoping that some pieces of the puzzle might start falling into place.
“Tommy Schofield, the footballer.” Charlie gawped in amazement. Sitting in the same room as him was the brother of the brightest English footballing talent since David Beckham! At least that explained why he was helping on the case. Charlie had so many questions to ask, but he was torn from his train of thought by a polite clearing of the throat coming from Chloe’s direction.
“So, what we have is a photographer and a model with a footballer boyfriend. Can we move on?” Both men nodded at her sheepishly. “Great. Cause of death seems to be one of many stab wounds in the chest and neck.” Again, Chloe handed out some photographs. This time, instead of a naked lady, they were gruesome pictures of the victim and his many wounds. Charlie flicked through them unmoved, and handed them over to DC Schofield.
“Any leads on a suspect or motive?” Charlie addressed Chloe.
“Not as yet. I’ve got some of the guys collating statements as we speak,” Chloe admitted. Charlie turned to look at DC Schofield.
“How about this for a possibility? Footballer boyfriend finds out his bird is getting her kit off for a stranger and does him in. Crime of jealousy.” Charlie finished. Schofield blushed, then regained his composure.
“That would be great, sir. Except that Tommy’s in Switzerland at the moment having his ankle operation.” Charlie stopped and took this in. Then he recalled reading something in the newspapers on honeymoon about an injury during the England match.
“Just a thought. No offence intended.” Charlie offered.
“None taken, sir,” Schofield countered.
“How come this guy is still using the old-fashioned development method? I thought most folks were digital these days,” Charlie asked to the room.
“I don’t know, Charlie,” Chloe conceded. “That’s something we can look at though.”
“We can also look at how he came to be taking pictures of Cheryl what’s-her-name in the first place,” he looked at DC Schofield, “can’t we DC Schofield?” Schofield nodded.
“I suggest that I take Schofield to see Cheryl and get her thoughts on the matter,” Charlie said. Chloe looked at him, a suspicious look on her face.
“Actually, I’ve got another job for DC Schofield, Charlie,” she told him. “He’s going to follow up your wonderful developing query. I will accompany you to see Cheryl Tracey.” Charlie shrugged. DC Schofield looked hesitantly at Chloe.
“Where shall I start?” he asked.
“Well, check the notes and statements for any friends or acquaintances. Pubs or clubs he frequented. That sort of thing. Maybe he was a student? I’ll leave you to use your initiative. Come on, Charlie, let’s get a move on.” Chloe picked up her files, and brushed past Charlie out of the door. Charlie exchanged a puzzled look with DC Schofield and followed after her.
As they travelled in stony silence through the mid-afternoon traffic, Charlie fiddled with the radio trying to get a clearer signal. Chloe occasionally took her eyes off the road and cast what could almost be described as seething looks in Charlie’s direction.
“So, Chloe,” Charlie began. “Do I detect a sense of frustration and anger in your demeanor?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Chloe retorted, not taking her eyes off the road.
“Well, ever since I suggested leaving you out of this visit to Cheryl, you’ve seemed somewhat-“ he put his hand up and made a grasping motion to symbolise he was looking for the right word. “- Sharp with me. Do you agree?”
“I wouldn’t say so. Pissed off is closer to it,” Chloe stated icily. “You let me join you on this case and then try and put me to the side so you can go and ogle a girl and her tits with another bloke.” Charlie opened his mouth to protest, but felt it better not to.
Chloe lapsed back into silence, and then, before long, she pulled up outside a fairly large detached house in a leafy suburb. As they got out, Charlie touched Chloe’s arm and whispered in her ear.
“Let me take the lead on this one.” Chloe tensed, then turned and stared at him. Before Charlie had cause to pull rank on her, she relaxed and nodded.
Charlie went up to the door and rang the bell. At the sound of the shrill ‘brrrrrrring’ noise of the bell, Charlie could see the shadow of someone shuffling towards the door through the frosted glass pane. He stood back as the door opened, and a small Thai lady poked her head round.
“Yes? Mr Schofield not in. Bye Bye.” And just as she was going to shut the door, Charlie stuck his foot out, causing the door to judder as it struck his black brogue.
“It was Miss Tracey we were after, actually,” Charlie explained politely. The lady poked her head back round the door.
“Miss Tracey out too. Back tonight.”
“By any chance do you know where she has gone?” Charlie held out his warrant card. “It’s quite important.” The Thai lady, opened the door up and stared at Charlie, unperturbed.
“She went with man in car.”
“Where?” Charlie asked, his voice starting to show signs of stress. Chloe stepped forward.
“We just need to ask her a few questions, nothing more.”
The Thai lady disappeared for a moment, then came back with a flyer. Charlie looked at it. Looking back at him was Cheryl Tracey. Her picture showed head to chest, a dark coloured bikini top covering her up, but the hair and photography style felt familiar. She was appearing at some club tonight, obviously trying to make some cash on the public appearance circuit while she still had her looks and a popular boyfriend. He handed the flyer to Chloe, smiled his thanks to the Thai lady and made his way back to the car. He heard Chloe thank the lady and waited for her to unlock the car. Charlie made listened for the sound of Chloe’s heels scraping the paving, and then the clunking noise as the central locking released and the car was open. He climbed in, and once Chloe was also in, he turned and watched as Chloe examined the flyer. A puzzled look appeared on Chloe’s face, her brow furrowed in thought, before, suddenly, something clicked, and her eyes lit up. She turned and their eyes met.
“This photo looks the same as those ones in Heidberg’s flat. Same hair, same make-up, same set-up.” Charlie nodded his agreement.
“This club, the Pink Panther,” Charlie questioned her. “What sort of club is it?”
“It’s your typical pulling cattle market, Charlie. Women tarted up to the eyeballs in fake tan, fake nails and next-to-nothing on, and the men standing at the side eying them up like drunken perverts.”
“You think our friend Johann has some connection with it?”
“Could do, Charlie. Could do.” Chloe nodded.
“Shall we check it out then, DS Maynard?” Chloe didn’t answer, instead she turned the key in the ignition slammed the car into gear and wheelspan away from the kerb. Charlie looked at her as she sped down the road towards a junction.
“I’ve always wanted to bloody do that,” she grinned sideways at him.
Charlie glanced at his watch as they arrived outside the non-descript club. The only thing that gave any clue to the nature of the grubby looking structure before him was a rather old, weather-worn painting of the Pink Panther. Charlie couldn’t help but wonder if there was any sort of copyright infringement going on. Chloe took hold of the large iron door handle and pulled. The door creaked open and Chloe gestured Charlie in, and followed him, allowing the door to close behind her. Charlie looked around the rather dusty looking entrance hall. To his left, the coat-check area, with a piece of laminated card displaying the charge of two pounds for the pleasure. Charlie started towards the flight of stairs directly in front of him, and ascended them slowly, taking in the posters adorning the bare, plastered walls announcing the timetable of events over the coming weeks, numerous drinks offers, and then right at the top of the stairs, a larger version of the flyer that he had been given by Cheryl Tracey’s cleaner, or whatever she was. Chloe overtook him as he gazed at the larger image of the red-haired Cheryl looming over him. Before he knew it, she had disappeared through a fire door at the end of the landing, past the ladies and gentleman’s toilets. Charlie hurried after her and was taken aback by the sheer pink-ness which affronted his senses. There were numerous Pink Panther images adorning the walls, vivid pink seating, and the bar area was festooned with pink feather boas. To top it all off, there was a definite hint of pink in the lighting arrangement. As his senses recovered from the onslaught, he heard Chloe over to his left, announcing herself. Charlie looked over and saw her stood by a booth, talking to a dark haired bespectacled man, and beside him, Cheryl Tracey. Charlie ambled over as the man introduced himself as Cheryl’s manager and agent, Shawn-with-a-w Mullen. Charlie slid into the booth opposite them, and Chloe sat herself down next to him.
“I’m Detective Inspector Blakehurst, and you,” he looked at Cheryl and smiled politely, “are Cheryl Tracey.” She nodded in agreement. “Do you have any idea why we’ve come to see you?” Charlie asked her, clasping his hands together on the table. She shook her head at him. She looked at Shawn, and nodded her head at him too. Charlie motioned to Chloe, who opened her handbag and took out an envelope. Charlie was momentarily amazed at the Tardis-like qualities of Chloe’s bag, but regained his purpose and took the envelope. He carefully reached inside and took out the photographs they had recovered from the murder scene and laid them out face up on the table before Cheryl and Shawn. Cheryl gasped and covered her mouth in shock. Shawn maintained his non-plussed expression as he studied the pictures.
“We found these this morning,” Charlie paused for effect. “At a murder scene.” Cheryl ‘s expression changed from shock to confusion, whilst Shawn remained stony. Chloe leaned forward.
“A gentleman named Johann Heidberg was murdered in his home, and these pictures,” she tapped the nearest picture, “were recovered from the scene. Can you confirm that this is you, Cheryl?”
Cheryl looked again, and nodded blankly.
“Do you know how they got to be there?” Charlie enquired. Cheryl was about to speak when Shawn butted in.
“What are you suggesting, Mr Blakehurst? Make it quick, we’ve got an appearance to plan for tonight.” He scowled at Charlie. Now, it was beginning to feel like a long day for Charlie, and this just got his hackles up. He slammed his hand down on the table, making both women jump.
“Quite frankly, Mr Moore, finding a murderer is far more important than you and your client’s little moneymaking efforts.”
“It’s Mullen, actually,” Shawn corrected him. Charlie shook his head.
“Look, you can either assist us unofficially here, or Miss Tracey can accompany us to the station, with a solicitor, and answer our questions there. Officially.”
Shawn stared at Charlie, and Charlie stared back. Their staring match was interrupted when Cheryl broke out in uncontrollable sobs. Shawn put his arms around her and gave her a squeeze.
“It’s alright, Cheryl, we’ll sort this out. It’s all just a misunderstanding,” he soothed her. Between the sobs, Charlie could just about make out the words ‘career’, ‘livelihood’, ‘Tommy’, and ‘ruined’.
Charlie sighed as he and Chloe left the Pink Panther club. Cheryl had finally managed to calm herself down enough to give Charlie enough answers to satisfy him that she was no more than a girl that liked to take her clothes off for a camera. Shawn Mullen, on the other hand, was bugging him. That icy cold exterior, unmoved by pictures with the potential to seriously harm his client’s future career that he’d planned out. It was his policeman’s instinct that had advised him not to leave the country in case he was needed to assist with enquiries further down the line.
When Charlie was finally able to finish for the day, he left the station glad to be back amongst the hustle and bustle of life again. For while Fiji was great and gave him and Pippa the chance to really slow down and appreciate one another again after the hectic wedding build-up, two weeks of doing nothing had finally worn him down. He drove home through the evening traffic, listening to the radio, his tie loosened and his top button undone. The driver’s side window was down just a little to allow fresh evening air in.
Charlie had arrived home and parked up in the underground car park that formed the basement of his apartment block. As he climbed the four flights of stairs, out of choice to try and keep in some sort of shape, he looked forward to putting his feet up in front of the telly, catching up on a bit of television or something, maybe even an early night if Pippa was up for it. As he exited the stairwell and walked down the corridor, he could smell frying bacon. He unlocked the door to his flat, and went in.
“What a day I’ve had,” he said out loud.