Although, unofficially at least, an item, Dinah and Shaw had kept their own separate homes. The fact that Shaw slept in the office, was his reason for keeping Dinah’s name off the door – it would lead to confusion within the organisation of the Royal Mail he insisted – an inaccuracy she countered by sticking a large Post-it across the glass during office hours when she was, for the most part, alone with the phone and a laptop that was, for reasons known to Shaw alone, permanently connected to a Scandinavian server which had a default ‘wallpaper’ that left her feeling giddy and not a little nauseous. She considered herself a woman of the world, but not necessarily that part of it. Each Google search had to be translated into something that vaguely resembled English before she was able to make use of it. All attempts to use Google Maps to plot a route stalled at the earliest possible stage as the software refused to let her begin her journey from anywhere other than Copenhagen. She had not been able to afford data for her phone since meeting Shaw – a relationship with Shaw came along with few certainties other than poverty – and utilising the only local source of free internet access she could find ensured that she constantly smelled of kebab.
Most of her ‘work’ hours were spent fretting over the payment of bills. Shaw’s tendency to insist that his investigative methods only really functioned in full effect when he stumbled into cases rather than being employed to solve them meant that she was often left bereft of anyone to invoice. Dinah, for her part, contributed all that she was able; taking what money she could for locating lost cats, flyaway budgies, errant husbands etc, paying bills only as failure to do so became increasingly critical. Shaw painstakingly kept for himself all of what he considered to be the ‘big cases’ – although he seldom gave Dinah any indication of what, exactly, they might be and they rarely added anything other than expenses to the company accounts. On the few occasions Shaw called on her to help him, he did so by furnishing her with the very minimum of information possible. Often she had to adhere to Shaw’s own methods, taking the first bus she encountered and getting off somewhere that, for reasons unknown, seemed the right place. Sitting in a café with the dregs of a cup of coffee hoping that something might take her attention: that somebody might, in some indefinable way, strike her as suspicious. Hoping that she might find somebody to follow before the café owner (again) remarked on the fact that she had spent two hours over her latte and that he had placemats that were more profitable than her.
It was to her undisguised chagrin that whenever she did encounter somebody she felt there might be some point in following, she invariably found that Shaw was following them too, although he always claimed to have been ‘on to them’ first. Shaw always complained about this duplication of efforts but Dinah was always quick to point out that a) there was no discernible effort put into such ‘tailings’ by Shaw, who, as far as Dinah could tell from his crumpled ‘expenses’ at the end of the week, seldom left the pub and b) as nobody was paying for either of them, what difference could it possibly make? “When we find out whatever it is that we’re looking for,” was Shaw’s stock reply, “then whoever wants to know it will pay us.” To be fair, they often did, but almost always after it had cost Dinah Lunch and a bottle of wine. From that point on, although working together, they always worked apart. Their methods of tailing a suspect could not have been more different: Dinah employed stealth – ducking into doorways, hiding behind newspapers, carefully observing her suspect in shop window reflections, taking mobile phone photographs whilst pretending to be absorbed in a protracted phone call – whilst Shaw wandered around aimlessly, hoping that, in the fullness of time, his path would somehow cross with that of his prey again.
It never ceased to amaze her that she, Shaw and suspect would almost always find themselves together at some point, along with the client who was invariably blithely unaware of the very existence of the investigative duo. Dinah knew only that Shaw would wander away at some point whilst she dutifully stood in the pouring rain outside an office, or a bookies, or a lover’s flat for hours on end. When they were reunited some time later, a usually slightly flushed Shaw would drown her in beer breath and inform her that he had found the client who by some fluke of chance, wanted to know exactly what Dinah had found out in the previous few hours. It was seldom anything that Shaw himself did not already know – or at least so he claimed. The biggest annoyance was usually that he had already informed the client of whatever-it-was she had only just learned, without ever needing to discuss it with her and without ever leaving the warmth of whatever bar he happened to be in. How he did it, she had no idea, nor how he always managed to smell of beer when he never had a penny in his pockets.
“You know I couldn’t do it without you,” he always said.
“Yes, I know,” she replied, but it didn’t help.
…And so it was, her mind whirring over every detail of their relationship, their work, the mystery of how they ever paid for anything, of why nobody ever threatened to break their legs when they did not, that she entered the office expecting, as usual, to find Shaw absent and a scribbled note in his place. But there was no note. There was a real-life Shaw, a grinning Shaw who, had she not known better, she would have taken for excited, pointing at the glass panel on the door which now read ‘Shaw & Parnter. Investigators.’ “What do you think?” he asked.
“Well, I’m not sure what to think,” said Dinah. “What’s a Parnter?”
Shaw peered at the door. “Damn! I thought he was cheap. Do you think we can afford to get it changed?”
“No, parnter, it’s fine,” said Dinah. She hugged Shaw. “It’s fine.” She looked around the office, confused, and opened the door to the back room. “Where’s your bed?” she asked.
“I paid the signwriter with it,” he said. “I thought that if we were going to be… ‘parnters’ and this was going to be a proper office then I ought to find somewhere else to live.”
“Oh right,” said Dinah. “And have you?”
“Well, not quite yet,” he answered. “I wondered, well, what are you like for space in your flat?…”
It’s been quite a while since our last visit to Dinah and Shaw, which I managed to work into the ‘Writer’s Circle’ strand, so in case you want to catch up, episode 1 is here, and the last episode (Slight Return) is here.