It is with great sadness that we have to announce that one of our Crime Cymru family, Gareth W. Williams, passed away shortly before Christmas. A great writer and a charming and thoughtful man, Gareth wrote masterfully in both Welsh and English. His Arthur Goss mystery novels tackled issues concerning Wales and Welsh society, and the threats facing them, with tremendous intelligence and insight.
To pay tribute to Gareth’s warmth and humour, and his talent as a writer, we’re republishing a beautifully dark and mischievous short story that he wrote for our blog last year.
Jerry by Gareth W. Williams
Jerry, or Jeremiah to give him his full name, had become a bit of a star in the office, and everyone came in to say a word or two to him when they passed by Sergeant Amos’s desk. He sat on his pole in the cage turning his gaze to those who demanded his attention, and more often than not, he would respond obediently to any word he was prompted to say and imitate the accent and voice of the speaker perfectly. Jerry was a Macaw, to be precise; with his back, wings and long tail bright blue, and with a fiery yellow waistcoat around his chest and a splash of green for a cap. He was a very noble bird. You wouldn’t say he was beautiful as such; striking would be a better description of him with his white face, big crooked beak and two penetrating eyes in his head.
‘I reckon the bugger understands every word I say,’ said one of the policemen one day while bending forward towards the cage with his nose rather close to the bars.
Jerry had turned his head in that knowing way that was typical of him. ‘Bugger, bugger, bugger understands!’ said Jerry, with the accent of the police officer from Bala to a tee. There was always a kind of a mischievous laughter to follow his feat of mimicry.
Jerry, as young children do, tended to focus on the swear words to imitate and seemed to delight in them. Several visitors were given colourful advice on where to go when they came through the door into the room.
‘I wouldn’t get too close to him,’ said Sergeant Amos.
‘Why?’ asked the policeman.
‘You are a man.’
‘What’s that got to do with it?’
‘He’s fine with women. He doesn’t like men. Mrs Emanuel raised him from a chick. All women are OK but men are a threat. ‘
‘Oh,’ said the policeman and distanced his nose out of reach of the talonous beak.
Will Amos had sort of inherited the bird, as he had been responsible for the case in court. The intention was to transfer him to a home for orphaned parrots, but there was no sign of the company’s van and it had been a week since he’d contacted them, but Jerry was quite happy in his cage and seemed to enjoy the attention he got from all the visitors; although he looked cynically at anyone who ventured on: ‘Who’s a pretty boy then?’
Moving to a home where there were other parrots would be a bit of a shock too. Sergeant Amos had concluded that Jerry considered himself to be a human being, mainly because he had only ever seen people in his small world, and also because of his mastery of imitation. Meeting others of the ornithological kind would be a bit of a wakeup call that there were others like himself in existence. Jerry had become accustomed to his busy new environment; after all, there was a constant supply of food and water. The sergeant tried to lure him out of his cage one time after closing all the windows just in case, but nothing happened. Jerry insisted on steadfastly staying in his cell.
Jessica, a young policewoman, had taken a bit of a shine to the bird and came in to see him every day and Jerry was obviously pleased to see her and swaggered on his perch. She usually had a nut or a piece of apple to tempt him.
‘Open the door to see if he comes out for you,’ said Sergeant Amos one day. ‘I don’t like seeing him stuck in that cage or all the time. They said he used to go back quite willingly after he’d had a bit of a jaunt around the room to spread his wings.’
Jessica opened the door and offered her finger to the bird and straight away Jerry jumped willingly enough onto her arm before flying around the room a couple of times and landed on her shoulder like Long John Silver’s parrot. The sergeant offered his hand to the bird to see if some glimmer of friendship could develop. Quick as a flash Jerry leaned forward and bit his hand hard, enough to draw blood. ‘Little bastard!’ said the sergeant.
‘Little bastard, little bastard!’ said Jerry with Will Amos’s voice mimicked perfectly and then stood there on Jessica’s shoulder rolling his shoulders proudly.
‘Put the git back in his cage, Jessica,’ said the Sergeant.
‘Git in the cage, git in the cage,’ said Jerry.
She lifted the bird on her hand and put Jerry back in his confinement with ease.
Will Amos would be glad to drape the cover over the cage before leaving tonight. Almost without exception he heard Laura Emanuel’s female voice coming from the darkness under the cover afterwards: ‘Get stuffed you bastard!’ and the sergeant would smile quietly as the door closed behind him at the end of the day. He would be happy to see the back of him after today’s bite.
* * *
Jerry was a bit of a star in the court case. A rather sad case, frankly; one that received considerable media coverage. Everyone was convinced that the jury had come to the correct conclusion that Geraint Emanuel had murdered his wife Laura and that manslaughter had not taken place. Everyone was glad that there were no children in this troubled marriage and that there would not be a further cloud to the sadness. It was heard in the case that the bird had become a bit of a foster child to her, receiving far more love and attention than she gave to her husband. She was discovered by police on the lounge floor and bled to death before paramedics arrived. The bread knife was on the floor by her side. Her husband had dialed 999 and claimed it had been an accident following an argument. The jury disagreed. Nobody doubted that there had been an argument. Nor did anyone doubt that Laura Emanuel was a very strange woman and one who was extremely difficult to live with due to her highly volatile state of mind. However, everyone was convinced that her husband Geraint had lost his temper and had stabbed her in anger. He had claimed that she had threatened him with the knife and that the stabbing had occurred as he grabbed her to try and prise the knife out of her hand.
There had been a lot of arguments back and forth between the two barristers with even a portrayal of the fight between the couple staged on the floor of the court, but the ‘clincher’ for the jury was Jerry. Sergeant Amos testified in court that he heard the bird screaming; ‘Put down the knife, put down the knife!’ loudly, shortly after they arrived at the scene of the crime, and the parrot’s voice definitely imitated a woman’s voice. There was quite a bit of banter when the sergeant came back to the office with the bird in the cage having returned from the scene. ‘Witness Protection?’ asked one wag.
Jerry was brought to court with great ceremony. He seemed to enjoy this new stage, and swaggered on his roost. He was encouraged to pronounce the key words by a court official (to be impartial) and the words came out: ‘put the knife down, put the knife down,’ from the bird’s beak. Everyone who knew her testified that it was definitely Laura Emanuel’s voice and the accent was certainly from South Wales.
‘The bird’s innate ability to mimic makes it a perfect tape recorder as a living testament of the events that transpired on that fateful day,’ said Selwyn Hughes the barrister.
Evidence from a tropical bird expert confirmed that birds were only imitating and that Laura Emanuel’s voice was likely to be consistent with events in the apartment. He added that bird expressions had no substance and they could only feel basic empathy.
And that was that: Geraint Emanuel was convicted of murder. A good day’s work thought Sergeant Will Amos at the end of the case.
* * *
A call had come from the parrot protection charity; they would be there in the morning to take Jerry to his new, relatively free home. ‘Thank goodness,’ the sergeant thought as he put the cover over the cage for Jerry to roost and turned for the door. He froze when he heard a voice from behind the cover, as clear as the man himself: Geraint Emanuel screaming ‘put the knife down Laura’, with his broad Denbighshire accent clear as a bell. That mischievous little laugh came afterwards.
All of us at Crime Cymru would like to express our deepest condolences to Gareth’s family and friends and to everyone who loved him as a writer and as a man. We hope you will join us in celebrating his life and his writing.