The Job: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 785 words. It may contain some swear-words.

A busy day for Alan.

Early the next morning, Alan was in a cab heading for the City of London. In his former life in London, he would have had no reason to enter the financial district, other than to commit a robbery. This time, his business was legal banking.

On a narrow side street in a somewhat unimpressive Victorian building, he entered a Private Bank. Not a bank with counters, cashiers, and ATM machines lining the walls, this was the kind of bank where you gave an account number to the receptionist, and she showed you to a comfortable chair while she made a phone call. Its head office was in Vaduz, the capital of tiny Lichtenstein, a European city that Alan had visited just once.

Five minutes later, he was in a comfortable office, watching as the professional middle-aged man in the chair behind the desk arranged transfers using a computer, and made phone calls on a speaker so his customer could hear the conversation. Twenty minutes later, a young woman entered the office and handed Alan a complimentary briefcase containing fifty thousand pounds. As well as the cash, he had transferred funds to a mainstream bank that he could access using his identity as Richard Alexander.

Ten minutes after that, he was in another cab, heading for Oxford Street. He walked into John Lewis, the department store where his father had once worked, and headed straight to the menswear department. He bought a heavyweight wool suit, navy blue with a pinstripe. Then added seven brand new white shirts, four assorted ties, and finished with a wool and cashmere overcoat in matching navy. In other sections, he bought underwear and socks, and a pair of strong black lace-up brogue shoes.

All transactions were made using Richard Alexander’s completely legal credit card.

Walking back in the direction of Tottenham Court Road carrying the shopping bags, he headed to the seedier end of the shopping street. One small shop that was little more than a booth sold phones and accessories. He stopped there, and ten minutes later had purchased a refurbished i-phone with charger, and a SIM card. The phone was unlocked and unregistered, and the SIM card was of the pay-as-you-go variety. He asked the young Indian guy to make the phone call to put one hundred pounds of credit on the SIM card, and handed over cash for all of it to the happy young man who said, “Have a nice day, sir”.

As he flagged down another cab, he wondered when saying that Americanism had become acceptable in London.

Gloria had convinced him to get the phone, worried that she wouldn’t be able to contact him when he was out. He knew he would have to make phone calls to Spain too, to speak to Chrissy and Rosa. At least the unregistered phone wouldn’t be traceable back to him.

The third cab of the day took him to a letting agent in East London. He told the sweaty man who ran the place that he needed a secure premises to use to store classic cars that he was buying and shipping over to America. He presented bank credentials in the name of Richard Alexander, as well as his passport to confirm his identity. The agent sensed money, and presented a pile of papers showing his flagship rental, a stand-alone warehouse on an industrial estate in Leyton. It had an alarm, and electric roller shutter doors. There was the added benefit of a staff bathroom, and separate office. He told Alan it was up for nine-fifty a month, six month minimum. When Alan didn’t reply, he said he was sure he could get it for eight hundred.

Letting his silence do the negotiating, Alan held the man’s gaze, lighting a cigarette without asking if smoking was allowed. By the time the man was mopping the sweat off of his head with a creased handkerchief, the counter offer was made. “Seven-fifty, to include all electricity. I will take it for six months, and pay you it all in advance now. Cash. You give me the alarm code and the keys, job done”. The man smiled and nodded, and Alan turned and removed four thousand five hundred pounds from the briefcase. Handing over the paperwork, code, and keys, the man extended a hand. “Pleasure to do business with you, Mister Alexander”. Alan ignored the sweaty mitt. “Can you phone me a cab from here? I doubt one will be passing. I will wait outside”.

He smoked two cigarettes before the minicab arrived. A fifteen year-old Mercedes diesel driven by an Arabic-looking bloke wearing a little white lace cap on his head.

More Birds Than Ever

We have always been lucky to have a variety of birds in the back garden. I put bread out for them, and in the past I have also added various seeds and fat balls on the feeders. However, this year I bought a huge sack of specialist bird seed, and we decided to put some out in a small bowl on a glass-topped side table that sits on the grass next to the patio area.

Whether it was the ease of access to the seed, the lockdown making the birds feel safer, or the recent change in the weather conditions, I don’t know. But the bird life in the garden has exploded, with birds arriving in numbers and varieties never seen before.

As well as the usual Wood Pigeons, Robins, nesting Blue Tits, and Blackbirds, there are some days when the grass is literally covered in birds of all sizes. Sparrows, Wrens, Starlings, Greenfinches, Collared Doves, Thrushes, Long-Tailed Tits, Jays, Magpies, and even on one occasion, two large Seagulls. Some noisy Crows like to visit early in the morning, and I could do without them waking me up.

It is a real delight to see them all though, even if I need to refill the bowl at least three times a day. Many have become so used to me being out there, they no longer fly away when I appear. And they all tolerate Ollie as he patrols around, knowing he will not chase them or harm them.

With the weather set to stay warm for a while, I really hope this influx of bird visitors continues.

The Job: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 777 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Alan gets tough with Frankie.

Taking a glass from inside the sideboard, Alan poured himself some of his own Scotch, and sat down. “I heard Patsy was in a home. Went to see Lugs for old time’s sake, and offered to bung him a wedge to get her some proper care. We had a drink, and walked round the block chatting ’cause it was so noisy in the pub with al the telly screens blaring. That’s the long and the short of it, Frankie”. Toland was sipping his drink, and he suddenly leaned forward.

“So if I take old Lugs down to my lock-up and start slicing off one of his Dumbo ears, do you reckon he will tell me the same story?” Alan shrugged. “Start slicing his ear, and he will tell you any story you want to hear, Frankie. You know that”. In the old days, Frankie had been known to favour using a cut-throat razor on people. But he was old now, so would probably get one of his goons to do the job. He leaned back again, relaxing against the headrest.

“Little birds, Alan. Little birds tell me things. Things like you have been spending a lot of time with Old Reg. Things like you have been to visit Teddy Henderson. I have a lot of little birds helping me, Alan”. Putting his glass down on the coffee table, Alan set his jaw.

Some rules from back in the day never left him. Don’t back down. Never show weakness. Never change your story. Front it up.

“Why shouldn’t I go and see Teddy? He was one of the best back then, and he did his time solid. No squawking. I owe him. So I dropped him a few quid. And Old Reg has been a family friend all my life, he was good to my mum. He will be pushing up daises before too long, so of course I will spend time with him before I go back to Spain”. This time, it was him leaning forward, and he lowered his voice to sound more menacing.

“You don’t come here and frighten my sister, Frankie. That’s fucking well out of order, and you know that. Got something you want to say to me, then get a message to me and I wil come and see you. And as for those little birds, fuck them. And while I’m at it, fuck you, and the horse you rode in on”.

Toland was trying to smile, but Alan’s aggression had unnerved him. It was well known that he had shot Larry The Limp stone cold, and without any solid proof that the Irishman had even grassed him. Even in his fifties, Alan Gill wasn’t a man to be messed with when he had no bodyguards around. Gill could be a hard man, and fearless.

“Calm down, Alan. I was just asking a fair question. You’re back on my manor, putting yourself about like you own the place, and you have hardly been to see me or talked to me. It’s a question of respect, you know that, and don’t need me to tell you”. Alan was still fronting up, no way was he going to calm down.

“If you want respect, you don’t come to my sister’s place and threaten Lugs. You talk to me man to man, ask your questions without threats, and you might get the answers you want. But they will already be the same as the answers I have given you. I’m out the game, Frankie. I have a life in Spain, and a good business. I should be entitled to visit my sister and ask her to come and live there with me, and to catch up with any old friends while I’m here. I don’t want trouble with you, but I’ll be fucked if I will lie down and roll over because you’ve got some arseholes following me around”.

The tension in the room was overwhelming. Alan kept direct eye contact with Frankie as the older man seemed to be thinking of something clever to say. When he couldn’t think of anything, he stood up, extending a hand. “We know each other too well to fall out, Alan. You know I had to ask. Thanks for the drink, I will be in touch”. After the brief handshake, he left the flat, nodding to Gloria who was standing in the hallway like a frightened rabbit.

When enough time had passed that he would be back at his car, Alan turned to his sister.

“Glor, as soon as your passport arrives, you’re off to Spain. No arguments”.

Monday: A Late Message

Beetley was hit by an unexpected power cut today. From 14:56 until 21:38, we had no electricity at all.

So it was a cold sandwich for my dinner, and an exceptionally boring evening with no computer, Tablet, or TV.

I will do my best to get to all your posts and comments sometime tomorrow.

So much for modern living! Power cables ‘affected by trees’. The trees were there decades before power cables, so you think the power company might have known. 🙂

Country living!

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

The Job: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, 765 in words. It may contain some swear-words.

Alan and Lugs have a chat.

When they had finished that first drink, Lugs produced a ten-pound note, to buy the next round. Alan put his hand over it. “Come for a walk around the block, so we can have a chat, Lugs”. On the busy main road, Alan felt happier about talking. “What’s the score with your Kenny? Is he still working? I might have something good for him”. The older man spoke without turning as they strolled along. “Yeah, he does a bit, Alan. Follows in his old man’s footsteps, you might say. He’s getting on now though, you forget. I’m seventy-six now, so that makes my Kenny almost fifty. What are you looking for?”

They stopped at the traffic lights, waiting for them to change so they could cross. “I need two plain vans. Probably white is best. There are so many white vans around, nobody notices them. They should be reliable, and have plates that will pass a road check. Then two other vans, for the swap later. They have to be kosher, and stand an actual stop-check. I would like Kenny as a driver, and someone he will speak for to drive the other one”.

Lugs took a cigarette Alan offered. “I don’t smoke so much these days, but I could do with one. I s’pose there will be shooters? My Kenny’s not much for guns, Al. He’s a car thief, a ringer”. Alan lit both cigarettes before answering. “He will have to carry one, in case he needs to show it. But my plan is for him and his oppo to stay in the vans, ready to drive. Maybe a bit of loading and unloading, top whack. I’m not saying how much for now, but there’s a lot of money involved. Reckon Kenny can buy a villa in the sun, and you and your Patsy can go and see your days out over there mate”.

They started walking again, arriving back in sight of the pub. Lugs stood finishing his cigarette. “Patsy’s in a home, Al. Dementia. She’s fucked, mate. Doesn’t even know who me and Kenny are”. Alan put his had on the old man’s shoulder. “Sorry to hear that, Lugs. But you will get a big enough bung to get Patsy into somewhere private, see her looked after properly”. Lugs threw the butt of the cigarette into the road. “Okay, I’ll talk to Kenny. You got a number so I can let you know a yes or no?” Alan blew out a cloud of smoke. “Nah. No phones, Lugs. Tell Kenny to come and find me at Gloria’s place. You know where she lives”.

Halfway home, a car pulled up next to him. The windows were tinted, but as one of the back ones slid down, he saw Frankie Toland in there. “I thought you would be back in Spain by now, Alan. What’s keeping you here? Not the wonderful architecture, or Gloria’s luxurious flat, I’m sure”. Alan leaned into the opening, smiling and acting casual. “I thought Gloria could come back with me, Frankie. Nothing to keep her here now mum’s dead. But she’s taking some persuading”. The look on Frankie’s face told him he didn’t believe a word.

“Well like I said, I can put some work your way if you need it. You know where to find me”. The window started to go back up, and the car drove off.

Stopping off at a shop to buy more cigarettes, Alan picked up a box of Lindor chocolate truffles for his sister. They were her favourite. As he put his key into the lock on the front door, it opened before he could turn it. Gloria looked scared as she whispered. “Frankie Toland’s here. I put him in the front room and gave him some of your Black Label”. Smiling to reassure her, he gave her the chocolates. “Stay in the kitchen, Glor. I’ll see what he wants”.

Alan was annoyed. Frankie shouldn’t involve his sister. He could have told him to get in the car if he wanted a serious talk. The fact he had driven straight to her flat was provocative, and a threat. He knew Toland would know he realised that. He opened the door to the front room, and strolled in, sounding cheery. “Frankie. Twice in twenty minutes, I am in demand. What is is now?” Pointing at an armchair, Frankie spoke with a very serious tone.

“Sit yourself down, and tell me what you and Lugs were talking about outside The Alwyne Castle”.

Easing Off: An Update

I am now two weeks into my plan of easing off the blog for a while. Some of you will recall this post, at the end of May.

Easing Off

Since then, I have been publishing my fiction serial, and adding one other post most days. That has dropped my output from 4-5 posts most days, to one every day, two on some days.

The effect on the blog stats has been dramatic, proving that to a large extent that the more I posted, the more views followed. I have gone from 750-800 views a day, down to 325-360. This has freed up a considerable amount of time answering blog comments, and I have still been able to follow other blogs and comment on those posts as I did before.

Because the hot weather arrived, I have been walking Ollie earlier than usual, and the extra free time before and after those walks has meant that I have been able to tackle routine housework more regularly, and keep on top of cutting the grass and doing some weeding in the garden.

Easing off seems to have worked out well, and as long as the good weather is with us in Beetley, I will continue to do that.

Thanks as always to everyone who has stuck with me, the new followers who are still arriving daily, and the regular readers of my latest serial, one that I am very much enjoying writing.

The Job: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 792 words. It may contain some swear-words.

Carl becomes number two.

The kitchen was going to be too small for three of them with a bloke that size, so Alan showed the two men into Gloria’s living room. He didn’t ask them to sit down, and there was no offer of any booze. “Who’s this then Teddy? And why have you brought him here?” Teddy knew he should never have brought the big man to Gloria’s place, and sounded sheepish.

“Sorry, Alan, but he insisted on meeting you in person. His name is Carl, and he’s very experienced”. Alan took the extended hand the size of a gorilla’s paw and shook it briefly. “You’re here now, so you better sit down and tell me your story”. Teddy did the talking.

“Carl has been on some good jobs, Al. Never been nicked for any of them either. He is ex-army, did some mercenary work in Iraq, and he knows some blokes who might be right for your project”. Alan smiled at hearing the word project. He had definitely been away too long. “Let Carl speak for himself then”. The man seemed too big for the sofa, and leaned forward awkwardly. Obviously some sort of body builder, with his cropped black hair a little bit too neat. There was a nasty scar puckered above his right eyebrow that looked like he was lucky to have kept the eye.

“Mister Henderson tells me you need men used to guns, and disciplined enough to follow orders, Mister Gill. I can be one of those, and I know two others I can vouch for one hundred percent”. His voice was surprisingy quiet, and a bit squeaky, more like a girl’s. Trying not to smile about that, Alan nodded. “You do everything through Teddy. You never come here again, and tell nobody about this flat, or use my name, got that? And no phones. They can trace those things too easily. You meet Teddy in person somewhere, and he will tell you what the plan is. Okay? And no names used on the job. From now on I am One, you will be Two, and so on. remember that”.

Teddy was nodding and smiling, and so was Carl. Alan didn’t care for too much nodding and smiling. “I asked if you got that”. Carl swallowed before replying. “Yes, got it all”.

He stood up to let them know it was time to go. Gloria would be back soon, and he didn’t want them seeing her. “I will be in touch, Teddy. No more uninvited guests though, yeah?” The men left the flat, both still nodding and smiling. Alan lit a cigarette, wondering when nodding and smiling had replaced conversation. If Teddy spoke for him, then that Carl must be alright. But having three ex-mercenaries on the job was a bit worrying. That type was known for being a bit gun-happy, to say the least. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and he didn’t know many villains who were still around.

Even with Carl and his mates, he would still need two more. But a thought had occurred.

Tony Allison had been the go-to man for motors. He could nick any car to order, make it run faster or quieter, and get rid of it when it had been used. Good with bigger things too, like heavy lorries, or the massive dump-truck Alan had once used to ram a security van. He was known to everyone as Lugs, because he had big ears that stuck out like wing-nuts. When Gloria got home from work, Alan made her a cup of tea, and asked the question.

“Glor, is Lugs still around? He must be seventy-odd now I suppose”. She took the mug, and sat at the table. “Yeah, I saw him a few days ago, coming out of the Londis shop. I reckon he will be in The Alwyne Castle later, he seems to live in that pub. I have got us some lamb chops for dinner, if that’s okay”.

Even early on a Sunday night, the pub was busy. Alan shook his head at all the telly screens around. Why did people go to pubs then sit and watch sport on telly? He would never get used to that. It was the same in Spain, in the bars that catered for the Brits. Lugs was sitting on a stool at the end of the bar, holding a fresh pint of Guinness. His ears were even bigger now, and age had given him droopy jowls that made him look like a rather sad old dog. He didn’t recognise the tanned man in the smart suit walking up to him, but grinned when Alan spoke.

“You want a chaser with that Irish engine oil, Lugs?”

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Littering.

The warm weather is back, and the crowds are starting to arrive at the river bend over on Beetley Meadows. Promoted by people on Facebook, family groups arrive from all over central Norfolk. Their children play safely in the shallow water, then enjoy picnic lunches on the tables and benches provided. Free of charge, and free parking on nearby streets and roads, it offers the benefits of a day at the seaside without the crowds, cost, or having to sit in traffic. Very few live locally, but that’s fine. It’s a public area for all to enjoy, after all.

Some arrive unaware that there are no toilet facilities, or shops nearby. I am often asked where they can buy drinks or ice creams, or if there any any public toilets to use. They seem shocked to discover that the nearest shop is in a different village over two miles away, and that toilets are not provided by the tiny Beetley Parish Council.

For those of us that use the area every day, in all weathers, the annual influx of people from outside Beetley on sunny days and during school holidays is something we havve become used to. Very often, the people at the river bend will eventually make their way to the small playground and football/basketball pitch, when their kids have tired of geting wet. So we are used to seeing them using those facilities too.

But the downside is the littering. Numerous bins are provided for litter, and emptied weekly by contractors. They are not that big though, so the bins soon become overwhelmed with the debris of ten or twelve families and their all-day picnics. Then the even smaller bins in the playground and ball-court areas are filled within an hour or two, as they have more drinks and snacks.

So what should these people do? Well, take it home with them of course. Use the bags they brought the food and drink in to take home their rubbish so it is not left littering our local Meadows. What they actually do is stack it next to the already overflowing bins, as if expecting someone to arrive immediately to clear up after them. The more inventive among them actually place their garbage carefully on top of the bins, knowing full well it will soon slip down, or be blown off by the slightest breeze.

Moving here from a litter-strewn city like London, I was very impressed by how neat and tidy Beetley is.

Until the weather gets warm, and the outsiders arrive. Then it is just like London in miniature.

Ollie And My Office

Most days, I spend a fair bit of time in the small third bedroom. It no longer has a bed in it, just some bookcases, a big desk with my PC on it, and the second hand office chair I have enjoyed sitting in for some years now. The room is always referred to as ‘The Office’.

Ollie likes to be within reach of me at all times, so when I go and sit down in the office, he follows me and lies down on the carpet twelve inches from my chair. Once he realises I am going to be in there for some time, he generally goes to sleep, snoring noisly next to me as I type.

It didn’t take my dog very long to start to identify what he obviously thinks of as ‘signals’.

Me: Moves chair back to reach something behind me.
Ollie: Stands up immediately, no longer asleep. Are we going out now?

Me: Opens a drawer in the desk to find a pen, charging cable, or notebook.
Ollie: Stands up, tail wagging. We must be going out now!

Me: Closes drawer, slides chair back in and resumes typing.
Ollie: Slumps back down. False alarm, we’re not going out yet. Immediately asleep again.

Me: Decide to have another coffee. Stand up and head for the kitchen.
Ollie: Jumps up and follows. He’s heading for the back door, must be time to go out.

Me: Gets a cup and switches on kettle.
Ollie: Slumps down in the kitchen doorway. Looks like we are not going out after all.

Me: Decide to start on the draft for tomorrow’s serial episode.
Ollie: Enough is enough! He’s getting my chin on his leg!

Me: “Come on then, let’s take you out”.