This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 945 words.
The fire brigade arrived in good time, but not fast enough to save the car or the bike, or to stop the flames badly scorching and blistering all the paint on Mister Turkish Bloke’s car either. I watched in amusement as Biker Man jumped around shouting, and when the police arrived, he was engaged in a long conversation with both officers. I made an educated guess that he was implicating Fat Bald Bloke, as he frequently pointed up in the direction of their balcony. But he would have a high old time trying to prove that. There was no CCTV in the car park, or at the front of the block. An addition that was not deemed cost effective by the builders, obviously.
But I knew he had done it, even though I hadn’t seen him do it. And so did Biker Man.
A couple of days later, we all got a letter from the landowners via the property management company. Nobody resident in the block owned any of the car park spaces, and they were only a concession, not a right. The posts put up by Biker Man were to be removed, and the space repaired. Then flat numbers would be painted in them, and the spaces allocated by written agreement. No spaces could be fenced off or deliberately blocked off, and the management company would deal with any complaints raised about misuse of spaces in future. If that was something instigated by Biker Man, it backfired on him, as the letter also named him, and said he would be liable for the cost of making good the damaged space.
For the first time since I had moved in, the atmosphere had changed. And for the worse.
Not long after Mel finished training, she had got posted to her borough, then suggested that she moved in. It seemed logical enough. She had a lot of stuff there already, even joking that she had more clothes than I did in the double wardrobe. It was a better journey into work for her than her parents’ place, and if she twisted the front wheel enough, she could get her pushbike into the lift, so it wouldn’t be pinched while being locked up outside. She said she could store it on the balcony.
Although I agreed, I had my doubts. Having her around all the time was one thing, but she would be working rotating shifts, and my fraud squad job was more or less eight ’til four. That meant having to creep around when she was on nights at weekends, and being woken up almost two hours earlier than necessary when she had to be in for early shift. But I could hardly say no, as that would send the wrong message entirely.
She was also very friendly with Theatrical Conehead, in the flat opposite. He had moved in a few weeks after me, taking flat eleven on the same floor. I bumped into him on his moving day, and his head fascinated me so much, I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was as if he had been delivered as a baby by a midwife using a suction cup, and the cone-like effect on his tiny head had never gone away. It didn’t help that he was also so bald, he just shaved everything off. Unlike Fat Bald Bloke, who just had a big Monk-like circle at the back to justify his name.
Theatrical went to great lengths to introduce himself, and told me a potted version of his life story stood outside the door to my flat. He was an actor, apparently. He said I should know him, because he had been in a long-running telly series that was popular. I told him I worked shifts, so never kept up with telly. He was obviously gay, as his manner was as camp as row of tents, and he had ‘those’ eyebrows. I always reckoned you could tell a gay bloke from his eyebrows because they mess with them. It didn’t bother me at all, and he was happy to be very obvious. But he seemed a bit miffed that I didn’t know who he was.
He latched on to Mel whenever he saw her coming round, and they chatted like old friends. She knew who he was of course.
After she finished her two-year probation, Mel started to apply for all sorts of courses, and even began to study for her sergeant’s exam. She managed to get accepted for the Territorial Support Group, and never stopped banging on about the stop and search sweeps, the early morning arrest raids, and smashing in doors with an enforcer. The new base was too far away for her to cycle though, so a colleague called Steve started to pick her up and drop her home, in his family-style people carrier. He came up for a coffee once. All muscles and tattoos. He quizzed me about the fraud squad, telling me it was not real coppering, in his opinion. I didn’t debate it, as I pretty much agreed with him.
It came as no real surprise when nine months later, Mel told me she was moving in with Steve. Seems he had left his wife and three kids for her, and she thought he was like Rambo or Arnie Schwarzenegger. I didn’t kick up a fuss, as it was something I had seen coming for a long time. I wished them all the best. No hard feelings.
I didn’t mention that his wife and kids would get most of his salary, and her and Steve would end up living in some crappy rented place somewhere. A place a lot worse than my one.
She would learn.