Another chapter complete – five more to go. Thank you for sticking with it all this time.
As always, if you need to read what’s gone before, please click here.
Thursday 14th November 1985: 11.55 – 12.15
‘Quiet, Son. Deadly quiet.’
Ronnie almost lost grip as an object whistled past so close he could smell the cathode in the ray tubes. There was the mother of all bangs as the television that had been balanced on top of the armchair which was balanced upside down on Darren’s head transformed itself into a television two floors below with a couple of house bricks through what had, until that minute, been its screen.
‘I said QUIET, Dazza!’ Ronnie yelled.
‘Not my fault, Dad,’ Darren’s plaintive voice returned from above. ‘It’s ’ard climbing down this drainpipe with five suitcases in yer hand and an armchair on yer bonce. An’ you might’ve put that the other way round, so’s I could see a bit more.’
‘Be a damn sight easier if you ’adn’t insisted on bringin’ the telly!’
‘Be easier if we’d taken the stairs.’
Ronnie held back a growl of impatience. ‘I told you, Son; that rozzer that was outside yesterday might still be ’angin’ around.’
‘Nah, Dad. He left yesterday afternoon, just after you did. Saw ’im pack ’is gear and drive off in that police van they’d tried to disguise by sticking the Telecom signs on. He made a total pig’s ear of the telephones, though. I answered three calls last night askin’ what my prices were for a sixty-nine. I think they were meant for the bird ’oo lives in Number Two; didn’t know she sold ice creams.’
Ronnie came to a dead halt in his downward climb. ‘Dazza,’ he said, very quietly and very slowly. ‘Are you tellin’ me that that rozzer started following me?’
‘Reckon so, Dad. He left in such a hurry, ’e didn’t even notice I’d let all ’is tyres down. Real sparks there were, like them Catherine Wheels we nicked for Guy Fawkes night.’
Oh. For. F—
‘Dazza! Why the ’ecking eff didn’t you tell me this before!’
Not facing upwards, he couldn’t see Darren shrug again, but he knew, just as sure as he knew they were now very firmly in the Brown Windsor, that that’d happened, given that the two smaller suitcases he’d balanced between his son’s shoulders and the arms of the chair came flashing past him to join the television. ‘Thought you’d probably dealt with it, Dad. You’re always tellin’ me how you got rid of the entire Kent constabulary when they was chasin’ you after that job in Sandwich. The one where you broke into a baker’s while you was escapin’, and disguised yourself as a sliced Hovis to shake ’em off.’
‘Son, that was in the sixties; I was a lot fitter then, and a damn sight more tanned! Only thing I could disguise myself as nowadays is a bowl of lumpy porridge. Which is what our rations’ll be when they chuck us in Dartmoor, if we don’t get a move on.’ Ronnie began scrambling downwards at fifteen times his previous speed. ‘Get down ’ere now, Dazza. Don’t worry about the cases; just make sure the armchair comes with us!’
Ronnie didn’t bother with the drainpipe for the last six feet, landing with a thump in Mrs Coulson’s beer-can-garden-cum-television-graveyard. There were second, third and fourth thumps as the remaining suitcases flew in random directions and disappeared into the transition between late morning and early afternoon, then a screech of pain as his armchair-hatted son followed in a more directly vertical trajectory.
‘Don’t mess around with that telly, Son! We need to go — now!’
There was a soft chuckle from behind them; the sort of chuckle you’d find in one of those films that showed horrible things happening to them being chuckled at pretty soon after the chuckling had ended. Ronnie spun round.
‘Going somewhere, then?’
The voice that asked the question belonged to a ferrety bloke in a mac, and was probably the same voice that had done the chuckling, given that it came with a large dose of sardonic amusement mixed in with the words. Beside him was a young, slim Asian woman and — and this was confirmation, if Ronnie needed it, that he and Darren were now well and truly kippered — a tall, gangling figure in bluebottle blue and a pointy helmet.
‘Oh, bugger!’ Ronnie said.
The ferrety bloke stepped forward. ‘Exactly. Now, if you gents’ll oblige me by sticking your hands behind your backs… Detective Constable Chowdhary?’
The woman started, as if expecting a smack round the head or something. ‘Sir?’ she said, in a voice that sounded surprised she hadn’t received one.
‘If you could cuff Mr Chafford Senior, here… Constable Dawson, would you like to help Junior extract that television from his arse and then cuff him as well?’
‘What about the armchair, sir?’ the bluebottle asked. He too sounded as if he couldn’t quite believe he wasn’t being laid about on with his own truncheon.
The ferrety bloke seemed to consider this. ‘No — leave that in place. It’ll be better than having to look at his mug, especially if it’s anything like his dad’s.’
Ronnie fumed as the woman detective snapped a pair of bracelets onto his wrists. ‘I ain’t done nuthin’,’ he tried. ‘Me and my son, here, were just cleanin’ the windows. Next thing we know, we’re bein’ ’arrassed in the course of our honest business…’
‘Save it!’ the ferret snapped. ‘Detective Constable — Constable — please read them their rights. Then I’ll leave you to run them in, if you don’t mind.’
‘Sir?’ the detective constable said again, in the same tone of puzzlement.
‘Your collar,’ the ferret said. ‘Well done, both of you.’
And with that, he stomped off through the garden and into the back alley, leaving Ronnie with the distinct impression the other two weren’t sure how they’d suddenly come to be in charge.
‘Ronnie Chafford, I’m arresting you on suspicion of theft…’ the familiar strain began, and he heard the same being administered to Darren.
‘Look — this is all a mistake…’ he decided to try again.
‘As the boss said, save it!’ the detective constable snapped, in a tone so sharp he could have shaved with it. He was so astonished that such a voice could come out of such a frame, he did, indeed, save it while she finished his rights.
‘Okay — let’s go,’ she said. Ronnie stumbled as she pushed him forward.
‘Oh, and by the way,’ she added. ‘If you were cleaning the windows, you didn’t do a very good job. There’s some kind of bird droppings all over the one you left by.’
Bird droppings… Sod and damnation! That was what had been bugging him about the copper disguised as a telephone engineer. The bastards usually worked undercover in pairs.
That pigeon that had been flying around when he left for Gerry Batrick’s…
No — surely not…
‘Quite the coup for us, eh, Terrence?’ the young Asian woman remarked, obviously aiming it at the uniformed half of the duo.