Even the IRA couldn’t get us a telephone.

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We were the last family in our street to get a telephone. Dad just wouldn’t have one. He’d say.

“People can call you whenever THEY like. I could be watching the tele or having me tea and I’d have to get up and see who’s there and what they want. No chance.”

As kids we’d try to counter the argument.

“But Dad what if it’s an emergency and they need you straightaway?”

He’d just look at us.

“Like what?”

We’d give him the obvious answer.

“Like someone’s died!”

He’d have none of it.

“Well if they’re dead they don’t need me do they. They need the undertaker, call him not me. Nothing I can do if they’re already dead.”

The conversation was finished and dad went back to watching the sport on the tele.

We all decided (including mum) that it would be a long process before dad agreed to a telephone. But we wouldn’t give up.

In 1974 my sister was training to be a Premature Baby Nurse at a Hospital in Solihull, Birmingham. She’d call us about twice a week and let us know how she was getting on. She’d call “Uncle Bill” who lived two doors away. He wasn’t really our Uncle but our family had known his family for years and so we called him Uncle Bill. The poor sod would have to stop whatever he was doing, answer the phone, put on his shoes and walk to our house, knock on the door and tell mum or dad that she was on the phone, then they’d both walk to Uncle Bill’s house to take the call. This went on for months.

In November of that year we were all sat watching the tele when there was a Newsflash. Bombs had gone off in two pubs in Birmingham and it was likely that many people had been killed. Instinctively we all stood up and rushed to Uncle Bill’s house. Dad called the lodgings where my sister was staying but there was no answer. Uncle Bill put the kettle on knowing that none of us were going anywhere for a while. Mum and dad called the number every fifteen minutes for the next three hours. Eventually my sister answered. She’d been out with friends in the City centre but nowhere near the bombings. She said the city was in chaos and it had taken her hours to get back to her digs.

Everyone was relieved that she was okay. Mum decided to use this as leverage a few days later.

“I’ve been thinking maybe it is about time we got a telephone. I mean, what with everything that happened the other night. It would have been a lot easier.”

Dad gave her one of his looks.

“Why?”

Mum came back strong.

“Well, what if Uncle Bill had been out or away on holiday. What would we have done then?”

Dad played the trump card.

“We’ve got his key, just like he’s got ours. We’d have let ourselves in and used the telephone. Left a few coppers in the box and that would have been it.”

Again dad had said the final words. Case dismissed.

Mum wasn’t beat yet. A year later she took herself on the bus to MFI and returned with a big cardboard box. She followed the instructions carefully and with the help from dads toolbox put together a new piece of furniture. A telephone table!

She put it in the hallway right next to the back door. No way could dad pass it and not notice. He did.

Over tea that night mum brought it up.

“Got us some new furniture today from MFI.”

Dad continued eating his egg and chips.

“Oh yeh. What did you get?”

Mum told him straight.

“A telephone table.”

Dad didn’t flinch.

“That’s nice. Does it come with a free telephone?”

That wasn’t the answer mum was expecting.

“No.”

Dad stopped chewing for a few seconds and looked up.

“So why do we need one?”

Mum was already up and at the sink.

“Because it’s a nice piece of furniture. It’s got a padded seat and a shelf. It looks nice in the hallway.”

Dad was intrigued.

“Is the seat in case we get tired from walking from the back door to the front room?”

Mum ignored his sarcasm.

“No. It’s just for decoration. Now eat your tea.”

Over the next year or so the telephone table looked impressive. Mum even got telephone directories and put them on the shelf, she even had one of those boxes like Uncle Bill had to put your coppers in if you used the phone that we didn’t have.

Then in 1977 I read something in one of the papers that I knew would be a winning card. I was nineteen and still living at home. I was desperate for us to have our own telephone.

I brought it up after Sunday dinner when just me and him were watching the Big Match.

“I was reading the paper the other day. Amazing the things they’re up to now. Did you know there is a number you can ring on the telephone and you can listen to your favourite song?”

Dad wasn’t impressed.

“Oh really?”

I played it cool.

“They also reckon that soon you’ll be able to ring a number and hear the latest news.”

Still dad wasn’t impressed.

“That’s what we’ve got the tele for.”

Then I went in for the kill.

“They also said that it won’t be long before you’ll be able to get all the horse racing results just by dialling a certain number. Imagine that, no more waiting for the paper the next day or having to go to the betting shop to get the results. You just dial a number on the telephone!”

This stopped him in his tracks. He looked at me. A serious look.

“Really?”

I knew there and then I had him.

“That’s what they reckon. Coming soon apparently.”

It took just a few seconds before he answered.

“Best get one then. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Makes sense.”

Before he could say anything else I decided to close the deal.

“Shall I set it all up? Do the paperwork, place the order?”

His eyes went back to the football.

“That would be great son. Crack on.”

And so finally a few months later we got the telephone we all wanted, well, apart from dad.

It took him years before he would answer it. If it rang he simply shouted out “Mum…the phones ringing.”

 

 

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Chances (2)

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It was time to tell Bobby Philips my story.

“I work for a company called Bullen, Weisman and Stokes, three old gentlemen, all in their eighties. They’ve had the company for over fifty years and during that time have amassed a small fortune. Only the three of them know the combination of the Chubb safe, in fact only a handful of people even know it exists.  And the reason for all this secrecy is that this safe is full of other people’s money. The call it “The Reserve.” You see they each have a master key that unlocks all of their 650 Safety Deposit Boxes. That’s illegal of course, but to be honest they just don’t give a fuck. So now and again they have a little rummage through their client’s boxes and nick a few bits and pieces. These are then sold off to their contacts within the industry and the proceeds put into the safe. And, if one of their clients dies they go to their box, leave any paperwork that’s in there but take out the valuables. If the relatives complain, they just shrug their shoulders and say that the client must have withdrawn it before he or she died. The three of them are like little hoarders, they like to look inside the safe from time to time and see their spoils. It makes them feel good.”

Bobby was intrigued.

“So how much is in “The Reserve?”

“Well I only got a small glimpse when one of the old gents was busy tucking some dodgy cash away. He’d fallen over and was having trouble standing up again. He called out for help and that’s when I got a brief look inside. From what I saw it was packed from floor to ceiling with bundles of £20 notes. And as you know the JX260 is a 6ft square safe.”

Bobby quickly did the math.

“Thirty-five, maybe forty million, give or take.”

I nodded in agreement.

“But we don’t want to be greedy. Six million can be taken in two very large sports holdalls and…I’ll escort you in and I’ll escort you out. Deal?”

We shook hands.

Three weeks later at exactly 4.45am, I met Bobby Phillips at the door of Bullen, Weisman and Stokes. I led him down seven flights of stairs, along a small corridor and into a room containing the Chubb Safe. At 5.28am I escorted him back up seven flights of stairs carrying two very full black sports bags. He placed them carefully into the back of a Ford Escort Van and was gone. I then went to the control room and pressed rewind on the VHS recorder that captured all the CCTV for the building. All traces of him entering and leaving the building would soon be gone.

I left the company ten days later. The stolen money was never mentioned. The three old boys were so paranoid that they probably thought one of the others had taken it, besides, they couldn’t make a fuss about it because it was money that really didn’t exist. None of the contents of the Reserve was on any balance sheet, it was quite simply the three old boys slush fund.

I invested my money in property. By the end of 1985 I owned sixty-three houses, all 3 Bedroom Semi Detached and converted them into bedsits. All close to Hospitals and rented by Nurses or Student Doctors. Back then the average price of one of these houses was around £30k. The rental income gave me a very, very comfortable living. Even when the property market collapsed in 1989 it didn’t affect me. All my properties were paid for, in fact it was a good thing. The prices came tumbling down and I just bought more houses for a fraction of what they were worth just months before.

So today, some thirty-three years later I’m back in Spain to attend Bobby Philips 75th Birthday Bash. It’s being held on his Super Yacht in Puerto Banus, Marbella. Bobby has done very well for himself over the years. Back in the eighties he started “Senor Bob” Scooter Hire. Every resort from Torremolinos to Estepona had a “Senor Bob”.  People came over to Spain on cheap package tours and loved to hire an easy to ride scooter and explore the coastline. “Senor Bob” became a huge success. Bobby then decided to expand his empire into Nightclubs. “Philips” in Marbella and Fuengirola became where the rich and famous went to let their hair down. In 1990 he married the daughter of Mayor Linguista of Malaga. They now have three children and six grandchildren. Bobby Philips is a well known and much-respected businessman along the Costa Del Sol.

He spots me through a crowd of people and opens up his arms to greet me.

“I’d have recognised you anywhere my old mate. What is it? Thirty years?”

I raise my glass of Champagne and salute him.

“More like thirty-three Bobby.”

He looks around.

“You on your own. I thought you’d bring your brother with you. I’ve got a lot to thank that man for.”

He winks at me.

“He’s a workaholic Bobby. Over in California now looking at a land deal.”

He looks disappointed. But simply shrugs his shoulders.

“ Ah well, never mind. You give him my best when you see him. Enjoy the evening, help yourself to whatever you want. I’ve got to mingle.”

He gets swept away by a tide of people all wanting a piece of him.

I help myself to another glass of Champagne and think back to the first time I heard the name of Bobby Philips. It was at a New Years Eve party in 1981. My mate Steve Roberts family were having a party. It was late, probably about 3am and I was sat with Steves dad, Danny. He was well pissed and wanted to impress me by telling me about the scams he’d pulled. One job intrigued me. He mentioned the make of a safe, a Chubb JX260 to be precise and told me how his mate Bobby Philips could open one in just thirty minutes. I recognised the name of the safe because it was the same as the one in a back room at the Safety Deposit Company I’d just started working at as a night security guard. I asked him what happened to Bobby Philips.

“Fucked off to Spain he has. Paranoid that the cops are after him. I spoke to his old mum a few weeks ago. She got a postcard from him. Apparently he’s shacked up in the middle of nowhere, in a place called La Tossa or something.”

So it wasn’t hard to track him down. What I needed was a reason for him to do the job for me. The truth was that no one was looking for Bobby Philips apart from me. Would he come back to England and help me steal the money, I doubted it. What I needed was leverage.

As I said before, I like to take chances and Bobby Philips was a chance I took that really paid off. You see I don’t have a brother. In fact I’m an only child. I read about Scotland Yard being computerised in one of the Sunday Supplements that I read on the plane on the way over to Spain.

As my old dad used to say, “You’ll never know unless you have a go.”

 

Chances ( 1)

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I like to take chances. Some pay off and some don’t. But as my dear old dad used to say “You’ll never know, unless you have a go.” Bobby Philips was one of my big chances.

I first met him in 1982. He’d already been on the run two years by the time I tracked him down to a little town just outside Malaga in Spain. He was sitting outside a small cafe drinking coffee and brandy and reading a newspaper. He was early forties, a few pounds overweight and his hair had gone grey in places, but it was him, no doubt about it.

I made my way over to his table and casually sat down opposite. He didn’t for one moment acknowledge me, just carried on staring at his four day old English newspaper and sipping his brandy. I broke the silence.

“Morning mate. Lovely day. What’s the grub here like? Any good?”

Now I had his attention, he obviously recognised the east London accent, but remained cautious. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Dunno mate. I only ever have the coffee and brandy.”

I smiled.

“Sounds good to me. Great way to start the day.”

I called over to the waiter and ordered. We sat there in silence until my liquid breakfast arrived. I downed the brandy in one go. It reminded me of the time I siphoned petrol out of my dad’s car when I was a kid. My whole body shuddered.

“Woah, that’s woken me up!”

For the first time Bobby Philips smiled.

“Wait till you taste the coffee, it’s like rocket fuel.”

We both laughed. The ice was broken. He looked at me for a few seconds before speaking. It was as if he was weighing me up.

“So what brings a Londoner like you, to La Tosca? I mean, it’s not on the coast so there’s no beach and let’s face it, it’s not as lively as Southend.”

I couldn’t help it. I just came out with it.

“I was looking for you Bobby. It’s taken me a while. But here I am.”

His reaction took me by surprise. He didn’t seem shocked, he didn’t try to leave, in fact he showed no emotion whatsoever. He simply called over to the waiter.

“Two more coffee and Brandys please.”

Then he looked at me and spoke.

“Best make ourselves comfortable while we have a little chat then. Yeh?”

I nodded.

“Sounds good to me Bobby.”

The waiter was back in just a few minutes. Once he’d left and was out of earshot, Bobby looked me up and down.

“Well, you certainly aint old bill. Cos I can smell em, and to be honest I couldn’t care less if you were. Nothing they can do over here in Spain. No extradition between our two great nations, so no way they’d let you take me back. Which means you’d have to take me back by force. And that’s gonna take some muscle and some planning and all of that costs money. For what? Little old me, who nicked a few quid a couple of years ago and then fucked off to Spain before they could catch me. I mean, let’s face it, I aint no Ronnie Biggs!”

He laughed when he mentioned Ronnie Biggs. So did I.

He was right on both counts. He was safe in Spain. And no more than a few dozen people back in England had ever heard of Bobby Philips, unlike Ronnie Biggs who was a household name.

I took my time before answering. I could almost hear the wheels in Bobby’s head going round wondering who the fuck I was. I took a mouthful of coffee. He was right…it did taste like rocket fuel. I decided it was time to tell Bobby a few lesser known facts.

“On the second floor of Scotland Yard, there is an office. Room 206 to be precise. In that office is a filing cabinet containing 117 files. That’s the number of people the Police know to have fucked off to Spain to avoid arrest for a crime they’ve committed in the UK. Obviously your name is on one of those files Bobby, every blag that you’ve been involved in, every job you’ve been connected with or suspected of is written down in that file. Even all the small time stuff you did as a kid will be in there somewhere. That last job you did back in 1980 with Paul Morgan and Danny Roberts, where you all got about two grand each? That’s in the file.”

He looked at me with a curious look on his face.

“So what you saying? What the fuck you want with me?”

I ignored his question and continued.

“Scotland Yard is becoming sophisticated. It’s moving with the times. All written information is slowly being put onto a computer system. HOLMES, they call it, after good old Sherlock. Can you imagine that? EVERY file that they’ve got, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, has to be transferred to a computer. It’s going to take them about three years to complete.”

Bobby looked disinterested.

“So what? Doesn’t concern me.”

I smiled.

“That’s where you’re wrong Bobby. Guess who’s in charge of putting all the information in Room 206 onto a computer. All 117 files, including yours?”

Now I had his attention.

“You?”

I shook my head.

“No not me Bobby. My older brother Dave has that particular job. He works for the firm that’s got the contract to computerise Scotland Yard. He also has the power to make you disappear. Instead of 117 files being transferred to Computer what if he only did 116. That would make you a free man Bobby, no more having to stay in sunny Spain. You could go back to dreary old England and walk around the East End again. See a few old faces, drink warm beer. Or you could stay here and not worry about old bill knocking on your door for crimes you committed back in the day. Because believe me Bobby it’s only a matter of time before there’s an extradition treaty between us and Spain. Two years max I’d say.”

He’d listened intently to what I’d said. Once again I could almost hear the wheels going round in his head. He asked the obvious question.

“Okay, so what do I have to do to make that file disappear?”

I didn’t beat about the bush. I told him straight.

“You have to open up a Chubb JX260, Grade 5 safe, take out six million in cash and walk away.”

Now he looked confused. But before he had time to speak, I continued.

“Perhaps I’d better tell you what I do for a living. I’m head of security for the largest safety deposit company in London. Seven flights of stairs below the pavement of Hatton Garden is a small room containing the Chubb JX260, a safe that I believe you are well acquainted with. In fact you opened one up back in 1980. I know that because it’s written in your file.”

Bobby Phillips drank down his Brandy before commenting.

“So, let me get this straight. You want me to open up a Chubb JX260 and steal six million for you. In return for me doing this service I get to go back to blighty a free man because your brother will destroy my file at Scotland Yard? Doesn’t seem like much of a deal to me.”

I leaned forward.

“Not quite Bobby. The reason you’re stealing six million is because, two million is for me, two million is for my brother and two million is for you. Does that sweeten the deal?”

Bobby smiled.

“Yep, that sounds much, much better. But I need to ask a few questions. Firstly how do you know that there is that much cash in the safe, secondly can you guarantee me access to the safe for at least thirty minutes, because that’s how long I’d need and lastly how am I going to just walk away with that amount of cash?”

I knew I had him. It was now just about tying up the loose ends.

Eastendbutchers Short Story Collection

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My new book Eastendbutchers Short Story Collection…Tales With Meat On The Bone. Is now available on Amazon ( both Paperback and Kindle), just £4.99 for a limited period.

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Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Security At A Price

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It started last summer. Young Jimmy Parker was attacked while doing his paper round early one Friday morning. Two teenagers knocked him off his bike and stole his phone. The newsagent called the Police, but they didn’t come, said they were over stretched and just gave out a crime number. Jimmy’s Dad and Uncle decided to get involved and two weeks later the same two teenagers were taken to hospital with serious head injuries. Justice was done and more importantly was seen to be done.  The Parkers were never questioned by The Police.

A few months later Mrs Garland at Number 46 opened her front door to a man who said he’d come to read her Electric Meter. Once inside he pushed her to the floor, ran upstairs and searched her bedroom. He left with her jewellery box and a few hundred quid that she was saving for Christmas presents for the grandkids. She wasn’t seriously hurt, just shaken up. She called her son and he called The Police. They took a statement from Mrs Garland and said they would “Investigate.”

After six weeks and with no progress in the investigation, Mrs Garland’s son paid a visit to the Parker family and asked if they could help track down the burglar. He offered to pay for their time and they agreed. Ten days later a local drug addict was found dead in an abandoned flat with a needle hanging out of his arm. The “Official” cause of death was an overdose.  The same day Mr Parker turned up at the Garlands house and returned her jewellery box.

Over the next six months the estate dealt with its own problems. No one called The Police anymore they went straight to the Parkers. Terry and his brother Steve became the local Security. The estate became a crime free area. No more petty crime, no muggings, no burglaries, nothing. It got to the point where the local Police didn’t bother patrolling the area, no point, nothing happened.

Then we all got a leaflet through our doors asking us to attend a meeting at the local community hall. It was from the Parkers.

Terry Parker spoke about how the estate had changed dramatically over the past few months and how it was again like “The old days”. You could literally go out now and leave your front door open and be confident that everything would be fine. You could walk down the streets any time night and day and be safe. We all agreed. Then he mentioned something that took all of us by surprise.

“So…in order to keep our estate safe and secure and free from crime, there has to be a cost. I want to ask you all to pay twenty pounds a month, that’s just five pounds a week, the price of a good pint. This will enable us to buy a car and patrol the estate night and day.”

There was a stunned silence. No one had expected that we had to pay for our safety. It made perfect sense of course. It was a big estate and there was only Terry and Steve Parker to cover it all.

After much deliberation it was decided that we would need time to think it over and we would meet up again in two weeks. Terry and Steve Parker agreed with the decision and also stated that they would be taking some well earned holiday during that time.

The next two weeks were carnage. Cars were broken into, tyres let down, windows smashed, there were five muggings in just one night and our local supermarket was looted. The next meeting couldn’t come soon enough.

It was a packed hall that greeted Terry and Steve Parker that night. They were welcomed back from holiday like heroes returning from the war.

Forms were completed, Bank details were given and Terry Parker even had his own Credit Card machine at the ready to take payments.

Parker Security Ltd (PSL) was soon up and running. Two brand new Land Rover Discovery’s patrolled the estate but not by Terry and Steve Parker, they were too busy, but by two large Russian gentlemen.

A few people on the estate were against it and decided not to pay their twenty pound a month. Coincidentally these were the only people who were the victims of crime over the next six months and it wasn’t long before they were asking the Parkers if the could join the scheme. Terry and Steve agreed but said because they’d joined late they had to pay the premium rate, which was fifty per cent extra. It was their own fault of course, they should have taken the Parkers up on their offer when we all did.

But now I’ve got a bit of a problem. I was made redundant two weeks ago and I’m going to struggle to pay the monthly security fee. I called the Parkers this afternoon and told them the situation. They said they’d be round tonight to “pay me a visit and sort things out”. That was nice of them, so I’ve put the kettle on and put some biscuits on a plate.

Monroe ( 10)

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Frank returned to his bottle of wine and poured another glass. As much as he wanted to go to the scene of the fire and speak with the Officer In Charge, he knew he couldn’t. This wasn’t his case anymore. Jackson had been very clear about that. They’d shook hands and made a deal. Frank would stay away in return for information about Thomas Sago. That was it. Case closed as far as he was concerned.

But…he couldn’t keep his mind off it. Every thirty minutes he’d find the local news, either on the TV or local radio and get an update about the fire. He turned in for bed at midnight, with a belly full of wine…and still no take away.

He was up at six, scrambled three eggs and set them on two slices of crisp toast. Black coffee and a cereal bar finished off his breakfast and he was ready to go. He was at his desk by seven thirty feeling refreshed and eager to face whatever the day threw at him. Taking the afternoon off was a good idea, he’d needed that, although he could have done without the phone call from Jenny. It was then that he remembered the piece of paper in his inside pocket. Fuck he was supposed to do it last night. No worries, he’d do it now, get it out of the way before Jenny had a fucking heart attack. He was just about to type in the details when he heard a familiar voice from behind him.

“Morning Frank, I wondered if we could have a chat?”

He turned round to see Jackson standing at the door. Frank smiled.

“Well good morning Jackson, wish I could help but I’m afraid I’m no longer on the case. We had a deal…remember?”

Jackson smiled and Frank knew immediately that this time it was genuine.

“Well how about we have a talk and maybe we could strike up another one. What do you say?”

Frank stood up and walked toward Jackson.

“Come on, there’s a good cafe just round the corner. Coffee?”

Jackson did as he was told and followed Frank to a small cafe a few seconds walk from the station.

A young Polish girl brought them over two coffees and Frank looked at Jackson.

“Okay before we start, can you give me an honest answer to two questions?”

Jackson nodded. Frank leaned forward.

“Where have you come from? I don’t mean as in are you a fucking alien, but just now, where you travelled from, where you based?”

Jackson responded without hesitation.

“Flew into City Airport from Belfast. That’s where my office is. Either there or London. But my home is in Belfast. Second question?”

Frank thought that made sense. Belfast is a forty-five-minute flight from City Airport and the flights start coming in around 6.30am, a quick Black cab and he’d be at Limehouse in ten minutes.

“What the fuck is your “REAL” name?”

This made Jackson burst out laughing.

“Frank, I’ll tell you the honest answer. My dad got me the job back in 1998, I was only twenty-five and I was the new kid in the department. However, my Dad was a very senior member of the service and his name was Jack and EVERYONE knew him. So whenever anyone asked who I was, people would say “Oh him, he’s Jack’s son.” And it stuck, everyone, including my wife, call me Jackson. My real name is Hubert, so as you can imagine, I’m quite happy with Jackson.”

They both laughed and drank their coffee. Jackson continued.

“So here’s my new deal Frank. How about we work together on this one? You and your team work as “special advisors” helping us with local information about Sago and Doctor Jeremiah? Perhaps together we can find out who’s responsible for what’s going on?”

Frank didn’t want to seem too enthusiastic but secretly he was excited by the proposition.

“What about my boss, what if he doesn’t agree?”

Jackson shook his head.

“His agreement is just a phone call away.”

Frank didn’t need time to think about it, he wanted to be involved.

“Okay. Deal. Now tell me about Doctor Jeremiah.”

Jackson stroked an imaginary beard on his chin as if he was thinking.

“I’m going to talk about him in the past tense because the remains of a body they found in the burnt out house at just after four o’clock this morning is almost certainly his. He was from Tanzania and his real name was Michael Kojo. His father was an advisor to the President and a very much respected official in the Government at the time. However, Michael Kojo was gay and was caught in a very compromising situation in the capital city of Dodoma. Being gay in Tanzania is a serious offence and Michael was facing life imprisonment. He father approached us and we struck a deal. He would keep us informed of what was happening within the Tanzanian Government and we would get him out of the country and set up in the UK. He came to me in 1995, he was a religious man and so we set up a small Church for him. To be fair to Michael, he built the thing up to what it is today, yes we help him with funding from time to time, but he’s grown the congregation to around 300.”

Frank was intrigued by the news about Doctor Jeremiah. He wanted to know the answer to one more question.

“How many of his congregation were ex Boco Haram or linked to any other terrorist organisation?”

Jackson once again didn’t hesitate and opened up his brief case. He handed Frank a file.

“Just two Frank. One from Boco Haram and one from Al Shabab in Somalia.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders.

“So why not just round these two guys up and move them to a secure location?”

Jackson frowned.

“We tried Frank, but both have been missing for the past twenty-four hours. Neither of them turned up for work yesterday morning and their flats are empty. Just like Thomas Sago’s, there was no mobile or laptop found. So whoever killed Sago and Jeremiah and took the other two, may have access to some pretty sensitive information.”

Frank was confused.

“Like what?”

Jackson leaned forward and spoke softer.

“Look, I’m not the only one that does what I do. It’s estimated that there are around 200 people like Sago here in the UK. Some in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. There are Doctors, Nurses and Solicitors, all have been of service and then set up in the local community. Some of them have been here for a lifetime. As I said to you before we keep our eyes on them for a short while and then they’re on their own. Trying to contact all of them would be impossible. We need to contain this quickly before we have bodies turning up all over the place.”

Frank wondered how that could possibly happen.

“But how do they find each other, they’re told to keep their heads down, surely they would just keep themselves to themselves?”

Jackson smiled.

“Human nature Frank. Eventually they get lonely, homesick. They think they’re safe and then start digging hoping to find someone from their home country that’s in a similar position to them. There’s a network in place that’s very difficult to stop.”

Jackson looked at his watch. I’ve got a flight to catch Frank. But I’ll be in touch. He handed Frank a post-it note.

“I bought a cheap pay as you go phone at the airport this morning. Here’s the number. Call me anytime. You’re the only one that’s got it, so whenever it rings I’ll know it’s you. Expect a call from your boss today saying that you’re back on the case.”

Jackson stood up, shook Franks hand and walked out of the cafe. Frank saw him flag down a Black cab and was gone. He finished his coffee and slowly walked back to the station. As he walked through the door he was greeted by a worried looking Mark.

“You forgot your phone Guv, we’ve been trying to contact you!”

Frank was worried. What the fuck was the problem? Another body?

“Okay, I’m here now. What’s up?”

Mark blurted it out all in one go.

“It’s your ex. wife Guv, she’s been going fucking mental on the phone. Something about a payment for the school?”

 

Monroe ( 9)

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The team weren’t best pleased about handing over the case to Anti Terrorism, but Frank explained there was nothing they could do about it. Thomas Sago was a “wrong un” from Nigeria who’d eventually got his comeuppance over here. Time to get started on another case. Gangs were running rife all over London and kids were being knifed every day so there was no shortage of cases to get stuck into. Each member of the team had a job to do and they got on with it.

Frank hadn’t had a day off in over four months and decided to go home for the afternoon open up a bottle of wine and chill listening to either John Coltrane or Miles Davis. It sounded like a plan but in reality he knew he’d be asleep within ten minutes.

Back at the flat he kicked off his shoes and opened the fridge. A bottle of white Rioja was calling his name. He took a large wine glass from the cupboard then pulled the cork from the bottle and poured. It was ice cold and that first sip made his whole body tingle. He was about to sit down when his phone rang. It was his ex-wife, Jenny. This wasn’t going to be a nice call, she only ever contacted him if there was a problem. He answered.

“Hi Jen. You okay?”

He was convinced he already knew the answer to that question.

“No I’m not. I’m fucking fuming. I’ve just had the school on the phone, you didn’t send the cheque for Sophie’s trip to Switzerland. They said if they don’t get it by the end of the week she can’t go. You know how much she’s looking forward to it. You promised you’d do it and once again you haven’t. Typical you that is, always saying you’re going to do something and then not doing it. Just the same when we were married, time after time you said you’d be somewhere and then you wouldn’t show up because you were too busy or just forgot. It’s not good enough Frank it really isn’t.”

Frank had stopped listening after he heard her say “fuming”, while Jenny was having her rant, he’d taken a cheque book from a drawer and written a cheque.

“Jen, Jen, Jen, calm down. I’ve got the cheque here. I’ll drop it at the school first thing in the morning. Promise. Okay?”

“Well you make sure you do. You know how much it is don’t you or have you forgotten that as well? It’s £1250, and you make it payable to the School Council, not Mister Higgins like last time. You will do it Frank won’t you? ”

As always Jenny knew how to press Franks buttons and suddenly he snapped.

“Look I said I’ve got the fucking cheque here. I WILL take it to the School in the morning.”

But Jenny had to have the last word.

“Good. Or your daughter will be let down…again!”

She hung up. Frank walked over to a pile of vinyl records next to a turntable on an old wooden sideboard. He chose one, looked at the cover and smiled.  Miles Davis, “Quiet Nights”.

He very carefully took the record from its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. “Wait till you see her” began to play. Frank sat down with his glass of wine and remembered a time when Jenny wasn’t quite so angry. They’d met when they were both twenty-four, he was just a Constable back then and she worked for an Insurance Company in the City. Two years later they were married and just twelve months later along came Sophie. That was sixteen years ago. Sophie was only eight when they divorced. His fault of course, he was ambitious and wanted to climb the ladder fast, and he did. But it came at a price. It cost him his family.  He was away from home so often that Jenny found comfort with someone else. He wasn’t angry, how could he be? It happens. His biggest regret was that Sophie knew her stepdad better than she knew him. Oh well, no point in worrying about things you can’t change. He took a big gulp of wine and let Miles do his magic. He could feel his eyes beginning to close, he put his glass on the floor and fell into a deep sleep.

It was three hours later when he woke up. It was already dark outside and his belly thought his throat was cut. He was hungry. He picked up his wine glass and poured a refill. A new Thai restaurant had opened at the end of the road, he was wondering whether to walk down there or order a takeaway. He switched on the TV, the six O’clock news had just begun. The wine tasted good, no longer ice cold, it was fresher and sharper than before. The sips turned into gulps and soon it was gone. Now he had a dilemma. It was only six thirty and he’d already drunk a bottle of wine. Should he open another or go out and eat. No “Fuck it”, he’d order a takeaway and relax indoors.

He walked to the fridge and took out another bottle. He pulled out the cork just as the local news came on.

“Huge disruptions in East London tonight as a massive fire engulfs a house in Forest Gate. Police fear there may be a number of casualties.”

He looked at the screen, he recognised the road.

His phone rang. It was Mark.

“Guv, you watching the TV? It’s that Doctors house, in Claremont Road.”

Frank stared at the screen, the whole place was alight.

“Yes Mark watching it now.  No point in going down there, nothing we can do. Besides, it’s not our case anymore. Have a good night Mark, see you in the morning.”

Frank hung up, then quickly dialled another number. A familiar voice answered.

“Hello Frank, didn’t expect to hear from you. What’s up?”

Frank tried hard not to gloat.

“You know the good Doctor from the Ministry Of Divine Miracles and Manifestations? The one that you couldn’t tell me about because of National Security?”

Jackson’s voice sounded intrigued.

“Yes?”

Frank went straight to the punch line.

“Well his house is burning to the ground as we speak and it’s likely that he’s still inside.”

Frank heard only two words before the phone went dead.

“Oh Fuck!”

 

Monroe (8)

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After just four hours sleep, Frank was back at his desk in Limehouse by 7 am.  One of the guys from the Special Firearms Unit brought him a bacon sandwich left over from their nightshift. Frank washed it down with three mugs of hot black coffee. By 8 am the rest of the team had arrived, all anxious to see what the mysterious “Jackson” had to say for himself.  They all had their theories, the most common one being that “Jackson” was a “Spook”. Someone from the intelligence services that shouldn’t really exist, but did.

At 8.15 Frank looked out of the third-floor window and saw a Black Cab pull up outside the main entrance.  A tall, heavy-set man dressed in a long grey coat and carrying a briefcase got out and paid the driver. Frank, as always, ignored the lift and walked down the six flights of stairs to the reception area just as the door opened. The overweight man in the grey coat looked at him and smiled. He thrust out his hand.

“Frank Monroe. Nice to meet you.”

It wasn’t a question, he obviously recognised him. Frank found that slightly creepy. He shook his hand and returned the smile.

“You’ve got the upper hand, you know my name. What’s yours?”

Again the man smiled.

“Just call me Jackson, everyone does.”

Frank wasn’t convinced by either the fake smile or the obvious false name, his patience was wearing thin.

“Okay, there’s a small meeting room on the second floor, let’s set up there and then perhaps you can tell me what the fuck’s going on.”

Jackson ignored Franks comment and walked towards the lift. Now it was Franks turn to lie.

“Out of order I’m afraid. Got to take the stairs. Don’t worry, it’s only four flights.”

A few minutes later Frank and a slightly out of breath, red-faced Jackson sat opposite each other at a desk on the second floor.

Sandra appeared carrying a tray with a jug of water and two glasses. She placed it on the desk in front of them. Frank was impressed by her timing, but knew the real reason she’d popped her head in was so she could see Jackson’s face close up. She would now go away and see if she could find him on any of the Intelligence Service Websites.

“Thanks Sandra.”

Jackson reached over and poured himself a large glass and drank it down in one. He waited for Sandra to leave then opened up his briefcase. He took out a brown paper file. Frank recognised a small black and white photograph of Thomas Sago on the front. Jackson began.

“Okay Frank time to answer some of your questions. I’m going to be as honest as I possibly can with you so that you fully understand the sensitive nature of what’s just happened. I work for a Unit that’s closely attached to the Secret Intelligence Services. We help replace people back into the community once they’ve been helpful with certain “sensitive” information.”

He looked at Frank when he said the word “sensitive.” Frank new exactly what he meant.

“So you’re a handler.”

Jackson didn’t look comfortable with Frank’s response.

“Your words Frank, not mine. Some years ago Thomas Sago was very important to the Intelligence Services and gave us some valuable information. In return we helped him settle back into society. I helped him get a job and a place to stay. Once that was done I kept my eye on him for a while and then he was on his own. Unfortunately, it would seem that his past caught up with him and he suffered the consequences. The case will now be closed on the grounds of National Security. That’s it Frank. That’s the story of Thomas Sago.”

Jackson opened up his briefcase and put the folder away. Frank noticed smugness on his face that he didn’t appreciate.

“What do you mean that’s it? That’s far from fucking that’s it. Who killed him, who chopped his fucking fingers off and stuck them in his mouth? Was it Boco Haram for turning supergrass? Or was it revenge for some of the atrocities he helped carry out?”

Jackson looked surprised. He wasn’t expecting Frank to know that information.

“You’re well informed Frank, how did you know about his involvement with Boco Haram?”

Now it was Franks turn to look smug.

“It’s called good old fashioned police work. Something that you lot seem to know fuck all about!”

For a good ten seconds there was silence. Jackson sat back in his chair. Then suddenly he raised his hands as if in surrender.

“Okay, okay, Frank. Let’s start gain, call a truce. I’ve looked you up, I know you’re a good copper. I’ll tell you about Sago and his involvement with  Boco Haram and in return you just let this one go. Agreed?”

Frank realised he was in a no-win situation.

“Fine by me.”

Once again Jackson opened his case and took out the file on Thomas Sago. This time he opened it and showed Frank a photo. It was a group of black men, dressed in combats each carrying a rifle.

“Second man from the left is Sago. This was taken in 2009, just outside a village in Northern Nigeria where 350 men woman and children had just been slaughtered.”

He pulled another photo from the file and handed it to Frank. This one was more graphic. Three black men were standing over five dead bodies like trophy hunters. He recognised one of the men as Sago.

“You see Frank, Thomas Sago became quite a celebrity within Boco Haram between 2009 and 2013. Not many knew his real name, he was simply known as Awon Eranko which means The Beast. It’s likely he was responsible for the torture and killing of well over 500 people.”

Frank was eager to know more.

“So how the fuck did he change into a mild-mannered school teacher from Clapton in East London?”

Jackson laughed.

“In 2013 Boco Haram were on the run. They were being hunted down by not just the Nigerian Government but secretly by us and the US. Basically, we’d all had enough of their bullshit and it was time to take them out. Sago was captured along with a number of others, he was due to be executed but wanted to do a deal. He said he would show us where the last strongholds were in return for safe passage out of the country. His information led to pretty much the end of Boco Haram in Nigeria. He came to me in 2014. He was a bright kid, a real academic, quick learner. I pulled a few strings and got him the primary school job. He knew that he had to keep his head down or someone was likely to take it off. “

Frank was keen to know about the Church.

“And what about Doctor Jeremiah. Is he also ex Boco Haram?”

“Frank, I can’t discuss the good Doctor, let’s just say we look after his little religious group with a bit of funding here and there.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders.

“Okay, but who killed him?”

Without hesitation Jackson replied.

“Definitely not Boco Haram. This was a revenge killing for what he’d done in Nigeria.”

Frank looked surprised.

“How can you be so sure?”

Jackson pulled another photo from the folder and gave it to Frank. He took one look and suddenly Thomas Sagos killing made sense. Sago was dressed in full combat gear holding a pair of wire cutters. Beside him was a man strapped to a chair his hands covered in blood. On the floor next to the chair were the man’s fingers. He handed the photo back to Jackson.

“You see Frank it was his favourite form of torture.”

The folder was put back in the case and Jackson stood up ready to leave.

“That’s it Frank. You’ll get a call from your boss soon to say the case is being handled by the Anti Terrorist Unit. So stop digging and make sure your team do the same. Deal?”

Frank nodded.

“Deal.”

They shook hands. Frank led Jackson back down the four flights of steps and out the front door of the station. Now all he had to do was convince the team that it was all over. His mobile rung. It was his boss.

“Hi Frank, look there’s been a development on the Sago case. Looks like he was some kind of escaped criminal from Africa and on the most wanted list. Anti Terrorism are taking the case over and are arranging for his body to be taken back overseas. Sorry Frank but as far as you’re concerned the case is over.”

 

 

Wilder v Fury.

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My view on this great fight!

It’s less than twenty-four hours since I watched one of the best Heavyweight contests in a long time.

The Bronze Bomber v The Gypsy King, come on, it sounds like it’s straight out of a feature film!

The Bronze Bomber is a black American from Alabama whose real name is Deontay Wilder. He won the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics as an amateur. He’s now 6ft 7inches, unbeaten in 40 fights and won most of them by knocking his opponents senseless. He’s the first American to hold the Heavyweight crown (WBC version) for nine years since he won the title in 2015. He’s a rag to riches story that has made him an American hero. Don’t get me wrong, he’s good, really good, and once he hits you, the lights go out and you fight no more.

The Gypsy King is a white Englishman whose real name is Tyson Fury from Manchester. He was born 12 weeks premature and weighed just 16oz at birth. His family are from the travelling community and have a great tradition with fighting. So his Dad decided to call him Tyson, after Mike Tyson. This scrawny kid grew into a 6ft 9inch Goliath and quickly set about making a reputation for himself in boxing. No one really took him seriously until 2015 when he was thrown in to fight the great Wladimir Klitschko, the Heavyweight Champion of the World. He beat Klitschko over twelve rounds and suddenly the world stood up and took notice.

So both their Worlds took on a new meaning in 2015. Wilder became WBC Heavyweight Champion and Fury took the other belts (WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO). But instead of the worlds colliding back in 2015, they took completely different directions.

Deontay Wilder kept fit, trained hard, chose his opponents carefully and knocked them all out. For the next couple of years, he was on top of the World, fighting regularly and making his reputation as a good World Champion.

Tyson Fury went on the piss! Big time. He ballooned in weight, found a liking for the Columbian marching powder, and drank himself into oblivion week after week. During this period he also decided it would be a good idea to make homophobic remarks on live television.  Eventually, before he was stripped of his title by the authorities, he decided to vacate his titles. But by 2016 it was too late and he was suspended from boxing. His habits had got out of control. The next two years saw rumours of comebacks but nothing really happened. Then in early 2018 Fury got his licence back. He was clean, tea total, focused and ready to make a comeback. He trimmed down and lost eight stone!

Since winning the WBC title in 2015, Deontay Wilder had seven fights winning them all in style. Tyson Fury had just two. He’d been away from the ring for thirty months and yet a match was set between them both to take place on December 1st 2018. Surely there could only be one winner?

So I paid my £19.95 and sat up all night to watch what some thought would be a one-sided contest. My son decided to go to LA and watch it live (oh to be young again.).

Fury is a madman (his words, not mine). He has no real style. He’s clumsy, awkward, sometimes he’s a southpaw and sometimes he’s orthodox. He must be the most frustrating person on this planet to fight against. But he’s also talented, clever, fast and cunning.

Wilder is the thing that we all love. A fighter with a punch that will take your head off. He’s also quick and awkward to fight, punches seem to come from nowhere and suddenly you’re gone.

It started at 5.00am this morning (UK time). For the first eight rounds Wilder could not get near Fury. He tried a number of times but kept missing. All the while Fury was scoring points, good combinations that reminded Wilder that he was in the ring with a really good boxer. By the end of the eighth round I had Fury winning six of them and Wilder (possible two). The ninth saw Wilder land with a chopping right that caught Fury behind his ear. He went down, but was up quickly and carried on. Wilder tried to finish the job but Fury was just too clever and slipped the punches easily. By the end of the eleventh and with only one more round to go, Tyson Fury (The Gypsy King) was well in front on everyone’s scorecard. Even the American TV company Showtime had him so far in front that Wilder would need a knockout in the last round to win.

The last round was one I wanted to watch from behind the sofa and with one eye shut. We all knew that Wilder would come out and swing punches from everywhere and if any of them landed then all Tyson Fury’s work would be in vain. If he could just hold on for one more round he would be the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.

The 12th round was like something out of “Rocky”.

Just thirty seconds in and Wilder hits Fury with a left, right combination that makes his eyes roll to the back of his head and he falls like a dead man to the canvas. Oh no, it’s all over. Tyson Fury is comatose on the canvas. His eyes are open but he sees nothing. The ref starts his count. He gets to seven and Fury sits up like a mummy in a coffin. At eight he’s on one knee and at nine he’s standing! How the fuck has he done that? The ref asks him if he’s okay. Tyson just nods. The ref asks him to move from left to right to prove that he understands. Fury does.

All this time Deontay Wilder is celebrating his victory, convinced he’s just won the fight. The look on his face when he realises that Tyson Fury is able to continue is priceless. The ref says “Box on.”

They do and within twenty seconds Fury hits Wilder with a peach of a shot that stops him in his tracks. Suddenly both fighters are in danger of falling over.

I swear if my old Nan was still alive she could have got in that ring and pushed them both over. That’s how tired they both were. That’s how much they had both given.

The bell rang. It was over. Everyone agreed Tyson Fury was the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.

But hold on a minute. We’re in America, fighting an American Champion, a national hero, someone that makes the American Boxing Industry millions of dollars a year. That can’t be allowed to happen.

And it wasn’t.

The three judges gave their scores. Canadian Judge says 114-110 to Fury, Mexican Judge says 115-111 to Wilder. The UK Judge says 113-113. So the result is a draw.

I’ve watched the fight again and there is NO dispute that Fury won 7 rounds of the 12. No doubt at all. Some ex-boxers and experts say he won more, but he definitely won at LEAST 7.

Rematch? You betcha arse there’ll be a rematch. Can’t wait…

Monroe ( 7)

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The Traffic Warden was still there when Frank and Mark reappeared from Doctor Jeremiahs luxury house. Frank pressed a five pound note into his hand.

“Cheers mate, buy yourself a beer or something.”

Before he could even realise he’d been given a tip, Frank pulled away and headed for Limehouse.

Mark couldn’t wait to ask the obvious question.

“So come on then guv, what did the note say?”

Frank gave him the paper. Mark read it out loud.

“Jackson. 88457 389820.”

Mark was confused.

“That’s it? Just a name and a number? Doesn’t even look like a phone number to me.”

Frank had a hunch about the number but kept it to himself for now.

“Me neither. Give Sandra a call, give her the info and ask her to find out what she can before we get back. But tell her not to ring it!”

Mark did as he was told. Fifteen minutes later Frank and Mark were back at Limehouse with the rest of the team. It was time for the six o’clock meeting. Frank told them what happened in Forest Gate with Doctor Jeremiah Matthews. He looked at the team.

“So, questions?”

Terry was first.

“Doctor Jeremiah, suspect?”

Both Frank and Mark shook their heads. Mark replied.

“Definitely not, when the guvnor told him that Sago was dead, he was genuinely shocked. Right guv?”

Frank nodded, then looked over at Sandra.

“So what can you tell me about the number?”

Sandra had a confused look on her face.

“Well to be honest guv, it doesn’t exist as a phone number. There are NO numbers that begin with 88. Unless of course it’s on a secret network. And those DO exist. Best thing to do is try and call it?”

Frank smiled.

“Exactly what I was about to do.”

He dialled the number. It rang. He looked at the team.

“It’s ringing!”

A male voice answered.

“Who is this?”

Frank replied.

“Is that Jackson?”

There was a pause. Frank thought he could hear the sound of keys on a computer being tapped. The voice continued.

“What can I do for you Detective Inspector?”

Frank was impressed and slightly taken aback by that. But didn’t react.

“It’s about Thomas Sago.”

Again a pause. Then a denial.

“Never heard of him.”

“That’s not what Doctor Jeremiah says. He said I should call you.”

“Why?”

“Because Thomas Sago was brutally murdered at his home this morning.”

This last comment made the voice react more openly.

“Listen Frank, put a lid on this till I get to you tomorrow. I’ll be with you at Limehouse at 8.30. Okay?”

Frank never was good at taking orders, especially from someone he didn’t know.

“And why would I want to do that?”

The voice was firm and direct.

“Because I’m a lot further up the food chain than you Frank. So I’m asking you nicely. If you say no, I guarantee in five minutes you’re phone will ring and It’ll be your boss taking you off the case. Now do you understand?”

As much as Frank wanted to tell this guy to stick it up his arse, he was intrigued, he played along.

“Okay, I’ll do what I can. See you in the morning.”

The call ended, both hanging up at the same time. The team were anxious for Frank to give up the information. Again he looked at Sandra.

“How long was that call?”

As always, Sandra knew the answer. “No more than forty seconds.”

“How is it possible that the voice on the other end knew my name, my rank and my location in that short space of time?”

Now they all looked at Sandra.

“It isn’t guv. Even if you were expecting the call you’d have to have certain things in place first.”

Frank nodded. “That’s what I thought. Well, whoever this Jackson guy is, he’s coming to see me tomorrow. Let’s hope that throws up some answers. But enough for one day, time to get over to the Sports Bar and watch the mighty Hammers. I don’t know about you lot but I could do with a Beer and a Burger.”

West Ham lost 2-0 away to Fulham. Frank paid the tab at the end of the night and was back in his flat by 10pm. He couldn’t sleep, his brain was trying to process too much information. Thomas Sago had been dead for twenty-four hours and all he had was hunches. Tomorrow morning he was meeting someone called Jackson, obviously not his real name, and Frank was already convinced he wouldn’t like him.