The man advanced. ‘Too fucking right.’
Ray pedalled backwards, shaking his head and waving his hands in a definite “no it’s not him gesture”, while Paul extracted his card. He held it up. ‘Police.’
The man seemed more interested in checking the padlock. He grunted. ‘I asked you a fucking question. What you doing?’
Paul started to say, ‘I have reason to believe...’ but stopped, because being an officious prat just wasn’t going to work. Instead, he took a risk of sounding confrontational. He pointed at Ray. ‘We need to take a look inside.’
The man glared, raised his cosh, glanced at Ray who had backed off, and then lowered it again. The message seemed to have registered. ‘Police?’
Paul nodded, but kept his distance. ‘If you don’t mind, Mister...?’
‘You got a warrant?’
‘We don’t need one.’
Paul sighed. He turned to Ray and winked. ‘Use my radio and call in a patrol to arrest a Mister Boyson.’
The man did a double-take as if taking in two pieces of information was taxing his brain cell to the limit. ‘Hang on ... my name’s not Boyson.’
Paul held up a restraining hand. ‘What?’
‘Name’s Grant. Harold Grant ... and there’s only junk in the lock-up.’
‘Show me, Mr. Grant.’
A pleading look came over Grant’s face. ‘Look, the booze, CDs and fags are for my own consumption...’
Paul smiled. ‘I’m sure they are, sir.’ He just stood there and pointed to the garage door.
Grant cursed, took out a padlock key from a bib pocket on his overalls and opened up Aladdin’s cave.
It took a large white transit to load up the confiscated goods - not a printing press in sight – spoiling every alcoholic, cancer-ridden, sexual deviant’s Christmas. Harold Grant was less than pleased; he was going to sort out the grass, big-time. While he was being processed by Albert followed by a lengthy BECS interview; identity verification, fingerprinted, and DNA sample obtained, Paul parted company with Ray with a promise of a few celebratory beers, and trudged round to Surelet.
Mr. Justin was astonished. Or so he said. Yes this garage was one of theirs and they wouldn’t dream of letting to anyone breaking the law, blah, blah...
Paul waved his hand to interrupt the verbal diarrhoea. ‘Who rented the lock-up before Grant?’
‘Let me check. We’ve had a couple of break-ins, recently.’
That would explain Grant’s volatile action. ‘Tenants not happy?’
Mr. Justin paused whilst sifting through the bottom draw of a filing cabinet. ‘It’s been a nightmare this year. It’s bad enough when a tenant loses a key, or gets a burst pipe late at night, but when scoundrels want to be Santa ... we get the blame.’
Paul let him grumble on about the injustice of life, didn’t want to encourage another burst of rhetoric. He looked around. There were four metal desks in the office. Two were empty; one was occupied by a young female who was engrossed in a telephone conversation. Pictures of houses and apartments adorned the wall near the entrance.
Mr. Justin pulled out a file. ‘Here we are.’ He turned over a few pages. ‘Harold Grant took over from a Daniel Boyson ... is this the person you’re looking for?’
‘Any address for Boyson on file?’
Mr. Justin flicked over a page. ‘Yes. It’s not one of ours, a basement studio ... bed-sit you’d call it ...number 2 Pimlico House, near the Railway Station. There are two ground floor apartments and another two on the first floor. More desirable than Harmony Estate, but it’s still at the bottom end of the market.’
‘Do you know who the letting agent is?’
‘Nothing on file, sorry ... it could have been the Halifax ... or maybe Andrews...’
‘Okay, thanks for your help.’ Paul shot out of the door before Mr. Justin could complain about the lack of police patrols. He decided to take a look at Pimlico House before returning to the nick and filing his report. Not that it did any good. There were five dustbins on the pavement outside Pimlico House. All were over-flowing, and several boxes of empty booze cans and newspapers were stacked against them. Stone steps led down to the basement front door with a number 2 on it. The steps had been brushed and salted. From pavement level, a snow covered Buddleia bush prevented any view into the window below, so he took a couple of steps down to peer in.
The front room – more like a cosy lounge area – was empty, but as he watched a middle-aged woman with curly hair came into view. She was carrying a pile of men’s clothes; jeans and shirts. He ducked back out of sight and retraced his steps, wondering about the woman. Bed-sits were notoriously small; she could have been doing his laundry. But clearly, the room was occupied.
No way was he going to scare off Boyson - if it was Boyson’s place - by talking to the woman. He returned to the nick. Hillock was back, and not in a good mood. Paul was hauled into his office and left standing there while Hillock wrote a note.
Hillock didn’t look up. Said it very slowly. ‘Where - have – you - been?’
‘Chasing up a lead.’
‘And wasting everyone’s time while you go around nicking a petty criminal for smuggling booze.’
Paul stared at the top of Hillock’s head. A bald patch was beginning to show. ‘Not quite, Mr. Hillock. I’ve located Boyson’s address.’
Hillock glanced up. A glint came into his eyes. ‘Have you, now? I haven’t seen your report.’
‘I’m going to write it up.’
‘Tell me, instead.’ He banged his fist on the desk. A pencil jumped. ‘This is a need to know, and I need to fucking know, right now.’
Paul resisted the temptation to punch-out his lights but he drummed the desk with his finger, making a point. ‘Harold Grant’s lock-up was previously rented to Boyson. I visited the letting agent, who gave me the address...sir.’
Hillock digested the information, noted down the address that Paul gave him. ‘And I suppose you went round and gave the game away.’
A shake of the head. ‘I walked past. Snow had been cleared, rubbish was stacked outside. I assumed someone was occupying the basement studio. I came back...sir.’
Hillock ignored the covert insolence; instead, wrote something in his pocketbook. ‘You’re on surveillance. Take DC Iftigar with you.’ He pointed a sharpened pencil at Paul. ‘When Boyson or whoever shows his face ... do not ... I repeat ... do not apprehend him. Get straight back to me instead.’
Mifty smelt of curry; clothes, hair and breath. Punjabi pungent would be the appropriate words. In the close confines of the beaten-up Vauxhall, Paul was glad the heater wasn’t working.
Mifty started to remonstrate. ‘Why is it that I acquire the unspeakable assignments?’
Paul was used to the phony, colonial English. ‘Must be your face,’ he said, deadpan. ‘Blends in.’
Mifty stared at him. ‘You taking the piss?’
Paul laughed. ‘That’s better. Now I can understand what you’re saying.’
Mifty wriggled into a more comfortable position, leant back and shut his eyes. ‘Call me when it gets exciting.’
It didn’t take long. A succession of men filtered in and out of Pimlico House; a couple walked down the steps to the basement studio. On both occasions Paul was about to notify Hillock when the men came back up the steps, shaking their heads.
When a third man went down the steps, and didn’t return, Paul called Hillock. Ten minutes later a team of officers, led by the man himself, burst in.