SCRAP

a novel by PAT ROBOTHAM


“What the fuck is this?” It was Divvy’s voice.
When Phil got down to the car Martly was already there and he and Divvy were
looking in the boot. Phil peered in. Inside was a fairly large skeleton about the size of a large child. It was not human and Phil reckoned it looked more like a dog than anything else.
“What’s that?” asked Divvy.
“It’s Old Captain.”
“Who’s Old Captain?” Phil asked Martly.
“He was old Ted’s Yard Dog.”
“Why’s he in the boot of the car?”
“Well, when he died he needed burying.”
“Well, why not in the ground?”
“It was winter 1978 - real hard frost lasted for months, ground was too hard and
when it thawed we covered the Pilot up.”
“Well I’m not taking that with the car. Get it shifted while I go and get my
transporter.”

This was one of a series of unfamiliar events which had happened since Phil had
taken over the yard. The morning had started OK and having quit his job the previous day it was rather important that it had.

It was the 29th July, and as Phil had pulled the makeshift curtains to the yard
office which had become his home at least during the week, he could see a man
standing outside the gate in the summer drizzle. The weather had changed over the last two days as only it could in England, from really hot to dull cold and wet.
At first Phil did not recognise him, then it dawned on him that the 29th was Pilot
day and he slowly managed to focus on the man at the gate and recognised him as
Divvy. Phil looked at the old office clock - 7.20 in the morning. “Fucking hell, he’s a bit keen,” he thought. “A man that keen will probably pay £400 for it, especially if he stands in the rain for an hour.”

He moved over to the table and opened a foil wrapped package. It was a cold
bacon and egg sandwich he had got Linda at The Dog to do for him late last night. In fact this was his normal breakfast, which he ate before Martly got in at 8 to do the scrappies’ tea ceremony. He spent most evenings in The Dog now and even went there for his lunch, which he now referred to as his dinner, most days he was at the yard - which was most days. It was going pretty well; he was making enough to pay Martly and a bit for himself. He’d sold a fair bit of stuff although the price of ally was down at the moment. And he had bought a couple of nice loads of mixed non ferrous pretty cheap the other day. He knew they were cheap because Martly was impressed. He kept an eye on metal prices by going down to the library once a week and looking through the FT, he’d even met Brassy Smith down there doing the same thing. Mind you they had asked him not to go in in his overalls the other day, so he had rigged up on old laundry boiler in the yard. It had come off the heap somewhere and with a couple of bricks and a bit of a fire under it he was able to wash his clothes and himself in hot water after a fashion.
He finished his sandwich, and watched Martly walk up the road, haversack
swinging. When he reached the gate he opened it and came into the yard. Divvy
Striker followed him.
“Wait ‘ere.” Martly said as he went up the steps to the office. Phil opened the
door. Martly came in, “He’s ‘ere then.”
“I know.”
“I’ll get the tea on.”
Phil walked down the steps.
“Come to do the deal then, Divvy?”
“Depends what you’re asking.”
“£400.”
“Fuck off,” Divvy was visibly shaken.
“What d’you mean fuck off? You were pretty bloody keen a few weeks ago.
Anyway I’ve given it a good look over and it’s not too bad, even the engine turns over.”
Divvy had regrouped. “Let’s hear it then,” thinking he had called Phil’s bluff.
“OK.” Phil had left a good battery on the crane by the front of the car and he
stooped down and connected up some jumper leads. As he connected them the engine spun over quite sweetly; it did not start as there was no petrol or anything but as it was spinning Phil said, “Look at the oil pressure gauge. It’s even got pressure - that can’t be bad.”
“£150,” Divvy said, “I only want the engine and box.”
“No chance. I’d rather keep it and let it rot or scrap it myself. £350 or nothing.”
Divvy could see Phil was serious. He’d had this problem with scrappers before.
Because the stuff cost them nothing and had been there so long it meant nothing to them, they would just as likely take offence and refuse to sell you something if they thought you were trying to beat them down too much. In fact that’s probably why old Ted had always refused to talk to him about the Pilot. He’d once called Divvy a bloody tyre-kicking time-waster. So he’d better not blow it now or it may be another 20 years before he’d get another chance. He stayed silent for a while.
Phil knew he wanted it, wanted it badly, really badly. He also knew why - he’d
learned down The Dog that it used to belong to Divvy’s dad, who’d scrapped it when MoTs came in. Everyone seemed to have an emotional link with this car.
“£275 and that’s it.” “No.” “£350 or nothing.” It’s now or never, thought
Divvy, now for the masterstroke. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a
previously prepared wad. “There’s £300 here – it’s all I’ve got - take it or leave it.”
There was in fact only £280 as he had used the old double folded note trick on two of the tenners so that if it wasn’t spotted he’d save himself £20.
Phil kept pushing, scenting a closure of the deal.
“Go on, stick your hand in your fucking pocket and give us another £20 and I’ll
meet you half way.” Halfway to where wasn’t explained.
“OK.” Divvy handed over the wad plus two more tenners from his top pocket.
Phil deliberately counted every note. Ik had warned him to do this.
“There’s £20 short.”
“Is there? I could have sworn it was all there.” Divvy stuck his hand in his pocket
and pulled out the other 2 tenners that had ‘accidentally’ peeled away from the wad.
“Fine, do you want a receipt?”
“Yes, may as well.”
Phil went up stairs and was making out the receipt.
As the transporter left the yard with the Pilot on it Martly was busy shoving the
bones of the dog up against the wall and scraping dirt over them.
He looked at Phil. “You did all right there, boss - old Ted’d be proud of the way you did that deal.”
“How many yard dogs have there been?”
Martly thought, counting on his fat fingers, “Six.”
“Are they all in this yard?”
“Where else?”
“In the boots of old cars?”
“Some - not all.”
“Should we get a new one?”
“Yes, it’ll keep the kids off now we’re working again.”

 


2


“Sit down, Mr Johnson. You realise that this is a formal panel of the School
Governors to enquire into your behaviour towards the student Mohammed Iqbal? This panel is empowered to suspend any member of staff whilst investigating any issue and this may finally result in dismissal. I see you have not bought anyone with you for support.”
Phil sat and listened to this and all the introductions of the Panel, the Head, the
Chair of Governors, someone from HR at the education authority. All sat pompously and glared at him. On the left of the table sat Iqbal, who looked sullen and stroppy and with him were a couple Phil presumed to be his mum and dad. They looked quiet and even flicked the odd smile towards him; they must have known that their son was an evil little twat.
The Panel droned on, it was stifling, Phil was not listening. His mind kept going
back to the yard wondering how far Martly had got with the clearing, wondering how much Brassy Smith was offering for lead and ally, the robbing bastard had dropped his price on the last load so he needed to keep an eye on that. Divvy Striker was coming for the Pilot tomorrow and he was wondering if he’d go to £400 for it. The engine turned over and nothing was seized and once the rust and bird shit had been cleaned off it was not as bad as he first thought. Start at £350 and come down to £250.

Iqbal sat and watched the proceedings as if from afar. It had all worked out quite
well - he’d always wanted to get a teacher the sack, and apart from some quite painful bruising this had worked out pretty well. He hadn’t set out to get Mr Johnson but he’d do, he was such a drip, he only seemed to care about history and who cared about that these days. He’d even had the satisfaction of getting Patel later out of school and finishing the job and he was planning on taking his crew round to the hospital to see him just to remind him not to talk. In the meantime, he was going to sit back and watch this teacher squirm for his job.
“So, Mr Johnson, you have heard what has been said. Could we now hear your
side of the story?”
“What?”
“Your side? What do you have to say?”
“Yes, I gave him a bit of a clip while I was trying to separate him and Patel; he
was knocking three shades of shit out of him.”
You would have thought from the silence that Phil had just admitted to
buggering them both behind the bike sheds instead of trying to act as peacemaker.
Still he did not care, he had a yard to run and could not waste much more time here. Anyhow, he’d just faced off the Bishops - why should he worry about these
sanctimonious fuckers.

Phil leaned across the table and handed over an envelope.
“What’s that?”
“It’s my resignation. I don’t think I want to do this job anymore if all I’ve got to
look forward to is coming in and being confronted with kids like that,” he jabbed his finger at Iqbal. “Honestly, Mr and Mrs Iqbal, I really feel sorry for you. You seem like nice enough folk but that lad of yours needs locking up. I bet he’s in prison by the time he’s 18.”

He got up and left.
That’s the boats burnt.
Iqbal felt cheated - he hadn’t gambled on someone else putting two fingers up to the system; that was his job.

 


CHAPTER 3


Kevin and Richard Bishop shared their big office on the third floor of the block
that they had built ten years ago. Kev and Rick, as they had been known then, were sharp and they knew it. Along with their other brother, they were two of the Bishop triplets. The third one Eric, aka Kipper because he had a habit of falling asleep anywhere anytime, had run most of the petty and not so petty activities in the town for thirty years since they were 16 years old. There was not much they hadn’t done but nothing was on record, not even a nasty incident with Kipper as a result of some girl dumping him which meant he had had to leave and go abroad, never to be seen back home again.
Kevin sat back in his swivel chair and smoked a cigarette. He brushed his curly
hair back behind his ear and spoke slowly to his brother, “We got to get that yard you know.”
“I know,” said Richard rather irritably.
“If someone else gets it and starts to clear it we’ll be in the shit.”
“You could get some nice canal side housing down there, make a fucking
fortune. I’ve already got Digby to speak to Clarkey about investing and he’s keen.”
“That was not what I meant and you know it.”
“I know but you just got to look on the bright side, onward and upward old bro,”
and he reached across and gave Kevin a playful slap on the cheek.
“Digby says he’s not as keen as he thought.”
“Then we will make him keener, either with money or some other way. Don’t
worry. Haven’t we done all right so far? Eh?”
The door knocked and opened. “Mr Johnson’s here.”
“Thanks Jane. Show him in. Lovely girl that. Good morning Mr Johnson.
Come in, have a whisky or something. We want to buy your yard and we won’t take no for an answer.”
Phil hadn’t really been prepared for his first meeting with them but if it was 70’s
gangster stereotypes you wanted these were your boys, straight out of the Sweeny!
Kevin sat behind a desk and leaned back smoking or leaned forward pointing. He was clearly agitated and the focus of his agitation was obviously Phil. He looked about mid forties, heavy set and pasty complexion, his voice had a harsh smoker’s rasp and he had a slight lisp due to a wart on the end of his tongue. His hair had that auburn look of the recently tinted and was curly but receding at the sides, giving him a curly sided widows peak. He was dressed in an expensive suit, or it looked it to Phil, but what did he know about expensive suits. He had a large stainless Rolex and metal wristband and a couple of large signet rings, one with a bluestone in it and the other the obligatory sovereign.
He was sitting in front of a large glass fronted cabinet stuffed full of photos of
the brothers meeting sports stars and other local dignitaries along with some of those really naff trophies made of random arrangements of shiny plastic which seemed to be mainly for boxing and golf. On the walls were a collection of sporting prints and some more photos of what seemed to be an old townscape. In a couple of the photos there appeared to be three similar looking youths.
Kevin was a bully and hostile and Phil was in no mood to be intimidated. When
you spend your weeks with out-of-control and hostile kids with the balance of power firmly against you, you can handle this kind of behaviour.
Sitting with his back to the window, so Phil could not get a really good look at
his face, was Richard. He too was smoking and had a similar build and clothes but his hair was glossed black behind his ears like a 60s snooker player, or a gangster. He was altogether a different proposition and one that made Phil uncomfortable. On the face of it pleasant but underneath real menace. If it was going to come it would be from him and you’d never expect it.
“We’re going to buy your yard, old Ted Wilkins’ yard, off you,” said Kevin.
“We’re fair men and we’ll give you a fair price but we want to do it quickly and
preferably today. I’ve got Digby to draw up the details so all you need to do is sign.”
He pushed a piece of paper towards Phil.
“Hold on Kev. Don’t rush the man,” said Richard’s voice. As he spoke he
moved around in front and Phil saw him in all his menacing glory. Apart from the two scars on his cheeks and the partially deformed arm it was the eyes shining through smaller than normal holes with a real dull focus that were so unnerving. He had obviously practised this routine and knew the impact he had on people, and he was not disappointed today.
“Look the way it is is this.” He leaned forward, breathing into Phil’s face, the
smell was of garlic and sweet cologne. Phil noticed his knuckles which were bulgingly distorted but not in the way you get with arthritis.
“See, we’ve been after old Ted’s yard for years. You could say it’s ours by
rights the amount of business we put his way, but that’s in the past. Digby tried to get Ted to sell it to us but for some reason even when he knew he was dying he wouldn’t and he left it to you. So Digby tells us about you and you wanting to sell and here we all are.”
“Isn’t it rather unethical?” Phil could not believe that he had just heard himself
say it.
“What is?” said Kevin looming towards Phil and pointing.
“Digby acting for both parties in a property sale. I didn’t think solicitors could
do that.”
This seemed to create some confusion and while they muttered things about
keeping things on an informal basis Phil got up and stood closer to the door as if making to leave, “So what are you offering then?”
“Sign here and we’ll give you £100K right here.” He leant forward and poked at
a button on his desk. “Jane, come in here and bring the bankers draft with you.”
“I’m not signing anything now,” Phil blurted out. He thought of Ted - why had
he not sold, Martly - what would he do, and what would Phil do with nowhere to go and nothing to do. “I don’t like being steamrollered. I’ll consider your offer and get a valuation and I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.”
While Phil was talking Richard had moved to the back corner of the room and
squatted down. He got up and approached the table slinging a bundle down on it.
“There you are. That’s the final offer. There’s an extra 40grand in cash. Stop pissing us about. We’re serious about this. Sign here,” and he moved towards Phil with a pen and the paper.
Phil stood his ground, “I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks,” he said and slid
out of the half open door.
At that point he had done exactly what Ted had wanted. Ted had wanted him to
stand head to head with the Bishops. He’d seen long ago that the kid had some spine, despite being brought up by his sister and that pompous husband of hers. When Phil had been stopped coming over to the yard all those years ago Ted had been mortified; he had no children of his own and Phil filled a gap, even if only in a small way. He didn’t like any of the family other than young Phil; he felt they all looked down on him as a scrappy. Little did they know he could have bought them all out if he had wanted.
Phil’s brother David had been round a few years before Ted died trying to ingratiate himself, presumably to get a mention in his will, but he’d soon seen through that. No, what Ted wanted was someone to take the yard on, make a go of it and keep away the bullies. He knew Martly wasn’t up to it but what he had seen in young Phil all those years ago was impressive, especially his flashes of temper. Ted hoped that he hadn’t gone soft over the years, but if he’d seen the way Phil had dealt with the Bishops he would have known it had been a good choice.

 


CHAPTER 4

Phil had already gone off to look at his new toy when the letter containing the Bishops’ expression of interest in the yard had arrived and Julie was about to leave the house as it arrived. It came from Digby and Booth, Solicitors, and was addressed to Mr Philip Johnson.
Julie had always opened Phil’s letters; they had never discussed it, she just always
had, she would not dream of letting him open any of hers. In 26 years of marriage she had never once read anything suspicious - pretty much sums up a dull life - she thought as she skimmed through the letter. It said that the solicitors had been approached by Messrs Richard and Kevin Bishop of Bishops Holdings, and they were interested in buying the yard, but as they were in something of a hurry could he contact the office, etc.
As she sat on the train watching all the rest of the unfortunate commuters who
went into the town every morning she thought about what had been their marriage so far and what the unforeseen windfall of the yard might mean. They’d had kids early and it had been pretty good, but once they left home the inadequacy of their marriage had started to show. Phil, now Head of History, had always been a History teacher – he’d gone into the job full of youthful ideals and the system had ground them all away. He did not talk about it much; he didn’t talk about much at all. Their life had got a bit boring. Her job as a financial director to a car finance company was great - she loved the buzz of it, the deals and the busy life style - it was such a change from the years when she was just looking after kids. He was not interested in her, her job, her life; the last time they had a shag was about six months ago.
She’d had a couple of quick flings with business colleagues, none had lasted but
she knew she could not waste the rest of her life with Phil, he seemed such a slob and so lacking in drive and it obviously did not make him happy. A decent windfall would certainly make her feel less guilty when she left him.
She tried to ring his mobile but could not get through. She was busy all day so
he’d have to wait to know about the offer.
“So you want to give it all up and become a scrap dealer?” This was said in an
accusatory way not in the ‘that sounds like a really interesting way of spending the rest of your life, can I do it too’ sort of way.
“Well not exactly. What I said was that I want to give up my job and spend some
time sorting and disposing of all the scrap so that the yard can be sold for development.”
“Why can’t you find a developer to do that?”
“Because it is part of the agreement that it has to be cleared before permission to
develop will be granted, so none of them would be interested.”
“I know of someone, a letter came for you today from the solicitors.”
“I suppose you read it? I do wish you wouldn’t do that.”
“Oh shut up and stop whining. You’ve got nothing to hide, would that you had
sometimes.”
“What’s that meant to mean? We’re not going off on that bloody “Its boring”
bit again? Anyway, where’s the letter?”
She passed it over and he stuffed it in his pocket.
“I might get this Martly to give me a hand. I could pay him from what we sell.
Anyway I think it would be interesting to do. Sort of digging around in part of my
family history.”
“So you want to give up being a history teacher and start your own dig?”
“I suppose so.”
“You must be stupid or crazy. I don’t want to be married to a scrap dealer,
whatever you call it.”
“I don’t think you want to anyway whatever I am so I am not bothering to take it
into consideration,” he snapped. As soon as he had said it he wished he hadn’t.

 


CHAPTER 5


Phil was glad to get back to work again. After all this time he had just about had
enough of the atmosphere in The Dog, as ever since he had offered Martly a job Ik couldn’t stop taking the piss. Phil reckoned he was just jealous but he’d had enough of it anyway.
At 2.30 sharp in walked Martly, dressed in a set of cleanish overalls and wearing
a cap and a pair of old rigger boots. He had an old haversack on his shoulder and carried a bundle under one arm. On his back was scrawled Martly in indelible pen. He started to move like he was on autopilot.
He handed Phil the bundle, which was a set of overalls with TED on the back, an
old cap and some heavy gloves. “I saved these when he died,” he said. “You’ll need your own boots. He only had the one pair. Get Toetectors. You want tea ?”
“I haven’t got any.”
“Brought me own.”
He found the kettle cum teapot on a shelf, cleaned out the dust, spiders and mouse shit with a flush from the tap on the wall. Filled it and set it on the pot stove. He got some wood from the pile in the corner and lit the stove which was soon burning away merrily. It would have been perfect if it had not been high summer and sweltering.
“Can’t we get an electric kettle?”
“No ‘lectric.”
This was the first time Phil had noticed this. No electric supply or phone point.
“What happens in the evening in winter when it’s dark?”
“Go to the Dog."
“Oh.”
The kettle boiled and to it was added half a packet of tea, half a pint of milk and a
quarter of a packet of sugar; it was all stirred and looked like the kids tea Phil used to make with sand and water, all orange with a scum on it. Martly poured two enamel mugs full and passed Phil one. It was not Earl Grey but Phil felt he would have to get used to it. Martly put the pot back on the stove and adjusted it to reduce the heat and try to keep it in.
“So what do we do to make money out of this yard?”
“Start sorting out non ferrous, ally, brass, lead. When we’ve got some sorted I
nip down to Brassy Smiths and see what he’ll give us for it. You got a truck?”
“No! I came on the train. My wife has a Renault Clio.”
“Can we get a load in it?”
“I doubt it - it’s a small car.”
“I’ll get Ik and his truck. Tek it all down there.”
“How do we sort it out then?”
“By hand and with the jib.”
“Jib?”
“Crane.”
“Can you drive it?”
“Can I!”
They finished their tea and went down into the yard. As Phil followed Martly
through the overhanging paths of scrap he noticed that as Martly passed through he put his hand out and touched different bits all at different levels in the heap like geological strata. He seemed to do this affectionately, as if they were old friends.
What he was really doing was reacquainting himself with the yard’s geography.
This was a three dimensional world not only where something was in the yard but
where it was in the pile in relation to other stuff it may not yet be right to disturb.
Martly really liked doing this. He didn’t mind that he had never really got any profit from the yard other than his wages. He accepted that that was what the owners got.
God knows how much Ted had taken out in the past and no doubt Phil would do the same and good luck to them. Martly just liked the inbuilt intrigue of the place and the fact that he was really the only one who could reveal its secrets.
He wondered if Phil would take it on and run it properly, buying in and taking
other stuff for people, not just sorting through the old stuff and selling it. He also
wondered if this new man had the bottle to deal with the people you had to, who came round with their favours and their offers you couldn’t refuse. Ted had been a strong man and had met them all head to head, this new bloke seemed to be a bit too soft, and
it had been hard enough for Ted towards the end seeing off the wolves at the door.
They reached the crane. It was a filthy old thing - black, rusty in places and
greasy. It had a small tin cab with a seat covered in a piece of old carpet, a load of
controls; all this sat on top of what Phil supposed to be the engine, out of which stuck a decrepit exhaust topped off with an old tin. Sticking out at about 45 degrees was what he presumed was the jib which looked a bit like a skeleton’s erection. Running up the middle was a steel hawser covered in grease; at one end was a large doughnut, at the other it went round a drum. The doughnut had wires out of it running back to the cab.
Martly handed Phil a piece of oily rag, and lit it so it flared.
“Stick in that hole there,” he pointed under the bonnet. As Phil did so Martly
hopped up into the cab and turned a switch. There was a tremendous churning noise and the engine burst into life. This coincided with the burning rag reaching his fingers and Phil cursing and dancing around. This seemed to amuse Martly.
As it chugged away Phil noticed an embossed plate on the side of the cab. He
gave it a rub with his glove. Beowolf and Coopers Hunstanton it said and in the corner d been here since 1929?” Phil yelled over the clatter of the engine.
“From before that, but Ted only started it as a scrappies in 1947 just after the war. Before it was a canal yard repairing boats.” As he said this he indicated with his finger the long wall on the west side of the yard. Phil climbed up on top of the cab and looked over to see the canal the other side. It’s funny what you miss first time round. No wonder it would make a good housing site!

 


CHAPTER 6

A few weeks previously the public bar of The Dog had been pretty empty.
Actually it was the only bar in The Dog except a small, rather dank hatch which served off sales.
John Martly sat on a stool at the bar, reading his racing paper and drinking a pint
of mild and bitter, waiting for his dinner. He’d done this every day since Ted died and the yard had closed thereby losing the only job he’d ever had wanted or understood. He was a man now without purpose.
“E’are Martly,” Linda, the landlady, said as she put down a huge plate in front of
him.
“Christ, Martly, are you gonna eat all that?”
No-one called him John. Martly looked up and turned to the man by the
window.
“Fook off, Ik, it’s only same as I allas has.”
What this consisted of was four large fat sausages, a large heap of mashed
potatoes and a great dollop of bright green mushy peas, the whole lot topped off and swilling in onion gravy. The whole place always smelt of onions every day at this time because this was what Martly always had for dinner and he always had his dinner in The Dog .
He could remember the day he first started at the Yard. It had been a piss-wet
day in March of 1965. Ted had put an advert in the local paper for a worker with the promise of being shown how to drive a crane. Martly’s dad had just died and he needed the work to support his mum. He was nearly fifteen and underage to work but he was never going to do anything at school and so he had not really been going for about a year. The teachers didn’t seem to mind and Ted seemed a man not to take too much notice of the small legal niceties.
He remembered Ted as a kind man who certainly in the early days had been
almost like a father to Martly. Ted had started the yard about fifteen years earlier and he had run it all by himself for that time.
Martly’s mum was a bit wary of him working there at first as it had been well
known that old Ted Wilkins was not above the odd deal on the black market or taking the odd sheet of lead from some lad who’d nicked it off a church roof. Still once he started getting paid she soon lost her objections and she liked the way Ted kept the lad out of harms way even if there were less desirable elements that now seemed to hang around the yard.
“What’s that then - the fookin’ Atkins diet?”
“Shut up, Ik, and let him alone to eat his dinner.”
“Only joking, Linda, ‘nother pint please.
New man’s taken over the yard, saw him down there this morning, pokin’ about. Maybe he’ll give you your job back, Martly.”
“I’m all right as I am, Ik. Mind your own business.”
“Don’t give me that. You’d have it like a shot if it were offered. You been
mopin’ about here for months since old Ted died. Anyway it looks like he wants to try to get it cleared for building.”
“How d’you know that?”
“Cos there’s been a note on the fookin’ lamppost for about a week - don’t you
read?”
Martly finished his dinner and scraped back the stool, belched, finished his pint
and walked outside. It was sweltering. He turned left and walked up to the lamppost and peered at the note. “Fookin’ houses!” he muttered and stepped back into the man coming past.

The hot sun had made Phil thirsty. He walked on towards The Dog and, despite
the smell of onions, went into the pub. It was typical - small round tables, some chairs, some window benches, a worn patterned carpet, a step in front of the bar, dirty glasses, full ashtrays and a dirty dinner plate on the bar. At the end stood a woman chatting in a familiar way to a tall scrawny man smoking a rollup.
“Yes, duck?”
“A pint of .. What beer is it?”
“Pedi - best in the country.”
“Pedi then.”
“Coming up… There you are. £1.80 please.”
Phil paid and she brought his change. He took a mouthful of the beer - it was strong and had that sulphur farts smell just as you drank, but it tasted OK.
“You taken over the yard from Ted then?” she asked.
“What?” Phil was miles away.
“You taken over old Ted Wilkins yard?”
“Oh yes, he left it to me. I used to come over and stay with him and Aunt Ivy
when I was about ten, and when he died he had no-one so he left it to me.”
“He had Martly.” The thin man said.
“Eh?”
“He had Martly. You deaf or sommat?”
“Stow it, Ik, he’s a stranger. Don’t know your style. Sorry, duck, he’s a strange
one that Ik.”
“What does Ik stand for? Ikgnorant?” The beer had definitely affected Phil’s
judgement.
Instead of a punch in the mouth, Ik just laughed and said “Slavic. I’m a Pole. My dad came over in the war to mine coal.”
“Who’s Martly?” I don’t remember him. Phil asked.
“Oh, you just missed him. He has his dinner here every day”, indicating the
empty plate, “if he sees you down there he’s bound to come by trying to get his old job back.”
Phil remembered the pay book and cheque stubs made out to The Dog.
“Nother?”
“OK.”
After three pints of Pedi the hot sun made the world sway so Phil decided to go
back to the yard and sleep it off. He climbed the steps into the office and collapsed on the filthy cot. He remembered feeling that this was so normal and comfortable and then he fell asleep.

 


CHAPTER 7

He woke feeling chilled and damp. The sun was going down but it was still light
outside; it was 8.40. He had a headache and the smell of old bedding in his nose. He remembered that his train was due to leave at 9.30 and it was a good half hour walk to the station. He should be home by midnight.
As he turned from locking up into the road he bumped into a large figure who
had been standing in the shadows. “Sorry.”
“Allreet. You got the yard?”
“Yes.”
“I’m Martly. Used to work here.”
“Hello.”
“If you got to shift the lot in there you’ll need me to drive the crane, sort and
load.”
“I don’t have any money to pay you.”
“Course you do - what d’you think is in there? Ted made a good living from that
lot. Whatever we sell I get half, that’s me wages.”
“Where can I find you? I’ve got to rush for a train now but I’ll come and find
you when I want to start.”
“Dog” he said and walked off.
Phil caught the train.
Martly knew very well how much value was in that yard. For years Ted had
taken in and horded all manner of stuff; some of it could not have been moved on
straight away and had had to stay put till the heat died down. Ted had made a good cash living and a pretty good taxed living out of the place, but you had to know where to look and only Martly and, to some extent, Ik were left with that information.
Martly reckoned it was better that Phil did not know the origin of much of the good stuff in the yard, as he might get windy and not go ahead with running it.
In the last ten years or so it had been pretty kosher but the first twenty years’ worth was pretty dodgy and Martly thought it was now time to cash it in and get it shifted.

The train got in at 11.58, an hour late as usual. The station - a bit of a grand title
actually, as it was just a wood platform with a sort of bus shelter on it with seats at a slope so that people couldn’t lie down and wait, which considering the length of the wait usually seemed a bit fucking rich - was empty apart from some chav taking a late night shit in the shelter. He probably would not have done that if someone had been sleeping in it, Phil thought
No cabs outside at this time, Julie would be in bed, it was at least three miles and
Phil was knackered to say the least after a stressful day, not to mention the beer at
lunchtime. There was just enough charge in the mobile to call Avantis radio taxis which turned up in a couple of minutes with a Vauxhall Omega which smelled of diesel and drinking-up time vomit.
“Where to?”
“4 Chevin Gardens please.”
“£10.”
“We’re not there yet and where’s the meter?”
“£10 up front now or fuck off out of it.”
Phil gave in and gave it to him. As they drove they talked. He was not a bad bloke, just at the end of a bad shift, having cleaned up the vomit of his last fare.
It was raining as Phil got out and walked up the path. The house was dark which
was a bad sign, as it meant she had got fed up waiting and gone to bed. It was always difficult the next morning when that happened. Somehow they needed the evening talk to put the day to bed and if they didn’t do it then the next day seemed to lose momentum. Phil needed some momentum for what he was going to say!
He poured himself a glass of wine and sat in the living room thinking. Then he
remembered that he had not eaten all day and was starving so he went in the kitchen and looked in the fridge. Fuck all in there; then he remembered it was Thursday and Julie always went shopping on Friday and never bought excess of anything so they never had anything on Thursday. When they were at home the kids called Thursday famine day.
Phil found a tin of soup and heated it up and put some toast on. As he ate he
heard the floor creak upstairs. The smell of toast had woken her, better than any alarm, it always did, never failed and now she was following the smell like a hound follows a scent.
She walked in and poured herself some wine and sat down and said “Well?”
“Well what?”
“Well, what was your inheritance like? How much is it worth and when can we
sell it?”
Phil did not answer as he needed to think hard.

 


CHAPTER 8

In the morning as Phil packed a few things and caught the train going back to the
yard he was thinking about that first couple of days when he took possession. He was sitting in the office plucking up courage to go and have a crap in the outside lavatory when a fat bald 50ish man walked in and blurted out, “Sell me the Pilot.”
He was a greasy looking man with very oily hands and black fingernails. He had
on normal overalls with a greasy stain down the front of each leg where for years he had wiped his greasy hands.
Phil had to go! He pushed past the man and ran down the stairs to the outside.
As he opened the wooden door the smell hit him, a mixture of ammonia and mildew from the quarry tiled oft pissed-on floor and the recently reawakened drains. Phil made a mental note to buy some bleach and disinfectant. When he had finished he realised there was no paper so fished some tissue paper out of his pocket. Another note ‘buy bogpaper’. Phil rinsed my hands in the pail under the tap ‘buy soap’, and went back up
the stairs.
The greasy man was still there waiting patiently.
“What did you say?”
“Sell us the Pilot”, he had a strong Black Country accent.
“I don’t understand. What Pilot?”
“The V8.”
“Christ, is this some sort of fucking code. What are you talking about?”
He was shocked and looked it. “You mean you don’t know about the Pilot?”
“No. Tell me”
“I’ve been trying to buy it for years - must be at least twenty - but old Ted’d
never consider it.”
“What exactly is it?”
“A 1949 Ford V 8 Pilot. A car.”
“I haven’t seen one.”
“No you won’t. It’s under that lot out there. I can point exactly to where it is. I
used to come round and watch him bury the bastard thing even though he knew I
wanted it.”
Phil could have said yes outright and gone and got Martly out of The Dog and
moved the pile, found the car and struck a deal. Then and there Phil could have sold something and become a dealer and gone home to Julie and showed her the money and so proved it could work out.
But he didn’t. He started to get all protective about it. He owned it. He had not
seen it but it was his and if Ted did not sell it then there must be a reason. Maybe it was really valuable and this guy was just trying to take advantage. Maybe Phil could be a dealer after all.
“I’m not going to say yes or no now. I will get it uncovered and if you come
back in three weeks we can talk about it again.”
He seemed ecstatic at this. “That’s great. I’ll see you on the…” and he got out a
really grubby palm pilot from his pocket. He licked the little pointer as if it was a pencil and jabbed away, “…28th of July.”

 


CHAPTER 9

The Dog opened at 10.30 and Ik was first through the door - lighting up his
rollup with one hand, racing paper under his arm and left hand deep in his trouser
pocket for his money for the first pint of the day. This routine had been going on now for some years. Although he had no visible means of financial support, he had enough to spend most of it in The Dog.
“Your wife one of these rich heiresses then?” asked Linda.
“That’s right, keeps me in the manner to which I become accustomed” was
always the reply, “That and Lady Luck.”
“All as I can say is you must be bloody lucky then.”
“Reckon so.”
After about half an hour Martly walked in, looking slightly lost, which was odd
as he did the same thing everyday and should know it by now.
“Eyup Martly, something on yer mind?”
“Bumped into that new bloke owns the yard now says he might want some help.
Said he’d come and find me!”
“Told you you’d go running back. Just to get your hands back on that fooking
crane again. Eh, guess what, I saw that twat Divvy Striker coming out of the yard early this morning looking pleased with himself. He’s a spawny bastard that one.”
“I wonder what he wanted.”
“You know what he’s after, Mart, same as he’s been after for years, that Car, the
Pilot.”
Martly’s face went black, and he sat brooding over his beer for the next hour till his dinner arrived.
“You should have some vegetables with that. I saw it on breakfast telly. This
fat tart was on giving advice.”
“You should mind your own business and keep to yourself.”
It was nearly two o’clock by the time Phil walked into The Dog. It stank of
onions and smoke and beer as usual in about equal measure. It was another hot day but remembering last time Phil ordered a half of bitter shandy. This did not raise his status with the others in the bar who looked like they thought he was a poof.
Phil slid along the bar to Martly. “I’ve been thinking it over. Will you come
back and show me the ropes for a couple of weeks? I’ll pay you up to£100 a week from whatever we can earn from the yard and after two weeks we can review it. Anyway I’ve had someone in wants to buy a car that’s in there so it’s a start.”
“I heard,” said Martly.
“Well, are you interested or not?”
“Not if you sell the Pilot.”
“What?”
“He doesn’t want you to sell the Pilot,” said Ik.
“I gathered that. Why not – it’s all covered in scrap. It’s not as if it’s been
looked after. I’ve no idea what state it’s in.”
“It’s all right,” said Martly.
“What’s all right? You’re coming to help or the car’s all right?”
“Both.”
“Be down there in half an hour and we’ll make a start.”
Phil left.
When he got back to the gate someone had left a fridge and a roll of old carpet
outside.

 


CHAPTER 10


He remembered how it had first appeared to him. The bricks of the terraced
houses were brick red, not just red as many bricks were but that harsh dry brick red intermixed with ones that were black. He reckoned all the terraced houses in all the streets in the midlands seemed to be made of the same bricks. Their colour was exaggerated by the intense heat, not just of the July sun, but also from that reflected from all these close red vertical surfaces to give an overall impression of oppression.
As Phil walked down the left hand pavement towards the huge, solid, dark-blue
gates at the end he noticed the usual collection of street inhabitants, cats nipped in and out of parked cars, kids messed around on roller blades and bikes, leaned in doorways spat, swore and sweated. Lunch and beer smells came from the houses and the pub, The Dog. Chips, greens, curry. All told, not a hostile place but not his place, for although it had been his dad’s childhood home it was not his, not this part of town.
As he reached the gates at the end and started to rummage through the box of
keys the solicitor had given him he had had a chance to think. Here he was about to open up his inheritance from an uncle he could barely remember. The inheritance was in the form of a yard, scrap-yard to be precise, semi-derelict scrap-yard if we are splitting hairs. He had the deeds to the yard, a number of scruffy exercise books which was the business and a boxful of keys to get through the Fort Knox style security.
His uncle had died some six months ago and it had taken this long to sort out his
affairs and wishes. He had not been left it by default because there were no other
relatives but as a precise bequest. When he was told this by the solicitor a couple of months back, he could not provide Phil with a reason but did ask him if he wanted to proceed with the sale of the yard as he could not imagine he would want to run it. Phil had said yes. He needed money so they had agreed that the solicitor should seek a change of use from business to housing making the site more valuable. He thought that the planning authority would welcome this with open arms. Smelly old scrap-yard for shiny new housing. However all he had was an agreement to consider it so long as it was cleared in three months.
Phil finally got the padlock bar open and put the huge Victorian key in the lock
and turned; this was met with a well-oiled clunk and he was in. On the face of it he could not see what all the security was for – huge gates, high brick walls topped off with broken glass and a kennel and chain inside the gate for the obligatory scrap yard dog.
The dog wasn’t there and the kennel did not smell too bad so it must have gone - maybe another relative inherited it!
He had got in through one of those personnel doors in the much larger gate so
that the whole area was still in the shadow of the gates. He could see through the gloom but could not interpret the shapes. There were obviously familiar things in here but all jumbled and out of context. A chaos of stuff!
In front of him was a path, very narrow with spiky bits sticking out at all angles
from the heaps of assembled scrap in places the sun shone through but mostly the length of the path was covered by a roof of scrap giving a dappled light effect with shadows of odd shapes on the ground. Most of the floor of the path was (at least for the radius of the dog chain) covered with fossilised dog shit - the crumbly not the slippery type.
Beyond the chain’s end you could see where the oily pools of water had dried out and left a scummy crust. Phil followed the path to where it split to the right; here there was a space in the scrap in which stood a small crane. To the left the path went off through the tangle towards a two-storey brick tower rather like a signal box, up the side of which was a set of stairs.
He went up the stairs at first to try and get a look at the yard from a vantage
point; it did not help much except to show that the yard was a densely packed square of about two and a half acres. At the top of the stairs he got out the key marked ‘office’ and opened up.
The place had been empty for a while and was filthy. Phil looked around –
table, two chairs, enamel mugs and kettle on a cast iron pot stove, desk, small safe and a tap sticking out of the wall with a bowl under it. Along one wall was a metal cot - adult size -and some ancient bedding. On the table was mail, much of it unopened but clearly put there by someone.
He opened the safe; inside were sheaves of papers, account books, address books
and a few items of blackened silverware. One book had “Martly” written in pencil on the front; inside were pages of entries going back 30 years. Weekly dates with
payments that looked like wages. For the last ten years or so there were cheque book stubs stapled in the payment column for Martly but made out to The Dog public house.
“How much ya give us for this ere?”
Phil went towards the door and looked down alarmed to see three street lads
with a supermarket cart holding a car exhaust, a stainless steel sink and a brass tap.
“Go on, bugger off. I’m not trading in scrap.”
“You fookin mardy bastard.” the larger youth shouted as they ran down the
stairs leaving all their junk behind them.
Maybe this is what happens? Maybe people just keep bringing stuff and the heap
gets bigger.
Phil had closed up and gone home to Julie to tell her about his future life.

 


CHAPTER 11

Since Martly had started back at the yard a few weeks earlier they had got on
with the sorting and Phil could see just how perfectly Martly fitted into this
environment and how imperfectly he would fit into any other. It was as if Phil had given him his life back. Actually Phil had started to get his life back as well. He’d always liked the yard ever since he had been a kid, and up to about 10 years old he had often come across town to visit his uncle Ted and Aunty Ivy and spend time in the yard. Ted had been kind to him and had let him do pretty much as he wanted to. Sometimes he got shooed away when Ted would be talking seriously to some visitors. There were always a few of what his mum called No Goods coming round, about 16 years old with tight trousers and quiffs, and later with their long Beatles hair cuts. And then after about five years of going over there his dad had stopped him and he never knew why.
He hadn’t seen Ted since and now he found himself reopening Ted’s life.
Phil relied on Martly totally and just made tea, got some food and did what he
was told. Soon they had sorted and sold two truck loads of ally and one of assorted other stuff including brass and lead and Phil had enough to give him two weeks money with a bit over for himself.
Phil had also met Sheila and that was working out pretty well once you
overlooked the rather eccentric living arrangements.
He had completely forgotten about the letter Julie had given him from Digby
the solicitor and only found it two days later when he was pulling on his trousers as he sat on the edge of the cot.
Phil reckoned that he needed to at least go and talk to Mr Digby so after a trip
home to change and a phone call he was back in Mr Digby’s office the next morning.
What an office - it was just like the yard with layers of dusty papers in heaps tied up with faded pink ribbons. All this detritus meant something to someone but this guy had read too much Charles Dickens.
“He can see you now”, the rather frumpy secretary announced. It was odd that
she was frumpy because she was only mid thirties, quite pretty with a spectacularly nice arse; she presumably joined the firm as a looker and took on the atmosphere. Phil walked past her and into the room. Digby stood up,
“Good morning Mr Johnson. Coffee?”
“Thanks.”
“Coffee for two please, Sheila, and then hold everything for an hour.”
Who was he kidding? Phil had been there half an hour and no-one had come in
phoned or anything, just Phil and frumpy Sheila to look at.
“I am so glad you came as I have a very exciting proposal for you re the yard. I
have been contacted by the Bishop brothers and they wish to buy your yard. I knew they were looking for some land and as I act for them also I took the liberty to mention it and they were very keen. You did say you wanted me to look for a buyer. You still do, don’t you?”
“Probably, I’ll go and see them.”
They talked and Digby gave Phil the address, but seemed to be concerned at his attitude to the sale. As Phil left Digby said, “You must take the Bishops seriously. You know they are very serious in their wish to buy, and don’t like to be messed around.”
Phil did not know what he meant by that and thought he had a bloody cheek
saying it. Still he had set it all up so Phil kept quiet. As Phil left the room he took a
long look at Sheila who was bending over a filing cabinet and made a mental note to get to know her better.

 


CHAPTER 12

As he watched Martly it seemed to Phil that this work was a cross between
archaeology and peeling an onion. All this stuff was vaguely collected in layers of
similar age and these needed to be peeled away to get at what was underneath. All this represented much more than the sheer movement of stuff.
What this meant to Martly only struck Phil when he started to insist that Martly
begin clearing away around the Pilot so they could have it ready for Divvy in a couple of weeks time. Every time Phil asked him to do it he started somewhere else and his mood visibly darkened.
“Come on, Martly. You must start to move stuff from over by the Pilot.” No
answer. “What is it with you? Has it got a fucking hex on it?”
“What’s that?”
“The Pilot you’re treating it like there’s a spell on it. Every time I ask you to
clear around it you ignore me!”
“S’my car.”
“What?”
“It’s my car. Ted give it me to do my courting in.”
“You must be joking. If it’s so precious then why is it covered in scrap and
rotting away?”
“It’s not.”
“Come on. Let’s have tea and talk about it.”
Eventually Phil persuaded him to clear it and let him see the mythical beast. He
achieved this by telling Martly if he didn’t do it Phil would and that he would probably damage it further in the process.
It took the whole afternoon but by six it was clear so they could see it. It was far
from perfect because it must have been a bit of a wreck when it was brought in. But he was right - it had not had stuff actually dumped on it but a big heap of lighter stuff had been placed over it to cover it. The roof and bonnet had been covered with an old carpet to try to protect it but as over the years it had become soaked it was seriously rusty.
They opened up the doors and bonnet and poked around it. It stank of old damp
seats and carpets, but it had obviously been a fine motorcar in its day, which was not now, and it seemed to Phil to all effects to be a wreck.
“Ok, Martly, look at it. It’s a wreck, whatever it meant to you once it can’t any
more. So did you take your lady friend out in it?”
“No, just used the back seat when he’d gone home. Couldn’t go back to mum’s.
She didn’t like me with girls.” He looked thoughtful. “I suppose if Divvy can do somat with it it’s better than rotting away here. I’ll make so we can get it out.”
Phil wondered how much else in this yard had a pull on Martly, or anyone else
for that matter.

 


CHAPTER 13


“I’ve washed all your clothes and hung them out. God, they were dirty. How is
the clearing coming on, ready to sell yet? Where do you sleep up there? I must come and have a look one day.”
“Don’t bother. You’d hate it. It’s filthy.”
Phil supposed they had a pretty sterile life now. They had two kids - twins - they
had left home nearly six years ago and his contact was pretty minimal.
Julie was an accountant and a pretty good one; she mixed with all sorts of city
types which meant they got some good dinners but in general Phil found them boring and reactionary. She was into Pilates and Feng Shui. The house was white from top to bottom - it was a bit like entering a suburban shrine to the Bauhaus. She ate low fat food and drank the recommended quantity of filtered water. She’d reached an age where the use of toning and firming products was to the fore. Don’t get it wrong - she was fit in all senses of the word but once past 45 the elastin in the skin goes and it does not spring back the way it did.
Phil, on the other hand, was a bit of a slob. He tended to keep his most slobbish
tendencies back at school and not bring them back to the white shrine which always made him feel uncomfortable at home.
Phil’s friends were all teachers, which was fairly common. Teachers are pretty
cliquey; they often socialise around the topic of teaching and kids who seem to be a constant source of amusement and anguish in equal measure. Julie did not mix much with Phil’s friends - they were not her type. Trouble was, Phil was getting so nobody was his type. He could feel age and responsibility separating him from his colleagues at work who now excluded him rather than included him in their circle, largely because he was half way to being management and old enough to be their parent.
Phil had never really liked kids; he did not mind his own and while they were at
home they kept the worst ravages of perfectionism at bay, but he never really loved them. He used to change their nappies and wonder how on earth any paedophiles could find them attractive.
Phil went into teaching because he liked history. Now none of the kids liked
anything and his patience was really getting thin. He also hated bullies. He always had and the current crop of kids had some real evil bastards amongst them. One of the worst was called Iqbal - he was a Pakistani kid who liked trouble. He was big and along with his little gang, or crew as he liked to call it, he was a past master at goading other kids into fights from which they invariably got a serious kicking. It wasn’t racial, he just liked to act like a gangster and control the other kids. It had been going on for a while now and, although everyone knew it had to stop, no-one knew how - they seemed powerless. The final straw was a really vicious attack which resulted in Iqbal sitting on another kid’s chest whist he repeatedly banged his head against the ground and his crew stood around cheering and putting in the boot. Phil saw red and steamed in, pulling the gang apart and wrenching the bully off his victim, while doing this he managed to
elbow Iqbal in the ribs and stamp hard on the top of his foot. He’d always meant to do it and it was just a case of picking his moment.
Today he had to go to the Governors’ Disciplinary Panel, and he wasn’t in any
mood to apologise. He hadn’t told Julie about this fact, which could easily end his
career, just as he hadn’t really told her about his plans for working in the yard. Phil and Julie cared for each other but there was not much love left and he did not need her to complicate things.

 


CHAPTER 14


Phil had never really liked his brother much. It was all that success and the
pomposity that it brought. David hated being called Dave and was the only one to insist on calling his older brother Philip, never Phil. The four-year difference in age had produced two totally separate people - one driven with a desire to be respected for his success the other rather keen not to be noticed at all and to whom doing anything remotely self-publicising was completely alien.
Normally Phil kept well out of David’s way keeping contact down to the odd
phone call and the occasional rather painful Christmas. Still now he needed his
expertise and he did not think he could afford a lawyer of David’s standing unless it was one who was free to family members. They hadn’t had dinner together since their mum died, and having no parents left to discuss they hadn’t talked for at least two years. So here they were now at opposite sides of the dining table in the “Poisson” restaurant which David had suggested, when Phil rang him.
“So you’ve left Julie, moved into this yard and started trading unofficially. And
you think you might sell the yard to two people called Bishop. Bloody hell, Phil, you don’t hang about, do you? You’ve had it valued, I suppose.”
“Yes, I got someone round after the Bishops’ offer from Smithsons, the
commercial properties agent.”
“And?”
“Well, he seemed to think that the Bishops’ offer was quite good. Although it’s a
big site and on the canal side he reckoned it was about five years too soon as that part of town is not really very desirable at the moment and he didn’t think I’d be killed in the rush from other possible developers.”
“About these Bishops - that all sounded a bit dodgy to me so I contacted a
couple of retired coppers I used to know when I did criminal work. They had certainly heard of them although they could not remember anything concrete on them, just an all round bad smell. There was something about the disappearance of their brother, the third triplet. No-one seems to have the full story on this but one of my contacts said that no-one believed the story of him going abroad. I think his name was Eric but everyone called him Kipper.”
“That’s odd,” said Phil, “I remember a bloke called Kipper when I was staying
that time round at uncle Ted’s. He used to drop in and hang around the yard. I wonder if that’s the same one? It was such along time ago I don’t remember much about him
except that he always had a girl with him. Seemed to be a bit of a Jack the lad.”
“Was that the time just before dad stopped you going over there?”
“I suppose it was. I haven’t thought about it for 40 years. So what do you think
about the Bishops? I was pretty sure they were bent when I met them; they seemed to be desperate to give off the gangster aura.”
“I don’t know what to advise. It’s my experience that most property developers
have some skeletons in the cupboard, even the ones that aren’t out-and-out crooks”
“I don’t think I shall sell yet. Maybe I’ll wait five years till it becomes attractive
to other buyers. It gives me somewhere to go and something to do, and, I don’t know, but it seems to have a life and purpose of its own.”
“You always were a romantic, and for once I agree. You don’t want to suddenly
come into a lot of money when you are about to split from Julie. Might give her some ideas.”
“You never liked her much, did you? It’s funny because on the surface the two
of you are quite alike.”
“No-one’s ever going to be good enough for my older brother” David said
sarcastically, and with that Phil remembered why he disliked him so much.

 


CHAPTER 15


Phil sat in the waiting room at Digby’s covertly watching Mr Digby’s secretary
Sheila. He fancied that she had spotted him doing this and had in fact retuned one or two glances and even moved a couple of times in a provocative manner. He
remembered what it was like as a young man trying to make contact with someone you fancied and judge whether they fancied you. As far as he could remember you did it through a friend who you got to say, “My mate fancies you”. But he had no such friend here so he was aware that he could be about to make a fool of himself.
She brushed passed him and into Digby’s room, he had not heard a buzzer, maybe he was too deep into his middle-aged passion.
“He’ll see you now.”
Phil went in, “I just thought I’d tell you that I’m not going to sell the yard at the
moment. My situation has altered and it suits me to keep it for at least a couple of
years. If your Mr Bishops still want it they can contact me then.”
“They’ll be disappointed. I’ll let them know. Good day,” he didn’t even look up.
As he left Phil walked over to Sheila’s desk, his heart was in his mouth and he
could feel pounding in his ears. Then he bottled! Instead of asking her out he passed her a piece of paper with his mobile number on it. “In case you want, need, to contact me.”
As he walked down stairs he felt elated he had made the first move, no matter how feeble. She had not laughed, simply taken the paper and put it in her bag. Not in the file marked P Johnson - her bag!
Weren’t mobiles wonderful - you could live in a place with no services at all and
still have a personal number. Mind you, he did still have to keep it charged from the point behind the bar in The Dog.
Sheila watched him leave, another sad punter entangled in Digby’s web, still he
seemed to have a bit about him now he’d turned down the Bishops. She wondered if he knew what he had done. She’d had fifteen years of working for Digby Booth and it was about thirteen years ago that old man Booth had left. Just walked out. Digby took over the whole thing and now they just seemed to work for the Bishops. Sheila didn’t really mind; the money was better than she could get anywhere else and Digby didn’t seem to than that he was a cold fish. No family, as far as she could tell, no social life at all. He was in when she arrived at 8.15 and he went for lunch at 1 o’clock and often never came back, never a word to her. She’d joined Digby Booth after her husband had been put away for armed robbery. She always knew he was a villain but not what type. They divorced five years later, and this job came up. Maybe it was time for a new man in her
life.
Whilst Phil was out sorting out the rest of his life Martly was continuing to run
the yard. The clearing and sorting were going apace and even the selling had its
moments. Ik was helping him, which was quite like old times. Although he was not on the payroll, it gave him something to do other than sit in The Dog. Ted had always had Ik around although not on wages. He paid him for doing the odd unofficial job that Martly was too honest or naive to do. He got him to act as a go-between for characters such as the Bishops and a few others. Ik had a good nose for that side of the business but Ted always reckoned he was best at arms length.
Ik did not think he’d do it for ever but it made a change and he had to say that
although he didn’t know what to make of Phil really he had put a bit of life back in the street by reopening the yard.
The two of them were sitting on crates in the office playing pontoon for
matches, it was 3.45 and they were enjoying the tea ceremony.
“Banker pays twenty.”
“Fucking hell, Martly, you always were a jammy bastard even when we used to
play with Ted.”
“Come on Ik – it’s not like the old days. This is only for matches.”
“So this Phil’s going to keep the yard then?”
“Yeah, for a couple of years anyroad. Good, eh?”
“Suppose,” Ik was a bit jealous now that Martly had his old life back. He’d sort of
lost a friend who depended on him for his street wisdom, now he was well and truly back in Martlyland. They’d tidied the place up and decorated the walls with a few page three girls. Ted would not have held with that but they were sure Phil wouldn’t mind.

 


CHAPTER 16


“Where do you want the fridges, mate? Show us where and sign this and I’ll
unload and be on me way.”
“What?”
“Fridges - where do you want them?”
“We don’t fucking want them. We’re not a licensed tip! Take them away.”
The man jabbed his finger at Ik. “Look you scrawny twat, don’t mess me about.
You put the ad in the paper and I’ve just collected these and brought them here and I’m not taking them back.”
“Yeah and I bet you took some money for doing it, the council charges £30, what
did you charge? Anyway we didn’t put any ad in anywhere.”
“What do you call this then?” the man took out a folded local paper from his
pocket and shoved it under Ik’s nose.
“Fuck me,” they both said at once.
There it was in the small ads.
OLD FRIDGES
DO YOU NEED TO GET RID OF YOUR OLD FRIDGE? WE WANT IT NOW! ONLY £10 DISPOSAL FEE.
BRING TO TED WILKINS YARD
24 –30 BEXHAM ST.
“I wonder if Phil put that in? Sorry mate we don’t know ought about this. We
can’t take them.”
“Then I’ll leave the bastard things on the pavement, I’m not taking them back.”
He left. Martly looked at Ik, “That were a rum do.” They carried on with the
cards. The Dog would open in an hour or so and there was no more to be done today. It was September and the light was just going by about 6 o’clock. It was a damp autumn and they were going to need some light soon.
“Better find the old oil lamps,” said Martly.
It was pissing with rain by the time Phil left Julie’s house. It was odd how
quickly he had come to think of it as her house but, since he had moved to the yard and given up his job, the act of giving up his marriage and its house was no big deal. She actually seemed to be relieved to have him off her hands. She had a new exciting life and she didn’t need a wet blanket like him hanging about. Or that was what she said.
Still, she had agreed to let him use the car for moving some of his stuff. The rest
had been moved into a stack in the spare bedroom and could stay there indefinitely as far as she cared. He could also come back and use the washer and dryer but as he never learned to do that whilst at home she doubted it would happen much. So in a month or two she would be rid of him and vice versa, though they would have to tell the kids, but they probably would not care too much. That was pretty much how his last day at home had gone, no real recriminations but not exactly without friction.
“Shit,” Phil muttered as he turned into the end of Bexham Street. He indicated
to go left and turned off the wipers leaving him blind. “Sodding modern cars too clever by half. Who wants three speed and intermittent wipers anyway?” Phil fumed to no-one in particular. He was picking up this anti approach to all things modern mainly from Ik who could see no use in any vehicle you could not load up with stuff and could not fix with some wire and a screw driver.
As he drove down the street he was thinking in a whirl. He’d started off
thinking about the accidental nature of careers and relationships. He probably never wanted to be a teacher in the first place - it was undoubtedly an accident brought about by circumstance, but from that he’d met Julie and had kids - none of which would have happened if he’d been a pilot or a crook or a rock star or a millionaire, or a drug dealer or mercenary, or a fucking scrap dealer, all of which looked preferable to being a teacher.
As he pulled up outside The Dog he was thinking about why he felt so at home
with his new life and his new associates, he couldn’t call them friends yet. He
wondered if Martly or Ik had ever dreamed of being teachers or if the Bishops had wanted to work in advertising. He did not think he was comfortable with them because he felt intellectually superior because he did not think he did, as he relied so much on their knowledge of their world to exist in it.
“What the fuck’s going on?” Just as he was about to turn off the lights and go in
the pub he had accidentally put them on main beam and lit up the end of the street
where the yard was. Outside the gate and all along the pavement were what looked like fridges and the odd old cooker. He restarted the car and crawled forward for a closer look. He counted 35 in all, some of which were stopping him driving through the gates into the yard. In fact he couldn’t even open the gates to the yard.
He may have needed their knowledge but what were they doing – he’d only left
them for a couple of days so he could get his life together and now this. He parked the car and got out, locked it and pulled his collar up. The rain was really sheeting down now. He jogged back to The Dog. When he’d got his pint he wanted to go over to the far corner and think about the day and the future and ignore Ik and Martly, but that would be really churlish and he needed to know about the fridges.
“What are all those fridges doing at the gate? Are you trying to get us closed
down?”
“Don’t ask us Boss,” said Martly, “It was that ad you put in the paper.”
“ What ad?”
“The one for old fridges.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Anyone got today’s local?” Ik shouted round the bar.
“Eeyar. I finished with it.”
“Thanks. There you are, read that.”
Phil looked silently at the ad. “I never put that in. Someone’s playing silly
buggers. Has this sort of thing happened before?”
“No, not as I know of.”
Now he had more to think on so he went and sat in the corner with a second pint
and a round of cheese and onion sandwiches. His phone vibrated and he fished it out of his pocket. He put it to his ear and there was no answer. He looked at the display and it said text.
“What’s this? I don’t know anyone who knows how to text. It’s kids stuff.”
Phil had always wondered if there was going to be a spate of head injuries from kids walking down the road texting and bumping into lampposts.
“How do I read this?” he said in a pathetic tone.
“What is it?” said Linda from behind the bar.
“A text message.”
“I’ll get the lad. He’s always at it. Mark,” she called out. “Mark” she shouted.
“What do you want,” came the reply.
“You,” she said.
Mark appeared - a typical teenage chav, Fila top and Burberry cap. “What is it? I was watching telly.”
“It’s Phil here. He’s got a text, wants to read it but don’t know how.”
“Bloody hell, give it here, you a muppet or something?” He passed the phone to
Phil, “There you are.”
It was gobbledygook, written in code. “What does that mean?”
“Give it here” Mark said in a resigned tone. “It says,” he said this in a loud voice
as if speaking to a deaf person. “I will meet you 9pm in The Anchor Fall St, for a drink. Tonight, Sh.”
“Who’s Sh?
“Don’t ask me, mate, it’s your life.”
Then it struck Phil it must be Sheila from Digby’s. He’d given her his number a
couple of days ago and she had put it in her bag.
He finished his pint and his sandwich and walked into the street to The Anchor.

 


CHAPTER 17


“Have you been eating onions?”
“Yes, sorry, I was having a sandwich when I got your message.”
He passed her drink across the table - brandy and soda. She took a sip. “I’ve got some information for you.”
“What about?”
“Well, have you had people dumping fridges at your yard?”
“Yes.”
“It’s a little scheme dreamt up by my boss. He suggested it to the Bishops as a
way of getting you to sell.”
“I don’t see how.”
“Well, you have to have a licence to dispose of fridges now and it costs so you
could be fined and have to pay for their disposal.”
“Christ, how much?”
“I’m not sure but I heard him say £30 a throw, something like that.”
“Bloody hell. Is that why you wanted to meet for a drink?”
“No. I saw how you were looking at me at work the other day and I thought I
might like to get to know you better.”

 


CHAPTER 18


“All right all right, stop that bloody banging. I’m on my way.” Phil was on his
way down the stairs, he looked at his watch - it was 8.12 in the morning and he had a hangover. He had stayed in the pub with Sheila until closing, had about five pints - God she could drink - and then they’d gone for a curry. He’d seen her into a taxi and staggered home with a promise to call and a belly full of a typical night out. Still, it looked promising, which was more than he could say for the sight beyond his little personnel door. He peered out of it half opened.
Outside was one of those really clean men. Neat dark hair over a round face
scraped clean by the morning shave, reddened in the wind and probably smelling faintly of cologne but Phil didn’t get that close.
“Yes?”
“Ted Wilkins?”
“No, he died nearly a year ago.”
“That’s funny. It’s his name on my list,” and he consulted a clipboard.
“I’ll forward it to the cemetery.”
“Eh? Oh yes, I see. Still is this your yard now?”
“Yes.”
“What’s your name?”
“Before we go into all that, what’s yours and why are you here at this hour?”
Phil already knew the answer to this but he needed a bit of time to adjust. He was
losing out in his own mind to Mr Clean. Mr Clean meets Mr Shit.
“Right, here’s my ID,” Clean said and passed him a laminated plastic badge with
a photo on it. It looked like him and apparently he was John Hardbuckle with a BSc and Dip Env Health. He worked for the local authority environmental services department as an enforcement officer. He was also wearing a full hi-vis vest, which was a bit naff as he was only standing on the pavement. There was a van parked by the pavement with Environmental Health on its side.
“ So, what do you want?”
“Are these your fridges?” He signalled around at the army of fridges on the
pavement, the ranks of which had swelled overnight.
“No.”
“Don’t mess me about. Is this your advert?”
There it was again. Everyone had a copy by the looks of it.
“No, I did not put that in.”
“ But it does refer to this yard that you own?”
“Yes, I suppose ..”
“Then,” he said cutting Phil off in full flow, “this” and he handed him a paper
“belongs to you.”
“What is it?”
“It’s an enforcement order to get these removed to a competent and licensed site
for disposal at your cost by tomorrow or you’ll be summonsed.”
“But they’re not mine. I didn’t place the advert. It’s someone trying to make
trouble for me.”
“Well, they’ve done a bloody good job then,” and with that sneer Mr Clean
drove off.
Martly and Ik were sitting in Ik’s kitchen while his wife plied them with bacon
butties and tea. To be more accurate, it was Martly who ate most of them; Ik was more than half way down his seventh roll-up of the morning and really did not have time for eating, between lighting up his eighth and going into a phlegmy coughing fit.
“For Godsakes, Ik love, have some tea, it will help stop you cough.” Ik never
understood this logic, how something warm, sweet and wet when swallowed could cure the ravages of smoking 50 a day for the last Godknows how many years. Still, he took a gulp and ate half a butty.
“You know who I saw driving that van that brought more fridges last night?”
Martly asked. “It was that bloke used to work for those Bishop lads, what were their names?”
“Richard and Kevin, not forgetting the disappearing Kipper,” Ik said, “I thought
I saw the same thing, I think it was the one we used to call Narley, but it was so long ago I couldn’t be sure. I reckon they’re trying to bugger up the yard again. Better go tell the boss, eh, he’ll be wondering where we are.”
“I doubt it. Did you see the state of him trying to get in the yard last thing?”
They left and walked up to the yard; they slipped through the personnel gate and
up the steps expecting to find Phil asleep. He wasn’t but it looked like he should have been.
“Christ, boss, you look fucking terrible. Good night was it?” spluttered Ik
between bouts of his stairs-induced coughing fit.
Phil scowled and shoved the paper at them, “Man from the council brought
this.”

 


CHAPTER 19


“They can have the whole fucking lot back. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll take
them back and dump them outside their offices.” Phil was in that post hangover manic state. “How many can we get in your truck Ik?”
“Bout 15.”
“That’s four journeys. We’ll do it tonight, but it will have to be done by
morning.”
“Can’t do it tonight.”
“Why not?”
“It’s our darts and dominoes night down The Dog – it’s going to be a real needle
with the Red Cow.”
Phil’s manner turned black. “Do you like working here, Martly?”
“Course I do.”
“If we don’t do this tonight we’ll close and you won’t be able to. So, are you
going to help or not?”
“Yes, of course. We’ve got no other way, Ik, got to do it.”
“Suppose so.”
“You need to be careful of them Bishops though. We know em from years ago
when they used to work with old Ted and I never liked em then.”


“That little cunt, I’ll rip his arms out of his sockets and ram the stumps up his
arse.” Kevin Bishop had not felt this cross for a long time.
As Richard drove up in his Mercedes he could see Kevin gesticulating
apoplectically at the 60 or so fridges that stood in military-like ranks on their yard and blocked in Kevin’s BMW, which he had left there the night before.
“Calm down, bro. He’s obviously got a bit more about him than we thought, bit
like his uncle, eh?”
“I’ll get Divvy down to load em up and go and fly tip them somewhere, then
we’d better decide what to do about Mr Johnson. I wonder how he knew it was us.”
“He just guessed.”
“No he didn’t. You don’t go and do this to a pair of lads like us without
knowing for definite. It’s that bloody Digby, I bet.”
“I’ll wait for him and run the bastard over, break both his legs.”
“No you won’t, bro. Start using your head. Maybe we don’t really want the
yard but maybe we just want to use it like the old days and maybe this shows us that this teacher is someone more like his uncle than we first thought. Still we do need to see Digby and then maybe we’ll see the teacher.”

Phil was completely exhausted, but elated. He had crawled into bed at five in
the morning having made five trips over to the Bishops with the fridges. Martly and Ik had done well and they had had a real laugh. On the way home he had bought them an early breakfast at Rene’s all night café van.
He was lying on the cot with his face to the wall when he felt the draft of the
door opening. Next thing he felt this warm wet sensation on the back of his neck and the smell of really bad breath.
“Wassat?” he said with a start and rolled over. He got the breath full in the face
and it was all he could do not to retch. Fuck!
“This is Buster,” said Martly, “He’s the new yard dog.”
“Christ, Mart, where did you get it? It’s a total mutt.”
“Dog Rescue. I paid 25 quid for it. Took it out of the float money.”
“He stinks. Tie him up outside while I think what to do with him.”
Eventually they gave the dog a wash and hosed him off. He hated the wash but
when it stopped he leapt around like a mad thing shaking and leaping to dry off. They did not risk a comb as it looked like a Herculean and deeply unpopular task, but they did get him a chewy thing for his teeth that improved but did not cure the breath problem.
Martly came up with an old box and a blanket and they put that in the back of an
old Thames Trader van and hooked him up to the flying line near the gates so he could be on guard. Linda at the pub came up trumps with some kitchen scraps and he wolfed the whole lot down from an old washing up bowl at the end of which he fell asleep farting remorselessly.

 


CHAPTER 20


In the late summer the weather turned wet and life in the yard, particularly for
Phil, was becoming rather sordid. It was hard for him to stay clean with clean clothes; everything smelt damp and the shortening of daylight made the evenings too long to spend by lantern light in the office. That meant that he was having to go to The Dog earlier and earlier and, because home was so dreary, stay later and later. He had gone downhill and was starting to resemble many of the other Dog regulars, overweight, pasty and smelling of onions. He was aware that this had to stop if he was going to get anywhere with Sheila, which he really wanted to do. Nowhere had he read that the ideal man for a woman looking to start a new relationship should be like him and have his circumstances.


Life in the yard continued. Martly still came every day to carry on with the
clearing and Phil reckoned they had cleared and sorted about a fifth of the area. On a good day he could look over it from the top of the steps and watch the progress. They were still making money selling the old scrap and they were also taking the odd bits of stuff, such as old cars that people, particularly Divvy and sometimes Ik, brought them.
Phil had learnt to balance the buying and selling prices knowing he was always making a profit. He thought it was a bit like futures trading, buying now to sell on later, maybe much later, and cashing in on Ted’s past purchases.
Although they were shifting it they had not unearthed much of real interest for a
while. A few old 40s and 50s cars that had been broken for spares and Phil had sold over ebay, which he could do on Mark’s computer at The Dog.
Buster was rushing round and crapping everywhere and anywhere. Phil did not
see him as anything much other than a nuisance but at least he kept Martly happy. As he watched the work it dawned on him that another Martly crisis was looming. They had been progressing in one direction through the heap and had started to uncover the squashed remains of an old 1970s P6 Rover. Phil reckoned this might be worth unearthing and breaking up for sale as before so he had told Martly to get it out. This had been two days ago and he had just noticed that the old crane was working in a totally different direction. He was about to go and ask Martly what the hell he was playing at, when a thought struck him, “That’s what I need - a caravan.” He had been worrying about his lack of anywhere to take Sheila for a while now and their last three dates had ended somewhat unsatisfactorily by him catching her a taxi not daring to invite her back. But he could see it now. A caravan that he could somehow attach to the lavatory shed might do the trick.
Three days later it arrived towed behind Divvy’s transporter. Phil had mentioned the idea that night to Ik who had said he might know of one and here it was,
all for £200. It was a bit tatty on the outside, by and large it was whitish but with a fair amount of rust and verdigris all over it, with an almost culinary dusting of bird-shit.
Phil had identified a spot and it was backed into place as best it could. Then they put some ropes round it and Martly lifted it and placed it on its exact spot with crane-driver precision.
“Smells a bit inside, Boss”
“What of?”
“Not sure, seems like cats pee.”
They got it airing as best they could, bearing in mind the rain, and threw out all
the old carpet, curtains and bedding which Phil thought was likely to create the smell.
He had bought a load of old unwanted furnishings from his old house. Julie had thrown them out because they weren’t white enough or something, but added to a springcleaned van they looked and smelt OK.
He now had a bed, a cooker, a little LPG stove and a small generator that
charged some batteries to run a little fridge, some lights and a telly. Compared to the office, this was luxury.
“Christ, that fucking animal, Martly. If you don’t get him out of here and keep
him out I’m going to kill him. He’s crapped right in the middle of the carpet. Now it smells of animals again after all that work.”
Buster was duly dragged out and chained up on his flying wire near the gate. A
bit more cleaning and the smell was nearly gone and things were back to normal.

 


CHAPTER 21


“What about that P6, Martly? I want to put the ad on ebay tonight. Any chance
of getting on to it now?”
Martly appeared not to hear him.
“Come on, Martly, get a wobble on with that crane. We need to get this car out
now.”
Martly sullenly gunned the throttle to produce an enormous roar from the old
engine and a cloud of black smoke. Unburnt diesel shot out of the tatty exhaust. With real dexterity he swung the crane jib round and then drove the crane forward a couple of yards getting slap bang over the heap of assorted junk that sat on top of the car. Phil could just about make out the registration number and the tail-lights which were smashed. The boot looked a very peculiar shape, and he was beginning to think it was going to be a total scrapper, no good for any spares at all.
This part of the process of uncovering items and freeing them from the heap
used to be really exciting to him, but what with one thing and another the excitement was not there at the moment. It seemed like an age since anything recognisably useful or different had emerged during the clearing - just an endless stream of old gas cookers, boilers, exhausts and the like. Prices weren’t very good either. Phil suspected that Brassy Smith thought he had a monopoly on the yard’s stuff and could keep the price down. Thing was, he was right, there wasn’t another dealer within five miles so he had them by the short hairs all right. The P6 looked like it was going to be disappointing and, to be frank, the novelty and the shine of being a new scrap dealer had worn off a bit.
He also had other things on his mind. Namely Sheila, who he was seeing
tonight and to whom he hoped to introduce the delights of the new caravan, and Julie, who had been in touch to say she wanted to sort things out properly, whatever that meant, so she could get on with her life. He thought she was already doing that so assumed it was code for splitting up the records, CDs, crockery, books and all the other crap that you collect over 27 years of marriage. “I suppose I could just bring it down here and dump most of it on the heap,” he mused.
“What have you stopped for now?”
“Got to put the grab on. I done all as I can with the magnet.” Martly dropped
the jib end to the ground, switched off the engine and climbed down. “Give us a hand here, Ik,” he shouted.
“Fucking ell, Mart, what did your last slave die of?”
“Boredom.”
“Ha Ha. Ok, what d’you want me to do?”
“When I lift this arm up just knock out that pin and the magnet’ll drop off.”
It did, with the certainty of a man completely at home with what he was doing. In a moment Martly had swung the jib over to the grab lying on the ground and had it attached to the end.
“There, that should do it,” he climbed back in the cab, restarted the engine and
swung the grab over the remaining pile.
As he watched it seemed to Phil that Martly had become suddenly very clumsy
with the crane. It was crashing down on to the pile and bits were going everywhere. At first Phil thought it was because he had not watched Martly use the grab. He mostly used the big electromagnet and pushed things aside with the side of the jib if they were non-magnetic - all with extreme skill and precision, but today it looked like Martly was operating a wrecking ball, like he was trying to break something.
That was precisely what he was trying to do. He wanted to damage the P6
enough so Phil would lose interest and he could bury it again under the heap.
Phil watched as the car was swung up into the air away from the heap. The grab
had made a hell of a mess of the roof and doors. The next moment there was a tearing, crashing sound as the rotted roof gave way and the car fell fifteen feet tail down onto the ground. It landed a good twelve feet from Phil and Ik, just where Martly intended.
Martly smirked to himself. “That should do the trick… Sorry Boss, did I scare you?”
Actually Phil hadn’t had time to be scared and anyway he’d watched this type of
thing before and, despite Martly’s recent rough operating Phil had every confidence in him.
As Martly got down from the crane his heart sank. All the crashing about had
sprung the boot lid open and he could see Phil walking towards it to inspect. Ik threw Martly a sideways glance and then followed Phil to the back of the car.
Phil saw the bones in the boot from about a yard away. They were pretty
jumbled by the car’s fall. He looked back at Martly, who was sheet white.
“Another yard dog burial?” As he looked closer he knew it was not a dog
skeleton. It was obviously human and from the length of the leg bone he could see it was bigger than a child.
“You knew this was here, didn’t you? So, who is it and how did it get here?”
Martly was silent.
Phil got his mobile out.
“What the fuck you doing, Phil?” Ik said.
“Ringing the police.”
“Oh no you don’t,” and he grabbed the phone from Phil’s hand. “You can’t just
come in here and dig all the past up and act like it means something today.” This was the longest and most articulate sentence Phil had ever heard Ik say.
“So who is it?”
“Kipper Bishop,” Martly mumbled.
Phil looked more carefully at the skeleton. It really was very smashed up. Most of the bones were in several pieces, including the skull and jaw. And they appeared to be crushed, especially the domed skull bones.
“How did it happen and who did it?”
“I dropped the magnet on him.”
“By accident?”
“No,” said Ik, with some venom in his voice.
“Who knows he’s here?”
“Just us three now, and the Bishops.”
“Did Ted know?”
“Yes, it was his idea.”
“I think I need to sit down. Get that car buried under the heap now and come up
to the office. We all need to talk.”
Phil sat there for a long time, as it grew darker outside in the late afternoon gloom.
He could vaguely hear the continuous noise of the crane as it worked. Clearly the car was not going to be back in circulation for a very long time. Occasionally the engine noise would quieten and he could hear them talking to each other, shouting instructions and generally getting the job done.
He wasn’t sure but the events of the morning had either made things clearer or
less clear, depending how you looked at it. Clearer, in that he could now see why the Bishops had an interest in the yard; he needed to ask Martly if that was as far as the interest went. Less clear, in that simply covering up a twenty odd year old killing was not what he expected himself to do. Just doing it because you could seemed wrong on the one hand but, on the other hand, what good would doing anything else achieve?

 


CHAPTER 22


“Any tea on?” Martly seemed remarkably unfazed by it all, almost relieved, Phil
thought,
“No, I’ve not done it yet,” he busied himself with their tea ceremony and they
were joined by Ik, who stoked up the stove.
They sat round it in the dim light of an old lantern drinking their tea and keeping warm.
“Are there any others out there or is that the lot?” Phil asked.
“Two,” said Ik.
“Two more bodies?”
“Skeletons by now,” said Martly.
“So who are they then?”
“Don’t know. The Bishops brought them in and Ted told us to cover em up. We
didn’t see either of the bodies. They just came in in the back of cars. One’s in a Morris Marina four-door Sunburst yellow; the other’s in a red Dolomite Sprint. Both of them are in the far back corner of the yard up against the wall by the canal. It took ages to get them over there.
“You seem to have a hell of a good memory for it.”
“Well, I used to be interested in cars.”
“Who died first?” asked Phil
“Kipper.”
“Why?”
“Well, me, Martly and Ted used to play cards once a week on Wednesday
evening, nothing serious but Ted liked a gamble. Kipper used to hang around then; I think you even met him once when you came to stay with your uncle. He was a nasty piece of work, bad temper like his brother Kevin, but even worse. There was a story that he drowned a bloke by nailing him up in a tea chest and dumping him in the canal just for the hell of it.
“Anyway, he comes in when we was playing and deals himself in. He’d done it a
few times and when he did he and Ted went at it hammer and tongs. One of them
always lost loads on those evenings, he really knew how to wind Ted up over cards. Mart an me used to drop out when that happened - couldn’t afford to be in that fucker’s debt, I can tell you.
“Anyway they were hard at it upping the ante all the time, so we quit and went
down The Dog for a pint.
“Next morning we come in and Ted is sitting there all down with Kipper skipping
about like a dog with two dicks saying you work for me now lads. Ted’s lost the yard to me last night.
“Well, we didn’t know what to say, but later when Kipper had gone Ted told us it
was true and that was it.
“What actually happened was that we carried on working, gave most of the money made to Kipper and he came around and swanned about every so often, wanker.”
Martly chipped in, “About three weeks later I was down here in the yard in the
Pilot with my girl, we were chatting and stuff and who should be looking through the back window but Kipper Bishop, fucking perv. Next minute he’s in the back shoving me out with his hands all over her, she gets away and manages to get out of the yard.
All he does is grin and say next time Martly eh and the little sod saunters off.”
“Two days later I dropped the magnet on him. Ted said it would be a good way as we wouldn’t have to get too close and he was always sauntering around here not looking where he was going - seemed like too good a chance to miss!”
“Didn’t his brothers come looking for him?”
“Yes, they turned up a week later. Asked if we’d seen him. We said no. They
didn’t really like him much you know. Meanwhile we’d scraped him up and put him in the car and buried it in the heap.”
“Didn’t squashing him make a mess?”
“Old Captain cleared that up.”
Phil thought about this for a while and then said, “What about the other two?”
“Ted used to take stuff off the Bishops and a few others of the lads in them days.
You know - nicked motors, lead sheet off roofs, even had a couple of loads of phosphor bronze, brake shoes off trains. Anyway, after a time the Bill came round and started leaning on Ted so he said no to the Bishops. They got nasty by all accounts and Ted just told them to back off or they’d end up like Kipper. Pity that, if he’d been sober he probably would have kept his mouth shut.
“Anyway they went away but a couple of years later when they moved on to being thugs, not hooligans, they turn up with this car and Ted tells us to lose it in the heap. They must have worked out what had happened to Kipper and blackmailed Ted, I suppose. Second car turned up a few months later, same thing. And then the Bishops were big men and we never saw them again, thank God.”
They all sat there in silence until Phil looked at his watch. “Go on, fuck, I’ve got
to go out in a moment and I don’t want you here when I get back. I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk some more then.”

 


CHAPTER 23


Julie had just got in from work and was sitting in the middle of the living room
floor on a beige, rough cloth rug in front of a low Japanese table, drinking a cup of
perfectly prepared weak milkless tea.
She was looking and feeling pretty good. Since Phil left she had taken the
opportunity to get rid of all the clutter in her life as well and replace it with perfect
white minimalism, perfectly arranged.
She had gone through four rooms in the house, the living room, the kitchen, en
suite bedroom and study. The rest of the clutter that she had not dumped she had
jammed into the spare room and this was where most of Phil’s stuff had ended up. She did not think it was fair to just chuck it away so she had contacted him to get him to collect it.
She was sitting there in white bra and pants on the way to getting ready for her
evening with her new man Edmund. He was an IT consultant who also moonlighted as a personal trainer, which was how they had met.
She’d prepared a meal of watercress flavoured consommé, followed by steamed
chicken breast with a sesame oil and lime juice dip, some boiled noodles and a few stir fried baby vegetables and finally a bowl of fresh lychees. No more than 1200 calories for the whole thing, well within the limits they had talked about when he had been explaining this idea that you could live much longer if you ate a bare subsistence diet.
She’d reckoned he would be impressed, hopefully enough to stay the night. She
put two bottles of Vouvray in the top of the fridge and went upstairs to bathe and get dressed.
This was how it was meant to be, everything as it should be, clean ordered white,
not like with Phil. When he was home the whole place smelled of feet and farts, now she was alone what little smells there were could be covered up with those amazing little fragrancing devices - she had them all over the house.
When she came downstairs she was dressed in a silk blouse cut away at the back
with tiny straps over her pale shoulders. She had dispensed with her bra completely as she always thought that two sets of straps spoiled the image. She had on a pair of white linen trousers not too tight and she had bought herself a thong for the first time so there was no VPL. On her feet were some minimal open toed sandals and she gave off just a hint of scent. She looked in the mirror.
“You look good,” she said and she was right.
She’d poured herself some wine and was just seeing to the food when the
doorbell rang. “This is it.”
There he was in all his glory, rain-soaked and wearing a vest, running shorts and
mud-spattered trainers, carrying a plastic bag.
“You look nice. I thought I’d run over as I only got to the gym once today and
thought I’d better run off the dinner you’ve cooked before I ate it. Can I use your
shower? I’ve bought some clothes and stuff with me.”
As he brushed past her she could smell sweat and a hint of feet, and some of the
sweat even dropped on the new bamboo laminate floor.
“Upstairs first on the left,” she said.
“Right, won’t be a tick.”
In fairness he was down in a tick and looked OK in faded jeans, a black T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops, but she still felt overdressed.
“Have you got a washing machine?”
“Yes.”
“Could I just pop my kit in it and it can wash while we eat.”
“I suppose so, but it will spoil the ambience a bit.”
“We can shut the door on it. That smells great.”
“Would you like some wine?”
“Just a glass, can’t go mad, I’ve only burnt off 1000 calories as it is.”
“I’d hoped we might burn a few off later.”
“Oh, but I’ve put my kit in the washing machine now. Have you got your own
exercise room then cos I don’t fancy another jog in the rain?”
She handed him his wine.


Phil had got down to the caravan as soon as Martly and Ik had left. He’d started
the generator to charge the batteries and given the place a tidy up and a bit of an airing by leaving the door open. This made it a bit cold and damp but it got rid of the smell from his old rigger boots, which he put under the van for safekeeping.
He grabbed his washing stuff and shuffled in to the outside lavatory where he had
hung an old bicycle lamp which he switched on. He stripped off and gave himself a good wash in cold water and a bit of a shave. Wandering back to the van in the cold and the nude he realised it wasn’t all that comfortable and he was beginning to worry about asking Sheila to come back with him tonight. He had said it wasn’t much and to be fair it wasn’t, but was it enough?
He got some clean clothes out and dressed. He had some black jeans and a green
T-shirt with a jumper on top, the jumper spoiled it really but it was bloody cold. He put on some shoes and socks, found his jacket and stepped out of the van. This was it, a drink, a meal and sex, a long time since he’d done that.


Julie lay in bed next to Edmund and looked up at the ceiling. He was dosing
quietly, murmuring occasionally in his sleep. The duvet had slipped off most of his
body and she had to admit that he looked pretty fit.
Nice meal, shame about the sex, she thought. It really had been disappointing, too
hard too fast and over too quickly, absolutely no finesse. She’d had much more fun over the last few months with her Rampant Rabbit. What was it with these men? She had tried a few now and they were all totally self-obsessed either with their bodies or their performance, nothing even entered their consciousness regarding the other person.
She realised that she was attracted to these neat, tidy, fit-looking, anal males but their very attractiveness seemed to make them useless at sex. It wasn’t orgasms she wanted - she could arrange that herself. It was the mixture of orgasms and companionship that she needed. She had got some of that with Phil, especially in the early days. Life had been a laugh and they had made plans together, but then the whole balance of their relationship changed. He seemed to head downhill to retirement or wherever he was going, whilst she speeded up and headed for the horizon, a real recipe for growing apart.
She needed someone, and he did not need to be a middle-aged man with a body image obsession and an over developed interest in male grooming products.
I mean, look at him, he is immaculate. How long does it take him to get like
that? He must dye his hair, being 43 and having no grey hair was simply ridiculous.
His shaving was perfect, his nails were perfect, and he must have had some hair
removal on his back and his inner thighs. She needed not to wake him while she looked at him so he did not get any ideas. Still, he still had hairs on his scrotum. She had heard that there were some men who even had those removed.
She lay still listening. Then she heard it again downstairs - a little clink noise.
“Wake up,” she hissed in his ear.
“What?”
“Wake up, there’s someone downstairs.”
“Eh?”
“Put these on and come with me,” she handed him his pants and slipped his Tshirt over her head. They both got up and, Julie leading with her old hockey stick, went
quietly downstairs.
Julie didn’t see it and Edmund never felt a thing. The last thing he thought of
was what a nice arse she had and how well the top of his T-shirt framed it, clung to it and how when they got back upstairs he’d help her out of it again.
The hammer blow to the back of his head was fast, precise and deadly. He
made no noise and just folded up onto the ground. As Julie turned round she saw
Edmund falling forward from a kneeling position and the shadow of the assailant
disappearing out the back door.
She turned on the hall light, saw all the blood up the wall, on the bamboo
laminate floor, vomited, and passed out.

 


CHAPTER 24


The WPC was sitting with her on the living room settee. Julie was now wearing
some jeans and a cashmere sweater, the T-shirt had gone off for forensic examination.
She looked through the open living room door as they removed Edmund’s body. She could not stop shaking so she could not drink the tea they had made her - strong, sweet and milky - just how she hated it normally.
“I’m sorry to keep asking,” the officer said “but tell me again what happened.”
“ I don’t know, one minute we were asleep in bed and the next he’s dead. We
came down the stairs to see what the noise was.”
“You were in front then?”
“Yes, I suppose so. I heard a thud and he was lying on the ground. I think
someone went out the back door.”
“Tell me a bit about him. Was he your partner? Did he live here?”
“Not really, we had only just started to see each other. No, he didn’t live here.
This was the first time he’d been here; the first time we’d, you know, slept together.”
“And his name was Edmund Philips and he was a freelance IT consultant who you met through your work, APEX car finances?”
“Well, yes, but he was also my personal trainer.”
“Was he bisexual?”
“What!”
“Bisexual?”
“I heard that. Why do you ask? I’ve no idea.”
“Well, he was in pretty good shape and that level of interest in body image often
goes along with being gay or bi.”
“I don’t know, he wasn’t terribly good at sex but that’s true of lots of men isn’t
it?”
“OK, that’s all for now. We’ll need to carry on here at the house so we are
putting you up at the motel. The WPC will stay with you so go and get a few things packed. One last thing, you are separated from your husband, a Mr Philip Johnson, once a teacher now a scrap dealer on the other side of town?” She gave them his address and mobile number.
As the WPC left Julie noticed the marks and scratches that they were making on
her newly painted walls and floors. She’d already spotted that one of them had peed on the carpet beside the loo.
Phil and Sheila were just letting themselves into Sheila’s house. Her aged mother
was away for the weekend at her sisters so they had the whole of the weekend alone here, if that’s what they wanted. They’d had a decent curry and then gone on to the Anchor pub for a few drinks. In fact they had more than they should and were pretty pissed when they came out. This was partly because they did not know what to do next and partly to try to reduce the incredible level of lust that they both felt for each other.
Every time Phil looked at her he felt a pit develop in his stomach and he could see that she did too. The drinks gave them something to do to keep their minds off what would happen next.
They got a taxi to the yard and Phil let them in through the little gate. As they
went in Sheila tripped over Buster’s chain and they both fell in a heap on the ground.
“We can’t stay here, it’s horrible,” Sheila was looking round the caravan and
frowning, “Let’s go to mine. Call a cab.”
“I can’t, the battery’s down.”
“Here, use mine.”
“So here we are then, chez moi,” said Sheila as she opened the front door of her
house.
“Not bad, I used to have a house like this.”
Suddenly they couldn’t wait any more, within a few minutes they had left a trail
of clothes up the stairs and they were on the bed. Their mouths were locked together and she was straddled on top bearing down on him. He did not really have time to take any of it in, the ferocity and speed of it taking him by surprise. He realised that, having not had sex for a long time, now he was like a man ready to explode. He was afraid it would all be over too soon, and it was.
They lay next to each other sweating.
“That was fun but can we make it last a bit longer next time?”
Ten minutes later that next time came and she was sitting on top of him moving
up and down whilst he lay there and watched her with pleasure. She managed her own orgasm with aplomb and a little help from him and then she wriggled around on top till he was finished. This continued till they had done it twice more and by then they were both exhausted.
“It’s only because I haven’t done it for so long that I could do it that often.
Don’t expect me to do it that much next time.”
He looked closely at her. She was very attractive. He had not really had time to
notice during the heat of the action but he had seen that she had nice tits which jiggled enthusiastically above him during sex and he liked to sit up and suck her nipples and she seemed to like that too. He noticed that her dark pubic hair was shaved into a thin strip in the middle.
“ Is that a Brazilian?”
“Yes, have you seen one before?”
“ Looks like a landing strip for planes.”
“Or a guide for rockets.” He blushed and she realised she’d embarrassed him.
He also realised that he liked to talk about it. “Julie had it done once to liven up our sex life.”
“Did it work?”
“For a while I suppose but there was a lot more wrong there than a bad hair style.”
They carried on in this vein for the rest of the weekend, interspersing sex with
eating, drinking and talking. He talked about the yard. She didn’t seem to understand the fascination that it had for him and she definitely didn’t like the living accommodation.
“If we’re going to carry on like this we will have to find somewhere to go. My
mother will be back on Monday and will not be away again for another three weeks, and I am not going back to that poxy old caravan.”
He could not see what he could do. He doubted Julie would welcome them both
in her house, maybe they could swap notes on Brazilians or have a threesome. He
realised that he did not mean that, but it was a shock to find the old carnal him lurking just below the surface.
He leaned forward and undid her trousers and pushed his hands up under her
jumper. She unzipped him and off they went again.
“We could always go to a motel for the night, as Mr & Mrs Smith, I suppose.”
“I’ll find somewhere, don’t you worry.”
She wriggled to a standstill and fell forward on him.

 


CHAPTER 25


Phil was feeling completely knackered as he walked towards the yard. It was
early, about six o’clock as he reached the gate and unlocked it. Once inside he was aware that something was different but did not immediately notice what it was. The mornings were pretty dark now.
Then he saw the jib - it was hanging over the caravan. When he opened the van
door he could see the sky and the magnet was sitting on the ground having dropped through the roof and the floor.
He was confused. He looked towards the gate and saw what he had missed. Old
Buster was lying on his side with his head in a pool of blood and a hammer by his side.
He was dead and cold. Phil walked over and picked up the hammer and put it down on the lavatory windowsill.
“Mr Johnson?”
He spun round as a policeman came through the gate.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Mr Philip Johnson of 4 Chevin Gardens?”
“Yes, but I don’t live there any more.”
He looked at the dog and the hammer and the yard and the wrecked caravan.
“I need you come with me, your wife was attacked last night and we need to ask
you a few questions. It’s OK, she’s quite all right, just a bit shocked.”

Phil sat in the back of the police car and thought. He thought about what the hell
might have happened to Julie. He thought about the yard, how he didn’t want the police crawling all over it. He hadn’t talked to Martly or Ik since the uncovering of Kipper’s skeleton on Friday. He didn’t know what to do about the yard at all. It was getting more and more bizarre by the minute. Who the fuck had wrecked the van and killed Buster? As far as Phil knew only Martly, and possibly Ik, knew how to use the crane and they both adored that bloody dog, especially Mart - he doted on it.
“Ok, we’re here. Out you get and follow me.”
The copper’s tone was a bit too authoritarian for Phil’s liking; he assumed he
was now ‘helping them with their enquiries’.
“Ok, in here, sit down. Do you want some tea?”
“No, got any coffee?”
“Sugar?”
“No, just milk.”
“ Someone will be along in a moment.”
The copper left to get the coffee and shut the door. Phil looked round and took
in the room – table, three chairs, an upper slit window that was shut, damp and smelling of old BO and feet. He let his mind go blank and shut his eyes. He always did this under stress like job interviews or Ofsted inspections. It was a way of focussing on the job in hand which did not need distraction from a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios going round his head.
“Rough night?”
“What? Oh, not particularly, just thinking, thanks for the coffee.”
“What happened at your yard? I saw the dog and the caravan.”
Phil thought, yes I know you did and you’re on a fishing trip mate. “Just
vandals, it’s happened before.”
“But to clobber the dog - that’s sick. You need to put in a complaint when
we’ve finished up here.”
“Right.”
“This is Detective Sergeant Nodder.”
Phil just smiled to himself imagining the kind of torment this man must have suffered at Police College with a name like that.
“You are Phil Johnson?”
“Yes.”
“Estranged husband of Julie Johnson?”
“Does the word estranged have an official meaning? We don’t live together any
more. I live at my yard and she lives at our old house.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Fine, it’s what we agreed to do when we split up.”
“Come on, you’re not trying to tell me you’re happy with the outcome when you
live in an old van in a crappy yard and she stays in your old house in luxury?”
“Look mate, I don’t like the tone of your voice. You don’t know anything about
me, what I like or don’t like, so if you think I’m some sort of suspect then you’d better tell me of what because I haven’t got the faintest idea, and it sounds to me that if you carry on like this I ought to get a solicitor, so I won’t say any more now,” and he shut up. It was just like that fucking school Disciplinary, having to sit and listen to wankers judging him and it really pissed him off.
“Ok, sorry, maybe we got off on the wrong track. You’re not a suspect yet.”
“Yet?”
“Well anyone close could be. Will you talk?”
“If you tell me what’s going on and don’t accuse me of anything, yes I suppose I
will.”
“Good.”
“Last night a Mr Edmund Phillips, was killed at your home, where your wife
lives, in the company of your wife. How, I’m not at liberty to say but it was as a result of an assault.”
“Murder?”
“Looks that way. Where were you?”
“I was away all weekend at a friend’s house. We were together all the time.”
“Can we check that?”
“Yes, but not while she is at work please. Wait till she gets home tonight.
Here’s her mobile number.”
“Ok we’ll talk to her.” Nodder looked up and the other policeman left the room.
“Is she your lover?”
“Yes, I suppose so at the moment.”
“Did she know your wife?”
“No, she doesn’t even know where I used to live.”
“How many people know that you have left your wife and don’t live there any
more.”
“I didn’t leave. We agreed to split. The usual people, relatives, friends, but
there aren’t many of them.”
“What about people at your yard?”
“They don’t know where it is but they know I don’t live there any more.”
“Ok, Mr Johnson, you can go for now but don’t go too far away. We may want
to talk again.”
“Can I go and talk to my wife?”
“We can’t stop you.”
“Can you give me a lift?”
“No, get a bus like everybody else.”
“Cheers!” Bastards, he muttered under his breath.

 


CHAPTER 26


The Bishops had got up early that morning, 3.30 to be exact. They didn’t usually
do that, in fact Kevin had got into the habit of sleeping off his hangover at least until 10 normally, but this wasn’t a normal day - they had many things to do.
By 6.am they were waiting in an old blue Transit van on the corner of Saga
Street looking over at the offices of Digby Booth solicitors. They were both dressed in overalls which were a bit grubby now and they had with them a toolkit and a large roll of polythene.
“We’ve got to find out what that bastard Digby has told everyone about us. If
he’s told the teacher about the fridges Christ knows what he’s said about all our other stuff. We’ll have to get it out of him.”
“We will, old bro, we will. Don’t get too excited. What time does he get into
the office?”
“7.30 usually”
“And he always comes down this street here?”
“Yes?”
“And he won’t recognise the van?”
“No.”
“Good, let’s have some tea. Here, pass me that flask and there’s a couple of
cold bacon butties in the bag.”
They sat and ate and drank in the cold van watching out the back windows.
They were perched on a couple of empty detergent drums and from the outside it looked like an empty van parked up. They’d got the van off Divvy who’d got it off a mate, put some false plates on it and blown it over with a spray gun to make it blue not white.
“I really love doing this stuff,” Kevin said, “It’s just like old times, staking stuff
out and that.”
“Would you rather be a crim than a businessman then?”
“Yeah, any day, it’s more exciting. I like the excitement and the violence.”
“Sometimes, Kevin, you’re just like a fucking kid,” Richard thought. He knew
better than to express it out loud though.
Digby didn’t know what hit him - one minute he was walking past the blue van
and the next he was bundled inside it and looking into the distinctly crazy eyes of Kevin Bishop. He’d worked with or for them for a long time now, maybe 25 or more years. He knew their past and he knew what they were supposed to be like and he had a pretty good idea of the detail of some of the things they’d done. He knew he was in trouble and he had to think his way out of this even though he had no idea what had prompted the attack.
They said nothing and Richard taped up his mouth and hands with grey duct
tape. He got in the front seat of the van, started the engine and drove off at a sedate pace while Kevin stayed sat on the floor in the back grinning at Digby.
“We think you’ve been talking about us and we want to know what you’ve said
and who you said it to,” said Kevin. He then stubbed his fag out on the back of Digby’s hand. Digby would have screamed in pain but the tape stopped that, so he blacked out.
“Now, look, you fucking toe rag,” Kevin was shouting at him as Richard ripped
the tape from his mouth cutting his lip in the process.
“I’ve got all sorts of tools I can use on you here. No-one will hear you, no-one’s
been here for years. It’s the old tile factory. Do you remember doing the deal for us to buy it?” Kevin was taunting him now. He moved in and punched him in the face but Digby could not move as he was tied to a chair.
“What is it you want from me?” he pleaded.
“Oh, listen to him moan,” Kevin hit him several more times whilst saying “How,
(punch) did the teacher (punch) know about the fridges (punch)?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t know he’d found out. What are you on about?”
This enraged Kevin who waded in with a stream of punches and kicks. Digby
was now on the floor still tied to the chair. Richard stepped in to stop it and lifted the chair upright again. “Come on now, Digby, spill it or I can’t say what Kev here’s going to do. You know I can’t control him. I’m not too worried about you telling the teacher but if you told him that, what else have you told other people? You know we put loyalty at the top of our list and we’ve paid you well to be loyal.”
“I haven’t told anyone anything about you. Most of what we’ve done isn’t even
written down. I’ve been really careful.” Kevin lunged forward, grabbed Digby’s right hand and snapped his index finger with a pair of pliers.
This went on for another couple of hours. Three things started to dawn on
everyone.
The first was just how psychotic Kevin had become. Richard was amazed that he
had been able to keep it bottled up over these last years. He’d assumed he’d just grown out of it. Not only was he imaginatively violent but he really enjoyed it with all the tools and stuff.
Secondly, both Kevin and Richard realised that Digby wasn’t going to tell them
anything, and that he probably had not betrayed them.
Thirdly, they all three realised that Digby would have to die. Digby had floated
in and out of consciousness and only realised this latter truth as Richard slipped a cord round his throat and twisted it. Then there was nothing.
They rolled the body up in the polythene and taped the whole lot up and put it in
the van. They wiped everything down and put the overalls and other stuff in an old oil drum and burnt them.
“Where to?”
“We’ll put him in the old meat freezer for the time being and decide later. I’m
starving, can we get some breakfast on the way?”
It was 10.00, the time Kevin normally got up.


Sheila arrived at the office a few minutes late, as she had had to collect her mother from the station. She was still thinking about the weekend. It had been fantastic. He was a bit odd, a bit of a slob and that yard he lived in! But he made her laugh, he wasn’t a bad shag and with a bit of work he might make a reasonable prospect, though she wasn’t exactly sure for what at the moment.
Digby was late, which was strange, as he was usually so punctual. She got on
with her work and by 11 when that was done she started on the crossword. She thought she might treat herself to lunch out today, as she hadn’t had time to make herself a sandwich. Her mobile went off and she rummaged in her bag.
“Yes?”
“Good morning, can I speak to Sheila Young?”
“Speaking.”
“This is DC Smythe at Norton Road Police Station. We are enquiring about the
whereabouts of a Mr Philip Johnson.”
“Phil - try his mobile. I haven’t seen him since last night.”
“We have his mobile number. It’s last night we are interested in. Can I take it he
was with you all last night?”
“What is this? Is he in trouble? What did you say your name was?”
“DC Smythe of Norton Road Police station. I am checking Mr Johnson’s alibi for
last night. He said you could help.”
“I’m going to put the phone down, find the number of your police station and ring
and ask for you. If you answer it I’ll tell you what you want to know.”


It was 12.30 and she was just going out for lunch when the Bishop brothers
walked in. She could never remember which was which but it didn’t matter because they both gave her the creeps.
“Afternoon, love. Digby’s expecting us.”
“Is he? I haven’t got anything in the diary.”
“No, we arranged it when we bumped into him on Friday.”
“I didn’t know he’d been out on Friday, and he isn’t here.”
“No, it was Friday evening, so we’ll just go in and wait. You off out to lunch?
We’ll hold the fort.”
“Ok.” They were such frequent visitors that it was OK to leave them. Apart from
about six other clients they were the only business that Digby had, so anything they saw was probably about them.
“Before you go, luv, can you get us the paperwork on that scrap yard deal he was
working on for us. He said something new had come up.”
“I’m not aware of anything but I’ll find it for you. I thought Mr Digby had told
me it had fallen through, that the owner did not want to sell. Here it is.”
“What was the owner’s name again?”
She looked through the file. “It’s here somewhere. I’ll write it down for you.
This is it - a Mr Philip Johnson, 4 Chevin Gardens, but there’s a note saying now
contactable at the yard address - you know that - and a mobile number. Here it all is. I’m off to lunch now. I’m sure Mr Digby will be with you shortly. Do you want to keep the file out?”
“Yes please.”
She left and went to lunch. They waited behind in the office for ten minutes
flicking through a few papers and then left.

 


CHAPTER 27


Phil caught the train and then got an Alpha cab to Chevin Gardens. He let himself
in with his key, and there she was just sitting there. He went over and put his arm round her but she didn’t move or say a thing.
“Who are you?”
He swung round and saw the WPC as she came in with yet another cup of tea.
“Oh! I’m her husband, Philip.”
She gestured to him to follow her into the hall.
“She’s very shaken, won’t hardly speak. The doctor’s been and she’s had a
sedative but if you’re here now I had better go.”
“I only dropped in. I don’t live here any more.”
“Sorry, but we’re not social services, you know. My instructions are that as soon
as family or friends turn up I leave. I’ve been here since last night.”
“Oh, thanks. Ok, I’ll sort something out. Has anyone else been informed?”
“No, I don’t think so. A few neighbours turned up but once they’d had a nose
they went again.”
“Ok, but can you tell me what happened?”
She became cagey at this.
“As far as we can tell, they came down the stairs and someone hit him from
behind just there.” She pointed to a dark mark of badly cleaned up blood.
“Who was he?”
“ I think you’d better ask your wife that.”
“Have you finished here now? Can I clean up or anything? She likes it tidy and
clean and it may help.”
“I’ll check.” She went to the window and had a brief conversation on her radio.
“Yes, we’ve got all we need from here, so go ahead.”
Once she had gone Phil had a mooch about to see what was what. He went
upstairs to their bedroom. He noticed the dishevelled bed and her new clothes. There were no traces of the man until he looked in the washing machine and saw some sports gear that he didn’t recognise. There was also a pair of expensive-looking running shoes by the back door.
He went into the living room. “You’ve made it all very nice. It’s very white.”
This was the only way he could find to describe it.
“It’s all ruined now,” she said quietly looking up. “All that blood and mess and
all the scratches on the floor and marks on the wall. It was all so perfect one minute and now look at this.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“What do you want to know?”
The one thing he really wanted to know was who was the man, but he wasn’t sure it was the thing to ask first. He didn’t care that there had been a man in her life at all but he did want to know what he meant to her then he could gauge the damage.
He couldn’t help himself. “Who was the victim?” Fuck, that was such a useless way of putting it.
“His name was Edmund Phillips. He was a freelance computer consultant I met
at work. We did a bit of training together. We hadn’t known each other more than a couple of weeks and that was the first night we had spent together. To be honest, he was a bit of a fitness bore. I’d already decided not to see him again.”
“Was he married? Did he have a family? Where did he live?” The questions
just spewed out of him, not because he was interested in the man she slept with but because he was dead and must have had a past, but if he had, he had kept most of it from Julie.
No, he wasn’t married and she didn’t think he had any kids and he lived across
town. “I suppose the police will contact whoever there is.”
He got on with a bit of tidying and washed up and made some scrambled eggs
and coffee. She seemed to be recovering a bit.
“I called your sister. She’s coming over for a few days if you need it.”
“Ok, but I must get to work tomorrow.”
When her sister came he left, “Call me on my mobile if you need me.”
“Ok but you’d better charge it up first.”
It was pouring down as Philip entered Brick Street and walked towards the yard.
Then he remembered some bastard had smashed his van. All his stuff was in it. It
would all be soaked and he had nowhere to sleep. “Shit.”
As he walked past The Dog he looked at his watch - 11.30. Although way past
closing he knew there’d be a lock-in and he could see a light from the bar through the curtains, even though it was very quiet. He tapped on the window. Nothing. He tapped a bit louder. The edge of the curtain moved and he saw an eye. He waited and a moment later the door opened; it was Ik.
“Fuck me, what happened to you? Have you seen your van?”
“Yes, yes, let me in,” and he pushed past Ik into the bar and the door shut.
“Pint?”
“Thanks, Linda, and a double Bells chaser.”
Linda put the drinks down, “What’s going on? There’s been the police at the yard
waiting to talk to you or anyone. Martly and Ik saw them and kept away, ended up in here.”
Phil looked round. Lock-ins were funny. Everyone sat there silent or whispering
like naughty school children. Almost all you could hear was the ordering of drinks.
The Dog did regular lock-ins, every night pretty well. The police knew but they didn’t do anything because it didn’t cause any trouble and it was discrete, but to be on the safe side no money changed hands, you got your drink and Linda wrote it in a book and you paid for it when you next came in. That way they could always claim it was a private party. On top of that the noise was kept down and no-one was allowed in just for the lock-in - you had to have been there at least half an hour before to be allowed to stay. It was like an incredibly smoky quiet party where people just drank till two in the morning. Phil knew he was lucky to have been let in late but they knew something was up and he was one of them now and needed their help.
After a few drinks he leaned across to Linda, “You don’t have a spare room I
could rent for a while, do you? I’m homeless.”
“You always were living in that yard. How stupid can a man be? I have B or
B&B.”
“Just B please.”
“It’s up the stairs to the back. Mark’ll show you. Don’t go getting in my bed
now.”
Phil turned to Ik and Martly. They’d been in the pub so long he doubted they
understood anything but he tried anyway.
“Come here at 9.30 tomorrow. We need to talk. Don’t go to the yard.”
He went to bed and crashed out. He had no idea how tired he had become.
Within minutes, it seemed, he heard the doorbell and voices. Seconds later they
were in his room.

 


CHAPTER 28


“Ok, boss, what’s what?”
He looked at his watch - 9.30. Martly and Ik gave no impression of two men who had probably downed the best part of 20 pints each the previous day. How did they do it?
They sat in the unopened bar and drank tea while Linda busied around cleaning
after the night before. The sun was shining through the windows and, although it was a bit feeble, it cast quite long shadows in the bar with shafts of dusty light between them.
The whole place smelled of stale beer and smoke, even though the windows were open.
They were huddled together like a proper conspiracy. Martly and Ik had spent
most of the day before trying to figure out what had happened and who had done it.
Martly had only learnt later in the afternoon that Buster had been killed, but what with all the beer neither of them had come up with many ideas and the loss of Buster had still to register. “Who other than Martly knows how to drive that crane?”
“Anyone who’d done a bit could get the hang of it quick. Who’d want to kill
Buster, and with a fookin’ hammer? If I ever find..”
“Ok Mart, let’s stay on the case here.”
“Sorry boss.”
“Who knew how to start that old crane? What with the lighted rag and God
alone knows what you used to do in the cab, it was a real black art.”
“You’re right. No-one else would know that,” said Ik, “so it must have been
Martly then.”
“Very fookin’ funny,” Martly broke in, “Actually there was one person - Divvy.
He used to do a bit for old Ted on my days off. But he wouldn’t hammer my dog. He may be a twat but he’s not like that.”
“Why would he smash my van?”
“Because he got paid to.”
“Who by?”
“Well, he works for allsorts, you know, even does a bit for the Bishops.”
Phil had had a nasty feeling that it would come back to the Bishops but he had needed to work it through.
“I need to go and see them. Would they have killed Buster?”
“Kevin would, soon as shit. He’s an evil bastard, that one.”
“I’ll need to watch my step then.”
They left The Dog and went down to the yard. As he reached for the big key to
open up Martly said, “Old Kipper used to have a spare one of those. Ted gave it ‘im when he won the yard. I wonder what happened to it?”
“Now we know.”
Martly buried Buster in a quiet corner of the yard and Phil salvaged some of his
stuff from the van. It was a write-off. As soon as everything useful had been removed Martly squashed it up and dropped it over the back of the yard out of the way. Phil stood on the steps and watched him work. It struck him that a big heap of tangled chaotic junk was far easier to keep stable than a neat and tidy existence. Julie’s perfect house was a bit messed up and she was in tatters, his van was destroyed and dumped and it didn’t seem to matter. He remembered some distant schoolboy physics, a law of thermodynamics that seemed to say that the natural state of things was chaos and that all order went that way, something called entropy, he thought.
“Mr Johnson.”
He looked down; it was Mr Clean, “What do you want? This is not a good time.”
“I’ve come to ask you to show me the documentation about the disposal of the
fridges so we can confirm that they have gone to a registered site,” he was smirking like he knew something.
“They disappeared overnight, and anyway I told you they weren’t mine. It was
someone else who put the advert in to make mischief.”
“And I said I didn’t care. This is to warn you that we will now take out a
prosecution against you for fly tipping them.”
“I’m sick of listening to you on this. If you want to prosecute me you’d better be
pretty fucking certain they are the exact same fridges as you claim I left on the
pavement. To do that you would need to have taken the serial numbers, which I bet you didn’t, so fuck off, leave me alone and do your worst.”
Mr Clean went red; Phil knew then that he hadn’t got any proof. As Phil turned to
go up the steps to the office, someone said, “Nice one, teacher, that’ll show ‘em.”
It was Richard Bishop.
Phil continued up the steps. He couldn’t understand why Richard had come
over, maybe to apologise. I’m sorry I did not mean to crush your home with a big
magnet, smash your dog’s skull with a hammer, and probably kill your ex wife’s
boyfriend also with a hammer mistaking him for you. As Phil ran it through his own mind he didn’t think an apology was why Bishop had come, and why was he going up the steps with his back to this guy about to go into an empty office when he was probably a fucking killer, he must be insane.
Then it was too late and he was in the office and Bishop was in there too and he
was shutting the door. Phil could feel his old temper rising again; it had got him in
trouble before and would again, no doubt.
“What the fuck do you want? Haven’t you done enough damage for one day?”
“What do you mean - damage?”
“What do you think, the fucking caravan, my home as it was and my dog!”
“Ah, the dog, I’m afraid that was Kevin. It went for him apparently when he
came down here with Divvy, and he can be very violent.”
“So why was he down here then with Divvy?” Phil sounded angry and sarcastic.
“Well, that was my idea. If I hadn’t suggested to him that he might get his
revenge by crushing your van I think he was going to kill you.”
“Great, so you saved me from a violent death at the hands of your psychotic
brother by suggesting he crush my home. I don’t believe I’m having this conversation - its fucking surreal.”
“He is a very difficult man to control sometimes, and he hates to be challenged.”
“Challenged! Challenged! The guy’s a fucking psycho and you’re talking in
counselling-speak about challenging him? Ok, when did I make this challenge?”
“When you sent us those fridges and you blocked in his BMW with them.”
“Oh, so now it’s some form of static road rage? That brother of yours needs
sectioning. Maybe you could control him then. Anyway, you sent me the fridges and put the ad in the paper.” As soon as Phil had said that he knew he had said too much and he knew what the next question would be.
“Why do you think it was us?”
Phil stalled, “Who else would it have been after I turned you down to sell the
yard?”
“So you did that on a guess that it was us.”
“Yes, it was a very educated guess. I am an ex teacher you know. I’m used to
dealing with duplicitous scum.”
“You took a big risk on a guess. We may have been angry.”
Phil stepped past Bishop to the window and pointed outside, “I don’t believe I’m
hearing this. You did get angry. You did all this and..”
“That’s not angry in our terms,” Bishop hissed, “What were you going to say, and
what?”
“You probably tried to kill me and ended up bashing my wife’s new boyfriend’s
brains out by mistake. So you’ve done your worst.”
Bishop looked puzzled and exasperated at the same time, as if he had no cards left
to play. “What do you mean? We didn’t do that, we could have done but we didn’t.” As he was saying it Richard Bishop realised that although we hadn’t done it his fucking lunatic brother probably had.
He’d come with a purpose to draw Phil closer to them through intimidation and
the offer of protection from his own brother. Now he realised that he did not have much to offer.
“It must have been Kevin. I told you he’s a dangerous man.” Then he realised he
could spring the trap. “Of course, if you go to the police, Kevin will say that you hired him to kill your wife’s boyfriend. They’ll already have you as some sort of suspect, that and all the evidence of dodgy goings-on in this yard. Even though you didn’t own it then, you did come here in the old days, you even met my brother Kipper here years ago. Mud sticks, you know, cops could make something of it, I bet.”
Phil realised he was sucked in, it was just like those bloody mafia films,
Goodfellas or whichever one. They come in, shit on your head and then offer you
protection from them doing it again. When you accept, however tacitly, you’re hooked, you’re part of them. If he didn’t report the business of Kevin battering Edmund, he was well and truly in by association. But if he did, even that barely credible story Bishop had just thrown him could cause him a lot of trouble. If he didn’t get accused of murder with a pretty uncertain outcome, if they started to explore the yard and found the bodies and found he had moved one - it did not bear thinking about.
“Leave now,” he said to Bishop, “I have to think.”

 


CHAPTER 29


They sat in the gloom of the office. It was now about 4 .15 and the short nights
were on the way in, as well as the damp gloomy weather. As he looked out of the
window at the glistening buildings, wet cars and litter in the road he realised that this might be a turning point.
“So, what do you think? You’ve worked in this situation before, with the
Bishops breathing down your necks, can we work like that again?”
Phil had told Ik and Martly everything except about Julie’s boyfriend’s murder,
but frankly he reckoned that knowing Kevin had killed Buster was more likely to
influence Martly.
Ik spoke up, “When Ted was alive we got a lot of stuff and odd work and that
from them. Probably more than we would have got without them and apart from the odd car we had to destroy for them it was pretty easy pickings.”
“Not just cars though” Phil said, “bodies as well?”
“Yeah, but only a couple in 20 years.”
“So that makes it all Ok then does it?”
“Well, do you want the old Bill all over the yard? It would be no good for you
and it certainly wouldn’t do Martly and me any good.”
“What about you, Mart?”
Martly looked surprisingly cheerful. “Oh, I don’t know, the old days were quite
good, plenty coming in going out.”
“When do you think they’ll come round and want a favour?” It stuck firmly in
Phil’s craw that the only reason that they could ask a favour was because they were keeping Kevin under control. If that was what the other two wanted then he might as well go along with them. Still it was odd that Martly hadn’t taken the dog’s death harder.
“Shall we get another yard dog, Mart?”
“Can we?”
“Course we can but you’d better go to a different Dog Rescue, they might ask
how Buster’s doing.”
They came for their first favour next day. Divvy drove a blue Transit van in to the
yard in the middle of the night. The next day it was stripped, the body chopped up and crushed, the engine sold on and by the evening it didn’t exist. Another example of an organised thing disappearing in the chaos of the yard. How often had that happened before, Phil thought.

 


CHAPTER 30


D.S.Nodder stood at the door of 4 Chevin Gardens. He could hear the bell ringing
inside and he could see the car on the road, but no-one answered. He went up the
covered side alley to the back of the house. There was a neat wrought iron gate set at an angle in the fence so he raised the catch. The garden looked like something from one of those makeover programmes - nothing much to do with plants, mostly what were now known as “Features”. There was a deck in front of the French windows with some lighting, potted shrubs and bamboo screening. Nodder wasn’t much of a “features” gardener, he had an allotment that grew good vegetables and he had bedding plants and conifers in his garden which was neat in an English suburban way and that was how he liked it, all this oriental minimalism looked out of place to him. “No wonder he split,”
he said to himself.
He could see Julie inside sitting on the white sofa. She had been sitting there
most of the day and most of the day before for that matter. Her sister had had to go back that morning, but he could see that she was still in shock. He tapped on the window. She looked up, came over and let him in, “Sorry I didn’t hear the bell. I was thinking.”
“That’s Ok, dear, I just need to fill in a few blanks if that’s OK.”
“Fine, what is it you want to know?”
“It’s mainly about your husband. How would you describe his personality?”
“Boring, I suppose. He never seemed to do much other than work and he doesn’t
have much style.”
Nodder reckoned that that was a pretty good description of him as well but he kept it to himself, “Tell me a bit about the business at his school.”
“What business? I thought he just left.”
“He did leave, but there was something about a fight between him and some kids
and he was going to be suspended anyway.”
“I didn’t know any of that,” she was genuinely surprised. The dark horse!
“Does he have a temper?”
“I suppose he does. He doesn’t like to be questioned, particularly by people he
thinks are fools and he has a pretty low opinion of people in general. But he’s not
violent.”
He must think I’m a fool then, Nodder thought of the outburst at the station.
“He didn’t kill Edmund you know,” Julie added.
“How do you know?”
“Because he didn’t know he was here. No-one did. We only agreed to meet that
afternoon.”
“So it’s most likely to be a case of mistaken identity.”
“What, you think the killer thought it was Phil?”
“Well he had plenty of time to kill you as well but once he had killed Edmund he
ran off.”
“They didn’t look very similar. Phil’s all flab and Edmund had a six-pack.”
“Maybe the killer hadn’t seen your husband with no shirt on before.”
“Well that narrows it down to just about everyone except me.”
“And his girlfriend.”
“What girlfriend?”
“The one he was with the night of the murder. We know he didn’t do it; he’s got
a rock solid alibi in her.”
Julie didn’t say any more. She just sat there thinking and feeling strangely
betrayed. In the space of twenty minutes she had learnt two things Phil had kept from her and she was wondering how much else she didn’t know.
Nodder realised she didn’t know much more so he left the way he had come. He
really could see why Phil had had to get away.
The next morning Nodder stood at the front of the enquiry room ready to brief his
murder team for the day’s work. “ God, they look young,” he thought, “how long have I been doing this job? What does it mean when a policeman thinks that policemen look young?”
“Ok, listen now. We’ve reached a bit of a dead end with this one.”
Behind him was a white board with photos of Phil, Julie and Edmund and a rather
grainy one of Sheila walking along the road outside her office.
“Normally we’d be looking at the husband for this sort of thing, no question, the
domestic situation and everything fits. He’s got an alibi that holds up, in that the
woman, Sheila,” he pointed to her photo, “says she was with him all night. Now
normally we’d still keep him in the frame because she’s got a vested interest and could likely be giving him a false alibi, but we’ve also got eyewitnesses that put both of them at The Anchor public house until at least 11.45 that night. Now if the killing took place around 2.15 that gives him. .”
“Two and a half hours.”
“Thank you, Steve, for that. I may seem old to you but I can still subtract. As
Constable Cooper has pointed out two and a half hours to get across town, and there’s the problem, he has no car nor does she, he’s not the type to steal one and if he’d borrowed one we’d have heard by now with all our publicity. He wouldn’t have told anyone he was going to murder his wife’s boyfriend so could he borrow the car. The trains were finished, the bus service is pretty sparse and no-one in either the buses, the cabs or the mini cabs remembers taking him or any fare out that way then.
“His wife doesn’t think he did it, and frankly I don’t either. I’ve interviewed a
few men guilty of this type of crime and they don’t respond like him. He’s got a bit of a temper though it seems to be pretty much under control.
“So that leaves us with the wife and the forensics rule her out, as does her
subsequent behaviour, so currently we’ve got nothing. So anyone got any more ideas?”
There was a silence as people thought over what he had said. There was a
suggestion to keep the three of them under closer surveillance.
“I can’t see the point in upping the surveillance on them if we don’t think they did
it, but if it’s the best we’ve got its either that or extending the enquiries to the wider family and seeing what we get.”
More silence.
“Ok, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll form three teams and..”
“Did you say that this Phil Johnson has moved into a scrap yard in Bexham
Street?”
“Yes, that’s old news. Try to keep up.”
“Sorry, guv,” it was a uniformed constable at the back of the room speaking. He
looked to be about fifty years old and had seen better days. “PC James. I’ve been
seconded in to help with leg work, guv. Only came in this morning so I’m still getting all the facts straight.”
“Good,” said Nodder impatiently “when you have you’ll be more use to us.” He
was about to go on when the constable interrupted again.
“That would be old Ted Wilkins’ yard, would it?”
“I don’t know who used to own it. He said he was left it by his uncle. Yes, I think
he did say his name was Ted. Can we move on now?”
“How long ago did he take it over?”
“For God’s sake, man, look at the notes on the board. Now..”
“The trouble seems to have started a few months ago when he took over the yard,
and the Bishops tried to buy him off.”
There was real silence then.
Nodder looked at the old constable remembering something he should never have
forgotten. There’s no substitute for local knowledge, and this guy was old enough to have some and not to have lost it in a welter of promotion. “What trouble?”
“Oh, it was over some fridges. Doesn’t sound much but when you have trouble
with the Bishops, especially that Kevin, you have real trouble, leastways you did twenty years ago.”
Nodder could hear the ripple going round the team. “ The Bishops?” He knew
who they were though it had been a long time since they had had to take much notice of them because as far as he knew they were legitimate now.
He looked at the constable. “Do you want to tell us about the Bishops? It seems
you’re the only one old enough to remember them.” It was meant to be a compliment but it sounded like a put-down. The old constable didn’t care. He’d been insulted by professionals in the past.
“They are a pair of brothers, twins - there were three of them, triplets - but one
disappeared a long time ago. They came up from being petty crooks to being small time local gangsters. They’ve got a legitimate front now but on my patch if you turn over a stone you’ll still often find the Bishops underneath it. Very nasty, very violent and one of them, Kevin, is a psycho. They used to have an interest in that yard when Ted was alive though I never found out what it was.”
“Constable James, what do you think they are capable of?”
“Murder, definitely, either for revenge or if my memory is correct to drop
someone else in it. The general feeling was always that if they couldn’t cut you up
they’d stitch you up. They are much more cunning than your average thug and very vengeful.” James shut up and listened to the silence with some satisfaction.
“Ok,” said Nodder, “Charlie and Ken, you work with PC James there and put
some info together on the Bishops past and present, anything you can find, you’ve got till tomorrow morning. Meanwhile we’ll stay on the other three and see what happens.”


Sheila sat in her office and wondered when and if Digby was ever going to return.
It had been four days since he had disappeared and, although she had tried both his home and his mobile, she could get no reply.
She’d always known that his practice was a bit dodgy, with almost no clients
except the Bishops. She had worked there for fifteen years and could remember the early days when it was a normal solicitors doing all manner of things for all manner of clients. But when the senior partner had died Digby took it all over and ran down virtually all of the business except the Bishops. She didn’t really mind - it just meant that there wasn’t really much to do.
She knew that Digby had no family and so apart from the Bishops who she had
rung to see if they knew where he was she could think of no-one but the police to tell.
The Bishops said not to worry and that, if they needed to, they would carry on paying her. She thought this was odd because it seemed to acknowledge the fact that he had disappeared without question. However, she knew enough about them to be wary of not doing what they asked, but she did not fancy being drawn closer into their world.
She decided to stick it out in the office for the next couple of weeks. She knew
where Digby had kept his little stash of cash, which would certainly cover her wages for that long, and while she was about it she might start to look through a few of his papers to find out a bit more about what he did off the record, for the Bishops.
She reckoned that it would be normal to lock the door of the office as she was
there on her own because she didn’t want them discovering her snooping. She didn’t really know why she was doing it, only that she thought it might be useful.
She looked at the electric clock on the wall, it was 4.40 and through the window
she could see it was almost dark and the street lights were coming on and shedding that odd orange halo of light which they did before they warmed up. It was drizzling, which she could also see. She was just putting the last bundle of papers she had been examining back in their box file. She hadn’t found anything very interesting, only that the Bishops seemed to own an awful lot of commercial property around the town which they seemed to take over when the previous owners got into their debt. She’d come across some papers concerning Phil’s yard when his uncle owned it. They were dated about 18 months previous but were not completed so she imagined the deal had not gone through. She made a mental note to mention it to Phil tonight. They had another date and she was off in a minute to wash her hair and change. They were going for a meal and a drink and then back to his new rooms at The Dog. She wasn’t sure about
that and hoped they were better than the caravan.
The door handle rattled. She started and came quietly out of Digby’s office
shutting the door behind her, and walked tentatively to the main office door.
“Who is it?”
“Kevin Bishop. Why’s the door locked?”
She unlocked it, “Oh, I’ve kept it locked when I’m on my own, what with Mr
Digby disappearing and everything.”
Kevin quickly examined the room to see if he could work out what she had been
doing. He could not.
“Have you heard from him? He hasn’t phoned the office now for four days. Do
you think we should call the police?” Sheila asked.
“No I don’t. He rang me to say that he needed to get away fast. You know that
everything he did was not exactly kosher, so it seems that things have got a bit hot and he’s gone to ground. Anyway take a couple of days off. Here,” and he thrust a roll of£20 notes towards her, “we’re going to get the things together that he asked for and then close up the office. We’ll pay you off in a couple of days. We thought £5000 should be fair. So take your stuff now and ring me in a couple of days,” he gave her a mobile number, “and we’ll see you right.”
Sheila wasn’t too surprised and, while five grand wasn’t generous, she did not
want to argue with him. “What about my P45 and references?”
“We’ll sort that out in a couple of days. Now, leave, we’ve got things to do.”
“Hello, young lady,” it was Richard Bishop who’d just slid into the room, “it’s
Ok, we’ll provide you with suitable references.”
“Thanks.” She went down the stairs, thinking that a reference from the Bishops
was probably not what she needed but, come to think of it, nor was 15 years with Digby.
Richard watched her leave and walk down the street from the window in Digby’s
inner office. He looked down at the window sill and noted the dozens of dead flies that had collected there over the summer, he looked around and saw the dried-out pot plant and the piles of papers that were never touched.
“He was a messy bastard.”
“Who was?”
“Digby, who do you think? Look at all this shit in here, he never used any of it.
He only worked for us. This must have been a front to make him look like a normal solicitor. It beats me what she did all the time.”
He walked over to the small table by the door and leant on the photocopier. It was
warm. Interesting. He leaned down into the wastepaper basket and took out a screwed up ball of paper. It looked like it had been stuck in the copier and was covered with a big inky smear. He carefully uncrumpled it making sure he did not get ink on his cuffs or suit. It wasn’t possible to read what was on it then and there but he folded it neatly, put it in a small envelope and put it in his inside pocket to look at later. As he walked round the office he picked up the odd bits of paper.
“This is impossible, we won’t find anything in here, we’ll have to get her back to
show us where everything is.”
“Don’t panic, bro, she won’t know much. Digby may have been messy but he
wasn’t stupid. He will have dealt with everything himself. She was just window
dressing.” He leant on the computer and noticed it was warm. He pressed the button on the front but there was no disk inside. He had a computer but he did not really know how to use it. He only had it so he could look at porn on the Internet.
“Get Spotty Dixon down here to see what’s on this machine and ask him if we can find out the last thing to be looked at on it.”
“Ok,” said Kevin, “but I reckon that tart knows more about the business than you
think.”
“Maybe we’ll get Spotty to look at her machine as well then. Meanwhile let’s get
on with searching this office.”

 


CHAPTER 31


“You’ve lost weight,” she said. She was lying on the bed watching Phil get
dressed.
“Yes, I think you’re right, a few pounds at least. We’ve been pretty busy at the
yard and all the physical activity seems to agree with me, more so than teaching
anyway. What are you going to do now you’ve got the push?” He looked across at her lying there with no clothes on. They had just made love. It was 7.30 in the evening and this was the first time she had been to his new digs at The Dog. They were going out and she had looked very smart but they got carried away after the first kiss and now she looked very attractive but rather dishevelled.
She sat up and started to pull on her clothes. “I don’t know. I suppose I’ll have to
find another job, but I think I’ll wait till the money runs out.”
“You haven’t got it yet. I wouldn’t trust those two further than I could spit.”
“Oh, they’re not that bad with money. It always rolled in from them before. I’ll
get my five grand, don’t you worry.”
He watched her walk across the room just in her thong. Her breasts moved
rhythmically as she walked, real breasts on a real woman, he thought, not those bloody ones with rigid implants, they looked so unnatural and completely unerotic, why do people do that to themselves? She leaned down putting her hand into her bag and her breasts hung down and forward towards her face.
“I found this in some of his stuff,” she straightened up and they dropped down to
their normal position with the nipples just pointing outwards. She handed him a
photocopied document. “It looks like the Bishops tried to do your uncle out of his yard about two years ago and did not get what they wanted.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, they have many ways of muscling in on other people’s
lives, as far as I can see. If you’re ready, let’s go out. Anyway, what do you think of the flat?”
“I wouldn’t call it a flat, but its Ok. It’s dry, warm enough to walk around with no
clothes on and it’s a big improvement on the old caravan, so it will do for now. Pity about the smell of onions though. Is it always there?”
“I stopped noticing.”

 


CHAPTER 32


Work at the yard had been picking up over the past few weeks. More stuff was
coming in and they were starting to do a line in reclaimed building materials and
fittings. Phil had put Ik in charge of this and he seemed to have a real flare for both buying and selling. Martly had cleared a space of about a quarter of an acre for this stuff to be stored in and they had got an old portacabin, a bit the worse for wear, which had come in as part of a load, as Ik’s sales office.
Martly still worked the crane and sorted the metals and they had recently come
across an old stash of cored brass bar which Ted must have stored. Phil reckoned that Ted must have hidden it, so it was probably stolen at some time, maybe it was one of the Bishops’ deals. He didn’t really care. The whole lot weighed in at over two tons and was going to bring a good sum of cash. Who cared how it got there in the first place.
They’d finally got some electric and a bit more plumbing into the office. Ik had
introduced Phil to one of The Dog’s regulars who worked connecting power up to
houses. As he was doing up an old house Ik had persuaded him to do a foreigner for them in exchange for a cast iron bath and a couple of nice cast iron fire places, so everyone was happy. Phil hadn’t quite worked out how the extra plumbing had been put in, but it seemed to be another one of Ik’s contacts, so he didn’t enquire any further.
In fact, it seemed to Phil that Ik and Martly really regarded the yard as their own and got on with whatever they needed or wanted to do. All he had to do was pretend to make a few decisions on their behalf and keep the outside world off their backs.
Mr Clean had been back round with some sort of Court Order over the fridges.
Phil knew he could not prove anything so he decided to stop talking to the monkey and see the organ grinder. Once he’d pointed out to Clean’s boss that they couldn’t prove he’d had anything to do with the fridges and that he hadn’t put the advert in, they backed off grudgingly and left the yard alone. He still saw Mr Clean in his van snooping on them from the street but he reckoned that he’d eventually get bored, which he did.

Nodder turned up a couple of times, to talk with Phil. He gave the impression that
he was going nowhere fast with the murder of Edmund, but he did show an interest in the history of the yard and if the Bishops had been involved. Phil played dumb, saying he hadn’t been there then and asking Martly and Ik if they knew anything about it. They kept schtum saying that they only worked there and that what Ted did himself they didn’t know about.

More worrying was the appearance a couple of times of a uniformed PC called
James. Martly recognised him at once as a copper who had had the yard on his beat 15 or 20 years ago when the Bishops were active. They even exchanged a few old memories, but Martly told Phil to watch out for that one as he was in Martly’s words “a tricky un”.
They hadn’t heard from the Bishops since Divvy had brought in the old blue
Transit for disposal some weeks back. However, eventually Divvy turned up with two vehicles on his truck - one was quite decent and Phil thought it would do for him.
“Careful with that red Fiat. I think I might have that for myself.”
“Righto, boss,” said Martly, who looked over at Divvy.
Instead of just grabbing it with the Hyab on the truck they put ropes through the
roof and made a sling. Divvy carefully lifted it slung under the Hyab over the side of the truck but he must have hit the wrong lever and the car dropped from about twelve feet nose first into the ground. To make matters worse Martly contrived to drop the magnet on it and it was ruined beyond repair. Phil thought if he hadn’t seen them sling it so carefully to avoid damaging the paint that they had dropped it on purpose.
They’d even got a new yard dog. Martly had brought it in from somewhere, a
mutt about six months old with big feet. It was called Tiger for no apparent reason and it was learning to guard the yard with some degree of success.

 


CHAPTER 33


Meanwhile Phil was preoccupied with the two women in his life. Sheila and
now Julie. Julie had fallen completely apart, unable to make sense of the chaos that sometimes happens in life. Sheila, on the other hand, seemed to have an insatiable sex drive, which was OK for the moment but he was beginning to wonder how long he could maintain this level of activity.
It wasn’t until he thought about the mess that Julie now found herself in that he
realised how angry he was becoming with the Bishops. It was odd. You would think that as a member of the general public he would have been normally horrified by the pointless murder of someone like Edmund, but he wasn’t; he really didn’t care that much. He tried to put these feelings into the context of hearing about a murder, say, on the TV and he realised that, apart from an immediate reaction to the news of a murder, he did not have any real emotional response to it at all. That was presumably the reason why reporters had become increasingly intrusive on the emotions of those close to murder and asked fucking stupid questions like “tell us how you feel about the murder of your daughter” knowing that no words could describe it adequately. We as viewers had some idea that it was awful and that was as far as we had a right or a desire to understand someone else’s grief. No amount of journalistic intrusion would change the
way we react as third parties to a stranger’s death and it was supreme arrogance for them to think it would. So he didn’t really care about the murder of Edmund.
Oddly he thought he didn’t really care that the murder may have been meant for
him, either directly or in some clumsy way to set him up and complicate his life. He didn’t really care that someone else had got in the way. In fact he was rather relieved.
Nor was he frightened. He should have been, he kept telling himself, but if he was right then he knew where the threat was coming from and he could control that by keeping alert.
No, what really pissed him off was the thoughtless impact this had had on Julie.
He was pissed off with her for being so useless. She had become like this from being all-capable and rather critical of his blow with the breeze approach, but this event had turned her into jelly, so much so that she just hung around the house all day and was likely to lose her job as a result. She hadn’t been into work now for four weeks and had even lost interest in her appearance. Phil could have felt smug about this, considering her view of him, but he didn’t. He felt angry, really angry, but he could not think what to do.
All this was going through his mind as he walked to the train station after visiting
Julie. He thought he had persuaded her to go and see a grief counsellor but he wasn’t sure that was the problem as she kept saying that she didn’t have any real feelings for Edmund either now. So he didn’t know what was causing her state of mind. Was it the fact that the intruder had messed up the precious fucking décor and got blood on the wall? Was it the intrusion into her oh-so-neat and tidy home which had been a sanctuary of order for her against the outside world? Was she frightened? He didn’t know but suspected it was all and none of these reasons. The situation represented to her how order can be disarrayed so easily when it takes so much to achieve and that fact frightened her. He thought again that the yard represented the same process of disordering otherwise ordered things that had reached their sell-by date. Then he realised it wasn’t Julie’s predicament that angered him. He felt a bit of pity but he didn’t really care – she’d get over it. No, what angered him was that some manipulative twat had tried to get at him through what was a cack-handed form of bullying. It reminded him of his run-ins at school - he hated the bully kids. It reminded him of the Disciplinary Panel which set out to bully him with their mindless system. It reminded him of his first interview with Nodder with his bullying through veiled threats, and the incident with Mr Clean.

As he walked he got faster and faster as he remembered the countless incidents in
his life when people thought they had power over him because of the system they were in and their position. No-one ever listened, they just played by their own rules and expected others to abide by the same. The Bishops were the same - all gangsters were - but their rules were entirely made up by them and their ilk. The rest of the world only got involved by accident, their own stupidity or manipulation. Phil didn’t know the reason he had been involved but it wasn’t his stupidity, that was for sure.
He was almost running now, thoughts were racing through his head. His anger
had turned to the idea of revenge and at the same time showing them that their system wasn’t relevant to him. A bit like when terrorists refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of a court. Their rules didn’t apply to him and he wasn’t going to get sucked into their world any further. If he did, he wouldn’t get out.
So what to do?
He was sitting on the train, about ten minutes out from the station, when it came
to him. It was so simple. They’d given him the idea. Sheila had shown him the
evidence. He would sell it out from under their nasty little rapacious noses. He’d make a fortune, not them. He’d have to keep their secrets as far as they were related to the yard, otherwise it would complicate things, but he would stick it to them so that whenever they walked past the site and saw it developed they’d know they’d been stuffed.
He missed his stop and travelled on for another hour. Then he got off and waited
for the next train home. By the time he was in his room he had it all planned. He didn’t go to the bar. He needed to stay on his own to hone the details. There were real risks.
Kevin was a dangerous man when miffed and this was designed to piss him off big time. Phil reckoned that if you knew where the threat was coming from you could control it, and anyway the outcome was so sweet that he couldn’t let a bit of danger get in the way.
There would be Martly and Ik to think of, but he was feeling less loyal to them
now because they seemed to have more history with the yard and its past than they were letting on. Then there were all the bodies. He didn’t know how many; he thought probably three – Kipper and two others, Martly had said. They would be just bones now, so a tub of acid would get rid of them.
Suddenly he felt exhausted. The adrenaline which had powered his thinking for
the best part of three hours had suddenly switched off. He lay on his bed and went to sleep.

 


CHAPTER 34


As he unlocked the doors to the yard next morning Phil felt cold, partly because it
was bloody cold, but mainly because as he thought about the plan in the cold light of day without the adrenaline rush he tended to focus on its flaws rather more. There was no doubt that Kevin was a fucking psychotic nutter, and Phil’s theory of keeping an eye on the threat and thereby controlling it sounded like counterintelligence bullshit that was clearly ludicrous. He was no match for the Bishops on the violence front and he knew it, but the plan was so sweet he couldn’t let it go.
He’d go ahead and do it, but quietly, so they did not find out until it was all over
and he had taken the money and run. He did wonder if they’d take it out on Ik and Martly but he didn’t think they would and anyway that was a risk that would have to be taken.
As he came through the door Tiger rushed towards him but ran out of chain before he could reach. This jerked the dog back sideways in a pretty violent manner, but he didn’t seem to mind as he had done the same thing every day since he’d arrived at the yard. Phil bent down and gave him a pat and then released him from the chain. He rushed off following some real or imaginary scent. Phil thought the scent must be rats but what they found to eat in here God alone knows unless they were partial to motor tyres and scrap iron. Tiger had disappeared in amongst the junk and Phil could hear him yelping and growling as he charged about. Phil went over to the lavatory and picked up the small rusty shovel from by the door, and picked up a couple of piles of dog crap which were on the path through to the office and deftly flicked them into a corner of the yard.
“ Oi, look out, what dirty bastard is throwing shit over here.”
Phil was surprised to see Ik and Divvy come out from round the back of the
portacabin, “What are you doing in so early and more to the point how did you get in?”
“Oh, had some business here with Divvy. We used the spare set of keys.”
“I didn’t know there was a spare set.”
“Yes you did. We told you the other day Kipper had had a set, and that was how
Divvy got in when he had to squash your caravan for the Bishops.”
“I’ll take them now, thank you.”
Ik and Divvy looked crestfallen. Phil simply could not get over the brass neck of
the man who had smashed his home simply turning up here of his own volition and acting like he’d just done them all a service, and Ik going along with it. This yard seemed to have an effect on everyone - maybe it was the tea?
By evening it was time for cards before going back to The Dog. They’d got used
to cards on a Wednesday evening before they went home - it had become a bit of a tradition. They drank tea and sometimes made toast on the pot stove and now they had electric they could see the cards better than with the old oil lamp, which was an improvement.
They didn’t play for money but used items of scrap in the yard to barter with.
They were each allowed 20 items which they went around and selected in the hour before the game and each item was worth a number of units like chips. One radiator equalled two cylinder heads or one van equalled ten radiators. It tended to favour those that knew what was where in the yard and what was more valuable than what.
Inevitably Phil who knew least always had the least units but as no real money was changing hands it did not really matter. He was also a better player than the others so they usually lost their advantage quite quickly anyway.
It all sounded pretty stupid but it did afford a chance to look around the yard and
see what had been exposed or come in lately. They had found some good stuff that way.
“A pair of fives,” said Phil dropping his cards down on the old table.
“Fookin hell,” Ik chucked his three fours down. He’d fallen for Phil’s bluffing
again and pulled out leaving Martly to see him and he only had a pair of threes. Phil dealt the next hand. Martly changed two, so did Ik, Phil changed three. They went round again adding units to the pot and changing more cards. At the end of this last change Phil had managed to convert two pairs into an absolute nothing hand, the kind you usually throw in straight away. Martly bet ten, so did Ik, so did Phil. He had to be careful not to clean them out of money as he already had most of theirs but he wanted one of them to win a big pot just for once. He’d like it to be Martly but it didn’t matter that much.
In the end it was Martly and by the end of the game he was sitting on one
hundred and twenty six units, which at the previously agreed rate of one thousand
imaginary pounds a unit meant Martly had one hundred and twenty six thousand
imaginary pounds. More than he had ever had before.
“What would you do if that was real money Mart?” Phil asked him.
“Retire, buy a house and a car and eat every day at The Dog.”
“Fuckin ‘ell, Mart, you already do eat every day at The Dog.”
“Maybe steak and eggs and chips instead of sausage and mash, for a change.”
“Your fookin stomach wouldn’t be able to stand the change.”
“Anyway, seriously now,” Phil said “wouldn’t you miss working here?”
“Maybe for a bit but if I had real money I could get another job, maybe driving,
I’d like that.”
“But you could do that now.”
“No I couldn’t.”
“Why not?”
“Haven’t got a licence,” Martly admitted.
“That’s why he never moved that fookin Pilot, couldn’t take it out of the yard.”
Martly looked daggers at Ik, “What about you then, smartarse, what would you do with real money?”
“Spend it down The Dog. I reckon a hundred and twenty six thousand would last
me about seven years on drink and fags, and after that I’d probably be dead anyway.”
“So you wouldn’t miss the yard either?” said Phil.
“Oh, I’d miss it alright, but there’s always other things.”
Phil looked at his watch. It was seven o’clock and he had to get back, get washed
and changed and get into town to meet Sheila. He was staying at her place tonight, so he needed his strength.
“Here take these keys and lock up.”
Ik looked at him pointedly, “I thought you didn’t trust us with keys?”
“I don’t trust Divvy with our keys. I trust you.”
He didn’t actually trust Ik very much. He didn’t know why but he always seemed
to be up to something but he couldn’t tell what. But today Phil needed them to lock up so he chucked the keys in Ik’s lap and said, “Don’t forget to feed and water that bloody mutt and put him on the chain.”
“What was all that fucking charade about?” Ik asked.
“Reckon he’s going to get shot of the yard.”
“What, sell it to the Bishops?”
“Who else? He’d better not think of selling it to anyone else, they’d kill him.”
“Do you think we should let them know?”
“When the time’s right. We need summat out of this.”
Ik was on his mobile and ten minutes later Divvy was at the gates with his truck
with a fresh consignment of old building artefacts.
“He’s not very keen on you, you know.” Martly told Divvy.
“Maybe he should have given me the Pilot instead of trying to play the dealer
then.”
“No, it’s about you crushing his van.”
“Look, if the Bishops tell me to do something I do it. Anyway, I didn’t kill the
fucking dog. That was Kevin, the fucking lunatic, it rushed towards him just like this new one you’ve got and he had a hammer with him and just whacked it one.”
“Bastard,” Martly growled.
“Look, it was nothing to do with me, Ok. Let’s get unloaded. I’ve got another
load to pick up tonight so I’ll see you at sparrow fart tomorrow.”

 

 


CHAPTER 35


Sheila looked gorgeous he watched her walk into the bar and swish across towards
him. She’d obviously been spending her redundancy money before she got it. How on earth had he thought she looked frumpy?
She sat down and kissed him on the cheek. While she was doing that she pressed
her breasts against him, which was about the most she could do in a sitting position in a public place. Bloody hell, she’s hot tonight, he thought. He had to wait awhile before he could get up and get her a drink.
She seemed to be in an incredibly light mood, which was not what he needed
right now.
“You seem very cheerful tonight.”
“I’ve been spending money all afternoon and in my free moments I’ve been
thinking about spending the evening and night with you. So can you blame me? I’m absolutely starving. Can we go and eat now? I thought after that we’d go straight back to mine, I’ve got some wine in.”
“I need to talk to you seriously. Are we going to be able to do that tonight?”
“Of course, but after we have done everything else.”
After a decent dinner and some more drinks the taxi dropped them outside her
door at about 11.15. If she’d had her way it would have been earlier but the dinner had been good so it was right to take time over eating it.
As soon as they were through the front door they fell on each other. A whole
evening of her smouldering at him over and under the dinner table had driven most of Phil’s desire for a serious chat out of his mind. They made it to the half landing before of each other. Ten minutes later they were in her bedroom and within an hour they were lying exhausted next to each other. Sex is a funny thing - no matter how long it lasts it’s always over too soon, he thought.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“Oh, what, yes, my serious conversation. I’d like to know what you know about
the Bishops and Digby, my uncle Ted and my yard, in a nutshell.”
“You buy a woman dinner and then take her home and shag her senseless just to
talk about your yard. Go downstairs and get the wine and some glasses and I’ll tell you what I know and what I think. I don’t know much, I’ll warn you now.”
She was right. For the secretary of Digby’s practice she knew next to nothing of
its business. Phil was surprised to find out that Digby worked almost exclusively for the Bishops, and she told him again about what she had found out about them trying to stitch up Ted over the yard.
“To be frank, I think I was there as a bit of window dressing. The more I think
about it, I was just kept at arms length. I did type up the formal papers and make
appointments but that was about all.”
“Who did he have appointments with?”
“Them.”
“The Bishops?”
“Yes, and the local planning officials, one particular one, a Mr Macklin, I think.
He also talked to a couple of policemen; they used to come by the office. I don’t know their names.”
She hopped out of bed and took her wine over to a computer on a desk by the
window, “Look at this. I copied a disk I found in Digby’s drawer before I left.”
She bent down and rummaged in her bag. She had no clothes on and the effect on
Phil was instant. As she booted up the computer and put the disk in he came up behind her and held her breasts. She moved her legs and bent slightly forward. Phil looked over her shoulder as they made love both looking out of the darkened room through the net curtains into the street below. Rain slashed down and was picked out in the streetlight. He knew he lusted after her and he thought the feeling he had in the pit of his stomach was the same as when he had first started to see Julie. He came to the conclusion that this was more than lust, but he wasn’t sure he wanted the complication of love right now.
The computer screen was flickering in the corner of his eye. He thought that
whatever was on that disk could wait till morning. As he lay listening to her sleep he thought maybe it was a good time for love. What he had planned needed a partnership and he could not really see it with either Ik or Martly.
They spent the morning going through what was on the disk. It seemed to consist
of a record of all of the property transactions carried out by Digby - presumably on behalf of the Bishops, but there were few if any references to them. Most of it was pretty innocuous but there were numerous letters to a Mr Macklin at the planning office, concerning the likelihood of planning consent for various bits of land including the yard. There were also references to fees being paid and these tallied with another file where a detailed list of payments to various people, some not identified by name but simply by initials had been entered. These entries included direct payments to Macklin which appeared to be some sort of sweetener. Phil and Sheila did now have a complete list of the Bishops’ property interests and they were extensive. They really had become legitimate businessmen of a sort.
There were also letters to people Sheila assumed were business partners and they
included some interesting local names. Phil reckoned that this file might be useful to him if he was to develop or sell the yard himself. He also thought that it was time to tell Sheila his plan. She listened and thought that it sounded quite straightforward. He outlined the history and told her everything, except about the bodies.
“So doesn’t the yard already belong to the Bishops through Kipper?” she asked.
“No, it turns out that he disappeared quite soon after the bet anyway and the
ownership never got transferred officially. Only Ik and Martly seemed to know about it. I don’t think Kipper could have mentioned it to the other two. I know they were a bit wary of him. To tell you the truth I don’t think that he ever wanted the yard itself. Back then the land would have been worthless. I think he just wanted to control it so he could use it for his own purposes.”
“It all sounds OK but I’m worried how the Bishops will react. I’ve seen them in
Digby’s office at times with Kevin ranting and raving about being let down and cheated, by someone or other. Digby is definitely frightened of them.”
“If we are careful and play our cards right I don’t think it will be a problem,” he
was lying to her and to himself.
“I don’t really see how I can help.”
“Well, I’ll need some sort of office for a start and it might as well be you.”
“So I’m being some sort of window dressing again.”
“Yes and don’t you look good doing it.”

 


CHAPTER 36


That evening Phil and David sat opposite at a table in the Panjit Palace. David
could be a pompous arse, but as a commercial lawyer with good local connections Phil thought his advice worth sounding out.
This time Phil paid for the dinner so it was not quite the standard or type that
David normally ate but, what the hell, Phil liked curries and the Panjit Palace did the best in town.
“What do you recommend then? I don’t normally eat spicy food, it doesn’t agree
with me.”
God, he sounded condescending, “Have a mushroom and garlic barjee for starters
and a chicken korma with some pilau rice. That’s all pretty mild.”
“What about wine? Do they have a decent cellar?”
Phil couldn’t help himself laughing. “Christ, they don’t even have a licence but
they don’t mind you bringing your own, so I went to the offy. He pulled up a bag from the floor and produced six cans of Red Stripe lager and a bottle of Chilean Pinot Noir.
David looked at the wine a bit disdainfully but he cheered up once the cork was out and he’d had some.
“Not bad, so what do you want to ask me about?”
“I’m going to develop the yard and sell it on for housing. How do I go about
doing it?”
“Whereabouts is it and how big is it?”
Phil got out the map he’d bought. He knew he’d be asked for the details. That
was the way David was but it was also why he was good at what he was doing.
“Um, not exactly the right side of the tracks but the canal could be good for it.
How big?”
“About two and a half acres.”
“We’ve talked about this before. This is the land the Bishops wanted and you
wanted to know what they were like. Have they lost interest?”
“Sort of. Well, what do you think?”
“I shouldn’t tell you this,” David confided, “but I went to a meeting for some
clients the other day and the word is that over the next year or two this part of town will become attractive to develop. There’s going to be a lot of regeneration money going into canal side. It’s been done all over the country and found to bring real added value to the areas which are developed around it.”
“Put that in ordinary language.”
“The council’s getting money to clean up the canal and its buildings and as that
happens the value of your yard for housing will go up.”
“ I thought that’s what you meant, so what do I do?”
“Are you in a hurry?”
“Depends on the difference it makes to the price.”
“As it is with no outline planning, I doubt you’d get more than 100 grand,
something like that.”
“With planning?”
“Now?”
“Yes.”
“You could get 30 or more units on it. Might sell it for light industrial or to a
housing association for low cost. Probably 750K, maybe a bit more.”
“And when it becomes the area to live in?”
“Executive apartments or a select gated canal- side community. Three million,
easy.”
“Shit!”
“Don’t get carried away. That’s only if the area goes up and that won’t be for a
few years yet. You might get some forward-looking developer in the know who’d be prepared to give you more in 18 months time when things have started to happen. It may be best to go into a partnership. You putting in the land and someone else developing it, that way the risk is shared and its more attractive. The right partners can cause the whole process to speed up, you know.”
Phil thought he did know and also that he had a list of the likely partners. He
fished in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled paper, “Any potential partners on this list?”
David gave it a quick look, “Yes, I’d say most of those names look likely but
quite a few of them come with a health warning.”
“Like which ones?”
“Do you really know what you’re doing?”
“Not really, that’s why I’m talking to you.”
“Well Phil, my brother, that’s the last of the information you get out of me for the
price of a curry. I could help you with this. I could even set up the partnership and find the partners. Now’s not quite the right time but I’ll keep my ear to the ground. My price, before you ask, is 5% of the business or the profit, whichever way it goes, and I can tell you with my contacts that’s bloody cheap.”
“I’ll think about it. I’ll get the bill.”
“Good, I must go. Got another engagement in an hour, with someone on your list.
Where did you get it, by the way?”
“What?”
“The list.”
“Oh, I just came across it.”
“I don’t think I want to know. And don’t worry I won’t breathe a word, so think
about my offer.”
Phil watched him walk from the restaurant. He paid the bill and left a £10 tip.
“Hook, line and sinker,” he muttered under his breath.
Sheila’s mother was coming back from her sisters, so Sheila would be busy for a
couple of days. So his next move was Julie. A phone call from the restaurant had found her willing but not exactly enthusiastic.
“You seem a bit better today,” he ventured.
“Do I? I don’t feel it. I’ve just had it confirmed I’m out of a job. Something
about not being able to carry passengers, and although they knew I was upset they
thought I should take steps to get myself sorted out.”
“They could be right.”
“I know that. They did give me a reasonable payment in lieu of notice and
holidays so I’ll be alright for money for a couple of months anyway.”
“What do you know about financing property deals?”
“Not much in detail but I know the basics.”
“Would you be interested in working with me on selling the yard for
development. I reckon we could make a lot of money given time.”
“Would I get any of it?”
“Yes I said WE didn’t I?”
“Ok, what sort of things have you got in mind.”
“I don’t really know. David talked about development partnerships but I don’t
know what they are.”
“You’re not working with that pompous prat, are you?”
“Well, he’s very good at this – it’s what he does. And yes, I am thinking about it.
There’s one other thing. My new girlfriend Sheila is also in on it - can you handle that?”
She smiled for the first time in a long while. It was not a very friendly smile,
more of a put-you-down sort of smile. “Thank God you’ve got another woman in your life. For one horrible moment I thought you were going to try to get into my bed for old times sake.”
He had thought about it but rejected it on the grounds that it would complicate
matters. Still, it was a bit hurtful to be told no like that.
She went to go up to bed. “You’d better sleep on the couch. You can’t get in the
spare room at the moment, and yes I’ll give your offer some thought.”
That’s all he wanted.

 


CHAPTER 37


At the yard Ik and Martly had been busily getting on with the days work. As far
as Ik was concerned his side of things couldn’t go any better. As fast as Divvy could supply him he could sell the stuff. There was no end of people renovating old properties and he was selling to most of them, he reckoned. He did not know where Divvy was getting the stuff from. He assumed it had to be bent from the odd times it got delivered but he didn’t really care. He worked on the one pound for the yard one pound for Ik system. He kept that part quiet from Martly as he thought he’d probably complain that it wasn’t fair.
Martly was quietly moving stuff around and sorting loads for sale. He was also
watching Ik to see what he was up to. He’d known him a long time and knew what a devious sod he was, particularly with other people’s money. So Martly sat in the crane and moved stuff around and kept an eye on Ik and thought.
He was brooding over the future of the yard. He’d seen through Phil’s trick to
find out how he felt about it and was pretty offended that Phil had felt he had to do it,
“I’m not stupid,” he grumbled. “He could have just asked me.” In fact, Martly was not stupid at all. It suited him to come across a bit slow - that way Linda down The Dog looked after him. It also meant that by and large he could ignore Ik’s stupid jokes; he wasn’t expected to have a smart answer to them and that suited him fine. But if the yard was going to close then where did that leave him? He didn’t have much money to speak of. He could go back to the way it was before Phil reopened and he’d be able to survive but he liked having work to do and he liked the extra money so he could treat himself occasionally. He had thought of asking Linda to go out with him but he hadn’t done it, as he was pretty sure she’d laugh and tell everyone else and then they’d laugh too. He was just going to have to ask Phil straight out what was happening, after all there was
still clearing up to do. It was down to Martly that Kipper’s bones were in the yard and he’d also kept the others hidden over the years so that was some sort of crime. It needed to be sorted out and he needed to be told, not treated like a twat with people trying to trick answers out of him. He’d do it quietly, though. No point in involving Ik at this stage.
He picked up a massive twisted heap of iron, and dropped it onto the back of a flat bed truck. It was about the last load that the truck could take and he signalled to the driver. As the truck pulled out Martly was getting down from the cab of the crane when he spotted something of interest, which must have been hidden for years behind the pile of iron he had just moved.
It was under a tarpaulin, pretty ragged by now. He lifted up a corner and peered
down, “Motorbikes 1..2..4..6..9 - ten motorbikes. These are for me!”
He dropped the tarpaulin back and got up in the crane. He swung it over and
selected a large tangle of old exhaust pipes. Lifting them up, he placed them carefully in front of his find so no-one could see it.
He’d found good stuff before; in fact, he had a good eye for picking out the
nuggets from the rubbish. And from all his finds other people had made money - not this time - this was the first time he had ever taken anything for himself from the yard.
Fucking hell, he’d even let Phil sell the only thing that was rightfully his - the fucking Pilot and Phil never gave him any of the money he’d got for it. Once Martly remembered that, he started to feel really aggrieved and even more determined to keep hold of his find.
It just happened that one of his nephews was into old motorbikes so he decided to
talk to him and get him over for a look. The problem was the hours that Ik kept at the yard now he was getting all this stuff from Divvy. Martly didn’t really trust Ik. He knew if Ik found out he’d somehow muscle in on the deal. At best he’d want a share, at worst he’d take the lot and assume Martly didn’t want anything out of it - that was the usual way. As for Divvy, Martly hated him. He thought he was a twat, always on the make and always on the take. So how could Martly get the bikes out without anyone knowing?

 


CHAPTER 38


A week later Phil was on the phone to his brother agreeing terms. Following that
he rang round to Julie and Sheila and invited everyone over to the Panjit Palace that evening. Time to get the show on the road, he thought.
He went down to the yard. He reckoned he needed to talk with Martly and Ik. He
had spent some time going over his accounts and it was obvious that he needed to keep the yard going and making money as long as possible, preferably right up to the point of developing it, otherwise he was going to run out of cash.
His problem was to make sure that they kept it to themselves. He reckoned that to
be sure they would, or as sure as he ever could be, he’d have to cut them in on the deal somehow. After all, they had kept the place running all these years and were making a real go of it now. At some point they would have to stop taking new stuff in and start clearing in earnest. He reckoned that for that they deserved a cut - Martly for definite, he wasn’t quite so sure about Ik.
There was also that other matter that would need to be dealt with before the site
was developed.
“Can I see you two in the office please?”
“What, now?”
“Yes.”
The three of them walked up the stairs to the office.
“Let’s get a brew on,” Martly said and he started to busy himself with the tea
ceremony.
Phil was twitchy, “Leave that, can you. I think you need to listen to this with your
full attention.” Christ, I sound just like I did when I was teaching, he thought. What was it with him that he thought people needed to give their full attention to what he was about to say? He reckoned it must be an informal way of making something seem important.
“Oh, go on, Mart,” he relented, “make the tea. We could all do with a cup. It’s
bloody cold in here.”
He didn’t know how to say it so he waited till they were sitting round the pot
stove with their tea and just came out with it.
“I’m going to sell the yard for development or I may form a partnership and
develop it myself.”
“We guessed.” said Ik.
“Yeah, all that fucking silly charade the other night when we was playing poker, it
was obvious.”
“How was it?”
“You’re just not that bad at poker. You normally beat us even when we’ve got
more units than you to start with. The way you played the other night was pathetic.”
“Yeah and those bloody silly questions about what we would do with a lot of
money,” Martly said, this last bit in a voice that imitated Phil’s at his most teacherly. It was quite insulting but rather funny and Ik joined in with his own version.
“So tell me what would you do if that was your’s and it was real money?”
Phil cringed at the memory of it all. The really embarrassing thing was he’d been
so wound up with the subterfuge he hadn’t even bloody noticed how crap it was.
“Ok, leave it. That brings me round to the question of money. I can’t afford for a
word of this to get out to anyone, especially not the Bishops. You can imagine how they’d react I’m sure. When it happens however it does happen there will be a lot of money to be made and I’ll make sure you get some of it.”
“How much?”
“I can’t say at the moment, Ik. I don’t know completely how we’ll do it so I don’t
know how much we’ll make but I would say more than 15 thousand each.”
“So you’re bribing us with the promise of 15 grand to keep our mouths shut?”
Martly sounded offended by this. “What do we do in the meantime and what happens if we tell someone?”
“We carry on running the yard. We need to make it make as much money as
possible now. We keep clearing the site at the same time. We’re still getting rid of
much more than we’re taking in. If you tell anyone, the deal will go tits up and you won’t get a penny but Kevin Bishop will suspect you of being in on it and probably break your legs, if you’re lucky.” Phil realised that he had just trapped them, just as the Bishops always tried to do. He was not proud of this but he ploughed on, “Anyway you’ve both got more to lose than me. Which brings me neatly to the bones of the various people concealed in the yard. They’ll need to be collected together and disposed of. We can either burn them or better still we’ll get some acid and dissolve them up. That way there’ll be no trace. We’ll have twelve months to do it in so there’s no rush. So what do you think?”
“We don’t seem to have a choice.”
He couldn’t see why they weren’t more grateful or enthusiastic but at least they
were going along with it.
“If you sell it for millions 15 grand doesn’t seem like much,” Ik said. “Maybe we
will talk about our cut when we know more about the deal. In the meantime we’ll keep quiet and just get on with things as normal.”
Phil didn’t like this development. “Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Don’t forget
it wasn’t me that hid a load of bodies for a couple of local villains. It wasn’t me that dropped a big fucking weight on someone’s head and then covered it up. But as I said, if it goes ahead who knows how much we will all make?”
Ik looked at Martly and Martly looked back. Something passed between them but
Phil couldn’t really tell what it was. As Ik and Martly left the office and went down the steps together, Martly was busy thinking about getting at his motorcycles on the quiet.
“Is Divvy coming over coming over tonight to make a delivery then?”
“No, he’s had to go up to Newcastle. Don’t reckon he’ll be over till tomorrow.
“Give us the keys then. I’ll do a bit of shifting tonight when no-ones about, like
the boss wants.”
Ik reached in his overalls pocket and handed it over. “You make sure I get it back
for tomorrow night,” he said.

 


CHAPTER 39


Sheila came round to Phil’s room in The Dog early in the evening. He was just
getting ready so that they could walk into town to the restaurant to meet David and Julie.
“OK, are you ready? Got everything? Then let’s go.”
They were deep in conversation about how Julie would be with Sheila and about
what David was like as the black BMW drove past them going in the opposite direction.
“That’s interesting, bro,” said the driver.
“What is?”
“Looks like the teacher knows the late Digby’s secretary.”
“That’ll be how the bastard found out about the fridges.”
“And what else has she passed on to him. We need to find out. She certainly took
something from Digby’s office.”
Richard Bishop pulled the big car over to the side and turned to Kevin, “Out you
get, bro.”
“What do you mean?”
“Follow them and then ring me when they get somewhere. They can’t be going far on foot. And I can’t really follow them in the car now, can I? Anyway you look like you could do with the fresh air to cool you down.”
The four of them sat round a corner table in the restaurant. Phil thought that
everyone seemed in animated mood and was surprised by this. David especially seemed to have taken the whole idea on with great enthusiasm. He was well into the third bottle of wine and the main courses were nearly finished and he was explaining in great detail the emerging plans to regenerate the part of the town that the canal went through.
The impression Phil got was that this proposal had moved on even in the short
time since he had agreed to David’s involvement. David got out a huge roll which
turned out to be some sort of initial outline of the scheme and Phil wondered how all this could have been done so quickly. He suspected that David’s interest was originally due to the scheme being much better developed than he let on at first. Phil didn’t mind; he supposed that when this type of opportunity presented itself all sorts of people went for the main chance and he was under no illusions as to his brother’s potential to grab the main chance. David had been doing it all his life and a project like this probably needed someone like that to drive it along.
In many ways it was not unlike the Bishops - they’d used the property developing
boom of a few years ago as their main chance and it had allowed them to leave their gangster pasts behind, well almost, he thought.
Julie had started to look at ways of financing such a partnership and started to talk
excitedly about the options. She even seemed to get on Ok with Sheila. Phil was a bit disappointed by this and had hoped for a little obvious jealousy but it was not to be. It was ‘just one big excited and happy family’. As he was thinking about this, he realised that their discussions about how the development would occur were just washing over him, and that he wasn’t really interested in this stage of the process at all. What he had to do was to keep the yard running for a while, keep the Bishops at bay, get rid of some old skeletons and get Martly and Ik squared away. They were real tasks to do. The other three could inhabit the world of speculation and planning. He’d enter it when it was all a bit more settled.
“We’ll have to pay Martly and Ik something out of the profits to keep them
sweet.”
“Why do we need to do that? When the yard is sold just give them a redundancy
payment and pay them off.”
“I promised them some financial stake in it. There are good reasons for doing it,
believe me.”
“You shouldn’t have done that without talking to us first. What are these
reasons?”
“I can’t tell you now. Maybe when it’s all over I’ll tell you why but you’ll have
to just trust me.”
“No financial backers are going to come in if they know there are skeletons in the
cupboard.”
Phil winced at the phrase, “Trust me, they will never know.”
“I don’t know what could be so awful that you can’t tell us about it,” Julie said.
Phil stayed silent. Then he started to get up, “We either drop the subject and
agree to cut the other two in in some small way at the end or we give up the whole idea now.”
“Ok, Ok, sit down. We trust you to do the right thing. Have another glass of
wine.”
It was then Phil realised how his months at the yard, amongst the collection of
people who either worked for it or tried to get it to work for them, had changed him.
David and Julie didn’t understand this world at all; their world was all plans and the future, his was all day-to-day and hand-to-mouth, his was in real-time, real action brought real outcomes. That was why Julie had been so shattered by the incident in her house. It was real, immediate action coming into contact with a highly planned life.
Like discovering that you or a member of your family has a terminal illness or is sent to jail or war breaks out. All those things change the planned life into real life, and that was what the yard was like all the time. He used to plan his teaching life, thinking about it, weighing it up. Now he just got on with it and went to work. He decided that he felt this way of life was more liberating and, provided he could deal with the day-today decisions, less stressful because he could always see the outcomes of what he had done almost as soon as he had done them.

 


CHAPTER 40


They finished up, paid and left. Julie drove home taking Phil and Sheila with her.
Phil was going to borrow the car and take Sheila back to his place, as the night was foul and the trains decidedly unreliable. Julie wasn’t used to life in real-time and never noticed the BMW pull out and slip into the traffic a few cars back. Phil didn’t notice it either, as he said goodnight to Julie and went round the car into the driver’s seat. He pulled away from the curb and drove up to the end of the road and turned right. The BMW was discreetly parked near the T-junction. Once he had seen where the three of them had gone Richard had anticipated where Phil and Sheila where headed and positioned himself accordingly. The Bishops were good in real-time because that was their world. They made decisions quickly and tonight they had decided to take Phil and Sheila. Richard wanted to find out what they knew and what they were up to and if it could be harmful to himself and his brother. Kevin wanted revenge. He was off on this bloody betrayal thing again - not against Phil this time but against Sheila, the one who could have let out one of their bloody secrets. Richard reckoned that one day he’d have to control his brother. Kevin was definitely barmy but for the moment he had his uses.
But someday soon he would be more of a liability than useful and he would have to go.
Still, if he scared Richard, he was about to scare the shit out of the teacher and Digby’s secretary.
Phil did eventually notice that there was a familiar car a couple of vehicles back
and he thought he had seen it earlier but he thought big saloons car all looked the same in the dark and it was only the way it mirrored the movements of his car that really gave him any clue. He’d turn left; it would indicate and turn left and so on. In fact what he noticed was that it never indicated to turn until he had. He became so fascinated with watching it that he nearly ran into the car in front that had stopped at some pedestrian lights.
“Stop, what the hell are you doing?” Sheila snapped.
“Sorry, I was looking at that car behind.”
“Well don’t. Look at the ones in front. What’s so fascinating about the one
behind?”
“It seems to be following us. Every time I indicate to turn it does and then it
turns.”
“Come on, there are hundreds of cars around. We’re all going in the same
direction. You’re just imagining it. How long has it been behind us?”
“Since the end of Julie’s road, I think. I think I saw it parked up at the T-junction.
I think it’s a BMW. Turn round - you have a look.”
Sheila turned round and looked back over the seat out of the rear window. There
it was. Phil might be right. Whereas all the rest of the traffic seemed to move in a way related to each other but still at their own pace this one seemed to be lurking a couple of cars back and only moving when they did. She caught sight of it from a slight angle as they tuned left and she clearly saw that it was indeed a BMW.
“Turn down a few streets at random and vary your speed. I want to see what it
does.”
Phil did this. After about five minutes she turned round to face forward, “You’re
right, it is following us, and I think I know who it is.”
“Well?”
“The only people I know with a car like that are the Bishops. Kevin drives it
most, and there are two men in it. On the basis that you are only followed by people who know of you then I’d say it has to be them. I don’t like the idea of that and I can’t see why they would do it.”
“They must have got an idea of what we are going to do with the yard. I suppose
those buggers Martly or Ik have let on.”
Phil found himself driving down a dimly lit street with warehousing on either
side. In trying to do what Sheila had wanted he had ended up in an area he didn’t know and away from the rest of the traffic. This was not good and the BMW was right behind them now.
Kevin was in agitated mood, “You’re losing him turn now. God, Richard, you’ve
lost your touch.”
“Calm down, bro, I’m not losing them. If we show ourselves too soon they may
take off and we really could lose them in the crowd.”
“Turn left again, there they go,” Kevin was almost salivating like a mad dog. He
was breathing heavily and sweating and had gone very red in the face. He was leaning forward with his hands on the dash drumming his fingers and palms in an erratic manner that was nothing to do with rhythm. He was straining so far forward in his seat that the seat belt was cutting into his chest and when he turned round to face Richard it came across his ear. Richard thought he looked just like a mad dog straining to get at someone and by and large that’s exactly what he was. God help them.
“I think they’ve spotted us. Did you see her turning round and looking back?
Now they’ve started to take some very strange turns if they are meant to be heading across town to the yard.”
“You’re right. It’s time to get them, cut them off, ram them!”
“For Christ sakes, Kevin, get a grip. They are about to play directly into our
hands. If they carry on the way they are going we’ll have them in a minute.”
As Richard watched the Clio turn into Pikefield Street he knew he had them. He’d been carefully getting close to this point but now he could take them. It was a one-way street and there’d be no-one unloading at this time.
He pressed the accelerator and the car shot forward. He carefully, but forcefully,
stuffed it past and in front of the little Clio just like a racing driver, he thought. He
braked hard across Phil’s path and both cars slewed to a halt. Before the BMW was stopped the passenger door was open and Kevin was charging backwards towards the Clio like a front row forward. Within a flash he had wrenched the passenger door open and dragged Sheila out and slung her on the ground. Richard had moved round to Phil’s side and as the door opened he stood blocking it.
Sheila was on the ground screaming as Kevin shoved his hand over her mouth,
“Shut the fuck up, you stupid bitch, or I’ll smash your head in!”
Richard leant down towards Phil in the driver’s seat, “Move over,” he said in a quiet hissing tone, “Kevin, bring the woman over here and get in the driver’s seat. You drive the teacher to the yard and I’ll follow on in the Beemer and meet you there with the woman.” He looked at Phil again, “I suppose you’ve got a key to your yard?” Phil said nothing. He was petrified, too petrified to speak. “Well, have you?” Phil nodded.
Kevin came over dragging Sheila by the elbow. He roughly passed her over to Richard who took her to the BMW. Kevin grinned at Phil as he got in the driver’s seat, “I’ll teach you, you smart-arse cunt, to dump all those fridges on me,” and he elbowed Phil in the nose and drove off. Sheila sat shivering with fear in the front of Richard’s car. He turned up the heating. “It’s all right,” he said, “I’ll see nothing happens to you. We just want to ask you both a few questions. Once you tell us what we want to know you’ll be free to go.”
She didn’t believe him.

 


CHAPTER 41


Martly had had a good evening so far. He’d been able to phone his nephew and
get him interested in the bikes. Interested enough to drop everything and come over straight away that evening. Although he’d never actually sold anything Martly had seen Old Ted do it countless times and lately he’d watched Phil and Ik at it. What he reckoned was that the keener someone seemed the more likely they were to buy and at your price. Keenness could be measured by the punter’s willingness to be put out. So you might say that the yard’s only open at 6.45 in the morning to do a particular deal and if the punter turned up on the dot at 6.45, having got himself out of bed and trekked across town, no matter how uninterested he might seem you knew it was an act because he’d put himself out to be there and you were going to get a sale.
Martly didn’t particularly want to rip his nephew off, but he did know that Dean
had done some buying and selling of old bikes and he was a bit of a lippy git so if
Martly could get a good price out of him he’d be happy. He needed to do it tonight if at all possible because he couldn’t guarantee to have the place to himself without Ik. So he’d asked Dean to meet him at the yard at 7.15 and to bring cash and a big van, and the kid had said Ok. Sure enough, Dean was there at 7.15.
Martly had run a flood light out to the heap where the bikes were and was waiting.
He heard the van pull up and in a couple of minutes a man appeared. He wasn’t really a kid any more, more like about twenty-five, tall and rangy with a closely shaved head.
“Hi, Martly.”
“Hello, youth. Do you want to back your van in? I’ll open the big doors.”
“Ok.”
As the van was backed in Martly noted that it wasn’t very big. It was an old battered, short wheelbase Transit that smoked diesel fumes out of the exhaust.
“Is this the best you could get?”
“I can’t really afford this. Maybe I should stop buying bikes, eh?”
“Here we go,” thought Martly, recognising the opening gambit in the game of
striking a deal.
“Ok, let’s see ‘em then.”
“I’ll have to clear a bit first. Don’t want to have anyone else see them. I’ve got
to get them shifted quick, so it’ll have to be cash.”
“I’ve got cash.”
Martly didn’t realise that he had just shown his hand. Dean did, though. He thought, this guy needs to get rid. He felt in his pockets to check his cash. He had it in six separate rolls of three hundred pounds, each one in each of his pockets. From what Martly had said over the phone Dean thought £1800 would be a good price to get them for, but he didn’t want to spend it all if he didn’t have to.
Martly got up into the crane, started it and swung the jib out and over the rusty
tangle of metal that he’d put in front of the bikes. When he was in position, he pushed the lever so that the winch allowed the magnet to drop under its own weight down to the pile of scrap. He gave the winch a bit more brake and stopped the magnet with precision just on top of the pie. Then he pulled the large electrical contact that fed current from the generator on the crane into the magnet. There was a series of pops and rustles as the bits in the pile stuck to each other and the main magnet and he hauled it up in the air and away to the left. He left it up in the air and simply kept the crane engine idling to keep the magnet charged and got down.
“Isn’t that dangerous? What happens if the motor stops?”
“Nothing. There’s some batteries that will keep it up there for a few minutes.”
They moved the floodlight so it pointed under the tarpaulin. “See ‘em.”
“Yes, I’ll go and get a closer look. Will you help me get them out?”
After about fifteen minutes five of the bikes were out from under the tarpaulin. The rain was coming down in earnest now and was picked out by the floodlight. With the old crane churning away in the background and the two men deep in thought and conversation it looked an eerie scene. There were two Triumphs, a Douglas, an Ariel, a couple of Royal Enfields and four right at the back which were unknowns. All were complete, rusty and pretty distressed, tyres were gone and spokes rusted through so wheels were collapsed, but to the buyer they were just what he wanted, late twenties bikes in sound, restorable but complete condition. All ten probably worth a thousand each when he sold them on. So now he had to get them all for less than £1800.
Martly looked at the rust and collapsed tyres and wheels despondently. They
hadn’t looked that bad earlier under the tarpaulin. Bang goes the money now. He was about to turn away when Dean said, “I’ll give you £50 each for them but I can only take these five tonight. The rest won’t go in my van.”
Martly was stunned; ten times £50 was £500! He nearly blurted out “done” but
years of watching others do this made him hesitate. And this lad was keen, remember,
“I reckon they’re worth a good bit more than that, youth,” he could hardly believe he
had just said that.
“Ok, I’ll go £75 a piece, and that’s it.”
Martly thought that was too easy.
“£120 each.”
“100.”
“Done.”
The youth reached into his pockets and pulled out his money. “Here’s a grand. You count it and I’ll get these loaded. I’ll come back for the others later on this week. Give me a ring and tell me when suits.”
Before he locked up and went home Martly got up into the crane and started to
move the jib across so he could put his scrap barrier between his treasure and Ik’s
prying eyes. As he was doing this he saw the little Clio career through the open yard gates and skid to a halt in the space behind the doors. He saw Kevin Bishop get out and pull the yard gates behind him.
Kevin didn’t seem to hear the old crane rumbling slowly down in the yard.
Martly had already switched off the floodlight so there were only the car headlights to see by. The crane cab wasn’t very high but it was high enough to see the little car. In the lights Martly saw Kevin dragging Phil out from the passenger side and giving him the odd kick. Phil seemed pretty lifeless to Martly.
Just then the personnel door in the gate opened and Sheila was pushed through
by the elbow, followed by Richard Bishop, “Is that you, bro, these fucking headlights are blinding me. Can’t you turn them off?”
“I’m over here with this little scumbag. We’ll have to find somewhere to work on
them for a while. Where did you park the Beemer?”
“A couple of streets away. I didn’t think we’d want to be too obvious. Can’t you
turn those fucking lights off? I’ve got a torch here and we can get Teach to show us where the light switch is in the office in a minute.”
Kevin went round to the driver’s side and switched off the lights. Phil had been
lying doggo. Although he had been bashed and kicked a bit by Kevin, he wasn’t badly hurt. All the way over he had listened to Kevin raving on and on about what he was going to do to the two of them just like he had done to Digby. He seemed to want to kill Phil for stitching him up over the fridges but to do worse to Sheila who he said must have told Phil all about it and had nicked stuff from Digby’s office. He really wasn’t making much sense but this did not seem to be about any deal they may be doing over the yard but about some extreme reaction to some act of Sheila’s disloyalty and an act of disrespect on Phil’s part. Phil had been lying curled up with his head in his hands and his eyes shut, too scared to move or look or anything. When he heard Richard tell Kevin to turn off the lights he knew he had one chance. He didn’t feel scared anymore.
The adrenaline was pumping. As Kevin walked past him to the car Phil’s right hand found a square-edged iron bar, about eighteen inches long. When the lights went out Kevin let out the most incredible screech as the corner of the bar hit him full force on the shinbone. Phil not only felt it splinter but he could smell blood at the same time.
He got up and lurched round to the left of a big pile of scrap and hunkered down
amongst a tangle of old metal pipes. He was like a fugitive in an all-metal jungle,
peering through the all-metal vegetation.
After a lot of shouting, screaming and swearing Richard, pulling Sheila by the
neck, came around the corner, followed by Kevin dragging his twisted right leg and sounding like a banshee.
“Come out, teacher,” hissed Richard, “if you don’t I’m going to break her pretty
neck.” He now had Sheila’s neck in an arm lock. Kevin was dragging himself around by sheer anger - any sane man would have been unconscious with the pain. But no, he kept coming and in his hand Phil could make out the silhouette of a hammer. Phil found himself thinking where does he get all these fucking hammers from. He was about to follow up on this chain of thought when he spotted something up and to his right. He could see Martly in the crane and it was ticking over. He never knew whether Martly saw him but what happened next was like a ballet.
With one hand he threw a lump of something and it landed with a clatter behind
the Bishops. Richard turned round and Phil leaped forward with another handy piece of iron and smashed it down on Richard’s wrist so that he had to release Sheila. Phil grabbed her arm and pulled her away and then, instead of hiding, backed up the path in the yard shouting to the Bishops. They followed - one limping and the other holding his wrist. Kevin was swearing and waving the hammer and was just describing how he was going to do to them both what he had done to Edmund and then to Buster.
Whether it was the mention of Buster or whether he was going to do it anyway
didn’t matter at that point. Martly flicked the big electrical switch that cut off the
magnet’s power. Suddenly, the Bishops were stopped in their tracks by a shower of rusty, light iron that must have hurt. Before they could get up Martly threw the lever and released the brake on the winch. The heavy magnet crashed unimpeded on the two of them, smashing them to pulp.
The whole incident had only taken five minutes from start to finish. When
Martly switched off the crane engine it was perfectly peaceful. They waited for the sirens - none came. Martly picked up Tiger and stroked him; he’d had him in the cab of the crane all the time. The three of them stood around in silence for an hour or more and then went up to the office for a cup of tea. They sat in the office for a few hours until it started to get light.
Martly went down and looked outside the yard gates - nothing. He secured the
gates so no-one could get in and set about clearing up. The Bishops were right in front of his motorbikes. He needed to get them shifted and the bikes out as Dean would be back that night or the next, Ik would be in soon and Divvy as well later, let alone any customers. Scrap was moved from far corners of the yard and it was all reconfigured.

 


CHAPTER 42


Phil looked out of his office window. He often thought about those incidents that
had brought him to where he was now. It was almost exactly five years ago to the week that the Bishops had died in his yard.
The yard had now gone and was a select canal-side development. They had
developed the property themselves – Phil, David, Sheila and Julie, and they had made a considerable sum of money doing it. Phil’s current office, which used to be Digby’s - they’d taken it over when the lease came up - was the nerve centre of Johnsons Developments. The name was a good one because all of them had been or were Johnsons.
However, it was Phil who was regarded by all as the boss. He made the decisions
and set up the deals in ways that the other three did not really understand. In fact, the only people who would have understood his work would have been the Bishops. The company was going from strength to strength with new land being acquired all the time.
Phil looked down the arm of his new dark suit to his elegant shirt cuff. He was
extremely smart. He had learnt that in the world in which he now operated, you had to look good. It was a front so that people would take you seriously. Once you had passed that test and so long as you had a reputation, you were taken very seriously indeed.
Phil’s reputation had been won by getting out from under the Bishops and then
ruthlessly going after the yard development. No-one knew what had happened to the Bishops except those who had been there. There was a lot of speculation at the time and the police had been round to talk with Phil but, to be honest, they did not seem much bothered – no-one did.
DS John Nodder, no less, had headed up the enquiry and at some point Phil
reckoned that he must be the JN on the payment file on the disk that Sheila had copied.
That meant that Nodder’s only real worry was the loss of a meal ticket and, no matter what his suspicions, he would do better if he didn’t lean too hard on the parties that had got rid of the Bishops.
But that was all plain speculation. No-one seemed that bothered and the yard
had just swallowed them up. It had been like that with Digby and Kipper. People who had to operate at the edge of society seemed much more vulnerable to disappearing and everyone else just breathed a sigh of relief.
It had been a bugger getting the yard clean for development. It was this that had
caused Phil to persuade the others to develop it themselves. At least then he could
control what went on. Mind you, the prospect of the profits had made that decision easy to make.
They had had to delay the development for two years so as they could get rid of
the bodies in a manageable way. During the first summer they had had a real smell
problem, but Phil had covered that up by taking a load of scrap that included an
uncleaned offal truck which, although empty, stank to high heaven. It took Mr Clean nearly eight months to get the courts to fine the yard and get the truck moved and cleaned down - just long enough to dispose of the body parts. At the end they had three yard-dogs, all of which grew fat and also kept out prying eyes.
Once the bodies were gone the rest had been plain sailing. Mr Macklin in
Planning was pleased to help out and Phil even found someone to handle the paperwork for the certified disposal of the surface soil which after years as a scrap yard was now very contaminated and very expensive to move or treat officially. All in all, he thought, a pretty good five years.
Sheila came in and came up behind him and put her arms around him. “You’re
putting on weight.”
“Yes, I suppose it’s all those lunches and dinners I have to go to.”
“I’ve told Martly to bring the car round. You need to go in a minute if you’re
going to meet Macklin and go over to the school before four.”
“Right, you get him round here. I need to make a phone call.”
When she had left the room he got a crumpled, stained notebook out of his pocket. On the cover were the initials RB. Phil looked up a number and rang it.
“Hello, can I speak to Big Bob, please. Tell him it’s the teacher. Hello Bob, got
a job for you. Can you pay a visit to flats eight and fifteen in Rowland Towers? Got some sitters who need to know it’s time to leave. Yeah, I’ll send Ik round to The Dog with your money.”
Martly knocked and came in, “Car’s ready, boss.” Phil could never get used to
seeing Martly in a suit but your driver had to be smart.
“Where to?” asked Martly.
“St Elphic’s School.”
“Isn’t that where you used to work?”
“Yes and now I’m going to buy up their playing fields.”