Monday, 9 November 2015
For audio click here
A rat the size of a small dog was looking straight at me from no more than 3 feet away. I shivered in my doorway; the wind was finding its way through my trench coat and was seeping into my skin. Thank god the rain had stopped, but there were still large puddles dotted around the pavements. The rat took one last look, decided I was no threat, and scampered away. I hugged my knees closer to my chest and pulled the brim of my hat down over my eyes. A stray firework brought brief pinks and golds to the grey skies above before fizzling out. I closed my eyes, I could feel my toenails in my shoes. That was a sure-fire sign that I was beyond tired, but sleep would not be an option. All I could do was rest up here for a bit, and then when I knew the coast was clear continue the journey.
I’d spent the afternoon in the Bethnal Green Washhouse, a ghastly place with the poorest of the poor doing their laundry and washing their bits, but it was warm and safe; no one paid anyone any heed in there. So I was washed and scrubbed but I’d decided not to shave, the beard added 10 years, maybe it would fool the public even if it wouldn’t fool the police. But I was regretting it now; the hair was beginning to itch around the nape of my neck. I tried not to scratch, but the urge all too often beat my willpower. When I’d left the bathhouse I’d gone past my flat to see the place swarming with police. No way I could go back there in a hurry. It was time for plan B.
“And what are you doing out here sir?”
I looked up to see a truncheon dangling in front of my eyes and a copper towering over me. I knew there would be an all points warning out for me, I guessed the copper was trying to work out where he’d seen me?
“Nowhere else to go,” I said, trying to sound as working class as I could.
“Couldn’t get in the Sally?” he asked, his voice was kind, not what I’d been expecting.
“Salvation Army, just around the corner, they’ve got beds for you lot.” I nearly said I am not one of that lot but stopped myself just in time. “C’mon, I’ll take you,” he said leaning down and pulling me up by my arm. I resisted.
“I’m okay,” I said.
“You can’t stay there sir, I have to move you on.” He yanked my arm and pulled me up. There was a heavy clunk as metal met concrete. We both looked down to see the gun lying there beneath us. We stared at each other for long, slow seconds.
“What have we here sir?” despite the sudden shift in circumstances, the copper was still as courteous as you like.
I pushed him hard in the chest, he toppled, taken by surprise. I grabbed the gun, grabbed my bag and ran, behind me I heard the police radio crackle to life and the policeman talking, but I was flying now. I could hear sirens; they were calling my name, like a cat owner calling for her precious kitty.
In front of me was an archway, an entrance to an old tenement building, I tried the gate, it was locked. Could I get over it? I hauled myself up, that was the easy part, now I had to scramble over and jump down. Sirens were getting louder. I had no choice. I closed my eyes and jumped.
I ran across the courtyard and slipped down behind a car as torchlight swept the place. But they didn’t see what they were looking for and moved on. Hopefully, I would be safe here until morning. I’d found being a fugitive is easier in the daylight, you can get lost in the crowd. My breathing was returning to normal, my heart rate beginning to slow when I heard a noise, I jumped. I looked up to see a rat the size of a small dog looking straight at me from no more than 3 feet away.