by Andrew Foote
"You mustn't touch it Ed, you do realise that, don't you?"
"Yes I know, but what the fuck do I do?
I get some coded shit message from my mother who, by the way, used to hit me, throw furniture and plates at me and obviously couldn't give a flying fuck about me, I end up with a very dodgy bank card that gives me access to a fucking fortune, and unless we collectively have totally misread the situation, what I'm sitting on is drug money, probably owed to some animal who would slit your throat sooner than look at you."
"A tad melodramatic but point taken."
" Melodramatic Callum?? This is the stuff of movies!"
"Yeah, okay. Try to calm down 'cos panicking never solved shit."
Pip and I had talked through into the wee small hours before collapsing onto my mother's bed at three in the morning.
We agreed that what had come out of that voicemail had to be reported, but how to get around the problem of opening up to the police and risk being taken into care was top of our agenda.
Before finally succumbing to sleep, I tucked Vincent's phone and charger into my back pack together with the debit card then the following morning at six o'clock, we were waiting none to patiently at Solihull station and the first train of the day that would get us back to Moor Street and the safely of our hideaway.
Once in the station concourse, we found an ATM and shoved the card in the slot.
The PIN worked and rather than looking at the on-screen balance, I chose Mini-Statement, removed the card never bothering to look at the balance, then made our way back to our alleyway hideout.
"I'm not panicking, I'm fucking scared!"
"Then let your adrenaline work positively for you Ed?
Who would you normally turn to in times of trouble…… sorry, that was a stupid question."
"No it isn't?
I used to turn to my Dad, but how I find him is the problem."
"Discount it. He fucked off and abandoned you so you don't even know if you can trust him."
"You're not a church-goer."
"No but they live by a certain standard, don't they?"
"So does Callum remember?"
"Yeah but that's different. I trust you blokes, you're my closest friends and hell, you probably even remember the PIN number, you could help yourself to the lot but…… I know you'd never do that."
"Nice…… and no, I wouldn't even dream about doing such a thing. I nick stuff as and when I need it. It's a bit like Tiny and Malc thieving from that school. They left the computers only taking what was needed to set up our classroom.
Steal to survive."
"There's always that anonymous crime reporting line?"
"Is there? Not caught up with that?"
"Yep, it's like, a Freephone number, 0800 or something.
You can dial it and report something suspicious without having to give out your personal details."
"Yes, but that still leaves me with a slight problem.
I've got evidence that I'd have to hand over, and how do you go about that anonymously?"
Callum squeezed my shoulder.
"First off, this is our problem, not just yours. Yes, okay, you are firmly sitting on the front line but you mustn't think you're on your own."
I smiled at him and returned the shoulder squeeze.
"Yeah, I know it. One other thing to take into account, is that I accessed that voicemail so now it'll only be saved for seven days so whatever decision I, sorry, we come to has to be done pretty bloody quickly."
"If we've not decided after tonight, then we've been dragging our feet.
Actually, I'm in favour of this 0800 lark. Can we take a vote?"
"Hi. My name is…… forget it…… sorry!
Are you a police officer?"
"No, I'm a call handler."
"I need to speak with a policeman."
"Tell me what it's all about and then, depending on the nature of your call, you might find yourself doing just that."
"Drugs…… well I think this is what it's all about?"
"Have you been offered drugs?"
"No but I've got evidence that it's going on."
"Unfortunately you can buy whatever takes your fancy just about anywhere.
What specifically are we talking about here?"
"This isn't about your average pusher, I'm talking supply on a fucking industrial scale."
"Hold the line please."
How long can it take??
I waited for what seemed like a lifetime, so long was it I even checked Callum's battery level but then finally, I got to speak to a real policeman!
"I'm Detective Inspector Tony Bushby, Birmingham City Police Drug Squad.
Who am I talking to please?"
Oh alright. My name is immaterial, Fred Immaterial if you must know.
Fucking-hell? I phone a number that promises anonymity and the first question you ask is my fucking name??
What's going on here?"
"Settle down son. We are fed calls from various sources, I honestly didn't realise. How can I help you?"
I ran him through as much detail as I could without disclosing names and addresses but shit, I almost blew it on a number of occasions!
"How much did you say was lodged on that account?"
"Wait a second and I'll tell you down to the last penny…… one million three hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds give or take."
"Give or take?"
"Sorry but I'm very frightened…… just my way of defusing things. The amount I mentioned is correct."
Our DCI whistled down the phone.
"We need to see that card so we can access that bank account, but what's even more important is to get a handle on that voicemail, in short, we need that phone."
"Yes, I realise that but how do I get it to you?"
"You could come to a Police Station or we could collect it from you."
"Neither option is an option."
"May I ask why?"
"I live rough, I'm a street kid and I can't risk arrest or the Social Services getting involved."
"Not a term I'd like to use but if it floats your boat……"
What if I promised you that there wouldn't be any arrests or involvement of any outside agencies, how might you feel about that?"
"I'd need guarantees."
"I don't know how we go about that.
What if I said that I would meet you at anytime and at a place of your choosing? How would you feel about that?"
"Call me back in thirty minutes. You've got the number?"
"Yes, I've logged it.
I'll get back to you."
"Oh Jesus Ed? You definitely know how to kick at a fucking rat's nest don't you?"
Callum was sitting squat-legged by the canal, head in his hands.
Pip rounded on him.
"For fuck's sake Callum? For a guy who professes to hold a candle for Ed, you sure as shit don't show it too well?"
I heard but I didn't listen.
I think I knew but……
"Yeah, well this is serious. One step out of place and……"
"And what! We have to get this junk to the police, even you know that, so shut the fuck up and let me think!"
I touched Callum on the arm.
"Hold a candle for me?"
He looked up at me and for the first time I saw behind the façade, a young and vulnerable Callum was looking into my eyes, but the moment was short lived as Pip re-joined us.
"Got a plan.
What kicks off beginning on Friday?"
"Em…… the German Christmas market. What of it?"
"Got it in one! This market could prove to be a God send. Nice and busy and loads of kids will be there come Saturday, but for my idea to work will mean that all of us will have to be in the loop, not just us three."
Callum perked up.
"My first thought was to arrange a meet some place out in the open, like a park where there weren't too many people floating about.
My thinking was that if the law decided to go back on their word and shit on us, we'd see them coming a mile off giving us time to do a runner. Yeah, that might've worked but then I got to thinking.
What if we used people to confuse the issue?
If we waited 'till Saturday, the city centre will be mobbed with mum's, dad's, shit loads of kids and tourists which gives us perfect cover.
What we do is get everyone to mingle with the crowds, the police wouldn't be able to tell the difference between one of us from any other kid, we stay close enough to give out a warning, so if we get raided, we just melt away into the crowd and the deal's off.
That's the first bit but I like the second bit best!
This guy Bushby would expect to be meeting Ed but actually, Ed will be meeting him!"
"What's the difference?"
"The difference, Callum, is this. Ed tells him where to go and what to wear, something that makes him stand out. That way we all recognise him, but he hasn't got a fucking clue what any of us look like and so once we're happy that he's not come mob-handed, Ed finds him, hands the stuff over before losing himself in the throng.
Am I a genius or am I a genius?!"
"That's so good it just might work!"
Callum got to his feet.
"Well, you've come up with a fair few scams in your time Pip, but even by your high standards, that's a fucking cracker!"
"Call it my Christmas Cracker!"
"Did he call you back as promised?"
"Yes, and I told him to be at the fountain in St Stephen's Square at two-thirty Saturday afternoon. He's going to call back in the next day or so to tell me what he'll be wearing.
Oh yeah, I also told him that he wasn't calling my phone and if you picked up the call, that was okay as you knew all about it."
"Was he alright about stuff?"
"Not really. I got the feeling he's used to dictating terms rather than the other way 'round!"
"Well fuck him. You've got something he wants, he might even get to solve a big crime and get promotion, so it makes sense for him to play ball just this once."
"Can I ask you for a favour Callum?"
"If we're going to involve the others we've got to get them onside, and I just thought it might be better coming from you, you know, give them the big brother talk."
"Yeah, okay. When do you want me to do it?"
"Sooner rather than later so how's about tonight before story-time? We can pretty much guarantee they'll all be there. No need to go into detail, just the basics."
Callum had set out our stall rather well I thought, but given the sort of life we followed, there were always going to be a few dissenters.
"I don't like the idea of shopping someone to the cops. Sort of goes against the grain somehow."
"Yeah, I hear you Mitch, and given most normal circumstances I'd be right there with you but this is far from being normal.
We're not talking about some petty criminal thing here, what we're looking at is something of epic proportions, not only that, this has put Ed in a very bad place so if it makes you feel better, try not to think on this as helping the police, think of it as helping Ed, okay?"
"Look, we've thought long and hard about this. It's taken a master scammer to come up with a plan that should keep all of us out of trouble so are we agreed?"
"By master scammer you have to be talking a Pip scam, right?"
"In that case, I'm in."
"Nice one Mitch!
Right. There is one last item on the agenda before I hand over to Ed for story-time and I have to insist on your undivided attention, so fucking-well pay attention.
The German market runs right the way up to the New Year, yeah? Plenty of time to do whatever it is you do, BUT …… this Saturday there must be no shenanigans, no fucking about and you must do nothing to bring unwanted attention from the cops. Put one foot out of line and I promise you, you'll live to regret it. Any of you get arrested then you won't be allowed back here, got it?"
A little voice from the back of the room.
"Would you really kick us out?"
"No…… I couldn't do that, but fuck-up on this and I'll have your guts for garters. Remember, we're doing this to help one of our own and we never, ever, shit on our own doorstep, do we!"
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