Friday, 8 July 2016

The Beggar Man

"Chance is an incredible thing." Said Brian Cox in that annoying voice of his, like you're standing on one side of an event horizon watching a voice enthused with passion slowly turning to monotony as it struggles to reach beyond the pull of the Black Hole. "The human concept of luck is immensely fascinating. I'd go so far as to say it's amaz-"
Bill sighed and clicked the television off. It had seemed like a good idea to put some interesting documentary on iPlayer whilst he ate his hurried breakfast, milk dripping from his spoon and onto his thin white vest, but he couldn't be doing with Brian Cox at this time of the morning. He took the last spoonful then climbed up, clambering over the side table and to the bathroom door. He had one last razor in a small, yellow plastic bag atop the white unit where he kept his shaving equipment. He wrestled it out of the bag, flipped off the plastic cover, and then rested it on the side whilst he prepared some lather. He'd only shaved the previous morning but already a light freckling of stubble had begun to creep out of his face. It disappeared beneath a healthy helping of white foam and then went missing complete as he slit it away, dragging the razor down his flesh. About three minutes later, he was clean shaven. He smiled in the mirror and made sure that his teeth looked plentifully orange. He wound up the blind and stared out. The opaque glass pane was absent of rain droplets, thus he wasn't allowed to wash his hair. Those were the rules.
Sighing, he walked out of the bathroom and pulled on the same clothes he'd been wearing all week. A pair of tatty black trousers, a grey t-shirt, a pale blue hoodie, a checkered red and black fleece collaged with bird poo and dust from the road side. He pulled on a red beanie, grabbed his bag of rubbish and set off towards the door, unlocking it and walking down a paint flecked fire escape onto the street outside. 
It took Bill ten minutes to reach the Cop Shop on Sandringham Road. He entered via the back, spending another ten minutes negotiating various corridors until he reached the makeup room. Kelly was sitting on the sofa, struggling to keep herself awake. "The twins acting up?" Bill asked.
"I just can't get them off. Ben said he'd stay up with them, the love that he is. I can't wait for this operation to be over though; getting back to him will be glorious."
"And I imagine the caretakers will be glad to get their office back." Bill smiled, looking at the mops crudely hidden by the black gown he wore whilst she was making him up. 
"Well, there is that." Kelly said. "What do you want then, sir? The usual?"
"Sounds good to me." He smiled.
It took two hours to do everything, exaggerating the bags beneath his eyes and reddening up the nose. She shook her head when she saw a nick on the underside of his chin. "You don't need to shave, y'know."
"I do." Bill said. "I really do."
Once she was done, she said what she did at five thirty every morning. "Ta dah! What do you think?"
Bill grinned. He'd been doing this job eight months but he still insisted on the fake beard. The feeling of the itchy glue setting against his recently shaved flesh was reassuring. It was his last link to normality, to his time as a bobby on a beat. Now he was just a man, on a street, waiting for something to happen.
"See you tonight." He smiled. 

The wonderful thing about the Morricone drug scene was that they did their business in the daylight. The story went that old Sergio himself detested the dark, that he saw the night as the cover of villains and crooks. Sergio saw himself as an honest business man, of course he did, and thus he could only deal during the day. For Bill, that wasn't too bad. It meant he could sleep at home rather than on the street. It did, however, mean he had to be up earlier in the summer when the day began a lot earlier.
He was plonked in his spot, watching the cafe, as it opened up. The spot was nicely secluded, a jutting grey triangle above protecting him from the majority of bird poo and rain, but provided a perfect view as a young man with a leather jacket and a bald head pulled up a metal shutter.
Cath's Tearoom was the definition of greasy spoon, with grimed up windows and low quality plastic tables. Its clientele was composed purely of builders, from the Morricone run construction site to its side, and a plethora of low lives and scumbags who were looking for work that didn't comply to the rules.
Bill’s job was simple. He sat outside the cafe, watching. If he saw any blatant law breaking, he used a radio hidden in his front pocket to signal the Cop Shop. Response time, he estimated, was three minutes. The rest of the time, he just watched and made mental notes. He memorised the faces of regular visitors so that he could then draw up some rough sketches to be handed out to regular bobbies. They could then watch out for those regular visitors on their rounds. 
Today was a relatively routine day. A man Bill recognised  from previous mornings had turned up, paid for a cup of tea with several bundles of greasy twenty pound notes and then had left with a huge duffel bag instead of the polystyrene cup. Bill logged the man’s face and decided that when he got back, he’d ensure he urged the Inspector to put out a warrant. The contents of the bag, probably drugs of some form, would no doubt go on to endanger many lives. Sure, the man may have never picked up a gun or knife- although he probably had- but he was as much a murderer as those who had.
The day stretched on. More men and builders came into the cafe, some staying for a drink, others departing almost regularly. One of them made eye contact with Bill as he stood outside the cafe, smoking, but it only lasted a few seconds. He’s probably just wondering why I don’t go work for Morricone like everyone else in the Homeless shelter.
Around lunch time, when a bigger flock of builders came to the Tearoom for chip barms and gravy, Bill’s stomach began to rumble. He’d gotten everything under control, even the itching of his fake beard, but not the hunger. That seemed uncontrollable. Jealousy and further hunger crept in from every angle; be it the laughing men in the tearoom or even the seagulls pecking at crumples of rubbish discarded on the pavement around him. He looked at the seagull and wondered if it would seem odd if he were to strike out and eat it. Yes, maybe a little bit. 
“Shoo.” He commanded, throwing out one of his hands and sending it flapping away.
Time stretched on. One of the builders brought him a cup of tea, smiling kindly as he did. Bill sniffed it suspiciously and then took a sip. If there were any drugs in it, they were yet to take control. Whilst it lasted, the steaming pool of brown liquid was an oasis he was delighted to submerge himself in.
A few hours later, once the liquid had settled at the bottom of his stomach, as freezing cold as the rain striking through the air and hitting him, his eyes migrated towards the clock tower. He could only just see it on the other side of the dirtied canvas of the construction site’s facade. Every minute or so, time didn’t ever seem to run properly when you wanted it to, the large metal hand would crank on. Two more minutes, he thought as the sky began to darken and the rainclouds from the East continued to spit on him. Just two more minutes.
One of the cafe staff walked out, pulling down the metal shutters and closing the Tearoom up. Bill clambered to his feet, collecting up his rubbish. He wondered if the rain would die off anytime soon or not. As he began walking up the street, ready to go home, a large lorry pulled around the corner and begun down the road. It was far too narrow for a Heavy Goods Vehicle to converse down, surely?
The man from Cath’s Tearoom threw out his hands in alarm, shouting something in a language that Bill couldn’t speak. The lorry driver pulled up to him and lowered the window, replying in the same language. They argued for a moment and then the man from the Tearoom called over some builders. They nodded and listened and then ran over to the facade of the construction site, pulling back the white tarp and creating a hole big enough for the lorry to drive through. It did just that, disappearing into the site on the other side. Bill’s eyes glimpsed towards the clock tower. One minute after his home time. Kelly would be getting to the Cop Shop about now, sitting down to read her magazine whilst she waited for him. He didn’t want to keep her longer than she needed, keep her away from those wonderful twins of hers, but he didn’t have a choice. This was the type of thing that would get him off the streets and into a safe, warm office. He just needed to work out a way to not be spotted.
Leaving his bag by his spot, he hurried across the road and snook towards the tarpaulin covering the facade of the Construction Site. There was a narrow alleyway that ran alongside the site, between it and Cath’s Tearoom, so he ran down there and continued until he got to a point where the site’s facade didn’t reach. Crouching down, he stared through the gap. There didn’t seem to be much building going on; instead most of the workers seemed to be cutting open huge oil drums. Except, the drums didn’t have oil in them. Bloody hell! That’s how they do it. 
The drums were full of tightly wrapped packages, stuffed with illegal powder. Bill wondered how much the contents of the construction site- the true facade here- was worth. More than my life, that’s for sure.
The lorry had pulled to a stop and the man from Cath’s Tearoom was furiously arguing with the driver whilst a couple of builders pulled the back of the lorry open. It swung out to reveal several barrels. 
“Uh, boss?” One of the builders said. “I think we’ve got a problem.”
“There is no problem.” The driver said. “I deliver eighty barrels, like you say.”
“There ain’t eighty barrels in here, boss.” The builder said. “There’s like five.”
“No, you must miscount.” The driver said. He and the man from the Tearoom, the apparent boss, hurried around to the back of the bus and stared in.  The driver swore in the foreign language of his.
Bill moved for a better view but accidentally knocked a piece of metal off the frame that held up the facade. It clanged as loud as a gunshot, so he momentarily ducked the view of bemused builders. Once he was sure they’d turned back, he popped his head back up and watched.
“Look what we have here!” The man from the Tearoom said. He stepped up into the back of the lorry and jumped back out a couple of seconds later, dragging with him a couple of girls. They looked tired and disorientated but, most importantly, terrified. “Who would have thought it? A couple of stowaways! I bet these little runts pushed the rest of the barrels over board. You think that’s funny, ladies? Think that’s a clever thing to do?”
“Hey, mister, see, it was not me who made mistake. It was these ladies.” The driver said.
The man from the Tearoom drew a gun and shot the driver through the head. “You should have checked.” He turned back to the builders “I reckon Mr Morricone is going to want to deal with these girls himself but what say we warm them up for him, huh?”
Bill sighed. He had training for an eventuality like this but, like anything official and proper, it wasn’t going to come in handy. Jumping through the gap in the facade, he ran into the clearing, kicking over a barrel of drugs to grab everyone’s attention. “Stop!” He screamed. “Ladies! Run!”
“Who the hell are you?” The man from Cath’s Tearoom demanded.
“It’s the Beggar Man!” A builder shouted. “I bought a cup of tea for him.”
“He’s been spying on us.” The boss said. “Have you been bloody spying on us?”
Bill’s hand went to his pocket, ready to press his radio to call the police but the man from Cath’s raised the gun and shot him straight through the shoulder. Bill fell backwards, blood pooling out of his shoulder. His head bounced once against the floor.
“We’ll send him to Morricone too.” Someone said, and then Bill closed his eyes and went to sleep.

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