New Directions (11)
By Ed Crane
After Dev got over his initial shock things calmed down and we were able to have a sensible discussion. I handed over Celia’s cheque. Irina took all the paper and printed copies for me. While she was doing that I told Dev, ‘I don’t think the cheques Celia gave this David bloke will have been cashed. There’s no way as far as I can see.’
Dev thought about it for a moment the muttered, ‘Joder.’ Irina shot a disapproving glance at Dev. ‘She doesn’t like me using swear words in her language,’ He giggled like a naughty kid and was serious again. ‘If there is someone in Daniel’s office or an accomplice it would be easy.’
‘Petty cash. All tenant payments are from coded direct debit accounts. You would know that. After we take our fee the remainder automatically goes to our landlords’ accounts. We only take cheques for small transactions, often they are used to top up petty cash. It would be easy to slip one in from time to time. We even cash cheques for it ourselves when it’s low.’
‘OK, job number one look for payments. Number two’s trying to match that signature. You need to go to Daniels. Is there anybody there who you can trust?’ Dev nodded. I’ll meet you there about four or five.’
I left West Wycombe with a headache. Unnecessary angst always does that to me which is one reason why I kept thoughts of Celia getting robbed to myself. I had to find someone.
Two hours later after a dash up the M40 to go home to change and pick up a couple of things, I left the car in a parking space at a giant Tesco’s in Reading. I didn’t have a lot of time. To keep the security cameras happy, I visited the toilet then bought a Sun and a pack of Marlboro at the quick sales counter and headed out.
There are about fourteen launderettes dotted around the Reading area. The guy I wanted owned four of them. Sunnie Daze laundry service is squeezed into a white painted row of Victorian shops in a crummy street half a mile from Tesco. I looked for a machine in a washing cycle, sat opposite and buried my face in the crap printed in the paper. The place was empty, the punters off for a coffee or beer. It hadn’t changed much in the few years since I’d been there, bit cleaner maybe. Sooner or later he’d be in on his rounds.
I was in luck. After about ten minutes the man I wanted breezed in without noticing me and headed for a door marked “private.” As soon as I heard the key turn in the lock I was up and an inch behind him. My momentum pushed both of us into the cramped office space. I snatched the handle from his hand and closed the door and leaned against it.
‘Afternoon Barry. How you doing? Business good?’ I held out my hand. After a wince he dropped his keys into my palm. I locked the door.
Barry “the grape” Stokes, a professional snitch, made a good living selling information to both the law and criminal operations. Owning launderettes across the area was a good source of info since his business was laundering more than dirty knickers. Unless things had changed there wasn’t much happening between Slough and Swindon he didn’t know about.
‘Je—‘Barry stopped. He’d lost the power of speech due to my hand on a pressure point in his armpit.’ His knees gave way.
‘That person doesn’t exist anymore. Mention that name to anybody and neither will you.’ I released him and he fell on his backside. For a wiry fifty-year old he had quite a struggle getting to his feet. ‘Take a seat, Mate.’ He sat behind his desk, I leaned over him and ripped out the drawers. Papers and pens flew out but there was nothing lethal in them. I sat on the desk next to a large Apple PC. ‘Nice, ‘Hacking now are yer?’
He broke into a smile, ‘Well you have to keep up with the times don’t cher? He reached out a shaking hand to wiggle the drawers back in place. ‘Long time no see.’
‘Tell me what I want to know and it’ll be the last time you see me.’
‘What you into then, Mr. James.’
‘Minding my own business, Barry. I want to know if you’ve heard about any blags on the horizon.’
Feigning ignorance he shrugged his shoulders. I put my hand on the left one, ‘Still sore is it?’
‘Yeah alright, one in Reading.’
‘Not interested in Reading. What about out in the sticks.’
He thought for a minute. ‘Could be in Hungerford, couple of antique outfits might get hit. They’re getting popular again.’
He looked sideways up at me, ‘I heard about a big one somewhere near Newbury. House full of stuff in a Village somewhere. Some new lot, no one seems to know nothing about ‘em. From what I’ve heard there’s big money backing it.’
I took a chance. ‘I want you get word out the mark is protected.’
‘What by you?’
‘A lot bigger than me, mate. It would be in their interests to steer clear.’
‘What you with the law now? ‘He sneered.
Ignoring the insult I grabbed a handful of hair and jerked his head back further than its meant to go. ‘You gonna get word out?’ I let go.
‘Fuck! You didn’t have to do that. Trying to massage the pain away he mumbled, 'Yes I’ll try,’ I reached for his hair. ’OK, OK I’ll do my best I promise.’
‘Alright do it. I’ll know if they aren’t warned. . . remember I know where you live.’
‘What do I say about who’s protecting the mark.’
‘You know nothing. If they push it tell 'em, L’accord reprisal.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean,’
‘It means don’t ignore the fucking message.’ I got up, unlocked the door, dropped the keys in the desk and said, ‘I was never here. Don’t forget that.’
‘And what do I get out of doing this for yer?’
I opened the door and gestured to the rows of machines, ‘This, Barry mate. All this. Just make sure you look after you equipment. One of those dryers could overheat and burn the fucking place down. Now, give me the security tape.’
He put his hand inside a box on a shelf behind him and pulled out a VHS cartridge. He passed it over. 'About time you went digital, Barry mate. They're easier to fiddle.
Back in Tesco’s car park I threw the tape in the boot and the Marboro in a waste bin. On the way home I called Dev saying something had come up with a tenant and I’d meet him at Daniels tomorrow. All I wanted to do was go home and shower the stink of the past off my body.