TEA FOR TWO  

 

The Fuzz and me have never exactly been bosom pals, but for the last four months, I’ve been keeping my nose extra clean. Doing alright with my own space, some cash in the bank from knowing one end of a greyhound from the other, until I spotted an unmarked Escort hanging around my bedsit in Ennis Street by Bethnal Green Tube. Then this Suit got out – all six feet of him - and stared up at my fourth floor window.

“I’ve not an earthly why we’re doing this,” I complained to him some five minutes later. “Waste of a good morning if you ask me.”

“Just need to sort a few things out,” he said, and not a lot since. So I reasoned with myself the sooner we got this over with, the sooner I could go to Walthamstow for the dogs, like I’d planned.

*

Now it’s just me and this too-tight Suit in ‘The Box’ at the local lockup, staring at a grainy black and white photo that’s obviously been enlarged.

“Take me back to the beginning when you were a kid,” he says. “And no short-cuts.”

“Why?”

“Patience, Mr Dwyer. I’m the one asking the questions, remember?”

I swallow bile that’s crept up my throat. I’m trying to keep calm.

“There I am, in the distance, walking away from them others.” I say, pointing at the skinniest kid with the whitest legs. “See? D’you need a magnifying glass?”

“No, Mr Dwyer. Just some answers. Why were you walking away?”

“Fed up of being called Fatso, Big Ears and the rest. I remember thinking I’d better things to do than hang around taking shit like that.”

“Just you?”

“Yes.”

“Think again.”

“I don’t get it,” I say. “You had a tip-off?”

“What about?”

This is a trick…

“Nothing.”

I was brought here hot and sweaty, but not any more. Quite the opposite. I’m looking for my gloves to warm up my fingers, but they’ve gone missing.

“How about the evening of September 10th 1950?” He goes on, and I can’t help sneaking a look at his shaved neck. His clean, shiny skin.

Like I’ve said, I’ve never trusted the Fuzz. Why should I, given my history? But this one, young enough to be my own son, seems kosher enough. Even the brew he’s brought in for me is drinkable. Although his smile is meant to crack my memory that’s hardened like cement, you try recalling stuff that happened that long ago. It’s no joke, ‘specially since there’s been so much water under the bridge - Tower Bridge, to be precise - more my home than the one I was supposed to go back to every night.

162, Rosehill Street, Rotherhithe, if you must know. With not a bloody rose or a hill in sight.

“It’s important you take me through exactly what happened.” The Suit. slips a new tape into his recorder. Clicks it on. The sound makes me jump, and he notices. “Are you comfortable? Or would you prefer a softer chair?”

I don’t answer. His tone of voice has changed, making my pulse slow up and a growing shadow fill my mind. “You’re suspecting me of summat, right?” I say. I can’t help myself. It just comes out.

“And what might that be?” He smiles again; this time big white teeth. All his own. Lucky not to have had ‘em out like I did as a kid, to save on dentists. Come to think of it, there’s something about his expression that rings a bell, but for the life of me, I can’t think why. He pushes the photo even closer towards me until it rests in a beam of sunlight from the one barred window. I need to be careful.

Then I remember that same sun beginning to drop in the late afternoon sky, making our shadows longer than we were, and that rusty old barge - the May Queen - moored just off the stony beach, glow like the lippy my step-mum wore before her nights out.

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