CH TWO 32
The strikes seem to be fizzling out, much to Scotty’s relief as Ken had suggested he give Harry Tobin a few days while Beanpole’s injuries heal. Bob Walker has done nothing but complain about running the gauntlet and fears there will be a backlash at some point even though he has been doing his best to disguise his appearance. The two of them meet at the services on the M2 and Walker barely lets the other man get a word in edgeways.
‘What happened to Harry’s second-hand farm equipment business then?’ asks Scotty, trying to change the subject, ‘Jason tells me he hasn’t had any for a few weeks.’ Bob has never had much to do with that side of the business but suggests that the second-hand heavy plant is taking over. ‘He was breaking up a JCB when I left him this morning and it didn’t look very second-hand, if you know what I mean.’ Scotty does know what he means and wonders where Tobin is getting all this merchandise from. ‘That College bloke seems to bring most of it,’ says Bob ‘brings it down on a low loader. Everyone reckons it must be kosher because he drives it around in broad daylight and he surely wouldn’t want anyone seeing it if he’d come by it by any other means.’
Scotty has met ‘College’ on two previous occasions, the first one at Tobin’s yard when he was delivering a portable compressor unit and a dumper truck and on the second when he was loading up his own lorry at Newhaven docks. It seems he got the nickname because he had spent two years at Oxford University studying Law before dropping out and embarking on a Hippy lifestyle with a gang of friends. One by one the gang members had grown up and returned to conventional living but College had resisted all efforts to rehabilitate him and was now living in a rented flat in Shawfield Street Chelsea which had been occupied for 40 years previously by his aunt. When she passed away he took over the lease, which he kept in her name in order to take advantage of the ridiculously low rent she had been paying.
College had bought a Ford D1000 and had been driving it himself, ferrying mostly fruit and vegetables to wholesale markets. When he purchased the lorry it still had five months tax in the window but that had run out long ago and he was currently using a beer mat which looks nothing like the real thing. He reckons that he will get away with it for as long as he can but if he ever gets caught he will just dump the lorry and buy another. He never registers any of his motors so he is reasonably sure that he will not be collared. He thinks he has an answer for any eventuality and so far he has been proved right.
‘Speak of the Devil,’ exclaims Bob, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, ‘hey College, over here; we were just talking about you.’ The other man looks surprised but he buys his tea and bun and joins the two other drivers at their table. ‘Nothing good I hope,’ he grins, stuffing half the bun into his mouth. ‘Just talking in general,’ says Scotty, casually, ‘how’s life treating you?’ College clears his mouth and takes a swig of tea. ‘Can’t complain,’ he says, taking a smaller bite from the bun and chewing, ‘I hear congratulations are in order.’ He points to Scotty, who is less than happy to be reminded of the chaos back home. ‘Thanks, she’s bringing them home tomorrow; I have to pick them up at 10am so I’ve told Ken not to give me a long haul load for tonight. She’ll kill me if I’m not there on the dot.’
‘Rather you than me,’ says College, shaking his head, ‘I’m glad my two are old enough to take care of themselves: I’m no good at that domestic palaver.’ His daughters are eight and ten years old, which in his view is old enough and it has to be because he is only at home one or two days a week and they have to fend for themselves since their mother walked out two years previously. He phones them every morning and evening and gives them plenty of money to buy anything they need. ‘Rachel is turning into a really good cook,’ he says proudly, ‘she’s taught herself and even does a mean Sunday roast for the three of us every week. She reckons she’ll have her own restaurant one day and I wouldn’t put it past her. She’s determined is that one, not like Rebecca who has to be shown ten times how to do the simplest things then still gets it wrong. Wouldn’t change her for the world though, of course, and I’m sure you feel the same about your brood.’ Scotty has to agree but he is not at all sure that a girl is old enough to run a household at the age of ten.
Bob says he has to be on his way but College wants to have a word with Scotty so he holds back. ‘I’ll see you later,’ says Scotty as the other man walks away. ‘Harry tells me you might be up for earning a bit extra here and there,’ College confides, ‘I have a few things I want shifting Saturday night if you fancy earning yourself a hundred cash.’ Scotty eyes him suspiciously and asks him for more details, ‘Saturday’s my only night off remember and there may be questions asked if I don’t go to the Bay like I normally do.’ College buys two mugs of tea and they move to a table away from the counter where they are less likely to be overheard.
‘It won’t interrupt your social life,’ says College, ‘We don’t go out ‘til two in the morning then all we have to do is load the plant and drive it away, easy money but it needs two of us. Are you interested?’ Scotty still wants to know more but a hundred pounds would certainly come in handy and if it’s as easy as it sounds he could be back home in bed before anybody notices. ‘You do actually own this plant, do you?’ He asks, already suspecting that the answer is no but wanting to be assured of the lie in case they get a pull. ‘All perfectly above board,’ says College, ‘It’s just easier to shift in the dead of night when there’s no traffic about.’ Yeah, thinks Scotty, and nobody to see the machinery go. ‘Make it two hundred and I’m in,’ he says and shakes the other man’s outstretched hand. College was prepared to go to thee if pushed and he knows that Scotty can keep his mouth shut. ‘I’ll meet you in the lay-by on the Sheppey Way at 2am sharp Sunday morning,’ says College. They finish their tea and go on their way.
Scotty whistles to himself as he drives towards the docks, mentally spending the money several times over. He would dearly love to take the boys to the cup final but that would eat up most of the cash. He could maybe get a new colour television but two hundred wouldn’t be enough. He could get one from Radio Rentals though; pay a few months in advance perhaps. That would please the lads; no having to beg their friends and hand over their pocket money to watch at their house. Dawn would love that too so she can watch Coronation Street in colour and show off to the neighbours. Yes, before the money is even in his hand Scotty has spent most of it.