CH TWO 41
Shepherd Neame best bitter is not as potent as Export Lager but Scotty has rationed his intake so as to keep a clear head. The floor show has been a passable distraction and he has had some interesting conversation with some of his cronies but he is relieved when the evening has wound down and he can decently take his leave.
He parks in the big lay-by off the Sheppey Way and changes into his black trousers, jumper and knitted hat then drives on to the meeting point near Faversham where College is waiting in his Ford D1000 which is hitched to a 28ft low loader trailer. He locks his car and climbs in next to College. ‘Haven’t you got a balaclava?’ Asks the other man, ‘good job I brought a spare,’ and he hands over a rather smelly item which has seen better days.
They drive off towards the place where work has recently started on a new motorway section and College explains that the best time for this kind of work is between two and three on a Sunday morning. ‘The men mostly live in caravans on site and get paid on a Friday. By Saturday night they have spent most of their dosh and spend the evening playing cards in their caravans and drinking. By one in the morning they are so sozzled they go to bed and fall into a deep sleep so they’re least likely to hear anything.’ Scotty glances sideways at his companion, ‘you’ve got it all worked out, haven’t you?’ College says he’s been doing this for long enough to know all the angles and Scotty can only put his trust in the man’s expertise.
‘I hear that your mate Frank is due for release soon,’ says College, ‘we did some business together when he was working for the Corporation. The things that people chuck out never ceases to amaze me. Frank and I worked on the same round and anything that looked useful we’d put in the cab and take home. Chelsea is full of people who throw things away if they have no further use for them, even if they’re worth good money. If it isn’t worth Sotheby’s or Christie’s selling at auction they just put it out for the bin men. The big auction houses won’t take anything if it’s worth less than a hundred. Greedy bastards won’t waste their time selling anything they can’t make a packet on.’ Scotty says that Frank never mentioned being on the bins even though he’s known him for three years. ‘Well I don’t suppose he knows everything about you either,’ says College.
‘So how come you got involved in HP snatchbacks?’ Asks Scotty, who is still not convinced that what they are doing is legal. ‘Friend of a friend if you know what I mean,’ replies the other man, ‘it can be a bit dangerous with these itinerant workers. They take out an HP contract on brand new equipment then disappear. It can take months to track down an expensive piece of gear because they move about so much from one job to another. The contractors don’t care if they are legit or not, as long as they get the work done and show a good profit the sub-contractors can do what they like. The HP companies have men going round posing as labourers checking the serial numbers on the machinery. Most of the men are wise to it and grind out the identifications but the manufacturers have caught up and started putting other marks in places nobody would think to look. Once we get word we fix a fee and off we go, but we don’t want these blokes being able to identify us because they can cut up rough if they catch us re-possessing ‘their’ machinery.’
Scotty feels uneasy at the thought of a confrontation with irate navvies; they are powerful men and a weed like him would stand no chance in a fight. College senses his fear and assures him they will be alright as long as they stick to the tried and tested plans.
The road building has been going on for several weeks and the targets have been identified by the ‘spotters’. The site is in total darkness as College switches off the lorry lights and cuts the engine to coast alongside a big JCB. He hands over a set of keys and tells Scotty to drive the machine a few hundred yards up the road, where he guides him onto the low loader. Next they take a small dumper truck and drive that onto the trailer before getting back into the cab and making their escape. ‘Blimey, that was easier than I thought it would be,’ says Scotty as they turn the lorry round and head back towards Faversham. ‘What did I tell you? I said we’d have no trouble, and you’re two hundred quid up for an hour’s graft.’
College hands over the cash as Scotty takes his leave, happy to be in his own car. He has promised to do it again when needed and he waits for the time it takes to smoke a cigarette before setting off. His nerves calmer, he counts out the ten pound notes and an idea he’s been mulling over comes back into his head. Ken was talking recently about buying his own house; saying it’s the best investment he ever made and that those who pay rent are mugs because it’s just as much as paying off a mortgage and the place is never your own. What would be a better investment, a house or a colour television? The only problem will be in selling the idea to Dawn.