Friday, 10 October 2014

The Waif - Chapter Two

The Waif | Fiction: Crime Detective Mystery
by Julius Falconer

‘It’s the truth, I tell you,’ Sweetman insisted. ‘I wouldn’t tell lies to you two, now, would I?’ Beads of sweat glistened on his low forehead. He puffed away nervously, wondering, I suppose, whether I was going to press him for the true explanation. He had not long to wait.
‘Eric’s widow,’ I said, ‘told us you and he had planned some sort of raid on the industrial estate outside Sherburn.’
‘Well, maybe she did.’
‘So she was wrong?’
‘Well, maybe not altogether wrong.’
‘Come on, sunshine, for crying out loud, how can we hope to catch Eric’s murderer when you won’t tell us what happened last night?’ Nobs took a last drag at his cigarette before throwing the remains into the hearth. He sat for a moment stony-faced. Then he told us a rambling story, in which - Nobs happily confessed - all the names but his and Eric’s were false, to protect himself and his wife from repercussions. The gist of what he said is as follows.
Grange and Sweetman had been at school together, a pair of wastrels who had slid into a life of petty crime because it seemed to be less effort than training for a job and riding the employment market. It became known that they were available for little jobs when the principal did not wish, for whatever reason, to be personally involved. So they went around nicking stuff, persuading people to part with cash owed for drugs, assessing likely premises and reporting back, keeping a look-out, identifying the location of high-performance cars. Frequently also they acted on their own, either singly or in concert. It was not much of a life, but it was all they knew, and they and their wives had become accustomed to it. Well, in the course of their careers, they fell in with a bold individual they knew only as Lomax, who managed an expensive life-style on the backs of lesser mortals who were prepared to do a bit of the less attractive dirty work. Lomax had graduated beyond the need to take unnecessary risks. One day Lomax, in the person of his ‘agent’, one Dacton, contacted them with a proposition. They were to make sure that certain premises on the Sherburn Industrial Estate were open for entry at two o’clock in the morning on such a day. That was all they had to do; they could then disappear while the real job - the burglary itself - was done by professionals.