I watched the two punks push through the Woolworths entrance door laughing to themselves, no doubt about something illegal they had just done or were planning to do. I glared at them, asserting my authority as custodian of the law in this shop, but they didn’t seem to be taking any notice of what was happening around them. If they had they wouldn’t have let the door swing shut and smack an old lady in the face as she was entering behind them. Or maybe they would. No fucking manners, these punk bastards.
I’d been watching them loitering around outside for about twenty minutes, mentally daring them to enter my lair. I can’t do anything about them being outside, you see, on account of it being a public highway. But once they come in here, things are different. This is my domain, and what I say goes. It’s my job to protect Woolworths property from thieving scum like that, and I’m very good at my job.
I hate punks, me. Hate them with a passion. They’re just a bunch of idle bastards sponging off the state while I pay my taxes to keep them in a life of luxury. Willie Whitelaw is right, a short sharp shock is what they need. If I had my way they would all be shipped off to theFalklandsto fight the Argies, not lying around in bed all day. I would have been there myself in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the shrapnel in my leg, a souvenir from my last tour inBelfast. Put these punk bastards in the army and they wouldn’t know what hit them. Hell, just get them out of bed in the morning and they’d probably faint from the exertion.
I watched the old lady struggle with the door, rubbing her cheek with one hand where it had hit her in the face, while she pulled a shopping trolley laden with groceries behind her. It was quite comical to watch, and I couldn’t help smiling. But then I saw Barbara on the till watching me intently and frowning. She’s a good ten years younger than me, so there’s not much of a chance of getting into her knickers, but it never hurts to keep your options open. There’s always the next staff Christmas party.
My eyes darted between Barbara, the two punks, and the old woman. The punks didn’t seem to have stolen anything yet, so they could wait a bit longer. I sighed, and walked over to the door, and held it open for the old woman. I glanced over at Barbara, and she was smiling at me. Result.
The old woman didn’t seem to be in any hurry to walk through the door, though. In fact she just stood there and looked at me.
“Thank you dear,” she said, and, get this, she stood her shopping trolley up and transferred it to her other hand before she walked through. And talk about walking slow. You would think she was the one with shrapnel in her leg the way she hobbled around.
I grunted at her when she eventually got around to entering the shop fully, and let the door swing closed behind her. I watched her saunter towards the pick and mix sweets, put down her shopping trolley, and lift up the lid to the tub of fruit gums. I watched long enough to make sure she didn’t pop any sweets into her mouth instead of paying for them, then turned my attention back to the two punks. They were making their way through the shop in the direction of the escalator, as if they had a god given right to be there.
Following them, I reached for the radio in my inside jacket pocket and pressed the transmit button.
“Sam, you there?”
Sam is my subordinate. He’s always slacking off somewhere, he doesn’t seem to take the job seriously at all. So it didn’t come as any surprise when he didn’t reply for several seconds.
“What’s up, John?”
“Two punks, heading up the escalator to the first floor. I’ll keep an eye on them and let you know if I need backup.”
“Roger, John. I’ll be on standby.”
Yeah, right. Like he’s ever on anything but standing by while I do all the work.
I put the radio back in my pocket, and with a final glance at the old woman to check she was putting the sweets in the correct paper bag, I made my way to the foot of the escalator. They were already half way up it when I arrived, and one of them turned in my direction so I darted to one side, where the pots and pans are displayed. I didn’t think I had been seen, but it had certainly been a close call. Luckily my army training had made me quick witted, so I was able to blend into the background in time.
I picked up a chrome-plated kettle and used it as a mirror to check the coast was clear. Holding it at arm’s length and tilting it around, I was able to gain a good view of the entire escalator from top to bottom. They were snickering to themselves about something, but they didn’t look around again.
When the punks stepped off the escalator on the first floor, I put the kettle carefully back in its proper place on the shelf, and twisted it around so that it matched the exact same profile as all the other kettles around it. Then I took out my hanky and wiped away the greasy fingerprints I had left on it, before I stepped onto the escalator to follow the punks.
Stooping down slightly as I reached the top of the escalator so that I wouldn’t be seen, I stepped off and looked around the upper floor. The punks were loitering around one of the toy aisles, so I made my way casually towards them, deliberately looking up and down the other aisles so that they wouldn’t suspect they were under surveillance. They were obviously up to no good because when they did see me they darted out of sight down one of the parallel rows of aisles.
Quickening my step, and cursing that Irish bastard and his bomb, I limped towards the end of the aisle in which I had seen the punks last. I paused before entering the aisle, and listened for any sounds that might give away the punks’ location. I couldn’t hear anything, so I risked a quick reconnoitre by stepping briskly to the next aisle and relying on my excellent peripheral vision.
The punks were at the opposite end of the shop, and as I walked past I saw them move into the next aisle, in the opposite direction that I was travelling in. I decided stealth was my best option if I was going to catch these two at whatever it was they were up to. I entered the aisle I had last seen them in, and stopped in the middle, listening for any sounds. I carefully parted some boxes containing Barbie doll furniture, and peered through the small gap I had created between them.
The punks were standing in front of the Action Man range, sniggering to themselves. I couldn’t see what they were doing, they had their backs to me and were standing too close together for me to see, but whatever they were doing it was sure to be something illegal.
I watched them for a minute or so, and then decided I had better investigate before things went too far. They were acting suspiciously, so I was perfectly within my rights to apprehend them so that they could be searched for stolen property. And if I got a bit rough with them I could always say I had to defend himself. The way these scruffy bastards were dressed, one look at them would satisfy the police who the real aggressors were. In fact they probably had a criminal record a mile long anyway, so they would certainly be known to the police.
My legal requirements satisfied, I saw no more need for stealth so I slid the Barbie boxes back into their correct place and made my way to the end of the aisle. When got there, the punks were gone. I limped to the end of the aisle and looked down the adjacent aisles, but they were nowhere to be seen.
I was about to give up and go and inspect the Action Man toys for any damage the punks may have caused, when I heard a faint cough behind me. I spun around to face the direction of the cough, and there they were at the opposite end of the aisle I was looking into. Staring at me with stupid grins on their faces.
“Oi you two, come here,” I shouted, taking a step towards them. But the two punks ignored my direct order, and ran towards the first floor exit. I gave chase. If they got out into the rest of the shopping centre, or even worse, into one of the other shops, I would lose them. But the best I could manage was a brisk limping walk, and they were running at full pelt the way that criminals do when they know they’ve been rumbled, so I knew my chances of catching them were somewhat remote.
But wait, there they were standing in the doorway as if they hadn’t done anything wrong. I still had a chance of catching them and bringing them to justice. I thought about shouting out to them, ordering them to stay there. But they had already proved they were incapable of following simple orders. I reverted back to stealth mode and crept towards them, hugging the wall as much as possible to remain out of sight until I was ready to pounce.
I got within fifteen feet of them before I saw their reflections in the glass door. They were staring straight at me, a stupid grin on their ugly faces. I realised my mistake long before they turned around and waved at me before darting out of the exit, and I cursed my stupidity. I should have circled around the shop and taken them from a different angle. I strode to the door, hoping I might still be able to apprehend them, but they were already gone by the time I got there.
I hid behind a large cardboard cutout of ET the Extra Terrestrial for a few minutes in case they came back. They didn’t. No doubt they would already be half way to the second hand shop selling whatever it was they had stolen so that they could buy drugs.
With a sigh, I decided to resume my normal duties. I wondered if the old woman downstairs had paid for her sweets, but realised there would be nothing I could do now if she hadn’t. Maybe I should have told Sam about her so that he could observe the woman while I was busy watching the punks. Too late now.
I remembered the punks had been doing something suspicious near the Action Man range, so I decided I had better investigate that. I would know instantly if there was any missing because I know that range very well. If only my wife had had a boy instead of a girl, then I would have been able to use them to teach him what army life was all about. Stupid woman couldn’t even do that right.
When I reached the Action Man display I was appalled by what I saw. Two of them had been stripped of their green camouflage uniforms and posed in a disgusting sexual way, one bent over and the other standing behind it with its pelvis thrust forward and its hands hooked around the other’s waist. Several other soldiers had been arranged around them in a rough semi-circle, their right arms raised in a Nazi salute.
Anger flared through me, and I exhaled loudly through my nose. Don’t they know that these people gave up their lives so that this country can be free? If my father had been alive to see this! I was so angry I shook with rage as I reached out to the two soldiers who had been so vilely defiled and degraded.
“Don’t worry, they will pay for this,” I promised as I parted the two soldiers and held them gently to my chest. I looked around for their clothes, found them discarded on a lower shelf, and gave them back their dignity. Standing them to attention in their correct location on the shelf, I turned my attention to the rest of their squad. I lowered their arms, straightened out any crumples in their uniforms, and arranged them in a straight line with the others. I gave them a quick salute, pivoted ninety degrees on one leg to do a smart right turn, and marched towards the escalator with my head held high.
Time to retake my optimal surveillance position near the entrance door, where Barbara can see how vital my role is to the security of Woolworths. I may have lost one small battle, but I will certainly win the war.