Laughing Larry earned his nickname by being the most miserable soul in Shoreditch. He was not a philanthropist. He was not an animal lover. So when I saw him lobbing a beefsteak over a ten foot wall I was interested. If I could tip off the rozzers about one of Larry’s capers I could reckon on at least a fiver. It may not sound much but a fiver was a good week’s wage back in those days.
The wall belonged to The Export Company and I knew they had some reasonably valuable stock on the premises and a dog which barked at its own shadow and would reputedly tear out the throat of any after-hours visitor.
There was a housing block nearby and the security was non-existent. From the third floor balcony I was treated to the sight of the break-in.
Larry’s cousin, Harry, had a legitimate fishmonger’s business. Larry had obviously borrowed his lorry for the night. A pair of bolt-cutters disposed of the padlock and Larry and Harry’s lorry were inside the yard. Larry had three known associates and I expected them to be helping him to load the lorry.
I should have been on my guard when I noticed that there were only two of them. So I found out where the third one was when a sandbag sloshed into the back of my head and my lights went out for the night.
When I woke up the overpowering smell and the darkness told me I was in the back of the lorry with a number of cardboard boxes. I always carry a stethoscope. I am no medic but it is remarkably useful, for example for overhearing the conversation on the four villains in the cab of the lorry.
Gagging on the fishy atmosphere, I listened in. They were planning to take their ill-gotten gains to the market in Fish Street and collect a nice wad of cash from a dealer. The rendezvous was at 3 am.
They then intended to ‘ditch the snitch’ (they were so rude!) into the river with some chains for company.
I had one of those illuminated watches so I could see the time was coming up to two.
I also carry a knife and those numbskulls had completely failed to search me properly. I used the knife to search some of the cardboard boxes; fumbling around in the dark, I realised one of the boxes was full of clocks, another of perfume which I had to try (frankly I preferred the smell of the fish but each to his own). Then I had an idea.
When they opened up the back of the lorry I was there with my knife but I didn’t have to use it. The tough villains all just ran away.
I could stroll casually to the phone box on the corner and put in the call to the duty sergeant. I was going to claim my fiver all right.
Of course the sarge had a job hearing me over the sound of 150 alarm clocks all going off at once.
Laughing Larry isn’t laughing now. But then he never did.
Derek McMillan lives in Durrington with his wife, Angela, who is also his editor. His book, The Miranda Revolution, is available from all good bookshops or from your library. The ISBN is 978-1507599099.