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.