As I left the chaos of the M25 and headed for the stockbroker belt I thought about the pick up, and wondered what the hurry was. Usually when I collect from a private home it’s a forgotten passport or important documents, and the delivery was some where in the city, so I had to get it back before six tonight.
Another twenty minutes saw me pulling into a long tree-lined drive, which opened out into acres of well-tended gardens. I didn’t have time to admire them, and anyway my attention was caught by the five shiny black limousines and a sedate top of the range hearse parked in front of the house. Wrong time to call, I thought, but it was the right address, so I parked the bike discretely to the side and started for the front door. They must have been waiting for me as the door opened and from the dark of the entrance hall a suited flunky directed me around the back. I sighed and followed the directions to the kitchen door, not really minding as most people with posh houses don’t want a biker in grimy leathers traipsing through their house, and there was a funeral going on.
The same flunky met me in the kitchen and I had a better look at the man. Either the undertakers were hiring bouncers nowadays, or the house had a damned ugly butler. To me he looked liked a typical East end thug, but you shouldn’t go by first impressions, should you? He showed me the pick up, which turned out to be a small brown-paper wrapped parcel, and would easily fit in one of the panniers. I took the thing and was surprised by the weight of it.
I turned to go and the man grabbed my arm and said "Don’t open it mate."
I stopped, surprised at his outburst, and replied "Why would I want to do that?"
"Just don’t, alright!" he snarled, and let go of my jacket.
I thought about arguing about his needless warning, as I’d never think of opening a parcel, but I had to get back into London, and the prick was a lot bigger than me, anyway.
I stowed the parcel in a pannier and was getting on the bike when the front door opened and the coffin was brought out, followed by the mourners. I felt a shiver go down my back and started the Kwak, glad to be away from the scene. Something about the whole thing gave me the willies, and not just the thug’s un- needed warning either.
I headed back towards the motorway, and to take my mind off it, thought about the coming weekend, and the rally I was going to. The GT750 I was riding was a good working bike, and had almost hit the 150 000 mile mark with no problems, but it had no character, so I have a Norton Commando as well. The old bike gives me plenty of opportunity to curse and moan about it, but I wouldn’t get rid of it as it keeps me sane after a week of London traffic madness.
I made good time back into the city and rode into the under ground car park of an impressive looking building. After stashing my lid in the top box and putting the weighty parcel in my backpack, I went up to reception, where a bored security guard directed me to the penthouse.
Going up in the lift gave me time to relax -with a bit of luck I’d call the dispatcher, go home, pick up my gear, and hope the Norton would fire up for an early start to the weekend. The lift quickly got to the top floor and I stepped out into a plush reception area, thickly carpeted and panelled.
The musky smell of incense filled the room, along with some other odour, which I didn’t quite recognise. I stood there, wondering what to do now, when the heavy oak doors in the far wall silently swung open and a soft, deep voice invited me in. I felt that tingle down my spine again, and walked into a large room, simply but expensively furnished.
Sitting behind a large antique desk was a small man who looked for all the world like the actor
Anthony Hopkins, even down to his mannerisms. I thought for a moment it was him, and wondered if it was too cheeky to ask for his autograph, but thought better of it.
"Do you have the delivery?" he asked in a voice that seemed to have come from miles away.
Y…yes", I stammered out the reply, and reached behind to shrug off my pack.
His eyes followed my movements as I unzipped the bag and pulled out the parcel, again its weight surprising me.
"You did not open it?" He asked, and I began to lose my temper, as I’m known for my honesty.
"Do not be alarmed", he said. "It is for your own safety that I ask, and now if you would like to hand me the parcel, I will verify it’s contents and you can be on your way".
I did as he instructed and as soon as it was in front of him the man took a sharp knife and cut into the brown paper, opening it out like a flower. I leaned forward slightly, curious to know what all the trouble was about. When revealed, the pick up turned out to be a small wooden box, ornately carved and inlaid with ebony.
The man sighed with satisfaction but didn’t open the box. He gestured to me said "Give me your paperwork and I will sign it".
I fumbled for the docket, and he signed it with a flourish.
"No doubt you are curious as to what you have delivered, and to reward your honesty, I will tell you what is in the box."
I had a strange premonition then, but before I could tell him I didn’t want to know, he carried on.
"When I first met Charlie Binns he was a small time crook in the east end. Not much in the way of intelligence but very ambitious. He took the trouble to find me, and in the words of your American
cousins, “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse."
I just nodded, not sure I really wanted to hear the story.
"Over the last twenty years Charlie became one of the biggest gang leaders in London, until unfortunately he had an accident with a sawn-off shot gun to the head."
I was sweating now, and not just because of my leathers.
"Under the terms of our contract, on his death Charlie was required to give me his greatest possession, and you have brought it to me in this box."
It could have been jewels, drugs or anything else valuable in the small box, but I had a suspicion I knew its contents.
"Now I have a proposition for you, David." His eyes seemed to bore right though me, not a thousand yard stare, but seemingly a million miles.
"I know there are things you want in life, that house, the holiday, and that new Harley Davidson motorcycle you were looking at last week. If I told you I could make you rich and famous, what would you say?"
"No", I managed to croak. I had read too many stories about what happened to people who carried out their contract.
"Are you sure about that? You would be surprised at who some of my clients are. Some of the most well known celebrities and politicians are on my books. I could do you a very good deal."
"No, no thank you, I don’t think so." The humour in my voice belied my feelings. He shrugged his shoulders, murmuring under his breath as he turned away, "It’s your loss David."
Looking down at the box, he said, "Please do not mention this to anyone, David. We will just keep it to ourselves, shall we? And anyway, who but the lowest gutter press would believe that the world’s top politicians are in league with Old Nick?"
"I do admire your strength and honesty, David. And be assured there will be a handsome bonus on top of your payment for this, with no strings attached."
I turned to leave, wanting more than anything to get away from his immobile face with its fixed smile that never quite reached his eyes.
"And David, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me."
I almost ran through the heavy double doors, into the hall, and then the lift.
Not until I was riding the Kawasaki out of the car park entrance did I feel any safer, and then I still had that feeling of someone’s eyes boring into my back.
Would I have been happy to be rich and famous? Cars, bikes, women, and success all in my lap.
I don’t know.