Displaced and Denounced: Teasers

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Olive arrives at the Bishopstead supported accommodation:

Fly called them together and said, ‘Olive, this is a good time to arrive because I see that everyone is here. Sorry to interrupt people, let me introduce Olive. This is Fed, Brains, Jag, George and Ring. Everyone, this is Olive.’ They all nodded with various degrees of interest. ‘You see we all have nicknames here – mine’s Fly. Do you have a nickname?’

Olive writhed under their group inspection and finally blurted out, ‘No! Just Olive’ She had never really linked up with anyone before and thus had never acquired a nickname, or understood why one might be at all necessary. She was bewildered by his question.

Olive found work at a hairdressers:

She was to be an assistant. She spent her first day assisting with the sweeping up of hair and the making of tea for the clients. Her only connection with the clients’ hair was when it lay on the floor in unpleasant clumps and strands. It came in all colours. Some of it resembled straw; some of it was very clearly two-tone. She particularly disliked the dyed red clumps, referenced by one of the young trainees as menopausal red. The smaller black tufts looked alive, like spiders poised to attack.

Mrs Buttigieg, a squat Maltese woman who was clearly the ‘queen of the castle’. What she said mattered, that was the case within the salon. Mrs Buttigieg was short and chunky. Olive imagined her in the black clothes and headscarf of some Mediterranean widow, but actually Mrs Buttigieg liked her colours to be bright…

…It literally meant ‘father of chickens’ and was a Maltese nickname for poultry dealers. Somehow Mrs Buttigieg did not seem quite so forbidding now Olive learned this. Olive pictured Mrs Buttigieg’s clients as exotic chickens having their plumage tended.

Olive moved to a coffee shop:

It was startling just how much was involved in being a barista.

She still did not feel confident that she could tell her arabica from her cortado but she found she actually enjoyed the unusual pressure of learning. The crew seemed very friendly. There was the constant flow of customers. Some were regulars who knew what they wanted and were quickly handled. Others dithered over their choices, argued about the amount of change they received, queried whether they had the right thing. It all helped to create a them-and-us feeling between the staff and the customers!

At the end of the day, she was very tired but reported to Fly that she had enjoyed it. This was more like what she wanted.

Four days into the coffee house job, one of Olive’s workmates realised that she was an orphan living in a supported accommodation.

Jim Ranker was short and overweight. He had terrible acne which he had fought vigorously since puberty, washing and applying numerous creams and unctions. None of this had worked and no matter how he dressed people would only see the acne. When he saw her address in the staff book, Ranker recognised it for what it was, as he lived close by. He also quickly established that she had no friends, and no boyfriend who might cut up rough when he set himself up against her.

Unbeknown to Olive, Jim himself been an orphan, although he was rapidly taken into foster care. He believed that the new kids like her were being given all sorts of help. Lived in supported accommodation, did she? With people paid to chase around after her every whim? He had not received any of those advantages. His foster parents had treated him harshly, none of your feather-bedding going on there. He started to pick on her and soon managed to ensure that Olive was allocated all the rotten jobs.

He passed her the used coffee grounds in bags that he had deliberately weakened and these split as she carried them to the bins. The resultant need to clean the floor, in part, fell to her colleagues, and so she was unpopular for giving them the extra work.

She overheard Jim saying, ‘These young kids have it all given to them on a plate. They have no idea how to show their gratitude. They just don’t fit in.’ He sounded just like Mrs Nunn.

Olive wanted more. No, she deserved more!

Olive runs away:

The truck halted in front of a clearly unused commercial building. From the street it looked forlorn and abandoned and Usain led them down the side of the building to a rear door which was unlocked. She could not see much in Usain’s torchlight and as her phone held little charge, she did not want to use its light. They crossed a rear reception area that reinforced the decrepit and abandoned atmosphere. By the door were flyers and letters to who knew whom. There was random rubbish around the side of the hall, but a clear path had been beaten to some concrete stairs. They climbed the stairs to the first floor which was sectioned off by partitions into offices.

Usain led them to a door that opened into a large room which was poorly lit by a variety of means – candles, battery-operated lights and phone torches. Groups of people were gathered around each light source. The room was cold, smelly and damp.

Usain took them to a side of the room where there was an old double mattress on the floor. It did not look at all inviting to Olive, but Fed quickly took up occupation as if it was some welcoming flowery bower and pulled Usain down to join her. Neither showed any interest in Olive; there was no indication that she should join them. Seeing them kissing and cuddling she wandered off planning to investigate elsewhere.

Olive sets off for London:

London. She had always wanted to see it. From what she had been told, she could lose herself there. She could stand outside Buckingham Palace and see the changing of the guards. She could see the pigeons on Trafalgar Square. There was the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and St Pauls. Her list was endless. London it had to be.

How to get there? She couldn’t afford a bus or train, and it was too far to walk. She had read about hitchhiking and her thoughts turned to the transport café up at the far end of London Road. London Road – that sounded like a good omen.

She salvaged a piece of card from the room and borrowed a pen. By the light of her phone, she made a really good job of her sign which simply said ‘LONDON’. She looked at it and wondered if she should have added something such ‘please’ but then decided to leave it as it was.

Olive meets with Savvy Rowe:

she and the ‘student’ were waiting for a while. He approached her, ‘Going home?’ She replied ‘Just visiting!’. He looked at her intently and asked, ‘First time?’ and she nodded.

She took a proper look at him. He had a scruffy hipster beard and wore a baseball hat back-to-front. His dark grey hoodie looked pretty shabby and his red jeans were grubby and frayed at the ankles. He wore a shoddy pair of trainers without any socks. He had perfected a basic grimy look.

‘Let me introduce myself then.’ He bowed extravagantly. ‘Savvy Rowe at your service, ma’am. I do the best sex, drugs and rock n’ roll tours of proud old Londinium. I’ll show you around the sights that most tourists miss, and you won’t have to pay a thing.’

Olive trained in begging:

She was given some training by an older woman called Karen.

Karen clearly knew the business. She started by being critical of Romanian beggars who tended to sit holding a cup, a bag of belongings beside them and no begging sign. She called this scrounging, or passive begging. She explained that using an angle was more likely to succeed.

Karen talked of one angle being the ‘hugger mugger’. This was to have a young child trained to hug a target, while the ‘mother’ would hold her hand out and ask for money. Usually that was enough. But if the opportunity presented itself, then the child could try to pickpocket the target’s smartphone. That angle usually netted an average £80 to £100 per day.

Next Karen explained the ‘victim’ angle. In this case the beggar, who arrived on crutches, developed a dose of the shakes. It did require practice to make the problem look real, and there was also the difficulty of how to take the donation if you were holding on to the two crutches. Karen urged her to pick an angle that suited her and to practise to make the actions smooth.

Olive was told she should use the ‘pet’ angle. This involved begging with a charming pet by your side to attract more contributions. She was allocated Mimi, a ‘pretty’ French bulldog. Mimi was quite boisterous and Olive spent some time trying to build a rapport with her. However, she need not have bothered as the dog was drugged before starting work. Several tablets were crushed up with a dog treat, and these were quickly wolfed down.

Olive trained in shop-lifting:

Olive was given a list of things to ‘shop’ for, all were from within the rag trade. These were considered to be easy as the staff in those departments were usually just young girls. Out in the provinces, Olive was told, there were shop-raid teams that went in and brazenly took whole rails of garments but the pickings were too ‘high street’. The stores in the West End held the quality high-demand stuff. 

The two guys who drove the six girls and dropped them off behind Selfridges would stay on yellow lines or meters for the whole day. Olive’s job was to get twenty specified items from specified stores and she had all day to do so. She wore a puffer jacket with deep internal pockets. These pockets were lined with kitchen foil. Careful to avoid any CCTV cameras, she would place the garment, complete with its tag, into a pocket and close the jacket.

She had been instructed to drop the item on the floor if anyone showed any interest in her. If not, she went to the van and dropped the garment into a bin liner that was hidden among many more that were full of builder’s rubble.

She finished her first list by 14:30 and was given a second to work through. She enjoyed working her way down the list. It was interesting to see how little the staff seemed to care. The sort of shops she frequented employed staff who followed you around but these West End boutiques were too cool to do that. In fact, they spent more time looking in mirrors to adjust their own appearance, rather than watching the customers.

The really good news was that Olive earned a percentage of the value of the stolen items. Each day Dragan would show her a reckoning of what he called her ‘savings account’. The amount she earned was detailed there and he showed her the account page every day. She had already accumulated over £250.

Olive meets Georgi Stoykow:

She turned and had to adjust her glance upwards. The man behind her must have been well over six feet tall. He was large with it, perhaps approaching twenty stone. His big stomach was straining against a wide leather belt which was holding back a fleshy tsunami of flesh.

She focused on his two bare forearms which resembled two prize hams. She was reminded of Popeye the sailor man. Both arms were completely inked with Cyrillic characters. His thighs pressed against the fabric of his stained and strained jeans.

It was not only his size that caught Olive’s attention. He was dressed completely in black which itself was menacing on a man of his size. His bulk seemed to disturb the light in the room; he appeared to be sucking it in and steadily dissolving it. There was a strong negative emanation coming from him. Olive felt this man could be the devil incarnate. She would cross a busy road rather than pass him on the pavement.

His face was brutish, probably rearranged by years of violence. His hair was long and had obviously gone unwashed in a long time. One cauliflower ear poked through, though in his case the adjective was insulting to cauliflowers. The ear was compressed and mangled with no real sign of a hole through which sound could percolate. His eyes were sunk into his head, so deep-set that they appeared black and expressionless. His mouth was full of discoloured and misshapen teeth.

Olive found it hurt just to look at him…

… Olive realised that this was presumably the Big G who Savvy had mentioned before. She had thought that Savvy always talked of him with respect, but now she realised that it was with fear. It was not an admiration that he had for the man, it was more a deep-rooted trepidation.

Olive arrested:

As she was the only under-age offender she was placed in a single cell. It was not so very different from her room back in Bishopstead, if she did not include the lack of storage and a stainless-steel toilet proudly sitting to one side which was absolutely the only thing to focus upon in the cell.

She had been relieved of her belt and shoelaces which, far from deterring thoughts of suicide, actually instilled those very ideas into her head

She had just managed to drop off to sleep when she was woken to meet the duty solicitor at 12:30am. He introduced himself as James Clarke. He was in his forties and wore a rumpled suit with a shirt that was soiled at the neck. He did not look well, and it had been a very long day.

James was one of just three duty solicitors in the borough. He was the youngest and his workload was ridiculous. Duty solicitors had not received a fee increase since 1998 and many lawyers did not consider it as a viable career. A recent report entitled the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review had concluded that there was a funding crisis. He would normally receive just over £50 for providing this service but as it was at an unsocial hour, so he would get a ‘bonus’ of around £11. He certainly knew that he personally had a funding crisis.

When Olive was ushered into the interview room James was momentarily nonplussed. He thought there was something about her that he should remember, but he was obviously tired and shook it off.

Olive arrives at St Lukes:

St Luke’s was a contributing part of its local community, unlike many homes that seemed to be, aloof and unengaged with local concerns. It was unusual in that it was not a member of a group of children’s homes. It was instead established by a local charity formed to support the home, and with many of the local great and good recruited to the Board.

St Luke’s developed a care plan for each child which established why they were there, set out what should happen while they lived there and helped to set goals to be achieved by the end of their stay. This included offering a safe and stable home where young people were heard and trusted, helping young people to build and maintain their connections, encouraging them to set goals for themselves and then supporting them in their achievement.

Older children were generally assumed not to be returning home and were given help to prepare for living on their own and becoming economically self-supportive. It was with this objective that St Luke’s had developed a mentoring scheme where prominent local people were encouraged to sponsor and mentor a resident.

One such mentor was Mrs Fiona Greening who lived nearby but ran a solicitor’s office in London. She was a capable solicitor dealing in family law. Despite her heavy workload and the many hours spent commuting, she found time to be a mentor at St Luke’s.

The mentors received briefings on incoming residents and something about Olive Turner caught her eye. Perhaps it was the sentence of the court, or perhaps it was the appalling pencil sketch of her life to date. Whatever it was, Fiona asked to mentor Olive.

Conversation between Dragan and Georgi:

… Dragan tried to set the scene, ‘Tell me what went on with Ed Warden’.

‘He got lippy!’

‘What do you mean, lippy?.’

‘He kept asking stuff.’ He aimed a kick at Buster who easily avoided this one. It made Savvy wonder how many of the scars on the dog’s head were from fighting and how many from Georgi.

‘But we’d only done one place of his and there must’ve been thirty or more.’

‘I only gave him a tap! To shut up his questions.’

‘He ended up in the hospital!’

‘If you sit still, you won’t witness a miracle!’

Savvy laughed. He loved this guy’s Bulgarian expressions. They were so odd as to be completely mysterious to an English ear.

Georgi glared at him and said to Dragan, ‘I’ve seen you treat your boys bad. I’ve always wondered why one of them hasn’t done for you. If I was one of them, you’d already be history.’

Dragan ignored this and replied, ‘Keep your voice down G. We hit real paydirt with that chovek. We could’ve really cleaned his offices for him’.

‘You’re making an elephant from a fly.’ Savvy sniggered again, and Georgi swung another kick at Buster that mercifully did not quite connect.

‘A furious man doesn’t make friends. You should’ve kept him on side until we’d done all his offices.’

‘I took all his keys.’

‘But without a list of the offices they’re worthless!’

Sally despatched to find Olive:

She was later fitted out by Dragan in a prim outfit that she would never have picked for herself. Part of the outfit was a wig that changed her hair colour from brunette to black and her usual straight bob became shoulder-length and curly. A pair of plain-glass spectacles completed the effect. She could not recognise herself in the mirror.

Dragan fussed over the way she walked and they agreed a shorter shuffle was more appropriate than her regular gait. He did not stop there and insisted on choosing her accessories, until he was content that little of the old Sally remained.

The new Sally arrived at the magistrates’ court and presented herself at the enquiry desk. She asked around, enquiring as to just what had become of Olive Turner.

She garrulously added, ‘I was so excited to get news of my sister after all this time. She’d been put into care by our mother because she couldn’t cope. She was moved around so much that I couldn’t find her, and just when I was about to catch up with her, she ran away from her last home.’

The woman behind the counter was sympathetic to the tale but looking at her screen replied, ‘I am afraid I am only allowed to tell you that she was found guilty of shoplifting and given a four months’ sentence.’

Sally summoned up tears as she said, ‘You’re not saying she’s in jail?’

‘Oh no. She has been sent to a children’s home.’

Savvy conversation with Sally:

Savvy asked her, ‘Hope you don’t mine me asking. But what is it about Georgi you find lovable? He scares the life out of me.’

Sally laughed, ‘He’s just a big softy really, and he takes good care of me.’

‘Not like he treats Buster, I hope?’

‘He can be a bit handy when he’s Brahms and Liszt, but he’s always really sorry after.’

‘Why do you stand for it? You’re a pretty girl. Admittedly a bit on the ancient side, but pretty.’

Olive taken by Georgi to the scene of the crime:

They took the dark blue Piccadilly Line as far as Earl’s Court, before switching to the green District line. These were among the last few tube trains running that night, it was approaching midnight. It was therefore very dark when they finally emerged at Kew Gardens.

They walked down West Park Road and then along the South Circular, she saw no opportunity to escape. As the busy road took a turn, they crossed and entered a wooded area. Olive became very tense when she saw a sign saying Mortlake Crematorium. She wondered, ‘Was this in fact about her being killed and cremated?’

Georgi seemed to know where he was going and she relaxed when they left the Crematorium grounds. They were on the approach to the Chiswick Bridge. They crossed over and proceeded down some steps to the river. ‘Perhaps he was planning to drown her?’

The house-breaking:

There was a fanlight above the door which Georgi reached by standing on a convenient large planter. It was the work of a minute or so for him to prise it open. It had clearly been painted over many times but the good news was that it was not nailed closed as Crabbe had anticipated.

With the fanlight open, Georgi climbed back down and spoke quietly with Olive. She was terrified, as it was now clear that they intended a housebreaking. She begged, ’Please let me go. I promise I will leave London and never return. I won’t tell anyone about you.’

Georgi pulled out his pistol and said, ‘Get up on that pot now or I’ll spread your brains all over that flower bed.’ Crabbe intervened, ‘No, let me do it with the crowbar. A crack on the head will make less noise.’

Crabbe watched Olive’s face. She was now ready to be compliant, ‘I’ve seen older hands than her freak out in the same way. It’s just the moment of crossing the line. She’s alright now. You can put her through the window.’

Georgi grabbed her and fed her through the fanlight, dropping her into the house from about three feet above the ground. He waved the pistol at her and demanded, ’Now go to the front door and let us in.’

Determined to alert the residents, Olive ran to the stairs but as she crossed the hall someone leapt out of the shadows and hit her. It took her a few seconds to realise that she had not been punched but stabbed. She instinctively pressed the wound and ran back to the fanlight as lights were being switched on. From his position at the fanlight Georgi fired at the nearest person he could see, before reaching down to Olive and pulling her out.

A coincidental meeting:

As she passed the Bull’s Head, the pub’s portico had extended to take up the whole of the pavement. As she picked her way around it, someone stepped out and surprised her.

The man also appeared surprised saying, ‘What the devil’s this?’

Olive apologised, ‘Sorry, but I wasn’t expecting anyone to come out at that very moment.’

He would not be assuaged, ‘Who would have thought it? Dead they said, but here you are? I should have been freed of you that night. Curses.’

Olive was bothered by what he had said. The look in his dark eyes were disturbing.

Sally becomes a grass:

‘I can see you are good and kind. Tell me, do you know a man called Brotherson?’

‘Sorry, the name means nothing to me.’

‘He knows you. He knows you are here. I overheard him and hastened here straight away.’

‘I am afraid I have never heard of him.’

‘Some while ago I overheard him and Dragan talking. I listened at the door as Brotherson offered Dragan a tidy sum of money if he would get Olive back and then somehow turn her into a thief.’

Georgi confronts Sally:

Georgi burst into their flat to find her sleeping off her drinking.  He shouted for her to get up.

Sally was instantly awake, ‘What is it, Georgi? Why are you looking at me like that?’

He couldn’t talk. Her treachery took over all his thinking. She approached him, ‘What is it? You know you can tell me.’

He seized her by the throat and she spluttered, ‘Speak to me. Tell me what it is that I’ve done?’

‘Dragan had you followed tonight and the boy heard everything that was said.’ In telling her this his grip slackened and she managed to step away.

‘Think what you’re doing. You just don’t have it in you to kill me.’ She clung to him. ‘That lady that I met, she told me tonight of a home in some foreign country where I could end my days in peace. Let me see them again and I’ll beg them to show the same mercy towards you too. Let’s both leave this awful place and leave behind our old life. She said that it’s never too late to repent and I feel that now. Give us time to work this out!’

Georgi meets his end:

Georgi found himself running down the back of local restaurants. The smells from both the food and the overflowing bins at their back doors were overpowering. Then that vision returned. Her eyes staring deep into him, seemingly expressing disappointment and coming to the final acceptance that there was no good in him.

His left shoulder and ribs were hurting badly, and he was beginning to lose his balance. He crossed a road and found himself at the entrance to the Old Spitalfields Market. It had changed. He remembered how it had been before it became a trendy clothing and coffee venue. He muttered to himself about hipsters taking over the world before turning to start back the way he had come.

Buster had been following him and the two cannoned into each other. Georgi fell into the road directly in the path of the N242 night bus.

The bus route was between Homerton Hospital and Aldgate.  The driver was towards the end of his shift and exceeding the twenty miles per hour limit that had recently been applied to Commercial Street. As it was very late, he hoped he was assuming he could get away with it. The bus was one of a fleet with a low entry to assist the disabled getting on and off.

The driver saw the dog, then the man fell into the road. To the left was a parked row of ‘Boris’ bikes, to the right a traffic island for a set of pedestrian lights. He had no choice but to plough over him. He had heard drivers on the Tube talk of ‘one-unders’, usually suicide attempts. They averaged eighty each year in London.

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