The time came, of course, when action trumped knowledge.
It was time to interesting things up.
It was time to find the constable to get a photo session in.
In order to be able to get as close to the constable as possible, I started wearing some padding, so I looked stout. This was another great disguise element because, as noted, if you don’t strike their interest immediately, you are generally not going to get a second look and with lifts I was now three inches taller and with padding appeared a full stone heavier than the official description of me. I also wore, or didn’t wear, a beard as the mood struck. Sure, I could have grown a real one, but a police artist could easily draw an accurate sketch of me with me own. A fake one gave me more control over how I looked and I was expert enough at it so it would look real, unless you grabbed hold of it and yanked at it.
And, of course, there were me camera sunglasses.
I had started hanging around the plaza again. His routine hadn’t changed much and he still left the office at more or less the same time and his route to the tube hadn’t changed. He was on his own now, too. Evidently, I was no longer considered a threat, or the constable’s life wasn’t worth the expenditure of resources, because his security detail had been eliminated. Or maybe they believed my claim that I meant no mischief, which was true enough because had I been of a mind to I could have already caused all the mischief I wanted to.
Plan A was to take the tube to the station, exit and walk to the plaza at about the time the constable customarily made his way to the tube in the other direction, our passing presenting a splendid opportunity to get some shots, er, pics, in. There was some hit and miss to Plan A but I couldn’t very well sit in the plaza forever. Hadn’t a Plan B yet. If I needed one I had the rest of me life to produce one.
The first couple of days I tried crossing paths with him as he left work were misses.
The third time, though, the timing was splendid. I got off the tube and headed toward the plaza and right about when I expected to see him there he was, walking straight at me, his head mostly down, against the cold. I started clicking away at about 100 feet, well too far for decent shots, but I had nothing else to do. If there were any special emotions attending me closest approach with me pursuer, I missed them.
In an instant it was done. He paid me no mind and I appeared to pay him no mind, though I was furtively working the camera’s remote in me pocket. I wanted to turn around to get a shot of him walking away, but I was too paranoid to do even that. I continued on to the next tube entrance and started the journey back to me flat.
I waited a couple of days before working on the results of the constable’s first photoshoot. Constable the cat was right there with me, probably wondering why I was bothering her on her desk than out of any curiosity about the photos.
Out of the several dozen or so I managed to take, there were four that were really good, including one where he was looking directly at the camera, which meant he was looking directly at me. I didn’t need to send him a whole portfolio, of course, so I printed out the four good ones, took a marker and autographed one with a series of x’s and o’s on the bottom in me offhand just for funsies and put them in an envelope. I added a printed out letter this time, too. It made my usual demand that I was not a murderer. You would think he would believe me by now but, honestly, but it had long been plain I would have had more success putting my pleas in a bottle and tossing them in the river. I made me usual day of it sending them the following day. Again, there was a wonderful feeling of control. This process was exclusively mine! It started when I said it started and ended when I said it ended. Here the constable was getting letters from me, some with his home address in a corner of the envelope, then phone calls and now I was sending him photographs of him walking down the street.
It was, really, the only way I had of marking the passing me life, birthdays, weddings, funerals, anniversaries – that whole dreary lot – all being denied me. Of course, that was mainly of me own making so I couldn’t lodge official protests, but still: the constable’s nonsense was doubtless contributing to preventing me from passing me later years with Monica. Or so I liked to think. Who knew? It was entirely possible the years had diminished Monica’s gratitude for having started her on her career as a whore.
The constable did not like the results of his photoshoot at all. His first classified advert in quite a while – I checked every day – informed me my time would, eventually, come, and I would regret this.
He had to catch me first and we both knew that was unlikely. He’d been at it several years and all he really knew for sure was that I was still alive. He thought I lived in the city and he must have strongly suspected I quite enjoyed pestering him. But that was it, merely pestering. I was breaking no laws. I was sending him letters via his country’s duly authorized postal service. I called him on the phone, access courtesy of a commercial enterprise in business to do just that. Now I was sending him action photos of himself. Maybe some menacing charge existed in one of the 17 hundred jurisdictions they have in this bloody country and that could be worked up. But there were no threats. In fact, I went out of my way to assure him I was no threat whatsoever as I kept yelping every hour on the hour the past several years.
I could really see no further point in sending him more pictures. That would merely be preening on my part. Really, there came a point when I’ve made me point, when I’ve created all the mischief I could. The next step, naturally, was to poke him with a poisoned needle when I walked past him or send something explosive to his house.
But I’m not a murderer and despite the life he obliged me to live I wasn’t of a mind to become one, either. So I took another year off. The life he had obliged me to live was now familiar and, as noted, was not completely unpleasant. I would not mind getting some every now and then, but criminals get caught doing stupid things and I was not going to let people into my life because to do so was to risk getting caught. I didn’t need to have my hairpiece come off while giving it a go with a bird and, besides, they might wonder why I wore padding to make myself look stout.
Fed up with the hassle of pestering the constable. I sent him a printout letter advising I would be laying low for a while, that I was now and forever not a threat to him or his family and that he would know when I was back. His response in the classified adverts was our code word and OK.
A year later a lot had changed. None of it will surprise you.
I was busier than ever. Quite. I had taken an interest in art, especially portrait painters from me home country, which were featured for several months at the big museum here. I purchased a season ticket to the top-level professional football – what they infernally refer to as soccer here – team. The quality wasn’t too bad and even the worst football is better than that boring baseball or boorish gridiron football or watching blacks slam dunk balls into rings. I read even more than usual and I walked a lot. I was fitter than ever and the mind was humming. I even started writing the screed that turned into what you are reading now. The constable was far from my mind. The preparation I’d put into being able to hide in plain sight long before I was obliged to do so continued to pay dividends.
Me flat was even starting to feel like home, only me second home ever, the first since the cottage. Constable the cat was a trusty companion. He couldn’t answer me when I talked to him, except in kitty talk, but that was OK, falling somewhere between having Monica around and enduring a nagging, drinking wife.
I still took great care with my appearance. The only sticky point was I had to have a consistent appearance coming and going from me flat. I couldn’t be short and trim and clean-shaven on departure and taller, fatter and bearded when I got home. This wasn’t the toughest problem, I could change in the restroom in the loo at the station where every bloody train in the country stops. Nobody pays any attention. It was inconvenient, though.
It was a leisurely life, a life some others might quite envy actually. It required only the effort I felt like putting into it.
Of course, I was bored stiff.
It was time to interesting up matters again.
It did not start well.
Some time on the plaza bench showed the constable no longer kept the same schedule. A trip by his house showed a car that had been there in the past but some zero sign of him. A week in a room at the hotel did not show any signs of the constable at all.
Maybe he was divorced.
Bully for him.
Maybe I caused it.
Bully for me.
I went to the library and did some research, not difficult in the new century, and it turned out the constable had been kicked upstairs and he was responsible for the person who now held his job. I felt crushed and abandoned, as if I were a kid again and me best friend had moved away. Or as I felt like I thought a kid might feel when his best friend moved away. I wouldn’t know. I never had a best friend as a kid – I was too busy stealing their things – much less had one that moved away.
I couldn’t very well pester his replacement. I had no history with him. It would be no fun and hardly sporting for him. And short of marching into the constable’s new office and taking a formal portrait of him I had done about all I could pestering him. Anything else would be mere preening on my part so there was no reason to trod old ground. I was better than that as if an ex-pimp and ransom collector was better than much.
He had kids, though. I knew that from when I stalked him earlier. I was utterly above scaring them, but I could think of no reason why they couldn’t participate in scaring the snot out of their father.
They were old enough now, perhaps, to have some modest attainments of their own. Now, constables usually take great care about not involving their families in their work but you can only do so much. I searched the constable’s last name along with the names of some local schools and there they were, a brother and a sister, perhaps twins but certainly no more than a year apart. To make it as easy as possible for me there were pics of them, as well.
The son was a talented junior scientist. The daughter was excelling in a cooking class. A school function was coming up that would be displaying their and their school chums’ talents. It was open to the public. It was a couple of days away, but I had time. The only problem was it was indoors, at night, and sunglasses would have particularly stood out. A trip to the spy store solved this problem. I told the owner my dilemma – he must have thought me utterly demented – and soon enough I had a camera disguised as a lapel pin, perfect for a sweater or a blazer.
I dressed carefully and planned the trip with Firm-like precision. I walked in without incident. It was presumed I had a good reason to be there. Ever prepared, I had a story worked up in case I was challenged, but it wasn’t needed.
It was too easy. There were tables organized around the perimeter of the room and lined up in the middle. Since I knew what they looked like, the constable’s kids would have been easy to spot even if their parents hadn’t been right here.
It went splendidly and circumstances even put us right next to each other for a spell. I didn’t go looking for this. Control what you can control. Now, there was no way he could have known it was me. None whatsoever. I could have gone up and offered a paw using my real name and he would have written it off as a coincidence. I was taller, grayer and fatter than the evil arch-criminal he was looking for. For good measure I had a walking stick I made liberal use of, too. But you never knew. Prudence dictated I not stand right next to him. What if he started a conversation? What if I answered in my native accent? What if he noted that while I appeared stout my face was still trim and me feet were not stuffed into me shoes? He was an accomplished professional constable, after all, accustomed to noticing things.
Control what you can control.
Even with precautions, we found ourselves standing within a foot of each other. He was talking, or rather listening, to someone and the next thing I knew they were exchanging mobile numbers! I had some zero clue what to do with his mobile number but I committed it to memory anyway, a task made a bit easier because he repeated it twice. For reasons I was unprepared to explain, I was ecstatic. It was far from collecting ransoms, but I was back in the game, whatever the game happened to be, whenever I chose to engage it.
The mission otherwise was easy. With minimal effort, I took photos of the kids individually and together and came this close to getting a family portrait. How sweet. It was hard to tell if mom and dad were together or divorced. There were no signs of affection, but they’d been married a long time so familiarity may have replaced affection.
I was barely there for a half-hour. Don’t dawdle when you’re in enemy territory, no matter how well you may be guised up. Per protocol, I was in no rush to see the results of me evening’s labors and it was still early enough for a proper dinner and a nightcap or two.
Please enjoy the enclosed photos of your children.
As you must have surmised, if I were a killer either you or some members of your family – probably you, I have some zero complaint with your family – would be on the credit side of my ledger. I’m not a killer, though. I am hardly the Archbishop of Canterbury – though don’t think they haven’t committed the odd precautionary murder or two over the centuries – and I’ve done some answerable things, but killing the ambassador was not one of them.
Rest assured I have no idea where you moved to. Or even when you moved. I don’t care. I’ve scaled that mountain. Further summits are not required. I repeat – repeat! – I am not a threat to you. Have never been a threat. I merely want to live in peace.
You will need no small amount of luck to find me. I prepared well for this. Caution dictates I do not travel, so I am confined to the city. There are worse prisons. I am serving the sentence you gave me in moderately good spirits.
I had made friends with some neighbors, Sue and Edra, a lesbian couple. I’d had some zero choice. They were gregarious and friendly and to have shunned them would have caused suspicion and, worse for a man of my heritage, resentment. I avoided their flat and they probably wondered why an invite to mine was never offered – I blamed Constable the cat’s unsociability, though that was a lie – but I was grabbed by the scruff and taken out for a drink or two at times. It was pleasant enough, so when they asked me to accompany them to an amusement park for an afternoon, I said sure. It would be a splendid opportunity to field test me new photo gear.
I had upgraded. Simply because I’m a professional, perhaps still a member of the Firm, I visited the spy store to see what the latest was because I suspected my sunglasses camera may well have been outdated. I had no idea what I was upgrading for, no clue what was next in my quest to pester the constable but I was starting to resent my sentence to hide in plain sight. I missed me homeland I wanted to see Monica, though there was really no reason for her to want to see me. I’d had no news of her for years.
The clerk at the spy store greeted me enthusiastically. Yes! There was a whole new array of covert photography implements that he absolutely could not wait to show me. It turned out me sunglasses camera could now be connected to a smartphone with photos immediately available for texting or emailing. The fact I did not yet possess a smartphone was easily solved by going and getting one. People like me who got disposable phones had options now, and I could get a smartphone on the same terms I could get a flip phone. I was back at the spy store in a couple of hours.
As usual, I took whatever training was offered, and by the time I walked out of the spy store I had a new sunglass camera, a new smartphone and I was expert in using both.
(Later I would find out that the constable had issued flyers to the spy stores to be on the lookout for me, but since I didn’t look anything like the flier, the store owner never gave me a second thought. The Chairman, heck even Monica, would have smacked me from here to Whitehall for not thinking of this.)
The amusement park was crowded. A bit more crowded than I fancy, frankly, but there you are. Some of the food Sue and Edra had were utterly frightful, covered in batter and fried in oil which they would then slather in mayonnaise or something equally heart attack inducing. No wonder people here in the States all resemble cows. The safest thing I could find to eat was a turkey leg the size of a howitzer. Even the burgers, something I quite fancied, promised instant death bathed in grease and covered in bacon and cheese.
I gave the new photo set up a whirl, texted the pics to meself and it worked brilliantly. We had just exited a ride designed to spin you to the brink of death before slowing down when I thought I saw the constable. Me stomach froze a bit, but seeing as I still couldn’t see straight I wrote it off, not entirely sure I saw correctly. Once the entire bloody amusement park stopped spinning I looked again and there he was.
The constable was enjoying a day at the amusement park with his kids!
Bloody hell, I didn’t know if this called for action or not. On the one hand, you must be adaptable in this life. In all situations, really, but particularly when you’re a wanted, incorrectly alleged murderer stalking the constable pursuing him.
One the other hand, one of the keys to laying low is to bloody lay low. You don’t go snapping photos like a Japanese tourist just because your prey happens unexpectedly to be in the same place you are.
Boy, though, this would be a heck of an opportunity to waste.
I decided to do it and in less than ten frightful minutes it was all over.
It seemed longer.
The constable and company were walking a bit ahead of us. I got out me mobile, the smart one, and started fiddling around. To any observer, it looked like I was texting. In reality, I was taking some pictures. Sue and Edra were good-naturedly pestering me to join them in one of those midway games where you try to move a boat by squirting water into a hole. The first one across the finish line shows the world the value of sea power.
This would be great cover. I was at the game, not playing yet and facing the constable. I attached the pics to a text and sent it.
Oh, this was priceless. Mirabile dictu! The constable fished his phone from a pocket, looked at it, seemingly froze, then looked around with an appropriate level of concern. Right before he did a complete about-face, I turned and faced the game, paid me money and found myself locked in mortal naval combat with two lesbians.
It was tough to focus on the game. I wanted to look at the constable, but he would note someone looking at him. Control what you could control and I could control not looking at him so I didn’t. At first, I thought it was tough, but then I realized it was better than the nick. I played my game, came in last, the best hope for me homeland’s sea power gone in a carnival midway.
Our game done, and Edra richer by a teddy bear, we headed back down the trail. The constable was easy to spot. He was on the phone, head down, then looking up, nodding some but, overall, he gave the impression of giving orders.
Of course, he was. His stalker was in the area. Some quick action and he could be in custody. Since it was easy to do, I took another pic and texted it to him. The arrival of me text interrupted his phone call and he maintained his air of annoyance. I could see him purse his lips and nod his head before looking around. Plainly, the constable was seething.
Sue and Edra, continuing to provide fortuitous and unwitting cover, invited me to fuss over some more teddy bears with them. I obliged. I also took off me sunglasses. The constable knew I had covert photo gear and he may well have suspected they were in a pair of sunglasses and while you had to look closely to notice mine were specially made and weren’t off the rack, the constable was a professional. This was a stroke of genius that I like to think kept me from getting nicked right there.
Things started happening. I should have known the constable would have summoned angels and archangels and the entire bloody company of heaven. Security officers and their ilk were starting to make themselves visible and it was plain they were looking for someone. People started noticing and making a fuss.
Edra pulled at me sleeve and asked what was going on, a reasonable query under the circumstances, because the bloody coppers were starting to make their first appearance as well. I told Edra and Sue I didn’t know for sure, but the States were a shooting gallery nowadays so I told the girls there was a high level of possibility they were looking for a shooter. Sue said she didn’t hear anything and I sighed, feigning exasperation, noting this was likely because the shooter had a bloody silencer so let’s get a move on. They agreed.
Good. I had violated one of me own coveted rules: by doing something off the cuff like this I had ceded control and the resulting chaos was of me own making. Controlling what you can control means if you do nothing, nothing happens. Now if I did nothing I might get nicked.
Sue and Edra were, again, wonderful cover: a middle-aged man leisurely walking out with two women, one holding a teddy bear, drew some zero interest, not even from the constables who were starting to make their way into the park. I would later read they had arrested some hapless bloke who happened to resemble me. Or, rather, resembled the me they were looking for. It would take him a day or two to establish he wasn’t me.