In these less internationally volatile times, Beckett sat in Kensington Park on one of the wooden benches with the dark green flaking paint and passed mildly pornographic afternoons, checking out female tourists.
Sometimes, if he was a bit flush, he might feed hash cookie crumbs to the ducks and then watch the mid-air collisions and nose-dives into the water as they tried to coordinate spirographic flights across the pond.
He enjoyed the breezes coming in off the water, blowing from his leaden brain the last few strands of hangover. One particular afternoon, his lust panting red-eyed, tongue lolling out a mile of pink carpet, hoping to snag a stray from a gaggle of passing Japanese girls, the memory had come sudden and unbidden of the geezer down The Windsor, the arsehole with the copies of the keys to the houses he’d worked on. Beckett suddenly passed out of the lust zone and into one of those rare Zen spaces where ideas bloom perfectly formed and as plain as the nose on his face. He clearly saw that, if handled just right and most definitely not bandied about down the boozer, or anywhere else for that matter, the spare key game might prove a tidy little earner. The sort of repeatable gig that could easily be punctuated with six month absences in places like Amsterdam or Thailand, just so as no clever bastard started putting two and two together and coming up with hard time.
That afternoon Beckett left the bench by the pond and went to Hammersmith to see Gerry Baron. Baron, the owner of Aristocratic Antiques, was a human scumbag, physically diminutive, massively greedy, a thoroughly nasty piece of work. A Dickensian reject.
Aristocratic Antiques, sat just far enough down King Street to service the needs of the upper-middle-class divorced architects and lawyers that infested the middle ground between Hammersmith and Chiswick.
Beckett had the whole thing worked out. All his plan needed was a degree of patience, and the occasional spot of manual graft, which he would most likely sub out. There was, after all, a price of some sort to be paid for everything. The rewards though, the rewards orbited his thoughts like triple-x vacation getaways, Thai stick nymph-infested beach orgies, red light window hooker shopping sprees with unlimited credit. No wonder the windows of the 88 bus were steamed up as it lurched to a halt on King Street a hundred yards shy of Aristocratic Antiques.
Beckett vaulted off the platform, and pulled his collar up against the nicotine yellow rain that was drizzling into the Summer afternoon murk.
When he got to the shop, the window display was making some cobbled-together, tatty, old Victorian marble fireplace surround look much more like the real thing than it was. But the shop was closed. He rang the door bell and Gerry’s dog start yapping upstairs. He waited but no one came to the door. Gerry was probably out paying some old widow a few coppers for her heirlooms, or else persuading some poor old senile bugger that his coin collection was worth less than the face value of the dosh back in the 1720’s.
He was just about to give up and try later when a gnomish head suddenly protruded from a window so tiny it could only have been the toilet. The head squinted at the fading daylight as if it was the glare of noon in the tropics. Set in a stubble-framed face the weasel eyes spotted Beckett far below.
“Oy. ‘Ang on.”
The head retreated and seconds later a heavy ring of keys shot out, spreadeagled like a metal tarantula, and smashed into the pavement next to him. He let himself in.
The staircase up to the flat above the shop stank of mold and ancient cat piss. Beckett reached the upstairs landing and Gerry’s dog, a small undernourished-looking mutt whose bark was most definitely worse than its rubber-toothed bite, was outside the flat door, still yapping away. Beckett bent at the waist to bring his face down close to the mutt and let out a roar of such demented ferocity that the dog’s features seemed to spring for a second clean off its face, cartoon style, before it turned and bolted for the kitchen.
“Can’t you leave my dog alone.” Gerry whined as if in imitation of his mutt.
“Comes near me again and it’ll be wearing my foot up its arse.” Beckett growled.
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Doctors Without Borders