Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

The topic of today's Hooligan dissertation (Chapter 19, "Outrunning The Constable") is playing games with the cops. We start with a simple trick.

A constable may not drink on duty. But most constables want a drink at about closing time, and reckon on getting it, and getting it without payment. It is etiquette for the policeman to tender a coin, whether he wants beer or a bus-ride. But bus-conductor and bar-man alike wave aside the proffered copper. Doubtless they have their reward. Young Alf tells of a constable who always uses the same penny for his nocturnal beer. That penny, he says, must already have purchased a dray load of four ale, and it will probably retain its purchasing power undiminished until the constable claims his pension.

With these facts young Alf plays.

You take the constable's penny - for of course he does not make personal application at the bar - and, instead of returning with the beer, you slope out by another door. Thus you gain a penny, and have the laugh of the constable, who dare not make a fuss about it. That is the simplest way of working the trick. You may complicate it by scoring off both cop and publican. You enter the house, and, tendering a penny, ask for the policeman's beer to take outside; selecting a moment when there is no policeman outside. You return the penny to your pocket, take the beer outside, and drink it. Then you bring back the tankard, and depart in peace - to the next public-house, if you are still thirsty. By this means you get your drink for nothing, and have the additional joy of knowing that the copper will probably miss his beer that night. (pp. 222-3)
And establishing that the faces of the cops and the "splits" alike are soon as "familiar as the clock-face at Westminster", we move on to more practical applications.
'There was a ole split that used to hang abart the gallery at the Canterbury,' said young Alf, an' he was always arstin' me wevver I couldn't sell 'im somefink. An' now an' then I'd give 'im a little bit that I could do wivout for a bob. See? Well, me an' four uvver boys'd got raver a big job on down Dulwich way, an' we wanted the splits put off it. 'Cause I was sure in me mind that they'd been smellin' around. So I took on the job of keepin' the coast clear, finkin' I could ring in me tale awright. An' jest as I fort, the split was hangin' abart outside the gallery at the Canterbury.

'Soon as he sees me, he says, "Good evenin', me lad."

' "Goin' to 'ave somefink wiv me?" he says. "Thanks," I says. "I don't mind if I 'ave a cocoa."

'An' wiv that I walks up to a stall 'andy.

' "Got anyfink nice you can sell me tonight?" he arsts, while I was drinking me cocoa.

' "Not for tonight," I replies.

' "When? he says.

' "I fink I know of somefink for temorrer," I says.

' "Fink?" he says, suspicious.

' "Well, is it good enough?" I arsts.

'Long an' short of it was, I told 'im just the time we'd got our job down for, on'y tellin' 'im a place on Clapham Common, stead of Dulwich. See? I couldn't pull his ear down for more'n a bob on'y he promised me somefink good if it come off awright. End of it was that 'im an' four or five more splits met me jest at the right time down Clapham Common. 'Alf-past eight, it was. An' it wasn't till close on ten that they began to show they fort they'd been made a mark of. Goin' strong on the wrong scent they was, wiv no error. Be that time our lads'd done their little job proper. Course, I didn't get nuffmk furver for me infamation, an' I expect the splits fort a lot, eh? On'y there wasn't no evidence. See? Case of clean pick; don't you fink so?' (pp. 224-6)
Then there was the time Alf and a few of the lads chucked an officer who was making a move to break up their card game in a dustbin, then shut the lid on him and put his muck-filled helmet on top. Alf didn't do this type of horseplay out of specific malice towards this particular constable, understand. It was only part of "the game", as if he viewed housebreaking and other thievery as a sort of team sport, which in a way it is. And if you're playing a team sport, there has to be an opposing team; you can't just play with yourself.

But to carry the analogy a bit further (no not that one, the other one), if you're going to play the game, it's only fair to play by the rules. If Alf or someone else was sent down the river fair and square, given a fighting chance (and maybe a running head-start), doing a squat in jail would be shrugged off as an occupational hazard. But to have the deck stacked against you utterly, with entrapment and other sneaky tricks, is a bit more than our boy is willing to accept as due course. The regular officers did fine on that point, but apparently the detectives were another matter. (And before we push on, I would like to remind you that we're talking "fair and square" in relation to pickpockets, scam artists, and burglary, so it's strictly a relative term the way we're using it here.)

Alf relates a story of a police lineup he participated in after being run in for disorderly conduct one night. A woman was brought in to identify another prisoner, and as she entered Alf overheard the detective prompting her ("Fourth from the end.") . Since witness tampering has always been monumentally bad form, the situation was a little more than Alf's sense of justice could take.
Before the woman had time to reach the fourth from the end young Alf had stopped the proceedings.

'Look 'ere, guv'nor,' he said to the inspector, 'I'm in 'ere meself for fightin', an' I want to see fair play.'

Then he told the inspector what he had heard. Thereupon the inspector ordered the woman out, and shuffled his pack of malefactors. One changed scarves with another, and young Alf clad himself in the coat of the fourth from the end and took his stand beside him.

Re-admitted, the woman failed to recognize any one, and the fourth from the end, having recovered his coat, went to his own place.

In due course young Alf came before the beak, and, as he had anticipated, it was forty shillings or a month. For young Alf is an expert in the arithmetic of crime, and knows quite well how far he may go for forty shillings, and what will cost him a stretch. But young Alf had not forty farthings upon his person. This would not have mattered if it had been Lambeth, or Southwark, or perhaps even Wandsworth. For the lads would have been there to limber up. Unfortunately, young Alf was in a district where he was, so far as he knew, friendless. He felt it must be a month.

And then the extraordinary thing happened.

A woman stepped forward and paid the fine. A woman who was quite unknown to young Alf. Outside the court he met her.

Young Alf is not an adept in the language of courtesy and compliment, and from his own account of the incident I gather that he simply stared at her.

'That was my old man you got off,' said the woman.

Then she kissed him.

I got that out of young Alf with some difficulty; but she kissed him.

So virtue found its reward. So, too, is the character of the policeman vindicated. He plays fair. (pp. 230-2)
That is, the policeman isn't dumb enough to pull a stunt that would get the case thrown out of court, although standards of evidence were probably different then. Doesn't speak too highly of Victorian era police detectives, however. Sherlock Holmes would hand you your ass if he caught you pulling that nonsense on his side of the street.

We wrap up this lesson with an exercise in misdirection.
'One night some of the lads was workin' on a job on some flats up Bloomsbury where there was repairs goin' on. I was down in the street below, keepin' a eye, an' I fort they wasn't workin' so quiet as they oughter 'ave. An' jest as I stopped to listen, a cop come up be'ind me wiv 'is silent shoes.

' "D'you 'ear anyfink up there?" 'e says, givin' his elmet a nod towards where the lads was workin'.

' "I fort I did," I says. "I was jest listenin'."

' "I want you," he remarked, "to go up wiv me to the top of this yer buildin'; I've got my suspicions that there's somefink wrong."

' "Well," I says, "that's a job I don't care about, guv'nor. I don't want to 'ave a 'ole bored froo me wiv a six-shooter. Wouldn't be 'ealfy for me."

'Course I wanted to make 'im skeered. See?

' "I don't much relish it meself," 'e says. "But if I arst you in the Queen's name, you got to come. An' if we make a capture, it'll be worf your while."

'I see be his manner 'e was skeered. So I made out as though I was gettin' up me pluck, an' then I says to him- "Well, I says, "I'm a bit used to roofin' be trade. You gimme your lantern, an' I'll nip up an' crawl round an' see what's goin' on."

He was more'n willing. Handed over 'is lantern, an' went an' hid 'isself round the corner where 'e couldn't see nuffink. Wiv that I nips up one of the ladders that was stannin' 'gainst the flats, an' give the lads the wheeze. Told 'em to grease off be anuvver ladder at the back soon as I'd rung in me tale to the cop down below. See? Then I worked me way back to where the cop was hidin', an' rang in me tale 'ow they was layin' be'ind a chimbly an' we could catch em if we went sawft an' made a spring.

'Didn't 'arf fancy the job, the cop didn't. But 'e come up awright, me carryin' the lantern in front. An' there we was, crawlin' round the roof like a bloomin' pair of cats. An', when we come to the chimbly, there wasn't nobody there.

' "Well," I says, "I fort I see somebody layin' be'ind there; but I s'pose it was on'y me fancy."

'So down we come again, an' I cracked on to the copper about 'is pluck goin' on to the roof like that, an' 'e thanked me for me 'elp an' sprung a bob for me trouble. Oh, you can kid a cop soon as look at 'im. Don't you make no meestike.' (pp. 232-4)
When it's mentioned that Jimmy had nothing to do with that adventure, Rook asks what's become of him lately. It turns out that since he was getting cautious in his old age, he's been conducting his goods-fencing business by Parcel Post instead of face-to-face. "He maintains that there is no safer and surer service in the world." I can't help but smirk, since I read this chapter on the same day that it was announced that some dumb chump got busted for trafficking marijuana via Federal Express. Seriously, there are ways to absolutely, positively get your weed overnight, and that isn't one of them. But I suppose you have to try certain things just to make sure they don't work. And if you get stuck in the hole to the tune of $29,500 bail...hey, consider that the price of your education.

Next: more on the true love tip, as I try to wrap this book up in the next 24 hours, hopeless fool that I am...


Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home