The Ford Cortina was parked just past the street light so that although it was lit, it was near impossible to see the two men who sat in the front seats. The car wasn’t that old, no more than a couple of years, but it was covered in dents and scratches. The red paintwork was faded in places and there were the first signs of rust appearing around the bottom of the doors. It may well have been older than the registration plates would suggest.
“What the fuck are we waiting for?”
“Will you keep your fucking noise down!” His companion retorted “Do you want the whole fucking street to hear you?”
“I’m just sick of waiting. We’ve been here nearly an hour already.”
“And we will be another hour if necessary, so shut your fucking mouth.”
This part of London wasn’t the best in which to wait for any length of time. Nobody was about, even the rats appeared to have abandoned the proverbial sinking ship. A couple of rather dull street lamps tried their best to push back the shadows, but they werent really succeeding. Everywhere the gloom seemed to be encroaching; drawing what was left of the life from the street and buildings on either side. There were so many places that somebody could stand and watch, and wait, completely out of view. Just wait for the right second when they could pounce on their prey.
It had been a bustling port until recently but now the cargo ships stopped at the new container docks in Tilbury. Some still came along the Thames but they didn’t travel any further than the Royal Docks which were bigger and more accessible. The London docks were dying and that was all too evident here in Wapping.
Either side of where they sat were the towering warehouse buildings, which would have been full of goods from all over the world. The roadway between was narrow, making the buildings seem taller than they actually were; the sky a very long way above.
Men would have been moving the cargo from the ships to the first line of warehouses along side the river itself. From there they were shifted across the high level walkways to the opposite side of the road and then into the lorries, to be delivered all over London. Men would have been everywhere, the whole area busy, noisy, dirty and above all alive.
Now they were all gone.
The two pubs on this stretch just about scraped a living. The Prospect of Whitby had been open for ever with a formidable history in the trial and execution business. It was said that Judge Jefferies himself had held court there, meeting out his customary form of justice.
They waited. Silent now, neither of them having much to say. Just watching to see when he would arrive.
They had been told what to look out for; a silver Rolls Royce driven by a local “businessman” known as Billy Streater. Collect the package, complete the job and then get the hell out of there, were their very clear instructions. Don’t be seen, they had been told, but that was rather difficult considering how long they had waited.
The big car pulled up just a few yards away from them. The passenger got out of the Cortina and walked over. As he approach the drivers window silently slid down and a hand passed out a small package covered in brown paper, little bigger that a tobacco tin…
The body was found the following day.
Behind the Prospect of Whitby is a “decorative” gallows which was there to remind people of the pubs past. Today it was no longer simply a decoration. He had been strung up and left to die. Part of his body almost certainly in the river water at some point. Hands tied behind his back. Cause of death would be confirmed later, but it was clear to all those present that morning that it had been slow and extremely unpleasant.
After the docks closed, much of Wapping was simply left to rot. The warehouses were home to tramps, drug users and others with no where better to go. That was until the developers moved in realising the potential for these buildings was enormous. Huge open plan apartments were built with magnificent views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Panoramas up and down the mighty River Thames.
It had been the best part of 10 years since that unexplained murder. Nobody had been arrested or charged. There had been no real leads. It wasn’t even clear how he had come to be there. Billy Streater drove a Rolls Royce but it was nowhere to be found. Two suspects had been seen waiting in an old Ford Cortina, but although the car was discovered a few days later burnt out near the gas works at Beckton, the men themselves were never traced.
During one of the development projects part of the floor needed to be broken out for new foundations. An internal walls was to be constructed; it needed to carry the weight of some machinery above. The builders had been working nonstop for days slowly inching their way from one wall to the other. The floor slab was about 18 inches thick and full of steel reinforcing rods. Below this was just mud, but breaking out the floor was taking forever. The job being made worse by the constant grief the foreman was giving them because they were taking so long. Then they hit a soft spot. There was no more steel and the concrete itself wasn’t of the same quality, much softer and easier to break through. The last six feet of concrete to the wall was out in no time. Just the mud and the job was done, all being well they would be finished tonight.
They saw the hands first ….
If you enjoyed this short story please follow my new Fiction blog.