“So what happens with all this lot then? Guv?”
Jonathan peered into the skip’s laden depths. There must be the equivalent of half a bus in there. Knives, machetes, blades. Made his blood run cold. He was glad it was locked away in the squad’s secure store and not out there on the streets. Just think what the local thugs could do with this lot. “I mean, I assume it’s going to be melted down?”
“Not this time.”
“Yeah?” Jonathan watched as the Sarge slicked down his newly-gelled hair. For like the three thousandth time that afternoon. If you asked him the bloke was too old for that sort of rubbish – barely had enough hair left to stick the gel on and it looked a bit ridiculous. Sort of wet and smooth, like one of those seals you saw on the telly, poking their heads out of the sea. Just before they got ate by a whale.
“Yeah. Chief Constable’s got some bonkers idea about Raising the Profile of Knife Crime in the Community. Not to mention Giving Something Back.”
“Seriously?” Jonathan could hear the capital letters in the Sarge’s voice. Not to mention the sarcasm. “How’s he going to do that with a skip full of blades?”
“Turn them into art. Or something.”
“What? Glue them to a canvas and hang it on the Town Hall wall?”
“Maybe. Beats me and all. Still, you’re supposed to give this guy a call. He’ll arrange the rest.”
Jonathan took the Post It note and tried to decipher whatever was squiggled on it. Looked like someone’s name. Ralph something. Sounded posh. And a phone number he could just about make out. “This the artist, then?”
“So, er, who’s responsible for security? Guv? Once it’s gone? And how the hell’s he going to take it away? Sodding thing must weigh a ton.”
The Sarge smoothed his hair again. “One, it’s his responsibility the minute it leaves police property. And two, how the hell should I know? Maybe he’ll hire a trained elephant to come and drag it away. Now get on and phone him, there’s a good lad. I’ve got custody reports to see to.”
Ralph stepped back, wiped his face on one sleeve and grinned. Not bad if he did say so himself. The Chief Constable would love this. All the right symbolism. Turning swords into ploughshares, whatever a ploughshare was. Sounded agricultural anyway. Something practical and as un-war-like as you could get.
His artwork wasn’t practical but it ticked every other box. Something symbolic, the Chief Constable had said. Something that drums home the message that we’re getting on top of knife crime. Winning the war against the thugs. Something that says peaceful streets. Well, you couldn’t get much more peaceful than this. Three months work and three thousand blades, and there she was. His angel. He’d call the piece Art Attack. Yeah. That was appropriate.
Now to celebrate. Make the most of the post-creative glow. Wash all this glue and stuff off his hands, then break open a beer. Or maybe a bottle of wine. Or even bubbly, if he still had one at the back of the fridge. This was going to make his name. He could feel it. Nothing up to now had quite made the mark, but this piece was huge. In all senses of the word. And the publicity the Chief Constable had promised… well, he could see it now. Big money clients, his own gallery, name in all the right art magazines. It was his ticket to success.
He patted the angel’s arm, then winced. Bit sharp, that. Maybe he should have ground the blades down first. He could always run a sanding disc over the edges tomorrow. First thing, before he made the call. Before he got the Chief Constable and the reporters in. Wouldn’t want any of them injuring themselves. He couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
“Hey, Pete, get a load of this shit!” Brad wiped his hands on his jeans then shoved the local paper at his mate.
“What’s that? Jeez, it’s all over chip fat.”
“Can’t help that, it’s what Chip Off the Block uses to wrap their nosh. Anyway, take a look. If you can stand to get your hands dirty that is.”
Pete took the wilting paper gingerly. “What am I looking at? Apart from the remains of your lunch?”
“That.” Brad pointed with an equally greasy thumb. “That picture there.”
“What, the artist tosser? What’s so good about him?”
“Not him you moron, what’s standing behind him?”
Pete squinted. “Can’t really see for the stains. Looks like some kind of bleeding angel.”
“That’s exactly what it is. Made out of knives.”
“Knives. You know, pointy things with blades.”
“Okay, okay, I know what a fucking knife is. Just can’t see how making a nice pretty angel out of them is any good to us.”
“Because they’re still knives, you muppet. All the hardware handed in at local nicks during all them an-amnes- thingies last year. Normally they’d be stored in the police lock-up – lasers, key pads, armed police dogs, you name it – and we’d never get near enough to get our hands on them. But this is in some poxy artist’s shed. All we have to do is take the pick-up round, load it up and all those lovely blades are ours. Either we take it apart and flog ’em off to the local lads one by one. Or we chop it up and sell it off for scrap. Either way we’re quids in. Might go some way towards paying off that gambling debt you’re always whingeing about.”
“Was not whingeing, you’re not the one that’s got to pay ten grand back.” Pete took another squint. “See what you mean, though. It’s printed his full name and everything. Bet we could look him up in the phone directory.”
“My thoughts exactly except I was going to check online. Then pay this artist, what’s his name, Ralph something, a visit, before they ship the statue out.”
Pete sucked newspaper print and chip fat off his thumb. “Better be tonight, then. I’ll bring the pick-up round.”
“Goodnight my sweet.” Ralph took a last look at the angel. Funny how attached to her he’d got. Then again, he had spent nearly every waking hour with her for the last three months. You could get close to any woman after that much time. Especially when she was as beautiful as this. But he had another commission to start next week, so he needed to clear some space. On his workshop floor and in his head. Needed to focus on something else. Needed to let his angel go. He’d miss her. For the first few days, until the new project sucked him in. Then she’d be something he thought about now and then. A warm place in his heart, a memory of good times spent in each other’s company. But nothing more.
He glanced around. Windows shut, door would soon be locked. Everything secure. The firm hired by the police would be here in the morning to pack his angel and transport her away. Not quite on wings of gauze; more in the back of a hefty truck. But still. She’d be gone. She’d have taken flight.
A worthwhile piece of work. Satisfying. He hoped the next one would be as good. He flicked the light switch off.
“Bigger than it looked in that picture.”
“Yeah.” Brad stood in the workshop and scratched his balls, his stomach and his head. It was bigger. In fact it was sodding enormous. Taller than him. About as tall as Pete. And Pete stood six foot four in his stockinged feet. Or socked, if you preferred. Tall, anyway. And looked like it weighed a fucking ton.
“How we going to get that into the pick-up then?” Pete was on the same wavelength for once. Too much so. He needed time and space to think.
“We, er, could try lifting it.”
“What, just the two of us? Get real.”
He supposed Pete had a point. That much metal came with a serious warning to their health. Danger to limb and possibly even life. He scratched his balls again. “Get a few more of the boys in?”
“It’d take half the gang and if you think I’m sharing the loot with them you’ve got another–”
“Okay, how about a winch?”
There was a moment’s silence, then, “That might work. Got some rope in the pick-up. If we wrap that round just under her arms we could use the truck as a counter-weight.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.” Brad had no idea what a counter-weight was but it sounded good. “Go for it, mate.”
Pete was back in minutes with a decent length of rope.
“Right, how d’you want to do this? Under her arms, you said?”
“Yeah. Toss it over her head first then wiggle it down. Hope she isn’t ticklish har har.”
Brad winced at the joke and tossed. The first time the rope bounced off. He tried again. Same result. It was worse than those bloody hoopla stalls at the local fair. He’d never won a single thing at those. Not even the giant teddy his girlfriend had asked him for. Had to cheat in the end and threaten the guy on the stall with a blade. And then she’d got bored with the bear after a couple of weeks and thrown it away. He should have thrown her away first.
He’d lost track of that blade soon afterwards; shame as it had a good sharp point. Be funny if it had got handed in to the cops. Be even funnier if it had turned up here, welded into this bloody angel thing.
“Third time’s the charm.” He tossed again, and this time the rope slid home. Slid and slithered and… caught, on the angel’s left tit. He stifled a snigger and reached to hook it free. Forgot about the other end of the rope. Caught his foot and tripped. Not much but just too much. He lurched forward. Straight towards the angel’s outstretched right hand. Tipped with pure cold steel. Oh shit.
“Everything okay? Guv?” Jonathan thought the Sarge was looking bad. Smoothing down his hair like he was going to tug it out. His face a nasty shade of puce. Didn’t look healthy, that. Ought to cut back on the beer or the fags, or both.
“There’s been a mishap. With the angel.”
“You what?” Now he knew something was badly wrong. The Sarge was an atheist through and through – had no truck with what he called ‘all that religious guff’. The department had heard enough about it over the years. For him to be banging on about angels was well out of character. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“The Chief Constable’s artwork, you idiot. The one made from all those knives.”
“Oh. Yes. That.” Jonathan had never understood. He’d seen a picture of it in the paper the other day, when he’d bought a bag of chips. Huge great thing, all sprouting wings and barbs. Looked quite ugly, he thought. Not to mention deadly, with all those blades pointing out. Someone should have taken an angle grinder to them. If anyone fell it’d take your eye out. Or slit your throat. “So what’s happened then?”
“Some of Mick Geraghty’s gang broke in to the artist’s shed.”
“What, and they’ve run off with it?” Good luck to them, he thought. Thing must have weighed as much as an elephant.
The Sarge had his head in his hands. “It was all arranged. Haulage company, security detail, everything in place. They were taking it to Victoria Square. They’d even erected a plinth. And now this. The Chief Constable will have my balls.”
If Jonathan hadn’t got to them first. The suspense was killing him. Just get on with it. Tell me the worst. “So what’s happened?” he said again.
“One of the burglars tripped and fell. Landed on the angel. Slit his throat.”
“Well if half what they say about Mick Geraghty’s mob is true then that’s no loss to the world.”
“Yes but it gets worse. The artist heard the screams and came rushing out. Fainted at the sight of all the blood. Landed on the angel and took his right eye out. The haulage guys took one look this morning and downed their tools. The security guard threw up in the nearest bush. And the Chief Constable’s told me he wants the whole thing to go ahead. I feel like I’m having a heart attack. What am I supposed to do?”
Jonathan was unimpressed. “Buggered if I know. Funny thing, though.”
The Sarge smoothed his hair again. “What’s that?”
“Saw a piece in the Evening Mail about that angel. The reporter described it as cutting edge art.”