Jeans Not Happening
Tales of the Poet’s Corner and it’s new video juke box had spread beyond its Lower Broughton home, across Salford and beyond.
The pub had been revamped to maximise its effect, as an open plan design more in line with the inside of a night-club, had been introduced to ensure unrestricted views for customers.
The evening crowd swelled, but still empty enough for a strange face to attract cold curiosity.
I gazed at the grid of four by four TV screens on the central wall, blinking like a giant insect eye, from which ‘Voice of the Beehive’s’ female front pairing beckon through the screens during the video to ‘I Say Nothing’ with hypnotic harmonies and twelve string chimes.
I hadn’t felt like this since first seeing ‘The Human League’ on Top of the Pops.
The dilemma was a welcome distraction from the looks thrown my way by suspicious punters, itching to know who the lone stranger was stood at the long, empty bar.
I only lived eight miles away but this may as well have been the other side of the world.
Two days ago, I’d got the instructions from a cryptic phone call at home.
“Be at The Poet’s in Lower Broughton for half seven and get a drink at the bar,” said the caller.
“A bloke will stand next to you and buy a coke. It’ll be The Lizard – go with him when he goes for a piss.”
“Keith, is that you?” I asked.
“Just do it, nobhead!”, said the familiar voice before cutting off.
Keith was my older brother and had been missing for a week before we got a knock from two members of Greater Manchester Police CID.
They sat me and my mum down, asking for information about when we’d last seen or heard from him, pressing hard for the slightest detail.
They needed to ask him about an incident, where someone had been seriously hurt but wouldn’t tell us any more.
It was quite easy to tell them nothing, as we had nothing to tell.
“The only way our Keith would hurt anyone, would be if it was for a million pounds,” said my mum as they left.
I knew different – he’d done worse for a lot less.
It was half past seven and The Lizard was no where to be seen.
Movement came from a group in the far corner of the pub, as two lads approach the bar, in deep in discussion.
It looked like Gazelle’s had been ditched for Reebok Classics, round here.
“John got him down in the doorway,” says one as our elbows brush at the bar.
“Chewed a piece of his ear right off, mate” he explains, causing his pal to tip his head in a silent laugh, only to stop on catching me listening in.
“And what do you think mate?”
He launched his face to an inch from mine.
“Sorry mate, I wasn’t listening”, I say,
and gesture toward the screens, before the barman picks up on the early evening red flag to re-focus the pair back to their drinks order.
I fumble in my pocket, finding a 50p coin for the jukebox, and check it repeatedly on the walk across to the selection screen.
Scrolling through the rows of sheer tat on the touch screen console, song selection takes on greater significance, realising I could educate these scruffy fuckers with some musical enlightenment.
I see ‘State of The Nation’ by New Order, and instantly connect the significance of my Lower Broughton location.
This lot wouldn’t have the slightest clue that the best band of the last ten years was started just around the corner from this very spot.
I returned to the bar, as the pub screens briefly turned blank, signifying my tune was loaded and scan the faces lining the alcoves for a reaction, only for the sight of dreadlocked twins to flash across the pub as the opening strains to ‘Girl You Know It’s True’ by Milli Vanilli fill the air with Bernard Sumner nowhere to be seen.
I desperately turn to the bar man, and try to explain that I didn’t put this on, only for him to blank me for a grey haired bloke in a shell suit ordering a diet coke with ice.
After a brief swig, he waddled towards the gents, instantly jolting my memory as to why I was there in the first place.
I watch him disappear through the toilet door, then follow behind, finding him checking each cubicle on entry.
“Are you The Lizard?” I ask,
He nods back.
“That’s what everyone calls us, My real name’s Derek”,
“I’d stick with Lizard if I was you,” I say,
“Do people ever call you Liz for short?”
“It’s ok. You’re kid’s told me,” he says,
“I know all about you”.
He jerked my hand towards him, pressing hard into my palm.
“This is the key for your kid’s flat. You need to go upstairs in the airing cupboard. There’s a pair of jeans on the top shelf. Take yours off and put them ones on”.
“What for?” I ask.
“Just get rid of them,” he says, “Bin them somewhere out of the way.”
“What’s he done?”
“Nothing mate,” he replies.
“He just needs you to help sort out a mix up,”
He wags his finger with an air of caution.
“Police might be watching the gaff, so you’ll have to do it in the dark. No lights on – you’ll have to do it at night,”
The angry heads in the pub don’t seem important anymore, as the strains of Milli and Vanilli echo around the gents toilet from the pub speakers.
“Tonight,” he says,
“it has to be done tonight.”
I walk through the darkness, across the twin football fields next to our kid’s estate.
His was a maisonette, and entry was through a flight of concrete steps above the ground floor flat, across the balcony where it’s entrance was shared with three adjacent properties.
I put my key in the door of the only one in total darkness and tip-toe up the stairs.
The moon breaches the open bedroom curtains and I drop to my knees and crawl across the landing floor.
The jacket around the hot water tank confirmed I was at the correct door, and proceeded to feel my way towards the top shelf causing a pair of jeans to fall to the floor.
I’d paid £45 for the Levi 501’s, I was about to swap for some Burton’s shite with zips where zips shouldn’t be.
I’d better get them back.
The earlier pint ran its course so I take on the challenge of having a piss in total darkness.
‘I know all about you’ was a weird comment and thoughts drift along with my aim, causing the toilet mat to get a brief soaking.
The bloke who really did have show towels in his bathroom wouldn’t be too pleased about piss on his floor, so made sure I flushed to make up for it.
I ease the front door closed, and jog back down the concrete steps.
My foot misses the bottom step, causing me to fall forwards with a thump as my face smacks the pavement.
“Don’t fuckin move!” yells a voice as a torchlight is shot into my eyes.
“Put your arms flat on the ground!”
Saliva sprinkles the concrete flags, causing me to by-pass fight and flight modes, going directly to frozen-rigid.
I’m lifted to my feet as a police radio crackles loudly, before a faceless officer pants through the caution whilst we march to a waiting white sherpa van with blue lights in full swing.
“You’re under arrest on suspicion of assisting an offender. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
A knot of panic inflates my stomach as the realisation that this would all be my fault, hits home.
I light a cigarette as the van door closes, frantically analysing what I’d done wrong to get caught.
The van pulls away, before braking suddenly causing me to lurch along the wooden bench.
The back door opens and a fist pierces the darkness, grabbing the cigarette from my mouth along with a synchronised punch in the nose, before being grabbed by the hair, to ram my head against the van’s side panel.
“Who said you could smoke in here, you little prick?” she says, then re-closes the door, before re-setting off into the night.
The custody suite at Bootle Street Police Station bustles with noise and bodies.
Constant shouts from one cell to the next, bounce off the high, flaky walls, discussing stuff they’d be denying at some point in future.
A welcome voice offers a drink through the drop down hatch of the cell door.
“A tea please, Boss”, I say.
“Two minutes”, he replies and I lie back, wrapping up in the supplied thorny blanket revealing the unofficial Bootle Street visitors book where fellow patrons had engraved the wooden bed to commemorate their stay at the city centre stop over.
The jeans dig deep into my belly, and I thumb round the waist attempting to loosen the irritation.
They were filthy, and breifly pause as my hand reaches the front to discover actual pleats in the waist.
I’d better get mine back.
The custody officer appears again at the door hatch,
“You got a visitor, young man.” he says, opening up for the first time in three hours.
I follow him through the corridor as the yelled conversations continued to echo through the confines of the cell block.
The door to ‘Interview Room 4’ is opened to reveal a familiar face sat across the table.
“You got ten minutes gentlemen” he says, before closing the door on us both.
Help had come in the shape of an old bloke in a silver shell suit.
“What’s going on, Lizard?”
“Don’t worry about anything, pal”, he says,
“You just gonna have to sit tight.”
“I am sat tight.”
“We’ll see you right don’t worry. You’re kid’ll see you right”, he says.
“Where is he anyway?”
The Lizard places a finger to his lips and points towards the door, lowering his voice to a loud whisper,
“No one knows mate – We know he’s safe, but no one’s sure”.
I should have known he’d be nowhere near any of this.
“Everyone really appreciates what you’re doing.” he says,
“So don’t fuck things up by saying anything.”
“I just want to go home.”
“No comment all the way,” says The Lizard, and stands then knocks twice on the interview room door.
A suited detective stands blocking the exit.
“All ok Derek?” he says.
The Lizard looks as though he’s just bumped into his teacher in Asda, during the six week holidays.
“Sound, mate,” he says,
as the custody officer pushes past to usher me back to my cell.
I turn round to see the detective shepherd The Lizard back into Interview Room four and close the door.
He did say ‘we’ll see you right’ – he must have meant it.
The noise on the block lowers and I re-read the bed carvings, in the hope I’ll be out before midnight.
The door opens, as a white forensic boiler suit is thrown at my feet by one of the three uniformed officers stood in the corridor.
“Clothes off. Everything except the undies. Now please!”.
“Can’t you just charge me and let us go?”
“Do it now or we’ll do it for you,” snaps a voice from the rear.
I strip to my boxers and step into the paper thin hooded boiler suit, tapping on the cell door in confirmation of the request, as my clothes are removed in clear, polythene bags.
The only noise now is from the incoming shift as the custody suites night crew drift into work.
Before midnight starts to feel optimistic.
‘Nonces and grasses hide behind glasses and taches’, reads a carving on the wooden bench and I try think of anyone I know who meets the specific criteria, the only ones being the barber from week before last and Trevor McDonald from News at Ten.
The door swings open and three officers summon me out, guiding me in an unholy trinity, to the waiting custody sergeant, stood towering at the corner of the station desk.
“Now then young sir,”
He drops his glasses from head to nose, his arm stained with the clouded blue of a seventies swallow.
“I believe you’ve been read the caution earlier this evening?”
A voice from behind confirms.
“Yes he has, serg,”
“What’s happening to me?” I ask.
The cell noise is now absent as the sergeant explains, I am to be re-cautioned.
“You’re being arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of a Mr David Delaney on 1st April 1990. You do not have to say anything,…”.
My legs weaken, at every line.
“…if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on …..”
“Attempted Murder? I haven’t done anything,” I say.
“You’ll be transferred to Central Detention Centre at Crown Square, pending an interview with officers from Rochdale CID,” says the sergeant.
“We can arrange legal representation. If you need it.”
I don’t want legal representation.
I want to go home.
The rear escorting officer pulls my arms back, placing cuffs on each wrist then directs me towards the transit point with a gentle push on the back of my head.
“I really haven’t done anything,” I tell him, as we walk through to the station yard.
Laughter roars from the Sir Ralph Abercrombie pub next door, briefly muffling the DJs patter, before the opening salvo of a familiar tune, floods the night air.
“Millie fuckin Vanilli”, says the officer,
“You know this one, don’t you?”
Floodlights of the station yard light his face as he places a hand on my shoulder.
“The surveillance team were all over it,” he confides,
“it’s clear as day, son”.
“I don’t even know this Delaney bloke,”
“How did his blood get all over your jeans then?” he says.
“The jeans? They aren’t even mine!”
“Course they’re not, son”,
“course they’re not.”
A muffled message from the radio clipped to his shirt pocket confirms ‘transfer to custody’ is ready and the gates slide open as a white Sherpa van reverses in from the street.