I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritising.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Nothing good ever comes of snooping
I jumped down from the first level of the fire escape, halfway down an alley which was empty. Keeping close to the wall so I couldn’t be seen, I headed back towards the main street, and then to a café not far from the front of the building.
Would Fred call in the police? Surely at the very least, he would have to call an ambulance, finding an unconscious woman on the floor of a trashed flat. He would also have to report the break-in, so I waited.
No ambulance came. If she had been unconscious and he’d reported it, there would be an almost instant response. Unconscious bodies were given high priority.
After an hour passed, and no sign of a police car, or any police on foot, I thought there might be a crime wave going on, and it was taking time for the police to get there.
The fact no ambulance had turned up told me she must have regained consciousness, obviating the need for medical help.
Two hours, still nothing.
Three hours, I was left with the assumption, Jan didn’t want Fred to call the police. It would be interesting to know what those reasons were.
My plan was to wait until she came out and follow her. Beyond that, I would be making it up as I went. After three hours, I had to switch cafes because of the looks the girl who made the coffee was giving me.
Apparently, people didn’t spend three hours drinking four cups of coffee unless they were working on their computer or reading a book, or paper, none of which I had.
It forced a move to another café further away and with an indistinct view of the front door, so I had to be extra vigilant.
As dusk was falling, a man nearer the doorway accidentally dropped his cup, and, when I looked up to see what the commotion was about, I saw what looked like Jan leaving, and, lucky for me, heading my way on the opposite side of the street.
Time to go back into surveillance mode.
She had changed into different clothes, and something else, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was that made her look different. It almost made me think I’d got it wrong, and it was someone else.
Then, when she walked past me, not 20 feet away, I knew it was her.
What was different, she had suddenly become a brunette with long hair than the original shoulder-length blonde hair. A change in persona. Not the sort of thing a normal person did. Unless, of course, she had a night job, one which she didn’t want anyone to recognise her.
I followed from the other side of the street.
Around a corner, past an underground station entrance, which was a huge bonus because she wasn’t going anywhere by train, not that it would matter to me. It would if she caught a taxi.
Once or twice she looked behind her, on the same side of the street. She looked over the other side too, in a careless sort of manner, but I was well hidden in plain sight because she wouldn’t recognise me as her assailant.
Around the corner, down another street, then stopped at a bus stop. Still not a problem because there was no bus in sight. On the way, I’d bought a copy of the evening paper and strolled up to the stop and sat down. She gave me a once over and then ignored me.
The bus came and we got on. She went upstairs I stayed downstairs, easier to get off at the same stop without raising her suspicions.
It was heading into the city, via Putney. I had time to read the news, nothing of which was interesting, and keep one eye out for her. She got off the bus without glancing in my direction at Putney and walked to the railway station.
After she headed for the platform, I checked where she might be going, and the service ended at Waterloo station if she went that far. I waited a few minutes, then went down to the platform just as a train arrived.
She got on about halfway along, and I remained at the end. I resisted the urge to move closer to her carriage where I could maintain visual contact, but since there was only one in this surveillance team, I had to be careful she didn’t see me.
The train terminated at Waterloo, and everyone had to get off. For a few minutes, I thought I’d lost her among the other passengers. Then I just managed to catch a glimpse of her going through the platform exit gate out into the station.
By the time I had got there, she was gone.
When you lost sight of the target, don’t panic. And don’t act like someone who just lost a target because that will bring attention to yourself. Take a long careful look in every direction, then move in the last direction you saw the target heading.
I did everything in accordance with my training.
The problem with Waterloo station? There are several exits, and an entrance to the underground in the direction she had been heading.
Anyone could lead me in the wrong direction.
I went upstairs to a café, and looked down on the station floor, taking advantage of the height.
Until I felt something prodding me in the back, and a voice behind me saying, “Who are you, and why are you following me?”
© Charles Heath 2019