Pencil had his own views about what was fair and what was fair game. One of the beliefs that he held dear was that people who leave a window open at night deserve all they get. This particular belief explained how he came to be hanging out of a window in Hanson Terrace at 3.00am on a warm night in early May. The front end of Pencil was inside a room and attached to one of his arms was a large dog. The outside of Pencil, that being his two legs and lower torso, thrashed helplessly in the night air.
Pencil also believed that dogs advertised their presence by barking, leaving him just enough time to back out of a window and be away on his toes. Not this dog though. This dog had walked casually through an internal door, saw a man in the act of attempted burglary, sank its teeth into the man’s left arm (which happened to be nearer than the other arm), hung on and attempted to drag him into the room. Then and only then did it start to growl.
“Owww! Gerroff! Let go! Owww! Help!”
Of course the noise of growling and Pencil’s cries of pain woke the dog’s owners.
The man turned out to be just as casual as his dog. He stepped back one pace, slowly assessed the situation and, leaving his dog attached, placed a finger inside each of Pencil’s nostrils and pulled inwards. Pencil’s reluctance to enter the room was overcome in an instant and he tumbled onto the living room carpet, where the dog continued to chew.
“Did you call the police, Sally?” Said the man.
“Yes Mike, they’re on their way.”
Pencil rubbed his sore nose with his free hand. “Get your dog off, please,” he said, somewhat nasally.
“Not just yet,” said Mike as he tied Pencil’s legs and upper arms together with twine.
“OK Samson, let him go. And you: tell your friends, if you have any, I’m ex Special Forces. You’re lucky the dog got you before I did.”
Pencil didn’t feel lucky. His arm throbbed. With a record like his he was sure to go down for at least two years.
And so it was.
Pencil had become used to life inside but he was relieved to be out again, even if it meant returning to a life of risk-taking. There was something about the thrill of getting away with a haul which was like a drug he couldn’t kick. His mate Daz was waiting for him.
“Hiya Daz, how’s things?”
“Much the same Pence, got a proposition for you. Can we go for a walk?”
“Yeah, OK. Need to get some tobacco first.”
After a few spells inside Pencil was used to roll-ups.
“Golden Virginia please, one ounce, er, thirty grammes, and a packet of papers.”
Pencil fumbled in his pocket for the money.
“Oh, and a lucky dip for Saturday’s lottery please.”
Daz told him about a mini-market that took deliveries on Tuesdays.
“Fags and booze. There’ll be too much for me and Ecko to carry. We wondered if you wanted in.”
“Yeah, let me know when.”
On Saturday evening, Pencil was in his local, catching up on a very deep thirst. Chester, one of his mates, had a habit of telling long stories that didn’t go anywhere. Pencil had nodded a few times, like he was listening, when he noticed the Lottery draw was on the telly. As the balls fell he blinked, looked quickly at his ticket and began to shake, but he said nothing. Chester was still rambling. Pencil got up like he was going for a pee and ran out of the pub.
“Congratulations Sir, you have won seven million four hundred and twenty three thousand pounds.” He didn’t hear the last few pounds and pence.
Spain felt great. Becky and little Mollie loved it and the weather was fantastic. He found a bar with English football on the telly and he’d go there as often as he could but Becky didn’t like being left on her own. One evening, after six months and several gasses of San Miguel, Pencil found himself telling a stranger that he was a bit bored.
The next day he took a very early stroll round town and, just to keep his eye in (or so he told himself), started looking at what would have been likely prospects, if he was still in the thieving game. ‘Hiper Centro’ was, like most Spanish supermarkets, heavily barred and shuttered before opening, but there was no harm in taking a closer look. There was a garage with a flat roof which he might have used, if he still had the need, to get up to a window at the side. The upper part of the window was top-hung and open: easy. Will they never learn?
Pencil went home and gave Mollie her breakfast. Becky said her Mum and Dad were coming over for a few days. That was a relief: someone to go to the pub with and Becky could talk to her Mum. But he missed his mates, particularly Daz; they’d been mates since infants’ school.
Two weeks later Pencil took Becky’s parents to the airport and headed home. It was a drive of over an hour and his mind kept turning to that supermarket. “Old habits,” he told himself. He didn’t need the money any more.
He couldn’t sleep. The pillow felt the wrong shape whatever he did with it and his mind kept turning to that shop. He got up quietly and made himself a cup of tea. Suppose he just took a look at this time of night, 3.15am, just to satisfy his curiosity?
He let himself out of the house and took a quiet stroll, walking on the sides of his feet, towards the supermarket. Access to the garage roof was easy. He was just taking a look, he told himself. There was the window. It might look out of reach for most people but Pencil was not most people. He had learned his craft the hard way and, look: those cables are well fastened. He could put his feet on the cleats and be up at the window in no time. Well, he’d just see.
The window swung open easily and Pencil dropped in, onto the biggest dog he’d ever seen in his life.