Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • A man came into the newspaper office, and asked to speak to a reporter covering Tottenham, so they buzzed me down. I met him in the lobby: Advertising and editorial were behind locked chrome and plate glass windows, like a bank.
    I remember him as short, with close-shaved hair, and a barrel chest. Black leather jacket and jeans. In Britain, the close-shaved head is shorthand for National Front, but men also wear it to look hard, to fit in with the villains.
    He complained that he'd come home from Tesco, gone up the lift to the 14th floor of his tower block. A man with a rifle chased him along the corridor, and he'd dropped his shopping. “The police and the council aren’t interested in helping me,” he said. “Can you do a story on it?”
    “Ok. I'll talk with my editor. What's your name?”
    As he gave me his details, the heavy steel door opened to the advertising department, and one of the reps pushed her way through carrying a plastic bag. They had a sort of uniform - short skirt, blouse, white pumps, and hair done up in a pineapple. She called to her friends: “Just going to the bank! I'll be back in a tick!”
    My contact looked at his watch. “Quarter past three,” he commented. “Does she do this every Tuesday?”
    “Don't you dare,” I replied, laughing. “I've got your name and I know where you live.”
    I waited until Wednesday, after the paper had gone to bed and we worked on our features, to take it to my editor, a tubby guy with a bushy beard and twinkly eyes like Santa.
    “I've got this guy, lives in Dylan Thomas House, says a man with a rifle came after him and the police won't help.”
    “Sure,” he said. “You're done with your stories?”
    “This is the only one to come in, so far.”
    I wore a little red tartan skirt, a wool bolero jacket I made myself, and a pair of flat-heeled black boots - always in case I needed to run - when I pulled my little green 850 Mini into the car park at Dylan Thomas House. The concrete sky rise made me think of the depressed poet. I wondered whether he’d see this barnacle of a building as ironic, or fitting.
    I stepped into the lobby, into a sharp urine smell, moving my feet carefully as I moved toward the lift, watching for needles. I didn't really know what the story would be, if anything. I couldn't write an article based on gossip.
    I walked along a silent corridor, alone, until I found his number. Buzzed his flat. The man let me in. It smelled clean, and aired. The white-and-black tiled lino floor, the low refrigerator, and gas stove had all been wiped down. Tidy.
    He led me into his small sitting room, to a black leather overstuffed sofa that rested on a hand-knotted Turkish carpet. He offered me a beer.
    “I don't know how much I can do for you,” I told him. “It's really a matter for the police.”
    “I can't go to the police. I've been in the 'ville [Pentonville Prison]. Besides, I know who's after me. They're jealous of what I got.”
    “I can talk to the police for you, if you like.”
    “Listen. Do you want a new winter coat? I can get one for you. Off Oxford Street. Sheepskin. You'd look good in that.”
    “No thanks. I can buy my own gear.”
    “I know too much, like. I know who did that Dairy job. I know who blew up the Bookman. That's why they're coming after me.”
    “I'll do my best. Do you want me to speak to the DC?”
    “Go ahead.”
    “Ok, well I have your details. I'll let you know what he says.”
    He ushered me to the door. As he pulled back the bolts, I glanced up. Between the light switch and the door jamb rested a wooden-handled knife with a thin five-inch steel blade.
    As he unhooked the chain, I pretended my heart didn't race. I remembered I hadn't given my editor the contact’s address, or his name.
    “Goodbye,” he said as I walked out.
    “I'll be in touch,” I said, and flipped my notebook shut.
    • Share

    Connected stories:

About

Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.