South London; A long time ago: “Don’t tell the f**king pigs a thing Mike, they’re just white trash,” so said the one named Zulu Sue.
I am sitting in the Charge Room in a South London Police Station having been arrested with my partner in crime, the said Zulu Sue. A perfectly reasonable uniformed constable has just walked in with a cup of coffee and biscuits for each of us. He had merely asked, “What’s all this about then?” when Zulu Sue had flown off the handle. What it was all about was not what the police had thought it was when arresting us both earlier that November afternoon. At the point of arrest the presumption was that they had secured a significant drugs bust. When the truth came out it, much to their chagrin, left them feeling unfulfilled of that there is no doubt.
Zulu Sue had no idea she was known as Zulu Sue. The chaps down the pub had christened her that because she was a Zulu! Additionally, it would take no gigantic leap of imagination to picture her, in full tribal costume, clasping both shield and spear ready for the kill! How to describe her? Well, she was, unsurprisingly, black with a powerful, lusty warrior frame. Her hair was styled in a massive Afro cut, her facial features chiselled and striking. Quite the most stunning, beautiful woman I have ever known, and, up until the point where she let fly in the Nick, one of the wittiest and most polite. Were one seeking out a trophy wife then she would have to be considered the ultimate article of ostentation.
We were both regulars at a local pub. I would see her holding court at the bar with the local reprobates and usual suspects. She would play to the gallery, milking the fact she was always the centre of attention, cracking her bawdy jokes and pontificating upon the politics of the day. She was a bright one was Zulu Sue. Over time we got to know each other, first just as nodding acquaintances, then, every so often, chatting ones. Oh how I fancied Zulu Sue. Not that there was a hope in hell that my fancy would be reciprocated – me the longhaired, painfully shy, bespectacled introvert type. Still, one could but dream.
Then, late one Friday evening who should plonk herself down at my table and gaze amorously into my eyes but Zulu Sue.
“You’ve got a Jelly Mould haven’t you?” Twirling her forefinger daintily around the top of her draught Guinness filled pint mug as she spoke – a ‘Jelly Mould’ being the nickname for a Morris Minor vehicle.
“I certainly have,” I replied, hoping my quizzical, yet painfully nervous look was not too obvious.
“I’ve got one too and you see, the thing is, I’ve got a bit of a problem and, well, I was wondering if you might be able to help me? What I want isn’t particularly legal – what I’m asking you to do, isn’t legal, that’s all.” I suggested she tell me more.
“Has yours got an MOT Certificate?”
“Yes, thankfully. Got it done only a couple of weeks ago. She passed with flying colours as it happens.”
“Well Mike, mine’s just failed on loads of counts. It’ll cost me a small fortune to get all the repairs done, and, frankly, I don’t have the spare cash right now. I reckon your car and mine are about the same age, and, now that you’ve told me yours is legal – which is what I was hoping you’d say – I was wondering if you’d mind, and I would be ever so, ever so grateful if you, how shall I put it, swap number plates with me. With my plates on your car I can simply go and get an MOT. What do you say?”
How could I refuse?
She swiftly explained that we would meet up just after lunch the very next day, a Saturday, in the stables yard where she worked. Her passion was horses. I wished I was one of her horses, although, chances were if I was her horse it would be my misfortune that she’d have me gelded.
So meet up we did. Number plates were swapped over; her vehicle left ‘in situ’ at the stables; an MOT Certificate duly acquired from a nearby test centre. Job done!
Back in the stable grounds it took no time to swap our number plates back over. Just as she said, “How about a pint then?” and before I could even answer, the headlights, on full beam, of four vehicles blinded us both. Those shafts of lightning, frozen in time, came out of the gathering evening gloom from the four corners of the courtyard. In perfect shock I heard the savage barking of two, what sounded like, very large and distinctly unfriendly canines.
“Don’t move. Put your arms out and don’t even think about legging it. You’re both under arrest.”
And that, my friends, is how we have come to be sitting there in the Charge Room.
The policeman armed with the drinks and foodstuffs doesn’t take kindly to Zulu Sue calling him a ‘fucking pig’ as well as ‘white trash’ and his demeanour has turned from considerate to disgruntled. Red mist descends about him. Carefully placing the tray of beverages upon the table we are sat at so as to not spill the contents, he promptly smashes his fist down and the contents spill over anyway. He looks at the mess as if it is our fault. I suppose indirectly it is – well more Sue’s fault than mine although it is clear we are tarred with the same brush. I have been in a state of alarm, terrified since the very point at which we were captured. We had been driven to the police station in separate cars so as we could not conspire to formulate an alibi. This meant I had not had the chance to note her reaction to being incarcerated thus. Her ugly remark to the copper with the coffee was the first time I’d heard her speak. Her mood was plainly as dark as her complexion. Hate was incubating within her. I could feel it.
“Sue, shut the fuck up and don’t talk to him like that. Be polite.” I am, with some justification getting angry with her. She shuts up and stares randomly about the place. My mouth is as dry as I don’t know what and I swallow what’s left in the coffee mug in one gulp oblivious to the fact that it’s still really hot. My mouth burns. It hurts.
Turning my attention to the constable I say, “What do you want to know?”
“You’ll have to wait son. The Drug Squad are going through the cars with a fine toothcomb as we speak. As soon as they’re done and we get hold of a female officer we’ll search you both. Cavity search that is.” He has a positively evil look about him. He is enjoying imparting this last bit of information. This is not funny. Not funny at all.
I proceed to give him the full low down on what Zulu Sue and I had actually done – every minute detail.
“Is that the truth?” he says, looking directly at Sue. She reluctantly acknowledges him, half nodding in the affirmative. “Well, you’ll have to wait here and tell it to the Drugs Squad.” As if to verify my story Sue hands the MOT Certificate to the officer. He chuckles in a ‘much ado about nothing’ sort of way. It looks like he believes us. Another uniformed officer enters the room. I am desperate for a pee. I ask if they will let me go to the loo. The first officer, quite friendly once more tells me he will have to accompany me to the toilets so as to ensure I don’t attempt to destroy any evidence. He asks for my belt.
“What do you want my belt for?”
“It’s rules mate. Just so as you can’t hang yourself.”
“But you’ll be with me so how can I hang myself – not that I have any intention of topping myself right now?”
“Rules is rules. Take it or leave it.”
We head off for the ablutions. The second officer stays with Sue. I am standing at the urinal with a police officer at my shoulder. As much as I want to relieve my bladder I find I can’t do it with him stood so close, watching me. I give it up as a bad job. We return to the Charge Room. A couple of minutes later a DC joins us. His uniformed colleague explains our story, thus saving me from the rigmarole of recounting the events leading up to our arrest. The DC says that it fits, as the cars are clean then merely asks us to empty our pockets. He prods around the contents laid out on the table with his biro. I thank God I haven’t got any hash rolled up in silver paper with me. I usually have.
The DC makes to depart saying only, “You’ll be hearing from us later,” but doesn’t elaborate. I think it pertinent not to press him on this point. Sue just looks crabbed and disinterested at the whole business. I say, “See you around,” to Sue as we are led to the car park at the back of the station. Before we leave we suffer the indignity of being fingerprinted. My car is ready for the off so I depart. The police are still doing something with hers it looks like she’ll have to wait awhile.
My priority is now a piss, a beer, or, better put several beers and innumerable stress relieving cigarettes. Good luck is the most casual and elusive of playmates. She visits me now. Entering the pub is the captain of my cricket team. Upon seeing just how pissed off with the world I look he says, “Lost a shilling and found sixpence then Mike?” I proceed to tell him the squalid tale of my brush with the law. He is a DS in the Drug Squad generally working out of stations in the West London area.
“Well, I can’t lose my opening bowler to the Wormwood Scrubs Day Release XI can I? I’ll see what I can do.”
He leaves the bar for a short time. Upon his return he simply says, “Sorted.”
I never did hear anything more from the police. A cloud of despair hanging over me lifted. It is often said that it’s not what you know, more who you know that gets you out of tight spots. That, it seems, was certainly true in this instance. I didn’t see much of Zulu Sue after that.