Last night as I lay in my warm bed in my freezing cold bedroom, wearing socks, tracksuit bottoms, a long-sleeved thermal t-shirt and a buff I heard a noise I shouldn’t have heard.
Throwing back both the woollen blanket and the large duvet I slid off the inflatable mattress (making the “emergency first aid foil blanket” that I had laid under the top sheet to reflect back my body heat rustle) and “listened”.
Someone was coming up the iron staircase that leads from the alleyway to the flats.
My flat, while lovely is in a rather odd and offputting position. It is at the back of a row of shops and there is only one entrance to my humble abode…..the alley containing the shops’ wheely bins. While to the shops this is their garbage disposal and fag break point, for me it’s my front door and while unappetising (and potentially blind date ending if you invite the girl back for “coffee” and then attempt to take her down a poorly lit alleyway containing dustbins) it’s reduced the rent on my one bedroom flat to a paltry sum so I’m happy.
To get in you have to navigate the bins, then go through a gate, then a door I share with the hair salon below me, then to a security door with a 6-digit code that must be entered into a key pad. Then you make your way up to either flat 1 or me at number 2.
Only problem is that the guy in flat 1 moved out two weeks ago, owing the landlord a stack of money and with all the heating switched on. Whoever had woken me up thudding loudly on the iron staircase at 1am was NOT living there or entitled to be there.
I listened some more and was rewarded by the sound of a loud knocking on the door and then someone trying the handle repeatedly. As the bloke that lived there had matter-of-factly told me that he had just got out of prison for kidnapping AND I knew he owed people money I had no desire to go out and confront what might have been an early bird debt collector or some drunken slob that he’d crossed swords with.
I phoned 999 and after the operator patronisingly went “are you sure?” to my statement “someone’s breaking into the flat below me” she typed methodically on her keyboard and asked what I could hear.
I replied “nothing, I am in the dining room with the door shut. I have no desire for whoever it is to hear me calling you”.
I added that I was a former police officer BUT in my pyjamas at 1am, with this guy’s previous bad guy behaviour and spell in prison, plus the fact that I knew he owed at least one person a lot of money…I was absolutely NOT going to challenge whoever it was.
Some key clicks later she told me that officers were just arriving on scene. As I couldn’t hear any sirens or see the reflection of any blue lights I assumed they were attempting to be sneaky.
She then repeated that officers were just at that moment “arriving on scene” and after a pause added “actually…officers are already on scene. It’s police trying to get into the flat”.
I then opened my front door and bellowed down “hello! Police?”
To which a gruff voice went “yes, guilty!”
I apologised to the operator for the “crossed wires” who very understandingly said “that’s no problem” and as I hung up the very miffed looking Bobby on the stairwell (bald, built like a brick shithouse, looked like he could have a row) went:
“there are no crossed wires. I was just knocking on the door”.
I explained that:
1). As my former neighbour had left the week before and the flat was now vacant;
2). It was 1am;
3). He’d bypassed the security door;
4). The neighbour was known to owe people a lot of money;
5). He had been attempting to get in to the flat…
Then what the hell was I supposed to think?
I added that the neighbour had an “unsavoury past” but I didn’t know what he’d done.
The cop replied “you don’t have to tell me that. With him it’s not what he’s done, it’s what HASN’T he done!”
Turns out he is on a curfew and had neglected to inform Warwickshire Constabulary that he’d vacated the premises a fortnight ago.
The still grumpy constable said they would keep coming back until they were officially told he no longer lived there.
Tonight I was enjoying The Big Bang Theory when there was a knock on my flat door. The person shouted “police” when I asked who it was but peering through the spy hole I was met with an image straight out of a Jason Bourne movie as the light in the corridor was off and all I could see was a dark silhouette.
I replied “can you punch the hall light on and show me your warrant card”.
He hits the switch and holds up the Warwks police badge.
“NO! The WARRANT CARD!!!”.
He does so and I realise I’m not facing a pissed off “associate” of my former neighbour but a plain clothes cop who asked for the landlord’s phone number and assured me they won’t be back.
He even said he’d buy a copy of STAB PROOF SCARECROWS.
Hope whoever gets the flat next is this side of legal.