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95

Tycienski herded most of the stunned agency workers through the kitchen door and out into the night. The workers were staggering about as if they were bodies which he had just animated out of clay.

They found themselves at the entrance to a neatly cobbled alleyway, which was open to the night sky and boxed in by high brick walls. The cobbles were so sharply rounded that they scraped the soles of the feet; the alleyway was too tight for any vehicle other than a goods trolley to realistically travel down.

Tycienski could not herd the workers ahead of him and lead them at the same time. Yet if he took the lead, there was a danger that the more exhausted of the workers would fall behind. He was still stranded in the midst of this conundrum at the first bend in the alleyway, when they all blundered straight into the astonished faces of the criminals.

There were six of them, three of whom were carrying a large, still-sealed safe between them.

Both sides leapt back in surprise. Leading the way for the criminals was a tall girl with a bouncing ponytail, who coolly slipped a pistol out from the front of her tracksuit bottoms.

Tycienski crazily, by some uncontrollable instinct, found himself squaring up to the pistol.

All at once, the girl straightened and immediately began to perform a kind of little strutting dance. She stamped around the cobbles like a clockwork elf. Tycienski’s eye fell to where a small piece of the girl’s head had landed at her feet like a dropped cake. The girl made a comment in a sad, faraway voice and then she was spiralling downwards, with glassy eyes and expressively curving arms.

“I’ve always known it, eh!” Janet trilled at them from above. “Thieves, eh? I’ve always known. They said I was a racist, eh? A racist you know? Well I’m sorry, I’m truly sorry you know, but it’s not racist when you know that the Polish are stealing from you, that staff who are meant to be like members of your own family are stealing whatever they can, is that it? Is Marvin down there? That old goat stealing from me, stealing everything from the garden…”

Tycienski had a brief glimpse of something like a blackened chimpanzee dancing amongst the chimneys and then everybody around him had turned and they were pushing blindly back towards the kitchen. For a moment, there was an intense hush, which was rocked by breathless, frantic whimpers. Then, with a sweep of her sooty arm, Janet had sent down another cascade of tiles.

A tile hit Tycienski in the square of the back. He had been suddenly left behind in the alleyway’s bend, with the incapacitated girl and her abandoned safe. It looked strangely like the return capsule from a space mission had come down on the cobbles.

A second tile had glanced off his shoulder and his collarbone was broken. “Stop!” he beseeched the rooftops. “Don’t you recognise me? We’re on your side! We’ve called the police.” The next tile almost sliced off his nose.

By now Janet was no longer flipping down tiles indiscriminately and she was starting to take deliberate aim at her most hated adversaries. The agency staff were flowing back down the alleyway, but they had got tangled up in a hysterical bottleneck. Bones were shattered. Boots slid desperately on bloody cobbles.

“Oh you’re sorry now, aren’t you? It’s okay to apologise now, isn’t it?” Janet gloated above the cries for mercy. “They say it’s racist, eh, but maybe if the police had stopped being less racist, you know, then they might not need an old woman to go and do their job for them, eh?” With this, another flurry of tiles did their bloody work.

Death had been alerted to what was happening here and he had dipped into this alleyway like a press-gang officer in search of new recruits. Tycienski brushed past him with a toss of the head, pushing him back, swaying towards the kitchen door. Another tile slapped his arm and he waggled his fingers in response to prove that his hand was not severed. Finally in the kitchen, Tycienski vomited blood profusely and blacked out.

Janet’s wrath had lost its spontaneity. She crouched panting and hissing amongst the gables whilst half-insensible figures crawled about below her, following their little lice paths. The night air sweetened, as a new freshness, a tranquillity as rich and heady as perfume, descended over their senses.

[Final instalment: Not Real Policemen.]

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