That night, Harry took pains to disguise himself, using boot polish to darken his beard and moustache, and pulling on a woolly black cap, black knitted gloves and a heavy donkey jacket.
He made these preparations in front of the living room mirror, because Dora wasn’t there. As was her way midweek, she’d dozed for most of the evening on the settee, before heading up to bed at around nine o’clock.
Sophie wasn’t around either. Earlier that evening, she’d grudgingly replied to her mother’s phone calls to say that she was ‘going with Baz to a gig’. When asked by Dora how she was paying for it (and presumably for Baz), Sophie had replied that she’d be using her EMA, despite its main purpose being to aid with her travel costs to and from college. This was something she didn’t want to do but had no choice about, she said, her tone implying that it was all her parents’ fault for not giving her an extra allowance. When Dora had replied that Sophie ought to get a part-time job like most of her friends, Sophie had cut the call.
Harry wasn’t concerned. He’d long ago given up trying to impose discipline on his daughter; her scornful defiance of everything he said had reminded him once too often of his own inadequacies. Likewise, he’d stopped being exasperated by the calm manner with which his wife accepted Sophie’s wayward lifestyle. If Dora wanted to believe that this unprovoked rebelliousness was genuinely nothing more than ‘an assertion of teen independence’, that was up to her. For the moment, he was simply glad the two them weren’t around to interfere.
He picked up his holdall. It contained a rope and grapple, an electric torch, a pair of bolt-cutters, a screwdriver, a roll of duct tape and some surgical gloves: in short, a burglary kit. His spine chilled as the reality of what he was doing washed over him.
He’d been a police officer for eighteen years; he’d given law enforcement the best part of his life. It was difficult to see how he had finally come to this.
Two voices argued inside his head. One said that he was taking too much of a risk. Regardless of the rights and wrongs, getting caught tonight would be the last thing he’d need; it would give him a criminal record at a time when he was trying to get back on his feet. The other contested that risks were sometimes necessary. He’d taken countless as a cop; he’d bent the rules on numerous occasions during his service, and it had helped him secure some of his best arrests. And this would be no different. OK, he’d be forcing entry to someone else’s property, and doing damage; by the letter of the law, yes, he would be committing burglary. But this was an end to a greater means. If he could show Grant Pangborne that he needed a security man on the site – a week before ringing up and asking for his old job back – it had to be worth it.
The longest unbroken stretch of the journey there was on the Circle Line. At this late hour, Harry rode in his compartment alone. One deserted platform after another flickered by, scrap paper blowing in the breeze. He only saw handfuls of commuters: the odd gang of teenagers; the occasional dishevelled businessman. Not the sort he’d expect a problem from, but even so he couldn’t help wondering if they suspected that he was up to no good. Maybe all villains felt this way when going to do a job.
Again, he went cold.
He reminded himself what had happened with Peoplefind. He’d been out of the police a year when he’d put in his application form to them. They were a private recruitment agency, who specialised in allocating unskilled and semi-skilled labour across the capital. Most of the time they were only able to provide applicants with short or part-time contracts, but this was better than earning nothing. Even so, Harry, with his track record, hadn’t expected that they’d be able to help him. But after only one interview with Grant Pangborne – the MD of Peoplefind – he’d been startled to be offered work on the site itself, providing security. It was a surprise they hadn’t already hired someone to fill that role. Presumably they previously hadn’t thought there’d be anything on site to make it worth a thief’s while breaking in, though most likely insurance issues had finally necessitated that they appoint someone.
Harry had still worried that Pangborne would be deterred from employing him by the circumstances of his enforced departure from the Met, but far from it. Apparently, Pangborne had felt that Harry was ‘just the right man’ – what exactly that meant when Harry had such a tainted record was difficult to fathom. But of course he’d taken the job, and everything had gone swimmingly for the next three months. He’d worked to the best of his ability, scrutinising everyone who came on site, keeping accurate records, even attempting to arrange the installation of CCTV and a better alarm system.
Maybe it was his imagination, but it was this last thing that had seemed to tip the balance against him. During the course of the three months, the more efficient Harry had been the more frustrated he felt Grant Pangborne had become with his performance. When his initial contract had expired, Pangborne had shown no hesitation in informing Harry that they wouldn’t be renewing it. They’d decided that having a full-time security officer at such a small depot was an expensive luxury.
Even now, Harry was bewildered. Grant Pangborne, who wore a Rolex watch and only the most chic Armani suits, and who arrived at his office each morning in a Bentley, had never struck him as being financially strapped. Of course, rich men didn’t get rich by spending money unless they absolutely needed to. Well – and about this Harry suddenly felt grimly determined – Grant Pangborne was about to wake up to the reality of need.