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We shared a piano stool, this scrawny black kid and me. Together we produced the strong swinging pulse of an old Art Tatum number, my fingers stiff and clumsy as they sought out the right keys. I showed the kidGavin his name washow to imitate a ride cymbal by striking a beat with his right hand just after he'd produced a weaker one with his left.
The kid was a natural at this but was getting a hard time from his mates because he didn't conform to their version of normal. So here I was, doing what I'd sworn I'd never do again and tinkling the ivories. I was only making an exception for the kid's sake. If the exploitation of his talent was the only thing preventing him from falling into a life of petty crime, it was a no-brainer. I'd just have to work out my neurosis about music some other way.
When the session ended, I pointed my beloved Harley towards home. Preoccupied, it took me a while to realize that the same dark blue Vauxhall had shadowed me for more than five minutes. What was that all about? I swerved the Harley into the outside lane and opened up the throttle. The car followed, losing me on the straight but catching up again when I slowed the heavy bike in a snarl-up.
It confirmed my suspicions. I was being tailed. It was Sunday afternoon, the road into Brighton was quiet, and the car following stood out like a fox in a henhouse in my wing mirrors. Its driver must have known from my frequent changes of lane that he'd been spotted, but it didn't seem to bother him.
Which bothered me.
I'd upset enough old lags during my time as a copper to have made a few enemies. If they were prepared to come after me in broad daylight, they must either be right cocky bastards, very determined to get me, or just plain stupid.
Whatever, it didn't look good.
In the end, instead of riding directly home, I decided to head into the centre of Brighton and lose the car in traffic. The narrow streets in my hometown weren't designed for modern-day traffic and were gridlocked practically 24/7. That was when a motorbike came into its own.
My plan worked like a dream. Or so I thought until I pulled into the multistorey at Brighton Marina and saw the Vauxhall illegally parked on a double-yellow in front of the supermarket, its driver watching the entrance to the car park. Why follow me if he knew I lived on my trawler in the marina?
I gave no indication that I'd seen the car, rode up the ramp and pulled the bike into a slot on the lower level. If the driver wanted to talk to me he'd have no choice but to follow me into the car park. If he left his vehicle where he was, it would be towed away in no time flat. As usual, there were no free spaces for cars lower down. The driver would have to try his luck on the upper levels and I'd get a good look at him before he saw me.
I concealed myself behind a pillar as the car passed my position. Moments later the sound of footsteps running down the concrete stairs heralded the arrival of my pursuer. Only one set of footsteps. That made me feel better, and I abandoned my half-formed plans to call reinforcements in the shape of my old colleagues. I was glad I hadn't when it dawned on me that the footsteps were light, the tapping sound almost certainly made by a woman's heels. My mates would laugh themselves silly if I'd called them to protect me from a woman.