A Cantankerous Old Git
Some people were born to attract trouble.
The old man shuffled into the dark side street. He didn’t like it but it was the only way to his flat. He saw a dark shadow detach itself from the deeper gloom of a derelict shop doorway. The shadow turned into a swaggering youth. His way barred the old man stopped. The youth held out his hand ‘give.’
‘Got nowt lad. ’
The young man stepped in to within two feet. The old man sensed rather than saw the lightening movement and heard the vicious click of a flick knife.
Albert Jackson eyed the youth calmly. At seventy eight, he had recently lost his beloved wife of fifty two years. He didn’t much care if he lived or died but this little shit was not having his money easily. Could he remember the old stuff? Could he still use it?
The mugger was too far away, his reflexes were nowhere near as fast as his opponent’s and Jackson knew it. He had his two hundred pounds winter fuel allowance on him and he was loath to give up. Bollocks, he thought, I’ll give it a go.
‘If you don’t put that knife away son I’ll take it off you and shove it up your arse.’
The man’s eyes flash in astonishment. If he struck now Jackson was dead.
‘What the fuck?’
Jackson raised his right hand in a defensive gesture. His fingertips brushing his top lip; his hand was now where it needed to be.
The snarling youth grabbed Jackson by the lapel, jerking him hard, the knife raised above his head. Jackson could see his eyes now full of hate, his breath stank of stale tobacco. The next few seconds would tell.
His hand was at the right height, the strike distance now a mere foot. His fist flew into the man’s throat as Jackson stepped sharply forward to follow through. The man gagged, spinning away as the Communist Terrorist had done decades before in Malaya. The mugger went down on hands and knees clutching at his throat, legs splayed.
Jackson took his time, anchored his left leg, and aimed his kick through the man’s legs. He felt the meaty thud as shin met testicles. He heard with satisfaction the man’s choking noises go up an octave as he slumped into the foetal position.
The knife was lying at his feet. He took out his handkerchief ‘a promise is a promise lad.’
Grasping the mugger’s knife in his handkerchief Jackson slashed the man’s trousers from belt to gusset. Inserting the blade Jackson thrust hard and kept pushing until only the last half inch of the handle was left protruding from the bleeding anus. The mugger jerked spasmodically his choked off screams growing fainter as his feet scrabbled feebly on the pavement.
‘If you’re going to target pensioners lad, best you stick to women.’ He made his unhurried way home, checked his clothes for blood then burned his handkerchief. After downing a large scotch Jackson went to bed.
The knock came just after lunch next day ‘Mr Jackson? Detective Constable Wilfred Redding sir’ he flashed his warrant card ‘I have a few questions for you about an incident in Peckmore Street last evening.’
‘Really?’ Jackson’s face was a picture of innocent puzzlement. ‘You’d best come in then.’
Redding refused the offer of tea and sat precariously on a rickety upright chair.
‘Mr Jackson, a man was killed near here last night . You were seen on the CCTV entering Peckmore street at ten oh two sir.’
‘Oh, so they’ve finally got around to fixing it eh? Not before bloody time either.’
‘CCTV’s been working again for the last month I’m told sir.’
‘How come you’ve got no one for mugging old Mrs McClaren two weeks ago then?’
‘We’re still working on that case sir.’
‘Don’t you have CCTV images of that incident then?’
‘Camera was on the blink that night sir and it only covers the junction not the whole street. We’ll catch him, though, never fear. Now….’
‘Oh I don’t fear officer, I’m too bloody old for fear.’
‘Anyway, sir, did you see anything unusual or suspicious?
‘No ? You didn’t see anyone else there?’
‘Yes, there was a man curled up on the ground. I thought he was either a junkie or a drunk.’
‘And you didn’t think to report it sir?’
‘How long have you been policing round here son?’
‘I’m new here, just a week.’
‘Ah, that explains your ignorance then’ Jackson rasped. He saw the officer flinch at his barb. He looked him square in the eye. ‘It pays to mind your own damned business in this neighbourhood.’
‘So, you saw nothing else, then?’
‘It’s always dark on Peckmore Street mate, council seem to have run out of light bulbs. They blame the cutbacks.’ He deliberately put passion into his voice ‘the streets where the councillors live are always well lit, though. Bastards.’
Redding sensed a rant coming on. The neighbours had said he was an old soldier and a cantankerous old sod. ‘Yes sir, but that’s not a matter for now.’
The interview concluded shortly afterwards.
A week later all the CCTV surrounding Peckmore Street had been painstakingly analysed.
‘I tell you Sarge, apart from the victim, Jackson was the only one in that area for at least half an hour before Waldo Snaith’s time of death.’ Redding looked perplexed ‘also, timing Jackson’s progress from other cameras he passed, if he’d have kept up the same pace he should have left Peckmore street one full minute earlier than he did.’
Detective Sergeant Lucking looked sceptical ‘Mr Jackson is seventy eight for god’s sake with no previous. I can’t see it Wilf.’
‘I know Sarge, but he was the only one there. I’ve also checked his military record. He was in quite a lot of trouble in his early career, fighting mostly. He was, however, awarded the Military Medal for action in Malaya against Communist Terrorists.’
‘That was a helluva long time ago Wilf, he has to be well past it now.’
‘He was twenty at the time Sarge and no stranger to killing. I’ve got his citation here.’ He handed the print-out to Lucking.
On June the 2nd 1958 Private Albert Jackson of ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion the Coldstream Guards was part of a patrol hunting Communist Terrorists in an area north of Tampin, Negri Sembilan, Malaya. At the end of the patrol his unit had almost reached their base when, rounding a bend in the Jungle, they were confronted by a superior force of CT’s at only three yards distant. They engaged the enemy hand to hand. During the action Private Jackson had accounted for three CT’s when a bullet smashed the breach of his rifle. One man, seeing Jackson at a disadvantage, bayonet charged him. Jackson avoided the thrust and disarmed the man dispatching him with his own bayonet. The enemy raiding party then broke contact and rapidly withdrew pursued by Jackson who threw grenades after them.
Private Jackson showed a total disregard for his own safety and defiance in the face of the enemy far greater than one could reasonably expect from a soldier of such junior rank.
‘Impressive Wilf but I don’t see it gets us very far.’ Lucking paused and rubbed his chin pensively ‘my granddad’s another cantankerous old soldier but he’s well past killing anyone now. He also served in Malaya with the Guards around that time; he was wounded, too.’
Next Sunday Martin Lucking treated his granddad to lunch. ‘Why don’t you ever talk about your experiences fighting in Malaya granddad, and how you were wounded?’
‘There’s nowt t’ talk about Martin’ the old man squirmed looking uncomfortable ‘gettin’ shot at’s just an occupational hazard for a soldier.’
‘Ever heard of a guy called Albert Jackson?’
‘Heard of him? I’ll say. A right stroppy bugger he was, always in trouble. We was both on the same patrol when he won his medal. That’s when I got wounded.’
‘Good grief. What happened granddad?’
‘It’s not important.’
‘It could be Granddad Albert’s in trouble again.’
‘Really?’ He hesitated then nodded as if making up is mind. ‘Well now, we was just finishing a five day patrol, almost home, we walked slap bang into the bastards. Dunno which side was the more surprised. Anyway, I got hit in the leg early on. I was propped against a tree, a ringside seat you might say. I saw Albert’s rifle get hit. Next thing I see ‘im braining one of ‘em with it, snapped the butt it did.’ The old man took a long swig from his pint his eyes misty with recollection ‘then a big guy charged Albert. He had an old Jap rifle from world war two with a bloody great bayonet on it.’ Granddad paused again, tears brimming. ‘We lost two good lads that day.’
Lucking reached across and covered his grandfather’s hand sympathetically’what happened then Granddad?’
‘Oh, Albert side stepped the bloke, neat as you like. As he went past Albert chopped him in the throat, the guy went down on all fours choking something ‘orrible. Albert picked the guy’s rifle up, eyes blazing, screaming like a banshee. Mad as a bag of snakes he was. He rammed the bayonet all the way up the bloke’s backside.’
Lucking sat, mouth agape, staring at his Gramps dumbfounded.
‘It was self defence’ Albert Jackson said stubbornly ‘excessive use of force my arse. I’m saying no more.’
Albert’s lawyer leaned into his ear ‘It would be in your best interest, Mr Jackson, to answer these questions.’
A further half hour of getting nowhere passed as Albert opined on the Government, the courts, modern parents and the schools. Strangely, there was no anger in his voice. ‘Right, we’ll pop you back into a cell whilst we see what’s to be done’ Redding said at last.
‘Nowt to be done lad, I’ll be out of here soon enough. I’ll have the last laugh, you’ll see.’
Redding didn’t answer wondering about Albert Jackson’s mental state. He was so icy calm, like none of this mattered to him.
Later, a constable took Albert a meal and found the old boy dead.
‘Bloody hell’ cried Redding when he heard the news ‘why couldn’t he have croaked yesterday or waited until we’d bailed him?’
He reported to Lucking ‘the old git said he’d have the last laugh Sarge. Death in custody, Christ, I’ll be filling in bloody forms ’til retirement.’
Lucking gave a wry smile ‘A cantankerous old git indeed.’