It was raining for the last two days, and from the last two days, two boys were trying to get some money at their hands to eat a good meal.
“Sun must be shining behind the clouds but look at the road here”, Mark kicked the water with his right foot and continued, “looks good enough to sail off a new ship into Thames!”
“Wouldn’t it be awful for a ship to pass through Oxford street? I mean where will all these people go?” Steve had a mix of confusion and irritation in his tone.
“You know you are such a bad company for a person like me”, Mark shook his head in disgust.
“You know I was exactly thinking the same!”, Steve punched him on his shoulder and laughed.
Mark & Steve were friends not for a long time, but the need of the moment was such that they had to be around each other. Oxford street, London, is the busiest street in Europe which locates the most popular brand stores in the world. Naturally, the most popular brand stores are ought to be expensive and only rich people can afford expensive stuff and later term it exclusive. Mark & Steve were pick pockets, and they were good in their business. The easy paced walk, eyes always on their target and with a swift movement of the hand they would possess a wallet, a mobile handset or the keys to an expensive car, depending on what a person had in the targeted pocket. Most of the times, the pocket would be empty, so they would curse the man and look for another prey. Living is not easy, at least not as easy as picking pockets.
“Look at that couple inside Selfridges”, Mark raised an eyebrow and signalled towards Selfridges store across the road.
“Them?” Steve questioned.
Both of them got across the other side of the road through the Bond Street subway and were outside Selfridges in no time.
“They are not Europeans, South Asians may be”, Steve said.
“What? Now you don’t want to rob a South Asian?”, Mark frowned.
“I was just saying! Calm down big boy!” Steve realised his mistake once again. Judging was not important at this moment, the plan was.
“Beware of the camera”, Mark said to him in a very low voice.
Steve collared up his jacket to hide his half face. He further took out a cap from the back pocket of his jeans and wore it. He examined himself in the telephone booth glass and signalled okay to Mark “All set”.
Mark waited for the couple to check out from the store. Steve stayed at the other end of the store. They did not know which way the couple would go, so each had to stand at either ends so that any one of them could act as required. The couple came out of the store and started walking towards Mark. Mark rubbed his nose with his right thumb three times, signalling Steve that he was going ahead with the plan. Steve started to jog behind the couple to lessen the gap. He saw Mark hitting the man with his shoulder and before he could take his hand out of the man’s pocket, the man had got hold of Mark’s wrist and was all over him, shouting for help. Steve stopped. Mark looked at him. Steve was confused whether he should run to save himself or help Mark to get free of that man’s grip. His eyes kept fixed at Mark’s face, looking for further instructions. Mark made two gestures on his face, first that of clinching teeth together and spreading cheeks upwards which meant ‘G’ and second of creating a small circle by his lips which meant ‘O’ – GO. Steve obeyed, he did not come close but he stayed to see what would happen next. The South Asian man had complete control over Mark who was lying on the footpath with his face down. The cops arrived within few minutes and took away Mark. In the last seven months, it was the first time when any one of them was in police custody. Steve dropped his head down as the car passed him, he did not need further instructions. They had a pact of acting as strangers forever once any one of them would be arrested. He knew a seven month old friendship had eventually come to an end. Steve needed a new friend or a new job.
“He has no ID with him. We don’t know who he is. It would be better to keep him in the lock up for a couple of days to see if anyone comes up looking for him”, Sergeant Jacob suggested to his senior in line Inspector Will.
“Shouldn’t we try to know him first and then take the necessary action?” Will asked Jacob.
Jacob felt taken aback. His habit of giving free suggestions wasn’t entertained at all in the office. He tried a lot to keep this urge of giving suggestions to himself but he failed terribly and continuously.
Jacob went in to the interrogating room. A young boy, probably a teenager, sat in front of him with his head down.
“What’s your name kid?” Jacob asked very casually, expecting an emotional apology and a promise that it won’t happen again. But the boy remained silent.
“Hey! I asked what is your name?”, Jacob’s voice raised a bit this time, the boy thought remained unmoved, as if he had not heard the question, as if he was not in the room.
Jacob’s patience was losing its way. No policeman around the world likes to repeat questions over and over again, and if the criminal is no more than a kid, it naturally becomes more irritating.
“Listen kid, you tried to ambush a tourist, that too in the Oxford Street, that too in broad daylight. I can charge you with serious offences and make sure that you spend at least an year in the rehab center, unless you start talking right now!”
This time, the boy shook, the pitch was very high. The boy was sure that the table would have vibrated as well for a brief moment. He was aware of what was going on. He had only but two choices, to remain silent or to speak. He considered his options very quickly. If he remained silent, he would be charged guilty. If he spoke, he would still be charged guilty. He took a deep breath, shook his head, looked up, straight into Jacob’s eyes and said, “Jacob”.
“How do you know my name?”, a surprising expression showed on Jacob’s face.
“My name is Jacob” the boy made himself clear. Though he was having a hard time controlling his heart beat. His choice of name was pretty wayward.
“Who are you?” Jacob asked very calmly this time. May be it was something to have with the similar names. People do find other people with similar names connected to them, somehow.
“Jacob. British. Seventeen.”
“Where do you live?”
“Footpaths. Clubs. Subways.”
“Don’t you have a family?”
“I am single, no girl friend so far.”
“I mean your parents.”
“Died last year.”
“Bank owns it now.”
“Why? To be a criminal?”
“No. I wanted to work, but there are not much jobs for a sixteen years old, every one demands a graduation degree, even for the job of a cashier. I didn’t know what to do. I had to survive.”
“So you chose to be a criminal?”
“I am not a criminal.”
“Pick pockets are criminals!” Jacob raised his tone a bit.
“I am not a pick pocket sir.”
For the first time, the boy addressed him respectfully. It made Jacob melt, just a little.
“Kid, I am sorry to say, but you were caught while picking pocket of a tourist. That man serves in his nation’s army and according to him, you were trying to rob his wallet.”
“That foreigner is a liar sir. I was helping him to carry his shopping bags. I offered my help to him as he was carrying a lot of shopping bags. I do that as my job. You can check camera records at the Oxford Street. I stay there during day time, help tourists and the generous ones tip me. That’s how I make my living.”
Jacob looked at the boy intently. He was too young to be that smart to befool a policeman. Jacob was beginning to trust him. But he was still in double minds. The foreigner was long gone after signing the complaint papers and it was possible that he won’t come back again to check what Police did with the boy. Jacob wanted to believe boy’s version of the incident. The boy had all the right to defend himself, at least tell his account of the story. Moreover, the boy was named Jacob.
“You don’t appear to be lying”, Jacob said after a long pause.
“I am not sir, believe me.”
This made Jacob laugh.
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because you are confused between a lie and a truth.”
“I have the freedom to chose any account as the truth, don’t I?”
“I had the freedom to chose between speaking or remaining silent, didn’t I?”
Jacob did not ask any other question. He came out of the interrogation room. The inspector was gone home. It was quite late, Jacob also had to leave. He lived in Dartford, which was quite far from Westminster considering the bad weather conditions and it was still raining.
He sat on his office chair, looking at the rain outside.
‘How it hard it is for some people to survive’, he thought, ‘We, as policemen, are given charge of a situation to judge under the law, but kids like Jacob are not aware of the law. He is a British and he has every right to live with dignity. But, in spite of getting good education and a promising career, he is sitting in the interrogation room for trying to loot a foreigner. May be he is telling the truth, may be he is innocent and he was just helping that man. World is full of selfish people. A poor man fills his basket by fishing all day and rich baits directly on the poor man’s basket. He is just a kid, he wouldn’t even dare to try commit a crime, not unless he is a professional, but he has no criminal record against him. May be I should give him a second chance, even if he is lying, he might be doing so out of fear of spending time in imprisonment. If the fear of imprisonment can turn him into a good man, why not give him a chance?’ Clouds roared at this moment and a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky over Thames. Jacob found his answer via heavens.
He was on his way back home when he spoke to the Station In Charge over his wireless instrument. He told him to set the boy free after getting a statement signed from him about whatever he told to Jacob, mentioning his full details. Jacob had decided to favour his fellow citizen. The foreigner would not come back and Jacob, the detainee, was a special case. It was possible that he was telling the truth. Jacob made a mental note to keep a check on the boy in the Oxford Street from now on. He decided not to think about it anymore. It was a fine evening, it was raining, Thames looked beautiful, just as his wife, it was his time to enjoy solitude and some wine at his home.
“Where is the statement of the boy who was arrested from Oxford Street yesterday?” Jacob asked a constable as soon as he stepped into the office. It wasn’t easy for him at all to keep Jacob out of his mind. He was a rare case.
He looked at the paper. It contained all the essential details just as the boy told him last evening, except one.
His occupation mentioned “Recreating Past”.