We picked them up just outside Hereford. We had had a call come in to tell us to look for a light blue A40 which had been used for the getaway car for a burglary. Once you get Charlie’s eyes onto a problem like that, woe betide the chap if he is still in the vicinity, but still it was a good feeling when we swung into the lane behind it and discovered that it was the number plate we were looking for. FOX ?D we’d been told. Well there it was. FOX 12D.
“Carefully now,” Charlie said. “We don’t want to alarm them. Just follow at a distance.”
I slowed down enough to leave a significant space between us and the A40 but close enough to notice if they made a turn.
“Seem to be heading for Birmingham,” Charlie said. “Good place to get lost.”
The other car seemed to be in no hurry and kept to the Birmingham road without deviation. Obviously they were an unsuspicious bunch. Crooks were like that – sometimes didn’t seem to see the nose in front of their face – or the police car at their back.
It was a pleasant night – full moon shining on the road ahead of us and silvering the fields on either side of the road. Sometimes the curves of the road hid the car we were pursuing but they were always there ahead when we got round the bend. Nice job this – if only it weren’t Sunday night. I’d wanted to be home to play with the children before they went to bed. Bother crooks! Maybe they’d do something silly soon so we could pull them over. Perhaps at least I could get home before Mavis went to bed – spend a little time with her.
“Not so dusty!” Charlie exclaimed a few minutes later as the car slowed and pulled over onto the grassy verge. I pulled in behind them, switching off my lights.
“Here, don’t want to alarm them,” Charlie told me. “I’ll go alone. If I shine my light in your direction I need your help.”
He opened the door and climbed out heavily. He looked the part of the typical bobby – solid, reliable – you saw all that in Charlie when you talked to him. I watched him switch on his torch and go over to the passenger window. Bending down he started talking into the car. I checked my watch. Ten o’clock. Might still make it before Mavis went up to bed.
I eyed the car, thinking about the design of the A40. The hatchback and the back seats that fold down give plenty of space for luggage – or loot. Good getaway car! Good family car too! Funny that! You couldn’t really guess the nature of a driver by looking at his car. He could be a good family man – or a criminal. Same car, different uses.
I could see Charlie’s eyes swiveling towards the back of the car, obviously scoping it out. He lifted the light and peered into the car. The beam reflected back on a face filled with chagrin and disappointment. He nodded to the unseen person in the car, turned off the torch and came back.
“It’s a bust,” he groaned as he opened the door and lowered himself into the seat.
“No evidence?” I asked. “I saw you look in the back. Anything there?”
“Kids!” he said bitterly. “Nothing but bloomin’ kids.” We sat there allowing the frustration to sink in for a few seconds.
“Come on,” Charlie said finally. “Wherever our men are, they’re not here. Might as well call it a night.”
I started the car and we turned back the way we had come.