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Evasion Part One

This is another story which wonders about those who've long left Grange Hill behind.  It's the first of four linked stories, in fact originally non-Grange Hill, but I got stuck after about 10 linked stories were complete.  This is why there seems a bit of a rogue reference to Robyn in the story at the beginning, because that was the tail-end of another little story.   I don't know if the East End of London still has buildings like what I describe, so please take it as a work of fiction.  It's set in 2007 (before the smoking ban!) The main character in this tale is Anna Wright who experienced a troubled home life with errant older brother Gordon.






Robyn Stone stepped outside, and raced downstairs athletically.  Fifth floor, Fourth floor… down, down, out across the road, watch out for that maniac in the Escort, up past the hi-fi shop, and almost there, where that man is putting in his bank card.  She took position a few metres back, as is customary to do in modern etiquette, cursing her bad luck that someone else would be withdrawing cash at 8.30pm.

The man looked around furtively.  It’s all right, thought Robyn. I’m not trying to see your PIN.  He stood hunched over the machine, the street lamp light reflecting off his balding head.

Peep peep peep peep.  The man pressed some buttons.  He seemed to be taking ages.  “Isn’t it always the way when you are in a hurry?” thought Robyn.  He was only a little man, and seemed even smaller as he hunched over the cash point.

The man pulled out his card, and then started walking away at a fast pace.  Robyn sighed with relief, and approached the machine with her card ready.  As she did so the machine made a mechanical noise, and a thick wad of notes appeared.  Robyn raised her eyes to heaven, but was pleased to - in a sense - return the favour done to her the month before when she had so stupidly left forty pounds behind and a man had called her back.  She almost blushed again at the memory of her foolishness.

“Hey - please stop!” she shouted at the rapidly retreating figure.  She pulled out the money – easily £200 if not more.  “Hey mister, come back!”  He glanced back, and then started to run away.

“No it’s okay – I’m not about to mug you,” she called,  and started to run after him.  He disappeared around the block, and she followed.  As she turned the corner she just caught sight of him going down a dark alley.

“Oh great,” she thought.  “Just the sort of place a girl wants to go down at night.”

Robyn raced after the little man, who had reached the end of the alley – a brick wall prevented him from going further.

“Please stop – don’t you want your money?”

To her surprise, the little man climbed on the dustbins at the end, and hoisted himself over the wall.  Just as he did so, something fell out of his trouser pocket.  Robyn reached the spot, and as she did so, she heard a loud crash from the other side, and then footsteps running away.  She looked at the wall,  “I’m not going over there”, she muttered, then she remembered seeing something fall from his person, and after a brief search discovered what it was.

“Fool’s dropped his wallet!” Robyn bent down and picked it up.  “Might be a name and address in here.”

She leafed through the thick wallet, and then whistled.  Inside was several hundred pounds and not one, or two, but ten bank cards, all with different names, and a small piece of paper with a list of PINs.  There was also an identity card with a photo of a balding man with a round face, and little piggy eyes.  She had difficulty reading the name – it looked like Russian lettering.  Viktor something…

Robyn opened her mobile phone.  “Hello Charlie?  Pizza’s come? Oh you paid him – how?  In the biscuit tin – oh right, I forgot about that money – I put it there for a rainy day.  It’s not raining, but I’ll let you off.  No, I’m going to be a little late, I’ve just got to pop into the police station, explain later.  ‘Bye”

* * *


“YOU DID WHAT!?” yelled Gordon Wright and Viktor shut his eyes tightly against the coming onslaught.  He prayed the end would be merciful and quick.

“Sorry boss.  This woman behind.  I got nervous, and walk away.  Was going to wait and use machine again.  Then she shout “Police stop”.  She plain clothes.  I ran ‘cos if she catch me I be big trouble. They kick me out of country I think.  She follow me. I escape over wall.  It good that I escape, no?”


Gordon brought his fist down hard on the table, and the crash echoed around the warehouse.  He had put on a lot of weight in the previous ten years, some through body building, but mostly through eating junk food.  At a safe distance,  Denzil, as thin and lithe as Gordon was large and stolid, stood impassively, his eyebrows raised.  Viktor carried on talking.

“I out run the police woman.  But I drop wallet.  Sorry boss. I so stupid.”  Viktor shook as he spoke to the giant of a man.

Gordon’s rage calmed instantly as it always did, switching from an inferno to icebox.  He spoke softly.

“OK Viktor. What’s done is done.  Thing is, it was such a simple job, and you screw up big time.  Not for the first time either. “ Gordon shook his head, and stood up and started pacing around the desk.  “I went to a lot of trouble for you Viktor, got you over to this country safely, found you a nice London flat to live in, pay you good money too.  And now we’ve lost those cash cards and the money.”

“But boss, some cards – they not work.  Bad PIN.”  said Viktor trying to minimise the loss, and holding up his arms expressively.

“Yes, yes, about half of them don’t work – I’ll need to sort that out too – Simmons is going to get a nasty surprise if he thinks he can fob us off with faulty cards.  But now the police will know there’s something going on in this patch.”

Gordon went over to Denzil, and spoke quietly in his ear.  Viktor looked at them nervously wondering what was in store.  He saw Denzil nod, and Gordon returned to the desk and hunted around in the top drawer.  He pulled out a couple of photos, and pushed them across to Viktor.

“Take a look at these pictures, “ he said.

“Oh very pretty.  She lovely! I like very much …”

Denzil interrupted, “VIKTOR! If you value your life, stop talking now!”

Viktor noticed that Gordon’s face had turned back to rage mode, and that he was gritting his teeth.

“This girl, Viktor.  This girl is Gordon’s sister, so think very carefully before you continue your sentence,” said Denzil in his even voice.  Gordon recovered his poise, and smiled at Viktor – a smile that was entirely without mirth or warmth.

“Sorry boss.  Did not know. What you want me do?”

“This is my younger sister, as Denzil points out.  This photo was taken five years ago.  Take it, keep it, I have others.  I want you to find her – a simple enough job, yes?”

“Yes boss. I think so.  Where is she.  Where I find?”

“Her name is Anna.  She’s 25 years old, medium height.  We had a ... disagreement, and she caused me a bit of grief.  She used to have long blonde hair, but might have cut it or dyed it since.  She was last seen in the East End of London somewhere close the river – she always liked water.  She is elusive - hard to find, yes?   Our information is that Anna is a barmaid – you understand?  She works in a pub, we don’t know which one, but it is in Shadwell, in Stepney or around there.”

“Anna, nice name.  My grandmother's name also Anna.  I bring Anna back, right?”

“Yes – well done Viktor – that’s exactly right.  Find her, and persuade her, in the nicest possible way.  And if you harm a hair on her pretty head, you will be sent back to your native land in little jiffy bags.”

“Yes, I get it boss.”

“THEN GO!  And don’t come back without her.”

Viktor pushed the photograph down into his jacket pocket and sprinted out of the warehouse. 

It took Viktor a week to locate Anna.  He went from pub to pub with no luck, hindered by his poor English, and returning by tube late at night to his pokey little flat more than a little worse for wear.  Finally, down at a pub called the Dog and Manger in Wapping an elderly barman recognised Anna from the photograph.

“She’s a bit older now than in that photo, mate.  About the same hairstyle though.  Good lookin’ girl, but keeps to herself – a bit of a reputation of being a loner.  And hard as nails.  Member of your family is it?”

“No," said Viktor.  “But her brother is a sick man.”  At least that part is true, he thought.

“Well anyway, mate, she’s down at a pub called “The Crooked Mile”, it’s near Upper Dock Lane up near the river.  She runs it, mind you it’s a grim place. A bad reputation it's got.”

Viktor thanked the barman and took his leave.  Outside he studied his street atlas and started to navigate his way towards Upper Dock Lane.  Nearly done, he thought, then perhaps the Boss will be pleased with me for once and I can send some money home to my family.

It was half an hour before Viktor found the Crooked Mile.  Upper Dock Lane was just a tiny alley, and in the darkness of the early autumn night, he had struggled to find the right place.   Viktor entered the pub, finding the door heavy to push.  Inside the place smelled bad – body odour and liquor mixed with the stench of unfiltered cigarettes.  The style of the interior was old fashioned with functional furniture and minimal decoration.  On the walls were prints depicting London from centuries before.  Also there were a few ornamental items such as pistols and old brass lamps hanging from the solid oak beams.  The pub was poorly lit and a robust handful of ancient men were dotted around the decrepit tables, some played dominoes, some chatted in quiet tones, and the remainder stared into their beers.  

At the bar, Viktor studied the barmaid.  Surely this couldn’t be her – a plain woman, with a lined face, hair pulled back in an unflattering manner and plump figure?

“What you staring at love?  You gonna buy a drink or you just here for the atmosphere?”

“Pint please”  Definitely not her, he decided.

“What of, Whiskey, Vodka?”  The barmaid cackled at her own wit.

Viktor frowned and then elaborated, enunciating the words in the manner of a foreign language phrasebook, “a pint of beer please.”  Then remembering something that had worked before when looking for information, added: “And one for yourself.”

“Right thanks love.  I’ll have a large gin.. later.”  The barmaid pulled the pint, and laid it on the beer mat.

Viktor proffered a tenner, the barmaid took it to the antiquated till and rang up a no-sale.  She took some coins out of the till’s tray, pocketed a substantial amount of them, and returned a smaller amount of money back to her customer.  He peered over the bar, and searched around to see if there might be another place that Anna could be hiding. 

“Lost something love?”

Viktor got down to business and pulled out his rather tatty photograph and showed it to the barmaid.

“Anna,” he said, “does she work here?”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Who wants to know?”

The question confused Viktor, who tended to take sentences literally. He repeated the words to himself, in order to make sense of them.

“Me... I want to know. Please.  I find her for brother.”

“What does your brother want with her?”

“My brother?  No!  The girl …” he struggled to put a concise sentence together.  “Her brother has sent me to fetch her.  She must come home.   She work here, Anna?”

“She’s the gaffer,” admitted the barmaid, and saw Viktor didn’t understand. “You’re not from round here are you love?  You’re Russian, right? She’s the boss – she runs the pub.”

“Ah Anna owns pub! Good!”

“She doesn’t own it, but oh never mind.  Anyway she’s upstairs doing the accounts.   Wait here, drink your beer, I’ll go and fetch her.”  She disappeared upstairs.  Viktor could hear talking upstairs, but could only recognise a few words: “Russian, brother, and ugly git”.

Viktor took a stool and looked around the bar.  A pall of smoke hung over the middle of it.  One of the customers coughed loudly, but otherwise it was quiet apart from an occasional clack of a domino hitting wood and the faintest rumble of traffic. 

From behind the bar, some light footsteps could be heard, and then Anna came into view.  She was slightly taller than Viktor, smartly turned out in a knee-length black dress with a lilac kerchief around her neck.  Her golden hair was luxuriously thick and shiny and her brown eyes shone with amusement.

“Good evening, Lana tells me you’ve been sent by my brother.”  She held out her hand in a businesslike fashion.

“Hello miss. Yes. My name is Viktor with a ‘K’.  Gordon Wright send me to get you home.  He miss you I think.”

“Hello Viktor with a ‘K’.  Misses me?  Yes I expect he does.”  She lifted her face back and seemed to be laughing, although no sound came out of her mouth.

“Yes miss.  So, will you come with me?  He say no harm must come to hair on your head.  We go find taxi then?  Not take long. You get ready?”

“All in good time, Viktor, all in good time.  Drink your beer, it’s the best London can offer.  Then we’ll go and talk about it.”

Viktor slurped his beer back.  He had grown fond of it in the last week on his enforced pub crawl, although he still preferred proper Russian vodka.  While he emptied the glass, Anna raised the bar flap, and walked out into the pub’s saloon.  She picked up a small handbag from behind the bar, and then went to the front door, and held it open. 

“Come on then Igor, let’s go for a walk, and we’ll talk about my lovely brother.”

“My father of my father.  He called Igor, not me.” said Viktor conversationally, and followed her out of the pub.  She started leading them down towards the end of the lane at a fair pace.

“Where we going?”

“Back to where I live.  My house - I have this place nearby.  It’s just down here, not far, come on. “

Anna led Viktor down a series of narrow alleys past decaying warehouses and derelict factories.  These were the last remnants of an older London in amongst the newer Docklands constructions.  After about five minutes they came to her house, part of a terrace of identical houses in a sore state of neglect.  Anna pulled out a large key-ring, and twisted an old-fashioned key in the lock.  The door opened with a complaining creak, and she went inside, and turned on the light.  Viktor followed. 

The room was very basically furnished, but comfortable.  She indicated a small table and pair of wooden chairs, and they sat opposite one another.   A loud, deep horn blared outside, and Viktor looked around nervously.

Anna explained: “It’s just a boat on the river.  We’re right by the Thames here.  So what’s this all about then, Viktor?”

"I work for Mr. Wright.  He my boss. I take long time to find you.  He say you hard to find and it is true."

"I keep my distance from my brother, Viktor - he's not good for me.  I've tried to put the past behind me, but he keeps chasing me, no doubt wanting me to join his happy band of drug dealers and petty crooks.  When he came out of jail he seemed a reformed man - that means changed for the better.  He was soon back in his old ways, so I left him to it.  And that's the way I want it to stay. Got it?"

Viktor looked a bit confused, but understood the gist of her message.  “Your brother send me to get you.  Will you go back with me?”

Anna did not immediately answer. She opened her handbag and took out a packet of cigarettes.  She lit one, with a gold lighter and offered the pack to Viktor, who shook his head.

“You aren't the first of his cronies to come looking.  So I keep on the move, and London is a good place to hide."


Anna realised his understanding was limited, and she would have to use words of one syllables.

"Hired goons.  Men Who Are Paid To Do Bad Things." 

"I am paid, yes... sometimes.  I send money to my mother.  You too have family. This why you come now and help your brother.  He wants you home again."

Anna looked stony faced at him, and blew cigarette smoke upwards.  She spoke slowly and calmly:

"Enough.  I don’t believe I want to come back with you.  Give Gordon my love, be on your way now and we’ll say no more about it, there's a good lad.”

Viktor struggled to work out the meaning.  She stubbed out the cigarette, folded her arms, and sat back on the chair.

“You …. you not come back?  The boss... Mr. Wright say…. He say I must bring you back.  I don’t want use force, but I must do Mr. Wright’s wish.”

“I think I’ve done my share of Gordon’s dirty work thank you very much.  Pushing drugs on schoolmates while I was just a kid, then when he came out of jail he was busy laundering money, extorting people, blackmail, and other things I won't even begin to explain - they were so disgusting.  You go back and tell my big bruv that he can jump in the lake." 

Viktor's voice gained a hard, loud edge. “My English not good.  You come back…. or I, I.. I am not nice man, Anna. You do not want me angry.  I am very strong, and I have knife.  Long and very sharp.”

Anna did not seem to be in the least bit frightened by his aggression, continuing to speak in her normal voice.

“Fine. You win.  I give up.  I’ll go and see him with you.  I'll stay for a while with my wonderful brother.  I’m just going to pack a case, and change, Igor, I'll be back in a moment. I Go Upstairs And Pack Case, Yes?“

"Viktor!  My name is Viktor!" he corrected.  "Good - be quick. Then I will get taxi.  We go back North of London to meet Mr. Wright."

She went upstairs and Viktor rocked his chair, pleased that he had persuaded the girl to go back with him. He really did not like to use violence. He drummed his fingers on the table and waited. Upstairs he could hear footsteps, and the sounds of drawers opening and closing.  A short while later, Anna struggled down with a small suitcase.  She had changed into jeans and tee shirt.

“We’ll go through the back way, it’s quicker to get to the main road.”  She led him out of the back door.  “After you, Igor,” she said. 

Outside, they were on a wooden platform that ran alongside the terrace of houses with the river flowing past.  Anna looked left and right, but they were alone on the balcony.  Across the river, lights from the myriad of new buildings shone out.  Viktor’s feet clopped loudly against the wood.   Here, it was only dimly lit, and the Thames itself was the deepest grey below a dark starless, moonless, sky.

Viktor was pleased. “You doing right thing. Your brother he be so happy to see you.”

“Oh yes, I’m definitely doing the right thing. Won’t you help me with the suitcase?  it’s very heavy.”

Viktor held out his arms to receive it, and Anna lifted it effortlessly.  To his astonishment, she lifted it easily above her head and then, before he could react, swiftly brought it down hard on the front of his head with a loud crack.  He fell silently backwards, a look of surprise on his face.  His body fell back against the low barrier, and Anna gave his upper torso a hard shove.  Viktor, dazed from the blow to his head, fell backwards into the murky Thames with a soft splash.   Anna looked down into the water, but the river did not emit so much as the slightest burp: Viktor was small fry to a hungry river that had seen two thousand years of flotsam.

“Bye bye Igor.  I can’t say it was a pleasure meeting you,” said Anna quietly.

* * *

Three weeks later, Denzil approached Gordon at his desk with some documents in his hand.

“We’ve got this bloke Lance arriving tomorrow from the Ukraine.  He can take on some of the jobs that Viktor used to do for us.  I hope he’s a little more reliable.”

“Good.  Enough time’s passed for us to do some more cash-points.”

Denzil nodded, then replied, “poor Viktor, we’ll not see him again.  Five men you’ve sent after your sister and none of them ever return.”

“Must be in the genes.  Like brother, like sister..  I wonder what she does with them all?  The first few times I really did want to find Anna, then I realized it couldn’t just be a coincidence that none of them come back.

“She was always a very strange kid, you know.  She used to the most horrific things to her dolls.  Quite inventive though, especially with my soldering iron, but burning through the plastic made it quite useless.  She used to love drowning them in the bath too. She used to pull their heads off and fill them with weights… such a clever girl.

“Anyway, once we realised what was going on, it became a good way of getting rid of people when they outlive their usefulness.  it’s nice that she’s helping her old brother.  It means I can have a clear conscience, I do have one you know - well I like to imagine that I do - and if anyone points the finger of suspicion at me, well I'm just someone looking for their long lost sister.



The End (c) 2013 Geoff Phillips. Grange Hill characters, copyright BBC.



(continues in Evasion Part Two)