Nobody notices me in the corner, sitting with my guide dog. That’s just the way I like it. I blend into the background, able to do my job with a confidence. An investigative reporter, my job hasn’t changed since I went blind five years ago.
Why should it?
I can do everything I did before my eye stroke. The loss of sight in my other eye, not a total shock. I always understood there was a thirty percent chance I would be completely blind. In some ways it is better, I know that’s not what you expect from me, but my other senses have taken over.
I miss out on expressions, but there is something in the tone of voice. I’m a little like a lie detector, a change in tone, I can instantly tell if they are lying. It’s different, but change is something I have always been able to handle.
Richard, friend, boss and my partner in crime today, sits on the table in front of me. My mobile already set up to record. This story, has been building up for the last year. Drugs, a problem everywhere, but in London, we have more than our fair share of problems.
Crossing county lines is an issue, and even if we get somewhere with this meeting, there are many more willing taking their place. We have to do something. Even if one gang is off the streets, it makes it somewhat safer.
Merlin is heavy on my boots, and his steady breathing calms me. A German Shephard, not exactly your standard guide dog, is the perfect breed. Nobody would attack me with him around. He instantly took to my lifestyle, in such a way, we are perfect for each other.
Nobody will harm me with him around.
I move my hand forward, to grab hold of my coffee. The cold ceramic cup, no longer holds any coffee. His contact is meant to be here, but is late. I’m not even sure of the time, but I can’t check just in case I disrupt my mobile.
To make it look like I am here for something, I stick my fork into my sweet chilli pasta and take a bite, the spice not bothering me in the least.. My taste buds are forever changing. Graham, my husband, forever jokes if I want a career change, I should become a food critic.
I can’t think of doing anything different, from a young girl, I’ve always wanted to solve crimes. Reading Nancy Drew novels, the bug was caught. I’m too short for the police – five foot one, and in heels not much taller. This is the next best thing, but I don’t get to arrest the criminal, just hand over the evidence instead.
Catching snippets of conversation, the couple behind me are talking about where they are going to for New Year now that COVID restrictions have been lifted. I hope they leave soon. We have been working too long on this story for it to fail now.
‘We need to start the meeting soon,’ Richard says.
I imagine him to be talking on his mobile phone, but this is just code for me to get my mobile ready. I double tap to open my phone. Phone open, the muted voice says. Already on video, all I need to do is tap once more and turn it round.
I can’t see if it is in the right direction, but it is easy to follow the sound of Richard’s voice, welcoming his contact, ‘Do you want a drink,’ he says, loud enough for me to hear.
Merlin stirs, but when I don’t move, his rests on my legs again. I keep on eating, my ears picking up every part of the conversation.
‘I get you’re scared kid, but you need to give me a name.’
‘You don’t get it, even talking to you here . . . I’m I deep shit if I talk to anyone, but they’re getting my little brother involved.’
‘Then give me a name. Scott, you’re eighteen. If you are caught then you will go to prison, and that’s not a brilliant place to be. You’ll be in far deeper than you want to be. You’re just going across county lines now, but it will be much worse for you.’
‘You gotta protect me,’ he says. It is a high pitched whine, but this lad is genuinely scared. I can smell the sweat from here.
I hate the fact this exists. Vulnerable teenagers, as young as twelve, lured in my new mobile phones, money, gifts to go across county lines with money and drugs. If they get caught, they will go back into the system, which lets them down again.
Only last week, we reported the death of a sixteen year old girl. The victim of a stabbing, she stood no chance. She could have any life, but now not even her parents are mourning her. It makes so angry. They deserve a childhood, but it is taken from them because of greed.
‘I did as you asked,’ he finally says. ‘I got this from his office this morning, it’s a list of some sort. but it’s got his name and signature on.’
‘What is his name?’
‘I’ve done enough already.’
‘You give me his name, the person you were meeting, where the drop off was. I need something more than a signature, and name on a piece of paper can be forged.’
‘You will give us money to get us out of here. Me. My sister. We need to get away.’
‘Sure kid, but I need a name.’
‘It’s Adam Mortimer, I overheard him on the phone, but you have to do as you promised. I don’t want my name mentioned. I’ll deny everything.’
‘Stay calm, I am a man of my word.’
A blast of cold air behind me, the door opens. It isn’t long before Richard taps my hand, to show my recording has done its job. We sit in silence, aware this name brings more questions than answers. I’m not even sure this evidence is enough go to print.