Declan Greenaisles waited while the grey-haired
lady, of similar age to his grandmother, climbed down from the
driving seat of the hired Transit and shuffled to its rear. At
Declans request, she opened the back doors to reveal four
hundred packs of toilet rolls.
Are these all for your own use,
Not that its any of your
business, young man, but Im eighty-four and, as I reckon I
might live for another ten years, these should see me out.
As a customs officer at Dover, Declan was
used to finding quantities of booze and cigarette in cars and
unhesitatingly using his powers to confiscate the vehicles and
contents. As he watched the Transit drive away, he reflected that
there were no such powers in relation to bathroom products. A one-off
encounter with an eccentric old woman would not have been a
problem. It was, however, the fourth similar van this week, all
driven by the over-eighties. He knew that hundreds of cut-price
toilet rolls, bars of soap, boxes of denture cleaning tablets and
incontinence pads were flowing from Calais hypermarkets onto
British streets and making a tidy illegal profit for some
geriatric Mafia. Intelligence reports indicated that such
products were distributed nation-wide via older persons day
centres. There remained, however, no proof.
Declan had no experience of undercover work.
His Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award had equipped him to insult
foreign dignitaries but not for the covert operation he now faced.
Aged by fifty years by professional, theatrical makeup, he found
himself being wheeled into the Golden Sunshine Day Centre. Dozens
of other agents were doing likewise throughout the land.
A nice cup of tea before we start the
bingo, Mr Smith?
Yes please, my dear, Declan
responded to his undercover name in an impersonation of an aged
An old lady in the next wheelchair
addressed him. What did you do in the war, then?
Declan thought quickly. I drank lots
of tea and sang Vera Lynne songs, just like everybody else,
he replied in an instant, feeling slightly smug at this
utilisation of his historical knowledge.
He participated in two games of bingo and
feigned sleep for an hour to blend with the group. Finally one of
the organisers of the centre brought him a cup of tea.
How are you, Mr Smith? she
Declan seized his chance. Cant
complain, he croaked, though moneys a bit tight
- what with the cost of denture cleaner and incontinence pads
Weve got loads of those in the
basement at discount prices, she confessed.
Declan was about to leap to his feet and
arrest her, when the sedative in his tea took effect.
He awoke in the Orkney Home for Retired
Gentlefolk, unable to easily move or speak.
This is Mr Smith. Poor chap, he
thinks hes a customs official on the trail of smugglers,
too. Hell be no trouble if you maintain his sedation at its
current level. Just like all the others.