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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Speed Trap

George donned his camouflaged jacket and black balaclava. He hung his night vision binoculars around his neck and slipped quietly from his back door into the dark night.

His garden backed onto a small wood, and he made his way through the trees towards the main road that joined his small English country village to the next. At the road he had already installed his remaining equipment.

George had been bullied at school. His small stature and, well . . . frankly, his highly irritating manner, had led him to be a natural target.

Average educational attainment had tethered him to middle management posts throughout his working life. Taken for granted, overlooked, under-fulfilled and patronised, he had frequently lapsed into Walter Mitty style fantasies at the office: He had sometimes imagined himself marching in one morning with an AK47 assault rifle and taking out Jenkins, Smith, Robertson, Singh, Sharif, Jones . . . everyone, in fact . . . except Mavis.

Mavis had been PA to the director. She had never been unpleasant to him. Mavis had always had a kind word for everyone, even George.

At the end of his homicidal imaginings, Mavis was always the only one left alive. She would be standing, looking puzzled, amid the ghastly scene of carnage: bodies draped across desks, blood running down walls. ‘How are you feeling, George,’ she would say, kindly, ‘you don’t seem quite yourself, today?’

George had fortunately reached retirement without locating an AK47 on eBay, and had settled down to cultivate his garden and his lifelong resentments.

Then, the letter had arrived.

Speeding was a problem in his village, and the police were seeking local residents to staff a Citizens’ Traffic Review. Selected local individuals would be provided with the same equipment as was used by the police to conduct speed traps. Results from the use of the equipment could not be used for prosecutions, but a letter would be sent to offenders to remind them of the irresponsible nature of their conduct. Three such reminders would result in a warning visit from their local PCSO!!

George had felt positively faint at the thought of the power he could thus command.

George joined the local group of community speed-checkers, monitoring the progress of vehicles through his village.

Initially, his expectations had been completely fulfilled. During one marvellous spring morning he had registered eight cars exceeding the thirty miles per hour speed limit. As the weeks passed, however, fewer and fewer arrogant, law-flouting examples of George’s probable erstwhile oppressors were apprehended. It had become impossible for the speed traps to remain secret. There must have been an informer!

Many months later it emerged that Doris Speedwell, the wife of the village speed-checkers’ coordinator, Morris Speedwell, had been central to sabotaging the project.

She had harboured resentment, every bit as profound as George’s, about how her life might have been fulfilled had she not been subjugated to a conventional middle class, matrimonial and maternal role by, in her assessment, the most arrogant and tedious man who had ever lived.

Doris had conducted a covert, Mata Hari style mission with consummate skill, and had rather savoured the clandestine excitement. Morris had been flattered by his wife’s apparent interest in his heroic, law enforcement activities and so had been careless in revealing the times, dates and locations of traps.

Having recorded this information, Doris had fed it directly to, who had disseminated it via the Internet and via sat nav speed check warning systems.

Within three months, the speed-checkers were bagging less than one victim each week. This was typically a fraught and depressed mother, rushing to fit-in shopping before work after dropping her three fractious children at their nursery and primary schools. Indeed, they were not the sort of respectable citizens that the local PCSO had expected to scream abuse, on more than one occasion, at the announcement of a friendly, traffic violation warning visit.

George had no idea who was tipping-off the enemy, but realised that he could trust no one. He needed to act alone to bring the guilty to justice.

Thus had he planned his lone, night-time mission. At eleven-thirty at night, those cocky, pushy, speeding bastards would never be expecting him!

George lay down in the grass by the main road and peered through his night vision binoculars. He was at a high point, and could see the road for some distance as it rose from the village centre. This allowed him to judge the speed of approaching vehicles and, if that speed appeared sufficiently high, to spring his trap.

Darkness presents a severe technical challenge for any amateur wishing to set a speed trap. There is insufficient light for the speed-check equipment to photograph a number plate. George, however, had not been deterred by this obstacle. He had made an excuse to borrow the key to the lock-up that contained the lighting equipment of the local amateur dramatic society. Those lights were now focused upon the road, twenty metres away. They would, at the touch of a switch, light that road as clearly as they had illuminated Jack on his ascent of the beanstalk at the previous Christmas pantomime. It would be more than a match for the next speeding motorist!

A car came into view through George’s binoculars. This was a thirty mph zone; it was clearly doing nearer to sixty.

George aimed the speed camera at his chosen point on the road and poised his hand above the switch for the lights.

The car sped towards him.

Five, four, three, two, one. . .

The road and the surrounding sky lit up as if it were day. The blinding illumination momentarily hurt George’s eyes, but he resolutely focussed on the car and triggered the speed camera.

The car swerved from one side of the road to the other, its driver apparently blinded and disoriented by the sudden glare. Some sixty metres beyond George, the driver finally lost all control. The vehicle careered from the road and crashed into a building - the outhouse in which the local calor gas supplier stored his cylinders.

The sudden ferocity of the explosion and subsequent conflagration took George totally by surprise.

He concluded that it was time to curtail his speed-checking activities for the evening.

George did not need his torch while he was quickly recovering the lights. Neither as he rapidly retraced his steps through the wood.

Sounds of explosions and sirens, and the glow of flames in the night sky were still apparent as he locked the lighting equipment store. These were continuing, unabated, as he later peered out through the curtains of his own front room.

George withdrew an old book on philately from his bookshelf. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to take up a new interest.