Thursday, 19 June 2008

Episode 48 - White Van Man

Frankie reached across to the empty passenger seat and picked a new CD from the bag, that’s more like it, he thought, a good blast of Rod Stewart to help the journey go quicker. To the sounds of Maggie May blaring from the speakers Frankie wound down the window of his van and lit a cigarette.

For Frankie life didn’t get any better than this, in this monthly trip he was making more money than he had for years. It wasn’t only what his sister Lizzie was paying him to bring her stock down from London, though he had to admit that she was probably paying him over the odds for the trip, no it was the nice little sideline he had going for the return trip. It hadn’t taken Frankie long to realise that driving back to the UK with an empty van didn’t make sense. Not when he could load the van with cheap Spanish booze and cigarettes to sell at a handsome profit back in Essex.

This sideline in contraband had started innocently enough with a few cases of beer for a mate’s party but had soon escalated to the point now where he was supplying a number of clubs around his home town with wine and spirits at far less than they could buy legitimately. And even the smoking ban hadn’t dented his trade in smuggled cigarettes around the local car boot sales. No, Frankie was a happy man, he had money in his pocket and as long as Lizzie wasn’t serious about getting Ken to find a new supplier he was content to carry on doing the run for as long as he could.

He was getting more careful with his route now though. No sense in getting Customs suspicious, his paperwork was all in order for the outward journey but he had seen too many vans being stopped on the homeward ferries to get complacent. So now he was varying his route across the channel and there were enough ports in France to ensure that he wasn’t spotted as a regular traveller by some over enthusiastic Customs Officer. Tapping his hands on the steering wheel to the strains of Maggie May Frankie smiled to himself, it wasn’t for nothing that his mates had started calling him Frankie the Fox, it took cunning to outwit the authorities and with his luck Frankie was confident that with only another couple of trips he would be able afford that nice little motor he had his eye on. Foxy by name he thought, Foxy by nature.

As he approached the village Frankie used his mobile to phone Ken, ‘Kenny on my way in, do you want this stuff at the shop or in the garage?’

‘Bring round to the villa, Lizzie wants it loading in the garage so that she can get it unpacked before we take down to the shop.’

‘OK mate, no problem I should be with you in about 10 minutes. Get the beer out the fridge I’m on my way.’

Ken was unlocking the garage as Frankie pulled up in his white van and handing him the cold bottle of beer Ken started the laborious business of unloading the new stock from the back of the van.

‘I’ll bet you’ll be glad to see the back of this lot’ said Ken as he stacked the last box in the garage.

‘Nah’ said Frankie settling himself on a sun lounger ‘now I’ve got a proper lock on the van doors I’m not worried. Bit hairy for the first few runs though. Never really felt safe having a kip in the service areas on the motorways knowing that any bastard might come along and rob me blind while I slept. But it would take more than a set of bolt cutters to get this lock of now.’ He laughed.

‘Well you won’t have to worry about that for much longer. Lizzie thinks that she has found a new supplier for her stuff. Apparently the Chinese firm she has been getting her stuff from use an importer in Gibraltar so she has got me looking for a local delivery firm to bring the stuff up from there.’

Frankie knocked over the sun lounger as he stood up quickly ‘What are you talking about new supplier; I thought I told you that I would carry on bringing the stuff over.’

‘Calm down mate’ said Ken backing away

‘Never mind calm down’ roared Frankie ‘I told Lizzie last time that I need this job to get my stuff back to the UK’

‘I’m sorry mate but we’re not running this business just so you can play at being a smuggler.’

‘You stupid old man, this isn’t a game. I’m supplying some very hard men back home and they aren’t going to take kindly to finding out that their supply of cheap booze is going to dry up.’

‘I’m sorry Frankie but that isn’t our problem. Don’t you realise that you have been pushing your luck carrying so much stuff back. It’s only a matter of time before Customs find out what you’re up to.’

Frankie lurched forward and grabbed ken around the neck ‘Is that a threat old man?’

Using all his strength Ken pulled Frankie’s hands away ‘No you mad bastard, it’s a warning. You’ve been luck so far but it can’t last for ever. You’re defrauding the tax man and they aren’t stupid. It won’t be long before they’ll get on to you. Too many people know what you’re up to and all you have to do is upset one of them and they’ll shop you.’

‘Don’t you worry about me. I know what I’m doing.’

‘That’s the problem Frankie, you don’t. Don’t you realise that if you are caught it’s not only you that’ll be going down for this? If Customs find you with the stuff they are going to ask themselves why you’re making all these trips and it won’t take them long to put two and two together and make five. Then they’ll start looking at me and Lizzie and think that we are part of this racket. It’s not just you that could be looking at a stretch for this. No Frankie, this is it, it’s over. And you’ll just have to get over it.’

‘We’ll see about that old man. Don’t think that this is the end of it.’ Said Frankie

Ken was shaking as he watched his brother-in-law climb into the van and slam it into gear before screeching off through the gates of Los Vista trailing a cloud of dust behind him.