The Belles of Saint Clement's

by James

It was his first time with Reedy in the passenger seat and so far going pretty well. The guy was quiet, most of the time with a zoned-out smile on his face, and not even the bracing sea air on the ferry home had put any life in him. Sitting in their tan and rust Escort Scott had this easy feeling; just a couple of mates back on the road from Amsterdam.

Scott nudged the car along the queue, and when it was their turn, pulled into the bay manned by two agents - one large and one gigantic. Of course they looked at Reedy first, Reedy in his chunky handknit sweater, skinny jeans and bright purple boots. Reedy with the back of his hand up to his face grinning at the spiders and spaceships he could see.

‘What’s up with him?’ Large said.

Scott gave him a bright and friendly smile. ‘Too many Opal Fruits in Amsterdam.’

‘Right. Sugar crash, is it?’

Gigantic was bent at the waist to peer through the back windows of the Ford. He straightened slowly and in a voice flat with amazement said, ‘They have cardboard crates of oranges up to the ceiling.’ He went down for another look. ‘They have lemons piled up loose in the foot space.’

Large took a look and then both of them turned their stares on Scott.

‘We have a little shop, in Camden.’

‘You sell oranges and lemons?’

‘Yeah, man,’ Reedy said. ‘And the bells.’

The guards stared at him.

Scott went to the back of the car. He popped open the boot and beckoned. When they were done gazing silently at the brass hand bells nestling soft in in their felt cases Scott offered them one of his cards.

In his best reading voice, Gigantic slowly said: ‘The Belles of Saint Clement’s?’

Scott smiled happily. ‘That’s us. Oranges, lemons, and percussion instruments.’

Large and Gigantic exchanged glances. They looked again at Reedy with his pencil thin moustache waxed into points almost as wide as his face. And they looked at Scott, in his plaid shirt with the yellow bowtie. They looked at his chunky glasses and the face with the sideburns he’d shaved in the middle of his cheeks.

Gigantic edged a step backwards.

‘Oh my God. They’re a couple of those.’

He flicked the business card away as though it were soiled and began to wave his arms above his head.

‘We need backup, NOW. We have hipsters here!’

Freedom was theirs in eight hours. The fruit was mush, all the clappers were gone from the bells and all the inside panels from the Escort. But customs found nothing because there was nothing to find.

Scott was in his lounge in his normal people clothes, face shaved clean of stubble. He dialled a fresh burner phone and grinned when the answering voice told him the following far car got through without a hitch.

With a laugh, Scott said. ‘Reedy will need wax to straighten his moustache again.’ He sipped a glass of wine then added, ‘What is it people have against hipsters?’