1980s >> 1987 >> no-999-november-1987

Sleuth – A Short Story

Grind’s the name. Gary Grind. Special Investigator. Department of Health and Social Security. I hunt down the scroungers and moonlighters. Make the claimants sick, anti-social and insecure. Geddit? Sometimes this job means dark and lonely watches, staking out some dame’s home to see if she’s got a boyfriend supplying her champagne, caviar and designer clothes. Know what I mean? It’s hard in the small hours with only a pack of Rothmans and your conscience to keep you company. Brings a man up against himself. Makes him ask – what’s it all about?

I catch a lot of moonlighters through their hands. Hands tell a lot to a hardnosed, streetwise, keen eyed operator like yours truly. Clean hands, I reckon they’re moonlighting – office cleaning maybe. Dirty hands, they must be moonlighting – doing up cars most likely. Hard hands, they’re moonlighting – on the building site. Soft hands, bet they’re moonlighting – window cleaning probably. The world’s full of moonlighters and scroungers, getting benefit when they shouldn’t, ruining the state, undermining civilised values. If it wasn’t for dedicated public servants like yours truly they’d swamp the place.

The latest bit of moonlighting we’re on to is these motor bike couriers. Means a lot of cold waits on street corners and roundabouts. It’s not easy checking faces under those crash helmets and visor things. But you won’t hear any complaints from yours truly. It’s my job.

I suss out a lot in the pub. My local’s just across the street from the betting shop. I can keep watch, see if any punter known to me is in there squandering the giro. Course, if he wins any money he’s for it  –  undeclared income. The other day, got talking to this weirdo about my job. He reckoned the real scroungers will never need to apply for the social because they live off profit. Said I’m propping up the system of exploitation. Ever investigated that, he asked. Didn’t like his face –  I can smell a trouble-maker a mile off. When I got up to go, I shook his hand. He looked surprised but I was only checking if he was moonlighting. Must always be on the watch.

Am I right or am I right?