Prologue April 22nd 2008 3am
Standing up gingerly on the church roof, a man in a thick leather jacket scratched his black-stubbled head and swore softly in Russian. He turned, one foot at a time, to his driver who was holding the bottom of an extendable aluminium ladder and made a negative gesture with his right forearm. Replacing a small torch in his mouth, he turned back to face the roof and, looking down at his feet, carefully stepped back over the guttering onto the top rung.
Reaching the bottom he shook his head and spoke in Romanian:
“Copper, not lead. They must have changed the roof sheeting years ago.”
His driver, also from Moldavia and proud owner of genuine fake Romanian papers, nodded sympathetically. At three in the morning on a cold April night this was not the news they had been hoping for. Their battered white van and ladder had been ‘borrowed’ from the building site where they were hired as sub-sub-contractors to knock-up yet another supermarket on the outskirts of London and their plan was simple: steal the old lead weatherproofing from the roof, fill the van with as much as it could carry, hide the stuff on site for a couple of weeks, and then melt it down and sell it as scrap.
Instead it was their plan that had to be scrapped. They folded up and stowed the ladder and lit cheap Turkish cigarettes, shuffling in the cold and eyeing the old church, loath to lose a night’s sleep with nothing to show for it. The driver coughed scuffed the gravel and said helpfully: