Further adventures of Phil Harrass Private HMI

10th July 1998 at 01:00
It was going to be my most difficult mission. For a start, I had to abandon my trenchcoat and hat for a football top and a skip cap. Secondly, I had been asked to go undercover with a broad. I had thought of asking my ex, Linda Loring, who had now ended her romance with Captain Tim, the Eye-Up-High helicopter pilot.

In the end, I settled for her sister, a smart dame I had dated a couple of times following my last case. It was a last-minute decision, which fortunately left me little time to analyse my motives.

Linda's sister had dressed for the part, too. We met up in a burger bar in the city centre. She was wearing a denim jacket with a pelmet skirt that nearly matched, black tights, platform shoes and a Lycra designer top that bulged with the cushion she had used to make herself look pregnant.

"You look great," I said, slightly disturbed because I meant it. She looked at me and laughed, her hand over her face, but probably not for more than 10 minutes. Finally, she gestured towards the door with a half-eaten Big Mac. "Let's go shopping," she said.

We had no luck at the first few stores. Making straight for the brats' clothing section, we would behave aggressively until an assistant appeared. But none said what we wanted to hear. Six shops on and we were in a joint with loud music.

"Errr, come on over here if you think you're hard enough, Bub," I called to a lackey. Linda's sister looked as if she was going to laugh again, but when the assistant was near enough she deliberately brushed against him then bawled in his face: "Haw! Don't touch what you can't afford!" The floorwalker motioned to us. "I think you might like to see what we have through here," he said, heading through a curtained doorway.

We had found it: HardKidz, the store of unsuitable clothing for children of all ages. You could get it all, from a slashed denim baby-gro to a secondary-sized football shirt, almost identical to an Old Firm one but marked: "Belongs to an obscure foreign side so teachers cannot argue that you should not wear it in case you cause trouble with rival supporters.".

Tops with drug, booze and bad language slogans abounded. In the jewellery section there were cannabis leaf pendants and leather wrist straps with spiked studs. If you'd had to pull up a kid for it at a school, it was available here. Using a method I am not able to disclose, I covertly set off the sprinkler system as we made our exit. All in all it was a successful mission, marred only when I called my accomplice "Linda" over a romantic pakora for two.

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