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I stopped to watch them.

They were working, at night, in a secluded street, doing something with the shutter of a shop.

It was a heavy shutter: they were using an iron bar for a lever, but the shutter wouldn't budge.

I was walking around, going nowhere in particular, on my own. I got hold of the bar to give them a hand. They made room for me.

We weren't pulling together. I said, 'Hey up!' The one on my right dug his elbow into me and said low: 'Shut up! Are you crazy! Do you want them to hear us?'

I shook my head as if to say it had just slipped out.

It took us a while and we were sweating but in the end we levered the shutter up high enough for someone to get under. We looked at each other, pleased. Then we went in. I was given a sack to hold. The others brought stuff over and put it in.

'As long as those skunky police don't turn up!' they were saying.

'Right,' I said. 'They really are skunks!' 'Shut up. Can't you hear footsteps?' they said every few minutes. I listened hard, a bit frightened. 'No, no, it's not them!' I said.

'Those guys always turn up when you least expect it!' one of them said.

I shook my head. 'Kill 'em all, that's what,' I answered.

Then they told me to go out for a bit, as far as the corner, to see if anyone was coming. I went.

Outside, at the corner, there were others hugging the wall, hidden in the doorways, coming towards me.

I joined in.

'Noises from down there, near those shops,' said the one next to me.

I took a look.

'Get your head down, idiot, they'll see us and get away again,' he hissed.

'I was looking,' I explained, and crouched down by the wall.

'If we can circle round without them realizing,' another said, 'we'll have them trapped. There aren't that many.'

We moved in bursts, on tiptoe, holding our breaths: every few seconds we exchanged glances with bright eyes.

'They won't get away now,' 1 said.

'At last we're going to catch them red–handed,' someone said.

'About time,' I said.

'Filthy bastards, breaking into shops like that!' the other said.

'Bastards, bastards!' I repeated, angrily.

They sent me a little way ahead, to take a look. I was back inside the shop.

'They won't get us now,' one was saying as he slung a sack over his shoulder.

'Quick,' someone else said. 'Let's go out through the back! That way we'll escape from right under their noses.'

We all had triumphant smiles on our lips.

'They're going to feel really sore,' I said. And we sneaked into the back of the shop.

'We've fooled the idiots again!' they said. But then a voice said: 'Stop, who's there,' and the lights went on. We crouched down behind something, pale, grasping each other's hands. The others came into the backroom, didn't see us, turned round. We shot out and ran like crazy. 'We've done it!' we shouted. I tripped a couple of times and got left behind. I found myself with the others running after them.

'Come on,' they said, 'we're catching up.'

And everybody raced through the narrow streets, chasing them. 'Run this way, cut through there,' we said and the others weren't far ahead now, so that we were shouting: 'Come on, they won't get away.'

I managed to catch up with one of them. He said: 'Well done, you got away. Come on, this way, we'll lose them.' And I went along with him. After a while I found myself alone, in an alley. Someone came running round a corner and said: 'Come on, this way, I saw them. They can't have got far.' I ran after him a while.

Then I stopped, in a sweat. There was no one left, I couldn't hear any more shouting. I stood with my hands in my pockets and started to walk, on my own, going nowhere in particular.