Jeez, I was bored. Bored and cold. Freezing cold as my boots crunched through the dirty snow on Kempston Street.
I risked pulling up the multiple layers of clothing to have yet another peek at my watch. Rubbing at the frost that instantly fogged the glass.
Four thirty six – that's a.m. Yellow street lamps would rule the roost in Liverpool city centre for at least another three hours. Winter had well and set in over the last few nights, which meant mind numbing boredom on the night shift and body numbing cold on the 2:1 foot beat.
No self-respecting burglars would venture out in the snow with the risk of footprints signalling their paths, midweek revellers at a minimum and those that had ventured out quickly disappeared into the fleets of black cabs on Stafford Street and London Road, gobbling up club goers from Casey's and Pickwick's like a swarm of noisy steaming mechanical cockroaches.
I usually enjoyed those few hours on nights when the drunks had teetered off home, the more dubious inhabitants of the city following an hour or so later, and then that time of peace before the early morning rush hour started, paper vans and bin lorries the only noises to break the silence. Watching the dawn come was always a pleasure for me.
But this winter's night I would've given anything to get back indoors, a drunk-and -isorderly, a street fight, some prat breaking TJ's window or even a bit of lost property, yup, things were that dull! (And cold.)
As if in answer to my grumbles, a figure appeared, hurrying across the main road and into the car parks at the rear of the shops. Please, please be a burglar!
Crossing my frozen fingers, cursing the crunching underfoot, I tiptoed rather pantomime-like after the figure. If they turned right it was probably someone looking for a cab, left, the long slippery walk downhill towards the tunnel buses, but straight on and there were only the delivery bays, even the denizens of the red light area had packed up and hour ago, I know, I'd already checked twice in my boredom.
Yes! Straight ahead, whether it was Billy Burglar or some other mischief maker – this could be my chance of a few hours in the warmth. Paperwork and a cup of tea beat plodding the slush hands down.
The way this guy was dressed, I noticed as I got closer, he was probably one of those new romantic punky types that Casey's seemed to attract. Skin-tight trousers with big boots, a belted coat, almost tunic-like, and one of those funky hats that you imagine the strangely named characters from Dickens wearing over a spot of tea.
Not normal attire for Billy, so maybe a spot of early morning graffiti or public urination? Either way it would get me out of this bloody cold!
Just at the rear of the amusement arcade was a dead-end turn, twenty feet deep leading into nothing but a shuttered delivery bay some six feet above ground, the place was regularly the target of vandals, small time drug deals and thieves, the strangely garbed figure turned in, aha, gotcha!
I carefully quickened my pace, not bothered about my noisy footsteps, as there was simply nowhere for the guy to go now.
As I rounded the corner, hand gripping the brickwork as I lost my footing on the icy cobbles, I shouted for the guy to stop. Not a flinch, not a backwards glance.
I was expecting him to hop up onto the loading bay but he simply kept walking.....straight through the brickwork – and vanished before my rather wide young eyes!
I almost, almost, grabbed my radio and requested...what? Back up?
Chasing a ghost through a brick wall, can a patrol cut him off on the other side, over?
Didn't think that'd go down well, and I would well and truly be the brunt of many, many jokes for years to come.
I simply turned around, looking for, but failing to find a single footprint in the snow other than my own.
Back at the nick, sunrise forgotten, I sat nursing a coffee and doodling the figure on a paper towel.
London Road?" Bob was one of the old guard, thirty odd years in and a massive local history buff, he pointed to my sketch," London Road back of the old coach house?"
I gave him my best don't-know-what-you're-talking-about look.
"You've seen him too, welcome to the club, mate!"
My outlook changed totally on that freezing night: learning the secret history of the city, discovering the strange and bizarre, seeking out the weird and enjoying years of things going bump in the night whilst the city slept, warm and comfy in their beds, blissfully unaware of what unusual delights the nightshift sometimes holds.