Before I start I’d like to point out the picture Dave posted the other day along with his blog was taken before what I’m about to tell you had happened.
Remember, keep an open mind – the truth is out there.
My first experience with The Cross Cult –
A little over a month ago a mate of mine, Dave, first told me about a gang that had moved in to the Westwood cross shopping center. Immediately I thought it possible given the amount of shoppers to steal from but seeing as I work their and hadn’t seen anyone looking overly suspicious, I remained skeptical. Skepticism turned into outright disbelief after he told me their ‘gang tag’ wasn’t anything as hip as a back-to-front baseball cap or one trouser leg rolled up, no, it turns out they use Iceland carrier bags.
At the time I didn’t take him seriously; however, it turns out he was on to something.
I work in the Three Mobile shop right next door to Costa Coffee, so where better to keep an eye out for ‘gang activity’. So the next day I did exactly that and to my surprise I saw dozens of people wandering around carrying Iceland carrier bags. Most were inoculations enough looking – just regular people out and about – but their were a few people I saw over and over that looked somewhat suspicious. You’ll be thinking, ‘so what, it’s a shopping center. People are bound to have Iceland bags in hand at some point.’ Well, yeah, but no. You have to understand the closest Iceland store in about two and a half miles away, so why on earth would any normal person bring an empty carrier bag with them and walk around Westwood with it? Agreed that in itself isn’t suspicious enough but being bored I took an early lunch and headed out to see what I could uncover. Turned out I spent twenty five minutes walking around doing bugger all. So, miffed and out of time, I headed back to work. Walking past The Body Shop I contemplated popping in to the Costa for a quick coffee. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. Immediately I thought their must have been an accident for every chair outside Costa was empty and had red and white tape tethered to it. The lack of a crowd baffled me. Surely if something had happened you’d have people having a look see? Maybe even an ambulance or fire engine. As I got closer I regretted not having my phone with me because it turned out it wasn’t hazard tape on the chairs, no, it was dozens of red and white Iceland bags. That all happened just under a month ago and since then I’ve not heard or seen much with regards to the TCC, the Cross Cult.
Two weeks ago Catherine dragged myself and the kids to a local boot-fair. When we got their we decided to make it interesting and splitting in to teams. Both teams had twenty quid each to spend and two hours to find the most interesting junk possible. Immediately Luke headed towards the stalls covered with toys. Behind the tables sat an older lady in desperate need of a shave. We exchanged smiles as Luke busily rooted through the junk. After a few minutes I gave Luke a gentle nudge in the back ‘Mush, we’re running out of time. Pick now or forever hold your…’ I teased him, making a grab for his nose.
Wriggling free he pleaded, hands clasped hopefully in mock prayer in front of him, ‘One more minute Farrsha…plllllleeeeease?’ he replied in his best gold member impersonation.
‘Okay, one more minute. You little bugger.’
As Luke continued searching, I stood on my tip-toes hopping to see something of interest above the crowds in this vacuum packed turd of an event.
‘Right, times up mate. You’ve had five minutes, not one.’ Desperate not to leave empty handed, Luke grabbed an odd looking green plastic frog missing an eye and held it up for inspection.
Tilting his head, Luke looked at it unimpressed. ‘Nah. It’s okay.’ He placed it back on the table.
‘The Lego, how much?’ I pointed at the bag on the far edge of the second table. The mere mention of the word Lego perked Luke back up.
With a grunt, the lady heaved herself from her low slung camping chair and reached across to fetch it. ‘Two pound fifty.’ She croaked.
Out the corner of my eye I could see Luke hopping from one foot to the other, hoping to catch my attention. ‘Deal. You got change for a twenty?’ I smiled.
With the toy stall behind us, we headed towards the book seller I’d spotted earlier. However, I’d been to enough boot-fairs to know you seldom find anything worth looking twice at and fully expecting to find nothing but Mills and Boon novels here. I perked up considerably when I saw a large box of old comics. That fact wasn’t lost on the guy behind the table.
I’m a people watcher by nature so it was unusual I barely even noticed the guy behind the stall. That changed, mind, when he theatricality doffed his red bola hat to me and spoke.
‘Howdy partner. A mighty fine afternoon we be having.’ His thick American accent sounded as daft as the hat made him look.
I looked over my shoulder, half expecting to find someone behind me – the person he was talking to.
Undeterred, he continued. ‘I see my might fine collection of comic books caught your eye?’ He nodded vigorously, seemingly in agreement with himself.
Luke, oblivious to the conversation, picked up a worn out book and began flicking through its yellow pages.
‘Where are my manners.’ He said, seemingly desperate to keep the conversion flowing. ‘They call me the colonel.’ He threw up an American style salute.
‘Who does?’ I replied.
‘They – you said they call you the colonel.’
‘Um,’ he fidgeted, shifting the piece of grass in his mouth from one corner to the other, ‘my colleagues on account of me great, great, great gran pa holdin’ rank back in the American Civil war.’
I nodded my appreciation before switched my attention to the box of comics.
Seemingly unable to hold silence for more than a moment, the colonel continued. ‘Anythin’ I can help ya with?’
‘No, no, it’s fine. I’m just browsing, cheers.’ I said stretching out a hand for the comics.
‘Woah their Mr.’ He pulled the box out of reach. ‘First you gotta answer three questions about these here comic books before you can take a look. Think you can manage that, do ya?’
‘Um, I suppose.’
‘Course you can, course you can.’ Without hesitation he reached into the box and pulled out an old Hulk comic.
‘Question one; name, if you can, the hulks suit wearing alter ego.’
‘Easy – Mr. Fixit.’
With a look of mildly amusement plastered across his face, The Colonel tilted his head to one side. ‘Okie dokie, lets make it a little tougher, shall we?’
Again he dipped in to the box. And looking down a broad grim spread across his face. In front of him he held out a colorful comic depicting what appeared to be a wounded Father Christmas crawling away from an knife wielding assailant.
‘Well then, can you tell me who paid Lobo to assassinate Kris ‘Crusher’ Kringle, aka Father Christmas?’
‘The Easter Bunny.’
The colonel let out an ohhh sound as his eye brows threatened to disappear under the brim of his hat.
‘Appearances are deceiving.’ He muttered more to himself than out loud. And after a short pause reached under the desk. ‘See this,’ he stroked the clear polythene bag with genuine fondness, ‘this here is a autographed special edition. Only a thousand were printed. Answer this and it’s yours if you can answer this last question.’
By now Luke was watching intently, transfixed by the glossy comic in the odd looking mans hands. I recognized it instantly as an old edition 2000ad but not the cover. I spent many an hour as a boy of Luke’s age reading 2000ad.
This should be a cinch.
‘The Judges of mega city one carry the Lawgiver – name all six ammo settings.’
I shrugged nonchalantly, ‘Standard shot: incendiary, heat seeking, ricochet, armour piercing and high explosive.’ I rattled them off without pause.
Without a word he handed over the comic. Feeling somewhat embarrassed I offered to pay for it but was cut short when he held up his hand and said, ‘No payment needed.’
With a backward glance Luke and I headed off to find the others and claim our ultimate victory. It wasn’t until later that evening I carefully unwrapped the comic and from inside fell a small note dropped into my lap. I opened it and stared dumbfounded at what I saw. Glued to the paper, poison pen style, were letter cut from various magazines that spelt out an email address. Beneath was a crudely drawn black square with a white chalk crucifix etched over the top.
Here’s the email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the picture –
Although I’m pretty sure they’re not violent, I’ve still yet to reply.
Over and out, Matt…