The Capturing of Hilton
We were living in this flat in Earls Court and I remember Hilton locking me
inside a wardrobe. When people came to score or complain about the previous
deal, he'd charge them threepence demanding they ask a question of "the guru
in the box", and not let them leave until they'd convinced him that they'd
got their money's worth. For several days afterwards, whenever there was a
knock on the door, he'd giggle insanely and shout "Quick! Get in the
wardrobe!" and there'd be a vigorous struggle as I fought for my freedom...
"It's ok man, you're just paranoid - this time I'll let you out as soon as
they've gone, I promise..."
When we first met, I swear Hilton had the smooth rosy cheeks of a Reubens
cherub. He was living with Maggie, who though an ex-school teacher was no
less a danger to public morality. She would dress him in frilly white shirts,
fluff out his blond curly aureole of hair, and talk incessantly of his sweet
nature. He would blush. (Shortly afterwards Maggie was busted for dope, and
while awaiting trial had to report to the local police twice a day, once in
the morning and once in the evening. As she was living in Leeds and scoring
200 miles away in London this was something of a problem - which was exactly
why Derek had insisted in court that reporting once a day was not sufficient.
So at one minute past midnight she'd sign in at the cop shop, rush down to
the station, catch the last southbound train, spend all day chasing up
her contacts, and somehow manage to make the return rail connection - this
would get her back up to sign in again with quarter of an hour to spare
before the start of the following day. Ah, the things we do for the cause...)
Hilton got done for screwing a chemist up in Headingly a few months
later - he was still
in the initial flush of consummating what was to prove a long and faithful
affair with amphetamines, and being too young for jail he spent
3 months in DC - the "short sharp shock" treatment. The
message of the love generation had still to penetrate the penitentiaries
and penal institutions - smack was not yet an in-thing. The few people
incarcerated for drug-related crimes were mercilessly picked on by their
fellow prisoners, and permanently occupied the bottom level of the
pecking-order. At some point Hilton decided he could no longer endure the
continual physical and mental pressure. He had a fight with
the main guy in his block, the ring-leader of his tormentors, and gained
a decisive result. After that things were a lot easier - people
did what he told them to.
When he came out, it was obvious that there'd been a subtle change in his
personality. Declarations of his passion for poetry were less frequent.
Where once he would have thoroughly examined the truthfulness of his words,
he now lied without a trace of hesitation or guilt. He had become extremely
resourceful at locating food supplies during times of hunger. And whereas
before he had never felt society was important enough to merit any serious
attention, it was now elevated to the position of Personal Enemy No 1.
The same chemist was broken into exactly one year later to the day, the same
window kicked in, the same stuff stolen. Derek and Stevie both came to the
same conclusion. The police are not stupid. But neither was Hilton, well not
completely - he'd moved about a week earlier, and where he lived was not yet
common knowledge. Now, no way were Derek and Stevie prepared to let the
other get sole credit for such an open and shut case; this was an
occasion when they felt obliged to work together. The problem was that they
couldn't get anyone to tell them where Hilton had moved to. Those that were
willing weren't able, and those that were able were either unwilling or
holding out for bigger rewards.
They casually wandered into The Conk, seemingly oblivious to the
traditional chorus of pleas for teas and coffees from those who moments
before had appeared inert, almost devoid of consciousness apart from the
incessant silent drumming of fingers to the memories of the last record
on the jukebox. All were now totally alert and haggling plaintively.
It was fairly crowded. Hilton was conspicuous by his absence.
"Anyone seen Hilton?"
"Loadsa times..." / "No, who's 'e?" / "Hilton who?" / "He's behind you"...
"You know that chemist's been done again up in Headingley."
"Yeh, so what?" / "Tell us news, not history" / "Go on, buy us a tea"...
"He's for it this time. The DDA box has been done."
"No it 'asn't!" / "Bullshit!" / "The DDA box?" / "The bastard!"...
And they wandered out again. As soon as the door shut everyone started
gabbling at once... "He swore he hadn't touched the DDA box"... "The lying
fucker"... "D'ya reckon he's still got anything left? - he can't have used
it all"... "I bet the greedy bugger's taken the whole fuckin' lot"...
Of course Hilton doing a chemist had initially aroused the usual excitement,
and it had taken him quite a while to convince everyone that he hadn't
touched the DDA box, where all the Class A substances were kept (which in those
days were mostly just heroin and morphine). But he was telling the truth, for with
the blinkered view of the still smitten he'd only had eyes for the dexedrine,
the drinamyl, the durophet... Didn't his manic manner betray the truth of
his protestations? Reluctantly everyone had shrugged and returned to the
perpetual waiting, bemused, unable to understand how anyone, even Hilton, could possibly screw a chemist and not do the DDA box. It had the flavour of immorality about it.
So maybe after all he had done the DDA box. Expletives expleted, curses
were cursed. There was an immediate movement towards the door by those
who knew where Hilton was hiding. Others pressed from behind. Who knew how
much there'd be left? Or how long it'd be before he was arrested and any
remaining spoils disappear back into the hands of the authorities to be
once more under the bureaucratic protection of locks and keys, forms and
prescriptions. The urgency was apparent - this was a race against time to
demand a share of the precious treasure, the most exciting thing that'd
happened all week.
Now there are times when conceptual activity is exclusively focused on the
acquisition of illicit pharmaceuticals, and wider considerations of reality
suddenly fade into unimportance, somehow becoming totally irrelevant. This
was undoubtedly one of these times. And as was mentioned earlier the police
aren't stupid, but are quite capable of operating simple schemes of minor
People poured out The Conk, flowed up the road, round the corner and
down the street making a bee-line for Hilton's new abode, Derek and Stevie slowly
following them at a discrete distance in the drug-squad mini. The chance of
anyone looking back and noticing they were being trailed was remote. All
thoughts were firmly fixed on immediate future fulfillment.
As the small crowd congregated outside Hilton's new place trying to work out
how to get in, Derek and Stevie drew up from behind, semi-dispersed everyone
and determinedly took over the hunt. Amidst half-hearted slightly sheepish
jeers they entered the building in pursuit of their quarry... the chase was
reaching its climax, the case nearing its conclusion. Perhaps their pulses
beat a little faster as they burst into the room for the final confrontation.
Apparently Hilton was not at his best, kneeling in the middle of the room
staring down, wide-eyed with Bambi-like pupils, a wild and hollow expression
of intense concentration on his face.
There is a particular type of patterned linoleum which can sometimes still
be seen in old kitchens. The one in Hilton's bedsit was blue and covered
with small yellow flowers. A few hours earlier there'd been a minor accident
- a large can of SKF dex 10s had been knocked over, spilling its contents
which cascaded and bounced all over the room. After two and a half days of
heavy speeding, the hallucinations had spread from sight to touch - the pills
and the flowers didn't just look similar, they even felt the same. And Hilton
was slowly coming to the conclusion that trying to pick up the thousands of
little round yellow objects scattered randomly across the lino-covered floor
was a lot trickier than it seemed.
He had little difficulty in pleading insanity, and not being too familiar
with "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", thought he'd made a good decision.
It probably wasn't. No one had told him that the ultimate transgression
whilst incarcerated in a lunatic asylum is to get caught making out with
one of the nurses. He was the second person I've known who's had to escape
from a mental hospital in order to preserve their own sanity. But there was
now a harsher edge to his humour.
- Weed (July 1996)