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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 cunning.

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)

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