Hestia and I came across a police officer squatting beside a car.
“What’s happened?” I asked.
“Darting, sir,” she said. “Kids stabbing car tyres.”
I looked where she was pointing. At the bottom of the tyre, maybe a centimetre off the ground, there was a tiny puncture dimple. Wasn’t made with a knife. It wasn’t a slit and anyway, you’d never get a knife through tyre rubber without cutting your hands.
“It’s an epidemic,” the PC went on. “Three or four a week since Christmas, like clockwork. People come back from work and find flat tyres. All the kids we ask deny having even heard about it happening.”
Hestia and I continued walking up the hill.
“Do they actually use a dart?” she said.
“Perhaps. Or a bradawl?” I guessed. “Maybe whack it in with a hammer. They’d need a good grip or a handle or something to tug it out again. The rubber would suck back on anything you tried to pull out.”
We sat on the grass and looked down at Tilebury. One primary school, one secondary school, a train station, a garage which must be doing a roaring trade, two pubs, a load of antique shops and cafes. There was a retail park with a cinema by the river but, in reality, very little entertainment for younger people.
“Why was the puncture at the bottom of the tyre?” said Hestia.
It was a good question. It would be harder to stick a bradawl in close to the ground and you’d be more conspicuous kneeling down to do so.
I also found it hard to believe that no-one at school knew who was responsible. If it was going on during the day then everyone would know who wasn’t in class. I mentioned this to Hestia who didn’t take a view either way.
“Didn’t that policewoman say it was regular?” she said. “I’d have thought kids would be more sporadic. Like, eight in one day on the same road, then nothing for a month. Or loads of copycat incidents for two weeks before it stopped because it wasn’t cool anymore.”
“I’m just wondering why bother,” I said. “If none of the local kids knows what’s going on, then nobody’s claiming bragging rights.”
We walked back into town and looked at the cars for sale at Tilebury Garage. The owner was fitting another new tyre.
“How do we prove it?” said Hestia.
“We find the weapon,” I said and nodded at the mechanic. “Think he looks like a James Bond fan?”
She frowned and thought hard.
“From Russia with Love,” she said. “Keep him talking.”
She slipped unnoticed into reception.
By the time the police officer turned up the garage owner was tired of my prattle. We all gathered in an office room behind reception and looked at the boots Hestia had found. They had steel toe caps and there was a sharpened nail sticking out of the thick treads.
A very professional way to kick the tyres.