The Drug Dealer In My Attic
If you missed it, Part One is available here.
This story is available as a podcast recording above, or available to read in print below. 🙂
The day I found that big ball of Marijuana under my loose floorboard I knew that the time had come to grasp the nettle and take some kind of definitive action. The owner of that huge chunk of pot would have to leave – I just needed to find out for certain who the owner was.
The truth is that there was really only person in the frame as far as I was concerned, but the problem was that my suspect was a young black man and I didn’t want to point the finger until I was absolutely certain.
I hid the dope away in a safe in the kitchen where we used to keep the takings, way back when the house had been a regular Bed and Breakfast. I had a lot of work to do in the kitchen area and I was going to be working there for a couple of days, so I figured that anyone with a hash stash that size would soon be back to claim his contraband, especially if he was dealing. Pretty much everyone in the house was a regular user of the kitchen on a daily basis, so proximity to the hiding place on its own was purely circumstantial evidence and of course, no one is going to stroll up and lift a floorboard right under the landlord’s nose.
After two days I was no closer to making a citizen’s arrest and as no-one had stepped up to claim their goods, I decided that a more direct approach was in order. I went up to the top of the building and knocked on the narrow door that leads to the attic room where Yusef lived. After a few seconds I could hear him coming down the stair and the door swung open with a squeak from the over-head door closer.
“Hello sir,” said Yusef, barely meeting my eye.
“Hello Yusef,” I answered, searching his guilty-looking face for the confession I felt certain was not far from the surface. “Are you missing something?”
He hesitated for a moment before responding, “No sir, why?”
“Because I found something Yusef, and I think it might be yours.”
My eyes locked with his for a few seconds before he looked away, unable to meet my gaze. “No sir,” he repeated, “I have lost nothing.” I nodded silently for a moment then left him to think things over. I was certain that the ball of marijuana was his, but I wasn’t sure if he would come forward to claim it. My cards on the table, I returned to my work in the kitchen leaving Yusef to consider his options.
I didn’t see him for the rest of that day, but the next morning, while I was putting up a new kitchen unit, Yusef came in to the kitchen with his hands in his pockets and a nervous expression on his face. He stood in silence, while another resident washed up some dirty crockery that was lying in the sink, dried the plates and carefully put them away in a cupboard. An acknowledging nod was exchanged between them before the other resident left the kitchen and trudged up the stairs to disappear beyond the fire door at the top, which closed with a soft thud behind him.
Yusef cleared his throat. “Can I talk to you sir?” he began uncertainly.
“Of course Yusef, what’s on your mind?” I asked casually, adjusting the hinge screws on the cupboard door I was fitting.
“You asked me yesterday if I had lost something and I said that I had not.”
“Yes?” I said, putting down my screwdriver and turning to face him.
“It was not the truth.” he continued, “I have lost something, but I did not wish to say.”
“Ok,” I said kicking the door stop out from under the kitchen door. The heavy fire door swung shut with a bang and a click. I pulled two chairs out from under the table and sat down on one, gesturing for him to sit at the other. “I’m all ears.”
Yusef sat down across the table from me and began to talk. At first he was careful, asking where I had found the ‘something’, lest I meant something completely different to the package he had lost. Once I had pointed out the loose floorboard in the kitchen Yusef knew that the game was up and there was nothing more to be gained by his careful probing; the time had now come for a frank and open discussion.
“The weed is mine,” he admitted wearily, “I sell weed to people around here. Everybody knows me. If you want weed, you come to Yusef.” He paused for a moment while I digested his confession, not quite sure of my next move, or what to say, when he continued. “My visa has expired and I do not have leave to remain in the UK, so I sent my passport back to my mother in Gambia. Immigration do not know where I am from because I will not tell them. They arrested me, but they do not know who I am or where I am from so they had to let me go. They came to my room and they searched it but I have no papers and no post comes for me so they have no evidence to use against me. If they don’t know where I am from how can they deport me?”
I had never thought of this angle, but I had to admit there was a logic to it. “I can not work, I do not have a national insurance number and they will not give me one,” he went on, “I cannot claim benefits so I have no legal way to support myself. I make £300 to £500 a week selling weed and I send money home to support my family in Gambia, if I go home they will have nothing because they are poor. I do not want to sell weed but what can I do?
Everywhere I go, landlords find out what I do and they throw me out on the street. I never stay anywhere more than a couple of months. Sometimes they know and they charge me twice as much money for my rent and make me give them free weed, but always in the end they throw me out.”
I had never considered what, beyond the obvious, might motivate someone to deal drugs and had always assumed that drug dealers did it because it was easy money, but Yusef’s story made me realise that his situation was not as black and white as I had thought. I realised that he had taken a big risk in telling me his story, but I had other people to think about too. I felt sorry for him, but Yusef’s illicit business was affecting the other residents, and with it my business and my livelihood. Should I call the police and tell them what I knew? I had a decision to make and part of me resented him for putting this responsibility on my shoulders.
With a heavy heart, I made my decision…