Every now and again we all get flashes of inspiration. A line or two that floats from left ear to right and quiet often –poof – it’s gone just as easily as it came in. From time to time I manage to capture these in the notes on my phone, or a scrap of paper. Before going to Tanzania I cleared my phone out and wrote all these fragments up into a word document. This one in particular caught my eye:
‘Making you disappear is fairly easy’, he said as he leaned back in the old office chair surrounded by old cups of coffee, ‘reappearing now that’s more difficult’.’
What follows is part one of the story I built around this fragment, somewhat different from the script that I thought it would make on conception.
Rules to Live by. Pt.1.
It doesn’t look like much, but then a flash building that attracted attention probably wouldn’t have procured much business. A good friend of a friend had put me in contact with Paul a couple of months ago when I was in the market for an I.T. guy who knew more about high end security programmes than how to get rid of curvaceous malware that’s hard to explain to the misses.
His usefulness in that case endeared him to me, and so I suggested, in the most polite way, that he use his small but sizable stack to set himself up in somewhere that didn’t still have decaying posters of now ex-professional footballers. Like I said it’s not much a room in a back alley, enclosed by high rises where the untouchable criminals of our fair city operate in full sight of the law.
The cities been less than kind to me over the last twenty-four hours, I’m just about on my feet, but all those years operating in the service seem to be clouded in there haze. I’m forgetting myself. Rule one, as Paul has evidently learnt is do not attract attention. It’s Sunday morning and at the moment my unsteady gait and stomach stained apparel, only alludes to a very heavy Saturday. This isn’t acceptable, but it’s not out of reality, however, as the morning marches on, and the streets start to stir I’m in danger of attracting attention. All of which is the wrong kind.
In the stairs up to Pauls I feel my odour somewhat lightens the air of the stairwell. Part of not attracting attention is moving in time with your environment. On a quiet staircase such as this you do not rush, this would and does raise suspicion amongst the residents. None of whom know me. It might strike you as obvious, or at least now that I’ve voiced it logical, but I’ve seen numerous people forget this. Pulling the trigger in a crowded bar, on a bloke who made eyes at their missus, and then just freeze in front of the crumpled tissue of former life as if in some sort of shock that they actually did it.
Rule two is never do what’s expected of you. The service at bare bones is anarchic, always has been always will be. All of us in its employment are involved in disrupting the flow, be that under the counter deals of counterfeit DVD’s, or the restriction of human lives with arm enforced boundaries of red hued emptying car filling stations (depending on your desires). Doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, Saturday is the busiest day of the week. Nine to fivers cram their lives into this forty-eight hour period. The rest of us grease the wheels for this to happen. Everybody’s week is just building up to Saturday.
Over the road from me there are runners, hordes of them doing circuits, as I tuck into a hearty full English. That used to be me, well if you wound the clock back a couple of hours, and incentivised it with avoiding a new pair of silver bracelets, rather than the superficial glow of fitness. Few years ago all of that now though. I followed the limited rules and progressed through the levels with actual blood sweat and tears, rather than literal. Faster than a suit and tie weighed down by power point, interviews and team building.
In front of me, sat with his back to the outside world, a ballsy move for such a man, Keith, who introduced me to Paul, is holding council over the days agenda. It changes week to week, as under guidance of rule two does our location, but never enough to pay much attention. Hence the fact I feel quite comfortable eyeing the blondes bob up and down in an effort to lose their personal essence deemed by glossy spreads to be undesirable by all. Funny that.
We’ve used this café a few times, not in a sloppy way, it’s nothing predictable, but I do always forget how close it is to the flat. I’d arrived half an hour early, starving, but retaining my manners I sought to fill or at least quieten my stomach with free refill tea. A good idea at the time, but that early in the morning the bladder hasn’t quite had time to calibrate itself.
The flow of words inform me that Keith’s patter has slowed, and I take the opportunity to escape out back to the cold, go only if you really have too, customer loos. You don’t so much seek the acceptance from Keith to leave his presence, but he’ll give you a sign if that’s not on. Today he’s accepting, he’ll use the time to regain his flow.
Nothing better than the relief bought about by a constant flow, clashing against the urinal as the bladder constricts. It’s a private moment lined up you share both solidarity with your brethren and personal space both physically and mentally. I’m thinking about the long day ahead, Keith list is longer than usual, as some business on the continent has been far more successful than it was ever thought. My thoughts are shattered by the unmistakable noise of a gun being unloaded.
Pauls new place was well sourced, even the front door tells you that. No latter box, or glass, the only way anything is getting over the threshold is on purpose. I’m a little perplexed not to see a looking glass, but then I remember he’s a tech expert. The whole place is probably pinpricked with enough surveillance to make the special unit weep like a little girl.
I go to knock, but the door is a jar. I unholster a hot colt, and with caution proceed across the threshold, for the second time that day.
This was Professional. No. Doubt. About. It. Keith was slumped in his chair, the colour already starting to drain from his face through the hole in his chest. The last 30 seconds in the café are spent giving a cursory look around. The two serving staff, both front and back are now well and truly dead, one steaming from a pot of tea split in commotion, and the other face down sizzling on the stove top.
Pauls is clean and tidy. I’m starting to wonder what I’ve walked into, there is no way I missed him on the way up as he popped out for the paper. As I move further and further in I can feel my chest tightening. Paul, as good as he is with online security is pretty fucking crap at the real world. If he’s anywhere it’ll be his office, a dark room that brightened not by windows, but by screens. Once again on the threshold of uncertainty. I prepare to go through the door that leads to Paul’s office.
‘Don’t move a muscle’.
The command reverbs of the door in front of me, and a little red dot on the door tells me it’s a command worth going along with.
I walk calmly; rule one, away from the café, towards the shopping centre, rule two, where the crowds of people to identify me and the on duty officer can arrest me, because the route I’ve taken suggests I’m off to a quiet park. It’s easy to form such suggestions, walk in one direction hitting up all available CCTV cameras, then duck down an alley way and retrace a clean route. In the alley way it all becomes a little bit too real. The full English isn’t sitting so well anymore, and the thought of Keith’s greying face brings me to my knees, and as I focus on the tarmac between my hands I feel it rise and surge, cresting like a wave of nervousness as it splashes up to my wrists.
I’m a mess. I need a plan. I need direction. All of Saturdays briefing is out, replaced by just two objectives, survive, and follow the rules.
When you see a laser point directly after being given a straight demand there’s not a lot of internal thoughts other than just play ball. So having stopped, I straight away follow the next demands. With my gun placed on the floor, I turn around to face the music. Clever really, because whilst I’m still in reach of my gun, efforts to get it are very risky, not to mention stupid.
20/09/2015 Fareham, Hampshire.
To be Continued….