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I sat at the bus-stop for a while. A car pulled in behind me. Not a police car this time, just an ordinary car. I heard the driver’s door slam shut. Footsteps, a tap at my window. I looked out. The man was bald and middle-aged, dressed in suit and tie. A lower executive look, a sales rep maybe, that sort of person. He was smiling in a friendly enough sort of fashion. And if he wanted to steal my car and jemmy open the boot, well, that was fine too.

I wound down my window. ‘Yeah?’

‘I think I missed my turning,’ he said. ‘Can you tell me where we are, roughly?’

‘Roughly,’ I said, ‘roughly we’re about a mile north of Wembley.’

‘And that’s west London?’ His accent wasn’t quite English, not southern English. Welsh or a Geordie or a Scouser maybe.

‘About as west as you can get,’ I told him. Yeah, the wild west.

‘I can’t be too far away then. I want St John’s Wood. That’s west too, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, not far at all.’ These poor sods, you came across them a lot in my line of work. New to the city and pleading directions, getting hot and a bit crazy as the signposts and one-ways led them further into the maze. I felt sorry for them a lot of the time. It wasn’t their fault. So I took my time as I directed him towards Harlesden, miles away from where he wanted to be.

‘It’s a short cut,’ I told him. He seemed pleased to have some local knowledge. He went back to his car and sounded his horn in thank you as he drove off. I know, that was a bit naughty of me, wasn’t it? Well, there you go. That was my spot of devilry for the night. I started my own car and headed back on to the road.

There was a sign off saying ‘Works Access Only’, so I signalled and drove between two rows of striped traffic cones. Then I stopped the car. There were no other cars around, just the dark shapes of earth-moving equipment and cement mixers. Fine and dandy. Cars and lorries roared past, but they didn’t give me a second’s notice. They weren’t about to slow down enough to take in any of the scene. The existing overpass and built-up verges hid me pretty well from civilisation. Before unloading the package, I went for a recce, taking my torch with me.

And of course there were no decent holes to be found. They’d been filled in already. The concrete was hard, long metal rods poking out of it like the prongs on a fork. There were a few shallow cuts in the earth, but nothing like deep enough for the purpose. Hell’s teeth and gums. I went back to the car, thinking suddenly how useful a car-phone would be. I wanted to speak to Daintry. I wanted to ask him what to do. A police car went past. I saw its brake lights glow. They’d noticed my car, but they didn’t stop. No, but they might come back round again. I started the car and headed out on to the carriageway.

Only a few minutes later, there was a police car behind me. He sat on my tail for a while, then signalled to overtake, drawing level with me and staying there. The passenger checked me out. They were almost certainly the ones who’d seen me parked back at the bridge-site. The passenger saw that I was wearing overalls and a standard-issue work-jacket. I sort of waved at him. He spoke to the driver, and the patrol car accelerated away.

Lucky for me he hadn’t seen the tears in my eyes. I was terrified and bursting for a piss. I knew that I had to get off this road. My brain was numb. I couldn’t think of another place to dump the body. I didn’t want to think about it at all. I just wanted rid of it. I think I saw the travelling salesman hurtle past, fleeing Harlesden. He was heading out of town.

I came off the North Circular and just drove around, crawling eastwards until I knew the streets so well it was like remote control. I knew exactly where I’d effected repairs, and where repairs were still waiting to be carried out. There was one pot-hole on a sharp bend that could buckle a wheel. That was down as a priority, and would probably be started on tomorrow. I calmed myself a little with memories of holes dug and holes filled in, the rich aroma of hot tarmac, the jokes yelled out by the Driller Killer. I’d never worked out why he’d try telling jokes to someone wearing industrial ear protectors beside a pneumatic drill.

Seeking safety, I came back into the estate. I felt better immediately, my head clearing. I knew what I had to do. I had to face up to Daintry. I’d give him back the money of course, less a quid or two for petrol, and I’d explain that nowhere was safe. Mission impossible. I didn’t know what he’d do. It depended on whether tonight was a Goodfellas night or not. He might slap me about a bit. He might stop buying me drinks.

He might do something to my mum.

Or to Brenda.

I’d have to talk to him. Maybe we could do a deal. Maybe I’d have to kill him. Yeah, then I’d just have the two bodies to worry about. In order to stop worrying about the first, I stopped by the lock-up. This was one of a cul-de-sac of identical garages next to some wasteland which had been planted with trees and was now termed a Conservation Area. The man in the High Street had certainly conserved his energy thinking up that one.

There were no kids about, so I used a rock to break the lock, then hauled the door open with my crowbar. I stopped for a moment and wondered what I was going to do now. I’d meant to leave the body in the garage, but I’d had to break the lock to get in, so now if I left the body there anybody at all could wander along and find it. But then I thought, this is Daintry’s garage. Everybody knows it, and nobody in their right mind would dare trespass. So I hauled the package inside, closed the door again, and left a rock in front of it. I was confident I’d done my best.

So now it was time to go talk with Daintry. The easy part of the evening was past. But first I went home. I don’t know why, I just wanted to see my mum. We used to be on the eleventh floor, but they’d moved us eventually to the third because the lifts kept breaking and Mum couldn’t climb eleven flights. I took the stairs tonight, relieved not to find any of the local kids shooting up or shagging between floors. Mum was sitting with Mrs Gregg from along the hall. They were talking about Mrs McAndrew.

‘Story she gave her doctor was she fell down the stairs.’

‘Well, I think it’s a shame.’

Mum looked up and saw me. ‘I thought you’d be down the club.’

‘Not tonight, Mum.’

‘Well, that makes a change.’

‘Hallo, Mrs Gregg.’

‘Hallo, love. There’s a band on tonight, you know.’


She rolled her eyes. ‘At the club. Plenty of lovely girls too, I’ll bet.’

They wanted rid of me. I nodded. ‘Just going to my room. Won’t be long.’

I lay on my bed, the same bed I’d slept in since I was… well, since before I could remember. The room had been painted and papered in the last year. I stared at the wallpaper, lying on one side and then on the other. This room, it occurred to me, was probably the size of a prison cell. It might even be a bit smaller. What was it, eight feet square? But I’d always felt comfortable enough here. I heard my mum laughing at something Mrs Gregg said, and pop music from the flat downstairs. These weren’t very solid flats, thin walls and floors. They’d knock our block down one of these days. I liked it well enough though. I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to lose my mum.

I decided that I was probably going to have to kill Daintry. I packed some clothes into a black holdall, just holding back the tears. What would I say to my mum? I’ve got to go away for a while? I’ll phone you when I can? I recalled all the stories I’d heard about Daintry. How some guy from Trading Standards had been tailing him and was sitting in his car at the side of the road by the shops when a sawn-off shotgun appeared in the window and a voice told him to get the hell out of there pronto. Guns and knives, knuckledusters and a machete. Just stories… just stories.



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