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‘Just like’, as somebody pointed out, ‘Marlon Brando in The Godfather.’ This was apt in its way since, like I say, despite the gardening Mr McAndrew’s hands were probably cleaner these days than they had been in the past.

How he got to owe Daintry money I do not know. But Daintry, believe me, would have been only too happy to lend. There was McAndrew’s reputation for a start. Plus the McAndrews seemed prosperous enough, he was sure to see his money and interest returned. But not so. Whether out of sheer cussedness or because he really couldn’t pay, McAndrew had been holding out on Daintry. I saw it as a struggle between the old gangster and the new. Maybe Daintry did too. Whatever, one night he walked into the McAndrews’ house and beat up Mrs McAndrew in front of her husband. He had two heavies with him, one to hold Mr McAndrew, one to hold Mrs McAndrew, either one of them could have dropped dead of a heart attack right then and there.

There were murmurs in the street the next day, and for days afterwards. Daintry, it was felt, had overstepped the mark. He was out of order. To him it was merely business, and he’d gotten the money from McAndrew so the case was closed. But he now found himself shorter of friends than ever before. Which is probably why he turned to me when he wanted the favour done. Simply, he couldn’t get anyone else to do it.

‘You want me to what?’

He’d told me to meet him in the children’s play-park. We walked around the path. There was no one else in the park. It was a battlefield, all broken glass and rocks. Dog shit was smeared up and down the chute, the swings had been wrapped around themselves until they couldn’t be reached. The roundabout had disappeared one night, leaving only a metal stump in place. You’d be safer sending your kids to play on the North Circular.

‘It’s quite simple,’ Daintry said. ‘I want you to get rid of a package for me. There’s good money in it.’

‘How much money?’

‘A hundred.’

I paused at that. A hundred pounds, just to dispose of a package…

‘But you’ll need a deep hole,’ said Daintry.

Yeah, of course. It was that kind of package. I wondered who it was. There was a story going around that Daintry had set up a nice little disposal operation which dealt with Human Resource Waste from miles around. Villains as far away as Watford and Luton were bringing ‘packages’ for him to dispose of. But it was just a story, just one of many.

‘A hundred,’ I said, nodding.

‘All right, one twenty-five. But it’s got to be tonight.’

I knew just the hole.

They were building a new footbridge over the North Circular, over to the west near Wembley. I knew the gang wouldn’t be working night-shift: the job wasn’t that urgent and who could afford the shift bonus these days? There’d be a few deep holes there all right. And while the gang might notice a big black bin-bag at the bottom of one of them, they wouldn’t do anything about it. People were always dumping rubbish down the holes. It all got covered over with concrete, gone and quite forgotten. I hadn’t seen a dead body before, and I didn’t intend seeing one now. So I insisted it was all wrapped up before I’d stick it in the car-boot.

Daintry and I stood in the lock-up he rented and looked down at the black bin-liner.

‘It’s not so big, is it?’ I said.

‘I broke the rigor mortis,’ he explained. ‘That way you can get it into the car.’

I nodded and went outside to throw up. I felt better after that. Curried chicken never did agree with me.

‘I’m not sure I can do it,’ I said, wiping my mouth.

Daintry was ready for me. ‘Ah, that’s a pity.’ He stuck his hands in his pockets, studying the tips of his shoes. ‘How’s your old mum, by the way? Keeping well, is she?’

‘She’s fine, yeah…’ I stared at him. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing, nothing. Let’s hope her good health continues.’ He looked up at me, a glint in his eye. ‘Still fancy Brenda?’

‘Who says I do?’

He laughed. ‘Common knowledge. Must be the way your trousers bulge whenever you see her shadow.’

‘That’s rubbish.’

‘She seems well enough, too. The marriage is a bit shaky, but what can you expect? That Harry of hers is a monster.’ Daintry paused, fingering his thin gold neck-chain. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a tap to the skull one of these dark nights.’


He shrugged. ‘Just a guess. Pity you can’t…’ He touched the bin-bag with his shoe. ‘You know.’ And he smiled.

We loaded the bag together. It wasn’t heavy, and was easy enough to manoeuvre. I could feel a foot and a leg, or maybe a hand and arm. I tried not to think about it. Imagine him threatening my old mum! He was lucky I’m not quick to ignite, not like him, or it’d’ve been broken nose city and hospital cuisine. But what he said about Brenda’s husband put thoughts of my mum right out of my head.

We closed the boot and I went to lock it.

‘He’s not going to make a run for it,’ Daintry said.

‘I suppose not,’ I admitted. But I locked the boot anyway.

Then the car wouldn’t start, and when it did start it kept cutting out, like the engine was flooding or something. Maybe a block in the fuel line. I’d let it get very low before the last fill of petrol. There might be a lot of rubbish swilling around in the tank. After a couple of miles it cut out on me at some traffic lights in Dalston. I rolled down my window and waved for the cars behind me to pass. I was content to sit for a few moments and let everything settle, my stomach included. One car stopped alongside me. And Jesus, wouldn’t you know it: it was a cop car.

‘Everything all right?’ the cop in the passenger seat called.

‘Yeah, just stalled.’

‘You can’t sit there for ever.’


‘If it doesn’t start next go, push your car to the side of the road.’

‘Yeah, sure.’ He made no move to leave. Now the driver was looking at me too, and traffic was building up behind us. Nobody sounded their horn. Everyone could see that a cop car was talking with the driver of another vehicle. Sweat tickled my ears. I turned the ignition, resisting the temptation to pump the accelerator. The engine rumbled, then came to life. I grinned at the cops and started forwards, going through an amber light.

They could probably arrest me for that. It was five minutes before I stopped staring in the rearview mirror. But I couldn’t see them. They’d turned off somewhere. I let all my fear and tension out in a rasping scream, then remembered the window was still rolled down. I wound it back up again. I decided not to go straight to the bridge-site, but to drive around a bit, let all the traffic clear along with my head.

I pulled into a bus-stop just before the North Circular and changed into my work clothes. That way I wouldn’t look suspicious. Good thinking, eh? It was my own idea, one Daintry had appreciated. I had a question for him now, and the question was: why wasn’t he doing this himself? But he wasn’t around to answer it. And I knew the answer anyway: he’d rather pay someone else to do dangerous jobs. Oh yes, it was dangerous; I knew that now. Worth a lot more than a hundred and twenty-five nicker, sixty of which was already in my pocket in the shape of dirty old pound notes. Repayments, doubtless, from Daintry’s punters. Grubby money, but still money. I hoped it hadn’t come from the McAndrews.



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