Saturday, April 28


Victory has proved an untrustworthy maiden. We danced for fleeting moments while Thompson bled, shaken and defeated, on the tarmac at my feet. But so often she leaves my side, joining the dance with strangers, their smiling eyes and hungry jaws devouring every inch of her. The futher she dances across the room, the greater the emptiness inside me becomes.

I won a battle, against Thompson. But for what? The war continues, all around me. Those I fight for, spy for, steal for; they still go to bed at night with fear in their bellies and dread in their hearts. That which I kill for, lie for and beg for never seems to be enough. Money doens't come in, and thanks is a rare gift in this world.

I left Thompson chained to his car and made an anonymous tip to the police. I thought about killing him. Faith presse against his temple, her cold touch doubtless chilling his spine almost as much as it did mine. But in the end, a longer punishment seemed more worthy for the small time crime overlord. Small time, small change. Small pity.

Life continues to hammer down blows around me, and Victory shies coyly away with each fresh impact. I'm trying to track down Seth's cousin, Grey, whom I now know to be a mob boss in the Brighton drug rings. But he's elusive, grey like smoke and shadow. I haven't heard from K in weeks, and wonder if she lies dead. Baltam doesn't return my calls. A child's dead body is a cost he's unwiling to pay.

And my own war against the bottle continues to bruise and bloody me. It's on my mind all the time. I drink whiskey and hate myself for it. I lock it away and spend all day thinking about the release it might offer. I see strangers happily drink the night away, and I envy their escape, their freedom, and their vices.

The fight continues for another day. Tonight I'll drink myself stupid, wake up in bitter disgust tomorrow and start all over again. Here's to Victory. Here's to wars. Here's to the God-damned human condition.

Thursday, April 26

Celestial Witness

Air turns to fire in my chest, blood turns to acid in my veins, and thoughts turn to cloud in my mind. But still I run.

Thompson is just ahead of me. His black saloon car slides through the Lanes, metallic paint and rumbling engine hiding his animal fear. He thinks he can be saved by his mechanised chariot, but my feet are better suited to the cobblestones than his tyres. I tear down the alley, my footsteps echoing back at me, cheering me on, calling for blood. Suddenly the walls fall away to either side of me, I'm out on the road, and Thompson's saloon is roaring down the road towards me.

I stand in its way and stare the beast down. It's headlights never waver, but I narrow my eyes and draw a great breath through scorched lungs. As the monster approachs, I leap up and backwards. Momentum stays on my side and I manage to cling onto the bonnet of the car. My face to the glass, I see the whites of the driver's eyes. All he has to do is break or swerve and I'm so much meat on the pavement. But as his eyes widen and his nostrils flare in fear, he hestitates.
I raise Providence and punish him for his doubt. Two bullets hammer through the windscreen. The glass shatters, spiderwebbing across the surface even as blood fountains against the inside to run down the cracks in tiny rivulets. I pause for just a moment to admire the fire and ice merge on the windscreen, Jack Frosts' touch dances with rivers of flame.

Then I'm rolling, twisting, and crashing to the road with a blinding flash of pain. The car swerves and crashes into a building. In the silent darkness before dawn breaks, no-one stirs at the noise.

I rise from the floor and stretch, trying to push my bones into place. They grumble and complain, scream at me their grievences. No food, no drink, no sleep and too much punishment. I tread over broken glass and pull open the door to the saloon. Thompson huddles within. He opens his mouth to protest, to lie, to try and barter for his life. My fist closes it quickly enough, adding a fresh smear of blood to his face.

I drag Thompson from the car and throw him to the cobblestones.

I stand and savour the moment. After so much strife, and doubt, and pain, it's over. I've won. I gaze at the inky black sky, raise my arms, and offer a silent prayer to the hidden stars, the celestial witnesses that have seen so much of my trial. They know my plight, they've known my pain. I share with them my triumph, and I am filled with a glorius light that no-one else can see. As I open my eyes, I swear that stars flash, one final flourish before the sun rises. A whispered word of congraulations.

Time stands still. Just for a moment. Just forever. There is blood at the back of my mouth, but all I can taste is victory.

Tuesday, April 24


It's strange how life goes in circles. Sometimes we run in small circles, the hamster-ball routine of our daily lives. Sometimes the circles are bigger, wider, the enclosed race course of the working week. But even the stars travel in their celestial circles. Against such monumental forces, how are to stand any chance of breaking away?

Stakeout again, and I can't help but think back to the stakeout on The Chichester. All those months ago, that heart-wrenching moment when I discovered that Thompson had been playing me for a fool, and slowly been sabotaging my circle of contacts.

Circles again. My head is spinning. Thompson has been in a large hotel all night, completely unaware of me. I sit under the clouds and wait. I've had no food all day. No damn whiskey either. Addiction tears and pulls at the corners of my mind, desperate for that firey burn, that sweet taste, that dreadful rush of blood, that vile and wonderful wave of self-loathing at another victory against myself. Addiction is like having a firefight with yourself. You win and lose at the same time, but somehow you hate yourself for winning as much as you do for losing. But in the moment of victory, the second of surrender, release and resolve, you forget that you ever hated everything.

Now I'm full of hate. I think about slipping into a late bar and getting a drink. Or at least something to eat. But Thompson is corned like the rat he is, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let him escape this time.

Monday, April 23


A shadow moves, somewhere to my right. It drags my gaze with it, and I lose track of another shadow, just in front of me. I curse and crouch down lower. Closer to the earth. Closer to the dampness of the grass.

The night air is still for just a moment. I hold my breath and listen to the blood race through my ears.

Then a bullet tears through the air, cracking the silence, whispering through a hedgerow and snapping violently into the wooden fencing beside me. I curse and rise, pointing Faith towards the shadowed doorway and firing three rounds back into the anonymous darkness.

Another shadow moves to my right. Is that Thompson, or was he in the doorway? I'm suddenly forgetful and fight down a wave of panic. I see the figure more clearly, running across the grass of the Pavillion gardens. I raise Faith, cool against my cheek in the cramped space, and fire again. I'm rewarded with a scream and the shadow falls, fading into the grass, a shadow within a shadow.

The victories rarely last long. More bullets fire into my slim shelter. I throw myself over the fence behind me, roll across the gravelled floor, and run around the edge of the garden. Bullets follow me for a while, worrying my heels, but soon I'm lost to them too. I peer back into the night, trying not to breath too heavily. Treacherous air clouds before me as I breathe. It's cold tonight.

I've been stalking Thompson for most of the evening. He was at some drugs lab in Chichester, just as planned. I couldn't get inside the run down building, it was surrounded by growling muscle. But I followed him here into town. It was all too easy, until the stones started crunching underfoot here in the Pavillion gardens.

Voices shout out in the darkness. I can't make out the words. A huddled figure slips away from an alcove near the Pavillion and shuffles away. That's Thompson alright. I put Faith to rest by my side, and creep after him into the night.

He's close now, and he's got no-where to run to.

Sunday, April 22


The Seth Files don't get much attention these days. Seth's a shady character with beady eyes I can't trust. He wants me to dig up some dirt on his cousin, Walter. In my line of work, I see tough jobs and I see dirty jobs. Seth has handed my a brown sack full of the latter. It's all I can do to keep away from this crap, but sometimes the music just demands a dance.

Walter has life pretty easy. He's got an income with the zeros on the better side of the commas, a car that sparkles in the right places, and a wife who smiles sweetly on demand. He's all gravel drives, white fencing and warm handshakes. I've not been able to get a thing on the guy. Even clean people get dirty fingernails from time to time. But Walter doens't even make a mess when he's on the can.

Imagine my surprise when I discover that Walter is well known in the CCNR as a mob boss called 'Grey'.

I get to hear a lot about Grey. I hear his name whispered in threats, screamed in curses and offered in temptation. In my own silent investigations trying to track down Thompson, I've stumbled into Walter's own shadow, and found that when Walter takes a graceful bow, Grey takes a vengeful swipe. This guy's shadow doesn't even touch his feet, for fear of being connected to him.

But I see the connection alright. All I need is some proof of his involvement this deep down, and he's all mine. And, more importantly, so is Seth's fat cheque.

Saturday, April 21

Beneath the Waves

After weeks of darkness, I can finally see a light. Just a hint, lesser shadow on a field of black. But the walls are cracking.

I've been undercover. Deep at the bottom of an ocean, so deep that no light dares shine. So cold that the only way to survive is to become as ice. The weight of water presses down, forcing everything to close up tight. When you're that deep under water, even the tiniest of leaks can tear you inside out.

K's last words to me were 'C-C-N-R'. I finally managed to trace the cryptic letters to a drug ring, in the seedy underworld of Brighton. Down deep, where sharks prowl and worse things lurk, I've had to investigate to find Thompson. Making allies, breaking friends, whispering lies and beating truths. It's a deep, deep ocean. For a long while, I couldn't believe Thompson's skin was thick enough for him to live this far down.

But that's what makes him so dangerous. He seems so unconcerning, so totally trustworthy. But when your guard is down, it's easier to slip a silvered knife between your ribs. I've earned that scar already.

Submerged in the frigid waters of the CCNR ring, I've lost track of almost everything. Lost in my own lies and deceits, it's easy to forget why I'm here. Who I am. No, who I was. Who I am now is a drugs runner for a wheel within a wheel within a heaving, dirty machine. Smoke billows, pistons clang together, cogs scrape and oil drips and seethes down every rusted surface. And here I remain, for a little while longer.

Thompson's name is a constant whisper. A shadow, always just out of sight. The deeper I submerge, the closer I get. I think I'm close now. WhenI remember to see past the lies, and find within myself the promises I made long ago, I can almost sense him.

But that's the problem with drowning. You turn around and around until you don't know which way is up, and the air you try to breathe pulls you further and further away from everything you know. Soon you have no air left. No truths, no values, no integrity. Then it's just you, and the endless cold of the blue.

I'm not in the blue yet. My lungs are straining, my head pounding and my back is breaking. But I can still, on a good day, see which way is up.

Thompson will be in one of the Chichester drugs labs on Monday. And I'll be ready.

After all, bullets don't need to breathe.

Wednesday, April 4


I head out to town to see Arbon and Amoe, try and pick up some information about this mysterous CCNR. It means nothing to me, and I'm walking blinder than blind. Arbon has been one of my best informants lately. If I can catch him in the right mood, I'm bound to gather some information.

I stop by the office, darkened and locked up, to gather my mail. I open it while walking down the quiter streets in the North Laines. In these sheltered streets, footsteps echo a long way, and there's no crowds to hide secret threats. I tear open the first letter - another dangerously low bank statement - and listen to the scream of the ripping envelope, deafening in that absolute silence. But I'm alone, and can forgot about watching my back for five merciful minutes.

Locked in this shroud of safety, this blanket of apparent invunerability, I barely hear the soft tick, tick, tick when I peel open the second letter. Something dark grips my stomach with frigid tentacles, and I stop, alterted to an unseen danger. I hear the ticks in the silence. The tentacles tighten in my gut, a chill creeps up my back like a cadaverous lover's touch, and still I can't see the danger.

Then the ticking strikes a slight discord, and I realise I'm not wearing my watch. It's all I can do to hurl the thin paper envelope away from me and crash to the ground. The letterbomb erupts suuddenly, violently, heat and noise washing over me like the waves of the river Styx, crashing over me in firey plumes while the Ferryman tows another victim to an eternity of torment.

I open my eyes, and thank all the powers on the Earth that I'm not the Ferryman's victim today. I wearily pull myself to my feet. The bomb must have been from Thompson. He's getting bolder. He knows that I'm not going to quit, and is taking stronger measures to get in my way. This is the first direct contact I've had from him since staring into the suprised whites of his beady eyes all those weeks ago in The Chichester.

So. Nothing to do but carry on with the day's business. I only hope that the other letter wasn't anything important. With a little luck, it'll just be another unpaid bill notice.

Arbon isn't in Churchill Square, his normal haunt. I walk around for a while, trying to find him. No sign, he must have earned a day off. Lucky kid. But he works hard enough, earns his breaks.

I turn and head for home. I pass the office - still dark, still standing. It's safer for me to avoid it for a few days.

Besides, I've plenty of whiskey at home.

Monday, April 2


Midnight, and the whole world seems quiet. Like the sound's been turned down by some all-powerful being, turning away from the soap opera of our lives to answer the door or argue with His wife. Tonight, I thank him for the silence, however long it may last.

The morning took me on the usual rounds of late. The office, the Bridge, Henny's, desperatley waiting for some sign from K. Mercifully, it comes. As I walk into Henny's, I catch a crane resting on a windowsill. I take it and leave the café, opening the folded paper as quickly as my trembling fingers will allow.

K is alive. The note is all innocent pleading: she didn't know about the trap. She asks to meet me
at the Bridge in the late afternoon. My head is full of perfume, confusion and anger. It could be yet another trap. I go anyway.

For once, I'm at the Bridge first. I speak to the barman and seat myself in the darkest corner I can find. The place is quiet, amost empty. I can't see anyone who might want to kill me. I try not to let myself relax. I'm just about shaking with paranoia and impatience when she enters, striding across the room. She doesn't look around her as she enters, doesn't stop to acknowledge anyone or anything. She's a bullet fired from a gun, heading towards the bar. The barman points in my direction.

She tells me what Thompson is onto her now, too. She tells me that she can't get to him anymore. She tells me I need to step back and leave him alone. She tells me to drop my damned thirst for venegence. She tells me coolly, calmly, her eyes never once leaving mine. Her cigarette slowly burns away in her outstretched arm, ash tumbling to the table, forgotten.

If Thompton is onto her, then K can't help me anymore. She'll just get herself and me killed. So I play along, nod genially, promise to drop everything. Her eyes betray nothing, I don't know if she accepts my lies. She stands and leaves. She doesn't say goodbye, but she does turn and whisper something to me.

'C-C-N-R', her lips say. Then she's gone, out of the door.

In the silence of now, I ponder those cryptic letters. They mean nothing to me. But they means something to K, and I'd bet my life, and hers, that they're the path to finding Thompson and ending all of this.

Saturday, March 31


The bloodshot sun falls from the sky. I sit in my apartment, a not-so welcome change of scenery, and watch the hazy sky turn from deep blue to violent red. The sun glows brightly, darkly, agonisingly, leaking blood into the falling skies. The redness flows along the crest of the distant rise of Hollingdean, spreads out and across Lewes Road, and inches towards Moulsecombe and myself, sitting in the dark, watching the desperate death of the day.

As I watch the sunset - so powerful and beautiful in its bold and terrible colours, so slow and dramatic in its stark artistry - I am reminded that everything bleeds.

I still haven't heard anything from K. I'm beside myself, outside myself. Did she betray me after all? Worse, was she captured? I can't understand my obession with the woman; beyond the arrogance, power and grace in that slender body, something about her has claws in me. I make a silent oath to my whiskey that if she gets hurt in this even Thornton won't stop my thirst for revenge.

I've tried to keep myself distracted during the day. I've gathered up everything I have on Seth's over-acheiving cousin. I've collected all the accounts and the family historys. I've found the areas that are just too clean. I'll give that to Seth as a start. The guy is beside himself now. Last time I saw him he was practically shacking with the anger and humilation of his cousins' higher position.

But even as I work through the details of the investigation, I keep one I fixed on the door, the window, the phone, anything which might betray some hint as to K or Thompson's whereabouts.

Friday, March 30


The Thompson Project has exploded again. I don't know where to go or what to do. But the clock keeps ticking, and it's only a matter of time before things start to burn.

I head into town, find a nice quiet joint called Henny's. It's a nice place to lie low and think things through. There aren't many shadows in that clean, white café. Besides, the serving girls there always have a nice smile for me.

Henny's doesn't sell whiskey though. I make do with a coffee, and tell myself that if it was the kind of place that sold whiskey to guys like me, it wouldn't be the kind of nice quiet joint where I could think. Doubtless the watiresses wouldn't smile so easily either.

I write out a note for K. I tell her to leave a message for me here, tell her not to come back to the office. I don't like to think that she crossed me deliberatley yesterday. It woudn't be the first time a pair of glittering eyes had deceived me, but K didn't fit the pattern. I warn her that Thompson might be onto her.

All I can do is leave the note with the nervous barman at The Bridge. I almost feel bad for not folding the thing into some work of art. I seal the envelope and leave the barman with some instructions and some extra paper notes. God knows whether K will ever see the message, but I have to try.

Thursday, March 29


I head out to Pevensey in the car. Rain hammers on the metal roof, screaming in my ears as the vehicle roars down the highway. The cacophany of nature and machine makes a tense, hissing soundtrack as I consider the encounter ahead.

K tells me I'll see Thornton in Pevensey this afternoon. Seems he has some sort of business in The Crown in the town centre. I still don't know if K is to be trusted. Just the scent of that perfume makes my head spin like some horrific theme park attraction. Only enter if you are this emotionally insecure.

I park the car around the corner from the pub, and walk inside. I keep to the walls and circle the place, trying to avoid notice. Why is it that being deliberatley inconspicuous always attracts suspicious stares? But there's no sign of Johnson. I'm just about to leave when I detect a trace of perfume in the air. My stomach lurches. K was here. A shadow moves across the room and slips out the back door, heading for the beer garden. An inconspicous shadow. I reach inside my jacket and settle the Twins, flicking off the safety switches.

I open the back door and look out over a courtyard garden. A children's play area sways in the slight wind. The rain has stopped, so I step into the courtyard to get a better look around.

That was my mistake. The shout was theirs.

Everything happened at once after the shout. Movement came from either side of me, shadows seperate from the sides of the building. Instinctively I drop to a crouch. My hands cross my chest, draw the twins, and fire a single round either side of me. A shadow drops to the ground to my right with a scream. But the other shadow keeps coming. I rise to meet him, and we struggle backwards, locked in a voilent embrace. I twist and push, sending him tumbling over a wooden bench. My foot stops him rising. My fist sends him into darkness for a while.

All this voilence makes me thirsty. I head back into The Crown and order a whiskey from the bar. It was a trap after all. The question now is, did K set me up deliberatley, or was she discovered? I'll find no more answers here, Thompson will be long gone.

The barman asks after the fresh swelling on my face. I give him a stare that sends him skuttling across the bar to a fresh batch of customers, and walk out.

Tuesday, March 27


I walk into the office today to be suprised again. Another paper crane sits on the only blank space on my desk, a tower of calm grace among a chaotic litter of papers and files. I try to slow my heartbeat. It's a time bomb, I remind myself. Sooner or later, this will end in blood and tears. It always does. Still, my hand trembles slightly as I reach out - gently, as if any sudden movement might scare it into flight - and lift the crane from the desk.

I unfold it, fingers fumbling in haste. My only lead in days, and chance to get closer to K. I can barely contain myself. But I can't lose myself now. I stop, put down the crane, and steady myself with a glass of whiskey. Its fire at the back of my throat helps burn off the nerves. Strange how I can only think straight when my mind is swimming.

The crane is from K alright. She wants to meet with me again, at the Bridge. I walk out of town right away. The gentle exercise gives me time to think and collect myself. But the sun is too bright. Too many days inside pouring over bits of paper. My tired eyes wince against the light. Eyes to the pavement, I walk.

I get to the bridge and wait at the bar. I eye up the joint: balding men hide behind thick puffs of cigarette smoke. The place stinks of nicotine and stale beer. She gets the drop on me again, her perfume a kick in the nuts as soon as I taste it. I don't say a word as she takes a seat by my side, save to catch the barman's eye and order a glass of red wine. She takes my whiskey and throws it back. I order another before the barman skuttles away.

K tells me that Thompson is hiding just out of town. Seems he'll be in Pevensey on Thursday afternoon. I accept my whiskey with a nod to the barman. I don't know how to play this, it reeks of a trap. But if she wanted me dead for Thompson, she could have had me at any time in the past week. I ask her where she'll be on Thursday. She just gives me a cool smile, and leaves me alone with my alcohol and the cigarette smoke of strangers.

Wednesday, March 21


Nothing makes sense. The walls are closing in again. Thompson is out there, but where? Where? And all the while I'm driven round in circles by the hint of a scent of a womans perfume. Damn Blue, you're getting in too deep already.

I've been over everything I have today. Every contact, every file, every old clue and every memory in the dark corridors of my mind. Nothing has brought me any closer to Thompson. I have half a mind to march in on Thornton and demand to know what he knows. Or to offer my services, to punish Thompson for his failure. I even take my long coat from the door and rest Faith in her holster. But I know it's foolish. Thornton would have me shot on sight if I went anywhere near him. K made that perfectly clear.

So here I am, shouting at the walls and kicking over furniture. It's cabin fever and there's no way out, no-where to hide. I need something new, something fresh. Seth and Baltam are forgotten, I have to track down Thompson.

Or have the rules changed while my back was turned? Some instinctive fever for revenge and vindication courses through my veins like hydrolic fluid, burning oil tearing through an engine, red hot flames chewing up a building. I begin to think that it's not Thompson who lit this fire though. Why does it now burn so brightly, and so hot? No, there's something more to this.

K stands always over my shoulder, just out of reach, a glowing cigerette in one hand and burning match in the other.

Tuesday, March 20


The meeting with K has had me all mixed up, scattered my thoughts like ashes on the wind. I can't understand why she's helping me. Might just be my winning smile, but I don't like the taste of that biscuit. No, she has some sort of motive. Could be that she's working for Thompson herself, to gain my trust and put me off the scent. But why go to the trouble? Why not just kill me and have done it with it?

To top it all, everytime I turn my head I get a faint taste of that perfume, and it all comes rushing back in an arctic breeze.

Lights off, whiskey cradled in my hand, I gaze through the blinds of my office at the world outside. It's cold tonight, no-one moves. I try to decide whether to sleep here, or head home to my apartment. These days, the office is more home to me. Besides, the flat has dreadful views. I feel trapped there, stuck in the dark, waiting for the alcohol rush to pass and a new day to dawn.

None of it is getting me anywhere. I still don't know where to find Thompson, and I've still got nothing on Seth's cousin.

Monday, March 19

Red Wine

Today, I wait.

I tidy the office. I look at my watch. I fill out the paperwork on Baltam. I look at the clock. I stare out of the window, and wait.

Eventually, darkness falls over the world like a gloved fist closing around around a candleflame, suffocating and drowning the light. Midnight approaches, and finally I can head out to the Bridge.

It's located at the edge of town. It's a place only the locals know about. There are so many fights and killings there, I'm surprised they still have any locals. I find the bar and order a whiskey.

I notice the perfume first. Like a faint mist teasing through the air, it strikes me for its subtlety and power. I can barely notice the fragile scent, but it sends my head reeling. I'm suddenly glad for the whiskey.

She takes a seat next to me, orders a red wine. The barman is flustered, says their out. She lights a cigerette - it mingles with her perfume intoxicatingly - and asks again for a glass of wine. The barman hurries away into the cellar. I'm not too proud to reach over the bar and top up my whiskey.

When she speaks, I finally recognise her. K was one of Thornton's secretaries. She had been one of the kinder ones as I was ushered out of the building. There was no sign of that sweet smile now though. She was a stilletto knife, finely honed and glinting in the candlelight.

K tells me about Thompson. He is one of Thornton's pen pushers, responsible for tidying up the off-record business interesting. From his plush, leather cushioned oaken throne, Thornton controls half of the prostitution, drug distribution and human trafficking across the city. Thompson just checks the figures, sees to the authorities. Seems I helped uncover one of Thornton's pimps about a year ago. A crazy bastard by the name of Whitby, I remember him all too clearly. Thompson was responsibly for closing me down quietley.

But Thompson screwed up. He went too far and showed me too much. Thornton has cut his chain and disavowed all knowledge. That sounds like good news to me. It means that when I find the little weasel, he'll have no bigger brother to come knocking on my door.

K promises to be in touch, and rises to leave. The barman comes running from the cellar, dusty bottle and glass in hand. Smiling nervously, he pours out a glass and offers it to K. She puts out her cigeratte on the bar, takes the glass, and drinks it down in one great swig. She drops a couple of coins on the table, and walks out.

Sunday, March 18


I don't like surprises.

In this job, a surprise tends to be something which blows up, catches fire, stabs you in the back or kicks you in the balls. I deal with the unexpected all the time. The unexpected and the unwarranted pay my bills. But surprises? I spend most of my day trying to avoid them. The more you know, the less you're surprised.

The thing with surprises is that they come when you think there's nothing left to explode.

I'd all but given up on ever tracking down Thompson. His personals page had drawn blank across the column. Thornton had locked me out so quickly it wasn't worth following up. And the smoking trail of corpses has gone cold.

This morning I walked into my office to find a surprise wrapped in shadows, giving off a faint ticking sound which I couldn't quite hear with my ears. I stand and hold the thing in my hand, thinking about how much I hate surprises.

The time bomb is a paper crane, folded every so delicatley into a starkly beautiful form. The white paper almost shines in the dark office. Writing is scrawled across the wings, but I can't read it because of the folds. I listen carefully. It doesn't quite tick. But that doesn't stop a shiver running down my spine. It had been left on my desk. That meant someone had got into my office which I was out.

I really hate surprises.

I carefully unfold the crane. Nothing explodes. Nothing catches fire. The sick feeling in my stomach only gets heavier, waiting for the inevitable bad news.

The note is a message, signed simply "K". It tells me to meet at The Bridge at midnight on Monday if I want to find Thompson.

I stare at the note, and wait for the explosion. Surprises never go my way. But I have to meet this K. If nothing else, I'll figure out how the bastard broke into my office, and break one of his knees as payment.

Thursday, March 15


The whiskey burns down the back of my throat. I feel its warmth spread through me for a moment, close my eyes to savour it, close my mind to keep the sensation in.

I'd let Baltam back down badly. Hell, I'd let myself down. Staring into that kid's lifeless brown eyes. I carried him to the edge of Stanmer Park, forcing myself to carry the load through the morning air and hide the body, before I can take it to Baltam.

Staring through the office window into the night, I catch my reflection in the glass. But instead of my own eyes staring back at me, I see two brown eyes staring into infinity. I turn the light off, and te reflection fades.

Baltam handled it well. He stood in silence a while, just trembling. But he didn't say a word, he didn't blame me. I left him in the dark and quiet in the end.

City lights are bright outside the window now. Car headlights sweep across a road nearby. So many people out there, so much life. Even in the dark, I can still see the shade of my reflection. I close the blinds.

It sickens me to my very core, but I still need to get paid by Baltam. At least I was able to bring the body back. Damn, I can't believe I'm thinking this. But I need to eat. I've put the time in. I've risked myself. Baltam owes me something. Damn. I need another whiskey.

Between the shutters of the window, I can just about see the black of night. I stare into it, praying for some kind of absolution.


I'm awake and out of the flat early. I walk outside into the inky dawn to find the world smothered by a blanket of fog, squeezing and choking the life out of the Earth for its sins.

I walk across and out of town. I got lucky last night, I heard the Eigonvectors are hiding out in Stanmer House, and they have a hostage. It can only be Baltam's cousin. I try to focus, center and calm myself on the hour long walk. The air is thick and heavy, cool on my face. It hides the corners and edges of the world from me. Secretly, I thank it.

The estate stands grand and square in Stanmer Park. Grey light fills the world, fog seems to swirl around the building. Last I heard, it was recently restored a usable state. I wonder that no-one has forced the gang out. How high does their influence spread?

I sneak in the back, through a kitchen door, Faith resting loosely in my hand. This time of day, none of the bastards will be awake. Inside the house is all stone floors, grand ceilings and dust sheets hiding furniture. I sneak around, poking my head through doors. In the entrance hall a set of stairs leads upwards. I follow it. Chinese gangsters lie in some of the rooms, most collapsed in a heap of empty bottles.

The Baltam kid is chained to a radiator in on of the bedrooms. A guard starts up when I sneak inside, drunk and confused. I tell him to sit down. I insist. He doesn't get back up. I cut the teenagers handcuffs, and lead him back out onto the corridor.

My luck runs out when I reach the entrance hall again, standing on the landing. Someone heard something, and the Chinese are waiting for me. Shots ring out as I round the corner. I fire back meekly, staggering behind some cover. I call to the Baltam kid to hide behind me. He lies on the floor, unmoving, blood seeping underneath him like he was a leaking bag.

That sick feeling rises in my stomach, stretching icy tendrils through my gut and up into my throat. For a moment, it threatens to consume me, to drag me under, to pin me down and hold my breath. But I force it down. The kid was dead. After everything. I draw Providence from inside my jacket.

By this point, I can't even feel angry any more.

I rise up in a daze, swing out onto the balcony, and open fire. Everything seems to move slowly. For a time, I can't hear anything above the rush of blood in my ears. Then a wave of something dark passes over me and everything goes red.

The Twins roar their shame and fury with all the bloodshot zeal of a tumor-crazed preacher. Shots echo around the room, kicking up dust and plaster and blood.

Then, after a second, a minute, and eternity of moments, a nothingth of forever, a heartbeat and a lifetime, it's all over. The Twins run out of lessons to preach. I stand and catch my breath in the silence, straining to listen. My throat is red raw, my breaths ragged, and some noise dully echoes through the room, clinging low and rough to the corners. But I don't remember screaming out.

Everything is quiet now. I carefully raise the corpse of the missing Baltam. The kid can't be more than seventeen. I walk out through the front door.

Walking back down Stanmer park, the air begins to clear. To one side of me, rich blues seep through the air, getting stronger and brighter by the minute as the air comes to life. To the other side, the thick fog boils and rolls, burning away before my eyes at the pure touch of the Sun. I stop and watch, straining to watch the movement of grey air which vanishes moments after I look at it. It is an eerily beautiful moment, the sky torn smoothly between pure white and brilliant blue.

I shift the Baltam kid on my shoulder, and keep walking.

Friday, March 9


After a cold night in the warehouse, it's good to be back in the office. At least, it was until Seth showed up with his ultimatums. Seems his cousin is getting all the fun. He doesn't seem to notice the blood streaming down my face as he rants about holidays and giggling secretaries. I tell him to come back tomorrow, and head into my office. He starts to follow, but regrets it when the door slams into his nose. I barely hear his threats. Soon enough, he quitens down and heads home. He can wait.

Sam and the Eigonvectors had their fun, then left me locked in the warehouse for the night. Unnatural orange light filtered through the blacked out windows, and trains rumbled nearby all night. It took me a while, but I managed to wiggle out of the ropes that tie me. The cord was too thick to make lasting knots. Lucky me.

I hid in the dark of the warehouse until the Eigonvectors came back. I had a nice suprise for them. When the light of a new day shone through the windows, they came back laughing and playfighting. Like a pack of kittens mauling each other on the kitchen floor. They stop when they see the ropes coiled up on the floor. In a torrent of firey rage, I leap down from my hiding place. Faith screams her fury and two of the gang fall to the ground, unmoving.

One of them made a lunge for me. Clumsy and slow. I sidestepped the punch and kicked his feet out from under him. The kid who took Providence is fumbling in his pockets. I shoot him, once in each leg. Sam is the only one left standing, and I turn my bloody gaze to him.

In the end, I lost count of the punches. It was more than I could give back: I was tired and hurting. For Sam, I tied a knot in one of the thick ropes and swung it at him a couple of times. He told me where the other Eigonvectors were hiding. He didn't recognise the Baltam kid in the picture. I leave Sam alive as a warning to rest of the gang. I was onto them, and I had a lot of blood to pay back.

Thursday, March 8

Rope Burns

The rope is thick and coarse. It cuts deep into my wrists, making them itch from the blood that trickles down over the burns. My hands, pulled tight behind me, are a dead, numb weight. I wait for the next blow.

When it comes, the world turns to black for an endless second. The Chinese bastard has been tickling me for a while now. This is the first I actually feel. As blackness fills the world, shadows in the dark carry me back to the morning.

Yet again, the sun shone a false cheeriness on the world around me. I stumbled my way to a meeting with Baltam in some cafe on St James' Street. Greasy bacon and barely-cooked eggs. I left him to pick up the bill. I wandered the town trying to pick up the scent of the Eigonvectors. Baltam is getting restless. He seems to gain a new worry line in his forehead every time I see him. Besides, I need to get paid.

The roads and whispers lead me to Hove. Wretched place to get lost. The wide roads, terraced houses and brick walls never seem to end. I didn't recognise the Eigonvector hideout until I'd walked through the front door of the warehouse. Seems they don't like strangers. They're kids, mostly, Chinese teenagers looking for some fun. Providence helps me send two of them down screaming before the brick hits my chin.

I don't know how long I've been here. It must be before dinner time. These kids haven't been called home yet. They stagger around the empty building, drunk on alcohol and false power.

One of the Chinese has taken a liking to me though. He comes over to punch and kick at me, screaming nonsense at me all the while. I call him Sam, because he's like a short samurai. He doesn't know why I'm grinning at him. Poor little bastard gets so angry, it only makes my smiles larger and more bloody. I count the punches though. Twenty-five. And six kicks, for good measure. He'll get everyone back by the end.

Faith lies on a table not too far away. Some little bastard took Providence, decided he wanted some target practice. He'll soon learn that it's not wise to seperate the twins.

They'll all learn that it's not too smart to piss me off.

I wince. Twenty-six.

Wednesday, March 7


Today dragged on and on, like a boiling highway leading to no-where, melting in the hot sun. With no clear desination in sight, it's all I've been able to do to keep going. My eyes feel like they're going to melt in the heat, unnatural tears streaming down my cheeks. Damn, but I need a good night's sleep.

Respite came from meeting an old informant of mine. He used to work in a forensics crime lab, in the morgue more often than not. The poor lads there get it pretty busy, especially around the times I need information. Most days, they don't have time to get out for a lunchbreak. For the price of a sandwich, I managed to get a good deal of information. It helped me stay one step ahead of the cops. He ran into some trouble a couple of years back, so I helped him disappear. It's good to see a friend still in one peace. Poor bastard still spends half his free time with stiffs though.

I've plugged just about every contact, favour and meeting point I know, trying to get a lead on Baltam's cousin. But I've got nothing. The more questions I ask, the more I end up with. The Eigonvectors seem pretty well spread. I'm gonna have to hit several hideouts before I get anything solid.

This evening will be an opportunity to get some quiet time with the Twins. They get lonely at night. I need to make sure they're in good spirits though. Me, Faith and Providence: we're gonna have us a ball.

I throw back another whiskey, hoping it'll keep my eyes open for another hour.

Tuesday, March 6

Velvet Threats

There are days when I can't stand the four walls of my office, staring at me, trapping me, breathing down my back like some cruel overlords of purgatory. But there are days, like today, when it feels good to come in, shut the door, watch the rain and throw back some whiskey.

Thornton turns out to be every bit the royal cat he puts himself out to me. I managed to bluster my way into his office this afternoon. It's all about the food chain. Once you know who to scare, intimidate, charm or bribe: it's just a matter of time before you're knocking on the right door. Thornton's throne lies in a grand office, all oak panels, gold ornaments and glass decanters. The kind of style you buy to show how much money you can burn. The kind of room which makes anyone feel small and untidy.

Thornton sat with his feet up on the huge desk, cigar in one hand and fine brandy in the other. He beckons me in with a voice of velvet and thunder, smiling that charming grin. He's a figure cut in silver and black, short hair, smart suit and glinting eyes. His smile never faltered for a moment as threatened my head if I didn't back off the case. He didn't know any Thompson, and it wasn't my business if he did. Bastard almost made me feel grateful for letting me out of there alive, such was the charm and grace of his voice.

He didn't win all of the cards though. In my office, I put down the whiskey glass and lift a slim, black leather organiser from my coat pocket. Thornton's address book. I raise a toast to Amoe and his parlour tricks. It'll take some time to leaf through and get the information I need. But I've got all night.

Sleep with one eye open Thompson. I've got a silver bullet with your name on it.

Despite my promises, I still haven't followed through on the Eigonvectors. I caught up with Arbon to try and figure out their plans for the evening, but he didn't have anything to offer.

Some good did come from the day though. An old contact of mine resurfaced. Sometimes it feels like the world is getting smaller: I keep bumping into ghosts from the pasts. Half the time I think I'm imagining them, rising out of the ether to drag me away for my sins. But sometimes the ghosts look me in the eye and say hello. I smile to think of him, and find myself glad to find another friendly face.

Monday, March 5

Enter Thornton

Today I pay another kind of bill. I always knew the moon would come back to haunt me. But I turned my back, damned fool that I am.

The Eigonvector Gang were up to no good on Saturday night. Seems some girl got hurt. It was her blood which stained the moon. If only I'd been quicker, sharper, and got to the gang. If only I was sober. Instead I sit here, still clutching my bottle of whiskey. Still clutching my regret.

Tonight I'll lie awake, trying to shut out the ghosts of my past and hide from the shadows of my future. That won't change anything though. I need to track down the Eigonvectors soon, and teach them the hardest lesson of all.

But I did get a lead on Thompson. I've tracked down the five personals, and one of them looks to be promising. One of the ads was left by some guy calling himself Thornton. The name rang a distant bell, but I couldn't be sure if it was an alarm or a reminder. I looked it up, checked him out. Seems Mr Thornton is a big cat, stalking the prairie with no fear of getting bitten. He runs various business syndicates, sits on more chairs than they have acronyms for, and has an empire of children and bastards which sink their claws into just about every country around. This guy is big time. He cries bingo, snap and go fish all at once.

So why is this man, powerful enough to sell the world, advertising himself in some sleasy personals? It doesn't add up. Maybe the guy is just lonely, but I'm not a big enough fool to buy that. This guy knows something, and he's communicating with Thompson to get it. I don't know how it fits together yet, but they're part of the same trouble.

Getting hold of this Thornton is proving hard work. Even his secretary's secretary won't respond to me. I'm going to have to come up with a better way to get close to him.

He wants personals? I'll give him personals. Ain't nothing in the whole damn town more personal than a call from The Twins. Then maybe we'll see what this is all about.

Sunday, March 4

Grey Days

I wake up this morning feeling like I jumped onto a bicycle with no saddle, then fell off of it, tumbling into a frosty river and careening over the edge of the world into a darkness blacker than HTML colour code #000000.

Needless to say, I've not made much headway on any of the cases today. Luckily the rain helps to keep all of the light from my dingy apartment, leaving me to my shame and pain in private.

Tomorrow is another day. Thank God for small mercies.


Tonight, the moon runs red with blood.

I've tried to give myself the evening off. I headed to a favourite bar in town - the Earth and Stars - and spent the evening in a mass of bodies, shouting and laughing. A game of football played in the background, prompting raucus cheers from the back of the dark room. With the job being so intense lately, it's been good to relax a little. My body whispers threats of payback for the chemicals I drown it in: but tonight, I don't care. Tonight I turn off, close my mind, and think of nothing.

Walking back through the streets to my apartment, paving stones moving uncertainly beneath my groggy feet, the moon rises high, dark and bloody. Someone will pay a heavy price for a moon like that tonight. Someone, somewhere, will get hurt.

I stand still and stare at it a while, hunched against the cold air. It's not my problem. It's not my fault, it's not my responsibility, and it's not my head.

Not tonight.

Saturday, March 3

Shiny Bright Lies

The clouds parted again today. The sky, at least has offered me some benediction. But even as the sun shines down, illuminating the streets falsely, dazzling in the promises of clarity offered by shiny windows, I know that the Earth has little to offer. The world looks so sickeningly, wretchedly clean that I suddenly want to tear my eyes out. It's all a lie. Nothing is that clean. Not the dirty streets, not the windows that hide sins behind trecherous light, not Seth's cousin. The lies shine brighter in the sunlight. That's all. I yearn for shadows again, where the evils are hidden from sight.

I close the blinds and throw back another whiskey.

I had a hint of a lucky break this morning. I tracked down a newspaper to match the one I found in Thompsons' hotel room. His copy has a section torn out from the personals. My copy is untainted, giving me five adverts which might have been interest to Thompson. If I can track down who posted the adverts, I might be able to find what he was looking for. Then I can hold him to account for his lies.

Friday, March 2


I decide to get some air, visit some informants. I'm drowning in the stale air of the office again: the streets welcome me, cobblestones whispering their stories as I pass over them.

I find Arbon and Amoe doing a routine near the jewellers. These guys are artists. Arbon sits on an upturned milk pallet, strumming away on a bass guitar. I stand and watch from the corner. A small crowd has gathered round - it's a nice day, and Arbon is putting on a good show. I spy Amoe creeping round the crowds. If you didn't know what to look for, you'd never notice him pinching wallets and phones from pockets. Today's his lucky day: a girl takes out her white earbuds to listen in. Quick as a flash, Amoe unplugs the headphones and swipes the iPod from her pocket. I wonder how long it takes people to realise they've been swindled.

I prefer the 'free hug' scam, myself. They'll stand in Churchill square with big poster signs and warm, fuzzy hats. As giggly school girls and lonely parents are coaxed into a hug, the boys swipe whatever they can get from rear pockets and handbags.


Arbon finishes up the song, and I walk over. These two know the streets better than anyone. They give me some background information about the Eigonvector Gang. Not much - their turf, typical activities. No names, but it's a start. The boys are good to me, I barely even have to coax the information out of them.

Amoe and Arbon are always good to me. Ever since I helped them out with a police officer who got wise to one of their games. It was easy enough to do, but it bought their loyalty. Maybe even their friendship. All it took was a hooker, a video camera, and a jar of vaseline. The case was dropped the next afternoon.

Arbon packs up and heads off. Amoe waves, turns and walks off. I call to his back, politely asking for my wallet back. He grins wolfishly and hands it over. I know that the twenty pound note inside will have vanished. Service rendered, service paid.

The boys are good to me.


I reach the office this morning in a mood blacker than my coffee. Another sleepless night, clues and mysteries racking my brain. The office phone rings all morning. I ignore it. It keeps ringing. I pick it up. An old friend is own town, she wants to meet up, buy me lunch. I can't see when my next paycheck is going to arrive. I'm not too proud to accept. Besides, it'll be good to see a freindly face.

Well, friendly as it gets.

We eat, we talk. She's well. I'm working hard. The job is fine. Lies burn my throat and a smile threatens to tear my face in two. She gets a phone call, apologises for leaving early, and rushes out. A grumpy waitress puts the bill in front of me. Have I just been cheated of my lunch?

It doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. She's a friend. But as I count the change in my pockets, my stomach sinks deeper and deeper. The expensive meal turns dark inside me, turns to poison, turns to sickness and bile.

But it does matter. I've been robbed by someone I took to be a friend. One hand drifts inside my jacket. Providence awaits inside.

The mist descends. What am I doing? Damnned fool, it's just lunch. Pay the bill. Go home. Find some dirt for Seth. With trembling hands, I pay the bill and thank the waitress. What is becoming of me? I'm getting paranoid. Jumping at shadows, seeing deamons where there are none, always assuming the worst.

I head back to the office, unplug the phone, and sort through the accounts Seth gave me. Numbers aren't out to get me, but I make sure to keep Faith in sight as I work.

Thursday, March 1

Four Seasons

When you don't sleep, mornings and evenings lose meaning. Night and day fade, merge, and get confused. Everything becomes an eternal twilight. Things start to lose absolute meaning and shift around on scales. You become constantly part awake and part asleep; part dreaming and part seeing; part in the world, and part out of it. Constancy becomes a myth, a rumour, a dream. How I dream to put my head down and have the world go quiet.

But I can't sleep. Not now. Thompson is out there, somewhere. A kid worth a months rent is held by some unknown gang. I don't know which is more terrifying anymore: the clients, or the jobs.

At some stage in this grey dream, I managed to find a moment of clairty. The letters '4C07' have bounced around my skull for days now, a pneumatic drill bearing on my nerves. But in a moment, a half-forgotten daydream, it makes sense. 4C. The Four Seasons hotel. Room 07. Before doubt can cloud my mind once more, I holster The Twins and drive over. I can only hope that the trail hasn't gone cold.

Midnight, and the road stretches before me, dazzling and burning under streetlights and neon signs. I have to wind the window down to stay awake: the cold air whips and stings my skin, soothing and agonising like a sadists wet dream.

The Four Seasons is a tiny hotel just off the sea front. If I wasn't trying to track down my potential murderer, I might have thought the place quaint. I walk up the steps to find the door locked. No suprise. Luckily enough, I've done this before.

I steal inside, keeping Faith close. Room seven is on the top floor. The floorboards creak, but there's no other sound. I wait on the landing for a moment, listening for sounds of life. A seagull caws somewhere in the distance. I pick the lock and creep inside the room.

It's tiny. Single bed and wardrobe dual in the dark for space. But there's no one here. The bed is neatly made and turned. The wardrobe is empty. The toilet roll in the en suite is fresh and untorn.

I'm about to leave when I notice the newspaper, tucked between the bed and a tiny bedside table. I draw it out and move to the window, straining to read the paper from the fuzzy glow of the streetlight outside. It's dated the 27th, the day of the Chichester Arms stakeout. I flick through the pages, expecting nothing. But someone is smiling on me: a section of adverts has been torn from the personals page.

Thompson you stupid bastard, I hope it's a bodyguard you're looking for.

The Eigonvector Gang

It only took one day of sheltering behind my four office walls to get restless. A man can only stick to one place for so often before he turns into a rat. Seth's cousin has, so far, proved to be the most boring executive to walk the Earth. I've found nothing in his background to use against him. No one can be that clean. Cleaning up after yourself always leaves a mess somewhere else. It's only a matter of time before I track it down. But with my eyes aching like they've just cycled the London-Brighton marathon, I decided enough was enough.

I've been hanging around The Gladstone, trying to get a lead on the Baltam case. An afternoon cradling whiskeys and watching barmaids is no bad thing. After about an hour of flashing Baltam's photo around, I hit upon a lead. Some Korean almost coughed up his drink when he saw the picture. Poor kid. He let slip that Baltam's boy is being held by some group calling themselves 'The Eigonvector Gang'. And here was me, thinking I had an easy case on my hands. The kid ran off when he got a glimpse of Faith inside my jacket. Hopefully he'll be wise enough to keep his mouth shut. My guess is, if the gang founds out he's squeked, he'll have more to worry about then holding his drink down.

These Eigonvectors will take more looking into. I'm still jumping at shadows after Thompson's games. Next time I walk into a darkened corridor, I want to be damned sure who turned out the lights.

Wednesday, February 28


Once you've had a gun pointed at you, there's no turning back.

I've been lying low today. Safe in the confines of my office, with The Twins watching my back, I'm bullet proof. Nothing could go wrong. Thompson wouldn't dare try to take me down on my own turf. I was convinced that I'd seen the last of him for a while. But then the phone rang.

Heart beating like some sick carnival parade, I answered. It's another new case. Perfect timing, it'll give me an excuse to stay low. Between Baltams nagging and Thompson's bullets, I like the idea of some downtime.

I headed out to meet the new client, some guy calling himself Seth. I took The Twins with me, of course. Faith & Providence felt cool inside my jacket, a reassuring weight. Seth was a tall man with shifty eyes. I didn't trust a word he said, but his cash was as good as any. He wants me to dig some dirt on a cousin of his. Nothing to do now but run some routine background checks.

I walk back into the office, one hand resting on Providence. The place is still standing. Even the mail doesn't explode when I open it.

4C07 runs through my mind. I write it on the back of my hand, on my files, scratch it into the desk. It's a clue, if only I can figure out what it means.

Tuesday, February 27

Tears of Lead and Fire

Time goes slowly when on stakeout. It's been a long, rainy afternoon. I see a girl walk by in a red coat. I wonder what her name is. She turns a corner out of sight. The Chichester Arms stands in front of me, windows glowing warmly against the cold rain. Just as I begin to wonder what I'm doing there, Thompson himself walks in through the front door.

I check the twins, nestled safely inside my jacket. Seeing Thompson has made me uneasy, so I click off the safety on each. I rise from the car and walk into the pub.

Downstairs is all smoke, locals, and laughter. A smiling barmaid points me to rooms and toilets upstairs. I thank her and head up the staircase, away from the lights and sound.

Thompson stands at the end of the corridor, talking to three goons in leather jackets. His eyes widen as he sees me, and he disappears around a corner. The heavies turn and draw weapons, their blackened barrels gazing sightlessly at me.

Instinct takes over. My mind shuts down and watches as my hands cross my chest to draw the Twins. Rising, they sing their sad song, weeping tears of lead and fire.

In a heartbeat lasting longer than lifetimes, three men were dead. I took a breath and tried to find the silence behind the ringing of my ears. To my surprise, I find it.

Background noise drifts away like smoke as clarity descends. It was a set up. The whole deal: from the vague and nervous meetings with Thomspon, all those months ago; to the carefully placed evidence and gradual disappearence of contacts. Thompson had planned the whole thing. He meant to have me killed.

But something had gone wrong: his eyes told the only truth as he saw me in the corridor. I arrived early. Besides, he hadn't counted on meeting The Twins. As I digest this, I see a crumpled note in the hands of one of the heavies. Prising apart his fat fingers, I read the letters scrawled across it:


It was a clue. The only one I had now. Everything so far had been a lie. The letters meant something: maybe it was a code, a set of instructions to follow after my death.

No time to think of it now, the Twins had sung louder than I would have liked. Voices carry up the stairs. I head down the corridor, creep out of a landing window, and lower myself into the rain. All I can do now is run: I head to the car, turn the ignition, and power up the lights. Rain streaks gold and silver in front of me.

A girl in a red coat walks past my nearside window. Distantly, I wonder what her name is.

Monday, February 26


The sun sailed gloriously through the sky today, like an old lover gliding down the street with a grinning new man on her arm. She didn't dare tread through the thick window blinds of the office though. I'm done with sunny days.

The Thompson case has taken a turn for the worse. One of my informants has disappeared mysteriously. I arranged to meet him at our usual haunt - a busy street corner, he with his Big Issues and me with a packet of cigarettes. For his trouble, not mine. Arriving at the meet today though, all I found was a packet of matches. 'Chichester Arms' was emblazoned on the front. I found the place, a cheerful enough joint just out of town. I'm going to stake it out tomorrow. The Twins can keep me company, I'm freshly stocked up on bullets.

Sunday, February 25


I've hit a dead end with both Baltam and Thompson. I'm adrift at sea, there's a storm coming, and I can't see a damn thing. My sail is ripped and torn, I lost my oar last night, I'm fresh out of fish. And I got my Iain M. Banks novel wet too.

Tomorrow I need some fresh leads. I'm going to hit the bars, sniff around for something fresh. I'm going about both cases all wrong, and no matter which way I look I can't seem to see a way in. I'll get some fresh answers at The Lib. It's a seedy joint where even the serving girls are packing. But it never fails to amaze what a couple of double vodkas can unbury from the local thugs. Someone's gotta know something about this Baltam kid.

Saturday, February 24

The Walls

This line of work, there are good days, and there are bad days.

Of course, the good days are just the bastard offspring of a bad day and payday. But that counts for something in my book. At least it keeps the snoops from the bank off my back. One less shoulder to look over.

But right now, right here, are the really bad days. I've got no leads on the Baltam case, despite a day of pen pushing. I've spent twenty-four hours trying to make some headway on Project Thompson. That means a day of shifting through files, paper work, accounts. A day of sitting in the darkened office, my only company the demons on my shoulder and the whisky bottle by my hand. Days like these, even the walls start to come after me. The office gets smaller and smaller, swallowed by shadow as the light of day fades. The walls creep up on my blind spot and whisper that they hate me.

Eventually I'll put the pen down, rub my fingers against my eyes, and fall asleep in the hard office chair. I know this as surely as I know the weekend is going to get bad. Bad like the M25 on Friday evening. But not yet. Not while the walls are whispering in my ears.

Here's to the good days. I've gotta be due a paycheck.

Thursday, February 22

The BALTAM case

A new case arrived today. Like I need more to worry about.

A mister Baltam was stood outside the office this morning, twitching and looking over his shoudler like he'd been on Crimewatch last night. Baltam is Chinese. He explained his problem in halting, broken English. I didn't get a chance to hear what the bastard said before he stuffed a fat envelope in my hand and strutted off. The envelope contained a load of pictures, receipts, and bills. I figure it's some kind of wandering son job. Maybe he's a twink, and his lover has fled off. that seems quite likely, judging from the strapping young Chinaman in the photos. It's going to take a lot of fingers to figure out what this guy wants. Damn you Baltam, why couldn't you make it simple?

Just once, it should be simple.

The Job

The rain falls like needles, glinting and flashing beyond the window. Silver streaks all around, and I wonder how rain always falls so quickly. Rain knows where it's headed, and gets there as quick as it can.

I'm jealous of the rain. Jealous of its certainty, its assurance in its cold purpose. I've been in the business for too many years now, and still I can't tell which way is up. Being a private investigator was supposed to be glamorous, different, and challenging. Little did I know. Hell, I was just a kid when I fell into my first case. Like a rabbit caught in a trap: By the time I realised where I was, the only means of escape was to chew my own leg off. Four cold years and I'm still chewing.

The Brighton rooftops are slick with the rain. The office is in the crowded lanes, where too-many buildings fight for not-enough space like peices on a Mahjong board. Gazing from the window, I can see the rooftops clearly. Things are different from up here. Down on the street, everything is cleaned, smartened, and glossed up. Even the damned paths are made to look charming. But the rooftops are honest. The hours when I can stare out at the tiled, mossy rooves are hours when I know what I'm looking at. There's no hiding the filth here. No hiding the seaguls, the rubbish, the forgotton corners or the rough edges. On the rooftops, life is as life seems.

Damn, but it's cold and wet today. Even the seagulls are miserable.

So, four years into the game. Fours years of finding cats, stalking women on behalf of jealous and balding executives; four years of lost teenagers and corner-shop power struggles. It wasn't what I signed on for, of course. But nothing ever is. Life isn't a rooftop. We live life on the streets and in the gutters, gazing into windows in awe and wonder, only to be disappointed when we taste the stifled air and cheap goods inside. Only some of us get stuck in the wrong shop.

I've got a difficult case coming up in the next few days. Results will be expected soon or I may lose the contract.

But I can spare half an hour to stare at the rain.