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.