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.