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Epub ISBN 9781409050070
This paperback edition published by Preface 2010
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Copyright © Kimberley Chambers, 2009, 2010
Kimberley Chambers has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
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In memory of
Goodnight you moonlight ladies,
Rock-a-bye sweet baby James.
Deep greens and blues are the colours I choose.
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye Sweet Baby James.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Rosie de Courcy. Rosie is an absolute star, not only as an editor, but also as a person and a friend.
I would also like to thank my agent Tim Bates, my typist Sue Cox and everybody at Preface and Random House for the belief and backing that I have been given.
A special mention to Toby Clarke for the wonderful covers, Kevin Redmond for his fantastic support, Garry Perry who has worked tirelessly to promote me, and Julie for ferrying me around to signings.
Last but not least, I would like to thank you, the reader. Without your support I would be working back on the markets or driving a cab . . . !
God bless each and every one of you.THE BETRAYER
‘I’m very sorry, Mrs Hutton, but we are talking weeks here, rather than months.’
Walking away from the hospital, I feel calmness within. My cancer has returned and being told I’m riddled with it was exactly what I’d expected. Unless you’ve had the dreaded disease, you wouldn’t know where I was coming from. Tiredness, lack of appetite, an inability to do the simple things that you once found so easy. The signs are plentiful. To put it bluntly, you just know when you’re dying.
As I sit on the bus, I gaze out of the window. Deep in thought, I watch the world go by. As strange as it may seem, I notice silly things. Mothers doing school runs in their luxury four-wheel drives, children as young as ten chatting away happily on mobile phones. Smiley, happy people, who wouldn’t know hardship if it smacked them in the face.
Not wanting to become bitter, I turn away from the window and think about my own life. I take my pad and pen out of my bag and begin to make notes. Unlike most sufferers of cancer, I’m not that bothered about dying. Part of me would even go as far as saying that in some ways leaving this life will be a relief.
Happy people don’t want to die. They are the lucky ones who are blessed with good times. I was happy once, but not now. For people like me, death spells an end to all of the suffering. I don’t mean to sound like a manic depressive, but I’ve had years full of stress and turmoil and I can’t take any more. I’ve had enough with a capital E.
I had a terrible upbringing. I’m an only child, and my father left home when I was three years old. I don’t remember him and have never set eyes on him since. My mother was a dear soul, but died when I was ten, a victim of the same bastard disease that has now got hold of me.
My aunt kindly offered me a home and then gave me a dog’s life. Living with a violent alcoholic, I was regularly beaten senseless. She treated me as her slave and I had to beg for my dinner, like a dog on all fours. At sixteen, desperate to escape her, I married the first bloke I laid eyes on. Tommy Hutton was his name. He was twenty-one, and in my eyes cool, brash and handsome. I thought he was my saviour; how bloody wrong was I?
Approaching my stop, I gingerly get off the bus and start the short walk home. I unlock my front door and put the kettle on. I’m tired, but determined not to sleep. There are questions I need answering, things I need to plan, stuff I need to tell. So many secrets and so many lies. To rest in peace, I need to tell and know the truth. Picking up my pen and paper, I talk out loud as I try to remember the past.
I don’t know how to start. Will I read this to anyone? Or even show them? I choose my first line with care.
My name is Maureen Hutton and this is my story . . .
‘Fuckin’ hell, Tommo, he ain’t moving.’
White as a sheet, Tommy Hutton bent down to try and wake his victim. ‘Wake up Smiffy, please wake up,’ he said, as he frantically prodded and shook him.
Tibbsy, Benno and Dave Taylor stood rooted to the spot. Along with Tommy they were members of a notorious local gang known as the Stepney Crew.
Tonight they had organised a big off with a rival firm from Bethnal Green. Top four versus top four. Both gangs were determined to be crowned Kings of the East End; both thought they were the business. Tommy Hutton, AKA Tommo, had formed the gang: therefore he was their undisputed leader. Terry Smith, AKA Smiffy, had started the other firm and he was their top boy.
Tonight, however, things had gone very wrong. Determined not to be outdone by Smiffy, who had recently threatened him with an air gun, Tommy had decided to steal his old man’s fishing knife. He’d been keen to frighten Smiffy, cut him, scar him, show him who was boss. He certainly hadn’t meant to stick the knife straight through him.
Taking charge of matters, Tibbsy picked up the weapon. ‘We’d better get out of ’ere lads. The cunt’s dead, I’m telling yer. You take the knife, Tommo, get rid of it.’
Tommy shook from head to toe. He couldn’t move, his legs weren’t doing as they were told. ‘What am I gonna do? I didn’t mean to kill him,’ he sobbed.
Tibbsy grabbed his arm. ‘We’ve gotta go, Tommo, before anybody sees us. Don’t fuck about or we’ll all be going down.’
Tommy tucked his flared trousers into his socks and urged the others to do the same, fashion was a no-go at times like these. Ashen faced and panic stricken, the four lads ran for their lives.
Less than a mile away, Maureen was totally unaware of her son’s dilemma.
‘See yer on Saturday then, if I don’t see yer before, Sarn. It starts at seven, so don’t be bloody late.’
Maureen Hutton smiled as she shut the front door. It was her thirty-second birthday on Saturday and she was having a party to celebrate.
House parties were a regular occurrence on the Ocean Estate in Stepney. All skint as arseholes, she and her neighbours got together every Saturday night for some cheap booze and a knees-up. Maureen had numerous good mates who lived near by. Some were single mums who had it hard like herself, but her best friends Sandra and Brenda, they both had husbands. Neither she nor her friends dwelled on their poverty. Like most cockneys, they made the best out of what little they had. Every now and then they’d take it in turns to watch one another’s kids so they could have a night at the bingo. Apart from their Saturday night parties, bingo was their only other source of entertainment.
Maureen put the kettle on and made herself a brew. Her life had always been hard, but lately she’d been content. Her husband Tommy had left her years ago. A gambler and a piss-head, she was far better off without him. Sometimes he’d turn up like a bad penny, but he never hung about for long. A quick pop in to say hello to the kids or the occasional visit to his mother was about all he was good for. Alcohol was far more important to him than his family.