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Authors: Phillip Hunter

To Kill For

BOOK: To Kill For
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CHAPTER ONE

We burned her on the Thursday. It was one of those dull March days. There was no sky, just wall to wall grey, no colour anywhere, no sun, no wind. It wasn't warm. It wasn't cold. It wasn't anything. It couldn't even be bothered to rain.

It didn't matter.

We crawled along the Eastern Avenue and Blake Hall Road and past the Flats, and I watched people trudge by with their heads down and their hands in their pockets, pushing their children and pulling their shopping and dragging their lives about. The whole world was in mourning. I saw an old Sikh bloke by the side of the road. He watched us go by and bowed his head.

I could have carried the coffin in one arm, it was so small. Instead, four of us walked with it; me and Browne and Eddie and some bloke the funeral house laid on. Browne couldn't walk straight.

The service was a rushed job and I had the feeling the vicar, or whatever he was, wanted to get to a wedding or christening or something, anything that was far away from a lump like me and an old drunk Scot and a black gangster and a small dead girl in a small brown coffin who'd never had a fucking chance. He gave us the usual such-a-tragedy spiel and mumbled a prayer or two. When he told us that she was safe now and in God's arms I wanted to grab him by his clean white collar and drag him down to where she'd held her dead, blood-soaked sister and to where she'd been used as bait for a robber who'd liked kids, and I wanted to ask him where his fucking god was then. Eddie put a hand on my arm. He said, ‘Take it easy, Joe.'

Maybe he was thinking the same thing I was. Probably not.

Browne wept through the whole thing. I couldn't blame him for being drunk. He'd liked the girl. He'd thought he could help her. He'd thought he could help me. He couldn't even help himself.

Cole came to the funeral. Some of his men were around, out of the way. They were tooled up and edgy, but Cole seemed okay. He and Eddie nodded to each other. Browne avoided him.

We went to a pub afterwards, me and Browne and Eddie. A couple of East European women came in. They told us they'd worked for Marriot and they were glad he was dead and they were sorry about the girl, even though they'd never known her name. Eddie bought them a drink and they cried a bit. While we were there, other people in the pub quieted their talking and avoided eye contact and dribbled out. A thug, an old drunk Scot, a black criminal and two prostitutes sitting in a bar. It sounded like the start of a joke.

Browne was still pissed but downed a few glasses of Scotch and managed to get pissed all over again and bawled some more, which left Eddie as the one to do the talking, even though he'd hardly known her either. He tried, though, and said things like ‘She had you two at least' and ‘He paid for it, Joe. Marriot. And Beckett too,' and stuff like that and all the time I sat there knowing I might've been the one who'd fired the round that killed her. It had been a blazing fight and my head wasn't right and I'd let loose my old Makarov semi-auto and shot the place to shit. So, yes, I could have been the one.

Then Eddie bought another round and raised his glass and said, ‘Here's to Kid.'

And we all raised our glasses to a tiny dead African girl who was so thin I was scared of crushing her to death when I held her, and who looked at me wide-eyed and open-mouthed, like she was looking at something frightening, and who was named Kindness and who we called Kid.

CHAPTER TWO

I was staying at Browne's. I was still weak and I'd fucked up my arm again when I'd charged into Marriot's club and flattened the place and ripped through his men and killed the cunt as he'd tried to crawl away from me, blood trailing from his gut. So I needed to mend it, my arm.

Browne fussed over me like an old woman. In his eyes, I'd tried to save Kid. I can't say if that's true. Maybe it was more like she'd saved me. I don't know. I didn't tell him that I might've been the one who'd killed her.

I remembered that night in fragments, as if my memory had fallen to the ground and smashed, and when I looked down at it I saw only broken reflections of myself.

It was getting harder to remember things clearly, to put them in some kind of order. Events, people, time kept getting mixed up in my head so that the past and present were jumbled together. Brenda, Kid, that Argentinean conscript on the foggy mount; all these things would come to me still, and I'd be back there, with them.

What I remembered was that Marriot and Paget had used a thief called Beckett to rip off Cole. They were taking Cole's turf away from him bit by bit. I was the mug they chose to pin it on. And then Marriot had double-crossed Beckett and kept all the money for himself. That's where Kid came in. Beckett liked children, and Marriot had used Kid to get inside his place and let in the killers.

And then I went in looking for Beckett and she was there, curled up in a cupboard, nothing more than a bundle of bones and loose clothes and a .32 pointing at me.

But, of course, it went back further than that, way back into my own past, back to Brenda, and the past became the present.

So, Browne fussed over me and, in between being unconscious, kept checking my shoulder and my arm.

‘This time let the bloody thing heal,' he'd say.

Cole sent some doctor round to help fix me up. The doctor was a specialist at something or other. Cole was trying to pay me back for fixing Marriot and getting his money back; money that I'd helped steal in the first place. Anyway, Browne didn't like it, this doctor turning up. Maybe Browne thought I was his patient, or maybe his ego was hurt. He cheered up when I told the other doctor to fuck off. I didn't want a gaggle of them round me all the time.

The law had to be bought off, or shut up anyhow. Nobody wanted them involved, least of all me. I'd murdered Marriot, after all. If you can call it murder, which I didn't. Anyway, Cole and Dunham had clout and they fixed the law. There was an understanding between the two of them. They were friends now, like Stalin and Hitler. They fixed it so that the blame went onto the Albanians who, like Eddie had said, were getting too big for their Albanian boots. There was a lot of stuff on the news about clampdowns on foreign gangs and the Albanians got mentioned. It suited Cole and Dunham that everyone thought they were to blame. The Albanians had brought Kid into the country in the first place, and they'd worked with Marriot, and if Cole and Dunham managed to wipe them out of existence, I, for one, wouldn't mind. So it was all neat and tidy and everybody was happy because the Albanians had been officially declared the bad guys and one thing people like is to know who the bad guys are.

Paget was still out there, of course. He was another matter. I had to get him, for my reputation if nothing else. He'd been Marriot's enforcer, his killer, his pit bull. Six years ago, Brenda had grassed Marriot to the law. He'd found out and Paget had sliced her up. I learned all that too late. Six years too late. I'd buried her death in a frozen part, hoping I'd never have to see it again. Instead, it was before me, thawing, festering in the heat of recent events.

So, I knew now what had happened, and I knew that others knew. If I let it go, I'd lose face. I tried to tell myself that destroying Paget was just business, but I don't think I believed that.

With Marriot and the others it had been different. I'd killed them because I'd had to. Marriot wanted revenge on me for what Brenda had done to him
, and I'd had to hit him before he hit me. Then, too, there was the money. He'd used me to get Cole's robbery takings and I'd had to get it back because I'd been on the job and I had my reputation to keep clean. Yes, had to keep that reputation clean. It was all I had.

With Paget, it was something else. Paget was on the run and Cole was after him. I'd got Cole's money back, but Paget still had a million quid's worth of Cole's heroin. I didn't need to go looking for him; I could let Cole do that. But I wanted him, and I knew when I had him I'd tear him slowly apart. I'd murder him by inches, and murder it would be. I couldn't lie to myself about that.

CHAPTER THREE

Brenda.

It started with her. It would end with her, one way or the other.

Brenda.

I tried to remember her sometimes, tried to recall the best things about her. Mostly, I failed.

But there were other times when I tried not to think of her at all, other things I tried not to remember. Then, she came to me. In the darkness, she came. In the moments of madness, when my head hurt and my eyes stopped seeing what was real, she'd come and her face would be full of blood.

And yet, for a while it had seemed so ordinary between us. It had seemed just like I see it on TV, or in pubs on a Saturday night, two people, their eyes locked on each other, smiling, laughing, talking quietly as if there was nobody else in the whole world.

Well, maybe it had never been like that, but it had been almost like that. Sometimes. And those were the times I tried to remember. But, somehow, the sweetness always soured.

One time, we went to the market. I forget which one, probably Petticoat Lane or Brick Lane or one of those poncy ones with expensive gear for tourists. Maybe it was Portobello Market. They'd changed a lot since I was a kid, these markets. Back then you bought cheap boots for a tenner. Now you bought cheap rip-offs for a hundred quid.

So, we went, me and Brenda. It was a Monday and we both had the day off. This was only a couple of weeks or so after we'd started going out. I'd picked her up at her flat. She'd invited me in and made me a cup of tea. She'd made an effort, make-up and perfume and all.

She brought the tea in and handed it to me and I told her she looked nice. She smiled, that broad open smile, her eyes sparkling for a moment. She looked young when she did that.

But, then, the smile would fade and a sadness would creep into her eyes. I would think that it was me who'd caused that. I'd think that I wasn't what she was looking for. I wasn't the romantic type. I didn't know what to say, how to act. So, I'd always be expecting her to tell me it was over.

BOOK: To Kill For
13.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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